The Torah Heard Round the World
My synagogue is using the scrolls my grandfather once used as a military chaplain in WWII. Now, once again, his Torah brings comfort during a time of danger and uncertainty.
When our family moved to New York, we brought the Torah with us and loaned it to our new shul, the Park Avenue Synagogue, as our Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove instantly understood the significance of this family treasure.
And now the Torah is back in action during a crisis. When I saw Cantor Azi Schwartz holding my grandfather’s Torah snug to his chest, I was overwhelmed by emotions about how our tradition has the capacity to travel over time and space in a troubled world. He has incorporated this scroll into some of the online services that we watch in our virtual world, part of how he brings relief to all of us who are trying to stay healthy and be patient until this viral storm passes so we can return to normalcy. As he held that Torah, the cantor offered a small taste of what so many observant Jews dearly miss, the spiritual wonder of attending services on Friday night and Saturday morning as we connect with our congregational friends and take time away from the demands of the secular world to pray and learn.
And yet, I couldn’t also help feeling that my grandfather’s Torah needs to be returned to a physical home as soon as possible. While the Jewish community is rightly focused on making sure that public health guidelines are followed, we must be prepared, when this pandemic is over, to do everything possible to repair our social fabric, which includes the synagogue, church, and mosque. Jews and other places of social bonds—educational, cultural, and other nonprofit groups—will struggle to survive when this ends.
COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the institutions that are so vital to the emotional health of our world—the places where people come together for common interests and experiences, the organizations that offer cultural education and celebration, and the physical religious rooms that help us achieve spiritual vitality. A new normal cannot exist without them. We can’t be virtual forever.
In the years ahead, we must do everything that is necessary to fix the broken spaces where Torahs like my grandfather’s are housed and where we come together as a people to worship. Just as my grandfather did almost 75 years ago, we will need to bring the Torahs back home, as soon as this war is over.
Not everyone welcomed the visibly distinctive insignia of the Jewish chaplain. Some Protestants, reported the American Israelite in November 1918, bristled at the notion that the Jews had an “emblem peculiar to themselves,” anxious lest they use the war “as a time for their own denominational propaganda work.” A number of American Jews, in turn, bristled at the use of Roman numerals rather than the letters of the Hebrew alphabet to designate the commandments. If, as representatives of the Jewish community claimed, the Ten Commandments was to the Jews (aka the “Hebrews”), what the cross was to Christians, why stop short of heralding it as a Jewish symbol, through and through?
Fear of desecration, of exposing the sacred Hebrew letters to the most frightful of wartime conditions, was one response; the difficulty of procuring Hebrew letters another. Left unsaid but implicit all the same: By WWI, American visual culture, which prized the Ten Commandments, commonly depicted them with Roman numerals, not Hebrew letters. (By then, the “Tablets of the Law” had become as much an American phenomenon as a Jewish one, but that’s another story.)
Though quelled at the time and for several decades thereafter, concern over the nomenclature by which the Ten Commandments was identified repeatedly surfaced. Writing more than 50 years later, in 1972, Rabbi Judah Nadich, General Eisenhower’s adviser on Jewish affairs, called the concern a “perennial” one, while Rabbi Aryeh Lev, director of the National Jewish Welfare Board’s Commission on Jewish Chaplaincy, across whose desk passed any number of suggestions—among them, replacing both the Hebrew letters and the Roman numerals with “short straight horizontal lines”—described it as “really an interesting matter.”
It would take another decade—a total of 65 years—before Hebrew lettering finally made its way onto the Jewish chaplain’s Ten Commandments insignia. In 1983, it became official.
The substitution of a “J” for an “H” and of the Hebrew alphabet for Roman numerals may not appear on anyone’s list of triumphant historical moments or victories. Perhaps they should. Gestures of inclusion and public recognition, these two visual declarations not only stabilized American Jewry’s footing, but also bolstered its confidence, its self-assertion, as a minority culture. By my reckoning, that qualifies as a victory.
— AIPAC (@AIPAC) May 25, 2020
At some point, the people who run the European Union will have to get used to the idea that Israel is here to stay.
So far, it’s been a tough sell, mostly because old habits die hard.
Amid the flurry of denunciations against Israel, for even thinking about going ahead with sovereignty for parts of Judea and Samaria, most telling is this remark from Josep Borrell, EU’s High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs, as follows: “We strongly urge Israel to refrain from any unilateral decision that would lead to the annexation of any occupied Palestinian territory, and would be, as such, contrary to international law.”
Regarding international law, the high commissioner is highly mistaken, as we read here from the Gatestone Institute.
From time immemorial, or precisely the Revelation at Sinai, which the Sage Judah Halevi referred to as the defining moment of all world history, the land, all of it, belongs to the Jews, verified over and over again from Balfour, to the League of Nations, to the San Remo Conference, back to The Kuzari and ultimately to the Hebrew Bible.
It is written in parchment. It is written in stone. It is written in the DNA of every Jewish person, man, woman, and child.
So what’s troubling those European commissioners, high and low, particularly from France, and now even the Vatican?
Yes, France, still famous for the Roundup of Paris, which even amazed the Gestapo at how smartly the gendarmes rushed to the task.
Suddenly, the French were more efficient even than the Germans…and today, incidentally, Germany has also voiced “concern” about Israel’s possible move toward partial annexation.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and other prominent figures took to social media this weekend to extend greetings to Israel’s Muslims in honor of Eid al-Fitr, the holiday that marks the end of the month of Ramadan.
Rivlin addressed his “warmest greeting on Eid al-Fitr” to “Israelis of the Muslim faith” in a message on social media on Saturday night.
“This year, with [the coronavirus pandemic], Holy Ramadan has been somewhat different,” he tweeted In a Hebrew video clip with Arabic and English subtitles. “This year, for our health, there were no large joint prayers, the traditional markets were closed and festive Iftar meals were not held with friends and family. … But I hope that, because of the commitment we all showed the need for caution, that we will soon see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Rivlin praised the country’s health workers for their “astonishing solidarity” amid the crisis, and the leaders of the country’s Arab-Muslim society for their “patience and wisdom.”
“[W]e have been so proud of our medical teams, Muslims, Christians, Jews and Druze, working hand in hand with astonishing solidarity to save human lives. We have also seen, up close, the strength of leadership, patience and wisdom of the leaders of Muslim Arab society in Israel, who have all contributed to containing the virus, and caring for the health and safety of all Israelis, Jews and Arabs, Jews and Muslims,” he said.
“Patience and solidarity, responsibility and good judgement must also be our watchwords in the period of economic and social recovery that lies ahead of us,” he added.
Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher reopened to visitors on Sunday after a two-month closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The church, situated in Jerusalem’s Old City, is the site where many Christians believe Jesus was crucified, entombed, and resurrected. The Christian authorities managing the site closed it to visitors in March to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but clerics maintained prayers inside the shuttered church throughout its closure.
On Sunday, church authorities limited entrance to 50 people at a time, and required that those entering the cavernous site maintain social distance and avoid touching any of the church’s stones, icons or other religious items. A typical day before the virus outbreak would bring thousands of faithful who kissed or placed their hands along the church’s surfaces.
As priests from the various Christian sects entered the church, a handful of faithful waited outside for the basilica’s church to open for the public.
Some reports on Sunday said the holy site had remained shuttered, but church sources confirmed to The Times of Israel on Monday that this was not the case.
Israeli authorities have gradually reopened schools, houses of worship and markets as the spread of the novel coronavirus has slowed. Israel’s Health Ministry has reported over 16,700 confirmed cases of the disease and 281 deaths. More than 14,000 have recovered.
An Israeli scientist has invented technology that aims to make face masks clean themselves using power from a phone charger.
Yair Ein-Eli has applied for a US patent for his innovation, which he says will boost hygiene and mitigate mask shortages. A poll just conducted by the Washington Post found that some 66 percent of American health workers surveyed said their workplaces face shortages of the masks that are most suitable for protection from the coronavirus.
“Our idea could change masks from disposable items into gadgets that people clean, meaning they wouldn’t need replacing so regularly and hospitals wouldn’t need such large supplies,” said Ein-Eli, dean of the faculty of materials science and engineering at the Technion – Israel Institute for Technology. He estimated that his cleaning mechanism can be added at around 90 cents (3 shekels) per mask.
The self-cleaning masks will look like regular face coverings, apart from an input for a USB cable. This is to power the heating element inside the mask, which gets it hot enough to kill germs. This is the only modification needed to regular masks to make them self-cleaning, Ein-Eli said.
“We have inserted a heating element of carbon fibers, and connected it to a USB input like one used to charge cellphone,” Ein-Eli told The Times of Israel. “The element can heat the mask to 65 to 70 degrees Celsius (149°-158° Fahrenheit), and it heats anything absorbed in the layers of the mask.”
It is unlikely that Israel will open the country to foreign travelers in any significant number before at least mid-July, a senior official with Ben-Gurion Airport told the Hebrew language news site Ynet.
“Social distancing alone will forbid us from increasing travel,” airport managing director Shmuel Zakai said. “If we keep up the current pace, we will see dozens of single flights to Ben-Gurion Airport starting in mid-July and not before. Maybe by then or in mid-September we will reach half a million passengers. As long as there is no vaccine for coronavirus, and the virus can still spread across countries, there will be no significant change.”
He said that if the number of travelers to Israel in the next two years is one-third the amount of travelers in 2019, Israel will be doing well.
Zakai’s comments came in light of a visit by senior Health Ministry officials to the airport on Monday, which The Jerusalem Post confirmed with the Israel Airports Authority.
A spokesperson told the Post that ministry deputy director-general Prof. Itamar Grotto and head of Public Health Prof. Sigal Sadetsky visited Israel’s airport, along with members of the Civil Aviation Authority, National Security Council and Home Front Command, to review a proposed “blue ribbon” plan for increasing commercial flights to Israel in hopes of further improving the economy.
Currently, Israelis who enter Israel from abroad must go into 14 days of home quarantine. Foreigners are still unable to enter the country, with few exceptions.
Israel’s economy contracted by an annualized 7.1% in the first quarter, the Central Bureau of Statistics said on Monday, with the coronavirus outbreak hitting trade, investment and consumer and government spending. It was the first quarterly contraction of gross domestic product in Israel since 2012.
Exports fell 5.9% in the January-March period, while private spending slid 20.3% and investment in fixed assets dropped 17.3%. Imports declined 27.5% and government spending dipped 10.3%.
The Bank of Israel has said it expected a poor first half of 2020 due to the virus that closed much of the economy for weeks and an improvement in the final six months of the year and into 2021.
Excluding net tax on imports for the quarter, which strips out volatility in auto sales and imports, GDP contracted 4.6%.
Fourth-quarter GDP was unrevised at an annualized growth rate of 4.6%, while Israel’s economy grew 3.5% in 2019.
Australia’s rapid success in containing the coronavirus pandemic could lead to new opportunities for Israeli businesses, the Israeli financial daily Calcalist reported.
With fewer than 20 new coronavirus a day, and as of Friday only around 600 active cases and 101 deaths, Australia is already getting ready to remove many of the coronavirus restrictions, with social distancing measures to be lifted by July.
“Australia has led the world in the successful containment of COVID-19, which clearly means that travelers coming from Australia would pose a low risk to the rest of the world,” Australian Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said on Friday in a statement, according to Calcalist.
This, in turn, makes it an ideal trade destination for Israeli businesses either looking to expand their business in Australia or looking to break into new markets.
“Australia is in the midst of its exit strategy, and unlike in other places, when there is a crisis or downturn they believe the way to move forward is through adaptability and innovation,” Shai Zarivatch, head of the Israeli Embassy in Australia’s commercial and investment arm, the Israel Trade Commission in Australia, told Calcalist.
“The Australians are telling me that the faster they move and the faster they adopt new tech, the quicker they will get out of this situation.”
Zarivatch explained to the financial daily that Australia dealt with the crisis differently than other countries.
On May 12, an NPR article was headlined, “Jewish Americans Say They Are Scapegoated for The Coronavirus Spread.”
It responded to de Blasio’s remark: “There is no data indicating religious Jews are violating social distancing rules at a greater rate than other demographic groups… but there’s a pattern of specifically highlighting Jewish offenders.
The article went on to say, “… A New Jersey man was arrested for using Facebook to threaten to assault Lakewood’s Jews for spreading the virus.
He was charged with making terrorist threats during a state of emergency. A county deputy fire marshal in New Jersey was investigated for similar Facebook comments. And in Queens, a couple was charged… after attacking a group of Orthodox Jews – ripping their masks off and punching them in the face – for supposedly not social distancing.
“’You Jews are all getting us sick,’ the couple allegedly yelled.”
Thankfully, another recent account offers some solace.
It appeared in my own suburban Washington DC neighborhood, on a popular online “Nextdoor” blogsite.
“Hateful Flyers Left on my Doorstep” read the headline.
The writer explained, “I just found a racist and antisemitic flyer left on my walkway. I see the flyer has been left for my neighbors as well. It’s a disturbing thing to find. If anyone received one of these and has a security camera, please see if you caught the perpetrator and maybe forward the video to the police.
I called them but I don’t have any actionable info. It’s so sad to encounter this at a time when we should all be pulling together…” This was followed by an extraordinary thread that, at last count, amounted to more than 230 comments – every one of them infuriated about the flyer. No one called for violence, but many demanded that the city police, or the FBI, the city council, or the mayor should be notified immediately of this “antisemitic outrage.”
Some, who had found the hateful handout on their property, had security camera photos of the man who passed them out. Several insisted that he should be arrested.
Needless to say, America’s 1st Amendment, which protects free speech, would prohibit any legal recourse to the leaflet’s vile declarations. But, at least for me, such heartfelt expressions of outright disgust at blatant antisemitism are heartening. Perhaps it’s only a small, local incident. But it speaks well of more than a few good-hearted, decent citizens who know evil when they see it. And, thank God, they clearly want to do everything they can to stop it.
Almost 20% of Britons believe that “Jews” are behind the coronavirus pandemic, a new survey by Oxford University revealed.
According to a university statement, the survey sought to test public attitudes toward various coronavirus conspiracy theories. One of the statements given was “Jews have created the virus to collapse the economy for financial gain.”
5.5% of those surveyed said they agreed “a little” with this statement, 6.8% “moderately” agreed, 4.6% agreed “a lot,” and 2.4% “completely” agreed.
Taken together, 19.3% of all respondents agreed with the antisemitic theory to some degree.
A full 80.7% said they “do not agree” with the idea that the Jews are behind the pandemic.
The numbers were similar in regard to other conspiracy theories that blamed Muslims, Bill Gates, the World Health Organization, and politicians for the outbreak.
The conspiracy theory that was the most substantially popular was that the coronavirus is a “bioweapon developed by China to destroy the West,” with almost half of those surveyed agreeing to some extent.
Daniel Freeman, Professor of Clinical Psychology at Oxford, who led the team that conducted the study, said, “The epidemic has all the necessary ingredients for the growth of conspiracy theories, including sustained threat, exposure of vulnerabilities, and enforced change.”
The fact is that the ethnic cleansing that happened after the establishment of the State of Israel was done to the Jews living in the Arab lands in North Africa and in the Middle East. Muslim countries threatened their Jewish population and expelled them. The 850,000 Jews who, for over 1,000 years, had lived in and contributed to these countries were expelled and ethnically cleansed almost to the very last Jew.
The ethnic cleansing going on today in the Middle East and northern Africa is being done mostly by Arab-Muslim leaders and jihadists who are systematically purging these areas of age-old Christian communities, indigenous tribes, and remnants of the few Jews remaining in these areas.
When speaking of ethnic cleansing, Rashida Tlaib should look in the mirror and see that it is her ideology that today is the greatest perpetrator today of ethnic cleansing in the world.
In Tlaib’s words: “The existence of the State of Israel is an ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Muslim Arabs.” This is a lie, often used by Israel’s detractors. And these detractors will use all lies available to them and make new ones as they go along to shine a negative light on the Jewish state, Israel.
The “Nakba” is a carefully crafted 72-year-old lie designed to usurp the documented facts in order to deny Israel its legitimacy. The ultimate goal, of course, is to destroy the world’s only Jewish state.
Tlaib is a sitting congressional representative regularly engaged in anti-Jews blood libel and historical revisionism similar to the ones coming from the Holocaust denier.
The Democratic Party will ignore Tlaib’s “Nakba” tweet. After all they wouldn’t/couldn’t pass a House resolution against anti-Semitism. Most major Jewish organizations have failed to protect Jewish interests and to represent well Jewish issues. Therefore, they will not step up because they are afraid they will not be welcome to the interfaith-diversity big tent.
Easiest way to mainstream acceptance and political stardom in New York today is through unapologetic blood-soaked antisemitism pic.twitter.com/Tq5E7IemrS
— Seth Mandel (@SethAMandel) May 24, 2020
So she doesn’t like Israel AND Saudi Arabia. Wonder whose team she’s on then. Who else doesn’t like both? Not enough clues I feel 🤔 https://t.co/I9DQ1seBZa
— Shimrit Meir שמרית מאיר (@shimritmeir) May 25, 2020
Outrage over the weekend greeted the decision by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) to give an award to a San Francisco State University professor who engaged in hate speech and violent rhetoric against “Zionists” and Jewish students who support Israel.
Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi, founding director of SFSU’s Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies (AMED) program, was given the 2020 Georgina M. Smith Award for “a person or persons who provided exceptional leadership in a given year in improving the status of academic women or in academic collective bargaining and through that work improved the profession in general.”
The AAUP said in a statement that it gave Abdulhadi the award because she “exemplifies courage, persistence, political foresight, and concern for human rights.”
The organization also praised Abdulhadi’s work to “advance the agenda for social change in Palestine.” Part of that agenda includes promoting ferocious hatred of Zionist and pro-Israel students.
In response to the announcement, famed UCLA professor and Turing Award winner Judea Pearl called for the IRS to investigate the AAUP’s tax exempt status.
Miriam Elman, executive director of the independent pro-Israel campus group Academic Engagement Network, called the decision “appalling” and a “poor choice.”
In 2018, Abdulhadi engaged in violent hate speech that attempted to exclude Jewish students who support Israel from campus life, following a statement friendly to Zionism from President Leslie E. Wong.
“I consider the statement below from President Wong, welcoming Zionists to campus, equating Jewishness with Zionism, and giving Hillel ownership of campus Jewishness, to be a declaration of war against Arabs, Muslims, Palestinians and all those who are committed to an indivisible sense of justice on and off campus,” she wrote on Facebook. The majority of Jewish students consider themselves to be supportive of Israel.
In 2019, Abdulhadi proved she had not mellowed, posting a large banner on a department’s official Facebook page saying, “Zionism = Racism,” and, “Boycott! Divest! Sanction!”
British musician Roger Waters (76) has made the headlines once again, this time complaining that he had been “banned” from Pink Floyd’s official site and social media by his former band mate David Gilmour. In a 5-minute video released on May 19th, Waters shared his deep frustration with his former partners’ refusal to let him use the band’s official platforms, supporting his claims with some very specific facts.
In psychoanalysis this kind of behavior is commonly known as “projection,” which is a basic psychological defense mechanism that allows humans to deny the existence of certain feelings and tendencies in themselves while attributing them to others. In this case, Gilmour is the subject of the projection. This gifted, pleasant and well-mannered musician, who had never been associated with any controversy, is now being accused of using “banishment” as a legitimate tool in conflict resolution, and the very accusation is coming from the abuser himself. Projection 101.
Some background: Roger Waters, who left Pink Floyd in the mid-1980s, has in recent years become a compulsive preacher of the anti-Israel boycott tactic. He feels very strongly that Israel should be excluded from the family of nations because of its alleged treatment of the Palestinians. He wants to “punish” Israel for its “sins” by using banishment and exclusion.
He has called Israel an “apartheid state” accused its government of using “Nazi propaganda efforts,” and labeled Israel as “the worst human rights offender in the world” while conveniently ignoring the rest of the world. Almost every prominent musician who intends to perform in Israel is publicly “exposed” by Waters who routinely urges them to cancel their planned trips. Waters explains his fixation on Israel by his “deep care for human rights” although his voice had not been heard much regarding other lingering geopolitical, religious or ethnic crises.
Other than agitating the pro-Israel community, his obsession to boycott Israel has mainly brought him infamy.
Miranda Brown blew the whistle on @UNHumanRights‘s failure to respond to sexual abuse of African children by peacekeepers. So UN rights chief @raad_zeid fired her. Now @hrw had made him their Vice-Chair.@KenRoth, repeat after me: #AfricanChildrenMatterhttps://t.co/zomK6lmpgt pic.twitter.com/EMcxu5YNT3
— Hillel Neuer (@HillelNeuer) May 25, 2020
Here’s the letter published at The Journal (a Newcastle-based daily) on May 23. (“Ending Cycles of Suffering”, Features, page 33):
IT was disappointing that Covid-19 prevented the 75th VE Day celebrations, as a lot of people would have wanted to say ‘thanks’ to the surviving soldiers of WW2.
The Jewish community in Gateshead/Newcastle (letter April 24, by Shlomi Isaacson) had plans to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Bergen Belsen, and say thanks to the North East soldiers who liberated them from a living hell; but alas this could not happen.
I appreciate the point that one has to say/show ‘thanks’ to those who have helped to liberate one from sufferings under oppressive regimes.
The experience gained should be utilized to improve the thinking and attitude of man towards his fellow man, and to cast out racial hatred. When one looks back at history, and looks at the sects that have suffered most in the past, one sees that the sufferers in the past are now repeating the atrocities!
The Jewish population suffered under the Nazi regime, yet now in Israel, Palestinians are treated as second-class citizens, having their possessions confiscated and land annexed! When will this cycle end?
Now is the time for the Jewish people to show the rest of the world that they can rise above this repetitive cycle, and that they have learnt from history.
Mem Tahir, Kirkwhelpington
The suggestion that the treatment of Palestinians by Jews today demonstrates that Jews haven’t “learnt” from their history (that is, the systemic murder of six million Jews during the Holocaust) is morally odious, and of course evokes the Nazis-Israel analogy deemed antisemitic by the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism.
Jewish organizations slammed the Belgian government on social media over its decision to remove the military guards that had been protecting Antwerp’s synagogues, the Algemeiner reported.
The move comes during the sixth anniversary of the 2014 antisemitic terrorist attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels, when a radical Islamist returning from Syria opened fire in the museum, resulting in the death of four people.
Ever since this incident, Jewish sites in Belgium have been under the protection of the military, the Algemeiner reported.
Taking to Twitter, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) condemned the decision to remove armed protection of synagogues.
“We are deeply alarmed by Antwerp’s plans to withdraw armed protection from the city’s synagogues,” the AJC tweeted.
“The city must immediately reverse course and guarantee the full protection of all citizens at all times.
“The safeguarding of Jewish life is nonnegotiable!”
Also taking to Twitter, B’nai B’rith International criticized the move, specifically that it was made on the anniversary of the 2014 terrorist attack.
#OTD in 2014 the terrorist attack on the Jewish Museum of #Belgium took place. Today news surfaced of plans to cut security for synagogues in Antwerp. The attack must be a stark reminder, Belgium must be firm to protect its #Jewish community. pic.twitter.com/rtDoN3mUgn
— B’nai B’rith Int’l (@BnaiBrith) May 24, 2020
Brazilian Jewish groups have slammed a German standup comedian who made a Holocaust joke followed by a Nazi salute during a performance in Sao Paulo in February.
“On Christmas, we ask for a friend as a gift. Once I got it, but it only lasted a day. He escaped. He was Jewish. I said he escaped, not that he died. He was very fast. You know, if I do this joke in Germany, I’ll be arrested. Letting a Jew escape like this?” Lea Maria Jahn said on stage.
“Who here thinks that Germans are Nazis? Please raise your hand,” she continued, raising her own hand in a Nazi salute.
The performance was uploaded to YouTube in February, where it has garnered nearly 1 million views. But it gained additional attention on Tuesday, when the Organized Jewish Youth organization criticized it.
“This is 2020 and a German woman makes jokes against Jews in Brazil,” the group wrote on Facebook. “Does this ‘comedian’ have an exact idea of how dangerous the words that she considers a joke are?”
The Brazilian Israelite Confederation demanded an apology on Thursday.
“When referring to her German origin and to anti-Semitism in an inappropriate and vulgar way, she brought up sad situations from the Holocaust era as the topic of jokes, which can hurt the victims,” the confederation said.
The row over the presence of German prisoner-of-war tombstones adorned with Nazi swastikas at two US military cemeteries continued on Monday, as four members of Congress called on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to remove “a stain on the hallowed ground where so many veterans and their families are laid to rest.”
In a letter to Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie, the bipartisan group of congressional representatives said they had been “deeply troubled to learn that Department of Veterans Affairs Cemeteries in Texas and Utah contain graves of German prisoners of war with swastika-adorned headstones and messages honoring Hitler.”
At issue are three grave sites at two cemeteries maintained by the VA: Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in Texas and Fort Douglas Post Cemetery in Utah. Both were used to inter dozens of unclaimed remains of enemy troops following World War II.
While most of the foreign troops’ grave markers list only names and dates of death, the three in question were also engraved with a swastika in the center of an iron cross alongside an inscription in German, which read, “He died far from his home for the Führer, people and fatherland.”
The four lawmakers — House Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Ranking Member John Carter (R-TX), and full House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Ranking Member Kay Granger (R-TX) — asserted that the continued refusal of the VA to remove the graves was “callous, irresponsible and unacceptable.”
“It is particularly troubling that VA’s refusal to replace these offensive headstones comes at a time when documented antisemitic incidents in the United States have reached a new high,” the letter stated.
About a dozen windows were smashed last week at a synagogue in Peoria, Illinois.
The damage to Congregation Anshai Emeth, a Reform synagogue, took place between Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning, local CBS affiliate WMBD reported. Many of the smashed windows were in the part of the building that houses the Peoria Hebrew Day School. The vandal or vandals also tried to break into one of the doors of the synagogue.
The building, which is currently not being used because of the coronavirus pandemic, does not have security cameras. But Anshai Emeth president Steven Marx told the news channel that he is hoping homes surrounding the building may have captured the vandals on their surveillance cameras.
Marx said he is not convinced that the incident was anti-Semitic, calling it “just vandalism.” The total damage is about $11,000.
The U.S. and Israel have a mutually beneficial relationship that provides America with a high return on its annual $3.8 billion investment. More than $150 billion was invested by Israeli companies in the U.S. between 2010 and 2015 ($25.1 billion in 2015 alone).
Critical components of leading American high-tech products are invented and designed in Israel, making the American companies that manufacture those products more competitive and profitable. Cisco, Intel, Motorola, Applied Materials, and HP are just a few examples.
The U.S.-Israeli economic and commercial relationship now encompasses IT, biotech, life sciences, health care solutions, energy, pharmaceuticals, food and beverages, defense industries, cyber-security, aviation, desalination, recycling, conservation, management, and irrigation.
U.S. firms established 2/3 of the 300 foreign-invested research and development centers in Israel. Israeli firms represent the second-largest source of foreign listings on the NASDAQ after China, and more than Indian, Japanese, and South Korean firms combined.
Strategically, Israel is an American beachhead in the Middle East and the only stable, reliable, capable, democratic, and unconditional regional ally of the U.S., and it is willing to flex its muscles.
Both nations gain from a strong strategic partnership, which draws in part upon Israel’s capabilities in designing advanced military, homeland security, counterterrorism, and cyber-protection technologies that help the U.S. meet its growing security challenges.
Israel is a cost-effective, battle-tested laboratory for U.S. defense industries, and it provides the U.S. with more intelligence than all the NATO countries put together.
Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) introduced a bill on Thursday that would enhance cooperation between the United States and Israel on developing defense technology.
The United States Israel Military Capability Act would require the US secretary of defense to establish a working group that includes representatives from the US Department of Defense, US Department of State, intelligence community and their appropriate counterparts as selected by the Israeli government.
“For decades, robust defense cooperation has been a cornerstone of the US-Israel relationship,” said Cotton. “This legislation will further strengthen our cooperation in military research and development, helping to secure both the United States and Israel from emerging threats and ensuring that our warfighters maintain a decisive technological advantage over our foes.”
Peters said “as an ally, Israel has both a thriving defense innovation base and extensive real-world experience against modern security threats. Improving existing cooperation in a systematic way will not only improve our response to national security threats, but save the lives of both American and Israeli service members and citizens.”
The working group would evaluate shared security concerns and help forge combined plans to research, develop, procure and field military capabilities to address these threats. It may also seek input from American or Israeli defense manufacturers on how to integrate needed technology from the private sector.
A partnership created to boost precision medicine research in Israel has chosen 16 multidisciplinary projects that will together get some NIS 60 million ($17 million) in funding to promote a variety of studies, e.g., developing nanoparticles to treat cancer, identifying genes to fight inherited retinal diseases, and studying the genetic aspects of autism.
The Israel Precision Medicine Partnership (IPMP), launched in 2018, aims to expand personalized precision medicine research by supporting studies that are expected to lead to a deeper understanding of human diseases and advance the implementation of new healthcare approaches. The overall IPMP budget, some NIS 210 million, enables funding of four application cycles. The duration of each project is up to four years.
IPMP is a collaboration between the Israeli government, including the Planning and Budgeting Committee of the Council for Higher Education and the Digital Israel initiative of the Ministry of Social Equality, the Klarman Family Foundation in the US, and the Yad Hanadiv Foundation in Israel. The IPMP program is administered and operated by the Israel Science Foundation.
“In IPMP’s second program cycle, we have witnessed a wealth of outstanding research programs that reflect the scientific depth and spirit of collaboration among researchers and physicians in Israel, and among universities, hospitals, and health funds,” said Prof. Yuval Dor, head of Life Sciences and Medicine division at the Israel Science Foundation. “The winning proposals are from a range of universities and medical institutions, address fundamental questions in human health, and are expected to generate important scientific insights and medical applications.”
The projects selected will be getting NIS 60 million in grants. In May last year, 14 teams were selected to receive the NIS 60 million in the first cohort chosen by the initiative.
In September 2020, the next call for proposals will be published for the third of the four planned submission cycles, the fund said in a statement on Monday.
Among the 16 research projects selected, out of 75 submitted, are a multidisciplinary team of chemists, biologists and pathologists from the Hebrew University who will get a NIS 4.2 million grant to find a cancer drug using nanoparticles in a patient. Using smart, stimulus-responsive nanoparticles, the team will simultaneously screen the ability of multiple drugs to kill cancer cells in vivo.
A research team headed by Dr. Assaf Zaritsky of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev has determined some of the characteristics of melanoma cells that are likely to metastasize to other parts of the body, a first and important step in developing novel treatments and eventually a cure.
Melanomas are a form of aggressive skin cancer.
The breakthrough is the next step in research about which Zaritsky presented in December 2018 at the American Society for Cell Biology/EMBO conference in San Diego. He began the research with Gaudenz Danuser of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas during his postdoctoral research.
Using deep neural networks – sophisticated mathematical modeling to process data in complex ways – Zaritsky’s team created a representation of the functional state of individual cells that can help predict the chances that a stage III melanoma will progress to stage IV, the most advanced phase of melanoma and a serious form of skin cancer. This means that the cancer has spread from the lymph nodes to other remote organs.
“The dream is that a person would come with stage III melanoma and doctors could predict if it would progress to stage IV or not and, based on that, adjust his or her treatment,” he told The Jerusalem Post.
Rafael Pharmaceuticals has reached 85% of the 500-patient enrollment needed for the pivotal phase-3 clinical trial of its metastatic pancreatic cancer treatment despite the coronavirus crisis, the company told The Jerusalem Post. In addition, it has launched a COVID-19 task force to ensure that appropriate medical centers hosting the trials are implementing safety measures so that testing could continue.
Many of the participating patients are from Israel, according to Sanjeev Luther, Rafael’s president and CEO. He explained that the trial is evaluating the efficacy and safety of the company’s lead compound CPI-613 in combination with modified FOLFIRINOX as a first-line therapy.
The 613 in CPI-613 stands for the 613 mitzvot (commandments) of the Torah, he said. The company’s chairman is Jewish philanthropist Howard Jonas, who chose the name Rafael because “God heals,” Luther said.
Pancreatic cancer is currently the third leading cause of cancer death in the US (the seventh worldwide) and is expected to become the second leading cause after 2020, according to multiple studies.
In Israel, instances of pancreatic cancer have spiked in the last five years. As per the National Cancer Registry, 888 patients were diagnosed with the cancer in 2013. The number of incidents reached 1,024 in 2018 and is expected to be 1,086 by 2020.
Moreover, its prognosis is grim, with the five-year survival rate being only 6% to 8%, according to a report by the New England Journal of Medicine.
A six year old hiking with his family before the March coronavirus lockdown discovered a one-of-a-kind, 3,500-year-old depiction of a naked, humiliated Canaanite prisoner and his victorious warden.
The visceral scene — impressed upon a clay seal by an artisan whose fingerprints are still visible on the square tablet’s back — was found by six-year-old Imri Elya while walking on Tel Jemmah near the Gaza border, according to an Israel Antiquities Authority press release on Monday. Elya received a certificate of good citizenship for turning the artifact over to the IAA.
The 2.80 x 2.80 centimeter (1.1 inch square) clay impression was likely a souvenir of victory, similar to an honor badge or medal, IAA archaeologist Saar Ganor told The Times of Israel. Since the impression was created from a mold, he said it’s possible there were many created and distributed. They may have been used as decorations, perhaps pressed inside other items — such as belts or furniture — that showcased the owners’ total victories.
Ganor believes the scene is of two Canaanites. The naked, rail-thin prisoner’s hands are so violently tied behind him that his back is ramrod straight. He is held captive by a clothed, somewhat plumper warden, with trimmed curly hair and a beard. They are both Canaanites, said Ganor, but the umbrella term refers to an eclectic mix of local peoples of different tribes, “all fighting over the things we fight for today — water, land.”
“The artist who created this tablet appeared to have been influenced by similar representations known in Ancient Near East art. The manner in which the captive is bound has been seen previously in reliefs and artifacts found in Egypt and northern Sinai,” said Ganor and IAA researchers Itamar Weissbein and Oren Shmueli in the press release.
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