March 26, 2019

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11/03 Links: Bari Weiss: When a Terrorist Comes to Your Hometown; Ben Shapiro: Israel is protecting Western civilization; The not-so-sweet taste of hypocrisy about anti-Semitism

From Ian:

Bari Weiss: When a Terrorist Comes to Your Hometown
I want to tell you what it is like when your neighborhood becomes the scene of a mass murder.

The first thing you should know is that when your phone pings with a text from your youngest sister saying, “There is a shooter at tree of life,” your brain will insist that it is not true, that it is a hoax.

But your fingers will write back immediately, unthinking: “is dad there.”

Your mouth will turn to cotton while you wait for your mom to confirm that your father, who goes to one of Squirrel Hill’s synagogues every Shabbat morning, was not in the building.

Then another of your sisters will send a link to the police scanner and you will listen as the calls come in from the scene. You hear an officer report that the shooter declared he wants to “kill all the Jews.” He has hit officers. “Shots fired. Shots fired. Shots fired.”

You will cancel all your plans and book a flight home. Before you are even on the plane you will start to hear rumors — a couple has been killed, a doctor. You will wonder which families in your neighborhood will be shattered.

The numbness will break only when you find out that Cecil Rosenthal — the intellectually disabled, gentle giant of a man your mother has known since grade school — was murdered along with his brother, David. You will picture him as a proud usher standing in the entrance to services, and you will wonder if he greeted the killer, too. And you will weep.

When an anti-Semitic murderer mows down Jews in the synagogue where you became a bat mitzvah, you might find yourself in the sanctuary again. But instead of family and friends, the sanctuary is host to a crew of volunteers — the chevra kadisha — who will spend the week cleaning up every drop of blood because, according to Jewish tradition, each part of the body must be sanctified in death and so buried.

Ben Shapiro Interview: Israel is protecting Western civilization

Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro‘s star has been rising in the US in recent years. He’s only 34 years old, but he began his career 17 years ago, writing a syndicated column, and now he has his own news site, The Daily Wire, “The Ben Shapiro Show,” a podcast with millions of listeners.

In between, he managed to become editor-at-large of the far-right – these days, some would say alt-right – website Breitbart, and resigned in 2016. Shapiro accused Breitbart chairman Steve Bannon, an eventual adviser to US President Donald Trump, of turning the site into “Trump’s personal Pravda.”

Later that year, the Anti-Defamation League identified Shapiro as the No. 1 target of online antisemitism among Jewish journalists in the US, and he received the most hate by far.

Shapiro continues to be targeted from all ends: from the Left, because he’s staunchly conservative, and from the Right, because he is not a Trump cheerleader, and doesn’t hesitate to criticize the president.

His no-nonsense attitude and caustic humor have attracted admirers and detractors; “facts don’t care about your feelings” is his most famous slogan, and he sells coffee mugs that are labeled “leftist tears.” He’s found allies in the self-described Intellectual Dark Web, a group of thinkers – their day jobs include academia, journalism and comedy – who don’t fit perfectly into mainstream media’s liberal or conservative labels, and have found wild success producing their own content online.

Although Shapiro is an Orthodox Jew and a vocal supporter of Israel, his content is aimed at a broader American audience, and therefore he doesn’t often focus on those areas.

In a conversation with The Jerusalem Post last month from his LA podcast studio, the father of two – married to a Moroccan-Israeli doctor about whom he often sweetly scheps naches (expresses great pride) – discussed American Jewish identity, support for Israel and more, in his typically no-holds-barred manner. (h/t Elder of Lobby)

Caroline Glick: Israeli Cabinet Minister Challenges Propaganda on Trump and Antisemitism

Israeli Minister of Diaspora Affairs Naftali Bennett kicked in the foundations of the left’s case against President Donald Trump on Tuesday. And they didn’t like it.

Since Saturday’s massacre of 11 mostly elderly Jews at prayer at the Tree of Life Synagogue, prominent left-wing American Jewish activists and Never Trump pundits have blamed Trump for the massacre by insisting that he has empowered antisemitic forces in the U.S.

The “proof” these commentators provide for their incendiary allegation is the Anti-Defamation League’s 2017 report on antisemitic incidents in the U.S. The ADL alleged that during Trump’s first year in office, there was a 57 percent rise in antisemitic incidents.

Bennett flew to Pittsburgh Sunday as the representative of the Israeli government to show solidarity with the Jewish community in the aftermath of the massacre. Before travelling back to Israel, he participated in a roundtable discussion of antisemitism in New York at the Council on Foreign Relations.

When asked about the ADL data, Bennett said that he wasn’t certain that the report was accurate. “I’m not convinced those are the facts,” Bennett said adding, “I’m not sure there’s a surge in antisemitism in the United States.”

“We need to look at the facts. I understand that the ADL themselves have stated there is a drastic reduction in violent anti-Semitic events, but that has for some reason been hidden from the public discourse,” he maintained.

Farrakhan’s words matter, too: It’s about time the left universally denounced his anti-Semitism

In First Amendment-free Europe, there can even be legal consequences. Last week the European Court of Human Rights ruled against an Austrian woman who held two seminars called, “Basic Information on Islam,” in which she allegedly defamed the Prophet Mohammed by implying that he was a pedophile. The court decided that her speech exceeded the “permissible limits of an objective debate” by threatening to “stir up prejudice and put at risk religious peace.”

By that standard, Farrakhan’s prejudice-inducing screed at his annual Founders Day celebration would certainly qualify as disturbing the peace. At the same event where Mallory called Farrakhan “honorable,” he claimed to have “pulled a cover off of that Satanic Jew, and I’m here to say your time is up, your world is through.”

It’s precisely the strength of Farrakhan’s words, and those like him, that land a bomb in the mailbox of a Holocaust survivor who barely escaped the same forces that tried to kill him less than a century ago. And it’s what inspired the Pittsburgh mass murderer who wrote, “Jews are the children of Satan” on his social media bio.

In her lengthy justification for sticking by Farrakhan, Mallory explained, “where my people are is where I must also be,” co-mingling a legitimate and necessary critique of anti-black racism with life-threatening anti-Semitism. The fact is that the man who murdered two black grandparents in a Kentucky convenience store last week and spared other shoppers because “whites don’t kill whites” is fighting for a shared future with a man who hates Jews for being Jews.

Failure to fully grasp that connection isn’t just ignorant; it can be lethal.

I’m considering going to the next Women’s March in January because I also need to be with my people. But I don’t have to accept its leadership. It’s that simple.

The not-so-sweet taste of hypocrisy about anti-Semitism

When asked about Mallory and Sarsour, the ice-cream company was agnostic about their support for anti-Semitism.

“We’re comfortable with the idea that the people and the causes we partner with may have a point of view different from our own on some issues,” a spokeswoman for Ben & Jerry’s was quoted as saying. “They can be controversial, just as we can. Linda may not agree with everything we’ve done. But the work that she has done to promote women’s rights, as co-chair of the Women’s March, is undeniably important and we are proud to join her in that effort.”

Not satisfied with that, Ben & Jerry’s also released a statement from Sarsour, saying, “We recommit ourselves to dismantling anti-Semitism and all forms of racism.”

Sarsour spoke out against the slaughter last weekend at a Pittsburgh synagogue and is trying to position herself as a friend of the Jews, as long as they aren’t Israelis or supporters of the Jewish state. But can one really dismantle anti-Semitism by supporting a Jew-hater like Farrakhan, and by championing a cause that advocates for denying to the Jews that which no one thinks to deny to any other people on the planet? Sarsour has been a hypocrite about anti-Semitism, and now the same can be said for Ben & Jerry’s.

Some progressive Jews have already spoken out about disassociating from the Women’s March while Mallory and Sarsour remain at its head. But the message from Ben & Jerry’s is that it’s OK to hate Jews as long as you are “resisting” Trump. If liberal Jews, even those blaming Trump for Pittsburgh and act as if anti-Semitism is limited to the right, blithely accept this outrageous proposition, then they have lost their moral compass.

After Pittsburgh, zero tolerance for Jew-hatred must be a given. The only thing people of conscience, whether liberal or conservative, should do is to “resist” Ben & Jerry’s new bitter taste.

Doubling down, Ben & Jerry’s Releases Mintifada Ice Cream (satire)

In another effort to infuse social justice into its products, Ben & Jerry’s has released a new ‘Mintifada’ ice cream to honor “the heroic activists who stood up to the shifty Jews” during two Palestinian uprisings.

Along with its mint base, the ice cream will include pop rocks representing the suicide bombs used against Jewish targets and small pebbles referencing the rocks thrown at Israeli tanks and cars.

“Alongside all those nutty chunks, this pint packs a powerful message under its lid: together, we can drive every last Jew from Palestine,” the company said in a statement announcing the flavor.

The company previously came under fire when it announced that part of the sales from a new flavor called Pecan Resist would go towards the Women’s March, a far-left group founded by supporters of anti-Semitic minister Louis Farrakhan. Sales from the Mintifada flavor will support Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, ISIS, and a GoFundMe account launched by actor Mel Gibson.

Final funeral to be held in Pittsburgh for victims of synagogue shooting

Mourners gathered in Pittsburgh on Friday for the funeral of the last and oldest of 11 victims gunned down in a massacre at a synagogue, capping a week of grieving for the city.

Rose Mallinger, 97, affectionately known to her family as “Bubbie,” Yiddish for “grandma,” was among the worshipers killed last Saturday when a gunman burst into the Tree of Life synagogue with a semi-automatic rifle and three pistols and opening fire in the midst of Sabbath prayers as he shouted “All Jews must die.”

Mallinger’s daughter was injured in the attack and remained hospitalized in stable condition.

Robert Bowers, 46, an avowed anti-Semite, pleaded not guilty on Thursday in federal court to all 44 counts against him in the attack.

The massacre, following a wave of pipe bombs mailed to prominent Democrats, has heightened national tensions ahead of U.S. congressional elections on Tuesday that will decide whether President Donald Trump loses the Republican majority he now enjoys in both chambers.

A long line of mourners waited to pay their respects ahead of Mallinger’s funeral at the Rodef Shalom Temple.

“She was a grandmother to all of us,” said Bruce Ive, who saw Mallinger regularly at the synagogue. “We all called her Bubbie.”

U.S. Jews and non-Jews are packing synagogues and ‘showing up for Shabbat’

An initiative of the American Jewish Committee that has been adopted by a host of other Jewish and non-Jewish organizations and individuals, #ShowUpForShabbat encourages Jews and others across the United States to attend Shabbat services this weekend.

Synagogues across the country were filled to capacity for Friday evening services, with worshipers of all faiths who had come to show solidarity with the Jewish community. Politicians, celebrities and citizens across the country tweeted their support for American Jews and their attendance at synagogue. In many communities, Christian and Muslim spiritual leaders shared the pulpit with local rabbis.

Some on Twitter described unheard of turnout for services, and synagogue parking lots overflowing and lines out the door. Some synagogues even performed two services to make sure everyone had the chance to attend that night.

Some members of the Jewish community according to The New York Times, including Mr. Schor a member of the Lincoln Square Synagogue in Manhattan said, “Nothing will prevent me from coming [to synagogue].. Our strength comes from daily unity. We draw additional strength from each other in challenging times.”

Jewish gun store owner from Colorado offers rabbis free rifles

The Jewish owner of a gun shop in Colorado has offered to give rabbis semi-automatic rifles for free following the murder of 11 worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Mel Bernstein, who owns Dragon Arms near Colorado Springs, made the offer in an item aired Wednesday on KOAA-TV’s News5.

“Lets say there’s a fire in a synagogue. What do you grab? You grab a fire extinguisher, right?” Bernstein, who goes by the name Dragonman, said on the NBC affiliate’s program. “OK, lets say somebody comes in and starts shooting everybody. What are you going to grab? You grab your AR-15 or a rifle or a handgun.”

During the shooting Saturday, “people sitting in the synagogue, they were sitting ducks,” and “nobody’s stopping him,” Bernstein said of the shooter, who authorities say was right-wing extremist Robert Bowers. “You have to have the tool to fight back, and this is the tool, and I’m donating these to the rabbis.”

Each gun that Bernstein hopes to give the local religious leaders is valued at an estimated $650, and the store was clear that each rabbi would have to pass a background check to take possession of the weapon, the Western Journal reported.

Rabbi Jeff Ader of Temple Beit Torah in Colorado Springs told KOAA that he thought the offer was very generous and thoughtful, and that he’d have to think about it. Ader also talked to him about giving some people their concealed weapons training.

Labour Party branch ‘voted down motion condemning Pittsburgh synagogue attack’

A local Labour Party branch has refused to pass a motion condemning the antisemitic attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh that left 11 people dead, according to a party activist.

Steve Cooke, the secretary of Norton West branch in the Stockton North constituency, said he was “aghast” that the motion was voted down after members claimed there was too much focus on “antisemitism this, antisemitism that”.

Members of the branch reportedly demanded that a reference to antisemitism be removed from the statement on the shooting last Saturday. The alleged attacker, who has far-right links, is said to have shouted “I just want to kill Jews” after opening fire on the congregation.

The motion proposed by Mr Cooke said the murders “demonstrate the dangers posed by the growth in antisemitic sentiments and hate speech internationally” and expressed a commitment to “stand in solidarity with the Jewish community around the world and send our condolences to all those affected by the tragic events in Pittsburgh”.

It also said the branch should recognise ”that antisemitism exists in society and affirm our belief that such prejudice must be confronted and eradicated wherever it arises”.

But when put to a vote, only two members backed the motion and it was voted down.(h/t Zvi)

Vandalism at New York City synagogue leads to arrest

A 26-year-old man has been charged with vandalizing a historic New York City synagogue with anti-Semitic graffiti five days after a mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, according to reports.

The vandalism Thursday at the Union Temple in Brooklyn forced the cancelation of a political event hosted by “Broad City” star Ilana Glazer, the New York Post reported Friday.

James Polite was charged with a hate crime after his arrest Friday, the paper reported. He is also suspected of setting a rubbish fire at another Brooklyn synagogue on Friday prior to his arrest.

The NYPD said on Twitter that surveillance video showed Polite vandalizing the synagogue.

Polite was committed to a psychiatric hospital, according to the Daily News.

New York mayor Bill de Blasio visited Union Temple Friday night and called the incident “tremendously upsetting,” according to the paper.

Twitter Apologizes for Allowing ‘Kill All Jews’ to Become a Trending Topic

Twitter apologized, Friday, after allowing “Kill All Jews” to becoming a top trending topic on the social network.

“Kill All Jews” became a top trending topic on Twitter, Thursday, after the phrase was graffitied by a vandal onto a Brooklyn synagogue.

“This phrase should not have appeared in trends, and we’re sorry for this mistake,” claimed a Twitter spokesman to the Wrap. “At times, we do prevent certain content from trending and we have now done so with this trend. This was trending as a result of coverage and horrified reactions to the vandalism against a synagogue in New York. Regardless, it should not have appeared as a trend.”

On Twitter’s help page, the company explains that sometimes it “may prevent certain content from trending,” including trends which, “Contain profanity or adult/graphic references,” “Incite hate on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease,” and, “Violate the Twitter Rules.”

Emerging Gaza ceasefire to significantly ease blockade — report

An emerging cease-fire agreement aimed at calming months of violence on the Israel-Gaza border will last for three years and see a significant easing of the blockade on the Hamas-controlled territory, Lebanon’s Al-Akbar newspaper reported Saturday.

According to the report, the deal being brokered by Egypt stipulates a gradual stop to the ongoing, Hamas-orchestrated violent border protests and maritime flotillas over the next two months. In addition, Hamas will be obligated to punish Gazans caught engaging in violent demonstrating along the border with Israel.

In return, Egypt will permanently open its Rafah border crossing and lift 70 percent of its blockade on the Hamas-controlled territory, the report said, citing officials familiar with the emerging agreement.

Al-Akbar said the deal would require Israel to grant 5,000 work permits for Gazans, and expand the Strip’s fishing zone from nine to 14 nautical miles.

Israel had no immediate comment on the report.

In addition, the paper reported the Palestinian Authority would pay 80% of the salaries of Hamas officials in Gaza, and would not object to Qatar bankrolling those wages for at least six months, like it has in the past.

Within the framework of the agreement, the report said various economic projects in Gaza would be advanced to create jobs for some 30,000 jobs and alleviate the humanitarian situation in the Strip.

Abbas, Sissi hold rare meet on backdrop of ceasefire, reconciliation efforts

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi met on Saturday in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm al-Sheikh, the official PA news agency Wafa reported.

The last publicly known time the two leaders held a bilateral meeting was some ten months ago.

“The two presidents discussed developments in the Middle East, especially those related to Palestine in light of the dangers the Palestinian issue is facing,” the Wafa report said.

Abbas arrived in Egypt on Friday to meet Sissi and attend a conference in Sharm el-Sheikh.

The PA president also praised Sissi “for the efforts the Arab Republic of Egypt has exerted” under his leadership, without elaborating.

Azzam al-Ahmad, a Palestine Liberation Organization official who attended the meeting between the two leaders, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Egypt has recently made efforts to revive the reconciliation process between Hamas and Fatah, meeting with leaders from the two rival parties for separate talks in the past several weeks.

Palestinian-American author detained at Ben Gurion airport

Palestinian-American writer Susan Abulhawa was detained at Ben-Gurion Airport Thursday and will be deported from the country, according to Israeli and Palestinian officials.

Abulhawa was set to attend the Palestinian Literature Festival, to be held in Jerusalem, Haifa, and around the West Bank in the coming week. Abulhawa appealed the decision in court Friday morning, but the plea was rejected.

Abulhawa’s detention is not related to Boycott, Divestment or Sanctions (BDS) ties, but instead because she refused to answer security questions when attempting to enter the country through Jordan in 2015, according to an Immigration Authority spokesperson.

“She was refused entry then and told that the next time she arrived she had to coordinate in advance,” said the spokesperson, according to i24 News. Now, the spokesperson said, “she was refused entry and then told that the next time she arrived she had to coordinate in advance.”

Abulhawa is set to be deported immediately.

This is the most recent detention at Ben Gurion Airport after Lara Alqasem, the American student set to study at Hebrew University, was detained for over two weeks last month for alleged ties to the BDS movement. Alqasem was eventually allowed to enter the country.

Christians in Egypt bury their dead after jihadist attack

Hundreds of Egyptian Coptic Christians gathered Saturday for a funeral service south of Cairo to bid farewell to six of seven people killed the previous day when militants ambushed three buses carrying pilgrims on their way to a remote desert monastery.

The service at Prince Tadros church in the city of Minya was held amid tight security and presided over by Minya’s top cleric, Anba Makarios. He and members of the congregation prayed and chanted over a row of six white coffins.

Relatives of the victims cried and held each other for support.

All but one of those killed were members of the same family, according to a list of the victims’ names released by the church, which said a boy and a girl, ages 15 and 12 respectively, were among the dead. A total of 19 were wounded in the attack, according to the Coptic Orthodox Church.

US reimposes all sanctions on Iran lifted under nuclear deal

The Trump administration on Friday announced the reimposition of all US sanctions on Iran that had been lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal, ramping up economic pressure on the Islamic Republic as President Donald Trump completed the unraveling of what had been one of his predecessor’s signature foreign policy achievements.

The sanctions, which will take effect on Monday, cover Iran’s shipping, financial and energy sectors and are the second batch the administration has reimposed since Trump withdrew from the landmark accord in May. The rollback ends US participation in the nuclear deal, which now hangs in the balance as Iran no longer enjoys any relief from sanctions imposed by the world’s largest economy.

Shortly after the announcement, Trump tweeted a movie poster-like image of himself walking out of what appears to be fog with the phrase “Sanctions are Coming, November 5.”

With limited exceptions, the sanctions will hit countries that do not stop importing Iranian oil and foreign firms that do business with blacklisted Iranian entities, including its central bank, a number of private financial institutions, and state-run port and shipping firms, as well as hundreds of individual Iranian officials.

MEMRI: ‘Démocratie Participative’ – A Blatantly Antisemitic, Racist, Anti-LGBTQ French Website – Says It’s Owned By U.S. Citizen, Protected By First Amendment

The French website Démocratie participative (“Participating in Democracy,” is openly and proudly antisemitic, racist, and anti-LGBTQ, and a platform for aggressive populist sentiment against anyone not white, Christian, or straight unless they share its views. Thus, on October 18, 2018, the website called Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan – who is neither white nor Christian, but is a known antisemite – “honorable,” in a article featuring a tweet by Farrakhan stating “I’m not an antisemite. I’m anti-Termite.”[1]

Démocratie participative (DP) is not the only openly racist and antisemitic French website. Blanche Europe (“White Europe”) is another, and “Viva Europa” is pro-Aryan. However, DP has lately managed to attract a sizeable audience because of its highly provocative current events commentary. All the site’s contributors use pseudonyms; the most prolific and radical, who may also be the site’s founder, is “Captain Harlock.”

DP – “The most engaged site for freedom of expression”; The Daily Stormer.

DP circumvents France’s prohibition on racist and antisemitic speech by noting prominently on its homepage that it is “owned by U.S. citizen David Johnson Jr.” and that it is a “U.S. site in French protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America.”

Washington Post Publishes Op-Ed by Turkey’s Erdogan, Who Leads the World in Jailing Journalists

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan published an opinion piece in the Washington Post Friday attacking Saudi Arabia for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Turkey has the odious distinction of jailing more journalists than any other nation, according to most estimates, as Erdogan’s critics have found themselves accused of “terrorism” and thrown in jail. Nevertheless, he was given space in the Post to target Saudi Arabia and tout his own country’s efforts in the “cause of justice” for Khashoggi, who wrote for the Post.

“Turkey has moved heaven and earth to shed light on all aspects of this case,” Erdogan wrote.

He was careful not to denounce Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, and he said Turkey’s relationship with the Saudis are friendly. He did not mention the crown prince but did say he trusted that his father, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, did not “order the hit on Khashoggi.”

“Who gave the order to kill this kind soul?” Erdogan asks, arguing that the Saudis must be more cooperative in the investigation and provide Khashoggi’s remains.

This kind of sympathy for journalists has not applied to the well over 100 journalists the Turks have jailed while Erdogan has been in power. Journalists critical of Erdogan have been charged with being a “terrorist” organization, and as happened with the opposition Cumhuriyet daily paper earlier this year.

“No penalty can stop us from doing journalism. If needed, we will go to prison again but we will continue to do honest and honourable journalism,” Cumhuriyet editor in chief Murat Sabuncu said after receiving a sentence of seven years and six months.

Computer game mocks sending Jews to gas chambers

The video game “The Cost of Freedom” created by Ukrainian company Alien Games is stirring controversy in Poland, as participants play a Nazi SS officer in the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp who is required to select Jewish prisoners to die in gas chambers.

The preview of the game that has not yet been released shows players determining which prisoners will be sent for “delousing” in the gas chambers in Auschwitz and meet their death there.

The game itself displays hard graphic images of prisoners in the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. Creators of the game present it as a “game about the Polish death camps,” which is forbidden by the new Polish law.

The creators of the game also allow players to choose whether they want to play rebel prisoners trying to rebel against the Nazis in the German extermination camp on Polish soil.

Lukasz Lapczyński, spokesman for the prosecution in Warsaw, confirmed that an investigation had been launched against the creators of the game and now Polish prosecutors are collecting evidence against the creators of the game for “harming the reputation of Poland and promoting a fascist regime.”

A Polish journalist by the name of Wojciech Wybranowski claims the game was probably developed by Russian programmers who linked it to Ukraine to damage relations between Poland and Ukraine.

A stretch of desert: Hundreds attend Arava yoga festival

Hundreds of Israelis and foreigners took part over the weekend in the ninth annual Yoga Arava festival, practicing throughout the southern Arava desert.

Sessions were held Thursday-Saturday in various villages of the Arava — the border region between Israel and Jordan that stretches from the Dead Sea to Eilat.

Organizers described the event as “the largest yoga gathering in the Middle East.” The festival, they said, featured “the best teachers in Israel and special guest teachers from all around the world.”

On Friday a joint yoga session was held at Timna Park, at which festivalgoers could enjoy breathtaking scenery as they practiced their cat pose and downward dog.

FIDF Western Gala in Beverly Hills Raises Record $60 Million

There was a last minute addition to the Friends of Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) Western Region Gala at the Beverly Hilton on November 1.

The theme of this year’s event, hosted by Haim and Cheryl Saban was “Making a Difference: 70 Years of Heroes and Hope,” designed around front line heroes and the “heroes behind the heroes” – paramedics in the IDF.

Shortly before the official ceremonies commenced, a voiceover announced: “We have gathered tonight to honor those who give everything to defend the Jewish people and the Jewish State. Before we begin our program we’d like to take a moment to acknowledge that today our Jewish family is in mourning. Please join us in a moment of silence as we honor the 11 congregants of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh who were senselessly murdered this past Shabbat.”

There wasn’t a sound as 1,200 people, heads bowed, stood in silence in the packed ballroom. And while everyone who came was there to support FIDF and Israel’s soldiers – as well as to see Pharrell Williams perform – it came as no surprise at the end of the evening as $60 million had been pledged – the largest amount ever for the charitable organization at a single event.

The largest donations came from the Sabans and Sheldon and Miri Adelson, who pledged $10 million each. Cheryl Saban said, “I wasn’t born into a Jewish family, I was absorbed and loved into a Jewish family.” Another voiceover announced that this year is Israel’s “70th anniversary of hope, heroism, democracy and freedom.”

Among those embodying these traits was Israeli-American Emcee Izzy Ezagui, a decorated squad commander in the IDF. He lost an arm in a mortar attack on the border of the Gaza Strip, but fought to return and reenlist in the IDF. He continues to serve as a reservist and has a wry sense of humor.

“The only thing I’m left wondering,” he quipped to Haim Saban, “is I gave five fingers to the IDF, so does my five finger contribution qualify as a tax write off this evening?”

(From left to right) Andy Garcia, Fran Drescher, Dr. Miriam Adelson, Gerard Butler, Sheldon G. Adelson, Haim and Cheryl Saban, Katharine McPhee, David Foster with IDF Soldiers at the FIDF Western Region Gala. (photo credit: SHAHAR AZRA

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