A friend of mine accepted a new position in the Jewish community and posted it on Facebook with the headline, “You may have heard the news today – oh boy.” I immediately said what a great subject line for my email this week.
I am sure we are all following the news – impeachment hearings, debates, sports, etc. A real mix of bad and good. Sadly, the same holds true for the Jewish world this past week:
● Locally, and widely reported (even in Israel), last Saturday night the phone line and voicemail of Shalom Y’all, a local restaurant specializing in Israeli street food, was hacked and its greeting changed to an anti-Semitic message. The line was repaired and then hacked again on Sunday. Moreover, the hackers also made various hate/prank calls using the restaurant’s phone number. The police are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime, and we have been in touch with the restaurant and police to provide our support and assistance.
● In Israel, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz lost his chance on Wednesday to form a coalition government. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (more news on him later) was also unable to create a coalition.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin handed the task of forming a government to the Knesset for the first time. Various Knesset members will try to gather the necessary minimum of 61 seats to support a candidate who they think will have the support and ability to build a governing coalition. They have three weeks.
If the Knesset fails, an unprecedented third round of elections will be held in March 2020, possibly during our community’s Centennial Trip to Israel.
● A few hours after President Rivlin’s mandate to the Knesset, Israel’s attorney general formally charged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a series of corruption cases, throwing the country’s political system into further disarray.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit charged Netanyahu with fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in three different scandals. It is the first time a sitting Israeli prime minister has been charged with a crime.
The indictment does not require Netanyahu to resign, but is expected to raise pressure on him to step down. Netanyahu vehemently denies the charges.
● Less reported was a groundbreaking event in London two days ago where 30 public figures from 15 Arab countries came together to repudiate the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS) against Israel and to call for direct civil relations between the Jewish state and their respective societies.
This conference took place, by coincidence, on the anniversary of the late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat’s historic 1977 visit to Israel.
Extremism and terrorism were deplored; concern expressed about “brainwashing” of children in school and of students at university level; and a plea to Europe to crack down on the number of mosques in which imams were preaching hatred towards Israel and Jews.
Despite the conference’s goals and theme, no Israelis were present because delegates could have been subject to prosecution in their home countries for the “crime” of normalizing relations.
BDS, they said, “stymies hopes for peace between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples: it prevents them from engaging either of the two peoples directly, Arabs are unable to cultivate ties that could foster conciliation and compromise on both sides. In sum, the boycott increases the suffering of our societies and weakens our capacities.”
● I wish they would hear this message on our college campuses, as the BDS movement has become more established over time, anti-Israel tactics have become increasingly hostile as Israel’s detractors double down on efforts to make campuses inhospitable to Jews and Zionists.
One of the key ways to spread their message is to exploit “intersectionality.” This enables BDS proponents to connect their grievances with broader causes, and to equate Palestinian struggles with oppression suffered by other groups. In this way, BDS promotes growing hostility toward Jewish students, encouraging and normalizing an environment of anti-Semitism among minority groups on campus.
My daughter experienced this at her campus this week as leaders of the BDS movement came to the school to spread their rhetoric. Every time the words “Israel,” “Zionism,” and “Jews” were mentioned, the crowd would demonstrably hiss and boo. Scary, indeed.
● BDS supporters in the Graduate Students’ Union at the University of Toronto supported a resolution to not allow (ready for this) kosher food on campus because the initiative was “pro-Israel.” Unbelieveable!
● And this week alone major anti-Semitic incidents were reported at Syracuse University, University of Georgia, and Iowa State University.
● On a more positive note, Monday night was our Women’s Philanthropy IMPACT event with over 300 women in attendance. Author Irin Carmon shared her personal stories about the “Notorious RBG” – Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Irin was fabulous, they raised over $170,000, and the women were energized.
Irin shared what Justice Ginsburg said when asked how she wants to be remembered. Her response, "I was someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability. And to help repair tears in her society, to make things a little better using whatever ability she has.” Amen!
● Yesterday was the 35th anniversary of Operation Moses, a proud moment when the global Jewish community enabled 8,000 Ethiopian Jews over a seven-week period to be airlifted out of the Sudan to Israel.
Before this operation, there were fewer than 250 Ethiopian immigrants in Israel. And, five years following, Operation Solomon took 14,324 more Jews to Israel.
● Finally, I am proud of the work of our Jewish Free Loan program. We just made an interest-free loan to a young couple who recently welcomed a preemie newborn into their family. They requested a loan to make their first and last month’s rent payments so they could move out of their very small apartment and into a rental house.
We are very proud of how this fund can truly positively impact the lives of others.