Friday, June 10, 2022

From Ian:

100 Years Ago This Month: When Congress Embraced Zionism—Unanimously
One hundred years ago this week, the United States Congress unanimously embraced Zionism. The story of how that came about involves some surprising twists and turns, and a stormy debate about Jews and Arabs that could have been taken straight out of today’s headlines.

In the spring of 1922, the League of Nations—forerunner of the United Nations—was weighing Great Britain’s request to be granted the mandate over Palestine. The approval process was slowed as France and Italy jockeyed for regional influence and the Vatican sought to prevent Jews from gaining a “privileged” position or “preponderant influence” in the Holy Land.

In the wake of England’s 1917 Balfour Declaration, pledging to facilitate creation of a Jewish national home, American Zionists were eager to see the British receive the Palestine mandate. They hoped an endorsement of Zionism by President Warren Harding would accelerate the process. But Harding proved noncommittal, so Zionist activists turned to Congress.

Senators Henry Cabot Lodge, of Massachusetts, and Charles Curtis, of Kansas (a future vice president) and Rep. Hamilton Fish, Jr., of New York, all Republicans, agreed to take the lead on a pro-Zionist resolution. They were isolationists and immigration restrictionists—not exactly the Jewish community’s favorite kind of politicians. Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, head of the American Jewish Congress, had recently denounced Lodge as “un-American and anti-American” because he opposed U.S. participation in the League of Nations.

Successful lobbying, however, is the art of the possible. Many Jewish leaders may have been personally more comfortable with Democrats, but in 1922, the president was Republican and the GOP enjoyed large majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. If three powerful Republican congressmen were ready to champion the Zionist cause, why should they be turned away?

The Lodge-Fish resolution, as it came to be known, declared that “the United States of America favors the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” It added that “the civil and religious rights of Christian and all other non-Jewish communities in Palestine” and “the holy places and religious buildings and sites” should “be adequately protected.”

Hearings were held before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs over four days in April.

The testimony by Zionist officials emphasized both justice and rescue. The Jewish people were entitled to rebuild their biblical homeland, and European Jews urgently needed a haven; 100,000 Jews had been slaughtered in pogroms in Ukraine and Poland in 1918-1921. Moreover, Zionist development of the land would benefit Palestine’s Arab population. (h/t jzaik)
Biden Admin Takes Major Step To Roll Back Trump’s Jerusalem Embassy Move
Jason Greenblatt, former White House envoy to the Middle East and author of the book In the Path of Abraham, described the decision as a concession to the Palestinian government, which incites terrorism against Israel and pays salaries to convicted militants.

"Even more troubling is the reversal of the chain of command established by the Trump administration," Greenblatt told the Free Beacon. "It is extremely bad practice for reporting on Palestinian affairs to go directly to the State Department without being run through the U.S. ambassador to Israel. So many of the issues they are responsible for are intertwined, and so much can be missed, misconstrued, or manipulated when the chain of command is disrupted."

Greenblatt said his time in the White House showed him that separating this mission aided a "broken system" that appeased Palestinian leadership while harming U.S.-Israeli relations. "By trying to appease the Palestinian leadership with this empty gesture, we hurt our critical ally Israel and we hurt the United States—we hurt our national security, our diplomatic efforts and we waste precious U.S. taxpayer money," he said.

Arsen Ostrovsky, and Israeli human rights attorney who serves as chair and CEO of International Legal Forum, an advocacy group, said the creation of this office marks "a transparent attempt by the Biden Administration to go round the back door, with a de-facto consulate in clear attempt to water down the Trump Administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital." It also signals that the Biden administration is challenging Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem.

Republican foreign policy leaders also pushed back on the move.

Sen. Bill Hagerty (R., Tenn.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the State Department is circumventing the Israeli government in order to create "an unofficial U.S. consulate" to the Palestinians, in violation of the law.

"I unequivocally oppose this plan for what appears to be a new unofficial U.S. diplomatic mission in Israel’s capital," Hagerty said. "This plan is inconsistent with the full and faithful implementation of the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 and suggests that the administration is once again trying to undermine America’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal and undivided capital."

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R., N.Y.), a House Foreign Affairs Committee member, said the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act was specifically created to prevent this situation.

"Palestinian Authority leadership has made it abundantly clear that their push for this action is for the purpose of dividing Jerusalem," Zeldin said. "The United States unilaterally making this concession to the Palestinian Authority in exchange for no concessions in return has been proven to be a failed policy time and again."
Boston BDS map of Jewish groups has ‘potential to incite violence,’ Auchincloss says
He said that the project carries echoes of “a very sinister vein of Western history” — efforts to identify and keep rosters of Jews, including, but not limited to, the Holocaust.

Auchincloss said he plans to raise the issue with colleagues and with groups in the area that have promoted the Mapping Project, and will urge his colleagues to do the same.

“I will give direct and stark feedback about how inappropriate and unacceptable this is,” he said.

Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), tweeted on Wednesday that “Targeting the Jewish community like this is wrong and it is dangerous. It is irresponsible. This project is an anti-Semitic enemies list with a map attached.”

The other members of Massachusetts’ congressional delegation — including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Ed Markey (D-MA), who are named in the Mapping Project — did not respond to requests for comment.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) has been endorsed by the advocacy group Peace Action, whose local chapter, Massachusetts Peace Action, has amplified the Mapping Project.

Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) also called out the project, saying that it “accuses Jewish and ‘Zionist’ institutions of various evils in American society,” adding, “Scapegoating is a common symptom of antisemitism, which at its core is a conspiracy theory.”

The project has caught the attention of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, whose spokesperson, Lior Haiat, tweeted earlier this week, “This whole project is reminiscent of a dangerous antisemitic pattern of activity known from antiquity through the horrors of the 20th century: a pattern which has led to violence against Jews and their institutions.”

Jeremy Burton, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Boston, told JI, “We see this as an explicit effort name and identify and put a target on physical Jewish spaces in Greater Boston, with the purpose, explicitly in their own words, of dismantling our Jewish community here in Boston,” which could “inspire others to dangerous action.”

Burton urged lawmakers with ties to groups like Massachusetts Peace Action that have amplified the project to enact “consequences in those relationships.”

Have You Ever Heard of the Farhud?
Here’s the worst part about Iraq’s history of violent antisemitism today: Whereas other Arab countries, including the former behemoth of Arab nationalism, Egypt, have made peace with Israel, two weeks ago, Iraq’s Parliament passed a law criminalizing relations with “the Zionist entity.” Anyone who violates this new law, including businessmen, faces life imprisonment or even the death sentence. The government said it was only reflecting the will of the people. Hundreds gathered in Tahrir Square (yes, it shares its name with the famous Tahrir Square from Egypt’s 2011 revolution) in central Baghdad to celebrate the passing of the law.

How’s that for progress 81 years after the country shamefully allowed for the mass slaughter of its ancient Jewish population in Baghdad? Even the regime in Iran had the decency to criminalize Zionism over 40 years ago, rather than today.

For The Last Time, Jews Are Not White.

I can nearly guarantee that certain American celebrities who believe that the Holocaust was a “white-on-white crime” don’t know that Nazism spread its hideous tentacles throughout the Middle East. I’ve also never believed that Jews are white (if that’s the case, why are we the target of white supremacists?), but I challenge anyone who weaponizes race against Jews by calling us white and privileged to see photos of brown-skinned Iraqi Jews running out of their destroyed homes in 1941 and screaming in horror, and to tell me that these Jews are white (or privileged).

And then, there’s the deeply offensive and untruthful argument that Israel ethnically-cleanses Palestinians. Do you know which once-thriving Jewish population was actually driven out — completely — from the Arab Middle East? Iraqi Jews. And if you want to get technical, Libyan Jews. And Syrian Jews. And Yemenite Jews.

Three to five Jews remain in Iraq, from a former population of over 135,000 before the Farhud (including 90,000 who lived in Baghdad). Forty or so Jews remain in Syria; while six Jews are still in Yemen. These are estimates and some of the numbers might actually be smaller.

Not a single Jew remains in Libya. I’m not a mathematician, but something about that wreaks of ethnic cleansing.

Anyone who knows even minimally about Jewish history knows that modern-day Iraq was one of the most important epicenters of Jewish learning. The Babylonian Talmud was completed there, and Jews have had a continuous presence in the region since they were brought there as captives after the Babylonians conquered the Kingdom of Judea in the sixth-century BCE. That means that for nearly 3,000 years, Jews lived in present-day Iraq. Again, only three to five Jews remain there today.

The Farhud not only marked the beginning of a mass exodus of Iraqi Jews from the country, but tragically, it also marked the end of an ancient Jewish community.

I shouldn’t have been surprised that my Israeli friends had not heard of the Farhud. A recent poll found that half of Israelis that were polled knew about Kristallnacht; only seven percent had ever heard of the Farhud. That, in itself, is another tragedy.
Rock Band Received ‘Thousands of Threats’ Before Cancelling Israel Concerts, Says Father of Bass Player
The Grammy-nominated indie rock band Big Thief was bombarded with thousands of threats from campaigners for the anti-Zionist BDS movement to cancel their two scheduled concerts in Israel before they ultimately made the decision to call off the shows in Tel Aviv, the father of the group’s Israeli bassist told Israel’s public broadcaster Kan on Thursday.

Big Thief bass player Max Oleartchik is the son of famed Israeli musician Alon Oleartchik, who is a founding member of the Israeli rock group Kaveret. Max, 34, now lives in New York but was born in Israel, and his band performed in Tel Aviv in 2017. They were expected to return to Israel for a concert in 2020, but the show was cancelled due to the COVID pandemic.

On June 4, Big Thief revealed on Instagram that they would have two concerts in Tel Aviv on July 6 and 7, but following the announcement the band “received thousands of threats,” Alon told Kan.

“The reaction they received for [announcing] a performance in Israel was horrible and terrible,” Alon said. “They were crushed by it.” He added that his son Max “was also crushed by this, he really wanted [the concert] to happen. They are the most non-political band I know, they have no statement about Israel, they write songs about relationships and humanity.”

While announcing the cancellation of their Tel Aviv concerts on Thursday, Big Thief also said, “To be clear, we oppose the illegal occupation and the systematic oppression of the Palestinian people. We believe in total freedom and self-determination for all Palestinians.”

“Our intent in wanting to play the shows in Tel Aviv, where Max was born, raised, and currently lives, stemmed from a simple belief that music can heal,” the band added. “We now recognize that the shows we had booked do not honor that sentiment. We are sorry to those we hurt with the recklessness and naïveté of our original statement on playing Israel and we hope those who were planning to attend the shows understand our choice to cancel them.”

Faculty at City University of New York Issue Fresh Warning Against ‘New Antisemitism’ on Campus
A group of academics at the City University of New York (CUNY) on Friday issued a fresh warning about the “new antisemitism” on campus, one year after the college’s staff congress passed a viscerally anti-Israel resolution in the wake of the May 2021 war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

The resolution — passed by the Professional Staff Congress Delegate Assembly on June 14 last year — accused Israel of committing massacres and endorsed the boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) movement that seeks to isolate the Jewish state. It denounced Israel as a “settler colonial state” that had engaged in “dispossession and expansion of settlements” at the expense of the Palestinians since its establishment in 1948.

The passage of the resolution last year marked a moment when “the new antisemitism” projected “the hatred of Jews nurtured through the ages into our time and place,” the CUNY Alliance for Academic Inclusion (CAFI) — a faculty group combating antisemitism — said on Friday.

The resolution passed by the Delegate Assembly was “an iconic expression of a new antisemitism, a movement which is proud of its hostility to Israel and stands with Palestinian leadership sworn to destroy the Jewish state, no matter the cost to their people,” the group said.

CAFI accused the Assembly attempted to “break the common bonds of humanity, intellectual integrity, and unfettered discussion that are essential for a flourishing civil society and university.”

The group continued, “You will not find any Delegate Assembly resolution touching upon the Russian and Iranian assault on Syria, the mass imprisonment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, the suppression of civil liberties in Hong Kong, and on and on.”

The “Resolution in Support of the Palestinian People” compounded the sense of antisemitism felt by Jews at the City University of New York, several faculty told The Algemeiner after it passed last June. It also touched off two other high profile CUNY endorsements of BDS, with the CUNY Law Student Government Association (CUNY LSGA) and CUNY Law school faculty voting to embrace the Palestinian-led campaign to boycott the world’s only Jewish state later in the year.
Hate Crimes Charge Filed Against Anti-Israel Protestor Who Attacked Jewish Students
Felony hate crimes charges have been filed against a University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign (UIUC) student who confessed to throwing a rock at Jewish students during an anti-Israel protest outside the campus’ Hillel center in April, according to a report from The News Gazette.

“The State Attorney’s filing sends a clear message that violence against Jews, or any other minority for that matter, is unacceptable and unwelcome in Champaign-Urbana,” Illini Hillel Executive Director Erez Cohen told The Algemeiner Thursday morning.

If convicted, the student faces a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison, The News-Gazette reported.

Members of the university’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter had stopped at the Illini Hillel Cohen Center during what the group advertised as an “emergency” protest through campus over clashes between Palestinian rioters and Israeli police at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque.

One student told local CBS affiliate WCIA 3 that SJP UIUC chose the Jewish center because “they obviously have a very direct connection to Israel and that’s why we’re targeting that area in specific.”

Labour suspends multiple councillors after multiple controversies emerge in wake of local elections
The Labour Party has implemented a raft of suspensions following a series of controversies at local councils.

Cllr Mohammed Iqbal, who is the leader of the Labour group on Pendle Council in Lancashire, has reportedly been suspended by the Party over remarks that he made in a speech last month in which he called for the flag of the Palestinian Authority to be flown from the town hall. He reportedly said: “The fact is that what’s going on in Ukraine, Palestine, and other areas I’ve mentioned, reminds me, I barely passed my GCSE history at school, but many people in this room will remember what justification Hitler had for what he did to the Jews in the Second World War.”

Yasser Iqbal, another Labour councillor who serves as the town’s mayor, reportedly cited Pastor Niemoller’s famous anti-Nazi poem denouncing those who did not “speak out”, saying, according to the JC, that those who failed to speak out against the Jewish state were culpable.

According to the International Definition of Antisemitism, “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” is an example of antisemitism.

Cllr Iqbal reportedly told the JC: “I disagree that this is antisemitic. I have friends who are Jews and Israeli friends who are Jewish and from other faiths.” He apparently added that several Jewish people had contacted him to express their support. Cllr Yasser Iqbal reportedly did not respond to a request for comment.

The motion to fly the flag passed unanimously in the Council, where the Conservatives are in the majority. Among their number is Cllr Mohammed Aslam, who was formerly a Labour councillor and has previously (as a Conservative) been embroiled in controversy, with Cllr Mohammed Iqbal among those calling on the Conservatives to take action.

Why Antisemitism Thrives on Social Media
TikTok exposes children to antisemitism
“TikTok has become a magnet and a hotbed for violent and extremist content,” the Israeli researchers Gabriel Weimann and Natalie Masri write in their chapter.

This is particularly alarming, they point out, because of the platform’s huge popularity with tweens and teenagers.

Weimann and Masri analyzed TikTok’s content between February and May of 2020 and 2021. They found a 41% increase in antisemitic posts, a 912% increase in antisemitic comments, and a 1,375% increase in antisemitic usernames.

Though the increases are large, the actual amount of content remains small when compared to the total amount of material on the platform.

But TikTok’s huge user base — over one billion — means that even one post can reach a huge audience. An antisemitic song about Jewish people being killed in Auschwitz, for example, was accessed more than six million times worldwide.

Weimann and Masri are especially troubled that TikTok announced a crackdown on hate speech in October 2020, yet their findings showed that antisemitic material was still being posted.

Don’t engage with antisemites on social media
According to Brandeis University’s Sabine von Mering, you shouldn’t respond, share, repost, or engage with the material in any way.

Social media’s algorithms reward content that elicits user responses, even if those responses are negative. Even if you denounce an antisemitic post or call out the person who published it, you increase the likelihood that the content will be promoted on the platform.

Most platforms now have methods for reporting hate speech. Use those, as von Mering urged in an interview.

She also suggests finding ways to show empathy and solidarity with those being attacked, for example, by declaring your solidarity with them on your own page. Solidarity with victims of hate speech is very important, she said, and is one way to counter the unacceptable — and growing — spread of antisemitism online.
Guardian promotes pro-Hezbollah propaganda
It isn’t until the third the last paragraph until the focus of Israeli aerial surveillance over Lebanon, Hezbollah, is even mentioned. More about Chulov’s egregious obfuscation of the root cause of Israeli military activity later in this post.

The Guardian article continues:
Lawrence Abu Hamdan, who assembled the research, which is the most comprehensive of its kind, said studies had shown regular exposure to overflights by warplanes had taken a toll on those living below. has compiled 11 peer-reviewed papers from scientific journals that detail the acute physiological effects of aircraft noise, with symptoms ranging from hypertension to diminished blood circulation and psychosomatic pains.

Perhaps less understood is the psychological effect of foreign warplanes dominating the skies above a civilian population. They often fly at low altitudes that cause alarm and panic.

Israeli anti-Hezbollah operations are then described as a “crime”, without any scrutiny or push-back from the Guardian journalist:
“While in Lebanon, each one of these acts is felt as a briefly passing moment and no two residents may hear jets in the same way or at the same time,” said Abu Hamdan. “What I aim to present is an accumulated event, one extended crime that has taken place over the past 15 years.

“But really this should be seen as an atmosphere of violence. It takes its toll over time, and that’s why it has the potential to be ignored, but it shouldn’t be ignored any longer. Why should a population live under mass indiscriminate surveillance and live under a hostile sky … to the extent that it’s embodied into everyday life.”

Chulov then notes Israeli “claims” about the intent of its air-force’s activities over the skies of Lebanon:
Israel has long maintained that its intrusions over Lebanon are necessary to gain intelligence of Hezbollah, the militia-cum political bloc that holds sway over most political decisions in the country and outguns the national army. It has also used Lebanese skies to bomb targets in Syria linked to Iran, the key backer of Hezbollah.

First, Hezbollah isn’t just a “militia”, but an antisemitic extremist movement that openly calls for Israel’s’ destruction and the mass murder of diaspora Jews – and is designated as terrorists by most of the West. In violation of UN Resolution 1701, they have a massive military presence throughout Lebanon, and an arsenal of roughly 150,000 rockets (more than that of any European country in NATO) aimed at Israel, many of which are cynically placed within Lebanese civilian homes and infrastructure, placing thousands of innocent citizens at risk.
Two media outlets correct Jerusalem error that still stands at BBC Arabic
On May 29, CAMERA Arabic prompted both Agence France Presse’s Arabic service and U.S. government Arabic broadcaster Al Hurra to correct erroneous references to 1967 east Jerusalem as “the Palestinian portion of the city.” AFP’s report that day, entitled “Jerusalem’s ‘flag march’ raises fears of a new escalations between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” originally read:
“Israeli security forces were intensely spread in east Jerusalem on Sunday in order to accompany the annually organized “flag march,” in the anniversary of Israeli occupation of the Palestinian portion of the city, raising concerns of new tensions.”

Notably, AFP’s English edition correctly referred to the territory as “east Jerusalem.”

Al Hurra’s website published AFP’s article along with the erroneous reference to eastern Jerusalem.

However, east Jerusalem was not the “Palestinian portion” of the city at in 1967. From 1948 to 1967, it was illegally occupied by Jordan. Before that, just like the western part of the city, east Jerusalem was part of British Mandatory Palestine. The Nov. 29, 1947 partition plan had called for Jerusalem to be a corpus separatum, an international city administered by the United Nations for 10 years, at which point the city’s status was to be decided in a referendum. Before the British Mandate, the city was under Ottoman control, and so on. Going back through history, at no point was east Jerusalem “the Palestinian portion of the city.”

Furthermore, until Israel gained control of east Jerusalem in 1967, even the PLO – charged by the Arab League in 1964 with the task of mobilizing Palestinian Arabs to “liberate their homeland” and practice “self determination” – did not consider east Jerusalem as part of Palestinian “regional sovereignty.” Article 24 of its 1964 Charter clearly stipulates:
“This Organization does not exercise any regional sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, on the Gaza Strip or the Himmah Area. Its activities will be on the national popular level in the liberational, organizational, political and financial fields.”

In fact, at the time, the PLO sought to exert Palestinian sovereignty only over western Jerusalem, together with the rest of internationally recognized territory of Israel (see also here.)
At Vatican, Pope Francis Discusses Holocaust, Antisemitism With Dani Dayan
Chairman of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Center in Jerusalem, Dani Dayan, met with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Thursday.

“I felt the weight of responsibility as someone who represents not only himself and not only the present, but rather the entire Jewish people throughout its history,” he said.

During the rare private audience, “the two discussed the importance of Holocaust research and remembrance in the Christian world,” according to a statement released by Yad Vashem.

The pope and Dayan also connected due to their Argentinian roots, according to the statement.

“While the past three popes have visited Yad Vashem on Jerusalem’s Mount of Remembrance, the context of these visits reflected the status of the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people. This private audience with Pope Francis, who last visited Yad Vashem in 2014, had a different focus — to bolster collaborative activities between Yad Vashem and the Vatican in areas of Holocaust remembrance, education and documentation, and to discuss efforts to fight anti-Semitism and racism worldwide,” said the memorial center.

Israeli Ambassador to the Vatican Raphael Schutz was also included in the meeting.
Three England fans arrested in Munich for allegedly performing Nazi salutes before Germany game
Police in Munich have arrested three England fans for allegedly performing Nazi salutes.

The salutes were reportedly made before England’s Nations League Clash with Germany on 7th June.

Since the Second World War, the Federal Republic of Germany has made it a criminal offence to perform the Nazi salute in any form, with or without the accompanying phrase “Heil Hitler”. Doing so is punishable by up to three years in prison.

This comes amid a spate of recent incidents at football matches in which Nazi salutes have been performed by fans of Burnley, West Ham United, Newcastle United, Vitesse Arnhem, and Union Berlin.
Two charged with painting antisemitic graffiti on New Zealand “Pink Church”
Two men, aged twenty and 21, have been charged with painting antisemitic and homophobic graffiti on a church in Greymouth, New Zealand.

The words “synagog [sic] of satan” were sprayed under a Star of David, alongside the words “Christ is risen” next to a Russian Orthodox cross, and “Leviticus 20:13”, a reference to a Biblical verse that is often used to give discrimination against homosexuals a religious justification.

The “Pink Church”, officially known as Gloria of Greymouth but which used to be known as St Peter’s Anglican Church, was designed by Jewish poet and artist Sam Duckor-Jones as a “queer place of worship” and an “immersive sculpture” in the former mining town.

In an Instagram post, the Church stated that “The Greymouth community responded beautifully, with love, support & outrage,” adding that “The Greymouth police moved quickly, taking this act of hate seriously.”

At Tel Aviv Pride, rapper Iggy Azalea asks: ‘BDS? What’s that?’
Australian rapper Iggy Azalea performed at the Tel Aviv Pride Festival’s “Love Stage” in Park HaYarkon on Friday afternoon, in her first trip to Israel.

The performer, who reached global prominence following the 2014 release of hit song “Fancy,” moved to the United States from Australia in her teenage years to pursue her music career. She released her third album, The End of an Era, in August 2021, which she said is her last album before a hiatus from the music industry.

“Rapyd,” a UK-based fintech company with an office in Israel, sponsored her arrival and concert, along with those of American DJ David Morales and Berlin DJ Boris Berghain.

The concert marks Azalea’s first visit to Israel, who noted that she was “surprised” when asked to perform. “BDS? What is that?” She responded when presented with the issue in an interview with Channel 12.

“Because I don’t know much, I’m happy to come and see things for myself,” she added.
Wine named for murdered Israeli teen wins international recognition
The Ariel in Yehuda Winery, located in Kiryat Arba, has won the silver medal at the prestigious Decanter World Wine Awards for its Hallel wine, which vintner Amichai Ariel named after his daughter, Hallel, who was murdered by a terrorist.

The family-made wine beat more than 18,000 competing wines from South America, South Africa, North America, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe.

In 2016, a terrorist snuck into the Ariel family's home in Kiryat Arab and stabbed Hallel to death while she was sleeping. The late Hallel Ariel

Amichai, who founded the winery on the outskirts of Kiryat Arba, tells visitors the story of his daughter's murder.

"The competition in which we won the silver medal is a very prestigious one. There were wines there from traditional wineries that are hundreds of years old. It's a very tough competition that takes about two and a half months to judge," Ariel said, adding that the judges taste wines without knowing which countries produce them.

"They don't know that this is wine from Israel, certainly not that it's a wine from a settlement in Judea and Samaria. They taste 'blind' and only after it is tasted by a number of judges in several places are points awarded," Ariel explained.

Hallel wine is a blend of cabarnet, franc, and merlot. A bottle sells for as much as 150 shekels ($44.60) and the wine is only available for purchase at the winery itself.

"We're considered a very small winery compared to the giant ones that enter the competition, which makes the success greater," Ariel noted.

While thrilled at the win, Ariel said that he is more gratified that groups of youth and visitors come to the winery and learn about Hallel.
Honoring fallen Jewish soldiers, one headstone at a time
In 2014, when Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter visited the American cemetery in Normandy, France, the Jewish historian saw firsthand the thousands of white stone grave markings aligned in neat rows, marking the final resting place for the American soldiers who had lost their lives during the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. Among the sea of crosses, a few Star of David tombstones stood out. But Schacter, whose father, Herschel, served as a Jewish chaplain in the U.S. Army and was among the liberators of the Buchenwald concentration camp, noticed the number of Star of David markings did not match the number of Jewish soldiers he knew had died on the beaches below.

The realization prompted the formation of Operation Benjamin, a group dedicated to recognizing the Jewish soldiers buried in U.S. military cemeteries worldwide, many of them under crosses. The group brought together historians and genealogists to sift through the names of long-dead soldiers buried in graveyards scattered across the globe.

But identifying the Jewish soldiers ended up being the easiest part.

“These are very important existential things. But here’s the kicker: No matter how good our research was, it didn’t matter, because a family member has to make the request” for the tombstone to change, Shalom Lamm, CEO of Operation Benjamin, revealed during an appearance on Jewish Insider’s “Limited Liability Podcast.”

“These young men who were killed didn’t have kids. If they had a sister, go find somebody whose last name [was] changed all these decades ago in an age before computers. It was really tough.”

Even after the family has asked for the headstone to change, such a request requires the approval of the U.S. government, which owns and administers the cemeteries.
Famed Italian Tenor Andrea Bocelli Visits Western Wall Following Concert in Tel Aviv
Legendary Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli made a stop at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Thursday, a day after performing in front of more than 20,000 people at a concert in Tel Aviv.

The award-winning singer visited Jerusalem’s Old City with his family and friends, according to the Western Wall’s official website. He also met with the rabbi of the Western Wall and holy sites, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, as well as the director of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, Mordechai Eliav, “who showed him findings from the Second Temple period that had been uncovered in the Western Wall Tunnels.” Bocelli additionally visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and other sites in Jerusalem.

The “Con Te Partirò” singer, who has been blind since the age of 12, uploaded onto his Facebook page two posts that include photos from his visit to Jerusalem as well as a video from his concert in Tel Aviv. In both posts, his staff wrote in the captions “We stand for PEACE. Any political comment will be deleted.”

Bocelli’s concert at Tel Aviv’s Bloomfield Stadium on Wednesday night alongside the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and the Gary Bertini Israeli Choir was his first performance in Israel in 11 years. Israeli pop singer Shiri Maimon sang with Bocelli “The Prayer” duet he originally recorded with Celine Dion, and he also performed on stage alongside his son Matteo and his youngest daughter Virginia, who sang Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

The audience included former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, film director Quentin Tarantino and former US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, according to The Jerusalem Post. Bocelli reportedly told Netanyahu that while he currently resides in Tuscany, Italy, if he could move anywhere in the world, it would be Israel.

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