Monday, May 01, 2023

05/01 Links Pt2: Israel at 75 Is a Modern Wonder; Youssef Elazhari used to rely on Al Jazeera; now, he gets facts from Israel; Polish government denounced over ‘dangerous' attack on Holocaust scholar

From Ian:

Israel at 75 Is a Modern Wonder
The other day I had my first journey on the sleek new Tel Aviv-Jerusalem railway, which shuttled me from Ben-Gurion airport to the Holy City in about the time it took to skip the ads on a podcast. It embodies the best of modern Israel: fast, efficient, impressive.

Israel turned 75 on Wednesday. It is one of the most astonishing achievements of the modern age. Every time I visit Tel Aviv, I still feel a shudder of awe over the sheer improbability of its existence, a thrilling modern metropolis built on little more than ancestral longing and borrowed guns.

Israel at 75 has a GDP per capita notably higher than Britain's. It is 11 times richer than its neighbor Egypt. It has won more Nobel prizes per person than America or France. This country is a towering monument to the power of ideas. It is literally a dream come true.

Who to blame for the predicament of the Palestinians? The Palestinians were let down repeatedly over the years by their Arab allies in Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt, who generally treated them as political pawns, not a sovereign people. They have been let down by their own leaders, who "never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity." Their propensity for violent terrorism has also done them no favors, all but destroying the peace movement in Israel. Most Israelis see peace as a fantasy.
Youssef Elazhari used to rely on Al Jazeera; now, he gets facts from Israel
Growing up in Marrakesh in the Kingdom of Morocco, Youssef Elazhari had positive views of Jews but not of Israel.

There hadn’t been many Jews around in Morocco since the community immigrated after 1948 with the establishment of modern-day Israel. Today, some 1 million Jews of Moroccan descent live in Israel—one of the largest single immigrant populations—while Morocco’s Jewish population hovers at about 2,000.

Elazhari’s parents, who belong to an indigenous people of Morocco that arrived prior to Muslims and Jews called Berber, had memories of their Jewish friends. His father is a retired university law professor, and his mother is a schoolteacher. His maternal grandfather, who worked in the interior ministry, was a pasha, which meant he kept the peace for all Muslims and hosted Jews regularly in his home.

“Growing up, my mother would tell me stories about how she and my father lived with the Jews in harmony until they made aliyah,” Elazhari told JNS.

In the 1950s, Jews were very active in Morocco’s cotton and silk industries, an industry in which Elazhari’s paternal grandmother also worked. She shared fond memories of her Jewish best friend and co-worker, Tamou.

Moroccan philosemitism notwithstanding, Israel is often viewed negatively in Morocco, according to Elazhari, which he blames on misconceptions spread by Arabic media.

“I will admit like many Moroccan teenagers, I was a victim of Al Jazeera propaganda,” he told JNS.

How Elazhari’s views on Israel evolved is one of the stories he told speaking on April 30 at the Wayfarer Theaters in Highland Park, Ill.
Polish government denounced over ‘dangerous' attack on Holocaust scholar
The Polish government has been furiously denounced over an “extremely dangerous” attempt to silence a leading Holocaust scholar.

More than 300 academics and institutions around the world - including Yad Vashem - issued a statement condemning the Polish government-led attacks against Polish historian Barbara Engelking, director of the Polish Center for Holocaust Research, for publicly stating that Poles “failed” during the Holocaust and Jews were “unbelievably disappointed with Poles during the war".

"We regard such censorious tendencies and the notion that the continued financing of academic institutions should be conditional upon whether the research produced within them meets the expectations of politicians as extremely dangerous and unacceptable,” the letter says.

"Such actions are aimed at discouraging other scholars from undertaking research that might be met with a similar hate campaign."

One letter in support of Engelking released Thursday and signed by 11 Israeli organisations, such as Yad Vashem, the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum and Massuah Institute for the Study of the Holocaust, decried her critics’ attack on “academic freedom and historical facts".

The dispute reflects the governing Law and Justice party’s ongoing push for a patriotic narrative of the past that scholars such as Engelking say erases Polish crimes against Jews during the war.

The party’s campaign on this front led to a years-long series of diplomatic spats with Israel.

The latest fracas began on April 19, the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, when Engelking made an appearance on the country’s largest private television station, TVN.

“Poles had the potential to become allies of the Jews and one would hope that they would behave differently, that they would be neutral, kind, that they would not take advantage of the situation to such an extent and that there would not be widespread blackmailing,” she said, adding that Poles today exaggerate how much they helped Jews during the war.

Stephen Pollard: The image – for which both cartoonist Martin Rowson and The Guardian itself have now apologised – is as blatantly anti-Semitic as anything I have ever seen.

It would have fitted perfectly into Der Sturmer, the Nazi newspaper which routinely depicted Jews as diseased, or rats and leeches. Which leads to the question: how did a newspaper such as The Guardian, with its woke, progressive agenda, let this happen?

Important as that question is, it misses the point. Because it is not despite The Guardian's agenda that it published such a cartoon – it is because of it.

For many years, anti-Semitism was mainly thought of as being the preserve of the far-Right – such as the skinhead fascists and neo-Nazis of the National Front and the BNP, as well as the likes of historian David Irving and his acolytes.

But as we have seen recently, the Left has no lessons to teach anyone when it comes to anti-Jewish prejudice.

The Labour Party itself was placed in special measures by the Equality and Human Rights Commission because of its problems with anti-Semitism.

And as any prominent Jew will, I'm sure, attest, the vast majority of anti-Semitic poison directed at us on social media comes not from the far-Right but from Left-wing trolls – often those who still proclaim their allegiance to former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who was suspended from the party for saying the scale of anti-Semitism within Labour had been 'dramatically overstated' by opponents.

In some ways, even worse than this, are what I call the bystanders. These are people who would loudly protest that they do not have an anti-Semitic bone in their body.

In the 1970s, they would have attended Rock Against Racism gigs and they now attack the Government over controversies such as the Windrush scandal.

But when an example of Jew-hate stares them in the face, they are utterly blind to it. As for calling it out – forget it.

I know from my own experience of editing the Jewish Chronicle and reporting on this whole issue how depressingly true this is.

Time after time, we would come across examples of Labour councillors, rank-and-file members and even MPs posting vile anti-Semitic tweets – but when we reported them, there would be no outrage and very little follow-up in progressive circles.
Guardian cartoonist Martin Rowson and antisemitism a brief history
So, how to interpret Rowson’s ‘error’? Well, there was something Rich mentioned in his tweet thread that may help explain it. He wrote, in contextualising antisemitism with other forms of racism, that “you might draw Boris Johnson as a gorilla and nobody would mind…But if you drew a black politician that way, it would be racist”. The same principle should apply, he added, to depictions of Jews.

It should. But, it doesn’t.

Whereas you’d be hard pressed to find a cartoonist working for a mainstream media outlet – or, his or her editor – who wouldn’t immediately recognise that kind of depiction of a black politician as racist, the same is in fact not true when it comes to antisemitic imagery.

In other words, the same instinct which motivated Diane Abbott, in her letter in the Observer, to outrageously diminish the significance of antisemitism by likening it to the prejudice faced by “redheads” helps explain why those on the hard left, such as Rowson, fail to see racism against Jews even when it’s staring them in the face – even if, at least on an intellectual level, they understand the history of antisemitic tropes.

This represents an extremely dangerous ideological blind spot which both Rich and David Baddiel have explored at length.

The Guardian’s decision to remove the cartoon was clearly motivated by the widespread backlash to it, not outrage over its racist tropes. This explains why, to this day, a recent article legitimising a medieval blood libel by Mohammed el-Kurd still has not been amended to clarify that the outlet rejects his antisemitic libel.

The Guardian, as we’ve demonstrated repeatedly over the years, only worries about “averting accusations of antisemitism“, not antisemitism itself.
Guardian apologises for ‘explicitly racist’ cartoon
The image, said Community Security Trust director of policy Dave Rich, "falls squarely into an antisemitic tradition of depicting Jews with outsized, grotesque features, often in conjunction with money and power. It's appalling.”

“First, the face,” he said. “Antisemites have often imagined Jews as ugly and physically repulsive, focusing specifically on these features.

Sharp’s squid, he added, was seemingly a reference to a 2009 description of Goldman Sachs - where he used to work - as, “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity”.

“The problem is that a squid or octopus is also a common antisemitic motif, used to depict a supposed Jewish conspiracy with its tentacles wrapped around whatever parts of society the Jews supposedly control,” he said. "Especially money. Are those gold coins in the box with Sharp's squid?”

“Isn't [The Guardian] like Ianus Bifrons the Two-faced Janus,” asked historian Simon Sebag-Montefiore.

“Sometimes urbanely liberal; othertimes brazenly bigoted. Like today when the once-great liberal champion is auditioning to be Der Sturmer & The Protocols of Elders of Zion [with] this repellent explicitly racist cartoon?”
Leading Jewish organisation demands urgent meeting with The Guardian’s editor after newspaper is engulfed by anti-Semitism storm over 'sickening' cartoon of ex-BBC chairman
The editor of The Guardian is facing calls to resign after the newspaper was accused of publishing a 'sickening' anti-Semitic cartoon.

MPs last night told Katharine Viner to consider her position after the Left-wing paper published an offensive cartoon of ex-BBC chairman Richard Sharp featuring Jewish stereotypes, before making what was dubbed a 'half-hearted' apology.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews requested an 'urgent meeting' with Ms Viner over the 'shocking' cartoon, saying it was 'far from the first time the paper has crossed the line'.

The controversial image by Martin Rowson showed a caricature of Mr Sharp, who is Jewish, with what experts described as a string of anti-Semitic tropes.

Mr Sharp dramatically quit as BBC chairman on Friday after a report found he broke the rules by failing to disclose his role in helping former prime minister Boris Johnson secure an £800,000 loan.

The cartoon, published on Saturday, depicted the ex-Goldman Sachs banker carrying a box from the bank stuffed with a squid and what appeared to be gold coins.

It came after The Observer, also owned by Guardian Media Group plc (GMG), published a letter by Labour MP Diane Abbott which suggested that only black people can face racism.

She said Jews, travellers and Irish people may face discrimination, but that is due to 'prejudice… not racism'.

Ms Abbott, who has since been suspended by the Labour Party, also likened the prejudice suffered by Jews to that faced by ginger-haired people.

Tory MP Andrew Percy, who is Jewish and vice-chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on anti-Semitism, said: 'The cartoon was disgusting. What's irritating about it is that they're all pious at The Guardian about abuse of anybody on their side of politics, and yet they've got a history of pretty vile, racist abuse in cartoons.

Berlin police ban pro-Hamas signs, lsrael flag burning during May Day rallies
Two weeks after a Berlin rally in which protesters called for the death of Jews, police in Germany’s capital announced a ban on signs supporting Palestinian terrorist organizations and on calling for Israel’s destruction during far-left demonstrations on Monday marking May Day.

Citing public safety, instructions posted to the police website on Saturday stressed that “any advertising” for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) or Hamas was banned.

The police also emphasized that “identification marks, symbols or emblems of these organizations may not be shown on flags and banners, nor on the clothing of the participants or in any other way.”

They also prohibited statements calling for “the annihilation of the State of Israel and/or its inhabitants or are otherwise likely to convey a readiness to use violence.”

The PFLP, the second-largest faction in the Palestine Liberation Organization, is a hardline Marxist organization that carried out a series of high-profile lethal airplane hijackings in the 1960s and 1970s, and continues to attack Israelis.

Hamas, the radical Islamic group that has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007 and openly seeks Israel’s destruction, has engaged in a series of conflicts with Israel since then and fired many thousands of rockets at Israeli cities.

Abdel Bari Atwan Too Antisemitic For the BBC, Just Right For France24
Less than half a year after BBC reportedly terminated its relationship with British-Palestinian Abdel Bari Atwan, France24 Arabic warmly welcomed the rabid antisemite and staunch supporter of terrorism and ethnic cleansing.

Sources inside the BBC told the Jewish Chronicle late last year that the corporation is unlikely to ever again invite Atwan, once a frequent guest commentator on both English and Arabic-language broadcasts.

The apparent blacklisting has not at all had any moderating impact Atwan’s extremism. The fact that British citizens were the latest victims of deadly Palestinian terrorism likewise did not dampen his full-throttle enthusiasm for fatal attacks targeting unarmed innocent civilians. Indeed, he rejoiced in April 7’s dual brutalities, the cold-blooded murders of the British-Israeli Dee family along with the brutal murder of Italian tourist Alessandro Parini, tweeting:
In the morning an operation of self-redemption [Arabic: Fida’, can also be translated as ‘guerilla’] causing the death of three female settlers in the [Jordan] Valley and a second attack in the evening at the heart of Tel Aviv causing one dead and three injured, and a third and final calamity, shooting at a settlers’ car in Ramallah. It is indeed a people of giants and Netanyahu and his gang could never defeat it […]

He similarly celebrated the March murders of Israeli civilians Or Ashkar in Tel Aviv and brothers Hallel and Yagel Yaniv in Huwara, with a March 10 YouTube address enthusing that the shooting attack at the Tel Aviv bar
means that the Intifada turns into a revolution, an armed revolution. I believe that the Palestinian people now moves towards an unprecedented phase of resistance. […] I believe that next Ramadan will be full of many surprises, this month of sacrifice and redemption […]

Similarly, he tweeted March 9:
When the men of al-Qassam return to Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv and avenge the martyrs of Jenin refugee camp, this is a major security breach. Its significance is not in the number of dead and injured but rather in the psychological impart, courage and meticulous planning […]

The BBC’s censor of Atwan deterred France24 Arabic to the same degree that it put the breaks on the bigoted pundit. In other words, not at all.
BBC News skips the background to Jordan gun smuggling story
Notably, Berg chose not to provide readers with considerably more relevant background information concerning a topic which the BBC has serially ignored for a long time: weapons smuggling from Jordanian territory into Israel.

In the past year alone, Israeli security forces have foiled numerous attempts to smuggle weapons through Israel’s long eastern border with Jordan, none of which has been covered by the BBC News website. In December 2022 the Times of Israel reported on that topic:
“…Israeli authorities say they are beginning to gain the upper hand in a relentless battle to stymie the mass smuggling of arms into Israel and the West Bank, where the weapons are helping fuel an uptick in attacks by terror groups and deadly criminal activity within Israel’s Arab communities. […]

In the past year, the Israel Police and the Israel Defense Forces, with some assistance from the Shin Bet security agency, have managed to foil dozens of smuggling attempts along the 309-kilometer (192-mile) border Jordan shares with Israel and the West Bank, counting over 480 weapons seized.

For comparison, in 2020 and 2021 combined, just 276 firearms were seized along the eastern border […]”

In January 2023 the police confiscated another 32 handguns in two separate incidents. On April 20th the police announced that they had seized 63 guns in the northern Arava area.

As we have repeatedly observed in recent months, the BBC’s reporting on the surge of Palestinian terrorism – including a backgrounder written by Raffi Berg – has consistently failed to inform audiences how weapons smuggling from Jordan and Lebanon has contributed to the increased violence.

While this latest story has clearly attracted the BBC’s attention because of the involvement of a Jordanian MP, the corporation continues to avoid informing its audiences about the basic issue of wider regional facilitation of the Palestinian terrorism – and related counter-terrorism operations – on which it regularly reports.
BBC WS and website promote distractions in Israel protests reports
While political NGOs including the one headed by Green have participated in the protests since their outset, their narrow agenda is not the reason why the majority of the hundreds of thousands of protesters have been participating in demonstrations for four months.

Davies refrains from informing readers that while some Arab leaders have encouraged Arab Israelis to take part in the protests since early on, the co-opting of the demonstrations for the advancement of the political agenda of NGOs such as ‘Standing Together’ is seen by some of those Arab leaders as counter-productive. He also fails to clarify that Arab Israeli participation in the cost of living protests over a decade ago was similarly low.

Davies closes his article with promotion of another representative of an inadequately presented NGO:
“Ibrahim Abu Ahmad, who works for a non-governmental organisation, is one of the handful of Israeli Arabs who has spoken at the Israeli rallies.”

That unnamed NGO is called ROPES and it is part of the ‘Alliance for Middle East Peace’ but once again “appropriate information about their affiliations, funding and particular viewpoints” was not provided to BBC audiences.

In both these items Davies promotes representatives of political NGOs without conforming to BBC editorial guidelines concerning contributors’ affiliations. In both items he promotes campaigning narratives already seen in previous BBC reporting on the topic of the protests while providing very little information about the factors that have actually prompted so many Israelis from all sectors of society to participate in demonstrations for seventeen weeks.

Davies’ amplification of the unevidenced claim from a political NGO that “protests against the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories are becoming a larger part of the demos” does not stand up to scrutiny but remarkably, that was the messaging the BBC News website chose to promote on Israel’s Independence Day.
How George Soros Became the Face of Official Chinese Anti-Semitism
In 2019, a Chinese state-run newspaper featured a cartoon of a reptilian George Soros that, as Jordyn Haime and Tuvia Gering put it, “could have easily come from the Nazi-favored tabloid Der Stürmer.” This hostility toward the Hungarian-born Jewish financier, Haime and Gering argue, comes not from the often-controversial activities of his Open Society Foundations, but from the pessimism he has expressed since 2016 about China’s economic future. To this pessimism, Soros has also added sharp criticism of Beijing’s totalitarian tendencies. The Communist country has struck back rhetorically, and appears to have few qualms about using anti-Semitism as a weapon:

Soros’s Jewish heritage has not gone unnoticed by Chinese commentators and policymakers, who, much like their Western and Russian counterparts, gleefully capitalize on anti-Semitic tropes to get their political messages across.

Most are smart enough not to say the quiet part out loud. But this is not something that can be said of Zhèng Ruòlín, a popular francophone journalist-turned-public intellectual who has been a correspondent for the Chinese state-run Wenhui Bao in Paris since the early 1990s and is very familiar with European anti-Semitism.

According to an article Zheng published on Guancha, a popular nationalist portal funded by the billionaire Eric Li, Xi Jinping’s China has accepted the challenge of leading mankind toward a Community of Shared Destiny. This has made it the number-one adversary of “transnational financial capital,” which, to him, is driven by Jews like Soros on their mission to establish a “world government” over which they will rule.

Racist nationalism finds an audience among China’s top officials as well. The core thesis of the Chinese economist Sòng Hóngbīng’s 2007 best-seller Currency Wars is that international, particularly American, financial markets were controlled by a global clique of Jewish bankers. Naturally, Soros’s villainy appears 39 times in the first installment of the series.
Jewish journalist says NYC bartender refused to serve him over Zionist views: suit
A conservative Jewish journalist says he was harassed and humiliated by a bartender at a Brooklyn bar — who refused to serve him and heckled him out of the establishment over his Zionist views, according to a new lawsuit.

Elad Eliahu, 29 – “a proud Jewish-American,” Zionist and independent reporter – was on a first date with a woman at Swell Dive in Bedford-Stuyvesant when bartender Alvin Dan on April 9 asked him if he “was in fact Elad, and purposely mispronounced his name,” the Brooklyn Supreme Court lawsuit states.

The bartender then told Eliahu to leave the bar “or he was going to embarrass” him, the suit, filed Friday, alleges.

Dan, 31, of Staten Island, called Eliahu a “Zionist Fascist” and “falsely” claimed that Eliahu “harasses abortion patients” and “doxes people’s” through his reporting –- all in front of the date and the other bar patrons, the lawsuit alleges.

Eliahu told his date to leave “for the sake of her safety,” the filing states. And when Eliahu started walking out, Dan allegedly recorded himself on video taunting and harassing the embarrassed patron down the street, according to the suit.

“Why are you walking away?” Dan allegedly says in the video, according to the suit. “That’s Elad, I can’t believe it, cannot believe that [he] has the balls to have a f–king social life.”

Dan also allegedly told Eliahu to never come back to the neighborhood, the filing claims.
A Florida sheriff is on the warpath against neo-Nazi ‘scumbags’ who want him dead
After hate groups in his US county on Florida’s East Coast projected antisemitic messages onto the Daytona International Speedway, the local sheriff delivered a press conference with one simple message: He’d had enough.

“We put up their photos, talked about their arrest records, and let everybody know what a bunch of reprehensible thugs were in our community, and what they were up to,” Sheriff Mike Chitwood told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency about the February press conference. Standing with local Jewish, interfaith and minority group representatives, the sheriff had announced he would be coming after the “scumbags” who did this.

“And after that,” he recalled, “all hell broke loose.”

The group that had made its presence known in Volusia County was the Goyim Defense League, one of the country’s most prominent antisemitic organizations, known for harassing worshipers at synagogues and papering neighborhoods with fliers hawking anti-Jewish conspiracies.

The movement’s leaders recently relocated to the area from California, and they had chosen the Daytona 500, a major NASCAR race that draws more than 100,000 people to the speedway, to make their antisemitic presence known. They didn’t like that the sheriff was now effectively declaring war on them.

Online after the press conference, several men started making death threats against Chitwood, even harassing his daughter and sending SWAT teams to his parents’ house. Antisemitic groups began planning to hold a public demonstration to oppose him specifically, which Chitwood’s intelligence determined was set for this past weekend in Ormond Beach.

So Chitwood fought back. Last week, thanks in part to his corralling, three men in three different states — California, Connecticut and New Jersey — were arrested and charged with making online death threats against him. Two of the three have already been extradited to Volusia County.

Israel shuts down last COVID ward
Officials at Jerusalem’s Herzog Medical Center on Sunday closed the hospital’s coronavirus ward, the last one operating in the country.

The ward’s closure means that future COVID-19 patients will be treated in regular hospital wards.

Herzog’s coronavirus ward opened in August 2020, and treated 2,000 patients.

“We are closing the department with a sense of joy and pride. There is a feeling of real joy that the corona event, with its severe consequences, is behind us,” said Herzog director Dr. Kobi Haviv.

“We are the only hospital in Israel that worked and treated the corona patients continuously. The hospital staff was stretched to the limit during the waves of infection. For close to three years, we conducted ourselves according to the accordion method, with the transfer of medical and paramedical personnel between the departments, as needed,” he added.

There are currently some 10,750 active COVID-19 cases in Israel, of which 21 are considered serious or critical, according to Health Ministry figures.

The Health Ministry recorded 12,487 Israeli deaths from the coronavirus since an 88-year-old Holocaust survivor became the country’s first fatality on March 20, 2020.
Abraham Accords allow Israelis to excavate two huge ‘genizas’ found in rural Morocco
Deep in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco’s Sahara desert, an abandoned mud-brick synagogue was in the process of slowly crumbling, its roof caving and columns teetering, when, in 2020, it was rediscovered by a group of Israeli and Moroccan researchers.

Antiquities thieves had already ransacked the former house of prayer, searching for anything of value and scattering sacred Jewish texts that had been buried in the geniza, a repository for old or unusable holy texts.

To salvage and study what remained, the group of researchers started the process of obtaining permits to start an archaeological dig at the synagogue. The Israeli researchers — as usual — played down affiliations with their home universities.

But in December of 2020, Israel and Morocco normalized relations as part of the Abraham Accords. This was a boon for Israeli researchers who, having worked in Morocco in an unofficial capacity for years, could now formalize their academic relationships and pursue joint research projects — such as excavating and preserving the synagogue.

“This research is a new opportunity which is sitting at the intersection of changes in the way [Israelis] are thinking about Jews from Morocco, the agreement with Israel, and the relationship between Jews and Morocco itself,” explained Dr. Orit Ouaknine-Yekutieli, a historian at the Ben Gurion University of the Negev, who uncovered the geniza along with her partner, BGU archaeologist Professor Yuval Yekutieli, and a number of Moroccan experts.

“Our research is taking advantage of this unique intersection of opportunities, but it’s also the result of years of close cooperation with friends in Morocco that was less formal until now,” she said.
The Plundered Jewish Money That Built the Colosseum
The largest amphitheater of the ancient world, Rome’s Colosseum still attracts visitors even in its ruins. It was constructed under the emperors Vespasian and Titus, who suppressed the Judean Revolt, sacked Jerusalem, and destroyed the Second Temple. As Yvette Alt Miller explains, these details are connected:

Visitors to the ancient Colosseum in Rome are awed by its sheer size. Measuring 620 by 512 feet, it’s a massive structure; six-and-a-half football fields could fit inside its space, with room to spare. Rising four stories into the sky, the Colosseum has 80 entrances and used to hold more than 50,000 spectators who flocked to this landmark to watch games during the height of the Roman empire.

Titus became emperor . . . in 79 CE and launched a vast building project to transform Rome. The centerpiece of his program was building a huge arena near the Forum which could seat 50,000 viewers and host the most lavish games that Rome had ever seen. (It was named . . . after a nearby massive statue of the emperor Nero, called the Colossus.) The Colosseum was funded by booty from the Jewish War, and likely was built at least in large part by Titus’ 50,000 Jewish slaves.

Construction took ten years. It was grueling, backbreaking work, under the scorching sun of burning Roman summers. It’s unknown how many slaves died during its construction; their deaths, like their names and their lives, are lost to history.

Funded by the booty of Judea, including the precious golden and silver vessels and decorations from the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, the Colosseum could not have been more different from the source of wealth which enabled its construction. Where the Jewish Temple has been a vehicle for holiness, the Colosseum housed an orgy of death.
ArchaeologyRoman army may have included kosher-observant Jews 2,000 years ago, study finds
A new study published in the Jewish Quarterly Review shows that the Roman army allowed various minorities to maintain their religious and dietary practices, including Jews.

The possibility that Jews served in large numbers in the Roman army is a startling find since the Roman army is generally portrayed as an enemy to the Jewish nation. In various military campaigns, the Roman army destroyed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE and plundered its way through Judea to the last holdouts on Masada around 73 CE, in addition to military campaigns against the Jews in the second century CE.

“All wars and our entire history are more complicated than we portray them,” explained Dr. Haggai Olshanetsky, the author of the study and a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Basel in Switzerland.

“There were Jews in the Roman Army, and Jews fighting against the Roman Army,” he said, adding, “There were Jews fighting among themselves — that was always a problem.”

Olshanetsky is part of the University of Basel’s Roman Egypt Laboratory: Climate Change, Societal Transformations, and the Transition to Late Antiquity, and this research into military history is one of his subprojects.

An army marches on its stomach
According to researchers, there were an estimated 4.5 to 7 million Jews in the ancient Roman empire around the first century, accounting for five to fifteen percent of the population. As the empire expanded, the army needed soldiers for new campaigns and to maintain order across the empire, and the Jews were too large of a group to be given widespread exemptions.

“All empires needed men, and they also needed the minorities to serve,” said Olshanetsky. Jews, pagans, and all sorts of ethnic minorities were required to serve in the Roman Army, and many did.
In Haifa, Catholics fly Israeli flags at mass march celebrating freedom of worship
On a gusty Sunday, about a dozen women and some older men pulled a 900-kilogram (2,000-pound) float featuring a life-size Madonna out of Haifa’s St. Joseph’s Church.

A marching band helped the group maintain a brisk pace, as they tugged through Downtown on thick ropes attached to the wheeled float that carries the cherished lynchpin of Haifa’s annual Virgin Mary Procession. It is a century-old Catholic tradition that thousands attend regularly, and which some view as a testament to the freedoms that Israel affords its Christians, as compared to persecution and oppression through much of the surrounding region.

After about 200 meters (656 feet), the incline grows steeper and those pulling began to stagger, prompting others – mainly young men from the local Arab-Christian minority — to take over the heavy lifting. As the band marched ahead, the men took turns pulling the float uphill, along a three-kilometer (two-mile) route with a 130-meter elevation, to Stella Maris Monastery, the home base for the ancient Catholic order known as the Carmelites.

The pulling is meant to be strenuous, locals explain, in line with the tradition of penitence through self-flagellation that occurs in Catholic communities around the Mediterranean and beyond. But unlike many of those austere expressions of devotion, the atmosphere at the Haifa procession is jovial, as regulars crack recurring jokes (“Next year, I’m bringing a forklift,” one man exclaims, prompting polite chuckles).

For some, the laid-back attitude is thanks to the fact that the Virgin Mary Procession, held on the second Sunday after Easter, has not yet been fully canonized, occupying a grey area that is between a local tradition and a religious rite. Others, aware of the ruthless oppression of Christians throughout the region, are elated simply to be celebrating their faith openly and without fear in the public sphere.
World Zionist Village: JNF building campus in southern Israel
Dr. Sol Lizerbram, president of JNF America, tells our Emily Frances more about the campus being built in Beer Sheba that will serve as a community space for Jews from around the world to visit and learn about Zionism.

Rabbi Harold Kushner, author of ‘When Bad Things Happen to Good People,’ dies at 88
Rabbi Harold Kushner, one of the most influential congregational rabbis of the 20th century whose works of popular theology reached millions of people outside the synagogue, has died.

Kushner, who turned 88 on April 3, died Friday in Canton, Massachusetts, just miles from the synagogue where he had been rabbi laureate for more than three decades.

Kushner’s fairly conventional trajectory as a Conservative rabbi was altered shortly after arriving at Temple Israel of Natick when, on the day his daughter Ariel was born, his 3-year-old son Aaron was diagnosed with a fatal premature aging condition, progeria.

“When Bad Things Happen to Good People,” published in 1981, represented Kushner’s attempt to make sense of Aaron’s suffering and eventual death, just days after his 14th birthday. It was turned down by two publishers before being released by Schocken Books, a Jewish imprint.

​​In the book, Kushner labors to reconcile the twin Jewish beliefs in God’s omnipotence and his benevolence with the reality of human suffering. ”Can I, in good faith, continue to teach people that the world is good, and that a kind and loving God is responsible for what happens in it?” he writes.

Ultimately, he concludes that God’s ability is limited when it comes to controlling the hazards of life that result in tragedy on a widespread and smaller scale, such as the Holocaust and the death of a child.

It is a view that runs afoul of traditional Jewish teaching about God, and it earned Kushner critics among some Orthodox Jews and also drew rebuttals from other Jewish theologians. But it resonated widely for a long time and with many people, Jewish and non-Jewish, rocketing to the top of The New York Times’ best-seller list. More than 4 million copies have been sold in at least a dozen languages.

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