Monday, April 30, 2012


Jewish a cappella group Shir Soul - "Salaam" recorded LIVE on Yom Ha'atzma'ut at YU

Jewish teenagers join Auschwitz march

U.S. Citizens Misinformed Of Tax Laws Upon Making Aliyah

Many Americans who make aliyah are told, incorrectly, by their U.S. tax return preparer that once they settle in Israel they do not have to file U.S. returns.
Accountant Don Shrensky says there are two types of tax “damage” that new immigrants can incur. One can “easily be repaired,” while the other is “monumental.”
“Many Americans who make aliyah are told by their U.S. tax return preparer that once they settle in Israel they do not have to file U.S. returns,” explains Shrensky. “Obviously, this is incorrect information. If they recently came, then they can easily repair any damage. But if they made aliyah 10 or 20 years ago, the problem can be monumental.”
The “real problem” Shrensky says, is what he calls the “accidental U.S. person” - a U.S. citizen who immigrates as a youngster. “We have had several clients who were born in the U.S. while their parents were on sabbatical and returned to Israel at a very young age,” explains Shrensky. “They are U.S. citizens because they were born there. But they grew up in Israel, created lives and fortunes in Israel, and married Israeli [non-U.S.] spouses. They never filed U.S. returns, nor the required FBARS [Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts], because they had no idea they had such a requirement.”
Shrensky notes that in December 2011 the IRS issued a “fact sheet” recognizing that such U.S. persons should be treated more leniently.
“But they still have to prove they had reasonable cause not to have filed FBARS,” he says.

Rumors of War III

A Yiddsher Bubby tells over her holocaust story.

Maccabeats singing Im Eshkachech at Batsheva & jeff's wedding

The Yeshiva Boys Choir - "Amein" (A Cappella - All Sounds Made By Voice & Mouth)

Vogue Scrubs Article Praising Assad… But Seraphic Secret Has Not

On February 25, 2011 the ultra liberal, ultra chic, ultar amoral Voguemagazine published a fawning profile of Syria’s Asma al-Assad, wife of dictator Bashar al-Assad, who can only be described as a totalitarian butcher.
In the past year his regime has murdered at least 11,000 of his own people.
On March 2, 2011, Seraphic Secret reported on this profile. We likened it to “Springtime for Hitler.” We also saved the article because we had an inkling that sooner or later Vogue would, Soviet style, drop it down the memory hole.
We can only assume that the slaughter in Syria has finally registered as a bit unfashionable and indeed, Vogue has scrubbed the story.
But we think Vogue—prominent Obama fundraisers—should be held accountable for their hymn to evil, so here is their original story in case you missed it.
Read the whole thing—if you have the stomach—because the last sentence…

Asma al-Assad: A Rose in the Desert
by Joan Juliet Buck | photographed by James Nachtwey
Asma al-Assad, Syria’s dynamic first lady, is on a mission to create a beacon of culture and secularism in a powder-keg region—and to put a modern face on her husband’s regime.
Asma al-Assad is glamorous, young, and very chic—the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies. Her style is not the couture-and-bling dazzle of Middle Eastern power but a deliberate lack of adornment. She’s a rare combination: a thin, long-limbed beauty with a trained analytic mind who dresses with cunning understatement. Paris Match calls her “the element of light in a country full of shadow zones.” She is the first lady of Syria.
Syria is known as the safest country in the Middle East, possibly because, as the State Department’s Web site says, “the Syrian government conducts intense physical and electronic surveillance of both Syrian citizens and foreign visitors.” It’s a secular country where women earn as much as men and the Muslim veil is forbidden in universities, a place without bombings, unrest, or kidnappings, but its shadow zones are deep and dark. Asma’s husband, Bashar al-Assad, was elected president in 2000, after the death of his father, Hafez al-Assad, with a startling 97 percent of the vote. In Syria, power is hereditary. The country’s alliances are murky. How close are they to Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah? There are souvenir Hezbollah ashtrays in the souk, and you can spot the Hamas leadership racing through the bar of the Four Seasons. Its number-one enmity is clear: Israel. But that might not always be the case. The United States has just posted its first ambassador there since 2005, Robert Ford.
Iraq is next door, Iran not far away. Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, is 90 minutes by car from Damascus. Jordan is south, and next to it the region that Syrian maps label Palestine. There are nearly one million refugees from Iraq in Syria, and another half-million displaced Palestinians.
“It’s a tough neighborhood,” admits Asma al-Assad.
It’s also a neighborhood intoxicatingly close to the dawn of civilization, where agriculture began some 10,000 years ago, where the wheel, writing, and musical notation were invented. Out in the desert are the magical remains of Palmyra, Apamea, and Ebla. In the National Museum you see small 4,000-year-old panels inlaid with mother-of-pearl that is echoed in the new mother-of-pearl furniture for sale in the souk. Christian Louboutin comes to buy the damask silk brocade they’ve been making here since the Middle Ages for his shoes and bags, and has incidentally purchased a small palace in Aleppo, which, like Damascus, has been inhabited for more than 5,000 years.
The first lady works out of a small white building in a hilly, modern residential neighborhood called Muhajireen, where houses and apartments are crammed together and neighbors peer and wave from balconies. The first impression of Asma al-Assad is movement—a determined swath cut through space with a flash of red soles. Dark-brown eyes, wavy chin-length brown hair, long neck, an energetic grace. No watch, no jewelry apart from Chanel agates around her neck, not even a wedding ring, but fingernails lacquered a dark blue-green. She’s breezy, conspiratorial, and fun. Her accent is English but not plummy. Despite what must be a killer IQ, she sometimes uses urban shorthand: “I was, like. . . .”
Asma Akhras was born in London in 1975, the eldest child and only daughter of a Syrian Harley Street cardiologist and his diplomat wife, both Sunni Muslims. They spoke Arabic at home. She grew up in Ealing, went to Queen’s College, and spent holidays with family in Syria. “I’ve dealt with the sense that people don’t expect Syria to be normal. I’d show my London friends my holiday snaps and they’d be—‘Where did you say you went?’ ”
She studied computer science at university, then went into banking. “It wasn’t a typical path for women,” she says, “but I had it all mapped out.” By the spring of 2000, she was closing a big biotech deal at JP Morgan in London and about to take up an MBA at Harvard. She started dating a family friend: the second son of president Hafez al-Assad, Bashar, who’d cut short his ophthalmology studies in London in 1994 and returned to Syria after his older brother, Basil, heir apparent to power, died in a car crash. They had known each other forever, but a ten-year age difference meant that nothing registered—until it did.
“I was always very serious at work, and suddenly I started to take weekends, or disappear, and people just couldn’t figure it out,” explains the first lady. “What do you say—‘I’m dating the son of a president’? You just don’t say that. Then he became president, so I tried to keep it low-key. Suddenly I was turning up in Syria every month, saying, ‘Granny, I miss you so much!’ I quit in October because by then we knew that we were going to get married at some stage. I couldn’t say why I was leaving. My boss thought I was having a nervous breakdown because nobody quits two months before bonus after closing a really big deal. He wouldn’t accept my resignation. I was, like, ‘Please, really, I just want to get out, I’ve had enough,’ and he was ‘Don’t worry, take time off, it happens to the best of us.’ ” She left without her bonus in November and married Bashar al-Assad in December.
“What I’ve been able to take away from banking was the transferable skills—the analytical thinking, understanding the business side of running a company—to run an NGO or to try and oversee a project.” She runs her office like a business, chairs meeting after meeting, starts work many days at six, never breaks for lunch, and runs home to her children at four. “It’s my time with them, and I get them fresh, unedited—I love that. I really do.” Her staff are used to eating when they can. “I have a rechargeable battery,” she says.
The 35-year-old first lady’s central mission is to change the mind-set of six million Syrians under eighteen, encourage them to engage in what she calls “active citizenship.” “It’s about everyone taking shared responsibility in moving this country forward, about empowerment in a civil society. We all have a stake in this country; it will be what we make it.”
In 2005 she founded Massar, built around a series of discovery centers where children and young adults from five to 21 engage in creative, informal approaches to civic responsibility. Massar’s mobile Green Team has touched 200,000 kids across Syria since 2005. The organization is privately funded through donations. The Syria Trust for Development, formed in 2007, oversees Massar as well as her first NGO, the rural micro-credit association FIRDOS, and SHABAB, which exists to give young people business skills they need for the future.
And then there’s her cultural mission: “People tend to see Syria as artifacts and history,” she says. “For us it’s about the accumulation of cultures, traditions, values, customs. It’s the difference between hardware and software: the artifacts are the hardware, but the software makes all the difference—the customs and the spirit of openness. We have to make sure that we don’t lose that. . . . ” Here she gives an apologetic grin. “You have to excuse me, but I’m a banker—that brand essence.”
That brand essence includes the distant past. There are 500,000 important ancient works of art hidden in storage; Asma al-Assad has brought in the Louvre to create a network of museums and cultural attractions across Syria, and asked Italian experts to help create a database of the 5,000 archaeological sites in the desert. “Culture,” she says, “is like a financial asset. We have an abundance of it, thousands of years of history, but we can’t afford to be complacent.”
In December, Asma al-Assad was in Paris to discuss her alliance with the Louvre. She dazzled a tough French audience at the International Diplomatic Institute, speaking without notes. “I’m not trying to disguise culture as anything more than it is,” she said, “and if I sound like I’m talking politics, it’s because we live in a politicized region, a politicized time, and we are affected by that.”
The French ambassador to Syria, Eric Chevallier, was there: “She managed to get people to consider the possibilities of a country that’s modernizing itself, that stands for a tolerant secularism in a powder-keg region, with extremists and radicals pushing in from all sides—and the driving force for that rests largely on the shoulders of one couple. I hope they’ll make the right choices for their country and the region. ”
Damascus evokes a dusty version of a Mediterranean hill town in an Eastern-bloc country. The courtyard of the Umayyad Mosque at night looks exactly like St. Mark’s square in Venice. When I first arrive, I’m met on the tarmac by a minder, who gives me a bouquet of white roses and lends me a Syrian cell phone; the head minder, a high-profile American PR, joins us the next day. The first lady’s office has provided drivers, so I shop and see sights in a bubble of comfort and hospitality. On the rare occasions I am out alone, a random series of men in leather jackets seems to be keeping close tabs on what I am doing and where I am headed.
“I like things I can touch. I like to get out and meet people and do things,” the first lady says as we set off for a meeting in a museum and a visit to an orphanage. “As a banker, you have to be so focused on the job at hand that you lose the experience of the world around you. My husband gave me back something I had lost.”
She slips behind the wheel of a plain SUV, a walkie-talkie and her cell thrown between the front seats and a Syrian-silk Louboutin tote on top. She does what the locals do—swerves to avoid crazy men who run across busy freeways, misses her turn, checks your seat belt, points out sights, and then can’t find a parking space. When a traffic cop pulls her over at a roundabout, she lowers the tinted window and dips her head with a playful smile. The cop’s eyes go from slits to saucers.
Her younger brother Feras, a surgeon who moved to Syria to start a private health-care group, says, “Her intelligence is both intellectual and emotional, and she’s a master at harmonizing when, and how much, to use of each one.”
Photographed by James Nachtwey
In the Saint Paul orphanage, maintained by the Melkite–Greek Catholic patriarchate and run by the Basilian sisters of Aleppo, Asma sits at a long table with the children. Two little boys in new glasses and thick sweaters are called Yussuf. She asks them what kind of music they like. “Sad music,” says one. In the room where she’s had some twelve computers installed, the first lady tells a nun, “I hope you’re letting the younger children in here go crazy on the computers.” The nun winces: “The children are afraid to learn in case they don’t have access to computers when they leave here,” she says.
In the courtyard by the wall down which Saint Paul escaped in a basket 2,000 years ago, an old tree bears gigantic yellow fruit I have never seen before. Citrons. Cédrats in French.
Back in the car, I ask what religion the orphans are. “It’s not relevant,” says Asma al-Assad. “Let me try to explain it to you. That church is a part of my heritage because it’s a Syrian church. The Umayyad Mosque is the third-most-important holy Muslim site, but within the mosque is the tomb of Saint John the Baptist.
We all kneel in the mosque in front of the tomb of Saint John the Baptist. That’s how religions live together in Syria—a way that I have never seen anywhere else in the world. We live side by side, and have historically. All the religions and cultures that have passed through these lands—the Armenians, Islam, Christianity, the Umayyads, the Ottomans—make up who I am.”
“Does that include the Jews?” I ask.
“And the Jews,” she answers. “There is a very big Jewish quarter in old Damascus.”
The Jewish quarter of Damascus spans a few abandoned blocks in the old city that emptied out in 1992, when most of the Syrian Jews left. Their houses are sealed up and have not been touched, because, as people like to tell you, Syrians don’t touch the property of others. The broken glass and sagging upper floors tell a story you don’t understand—are the owners coming back to claim them one day?
The presidential family lives surrounded by neighbors in a modern apartment in Malki. On Friday, the Muslim day of rest, Asma al-Assad opens the door herself in jeans and old suede stiletto boots, hair in a ponytail, the word happiness spelled out across the back of her T-shirt. At the bottom of the stairs stands the off-duty president in jeans—tall, long-necked, blue-eyed. A precise man who takes photographs and talks lovingly about his first computer, he says he was attracted to studying eye surgery “because it’s very precise, it’s almost never an emergency, and there is very little blood.”
The old al-Assad family apartment was remade into a child-friendly triple-decker playroom loft surrounded by immense windows on three sides. With neither shades nor curtains, it’s a fishbowl. Asma al-Assad likes to say, “You’re safe because you are surrounded by people who will keep you safe.” Neighbors peer in, drop by, visit, comment on the furniture. The president doesn’t mind: “This curiosity is good: They come to see you, they learn more about you. You don’t isolate yourself.”
There’s a decorated Christmas tree. Seven-year-old Zein watches Tim Burton’sAlice in Wonderland on the president’s iMac; her brother Karim, six, builds a shark out of Legos; and nine-year-old Hafez tries out his new electric violin. All three go to a Montessori school.
Asma al-Assad empties a box of fondue mix into a saucepan for lunch. The household is run on wildly democratic principles. “We all vote on what we want, and where,” she says. The chandelier over the dining table is made of cut-up comic books. “They outvoted us three to two on that.”
A grid is drawn on a blackboard, with ticks for each member of the family. “We were having trouble with politeness, so we made a chart: ticks for when they spoke as they should, and a cross if they didn’t.” There’s a cross next to Asma’s name. “I shouted,” she confesses. “I can’t talk about empowering young people, encouraging them to be creative and take responsibility, if I’m not like that with my own children.”
“The first challenge for us was, Who’s going to define our lives, us or the position?” says the president. “We wanted to live our identity honestly.”
They announced their marriage in January 2001, after the ceremony, which they kept private. There was deliberately no photograph of Asma. “The British media picked that up as: Now she’s moved into the presidential palace, never to be seen again!” says Asma, laughing.
They had a reason: “She spent three months incognito,” says the president. “Before I had any official engagement,” says the first lady, “I went to 300 villages, every governorate, hospitals, farms, schools, factories, you name it—I saw everything to find out where I could be effective. A lot of the time I was somebody’s ‘assistant’ carrying the bag, doing this and that, taking notes. Nobody asked me if I was the first lady; they had no idea.”
“That way,” adds the president, “she started her NGO before she was ever seen in public as my wife. Then she started to teach people that an NGO is not a charity.”
Neither of them believes in charity for the sake of charity. “We have the Iraqi refugees,” says the president. “Everybody is talking about it as a political problem or as welfare, charity. I say it’s neither—it’s about cultural philosophy. We have to help them. That’s why the first thing I did is to allow the Iraqis to go into schools. If they don’t have an education, they will go back as a bomb, in every way: terrorism, extremism, drug dealers, crime. If I have a secular and balanced neighbor, I will be safe.”
When Angelina Jolie came with Brad Pitt for the United Nations in 2009, she was impressed by the first lady’s efforts to encourage empowerment among Iraqi and Palestinian refugees but alarmed by the Assads’ idea of safety.
“My husband was driving us all to lunch,” says Asma al-Assad, “and out of the corner of my eye I could see Brad Pitt was fidgeting. I turned around and asked, ‘Is anything wrong?’ ”
“Where’s your security?” asked Pitt.
“So I started teasing him—‘See that old woman on the street? That’s one of them! And that old guy crossing the road?
That’s the other one!’ ” They both laugh.
The president joins in the punch line: “Brad Pitt wanted to send his security guards here to come and get some training!”
After lunch, Asma al-Assad drives to the airport, where a Falcon 900 is waiting to take her to Massar in Latakia, on the coast. When she lands, she jumps behind the wheel of another SUV waiting on the tarmac. This is the kind of surprise visit she specializes in, but she has no idea how many kids will turn up at the community center on a rainy Friday.
As it turns out, it’s full. Since the first musical notation was discovered nearby, at Ugarit, the immaculate Massar center in Latakia is built around music. Local kids are jamming in a sound booth; a group of refugee Palestinian girls is playing instruments. Others play chess on wall-mounted computers. These kids have started online blood banks, run marathons to raise money for dialysis machines, and are working on ways to rid Latakia of plastic bags. Apart from a few girls in scarves, you can’t tell Muslims from Christians.
Asma al-Assad stands to watch a laborious debate about how—and whether—to standardize the Arabic spelling of the word Syria. Then she throws out a curve ball. “I’ve been advised that we have to close down this center so as to open another one somewhere else,” she says. Kids’ mouths drop open. Some repress tears. Others are furious. One boy chooses altruism: “That’s OK. We know how to do it now; we’ll help them.”
Then the first lady announces, “That wasn’t true. I just wanted to see how much you care about Massar.”
As the pilot expertly avoids sheet lightning above the snow-flecked desert on the way back, she explains, “There was a little bit of formality in what they were saying to me; it wasn’t real. Tricks like this help—they became alive, they became passionate. We need to get past formalities if we are going to get anything done.”
Two nights later it’s the annual Christmas concert by the children of Al-Farah Choir, run by the Syrian Catholic Father Elias Zahlawi. Just before it begins, Bashar and Asma al-Assad slip down the aisle and take the two empty seats in the front row. People clap, and some call out his nickname:
“Docteur! Docteur!”
Two hundred children dressed variously as elves, reindeers, or candy canes share the stage with members of the national orchestra, who are done up as elves. The show becomes a full-on songfest, with the elves and reindeer and candy canes giving their all to “Hallelujah” and “Joy to the World.” The carols slide into a more serpentine rhythm, an Arabic rap group takes over, and then it’s back to Broadway mode. The president whispers, “All of these styles belong to our culture. This is how you fight extremism—through art.”
Brass bells are handed out. Now we’re all singing “Jingle Bell Rock,” 1,331 audience members shaking their bells, singing, crying, and laughing.
“This is the diversity you want to see in the Middle East,” says the president, ringing his bell. “This is how you can have peace!”

How Arabs Win the PR War

A CEO of top public relations firm reveals how Arab nations and terror organization get positive coverage in the media.
By Ronn Torossian

The U.S. Public Relations industry is one which is very high profile, but is a tiny, close knit industry, with only perhaps 75 American PR firms having more than 50 employees (i.e. enough scope/influence to represent a foreign government or foreign interests).

Over lunch this past week, one of my peers, who like me, owns 1 of the 25 largest US PR Agencies, explained why his firm would no longer work with Jewish organizations and pro-Israel concerns.

He explained there is simply too much money working for Arab organizations and interests, and between front groups, organizations and projects from a business perspective, he was no longer working for pro-Israel or Jewish organizations. It's a trend which will grow – and will see Arab interests even more positively portrayed in American media.

In the latest news, Bahrain has hired at least 10 public relations companies over the last 12 months. Yes, you read it right – 10 – including Qorvis, the Washington company hired by Saudi Arabia to salvage that kingdom's reputation abroad after the 9/11 terror attacks.

The regime of Bahrain which tortures its own citizens, has an awful human rights record and doesn't recognize the existence of Israel, also hired Joe Trippi, former campaign manager for Howard Dean's 2004 presidential bid; and Sanitas International, whose partner Christopher Harvin is a former Bush White House aide.

A lot has changed in the "new" Middle East – except for recognition of Israel and millions are spent by Arab interests on professional public relations campaigns:

* Harbour Group, a Washington D.C. lobbying firm has been hired by the new Libyan Government. As The Hill recently revealed, Harbour recently signed a new $15,000 a month contract with the Libyan Embassy.

* Patton Boggs, another large K street lobbying group is also now representing the new Libyan regime. They previously worked with Libyan dictator Muammar Gadhafi, alongside Cambridge, Massachusetts based Monitor Group who held a hefty $250,000-month contract with Tripoli, recruiting prominent American academics to praise the Libyan government.

It's nothing new in the Middle East - Arab governments spend lots of money on public relations. The Syrian regime continues to butcher thousands of their people in the streets – and its by and large missing from the mainstream media (and one of the things a good crisis PR agency is able to do is ensure negative stories never be printed.)

One day we will read about who is working for Syria now. A few months ago hackers released hundreds of e-mails from Syrian President Bashar Assad's office, which revealed a document preparing Assad for his December 2011 interview with ABC'sBarbara Walters.

PR firm Brown Lloyd James worked in the past to boost the regime of Gadaffi. They said, "we assisted the Libyan government in its efforts to reach out to the international political community through the United Nations and to the U.S. political and university community."

Terrorist organizations Hamas, Hezbollah, and certain Arab nations have hired PR agencies to lobby for them in the press and on the world stage. Terror groups have engaged reporters and journalists, shared meals and drinks with them and won their favor.

Fenton Communications, a New York City–based PR firm works with the Arab state of Qatar to develop a campaign to essentially delegitimize Israel by orchestrating an international anti-Israel campaign aimed at breaking the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Fenton Communications also works for "Al Fakhoora," a Qatar-based pro-Palestinian initiative that has "launched an advocacy campaign to file legal charges against Israel and change the public perception in the West about its actions." An April 2012 website spoke of working with NYC Fenton Communications to help campaign to help end the blockade in Gaza. They continue to assist terror groups clearly.

The PLO Mission in the U.S hired Bell Pottinger, a leading International PR agency to provide "advice on strategic communications, public relations, media relations and congressional affairs."

U.S. PR giant Burson–Marsteller, in response to Israel's request for a meeting, said: "We will not deliver tender to such a project… We are running a commercial venture. If we accept this project, this will create a great amount of negative reactions… Israel is a particularly controversial project."

There's a reason the Arabs win in the media — they hire communications professionals – they spend money and will continue to win. In the Middle East, slaughtering of innocent people continues – from Bahrain to Syria and public relations pros allow them to continue to sell their stories.

I was saddened this week over lunch when my peer explained to me why his agency would no longer work for Jewish or Israel interests – and while 5WPR wouldn't work for the barbarians who slaughter innocent people, our competitors make millions selling terror and brutality.

Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a leading US Public Relations Agency, and author of "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations."

Chabad at LA Israel Festival

Hundreds visited the Chabad booth at the Israeli Independence Day Festival in Los Angeles, including Congressman Brad Sherman (R-CA).
The annual Israel Independence Day festival took place on Sunday in Los Angeles with 25,000 Israelis participating.

Chabad Israel Center of Los Angeles set up a booth offering Tefillin, Friday Light kits and program information including Camp Gan Israel of Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, Gan Chabad and The Westside Hebrew School.

The booth was organized by Shluchim Rabbi Amitai Yemini, Asher Yemini, and Berel Yemini, with the assistance of bochurim JJ Duchman, Yaakov Harkham and Dovid Pewzner.

Thousands of people donned Tefillin, some for the first tim, and hundreds of Friday Light Kits were given out.

Congressman Brad Sherman (R-CA) took time to stop by the booth and put on Tefillin.

PBS Profiles Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

Filming Muslim children playing on Temple Mount police get angry

holy soccer

Temple Mount Journal #8 "Soccer"

Birds of Southern Israel

Sunday, April 29, 2012

RABBI DOV FISCHER: A 3-minute Youtube piece that addresses the incident where an Israeli soldier rapped a Denmark leftist in the mouth; The Tribal Update makes Danish ISMers an offer they can't refuse

A few weeks ago, some leftist Jew-haters from Western Europe flew into Israel to protest against Israeli inhumanity towards the “long-suffering Palestinians” and to promote their calls for an international boycott, divestiture, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.  They flew to Israel, a favorite target for human rights activists, partly because (i) Jew-hatred is endemic in Western Europe, and (ii) it is a lot safer to demonstrate for human rights in Israel than, say, to call for human rights in Arab countries where, G-d forbid, the demonstrators might get seized, imprisoned, sentenced to long years of labor, or even get hanged or shot . . . or get both hanged and shot.

During the recent leftist event in Israel, one Israeli officer at a demonstration lost his cool after one of the demonstrators got into fisticuffs with him and broke two of his fingers.  As a result, the Israeli officer reacted a few minutes later by smacking his rifle into the guy’s face.  It was a mistake, a bad moment in that officer’s very dignified and valorous military career, and he is paying for it, because the moment was caught on a cellphone video, edited so that you see only the soldier’s momentary over-reaction.  The guy who was jabbed in the face, a handsome guy from Denmark, gave interviews for a week, talking about Israeli cruelty.

In this 2-minute, 49-second video from LATMA (the people who produced the “We Are the World” video after the flotilla incident two years ago), a formal apology from Israel.  You do not need to understand Hebrew: there are English titles, and the pictures tell all.  An apology from Israel, a regret that Israel does not treat demonstrators with the same civility and gentility that demonstrators can reliably experience in more civil countries like America, Canada, France, Italy, Australia — and Denmark.

Robert Rechnitz and Benjamin Netanyahu backstage of the 2012 AIPAC convention

Robert Rechnitz (aka "Bobby") is well known within the Hancock Park Jewish community as being a staunch supporter of Israel and a close friend and confidant to Israeli leaders. Here he is schmoozing with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, backstage at the 2012 AIPAC convention. He's been a good friend to me for many years. I'm proud to know him, personally.

The Prayer for the State of Israel

Shimmy Engel's Chuppah Jan 10 2012

Havdalah with renowned Breslov Mashpia Reb Mota Frank after an inspiring Shabbos Zachor in Williamsburg.

Peek A Jew, Coke Ad;

Netanyahu At The International Bible Quiz


Independence Day, 1948

The Jerusalem Post didn't format this excellent piece into paragraphs, so I did:

May 14, 1948, was a Friday, and unbearably hot. A desert wind blew from the east, fanning the countryside like a blow-dryer.

For three consecutive sun-grilled days we had been hacking trenches out of a Jerusalem mountainside on the city's western edge - where Yad Vashem now stands - overlooking the Arab village of Ein Kerem. There were about 25 of us, armed with pickaxes, shovels, and a dozen World War I rifles - an inglorious bucket brigade of diggers, fortifying a narrow sector of Jerusalem's western front.

In truth, there was no real frontline where we were, and, other than sporadic sniper fire and an occasional mortar shell, it was quiet. But rumor had it that Iraqi irregulars were infiltrating into Ein Kerem to join up with a Jordanian brigade coming up from Jericho, to launch an offensive that night against besieged western Jerusalem. We were supposed to stop them, but nobody knew how, least of all the man in charge, a fellow called Elisha Linder. With 12 obsolete rifles and a motley, untrained crew like ours, what was he supposed to do?

One insuperable problem was his lack of communication with the outside world - no field phone, no intelligence, not even a radio. So, in the absence of solid facts amorphous rumors mushroomed: Ben-Gurion had capitulated to Washington not to declare independence; the British were not quitting Palestine; Arab armies were invading; Arab governments were suing for peace.

In truth, thirst, not Arabs, was our foe that day. I was delegated as a water-carrier with another fellow, lugging drink from a distant well for the diggers. The other fellow was a Holocaust survivor named Leopold Mahler, grand-nephew of the composer, and himself a violinist. Mahler was a craggy, disillusioned sort whose most cherished possession was his violin, which he carried strapped into a knapsack on his back. With the mountainside cisterns contaminated, the nearest water was in an abandoned orchard a mile away. To get to it we had to run a snipers' gauntlet, up a steep zigzag path to the crest of the mountain, and then sprint down to the orchard on the other side. There, in the shade of the trees, was the well, its water murky but cool. We hauled it back in jerry cans, two to a man. And the only way to drink it was through a handkerchief so as not to swallow the bugs.

Clambering up the zigzag path on that late Friday afternoon, a sniper's bullet whistled past Mahler's face and sliced clean through a tree branch as thick as salami, just above his head. With a brittle crack, the severed bough struck his violin case so sharply it forced him to his knees. He looked up at me dazed. "My violin," he gulped. "It's shattered. I'm finished." I GRABBED him by the shoulders and exhorted him to pull himself together. But he pushed me off, raised himself onto a rock, unstrapped the knapsack, and very gently pulled out his wooden violin case. It was cracked. Cautiously, he opened the lid and lifted out the instrument, turning it this way and that, sliding his eyes very slowly over every inch of it. To me, it looked as exquisite and delicate as a butterfly. Mahler pursed his lips to blow off the grime, took the violin under his chin and, with closed eyes, meticulously tuned each string. Delicately he replaced the instrument, and returned the cracked case to the knapsack and strapped it onto his back. While so doing he said, "My violin is perfect. If I don't survive, give it to the Philharmonic." "That's daft talk," I said, and we picked up our load and, stumbling over rocks and tripping through thickets of dry thistles, we sprinted back to the diggers on the mountainside.

There, Linder filled us in on the latest batch of rumors to come his way: the Arabs were plundering downtown Jerusalem; a coordinated Arab offensive was under way; the British were siding with the Arabs. "We're totally blind up here," he groused, and he instructed Mahler to hitch a ride into town by whatever means, and find out what was actually going on. "Come back with hard news," he commanded.

As the sun went down grimy, exhausted diggers assembled in the glow of a hurricane lamp hanging on the door of a stone ruin, hidden from enemy view, to recite the Sabbath eve prayers - Kabbalat Shabbat. It was a heavenly pause; Shabbat stillness seemed to reign over everything. But then a shell shrieked and blasted the lower reaches of the mountainside, and a headlight briefly cut through the cypress trees at the approaches to Ein Kerem, and we all rolled, crawled, and scrambled for cover. Utter silence followed, broken only by the crunch of rushing feet, panting breath, and the winded cry of Leopold Mahler running out of the blackness into the light of the hurricane lamp by the stone ruin, shouting, "I have news. I have news."

To a man we scampered back into the flickering glow where Linder grabbed him by the arms and snapped, "Well - talk. What did you find out? Are the Arabs plundering downtown Jerusalem?" Mahler wheezed not. On the contrary, the Jews had taken over the whole area. And to vividly substantiate his claim he opened his shabby coat wide and began pulling from its bulging pockets forgotten luxuries like triangles of Kraft cheese, Mars bars, and Cadbury chocolate. Then, he unstrapped his knapsack, and from its side pockets spilled out cans of peaches, jars of Ovaltine, and a bottle of Carmel wine.

We watched, eyes popping, as Mahler told how he had come by his booty: It was from the abandoned officers' mess of the British police headquarters near Zion Square. The English had evacuated the whole area that morning. Moreover, all Union Jacks throughout the country had been hauled down preparatory to midnight when British rule of Palestine would end.

"Has Ben-Gurion declared independence, yes or no?" asked Linder, beside himself with impatience. "David Ben-Gurion declared independence this afternoon in Tel Aviv. The Jewish state comes into being at midnight."

There was a dead silence. Midnight was minutes away. Even the air seemed to be holding its breath. "Oh, my God, what have we done?" cried one of the women diggers, fitfully rubbing her chin with the tips of her fingers. "What have we done? Oh, my God, what have we done?" and she burst into tears, whether in ecstasy or dismay I will never know.

Then cheers, tears, embraces. Every breast filled with exultation as we pumped hands, cuddled, kissed, in an ovation that went on and on. Nobody wanted it to stop.

"Hey, Mahler!" shouted Linder cutting through the hullabaloo, "Our state - what's its name?"

The violinist stared back blankly. "I don't know. I didn't think to ask."

"You don't know?" Mahler shook his head.

"How about Yehuda?" suggested someone.

"King David's kingdom was Yehuda - Judea." "Zion," cried another.

"It's an obvious choice." "Israel!" called a third. "What's wrong with Israel?"

"Let's drink to that," said Elisha with delight, grabbing hold of a tin mug and filling it to the brim. "A lehaim to the new state, whatever its name."

"Wait!" shouted a hassid whom everybody knew as Nussen der hazzan - a cantor by calling, and a most diligent volunteer digger from the ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim Jerusalem quarter. "It's Shabbos. Kiddush first."

Our crowd gathered around him in a hush as Nussen der hazzan clasped the mug and, in a sweet cantorial tone began to chant "Yom hashishi" - the blessing for the sanctification of the Sabbath day.

As Nussen's sacred verses floated off to a higher place of Sabbath bliss, some of us sobbed uncontrollably. Like a violin, his voice swelled, ululated, and trilled in the night, octave upon octave, his eyes closed, his cup stretched out and up. And as he concluded the final consecration - "Blessed art thou O Lord, who has hallowed the Sabbath" - he rose on tiptoe, his arm stiffened, and rocking back and forth like an ecstatic rabbi, voice trembling with excitement, he added the triumphantly exulted festival blessing to commemorate having reached this day - sheheheyanu, vekiyemanu vehegiyanu lezman hazeh."