Earl Shugerman’s Corner: My Aliyah

January 22, 2010

Earl Shugerman brings every week a serie of stories about Anglo-Saxon immigrants to Israel. This project is aimed to promote a more realistic view of life in Israel.

In many, if not most cases, the decision to make Aliyah involves a lot of anxiety. There are many things to give up, including: your home, friends, family, employment and mother tongue-to build a whole new life. There are no guarantees that this move will be a successful one. For me it was easier, because I had already reached retirement age and already had family and friends in Israel. Even then, friends and family here had urged me to think long and hard about this bold move.

There is a support network available to make the move less difficult. The first step in the alley of process is to contact the local Shaliach-the local Jewish agency representative. The Jewish agency has been a semi independent government organization that was formed 1929-well before the founding of Israel in 1948. At these times, the organization was busy raising money to buy more lands in Israel, and also encouraging Jews to immigrate to Israel. I turned to the local Shaliach in Pittsburg who initiated and monitored my Aliyah procedure.

This procedure takes three to six months. Personally, I began this process during the second war in Lebanon. Family and friends around me were even more apprehensive towards the move due to the war. I also enlisted help from Nefesh b’Nefesh-an independent American based group that tries to increase immigration from North America-and Britain. These two agencies-The Jewish Agency and Nefesh b’Nefesh- offer services that, at times, supplement each other.

These services include-pre-Aliyah and post-Aliyah counseling, and flight payments are covered by the agencies. Arriving in Israel, new immigrants get a six months financial supplement-called Sal Klita. It was not much-but offered some support-in my case paid half my rent. The agencies involved in the Aliyah- from the United States-have loans available that are for people who commit to stay in the country for at least three years.

On the first six months of the arrival every immigrant receives an intensive Hebrew class, called “Ulpan”, which is a part of the “Sal Klita”- the basic financial support. Students spend four hours a day, five days a week- for six months. The classes are composed of students from all over the world-which also makes it a social base- there are trips and social activities in which I participated and met a lot of friends.

As good as my experiences were at the “Ulpan”, I ended up learning Hebrew through teaching sport’s at an afterschool program. The people of my community warmly accepted me-and served as my primary support system-rather than the Ulpan-the formal Hebrew class .

Three years later, I’ve gone from living at the Shulamit-an apartment hotel-to my first real home. Right here, in the community that accepted me so warmly. I’m fulfilling my lifelong dream of being a writer-journalist. The wonderful climate and beautiful city of Haifa is now my domicile. In conclusion, I’m glad I made the trip, but it’s important for me to let the readers know that it’s been a bumpy path. 

About the author: Earl Shugerman is a retired American Government public relations specialist,  currently spokesperson in Haifa for The Jewish Agency and a writer specializing in interfaith relations. He has worked together with the Catholic and Southern Baptist Movements, the Reformed Jewish Movement and Muslim groups in interfaith activities.

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A Paper by Dr. Matthias Küntzel: Iranian Antisemitism – Stepchild of German National Socialism

January 22, 2010

Dear colleagues,

This month, The Israeli Journal of Foreign Affairs published my most recent paper on the penetration of Iran by Nazi antisemitism in the 1940s.

“I know of no other research on this subject and find the subject both intriguing and important,” wrote Prof. Alvin H. Rosenfeld who directs the new Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism at Indiana University Bloomington, USA.

Please find this article here.

With best regards,

Dr. Matthias Küntzel


Bill Clinton’s Report from Haiti

January 19, 2010

Dear Friend,

Yesterday I traveled to Haiti to deliver emergency supplies, see the conditions on the ground first-hand, and meet with government officials.

I wish you could have seen what I saw. Haitians were performing surgeries at night, without lights, with no anesthesia, using vodka to sterilize equipment. It’s astonishing what they’ve been able to accomplish in such devastating conditions.

We delivered the first of the supplies made possible by your support – generators, gas cans, solar flashlights, bottles of water, food, and medicines. You can be assured that your donations are being put to good use. We’ve already distributed more than $3 million to 12 organizations on the ground.

Only with your continued generosity will we be able to sustain these efforts and save more lives. Please make a donation of any size today:

www.clintonfoundation.org/haitiearthquake

Even after this earthquake, I believe Haiti has the best chance in my lifetime to escape its history – a history that Hillary and I have been able to share in a small way.

It’s going to take a lot of help and a long time, but they can build a better future if we do our part.

Thank you for your compassion and commitment to the people of Haiti,

Bill Clinton
UN Special Envoy for Haiti


Pakistan’s Nuclear Future

January 19, 2010

The risk of war between Pakistan and India and possible nuclear escalation would be bad enough, however, most American security experts are riveted on the frightening possibility of Pakistani nuclear weapons capabilities falling into the hands of terrorists intent on attacking the United States.

Unfortunately, a nuclear terrorist act is only one of several frightening security threats Pakistan now faces or poses.

A new book edited by Henry D. Sokolski, Executive Director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, takes a long look at these threats as possible. Its companion volume, Worries Beyond War, (2008) focused on the challenges of Pakistani nuclear terrorism. These analyses offer a window into what is possible and why Pakistani nuclear terrorism is best seen as a lesser included threat to war, and terrorism more generally. Could the United States do more with Pakistan to secure Pakistan’s nuclear weapons holdings against possible seizure? News reports indicate that the United States has already spent $100 million toward this end. It is unclear what this money has bought. If policymakers view the lack of specific intelligence on Pakistani nuclear terrorist plots against the United States as cold comfort and believe that such strikes are imminent, then the answer is not much. If, conventional acts of terrorism and war are far more likely than acts of nuclear terrorism, then there is almost too much to do. In the later case, nuclear terrorism would not be a primary, stand-alone peril, but a lesser included threat. What sort of Pakistan would that be? A country that was significantly more prosperous, educated, and far more secure against internal political strife and from external security threats than it currently is. How might one bring about such a state? The short answer is by doing more to prevent the worst. Nuclear use may not be the likeliest bad thing that might occur in Pakistan, but it is by far the nastiest. Certainly in the near- to mid-term, it is at least as likely as any act of nuclear terrorism. More important, it is more amenable to remediation.

Read full story.


Useful idiots

January 19, 2010

An op-ed by David A. Harris
Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee
The Jerusalem Post, January 19, 2010

In 1933, shortly after Adolf Hitler became the German chancellor, the Oxford Union famously adopted a resolution which said “That this House will in no circumstances fight for its King and Country.” The measure was passed by a vote of 275 to 153.

Winston Churchill reacted by saying that “one could almost feel the curl of contempt upon the lips of the manhood of Germany, Italy, and France when they read the message sent out by Oxford University in the name of Young England.”

Shortly afterward, his son, Randolph, tried to have the resolution stricken from the books, but the motion was resoundingly defeated by the Oxford Union.

In other words, otherwise bright students at a distinguished British university are capable of foolish things. At least in this case, it must be said, “Young England” rose to the occasion six years later, when the Second World War began, and revealed its true colors of patriotism, courage and grit.

Recently, another British student union was presented with a controversial proposal. The London School of Economics (LSE) debated whether to seek the twinning of this world-renowned institution with the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG).

After a spirited discussion, the motion was carried by a vote of 161 to 133. The university administration distanced itself from the decision.

As an alumnus of LSE, I am ashamed of the student action. Sure, LSE has a reputation for feisty politics, but this is taking it a bit far.

IUG was established in 1978 by none other than Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. Yassin, it will be recalled, was the founder of Hamas. In 2007, a New York Times reporter described IUG as “one of the prime means for Hamas to convert Palestinians to its Islamist cause.” Indeed, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, IUG “has emerged as a training ground for the political and spiritual leadership of Hamas. Many Hamas leaders who are also academics have taught at the university….”

Yassin was hardly cast in the mold of a Western liberal educator. Among his many public utterances, he declared that “reconciliation with the Jews is a crime” and that “Israel must disappear from the map.” He claimed that Israel is, in fact, Muslim land and is to be reserved for those of the faith “until Judgment Day.”

And Yassin didn’t just limit himself to rhetorical flourishes, either. He pursued “armed struggle” against Israel, targeting civilians and blessing suicide bombers.

Moreover, in 2007, during the civil war in Gaza between Hamas and Fatah forces, the latter entered the university and found rocket-propelled grenade launchers, rockets, assault rifles and ammunition, all of which was subsequently shown on Palestinian television.

Two years later, Israel struck two IUG buildings which, according to military spokesmen, were used as “a research and development center for Hamas weapons, including Kassam rockets.” Those rockets were used to attack indiscriminately Israeli towns and villages near the Gaza border, with the aim of killing and terrorizing residents.

When I first heard the news that the LSE Student Union voted to twin with IUG, I was speechless.

How could students at a world-class university that celebrates the open and respectful exchange of ideas find common cause with the academic standard-bearer of Hamas, a Sharia-based, obscurantist, violent group?

How could they claim solidarity with an institution that is actively involved in a long-term campaign to destroy a neighboring nation – and a democratic one at that?

How could they, living in a world of pluralism, gender equality and sexual freedom, join themselves at the hip to such a regressive, repressive social environment as IUG?

How could they, students of a university which was one of the stepping stones in British society for Jews to gain equality, identify with a school that preaches hatred of Jews and celebrates their murder?

The answer, I fear, is the bizarre alliance that has emerged in the UK between the keffiyeh-worshiping far left and Islamic extremists.

When neo-fascists come along spouting reactionary slogans about women and gays, the far left unhesitatingly denounces them. But when misogyny and homophobia emanate from the lips of Islamists, they’re likely to get a deferential pass from the suddenly culturally-sensitive.

Ken Livingstone, former London mayor, and George Galloway, Member of Parliament, are two prime examples of what the communists referred to as “useful idiots” – those who, in their ultimate naiveté, would help the extremists ascend to power, only to be the first in line for destruction once the goal was attained. In the case of Livingstone and Galloway, they’ve rarely met a Middle Eastern radical with whom they couldn’t agree. And, of course, they have their counterparts at LSE and on other university campuses, in trade unions and in the media.

The LSE Student Union vote was a sad day for the British academy. It betrays all the values that have made Britain a beacon of liberty and enlightenment.

One can only hope that this decision will follow the path of the 1933 Oxford Union resolution – and make its way to the dustbin of history as rapidly as possible.


6 Major Powers Move Closer to Considering More Iran Sanctions

January 18, 2010

Did You Know?

“The (Revolutionary Guard) corps’s two best-known subsidiaries are the secretive Quds Force, which has carried out operations in other countries, including the training and arming of the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon; and the Basij militia. The Basiji includes millions of volunteer vigilantes used to crack down on election protests and dissidents,” according to The New York Times. 

Top Stories

The New York Times: “Six major powers agreed Saturday that the Iranian response to proposals to altering its nuclear development program had been inadequate and that it warranted consideration of further measures by the United Nations Security Council.  China, however, which sent a low-level diplomat to the meeting, maintained its position that it opposed new sanctions now.” 
 
The Associated Press (AP): “Iran’s interior minister is vowing to take revenge on Israel over the slaying last week of a physics professor in a mysterious bomb attack.  Iranian officials have blamed an exiled opposition group, accusing it of acting on behalf of Israel and the U.S. Washington denied involvement. Israel did not comment.” 

Reuters: “Iran has exchanged messages with major powers on its nuclear energy program and sees signs of progress, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said on Monday, despite Western attempts to impose more sanctions.”

Opinion
 
Los Angeles Times (LAT) Editorial Board
: “This week’s indictment of three Glendale men for allegedly smuggling vacuum pumps and other industrial equipment to Iran via the United Arab Emirates is the latest reminder of how easily and frequently U.S. trade sanctions against Tehran have been violated. The charges were reported as the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany prepared to meet in New York today to discuss tougher economic measures for pressing Iran to halt its uranium enrichment program.”


World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder calls on Pope Benedict XVI to clarify Vatican’s stance on Pius XII

January 17, 2010

 

Pope Benedict & Ronald S. Lauder

Pope Benedict & Ronald S. Lauder

The following opinion article by World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder was published by the leading Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on the eve of Pope Benedict’s visit to the Great Synagogue of Rome.

Time for a few illuminating words

By Ronald S. Lauder

When a Catholic bishop visits the main synagogue in his diocese it is first and foremost a mark of friendship and an expression of the good relationship between the two local religious communities. Things are somewhat different when such a visit occurs in Rome, as the Bishop of Rome is also pontiff of the Catholic Church, representing more than a billion Catholics world-wide.

It is therefore important to Jews around the world what Pope Benedict XVI has to say this Sunday in Rome’s main synagogue on the Jewish-Catholic relationship and on a number of sensitive issues has already caused a sensation during his pontificate thus far.

Benedict XVI has often emphasized how important good relations to Judaism are to him. Through his trips to Israel, to Auschwitz, and his visits to synagogues in Cologne and New York, he has proved that he is sincere.

The German-born Pope has always been an outstanding theologian and a sharp-witted thinker. And yet, sometimes we see another Benedict, one who surprises us with decisions that – even for the well-meaning amongst us – are difficult to comprehend.

We Jews are generally very sensitive folk; some would say over-sensitive – although history has given us enough reason to be vigilant, given that anti-Semitism was very widespread and deeply rooted in the higher echelons of the Christian churches until a few decades ago.

Moreover, we Jews are an emotional people, and in public life we don’t always judge a statement or a decision made by the Pope by purely rational or intellectual criteria which perhaps are the hallmarks of a theological seminary. We pay close attention to gestures and symbols, especially from a Pope of German origin.

And we are quick to interpret his decisions in a certain way, even when they do not appear entirely obvious to us, because we always fear that others will deliberately interpret them in a way that one could regard as offensive to us.

All of this wouldn’t matter much had not dissent and controversies between our religions often served as justification for exclusion, persecution, and even violence. We need to make sure that we overcome former divisions and do not repeat the mistakes of the past.

Certain reasoning and decision-making by the Pope that is perfectly logical within the framework of Catholic theology and teaching can have a completely different meaning for the outside world (the same also applies to Jewish thinking), hence the need to explain and communicate these decisions in a comprehensible fashion.

When the Pope allows the use of the Good Friday Prayer of the old Tridentine liturgy, which calls for Jews to acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Savior of all men, some of us are deeply hurt.

When the Pope decides to lift the excommunication of bishops of the ultra-conservative and anti-Semitic Society of St. Pius X, among them a notorious Holocaust denier, we are upset.

When we have the impression that the beatification process of Pope Pius XII is being rushed through before all the documentation kept by the Vatican on this pontificate is revealed, many of us are disturbed. During that Pope’s pontificate, six million Jews in Europe were murdered by the Nazis, and there is an on-going debate about whether Pius XII really did all in his power to save at least some of them.

Holocaust survivors in particular feel upset when “heroic virtues” are accorded to Pius XII, even though that may make perfect sense within the inner-Catholic framework and may have nothing to do with his actions during World War II. To be clear: is it neither up to us Jews, nor to other outsiders, to decide who should be declared a hero or a saint of the Catholic Church. I also do not presume to be in a position to render a final judgment on Pius’ actions – or inaction – during World War II.

Yet those who view Pius XII and his behavior during that period critically – among them many historians – should be heard before irreversible decisions are taken hastily. Until all papers relating to Pius XII during the crucial period are accessible, the Vatican would be well advised to pause for a moment. Otherwise, even Catholics might have great trouble in recognizing the “heroic virtues” of Pius XII, and the reputation of the present Pope would consequently also suffer some damage.

Despite all these differences in opinion between Catholics and Jews – and it is only normal that they exist – the relationship between Jews and the Vatican is based on a solid foundation. We have managed, since the 1965 Declaration Nostra Aetate, to maintain a dialogue based on mutual trust. This dialogue is much more advanced than that with other Christian denominations, or with Islam.

I harbor no doubts whatever about the positive attitude and open-mindedness of Pope Benedict XVI vis-à-vis the Jews. He is more than welcome in our synagogues and I hope there will be many more such important occasions in the future.

However, on Sunday, when he pays a visit to Rome’s main synagogue on the invitation of the local Jewish community, we would welcome a few illuminating answers to some of the questions I outlined above. That could help dispel some of the irritations of the past months that have unnecessarily strained Jewish-Catholic relations.

Many Jews would recognize that as a small “heroic virtue” of the Pope.