October 28, 2012 at 5:59 pm Wonderful article. Thank you Dr. Gordon.
Yes, the peace prize is a joke, unworthy of our consideration – and so is the EU. They have their own problems,and while we may wish them well with them, we should give them no quarter in ours. As you say, Dr. Gordon, we have our history, our memories, and a responsibility to build a nation state of our own where we can welcome all who come in peace and defend ourselves against those who don’t.
The Palestinian Israel conflict has never been more than a tool of the broader Israel Arab conflict. Israel is anathema to the Arab world, and its target.If the EU chooses to condone the threat of the Middle East, so be it. Let us ignore their vanities, their condemnations and their now meaningless prizes, and look to our own.
Posted: 23 Oct 2012 06:45 PM PDT
From Times of Israel this afternoon:
Border Police forces arrested a 20-year-old Palestinian carrying eight explosive devices at the Qalandiya checkpoint near Ramallah, on Tuesday. The man reportedly traveled to the checkpoint by taxi. A routine inspection of his bags revealed the bombs, which were assembled and ready for use. The man was taken into custody. The border crossing was closed and sappers disassembled the devices on the scene.
From other sources, we know the seizing of this terrorist happened around 12:15 this afternoon.
There are people who will read the news item above and see within it further confirmation that Israel maintains a cruel and strict regime of oppression over the Palestinian Arabs. They might include the film critic of the Observer/Guardian who this week cluelessly compared it to the walls of the Warsaw Ghetto and the Soviet Berlin wall. The Arab media frequently refer to it as an apartheid wall, showing a fatal lack of comprehension of what it was that made Apartheid-era South Africa a racist and unjust regime.
We prefer to look at it this way. The young man arrested today knew he was going to have to pass through the security checkpoint. He may have done it before in the past. It was not suddenly thrown into his path - it's been there, in the same place, for years. He may have thought his luck would hold and he would get through. He had alternatives: the security barrier has never been completed and is not continuous; people regularly find ways to cross over without passing through the checkpoints.
In other words, given a reasonable degree of effort on his part, and not an extreme degree, the system identified him for what he is - an armed terrorist - and apprehended him. For a society under constant attack by religiously-inspired terrorists, how can you justify ignoring such a threat and (we presume) hope that no one with death and injury on his mind is going to try?
The Qalandiya security crossing is ten minutes' drive from our home. The human bomb who exploded in the Sbarro restaurant eleven years ago and killed our daughter and fourteen other innocent people passed through the same security crossing and was not caught. He was assisted by the woman - the planner of the massacre at Sbarro - whose unjust release in October 2011 caused us (causes us) so much consternation; she passed through the checkpoint in Israeli-looking clothing and was neither hindered nor searched by the IDF soldiers on duty.
Thankfully today's result was much better
Surely it is time for moderate Palestinians and Israelis to recognize the Israel Arab conflict for what it is - a tool of the larger israel Arab conflict and its more far-reaching, sinister fundamentalist threat against democracies around the world. Surely, it is time for moderate Palestinians and Israelis to work together for peace in their region.
The Emir of Qatar's visit to the Gaza Strip is a huge diplomatic victory for Hamas and a severe blow to the moderate Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority. The emir did not come to the Gaza Strip to try to persuade Hamas to abandon terror and recognize Israel's right to exist. Nor did he come to the Gaza Strip to tell Hamas to endorse democracy and stop its oppressive measures against Palestinians, especially women.
The U.S. Administration has sought to downplay the significance of this week's visit to the Gaza Strip by the Emir of Qatar, Hamad al-Thani.
"We have seen the reports that Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa visits Gaza today on a humanitarian mission," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said. "We share Qatar's deep concern for the welfare of the Palestinian people, including those residing in Gaza."
Many Palestinians, especially the Palestinian Authority leadership in the West Bank, do not share the U.S. Administration's position regarding the emir's visit.
Palestinian Authority leaders do not see the visit as a "humanitarian mission," but as an attempt to strengthen Hamas.
In fact, the high-profile visit of the emir and his wife to the Gaza Strip was anything but a "humanitarian mission."
This was a visit that has political and economic implications, not only for the Palestinians, but for the entire region as well.
True, the emir promised to invest $400 million in various projects in the Gaza Strip. It remains to be seen if the Qatari ruler will fulfill his promise.
The timing of the visit raises many questions and sheds light as to the emir's true motives.
Qatar has always been supportive not only of Hamas, but Muslim Brotherhood and many jihadi organizations.
If Qatar really had "deep concern for the welfare of the Palestinian people," where was the emir during the past seven years?
As the emir himself pointed out during the visit, it was the so-called Arab Spring -- which has seen the rise of Islamists to power in a number of Arab countries over the past two years - that paved the way for his visit to the Gaza Strip.
"Were it not for the Egyptian revolution and President Mohamed Morsi," the emir said, "the visit would not have taken place."
The emir came to the Gaza Strip to offer not only financial aid to Hamas, but also moral and political backing. The visit, the first of its kind by a head of state to the Gaza Strip since Hamas seized control over the area in 2007, was aimed at helping the Islamist movement break the state of isolation in which it has been since then.
The emir did not come to the Gaza Strip to try to persuade Hamas to abandon terror and recognize Israel's right to exist. Nor did he come to the Gaza Strip to tell Hamas to endorse democracy and stop its oppressive measures against Palestinians, particularly women.
The emir's visit is a huge diplomatic victory for Hamas and a severe blow to moderate Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority.
Palestinian leaders in the West Bank were quick to express deep disappointment with the emir's visit, rightly arguing that it would only enhance Hamas's standing and empower the radical camp among the Palestinians.
The emir's visit also means that the Gaza Strip has become a separate Palestinian entity that has no link to the West Bank's Palestinian Authority, and which is capable of conducting its running its own economy and foreign policy.
The visit has actually solidified the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, turning Abbas's effort to establish an independent Palestinian state on the pre-1967 lines into a fantasy; if he tried to establish a Palestinian state on the West Bank alone, would be accused of "abandoning" the dream of creating a full, united, Palestinian state, and of dividing Palestine into two states.
Finally, the emir's visit to the Gaza Strip also serves Qatar's wish of becoming a major player in the region as well as in the Israeli-Arab conflict. Syria, Iran and Egypt, countries which once used to have enormous influence over Hamas, have been pushed aside by Qatar's ruler and his promise of big checks.
Related Topics: Khaled Abu Toameh receive the latest by email: subscribe to the free gatestone institute mailing list
Comment on this item
In Flame Magazine:
Explaining Israel as it really is — in Arabic
A secular, liberal woman from the Galilee, Boshra Khalaila leaves passionate critics of Israel open-mouthed simply by describing the rights and freedoms she routinely enjoys
By Philippe Assouline October 17, 2012, 6:56 pm
I first met Boshra Khalaila in the Spring of 2010, at the Ministry of Public Diplomacy's offices in Jerusalem. She was 24 at the time. Like me, she'd been alarmed by the public relations debacle that followed the Gaza flotilla incident and had somehow found her way to the Ministry's hastily set-up Potemkin village of a situation room, to volunteer her time and do damage control, in Arabic.
I next saw her last January at the first preparatory meeting for the Faces of Israel program, which I have previously written about. She had again volunteered to defend her country and taken time off work to drive from Jerusalem, where she lives, to Tel Aviv for the preparatory sessions, a ritual she would have to repeat often. I was sent to California as part of that program. Boshra's destination was South Africa — during Israel Apartheid Week.
In South Africa, she traveled to both Johannesburg and Cape Town, lecturing at four large university events that included a serious round of follow-up work — public discussions, five radio interviews, and a host of newspaper interviews.
'I compare myself to other women my age in Jordan, the territories, Egypt, any Arab country. They don't have the rights that I have: freedom of expression, the right to vote. They are forced into marriage at a young age, and religious head covering, despite their own convictions' Boshra, a secular, independent and patriotic Israeli Arab woman, defies stereotypes. She grew up in a liberal home in the Arab village of Deir Hana, in the Galilee. Her first contact with Jewish Israelis came at the age of 18, when she enrolled in Haifa University. There, she had to speak Hebrew for the first time. And it is there that she started to develop her political conscience and her attachment to the State of Israel.
"I am married and doing a master's degree [in Tel Aviv]. I am a liberal, free woman, with all the rights that I could enjoy. I compare myself to other women my age in Jordan, the territories, Egypt, any Arab country. They don't have the rights that I have: freedom of expression, the right to vote. They are forced into marriage at a young age, and religious head covering, despite their own convictions. With me it's the opposite; I have everything."
After returning from our mission, we sat down for an interview in the lobby of a Tel Aviv hotel. My first question was why she feels the need to speak up for Israel so publicly — something that most Jews don't even feel compelled to do. She answered me in perfect Hebrew:
"To sacrifice from myself for the country that I live in and that gives me rights, that's a natural price."
Boshra was part of a team of five people, including another Israeli Arab and a Druze, who were sent to South Africa with Faces of Israel during Israel Apartheid Week. Like us, Boshra and her team had to deal with widespread ignorance about Israel, compounded by a campaign of demonization waged by pro-Palestinian students. Unlike us, she could counter the anti-Israel Middle Eastern students as an Arab herself, in Arabic.
"[The pro Palestinian students in Johannesburg] had built fake barriers and put up all kinds of slogans demonizing Israel and accusing it of Apartheid, of being a child murderer and the like. There were awful pictures, pictures with dead children, [it was] really terrible."
Boshra and her team were generally not welcome. "They didn't even know that there was such a thing as Israeli Arabs. They accused us of being Jews. Some people were hostile, they told us 'get out,' 'we don't want to hear from you.' [Some] were even more unwilling to talk to me because I am Arab and was seen as a traitor, but this was only a small part of their group. Others, thankfully, came to listen; they were open-minded about it."
Boshra and her team delivered a number of lectures, told their personal stories, dialogued with students and gave interviews. "You want to defend yourself from people that tell the world that [Jews and Arabs] travel on different buses and study at different schools and that there is segregation," she said. "That just isn't true: I study in same educational institutions, ride the same buses, shop in the same supermarkets. Everything that they say is absolutely false. And I do feel that I belong to my country."
Hoping to give South Africans a glimpse of her everyday life as an Arab citizen of Israel, Boshra instead found herself publicly debating politics with a Palestinian PhD student from Gaza, in Arabic.
"This is what I told him in front of everyone; I spoke in Arabic, and I was translated: 'I don't enjoy it when soldiers attack and mothers and babies end up getting killed or injured. It's hard. But the same is true for Netivot and Sderot, when Kassam rockets hit and, God forbid, someone is killed, it is very hard. On both sides there are mothers and it is hard. I want the Palestinian people to have a country. It's a natural right. That said, there are all kinds of conflicts within the Palestinian authority, mainly with Hamas, that prevent progress toward a peaceful settlement for the state of Israel and that is unfortunate."
She added, "If there is any Apartheid — in the sense of a flagrant injustice — in the world, it is what is happening in Syria. Thousands of people murdered…the number of dead doesn't even come close here."
Thinking back to my experience in California, I assumed that her message would fall on deaf ears. But she surprised me:
"Most of the talks ended with a handshake and a hug. To me this says it all. I have to say that it was important that I wasn't there representing the government of Israel. It was surprising for them to see that I was a simple person, defending my country for the rights that I have and not speaking on behalf of the government. It came across as very genuine. For them, this was huge — to be able to listen to someone who is not from the government, including for the pro-Palestinian students. When you tell them you are a student and not a government spokesman, they no longer see you as an enemy."
Making international waves
Boshra's appearances on campus made waves, and, among her many radio appearances, she was interviewed by an Islamic, Arabic-language radio station in Johannesburg. The interviewer, a religious Saudi man, asked her questions which revealed a disheartening level of ignorance about Israel, the most over-scrutinized and documented country in the world — an ignorance that is unfortunately all too common.
"He asked why Israel doesn't let Muslims pray or go to Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem; why only Jews are allowed to pray [in the State of Israel]. I told them that in my own small village in the Galilee there are not only one but two mosques and two imams who both get a monthly salary from the state. The interviewer was in shock. I added that I could go pray at Al Aqsa mosque at will, freely. Sure, sometimes there are security concerns and they limit entrance temporarily, but that's it."
The host was receptive to Boshra's story and as the conversation turned to the rights of Arabs in Israel, her assertiveness grew.
"I said to him: 'In Saudi Arabia, can a woman drive a car?' He said no. I said: 'I can.' And he was silent. I asked: 'Can a woman in Kuwait or Saudi Arabia meet a man and get to know him before getting married or is she just forced into marriage at a young age?' He said no, she can't. I said: 'I can.' And I would answer his questions with my own questions…and each time he would be stunned silent."
Boshra went on to correct other popular misconceptions that the host had, including ideas about the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. She informed him of the supplies that Israel provides to the strip on a monthly basis, and she reminded him that Egypt also enforces the embargo. She asked him why it was Israel and not Egypt, an Arab county, that provided for the territory's necessities. "He was speechless. He was often speechless during our interview."
The host's silence, and the reception she got from many if not all of the Arab students that she met, stood in stark contrast to my experience at Berkeley. Boshra's interviewer, a religious Saudi, was more receptive to new facts than the "liberal" Ivy league students that I faced. "He saw me; I spoke Arabic, I was liberal and secular. This made him quite open-minded, actually."
Her tale begs the question of why, if a religious Muslim from a hyper-conservative state in the Middle East is willing to shed preconceived notions about Israel — even temporarily — the state is still faced with such disastrous public relations. Boshra's diagnosis: "Every media outlet pushes this narrative painting Israel as an evil aggressor. It's enough that a popular prime-time show plays, a few times, a clip of the IDF bombing a target in Gaza where a baby was killed, for people to be convinced that Israel is an evil state. It's hard for people to see tragedies like that."
'I am looking for an apartment to rent in Jerusalem right now. And when they ask me my name — Boshra -- they then ask if I am an Arab. When I ask if there is a problem with that, there's always some embarrassment, some evasion. One woman told me, "I don't have a problem with you, but others tenants mind, so we can't rent to you"'
"And our public diplomacy here in Israel," she went on, underlining why people are not told the rest of the story, "is catastrophic. I can tell you first hand, it's catastrophic." She uses the Hebrew slang expression "all hapanim" — flat on its face — to describe Israel's public relations apparatus.
Sadly, the hostility and suspicion that Boshra initially encountered in Johannesburg were but a taste of what she'd face upon returning home.
"There were a number of articles in Israel, the international press and the Arab press even outside of Israel. They described me as a Zionist who sold out her people." Others accused her of taking bribes to support the country. The media exposure led to real trouble. In Deir Hana, where she grew up, activists from Hadash and Balad, Arab Israeli political parties represented in parliament, "published flyers and articles saying that I sold out my people, that I was brainwashed." Like the rest of us, Boshra didn't get paid a cent for her troubles. "They wanted to banish me and my family –- all kinds of bad things." The rancor eventually turned to threats. "I got many hostile phone calls and threatening Facebook messages. A Facebook group attacking me was started. At one point, even my husband was threatened and told that if I didn't 'calm down' I'd pay a heavy price."
Boshra told me this almost matter-of-factly, undeterred. And yet, she admitted that facing such hostility was not easy. "I cried for hours every day." But although she felt alone, she found the strength to persevere. "I am very proud of what I did because these are my opinions. I will not and am not able to change my opinions to please anyone. And the essential, most important thing is that I got full support from my family and my husband." She also got support from a number of people in her home village. "People understood my actions and opinions and expressed this to my family in the kfar too," she says, referring to her village. "It was mostly Hadash activists that caused problems."
But why put herself through it all? The hostility one faces when defending Israel -– the intimidation, the isolation, the constant bickering, the justifications of terrorism under the guise of concern for human rights, the slander that one inevitably faces — is, at times, enough to make you want to give it all up and move to Mexico. I couldn't imagine having to deal with the same hostility at home as well as abroad. I doubt I would have had Boshra's fortitude.
"It was important to me that people know that there are Arabs that live in the state of Israel, and on this trip there were [people] from all backgrounds…that didn't know that there were Arabs in Israel. They thought Israel was a country exclusively of Jews. It was very important to me to correct this misconception."
Boshra also wanted to challenge herself and break some barriers in the process.
"Second, I wanted to prove to myself that I could do this as a woman in our community, where women are weak. And what I experienced, the negative comments, the slander that I was bribed, revealed that they just couldn't accept that a woman could get ahead. Had a man been in my position, they would have related to him differently, I am sure, but because I am a woman they rejected my actions…as if to abuse me. It is also a resentment of success. When people get ahead there is a tendency in the Arab community to bring them down, to infer that they should stop. This is particularly true with respect to women."
But though she is definitely not stopping, she doesn't advocate that everyone follow her lead. "You need a lot of strength and perseverance. As a woman from an Arab town it is more difficult to stand up and it takes a lot of courage. Not everyone is capable of doing it. In our community, the woman is the weaker sex. You need even more strength and courage [than the men]."
"But to be accused of treason is the price you have to pay to make a difference," Boshra said, summarizing her ordeal. "Bottom line: you need to believe in your way and what you are doing."
I asked if she's ever encountered discrimination in Israel, by Jewish Israelis. It's a scary question whose answer I was afraid to hear.
"I can't say that I enjoy 100% of the rights that I get under law, but I don't deny that I have rights, like others in my community might claim. That's not true. I work for the office of social insurance in Israel, so I can tell you confidently that Arabs have the same legal rights. That said, as an Arab I can't get certain jobs for which military service is required, for example, because Arabs are exempt from military service. I can't always live where I want."
We discussed military service for a while, and the growing trend among Arabs — which she supports — to volunteer for the military or national service. Nonetheless, I was bothered that a person such as her is not universally greeted as a hero in this country. And I told her.
"Listen, it's not pleasant. I am looking for an apartment to rent in Jerusalem right now. And when they ask me my name — Boshra — they then ask if I am an Arab. When I ask if there is a problem with that, there's always some embarrassment, some evasion. One woman told me, 'I don't have a problem with you, but others tenants mind, so we can't rent to you. I looked for a place to live in Adam [a settlement in the West Bank] and I wasn't accepted."
While I typed up her words, embarrassed by those stories, she added: "Jerusalem is becoming ultra-Orthodox " — she actually uses a play on the Hebrew word "Haredi," (i.e., "anxious") and tells me that Jerusalem is becoming 'anxiety-ridden' — "Who gets to rent what and where is an issue for everyone these days. The ultra-Orthodox have their areas, and if someone Jewish is not religious they won't rent to them, either."
Still, I kept digging, feeling it my duty to expose and condemn whatever unpleasantness she may have encountered at the hands of Israelis on account of her background. But there isn't much. "I don't feel racism on a daily basis. I don't look for an apartment every day. At the supermarket everyone is nice to me and they know that I am Arab. But I won't say there is none – it's just not a frequent thing. If it were, I couldn't stand to live here. And I know that for each woman who won't rent me an apartment there are tens of others who will. And when I was in Haifa, I never once experienced any racism. I didn't know what racism was. It was only when I arrived to Jerusalem – because the city is in conflict – that I felt something."
In search of 'the common good'
What of the Arab members of Israel's parliament, the Knesset, and their constant, public complaints about the state? Boshra's answer was decidedly Israeli. "Everything is politics and everything is dirty. Everyone is looking out for his own interests and the narrow interests of his constituency — religious, Arab, whatever. No one looks out for the common good. And it is often in their interest to incite, to be inflammatory."
"[The Saudi interviewer] asked me about the Arab members of Knesset who are always against the Jews," she continued, "I answered him that those members of Knesset should thank Israel for giving them rights, including freedom of expression, which they would not enjoy in any Arab country. Second, those Arab Knesset members do not represent me."
This is something Boshra first explained to me back in 2010 about Hanin Zoabi, an Arab-Israeli member of Knesset who participated in the Mavi Marmara flotilla to Gaza and viciously criticized Israel in the press. "They [the Arab Members of Knesset] serve only their own interests." She added that many Arab Israelis agree and feel that the Arab Members of Knesset even hold Israeli Arabs back, but that tradition still held much sway in dictating how people voted. "The truth is that awareness of the possibility to vote and whom to vote for is still not very high in the Israeli Arab community. It is very much a family thing; you follow what your family loyalties dictate. This is not my case because I was lucky to have been born in a very liberal, open home in favor of co-existence and higher education. I was able to get married relatively late, at the age of 25, because I am pursuing a master's degree. But others are not that fortunate."
'I am for a Palestinian state. But I don't think that I am pro-Palestinian. I think that they should have their rights, that the Saudi millionaires should help them out a little…but that is it. I am not for a One State solution, either. I am for two states for two people…and I would stay here. Israel is my home'
And although she supports them, Boshra does not identify with the Palestinians, nor would she move to a Palestinian state were it ever to arise.
"Israel is my country, my home. Why would I leave to Jordan or Egypt? This is where my roots are. Here my grandfather and grandmother were born, all my family is here. This is my home," she told me unequivocally. Her logic is rooted in optimism: "I am in favor of coexistence, I am in favor of peace and I very much believe that when younger people start to speak for us, instead of the older generation now in power, there will be more joie de vivre. Many problems stem from the older mentalities and hatreds. They don't want Jews in this land, they want to kick them out, treat them as enemies, or vice versa."
Unlike many young Israeli-Arabs, she doesn't consider herself Palestinian.
"No. I just want them to have a state. Because — hallas — enough already. I am for a Palestinian state. But I don't think that I am pro-Palestinian. Because I am not Palestinian. I identify insofar as I think that they should have their rights, that the Saudi millionaires should help them out a little…but that is it. I am not for a One State solution, either. I am for two states for two people…and I would stay here. Israel is my home."
I compared her willingness to speak out to the hesitation of some other Arab participants on the Faces of Israel to defend Israel abroad, for fear of upsetting their kin back home. This outraged Boshra: "Why!? They didn't study!? They didn't get all their rights and dues? That kind of ingratitude could get one killed in an Arab country."
That led me to ask her about her place as an Israeli Arab within the Arab world. Her answer tells of the isolation of a community struggling to define itself between two clashing identities. "There is a problem. To the Jews we are Palestinian Arabs and to Arabs in the Middle East we are Jews. And we want to both identify with Arabs and be Israeli and connect with Jews. It is a problem." But she makes no apologies and expects understanding from the Arabs around Israel. "Just as I accept that someone from, say, Lebanon has his own identity, he needs to accept that I was born in Israel. The Palestinians born in Lebanon are still stuck in camps on the border. They are not recognized by Lebanon; they are not even considered residents; even to marry a Lebanese, to get a Lebanese ID card down the line is impossible. There is no family reunification. It's simple: You need to appreciate that everyone has their own reality." And Boshra's reality is being an engaged, active Israeli.
But she is not interested in a political career. Here again, her rejection of Israeli politics sounds exactly like what she is — purely, unmistakably Israeli. "I won't go into politics," she states. "It's a dirty game."
She wants to make an enduring difference, to unite people and build bridges to the Arab world with a better, more timely idea, one that, in my opinion, the politicians playing their "dirty game" should quickly heed:
"I want to work for peace between people. I want to do this through the media… to speak to the world. Why isn't there an Israeli channel that speaks to the world, like the French have or the BBC, for instance? I would like to be involved in such a thing."
Response to wonderful article in the Graystone Institute on Palestinians of East Jerusalem applying for Israeli citizenship
What is happening to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Reader comment on: Why Palestinians Want Israeli Citizenship
Submitted by Batya Casper, Israelathebook.com, Oct 23, 2012 10:20
It is becoming increasingly clear to Israeli Palestinians - particularly to Palestinians who live in East Jerusalem and are not subject to Palestinian or Hamas rule - that Israeli democracy is theirs for the taking. As terror increases around the world, Israeli Arabs are realizing that the Arab-Israeli conflict is a ploy engineered and fostered by a global fundamentalist Islamic ideology, and that Israel is not their enemy.
Holocaust survivor finds haven as Muslim in Israel Wednesday, 18 April 2012
Leila Jabarin was a Jewish Holocaust survivor born in Auschwitz concentration camp. (AFP) inShare1 By AFP
For more than five decades, Leila Jabarin hid her secret from her Muslim children and grandchildren − that she was a Jewish Holocaust survivor born in Auschwitz concentration camp.
Although her family knew she was a Jewish convert, none of them knew of her brutal past.
It was only in the past week that Jabarin, who was born Helen Brashatsky, finally sat down and told them the story of how she was born inside Auschwitz, the most notorious symbol of Nazi Germany’s wartime campaign of genocide against Europe’s Jews.
In an interview with AFP to mark Holocaust Memorial Day which begins at sundown on Wednesday, Jabarin, now 70, chuckles as she talks about what to call her.
Her Muslim name is Leila, but in this Arab town in northern Israel where she has lived for the past 52 years, most people call her Umm Raja, Arabic for “Raja’s mother” after her first-born son.
Like most Jewish children, she also has a Hebrew name -- Leah -- but she just likes to be called Helen.
She was six when she came to live in Mandate Palestine with her parents, just months before the State of Israel was declared in May 1948.
They arrived in a ship carrying Jewish immigrants from the former Yugoslavia, which was forced to anchor off the coast of Haifa for a week due to a heavy British bombardment of the northern port city, she says.
Despite the war which broke out as soon as the British pulled out, it was a far cry from the savage reality the family had witnessed inside Auschwitz, says Jabarin who is dressed in a hijab and long robes, but whose pale skin and blue eyes belie her Eastern European parentage.
Her mother, who was from Hungary, and her father, who was of Russian descent, were living in Yugoslavia when they were sent to the Auschwitz with their two young sons in 1941.
“When they took them to Auschwitz, she was pregnant with me, and when she gave birth, the Christian doctor at Auschwitz hid me in bath towels,” she says, explaining how the doctor hid the family for three years under the floor of his house inside the camp.
Her mother worked as a maid at the doctor’s home, while her father was the gardener.
“They used to come back at night and sleep under the floor and my mother used to tell us how the Nazis were killing children, but that this doctor saved us,” she says, recalling how her mother used to feed them on dry bread soaked in hot water with salt.
“I still remember the black and white striped pyjamas and remember terrible beatings in the camp. If I was healthy enough, I would have gone back to see it but I have already had four heart attacks.
“It is scary and very, very difficult to remember that place where so many people suffered,” she admits, speaking in a mix of Hebrew and accented Arabic.
She also speaks Hungarian, a little Yiddish and some Russian.
The family were finally freed when the camp was liberated in 1945 and left for Mandate Palestine three years later.
At first, the new immigrants were put in camps at Atlit, some 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of Haifa, but two years later, they moved further south to Holon and then to Ramat Gan near Tel Aviv.
Ten years later, when she was 17, Helen Brashatsky eloped with a young Arab man called Ahmed Jabarin, and they moved to live in Umm al-Fahm, which caused a huge split with her family.
“She ran away with me and she was 17 when we got married,” her husband says. “The Israeli authorities used to come to Umm al-Fahm and take her back to her family in Ramat Gan, then she would come straight back here.”
Initially, her family did not speak to her for two years, but later they were reconciled.
In the end, it was her mother who suggested she convert to Islam when her eldest son turned 18 and was asked to do his compulsory military service.
“My mother advised me not to send my son to do military service because if he did, my daughter would also have to do it.
“She said I should convert to Islam to save my daughter from serving in the army because Muslims would not let a girl live away from home on an army camp.”
So she converted.
But she never told her family the full extent of her history.
“I hid my pain for 52 years and the truth about my past from my eight children and my 31 grandchildren. I hid the fact that I was born in Auschwitz and what that painful past means.
“I was just waiting for the right moment to tell them.”
The moment came several days ago when a man turned up from the Israeli social services and got talking to her about her past, just days before the annual ceremonies remembering the Holocaust.
“Whenever it is Holocaust Memorial Day, I cry alone. There are no words to describe the pain that I feel. How can children eat dry bread soaked in water? If this happened to my children, I don’t know what would become of me.”
For her family, the revelation was a huge shock -- but it answered a lot of questions, admits her 33-year-old son Nader Jabarin.
“Mum used to cry on Holocaust Memorial Day watching all the ceremonies on Israeli television. We never understood why. We all used to get out of the way and leave her alone in the house,” he told AFP.
But by telling her long-kept secret, it had brought release to both her and her family, he said.
“We understand her a bit more now.”
Avi Stevenson New Event: WHEN JEWISH AND ARAB YOUNG WOMEN MEET…PEACE CAN COME: Introducing the Next Generation of Women Pea http://dlvr.it/2KSyQF WHEN JEWISH AND ARAB YOUNG WOMEN MEET…PEACE CAN COME:
jewishinnewyork.com What happens when Israeli and Palestinian girls come together for an intensive reconciliation experience? How do they deal with their prejudices, their fears...
Batya Casper Wouldn't it be wonderful if we women could join hands and bring an end to our onerous Israel Arab conflict? Imagine if we could bring about a world of peace, stability, honest education and well being for our children? I say, to that end - anything is worth a try. Batya Casper The Human face of Conflict www.Israelathebook.com
Batya Casper email@example.com 7:43 AM (11 hours ago)
Unfortunately, for many Americans, politics is a team sport. People under the blue banner will fight to the end for their team. It would be simply inconceivable for them to change team - and same with members of the red team.
It is anathema for democrats to change sides. Simply disloyal. Theirs is the winning team; the politically correct team; the cool, intelligent, progressive team. When faced with facts, democrats claim that America has never given as much support to Israel as today. True. Obama has upped the amount of military support to Israel. He has also raised it signifcantly to his Islamist friends, thereby merely raising raising the stakes on deadly warfare.
When I argued with a friend of mine about the negative aspects of the Obama administration with regard to world stability, the threat of Iran, and the Israel Arab conflict, his response was "Well, I just can't vote for Romney." "Why not?" I asked. "Because I have always voted Democrat. I belong to the democratic party.
In times like these, should we not stretch? Should we not look beyond party rules and examine the issues? Surely more is at stake here than the red and the blue?
In today's climate, it would, indeed, benefit us to look to Canada
Safe for now. I have copied and pasted this for my readers. It is written by a daughter of a friend.
We're safe for now: Raising children in Netivot. AG
By DANIELLE SCHREIBER RUBIN
I thought I’d share this, because some of you have no clue what’s going on halfway across your own country.
I thought I’d share this, because some of you have no clue what’s going on halfway across your own country. And others have no idea what’s happening halfway across the world. And I’m one of those naïve believers who keeps thinking, if people only knew what we live through.
So it’s 10:20. Night. Husband’s on the way home from a meeting in Tel Aviv (yes, the other part of the country). I have successfully maneuvered all three children, ages four, two and three months, into bed.
Going over e-mails is getting boring... and suddenly there’s that sound. It takes a split second to recognize it, since I’ve heard it over and over again in my head for the past four years, ever since my oldest son was born (a few months before Operation Cast Lead, December 2008), so I need to confirm that I’m not just humming that old tune. But, alas, it’s that same siren. Yup, and it’s definitely coming from our town, not from one of the regional councils a few miles away. And now comes the tricky part.
Which child do I pick up first? It’s a first for me because this time I’m alone, with three children at home, all asleep, none in a protected area (i.e., clear of windows and external walls). Do I go for the baby? Last time I grabbed him out of his crib, waking him ,and decided that this is how traumas begin, so I told myself that next time I’d just wheel him in with his carriage, so as not to interrupt his peaceful baby sleep.
But what about my two-year-old daughter? She’s the one who’s really having a hard time, stopping short every time an ambulances passes, mistaking it for a siren.
After sitting up with her for an hour and a half after the last midnight siren, I told myself that next time I’d carry her in gently, so as not to wake her at all. But what about my oldest son, the one who has been living for four years under the missile threat, who is most aware of the situation and reminds me every time we visit our parents that there, up north, we are safe.
Forget the emotional consequences, he’s on top of a bunk-bed I can’t climb up! This all takes a split second. I don’t have much more than that; a little more than half a minute before the rocket lands. I run for my oldest, hoping to wake him to get him to climb down the ladder. Yeah, right.
I climb up the ladder, pull him toward me by the leg, hold him carefully as I run toward a safe area, and lay him gently on the carpet.
Back to kids’ room. Have no idea how I got number two out of the tractor-turned-bunk- bed trenches below. Bring her into safe area. On my way to my room to get the baby I note that the siren has stopped.
Grab stroller and wheel into safe room just as loud explosion is heard.
We’re safe. For now.
Two oldest are still sleeping. Baby stirring.
He’ll need to wait a minute or two since I can’t really stop this thumping in my chest, and I’m not sure how that tastes.
Then I’ll calm him down, put him back to sleep and remind myself that next time I should try to be a little more gentle with him.
Back to those boring e-mails. Boring is good.
The author lives in Netivot, Israel.
Dr. Alex Grobman
America-Israel Friendship League, Inc.
134 East 39th Street, 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10016
Phone: 1-212-213-8630 ext. 230
True Vision as antidote to the dolors of the Israel Arab conflict, and the malaise of Israel's youth - written by Dr. Daniel Gordis in The Times of Israel
The Talmud (Gittin 56a) records a rather unlikely story that unfolded in approximately 70 C.E. With Jerusalem surrounded by a Roman siege, it was increasingly clear that the era of Jewish sovereignty in the city was about to reach an abrupt end. Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai, a leading sage of his era, arranged for his students to smuggle him out of Jerusalem in a coffin (the Romans were still permitting burials outside the city), and, once outside, demanded to speak to the emperor. “Give me Yavneh and its sages,” Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai pleaded. Ben Zakkai was determined to focus not on the battles still being waged against the Romans, but rather on the preservation of Judaism’s greatness. Jewish life could survive, he understood, even if the world in which it existed was about to be radically transformed. All that was required was an academy and its sages.
Jerusalem, thankfully, is not about to be destroyed, at least not physically. But that does not mean that we do not face a challenge of great proportions. Strange though it sounds with Israel so successful on many fronts, Zionism is in decay. It is being attacked by Israel’s enemies, made ugly by too many of its most passionate adherents, and to the masses, it seems utterly irrelevant. If the purpose of Zionism was merely the creation of a Jewish state, many ask, why should we not just declare victory and move on? We have a state, do we not?
Reframing the Zionist conversation Yes, the Jews have a state, but that is not enough. If a previous generation’s work was the creation of a state, our generation’s responsibility is to shape it, to make it profound and decent, to ensure that substantive Jewish discourse resides at its core. How many Israelis can speak articulately about why a Jewish state matters? How many of Israel’s religious citizens can speak meaningfully about the significance of democracy, and how many of its secular citizens can say something profound about what should be Jewish about the Jewish state?
Yes, the Jews have a state, but that is not enough. If a previous generation’s work was the creation of a state, our generation’s responsibility is to shape it
As was the case in the time of Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai, we have allowed ourselves to become preoccupied with issues that most of us cannot affect. Most contemporary discussions of Israel, sadly, are but idle chatter. We cannot change what will happen with the Arab Spring. We cannot bring the Palestinians to the negotiating table, and most Israelis agree that even Israeli capitulation on borders would not bring the conflict to an end. We can, and must, fight international de-legitimization of Israel, but that, too, is deeply rooted in Christian Europe, and we dare not delude ourselves into imagining that we can fully stem that tide.
In the meantime, though, the battle for Israel’s soul is being lost. How do we know this? We know this because one can read Israeli newspapers for months without seeing any serious discussion of what should be Jewish about the Jewish state. One can live in Israel for years without hearing the prime minister (of any party) address the nation and speak to the values that are at the core of the state. Israel’s democracy and economic viability are threatened by broad swaths of the population that feel no passion for the state and do not help to shoulder its burdens; yet few Israelis know how to respond. Israel’s newfound economic success has created an unprecedented economic disparity that has brought hundreds of thousands to the streets in protest, but in the protesters’ speeches, one almost never hears even a reference to Judaism’s sense of justice or equality. They can say nothing about why Israel ought not to be simply a Hebrew-speaking version of any other European country.
Israel will not survive this way. If Israelis cannot articulate why a Jewish state matters and what they would like to see it become, they will drift away. Ironically, there is an enormous community of (former) Israelis living in Berlin who never look back. They left not in anger, but out of sheer disinterest. Berlin offered culture, vibrancy, a new beginning. What did Israel offer? They would be hard pressed to answer. The same is true of Israelis living in the US, Australia, South America and throughout the world. A few left as a matter of principle; most, however, left because they could not begin to articulate a sense of why they should not.
This reality is particularly pervasive among Israel’s youth, as they grow increasingly distant from the narrative that inspired their parents and grandparents to build and defend the Jewish state. The products of an educational system that does not successfully engage students with the Jewish and Zionist tradition, many of these young people lack an understanding of why they should serve their country, and the tools and resources with which to do so meaningfully. Combine the incessant conflict, the lack of ideological passion, the harshness of everyday life, and one has a recipe for a society that cannot sustain itself. But unlike Israel’s external problems, these challenges can be addressed by people like us. They can be met in the way that the Jewish people have always addressed existential challenges in times of crisis. They can be addressed through education.
Re-investing in Judaism’s lifeline – education What the Jewish people needs – what the State of Israel needs – is a new Yavneh, devoted to the study of both Western and Jewish civilization and to the fostering of an engaged and sophisticated Zionist conversation; one that models civil discourse and nuance; one that encourages active citizenship and service; one that allows young people to engage great ideas and great texts in order to see beyond their own horizons and to navigate an increasingly complex world. When the very best of Israel’s university students, those who will become the county’s leaders in years to come, discuss democracy, do they do so with the benefit of having read Plato’s “Republic”? Machiavelli’s “The Prince”? Do John Locke’s works on the social contract and toleration mean anything to them? And what about the Jewish tradition? Do these students know if the Talmud endorses democracy, or not, and why? Can they say anything at all about Judaism’s political philosophy? And can they say anything about the differences between Ahad Ha’am and A. D. Gordon, or Ben-Gurion and Berdichevsky?
If our young people cannot articulate a complex worldview with Judaism and Zionism at its core, how will they withstand the forces (such as European universalism and Muslim rejectionism) that are deeply rooted in ideological fervor? If they cannot articulate why Israel matters, why should they stay? It is not their fault that they are unequipped to have these conversations; they simply were not taught. It is up to us change that. What is required is a new Yavneh – a great academy filled with wise men and women.
That is what Shalem College* will be. When we open our doors to our first incoming class, Shalem College will be more than Israel’s first liberal arts college; it will be the one place where Israel’s finest students can spend their undergraduate years becoming deeply conversant with the traditions of the West, of Judaism and of Zionism. It will be the one place that has a great texts-based core curriculum modeled after elite Anglo-American colleges and universities, providing a common ground for exploring the underpinnings of society and enabling Israel’s best students to spend their undergraduate years thinking deeply about how they will serve their country, their people and humanity, and how they will commit their lives to addressing the critical challenges facing each.
What the Jewish people needs – what the State of Israel needs – is a new Yavneh, devoted to the study of both Western and Jewish civilization
But Shalem College will be even more than this. It will foster a culture of debate coupled with pervasive civility, restoring the discourse that was at the heart of rabbinic Judaism, and the passionate conversation that was once at the heart of Zionism, to the very core of Israel’s future intellectual, political, professional, social, and cultural leadership. It will expose students to literature, philosophy, history, economics, art and music in order to shape their understanding of the forces that drive people, the yearnings of the soul, the complexity of social relationships and the human condition, and the importance of service to one’s country and one’s people. Israel is a small canvas, so a small number of leading citizens can have a significant impact on their society. We simply have to afford these young people one place in the country where they can engage in this dialogue, with both deep passion and abundant civility.
Saving the state that saved the Jews Creating a new college in this day and age is an enormous undertaking. But as we at Shalem are asked whether such an effort might not be too much to take on, we find ourselves turning time and again to history, because that is what Jews do as we plot our course. At the end of the nineteenth century, it was clear to a small but growing number of people that the Jewish experience in Europe was going to come to an ugly end. Half a century before the fact, it was already clear that the brave new European future that Jews had once imagined was not going to be. Different people had varying ideas of how to respond. Some advocated going to America, which many then did. Others advocated reforming Judaism, making it more palatable to a European culture that was constantly judging the Jews. Still others retreated into insular community, escaping from modernity altogether (or trying to, at least).
In the midst of all this, one man had an idea more outrageous and unrealistic than all the rest. Theodore Herzl believed that the only real solution to the “Jewish problem” lay in the creation of a Jewish state. It was an audacious, grandiose, unrealistic idea. It had no chance of succeeding. And yet it saved the Jewish people.
At Shalem, we believe that we are not a people with the luxury of saying “great idea, but too big for our time.” Yavneh was too big for Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai’s time, and a sovereign Jewish state was too great for Herzl’s. But Yavneh saved Judaism under the Romans, and the Jewish state has saved the Jewish nation.
It is precisely because a college is an audacious idea, particularly in these times, that it demands the courage, vision, support, enthusiasm and risk-taking that preserving the Jewish people has always required. The Jews exist today because we have always stuck to our fundamental game-plan – education. The Jews are here today because we dare to dream, and to dream big. What we need now is a new academy, one that will create new leaders, new ideas, bold and imaginative solutions both to problems that we already face and those that we cannot yet imagine.
It would be hard to imagine a project more ambitious. But nothing less ambitious will suffice.
Author Batya Casper.