Ultra-orthodox call for protest rally against Women of the Wall; support rallies organized all over Jewish America

This weekend, a poster appeared all over ultra-orthodox neighborhoods in Jerusalem against Women of the Wall‘s fight for gender equality at holy sites in Israel. The poster calls for ultra-Orthodox opposition to rally at the Western Wall tomorrow Monday, March 11 at 7 am.

And in Jerusalem and cities across America, Jews are rallying to support WoW:

Monday, March 11

  • Washington DC Friends of Women of the Wall’s solidarity service and program will be across from the Embassy of Israel on Monday, March 11. Sponsors include Am Kolel, Ameinu, New Israel Fund, Eizor Moshava-Habonim Dror, Temple Shalom Chevy Chase, Temple Micah, and Washington Friends of Women of the Wall.
  • Seal Beach, California: Rabbi Galit Levy-Slater is holding a congregational solidarity event.

Tuesday, March 12

  • Join Women of the Wall at the Kotel in Jerusalem: A mini-bus (one way) leaves from Gan Hapaamon at 6:30 AM. (RSVP required at wowhebrew@gmail.com.)
  • New York’s Wake up for Religious Tolerance! solidarity minyan at 9 am on the north side of Union Square Park. Sponsors include Mechon Hadar, Romemu, Kolot Chayeinu, New Israel Fund, Bnai Jeshurun, Lillith Magazine, Town & Village Synagogue, Ansche Chesed, Society for the Advancement of Judaism, East End Temple, Jewish Theological Seminary, the National Council of Jewish Women, and many more. (See flyer here.)

Sunday, March 19

  • San Francisco Friends of WOW will meet for a sing-in outside of their Israeli consulate at 11 am. RSVP to sdembitz@gmail.com.

Action alert: Eritrean asylum seekers to be deported

From the young activists in Israel with Amnesty International, an urgent appeal to Diaspora Jews who remember the times when we were refugees:


“Your Only Way Out of the Israeli Prison is to Uganda or Eritrea” — Immigration Authorities to Eritrean Asylum Seekers detained in Saharonim Prison

25 Eritrean asylum seekers are in imminent danger of being deported back to Eritrea from Saharonim detention center in Israel. Israeli authorities in the facility told the asylum seekers that the only way they would ever get of the Israeli prison would be to go to Eritrea or Uganda. These individuals are currently being held under the Anti-Infiltration Law which mandates their automatic detention for a minimum of three years without trial.

Being released as an asylum seeker or refugee is impossible as prisoners lack access to the forms the Ministry of Interior requires to begin the RSD process. Therefore, after months of detention, many individuals have signed forms saying they want to go to Uganda and a very few have signed saying they want to go to Eritrea.

News reaching human rights groups over the last few days make it seem that even individuals who had signed to go to Uganda are now in the process of being deported to Eritrea. We are unsure exactly when/if the deportations will take place, but we do fear that it could happen over the next week. More »

“Liberating” the Western Wall — again

This morning in Jerusalem, the Women of the Wall brought heavy Israeli symbolism along with 150 participants to their monthly peaceful protest — three of the IDF veterans who captured the wall in the 1967 war. All went uninterrupted for the first time in 22 months until they departed through security, where nine women were separated and detained. Those included Anat Hoffman, Rabbi Susan Silverman (sister of comedian Sarah Silverman), and Rabbi Silverman’s daughter Hallel, and eight-month pregnant rabbinical student Lior Nevo.

Quoted in the Jerusalem Post, Ilon Bar-Tov, a paratrooper who fought in the Old City battles, “It’s unacceptable that the police are stopping women from wearing tallitot, it’s like Iran. I can’t believe they are stopping people from praying one way or another.”

Although the term “liberating” the Western Wall is hard to borrow, the symbolism is obviously aimed at Israeli mainstream ears. The iconic faces of these paratroopers grace every postcard stand and Jerusalem Day poster since the event itself. Their names are nearly household. Petitions submitted to the Supreme Court are challenging the all-haredi representation on the board of the plaza’s governing body, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation. All denominations and the secular public should be able to participate in the decisions affecting the plaza, they argue.

And it’s working to force the Israeli government to pay attention. In late December, Prime Minister Netanyahu for the first time acknowledged the unsustainable status quo at the plaza. The American Reform and Conservative movements, along other diaspora women’s groups, have stood solidly behind Women of the Wall. The most previous arrests of Anat Hoffman pushed even the Jewish Agency board to demand a change. The Prime Minister asked Jewish Agency head Natan Sharansky to “look into the matter” and report back after the elections. Hearing that, ultra-orthodox extremist groups deplored the presence of “Zionist occupation” and “whores” at the Wall.

Do the government utterances of “unsustainable status quo” and “look into the matter” strike you as similar to another conflict in the region?

Apply for the 2013 Hollander Social Justice Fellowship — due Thursday

Do you have a social justice cause you are passionate about and want to pursue with the NHC Summer Institute community? Apply for the Hollander Social Justice Fellowship! You will receive a scholarship for Institute tuition, room, and board, and up to $100 for materials or preparation, in exchange for planning social justice oriented programming for the NHC Summer Institute community.

We expect that the strongest applications will come from people with at least three to five years of professional or volunteer experience in their area. Preference will be given to people involved in an ongoing social justice campaign (or launching a campaign) who wish to bring it to the NHC Summer Institute community. Submit an application by January 21, 2013 to hollanderfellow@havurah.org.

2013 Knesset Elections Results

Israeli Channel 2 TV news reports elections results

According to Israel’s Channel 2 TV news, this is the breakdown of the next Knesset:

  • Likud Beiteinu: 31 (-11)
  • Yesh Atid: 19 (+11)
  • Labor: 17 (+9)
  • The Jewish Home: 12 (+7)
  • Shas: 12 (+2)
  • HaTnua: 7 (+7)
  • Meretz: 7 (+4)
  • United Torah Judaism: 6 (+1)
  • Hadash: 4
  • Ra’am-Ta’al: 3 (-1)
  • Balad: 2 (-1)
The right-wing stands at 61 seats, the left at 59 (previously 55:65). Gone are Kadima (-21), Independence (-5), Strong Israel (-2) and Am Shalem (-1). The right:
  • Likud Beiteinu : 31
  • The Jewish Home: 12
  • Shas: 12
  • United Torah Judaism: 6
The “center” and left-wing:
  • Yesh Atid: 19
  • HaTnua: 7
  • Labor: 17
  • Meretz: 7
  • Arab parties (Hadash, Ra’am-Ta’al, Balad): 9
That means Binyamin Netanyahu will likely get to make the coalition as everyone expected in the lead up. Here are the questions that commentators are now asking:
  • With such a narrow lead — one seat — which center party will Netanyahu include to lend greater stability?
  • Since Yesh Atid is the likeliest contender with a sizable 19 seats, does that mean Netanyahu will leave out one of the more right-wing parties?
  • Would Netanyahu leave out one of the ultra-orthodox parties Shas or UTJ? That might be necessary since Yesh Atid campaigned centrally on putting the yeshivabuchers to work.
  • Is it really all but certain that Netanyahu will forgo including more centrist parties like Tzipi Livni’s HaTnua or even Labor?
Despite the fact that Netanyahu will be given the keys to the car again and there will be no (or precious few) progressives in Israel’s government this time either, there are a few silver linings. Larry Derfner at 972 Mag says no matter how you slice it, Netanyahu has lost control of a now more extreme right-wing. His days are numbered, but those coming to take his place are even worse. Brent Sasley at Open Zion is more optimistic that a centrist coalition is indeed possible, citing leadership differences between Netanyahu and head of the Jewish Home, Naftali Bennett.
And in the most interesting analysis of the results, Assaf Oron points out at The Only Democracy that in the last elections there were three Likud parties — Likud itself, Kadima as centrist-Likud, and Yisrael Beiteinu as Russian-Likud — with a total of 70 seats between them, while also taking a few seats from the left. Now, Likud-Beiteinu is down to 31 total. “The Right has passed its undeserved zenith,” he writes. Meanwhile, the lefties elected are actually progressives, including a strengthened Meretz and Labor.
More to come.

Filed under Israel


Mishegas: MLK, Phillip Roth, Mel Brooks and Hitler

Jewish Food Justice Fellowship

Filed under Mishegaas

No Comments

And you thought American elections ads were bad

Israeli elections advertisements

Have you entered Jewschool and Mah Rabu’s elections predictions pool? Monday, January 21st at midnight EST is your last chance to enter! 

I’m finding two big differences between American and Israeli electoral advertisements. First, ads here in Israel are more entertaining, mostly because they’re way more offensive. It’s even worse than the coded racism of past years’ Republican commercials — there seems no need for anything covert here. This month, the Sephardi ultra-orthodox party called Russians goyyim while an extreme right party charged Palestinian citizens with disloyalty, just to mention a couple that raised eyebrows.

The second big difference is the blessedly short campaign period here, no more than 101 days and only during the final weeks of which TV ads may run. The short campaign season is thanks to strict Israeli elections regulations: The maximum campaign gift is $480 per household annually (believe it!); only parties can receive donations for the general election; individuals may only raise money for their primary campaigns. (And only a handful of parties even conduct primaries. Avigdor Lieberman, for example, picks Yisrael Beiteinu’s entire slate.) Most notably to me, advertisements on radio, TV and print are paid for publicly based on a party’s existing seats in Knesset. Yes, that means that Kadima, sitting at nearly a quarter of the outgoing Knesset, received the most advertising airtime even though it will barely win one seat.

This is not to say that Israeli elections are free from undue influence. Kibbutzim and the largest union, the Histadrut, are exempted from some restrictions on financing elections. (Guess who they usually support.) Meanwhile, institutions like the state-run religious military academies illegally mobilize for religious parties. And the right-wing parties’ primaries awash with many times the amount of American Jewish money than the left. Worse, Yisrael Hayom is owned by American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and is Netanyahu’s personal trumpeter. The latter is apparently perfectly legal.

Minus the state-run yeshivas, America stands to benefit by adopting the same restrictions on campaign funding, campaign length, and public financing. Below you’ll find TV spots from most of the major parties this election, even the ones which put American race-baiting in Little League. (Thanks to my fellow Dorot Fellow Daniel Haboucha for allowing me to share the links he collected.) More »

Filed under Israel


How many refugees has Israel accepted in 64 years?

From the Presidents Conference in Jerusalem in June 2012, Jewish leaders were asked a single question: “Since 1948, how many non-Jewish people has the State of Israel accepted as refugees?” Due notice that all the Israelis are way closer to the truth than the rosy-eyed Americans.

How many refugees do you think Israel should accept as part of its obligation under the UN refugee covenant — of which Israel was on the steering committee for the drafting of it and 5 of 26 contributing NGOs were Jewish ones? Hmmmm?

Filed under Israel


Mishegas: Kim Kardashian on Gaza, Maccabeats resurrected, and a Jewish slang dictionary

Filed under Mishegaas

1 Comment

Twenty minutes in a Tel Aviv bomb shelter

Yesterday, I sat surrounded by tutu-sporting 8-year-olds in the basement bomb shelter of a Tel Aviv community center. There is nothing more tragic to watch than wet-eyed and fearful miniature ballerinas. The twenty minutes I spent there summoned with clarity many of the reasons that brought me to Israel eight years ago in the first place.

When we heard the siren, it was unmistakable. If you’ve heard the Shabbos horn in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, it’s the same sound. And I see the same behaviors here in Israel as when my family heard our first tornado alert in rural Colorado: we looked out our front window to see our elderly neighbor sitting drinking a beer in a lawn chair in his driveway casually watching the sky. The atmosphere here is likewise the same practiced routine with one eye always on the news. If anything, people seem to believe they’ve seen this TV episode before and know how it ends: the Hebrew press is now reporting that Israel authorized 75,000 reserve soldiers be called up and asked Homeland Security to prepare for 7 weeks of fighting.

When talk does turn to the escalation, I hear a similar escalation in internal-Israeli debating. After noting to a Tel Avivi friend that 1991 was the last time the alarm was heard here, he tersely replied, “Yes, we’re more used to suicide bombers in nightclubs and cafes.” Later that day, someone from the north commented that it was about time Tel Avivis felt something personal at stake. And as of earlier today, rockets have fallen near Jerusalem too.

And meanwhile, the civilian residents of Gaza — impoverished and deprived of myriad simple freedoms — huddle in their homes while leaflets and text messages from the IDF warn them to leave combat zones. But to where, it’s not apparent. Unlike the alarm and shelters that I have access to all over Tel Aviv, there is no warning for incoming IDF airstrikes on the missiles hidden beneath the house next door, nor are there fortified bomb shelters to retreat into. Certainly their ruling, blood-thirsty, religious fundamentalist junta will take seriously their demands for ceasefire…

All of this was yet to cross my mind as I sat in the shelter with ballerinas full of confusion. There’s little to do in there except pondering a little of your own mortality. Those minutes — let us hope they will not add up to hours this month — make you reflect briefly about what you value and hope for most for the world, and wonder whether you are working hard enough for it to come to be. An end to wars is definitely on my list and ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict I am now even more dedicated to.

Unlikely ways Obama could appreciate Netanyahu’s backing of Romney

Yediot Ahronot on US Election Day by Kung Fu Jew 18, on Flickr

President Obama won his reelection. And while American Jews supported him just as much as in 2008, there is one Jew who very publicly backed the losing horse: Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Officially, Netanyahu said in a short statement that he will “continue working with President Obama in order to safeguard the interests crucial for the security of Israel’s citizens.” Netanyahu stepped boldly into American electoral politics by appearing with Romney and participating in Republican ads in Florida. More »

Please Cher (ha) this last video by SchlepLabs

Filed under Politics


What if Anat Hoffman wasn’t white?

Anat Hoffman, head of both Women of the Wall and the Reform Movement’s action center in Israel, was arrested while saying the Sh’ma with 250 other American Jews from Hadassah. The Reform movement called immediately for an investigation, the Conservative movement called for global Sh’ma flashmobs, and other groups joined the condemnation.  (Jewschool contributor LJCM rightly asks why there aren’t even more, but here I’ll press a parallel observation.) Something is obviously wrong with this abandonment of American Jewry’s pretenses against criticizing the democratically-elected government of the State of Israel.

Tellingly, the head of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, Rabbi Garry Skolnick, gave hint to this counter-current in an email blast: “When Protestant groups are pushing for a total reconsideration of all American foreign aid to Israel and Iran is working hard to develop the capacity to go nuclear, we must be thoughtful as to how, and in what forums, we choose to address the very real issues that are of burning concern to us.” He continued, “Yes, Israel must change. But those of us who love her must help her change, not hurt her through our good intentions.”

As one (female) Jewschool contributor quipped, “No one’s got the tits at all in this movement.” But it’s not just “wussing out” on women’s rights as another contributor said, it’s the obvious selective outcry of institutions joining this particular outcry. They’ve been silent on recent offenses equally important — and in a few cases, even more dire. More »

Sarah Silverman’s sister joins Schlep Labs endorsement: Israelis on Obama

Filed under Israel, Politics

1 Comment

“One State, Two States” by Benny Morris

Israeli historian Benny Morris is on the promo circuit with an extended interview in Haaretz for a re-release of his 2009 book, One State, Two States: Resolving the Israel/Palestine Conflict. Coincidentally I read the book this month and, while I appreciate its history of Zionist thought, I found its treatment of Palestinians thought lacking.

Morris compiles a capable summary of the evolution of competing one-state, bi-national, and two-state visions within the Zionist movement from the turn of the century through today. But his attempt to do so for the Palestinians is short, shallow and ultimately unpersuasive.

The detail that Benny Morris describes in early Zionist deliberations over ethnic cleansing and bi-national alternatives is missing from his treatment of Arab/Palestinian nationalism. On the Zionist side, he cites declassified meetings of the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Congress alongside diaries of David Ben Gurion, Judah Magnes and others. On one hand, he cites, founding Zionist leaders desired a Jewish state encompassing nearly all of Israel’s present neighbors, beyond even Transjordan. On the other hand, these founders were ever-conscious of the democratic limitations of this vision. Between the Holocaust and Arab rejection, the Zionist establishment took what it could get, far short of Transjordan. First the Peel Commission, then the UN Partition Plan, then returning the Sinai, and finally the two-state consensus today. Again and again, Morris says, the Jews exhibited pragmatic compromise.  More »

Stav Shaffir is the first social protest leader to enter Knesset races

In an email sent this morning to friends and campaign supporters, Stav Shaffir, one of the two highest profile young leaders of Israel’s social protests last summer, entered politics.

This is my first letter to you since embarking on a new path – as a candidate for the Labour Party’s list for the Knesset. This was not an easy decision to make. More than a year has passed since the social protest began, I continue to believe in our civic power, in our ability to affect the system through public pressure, education, and media. Today, everyone knows that we have already conquered the streets. But the most important decisions are made in the very place that my generation has deserted. I will not accept this fact any longer. The responsibility we took upon ourselves last summer must grow beyond the streets.

I am entering politics. I carry with me on this new path the stories, hopes and wishes of countless people I have met during this past year. My mission is to be a voice for those stories in the halls of the Knesset. This coming election is critical, It will determine where our country is headed – whether to the same policy that does not protect the public’s interests – or to politics that put the citizens’ social welfare and economic dignity as its top priority. More »

Filed under Israel


Mishegas: Rene Cassin Fellowship, Shoah tattoos, NWU Chabad embroglio and more

Filed under Mishegaas


Urgent action: Israel to jail 15,000 Sudanese refugees on Oct 15

Update 10/13: A judge has ordered a temporary injunction prohibiting the round up, following a petition by six Israeli human rights NGOs.

Eli Yishai, Israel’s Interior Minister, said about the 60,000 Africans seeking asylum in Israel that  ”Until I have the option of expelling them, I will imprison them and make their lives miserable.”

Expulsion isn’t a viable option for the international condemnation that would erupt if Israel sent thousands of people back to war-torn regions. Instead and to appease racist incitement, Netanyahu’s government passed a law that allows for illegal entrants into the country to be jailed for three years without a trial. And on October 15, MK Yishai intends to start first with 15,000 asylum seekers from Sudan.

This from the North American coalition of individuals fighting this inhumane procedure, Right Now: Jewish Americans Advocating for African Asylum Seekers in Israel:

Please join our October 15th campaign by making a call, sending an email, or sending a fax to the following departments of the Israeli government every day until October 15th. The Interior Minister, Eli Yishai, plans on rounding up and detaining 15,000 Sudanese asylum seekers in Israel if they do not “voluntarily” leave by then.  More »