Tuesday, May 31, 2011

South Koreans Learning Talmud

Why South Koreans are in love with Judaism.

A child in Seoul studies a Jewish text
The South Korean ambassador to Israel, Ma Young-sam, raised eyebrows recently when he told reporters the Talmud was mandatory reading for Korean schoolchildren.
South Korea is a country with a deep Buddhist history, but one which has embraced with vigour the Christianity brought to its shores by missionaries in the late 1800s. Official statistics say some 30 per cent of South Koreans are church-going. In such a country, Jews are few and far between.
Yet, pop down to the local corner shop and along with a pot of instant rice or dried noodles, you can buy a copy of Stories from the Talmud. It is not rare, either, to come across book-vending machines stocked with classic works of Babylonian Judaism.
The Talmud is a bestseller in South Korea - even the government insists it is good for you, and has included it on the curriculum for primary school children.
Lee Chang-ro heads a literature research team at the Ministry for Education. He says: "The reasons why Korean children are taught Talmud are pretty obvious. Koreans and Jews both have a long history of oppression and surviving adversity with nothing but their own ingenuity to thank. There are no natural resources to speak of in Korea, so, like the Jews, all we can develop is our minds."
The fascination with Judaism does not end there. Media outlets regularly run newspapers columns on "Jewish education", weekly radio features, and television documentaries, all of them showing Jews in a glowing light.
The Talmud on display in a Korean bookshop
Although average Koreans can boast that their bookshelves hold at least one or two copies of the Talmud, to think of Korea as a hotbed of latent Judaism would be wrong. The motivation is less to do with religion and more to do with aspiration. Korean parents value schooling above all else. Parents send their children to after-school crammers until midnight and will spend their last penny on tutors and extra lessons. And, shy of good role models on the quest to securing academic success for their offspring, mothers almost unerringly turn to the Jews for inspiration.
Mother-of-two Lee San-sook explains that the way that Jewish children are brought up is universally viewed as positive in Korea.
"The stereotype of Jews here is that they are ultra-intelligent people. Jews have come out of nowhere to become business chiefs, media bosses, Nobel Prize winners - we want our children to do the same. If that means studying Talmud, Torah, whatever, so be it," she says.
Nonetheless, for a small number of Koreans, this love of Jewishness does translate into religious observance, even though, with no synagogues and no access to kosher food, they encounter almost insurmountable problems in leading a Jewish life.
One wannabe Jew, 38-year-old Park Yo-han, has handed in his notice at an investment bank to take the plunge into Judaism. He says he will go to New York, where he knows nobody, has no job prospects, just to follow his dream of Orthodox conversion.
"I've tried just about everything. Converting in Korea isn't difficult - it's impossible," he says.
Jewish observance in Seoul is almost entirely centred on Friday night services in the back of a Christian chapel on a US Army base. Every week, the tiny congregation of ex-pats and locals flip pews containing hymns books and New Testaments to face a pokey little ark for prayers. At the end of the night, everything gets put back in place for Friday night Mass. If there was not a small Ner Tamid hanging above the ark, you really would mistake it for a cupboard.
Most of the regular and long-serving members of the congregation are non-Jewish Koreans - civil servants, doctors and a politician from the ruling party, who is currently squeezing in his attendance between bouts of campaigning for local elections. They have no wish to convert but they take their interest in Judaism seriously. Most boast impressive collections of Judaica and read Hebrew fluently.
Among their number is a living legend of Korean Jewry, Abraham Cha. One of the few Koreans who have actually converted, he is a regular fixture at the US Army base services.
An old man now, he still cuts a memorable figure. He has a wild beard, payot, tzitzit protruding proudly, and maintains an unrivalled personal library of Jewish books from around the world, which he has painstakingly collected.
Cha says he had to give up everything to become an observant Jew in Korea.
"My family don't speak to me any more, I had to divorce my wife. I even had to stop working because they wouldn't give me the day off on Shabbat or on Jewish holidays. My bosses couldn't conceive what it meant to be Jewish."
Although precisely what it involves to be a Jew eludes most Koreans, anti-Jewish feeling is almost unthinkable in this part of the world.
Says Seoul resident Naomi Zaslow, "If you refuse a plate of pork ribs here, people will be dumbfounded. If you tell them it's because you're Jewish, they'll unfailingly look impressed and say: 'Oh, you must be very clever'."
This article originally appeared in the Jewish Chronicle

Lubavitcher Rebbe's Message to Bibi Exactly 20 Years Ago

20 years ago on Sunday the 21st of Iyar, 5751, Morad Zamir, a close friend and confidante of Benyamin Netanyahu, came to 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn to meet the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

Zamir requested a Brachah for Netanyahu. The Rebbe responded: "Tell him that certainly he'll continue to hold on to the hard line as before and (if) there be occasion to add strength, he certainly will find strength in himself to continue for the time being and after that."

Remarkably, exactly twenty years later, Netanyahu displayed that strength and courage in a meeting he had on Friday the 16th of Iyar with President Obama, on Tuesday the 20th of Iyar in a historical speech he gave to the US congress, and thereafter in several interviews he partook in, up-until he left the US back home to Israel on Wednesday the 21st of Iyar, 5771. 

Murdered at Auschwitz by Benjamin Brafman My name is Yechiel Michoel Friedman. I was murdered in Auschwitz and don't you ever forget me.

This speech was delivered by Benjamin Brafman, Esq. on Yom HaShoah.
I did not survive – I was murdered at Auschwitz.
My name is Yechiel Michoel Friedman. I was "murdered" at Auschwitz. I did not die at Auschwitz. I was "murdered" at Auschwitz.
None of you know me. None of the people in this room have ever met me; not even my own grandson, Ben Brafman, who many of you know, has ever met me. I have authorized my grandson to speak for me tonight, but this is not his speech. It is my speech. My grandson speaks for me, because although I was murdered, I was not silenced. You must be reminded of my life and of my murder - not my death - my murder. The murder of my family - of your family - of so many families...
This is my story - a true story. A sad, horrific story.
My story, like so many of your stories, has a wonderful beginning, a very terrible middle and a tragic, horrible end that Baruch Hashem was not really the end, because although I and part of my family were brutalized and murdered, a part of my family miraculously survived - and because some did survive, my grandson is here to speak for me, to tell you "my" story, his grandfather's story, my life story and my death story. The story of a life that was brutally taken from me, from my beautiful wife, Malka, my beautiful, sweet daughter, Sima, her young, handsome husband, Yaakov and their baby, my granddaughter, my "first" granddaughter, Chaya Sarah, my little Chaya Sarah, who at two years old was ripped screaming from her mother's arms and thrown into an oven at Auschwitz as if she did not matter.
Well, I speak tonight to tell you that my little Chayala did matter, we all mattered.
Chaya Sarah was the only grandchild I ever knew and I loved her as only a grandfather can love a grandchild and Nazi killers murdered her, my Chayala and 1.5 million other Jewish children. They took our nachas - our life and our joy and our hope. They took our babies and turned them into ashes.
Today, I speak to you as a neshama, as a soul from heaven, where I and millions of my brothers and sisters sit in a special place of honor reserved for us, for those you callKedoshim - holy ones - whose lives were taken only because we were Jews, brutally taken less than 70 years ago, when a whole country became dominated by savages, while a civilized world stood by and through its silence, said that it was "okay to smash the head of a two year old child and then, while she was still alive, throw her screaming in terror into a burning oven, that it was okay to gas and cremate - to murder her parents and grandparents." A civilized, cultured nation did this and a civilized world watched it happening and didnothing to stop our slaughter.
The world heard our screams but did not care, the world smelled our burning flesh but turned away - the world heard my Chayala screaming for her mother and did nothing, because Chayala was a Jewish child and at that time - the systematic murder of Jewish children - undertaken in an efficient, organized manner by monsters in government-issued uniforms -was okay. Indeed, it was encouraged, applauded. The murderers were honored with medals, applauded as heroes for killing our children - for killing my grandchild.
How did this happen to us? When did our world turn so bitter and dark?
I remember our life before Auschwitz, a good life, a quiet, pious life, centered around my family, my wife, Malka, our daughters, Sima, Ruchele, Hencha, Hnda, my sweet little boy, Meir, Sima's husband, Yaakov, and their baby, my zeis little Chayala.
We lived in a small town in Czechoslovakia, Kiviash, right near the Hungarian border. I was a learned man, a Hebrew teacher. Our family was a good family. We were poor, but respected. We were honest, kind, sweet people who lived among other respected, soft-spoken, wonderful families. We had no enemies.
I never even raised my voice in anger, never, until that day in Auschwitz, when they murdered my grandchild, then the world heard me, but did not listen, when they tried so hard to destroy my family. I screamed so loud, I cried so hard and long, but the murder continued. The smoke and gas roared and now I am still angry. Now, I raise my voice again, not to complain, but so that you will remember - so that you can wake up, because what happened to my family can happen again, it is happening again!
Today, less than 70 years later, monsters are again threatening and murdering Jewish families, murdering our beautiful children - just last month in Israel, in Itamar, the Fogel family was massacred and again, beautiful, little, innocent children were butchered because they were Jews.
Udi and Ruth Fogel murdered because they were Jews! Their children, Yoav, age 11, Elad, age 4 and Hadas, age 3 months - slaughtered!! Their throats slit while they slept in their own beds.
So I need to tell you about my own murder. I need to relive for you my horror, my terrible loss, so that you will understand and remember, so that you will feel the Shoah - what the world refers to as the Holocaust. It needs to be real for those of you who were not there. It is more than a word - Shoah. You must know the terror, not only to make you sad and angry, but to make you vigilant.
If I upset you tonight, good! If my frankness and the terrifying description of brutal murder gives you nightmares tonight - good. I want you to be afraid and sad and angry and bitter andaware - but I also want you to be proud, because the end of my own story, although sad, was not the end.
Be comforted in the knowledge that "they did not win." The Nazi murderers killed me and millions of Jews like me, but they did not win. They did not murder my whole family, or your whole family. The murderers and their army of monsters did not murder the Jewish people, they did not end Klal Yisrael - they made us stronger.
Jews are alive today. Israel is strong today, my family, your families, are here today, and we must keep reminding the world about our parents, grandparents, great grandparents and the children, who were gassed and cremated.
My family is alive today to help you understand the quality of hate that can allow a country to burn and gas and bludgeon newborns, infants and toddlers; to machine gun them and throw them into mass graves or onto trucks and then while still alive, toss them into large ovens, or used while conscious and awake - for vicious, cruel medical experiments.
So many children, small Kinderlach screaming for their Mommy and Tattie, for Bobbie and Zayde - can you hear them? Their screaming is so loud - I can still hear my Chayala, 70 years later. Can you hear them? Can you hear your family members? The families you never got to meet or know. Can you hear their screams?
When you are in bed waiting to fall asleep, listen hard. If you try, you will hear them in your head and in your heart.
Listen and you will also hear 12 year old Tamar Fogel who, returning to her home in Itamar, after an Oneg Shabbat Friday night, only a few weeks ago, found her parents murdered, her three month old baby sister, Hadas, with her throat slit. Can you hear Tamar screaming? All of us, all the way up here in Heaven heard her screams; you should be able to hear her just across the ocean, her screams for her family, for every Jew whose child - whose life has been viciously taken just because they were Jewish.
The difficulty in speaking about such horror and about so much grief is that it is so hard. It is almost impossible for the mind to process so much terrible information, it is almost impossible to make someone understand something so bad, it is hard to even imagine so much murder and torture and starvation, but you must.
I will help you. I am going to be graphic and brutal, because it is the only way to make you get it, for you to really understand what it means when we say Holocaust - or Shoah - or talk about six million Kedoshim.
I am standing in the gas chamber naked with hundreds of innocent Jews. My wife, Malka, whose terrified eyes were already dead, is next door holding our daughter, Sima. Sima's husband, Yaakov, is with me. We have already watched our Chayala cremated. We are already dead - the gas will just kill us again.
We know we are not in a shower. We know we are in a gas chamber. We know we are going to die and we all know that we did nothing wrong and we also know that a civilized world did this to us, that a civilized world abandoned us.
We are afraid to die, of the brutal, choking, burning death that is upon us, but we are so much more afraid that nobody will ever know that we lived, that nobody will ever know that we were a good family; that we had beautiful, good children and that we had a beautiful grandchild. I was so afraid that nobody would ever know; that nobody in my family or in anyone else's family would survive; that the "final solution" was really going to be final. Let me tell you something....
You think you know about prayer - you think you know about faith because you are religious or because you pray every day?
Let me tell you about real prayer, about real belief - in my gas chamber, as gas filled our lungs, as flames burned off our skin, we screamed "Ani Maamin,” we believe in youHashem.
With our dying breath we screamed, "Shma Yisroel Hashem Elokenu Hashem Echad" - my last words screamed through gas filled lungs, as I died, so afraid that my entire family had been, or soon would be, murdered.
What wrenching sadness, what anger rose in my heart and raged through my mind - I pleaded to Hashem, not to be spared, but for nekama, for revenge! How, when, who would ever make this right, or get even for us, who would be alive to say Kaddish for us - to light a candle on our Yahrzeit - no graves, no headstones - no one alive to mourn our death - to even know of our life.
Well, I am not here tonight in person. Yechiel Michoel Friedman was murdered at Auschwitz, but we were not all murdered that day, or the next day and some of my children, some of your children did survive and today, our children, our grandchildren, our great-grandchildren and now even our great-great-grandchildren are alive. We live in the United States and all over the world as proud Jews, and we have Eretz Yisrael - do you hear that you Nazi murderers? We have Israel, a nation built by survivors. We have a Jewish army and a Jewish state. Our people are strong. We have powerful, eloquent voices demanding to be heard.
My daughters, Hencha and Hinda, who were tortured for years, did not die and my daughter, Ruchele, who at age 15 escaped to America, married Shlomo Brafman, who also escaped - they did not die and their children and my grandchildren and great-grandchildren are growing up as Shomer Shabbos Jews and tonight, my grandson is speaking for me in a shul with 1,000 proud, strong Jews who came to remember all of us tonight.
So I do not have my life, but I have my revenge. In fact, my little boy, Meir, who they tried so hard to murder, he lived too. At age 16, he weighed 45 lbs. when found alive in a pile of corpses at Auschwitz.
When liberated, he went to Israel, to Israel, where for 50 years he was a soldier in Tzahal - Israel's army. A Jewish hero, he fought for 50 years in Israel's army. My son, my Kaddish, he did not die in Auschwitz either. How proud I was to watch as he put on the uniform of an Israeli soldier to fight for our country, a Jewish community.
I am very sad and very angry and bitter that I did not get to enjoy the world of nachas that was mine, a world of nachas and pride and Yddishkeit that I had a right to live through and enjoy.
The Nazis hurt me beyond words, but they did not win.
Ladies and gentlemen, they only win if you forget - or now, if you allow the world to deny. They only win if we do not cry real tears when we hear about the slaughter of the Fogel family in Itamar.
They only win if you cannot hear my Chayala screaming or feel the terror of Tamar Fogel, or her grandparents who must now face a quality of grief so savage that it is hard for you to grasp.
Trust me - I know about the murder of a child and a grandchild and how that impacts on everything else. How everything else is forever shrouded in death and overwhelming sadness. The Fogel family will never recover but they cannot be forgotten.
Here we are in a beautiful shul, with so many Jews. Good Jews. Strong, proud people who have not forgotten us, me, my family, your families - the parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, the children, the grandchildren - the babies who were murdered and gassed and buried alive.
It is okay to cry for what we lost, for what was taken from you, for the lives lost, the nachas of family we were deprived of.
Cry for us. We cry for you too, for what you lost, for the family you never met, for the millions of good, sweet Jews who did not live - for the students who never finished their studies, for the scientists and artists and musicians and teachers and Rebbes who never got the chance to excel, to perform, to teach, to cure, to live.
It's okay to cry for the children who never got to play, or sing, or laugh, who were put to death with such violence, with so much hatred that I cannot describe it in words as for certain levels of grief, there are no words. It is so bad that it cannot even be imagined by any decent human being, impossible to process rationally.
But you must, because today, people are already questioning whether the Holocaust really happened. World leaders and scholars are already denying the Holocaust; they are challenging even the integrity of a handful of survivors, the eyewitnesses who are still alive, those who saw the horror with their own eyes. Even these heroic survivors are being doubted and am so afraid that in coming years, vicious, anti-Semitic revisionists will tamper with history and the truth and we cannot - you cannot allow that to happen ever - never...
I had a granddaughter, a charming, beautiful little baby girl named Chaya Sarah and she was murdered in front of my eyes and although her neshama, her soul, is in heaven with me, her memory must be emblazoned in your hearts forever.
If our memory is really to be for a blessing, for our neshamos to really have the aliyah you ask for, an aliyah we have earned and paid so dearly for, then you must remember.
You must make certain that your children and their children understand what happened to their family, to your family, to all of our families, or it will happen again.
You think it cannot happen again? Why? Because you have good lives - you live in civilized times? We had a good life - we lived in civilized times. We were happy and complacent, but we were not vigilant and we walked right into a Holocaust.
Our neighbors, an entire nation of ordinary men and women of intelligence and breeding and culture turned into monstrous, murderous animals who withdrew from humanity and imposed a level of brutality on us that cannot now be described and could not then, ever have been predicted - but that is exactly what happened.
It was even worse than the worst true story that any survivor can report, because the brain is not capable of capturing so much grief without exploding, so even those who survived, who saw it all, cannot fully capture the full horrific ordeal, the vicious detail.
Only a victim like me, only someone who did not survive, can tell you the whole, bad, ugly, demented, terrible truth about our murder, of six million murders.
That, my friends, is why I chose to speak to you through my grandson from my seat in heaven and although Hashem does not permit me to tell you "why" these terrible things happened, I am commanded to discuss "what" happened.
To tell you "what" happened with clarity and force, so that hopefully some people in this room will never doubt the Shoah and you will take it upon yourself to confront anyone who dares to deny it and make them hear my story - your story, the sad but true stories of our families, whom we too often refer to as the "Six Million," but rarely if ever refer use their names.
We have names. Our lives were taken, but they cannot take our names.
My name is Yechiel Mechoel Friedman. I was murdered at Auschwitz with my wife, Malka and my daughter, Sima, her husband, Yaakov Weiss and my granddaughter, Chaya Sarah.
Can you see them? I see them and I also see Tamar Fogel and the bodies of her family being carried through Itamar for burial; not 70 years ago - last month. People with names and lives taken in the dark - only because they were Jews.
My name is Yechiel Michoel Friedman. I was murdered in Auschwitz and don't you ever forget me.

Agricultural Moshavim Sector Marches to Salute Jerusalem

Thousands of members of the Moshavim (cooperative agricultural communities, as opposed to Kibbutzim, ed.)  Movement, and agricultural schols, from all over Israel, took part on Monday in the movement’s annual march to Jerusalem in honor of Jerusalem Day (Yom Yerushalayim), which celebrates the anniversary of the day Jerusalem was liberated by the IDF during the Six Day War.
Thousands of Jerusalemites filled the streets in the center of town to see them march by.
“This is a salute to Jerusalem by the those who settle and work the land. There are about 400 moshavim and tens of thousands of people participating in this march,” said Meir Tzur, Secretary General of the Moshavim Movement, one of the main, orignal settlement movements in Israel, whose members are cooperative villages organized as moshavim. Founded in 1920, the movement today has a membership of 253 moshavim. The regional authorities took responsibliity for organizeing and funding the parade.
Tzur added, “We are respecting Jerusalem so Jerusalem can respect us in the future. The importance is to bring youth to Jerusalem and know it and love it.”
“I come here every year, and every year Jerusalem is in my blood,” one of the participants said. “It will be in the blood of the State of Israel and the people of Israel. No one can give it away!”
All photos by Hezki Ezra and Hillel Meir

Former Mossad Head: We Rely on G-d but Have Responsibility'

In the following video, featured at the 2011 Moskowitz Prize for Zionism ceremony, former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan speaks about his service for the safety of Israel.
The prize committee explained that Dagan has contributed immeasurably to the security of Israel. Born in 1945 to Holocaust survivors, Major General (res.) Dagan has a rich past of IDF service, serving as a paratrooper and rising through the ranks from Company to Division Commander.

"Dagan fought in Israel’s wars, was injured twice, and earned the Medal of Valor, the second highest honor in the IDF.
 the committee stated. He has also served in various headquarter staff positions until he commenced his service at the rank of Major General.

"Dagan served as head of the counterterrorist staff at the Prime Minister's Office for two years and was then appointed as Director General of the Israel Secret Intelligence Service from 2002 until 2011, after his term was extended twice. Dagan’s term as Mossad Chief is considered especially successful, and he has left a legacy of creativity and action which are held in high esteem by Israeli and international leaders alike, including Arab leaders and international heads of state. He now heads the Israeli Port Authority."

Israeli Opera's Opera festival 2010

Egyptian sore loser refuses to shake hands with Israeli at judo match

The Rabbi and the Paratroopers

A wonderful, heartwarming story about , from Migdal HaEmek, and paratroopers from the IDF's Brigade 85 during the Second Lebanon War.

Senator Jim Inhofe Says The Land Belongs To Israel

On the Senate floor, Senator Inhofe speaks about Israel's right to the land. His speech was in response to President Obama's suggestion that negotiations for a Palestinian State start with Israel returning to their pre-1967 borders. Inhofe strongly disagrees with this position, and sides with Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israeli people.

Gershon Veroba - Up To Jerusalem

In commemoration of Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day), Gershon Veroba performs a song composed by Moshe Yess, a"h, and Shalom Levine, the original Megama Duo that gave us songs like "My Zaidie" and "The Size of the Fight in the Man" (also known as "Little David").

In this new production, Gershon honors his former roommates and remembers his friend, Moshe, in the best way celebrate the holy city.

The video features footage of Gershon performing the song in the studio with his friends, Gal Gershovsky and Bobby ("Shuby") Shubowitz, as well as singing with his son, Abie. These four people comprise the entire production.

The photographs feature the Shubowitz and Veroba families in Israel, including one of Corporal Meir Shubowitz with his fellow Israeli soldiers at his EMT certification ceremony and another taken the moment Ali Veroba (Gershon's daughter) first saw the כותל המערבי, the Western Wall of the Holy Temple and the site of our Jewish origin.

"...Hop a plane, sing along...why don't we go up to Jerusalem!"

"ובנה אותה בקרוב בימינו"
"...and may we rebuild (the temple) soon in our days."

Israel's Magna Carta - The San Remo Mandate

The 1920 San Remo resolution answered a fundamental issue that still plagues the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks today: whether Israel has a right to the land... The Christian Broadcasting Network CBN

Who do the territories belong to?

Iraq's Kristallnacht 70 years later By Robert S. Wistrich

Seventy years ago, on June 1, 1941, the most dramatic and violent pogrom in the Arab Middle East during World War II took place in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. Known in Arabic as the Farhūd, this devastating pogrom left approximately 150 Jews dead, hundreds more wounded, and led to the ransacking of nearly 600 Jewish businesses. The grim events of June 1-2, 1941 were the Iraqi Arab equivalent of the mass violence on Kristallnacht, which had taken place some two and a half years earlier across Nazi Germany. The anti-Jewish riots were mainly led by Iraqi soldiers (bitter and frustrated by their defeat at the hands of the British Army), some members of the police and young paramilitary gangs, swiftly followed by an angry Muslim population that went on the rampage in an orgy of murder and rapine.

The pogrom struck at what was the most prosperous, prominent and well-integrated Jewish community in the Middle East – one whose origins went back more than 2,500 years – long before there was any Arab presence in the country. The 90,000 Jews of Baghdad, it should be said, played a major role in the commercial and professional life of the city. However, in the 1930s they already found themselves confronted by an increasingly virulent anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist propaganda in the Iraqi press and among nationalist political groups. This agitation treated the intensely patriotic Iraqi Jews as an alien, hostile minority who had to be ejected from all the social, economic and political positions it held in the Iraqi state.

Iraqi Arab nationalists, like their counterparts in Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Egypt, had been much influenced in the 1930s by the rise of Nazi Germany. Hitler’s National Socialism attracted them as a spectacular, authoritarian model for achieving Iraqi national unity and a wider union of Arabs in the region. It was no accident that the pro-German ideologue of pan-Arabism, Sati al-Husri, exerted a major influence on Iraqi education after arriving in Baghdad in 1921, or that Michel Aflaq, the chief theoretician of the Iraqi and Syrian Ba’athists had also absorbed German national-socialist ideas while studying in Paris between 1928-1932. The Director General of the Iraqi Ministry of Education in the 1930s, Dr. Sami Shawkat, was another fanatical ideologue, especially active in instilling a military spirit (resembling the German Nazi model) in Iraqi youth. He also developed radically anti-Jewish ideas which were heavily indebted to Nazi anti-Semitism. In a book published in Baghdad in 1939, These Are Our Aims, Shawkat openly called for the annihilation of the Jews in Iraq, as a necessary prerequisite for achieving an Iraqi national revival and fulfilling the country’s ”historical mission” of uniting the Arab nation.

Significantly, it was also in Baghdad that the first official Arabic translations of parts of Hitler’s Mein Kampf appeared in 1934. In order not to offend Arab sensibilities the final translation “edited” out Hitler’s racial theories about inferior “Semites” – making it clear that anti-Semitism related only to Jews, not to Arabs. The Iraqi translator of Hitler’s “magnum opus” was Yūnus al-Sab’āwī, a young Nazi enthusiast and extreme anti-Semite. A close confidant of nationalist officers in the Iraqi army, Al-Sab’āwī came to play an important role in Iraqi politics. From April to June 1941 he even served as Iraqi Minister of Economics. Al-Sab’āwī was indeed one of the architects of the Farhūd in which his anti-Semitic para-military youth group also took part. Al-Sab’āwī had earlier established a close connection with Nazi Germany’s Ambassador to Iraq in the late 1930s, Dr. Fritz Grobba. The latter was a distinguished Orientalist (fluent in Arabic, Persian and Turkish) who eventually convinced Hitler that helping Arab nationalists to throw off British control of Iraq should be part of German strategy. Grobba also contributed much through the networks he had established in Iraq, towards spreading the idea that Iraqi Jews were a “fifth column” of Great Britain – sworn enemies of Germany and of the Arab nation. Equally, Palestinian nationalists, led by the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini (who had had fled to Baghdad in the late 1930s), conducted an especially vicious campaign to incite a jihad among the local Arab population against Great Britain, Zionism and the Jews of Iraq. The Mufti – a close ally of Hitler during the four years he spent in Berlin between 1941 and 1945 – would also exert a particularly toxic influence on the pro-Nazi politician Rashid Ali al-Kailani, whose successful anti-British coup had forced the unpopular Hashemite Regent Abd al-Ilāh to flee the country. The coup brought to power on April 1, 1941 some of the most rabid Jew-baiters in Iraq. Anti-British and anti-Semitic propaganda now reached a zenith that greatly contributed to the violence that burst forth two months later.

Ironically enough, it was the decisive victory of the British and the return of the Regent on June 1 that immediately provoked the pogrom, an act of unparalleled revenge by the Muslim masses against the Jews of Baghdad that expressed their deep disappointment at the fall of the popular Rashid Ali regime. The British Army, now encamped on the outskirts of Baghdad, could easily have intervened but it chose not to do so, dubiously claiming this would have damaged the prestige of the (pro-British) Regent in the eyes of his own people. The British behaved in a similar fashion on several occasions in Mandatory Palestine, in Libya (November 1945) and in Aden (December 1945) – standing by as Arab mobs killed defenseless Jews. In fact, for most Iraqi Muslims in 1941, the British were perceived as oppressive colonizers, the Jews as their “agents” and the German Nazis as “anti-imperialist” saviors! But German military assistance, when it finally came, was too little and too late to save the Rashid Ali regime.

The Farhūd has been incomprehensibly ignored or downplayed both in Zionist historiography and even more in general histories of the Middle East. Arab historians have been silent or else falsified the facts and there are even Israeli and Jewish writers who have unconvincingly tried to dismiss its importance. Yet this traumatic event was indeed of seminal importance. It proved beyond reasonable doubt the strength of Arab nationalist anti-Semitism and of Nazi-style incitement on a Muslim population that had come to see in its patriotic Jewish minority “the enemy within.” The Jews of Iraq, seventy years ago, suddenly found themselves in the crossfire of three converging forms of murderous anti-Semitism – that of the German Nazis, the Palestinian exiles in Baghdad led by Amin el-Husseini, and Iraqi pan-Arab nationalists. Ten years later, the government of Iraq under the pro-British Nuri es-Said, expropriated, dispossessed, disenfranchised and brought about the forced emigration of nearly 120,000 Iraqi Jews, thereby cruelly terminating the oldest of all Diaspora histories. This was not only a crime against humanity but an insufficiently acknowledged part of the history of the Holocaust. The Farhūd exposed with shocking clarity just how vulnerable the Jews in Arab lands really were and what their fate was likely to be under any decolonized Arab regime in the future, especially if there was a breakdown of law and order.

Despite the “Arab Spring” not much has changed for other minorities in the Middle East in the last 70 years. As for the Jews, from Morocco to Iraq and Iran they would be “ethnically cleansed” after 1945 by their Muslim rulers. The Farhūd already represented the writing on the wall for those willing to read it. The reinforcement of a strong Israel was and still remains the only viable long-term answer to the repetition of such horrific atrocities in the future.

Prof. Robert S. Wistrich is the director of The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem ( and the author of A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad (Random House, January 2010). This article is a condensed version of a recent lecture on the 1941 pogrom in Baghdad hosted by the Center in Jerusalem.

Underground Old City a Threat to Palestinian's Claim to Jerusalem

Underneath the crowded alleys and holy sites of old Jerusalem, hundreds of people are snaking at any given moment through tunnels, vaulted medieval chambers and Roman sewers in a rapidly expanding subterranean city invisible from the streets above.
At street level, the walled Old City is an energetic and fractious enclave with a physical landscape that is predominantly Islamic and a population that is mainly Arab.
Underground Jerusalem is different: Here the noise recedes, the fierce Middle Eastern sun disappears, and light comes from fluorescent bulbs. There is a smell of earth and mildew, and the geography recalls a Jewish city that existed 2,000 years ago.
Archaeological digs under the disputed Old City are a matter of immense sensitivity. For Israel, the tunnels are proof of the depth of Jewish roots here, and this has made the tunnels one of Jerusalem's main tourist draws: The number of visitors, mostly Jews and Christians, has risen dramatically in recent years to more than a million visitors in 2010.
But many Palestinians, who reject Israel's sovereignty in the city, see them as a threat to their own claims to Jerusalem. And some critics say they put an exaggerated focus on Jewish history.
A new underground link is opening within two months, and when it does, there will be more than a mile (two kilometers) of pathways beneath the city. Officials say at least one other major project is in the works. Soon, anyone so inclined will be able to spend much of their time in Jerusalem without seeing the sky.
On a recent morning, a man carrying surveying equipment walked across a two-millennia-old stone road, paused at the edge of a hole and disappeared underground.
In a multilevel maze of rooms and corridors beneath the Muslim Quarter, workers cleared rubble and installed steel safety braces to shore up crumbling 700-year-old Mamluk-era arches.
Above ground, a group of French tourists emerged from a dark passage they had entered an hour earlier in the Jewish Quarter and found themselves among Arab shops on the Via Dolorosa, the traditional route Jesus took to his crucifixion.
South of the Old City, visitors to Jerusalem can enter a tunnel chipped from the bedrock by a Judean king 2,500 years ago and walk through knee-deep water under the Arab neighborhood of Silwan. Beginning this summer, a new passage will be open nearby: a sewer Jewish rebels are thought to have used to flee the Roman legions who destroyed the Jerusalem temple in 70 A.D.
The sewer leads uphill, passing beneath the Old City walls before expelling visitors into sunlight next to the rectangular enclosure where the temple once stood, now home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the gold-capped Dome of the Rock.
From there, it's a short walk to a third passage, the Western Wall tunnel, which continues north from the Jewish holy site past stones cut by masons working for King Herod and an ancient water system. Visitors emerge near the entrance to an ancient quarry called Zedekiah's Cave that descends under the Muslim Quarter.
The next major project, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority, will follow the course of one of the city's main Roman-era streets underneath the prayer plaza at the Western Wall. This route, scheduled for completion in three years, will link up with the Western Wall tunnel.
The excavations and flood of visitors exist against a backdrop of acute distrust between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Muslims, who are suspicious of any government moves in the Old City and particularly around the Al-Aqsa compound, Islam's third-holiest shrine. Jews know the compound as the Temple Mount, site of two destroyed temples and the center of the Jewish faith for three millennia.
Muslim fears have led to violence in the past: The 1996 opening of a new exit to the Western Wall tunnel sparked rumors among Palestinians that Israel meant to damage the mosques, and dozens were killed in the ensuing riots. In recent years, however, work has gone ahead without incident.
Mindful that the compound has the potential to trigger devastating conflict, Israel's policy is to allow no excavations there. Digging under Temple Mount, the Israeli historian Gershom Gorenberg has written, "would be like trying to figure out how a hand grenade works by pulling the pin and peering inside."
Despite the Israeli assurances, however, rumors persist that the excavations are undermining the physical stability of the Islamic holy sites.
"I believe the Israelis are tunneling under the mosques," said Najeh Bkerat, an official of the Waqf, the Muslim religious body that runs the compound under Israel's overall security control.
Samir Abu Leil, another Waqf official, said he had heard hammering that very morning underneath the Waqf's offices, in a Mamluk-era building that sits just outside the holy compound and directly over the route of the Western Wall tunnel, and had filed a complaint with police.
The closest thing to an excavation on the mount, Israeli archaeologists point out, was done by the Waqf itself: In the 1990s, the Waqf opened a new entrance to a subterranean prayer space and dumped truckloads of rubble outside the Old City, drawing outrage from scholars who said priceless artifacts were being destroyed.
This month, an Israeli government watchdog released a report saying Waqf construction work in the compound in recent years had been done without supervision and had damaged antiquities. The issue is deemed so sensitive that the details of the report were kept classified.
Some Israeli critics of the tunnels point to what they call an exaggerated emphasis on a Jewish narrative.
"The tunnels all say: We were here 2,000 years ago, and now we're back, and here's proof," said Yonathan Mizrachi, an Israeli archaeologist. "Living here means recognizing that other stories exist alongside ours."
Yuval Baruch, the Antiquities Authority archaeologist in charge of Jerusalem, said his diggers are careful to preserve worthy finds from all of the city's historical periods. "This city is of interest to at least half the people on Earth, and we will continue uncovering the past in the most professional way we can," he said.

Ya'alon: Pre-Emptive Strike on Iran Could be Necessary

Israel’s Minister for Strategic Affairs, Moshe Ya’alon said on Monday that the civilized world must take joint action to avert the Iranian nuclear threat, and that action should including a pre-emptive strike if necessary.
Ya’alon made the comments in an interview with Russia’s Interfax news agency, ahead of his visit to Moscow.
“We strongly hope that the entire civilized world will come to realize what threat this regime is posing and take joint action to avert the nuclear threat posed by Iran, even if it would be necessary to conduct a pre-emptive strike,” Interfaxquoted Ya’alon as saying.
Though he would not discuss who might deal the strike, he stressed that the entire world and not just Israel, must be concerned about the danger posed by a nuclear-armed Iran.
“An Iran possessing nuclear weapons would be a threat to the entire civilized world,” he was quoted as saying.
Ya’alon’s spokesman later clarified to The Associated Press that the minister was simply repeating Israel’s position that all options are on the table regarding Iran, and that he was not calling for anybody to attack the Islamic Republic.
Ya’alon has previously said about Iran that it “is a threat to regional stability and is pulling strings behind the scenes. They are provoking Shi’ite leaders to challenge Arab regimes and stir the pot in Afghanistan and Iraq. The problem is not just the Iranian nuclear program, but the Iranian regime’s behavior. Iran should not have a military nuclear capability. This regime should not continue its terrorist activities without paying a price.”

Moskowitz Zionism Prizes Awarded

Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, co-founder of the Nefesh B’Nefesh English speakers’ aliyah movement, Former MK Rabbi Chanan Porat, who helped re-establish the community of Kfar Etzion after the 1967 Six Day War following his service as a paratrooper, and recently retired director of the Mossad, (Israel’s international spy agency) Meir Dagan were the recipients of the 2011 Moskowitz Prize for Zionism.
The Prizes were awarded in ceremonies on Monday evening at Jerusalem’s City of David (Ir David), located across the road from the Western Wall (Kotel).
Cherna Moskowitz, who founded the prize along with her husband Dr. Irving Moskowitz, was the first speaker of the evening.
“We see reversals in all Arab countries,” she said. “No one can predict what will happen there. We have seen the rise of terrorism since the Oslo agreements and the education of incitement by Mahmoud Abbas. All this causes great damage to Israeli and American values ​​and to the stability in the Middle East. At such a time of uncertainty, the last thing we need to do is to establish another Arab country in any way. All this only emphasizes the necessity of preserving Judea and Samaria in order to allow the Jewish state to survive.”
In the speech he gave after receiving the award, Dagan referred to the location of the ceremony, saying: “This place is not political. The City of David has a deep connection to Jewish history.”
Dagan thanked the members of the Israeli intelligence community for their part in the award.
“If I got this far, it would be appropriate for me to be the mouth of the intelligence people who work day and night. A group of men and women, young and old, who give all their energies and abilities for the State of Israel. Some of them work under difficult risks, they are not recognized, and you read about their successes in classified papers. On the other hand, their failures are smeared in newspapers and on television screens. They are not recognized, and even neighbors and relatives are unaware of their work.”
Dagan added, “Their real greatness is that they know how to learn from their failures.”
In his acceptance speech, Rabbi Fass noted that he does not stand  there on behalf of himself, and that Nefesh B’Nefesh is an operation behind which are many other individuals. He made particular mention of his friend Tony Gelbart, who founded the organization with him but could not receive the award because he does yet not carry an Israeli identity card. Rabbi Fass stressed that the organization is working on this to happen soon.
Rabbi Porat, who received his award after Rabbi Fass, spoke of how he returned to Kfar Etzion following the Six Day War and founded the Gush Emunim settlement movement. “Despite all the obstacles we faced we built thousands of units,” he emphasized.
Rabbi Porat also mentioned the story of his friend, Giora Ashkenazi, who fell during the battle for Jerusalem. He noted that twenty years, he had the privilege to perpetuate his friend’s name in Yeshivat Orot on Mount Olives, which was established with the unconditional support of Dr. Irving Moskowitz.
The annual $50,000 prize was established to support Zionist values in Israeli society and to promote the Jewish nationalist home of Israel.

Begin Breaks Likud Ranks on INR Radio; Rejects PA State

Minister without portfolio Benny Begin (Likud), in an Israel National News Radio interview on Monday, rejected the creation of an Arab state west of the Jordan River saying the right of the Jewish people to their ancestral homeland was 'obvious' and that such a state would become a 'haven of impunity' for terror. Begin's remarks mark a stark departure from the “two states for two people's” vision endorsed by Israel's current Likud-run government.
"I think any second state of any nature, another sovereignty west of the Jordan River, especially when it comprises the PLO or Hamas, would negate or contradict two basic rights of the Jewish people and the citizens of Israel," Begin toldIsrael National News Radio's Josh Hasten. during an interview on the Israel Hasbara Hour.
"One is the right of the Jewish people to our homeland, and our right to our homeland does not stop exactly east of the 1949 armistice demarcation lines, also known as the 'Green Line.' It has no historic significance whatsoever. It just marks a balance of military power back then, in 1948 or 1949, between [Israel's] local Arab neighbors and the newborn state of Israel in their attempt to smother the baby state in its cradle. Our right to our land – Including of course to the cradle of our history in Judea and Samaria – is obvious," Begin said.
"There is also the question of national security, and we have had some experience in the the last twenty years under the banner 'territory for peace'... the actual events have been territory for terror. Every piece of land, every hectare, every acre, that was consigned to the PLO reign, became a haven of impunity for terrorism. And we should anticipate that once we transfer parts of our homeland to the PLO it will be, actually, an indirect transfer of land through the PLO to Hamas, and to Iran," Begin said.
Recent Events Prove Arab's True Intent
Begin cited the recent Fatah-Hamas "unity treaty" and “Naqba” unrest throughout Israel on May 15, which saw theinfiltration of Northern Israel by over 100 Syrian radicals, along with riots throughout Judea and Samaria, as proof the Arab's have no intention of making peace with the Jewish state.
"I think in the last month people can see for themselves [what their intentions are] through the following events: the new agreement between the PLO and Hamas, who nobody doubts is openly bent on the destruction of the state of Israel, and then the May 15 marches on our borders marking the "devastation" or "calamity," that they claim was inflicted upon them by the very establishment of the state of Israel on May 15, 1948," Begin explained.
"Their real aim is not a a two state solution, but a two-stage solution. In the sense that they push us to the pre-1967, actually 1949 lines, and then push more through terrorism and other forms of political pressure in order to dwarf us and to try to erase the state of Israel, the Jewish state," Begin said.
"They did not mark the date in June," Begin said referring to the 1967 Six Day War, sometimes called the 'June War,' in which Israel liberated its eternal capitol and ancestral heartland. "After all, the 'occupation' so to speak of Judea and Samaria and Gaza started in June 1967. No, they mark the original May 15 date of the very birth of the Jewish state."
Israel's Hasbara Advantage
Begin conceded Israel starts at a public relations disadvantage due to the vastly greater sums the Arab world pours into its anti-Israel media efforts, but said Israel has a big advantage in its 'hasbara [public relations, ed.] war' because it doesn't have to "sell lies."
"It used to be Hasbara was translated 'propaganda,'" Begin explained. "Now they call it 'public diplomacy,' which is a little nicer. But years ago it was considered by Israelis to be 'propaganda' [and therefore beneath them, ed.] One of the nice things about our 'propaganda' is that we don't have to sell lies. We can suffice ourselves with telling people things as they are. We have to tell them the truth. And we have to ask them to judge. Because once they know the facts they will be able use moral judgment."
"[There was] a very important article written by Mahmoud Abbas, Abu Mazen, written on May 16 as an op-ed article in the New York Times... [readers] will read it and see easily for themselves what kind of narrative, or actually what kind of lies, the PLO tries to sell intelligent people in America and elsewhere. Its untenable, its unacceptable, and it takes things to such an extreme in such a manner that we can easily prove the narrative is totally false," Begin said.
"Such articles will only help us,” Begin said optimistically. “I don't know if this would be efficient immediately It takes time, but people of good will, if they will stand up and work for truth – for morality – I think it would be a great help to the cause of real justice in our part of the world."
The entire interview can be downloaded here.