American Journalist Reportedly Kidnapped in Ukraine

The United States is “deeply concerned” that an American journalist has been kidnapped by pro-Russian forces in Ukraine. Simon Ostrovsky, a Jewish American reporting on the situation in Ukraine for Vice News, has gone missing. While the local pro-Russian leader claims otherwise, the U.S. State Department is calling for the release of Ostrovsky and another journalist being held captive:

“We call on Russia to use its influence with these groups to secure the immediate and safe release of all hostages in eastern Ukraine,” [State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki] said.

Pro-Moscow insurgents in Slavyansk — an eastern Ukrainian town which has become a tense flashpoint in recent days — are holding two journalists, an American working for Vice News, Simon Ostrovsky, and a Ukrainian working for a pro-Kiev outlet, Irma Krat.

Slavyansk’s local rebel leader Vyatcheslav Ponomarev told reporters that the American “is not being detained, was not abducted, has not been arrested” and claimed he was “working” in one of the rebel-occupied buildings.

However, the Twitter feed of the normally prolific journalist has been inactive for a day.

Here is Mr. Ostrovsky’s last dispatch (he has been reporting in the region throughout this crisis). In it he interviews soldiers and civilians and shows the disarmament of Ukrainian troops by pro-Russian forces, the very side which kidnapped him.

We pray for the safe release of these hostages, and for peace and safety for the Jewish community of Ukraine and all of the Ukrainian people.

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Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014 at 12:08 PM  | Stand For Israel

Ukrainian Synagogue Firebombed

Nikolayev Synagogue (Photo: wikicommons/ Messir Yunus)

Nikolayev Synagogue (Photo: wikicommons/ Messir Yunus)

The Jerusalem Post reports that a Ukrainian synagogue was firebombed over the weekend. The synagogue, located in the southeastern Black Sea city of Nikolayev, was targeted on Saturday:

Two Molotov cocktails were thrown at the door and window, the report said, citing Yisroel Gotlieb, son of the city’s chief rabbi, Sholom Gotlieb.

A passer-by put out the fires with a fire extinguisher, according to the report.

The attack was recorded by the synagogue’s closed circuit television security camera and uploaded to YouTube.

The article also mentions the fliers passed out last week in Donetsk, calling on that city’s Jews to register. Pro-Russian separatists have denied responsibility for the leaflets. The Times of Israel reports that while responsibility is still unclear, the U.S. has denounced the fliers, its ambassador to Kiev stating they are:

“clearly part of a general effort to sow fear among Ukrainian Jews.”

Whoever distributed them, that act, along with this latest firebombing, shows that not only are Ukraine’s Jews still facing anti-Semitism and violence, but also are being used as pawns in the region’s chaotic and unstable political situation.

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Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014 at 10:14 AM  | Stand For Israel

Dismantle the Palestinian Authority? Not Likely.

(Photo: wikicommons/ Uriber)

(Photo: wikicommons/ Uriber)

Avi Issacharoff, writing at The Times of Israel, notes that the probability of the P.A. being disbanded is extremely low because what would follow would be the total societal meltdown of what remains of Palestinian civil society and the Palestinian economy. The saying in Israel is that the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity – but Issacharoff thinks they won’t make this mistake this time:

A scenario in which the Palestinian Authority is dissolved is possible, but its probability is low, very low. The discussion in recent days over the possibility of the P.A. being dismantled has been held mainly in the Israeli media, with little to no presence in the discourse of the Palestinian media and among P.A. leaders.

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Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014 at 8:22 AM  | Stand For Israel

Same Old Song and Dance

(Photo: White House/ Paul Morse)

(Photo: White House/ Paul Morse)

It is proverbial that familiarity breeds contempt. So, in the past week, one could be forgiven for harboring a sense of contempt for the familiar machinations of the Palestinian Authority.

Having never taken peace talks with Israel seriously – but having used those negotiations to win concessions from Israel totaling hundreds of freed terrorists while giving nothing in return – the gravy train finally stopped when Israel refused to continue the charade by releasing another round of prisoners.

Immediately after, the Palestinians sought recognition of Palestine – a nation that does not exist – by a host of United Nations agencies. They have threatened to apply for membership in the International Criminal Court, where they would almost certainly pursue charges against Israel and her leaders. And, most recently, they have returned to the familiar tropes of threatening to disband the Palestinian Authority and engaging in unity talks with Hamas.

The Palestinian National Authority (P.A.) was created as part of the Oslo Accords in 1994. The P.A. was established to administer areas of the West Bank and Gaza as a preliminary step to independence and a Palestinian state.  The P.A. was ruled by Fatah, Yasser Arafat’s political party, until the 2006 elections, which were won by the Hamas terrorist organization. Those were the last elections held for P.A. positions. In 2002, in response to a massive wave of suicide terror against Israeli civilians, the Israel Defense Forces took control over most of the population centers that the P.A. administered. While the P.A. still ran the civilian government, the IDF was responsible for security with the exception of some policing authority still allowed to P.A. police. The P.A. performs some rudimentary governmental functions, but very little. Its benefit is purely symbolic and, like much else in the Middle East, that symbolism is largely a relic of a time not currently reflected by the facts on the ground. Disbanding the P.A. is a meaningless gesture by a group of people who spend all their time…

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Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014 at 8:17 AM  | Stand For Israel

Photo Friday: What Does This Ceremony Mean to You?

(Photo: flickr/GPO)

(Photo: flickr/GPO)

When you enter the land that the LORD will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. And when your children ask you, “What does this ceremony mean to you?” then tell them, “It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD… “ (Exodus 12:25-27)

Here, a Tel Aviv kindergarten class holds a Passover seder in 1949. We wish our Jewish friends a happy Passover and our Christian friends a blessed Good Friday and joyous Easter. Shabbat shalom.

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Friday, April 18th, 2014 at 10:00 AM  | Stand For Israel

Have a Joyous Passover and a Blessed Easter

(Photo: Jack Hazut)

(Photo: Jack Hazut)

Because of Good Friday and Passover, we’re suspending activity for April 18, 21, and 22. We’ll be back on Wednesday, April 23. If any critical developments related to Israel come up in the meantime we will post them on the Stand for Israel blog. We wish our Jewish friends a joyous Passover and our Christian Friends a blessed Easter. Thank you for always standing for Israel!

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Thursday, April 17th, 2014 at 4:46 PM  | Stand For Israel

Artur Schnabel: Pianist and Teacher

We here at Stand for Israel love music, and love sharing stories of musicians and the music they gave the world. Today, April 17, marks the birthday of the renowned Jewish pianist, Artur Schnabel. Born in 1882 in the Austro-Hungarian Empire (in what is now part of Poland), Schnabel gained fame in Berlin as one of the great players of classical music’s piano repertoire — he was the first pianist to record all of Beethoven’s piano sonatas. His playing did not focus merely on his technical prowess, but dove into the emotional and spiritual depths of the pieces he played.

Schnabel was also known as a teacher of great pianists — among the many he taught included Alice Herz-Sommer, whose own life and career was recently remembered in an Oscar-winning documentary.

Aware of the growing anti-Semitism in Germany and Europe as Hitler rose to power, Schnabel left Berlin behind in 1933. Sadly, his mother would not be so lucky, as she was murdered in Theresienstadt concentration camp. Schnabel would never return to Germany, famously telling a fan, “I don’t want to go to a country to which I am only admitted because it has lost a war.”

A man who witnessed both the beauty and horror in this world, Schnabel found these things in the wonderful music he championed and performed. Enjoy the above recording of him playing the wonderful second movement of Beethoven’s Sonata Pathétique.

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Thursday, April 17th, 2014 at 11:38 AM  | Stand For Israel

Violent Clashes Between IDF and Palestinians Break Out in Hebron

(Photo: flickr/IDF)

(Photo: flickr/IDF)

As many Jewish people traveled to the Cave of the Patriarchs and other holy sites around Jerusalem in order to celebrate Passover, and as many Palestinians gathered to demonstrate for the release of Palestinian prisoners, violence erupted in Hebron:

On Wednesday evening, the IDF injured seven Palestinians in Hebron when a riot broke out in the city.

The IDF said that dozens of Palestinians demonstrated and threw stones at an IDF post situated between the Jewish settlement of the city and the rest of the Palestinian city.

During its attempts to disperse the demonstrators using riot dispersal methods, seven Palestinians were injured, the army confirmed.

We pray for the safety of the IDF troops protecting the Holy Land, as well as the protection of those celebrating Passover, God’s liberation of His people.

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Thursday, April 17th, 2014 at 10:16 AM  | Stand For Israel

Flyers Call for Jews to Register with Pro-Russians in Ukrainian City

(Photo: JDC)

(Photo: JDC)

In the Ukrainian city of Donetsk, documents were passed out this week calling for Jews to pay special taxes and to register with the pro-Russian separatists now controlling the government. The flyers – carrying the signature of Denis Pushilin, leader of the separatists who have taken over government buildings and declared secession from Ukraine – were the latest of many troubling anti-Semitic developments and actions in the chaotic region:

Several anti-Semitic attacks, including a stabbing and the attempted torching of a synagogue, have occurred in Ukraine since the eruption in November of a revolution over the perceived pro-Russian policies of former President Viktor Yanukvych. He was ousted from power in February.

Many supporters of the revolution blamed pro-Russian provocateurs for the attacks.

The flyers in Donetsk said all Jews who are 16 years old and above should register at the government building, which separatist protesters are occupying, and pay a registration fee of $50 by May 3.

Again, we pray for peace in Ukraine, and for the safety of the country’s threatened Jewish population.

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Thursday, April 17th, 2014 at 9:02 AM  | Stand For Israel

I Interviewed the Accused Kansas Gunman 33 Years Ago

(Photo: Johnson County District Attorney)

(Photo: Johnson County District Attorney)

33 years ago, Robert Satloff was a journalism student at Duke University. Today, the Executive Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy recounts the story of an interview he did with the man who would go on to shoot three people on the Jewish community campus in Overland Park, Kansas:

When I met Miller, his first words were, “Are you a Jew?” No, I said. He went on: “I don’t let Jews on my land, so you’d better not be lying to me.” I held my ground and we started the interview. For about 10 minutes, I asked typical background questions: hometown, education, military experience, etc. I thought we had pulled it off. Suddenly, a man with a medium build wearing a Nazi uniform motioned to Miller. They went off for a discussion in the kitchen. When Miller returned, he began to sniff. “I smell a Jew,” he said. Again, I denied it. But his mind was made up.

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Thursday, April 17th, 2014 at 8:39 AM  | Stand For Israel
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State of Israel"

Rabbi's Commentary
God Is Present This Holy Season

Even as efforts for peace seem to be at an impasse all around the world, the Passover story can give us hope and affirmation that God is always present in our lives, and even when situations seem impossible, He is working in ways we cannot imagine.


Read Rabbi Eckstein's message »

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