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In memory of my mother

This past Monday I commemorated my mother’s passing, which occurred seven years ago. It’s hard to believe that seven years have passed by so quickly and that so much has happened in my life since then. Keeping with the traditions of my Jewish faith, I lit the memorial candle, recited the appropriate Kaddish prayers in synagogue, and visited my mother’s grave, where I recited Psalms.

As I drove along the Mediterranean coastline towards my mother’s grave site in Haifa, my mind was flooded with thoughts about the miracle of life, the tragedy of death, and the purpose behind it all. Ancient Jewish texts say that a person’s soul — which is their essence — is eternal. We believe that when a person “dies” it is their body that dies, but their soul lives on forever. When the soul’s “garment” — the physical body — is buried, the soul returns to its source.

Such an understanding of death makes the death of a loved one easier to bear. When we realize that we haven’t lost the deceased, only the body of the deceased, our connection to that person does not have to end when they leave this physical world. What we love about those dear to us is their essence — the soul — and Jewish teachings hold that the soul lives beyond death. 

Driving back from Haifa I felt deeply blessed to have had such an amazing mother and teacher. My mother lived in Europe during the Holocaust, and immigrated to the Holy Land several years after the modern State of Israel was founded. She worked and lived on a kibbutz during her first years in Israel, and she took care of us whenever my father was sent to fight to defend our homeland.

As I reflect on my mother’s life I realize that she has taught me so much, and that her wisdom and guidance has shaped my life. My mother’s generation pioneered the State of Israel and created it from the ashes of the Holocaust. Her faith in God, her modesty, and kindness will forever live on.

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Monday, February 28th, 2011 at 3:32 PM  | afarkas

4 nuclear sites found in Syria

There is new evidence that Syria has established four nuclear facilities besides the one that Israel bombed in 2007.

When Israel bombed this secret facility four years ago, it was considered a successful mission aimed at destroying Syria’s nuclear weapons aspirations. Although the world condemned Israel for not bringing this matter to the United Nations, it was universally understood that Israel had to act on behalf of her survival and best interests.

The fact that Syria has been funneling weapons to Hezbollah for years increases the risk posed by Syria’s continued nuclear ambitions. Both Syria and Iran have been waging mini wars against Israel through their proxy – Hezbollah. If either Syria or Iran acquires nuclear weapons, it would give Hezbollah cover against Israel in any future wars. 

Therefore, how long can Israel stand by while her enemies develop the most devastating weaponry known to mankind?

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Friday, February 25th, 2011 at 11:53 AM  | afarkas

The Gaddafi disgrace

In this thought-provoking op-ed, David Altman and Elie Friedman question how it is that the world stood silent for years as Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s brutal dictator, played a key role in global forums — and why we are just now becoming horrified by his brutality.  

How is it that Gaddafi’s Libya, a country that showed absolutely no respect for human rights, was elected to chair the United Nations Human Rights Commission in 2003 and was again elected to serve on the commission in 2010? Is there anything more absurd than a constant abuser of human rights being nominated to protect human rights in such a leading international forum?

In 2008, Libya was elected to perhaps the most important and exclusive forum at the United Nations – the UN Security Council – and served as its president twice. Libya exploited this position by taking an essential role in advancing its distorted version of human rights in the UN by calling for an emergency discussion of the infamous Goldstone Report.

Today, the world is abhorred by Gaddafi’s actions against his own people. However, for years the world stood silent as a serial human rights abuser and a terrorist-supporting regime — in fact, the ultimate “rogue state” — took a leading role in international forums, becoming a type of “reformed darling” of the West. Have we no shame?

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Thursday, February 24th, 2011 at 12:54 PM  | jlarue

Protesters in Tunisia now calling for “Death to the Jews”

Tunisians took to the streets on Sunday demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Mohammed Ghanoucci, whom they denounced as part of the former regime that was toppled three weeks ago. Not widely reported by the media was that many of Sunday’s protesters were screaming “Death to the Jews” as they marched:

This is a new phenomenon,” said the source. “Until now, we have not heard this. Perhaps the people were thinking it, but we have not heard it. Now they feel free to say what they wish, what is in their hearts.”

Members of the Jewish community are meanwhile staying out of sight, the source said. “Jews are very afraid, and trying not to show themselves.”

Two days earlier, on Friday, a smaller group of dozens of Islamists held an anti-Jewish rally outside the country’s main synagogue shouting, “Jews wait, the army of Mohammed is coming back. “We’ll redo the battle of Khaibar!” – a reference to the slaughter of Jews in what is now Saudi Arabia at the hands the founder of Islam.

Jewish community leader Roger Bismuth subsequently met with Ghanoucci to request increased security in light of the new threat. Officials in the Tunisian Interior Ministry said the government would “spare no effort to safeguard” civic rights and freedoms, including respect for peaceful co-existence.

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Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011 at 5:31 PM  | David Kuner

Protesters in Tunisia now calling for "Death to the Jews"

Tunisians took to the streets on Sunday demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Mohammed Ghanoucci, whom they denounced as part of the former regime that was toppled three weeks ago. Not widely reported by the media was that many of Sunday’s protesters were screaming “Death to the Jews” as they marched:

This is a new phenomenon,” said the source. “Until now, we have not heard this. Perhaps the people were thinking it, but we have not heard it. Now they feel free to say what they wish, what is in their hearts.”

Members of the Jewish community are meanwhile staying out of sight, the source said. “Jews are very afraid, and trying not to show themselves.”

Two days earlier, on Friday, a smaller group of dozens of Islamists held an anti-Jewish rally outside the country’s main synagogue shouting, “Jews wait, the army of Mohammed is coming back. “We’ll redo the battle of Khaibar!” – a reference to the slaughter of Jews in what is now Saudi Arabia at the hands the founder of Islam.

Jewish community leader Roger Bismuth subsequently met with Ghanoucci to request increased security in light of the new threat. Officials in the Tunisian Interior Ministry said the government would “spare no effort to safeguard” civic rights and freedoms, including respect for peaceful co-existence.

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Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011 at 5:31 PM  | David Kuner

Gaza terrorists attack soldiers and civilians

Although not often reported in mainstream media, terrorists continue to try and harm Israeli citizens and soldiers on a near daily basis. Today, terrorists in Gaza fired mortars and detonated bombs near Israeli soldiers, yet when Israeli soldiers returned fire and injured the terrorists, Hamas, not surprisingly, condemned the Israeli actions.

It is not a rare occurrence for Palestinian terrorists to target Israeli soldiers protecting Israel’s border with Gaza, yet world leaders rarely speak out against these Palestinians’ actions. Secure borders are crucial for Israel’s safety yet difficult to maintain because the terrorist organization Hamas is the ruling power in Gaza and continues to enjoy strong financial support and weaponry from Iran.

If we want safe borders for Israel, Iran must first be prevented from funding these terrorist activities that are not only a threat to Israel, but to the world.







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Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011 at 4:30 PM  | afarkas

Chilean miners visit Israel

All but two of the 33 Chilean miners who were trapped underground for 68 days last fall are set to arrive in Israel today as guests of Israel’s Tourism Ministry. The miners, accompanied by their wives and girlfriends, will be in the country for an eight-day tour that will include visits to Christian sites like Via Dolorosa, Capernaum, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and King David’s Tomb:

“The pilgrimage of the Chilean miners to the Holy Land will expose Christians and others around the world – not just Spanish- speakers – to Israel’s unique religious, historical and cultural sites,” said Pini Shani the director of the overseas department at the Tourism Ministry.

“I’m not sure it’s going to affect the Spanish language media’s perception of Israel in any way, but the survival of Chilean miners and their faith is such a huge story of human aspiration,” said Noga Tarnopolsky, the director of Punto Press, an organization that provides support services for Spanish language media in Israel. Punto is hosting a private reception for the media and the Chilean miners on Thursday night.

“The trip will give readers and viewers of Spanish language media an opportunity to see an aspect of Middle Eastern life that they don’t get to see,” she said.

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Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011 at 1:00 PM  | jlarue

Seattle judge: Buses don’t have to run Israel “War Crimes” ads

After going back and forth on the case in recent months, the final ruling calls the space limited public forum and not subject to full First Amendment protection. The ACLU still threatens to sue.

A federal judge in Seattle has rejected a group’s attempt to force King County to run ads on Metro buses that were critical of Israel, saying the space was a “limited” public forum and therefore not subject to full First Amendment protections.

The Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union had sued the county after it approved then rejected ads that said “Israeli War Crimes Your Tax Dollars At Work.” The groups said the county’s action violated the Constitution and sought a preliminary injunction to force the county to allow the ads.

Judge Richard A. Jones denied that request late Friday. He said the county has a Metro bus advertising policy that is restrictive, which indicates its intention not to have a free-for-all of messages on the side of its buses.

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Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011 at 11:18 AM  | David Kuner

Obama to name new ambassador to Israel

Washington officials have confirmed that President Obama will name Middle East advisor Daniel Shapiro as his new ambassador to Israel, replacing 2008 Bush appointee James Cunningham. Despite tensions between Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, Shapiro has maintained close relations with the PM and his senior advisers.

Shapiro, 40, has served Obama in the capacity of adviser on Middle East affairs even before he assumed the presidency, during his campaign for the office. Shapiro also organized his election campaign in the American Jewish community. Shapiro speaks Hebrew, regularly attends synagogue, and has given his children Israeli names.

After Obama entered the White House, he appointed Shapiro to head the Middle East Desk of the National Security Council, where he focused on relations with Israel. Shapiro attended every meeting that related to Israel or to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and every senior Israeli diplomat and military officer that visited Washington met with him.

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Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011 at 4:57 PM  | David Kuner

Fear grows in Israel over backlash from Egypt

With Egypt allowing Iranian warships in the Suez Canal, calling for the conquest of Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa mosque, and suspending natural gas shipments, Israel feels increasing anxiety over the nations’ relationship.

Though Israelis have taken comfort in assurances from Egypt’s military that international agreements such as the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty will be honored during its interim control of the country, opposition leaders in Egypt are talking about the need to “reassess” or “revise” the landmark pact.

Some Israelis fear they are already seeing signs of an anti-Israel backlash stemming from decades of pent-up hostility on the streets of Egypt, where many still view Israel as an enemy.

“One must bear in mind that many of the young Egyptians who took to the streets demanding democracy and prosperity are anti-American and anti-Israel,” said Michael Laskier, Mideast studies professor at Bar-Ilan University. “They may decide to settle a score with the two.”

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Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011 at 3:34 PM  | jlarue

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Rabbi’s Commentary
Answering His Call, Faithfully and Joyfully

2014 has certainly been a year of struggles. But those challenges have been answered by God, and by His faithful followers. The Fellowship and our generous friends have been able to offer assistance to those who need it most, from the Holy Land to the former Soviet Union, and we look hopefully to the coming year as one of peace, prosperity, and repairing the world.


Read Rabbi Eckstein's message »

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