When it comes to certain countries, it is easy to get caught up in the flashy headlines and the soundbites on the news. What is harder, but ultimately worth the effort, is to get to know the people and the details behind the headlines.
The podcast, Israel Story, started in 2013. Broadcast across Israel, it was produced by Galei Tzahal, Israel’s national Army Radio Station. In 2014, it premiered in the English speaking world. Hosted by Mishy Harman, it can be found on all podcast platforms and on the Tablet magazine website. Each episode takes the listener on a ride through the country, introducing them to people, places, and events that reveal a deeply nuanced and human view of Israel.
I love this podcast. It is intelligent, thoughtful, and stimulating. If nothing else, it has the ability to open minds and show that the Jewish state is much more than many people would make it out to be.
During the massacre, approximately 800,000 to 1.2 Armenian women, children, and older members of the community were sent on death marches to the desert. Another 100,000 to 200,000 women and children were forced to covert to Islam. More than a century later, Turkey has yet to claim responsibility for the atrocity.
Reading about the event and watching footage is stomach curling. The similarities to the Holocaust are too close to home for me. As is the denial that it either never happened or the facts are exaggerated.
The fact that President Biden has both acknowledged the genocide and encouraged our allies to do the same tells me that there are good people in this world. What is done cannot be undone. But we can honor the memories of those who were murdered by standing up to hate and prejudice.
Justice, in theory, should be blind. However, that does not mean that a murderer should be allowed to walk free.
In April of 2017, Sarah Halimi was murdered simply because she was a Jew. The man accused of killing her was acquitted because he was on drugs.
But the thing that bothers me is that this man got off because he was high. That is a flimsy excuse and in my mind, an easy out for the French justice system. Instead of addressing both the drug issue and the fact that this was a hate crime, they chose to ignore the fact that Mrs. Halimi was only targeted because she was Jewish. Had this not been the case, she would be alive today.
My heart goes out to her family. May her memory forever a blessing. Z”L.
P.S. There will be protest vigil today at 1PM at the French Embassy in New York City.
The best way to learn about a new culture is to speak to a local. They have the insight and experience that an outsider would never have.
Earlier this month, Israeli actress/ producer Noa Tishby published her first book. The Tel Aviv native seeks to understand and explain Israel as it is, without relying on the flashy headlines or the half truths. Using her firsthand experience, she speaks of Israel, both past and present, as it is, and not how some see it or wish it could be.
What I love about this book is how down to earth and accessible it is. Tishby‘s voice is that of the average person, not the academic or historian who usually writes about this topic. That, I believe, provides an opportunity for a dialogue that should have happened long ago.
If you only read two chapters, I highly recommend chapters on BDS and the virulent anti-Israeli sentiment (which is really antisemitism). Even for those who are well versed on the topic, it was an eye opener.
When the stakes are life and death, the choices that are open to us are nothing short of impossible. Regardless of the the path that one takes, we know that someone will lose their life.
The new movie, Quo Vadis, Aida?, takes place in the town of Srebrenica during the Bosnian war in the 1990’s. History tells us that over 8000 Bosniaks Muslim men and boys were murdered by the Bosnian army. Aida Selmanagic (Jasna Djuricic) is a translator in the summer of 1995. The Bosnians have just entered the town and are killing civilians who have not already escaped. Thousands upon thousands have made their way to the United Nations compound, looking for safety. But only a handful are able to enter.
Aida is able to get her husband and sons into the compound. But with many more outside, she has a horrible choice to make. She can either put her family first or save as many as she can.
If I were to compile a list of the best films of 2021 today, Quo Vadis, Aida would be near the top of the list. Djuricic gives a heartbreaking and tour de force performance. Her anxiety comes out of the screen immediately, as does the imminent feeling of danger.
When it comes to movies about war and trying to save lives, most of the protagonists are men. The fact that the lead character is a female who is a full fledged human being makes the narrative that much more powerful.
I felt myself getting angry at how useless the UN officials were. Whatever attempts they made to keep the peace were easily destroyed. I also saw similarities to The Holocaust, in which hate and murder was the norm.
Do I recommend it? Without a doubt, yes.
Quo Vadis, Aidais available for streaming on Hulu.
Today is Yom Ha’atzmaut, otherwise known as Israeli Independence Day.
Though no country is perfect, I find it astonishing that in a little less than three-quarters of a century, she has become a vibrant, thriving democracy. Out of the desert and the memory of a thousand generations in exile, a modern country has risen. Through blood, sweat, tears, and the belief in a higher power, she has become the vision that has kept Judaism alive.
In his vision, the prophet sees himself standing in the valley full of dry human bones. He is commanded to carry a prophecy. Before him, the bones connect into human figures; then the bones become covered with tendon tissues, flesh, and skin. Then God reveals the bones to the prophet as the People of Israel in exile and commands the Prophet to carry another prophecy in order to revitalize these human figures, to resurrect them, and to bring them to the Land of Israel.
Happy Birthday Israel, may you live to see another 73 years and many more after that.
The International Criminal Court (the ICC) reminds me of a movie monster that, despite being killed, simply won’t stay dead. After repeated efforts to investigate Israel’s purported “war crimes” and “human rights abuses”, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda declared that she will not be rushed into investigating Israel. Yet here we are again. The monster has […]
Change sometimes does not come on a whim. It comes from a traumatic event that forces the rose colored glasses off our faces.
Back on March 3rd, Sarah Everard was an ordinary woman. While walking home after a friend’s party, she disappeared. Her body was found a week later. She has since become an icon for the fear that women face worldwide when walking home alone at night.
Akin to the response following the murder of George Floyd last year, the hashtags #ReclaimTheseStreets and #TextMeWhenYouGetHome have flooded social media.
Why is the onus always be on women for our safety? Why must we feel the need to carry mace, our keys on our hand, or another form of protection just to make sure we are not assaulted or killed? The answer is that men still are told, both consciously and unconsciously that any woman walking by herself after dark is there for the taking.
There is only one solution. Author and former Secret Service agent Evy Poumpouras stated the following:
“… And I think it’s teaching young men and boys that this is not how we behave,” she continued. “Teaching women to stand up, speak up and fight.”
Only after this is done will this scourge be a thing of the past.
There are some religions in which converting new members is written into the doctrine. But Judaism is different. While we welcome new members of the faith with open arms, we do not seek out possible new converts.
In Israel, the Law of Return has been written into the cultural and legal system for 70+ years. But not everyone agrees with the specifics of the law. According to traditional Judaism, a Jewish person is defined by the faith of their mother. If the mother is Jewish, either by birth or conversation, the child is Jewish. But if the father is Jewish, but the mother is of another faith (or no faith), the child is not Jewish.
Earlier this month, the High Court finally recognized that Reform and Conservative conversions carry as much weight as Orthodox conversions. This hopefully also extends to the marriage ceremony. Civil marriages do not exist in Israel. The only marriages that are recognized are those performed by Orthodox rabbis. More than a few couples have left the country to get married.
This change is fifteen years in the making and frankly, should have happened a long time go. It shouldn’t matter how one converted. It should only matter that they are as committed to the Jewish faith as those who were born into it.