Friday, June 29, 2012

Israel’s Watergate--Whose water is it?

Mark Langfan (left) seen here with his father, William Langfan,
during their recent visit to Israel, is finally getting a hearing,
after 22 years of hard work, to show
that Israel’s water resources are at risk.
(Photo: Atara Beck)
Not only is the claim that Israel steals water from the Palestinians a flagrant lie, but the exact opposite is true – Palestinians are stealing water from Israel, and Israel provides the Palestinians with plenty of water, says American attorney Mark Langfan, whose findings were recently confirmed by a detailed Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) fact sheet regarding the water issues in the West Bank, published by the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria.

Focusing on the issue of water resources, Langfan has been struggling to bring awareness of what he sees as the need for Israel to hold on to the territories of Judea and Samaria, as well as the Golan Heights, in order not to lose access to its own vital water supply. -- Atara Beck, Jewish Tribune

To read more, click here.

Opinion: Couscous, flags and ‘The Color Purple’

I don’t think Alice Walker really believes that the popular demand for a Hebrew-language edition of “The Color Purple” is so great that the government of Israel will evacuate the Jewish settlements in the West Bank in order to win her approval for its publication. But those of us who worry about the Jewish state ought to be concerned that a writer of Walker’s stature is lending her name to the cultural subsection of the BDS (Boycott Divest Sanction) movement….

One unhappy but mostly overlooked consequence of the BDS movement is that Israel is being erased, sometimes quite literally, from the cultural landscape in which we live. -- Jonathan Kirsch, Jewish Journal

To read more, click here.

How Birthright Changed Us

A trip to Israel connected participants to our Jewishness. But it didn’t make us more politically engaged.
Photo: Adam Brener
On the final evening of our trip—in the sleepy, slightly seedy coastal city of Netanya most famous stateside for the Hamas suicide bombing that killed 30 people in 2002—I asked several participants the following, deliberately open-ended question: How did the past 10 days change your opinions of, or attitudes toward, Jewishness or Israel—if it did at all? I also asked one soldier, my Jerusalem roommate Chen Mor—a Navy man who had managed to join us for drinks—how his experience had changed his perception of Israel and American Jews.

Reading the responses, including my own, I’m struck by the extent to which Birthright seems to have worked—up to a point. It created young Jews who say they are more likely to engage with their Jewishness, and also ones with visceral connections to Israel. -- Marc Tracy, Tablet

To read more, click here.

Brits discover posh Israeli teas

Photo from Israel21c
Israeli herbalist Avi Zithershpieler hand-blends seasonings from 300 varieties of seeds, leaves, roots, fruits, nuts and vegetables: "This new concept is you don't only drink your tea, you eat it."

Spicy Way also has a visitor center in northern Israel, where customers can order hand-blended herbal tea infusions and culinary seasonings.

"Who would imagine that a British person would drink anything other than tea with milk - which I do still drink at 4 o'clock, of course - but these tea infusions are just something else again, and they are quite extraordinary," says Marian, one of England's growing aficionados of Spicy Way herbal teas imported from Israel.

Herbalist Avi Zithershpieler, owner of the Spicy Way shop and visitor center in northern Israel, has entered some of his infusions in international competitions, and has met success with blends such as Posh Pomelo and Melon.

"This new concept, very new and fresh, [is] you don't only drink your tea," says Zithershpieler, who also hand-blends seasonings from 300 varieties of seeds, leaves, roots, fruits, nuts and vegetables. "You eat it, and it's also a meal." -- Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

To view the accompanying video, click on image below

Chicago Chabad house to be auctioned

A Lubavitch Chabad House in Chicago is going on the auction block.

The foreclosed building on North Dearborn Avenue will be auctioned off Wednesday, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Seven years ago, Chabad sought to build a state-of-the-art center at Chestnut and Clark streets, on Chicago's so-called "Gold Coast," and used its building on North Dearborn as collateral to the bank on the $4.9 million loan.

Following the economic downturn, donations for Chabad took a hit, the bank changed its rules and the organization was unable to finance its loan on the new property.

The Chabad House has served as a residence, classroom and a place to stop for Jewish travelers on visits to Chicago. -- JTA

Thursday, June 28, 2012

German court bans circumcision of young boys

Jewish and Muslim groups protested on Wednesday after a German court banned the circumcision of young boys for religious reasons in the first ruling of its kind in the country.

The court in the western city of Cologne handed down the decision on Tuesday in the case of a doctor prosecuted for circumcising a four-year-old Muslim boy who had to be treated two days later for post-operative bleeding.

It ruled involuntary religious circumcision should be made illegal because it could inflict serious bodily harm on people who had not consented to it.

However the ruling, which applies only to the Cologne area, said boys who consciously decided to be circumcised could have the operation. No age restriction was given, or any more specific details. -- Elisa Oddone, Reuters via Chicago Tribue

To read more, click here.

Tomb robbers, ancient tunnels and a cryptic Dead Sea Scroll bring drama to a sleepy suburb

Antiquities theft is on the rise around the quiet commuter town of Modi’in
Modiin, seen here, is known more for clean parks and suburban livingthan for its ancient past, but the hills around the city
are full of 2,000-year-old ruins and escape tunnels.
(Photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
Before dawn on June 6, the members of a small squad from the Israel Antiquities Authority rappelled to the bottom of an ancient well, crawled through a narrow entrance into a 2,000-year-old horizontal tunnel and surprised two men scouring the passageway for artifacts.

The men, Palestinians from the West Bank, were cornered. They gave themselves up without a fight.

The incident followed another arrest, this one in February, by Antiquities Authority officers of five illegal diggers hiding in a cave in the same area — part of a notable rise in activity by antiquities thieves in the hills around Modi’in, a burgeoning but sleepy commuter city of 80,000 known more for clean parks than for ancient artifacts and tomb raiders....

Suggested reasons for the increase include the construction of the West Bank security barrier in other areas once popular with antiquities thieves; a greater public awareness of the wealth of archaeological finds in the hills near Modi’in, which are full of the remains of 2,000-year-old villages and warrens of escape tunnels dating to the Jewish revolts against Rome; and even — perhaps fancifully — a connection to a mysterious treasure map in one of the most cryptic of the Dead Sea Scrolls. -- Matti Friedman, Times of Israel

To read more, click here.

The Culture of Bullying: It’s Not Just Kids!

ABC News reports that close to 30 percent of students are either bullies or victims of bullying, and around 160,000 kids stay home from school every day out of fear of being bullied. Up to 10 percent of students either drop out or transfer to another school due to bullying. In the Internet age, cyberbullying has become a significant additional problem. According to research on cyberbullying by the PEW Research Center Internet & American Life Project, 88 percent of students surveyed have witnessed peers being mean or cruel online. This translates to 2.7 million students being bullied by 2.1 million other students, according to 2010 statistics.

But it is not just children. Up to 25 percent of adults experience bullying at work, where criticism focuses on the employee rather than the work. Bullying can also happen when students and teachers bully each other, or in adult social groups and in families. Apparently, the failure to build social and educational communities that cultivate respect for the dignity of the other has an effect that carries over into adulthood. -- Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, Jewish Journal

To read more, click here.

Massive Jerusalem fire under control

A fire near Jerusalem that threatened homes and closed the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway reportedly is under control.

It will still take time to extinguish all the blazes near the city, according to fire officials.

Some 35 firefighting teams from across the country and six firefighting planes have battled the blaze, which reportedly erupted in two places.

Fire officials told Israeli media that the fire was either set intentionally or caused by negligence.

The Jerusalem area reportedly has suffered hundreds of fires in recent weeks, and many are believed to be the result of arson. -- JTA

Kevin Youkilis traded from Red Sox to White Sox

Kevin Youkilis
Kevin Youkilis is changing his Sox: The three-time All-Star was traded from the Boston Red Sox to the Chicago White Sox.

Youkilis, who is Jewish, was sent to the American League Central Division club on Sunday for utilityman Brent Lillibridge and right-hander Zach Stewart, who was pitching in the minor leagues. The White Sox also received cash in the deal.

A three-time Gold Glove winner who can play first base or third, Youkilis had a .287 career batting average with 133 home runs and 563 runs batted in during his 8 1/2 seasons with the Red Sox. He was a member of the club's 2004 and 2007 championship teams.

Youkilis has been hampered by injuries in the past three seasons, and the emergence of third baseman Will Middlebrooks made him expendable in Boston, where he was a fan favorite. He received a long standing ovation at Fenway Park after leaving Sunday's game against Atlanta for a pinch runner after tripling in the seventh inning.

"He pushes me every day, and I want to go out and play hard every day just like he does," longtime teammate Dustin Pedroia, a former A.L. Most Valuable Player, told ESPN.

Manager Bobby Valentine and Youkilis have had some public disagreements in Valentine's first season with the team. -- JTA

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Opinion: The Undeserving Poor?

Americans have long debated whether the poor are worthy of our help. Most people don’t put it that way, of course, because it seems cruel or, at very the least, inappropriate. But the question flows through the public discourse whenever proposals for reforming public welfare come before Congress, or an extension of housing benefits is on the legislative agenda. Do the recipients of such aid deserve it? Is it worth the cost to taxpayers? Does the safety net help those who truly are in need, or does it shackle them to the kind of government assistance that stifles motivation and derails self-sufficiency?

We’re used to hearing that argument play out with regard to racial and ethnic minorities — the so-called Welfare Queens, the undeserving poor. Now it’s time for the Jewish community to engage in this delicate, complicated debate. -- Forward

To read more, click here.

Time to rethink chemotherapy?

Leukemia cells dividing. Photo courtesy of Public Library of Science
For cancer patients undergoing treatment, the ups and downs can feel like living through one of those B-level movies where the zombies just never seem to die: Victories of remission can quickly end in disappointment as the cancer returns once more.

Why this happens has long puzzled scientists around the globe, but a new multi-center team in Israel whittles the problem down to the roots of where cancer begins.

The Israeli researchers built a unique “family tree” of leukemia cells from living cancer patients to understand more about how cancer cells divide, spread and can outlast chemotherapy treatments. -- Karin Kloosterman, Israel21c

To read more, click here.

Sylvia Ettenberg, Conservative Jewish educator and a founder of Camp Ramah, dies

Sylvia Cuttler Ettenberg, a veteran Jewish educator and a founder of Camp Ramah, has died.

Ettenberg, the first female senior administrator at the Jewish Theological Seminary, died June 21 at age 95. She was recognized as a dean emerita at JTS.

The Brooklyn native was at the forefront of many Conservative Jewish educational initiatives, including the Prozdor Hebrew High School program and the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education at JTS.

Ettenberg was perhaps best recognized as a founder of Camp Ramah and for incorporating the institution into JTS, a move that helped it grow from a single camp in Wisconsin into a network of a dozen camps and several informal education programs in the United States and Israel. -- JTA

Haredim hold prayer protest of draft

Thousands of haredi Orthodox held a prayer rally to protest the forced enlistment of yeshiva students.

The early Monday morning demonstration by men, women and children was organized by the Eda Haredit organization in Jerusalem. Participants reportedly read psalms and lamentations.

The protest came as the Plesner Committee was meeting to find an alternative to the Tal Law, which grants military exemptions to haredi Orthodox Israeli men. The law is set to expire next month, and it is believed the committee will call for the required draft of haredi Orthodox men.

Eda Haredit leader Rabbi Tuvia Weiss told rally participants, "We will not allow yeshiva students to be taken to the army or police, and will not be fazed by their seductions." He added that forced army service or designated service are being required by the government "in order to destroy the Torah world." -- JTA

Despite truce, rockets still falling on Israel

Rockets continued to fall on southern Israel despite a truce with Gazan terrorist groups.

The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted five rockets fired at Ashkelon shortly after the truce, which was mediated by Egypt, went into effect at 8 p.m. Sunday. Several rockets also hit southern Israel on Sunday.

An Israeli man, 50, was seriously injured by shrapnel when a rocket exploded near a factory in Sderot.  A school in Sderot also was damaged by rocket fire.

Israel struck several targets in Gaza over the weekend, according to the Israeli military, including a terror cell about to detonate a rocket. Hamas reported that at least three Palestinians were killed in retaliatory attacks over the weekend, including a child and a terrorist.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the start of the regularly scheduled Cabinet meeting on Sunday said "the IDF is taking strong action against those who are attacking us and it will take even stronger action if need be. Our policy is to use force in order to restore security and quiet to the residents of the south."

At least 150 rockets fired from Gaza have struck southern Israel since the cross-border attacks began last week, the Israel Defense Forces reported. -- JTA

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Action Alert!

 This is an urgent call to action!

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' massive "Fortnight for Freedom" campaign starts today. In churches and communities across the country, the bishops' campaign will be attacking women's access to contraception and to self-determination in the most critical area of their lives - their precious health. The fact is, the bishops want to impose their religious doctrine on us all - including the 98% of Catholic women who, like their neighbors of all faiths and backgrounds, use contraception.

With just six weeks to go until long-needed insurance coverage for contraception goes into effect through the Affordable Care Act, the Obama Administration needs to hear from us - faithful Americans who support contraception as a moral good.

As people of many diverse faith and moral traditions, we must urge the Obama Administration to  defend the freedom of all Americans to make their own determination about using birth control and not give in to religious bullying.

Fight back and move forward!
Sign our petition to President Obama.

Tell the President to stay the course on insurance coverage of contraception under the Affordable Care Act. It's right for women's health and it's right for the religious freedom of us all.
Thank you for taking action!

In faith,
Sonya Crudup, Chief Operating Officer
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice

PS Show your support for expanding access to birth control by joining our "I'm a Fan of Birth Control" campaign.  Go to  to order your fan. Don't forget to get fans for your congregation, too - and please send us a photo showing everyone with their fans!!

Pushing back the desert with ancient wisdom

Israel’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Research shows farmers in many countries how to use a 2,000-year-old water retention method.
Ancient Jewish prayers still recited today include special mention of dew in the summer and rain in the winter. Survival of Israelites back then, and of the Israelis in modern times, rests largely on how much water is available for agriculture. While Israel has answers to drought such as desalinating water, researchers in Israel’s Negev Desert look for more sustainable solutions that have been in use on the land since time immemorial.

Based on techniques used by the ancient Nabateans, Prof. Pedro Berliner, director of Israel’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Research at Ben-Gurion University in the Negev, is reviving effective and natural desert farming methods from 2,000 years ago.

The Nabateans settled the lands of present-day Israel, Jordan (where they built the glorious pink city of Petra), Saudi Arabia and Syria. Berliner believes that their system for making the most of rare desert rain, when put into a modern framework, could save people in developing countries from desertification, drought and famine. His updated technique is already in use worldwide. -- Karin Kloosterman, Israel21c

To read more, click here.

Woman praying in tallit detained at Western Wall, questioned by police

Israeli police detained a woman wearing a tallit at the Western Wall and later questioned her for four hours.

The woman was participating Thursday in a rosh chodesh prayer service held monthly at the Wall by the Women of the Wall organization. Police were present during the service and filmed it, according to Women of the Wall.

Wearing a traditional white prayer shawl with black stripes, the woman was approached by police during the service and asked to wear the tallit as a scarf rather than a shawl. The woman complied with the request, according to Women of the Wall.

As she left the Western Wall plaza she was detained by police, who said the woman returned to wearing the tallit as a shawl, and taken to police headquarters in the Old City, where she was questioned for four hours.

Upon her release she was ordered to stay away from the Western Wall for seven days.

In 2003, Israel's Supreme Court upheld a government ban on women wearing tefillin or tallitot, or reading from a Torah scroll at the Western Wall.

Last month, three women from Women of the Wall were stopped for questioning after praying at the Wall in prayer shawls. They also had been asked to wear the tallitot as scarves rather than shawls. -- JTA

Friday Night Lights--Jewish Brothers in the NFL

(Courtesy of the Goodkin-Schwartz family)
Cleveland Brown Mitchell Schwartz and his brother, Geoff, a Minnesota Viking, are Jewish boys in the NFL
This fall, Geoff and Mitchell Schwartz will become the first Jewish brothers in the NFL since 1923.-- Rebecca Meiser, Tablet

Hebrew-language charter school in N.Y.’s Harlem gets go-ahead

A Hebrew-language charter school approved for the Harlem neighborhood of New York is scheduled to open in the fall of 2013.

The Harlem Hebrew Language Academy Charter School was formally approved Tuesday by the New York State Board of Regents. It will be modeled after the Hebrew Language Academy Charter School in Brooklyn.

The Harlem school, which borders on the heavily Jewish Upper West Side of Manhattan, will open with 156 students in grades K-1 and plans to grow over the next five years to 446 students in K-5. Lessons will be taught in Hebrew and English.

“There are a number of charter schools in Harlem, but there are not a lot of dual-language schools in Harlem and the Upper West Side,” Dan Gerstein, a media spokesman for the Hebrew Charter School Center, told JTA. “There’s a demand for other options, so this will give parents in those communities the choice to choose a great school for their child.”

Harlem Hebrew will be the fifth school in the Hebrew Charter School Center network and the third to be granted a charter this spring.

One of the goals of the school is to attract a diverse student body that exposes students of all backgrounds to the Hebrew language.

“We are incredibly proud of the success we have had with HLA in Brooklyn, which is 55 percent white and 45 percent minority, making it one of the most integrated public schools in New York City,” said co-lead applicant Sara Berman in a statement. “We are committed to building on that success at Harlem Hebrew and bringing together students from diverse communities in this school district." -- JTA