May 6, 2004
Anti-Terror Exhibit Opens
Los Angeles City Hall was the first stop of a traveling anti-terror exhibit that opened this week. The exhibit, which features a 40-foot suicide bombed Israeli commuter bus on a flatbed truck, flanked by video screens with images of terror attacks from around the world, will be traveling through the streets of Los Angeles this week.
"Our whole purpose is to bring up the reprehensibility of terror regardless of the cause, " said Bernie Massey, from Endworldterror.com, who organized the exhibit. Massey spoke at the worldwide unveiling of the exhibit at City Hall on April 4, at a ceremony that included City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, Mayor Jim Hahn, Councilmen Jack Weiss and Eric Garcetti, Police Chief William Bratton, Fire Chief William Bammattre and representatives from the Israeli and Mexican foreign embassies.
Massey said that although the bus is an Israeli bus, he does not expect Israel to be the exhibit's center of attention.
"We didn't want the focus to be on any one particular conflict," he said. "The bus [should elicit] a visceral response. We can all relate to a bus. We have either ridden a bus, or stood next to one at a traffic light."
The bus, which was shipped to Los Angeles this week, has been fortified and preserved in the exact visual condition it was in after the attack, which occurred March 2003 in Haifa. The attack killed 17 people and left 53 injured, most of whom were schoolchildren heading home. The bus itself gives some indication of the horror of the event. All of its windows are blown out, its metal frame is twisted, its seats uprooted and torn, and what remains is a mangled carcass, which the bus company sold to Massey for the price of scrap metal.
Councilman Weiss said that he first saw the bus several months ago at a warehouse.
"It takes your breath away," he said. "It will educate millions of people about the horrors of terrorism."
After its Los Angeles tour, Endworlterror.com is going to be taking the bus on an international tour through the United States, Canada, and Europe.
If you want to know if the bus will be driving through your area, call (310) 281-7825.
For more information on the bus and its journey to America, check the Journal's story "Facing Terror Head On," published on Nov. 28, 2003 at www.jewishjournal.com. -- Gaby Wenig, Staff Writer
Pearl Book 'I Am Jewish' Gets Celeb Reading
"What do you mean when you say 'I am Jewish?'"
Judea and Ruth Pearl put this question to Jews of all persuasions, accomplishments and nationalities for a book honoring the memory of their son, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, kidnapped and murdered by Muslim extremists in Pakistan more than two years ago.
Now, revitalizing the fine old art of public book readings, the Pearls are taking the book, "I Am Jewish," on a national tour, with various contributors on stage before live audiences.
Last February, the likes of Mike Wallace, Daniel Schorr and Daniel Goldhagen read and spoke at the 92nd Street Y in New York.
An astonishing 1,000 people showed up in Atlanta last month and in Pittsburgh the local daily added a twist by publishing the essays of 15 readers who explained why they were Jewish.
Last week, it was the turn of Los Angeles, where a surprisingly youthful audience of some 450 gathered at the Skirball Cultural Center.
The eclectic panel of contributors and readers included Pearl's parents, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Rabbis Patricia Karlin-Neumann, Harold Schulweis and Chaim Seidler-Feller, David Suissa, author Sylvia Boorstein, comic Sarah Silverman, Gershom Sizomu of Uganda, Skirball founder Uri Herscher, Daniel Gill, talk-show host Dennis Prager and Vidal Sassoon.
The trigger for the book and the reading, explained UCLA professor Judea Pearl, was his son's last statement before his captors slit his throat: "My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am Jewish."
"Danny did not say these words under coercion, or as a mark of gallantry, but as a matter of fact," the elder Pearl said.
The evening's biggest hand went to Sizomu, spiritual leader of the 600 Abayudaya Jews of Uganda, who is currently studying for the rabbinate at the University of Judaism.
Recounting his persecution under Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, and acknowledging that "I do not look Jewish," Sizomu concluded proudly: "I am one of a special people -- the Jewish people -- who have resisted many centuries of hatred and oppression and continue to say 'shalom' to the world."
A new record for brevity was set by comic Silverman, whose entire address consisted of the following: "Remember the guy who smashed all the idols in the idol store? His mother had a heart attack when she saw the mess, but I'm sure she bragged about it later. That's us. That's me. I'm Jewish."
Future reading events are planned for San Francisco, Indianapolis and Boston. -- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
Traveler Insurance Policy Prompts Lawsuit
Major insurers routinely refuse to issue life insurance policies to Americans who have traveled to Israel or plan to do so in the future, a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court charges.
The suit accuses 14 insurance companies of unfair business practices under California law and seeks an injunction to forbid companies from denying insurance to travelers to Israel.
Allen Estrin, producer of the nationally syndicated Dennis Prager radio talk show, is the plaintiff in the case.
"Two years ago, I went to Israel on business," said Estrin. "Just before or after I went, I applied for life insurance to the Banner Life Insurance Company. I took a physical and everything seemed to be going smoothly."
A few weeks later, Estrin's insurance broker called him to report that Banner, headquartered in Rockville, Md., and a subsidiary of Britain's Legal and General Group Plc., had turned him down.
Estrin asked why and the broker said it was because of his trip to Israel, and that the same company policy applied if he were planning to visit Israel in the future.
"It didn't make any sense to me, " Estrin said. "Why not have the same rule for travelers to Spain after the Madrid train bombing, or to Athens for the risky Olympic Games, or even to the United States after Sept. 11?"
The broker checked other insurance companies and got the same turndown, though Estrin just recently got a life insurance policy through West Coast Life.
In defense of the companies, Jack Dolan, spokesman for the American Council of Life Insurers in Washington, D.C., said that travel to any country "where health or security concerns exist is a legitimate factor, among others, in deciding whether to underwrite a life insurance policy."
Dolan said that Israel was not being singled out, but that the same considerations applied to all 27 countries for which the U.S. State Department has issued travel warnings.
"There are 1,200 life insurance companies in this country, so if an applicant is turned down by one, he should try another," he said.
Attorneys William Shernoff and Lisa Stern, representing both Estrin and the general public, said that such discrimination against past and future travelers to Israel could further hurt the country's hard-hit tourist industry. They also hope that, with enough public pressure, insurers might halt the practice voluntarily.
Further pressure may be forthcoming through a bill introduced by Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Illinois), which would forbid companies to discriminate on the basis of travel to any country, but does not specifically mention Israel.
The New York and Illinois state legislatures are considering similar bills.
Named in the suit are the following life insurance companies: Banner, Pacific, Alliance, Transamerica Occidental, Manufacturers, John Hancock, Jefferson-Pilot, New York, Northwestern Mutual, Prudential, State Farm, Allstate, Hartford and Travelers. -- TT
Spielberg Prepares Film on '72 Munich Olympics
Steven Spielberg is readying production of a feature film on the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, in which 11 Israeli athletes lost their lives to Arab terrorists and bungled German police work.
The filmmaker is scouting European locations for the yet-untitled movie and hopes to cast Ben Kingsley in a leading role, confirmed Marvin Levy, Spielberg's personal spokesman.
Spielberg and Kingsley collaborated earlier in "Schindler's List," which won seven Academy Awards.
Production on the Munich film is slated to start in June, with a screenplay by Eric Roth ("Forrest Gump," and "The Insider"), Levy said. No release date has been set.
The tragedy of the Munich Olympics, in which Black September terrorists easily infiltrated the Olympic Village at night and took the Israeli team hostage, killing two outright, has haunted all subsequent Olympics, including this summer's upcoming event in Athens.
The 1972 shame was shared by top Olympic officials, especially America's Avery Brundage, who ordered the games to continue after only a brief memorial service. A badly organized attempt by German police to free the hostages resulted in the deaths of nine Israelis.
Further details on the upcoming Spielberg film were not available.
Spielberg has said that his Jewish heritage took on a new dimension while making "Schindler's List." The Shoah Foundation, which he established 10 years ago, has since videotaped the testimonies of 52,000 Holocaust survivors and witnesses.
The tragic events of the 1972 Olympics were the subject of "One Day in September," a revealing documentary that won an Oscar for Swiss producer Arthur Cohn in 2000. -- TT