January 22, 2009
Protesters’ Human Chain Blocks Israeli Consulate Entrance
Six people from the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network chain-locked themselves together in front of the Israeli Consulate building’s entrance at 8:30 a.m. on Jan. 14 to protest Israel’s actions in Gaza.
Police quickly closed the boulevard to traffic, and employees of the building, at 6380 Wilshire Blvd. in West Los Angeles, were told not to come to work. Those already in the building remained inside.
The protesters carried signs and wore T-shirts pronouncing the consulate closed due to “war crimes.”
About 40 additional protesters from the same group marched and chanted in front of the building for two hours, demanding an end to the Israeli offensive in Gaza.
“A lot of my family live in Israel, and I want people to know that as a Jew, this is not a decision I condone. I don’t want to see this level of violence going on in my name,” Nina Becker, 26, said about the Israeli siege in Gaza. She said that she had not spoken to her Israeli relatives since the offensive began, but wanted to spread the message that not all Jews support the Israeli military effort in Gaza.
Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton arrived on the scene soon after the protest began and demanded the group unchain themselves and end the blockade of the building. To avoid arrest, the group complied.
Eric Romann, 31, declared the effort a success because they had achieved their goal of temporarily shutting down traffic in and out of the Israeli Consulate.
“I don’t believe Hamas is a terrorist organization,” Romann said. “I support a politically arranged situation in Israel-Palestine, where everyone has the same rights.”
StandWithUs President Roz Rothstein also came quickly to the scene, after she received a call from consulate officials. StandWithUs has staged multiple pro-Israel rallies across the region since the conflict began, including one drawing between 2,000 and 3,000 supporters last Sunday at the Federal Building.
“I think we’ve got to make sure that everybody understands this is one-sided propaganda given without context, with exaggerated use of terminology, especially when they invoke terms like ‘apartheid,’” Rothstein said.
“They neglect to recognize Hamas’ double war crimes — launching rockets from civilian populations into civilian populations. All the people standing here today? It’s not even in their vocabulary.”
— Danielle Berrin, Staff Writer
SoCal Native Promotes King David City Excavation
When David Willner visited his hometown recently, he reminisced about his grandfather’s Willner’s Kosher Market across from the Pan Pacific Park, but his thoughts were mostly 8,000 miles and 30 centuries away.
The Fairfax-area native, graphic designer and amateur bible researcher wanted to talk about his plan to turn the Elah Fortress, which might have once guarded King David’s city, into an archaeological tourist attraction.
Below, the Valley of Elah is believed to have been the site of the face-off between David and Goliath.
To realize his plans, Willner, 49, has established Foundation Stone (www.foundationstone.org) to educate people about his project and raise money for it. The organization’s name refers to parts of two massive gates that guarded the western approaches to Jerusalem, when David reigned there in the 10th century B.C.E.
If Willner and Hebrew University archaeologist Yosef Garfinkel are correct, the site is part of the town of Sha’arayim, mentioned in the bible and meaning “Two Gates” in Hebrew.
Should further excavations show that the two men are on the right track, this would reinforce the views of one group of biblical interpreters, who believe that David’s Jerusalem was indeed the large and magnificent capital of a united kingdom.
Pitted against this belief, other scholars assert that Jerusalem was actually a backward village at the time, but was elevated by later biblical scribes into a mythical city on the hill.
Willner, who graduated from Hillel Hebrew Academy and describes himself as a “traditional” Jew, stays out of this controversy. But he feels that the Israeli government has not done enough to make its archaeological treasures user friendly, to tie the country’s citizens to their land and history, and to bring in money from tourists.
“Generally, in Israel, people are kept away from archaeological sites, but I would like to turn them into lively, attractive places for historical education and pageants, like Jamestown in Virginia,” Willner said. “After all, I am a product of Southern California and I know what a public attraction can do.”
Willner went to Israel in 1985 for a one-year counseling stint at a yeshiva, “but the one year turned into a lifetime,” he said.
He now lives with his wife Dafna and their seven children in the West Bank town of Efrat. Explaining his move to Israel, Willner said, “I wanted my kids to grow up as Jews and as holistically integrated human beings.”
— Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
New Management Training for Synagogue Leaders
Rabbi Mark S. Diamond, executive vice president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, was in the inaugural class last month for the newly established Management Education for Jewish Leaders Program (KJL) at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, one of 55 rabbis, synagogue executive directors and other leaders.
Leaders from the Reform, Conservative and Orthodox communities, from the United States, Canada and England, participated in classes that included marketing and leadership, synagogue governance, fundraising, implementing change, financial management, conflict resolution and crisis management.
“KJL has helped me to be more effective managing and directing my organization, and a better mentor and teacher for rabbis who turn to me for confidential advice and assistance with their own pressing issues,” Diamond said.
— Lilly Fowler, Contributing Writer
When You Care Enough ... Tell Your Hero
A new line of greeting cards, “Hero Cards, Inc.,” gives consumers a way of recognizing heroic efforts no matter who is involved: firefighters, police officers, military personnel, nurses, doctors, among others.
California resident Kathryn Alexander, formerly a senior level executive for Mitsubishi and Toshiba, started the greeting card company because she felt those who really make a difference in the world too often go unnoticed.
“We need to say thank you to those people who make the world a better place,” she said.
The cards boast a range of covers and can be ordered with verses inside or blank.
Alexander hopes the cards will fill a void in the greeting card industry and give people a simple way of expressing gratitude.
“Hero Cards” can be found online at www.herocardsinc.com. A portion of the profits will go to single-parent homes.