July 16, 2006
Israel-Lebanon Strife Reverberates Locally
Orthodox Synagogues Call for Night of Prayer
[Monday July 17] A nationwide effort to call Jews to prayer services Wednesday evening, July 19 -- in support of Israel -- is being organized by the Orthodox Union, the Rabbinical Council of America, and the National Council of Young Israel.
In addition, a central service and study session will be available at http://www.ou.org led by OU Executive Vice President Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, in downtown Manahattan.
Text of OU Press Release
ORTHODOX SYNAGOGUES CALL FOR NIGHT OF PRAYER AND TORAH STUDY ACROSS NORTH AMERICA THIS WEDNESDAY EVENING
Responding to the urgent need of American Jews to do whatever they can in support of Israel and her people at this time, the Orthodox Union and the Rabbinical Council of America, together with the National Council of Young Israel and the Young Israel Council of Rabbis, have announced the convening of a nationwide Night of Prayer and Torah Study this Wednesday, July 19.
The organizations are asking Jews to gather in their synagogues throughout North America beginning at 9:00 pm E.D.T. (6:00 pm Pacific) for the simultaneous recitation of tehillim (Psalms) and other designated prayers.
While many congregations are already adding extra tehillim to their regular services, Jewish tradition places great value in having an entire community raising their voices in unison.
With the expectation that several hundred synagogues will participate, many, many thousands of Jews will be united in their prayers at this time.
The program's second segment will be Torah study, also a key means of spiritual support, for which study materials on relevant topics such as the mitzvah of pidyon shevuyim, rescuing captives, will be provided to the synagogues by the OU.
A central service and study session, to be led by OU Executive Vice President Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb at OU headquarters in downtown Manhattan, will be webcast and may be viewed by any synagogue, family or individual who wants to participate in this way at http://www.ou.org
The OU has also produced a Seven Point Action Plan, entitled "Israel Under Siege -- What You Can Do," which may be read on its web site.
Further plans for special round-the-clock Torah learning programs with the involvement of OU member synagogues, Young Israel synagogues, the batei midrash and learning programs of Yeshiva University, and the rabbis of the RCA and of YI, will be announced shortly.
Friday's Stories (July 14, 2006)
More than 900 Attend Wiesenthal Gathering
Hot was not the word for Thursday's rally outside the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
As if mirroring the escalating heat of the day's escalating violence in, as Hezbollah sent rockets into Israel and Israel attacked Lebanon, the Los Angeles summer sun provided no relief for the 900-plus people gathered in the center's enclosed back courtyard for the 5 p.m. community rally.
"Rally" was not exactly the word for Thursday's last-minute event either, as it was less a public demonstration and more a gathering of friends of Israel. The Wiesenthal Center took the lead early Thursday morning in organizing a community event to show support for the embattled Jewish state.
"Condemn the Terrorists, Not the Response," read a sign on the podium, which was backed by an American flag, an Israeli flag and the Wiesenthal flag, as well as a modern statue of Israel's menorah, which always stands in the courtyard.
The two-hour ceremony included speeches from Wiesenthal Rabbis Abraham Cooper and Marvin Hier, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Los Angeles Consul General to Israel Ehud Danoch, Judea Pearl (father of slain journalist Daniel Pearl) and Federation President John Fishel.
"It's important that we're here today," said Villaraigosa, who told the story of his interrupted phone call with Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal.
"This experience shook us to the core," he said.
The mayor also emphasized the importance that non-Jews were present at the rally as well, referring to himself, and what may have been one of the few other non-Jews in the audience, the Rev. Billy Ingram of Maranatha Community Church.
"If not here," he asked, "then where will we come together united in solidarity with Israel?"
Always the showstopper, Hier drew the crowd to its feet a number of times.
"Let us be clear today. This is not about borders," he said. "It's about a Middle East that is Judenrein -- free of Jews."
Hier drew parallels in this situation to the Holocaust, saying that the world "did nothing" about the constant missile attacks on Israel, and on the diplomatic front on getting captured soldier Gilad Shalit returned. He said there was collateral damage on Germany when the Allied forces bombed the Nazis, but that was the price they had to pay, and that Israel did not want this terror, and those who support the leaders "have only themselves to blame."
Cooper played a recording of a phone call with Cheri Drori, a former Angeleno whose husband, Tzephania, has been the chief rabbi of Kiryat Shemona for 30 years. Drori, was in a bomb shelter in Kiryat Shmoneh, two kilometers from the Lebanese border.
America's support, she said, "gives us great strength to continue ... we want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts."
Danoch took a tough line with the terrorists: "If in Israel they are going to go into shelters, then in Lebanon they will go in shelters This operation will not end until we make an end to Hezbollah," he said. "Israel is strong. The government is strong. The Jewish people are strong and we will last an eternity."
Thursday was a fast day, the 17th of Tamuz, which signifies the beginning of the three weeks of mourning for the Jewish people when the walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Ancient Romans before the destruction of the Temple. A number of Orthodox rabbis recited Pslams, first in English, and then in Hebrew, to commemorate the fast day and to pray for Israel.
The program, which began with the singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" ended with "Hatikva" and the singing of "Oseh Shalom": "Oseh shalom b'mromav, hu ya'aseh shalom aleinu..." "He who makes peace in high places, He will make peace for us and for all Israel, let us say amen..."
-- Amy KleinTravel to Israel Uninterrupted by Mideast Conflict
Delta Airlines Flight 152 from Los Angeles to Tel Aviv via Atlanta left on time Friday, despite the escalation of conflict between Israel and Lebanon.
While some travelers, mostly Israelis, were tranquil, others remained skittish.
Tammy and Amit Stavinsky were flying with their three small children to Tel Aviv to visit family. Waiting in line to check in at LAX, Tammy Stavinsky said she was "petrified."
Her Israeli husband was calm, however.
"The truth is nobody knows anything about life," he said. "It could be more dangerous here, who knows?"
"Well, obviously I have children so I don't want to go at all," said his wife.
"We've been fighting about it," she said, gesturing toward her husband. "He's going with or without me, and I don't want to be a bad wife."
Behind them a Calabasas man traveling to his father's funeral in Israel said he wasn't concerned for his safety.
"I wouldn't take my family with me, but I'm OK traveling on my own," he said.
Another Israeli man traveling to Israel via New York and Budapest said he wasn't worried at all.
El Al Israel Airlines reports that its Israel-bound flights continue to be nearly full, and that the airline has not experienced an increase in cancellations, spokeswoman Sheryl Stein said Friday. Recent demand has been so great that on July 23 El Al will inaugurate thrice-weekly roundtrip flights between Los Angeles and Tel Aviv.
"Tourism has really picked up in Israel, and our flights are very, very full," Stein said.
Like El Al, Delta Air Lines said its daily flight to Israel remains popular. On July 14, Delta had oversold its Israel-bound flight, which departs from Atlanta and carries up to 234 passengers, spokesman Anthony Black said.
"There hasn't been any impact to our flights from the events at this time," Black said.
In other local travel news, about 60 Southland Jews have just departed for a mission to Israel, forming half of the participants in a trip sponsored by United Jewish Communities, the umbrella organization for the nation's federations.
-- Marc Ballon, Senior Writer & Lisa Hirschmann, Contributing Writer
L.A.'s Jewish Groups Come Together in Support
That's what they gathered to find out at The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles on Thursday, July 13, as Israel came under attack from Hezbollah, prompting Israeli air strikes into Lebanon.
The 3 p.m meeting, coordinated at the last minute, saw the participation of major players here, including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, StandWithUs, Peace Now, the Pacific Jewish Alliance, The Wiesenthal Center, the Israeli Consulate, Hillel and the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, to name a few. Press was not invited to this "strategy session."
"We were really trying to get an update on what everybody in attendance is doing in support of Israel," said John Fishel, Federation president.
He was referring to the general programs the organizations had been planning as well as future action in light of the escalation. It was a brainstorming session, he said, where people threw out ideas for future action -- some related to action within the Jewish community to show support and others reach outside the community. It was not clear what the group would do to actually help people in Israel -- although The Federation will be sending Fifth District City Councilmember Jack Weiss to Israel next week on a support mission.
The "strategy" session will reconvene early next week, Fishel said, to hammer out a specific plan. Perhaps this kind of unity in such a disparate community is unusual.
"I was impressed by their sincere willingness to work together," Fishel said. "It's a good reflection when there's a crisis, everybody does pull together."
Thursday's Stories (July 13, 2006)
Hebrew Union College Students Travel to Israel
About 15 rabbinic, cantorial and educational students from the Southern California campus of Hebrew Union College (HUC) have just arrived in Israel to fulfill their year of required study at the school's Jerusalem campus, according to Steven Windmueller, interim dean for HUC's L.A. campus. HUC, the Reform movement's seminary and intellectual center, believes that future leaders of the Jewish community "need to be present in demonstrating their solidarity with the people of the state of Israel," Windmueller said.
Even at times of crisis, including the worst of the first Intifada and the Gulf War, HUC kept its doors open at its Israel campus, Windmueller said.
Funds to Move Children Raised Thursday
The Jewish Agency for Israel raised $1 million within a few hours Thursday to remove children from the North of Israel, according to a release from the agency. Working with the Jewish communities worldwide, as well as the Federations of North America and Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal, the money was raised to move children who were in the line of fire to youth villages in central Israel.
--Susan Freudenheim, Managing Editor
Israeli Consulate: "Act of War"
The Los Angeles Consulate General of Israel today issued a statement directed to community leaders on the unfolding situation in Israel. The statement offers help in organizing local event related to the ongoing conflict in Israel.
"This morning's attacks were not a terrorist attack but the action of a sovereign state that assaulted Israel for no reason and without provocation," the consulate's statement says, putting a unilateral spin on Israel's attacks, which have been condemned around the world are condemning as overly harsh.
After explaining the axis of terror in the Middle East and how Lebanon is responsible for Hezbollah and its actions, the statement asserts: "The State of Israel and its citizens now stand united. In light of these circumstance, Israel has no choice but to defend itself and its citizens and will take any measure necessary for the security of its people."
Anxious Parents Worry About Kids in Israel
For parents with children currently in Israel, these are tough times. The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), for one, has received several calls from mothers and fathers worried about their kids' safety, said Emily Grotta, the group's spokeswoman.
An estimated 600 11th- and 12th-graders are currently in Israel on five- to six-week visits through the URJ. In light of the turbulent situation in the Middle East, the group has modified travel plans to ensure student safety, Grotta said. On Thursday, July 13, a group of children who were supposed to go to the northern Golan Heights near Lebanon went instead went to the southern Golan Heights, she said.
The fate of the URJ's planned semester-long program in Israel for high school students will be determined at a later date.
-- Marc Ballon, Senior Writer
Israel Advocacy Group will Proceed with Plans for Israel Trip
StandWithUs's plans to proceed with its upcoming mission to Israel, although the program will be somewhat modified according to the group's Executive Director Roz Rothstein. The pro-Israeli, Los Angeles-based advocacy group plans to bring about 20 people to the Holy Land on a nine-day trip beginning July 31, with an emphasis on better understanding Israel's security situation.
The intensifying violence in the Mideast will likely mean the cancellation of a scheduled visit to checkpoints near Gaza and a planned trip to the Israeli-Lebanese border, Rothstein said.
Participant reaction to the growing violence has been mixed, she said.
"I got a note today saying, 'Please don't cancel the mission. I want to go no matter what,'" Rothstein said. "I got another note that said, 'I'm concerned. What are we doing?'"
Rothstein said that given Israel's past success in prevailing in defensive
Wars -- in 1967 and 1973 -- she expects the Jewish
state to win again and that the StandWithUs mission
will go forward.
U.S. State Department Travel Advisory
A Feb. 27, 2006 travel advisory from the United States Department of State "urges U.S citizens to carefully weigh the necessity of traveling to Israel," because of the threat of violence between Israeli forces and Palestinian militant groups based in the West Bank and Gaza and rocket attacks into Israel by Palestinian terorists, among other reasons.
The State Department also encourages Americans to avoid all travel to the Gaza Strip and to defer unnecessary travel to the West Bank.
Birthright Trips Continue as Planned
Officials at Birthright Israel, which sends 18- to 26-year-olds to Israel for free 10-day trips, said it has received no more cancellations than usual for its remaining summer trips to Israel. An estimated 7,000 young adults have already gone to Israel this summer through Birthright, with another 300 slated to go, a spokesperson said.
"There's been nothing out of the ordinary. No one's canceled," said a spokesman, who asked not to be named. "People are still going." The last Los Angeles residents slated to participate in this summer's Birthright program departed for Israel Thursday morning, July 13, he added.-- MB