Posted by Itamar Treves-Tchelet
On this day, we commemorate the 22,993 fallen Israeli soldiers, and thousands of Israeli Terror victims, who lost their lives for the sake of the State of Israel.
I took upon myself to free-translate a poem, written by Giora Fischer, who lost his son Merom (Moses) during a military operation in Jenin in 2002.
The Hebrew version:
תְּפִילָה/ גיורא פישר
וְאֶהְיֶה כְּבָר זָקֵן
:אִם אָז אֶשְׁאַל
?לָמָּה הוּא לאֺ בָּא לְבַקֵּר
אֲבָל, הוּא נָפַל
.לִפְנֵי הֲמוֹן זְמַן
הוּא הָיָה פֺּה אֶתְמוֹל
.וְאָמַר שֶׁיָּבוֹא גַּם מָחָר
The English version (free translation):
I am already old,
If then I asked:
Why didn’t he come to visit?
But, he has fallen
He was here yesterday,
and said he would come tomorrow again
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April 20, 2012 | 1:58 pm
Posted Katarzyna Odrzywołek / Poland
A common initiative promoting the works of the Old Doctor has begun the whole Poland over. Enough to think that not that long ago, while visiting Cracow bookshops and asking about his works, I met only with surprised look and an answer: “I am sorry, we don’t have it. There is only King Matt.” A book I remember perfectly from my childhood which is still lying on one of the shelves of my family library, waiting for the younger generations to come. So where are the other writings of Korczak: Kaytek the Wizard, Playful Pedagogy, How to Love a Child, The Rules of Life, Alone with God, Ghetto Diary? It turned out that the Old Doctor, although present, is no longer needed and started to disappear. All those for whom he was a role model, who remembered and followed him are already dead. Nowadays, young people see in him a victim of war and anti‑Semitism. Korczak wrote “Death is not difficult – more difficult is the life.” The idea of his life became the background suppressed by his martyr’s death. Korczak was a man who perceived commitment in social service to be the most important goal in his life. What do we mean today under renunciation, sacrifice, and disinterest? The majority would say: outdated ideals, old fashioned, no one needs them today. People like him, who feel responsible for the future, who believe in effectiveness of positive activity, fall into oblivion. Who was Janusz Korczak? How much, my dear reader, are you able to tell about him?
Janusz Korczak (Henryk Goldszmit) was born in Warsaw, on 22 July 1878, in a Jewish family, however, totally knit together with the Polish culture and language. A family of vivid writing, educational and social interests. His father, Józef Goldszmit, was a well known and acknowledged lawyer in Warsaw, fighting for the development of secular education for the Jewish children. Korczak’s grandfather, Dr Cwi Hirsz Goldszmit, was a surgeon in the Jewish Hospital in Hrubieszów. In their social and educational activity, Henryk’s family was a strong supporter of Haskalah – the Jewish Enlightenment that professed ties with the Polish culture and raising in the spirit of progress. Korczak felt like he was to pursue the aspirations of his ancestors. All his childhood, youth and work connected him with Warsaw; “Warsaw is mine and I am hers.” His childhood was full of peace, love and abundance. It was disturbed with the death of his father, who died after a long-standing mental illness (1896). The young Henryk, a 5th grade pupil in a philology class of a Praga gymnasium, became responsible for providing for the family. He gave private lessons, collaborated with the illustrated humoristic and satirical Kolce [Thorns] weekly. He wrote numerous satirical pieces and columns. His literary début – the Gordian Knot – he devoted to the problem of upbringing in a family. He said: “I am a man immensely interested in social issues.” In 1898, he began medical studies at the Warsaw University and almost at the same time he took part in the Ignacy Paderewski literary contest, where for the first time he appeared under the pseudonym Janusz Korczak. And that was the name which was to make him famous in Poland and bring him international respect.
Meanwhile, he became a student of the secret Flying University and got engaged in the activities of the Warsaw Charitable Society. He finished his medical studies in 1905 and supplemented his knowledge in the clinics of Berlin, Paris and London. In all these places, he was interested in institutions of care and education. Being a young doctor, he started collaboration with the Summer Camp Society and participated in the summer camps as an instructor. During the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) he worked as a doctor in a hospital train. Since 1914, he served as a junior ward-head in a divisional field hospital and during the civil war he took care of two Ukrainian orphanages near Kiev. In 1919, being already an officer of the Polish army, he worked in an epidemic hospital in Łódź. And although he confessed in his diary, at the dusk of his life, that he betrayed medicine, in fact he remained a doctor until the end. He cured his children from the orphanage, weighed and measured them, examined their biophysical development. He followed up the medical knowledge with the experience of a pedagogue and the sensibility of a psychologist. In 1912, he took charge of a newly built Orphanage, called Dom Sierot [Orphans’ House], for Jewish children at 92 Krochmalna street. Stefania Wilczyńska became the head master of the house. For both of them, it determined a common fate – till the end of life. The war got Korczak away from the children of the Orphanage. After his return, in 1919, he set up in Pruszków, near Warsaw, an orphanage for Polish worker’s children called Nasz Dom [Our House] becoming thus the soul of two care entities. There he created a modern and unique educational system. What this care entity looked like in the eyes of the children? “If it wasn’t this house, I wouldn’t know that there are, in this world, honest people who do not steal. I wouldn’t know that one can tell the truth. I wouldn’t know that there are justice rights in the world.”
What did Korczak’s private life look like? Did he set up a family? Later, in 1937, in a letter to his friend Mieczysław Zybert he wrote: “(...) I decided not to set up my own house. It was in a park near London (...) and soon did I feel as if I had killed myself. With power and force I led my life that only seemingly was unordered, lonely and alien. I chose the idea to serve children and their affairs to be my son.” It was not philanthropy then, neither mercy that made him devote his life to children. It was a fully conscious decision of broadly defined social service. Until the very end.
In the interwar period, Korczak continued his rich journalistic activity. New volumes of his pedagogical treaties and essays for adults and children, as well as fantastic and realistic novels for children appeared systematically. In 1937, the Polish Academy of Literature awarded him with the Golden Laurel for his literary achievements. Between 1926 and 1930, he ran a unique magazine for children entitled Mały Przegląd [The Little Review]. Janusz Korczak won also great authority as a lecturer at the National Institute for Special Pedagogy, at the Free Polish University, at the National Teacher’s Training Institute, at the Nursery School Teacher Seminary, and as an author of lectures in numerous social associations and organisations, as well as during paediatrician and special school teacher’s symposiums. He was also an expert for children with the district court. Korczak departed for the Holy Land twice (1934 and 1936), where he visited his friends. On the wave of the growing anti-Semitism and fascist atmosphere, he thought intensively on emigration to Palestine. The belief that one can be both a Jew and a Pole accompanied him for the whole life. He decided to stay in Warsaw, which was influenced by his love of the mother country and the sense of responsibility. As the Old Doctor, between 1935 and 1936, he hosted in the Polish Radio a programme for children called Gadaninki [Small talks], which was heartily listened also by the parents.
In September, when the war broke out, Korczak put on his Polish army officer’s uniform as he believed we would be called up. Unfortunately, his age did not allow it. He volunteered for the Polish Radio Information Service and he was one of the best collaborators of the Emergency Service. Not paying attention to the exploding shells and the whistling bullets, he appeared several times a day and brought information about all those who needed help and all those who could have provided it. Once the Hitler’s occupation began, the existence of the orphanage became endangered. At that time, there were 100 children. Korczak raised money and gifts among people of good will, institutions and private persons. He used to write proclamations “To Jews”, “To Citizens Christians”. Korczak did not subordinate to the order of wearing the Star of David on the arm. He wore the uniform of the Polish officer which resulted in repressions, including imprisonment. In October 1940, the Dom Sierot orphanage, which numbered 150 children, was moved to the area of the ghetto, first to Chłodna street and then to Śliska. Korczak tried very hard not to let the children feel a dramatic change of conditions. There was still functioning the old house order, the children’s council and the arbitration by fellow charges. They still published the House Newspaper, the circle for useful entertainment was still working, as well as the system of voluntary cleaning duties. Korczak organised in the House a primary school and cycles of interesting lectures. Holidays were celebrated festively. Music, poetry, and theatre were sources of joy and consolation – an escape from the nightmare of the ghetto. Despite the prohibition introduced by the occupant, “at Korczak’s” there were played pieces of Polish composers such as Chopin, and the poetry of Konopnicka and Broniewski was declaimed. The guests watched, clearly moved, Rabindranaht Tagore’s The Post Office performed by the children on 18 July 1942. It was a play prohibited by the Nazi censorship, chosen by Korczak somehow as a presentiment of the upcoming death, to which he wanted to prepare the children mentally. Korczak’s Dom Sierot beamed with the Polish culture and introduced its values to the ghetto, which was defending desperately the universal values.
The basic problem for Korczak was not only the care for children’s mental health, but also the constant struggle with hunger and illnesses. The conditions at Śliska street were terrible. Due to the still increasing mortality in the ghetto, there were still more children coming to the already overcrowded rooms. For over 200 children, there was only one small kitchen, one toilet, halls divided with screens and wardrobes into a canteen, a sewing room, a parlour and a “dolls corner” during the day, and a bedroom during the night. Korczak slept in a small isolation ward with several ill children.
“The number of children, despite lack of space, increases to 250 (...) nutrition worse and worse. Despite efforts, one can get neither fat nor potatoes. Instead of meat – horse blood from the slaughterhouse, sometimes horse meat. Compared to the homeless shelters, however, and the poverty of the families, Dom Sierot is an oasis of welfare and cleanliness.”
Moved to the deep with the fate of the children who die lonely on the street of famine, cold and diseases, of those who die shot by the Germans while sneaking behind the wall in search of bread, of those abandoned by their parents unable to bury them, Korczak turned to the director of the health faculty: “There have to be organised dying-houses for children. If we are not able to bring them to life, let us at least provide them with a humane and decent death.” The Old Doctor worked actively for the benefit of all social and cultural actions. He collaborated with the underground movement. His body was, however, on the verge of physical exhaustion – he had ill heart, pleural effusion, unoperated hernia, ill red eyes, bladder disease, coughs. Additionally – a big ulcer on the neck. He did not want to go to the hospital – he did not want to leave the children. On 7 February 1942, he took an additional job as a pedagogue in the care entity at Dzielna 39 with 700 children. At nights, from May to August 1942, he wrote his Ghetto Diary. He did it irregularly as he was running out of ink, lacked paper, the carbide lamp was going out or the fatigue after the difficult experience of the day was so big…
When the last hours of his life were to come, he wrote in his Diary: “I do not wish bad to anyone. I cannot. I do not know how to do this.” This last entry is dated on 4 August 1942. The liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto began on 22 July 1942, and on 6 August it covered all dormitories and orphanages. Now, only the terrified eye-witnesses testify how it happened. One of them, Nachum Remba, reports: “Szmerling, the Jewish commander of the Umschlagplatz, called by the Germans the
, ordered to bring out the dormitories. On the head of the march, there was Korczak. No! That image I will never forget. It was not a march to the carriage, it was an organised silent protest against banditry! Contrary to the cramped mob that went like kettle to slaughter, he began a march never seen earlier. All children were grouped in fours, Korczak on the head with his eyes turned to the sky. He held two children by the hand and led the march. (…) These were the first Jewish Madre which went to Heath with dignity, throwing to the barbarians looks full of contempt. (…) Even the order service stood at attention and saluted.” This view will not be forgotten, this march still lasts… it becomes a legend.
Today, in the whole country we recall again those events and the person of Janusz Korczak – a man of great intellectual and moral respect. Mr Marek Michalak – the Ombudsman for Children – in his speech of 2 January 2012 paid attention to the great social and educational role of Korczak, from whom the contemporary Polish society can learn a lot. He advises us how to raise children more wisely, how to develop better relations with them, and, in a long run, build together the future of the family and the whole society.
According to Korczak, the balance of somebody’s life matters for the world only if this life was of social value and left something for the people afterwards. Otherwise, what would we need a biography for? Korczak asked and still asks us: “...have you lived? How much have you worked? How many loaves of bread have you baked for other people? How many trees have you sowed or planted? (...) Have you given out, shared, presented your life? How much have you defended what you were fighting for?”
1.Janusz Korczak, Ghetto Diary, Poznań 1984.
2.Joanna Olczak-Ronikier, Janusz Korczak: An Attempt at a Biography, Warsaw 2011.
3.Hanna Mortkowicz-Olszakowa, Janusz Korczak, Warsaw 1978.
4.Aleksander Lewin, Janusz Korczak, pisma wybrane [selected works], Warsaw 1984.
5.Janusz Korczak, życie i dzieło [life and work], Handouts from the International Symposium, Warsaw, 12-15 October 1978.
First-year MA History student at the Pedagogical University, Third-year BA Politic Studies student, Head of the History, and Jewish Culture sections of the Historians’ Student Scientific Circle at the Joachim
 See: http://2012korczak.pl/node/86/ (access 3 March 2012)
 Janusz Korczak, Ghetto Diary, Poznań 1984, p. 45.
 Janusz Korczak, Ghetto Diary, Poznań 1984, p. 46.
 The true pseudonym of Henryk Goldszmit was in fact Janasz Korczak and was derived from Ignacy Kraszewski’s novel, which tells the story of the feeling of a young, poor, orphaned nobleman Janasz to the daughter of his benefactor - a rich lord. During the announcement of the results, the first part was twisted into Janusz, and so it remained.
 Janusz Korczak, Ghetto Diary, Poznań 1984, p. 48.
 Ibid., p. 48.
 Hanna Mortkowicz-Olszakowa, Janusz Korczak, Krakow 1949, p. 92.
 Janusz Korczak, Ghetto Diary, Poznań 1984, p. 50.
 More on art on http://www.e-teatr.pl/pl/artykuly/61593.html, (access on 4 March 2012)
 Stella Eliasberg. Czas zagłady [Time of extermination]. [in:] Wspomnienia o Januszu Korczaku [Memories of Janusz Korczak], Warsaw 1981, p. 301.
 Janusz Korczak, Ghetto Diary, Poznań 1984, p. 52.
 Ibid., p. 53.
 Janusz Korczak, Ghetto Diary, Poznań 1984, p. 55.
 See: http://2012korczak.pl/node/86/ (access on 3 March 2012)
 Janusz Korczak, Ghetto Diary, Poznań 1984, p. 44.
April 20, 2012 | 1:50 pm
Posted Monika Opalińska
While getting to know more and more about Jerzy Einhorn one starts to understand how powerful influence on forming young man’s mind had some appalling circumstances in the past. All that he had experienced while living in the ghetto in occupied Częstochowa and later when he lived in the internment camp “shaped” his psyche and left indelible mark on his mind and soul. Perhaps all the horrifying pictures of the death of the innocent and his helplessness lead him to become one of the most famous oncologist that was willing to carry disinterested help to the most needy.
Jerzy Einhorn, known as a professor of radiotherapy and the director of the Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm, was born on the 26th of July 1925 in Częstochowa. Since the early years of his childhood he was deeply devoted to his orthodox Jewish Yiddish – speaking family. His parents always surrounded him with solicitous care and protection and tried to impress on him all the necessary moral rules that he should follow in the future in his mature life. Young Josele was strongly fascinated with his father Pinkus, who was always giving him the feeling of safety and support. He was his authority, the model to epitomize that he strongly admired for his strength, determination and the ability of dealing with the difficult life situations. Sara instead, was always kind and open to his confessions, a perfect mother that always put her children’s wellness ahead of her own. 
When back in primary school Josele realized that in Poland he would never be treated as a Pole but Jude – the representative of the worse nation that does not deserve the equal treatment. He always felt isolated and marked by his ancestry and religion. Both teachers and school children always kept him distance. He never played with his schoolmates, spending his breaks alone in the corner. Finally he moved to the Jewish school where ultimately started to live a normal life where he was totally accepted by the others. 
Unfortunately soon he was forced to live isolated from a normal world that he knew. In 1939 the war began which brought years of suffering and humiliation. In 1940 the “Large Ghetto” emerged where Jewish people were gradually displaced. Life of Einhorns family started to be very difficult, although Pinkus Einhorn could still run his sewing business.
Migration through the Ghetto’s gate was strictly forbidden, however many people risked their lives to cross the border and seek freedom. So called “selections” started to take place as well as massive transfers of Jews to the compulsory work camps. People were treated worse than animals, stuffed in cattle carriages and taken for early death. German soldiers shot Jews even if it was only for amusement and many times crushing little children’s heads on hard bricked walls indifferent to their mothers’ cries and pain.
Young Jerzy was a witness to all of those gruesome happenings. He would never be able to forget about all of those people that were killed with cold blood by Germans. Later, in his written memoir, he said that the changes that had been made to his mind and soul during the war were totally irreversible. Living in those hard times he tried to keep at least small elements of a normal existence. All of the free time he had he tried to spend on learning from books that he had brought to the camp. He started to appreciate food, clothes and all the other goods that before the war he were available to him without any effort. Even though he saw so many nightmarish incidents he still believed that one day all this would be over. He never lost his hope which helped him survive that time. 
Einhorn’s family managed to outlast the time of Operation Reinhard and abolishment of the “Large Ghetto”. They were moved to the “Small Ghetto” and started working for Mrs Mosiewicz in her sewing mill. Finally even that place was destroyed and Jerzy was sent to the Hasag – Pelcery work camp getting the prisoner’s number 3170. He was forced to live without his family and worked in the machine construction section. Nevertheless, each day he thought about freedom and the end of the war that was yet to come one day. When he reaches the age of eighteen and felt like his life run through his fingers. He couldn’t see his family but he felt their concern due to small packages with white bread and onions that they sent him through some young man. He treated the gifts from his parents as a treasure since he knew that they still thought of him. Soon his parents and his brother were moved to the craftsman’s house in the same camp that Jerzy lived. The family was together again which brought happiness to their hearts. Despite many transportations of Jews – Einhorn’s family succeeded to stay together in the camp.
On the 16th of May 1945 soviet tanks arrived in Częstochowa. Germans retracted and all the imprisoned Jewish people were set free. Out of 39 thousands of Jews only 2118 survived. Many times Jerzy dreamt about that day and when it came he could not believe that it ultimately happened. He went back to school and got the secondary school certificate in the second High School in Częstochowa named after Romuald Traugutt. After graduation he started to study at the Medical University of Łódź where he met his future wife Nina. Unfortunately persecution of Jews did not ended completely with the end of the war. 
While Jerzy was in Denmark on the scholarship with some other students from Poland he got the information that one of the student’s from Łódź got killed and his body was left with a letter that contained threats addressed to other Jewish students. Jerzy and his parents decided that for his safety he should stayed abroad. Together with Nina and two other Jewish students Jerzy decided to go to Stockholm in Sweden since Denmark was closed for emigrants. The most helpful man appeared to be Gilel Storch from the World Jewish Congress. Jerzy and Nina started to study medicine at the Medical University in Uppsala. During that time Jerzy realized that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with Nina because she was always there for him helping in all difficult moments. 
Young Einhorn got the offer to do his practice in the Domnarvets hospital placed in Borlänge. Later on in 1967 he started to work at Sweden’s prestigious institution of oncology, Radiumhemmet at the Karolinska Institute. He worked there for almost 38 years, helping people with cancer whose situations was the most dramatic. He was not only one of the most talented and diligent oncologist but also concerned with people’s problems politician. He pertained to the Group of the Christian Democrats and at the beginning of the 90’s he was the envoy of the Swedish Parliament. Many times he was awarded the highest ranks in the medial plebiscite of popularity.
Jerzy Einhorn owned his fame mostly to his medical achievements and perennial medical practice. During his medical work Einhorn won numerous prizes and distinctions. He was also one of the members of the Nobel Prize Committee and for over 25 years he was one of the people deciding about the Nobel Prize Laureate choice in the sphere of physiology and medicine. He stayed in hearts of so many people because of his selfless activities related to many improvements in the health care sector. He was a man easily respondent to people’s needs and their tragedy who always wanted to make people’s life better and easier. The remembrance of Jerzy Einhorn will stay in many people’s hearts and minds and thanks his featured memoir the recollection of the killed Jewish families will never be forgotten. 
 J.Einhorn, Chosen to live, Marpress Gdańsk 2002, p.12-15
 J.Einhorn, Chosen to live, Marpress Gdańsk 2002, p.23
 J.Einhorn, Chosen to live, Marpress Gdańsk 2002, p.162
 J.Einhorn, Chosen to live, Marpress Gdańsk 2002, p.190-197
April 20, 2012 | 1:37 pm
Posted Dana Addadi Israel/Europe
In the city of the biggest international cultural festival I end my cultural quest. (for now) Did you know Edinburgh festival was initiated by a Scotsman with aspiration for inter-European reconciliation after the 2nd world war?
I find it symbolic enough to gain self resolution with the different identities fighting within Dana in this city.
And so I did.
Budapest: the Israeli cannot find peace among Hungarian Jews. In her eyes they are way too obsessive. It takes “only” one year to comprehend that this manifestation of Judaism is basically crucial after years of oppression in this Eastern-European capital.
Then, working with colleagues in a Zionistic movement, one native Kibbutznik declares his disdain towards an orthodox life-style. And she’s stuttered. It takes until summer for her to agree that for him- secularity was his only choice to obtain a sane Judaist affiliation.
Then in Poland, a significant group of non Jews consider Judaism to be an inseparable part of their heritage, and she cannot find arguments against it. For her it is the first time that she has acknowledged “her” Judaism is not only hers as she had thought.
In Holland Jews discussed a great deal about their connection between the nation of Israel to their Judaist image, and in Edinburgh a total secular Jew prefers going to the orthodox synagogue, and deliberately not to the liberal one, because Judaism for her must be in Hebrew. (This approach was my favorite).
Every time I arrived in a new place I had to re-construct my values all over again. Any pre-assumptions I brought with me were bound to make encounters fractious.
What will be the ultimate Jewish identity? Who’s a real “Mench”? I guess, ultimately, I’m not that far from being Jewish. Whether I want it or not, I cannot dismiss my Israelity either, not for the obvious fact that I’m loud and even vulgar to some Europeans, but for my point of view on the world:
My Tel-Avivian capitalistic tool-box was not appropriate in the social environment of a Hungarian Jewish community. Although I willingly accepted the new set of rules or social principles from which the Jewish state was established in the first place, once in the UK this set didn’t find its use- where every second Jew in London declares proudly he went to a private school.
I think in Israel, capitalistic as it might be, the word ‘private school’ would not be uttered from anyone’s lips, because it would be a total disgrace. As if we ultimately set-up an official social structure of classes, which in England is very fundamental.
Neither of these ways is absolute. I learned to tolerate Israeli Jews celebrating their atheism, hand in hand with Jews that their cultural background privatizes their education. I fell in love with the variety it comes in. I hope to express this love with the Jewish cultural festival I’m putting on in Israel next year; to showcase my precious discoveries. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to partake in this quest; Join me and I’ll share it with you.
I’m taking part in an inter-European training program at the moment. It is about humor and education, diversity and human rights. I just experienced my first real-life scenario of directed antisemitism pointed at me. Something I thought exists only in books.
It was a mind-blowing experience: Intelligent educated Europeans conditioned with dangerous perceptions, openly telling racist jokes. I’m thankful for this experience. I am dedicated now more than ever to put on the 1st Jewish humor festival in Israel.
Real Jewish humor is the most humanist, and would never allow an expression of one’s superiority upon another.
April 19, 2012 | 4:08 am
Posted Kristina-Ruth Vasileva
Somehow before visiting and learning more about the United Nations, I thought that this institution should be an ultimate human rights defender, whose views are more or less objective and truthful, fighting the world’s biggest injustices. Many people react at a headline starting with “So the UN reported”, the same as if it was “And God spoke to Moses”. But unfortunately, it is au contraire. In the role of God Gadhafi who himself, held the Chair of the UN Human Rights Council until 2010.
I guess, whenever you have politics involved, you can’t be completely objective and devoted to truth anymore, even when it is concerning human lives and suffering. Even when it is too obvious, that Human Rights greatest violators sit at the round table of the UN and try all possible strategies so that their state’s crimes will not be revealed and condemned. Those are countries with mainly dictatorship regimes like China, Cuba, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Mauritania, Libya, Uganda, Benin, Costa Rica and so on…
Honestly speaking, I am one of those people who are no longer touched by campaigns promoting aid for hungry children in Somalia and such like. I grew colder to them after experiencing the tragic reality of those kinds of organizations, who raise funds for the people in Africa. I used to work for an organization where they paid 12 Euros an hour to stand and collect money for those kids suffering in Africa, and it would be better not to know how much the director and all the managers working there earned.
Until this year, when I had the opportunity to attend the 4th Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, organized by the UN Watch, which is a NGO, monitoring the work of the UN and promoting human rights.
This summit started with the testimony from a victim of the Burmese army. This girl had to suffer a lot from the government only because she belongs to the Korean minority in Myanmar. She expressed her wishes for the international community to put pressure on the dictatorship which has ridiculously repressive laws.
A Vietnamese activist elaborated on how Vietnam pretends to be clean on the surface, but a terrible abuser in fact. And they are on the list applying to join the HRC which is, as he said “the same as a thief joining the police.”
There were further testimonies on North Korea’s despotic regime on the propaganda taught in schools, no trial for some prisoners; all political opponents are automatically declared as criminals.
A jailed Cuban pro-democracy activist called his country a state of oppression and barbarity. A country, where political activists are being assassinated, beaten to death, eliminated on demand, therefore, he said, there is no Perestroika, no Spring, no Orange revolution: “Cuba remains trapped, with its policy of state vandalism and no reforms.”
To me this did sound somewhat familiar, from all the movies and stories about the USSR I’ve seen and heard. I just never realized that this is still the reality nowadays in so many countries.
But the situation in Tibet is even worse because it is pure genocide. The Tibetan language is banned; spiritual leaders like the Dalai Lama are not allowed to enter the region. Young Tibetans are setting themselves on fire in protest, with the hope that the world will hear about them and do something or intervene. But not only by sending humanitarian aid, as one of the activists declared we need the notion of humanitarian aid to become a notion of human rights.
An Egyptian peace activist talked about his imprisonment during the demonstrations in Cairo.
Another victim of the Iranian regime, abused for years in jail said that Islamic fundamentalists use radical propaganda against minorities, but a lot of young people in Teheran oppose it and there is hope. We witnessed that with the FB campaign “Iranians, we love you.” It is indeed a powerful, pacifist message, which would in fact never succeed in Pakistan.
Not only because of their most inhumane laws like for instance, the law of blasphemy (impiety, lack of respect towards Islam and Prophet Muhammad), whose first victims are Muslims themselves then Christians being second class citizens and to be a Jew or a Gay in Pakistan doesn’t even enter into people’s mind, it is the death penalty without a trial.
By the way, a curious story, my friend from there told me that Pepsi in Pakistan went bankrupt because Coca-cola agents may have spread a rumour that Pepsi is a Jewish company and its name is an abbreviation that stands for “Pay Every Penny to Save Israel”. Pepsi rapidly disappeared in this country.
The biggest problem with Pakistanis, as my friend says, is that once it’s deeply rooted in people’s minds it’s acted upon. Therefore innocent Pakistanis are easily manipulated by the religious leaders and even family elders where the concept of honor killings comes into play. One girl shared her story on how she was sentenced to death by her own parents after refusing to marry her handicapped cousin. She is one of the very few who managed to run away and escape. The author of the book Burned Alive was recovering in hospital after enduring 28 operations due to burns when her mother came with a phial of poison. I guess on Pakistani crimes there is a whole extra article needed. So let me stop here.
The summit hosted a Syrian regime’s victim as well, a 20 year old girl who was captured at an anti- government demonstration, jailed and abused while there. Her concluding words were: “Syria deserves living in peace with all its neighbors, including Israel.” In a private conversation a few days later, she told me that she had lost a lot of friends on Facebook, who condemned her for that last comment. But she doesn’t regret saying it, she said.
The question is, did her testimony at the UN in front of the Syrian ambassador, representing and defending his government, make any difference?
His Excellency, the Syrian Ambassador, pointed out at the 19th Session of UN HRC that while discussing what is happening in Syria, we ignore the bloodshed in Palestine. And here he actually summed up the strategy of the UN HRC. He made it clear and simple to see the obvious.
See, every country has some issues and problems, even on Iceland there was an hour or two session condemning human rights violations. But only those who have really big issues are those whose show time starts at Agenda Item 7. This is the day, when they all go until time is up, and using all possible metaphors to express that Israel is the one and only enemy that ever existed and it is the biggest violator of human rights and a big threat for world peace.
Now it is extraordinarily needful to point out that the HRC’s sessions have different agendas. For instance, Agenda Item 3 is “Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the rights of development”. Big topic, isn’t it? It includes all the violations of the entire world in these spheres . Item 4 is called “Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention”. Item 8 is “Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Forms of Intolerance, follow-up and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action”. And you remember who was blamed for racism in Durban. But item 7 is the only Agenda item which is devoted to one single country –Israel, called “Human Rights Situation in Palestine and other Occupied Arab territories”.
So this whole session reminded me of a Eurovision vote, where every country supports the statement of its neighbor. Only one country has no friends among its neighbors. After Syria and Egypt illustrated that innocent Palestinians are dying, however Denmark inserted, let’s not forget the rockets from the innocent fellows flying towards Israel. And everyone expressed their feelings towards the occupied Syrian Golans. I recently watched a video about the Syrian Golans. Mama-mia, it is indeed a beautiful place, a piece of paradise. No wonder why everyone mentions them with greed…
I was also introduced to a new term for me which was presented as another big crime against humanity – “the Judaization of Jerusalem”. And in this tone, it went on and on.
It was a black Monday for the Jewish people. At the same time while the 19th session of the UN HRC were condemning Israel on 19th March in Toulouse a shocking, terrifying murder was taking place.
Three days before it happened, our delegation from the EUJS (European Union of Jewish Students) visited the permanent mission of France in Geneva. Unfortunately his Excellency, the Ambassador himself didn’t have the time for our questions, however a friendly, cute press attaché welcomed us.
First thing we asked him was about the Burka Law. He replied that it is a law to stop discrimination against women. I wonder, if it is still called discrimination when the affected themselves want to imply it. I guess on both sides of a) religious and b) democracy rulers, are all men who simply didn’t learn that they should first ask women, what they actually want.
My question followed: many French Jews are leaving the country. The reason is aggressive anti-semitism, which is exercised too often lately by the Arab population of France. If we compare France with the UK for example which also has a big Arab population, we see the country protects or at least shows better support towards its Jewish community and Jews feel still safe there. Why is it different in France? Can it be the polluted French air from all the revolutions, which affects people to act in a more aggressive manner?!
The young Frenchman apologized that he is not able to answer my question and I quote his exact words: “I am sorry but I am not Jewish, I don’t know how the situation is with anti-Semitism.”
I am sure, on Monday, he already knew something about the situation. He thought he didn’t answer my question but in fact he did.
Is it that French people just don’t care so much about others?! Even if its not the majority, let’s not generalize, but when there’re people who represent France and this guy was young, he probably just graduated and now he’s on his way to make career at the French Permanent Mission to the UN, and doesn’t care about the situation of minorities in his own country.
It made me learn what it means to care about human rights which are not only regarding me. Because when I care about Jews and Israel, it is understandable why. When I care about the problems in Bulgaria or Belarus, it is also clear to me why as a citizen of these countries it bothers us. But when after the Human Rights Summit, I started to care about those who are really far from me and those to whom I have no connection whatsoever, it feels just right.
I am happy that I am able to care for others and that my religion is not making me insensitive to human sufferings and injustices but just au contraire.
And when I sit at the Passover Seder, I have many questions to ask, one of them is why this night is no different from all other nights? It’s because on this night, millions of human beings still remain enslaved, tortured and abused just as they do on all other nights. As we celebrate our freedom, we should not forget those who remain enslaved. I wish that all of us think about that. If we are able to care about others and abolish any form of hatred from this world, it will make a big difference.
April 19, 2012 | 3:41 am
Posted Pavel Pustelnik
Try to click ‘beshert’ into Goggle and you will receive a list of Jewish dating websites. No, it’s not going to be about ‘webwise ways to find love’. Not this time.
I was not looking for a perfect match or a date for the next weekend. I was just very much intrigued by a youtube video on a book that is a living platform of a culture that was convicted to death. Wait a second, convicted to death but alive?
On the day of her mother’s death Suzanna Eibuszyc opened a box full of papers and notes. Those were meticulously taken observations, memoirs and thoughts written in Polish. Being born in Poland she was able to read the stories told by Roma Talasiewicz-Eibuszyc. Suzanna felt astonished and decided to translate the whole set of writings into English.
Suzanna writes that her mother’s story ‘is a heroic tale of a young woman who survived, against all odds, as a child and teenager in Warsaw from 1917 till 1939 and as a young woman in Soviet Russia from 1939 till 1946.’ The story seems to be one of those that keep you awake during the night and you can almost feel the spirit of time. The book per se does not exist yet. There are short excerpts being published online but the whole story is still hidden.
Beshert is a work in progress. There is no deadline for the publication, it is not known how many chapters there will be or how the cover would look like. The author is looking for supporters who would help her publish the memoir and make the story travel further.
Webiste of the project:
April 17, 2012 | 2:21 am
Posted Linda Katz- NY
Linda Katz (blog: identity5772.wordpress.com)
I am a wandering Jew, currently rooted in Brooklyn, NY. Unaffiliated, more assimilated than I would like to believe, yet, very connected to my confused identity as a Jew. Even more confusing, I find myself in the middle of an Orthodox neighborhood, surrounded by synagogues, yet, without a sanctuary for my secular and spiritual soul.
So what’s a nice Jewish girl to do when she wants to explore what it means to be Jewish and secure her own sense of Jewish identity? Go to the former center of Jewish life – go to Eastern Europe.
It may sound counter-intuitive to take a conversational journey around Jewish identity to communities where six million (Jews) were killed during the Holocaust, and, where those who survived and remained were assimilated into communism. A little naive, or perhaps overly optimistic to seek answers ‘here’ where ‘ghosts’ outnumber the living. Yet, realizing communities existed, albeit small ones, I had faith members of these communities knew. Knew what it meant to be a Jew. Knew because they had made a choice, a decision to be Jewish.
A month of conversations in Berlin, Warsaw, Vilna, Krakow, Budapest, and Zagreb, left me wide-eyed and awakened to Judaism’s pull as communities there grow. I heard and recorded stories of miraculous survival, and survival of interest in Judaism, overcoming fear from history’s horrors during the last eighty plus years. Yet, the more I learn, the less I realize I know as answers raise even more questions.
Questions I hope to share and ask through Jewrnalism. I hope to learn with and from bloggers, from readers, from those of you who are exploring and living your definition of Jewish identity.
Tell me what you think: what does it mean for YOU to be Jewish?
April 16, 2012 | 3:00 pm
Posted Simon Adomeit- Germany
(You can find this article also here: http://www.jewrnalism.org/home/news/itemlist/category/4-religion)
Being Jewish is not easy outside of Israel. Some people you come into contact with behave weird when they hear you are Jewish. Some react negatively or are even hostile. Some give you the feeling that it does not matter to them if you are Jewish or not, these people are the most relaxed I’ve ever met. But there is a fourth group. The group who is interested in what you do, where you come from, what your parents or grandparents did during Shoa and how they survived it. Then, like an unwritten rule, there are always the questions which leads to a conversation that becomes more than awkward. As if it’s not distressing and annoying enough to be reminded of the Shoa and the loss of loved ones. The question: “What do you think about the settlements in the West Banks, are you for or against Israel?” Or even worse, leaving you no choice for an answer: “Why is Israel doing this or that? Aren’t you ashamed? And by the way: Do you guys have the A-bomb or don’t you?” ...
Well, these kinds of questions occur to everyone of us once in a while. Sometimes more, sometimes less.
Do you see why people ask these questions?
It’s not because they know about the widespread diversity of Judaism or Israel’s colourful traditon and culture or the differences and similarities between Israel and the Diaspora. Not to mention anything about Shabbat or Pessach, Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur or the solemn atmosphere in a synagoge during services.
All they know is what they have seen or read in their own country, in their local medias or heard in bars. They only know a little about the politics and the Shoa.
For them, we not only represent Judaism. We also, and for most of them, represent solely the state of Israel in everything we do, say, laugh about, talk about and worry about. In our every day behaviour we represent Judaism and the state of Israel. The way we behave, some will say that’s the way the Jews behave. That’s the way Israel thinks. If you are ruthless to somebody, its not just you who behaves like that. It’s the Jews who behave like that, it’s Israel who behaves ruthlessly.
Always keep that in mind. This does not mean, that you should hide your religion, your beliefs or where you come from, it just means that you should remember that the next time when you yell at your neighbour because his music is to loud, or you are mad at your fellow employee because something went wrong.
One should behave like the prophets and the wise and the way our parents raised us. Be nice in every single way, to everybody you meet, you talk to, you see. Do your part in tikkun olam (repairing the world) and take action.
You are responsible for your actions, more than you probably thought.