Posted Ian Shulman
‘Visas for Life: Righteous Diplomats’, a Holocaust day exhibition at Vienna UN headquarters, surprisingly evokes one’s strongest emotions; and these emotions have no connection to horrifying pictures of mass murders. Sadly, I’ve put the word ‘surprisingly’ here intentionally.
There are two groups of people: those who are too scared to see a Holocaust exhibition and those who have seen so many of them that it can hardly change their state of mind anymore. Often, it can hardly tell anything new to them either: if your plans for this weekend include a Holocaust exhibition, you probably already know that Shoa is a terrible tragedy which should not happen again.
The exhibition in Vienna kindly invites both groups to come. There is completely no Auschwitz there, but plenty of little-known, yet important and exciting stories instead. Promised.
‘Righteous Diplomats’ were different diplomatic officers, who used their positions and available means to save the persecuted Jews along with other victims of the Nazi regime. Fake visas and illegal hideaways acted as life saving tools. The ‘Righteous Diplomats’ were not exactly the same as the ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ (though many of them were awarded this title). A collective image of a peasant hiding a fellow Jewish family in a barn obviously had less resources for a rescue than an ambassador. Lives of heroic diplomats was full of risk and often ended the way they expected the least.
Raoul Wallenberg, the most famous one from the list, has saved tens of thousands Jews working as a Swedish diplomat in Budapest. His tool were fake protective passports of ‘Swedish expatriates’ and illegal embassy buildings. Wallenberg knew he was suspected and Nazis could capture him anytime, so he slept in a different place each night. His prediction was not entirely accurate: he was captured by the Soviets and died imprisoned in 1947, somewhere in the Soviet Union.
Ariel de Sousa Mendes, a Portuguese aristocrat and diplomat in France, whose signature was on 30,000 illegal free visas, allowing its bearers to escape the Nazi regime. Dishonor, disgraced and forgotten in the post-war Salazar Portugal, he died alone in poverty in 1954.
Some other diplomats, like Carl Lutz, Ho Feng-Shan, Chiune Sugihara, Giorgio Perlasca, Hiram Bingham IV and Jan Zwartendijk had a better fate. But what does unite them all? What is in common among a Swiss Vice-Consul in Budapest; a Chinese diplomat in Vienna and his Japanese colleague in Lithuania, which have helped thousands of Jews to get to Shanghai and Japan; a disillusioned Italian fascist, working under a Spanish disguise; a noble American descendant of Protestant missionaries and treasure hunters and a Dutch director at the Phillips factories in Lithuania? Was there a common factor, which have turned all these different personalities into heroes saving thousands of lives?
Presenting the stories of the righteous diplomats, the exhibition highlights six keywords, attempting to identify the guiding powers behind the heroic actions. These words are ‘Cooperation’, ‘Ingenuity’, ‘Self-Sacrifice’, ‘Social Responsibility’, ‘Integrity’ and ‘Moral Leadership’. But can these concepts describe the real motives as good as the words of the diplomats themselves, which open each story presented at the exhibition?
‘Even if I am discharged, I can only act as a Christian, as my conscience tells me. If I am disobeying orders, I would rather be with God against men than with men against God’. These are the words of Aristides De Sousa Mendes, a Portuguese saviour of 30,000 French Jews and other persecuted persons. The main guiding power of the diplomats was their strong values, and only then the strong decisions. But what nurtures these values? Are there any requirements for embodiment of such values into one’s character? And, importantly, of what use are these stories and their motives to us, here and now?
As mentioned at the conclusion of the opening ceremony, apart from its direct meaning, the exhibition also has a universal message. It’s about the choice each of us has regardless any circumstances. It’s about our jobs, which assignments and constraints should not cross our moral values and personal interests, regardless of the possible loss or punishment. And if they do, it’s again about the choice we always have. And probably a bit of heroism too.
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February 15, 2013 | 1:05 am
Posted by Klaudia Klimek
In writing about the Shifting Thought Shifting Action gathering in Berlin I am not going to describe the entire event, but the thoughts that came to me specifically because I had a chance to be there.
For some time now, sociologists have been describing the change in people’s relations, which have transformed from local to global. The greatly reduced travel time to the farthest regions of the world and the economy of it allows us to move easily and participate in the same conference in some central location, allowing for the exchange of views and the building of strategic relationships.
Facebook, which has had doctor’s theses devoted to it, changed personal relations for the better, into quick, concrete, task and information exchange oriented contacts. Not community bonds, but supranational relations have become the everyday staple of human communication. However, humans cannot live in such conditions for long, because we are gregarious creatures and need contact with other people. When I say contact, I mean face to face, hand in hand, where the exchange of thoughts and observations counts and not just brief, specific information. What is more, we are no longer satisfied by international contacts, as those, which were to be intimate. Relationships such as family, friendship, partnership, those closest to humans are slowly returning to its place, that is the local environment. Long distance relationships through the Internet, Skype friendships, were an interesting experiment of our contemporary period, but despite their ease and accessibility did not give us the same satisfaction as „old fashioned”, pre-Internet relations.
Jews around the world began to realize this. As a „global nation” tied by a network of various contacts, they realized that the strength and basis of its existence is that which is local. But so far, from my „Polish-Jewish” observations, I can say that, that which is local is often pathological, incompetent, without a long-term goal, chaotic. How then can one build a great supranational network based on this? I believe that Jewish organizations such as ROI and Paideia noticed this problem long ago, but it did not seem right for them to speak out about it. Firstly, because ROI is an Israeli-American organization, so any comments made about Europe could be perceived as interfering in matters not on their turf or a form of paternalism. Secondly, Americans, Israelis and Poles all differ mentally, so even if the intention were good, communication could fail. Regardless, ROI was bold enough to organize a conference, with a catchy name – Shifting Thought, Shifting Action, which simply screams, Europe, it’s time for some pretty serious changes.
Such a logo could only imply one thing – there will be discord. 50 confident, young people, activists with approaches as different as the two extremities of a river, were locked in one conference room with a table decked with bagels and coffee. For three days. Honestly? It turned out fantastic. Why? Because ROI and all the wonderful people working for the organization knew, that they were treading on thin ice. There was time for conversation, official and personal, time for direct action and time for a spiritual connection (personally, I’m not fond of candles or spiritual morning exercises, so I don’t even know what to call it, though I still wear the blue string on my right wrist. By the way, only those that were there in Berlin know about the blue string). There was time for an exchange of thoughts and not the shallow, goal-oriented type, but of the deeper kind, which comes to you when given a bit of time to interact with another person. It was then that important comments were made by the event’s participants. Even though it was nice to spend time and work together, get to know each other and promise to keep in touch, the meeting wasn’t all that local. Because, even though it was an event for Jews in Europe and even though we stated how we wanted our modern community to look, few of us can actually return to it and make a change. There is a certain establishment, and excuse me for saying so, but it is mostly post-communist or blind to new initiatives. Those who managed to get in, can slowly drill into the rock and hope that someday there will be a tunnel; however most of us will crash into that rock.
A true challenge for organizations such as ROI, though perhaps not that one specifically, would be to gather for 3 days, in one room with bagels, members of the establishment. Would the days pass by in as pleasant an atmosphere? I would venture to guess – no. Although ROI is probably capable of surprising me. Much was said about us being the future of our local communities, but most of us probably thought, „sure, when the establishment dies off”. Although I believe that the priority of approaching social changes will be local community, I’m afraid that for some time still, young people will escape to the international, shallow, informational, task and goal oriented contacts. There is such a great chasm between the way of thinking of that which is young, fresh and new and that which is stale and firmly clinging to the wall, that I personally don’t see much of a role for us in local Jewish communities in Europe. You can tell by the projects that young Jews create. There are a lot of apps, websites, video blogs and photos. We feel better in the virtual realm than we do with flesh and blood. In the case of problems or unpleasantness we can retreat more quickly. We close the site and we disappear, born again on a new page. In the real world of local Jewish communities, the mistakes of our youth, interesting initiatives which the establishment calls „being out of line” or even the less diplomatic plays, they haunt us and spoil every new idea from the start. But how is a young man to know, what is diplomatically correct or what is not. Which strategy will prove successful? Many people may not agree with me.
This text is not a summary of research but rather an observation. And as any observation, it is based on the specific physical and mental characteristics of my person. I do not doubt that organizations such as ROI or Paideia will tackle this problem as well. They have proven many times their great intuition for spotting trends, correlations and nuance. I am only calling attention to it...
February 8, 2013 | 8:43 am
Posted Klaudia Klimek
Dear Jewrnalism Blog readers,
My name is Klaudia Klimek and I am director of Jewrnalism Project, initiative of young citizen Jewish reporters whose mission is to inform American Jewry about their European Jewish life. We started our adventure one year ago and since that time we have made quite big success.
Now in 2013 year we want to expand even more. We plan to create more visual messages. That's why we came up with innovative idea (as for European Jewish stadards )- Jewish talk show were we will promote young leaders, projects and their communities.
If you like our blog and would like to see even more, please donate even a small sum on our fundraising web site campaign. We might not reach our ideal sum but for sure we will use every donated dollar for videos and education.
February 8, 2013 | 1:49 am
Posted by Klaudia Klimek
According to recent studies by the Public Opinion Research Center (CBOS) a third of Polish people hate Jews! But research from the same source clearly shows that animosity toward them has decreased. A study conducted in 1993 showed that Jews were the most disliked nation, indicated 51% of those polled. What is encouraging however is that sympathy toward them is steadily increasing, currently at 28%.
Of course this is only statistical data, but unfortunately it does reflect social attitudes in a significant way. I was perusing so-called „independent” websites - meaning those where writing drivel is allowed, while calling upon the good of the Fatherland - when I encountered a tekst by Stanisław Michalkiewicz. He writes, „A form of social organization higher than lineage is the tribe, that is a society which keeps the traditions of common ancestry. Many elements of this organization, tribal traits, are held by Jews – for example, their approach to matters of posession. The form higher than a tribe is nationality, or a society with a common language, customs, traditions and history – but one that is not politically organized, meaning it has not created a hierarchy.” For the layman, I will mention that according to Słownik Języka Polskiego (Polish Language Dictionary), tribalism is the remaining of past clan or tribe divisions and differences within national societies; also: a strong feeling of such separateness. Knowing the carefree writings of Mr. Michalkiewicz I did not feel offended in the least, because I have been reading his column for years and am used to these sorts of outbursts. Unfortunately, the essay was also broadcast on Radio Maryja, as an episode of the commentary series Thinking Fatherland (Myśląc Ojczyzna), which airs every Wednesday at 8.50 pm. I imagine the written word is often received by those more prone to reflection, whereas the „Voice from Toruń” (Radio Maryja) is heard in the houses of people with, let’s say, lower intellectual ceilings. When I realized this, I experienced an influx of associations...
On October 12th, 1939, Ilustrowany Kurier Codzienny (the Illustrated Daily Courier) announced, under a telling headline – The Jewish matter internationally – that, „Foremost the Jewish nation of Judeans does not hold its own prototype – it is merely a tribe. [...] founding its existence and development on crimes and all sorts of wickedness.” Adolf Hitler, the führer himself, wrote in his enduring „opus” titled Mein Kampf that, „An authentic Aryan was most likely a nomad, only later settling, after some time – which proves that he was never a Jew! No, the Jew is not a nomad, because even nomads had a defined attitude toward work. Work was the basis of their further development, as long as needed, before they acquired the necessary intellectual properties. But the nomads acquired the ability to create ideals, therefore their concept of life may be alien to the Aryan race, but it should not be ignored. This concept was absent in the case of the Jew, who was never a nomad, he was a parasite on the bodies of other nations.” I will remind less informed readers, that Nomads are herdsmen and hunter-gatherers with a migrant lifestyle. Thus, what follows? Stanisław Michalkiewicz lists the characteristics of the Jewish nation, using rhetoric that is rather out of place for a cultured man. I do not suspect him of a lack of education, quite the contrary, and he is also one skilled with words, which I must regretfully admit is a rare quality these days. Racial outbursts do not suit you, Mr. Stanisław – they do not suit someone on your level.
Here I would like to review, for those who did not read or listen to the aforementioned column piece, the conclusions we find regarding „civil unions”, which according to Stanisław Michalkiewicz, „differ from families in the sense that their primary goal is to provide the participants with sexual services, and not produce offspring – the idea of family is meant to become blurred, to the point of complete loss of meaning. For „partnership”(civil union), especially with a large amount of wine, or other drugs, can be had with a goat even, especially when it has been promoted to the status of a ‘feeling creature’, and thus – nearly human”. This is gutter talk, which would not be unusual coming from the likes of prof. Krystyna Pawłowicz, who recently stated, that „Instead of terrorizing the public opinion, we should hold an open discussion and ask the Polish people, whether they wish to, at the cost of the Catholic society, ratify legislation equating the situation of homosexuals with the status of marriage, as a bond between a man and a woman, protected by article 18 of the Polish Constitution.” I have no intention of explaining to the readers, that these demonized civil unions are not a marriage, but simply a legal act allowing people to live in peace, and not only for homosexuals. But the professor does not know this, or wishes not to know...
Let us return to the main topic. I also found out that Mr. Stanisław would certainly be a proponent, as I conclude from the text, of the forming of a Polish equivalent to the Ahnenerbe Institute, a quasi-scientific German think tank created in 1935. Their rather complicated name, loosely translated to Study society for primordial intellectual history, German Ancestral Heritage, registered society. Ernst Schäfer, Wolfram Sievers, Bruno Beger and Herman Wirthn, employed there, occupied themselves with proving nazi theories about the superiority of the Aryan race, through studies in history, ethnography, anthropology and archeology. As I found out from the piece, digging through someone’s biography is morally acceptable, because „public opinion has a right to know, from what nest comes the Moral Authority, or the Beloved Leader. Nobility obliges – at least to revealing who your father was – as was once the custom in Poland.” Unfortunately, the hated „social circle of Gazeta Wyborcza believes that ‘the pure nordic type is clean even without soap’and would like to convince us that scrutinizing the family roots of public figures is somehow indecent.”
The above text does not advocate so-called Polish anti-Semitism, because such a thing does not exist! There is but only Polish stupidity, and I wish to note, that stupidity is a supranational phenomenon, transcending borders, and a common one. Stanisław Michalkiewicz in his column piece entitled „a poor imitation of nobility” transcended the limits of good taste and abused his freedom of speech, not in a legal sense, since that is arbitrary, but in an ethical sense. Ladies and Gentleman, one does not make Jews into a tribe or compare gays to goats... it stinks of the backwoods!
February 8, 2013 | 1:47 am
Posted by Klaudia Klimek
Ofir Shakir recognized a need for accessible ritual articles in his neighborhood of 'Gan Yavne'. After a researching some sites on the web he found 'Art Judaica', an international company working with several artists of ritual articles, and launched his on-line Judaica store called: 'All for the Jewish house'.
The list of item include everything from a mezuzah to tallit in the various forms they come in according to the different traditions of the Jewish ethnic groups: Ashkenazy and Sephardi, CHABAD and Yemenite.
How do you chose an article, and are there 'Kosher' obligatory criteria?
I try to keep a variable collection both by price and origin.
Some items do need to have a 'Kosher Stamp' such as the mezuzah and the tallit, but mostly I take special attention to the quality of the materials.
What kind of differences could you find between Ashkenazi and Sephardi buyers?
Ashkenazi mezuzah, for example is written in a special Ashkenazi script.
Ashkenazi houses keep 1 menorah to each boy, not like the Sephardic, for whom 1 menorah for the entire family is enough.
Would you classify your clients as solely religious, or not necessarily?
As a matter of fact, I rather serve the more secular and traditional population. The orthodox community has their own sources, and I wish to bring the others closer to better Judaica, since I know the lack of those in their surroundings, even though the interest in keeping a Jewish tradition in the house is growing among Israelis
Ofir believes elegant ritual articles, holy vessels is a Mitzvah for itself; As it's mentioned in 'Parashat Beshalech" by Moses to the people in Israel after crossing the Niles: "Zeh Eli, Ve-Anavehu" i.e. You should work g-d humbly and with grace.
We know today, the command to light candles in Hanukah applies to one candle only. But the lightning one more candle each day for 8 days gradually and respectfully is actually implementing this comment in a further graceful and elegant way.
"There's much to it for the meaning of material in holiness", say Shakir, "in this is why having fancy articles for holydays is dear to me. It brings a great meaning to the practicing when you respect it with proper Judaica Art. Just as much as King David had brought us the tradition of the 4th meal in Shabat- when food seizes to be nutrition of the body, and becomes a fiest and celebration to the soul. When we up-grade the material into the function of mitzvah making with take out its own secularity, and praise G-d with the beauty of art through this object.
February 8, 2013 | 1:43 am
Posted Dana Haddadi
Recent processes in the visibility of minorities in Europe, are gradually taking off as seen stages. Using stereotypes of the different nationalities for a laugh is much more common, especially when it comes out of the mentioned community, as Natives obviously feel uncomfortable making such jokes themselves.
This could be seen in Germany, which is not less ethnically homogenous than the US or the UK today. Nowadays, Germany's biggest minority is the Turkish community- about 3% of the German population
Young Turkish-German comedians like Kaya Yanar and Kerim Pamuk enjoy the benefit of playing with their own stereotypes humorously in order to confront German audiences with their ideas about the minority.
The new wave of comedians reflects an increasing self-confidence among this generation, as if it was a statement of emancipation: being able to poke fun at themselves.
As for the Jewish community: Jewish culture in Germany may be blossoming as the Jewish population climbs to a post-war high of over 200,000, but the number of professional German-Jewish comedians can still be counted on the fingers of one hand.
By Ivor Dembina, a London-based Jewish comedian who has done gigs in Germany, where he jokes about Dachau and Jewish director Dani Levy, director of Hitler comedy "Mein Führer", who is from Switzerland but lives in Berlin, it's the way of saying "things have moved on and the Jewish people are back," while granting a sense of relief at the comic ice being broken."
The "Tad Brothers" are Avi and David Toubiana, born in Düsseldorf and now located in Berlin.
They play all 18 of the roles in their 80 minutes Duo Show, called: "Murder on the Panini Express", based on Agatha Christie's 'Murder on the Orient Express'.
They themselves are from several origins: A Tunisian father who comes from an Italian family, and an Israeli mother, whose father was a proud Berliner, who managed to escape Germany a day before the "Night of Broken Glass".
Both grew up making up black humor jokes, like in any good old sarcastic Jewish family, as a mean of coping with the legacy of the Holocaust.
Both loved the theater and ended up studying drama in New York at the renowned Lee Strasberg Theater Institute.
Like any other comedian of a minority group, they wouldn't like to be affiliate explicitly with "Jewish humor", but wouldn't deny it: if it is for the fast-paced mix of wit and music like of the Max Brothers, the expansive gesticulation or that a major part of it involves self-mockery.
A key principle of their work is never to offend their audiences, though they are also not afraid to tackle controversial topics. For instance, they gave "Adi" the train driver in the sketch Hitleresque characteristics.
And who could be most legitimate a laugh about Hitler, if not the Jews?
After all, the best weapon against fear is humor."
February 8, 2013 | 1:40 am
Posted Kristina-Ruth Vasileva
“Hey dear, how are you? 10: 40 pm
I just came back from the cinema, watching “Argo” and
it made me wonder what would you think of that movie.
Was “Argo” shown in Iran at all? I was curious how
Tehran is pictured since it was filmed in Turkey; do
the buildings look similar; are the Iranians presented
in a stereotypical manner as Hollywood usually does?”
Seen 11:36 pm
My only Iranian friend I could talk to was the very first person I met last summer at a bus station in Bratislava while waiting to be picked by the MJC staff. I recognized her by the hijab (head covering). There are not many Muslims in Slovakia. This was keenly demonstrated when one of the ambassadors at the ceremony welcoming MJC to Bratislava (won’t disclose which country, not to embarrass him) asked me if the girls who are wearing those scarves were Muslims. We were a great attraction on that day for the city – hundreds of people dressed very colorfully as if it was a carnival of cultures - many in their traditional robes, laughing cheerfully, taking pictures and preserving memories together…
Bratislava Bus Station“Where’re you from?” I asked the girl at the bus station after we cleared up that we were waiting for the same car. :
“I am from Tehran. What about you?”
“I am from Bulgaria but I live in Berlin now.”
“Why did you move to Germany?”
“I came to study.”
“Why to Berlin?”
“Well, it has the biggest Jewish community in Germany.”
“Ah, so you are Jewish! I was still wondering until you said it, you could be Muslim as well.”
When I invite people to join our Muslim-Jewish Dialogue Group in Berlin, I sometimes have the feeling I am talking about self-help therapy group and it’s not far from the reality. There, we first admit as representatives of the both big communities or members of small ones that we have a problem. Once we do that, the next step is to break the ice or to be precise, the stereotypes we know about each other; third move – filling the knowledge gap about our both alienated folks.
While waiting for the car, we continued to talk:
“Have you heard about the“Israel Loves Iran Social Media Campaign?”
“That Campaign is absolutely creative and brave one. Many Iranians know that and have already liked it. But the situation and feedback about that campaign are radically different in Iran than in Israel. Buses in Tel-Aviv had pictures and posters with the name “Israel Loves Iran”. Many people admired the founder of the campaign but here in Iran it’s only on facebook and people still have the fear to show up their faces on the pictures.”
Every Generation and nation has its own way how to practice “Tikun-Olam”, resp. repairing the world. And I have a feeling that very soon it will bring the Messiah, as we Jews believe in. My parents will never completely understand the point of both: nor least the belief in the era of Messiahs revelation, but that’s a different story; and the great need for a sincere and qualitative inter-cultural dialogue. They were building a world where everyone would be equal, live a very similar life, and share the only allowed ideology. But equality does not lead to harmony.
“Have you been to MJC or similar events before in Germany or elsewhere?”
“I’ve been to a couple of inter-faith dialogues in my life but to be honest, they didn’t quite work. It all looked fake and superficial… That’s why I don’t expect much from MJC either. Do you have inter-cultural dialogue groups in Tehran?”
“Although we had many NGOs working on the intercultural dialogues, inter faith and other global issues, after sanctions many things have changed and we almost are just surviving with many difficulties that people can’t even think about those issues…”
When for the hundredth time the middle-eastern conflict is focused on by the media - demonstrations against “the enemies” or facebook images full with blood or hatred do not help much. It makes the conflict between us even more thoroughgoing. What really helps is a well organized and goal orientated inter-cultural or inter-faith dialogue. There we make the effort to listen to what we not quite agree on or as Ilja Sichrovsky, the founder of Muslim Jewish Conference said “we agree to disagree” but in a respectful manner.
This influences our own way of thinking and attitude. We can undertake changes within ourselves, to tear walls down in our heads by breaking stereotypes and prejudices, but also to acknowledging “the others” right for the freedom to approach things differently... And that’s what the MJC is all about...
Just as Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo expresses in his writing that when God created the world, he spread the truth just like the light which comes down from the sun. By the time it reaches earth, it diverges in too many different colors; it evolves into many different dimensions. So too does the truth manifest itself in many different ways and everyone comprises a piece of the big puzzle.
“Did you tell your friends from Tehran you are going to a Muslim Jewish Conference?”
“Yes, they wanted to come as well and I hope they will be able to attend next year. And how did you find out about it?”
“I have many friends who were at the previous two and told me, it’s a life time experience but I am still skeptical…”
Everyone had their own reason to be there like for instance, those who already had few friendships with “the other”, but despite that they flew more than hundreds of kilometers to raise the questions which they are not comfortable to raise at home; or those who have never met a Jew before and have heard mainly negative things about them. There were at least five people among the Muslims to whom I could relate a hundred times better than to those are of my community. There were also those who once cried and those who made jokes all the time; those who screamed because they wanted to impress and those who were quiet but not because they had nothing to say. The only feeling which was missing there was the apathy. MJC was however, lacking representatives of the lower classes who couldn’t afford the expensive tickets. This is one of the crucial gaps for which sponsors are required to fill.
“What if you fall in love with a Jew at the upcoming five days?”
“I discussed that with my friends. They were really surprised and said, it’s impossible.. After I asked them to think more, they said it depends on the person. I also saw a comment on the Israel loves Iran’s website penned by a Muslim Iranian girl who felt in love with a Jewish guy, but she had written it is impossible to be accepted into a Jewish community being Muslim. So she was very depressed that she would never reach to her lover…”
Well, some Rabbis might not advise you to attend MJC or similar inter-faith events for the great chance of inter-marriage. But if I was strong enough to resist of joining Pakistani Panjabi dancing (as observant Jews don’t dance gender mixed), then you could succumb to a similar temptation either…
“Which committee are you in?”
“I am in the Art Committee as I paint and do photography. I brought my pictures to show in the Identities Exhibition here. I find that art is one of the ways how to build bridges between people.”
Besides the obligatory committees like “Women in Religion”, “Islamophobia & Anti-Semitism”, “Faithful Citizenship” etc., which we had to take part in, there was time for “self-made” sessions like “Ask the Zionist” and plenty of hallway discussions on the Middle East.
One of our main goals was to create projects on which to work after the conference is over.
In our committee we used a big part of the time instead to go through very intense Q&A sessions for which we were very grateful to our chairs. As a result we didn’t present great projects in the end, however many of us did continue to stay involved and organized a row of follow up regional activities. So, for example, I and some friends first named it mini-MJC reunion but surprisingly so many new people from Berlin showed up on the very first meeting. So we initiated a Muslim Jewish Dialogue Group which offers a safe space to raise questions and learn about each other.
“But have you met any Jews before?”, I asked hoping to be the first one…
“Yes, I have met Jews both inside and outside Iran. We have a Jewish community in Tehran which has their own Synagogue, Hebrew classes, events and a whole neighborhood.”
Another fact that cannot be stressed enough is that after more than half a year of any kind of conference or seminar, people still remain very enthusiastic as demonstrated by our active Facebook group. A five day conference has built up an entire community. Now that’s a very big deal!
Here comes my criticism regarding their motto: “What’s the big deal?” promoting on their website [->linked tohttp://muslimjewishconference.org]. In the video participants express how they all don’t eat pork, practice circumcision and so on, demonstrating cultural behaviors we share. Last days even had us made pictures in pairs saying things we both fancy.
But MJC carries much more global message than that, which is not only applicable for Jews and Muslims only: we shouldn’t close our eyes to what we disagree on, however we’ll never move forward via negative speech, hatred, aggressive protests but through respectful, complimentary, appreciative dialogue.
My personal, crazy scale for measuring the success of MJC was at the very last night when we had a talent show. Suddenly a flow of improvised jokes were pouring out. Few of them even border-line racist... Perhaps due to my already ‘challenged’ state and having gone through many help group therapies mind, I find it that telling racist jokes to each other is the very last level of challenging any stereotype. Simply laughing at a stereotypical joke without getting offended (or hunt for the enemies who said it) and therefore ridiculing people who actually believe in it, as Sascha Baron Cohen did in “Borat”. So a group of Jewish guys started to sing:
“In my country there is problem,
And that problem is the Jew.
They take everybody's money,
They never give it back.
Throw the Jew down the well,
So my country can be free.
You must grab him by his horns,
Then we have big party.”
It was simply hilarious – the song, the ambiance, the people, just all together.
At our small party later that night, in a typical eastern-European coffee shop, I experienced another joke with my newly Pakistani friend who whispered in my ear: “We have to leave immediately. I placed a bomb in the basement.” If before, I would fall into the trap of my irrational panic hunch, now I couldn’t stop laughing just as I did while listening to the racist Borat’s song.
im“I would love to come and see Iran one day. I heard it’s a beautiful country! I just have to make a new Bulgarian passport without my Israeli stamps in it.”
“You can really do that! But have a look at my Iranian passport.”
It was written: “The holder of this passport is not entitled to travel to the occupied Palestine.”
“At least you can visit Israel!”
She started to laugh: “No, occupied Palestine and of course, Israel.”
Finally the car has arrived to take us to one very unique and different conference
January 21, 2013 | 12:53 pm
Posted Dana Haddadi
Gay tourism in Tel Aviv given by:
Role: Gay Branding consultant
ü A Proud Israeli
ü A proud Tel Avivian
ü A proud Jew
ü A proud gay single boy
- At 2008, the year of the Tel Aviv's 100 anniversary the 'Cultural Pride Center' was established, in 'Meir Garden'.
-On 2009 during a youth educational activity in the city's LGBT association house an un-known assassinate enter the house with a gun and manage to hit 8 young boys and girls- most of them under-aged; 2 of them were killed. The crime remains unsolved.
- In 2010 Ministry of tourism with Tel Aviv city hall took the new marketing strategy considering Tel Aviv beaches (and bitches) to attract gays from all over the world, thus investing around 340 thousands Shekels on a pride oriented campaign. i.e. no more 'wailing' wall and other holly places.
-In 2012, the most established well known Gay Party line of Brussels name 'La Demence', fixed Tel Aviv as the final destination of their pleasure cruise; By doing so, it has crowned Tel Aviv to be their Gay Capital.
Tourist have been said to give back to the city when here around 10 million… and they clame Tel Aviv feels like their home.
-First Transgender marriage service (civil i.e. without a Rabbi) took place this January in Israel for the first time;
Same sex partners still cannot get married in Israel (Halachlically wise, which is state wise) and neither to bring together babies with a surrogate.