January 23, 2003
Baca: "Heroes of the World are in Israel"
Thirty-four chiefs of police and other law enforcement officials from the United States and Canada arrived in Israel on Sunday to participate in a first-of-its-kind four-day seminar on "Police and Law Enforcement in the Era of Global Terror," Ha'tsofeh, an Israeli newspaper, reported. The seminar, hosted by Israel Police Chief Insp.-Gen. Shlomo Aharonishky, included workshops on identifying terror cells, drawing public support for the fight against terror, and coping with the aftermath of a terrorist attack. In addition, the group laid a wreath at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv and toured the Dolphinarium site, where a Palestinian homicide bomber killed 21 people, and met with one of the victims' mother. On Tuesday evening the group met with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
According to The Jerusalem Post, Robert Doyle Campbell, chief of homeland security at the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, said the visit stresses that terrorism is a global problem and described it as a sobering experience. "You go to places like the discotheque that was bombed in Tel Aviv, and come face to face with the damage that terrorism does to a community and to a society as a whole. Up close, it is so different than reading about it in a newspaper or seeing the pictures on television," he said. His colleague Sheriff Leroy D. Baca declared that, "the heroes of the world are here in Israel. I cannot imagine any community as strong and as helpful as the community here in Israel. The help that victims of terror attacks, who have had their bodies torn apart by a terror explosion receive, is an act of heroism of an unprecedented level."
Among the participants are the police chiefs of Washington, D.C., Portland, Ore. and Chicago. The group also includes the police commissioners of Washington, Boston, Kansas City, Detroit and Philadelphia, and various FBI representatives. -- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
Swastikas Found at Northridge Rec Center
Vandals painted a large swastika and scrawled obscenities at a Northridge recreation center and soccer field last week.
The private facility is owned by two Jewish men and police are investigating the incident at the Northridge Arena Soccer League as a possible hate crime.
On Wednesday morning Jan. 15, caretakers discovered a 5-foot diameter swastika painted on the soccer field turf, and a smaller one on the wall.
Co-owner Ron Dennis said that one swastika "was done correctly, and one was backward. If it was really a hate crime, they would have known what they were doing."
Dennis also noted that "They tore up some of the artificial turf. It weighs a lot, so it would take a few people to do it."
Damage is estimated at $10,000. Some 40 games are played weekly on the field by various amateur men, women and youth teams. By the time the Wednesday evening match began, the offending symbols had been painted over.
Dennis said he had no idea why his facility had been targeted and police have not identified any suspects. "We've had no problems," he said. "This is a place you go to so you can get away from problems." --Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
German Consulate Honors Trio of Authors
German Consul-General Dr. Hans J. Wendler, recently hosted a buffet dinner at his L.A. home to honor Rabbi Andreas Nachama, former president of the Berlin Jewish community and now director of the Topography of Terror Foundation; Julius H. Schoeps, director of the Moses Mendelssohn Center for European-Jewish Studies at the University of Potsdam, near Berlin; and Dr. Hermann Simon, director of the New Synagogue Berlin-Centrum Judaicum Foundation. Wendler's guests also included the local leadership of the American Jewish Committee.
The three Berliners were in town to introduce the English translation of their joint book, "Jews in Berlin" (Henschel Verlag, Berlin). The richly illustrated book traces the history of the community, from the Middle Ages to the present, which stood at about 165,000 in the pre-Hitler years and now numbers about 11,000. During their stay here, the three visitors also spoke at the Goethe- Institut and the Villa Aurora European-American center.
Currently Germany is the the world's third largest market for Jewish books, after Israel and the United States. Ironically, of the 300 students enrolled in the Jewish studies program at the University of Potsdam some 95 percent are non-Jewish.
These statistics speak to the fascination of today's Germans with Jewish history and life, according to the three leaders of the Berlin Jewish community.
At the same time, the Jewish presence in Germany, written off as permanently obliterated in the wake of the Holocaust, has been growing substantially due to a large influx of Jews from the former Soviet Union, Nachama said.
Hardly any descendants of the pre-Hitler Jewish community have remained or returned to Germany, Schoeps jocularly referred to himself and his two colleagues as the last "real" German Jews.
If the composition of the Berlin Jewish community has changed, with its present roots more in the Russian than German cultural tradition, so has the outside attitude toward the very fact of its existence.
"When I visited the United States in the 1970s and talked about Jewish life in Germany, some people were so angry they walked out," Schoeps said. "Now people are more accepting."
In another generation, Schoeps predicted, the children of the Russian immigrants, schooled in Germany and some even serving in the German army, will become German Jews rather than just Jews living in Germany.
Anti-Semitism of course exists in Germany, Nachama acknowledged, but it is no more or less virulent than German dislike, say, of Austrians or Poles.
"The good news is that Germans have shown that they will not elect anti-Semitic politicians," he said. And while there are some strains in German-Israeli relations, Germany remains the Jewish State's most important ally in Europe.
Now in the works on the academic side is a triangular faculty and student exchange program in Jewish studies between the University of Haifa, University of Potsdam and the California State University system, history professor Michael Meyer of Cal State Northridge told The Journal. -- TT