David Margolis, who lived and chronicled the transformation of an American hippie of the 1960s into a deeply spiritual resident of a West Bank settlement, died July 17 at the age of 62.
Dr. Robert W. Brooks, an interna-tionally renowned mathematician who made aliyah with his family from Los Angeles in 1995, died of a heart attack on Sept. 5, at the age of 49.
Since I live beyond the Green Line and am therefore a war criminal in the view of much of the left, I was surprised to be invited to an all-day meeting at the Tantur Ecumenical Center in Jerusalem that brought together about 50 Jewish and Palestinian peace activists -- organizational professionals and concerned laypeople, all of them wanting an end to conflict, many of them deeply discouraged now, of course. The aim of the discussion, the first of a proposed series sponsored by the Dutch Foreign ministry, was to create a grass-roots initiative that would, by taking "shared responsibility" for the current situation, somehow affect it.
Hanan Ashrawi, the Palestinian legislator and spokeswoman, a few weeks ago publicized an open letter from Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon informing all Palestinians, "You are my target; you will be made to suffer, and you shall pay for the original crime of being a Palestinian."
A time for peace and a time for war. Most talk, for years, has been about peace, but there's war talk in Israel now. At least one independent intelligence agency is predicting a regional war this spring, and nobody is offering credible deniability. The Palestinians have been smuggling weapons into the country -- mortars, anti-tank weapons, heavy machine guns, who knows what else. The stuff comes into Gaza through tunnels from Egypt or sneaked past Israeli naval patrols along the coast. It's not Jordan they're gunning for, at least not to start.
As you might imagine, living in Israel right now feels schizophrenic. We continue with our regular lives -- going to work, eating dinner, shopping, praying, catching a movie -- and meanwhile, not far away, our soldiers are at war. The newspapers appear, the soccer games go on, people chat over coffee in the cafes, and the war goes on and threatens to get bigger. The most abnormal thing about it may be that one begins to accept it as normal.
Not happily, not comfortably, but in a word, yes, I am going to vote for Sharon. I know about Sabra and Shatila, but Ehud Barak has so completely betrayed the hopeful vote I cast for him in 1999 that by now even most of my ambivalence is gone, replaced by an urgency to oust Barak and his band of professional delusionaries.
Visiting California for the first time since he took over following his father's 47-year reign last year, King Abdullah II of Jordan attended a Beverly Hilton Hotel luncheon Monday and told his audience that prospects of Middle East peace in the near future look good.Speaking before the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, Abdullah said, "We can have peace in the Middle East and have it quickly."
On this bright September afternoon, Zion Square, at the bottom of Jerusalem's downtown Ben Yehuda outdoor mall, is the usual confusion of pedestrian traffic -- shoppers, students, soldiers, tourists, all hurrying about their business in every direction. A few minutes after 1 p.m., a small group of men and women joins the throng, bringing a little flock of children and strollers into the middle of the square. One of the men somewhat uncertainly unrolls a hand-lettered sign that says, in Hebrew, "Prayer Vigil," and the group stands in a tight circle, reading psalms from prayer books in low voices.
Not all of them were Jewish, but they were definitely the chosen people -- five Los Angeles and 33 Israeli film students brought together for a two-week "master class" in screenwriting at Tel Aviv University. Held under the auspices of the Tel Aviv-Los Angeles partnership, the class was designed to give a boost to Israel's film industry by improving the capabilities of Israel's future scriptwriters. A further aim -- a subtext, to use the screenwriting term -- was to strengthen sympathy for Israel among American film professionals.
Barry Fisher, director of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department crime laboratory, showed up in Jerusalem this week, invited by the Israeli Police Department to give a couple of lectures and the benefit of his 30 years' experience to the forensics people of the Jewish state. In a wood-paneled room at National Police Headquarters, along with about 25 Israeli police officers, I caught his second lecture, "Forensic Science After O.J. Simpson." (I will assume that, despite so many breathlessly absorbing high-profile murders and sex scandals since then, you still vaguely remember O.J. Simpson.)
Is this me? Eight o'clock on a Tuesday evening, I'm strolling down the ordinary street of my town, carrying an M-16 rifle. Tonight, it's my turn again to do shmirah, guard duty, a chore required about once a month of every male resident here at Beit Yattir, the West Bank village where I live part time.
Israel is on its way to becoming a back-burner issue in much of the American Jewish community. Studies show that the younger the Jew, the less connection he or she feels to what is, let's try to remember, the Jewish homeland. The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, which used to give Israel 50 percent of the funds it raised, has cut that figure by nearly half. One of the Federation's "old leaders" pointed out to me that Israel isn't even mentioned any more in Federation advertising -- it's bad for business. Israel has become a wormy apple for many American Jews -- all this unpleasantness with the Palestinians and, on top of that, a hot, fuming plateful of disrespect for Conservative and Reform rabbis and the Judaism they practice.
When the editors of The Jewish Journal, along withpublisher Stanley Hirsh, started planning an issue to commemorateIsrael's 50th anniversary, we were committed to something other thana "coffee-table" paper. We wanted it to be highly readable andentertaining, definitely, but also filled with stories and newsarticles that were immediate and compelling and newsworthy -- notjust gloss or an endless series of superlatives.