What I know about Israel comes from a variety of sources, including the news and commentary in this newspaper, countless books, my own experiences as a traveler to Israel, and the Facebook postings of my friends who live there.
Naftali Bennett doesn’t like to waste time. In the eight months since he took over three Israeli ministries — religious services, economy, and Diaspora and Jerusalem affairs — Bennett has pushed through legislation to give Israeli couples more freedom in choosing which rabbi officiates at their wedding, worked with coalition partner Yair Lapid to lop $11 billion off Israel’s budget and fast-tracked a resolution to the showdown over women’s prayer at the Western Wall.
Israel’s Chief Rabbinate said it does not have a list of Diaspora rabbis whose testimony it accepts on clarifying one’s Jewish or marital status.
Jerusalem Police closed the Temple Mount to Jewish visitors based on intelligence that Palestinians planned to cause disturbances there.
In the last two years, the Western Wall in Jerusalem — also known as the Kotel — has become a place of controversy as much as of worship. It’s the site of a battle that has long been waged by a group called Women of the Wall, who are demanding they be able to pray in the women’s section wearing tallits — Jewish prayer shawls — and also be permitted to read from the Torah, rights that the rabbi of the Kotel, backed by the police, wouldn’t give them.
Every week, dozens of bar mitzvah boys from Israel and the Diaspora celebrate their rite of passage at the Kotel, also known as the Western Wall, which, after the Temple Mount, is Judaism’s holiest site.
Brief synopsis: The most puzzling aspect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may be that after 65 years of violence, enmity and suffering, it remains unresolved when coexistence is inevitable and a two-state solution remains the only viable option.
Rabbi David Hartman has gone to his eternal rest, but not before he made a monumental contribution to Jewish life and a significant contribution to Jewish thought.
Since its inaugural trip in the winter of 2000, more than 340,000 participants ages 18-26 have traveled to Israel for the first time through Taglit-Birthright Israel. The 10-day excursions have attracted people from 62 countries, bringing together Jews from virtually every cultural and socio-economic background in the Diaspora.
During lunch at the Golden State restaurant on Fairfax, in between making sure my kids’ locavore-friendly food stays on plates and haranguing them to eat a few Persian cucumber slices, my eyes often linger on the hulking building across the street. In just a couple of seconds I’m filled with the mild sting of betrayal and guilt.
Growing up in Los Angeles, Asaf Shasha, then 16, had everything a teenager could want: a loving family, good friends and a comfortable home. Still, Shasha couldn’t shake the feeling that there was more to life than the fancy gadgets prized by the kids at his Jewish day school.
Delegates to the Jewish People Policy Institute conference proposed a new model for Jewish communal fundraising and stressed the importance of cooperation between Israel and Diaspora Jewish communities.
When it comes to criticizing Israel, liberal supporters of Israel routinely quote the Jewish value of self-criticism. Try telling a pro-Israel critic the following:
It is a given among liberal and progressive Jews that gun ownership among the general population is a bad thing. The ideal is near-universal disarmament with only a handful of individual exceptions and, of course, the police.
The participants gather outside the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem’s old city for a group photo. They look like any group of college students visiting Jerusalem on a summer trip. The photographer counts to three. “Free Palestine!” they yell in unison, and laugh.
Back in the 1930s and ’40s, when Diaspora Jews desperately needed a symbol of Jewish strength and pride, the brawny, sunburned kibbutznik became the poster image for the new Jew emerging in Palestine.
The presidents of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) and Latin American Jewish Congress expressed hope for progress in Middle East peace at a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
After revelations last week of Israel’s guilt trip on the Jewish Diaspora through a billboard and video advertising campaign that included, among others, a young Americanized girl mistaking Chanukah for Christmas, to the distress of her Skyping Israeli grandparents, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly shut the whole thing down, but not before an outcry that left Israel with one more public-relations problem on its hands.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is canceling an ad campaign aimed at luring Israeli expatriates home that some American Jews have found offensive.
Turkey, long one of Israel’s more stable and supportive partners in the region, expelled Israel's ambassador. In Egypt, a peaceful partner to Israel since the two nations signed a treaty in 1978, the Israeli Embassy was attacked by an angry mob whose members spoke of being willing to die just to have the chance to remove the Israeli flag. And in Jordan, staffers at the Israeli Embassy were evacuated recently for fear of a similar attack.
Egypt has banned the export of palm fronds to Israel and Jewish communities abroad, leading to fears of a lulav shortage for the Sukkot holiday.
When Israeli music producer-to-the-stars Eitan Gafni put on a global song contest for Jews nearly two decades ago, finding contestants was difficult.
Rabbi Daniel Gordis, a senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, caused a storm within the Jewish community a few weeks ago when he published a piece arguing that the connection by students at America’s liberal rabbinical schools — the future leaders of the Jewish communities of the Diaspora — toward Israel was weakening.
“I’m a nonprofessional dreamer,” said singer/composer/producer Craig Taubman, who is in the midst of staging his sixth annual “Let My People Sing,” a 24-hour festival taking place March 11 and 12 at Sinai Temple in West Los Angeles. The event features Jewish performers from around the world and includes music, dance, food and a host of activities.
The entire Jewish community should applaud the recently announced plan by The Jewish Federations of North America, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and several major Jewish federations to invest millions of dollars over the next few years to fight the delegitimization and demonization of Israel. These groups understand that if academic and cultural boycotts are legitimate when aimed at Jews in the West Bank today, they will soon become legitimate when aimed at Jews in Tel Aviv tomorrow; and, you can be sure that after that, the boycotters will set their sites on Jews in New York, Los Angeles, Peoria … and everywhere else that Jews live.
For Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. Jewish leaders, their second date featured a little more substance and a little less flirtation. And this time the Palestinian Authority president brought a wing man.
We've all played the "Jewish geography" game -- you know, questioning someone we've only just met in order to discover common Jewish connections, friends or even family
It's impossible to augur the future of the Jewish people. It can only be summed up in two words: "I hope."
From the birth of the Zionist movement more than a century ago through its 60 years as a Jewish state, Israel has come of age amid a vastly changing world: two world wars, the technological revolution and economic globalization with all its attendant challenges.
What does it mean to be a Jew in a Post-Zionist world?
Founded with the express purpose of "ingathering of the exiles" -- but with no more large groups of Jews to save -- Israel is facing the end of the era of mass aliyah.
Purim is a time to dull our senses with drink and cloak our identity by dressing in costume. We do so in order to confront a troubling part of our history and the threats to Jewish life and continuity in the Diaspora.
Israel is a free society. The rights of the minority, of the oppressed, indeed, of the criminally foolish are protected. Mr. Chomsky would be as free in Israel to pronounce this nonsense as he is in the United States. Were he to move to the Arab world, he would be persecuted as a Jew (as, indeed, he might be in France). And were he, God forbid, persecuted, Israel would offer him a home, under the Right of Return. That is what Israel means to me.
One of the bonuses of living in exile is that you can see Israeli society more clearly, one lunch, party, speech or cappuccino at a time. When I'm in the Holy Land, I lose myself in a noisy, beautiful, hectic, joyful and soulful blur.It's as if I'm inside a boat in a stormy sea. Here in the Diaspora, Israel comes at you in neat little waves. Over the past month, I've had encounters with four passionate Israelis, and each, in their own way, has helped me make sense of the craziness of what it is to live the Zionist dream.
Do Jews outside Israel have the right to criticize Israeli policies relating to defense and security matters or eternal issues, like concessions on Jerusalem?
Jewish life in North America was nearly aborted before birth when the governor of New Amsterdam sought to expel 23 Brazilian Jews, who landed at the southern tip of Manhattan in 1654.
In a petition to his superiors at the Dutch West India Company in Amsterdam, Peter Stuyvesant urged "that this deceitful race... be not allowed to further infest and trouble the new colony."
The grunion were running last weekend, so I went down to the Venice Beach breakwater just before midnight to watch them mate. The sight of thousands of slim, silvery fish wiggling desperately out of the surf and struggling to spawn before the next wave crashed upon them made me think, of course, of those birthright Israel trips.
The Cervantes Institute has been sponsoring Ladino readings and seminars at its branches in Tel Aviv, Istanbul, Bucharest and Sofia. Now Urrutia says the institute will create a Ladino Department with a Judeo-Spanish archive at its headquarters in Madrid. And Ladino will be the focus of a new Cervantes Institute in Salonika, which will be located next to the city's Sephardic Museum.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) want a few good men like Zach Taylor (photo). Actually, the IDF wants a lot of them. Taylor is a 20-year-old volunteer from North Hollywood serving in an Israeli infantry battalion of Torah-observant and predominantly ultra-Orthodox soldiers.
In Israel, where service in the armed forces is every man's -- and most women's -- duty, the majority of Israelis, from secular to Modern Orthodox, have long scorned the ultra-Orthodox "black hats" for avoiding military service by studying in yeshivas. Now, a battalion of ultra-religious young men, known as Nahal Haredi, is seeking to change this image by combining Torah study with the bearing of arms.
Imagine if any non-Jewish government official in the world cited the lowering of the Jewish birthrate in his country as an accomplishment, then recommended that his country's founding institution raise money to help poor non-Jewish families but not poor Jewish families.
Whenever I find myself among large groups of Jews, I have to ask myself this question: How much of the Kool-Aid should I drink?
The changes in the Diaspora community.
The success of Zionism requires a revisiting of values and priorities. Negation of Diaspora may not only be irrelevant, but counterproductive. We need a new vision.
Understanding the unique power of Shabbat. Shabbat does not just come and go every week. In fact, it never really goes away.
7 days in the Arts.
In just three weeks, more than 3,000 leaders of the international Jewish community, including the prime minister of Israel, are coming to Los Angeles. This season's best-kept secret among L.A. Jews seems to be that the 75th annual General Assembly (GA) of the United Jewish Communities is being held in Los Angeles -- the first time in 26 years this city will host one of the largest annual gatherings of Jews in North America.