Current statistics suggests that, even though France is depicted as less than empathetic to the Jewish community, the Jewish population there has actually grown.
Barry Frydlender greets a reporter at his apartment in southern Tel Aviv with gentility and reticence. In his spacious living room, a sofa set rests on old, cracked, Arab-style tiles that block a studio nook containing a computer set-up. A window overlooks the Tel Aviv beach promenade, where the 52-year-old Israeli photographer meets friends every morning. All around his living space are slices of Israeli life in the form of mural-sized photographs pinned up on the walls.
The sight of men in uniform dragging religious Jews away provokes a visceral reaction in any Jew: nausea, cramps, tears. It evokes the images of the Holocaust, no matter how dissimilar the situation may be.
Los Angeles photographer Naomi Solomon capped off her informal summer presentation series "Settlers: A Photographic Journey of the Life and Disengagement of the Jews Living in Gaza" at Nessah Synagogue in Beverly Hills last week, drawing more than 150 people.
Last year at the Israel Independence Day Festival in Woodley Park, anti-disengagement activist Shifra Hastings of Los Angeles was clad all over in orange, the color of protest, right down to her painted fingernails.
In May of 1998, a wealthy Israeli-born businessman called our offices and suggested I go to the Peninsula Hotel to interview his friend, Ariel Sharon. I said no.
The disengagement or expulsion has ended. But is this also the end of religious Zionism? Are there lessons we can and must learn that may enable us to emerge stronger from this most difficult period?
The first lesson we learned is that we are indeed one nation. There was no real violence, and there was even majestic fortitude and an exaltation of spirit displayed by many Gush Katif settlers and leaders.
On the other side of the barricades, only a small number of soldiers refused to carry out military evacuation orders, despite the charge to do so from major rabbinic voices; the soldiers and police behaved with incredible sensitivity and restraint.
It was heart wrenching but uplifting, a period in which I was both tear-filled and pride-filled to be an Israeli Jew.
For visitors to Israel this summer, the disengagement from the Gaza Strip proved hard to ignore.
"Everybody's orange," said Rebecca Kaminski, from Berlin, with a laugh, referring to the color adopted by the anti-disengagement activists. "I'm on the blue side, I guess."
Sitting on the beach in Netanya, the 22-year-old was working on her already impressive tan with a group of girlfriends, all students at a six-week summer ulpan, or Hebrew-language immersion course, in Kibbutz Mishmar Hasharon.
They have not been deterred from visiting Israel during its exit from the Gaza settlements and parts of the West Bank.
The disengagement from Gaza has exposed raw emotions and wrenching scenes of families being uprooted from their homes of decades.
To the Jews of the Diaspora:
I recently returned from a monthlong vacation to the United States. Since I've gotten back home to Israel, however, it seems as though "reality" has smacked me upside the head.
The question on the Palestinian street now is who will successfully claim credit for expelling Israel from Gaza and northern Samaria - Hamas, an organization that carries out terrorist attacks, or Fatah, the official Palestinian ruling party?
Whatever the answer turns out to be, one thing is certain. Both factions are presenting Israel's withdrawal of settlers and troops from Gaza and the northern West Bank as a Palestinian military victory.
Four years ago, on July 22, 2001, with the goal of coming together as a unified Jewish community, we stood with 10,000 others on a closed-off section of Wilshire Boulevard for a solidarity Rally in support of the people of Israel.
At the Mercedes-Benz Cup doubles final last Sunday at UCLA, the clumps of Israelis in the grandstands waved their blue-and-white flags between points and yelled out encouragement in Hebrew. They were cheering on the team of Yoni Erlich and Andy Ram, who had reached the finals by defeating the top-seeded team in the world, Americans Bob and Mike Bryan.
At one point a woman began chanting, "Yisrael! Yisrael!" and a few others joined in, but mostly people just clapped and smiled, thrilled that their country could put such a team on center court.
The withdrawal of Israeli settlements and settlers from the Gaza Strip will dominate the Jewish summer.
The mid-August Israeli pullout from Gaza is fraught with risks and unknowns, but the Israeli government remains committed to "unilateral disengagement," says Daniel Ayalon, Israel's ambassador to the United States.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan for an Israeli pullout from Gaza and a few more settlements in the Shomron has found extensive initial approval among Jews in the Diaspora.
At first glance, this is understandable. The absence of a credible Palestinian negotiating partner, combined with Israel's vigorous desire to create a more peaceful atmosphere in the Middle East, has made a partial segregation from the Palestinian Arabs appear to be a step in the right direction.
But before we leap, let's look. Let's pay attention to the serious voices of dissent.
Letters to the Editor
It may be the most ideological presidency in recent memory, but on at least one issue, the Bush administration is pure pragmatism.
Dan Halutz, a former air force commander, replaced Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon as chief of the Israel Defense Forces' General Staff at a blue-ribbon ceremony Wednesday.
A troubled but still potent American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) got a boost this week from Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who addressed its largest-ever policy conference in Washington, with a record 4,500 delegates gathered for three days of speeches, workshops, schmoozing and lobbying.
Israeli officials are expecting such massive resistance to the disengagement that they have developed a detailed plan of operation to carry it out.
Civil strife in Israel over Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Gaza disengagement plan could cause new strains in the American Jewish community and accelerate the turning away from the pro-Israel cause, especially among younger Jews.
As plans for Israel's withdrawal from Gaza and part of the West Bank intensify, its opponents are banking on one last throw of the parliamentary dice: Knesset rejection of the 2005 state budget.
If the budget is not passed by March 31, the government will fall, there will be new elections and disengagement will be deferred -- perhaps even shelved.
The late February suicide bombing in Tel Aviv shattered a three-month lull in terror and brought key Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking issues into sharp relief.
The terror attack, which came just three weeks after Israeli and Palestinian leaders declared an end to more than four years of hostilities, forced both sides to define their new relationship more clearly.
It enabled Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to clarify his policy toward the Palestinians, finger Syria and the Hezbollah as potential spoilers, and re-emphasize his view that there can be no real peacemaking until the Palestinians dismantle their armed terrorists.
I, along with what the polls say is 60 percent of Israelis -- and maybe even Ariel Sharon, too -- trust Mahmoud Abbas' good intentions. More than that, I'm impressed by what he's done on the ground -- by prevailing on Hamas and the other terrorist groups to "cool down" the violence a week after he took office, and reading them the riot act after their rockets started flying again a day after the hopeful Sharm el-Sheik summit.
This week's Israel Christian Nexus gathering at Stephen S. Wise Temple was intended to rally support for Israel. Its advertised list of speakers included John Fishel, president of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, and a fair number of prominent local rabbis.
The horrid bus bombings in Beersheba on Tuesday, which claimed the lives of 16 Israelis, including a 3-year-old boy, are grim reminders that the war on terror continues to rage in Israel.
Sharon hopes to create sufficient motivation among settlers to evacuate their homes willingly in exchange for generous compensation packages, avoiding violent confrontations like those in Yamit.
Politically -- for the first time in the history of the Jewish people -- the State of Israel is apparently working toward establishing foreign sovereignty over a part of our land.
Now that Ariel Sharon has persuaded just about everyone -- the Bush administration, its European and Arab allies and Sharon's own contentious Cabinet -- that it's time for Israel to leave the Gaza Strip, he needs to fill in the details.
The state prosecutor's recommendation to indict Ariel Sharon on bribery charges came just as the Israeli prime minister was putting the finishing touches on his plan for Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank.
There is something Marxist about Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's pledge to "disengage" Israel from the Palestinians through the completion of a security barrier and the evacuation of a few settlements. Just like Groucho Marx, Sharon is declaring his intention to leave and stay at the same time.
With Israel and the Palestinians seemingly on the brink of a new round of terrorism and response, calls for the speedy completion of the barrier between Israel and the West Bank are growing.
The state budget is facing a projected $38.2 billion shortfall, and Gov. Gray Davis' plan to cut spending and increase revenue will have far-reaching effects on our state and our lives.