I had been abused and beaten and had my camera confiscated all in the confines of the cabinet building, the headquarters of Egypt’s nascent democracy. Now, for the better part of an hour, I was languishing in a makeshift holding pen somewhere at the entrance of the building.
Ruth Farhi’s eyes cloud with tears and her gaze turns from the camera recording her story as she tells of a memorable January night in 1948 that haunts her to this day. She and a bunch of friends were crammed into her one-room rooftop apartment, sitting at the same upright piano with wooden inlay that sits just feet away from her now, singing and laughing late into the night. The revelry ended only when the 15 young men among them, all fighters in the Haganah, Israel’s pre-state militia, stood up and said their goodbyes.
My concerned daughter in Los Angeles called me in Israel last weekend, shortly before my trip back home after a vacation there. I told her, truthfully, that I had just enjoyed the most idyllic and peaceful weeks of my long life. What I was experiencing was a confirmation of what I have modestly dubbed Tugend's Law: The perception of a crisis intensifies in direct proportion to the distance from its actual occurrence.
Amotz Zakai is vice president of production and manager at Echo Lake Productions, an independent film company that has produced films like "Tsotsi" and "Water." Needless to say, Zakai is very busy right now. But when the 33-year-old Israeli American dual citizen heard about the fighting in Israel, he immediately called his army commander to see if he should return to Israel to serve.
I thought I had struck social gossip gold when my friend Paula let slip a delicious bit of intelligence straight into my eager ears. But as it turns out, Benjamin Franklin was right: 'Two can keep a secret, if one of them is dead.'
When I joined The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles in late 2002 after 3 1/2 tumultuous years at the Los Angeles Times, I expected to stay at the paper a maximum of six months. My plan was to use The Journal as a safe haven while I hunted for a prestige magazine gig. But a funny thing happened on my way out the door. I fell in love with The Jewish Journal and nearly everything about it, including the myriad opinionated readers who never hesitate to let me know when they think I've blown it.
Over the years, people have often asked me whether I've ever thought about working at a "real newspaper." The idea, I guess, is if I'm good enough why wouldn't I want to move up to the mainstream press? But for me that would be more of a move out than a move up.
Say what you will about journalism as a profession, you are never unemployed. Instead, you are "between assignments," a condition I found myself in during the early 1980s at the same time that The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles was preparing to launch its new Jewish Journal. The two situations dovetailed nicely, and for the first 11 years of The Journal's existence, I was its associate editor, until I retired in 1993.
I began my career in journalism at The Jerusalem Post, then the only English-language newspaper in Israel. It wasn't a Jewish newspaper per se; more than covering "Jewish news," its mission was to cover Israel as a country, and that included arts, business, science and technology, politics and crime -- which most often turned out to be Jewish.
Accepting life's ambiguity has gotten me through a lot over the years, particularly this year, as the extremes of experience challenge any vestiges of hope I have held for things to have predictable outcomes. Say what you will about Katrina and cancer, they can be excellent teachers.
It sounds like the set-up for a politically incorrect joke: Did you hear the one about the journalist who began his journey in the Buddha's footsteps in Poland? But what was I doing in Oswiecim, in the southwest corner of Poland? It might make more sense knowing the German name by which Oswiecim is better recognized: Auschwitz.
"Wouldn't you rather I be happy than shomer Shabbos?" I asked. It was a seemingly ridiculous question because, of course, every father wants his child to be happy. "I think you should be shomer Shabbos," he replied; for him, it wasn't an either/or question. He lived in both worlds -- interacting with people from all walks of life in his dental practice, going to the movies, playing golf, reading news magazines -- so why couldn't I?
Being raised Orthodox in the United States, I am often aware that my peers and I do things differently than others: We go to shul on Saturday instead of to the mall, we go to private schools, we dress differently and we recognize that there is a higher being above us. But we do not realize until a much later age, when we leave our sheltered community, just how different we really are and how these differences truly affect us.
I have grown up listening to my grandparents' stories, studying the history, reading the literature and seeing the pictures. I have become familiar with the atrocities and images of the Holocaust. But I cannot describe the way I felt seeing the infamous sign, "Arbeit Macht Frei" on the gate of Auschwitz in color and from inside the gate, instead of outside of it.
letters to the editor
As Rabbi Harold Schulweis wrote ("Interfaith Dialogue Can Bring Change," Nov. 25), interfaith dialogue is indispensable for countering mainline Christian divest-from-Israel campaigns. But dialogue alone simply has not and cannot turn the tide, much as we wish it could.
In the FBI's dossier he is listed as Irving David Rubin, 56, a self-described conservative Republican, Air Force veteran, married for 21 years and the father of two children.