In recent weeks, anti-Iran rallies have been taking place across America, but one that organizers anticipate will be the largest of all will be held in New York City’s Times Square in the early evening of July 22. Concern over how a nuclear Iran would place America and the world under constant threat has prompted a star-studded cast of speakers, including Jerusalem Post Senior Contributing Editor Caroline Glick, to bridge political, religious, ethnic and cultural divides.
The rally, under the heading of Stop Iran Now, is timed to coincide with the congressional debate on how to deal with the Iran issue.
More than 50 organizations have partnered to make this rally one of the most meaningful and united that America has ever known.
Although organizers have so far failed to persuade presidential candidates to participate, speakers will include Harvard Law Prof. Alan Dershowitz; former Manhattan district attorney Robert Morgenthau; former CIA director James Woolsey; former congressman Allen West; former House Intelligence Committee chairman Peter Hoekstra; Steve Emerson, the founder of the Investigative Project on Terrorism; Frank Gaffney, the founder of the Center for Security Policy; James A. Lyons, the former commander in chief of the US Pacific Fleet and senior US military representative to the United Nations; former governor of New York George Pataki; and The French Connection lead actor Tony Lo Bianco.
Even though there seems to be serious doubt that an agreement with the Iranians will be reached, the purpose of the rally is to ensure that the original demands on Iran will prevail. These include unfettered inspections of all known and to-be-uncovered nuclear research sites at any time, unannounced, as well as a surrender of uranium-enriched material and elimination of virtually all centrifuges.
The rally will also call for reinstatement of all sanctions against Iran, and support for the provision demanded by Congress members Lee Zeldin (R-New York) and Grace Meng (D-New York) to supply Israel with full-size bunker-destroying ordnances as a deterrent against the Islamic regime.
■ IT IS left to the wives of heads of state to take on duties such as visiting kindergartens, hospitals and facilities for people with special needs. Thus it comes as no surprise that Nechama Rivlin will be the guest of honor this coming Sunday at the screening at Beit Halochem rehabilitation center in Tel Aviv of a film about a trip to India by IDF veterans who were wounded in Operation Protective Edge and other battles. Many first-anniversary commemoration ceremonies and get-togethers are being held this month to mark the first anniversary of a war in which far too many young lives were lost on both sides.
The film is an example of Israel’s ability to overcome. It shows the way in which soldiers who suffered life-changing injuries quickly learned to adapt to life without an eye, or a leg, or an arm and to make the most of every day. Tal lost an eye in Operation Protective Edge. Ran lost a leg in Operation Cast Lead. Ehud, who fought in the Second Lebanon War and was critically injured, still suffers from shell shock. Altogether, 20 disabled veterans decided to look on the bright side and to take a trip to India to compensate for the trips they didn’t take after completing their mandatory army service.
They went rafting in the Ganges, climbed the Himalayas, and more or less adopted the “Yes We Can” campaign slogan of US President Barack Obama from the first time he ran for office. The documentary film of that trip to India shows courage and humor in the face of adversity.
■ OVER THE last few months, new recruits to the Israel Defense Forces have included scores of lone soldiers from abroad, many of whom are the offspring of Israeli parents and have grown up with some form of Israeli identity, to which they want to give meaningful expression.
Among them is Uzi Hamdagi, 27, who arrived last month to fulfill a promise that he made to his dying father who died of cancer eight years ago.
When Hamdagi’s parents divorced, his father returned from California to Israel, while the young Uzi remained with his mother in Los Angeles. Despite the distance, and the fact that his father remarried and had a new family, father and son remained in contact with each other, and Uzi’s father frequently urged him to come to Israel and enlist in the IDF.
Much as he wanted to do that when he was younger, Uzi was restricted by the fact that his mother had ALS and he couldn’t leave her to fend for herself. When Uzi was in his late teens, his father was diagnosed with cancer. This was not told to Uzi until the cancer had spread to an advanced stage. When he was 19, Uzi received a phone call from his uncle in Israel asking him to come quickly because his father was dying. He reached the hospital in time and promised his father that he would come on aliya and that he would serve in the IDF. His father died only a few hours later.
Uzi returned to California to take care of his mother, and she, too, died some six months later.
He had been a public diplomacy activist on campus at UCLA, and he continued to defend Israel’s image while making plans to move to Israel.
It took somewhat longer than he had anticipated, but he did not give up on the dream and the promise that he had made to his father.
With the help of Nefesh B’Nefesh, the Immigration and Absorption Ministry, the Jewish Agency and the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund, he was finally able to realize the dream, and one of the first things he did after landing in Israel was to report to the IDF recruitment office and ask to be assigned to a combat unit. Confronting danger is not a novelty for him. In response to his public diplomacy, he has been a target for anti-Semitic incidents, his life has been threatened, and he has been physically and verbally abused.
All this has only strengthened his resolve to serve in the IDF.
■ MORE THAN 20 young leaders and supporters of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces from all walks of life, representing communities from the NY-NJ-CT tri-state area and across the US, joined the FIDF Young Leadership Mission which wound up its Israel visit this week.
The mission, which was in Israel to show its appreciation for the soldiers of the IDF, was briefed by military officers and toured strategic IDF bases to get a behind-thescenes look into the army. Mission members were accompanied by FIDF national young leadership director Dan Haskell and mission co-chairmen and young leadership- New York board members Arielle Cole and Matthew Gelles.
The FIDF leaders also met with soldiers of the Gaza Division, whose task it is to protect the South. In addition the leaders toured the Ashdod Naval Base and vessels.
■ STUDENTS FROM the Drom Hasharon High School who are enrolled in the Young Ambassadors program, which aims to train young people to become better future leaders and advocates for the State of Israel, were hosted last week by Croatian Ambassador Pjer Simunovic prior to their visit to his country, where they met this week with their Croatian counterparts, government ministers and members of parliament. Yitzhak Eldan, the head of the program, who is a former chief of protocol of the Foreign Ministry, told Simunovic that a film was being made of the students’ meetings and activities in Croatia, which will be screened for both students and parents in September. He invited the ambassador to come to see it.
Simunovic was delighted to accept, because the film will enable him to see how the students responded to his country. Some of the students admitted that they had known little or nothing about Croatia until they were told that this was their destination. Some would have preferred to go to a larger and seemingly more glamorous country, but said that after seeing images of Croatia on the Internet, they were quite excited to be going there and were sure that it would be a memorable visit. Eldan said that he had a similar experience with one of Croatia’s neighboring countries.
Students had objected to going there, but after their arrival they had a lot of fun and came away with excellent impressions.
■ JEWS ARE biblically commanded to increase and multiply, which explains why haredi families tend to be so large and why the first baby is usually born or at least conceived within the first year of marriage.
The symbolism of all this was not lost on United Hatzalah ambucycle medic Tal Cohen. Jerusalem Post Health and Science Editor Judy Siegel-Itzkovich reports that newly married Cohen had just concluded his honeymoon when he and colleague Ronen Avrahimi received an urgent call late Monday that a woman had gone into labor at home for her first baby and that it was in distress. They hurried through traffic to find the woman struggling. They were joined by UH medic Menachem Amsili, who arrived soon after and delivered within three minutes a healthy baby girl. “This was a wonderful welcome-back present – to help bring new life into the world,” said Cohen.
■ THE PROTEST vigil mounted a week ago around the corner from the Prime Minister’s Residence by leading figures from Judea and Samaria – Avi Roeh, head of the Binyamin Regional Council; Rabbi Eli Sadan, head of the Bnei David hesder yeshiva; and Yohai Damari, the head of the Mount Hebron Regional Council – is unlikely to be as effective as the demonstrations in 1982 outside the residence when Menachem Begin was prime minister, or in 1985 when Shimon Peres was prime minister.
Begin and Peres could not help but see the demonstrators when they looked out of their windows, or in their comings and goings.
But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu need not see the protesters at all. His motorcade can simply drive down Smolenskin Street, turn right toward Jabotinsky Street, and drive up to the corner of Ha’ari Street, turn right and continue to his office. Not since the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin have demonstrators been permitted to stand opposite the front entrance to the residence in Smolenskin Street or diagonally across the road in Balfour Road.
Demonstrations are held on the other side of Terra Sancta, where the prime minister may occasionally hear voices or music, but he will be spared from seeing the demonstrators and their placards unless he wants to. The vigil is in protest against government policy relating to acts of terrorism, as was the protest demonstration by mainly West Bank activists on July 1, which was rather pointless considering that Netanyahu was on his way to Herzliya Pituah to join in the American Independence Day festivities. The vigil is continuing but doesn’t seem to be attracting too much attention from passersby.
■ THE MEETING in Toronto this week between U2’s Bono and former president Shimon Peres received a lot of coverage around the globe, primarily because Bono urged Peres to continue working for peace. The two men are not strangers to each other. Bono was part of the glittering international lineup of celebrities who attended Peres’s 90th birthday love-fest in Jerusalem two years ago, at which time he described Peres as “a gift to Israel and the world.” What is truly remarkable about Peres is not only the number of admirers who beat a path to his door whether in Israel or wherever he happens to be abroad, but that he remains so active and young in spirit, walks without a cane, spends long hours on his feet and continues to travel around the globe. Only two weeks before flying to Canada, Peres was in Moscow for a meeting with President Vladimir Putin, and immediately on returning to Israel plunged into activities in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. It’s true that he’s not the only physically and mentally active nonagenarian.
Another admirable example is Arutz Sheva journalist Walter Bingham, who at age 91 is still running around chasing stories and, like Peres, has no use for a cane. The main difference is that Peres has a battery of staff who are running with him while Bingham is a lone wolf. Bingham has been able to interview some remarkable people on his weekly magazine radio show, but he has not yet succeeded in interviewing Peres.
Considering how much history each has witnessed and made, Bingham is sure that they would have a lot to talk about, but so far his requests to Peres have gone unanswered.
■ IN PREVIOUS years, many haredi women and their children have been left alone on Rosh Hashana while their husbands and fathers went off to Uman. But now women are also going, not only in all-female groups but also together with their husbands. Notwithstanding the unrest in Ukraine, a women’s group led by the dynamic Rabbanit Yemima Mizrahi is planning to be in Uman from August 16-20 to visit the grave of Rabbi Nachman, and will be followed by a mixed, husband-and-wife group led by television personalities Eden Harel ad Oded Menashe on August 20-23. The two groups will visit the graves of great hassidic rabbis, many of which still exist in Ukraine. The most famous is that of Rabbi Nahman of Breslov, which is somewhat surprising considering that his great-grandfather the Baal Shem Tov, the father of Hassidism, is also buried in Ukraine, in the Jewish cemetery of Medzhibozh.
Harel and her husband are relatively newly observant. She is a former MTV VJ, who once contemplated becoming a Buddhist nun.
She got a taste of religion from her first husband, from whom she has a son, but only after her second marriage did she become stronger in her religious resolve, and nowadays she lectures to mass rallies of religious Jewish women.
■ WHILE JEWISH women’s organizations have laudable achievements to their credit, women are still few and far between in general Jewish community leadership.
Rome’s Jewish community, the oldest in Europe, took a forward step last month in electing Ruth Dureghello as the first-ever woman leader of the council of the Jewish community of Rome, though women have sat on the council and have held leadership positions elsewhere in Italy. In fact, Dureghello, a 48-year-old lawyer and mother of two, was one of three women who headed lists for the council. There were four lists altogether. In the past, one of the presidents of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities was a woman – Tullia Zevi, who wielded considerable influence. The International Council of Jewish Women used to have a slogan: “Where there’s a woman, there’s a way.”