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Mourning in the Language of Tisha B’Av

A makeshift ritual to grieve for Sudanese and Eritrean refugees in Israel

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African asylum seekers, who entered Israel illegally in the past years, hold a prayer after they spent the night in an outdoor camp near Nitzana border crossing with Egypt in the Negev Desert on June 28, 2014. (MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

I’m trying to sing Lamentations in Ladino, a sad book of the Bible in a dying language I don’t know. I couldn’t care less about the destruction of the Temple—what synagogues all over the world are commemorating today, Tisha B’Av, with the chanting of Lamentations in Hebrew. I mourn those who die at borders, trying to get out of Egypt, and those who make it: strangers detained in the desert, captives waiting to be deported. I lament the exploitation of workers Israel calls infiltrators, who labor like slaves in four-star resorts.

I’ve been to the remnant of the temple in Jerusalem. I had gone to Israel to follow the stories of Sudanese and Eritrean refugees who’d crossed the Sinai. Peter, who thought along the way, the Holy Spirit is going to Jerusalem. Daniel, who asked when he got there, where is the Holy City? Gabriel, who told me his father was killed in South Sudan; his mother drowned herself in the Nile. He asked me to meet him at the Wailing Wall. (more…)

Cavs Coach David Blatt: Gaza Operation Justified

New NBA hire spent the last four years coaching Maccabi Tel Aviv

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Maccabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt announces that he is leaving for the NBA during a press conference on June 12, 2014. (JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

David Blatt, the newly-appointed Cleveland Cavaliers coach who hit the NBA jackpot last month when LeBron James subsequently announced his return to the team, expressed his support for the Israel military operation in Gaza in a recent interview with Israeli newspaper Globes. The Boston native spent the past four seasons coaching Maccabi Tel Aviv, leading the team to their unexpected Euroleague victory in May, ending a long string of international coaching gigs and heading to the NBA.

Asked how he felt not being in Israel during Operation Protective Edge, the month-long conflict in which 64 IDF soldiers and more than 1,800 Palestinians have been killed, he said, “That’s exactly what’s making me uncomfortable. I’ve always been in Israel at the hardest times. Since Operation Protective Edge began, I feel being in Israel is the most natural thing for me to do. My work is here, though, and I have to get ready for the coming season. It’s not easy for me when I’m constantly thinking about what’s happening in Israel.” (more…)

Two Suspected Terror Attacks Rock Jerusalem

Driver slams excavator into bus, killing one; IDF soldier shot at close range

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Israeli policemen moves the body of a Palestinian man who was shot by Israeli police officers after he rammed an excavator into a bus on August 04, 2014 in Jerusalem, Israel. (Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)

A Palestinian man from East Jerusalem driving an excavator killed a pedestrian and hit a bus on Monday, in what is believed to be the first terror attack in Israel since Operation Protective Edge began 28 days ago.

The driver, identified as Muhammed Naif el-Ja’abis from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber, was shot dead at the scene by police and a prisons service officer who happened to be nearby when the incident occurred.

Ja’bbis reportedly slammed the excavator into the bus, flipping it over onto the sidewalk and injuring the bus driver and four passengers. (more…)

Birthrighters Banned From IDF Soldiers’ Funerals

Program CEO fears American visitors just won’t get it

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An honor guard caries the coffin of Israeli Lt. Hadar Goldin during his funeral on August 3, 2014 in Kfar-saba, Israel. (Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images)

It’s summer, which means that Israel is hosting scores of young American Jews touring the country as part of the Taglit Birthright program. But this is no ordinary time for a visit, and Birthright participants have requested to alter their itineraries and allow them to attend the funerals of IDF soldiers killed in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge. This is a particularly poignant request given the fact that one of these soldiers, Max Steinberg, is a Birthright alum. The organization, however, remains unmoved, refusing to allow its members to witness the fallen soldiers’ last rites.

“This is a new subject, and so we had no prior policy,” said Taglit Birthright’s CEO, Gidi Mark. “We’re inclined to prohibit [participation in soldiers’ funerals], because attending requires understanding the context of what’s going on here, and this is their first visit so they lack this understanding.” (more…)

The Perfect Tisha B’Av Playlist

There’s only one song on it

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(Shutterstock)

Tisha B’Av, the day we mourn the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem and commemorate those epic tragedies with a reading of Lamentations, is arguably the most somber day in the Jewish calendar. You are supposed to fast and to avoid anything that gives you pleasure.

Not everyone, though, is machmeer, or strict, in their observance. For those who allow themselves music, then, here’s a playlist. It consists of a single mournful song, poetry courtesy of the Book of Psalms. (more…)

My Very Own Tisha B’Av

How the saddest day of the Jewish calendar helped make me a happier Jew

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Glass bridge above the Hall of Witness at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum(USHMM)

The idea that Tisha B’Av, the day that commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples in ancient Jerusalem, could serve as my own personal means of identity integration came to me in what I consider to be one of the most sacred spaces in Washington, D.C.: the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, where, for the past decade, I have made an annual Tisha B’Av pilgrimage.
 
Visiting a Holocaust memorial on a Tisha B’Av afternoon is not all that unusual for religiously observant Jews, and neither is what I did the night before: sitting on the floor of my synagogue and listening to various men read from the Book of Lamentations. Perched cross-legged against a wall, the summers I spent at Habonim, a Labor Zionist youth camp, couldn’t have been further from my mind. (more…)

New Report Shows Britain Not Immune to Anti-Semitism

Faring better than Europe, but with clouds on the horizon

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Gravestones lay desecrated in Eastham Jewish cemetery, June 16, 2005, in London, England. (Getty Images)

In the first six months of 2014, there was a 36 percent increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents recorded in the United Kingdom, a new report released by Britain’s Community Security Trust (CST) revealed Thursday.

Between January and June of this year, 304 incidents of anti-Semitism were noted by the CST, as compared to 223 in the same period in 2013, 312 in 2012, and 294 in 2011. While there are positive trends beneath the headline figure–violent anti-Semitic incidents have fallen for the past two years and are at their lowest level since 2001–other types of incidents have risen in number, leading to an increase in the overall figure. Damage to Jewish property went up 35 percent–one widely-reported example of anti-Semitism was the desecration of gravestones at Blackley Jewish Cemetery in Manchester, some broken in two, some daubed with Nazi and anti-Jewish graffiti, which took place at the end of June. (more…)

New York Times Slams Its Own Pulitzer-Prize Winning Photographer In Gaza

Says Legendary Photojournalist Tyler Hicks is Bad at His Job

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An Israeli soldier runs infront of an Israeli Merkava tank at an army deployment area on the southern Israeli border with the Gaza Strip, on August 1, 2014. (Getty Images)

If you have ever wondered why the New York Times photo coverage from Gaza has almost exclusively consisted of dead and bleeding Palestinian children in Shifa Hospital, with nary a Hamas gunman or missile launch from a school or a mosque to fill out the narrative of events on the ground, the newspaper of record has an astonishing answer: Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Tyler Hicks really sucks at his job.

For anyone who knows anything about photojournalism, the Times’s answer raises some very serious questions about the sanity of the people who are running the newspaper, as well as the paper’s loyalty to one of the greatest photographers of his era who has put his life at risk for the newspaper time and time again in global hot spots and conflict zones. (more…)

The Ding Dong Derby, Week 2

More of the shallowest, least thoughtful commentators of the week

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(Shutterstock)

It’s been a busy week for ding dongs. Observing the war unfurling in Gaza, the best and brightest in the press, like so many Clarissas, have come up with many fun stories that explain it all. My favorite remains the obsession over whether the three kidnapped Israeli teenagers were slain by members of a Hamas terrorist cell or a breakaway Hamas terrorist cell, as if the minute distinction somehow absolved Hamas of involvement or make it any less of a maniacal, murderous organization. As you could expect of ding dongs, some incarnations of this tale featured not only shoddy thinking but shoddy journalism as well, with sensationalist headlines contradicting the very facts begrudgingly reported within.

But never mind that. And never mind how little we’ve heard of the accounts of western journalists returning from Gaza and reporting Hamas’s intimidation and lies. That’s not what the Ding Dong Derby’s about. Here, we deal strictly with the worst of the worst. Here they are. (more…)

Voices From Gaza: Ahmed Asmar

‘Every two minutes, we hear a bombardment’

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Ahmed Asmar is a freelance journalist who lives in Gaza City. I reached him by phone at his home Thursday morning. “Every two minutes, we hear a bombardment,” he told me. As if to complete a prophecy, an Israeli missile landed and detonated 30 meters, he guessed, from his building, in the  middle of our conversation. I heard a loud boom, and then sirens, and people shouting. He ended our conversation in order to assist casualties. We picked up later when he was at his parents’ home on a relatively quiet street.

Conditions in Gaza are worsening. On Tuesday, an Israeli airstrike hit Gaza’s only power plant, engulfing it in flames and forcing it to shut down. Accompanying the lack of electricity is a lack of clean water; Gaza’s water is brackish and has to be treated through electrical pumps. Without electricity, the residents of the Gaza Strip are reliant upon UN-distributed bottled water. Footage has begun to emerge of entire neighborhoods razed to the ground. “Families have been deleted from national record,” Asmar said. “The father, the mother, and all the children, they no longer exist.” (more…)

Ceasefire Crumbles as Hamas Abducts Israeli Soldier

Kills two in surprise attack Friday morning

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A general view shows the damaged minaret of a mosque in Al-Salam neighbourhood, in Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip on August 1, 2014. (Getty Images)

An IDF officer was kidnapped and two others killed Friday morning, as Hamas attacked Israeli forces an hour and a half after a U.N./U.S.-brokered 72-hour ceasefire took effect, the Israeli military reported.

The captive soldier was named by the IDF as Sec.-Lt Hadar Goldin, a 23-year-old Givati Brigade officer from Kfar Saba. His family has been notified. The White House condemned the breach of the ceasefire by Hamas as “barbaric.” Prime Minister Netanyahu phoned U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and told him that Hamas will bear the consequences for this “gross violation” of the ceasefire. (more…)

Why You Should Watch ‘Funny Girl’

Rediscovering the relevance of a Streisand classic

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(IMDb)

I confess: during my first week interning at Tablet this summer, I had to ask about the origin of the phrase “Hello, Gorgeous” that was printed on the tote bags hanging at the front of the office.

I know; it’s shameful. But I can explain … sort of. I was born in 1995, and that makes me a member of the generation that first heard “Don’t Rain On My Parade” not from Barbra Streisand but from Rachel Berry in an episode of Glee. For some odd reason, Funny Girl, once a staple of Jewish popular culture, has stayed largely off my radar—and the same is true for my college-age Jewish peers. Last weekend, I decided that this had to change. I would not be uninformed any longer. I would watch Funny Girl. (more…)

Meet Marc Weitzmann

The author of Tablet’s ‘France’s Toxic Hate’ series discusses his background

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(Shutterstock)

This week marked the third installment of Marc Weitzmann’s timely five-part series, France’s Toxic Hate, which catalogs the rise of anti-Semitism in the country. Here, Weitzmann shares a bit about his own family history and his personal experiences living in France, and how they led him to write about anti-Jewish prejudice.

How far back does your family’s history in France go? 

Part of my family is originally from Ukraine—they left around 1880, en route for New York, but the boat stopped in Marseille because of the Typhus epidemic, if I remember correctly, and that’s how they ended up becoming French. (more…)

16,000 Israeli Reservists Called Up

Netanyahu vows to press on until tunnel threat eliminated

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Israeli soldiers rest after returning from combat in the Gaza Strip at the deployment area along the border between Israel and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip on July 31, 2014. (Getty Images)

The IDF called up an additional 16,000 reservists on Wednesday night, bringing the total number of reservists marshaled since the start of Operation Protective Edge to 86,000.

They will be part of force rotations and deployed not only to swap out soldiers already deployed to Gaza, but also to the West Bank and the northern border, allowing soldiers there to join the front lines in the south.

Fighting continued in Gaza on the 24th day of the operation, as Israeli infantrymen shot and killed a Hamas gunman as he emerged from an attack tunnel. (more…)

Remembering the Sinti and Roma of Auschwitz

On August 2, 1944, Nazis liquidated the concentration camp’s Gypsy section

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German police guard a group of Roma who have been rounded up for deportation to Poland. Germany, 1940-1945. (US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Lydia Chagoll)

At twilight on the evening of Aug. 2, 1944, big, wood-sided trucks arrived at the Gypsy family camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau. The prisoners were given sausage and a piece of bread and told that they were being taken to another camp. At first, the trucks drove off in a different direction from the gas chambers and crematoria, but as they doubled back toward the killing factories, the Gypsies began to struggle and fight the guards. “Betrayal!” they screamed. “Murder!”

A Hungarian Jew who heard the clamor from a nearby barrack later said that the memory made her blood run cold. “We heard yelling, German orders, the ever, ever-present German Shepherd dogs barking,” she recalled. “And then, screaming. I never, ever forget that screaming. Terrible screams. They must have known.” (more…)

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