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January 13, 2015 1

Israelis Gather to Bury Victims of Terror in France, Killed Because They Were Jews

(ADL Israel Staff attended the funer­als of the four French Jews ear­lier today in Jerusalem. Below is a per­sonal account from Phyl­lis Ger­ably and Car­ole Nuriel of ADL’s Israel Office)

Today, mak­ing the way to the Har HaMenu­chot (Mount of the Rest­ing) ceme­tery, there were flags and signs put up by the Jerusalem Munic­i­pal­ity embrac­ing the French. The Israel National Police and secu­rity were in place in prepa­ra­tion of the expected large crowds, and the par­tic­i­pa­tion of the Israeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Netanyahu, Pres­i­dent Reuven Rivlin, Oppo­si­tion head Isaac Her­zog, rab­bis, min­is­ters, ambas­sadors and the French Min­is­ter of Envi­ron­ment Ségolène Royal, rep­re­sent­ing the French government.

An impres­sive crowd of thou­sands came out on a cold sunny day to pay final respects to four peo­ple they never met, who were trag­i­cally killed sim­ply because they were Jew­ish. The crowd brought together, in a feel­ing of com­mon des­tiny, fam­ily, friends, mem­bers of the French com­mu­nity in Israel and native Israelis. At the entrance to the ceme­tery a small crowd of French Jews held signs say­ing, “I am Char­lie; I am a Jew; I am an Israeli; I am French; We’ve had Enough.”  ADL Condolence France

In his mov­ing eulogy for the four vic­tims, Pres­i­dent Rivlin put it elo­quently: “This is not how we wanted to wel­come you to Israel. This is not how we wanted you to arrive in the Land of Israel, this is not how we wanted to see you come home, to the State of Israel, and to Jerusalem, its cap­i­tal. We wanted you alive, we wanted for you, life.”

Prime Min­is­ter Netanyahu spoke about Israel being the safe haven for the Jew­ish peo­ple, and that the threat against the Jew­ish peo­ple is, in fact, a threat against all of human­ity. Oppo­si­tion Head Yitzhak Her­zog spoke of his great-grandfather who was the rabbi of Paris one hun­dred years ago, and rec­og­nized the roots and strength of the Jew­ish com­mu­nity in France.

The vic­tims’ fam­i­lies each spoke about their loved ones and how they yearned to be in Israel. Their dig­nity and love for Israel was very mov­ing. Look­ing out at the crowd of mourn­ers — Ashke­nazi and Sephardic Jews joined in sor­row by this hor­rific act — was a quiet reminder to all of us that we are respon­si­ble for one another, no mat­ter where we are.

French Min­is­ter of Envi­ron­men­tRoyal spoke about threats to Jews being a threat to all the French peo­ple, and that France with­out its Jew­ish com­mu­nity just isn’t France.  Min­is­ter Royal also said that com­bat­ing anti-Semitism and racism is going to be the num­ber one pri­or­ity for France in 2015. When she announced that the four mur­dered Jews were going to receive the French Legion of Hon­our medal, a few in the crowd broke out in applause.

It was very hard to avoid the feel­ing that this mes­sage was too lit­tle, too late.

The funeral ended with the singing of Israel’s national anthem, HaTikva, of which the words “We did not lose our hope” (“Od lo avda Tik­vateinu”) had, this time, the addi­tional mean­ing that while a tragic event had occurred, Israelis have hope for a bet­ter future for all.

 

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August 7, 2014 0

Reflecting on Israeli Society During the Conflict: The Best and the Worst

With Israel scal­ing down its oper­a­tions in Gaza and a cease­fire begin­ning to hold, Israeli soci­ety will now reflect on the last four weeks. Out of this fright­en­ing and tense period, one source of inspi­ra­tion and opti­mism has been the sense of sol­i­dar­ity and close­ness felt by Israelis.

Across the coun­try, peo­ple of every age and polit­i­cal affil­i­a­tion clam­ored to help and “do some­thing.” Israelis mobi­lized to show sup­port for the IDF sol­diers serv­ing on the front – peo­ple sent food, care pack­ages, sup­plies — even washed uni­forms.  Oth­ers offered to host res­i­dents of the south who left their homes for fear of the unend­ing fall of rock­ets and blare of warn­ing sirens. Thou­sands went to funer­als and shivas for the fallen sol­diers – par­tic­u­larly those of the “lone” sol­diers – whose fam­i­lies live out­side Israel. Mass prayer vig­ils were held.

Funeral of IDF Soldier Max Steinberg

Funeral of IDF Sol­dier Max Steinberg

But while we can cel­e­brate in this wide­spread feel­ing of unity and gen­eros­ity, we can­not deny that other, trou­bling ten­den­cies also emerged over these past weeks.

Some who pub­licly dis­agreed with Israel’s mil­i­tary oper­a­tion were called “trai­tors” and in some cases, even “Nazis.” Some protest­ing the con­flict were phys­i­cally attacked. Ten­sions with Israeli Arabs have grown. Many were out­raged by reports of some groups of Israeli Arabs who cel­e­brated in the killing of IDF sol­diers. This hos­til­ity inten­si­fied in both speech and action, and there were reports of iso­lated vig­i­lante attacks on Israeli Arab tar­gets. Indeed, when an East Jerusalem Pales­tin­ian attacked a Jerusalem city bus with a con­struc­tion vehi­cle, killing one, out of con­cern for their phys­i­cal safety of Arabs in the vicin­ity, police quickly moved to ensure their safety.

As we begin to think about “the day after,” Israelis must think about how to har­ness the pos­i­tive while reduc­ing the neg­a­tive. We must fig­ure out how to build on the sense of unity and gen­eros­ity while still valu­ing the exchange of dif­fer­ent view­points, and ensur­ing that respect­ful dis­course thrives.

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July 23, 2014 0

More Reflections from Israelis:  Mourning two American-Israeli soldiers 

 

Overflow at the July 23, 2014 funeral of Sgt. Max Steinberg

Over­flow at the funeral of Sgt. Max Steinberg

16 Days into Pro­tec­tive Edge oper­a­tion, the list of fallen sol­diers grows longer and longer. In the last 48 hours, two names of so-called “lone sol­diers” whose fam­i­lies live out­side of Israel were added to the list: two young Amer­i­cans who moved to Israel and served in the IDF – Sgt. Sean Carmeli, who grew up in South Padre, Texas, and Sgt. Max Stein­berg, from Los Angeles.

On Mon­day after­noon, when the funeral of Sgt. Sean Carmeli was announced, there was fear that not that many peo­ple would attend as he does not have imme­di­ate fam­ily Israel.  The Mac­cabi Haifa soc­cer team, of which Sgt. Carmeli was a fan, called on the pub­lic to pay their respects to the lone sol­dier.    Par­tic­i­pa­tion went far beyond all expec­ta­tions: around 20,000 peo­ple from all over Israel came together to pay their respects.

And, today, the peo­ple of Israel embraced the fam­ily of the lone sol­dier from L.A, Sgt. Max Stein­berg. As a Jewish-American orga­ni­za­tion, ADL Israel staff felt the need to attend the funeral and pay our respects to this young American-Jew who came to Israel and fought in his com­bat unit shoul­der to shoul­der with his Israeli friends.   On an extremely hot day, tens of thou­sands flocked to the ceme­tery  – esti­mates runs between 30,000–40,000 peo­ple – the vast major­ity of whom did not know Sgt. Steinberg.

The funeral started with the almost sur­real announce­ment by the Home Front Com­mand instruct­ing atten­dees what to do in case a siren went off dur­ing the funeral. Even dur­ing this emo­tional and tragic moment, this reminder served to rein­force the frag­ile nature of the cur­rent Israeli reality.

The eulo­gies deliv­ered at the funeral brought to life Max’s char­ac­ter and the strong con­nec­tion he felt for the State of Israel and the IDF. His insis­tence on serv­ing in the Golani com­bat unit, and doing so with excel­lence in the var­i­ous courses dur­ing the train­ing process, reflect his spe­cial com­mit­ment and strength.

As Israelis, we felt that join­ing the impres­sive atten­dance at the funeral was our way of express­ing our sor­row at the loss and our deep­est grat­i­tude for an indi­vid­ual who was will­ing to sac­ri­fice his life in a just war, in order to pro­tect our lives. Many brought Israeli flags and waved them proudly. Max’s emo­tional father ended his remarks with a prayer for peace, and a stir­ring: ” Am Israel Chai” – the peo­ple of Israel live.

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