OC Jewish Experience

The official blog of Jewish Orange County

A View from Jerusalem – A Message on the Release of Gilad Shalit

I received the following article in my inbox this morning. It is written by Rebecca Caspi, the JFNA Senior Vice President and Director of the JFNA Israel Office, on the recent release of Israeli Defense Force Soldier Gilad Shalit.

A Personal View from Jerusalem
Oct. 18, 2011

Gilad Shalit is finally home! Welcome back Gilad! I cannot even begin to express how long I have been waiting to write those very words. I know, of course, how closely people across our Federation movement have been following his story, how much this support has meant to his family. This is a uniquely Israeli story. You just can’t imagine the joy, the pain, the pride, the loss – the tumultuous swirling emotions that have enveloped the nation.

There is no other story in the media, there is no other discussion around people’s Shabbat tables and I’d even go as far as to say that there is barely a song being played on the radio that is not dedicated to Gilad. The fact that Shalit, the IDF soldier captured by Hamas on June 25, 2006, the young man who has spent six birthdays in captivity, is being returned to the world of sunlight and freedom, is the only subject in town.

I think back to the milestones passed in my own family over the past five years, the past 1,940 days that Shalit has been held, in confinement, stripped of his human rights, denied even a visit by the Red Cross, paralyzed by the hands of the enemy. How many times did we let our minds linger too long on the matter to shake ourselves to action, affirming, Gilad is still alive, yes, Gilad is still alive. They say that Gilad is the son of all of Israel, that we are all responsible for him. As an Israeli, I really felt that.

How ironic that “Shalit” was heavily trending on Twitter this past week. Yet, Gilad probably has no idea what Twitter even is.

I don’t know how many times I have walked past the tent Gilad’s parents first pitched outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s house – just around the corner from JFNA’s Jerusalem offices – in March 2009, the 1,000th day of their son’s captivity. And how painful it has always been to look Noam and Aviva in the eyes, knowing that I could not – and did not want to – fully comprehend their pain. Yet, like so many thousands of others, I was with them and I wanted to show that. And today, Tuesday, I am smiling along with the rest of the country. We’re simply so happy he’s home.

Religious and secular, left wing and right wing – all have campaigned for Gilad’s release. For the past long five years, psalms were read in synagogues for his safe release, youth marched, bloggers posted, politicians campaigned and everyone dreamt of this day. A large group of Chasidim danced through the night on Thursday to celebrate Gilad’s return.

Whether it is just or not to release 1,027 prisoners for one man, whether Israel’s security will be able to withstand these terrorists’ attempts the second time round, it is clear that all of Israel has rallied together in support of Gilad in a way that they did not for any other cause.

No other country in history has ever paid such a high price for one man’s life; Israel is sending a message to its citizens, its soldiers, that Israel will take responsibility for all people.

Of course, like all Israelis, I have very mixed emotions.

It was with a terrible pit in my stomach that I read the list of the 1,027 terrorists being released to their homes (in some cases, only a matter of miles from where I live) to be welcomed back as heroes. I remember where I was when the Sbarro pizza restaurant was exploded by a suicide bomb in 2001, murdering 15 people and brutally injuring 130. The woman who drove the car for the bomber, and was closely involved in the planning is being let out. This same woman, when imprisoned, declared she had no regrets and anyway, she knew she’d be let out in a prisoner swap sometime soon and when out, she’d carry on. When asked on television whether she knew how many children had been killed in that attack, she replied that she did not. On being told that the number was eight, she allowed a big smile to break out on her face- all in front of the camera, for the whole world to see.

Dalia Cohen’s daughter Kinneret was murdered in 1989 by terrorist Abed al-Hadi Ganaim when he took control of a public bus and drove it off a cliff. “On the one hand, I am happy that Gilad is coming back to his mother,” says Dalia. “I am also a mother and I know what it’s like. I know how much I would want to get my child back. Everybody is happy around me but I cannot rejoice. Abed al-Hadi Ganaim was set free today. I feel like I am betraying my daughter. I feel like she is screaming, her blood, her ashes are crying out to us and I cannot do anything to prevent it.”

President Shimon Peres, in praising Netanyahu for his actions, says: “The safety of each soldier is no less important than the safety of the nation as a whole, and the anguish of a family who lost loved ones to terror is also the anguish of the nation.” In the words of the 3,000 ‘welcome home’ banners plastering the country, ‘Gilad, it’s good to have you back home’. We are with you.

And the whole country is once again shedding tears of happiness and pride; pain and fear; and, above all relief and hope. Welcome home Gilad. We’ve missed you.

Rebecca Caspi, JFNA Senior Vice President and Director of the JFNA Israel Office

Please also see these breaking news reports from Israel:

Jerusalem Post — Schalit reunites with parents, PM welcomes him to Israel http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=242250

Ha’aretz — Gilad Shalit reunites with family at IDF base following return to ISrael http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/gilad-shalit-reunites-with-family-at-idf-base-following-return-to-israel-1.390719


October 18, 2011 Posted by | Israel, Israel Defense Forces | | 1 Comment

Weeklong ‘Green’ Seminar at UC Irvine includes Israel

From OC Metro:

UC Irvine has since Monday been hosting “Empowering Sustainability on Earth,” a weeklong seminar that is part of the UC Irvine School of Social Ecology’s and the Newkirk Center for Science and Society’s “Toward a Sustainable 21st Century” event series. The final presentations and lectures will take place tomorrow.

The seminar has featured an assortment of presentations and lectures that have focused on various ideas about sustainability on a global scale. Some of the many topics include human-induced changes to the environment (with a look at the world’s marine and freshwater resources); the effects of globalization and capitalism on sustainability; and the relationship between religion and sustainability.

The seminar has featured some 70 representatives from 20 countries, including China, India, Russia, Costa Rica, the Netherlands, Spain, Israel, Norway and South Africa, among others.

“This is an extraordinary event that we hope will be the first of many,” said John Whiteley, UCI professor of social ecology. “Bringing together this impressive group of young leaders from throughout the world to focus on sustainability, globally and in their own countries, has great potential to make a difference in the future of the environment. We are confident that the participants will learn as much from each other as from the formal presentations.”


July 21, 2011 Posted by | Community Events, Israel, Technology, UC Irvine | Leave a comment

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: The Truth About the West Bank

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in cooperation with StandWithUs, a frequent partner of both the Jewish Federation & Family Services of Orange County and OC Hillel, produced the following short film about the legal technicalities regarding the West Bank in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict:

Israel’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Danny Ayalon explains the historical facts relating to the Israeli Palestinian conflict. The video explains where the terms “West Bank”, “occupied territories” and “67 Borders” originated and how they are incorrectly used and applied.

You can follow Danny Ayalon on Twitter:

July 20, 2011 Posted by | Israel, Organizations, Technology | Leave a comment

Jerusalem Post Reports on the Olive Tree Initiative


Ben Hartman of the Jerusalem Post reported on the Olive Tree Initiative, the University of California, Irvine program that has drawn interest from pro-Israel student leaders at the University and controversy within the Jewish community. Student leaders was quoted in the article, along with Jewish Federation CEO Shalom Elcott and Rose Project Co-Chair Jeff Margolis.

Hartman correctly categorizes the initiative as a balanced and educational program without any specific ideological bent with this quote from Yerushalmi:

Almost half of the speakers are Zionist or pro-Israel, some are in the middle and are not affiliated with the Palestinian or Israeli side, [working] with non-partisan NGOs or organizations. It’s a very balanced itinerary, and we’ve always been open to hearing from people who have ideas and additional perspectives

Not included in the article is some excellent news about past Rose Project participants and members of the Olive Tree Initiative, who have just been accepted to several long-term Israel programs, including the Menachem Begin Heritage Center and Israel Government Fellows Program, Magen David Adom (Israel’s Red Cross), Hasbara Fellowships, MASA and more. We are very proud of our students, and they, like Isaac, are doing a service to the greater Orange County community, the Jewish people, and demonstrate the success of Rose-project supported programs.

June 22, 2011 Posted by | Community Events, Diaspora, Israel, Jewish Federation Orange County, Media, Rose Project, UC Irvine, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

UC Irvine students attend Hasbara Fellowships

FOR Immediate Release:

What: Hasbara Fellowships Israel Activism Training for College Students              

When: June 2011

Where: Israel

UC Irvine Students Chosen for Elite Israel Advocacy Training with Hasbara Fellowships

Students from UC Irvine are taking initiative this summer to get involved with Israel advocacy on their campuses. 4 student leaders from Irvine have been selected to participate in the elite Hasbara Fellowships activism training program in Israel this summer.

The 4 student leaders -Yekaterina Shutaya, Ryan Jenner, Ari Friedman, and David Gutkin of University of California, Irvine will be joining the Hasbara trip this June.

These outstanding students will be among 700 students, the largest contingency ever, from over 60 college campuses nationwide, that Hasbara will be training in Israel advocacy education this summer.

The Irvine students have all received generous sponsorship from the Rose Project in order to participate in the program.

Hasbara Fellowships was founded in 2001 as a partnership between the Foreign Ministry of Israel and Aish International. Ten years ago it became evident that anti-Israel propaganda on college campuses was a force to be reckoned with. Overt displays of anti-Israel sentiment grew into a burgeoning trend on campuses, and so, there was a need for students to stand up for Israel. Since it’s inception in 2001, over 2,000 students have participated in the Hasbara Fellowships Israel Activism Training Program.

Hasbara takes students on an intensive 2-week program with the goal of educating, training, and motivating students to become pro-Israel activists on their campuses as well as teaching the students to effectively combat wide-ranging anti-Israel propaganda.

Participants will hear from an array of historians, journalists, military personnel, politicians, and academics that will offer perspectives on various topics. Students will have the unique opportunity to go on strategic tours of Sderot, Hebron and Israeli borders of Syria and Lebanon.  This year, participants will also meet with multiple Israeli members of Knesset, receive top briefings at the Knesset, Israeli Foreign Ministry, and the Jerusalem Post, and visit high-tech start-up companies to learn about Israel’s advancements in alternative energy.

Students will learn how to communicate effectively for Israel, answer difficult questions, and run successful programming upon returning to campus. Participants will receive support from professional Hasbara staff to help facilitate pro-Israel programs. Hasbara Fellows become highly trained Israel activists leading pro-Israel activities back on campus.

Individual students are available for interviews upon request. Please direct all inquiries to Atara Jacobs, Community & Public Relations Coordinator at AJacobs@HasbaraFellowships.org or 201-951-3288

June 18, 2011 Posted by | Diaspora, Hillel, Israel, Jewish Federation Orange County, Media, Rose Project, UC Irvine | Leave a comment

Jonathan Adelman comes to UC Irvine

A new pro-Israel student group, SPME (Students for Peace in the Middle East), is having their second event of the quarter at the UCI. They will be hosting Professor Jonathan Adelman, a renowned scholar in the Middle East, Israel, and Global Economics. The Rose Project of the Jewish Federation & Family Services, Orange County is happy to have provided funding for this new student-led and driven organization and program.

Jonathan Adelman at UC Irvine

April 22, 2011 Posted by | Community Events, Israel, Jewish Federation Orange County, Movement for Peace in the Middle East, Rose Project, UC Irvine, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Israel Stops Iran-Based Ship Meant to Aid Terrorists

Screen shot from the Israel Defense Forces Video

Last week, the Israeli Navy uncovered weaponry onboard a cargo vessel intended for terror organizations in the Gaza Strip.  The following video, which was published on YouTube by the Israel Defense Forces on its YouTube Channel, details what the vessel was doing, its path and what was found on the ship.

Here are just some of the items shown on the video from the Israeli port in Ashdod: thousands of mortar shells, ammunition. and six anti-ship missiles.  According to IDF forces the anti-ship missiles found may have significantly shifted the regional balance of power in favor of the terror organizations. These missiles could have been used to threaten Israeli Navy ships, civilian ships, and gas reserves off the coast of Israel.

In addition, Iranian documents found along with the weaponry including a missile identification manual written in Persian containing emblems of the Iranian government, point to the involvement and cooperation between Iran and Syria to further arm terrorist organizations.

The video includes interviews with Rami Ben Yehuda, the deputy commander of the israeli Navy, Lt. General Benjamin Gantz, Chief of the General Staff, Admiral Eliezer Marom, the commander of the Israeli Navy as well as the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Natanyayu.

March 20, 2011 Posted by | Israel, Israel Defense Forces | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2011 Israel Expo: A preview

The 2011 Israel Expo, the largest Jewish Community event held in Orange County each year, is in the advanced planning stages. The Expo committee for this year’s event created a unique save the date video and released it on YouTube this week. I have linked the video to the OC Jewish Community blog for your review.  You can file the video under things to do in Orange County for sure.

The Video was produced by Jewish Federation and Family Services, Orange County. You certainly do not have to be Jewish to attend this event, but it doesn’t hurt if you like falafel and other middle eastern food. There is always great music, booths, art Israeli dancing and camel rides for the kids.
Stay tuned — this year’s event is on Sunday, May 22nd.

For now however, enjoy the previews, playing on computer screens everywhere.


More about this year’s event

The Israel Expo is an exciting opportunity to explore and experience the diverse culture of Israel in the largest and most visible event of its kind in Orange County, drawing more than 6,000 attendees of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds, from all over southern California, every year. Participants will experience an afternoon of family-oriented music and great food; exquisite Israeli fine art and Judaica; extraordinary children’s activities and rides, and much more.

March 4, 2011 Posted by | Community Events, Israel, Jewish Federation Orange County | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Israel, Technology and Saving Lives

Israel has become known for its technology power. JTA recently posted this video called Israeli robots invade New York. The video shows
includes an explanation of a robot snake which can make its way through battlefields, caves, tunnels and buildings while and recording real-time videos. It comes the from Ben Gurion University’s robotics lab.

If you’d like to subscribe JTA’s Youtube Channel, you can click here.

February 25, 2011 Posted by | Israel, Technology | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

OC Events To Note

When it comes to the vibrant Orange County Jewish community, there are endless events held throughout the year.  I do not know why but many of them have been sent to me in various forms of communications over the past day or two.  This includes snail mail (that means the traditional post office) email as well as facebook postings and other means of communication.

Here is a list and links to some of those events, in no particular order.

AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee is holding its 2011 membership dinner on Sunday, March 13th.  The dinner will feature the Reverend Dr. DeeDee M. Coleman, a pastor at the Russell Street Missionary Baptist Church with special remarks given by AIPAC’s Western States Director, Elliott Brandt.

Israeli General Doron Almog is a popular figure these days.  We know this because he is being honored in Orange County by two different Jewish groups.  What made it even more ironic is that the postcards for the two different events honoring Almog arrived at in my mailbox on the same day.

The first event is slated for Sunday March 6th at Congregation Beth Meir Hacohen-Chabad in Yorba Linda.  ” A Morning with Major General Doron Almog” an Israeli Hero is being presented in conjunction with the Jewish National Fund.

General Almog returns to the OC for an event that has been rescheduled for June 12 at the St. Regis Hotel in Monarch Beach.  It is the Jewish National Fund’s Tree of Life Gala. Proceeds from the event will benefit Aleh Negev, a residential facility for the most severely disabled.

Let us not forget about the largest annual community event in Orange County.  It’s not until May but certainly worth mentioning now as a save the date note. The 2011 Israeli Expo, which traditional draws thousands of visitors.  This year’s Expo will happen on Sunday, May 22nd.  Stay tuned for more information or click on the link above.

February 24, 2011 Posted by | Community Events, Israel | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment