Chanukah comes not a moment too soon, a chance to light up the darkness of a difficult year for Israel and its supporters. The litany of woes included the 50-day war in Gaza during which the Israel Defense Forces prevailed militarily against Hamas but lost the image battle, accused of excessive military force. There was increasing anti-Semitism and political isolation for the Jewish state, as Europe and the United Nations move toward accepting a Palestinian state without direct negotiations with Jerusalem. And there were deteriorating relations between the White House and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, as personal animosity seeps into diplomatic policy.
On Nov. 24, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor delivered a blistering condemnation of UN hypocrisy in dealing with the Jewish state. It came during a commemoration of the international day of solidarity with the Palestinian people, and deserves attention for its important message and blunt language in a forum know for flowery rhetoric. And it merits quoting at some length because it received so little coverage.
Rabbi Shai Held, rosh yeshiva of Mechon Hadar, said he had an epiphany of sorts while he sat on Broadway, protesting a Staten Island grand jury’s decision last week not to indict a white police officer in the choking death of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old black man who allegedly had been selling individual cigarettes last July. Rabbi Held, who was among several rabbis arrested for their sit-in, said that as the crowd around him shouted “black lives matter,” an identifiably black Jewish man nearby fervently yelled “louder,” over and over again. “I saw in that moment how deeply African American men feel their lives devalued,” the rabbi said in a radio interview, adding that the negative perceptions among many whites about black men “run so deep that it should penetrate our souls.”
The longstanding effort to increase awareness of sexual abuse in the Orthodox community received a major boost this week. Hundreds of Israeli social workers, therapists, rabbis, community leaders and teachers met at a conference in Jerusalem to discuss how to prevent and deal with sexual abuse and domestic violence — topics that too often have been avoided rather than confronted. Participants described it as a landmark event.