Much of the world press has treated last weekend’s attempt by Palestinians living in Syria to force their way across the border into the Golan Heights as one more manifestation of the “Arab Spring,” the movement of mostly young people to bring a semblance of freedom and democracy to an Arab world that lacks both.
The truth is something less heroic; all evidence suggests the attempted incursion was one more attempt by Syrian strongman Bashar Assad to deflect attention from his brutal repression of protesters in his own country.
While the pro-Israel community continues to deconstruct President Obama’s statements about the Mideast in trying to determine whether he is a true friend or not, it is becoming increasingly clear that the Jewish state’s most outspoken defender among world leaders is someone who may not be a household name for many of us.
It’s a question we often ask ourselves, and hear from others, particularly at times like this of great anxiety about Israel’s future.
The answer is to get involved, and one tangible and immediate way to do that is to participate in Celebrate Israel, the annual Israel Day parade — the biggest of its kind anywhere — that takes place this Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., up Fifth Avenue from 57th Street to 74th Street, rain or shine.
If the Revelation at Mount Sinai was arguably the pivotal moment in Judaism, its commemoration — Shavuot (June 8 and 9 this year) — has oddly become a private, almost obscure affair compared to its fellow heavyweights on the holiday calendar.
Everyone in town, even on television, knows about Passover, its sibling holiday. Almost all Jews speak of Pesach and Passover interchangeably. But like an old Yiddish relative, no one really uses or even knows Shavuot’s English name: Feast of Weeks? Pentecost? Really, who in the family ever calls her that?
Religious freedom is both precious and precarious. Case in point: the circumcision ban that will be on the ballot as a referendum in San Francisco in November.
The proposed measure would make it unlawful to perform a ceremony critical to the identity of Jews; worse, it states that “no account shall be taken of the effect on the person on whom the operation is to be performed of any belief on the part of that or any other person that the operation is required as a matter of custom or ritual.”
Talk about blatant violations of the First Amendment.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is often described as one of the most powerful and effective lobbying groups in Washington. Just about any way you measure success — Congressional voting results, organizational skills, funding, effective professionals and legions of passionate lay leaders — AIPAC qualifies. And supporters of Israel, and of strong ties between Washington and Jerusalem, should be grateful for that achievement.