NEWS AND INFORMATION
Events, happenings, and Opinions Concerning
Israel, Israelites, Judah, and Everyone Else
Date 9th March 2008, 2 Adar-2 5768
1. Arab Terrorist Attacks Jerusalem's
Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva: 8 Dead
2. Lev Leviev: 'We need
3. Barry Chamish Sued for Libel
1. Arab Terrorist Attacks Jerusalem's
Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva: 8 Dead
by Nissan Ratzlav-Katz and Hillel Fendel
An Arab terrorist infiltrated Jerusalem's Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva at around 8:30 Thursday night and murdered eight Jews. At least 10 students were wounded, including five in serious to critical condition.
Five of the dead were high school students in Merkaz Harav's Yeshiva LeTze'irim, and three studied in the upper-school Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva.
The attacker entered the yeshiva and opened fire on students before he was gunned down himself by a part-time yeshiva student, aided by an off-duty army officer from the neighborhood. The attack began in the seminary's library with the terrorist spraying bullets in every direction before anyone could react.
Leviev': 'WE need
By Anshel Pfeffer
MOSCOW - Two weeks ago oligarch Boris Spiegel, a senator and an influential figure in Russian politics, who is also the president of the World Congress of Russian Jewry, celebrated his 55th birthday at a well-attended party in a luxurious venue in this city. In honor of Lev Leviev's arrival, the organizers arranged for a special table with kosher food only.
Leviev claims that Jews have to demonstrate their Judaism proudly, and is convinced that most Israelis are ashamed of their Jewishness. He even attributes the rise in anti-Semitism to that.
"We're ashamed of what we are," he says. "That's why we feel that we have to get rid of the values of our glorious history and run to learn from other, new nations. Don't I look to you like a man of the world? Don't I speak to the leading businessmen in the world? And it's no problem that I'm a Jew, and a proud Jew who wears a skullcap everywhere, and that's my symbol and my identity. There were Jews who told people here [in Russia]: Don't wear a tallit (prayer shawl), don't walk around like Jews, keep quiet. But that's what brings anti-Semitism: when a Jew tries to resemble a goy. When a Jew behaves like what he is - a Jew - a goy begins to respect him, too. When he is not ashamed, then he is respected. I come to eat with very important people in the world, and I say 'only kosher,' and always with a skullcap. I don't recall that my business ever suffered from that."
The media have bestowed on Leviev the title of the richest man in Israel: On the Forbes magazine list of billionaires he is located, with $1.4 billion, after Shari Arison and Stef Wertheimer, but that list refers only to his public holdings, in the context of Africa-Israel; the diamond and gold businesses he controls further increase his wealth, which TheMarker estimates at $5.6 billion.
Leviev is not satisfied with just being wealthy, he also has a public role: president of the Association of Jewish Communities in Russia. The offices of the association are located in a place that is still an important center of his life, and where a large part of this interview was conducted: the Moscow headquarters of the educational organization Or Avner, named after his father. At a time when the new Israeli billionaires are discovering philanthropy and are starting to donate money to Israeli society, Leviev focuses his donations and his time on Russia and other countries that have arisen on the ruins of the Soviet Union.
Don't you feel that you are swimming against the tide?
"Our worldview is mistaken. First of all, it is written that 'All Jews are responsible for one another,' and a Jew who lives in Siberia or in Kamchatka is just as good as a Jew who had the good fortune to be born in Jerusalem. The person who was born and grew up in Kamchatka, because Stalin didn't like his father and sent him there, grew up as a child who didn't know he was Jewish. We as Jews are obligated to take care of every one of our own, including him. It is written that all of Israel is part of God above, we are part of the Holy One, blessed be he - so for me there's no difference between a Jew in Israel and a Jew abroad. I give money for which I work very hard, and I believe that as a Jew I am obligated to do so. We have dozens of institutions, associations, areas in which we are active, and it costs us hundreds of millions of shekels of our own money. We did not take public money."
Covering a wall in the room where the interview is taking place, which senior staff at Or Avner call the "war room," is a map of the former Soviet Union. With the pressing of a switch hundreds of green bulbs light up, extending from the island of Sakhalin in the Far East, near Japan: Each represents a place where representatives of the organization live. Red bulbs symbolize the 75 Jewish schools that have already been built. Leviev, a reserved person, has difficulty concealing a smile of satisfaction.
Is it possible that because of your large investment the lives of Jews here are so comfortable now that they have no desire to come to Israel?
"That question reflects a mistaken worldview, because the moment a Jew's Jewish soul is poor, of course he won't come to Israel. We want to give him content. My dream is for that to be the job of the Israeli Education Ministry. If not, we have to call it the Ministry of Knowledge. Because there's a big difference between education and knowledge: The moment we don't invest in educating Jewish children according to the roots that were the basis of our education for thousands of years, we are knowledge-givers rather than educators. My vision is that we will live in a Jewish state where 'the Jewish state' won't be written only on the flag, because soon they'll be saying that we have an Arab majority and it won't be nice to write that we're a Jewish state. Just as a Muslim studies Islam, the Jew has to study Judaism. Everyone has to learn the heritage of his family and the history that dates back thousands of years.
"Arik [former prime minister Ariel] Sharon said to me: 'You're giving the Jews a good life and they won't come to Israel.' I was very surprised. I said to him: 'I didn't come to get a medal for my investment in Diaspora Jewry, when I'm actually doing your job, but at least you should express your gratitude rather than criticizing us.' The fact that he spoke that way shows that Arik Sharon didn't receive a Jewish education either."
But in the 1990s millions of immigrants came here, without any of the Jewish education that you're talking about.
"They came because the gates were closed, and then they opened. And the State of Israel missed the opportunity and didn't absorb them properly, and then they stopped coming even when the gates remained open. There is almost no Jew here who hasn't visited Israel; they saw that the absorption is not good, that there's no work, etc. When the aliyah stopped 10 years ago, and they made such a major effort to bring over non-Jews from here, too, I was opposed."
Don't 300,000 Jews who are not Jews according to halakha [Jewish law] deserve to have a solution found for them?
"Prime minister Sharon asked us at the time to set up conversion institutes. I told him, what are we, a factory? Go to the rabbis. If you need a donation I'm here. But to decide who is a Jew and who isn't a Jew - I'm not qualified for that. Just as I'm not qualified to fly the plane to Russia, even if I think I may have the ability. Who is a Jew? Neither a prime minister nor a president can determine that; for that there are experts in the rabbinate."
In the business world Leviev is described as a creative person, a revolutionary. The man who turned the international diamond industry on its head when he made alliances with the Russian government and with African countries for the mining and polishing of diamonds, to break the monopoly of the De Beers corporation. This is how he made the billions that enabled him to acquire the Africa-Israel company and through it establish an intercontinental real-estate empire. He thinks that we are all losing because we don't follow his Jewish path: "Why aren't we in the State of Israel living in peace? Why do we have problems and wars, and all this mess? If we were to live as Jews, according to the Torah, we would be the wealthiest, the most peaceful people, in the safest country," he says.
And why doesn't that happen?
"Because of our behavior, our assimilation, our denial of our Judaism. Every Jew in Israel or in the Diaspora has to know what our roots are, what his ancestors' tradition is, and anyone who thinks otherwise - I say he's simply unfortunate."
But Jews have always tried to be part of a wider world. You in effect want to combat globalization.
"We have become completely confused. We are discussing something that we don't have to discuss - globalization, democratization. We need Judaization. First of all to know that we're Jews and that Jews have to live. And the moment we understand what our internal values are, everything will work out for us."
But who decides what Jewish values are?
"What do you mean? We have our sacred books. We have our history and our tradition."
Is there a future for the secular version of Zionism?
"The moment you ask a child in Israel what Yom Kippur means to him, and he answers the Yom Kippur War, or a fun day on a bicycle - then I don't know if that is Zionism or whatever you call it, but it has certainly become bankrupt. And for that we are to blame, first and foremost, the moment we try to import the new American religion, and concentrate only on the new things that are being invented in our generation, and shrug off our Judaism."
What is your opinion of the Zionist attempt to create a new Jew who will not arouse anti-Semitism?
"The books left to us by our ancestors tell us exactly how a Jew should live and behave, what kind of insurance we should prepare for ourselves and our families. It says 'And Esau hated Jacob.' The nations of the world don't need a reason. Even if we walk around with a skullcap, without a skullcap, with long hair, if we paint ourselves in different colors - we are Jews, and Esau hated Jacob, that is apparently the way of the world. We're talented, we're good-looking, we're diligent, we're pioneers in everything - and they don't like us, that's a fact. Everywhere in the world Jews arrived last and they are always the first in economics, in education and in everything; it's our genes. We have to understand where these things come from, we don't have to be ashamed. The same younger generation that thinks it will change the face of Judaism - you have to understand that it is destroying Judaism: Anyone who denies faith will not remain a Jew in the coming generations."
He refuses to disclose how much money he has invested to date in his philanthropic activity, or the annual operating cost of his 75 schools in the former Soviet Union, to which additional institutions have been added in recent years in Israel, Eastern Europe, Germany and even in areas in which Russian Jews live in the United States.
For Leviev, Judaism has one meaning: Chabad. Before he began to develop his diamond business in Russia in the late 1980s, he traveled to New York to ask for the blessing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. The rebbe gave his blessing, but told him that he also had to take care of the Jews. Since then he sees his business and his philanthropy as intertwined. His most loyal aides are hundreds of Chabad emissaries who are scattered today all over the former Soviet Union, and who operate the educational institutions he funds.
Leviev was born in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. His father, a Chabad Hasid, was a mohel (ritual circumciser) in secret. He himself immigrated to Israel at the age of 15. "It's true that Eretz Israel is acquired through suffering, as it is written. My father of blessed memory used to say that you have to perspire a lot. When they threw us into Kiryat Malakhi, on the fourth floor, and we had to live 11 people in 60 meters, my father would sit and kiss the floor tiles and say, 'Eretz Israel, the holy land.' But that's because he was a devout Jew all his life. What will a professor from Novosibirsk who lands in Israel think, when he has no work and he has to sweep streets?"
You have excellent relations with outgoing president Putin, although he is seen in the West as a kind of dictator. How would you sum up his term in office?
"I think that Putin was a wonderful leader when it comes to faith and freedom of religion, for all the nations here. He encouraged Islam and Judaism and Buddhism, and in every statement always said that every nation has to respect its values and its roots, and if it doesn't, that's a sign that it doesn't respect itself. I think we should be happy that the leader of such a big country thinks and speaks in such a way. After all, let's not forget that Putin is a product of a Soviet school, and in spite of the education he received, he speaks like that, and everyone follows his example and helps the Jewish communities."
What is your opinion of his designated successor Medvedev?
"Just as Putin was a wonderful president for the Jews, I think that Medvedev will be one, too. On his own initiative he asked to visit the Jewish center, spent two and a half hours there and showed great interest. And because he was raised on the ideal of democracy, I don't think that we'll feel any difference in attitude, but will continue in the same way."
What do you think of the rumors that he's Jewish?
"If you weren't recording me, I would give you an answer. But he is a creature of God, a wonderful man. By the way, Putin always says: I'm proud of the fact that I have so many Jewish acquaintances. I wish the Jews themselves would appreciate the Jews the way Putin knows how to appreciate them. That's our problem in Israel."
As a person who considers the Jews in Jerusalem and those in Kamchatka equal, what is your opinion of the proposal by the president of the European Jewish Congress, Moshe Kantor, to give every Jew in the world the right to vote in Israel?
"In my opinion, a Jew who doesn't live in Israel has no right to decide its future. Only Jews who live in Israel do, for good or for ill."
Recently several leading Jewish personalities said that a discussion of basic issues such as the future of Jerusalem is a matter for all the Jews in the world.
The prime minister apparently thinks otherwise.
"Then he has a problem. It's a betrayal of the Jewish people if the prime minister thinks so."
In recent weeks there have been pro-Palestinian demonstrations in New York and London, calling to boycott Leviev's jewelry stores because of the construction being done on the other side of the Green Line by the Danya Sibus firm, which is owned by Africa-Israel. Leviev suspects that financial interests are behind the demonstrations. "I don't know what this is - after all, if they want to demonstrate, why against us? After all Dor Alon, in which Africa-Israel owns 26 percent, is the only company that sells fuel to the Palestinians. I think that it's more groups that are funded by business competitors."
3. B. Chamish Sued for Libel
Jerusalem Post March 7, 2008, p.5
The 'spy' who sued me
Author must pay far-right activist
NIS 36,000 in damages for calling him a Shin Bet agent
A Jerusalem court has ruled that calling far-right activist Itamar Ben-Gvir a Shin Bet agent constitutes libel.
The court ordered Israeli-Canadian writer Barry Chamish to pay Ben-Gvir IS 36,000 in damages for calling the latter a Shin Bet agent, according to court documents released on Thursday. Hamish, who is best known as a conspiracy theorist, had called the self-delcared Kahane spokesman a Shin Bet agent in an article on his Web site.
"Ben-Gvir is clearly:.. a Shin Bet agent, provocateur,"
Hamish wrote in 2005. "He is on trial every other month, but is ways acquitted on some technicality."
Jerusalem Magistrate's Court Judge ded Shaham ruled Wednesday that Chamish had portrayed Ben-Gvir as dishonest and dangerous.
In all these publications, the claimant [Ben-Gvir] is portrayed as a partner to fraud and as a traitor to the camp he belongs to," Shaham wrote in his ruling.
The judge said that in some of the articles in question Ben-Gvir was depicted as somebody who pretended
to be opposed to the 2005 Gaza pullout while, in fact, he was stifling opposition to the withdrawal, while in another Ben-Gvir was
described as inciting others to violence.
"AIl these [assertions] constitute libel," Shaham said.
"I am certain that some of the malicious rumors circulating about me originated in the Shin Bet,
and were designed to cause rifts and arguments in the right-wing camp," Ben-Gvir said in reaction to the verdict.
"I have continued to work on behalf of the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, in spite of and despite the leftists,
" he said.
Chamish's best-known book, Who Murdered Yitzhak Rabin? blames 1995's Rabin assassination on President Shimon Peres, then-foreign minister, and on the Shin Bet instead of the convicted assassin Yigal Amir.
Chamish, who recently left Israel, could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
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