News Digest — 1/26/22

The Gift Of Home – Arnold Clevs

Before World War II, I lived in Kovno, Lithuania with my parents and my sister.  We lived a comfortable life.  We went on annual summer vacations.  We had a live-in maid who lovingly spoke Yiddish to us.  Then the war happened, and what was once a pastoral life turned into a nightmare.

Miraculously, I survived 11 concentration camps. Dachau, Auschwitz, Mauthausen and Gunskirchen were only some of the houses of terror where I was imprisoned.

To this day, I ask God why I was chosen to survive while my friends and father did not.

At 88 years old, I still haven’t come close to hearing His answer to that question, but I am very grateful to have not only survived but flourished.

For most of my adult life, Chicago was my home.  I established a successful dental practice there, got married and had two beautiful children.  But throughout it all, I knew if I truly wanted to make my people proud, I had to live in the only place where Jews can truly be Jewish – and that is Israel.

But life has its setbacks and the dream was always pushed to the back burner.  However, my son made aliyah 17 years ago and I happily came to visit for the births of all four of his children,

Then, last year, my wife passed away.  I came with my daughter to bury her here in Israel and decided this time, I wasn’t going to leave.  When I stepped off the plane in 2021 – in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic – and saw the Israeli flag waving in the clear blue sky, I knew this is where I needed to be.

I’m grateful to Nefesh B’Nefesh, its partners and the State of Israel for providing me with a new life where I’m learning Hebrew at ulpan (with some difficulty), spending time with my grandchildren and am relishing in finally being home.

When I wake up in the morning or pray alongside my son in shul, I often ask myself: “Is this really my life?”  “Did I really survive all that and now have the privilege of living among people who were sure to perish en masse nearly 80 years ago?”

As we commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day, I encourage younger people not only to hear the tragedy in our stories of survival but also to understand that each story of survival is also a story of hope.  It is the hope that despite the horrific events that can happen to a person, there are still ways to persevere and start anew.

And to those who are skeptical of the Holocaust or deny its existence, I hope to be another source of proof who can say unequivocally that it happened.  My memories and the memories of millions of others should serve as testimony that such horrors should never happen again.

With the world in turmoil and Jews reeling from the latest incident where members of a Texas synagogue were taken hostage, I warn lovers of Israel to not be complacent in their life in the Diaspora.

I, too, lived a life of comfort, until it was taken from me.  And so, to the next generation, I say: “Be alert, be vigilant, and know that you can always come home.”

Arnold Clevs is originally from Lithuania.  After spending four years in the camps during World War II, he lived in Italy before moving to the United States, where he served in the U.S. Air Force as a captain and owned a dental practice in Chicago. He made aliyah in 2021 and now lives in Jerusalem.  



Majority Of Israelis See Bleak Future For Europe’s Jews

A survey by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem revealed Tuesday (25th) that a majority of Israelis (53%) think life for Jews in Europe will get worse in the near future, while 25% say it will stay the same.

The survey was conducted among 1,000 Jewish and Arab adults and reveals that France is the European country perceived as being the most anti-Semitic, with 39% of those questioned describing it as such.

Next comes Poland (33%) and Germany (15%), however it (Germany) is considered  the most anti-Semitic according to ultra-Orthodox Israelis.

Israeli Arabs rank Poland and Germany first.

A third of Jewish Israelis surveyed believe that criticism of Israel is intrinsically linked to anti-Semitism, while a majority argue that there is “sometimes” a connection between the two.

When asked if European Union policies are motivated by anti-Semitism, 27% of Jews say they are, with some saying some are, and others no.

Among Israeli Arabs, 53% reject any link between EU policies and anti-Semitism.

Last year was the year in which anti-Semitism was the most rampant in the world for the past decade, with at least 10 incidents on average per day, according to the annual report on anti-Semitism published by the World Zionist Organization (WZO) and the Jewish Agency.



Israel’s President To Make First-Ever State Visit To The United Arab Emirates

Israeli President Isaac Herzog will make his first-ever state visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the president’s office announced on Tuesday (25th).

The visit which is slated for January 30-31, will include stops in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

The president will hold meetings with Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan; UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed; vice president, prime minister, defense minister and ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Amktoum; and representatives of the Jewish community.

During his visit, Herzog and his wife, Michal, will also celebrate Israel’s National Day at the Dubai Expo 2020.

Herzog said the visit underscores the important foundation that both nations are working on.

“I believe  that our bold new partnership will transform the Middle East and inspire the whole region,” he said.  “We are a peace-loving nation, and together, we will expand the historic circle of peace of the Abraham Accords and create a better, more tolerant and safer world for our children.”

The visit by Herzog comes as the UAE is dealing with the fallout of a deadly January 17 drone attack that killed 3 and wounded 6 carried out by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.  Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett condemned the terror attack and offered Israel’s assistance.

Bennett made the first visit by an Israeli premier in December 2021.



Hundreds Arrested In Monthslong Operation To Rein In Arab Crime

Within three months of intensive efforts to rein in crime in the Arab sector now under their belt, senior Israel Police officials on Tuesday (25th) said the organization had succeeded in taking 98 Arab Israeli criminals from three crime organizations, in the sector, off the streets.

According to Israel police data, since the operation’s launch in October 2021, 243 suspects have been arrested and indictments have been filed against 98 of the 243 targets.

Hundreds of weapons, including 43 pistols, 31 rifles, and 42 grenades, hundreds of weapons parts, explosives and ammunition were seized.  In addition, around $6.3 million was seized, including luxury cars, bank accounts and cash.

The vast majority of illegal weapons seized by police were located in Arab Israeli communities.  They were found in a variety of locations, including in private residences, businesses, inside cars, on persons’ bodies and in hidden locations, including underground.  Over 60 assets were seized, and hundreds of investigations were opened over various offenses.

On Tuesday morning (25th), six suspects were arrested on suspicion of racketeering, fraud, and money laundering.

Senior Israeli Police officer Dror Asraf said the operation was having a significant impact “on crime on the Arab street and was leading to a significant decrease in the volume of violent crimes, racketeering and shootings.”

He noted a change in perception on the Arab street, which he said was cooperating with police and demanding an increased police presence and activity in Arab communities.

“The police have made tackling crime and violence in Arab society a central goal, and the operation data proves we are on the right path,” he said.  According to Asraf, the operation will continue in the coming months.



Hundreds Of Anti-Semitic Flyers Distributed Throughout Miami, FL

Hundreds of plastic bags containing anti-Semitic flyers and small rocks were distributed anonymously throughout Miami, Florida on January 23rd.  The flyers read: “Every single aspect of the COVID agenda is Jewish” and feature names of American policymakers fighting against the pandemic.

Miami’s mayor, Daniel Gelber, noted that the Miami Beach Police Department (MBPD) is hard at work looking for the culprits.

It is not the first time an incident that involves the distribution of such flyers has happened.  The pandemic has given rise to countless anti-Semitic conspiracy theories since its beginning, but the motif of plastic bags has been oddly persistent.  Although the MBPD has not confirmed the source of its local spread yet, similar bags filled with flyers and pebble stones were delivered to hundreds of homes in several major Jewish community hubs in the previous two months.

The flyers, evidently distributed by locals of a neo Nazi group called the Goyim Defense League, also state “every single aspect of the COVID agenda is Jewish” and include a list of Jewish COVID-19 response leaders in various institutions.  The nationwide anti-Semitic campaign has appeared on the doorsteps of communities in California, Texas, North Carolina, Maryland, and other areas.

Among the hateful assaults by the Goyim Defense League leader John Minadeo II and his followers was a 2019 incident in which members of the group dressed up as Hasidic Jews and espoused “confessions” and apologies on behalf of the Jewish people, saying they were “sorry” the Jews lied about the Holocaust and were responsible for the “9/11 terrorist attacks.”