News Digest — 3/31/21

Rivlin Receives Election Results

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin called upon political parties to form alliances that are not considered normal in a speech at the President’s Residence after receiving the official results of the March 23 election from the Central Elections Committee, Wednesday (31st).

Rivlin said the ongoing political crisis had weakened Israeli democracy but would not overcome it.

“We are stronger than the crisis and Israeli society is stronger,” he said.  “I hope our elected officials will be wise enough to listen to the people of Israel and hear their demand for unconventional alliances, cooperation between sectors and professional dedicated work for all Israeli citizens.”

“Over the next few days, I will consider which candidate has the best chance to form a government,” Rivlin said.  “My central consideration will be those chances to build a government that will receive the trust of the Knesset, pass a budget and heal the nation.”

Israel, which has held four elections within two years, is currently trying to prevent a fifth.



Israeli Embassy In UAE Hosts Its First-Ever Passover Seder

Why is this Passover different from all other Passovers?  Because, this year, there was an Israeli Embassy to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that hosted its own Seder.

Israeli Ambassador to the UAE Eitan Na’eh and Canadian Ambassador to the UAE Marcy Grossman planned an “Abrahamic Family Seder,” inviting Muslims and Christians from their countries, the UAE, the US and the UK to attend the traditional Passover event, as they celebrated outdoors at a desert resort in Abu Dhabi.

Na’eh said on Tuesday (30th) that they held an “exclusive Seder,” in which Jewish participants explained the significance of the texts in the Haggadah and the attendees “celebrated together to find what we have in common.”

“We had matzah that Chabad brought us and Haggadot in Hebrew and English, and we asked the four questions and discussed the holiday and its sources,” Na’eh recounted.

The Seder was a full one, that continued to the middle of the night, and attendees learned to sing “Who Knows One,” which Na’eh pointed out is easy to teach because it is repetitive, and features major concepts in Jewish life and history.

On the menu were brisket and schnitzel breaded in matzah meal, and charoset made from locally-grown dates.

Na’eh said the event was “uplifting” and “the most exciting Seder I have ever attended.”

“It was clear to us that this was bigger than just reading the Haggadah,” he said.  “The event displayed what happened here in recent months, the relations between Israel and the UAE.”

Na’eh hailed the inclusive atmosphere in the UAE, in which he could explain to the hotel staff how to set up for a Seder and prepare the kitchen for a kosher Passover meal, and could have people wearing kippot and kanduras – the local Emirati robes – at the same table.

“Tolerance and openness to others is part of the ethos here,” he said.

“The UAE is totally different from the stereotype of the Middle East as a place that is constantly on edge,” he said.  “We are meeting the Middle East from a different angle.  Even meeting Palestinians, Iraqis, Yemenis and Pakistanis, while here, is a different experience for us, and a first for many of them.  The UAE has the potential to be a hub that ties us to the region, which is great,” Na’er concluded.



Rina Shnerb’s Father To Light Independence Day Torch

Rabbi Eitan Shnerb, the father of Rina Shnerb, the teenager who was murdered in a terrorist attack near Dani’s Spring in 2019, has been selected to light the torch at Israel’s 73rd Independence Day on April 14.

The decision to select Rabbi Shnerb was jointly made by Transportation Minister Miri Regev and Culture and Sports Minister Hili Tropper.

Rabbi Shnerb, 48, is one of the founders of the Chesed B’Lod charitable organization, which was established by members of the Torah community of Lod.  For the past 20 years, the organization has been active in assisting people in need and distributing food to the hungry.  The name of the organization has been changed recently to “Kol Rina” in memory of the daughter of the rabbi.

Israeli ministers decided that in light of the challenges Israel has faced over the last year, the 73rd Independence Day would celebrate citizens who have contributed to the community and to communal resilience.

“We are pleased to announce to Rabbi Eitan Shnerb that we have chosen him to deliver a beacon on the upcoming Independence Day of the State of Israel.  Rabbi Shnerb, who is strong in spirit and love for others, intensified his organizational activities to help others after the murder of his daughter, Rina, out of a desire to give a warm shoulder to the values of family and cohesiveness to the people of the country,” the ministers said.

“Rabbi Eitan Shnerb, we salute you, and the volunteers in your association for the work of unification of hearts in our families and in our communities, and the strength and creative joy you display to our people.”



Report: In First Since 2013, EU Set To Sanction Iranians For Rights Abuses

The European Union is expected to sanction a number of Iranians for alleged human rights abuses for the first time since 2013, according to a report Tuesday (30th).

Quoting three EU diplomats, Reuters said the sanctions are set to be agreed upon Wednesday (31st) and will include travel bans and asset freezes on individuals.

It is unclear how many Iranians will be blacklisted, but the report said the names of those sanctioned will be released next week, when the measures take effect.

The diplomats said the EU will also review the sanctions it has placed on over 80 Iranians for alleged rights violations, which have been renewed annually since 2011.

Asked about the timing of the move, one of the diplomats said that the EU was looking to get tougher on rights abuses.

“Those responsible for serious rights violations must know there are consequences,” the diplomat said.

The EU has not sanctioned any Iranians for human rights violations since 2013, when an interim deal on Iran’s nuclear program was reached, despite allegations of major abuses, such as those detailed in a UN report earlier this month.

The diplomats denied any link between the planned sanctions and efforts to revive the 2015 accord limiting Iran’s nuclear program, which the current US administration is seeking to rejoin after the previous US administration withdrew from the deal in 2018 and reimposed sanctions on Tehran.  The EU has been a vocal supporter to the nuclear agreement.

Earlier Tuesday (30th), Iran rejected a reported US proposal to offer some sanctions-relief, if Iran stops work on advanced centrifuges and ends enriching uranium to 20 percent, in violation of the nuclear pact.



Oldest Surviving ‘Righteous Among Nations’ Who Saved Jewish Boy, Dies At 101

The oldest surviving person to bear the title of “Righteous Among the Nations,” Anna Kozminska, died last week at the age of 101, Poland’s Institute for Remembrance said.

She was buried Tuesday (30th) at the Powazki Cemetery in Warsaw.

Kozminska was believed to be the oldest living person recognized by Yad Vashem for rescuing Jews during the Holocaust.  She would have turned 102 in May.

Last year Presidents Reuven Rivlin of Israel and Andrzei Duda of Poland sent birthday greetings to Kozminska, praising her in separate letters for her courage in risking her own life to help Jews during the Nazi occupation of Poland.

Anna and her stepmother Maria Kozminska took in 8-year-old Abraham Jablonski in 1942 and sheltered him for three years.  They also helped rescue three other Jews.

The Kozminskas took good care of Jablonski, taking him for walks and ensuring he continued with his education, according to the Institute for Remembrance.  They were able to keep the boy safe even though the Nazis searched their home.

After the war ended, Jablonski moved to Israel where he told the story of his rescue by Anna and Maria.  Nearly fifty years later he located Anna Kozminska in Warsaw and convinced her to write her memoirs.  At Jablonski’s  initiative both Anna and Maria Kozminska were honored in February 1991 by the Yad Vashem Institute as Righteous Among the Nations.

Grazyna Pawlak, Jablonski’s niece, gave Kozminska an album with photos of the family for her birthday last year.

In addition to being honored by Israel, Kozminska was awarded Poland’s Medal of the Centenary of Regained Independence in 2016, for her efforts to save Jews.



Poland: Holocaust Memorial Defaced

Unknown vandals on Sunday night (28th) defaced a monument to the three million Jews murdered in Poland during World War II with Nazi symbols and slogans.

The monument in the city of Czestochowa, in southern Poland, commemorated the final liquidation of the Jewish Ghetto in June 1943.  That followed a heroic uprising orchestrated by the clandestine Jewish Fighting Organization (ZOB), only a few days after a similar armed uprising against the Germans in the Warsaw Ghetto.

A Nazi swastika and the symbol of the SS were among the daubings left by the vandals on the monument.  They scrawled the numbers 88 which represents the slogan “Heil Hitler” and 14, to signify the so-called “14 words” mantra adopted by US white supremacists.  They also inscribed the names of Jurgen Graf, a Swiss Holocaust denier, and Ursula Haverbeck, a German disciple of Graf’s on the monument.

Sabrina Chyra-Gieres, a spokeswoman for the City Police Headquarters in Czestochowa, told local media outlets Monday (29th) that police inquiries into the vandalism were ongoing.

The monument to the Czestochowa ghetto victims was originally unveiled in 2009.  The city has become known to millions of readers around the world as the home of Vladek Spiegelman, the main narrator of “Maus,” a book-length cartoon about the fate of a Polish Jewish family during the Holocaust.