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Israel story: ‘By the Monastery’ in Jerusalem

The approach to Simone’s
apartment in Katamon

By SIMONE COHEN SCOTT Jan. 16, 2022 Jerusalem These past months in Jerusalem were different than other years when I’ve had a foot in both Israel and Canada. For one thing, this time I used a travel agency instead of my usual CheapOair website. A good thing too, as I was a document short checking in, and was told I could only get as far as Toronto. A quick call to my travel wizard fixed that.

At first, none of the answers as to where I’d be staying, triggered her computer…until she remembered that a client going to Turkey had been asked which hotel near the airport he’d stay at upon arrival. Naming a similar hotel for me did the trick. Upon landing in Tel Aviv, hotel or not, I boarded a Sherut to my apartment, no questions asked.

Another thing different, in early 2021, with Covid first setting in, I was attending Ulpan daily. My classes were a stone’s throw from the city centre with its hustle and bustle of street musicians, buskers, open kiosks, bars, art galleries, and so on. This year my bus didn’t go near the Ulpan. Why not? Construction! Something is happening on King David Street. I hope its elegance won’t be compromised.

I’m pretty much done with Ulpan anyway. I have a mental block about languages, beginning with French and German. I’ll never speak Hebrew coherently, but now I sure have fun reading Torah. For me that’s the important thing, as my Jerusalem apartment is situated among English speaking olim. Mostly from Commonwealth countries, they bring back memories of elementary school, when England seemed much nearer than the States……..before television brought America into our living rooms. We learned to sing ‘Land of Hope and Glory’, and admired (and respected) the royal children.

Actually, I’m fascinated by the British way of doing Jewish. I’m invited quite often by neighbours for Shabbat lunch. (Kiddish after Shul is not a given, like here.) We begin at noon, formerly a table full of guests but now just a few of us, with singing, Kaddish, motzi, appetizers, soup, schnapps, entrees, salad,…..more singing, Dvar Torah with everyone participating, then liqueur or scotch, dessert, tea, and finally Birchat HaMazon. We part and go home. By this time it’s ‘way after three and during these short days one can barely squeeze in the Shabbat Shloff.

There’s construction in my neighbourhood too, including a renovation upstairs. My charming building is becoming gentrified….uh, oh! Sunday through Thursday, at 7 am sharp, drilling begins on the main street at the corner. This is recent. It seems the neighbourhood is going upscale. Two or three storey mega mansions are adding three or more floors; charming cottages are being replaced by seven floor or so apartment buildings. Construction seems to be one industry that is avoiding shut-downs and providing jobs. It makes sense to polish up my neighbourhood; it’s one of the most convenient residential areas in the city. Back when I was too shy or intimidated to use the transit system, I would walk everywhere: the Old City, the new city (just called ‘the city’), Zion Square, City Hall, Emek Rephaim, Talpiot, German Colony, Greek Colony, Rehavia, Talbiya, Mea Shearim, Abu Tor, Bus Depot, Jerusalem Theatre, Israel Museum, Cinemateque, Ramat Gan Campus, Knesset, San Simeon Monastery.

Let me tell you about the San Simeon Monastery. It played a key part in the War of Independence, as did the whole area where I live. My neighbourhood, in fact, is called Old Katamon, the word Katamon derived from Greek and meaning ‘by the monastery’. Originally built of stone and earth in the 7th century, it is believed to be the site of the tomb of Simeon, who, according to the New Testament Gospel of Luke, was the first to recognize the infant Jesus. Through the centuries various structures continued to be built or maintained on the site, ostensibly by the Greek Orthodox Church, which ultimately owned the entire area.

Fast forward to 1914 and the Church began to sell off parcels of land to wealthy Palestinian Christians. A plot could be purchased for 5 Qirsh down and 5 Qirsh per week to a max of 5000 Qirsh, states a newspaper ad of that year. And so, during the British Mandate period, gorgeous mansions were being built, and countries were locating their consulates in Katamon. (A few still remain, Italy’s for example.) At that time, only a couple of the streets in the area had names. Brass plates on homes and buildings stated the name of the owner or institution, and this method sufficed as an address.

After the War of Independence, streets were named after people or events that figured in Israel’s recent past or history. To illustrate, the busy main drag at the corner where I live, now complete with strip mall, etc., was named Palmach, an acronym in Hebrew for ‘strike force’. The Palmach was an elite fighting force, (read tactical combat), developed in 1941, to handle two potential threats; firstly, to counter the possible occupation of Palestine by the Axis in case the British lost in North Africa, and secondly, to defend Jewish communities if the British army were to retreat from Palestine leaving its Jews subject to attack from Arab forces. Which is what happened.

The Katamon area was not within the Partition offering to the Jews by the United Nations, but the monastery, being on high ground, was being used by Arab military forces to observe and attack Jewish convoys and communities. The Harel Brigade, a division of the Palmach, was ordered to begin an assault, gradually moving upwards from where the Museum of Islamic Art is now located. This is considered one of the key battles of the War of Independence. The story goes that the Arabs sought help from surrounding villagers and from Jordanian troops, to no avail, and so eventually abandoned the monastery, and thus the neighbourhood, to the nascent state.

For one reason or another, as one would expect with war raging all around, the mansions were abandoned. (Back in the ‘60s my husband and I visited his friend, a Time Magazine representative, who lived on the top floor of one of those mansions. He and his family were there by virtue of him paying ‘key money’ to the owner, a general practice among some at the time.) The monastery, by the way, is now a home for disabled seniors, staffed by volunteers who live in and are paid a stipend. The building is surrounded by a beautiful public park, great for kids, dogs, basketball and ping pong.

My place in Old Katamon is in the recently developed basement of one of the lovely mansions. The three floors of this family home were divided – back in the early 1950s, into six apartments, a couple of which have been or are in the process of being renovated. At the opposite end of my street, about a twenty minute walk away, is the family home of former Prime Minister Netanyahu, who, I understand is using it once again.


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Hamas murdered their friend. Now, they help Israeli soldiers to keep his memory alive

David Newman (right): David died helping to save the lives of others who were at the music festival on October 7 when Hamas massacred hundreds of attendees

By VIRGINIA ALLEN (The Daily Signal) David Newman sent a text to a friend the morning of Saturday, Oct. 7. Something terrible had happened. Word quickly spread among Newman’s group of friends, who had known each other since high school.
Newman, 25, had traveled the night before to the music festival in southern Israel, close to the border with the Gaza Strip. It was supposed to be a fun weekend with his girlfriend “celebrating life,” something Newman, who served with the Israel Defense Forces, was good at and loved to do, friend Gidon Hazony recalls.
When Hazony learned that Newman, his longtime friend, was in danger, he and another friend decided they were “going to go down and try and save him.” Trained as a medic and armed with a handgun and bulletproof vest, Hazony started driving south from Jerusalem.
Hazony and his friend ended up joining with other medical personnel and “treated probably around 50 soldiers and civilians in total that day,” Hazony recalls, but they kept trying to make it south to rescue Newman.

But the two “never made it down to the party, and that’s probably for the best,” Hazony says, “because that area was completely taken over by terrorists. And if we had gone down there, I think we would’ve been killed.”
Hazony later learned that Hamas terrorists had murdered Newman on Oct. 7, but not before Newman had saved nearly 300 lives, including the life of his girlfriend.
When the terrorists began their attack on the music festival, many attendees began running to their cars. But Newman and his girlfriend encountered a police officer who warned them to run the opposite direction because the terrorists were near the vehicles, says David Gani, another friend of Newman’s.
Newman “ran in the opposite direction with his girlfriend and whoever else he could kind of corral with him,” Gani explains during an interview on “The Daily Signal Podcast.”
“They saw two industrial garbage cans, big containers, and so David told everyone, ‘Hide, hide in those containers,’” Gani says. “And so what he did over the course of the next few hours is, he would take people and … he was this big guy, and he would just chuck them in that container. And then he would go in, wait, wait till the coast is clear, and then he’d go back out, find more people, put them in there.”
Newman’s actions that day, and the atrocities Hazony and so many others in Israel witnessed Oct. 7, led Hazony, Gani, and several friends to quit their jobs and set up a nonprofit called Soldiers Save Lives. The organization is working to collect tactical and humanitarian aid for the Israel Defense Forces, or IDF.
According to the group’s website, Soldiers Save Lives has supplied over 20 IDF units and civilian response teams “with protective and self-defense gear.”
Gani, board chairman, chief financial officer, and chief technology officer of Soldiers Save Lives, and Hazony, president of the organization, recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to raise support and awareness for their mission to provide IDF troops with needed supplies.
If you would like to find out more about Soldiers Save Lives or donate to them, go to
Reprinted with permission.

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Our New Jewish Reality

Indigo bookstore in Toronto defaced

By HENRY SREBRNIK Since Oct. 7, we Jews have been witnessing an ongoing political and psychological pogrom. True, there have been no deaths (so far), but we’ve seen the very real threat of mobs advocating violence and extensive property damage of Jewish-owned businesses, and all this with little forceful reaction from the authorities.
The very day after the carnage, Canadians awoke to the news that the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust had inspired sustained celebrations in its major cities. And they have continued ever since. I’d go so far as to say the Trudeau government has, objectively, been more interested in preventing harm to Gazans than caring about the atrocities against Israelis and their state.
For diaspora Jews, the attacks of Oct. 7 were not distant overseas events and in this country since then they have inspired anti-Semitism, pure and simple, which any Jew can recognize. Even though it happened in Israel, it brought back the centuries-old memories of defenseless Jews being slaughtered in a vicious pogrom by wild anti-Semites.
I think this has shocked, deeply, most Jews, even those completely “secular” and not all that interested in Judaism, Israel or “Zionism.” Jewish parents, especially, now fear for their children in schools and universities. The statements universities are making to Jewish students across the country could not be clearer: We will not protect you, they all but scream. You’re on your own.
But all this has happened before, as we know from Jewish history. Long before Alfred Dreyfus and Theodor Herzl, the 1881 pogroms in tsarist Russia led to an awakening of proto-Zionist activity there, with an emphasis on the land of Israel. There were soon new Jewish settlements in Palestine.
The average Jew in Canada now knows that his or her friend at a university, his co-worker in an office, and the people he or she socializes with, may in fact approve, or at least not disapprove, of what happened that day in Israel. Acquaintances or even close friends may care far more about Israel killing Palestinians in Gaza. Such people may even believe what we may call “Hamas pogrom denial,” already being spread. Many people have now gone so far in accepting the demonization of Israel and Jews that they see no penalty attached to public expressions of Jew-hatred. Indeed, many academics scream their hatred of Israel and Jews as loud as possible.
One example: On Nov. 10, Toronto officers responded to a call at an Indigo bookstore located in the downtown. It had been defaced with red paint splashed on its windows and the sidewalk, and posters plastered to its windows.
The eleven suspects later arrested claimed that Indigo founder Heather Reisman (who is Jewish) was “funding genocide” because of her financial support of the HESEG Foundation for Lone Soldiers, which provides scholarships to foreign nationals who study in Israel after serving in the Israeli armed forces. By this logic, then, most Jewish properties and organizations could be targeted, since the vast majority of Jews are solidly on Israel’s side.
Were these vandals right-wing thugs or people recently arrived from the Middle East? No, those charged were mostly white middle-class professionals. Among them are figures from academia, the legal community, and the public education sector. Four are academics connected to York University (one of them a former chair of the Sociology Department) and a fifth at the University of Toronto; two are elementary school teachers; another a paralegal at a law firm.
Were their students and colleagues dismayed by this behaviour? On the contrary. Some faculty members, staff and students at the university staged a rally in their support. These revelations have triggered discussions about the role and responsibilities of educators, given their influential positions in society.
You’ve heard the term “quiet quitting.” I think many Jews will withdraw from various clubs and organizations and we will begin to see, in a sense like in the 1930s, a reversal of assimilation, at least in the social sphere. (Of course none of this applies to Orthodox Jews, who already live this way.)
Women in various feminist organizations may form their own groups or join already existing Jewish women’s groups. There may be an increase in attendance in K-12 Jewish schools. In universities, “progressive” Jewish students will have to opt out of organizations whose members, including people they considered friends, have been marching to the slogan “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and similar eliminationist rhetoric, while waving Palestinian flags.
This will mostly affect Jews on the left, who may be supporters of organizations which have become carriers of anti-Semitism, though ostensibly dealing with “human rights,” “social justice,” and even “climate change.”
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg took part in a demonstration outside the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm on Oct. 22 in which she chanted “crush Zionism” along with hundreds of other anti-Israel protesters. Israel is now unthinkingly condemned as a genocidal apartheid settler-colonialist state, indeed, the single most malevolent country in the world and the root of all evil.
New York Times Columnist Bret Stephens expressed it well in his Nov. 7 article. “Knowing who our friends aren’t isn’t pleasant, particularly after so many Jews have sought to be personal friends and political allies to people and movements that, as we grieved, turned their backs on us. But it’s also clarifying.”
Henry Srebrnik is a professor of political science at the University of Prince Edward Island in Charlottetown.

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Former Winnipegger Vivian Silver, at first thought to have been taken hostage, has now been confirmed dead

Jewish Post & News file photo

Former Winnipegger and well-known Israeli peace activist Vivian Silver has now been confirmed as having been killed during the massacre of Israelis and foreign nationals perpetrated by Hamas terrorists on October 7. Vivian, a resident of Kibbutz Be’eri was originally thought to be among the more than 1200 individuals who were taken hostage by Hamas.

To read the full story on the CBC website, go to

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