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After October 7, Many People Are Becoming Israeli Again

Family members, friends and supporters of Israelis and other nationalities who were taken hostage on October 7 by Palestinian Islamist group Hamas during a deadly attack, complete the final stage of their march from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in Jerusalem November 18, 2023. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Before October 7, living in Israel could leave you battered, bruised, and needing a stiff drink.

Sky high housing prices, exorbitant childcare costs, heavy regulations, relatively low median wages that translate into a lack of purchasing power, and an overdependence on imports for food and other essentials are the bare bones of life here.

When you combine all that with rising interest rates, inflation, and political turmoil, you get a giant pressure cooker.

Israel is now at war, and our daily challenges have been magnified by the terrible realization that all the talk about shrinking the conflict with the Palestinians until peace becomes viable, was a dangerous delusion.

Since Hamas’ massacre, during which 1,200 women, children, and men were slaughtered, the news coming out of Israel has naturally been focused on the war: the IDF’s fight to topple Gaza’s rulers, the plight of the 200,000 internally displaced Israelis who lost everything, hostage negotiations to secure the release of more than 200 people who were kidnapped by the terrorists, the diplomatic kabuki dance between Jerusalem and other world capitals, and the inevitable countdown to a ceasefire.

What is flying under the international media’s radar, however, is the massive number of ordinary Israeli citizens who are mobilizing in support of their country.

Close to half of the Israeli population has volunteered in some way during the conflict, an unprecedented response catalyzed by the call-up of more than 300,000 army reservists, and the evacuation of citizens living around Gaza and along the northern border with Lebanon.

Since the outbreak of war, more than 200,000 Israelis who had been overseas returned home. People from Athens to Los Angeles dropped whatever they were doing on a moment’s notice. While some of these people were called up by the IDF, many others volunteered.

In Israel, university students whose academic year was put on hold, rushed to the aid of southern farmers when their agricultural workforce vanished overnight, leaving crops to rot in the fields and livestock to fend for themselves.

The war with Hamas may go on for months and could well affect every part of the country. With that in mind, parents are carving out time after work to develop new skills that are suddenly in demand. They are enrolling in hastily organized firefighter training and rescue courses, First Aid, CPR, and lectures on mental resilience to assist people directly impacted by Hamas’ atrocities and those who may need help soon.

In fact, this spirit of solidarity with the victims of Hamas’ attack has spread like a brushfire. Two minority groups that have traditionally isolated themselves from wider Israeli society, the ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) and Arab Israelis, are stepping out of the shadows.

Thousands of ultra-Orthodox men are expected to sign up for IDF service. On the home front, the Haredi community has been cooking, transporting people and supplies, and providing various social services.

And while thousands of Arab Israelis showed their support for Palestinian Arabs during 2021’s Operation Guardians of the Wall by rioting and looting, the same demographic cohort today opposes Hamas, supports Israel’s right to defend itself, and has shown a willingness to volunteer to help civilians who were harmed on October 7.

Then there are the new Israelis. Despite the language and cultural barriers, this group is throwing its lot in with Israel during the country’s darkest hour.

Immigrants from France have set up their own Facebook groups, where they organize army base visits to feed Israel’s fighting men and women. A professional colleague of mine who recently moved to Israel from the Czech Republic launched a website where he and other designers are selling shirts and coffee mugs — with all the proceeds going to aid Israel’s internal refugees.

Here in Haifa, English and Russian social media groups are multiplying. New childcare and tutoring initiatives for young evacuees forced to flee their homes; neighborhood drives for clearing out bomb shelters; and much more, are popping up every day.

The common thread running through these different communities is the belief that October 7, 2023, was a watershed moment in Israel’s history. On that day, as Hamas rampaged across the country’s south, while simultaneously launching thousands of rockets toward Israel from Gaza, people here got a glimpse of what their lives would be like without a sovereign Jewish state: hell on earth.

Newcomers and native Israelis, Jews and Arabs, the religious and non-religious, now share a common destiny: they have nowhere else to go.

In the days following the sheer evil that Hamas unleashed on people — regardless of their religion or ethnicity — Israelis have begun to look at their country with fresh eyes: a profound appreciation for what this tiny country has given them.

They have become Israeli again.

Gidon Ben-Zvi is an accomplished writer who left Los Angeles for Jerusalem in 2009. After serving in an Israel Defense Forces infantry unit from 1994-1997, Ben-Zvi returned to the United States before settling in Israel, where he and his wife are raising their four children.

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Montreal’s Jewish Public Library moves books by local children’s author Elise Gravel to closed stacks in response to her series of illustrated messages criticizing Israel

Montreal’s Jewish Public Library has relocated renowned Montreal children’s author Elise Gravel’s books to the closed stacks after Jewish advocacy groups singled out some of her social media posts as antisemitic. Gravel is “one of Quebec’s most beloved children’s book authors. Her work is vibrant, thoughtful, funny, and educational,” said a statement from the Jewish […]

The post Montreal’s Jewish Public Library moves books by local children’s author Elise Gravel to closed stacks in response to her series of illustrated messages criticizing Israel appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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‘I’m Speaking Up Against Evil’: Israeli Columbia University Professor Addresses Smear Campaign

Anti-Israel students protest at Columbia University in New York City. Photo: Reuters/Jeenah Moon

Columbia University professor Shai Davidai, a Jewish Israeli, defended his right to condemn Hamas’ atrocities on Thursday after learning that an anonymous group of graduate students has accused him of anti-Palestinian racism and demanded a professional association of which he is a member to publicly censure him.

Anti-Zionist TikTok influencer Jessica Burbank first reported the accusations the graduate students lodged in a letter to the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP), an organization founded in 1974 to promote the social psychology field and its usefulness to society. Comprising over 7,500 student and faculty members, it provides invaluable funding and networking opportunities.

Accusing Davidai of “targeting individuals — especially Palestinians and students of color,” the students’ letter describes his efforts to hold pro-Hamas student groups accountable for harassing Jewish students and defending terror as “decolonization” as “blatant dereliction of duty with respect to his responsibilities and ethical standards as a professor and faculty member of SPSP.” The students additionally accused him of promoting “doxxing” and “misrepresenting” the views of pro-Hamas groups, all of whom have defended Hamas’ atrocities on Oct. 7 while calling for a ceasefire, a strategy they have employed to portray themselves as a pro-peace movement.

On Thursday, Professor Davidai told The Algemeiner that the man depicted in the letter is not someone his community, students, and peers would recognize, and he accepts that enduring assaults on his character is a consequence of defending the Jewish people wherever they are, be it Israel or New York City.

“Look, I’m speaking up against evil, and against the support of evil,” he said. “I’m willing to take the reputational hits because people that won’t like me for saying what I’m saying — I don’t need them to like me. This isn’t about the performative virtue signaling that is en vogue right now. This is about having a moral compass and standing up for what’s right.”

Davidai went on to express concern that his colleagues in the field have not defended him, a silence which suggests that criminating pro-Israel activists with baseless accusations will not be denounced or resisted even by moderates holding nuanced views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Israel’s war against Hamas.

“If I have to pay the price, I’ll pay the price. Thousands and thousands of Jews and non-Jews contact me to say that calling out pro-Hamas support on US college campuses is the right thing to do,” he continued. “And the irony is that I won’t be silenced. They might take away my reputation. They might take away my job and my career. But I’m not the kind of person who will be quiet now that there’s a personal cost for telling the truth. They’re just proving my point.”

Davidai first achieved national notoriety after delivering a thunderous speech before a crowd of students and others gathered on campus in which he called the school’s president a “coward” for refusing to condemn Hamas apologists and anti-Zionist demonstrations on campus.

“I’m talking to you as a dad, and I want you to know we cannot protect your children from pro-terror student organizations, because the president of Columbia University will not speak out,” Davidai said to the students, whom he asked to film and send the remarks to their parents. “Citizens of the US are right now kidnapped in Gaza, and yet the president of the university is allowing — is giving — her support to pro-terror student organizations.”

In many ways, becoming a public figure has been a detriment, Davidai said. His email is flooded daily with notes from antisemites accusing him of being an “Elder of Zion” and a “genocidal baby killer.”

His colleagues, furious that his exposing antisemitism and left-wing radicalism at Columbia University has caused important donors to pull their support from the school, have never commented on the hate mail even though they are always copied as recipients of it, he alleged.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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‘We Have Lost All Confidence’: Bipartisan Letter Urges Blinken to Demand Top UN Officials Resign

View of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) building in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash90.

A bipartisan group of 12 US legislators sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier this week urging him to demand that United Nations Secretary General António Guterres and the head of UNRWA — the UN agency dedicated to Palestinian refugees — Philippe Lazzarini resign over the recent revelation that UNRWA employees were involved in Hamas’ October 7 terrorist attack.

“We have lost all confidence in Secretary-General António Guterres’ ability to ensure that the U.N. is not actively supporting terrorism or giving refuge to known terrorists. Therefore, we ask you to demand that Secretary-General Guterres and UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini immediately resign from their posts,” the letter states. 

The signatories were Democratic Representatives Josh Gottheimer, Don Davis, Jared Moskowitz, Brad Schneider, Haley Stevens, and Ritchie Torres — along with Republican Representatives Don Bacon, Anthony D’Esposito, Brian Mast, Max Miller, Michelle Steel, and Claudia Tenney.

The letter laments what the legislators say was an inappropriate response to October 7 by the UN, pointing out that “While innocent blood was still fresh on the ground, the UN’s first response to these atrocities was to draw a moral equivalency between the Hamas terrorists and Israel, who acted in her own self-defense and the defense of innocent civilians, including Americans.”

“UN Women,” the letter continued, “also failed to condemn the heinous attacks on women in a timely manner — even after widespread, well-documented cases of sexual assaults, rape, and genital mutilation.”

It then turned its attention to UNRWA, the UN agency dedicated solely to Palestinian refugees. Recent reports have revealed that at least twelve UNRWA employees — including teachers — took part in Hamas’s October 7 attack. Seven infiltrated Israel itself along with Hamas terrorists, others helped to kidnap Israelis and provide ammunition.

Not only that, but the Israeli ground offensive in Gaza has exposed that “Hamas has stored weapons in UNRWA buildings, used UNRWA resources for terrorist activities, and built tunnels under UNRWA facilities,” the letter says. The reps ask: “How long before we acknowledge the truth and label UNRWA as a tool for Hamas and others to recruit and train?”

A recent Wall Street Journal report estimates that around 10% of UNRWA employees are terrorist-linked — about 1,200 of the 12,000 UNRWA employees in Gaza.

Blinken has not yet responded to the letter. But after the initial allegations against UNRWA were made, he wrote in a statement that The United States is extremely troubled” by them and that “The Department of State has temporarily paused additional funding for UNRWA while we review these allegations and the steps the United Nations is taking to address them.”

The reports, based on evidence gathered and shared by Israel, caused more than a dozen countries to pause funding to the agency.

However, the statement also noted that “UNRWA plays a critical role in providing lifesaving assistance to Palestinians, including essential food, medicine, shelter, and other vital humanitarian support.  Their work has saved lives, and it is important that UNRWA address these allegations and take any appropriate corrective measures, including reviewing its existing policies and procedures.”

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