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At a Dead Sea hotel, refugees from Kibbutz Be’eri count their dead and grieve

DEAD SEA, Israel (JTA) — Nearly three weeks after Kibbutz Be’eri was massacred, its surviving members still gather for their community’s traditional evening meeting. 

The kibbutz, ransacked and empty, is now a closed military zone. To those familiar with the litany of atrocities committed on Oct. 7, its name has become synonymous with some of the day’s worst horrors. Many of Be’eri’s residents refer to that day as a “Shoah,” or Holocaust. 

Now, the nightly meetings instead take place at the David Dead Sea Resort, where most of Be’eri’s members are staying as Israel fights a war against Hamas, the terror group that invaded Be’eri and the rest of the Gaza border area, killing 1,400, wounding thousands and taking more than 200 people captive. 

Instead of discussing the usual business of the community of about 1,100, Be’eri’s residents spend the meetings updating the list of kibbutz members who have been moved from “missing” or “kidnapped” to “dead.” 

A conference room in the hotel is divided by black curtains into several separate shiva areas for families. More are being held outside on the hotel lawn. 

Nineteen days after the massacre, the search and identification process for missing people is ongoing: The tally, which started at 20 dead out of 115 missing kibbutz members, has now grown to 85 dead and is likely to increase. Additional people who lived at Be’eri, but were not members of the kibbutz, were also killed, for a total death toll of more than 100

Each of those statistics is an individual known on a first-name basis to members of the intimate, pastoral kibbutz, where cars do not enter beyond the gate and members’ main source of entertainment is each other.

“You read the list of the dead,” says Gal Cohen, who is 54 and has lived on the kibbutz his entire life. “These are people you grew up with and had countless experiences and interactions with.”

Cohen’s new routine consists of receiving updates regarding who in the kibbutz family is dead or captured. Alongside that, he spends his days attending funerals and shivas, all the while struggling to hold things together emotionally. That reality is typical of what Be’eri members are currently experiencing as the tight-knit community attempts to collectively process an unspeakable tragedy.  

Describing one day, Cohen lists a series of funerals he and his family are attending, all of neighbors they knew personally.

“I was this morning at the funeral of a good friend, Hagi, who was in the civil defense patrol with me, a good friend who was murdered in the war to defend our home,” he said. “Now my daughters are at the funeral of Dana and Karmel. Avidan is left without a leg — they killed them in the bomb shelter.”

He continued, “They are doing the funeral closer to the center [of the country]. At 4, I need to go to a funeral ceremony that we are doing for Yoni, who was able to protect his children. He left the bomb shelter and hid them inside, where they were not found, and he was killed outside. … I am a strong person, but after five or six, you are broken.”

There are so many funerals and shivas, some far from the Dead Sea, that members cannot possibly attend them all. 

“There was a day with 17 funerals, and you are not able to race to each one,” said Cohen. Shuttle services have been offered to help members pay their respects as much as possible. Some of the funerals are being thought of as temporary; families plan to rebury their loved ones on the kibbutz once the military allows them access. 

Rows of yizkor, or memorial, candles for the victims of Kibbutz Be’eri at the David Dead Sea Resort. (Eliyahu Freedman)

While their community’s grief is acute and ongoing — a reported 10 kibbutz members are being held captive in Gaza -— the kibbutz’s model of collective living is valuable to the healing process, says Dr. Nachum Halperin, 83. Halperin is the former head of the Israeli Orthopedic Society and has spent several days as a volunteer treating patients at the hotel who are exhibiting pain.

“Support from the community helps a lot,” he said. “The Be’eri community received a terrible blow. The fact that it is a united community helps a lot.”

Just down the road from the David Dead Sea Resort are other hotels housing Israeli refugees from southern cities like Sderot and Ashkelon. Halperin said that in some ways, they’re having a harder time.

“There are many new immigrants who speak their mother tongue of Russian, et cetera,” he said. “It seems like the trauma influenced them more.”

Regarding the Be’eri residents, he added, “The fact that there is a community here helps a lot.”

Halperin said comparisons to the 1973 Yom Kippur war — which happened exactly 50 years before Hamas’ attack and which is also a touchpoint of Israeli national trauma — are insufficient.

“This is much worse,” he said. “We learned how to deal with trauma — but we are not talking just about trauma but a Holocaust, something we were not ready for, that we did not understand.” 

The unreadiness and unprecedented nature of Hamas’ attack has contributed to an Israeli mental health crisis, said Halperin. “In a situation like this, with stress and post-trauma, the bodily pains transform to be more painful because pain is not only in the knees, but it is gathered in the mind,” he said.

Inside the hotel, a makeshift team of government workers and volunteers offer their services and provide assistance. At a desk staffed by the Israeli Tax Authority, kibbutz members can receive help applying for special government assistance, while downstairs, a variety of holistic and psychological treatments are available for free.

In spite of the horrors of recent weeks, current and former kibbutz members, young and old, are coming together to start the process of rebuilding the community — stronger than before, they say.

“Every day we lose it and fall apart,” Cohen said. “But we are not falling apart for the sake of falling apart, but in order to build ourselves back up from the start. The goals are in front of our eyes and we will reach them.” 

And some of the kibbutz meetings do lead to action items. Immediately after arriving at the hotel, the community drafted a list of goals. They are trying to transplant their unique way of life to a new setting, including allowing the kibbutz dogs to stay in the luxury hotel. 

“When they evacuated me from the shelter under fire, my dog was the first to get in the Jeep,” Cohen said. “It was clear we were not going to leave her behind.”

At the top of the kibbutz’s agenda is freeing all of Israel’s hostages and rebuilding Be’eri at its original location. 

“If Be’eri does not build itself back to succeed like it was before — in its location — I think that the State of Israel will shrink and be finished,” Cohen said. 

Meanwhile, the kibbutz’s refugees grieve together. Outside on the lawn, surrounded by palm trees with a view of the Dead Sea, Moran Bar is sitting the second day of shiva for her parents, Yuval and Maayan, who were murdered on Oct. 7, but whose bodies were identified only 10 days later. 

“We lived in a beautiful, complete, quiet Garden of Eden that they destroyed in a single moment,” she said. “There is something about being with the same people who experienced the same pain. It doesn’t provide comfort for the losses but it makes it a little nicer for the heart.”

The post At a Dead Sea hotel, refugees from Kibbutz Be’eri count their dead and grieve appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Israel Second Best Place in the World to Retire, New Study Finds

The Tel Aviv skyline. Photo: Reuters

Despite its ongoing war with Hamas to the south in Gaza and escalating tensions with Lebanese Hezbollah to the north, Israel has been ranked as the second best country in the world for retirement, according to a new study.

ConfidenceClub, a company based in the United Kingdom dedicated to helping retirees, released its “Aging Gracefully Index,” which examined 39 countries to determine the best places to retire. The study utilized information such as economic data from the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation and the cost of living database known as Numbeo, among other sources, to assign scores to and rank each country.

Israel came in second place, receiving a score of 85, which was only bested by Iceland’s total score of 87. Finland, the Netherlands, and Switzerland rounded out the top five.

South Africa ranked last with a score of 43, slightly edging out Greece, Latvia, Slovakia, and Italy for the other bottom-five countries in descending order.

The study focused on data-driven variables to assign total scores including elder emigration, quality of health care, life expectancy, safety, and life satisfaction.

Notably, the survey – conducted after Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel — placed the Jewish state among the safest countries to retire to. Israel’s safety score was equivalent to those of Denmark and Switzerland. According to the study, “safety isn’t just about low crime rates, it’s about creating an environment where seniors can enjoy their golden years with peace of mind.”

The Aging Gracefully Index also ranked Israel high in its “Elder Balance” variable — meaning Israel’s aging population is supported by a strong working one. Alternatively, the study found that a country like Japan struggles from a high aging population and a relatively small working age one.

Israel ranked highly for retiree life satisfaction. The survey defined life satisfaction as a reflection of “how content people are with their lives, considering factors like economic stability, social connections, and personal fulfillment.”

Similar to the index’s life satisfaction variable, Israel routinely ranks toward the top of the United Nations’ World Happiness Report. In March, Israel dropped one spot to fifth in the list of the world’s happiest countries. Finland was ranked the happiest country.

The Aging Gracefully Index also examined the best cities to retire to with the same criteria as it did with countries. Tel Aviv ranked the third best city for retirement after Reykjavik and The Hague — which came in first and second, respectively.

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The Ongoing Crisis of Antisemitism in K-12 Education

An empty classroom. Photo: Wiki Commons.

If you think antisemitism is bad at the university level, wait until you read what’s happening in K-12 schools across the country.

A concerned teacher recently reached out to me, horrified by the content being used to educate students about antisemitism. The materials provided by the National Education Association (NEA), particularly a document from Jews for Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ), are filled with misinformation and, in my view, are themselves antisemitic.

This teacher has tirelessly sought support from various Jewish organizations to address these concerns, but she keeps hitting a wall. It seems that many organizations are reluctant to do battle with a powerful union like the NEA, leaving this teacher and others like her without the necessary support to combat these problematic educational materials.

The JFREJ document propagates a specific political agenda, portraying Israel as a white settler colonial state and ignoring the complex history and diverse demographics of Israel and the Jewish people.

JFREJ’s document suggests that Jews with light skin are complicit in white supremacy — and that’s not the only Jew-hating piece of trash in this document.

By choosing to use this material, the NEA is making a political statement. This choice reflects an alignment with far-left perspectives rather than a balanced approach to addressing antisemitism.

By choosing a Jewish organization that does not represent mainstream Jewish thought, and in fact, an organization that most of the Jewish community believes spreads antisemitism, the NEA is insulting the Jewish community by defining antisemitism according to its radical agenda.

Jews for Racial & Economic Justice is a fringe group that has aligned with far-left ideologies, and partners with other ostensibly Jewish, but really antisemitic, organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace.

Recent headlines have been filled with reports of rising antisemitism on college campuses, but the more insidious threat lies in our K-12 schools. Ethnic studies programs, particularly those following the radical Liberatory Ethnic Studies (LES) model, are indoctrinating young students against Israel by falsely labeling it a white settler colonial state. This biased education fosters a generation of young antisemites.

There are disturbing trends in K-12 education. Jewish students are being targeted not only by their peers, but also by teachers and administrators. Parents have described their alarm as antisemitism infiltrates their children’s curriculum.

In Washington State, ethnic studies have infiltrated every aspect of K-12 education, evolving from a vague legislative suggestion into a mandate. Aggressive advocacy groups with deep pockets push for ethnic studies to be the lens through which all education is viewed, promoting a Marxist and Maoist-based liberatory model.

This model explicitly positions Palestinians as marginalized and Israel as a white colonialist oppressor, distorting history and legitimizing antisemitic views among young students.

The Liberatory Ethnic Studies (LES) model, rooted in power and oppression analysis, aims to transform the school system into an agent of change, often at the expense of academic excellence and democratic values.

Throughout California and other states, antisemitism in K-12 schools has become increasingly prevalent, particularly following the October 7 mass murder and rape of Israelis.

Reports detail shocking behaviors such as second-graders being told to write anti-Israel messages, teachers encouraging unsanctioned student protests in support of Gaza, and Jewish students being harassed with antisemitic slurs. Some teachers have even suggested that Israelis were responsible for the violence inflicted on them.

The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and other Jewish organizations have been inundated with calls from concerned parents, especially in the Bay Area, reporting these incidents.

The Israeli American Council reported a 690 percent increase in antisemitic and anti-Israel incidents in K-12 schools within three months of the October 7 attack. These incidents ranged from student bullying and vandalism, to discriminatory class materials and teacher statements.

The reluctance of Jewish organizations to confront the NEA underscores the significant influence that powerful unions hold over educational policies. The struggle of the teacher I mentioned to gain support highlights a broader issue, where political considerations often overshadow the need to address serious concerns like antisemitism. The NEA’s powerful position makes it daunting for individuals and smaller organizations to challenge their decisions.

For educators seeking comprehensive and balanced resources on antisemitism, organizations like the ADL offer materials designed to combat hate and educate students without political bias. Their resources help ensure that schools promote understanding and respect rather than division and misinformation.

The current wave of antisemitism in our schools is a serious issue that requires immediate attention. It is time for the Jewish community and other concerned groups to take a stand and demand better from powerful unions like the NEA. Only then can we hope to create an educational environment that is truly inclusive and free from antisemitism. This effort is not just about addressing the present concerns, but is part of a broader mission I discuss in my forthcoming book, From Outrage to Action: A Practical Guide to Fighting Antisemitism.

Howard Lovy is a Michigan-based author, book editor, and journalist who specializes in Jewish issues. He is currently working on a book, From Outrage to Action: A Practical Guide to Fighting Antisemitism. His novel, Found and Lost: The Jake and Cait Story, will be released in 2025. You can find him on his website or on X.

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The Associated Press Removes Threats of Violence and Hamas Support From Articles

Vandalism outside the home of Brooklyn Museum Director Anne Pasternak. Photo: New York Mayor Eric Adams’ Twitter account.

Even as authorities from Sydney to Brooklyn were still investigating and removing pro-Hamas graffiti, the Associated Press engaged in a scrubbing of a different sort.

In a June 10 article about the anti-Israel vandalism of the US consulate in Sydney, the Associated Press initially whitewashed a menacing symbol used to denote support for Hamas since the terror organization’s Oct. 7 terror massacre of murder, rape and countless other atrocities (“Australia PM urges activists to ‘turn down the heat’ after US consulate vandalized over Gaza war“).

The AP euphemistically reported about the symbols used to express support for the designated terror organization as follows:

Two inverted red triangles, seen by many as a symbol of Palestinian resistance, were also painted on the front of the building.

A screenshot of the AP’s headline about the vandalism in Australia, along with an accompanying video which briefly shows the red triangles:

Given that Hamas uses the red triangle in its videos documenting attacks on Israelis, it signifies support for the designated terror organization. “Resistance” doesn’t quite convey the horrors that went down on Oct. 7.

The New York Post detailed the association of the red triangles with Hamas terrorism:

The triangle became a prevalent symbol online and offline beginning in November 2023 following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel and Israel’s aggressive retaliatory offensive, according to the Anti Defamation League.

It first appeared in propaganda videos from the al-Qassam brigades — Hamas’ military wing — to highlight an Israeli soldier that was about to be killed or wounded in a targeted attack by the terrorists.

In the clips, the red triangle followed the target, which was then hit with a sniper’s bullet, a rocket-propelled grenade or another deadly blast.

“Though it can be used innocuously in general pro-Palestine social media posts, the inverted red triangle is now used to represent Hamas itself and glorify its use of violence in many popular anti-Zionist memes and political cartoons,” the ADL says on its website.

For example, the group said, anti-Israel protesters will put the symbol over an image of Israeli soldiers or on a Star of David “as a way to call for further violent resistance.”

In response to communication from CAMERA’s Israel office, the AP moderately improved its explanation of the red triangles, revising the sentence to at least include reference to Hamas:

Two inverted red triangles, seen by some as a symbol of Palestinian resistance but by others as supporting the militant group Hamas, were also painted on the front of the building.

While an AP video paired with the article briefly showed the red triangles defacing the US consulate, the AP’s still photographs made do with boarded up windows. The accompanying captions also ignored the sinister red triangles:

A couple walks past the boarded windows at the U.S. consulate as police investigate the vandalism in Sydney, Monday, June 10, 2024. A suspect is believed to have smashed nine holes in the reinforced glass windows of the building in North Sydney after 3 a.m., a police statement said. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

Meanwhile, red triangle vandalism took an even darker turn when the pro-terror symbol, used repeatedly to mark targets, appeared June 11 on the New York co-op building where Anne Pasternak, the Jewish director of the Brooklyn Museum, lives.

In coverage of that incident, the AP didn’t simply scrub the pro-Hamas significance of the symbol. Instead, the AP entirely sliced the ominous red triangles out of the story, which referred only to red paint. In his Jan. 13 article, Philip Marcelo selectively reported (“Apparent Gaza activists hurl paint at homes of Brooklyn Museum leaders, including Jewish director“):

People purporting to be pro-Palestinian activists hurled red paint at the homes of top leaders at the Brooklyn Museum, including its Jewish director, and also splashed paint across the front of diplomatic buildings for Germany and the Palestinian Authority early Wednesday, prompting a police investigation and condemnation from city authorities.

Mayor Eric Adams, in a post on the social platform X, shared images of a brick building splashed with red paint with a banner hung in front of the door that called the museum’s director, Anne Pasternak, a “white-supremacist Zionist.”

But the images that Mayor Adams shared didn’t merely show “a brick building splashed with red paint” and a banner denouncing Pasternak as a “white supremacist Zionist.”

Adams’ post on X includes four photographs of the vandalism, all displaying the huge red triangles which absolutely cannot be missed. And yet AP chose not to note the presence of the threatening imagery, much less explain its significance.

This is not peaceful protest or free speech. This is a crime, and it’s overt, unacceptable antisemitism.

These actions will never be tolerated in New York City for any reason. I’m sorry to Anne Pasternak and members of @brooklynmuseum‘s board who woke up to hatred like this.


— Mayor Eric Adams (@NYCMayor) June 12, 2024

The AP’s ubiquitous photographers — the prolific bunch churns out 1.2 million images annually — also didn’t manage to capture the shocking scene of Pasternak’s home defaced with what amounts to a murder threat.

Instead, the cadre of photojournalists suffice with an image of the German consulate, which was vandalized with red paint, apparently applied in an abstract arrangement, sans red triangles. Like Marcelo’s article, the photograph’s caption also paints over the pro-Hamas imagery, referring to a random splashing of color:

Red paint covers portions of the entrance to the German consulate building, Wednesday, June 12, 2024, in New York. Pro-Palestinian protesters have vandalized locations associated with the Brooklyn Museum and United Nations in New York City, throwing red paint across their entrances in opposition to the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. (AP Photo/Sophie Rosenbaum)

Not only does the caption neglect to note the Hamas-linked graphic, it also ignores that the “locations associated with the Brooklyn Museum” were private homes.

It’s not just Hamas graphics that are subjected to AP’s scrubbing. A pro-Hamas organization also gets sanitized.

Here’s how the AP’s Marcelo whitewashes the pro-Hamas Within Our Lifetime group:

The protest group Within Our Lifetime and other organizers of that demonstration said the museum is “deeply invested in and complicit” in Israel’s military actions in Gaza through its leadership, trustees, corporate sponsors and donors — a claim museum officials have denied.

He says not a word about the organization’s support for Hamas. According to ADL, Within Our Lifetime:

has hosted or co-sponsored at least 78 anti-Israel rallies many of which included explicit support for violence against Israeli civilians by U.S. designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations  Hamas, The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Hezbollahthe Houthis and affiliated individuals such as Leila Khaled and Hamas’ military wing spokesperson Abu Obaida. WOL also expressed enthusiastic support for Iran’s unprecedented April 13 drone-and-missile attack on Israel.

Marcelo similarly sluices down Within Our Lifetime’s horrifying and deep embrace of terror at the demonstration outside the Nova Festival massacre last week. His censored account states:

The paint attacks came the same week that Within Our Lifetime organized a large demonstration outside a New York City exhibition memorializing victims of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on the Tribe of Nova music festival. The group called it “Zionist propaganda” and dismissed the music festival, where hundreds died, as “a rave next to a concentration camp.”

The AP spares its readers from the most disturbing aspects from the event. As The Times of Israel reported:
Protesters set off flares, flew flags of Hamas’s armed al-Qassam Brigades terror wing and of the Hezbollah terror group, and carried banners with slogans such as “Long live October 7” and “The Zionists are not Jews and not humans.”
 On June 11, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) denounced the antisemitism of the pro-Hamas crowd outside the Nova Festival exhibit, twice citing those most heinous lines:

What was even worse, or at least adding salt into the wounds was that just a day or two after I visited the exhibit, protestors gathered outside the exhibit chanting repugnant antisemitic phrases, donning banners that read “Long Live October 7th” and “The Zionists are not Jews and not humans.” How low can you go ?

Having visited the exhibit and seeing those young people and then knowing and seeing on film what happened to them at the vicious hands of Hamas, and then having people come outside and protest and say “Long Live October 7th” and “The Zionists are not Jews and not humans.” How repugnant. How despicable. How terribly unnerving that humanity could sink that low.

And yet, at this low point for humanity, AP has relegated these repugnant slogans glorifying mass murder to the dustbin of history.

Tamar Sternthal is the director of CAMERA’s Israel Office. A version of this article previously appeared on the CAMERA website.

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