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Photo Essay: Israeli-American Hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin’s Planned World Trip Sparks Airport Rally

Friends and family of Hersh Goldberg-Polin at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel, Dec. 27, 2023. Photo: Shanie Roth

In a gesture of solidarity, dozens of friends and relatives of Hersh Goldberg-Polin, a hostage held by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, gathered on Wednesday at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport to mark the date that the 23-year-old Israeli-American would have embarked on a two-year worldwide trek.

Friends and family of Hersh Goldberg-Polin at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel, Dec. 27, 2023. Photo: Shanie Roth

“Today, Dec. 27, Hersh has a one-way ticket to go traveling around the world. It’s a trip that he’s been planning for a long time. He’s been dreaming about it for a long time,” his father, Jonathan Polin, shared. “He’s unfortunately not going to be taking off on a trip today, but we are hoping and praying that he’s going to take off on this trip soon.”

Jonathan Polin, center, and Rachel Goldberg, left, at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel, Dec. 27, 2023. Photo: Shanie Roth

The young adventurer’s life took a devastating turn when he was abducted, along with several dozen others, from the Supernova music festival on Oct. 7 in southern Israel. More than 350 revelers at the party were also murdered by Hamas. A video shows Goldberg-Polin being shoved onto a pickup truck at gunpoint after his left arm — his dominant arm — had been blown off by a grenade that terrorists launched into a roadside bomb shelter in which he and some friends had been hiding.

Attendees at Wednesday’s airport gathering held posters adorned with Goldberg-Polin’s image and the slogan “Bring Hersh Home.”

Friends and family of Hersh Goldberg-Polin at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel, Dec. 27, 2023. Photo: Shanie Roth

Jonathan Polin brought a backpack that he had intended to gift his son prior to the planned excursion. “The bag was not supposed to be here today on my back. It’s supposed to be on Hersh’s back,” he lamented. “We hope it’s going to be soon.”

Jonathan Polin at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel, Dec. 27, 2023. Photo: Shanie Roth

Hersh’s mother, Rachel Goldberg, said that her son had always had a fascination with world maps and travel. “He’d been planning and dreaming of [his trip] since he was in first grade, with detailed maps and detailed plans, by himself.”

She expressed her hope that by this time next year, Hersh would be on his trip: “You know what? You don’t need two arms to travel the world.”

Rachel Goldberg at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel, Dec. 27, 2023. Photo: Shanie Roth

Rachel Goldberg has been relentlessly campaigning for her son’s return since Oct. 7. She has addressed the United Nations on two occasions and also met with several prominent figures, including US President Joe Biden, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Elon Musk, and Pope Francis. She has also been profiled in several publications, including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Atlantic, and was on the cover of Time magazine together with her husband.

Pinned to Goldberg’s chest is the number of days since her son’s abduction. The number is also in a large black and white sign on the roof of her house. Changing them is the first thing she does every morning after awakening. Her husband calls the Red Cross every single day to urge them to visit her son and the other 129 hostages still in Gaza. The two established a website called One Min A Day to encourage US citizens to call or text local elected officials on a daily basis and urge for her son’s release.

Jonathan Polin and Rachel Goldberg at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel, Dec. 27, 2023. Photo: Shanie Roth

Pictures from Wednesday’s rally show the outpouring of support for the Goldberg-Polin family, as well as the efforts by Hersh’s parents to fight for his release — and to endure until then.

The post Photo Essay: Israeli-American Hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin’s Planned World Trip Sparks Airport Rally first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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‘Rape Is Not Resistance’: Jewish Students Discuss National Walkout to Call for Release of Israeli Hostages

Jewish Tulane University students Yasmeen Ohebsion and Zoë Silverberg. Photo: Anthony Karry.

Jewish college students across the US last week participated in mass walkout to demand the release of Israeli hostages still held captive by Hamas in Gaza, where they were taken during the terrorist group’s massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7.

The demonstration was organized by Students Supporting Israel (SSI), a nonprofit that promotes education about the Jewish state, as a response to a surge in pro-Hamas demonstrations on higher education campuses throughout the world. It also aimed to sustain the momentum of the Jewish community’s advocacy heading into the new academic semester, following November’s mass protest by the pro-Israel community in Washington DC.

The Algemeiner spoke to four students who participated in the walkout and events related to it — Ellie Raab of Florida Atlantic University, and Zoë Silverberg, Yasmeen Ohebsion, and Bali Lavine of Tulane University in New Orleans. Each discussed their triumphs as well as lingering challenges the students say they still face in their efforts to win the hearts and minds of their classmates, some of whom refuse to acknowledge the suffering of those affected by Hamas’ atrocities.

“At FAU, everyone walked out whether you had class or didn’t have class. We all met up at 10 AM, and at 10:07 AM, we walked around our campus holding signs, playing music, and basically we had three things we were walking for — to remember the victims of Oct. 7, call for the return of the hostages, and take a stand against rising antisemitism throughout the world, specifically in academic institutions,” Rabb told The Algemeiner. “We had a moment of silence for the victims, and we all had posters and signs of all the hostages. My vice president had a poster that said, ‘Rape is not resistance’ and ‘#metoo unless you’re a Jew.”

Later, the students were led in prayer by FAU’s Chabad rabbi, who asked for the protection of Israeli soldiers and the hostages.

Students at Tulane University “tabled” to promote the demonstration, setting up at a location on campus to distribute literature to passerby and engage willing students in conversation. Tulane, a school known for having a large population of Jewish students, has had at least one incident of note since Oct. 7. During protests near the campus on Oct. 26, a Jewish student was assaulted by pro-Hamas demonstrators. That incident was on the mind of Bali Lavine — she called it a “riot” — as her tabling duties prompted her to reflect on Jewish life at Tulane.

“It’s been strangely quiet on campus lately,” Lavine, a freshman who recently declared Jewish Studies as a second major, said. “But when I say quiet, I just mean that a student wasn’t physically assaulted, not that there wasn’t any antisemitism. Just this week I learned about multiple students transferring out of Tulane. Some of the students I know really did feel welcomed by [Governor Ron] DeSantis’ message from the Florida schools saying that Florida welcomes students with open arms.”

A hesitance of some to embrace SSI’s message was palpable, Zoë Silverberg, who is a senior, told The Algemeiner. Many did “engage positively” but others declined to wear a sticker that said “104 Days,” which was then the amount of time that Israeli hostages had remained in captivity. It has now been 112 days.

“I felt really loved and supported when people approached the table and asked questions or took stickers, but when people would say ‘no thanks I’m not interested,’ it just made me wonder if they are anti-Zionists or aren’t aware of what I’m tabling for,” Silverberg said, noting that one of the hostages they highlighted was Kfir Bibas, a baby who turned one year old while being held by Hamas. “The fact that people are able to easily walk past a table advocating for the safety of a one year old child and not bat an eye makes it abundantly clear how war removed so many college students are from the reality of this situation.”

Some of the students who wouldn’t wear a sticker were Jewish, Yasmeen Ohebsion noted, saying that “saddened her.”

“To see students who were nervous or hesitant to display their Jewish identities shows that the campus climate likely makes them feel unsafe. Later, I walked into class after tabling and considered taking mine off my sweatshirt out of fear that my professor would judge me or treat me differently,” she continued. “I decided to leave it on and proudly stand against terror, with Israel, and with the hostages.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post ‘Rape Is Not Resistance’: Jewish Students Discuss National Walkout to Call for Release of Israeli Hostages first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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‘Overwhelmed With Gratitude’: Georgia Assembly Passes Bill Adopting Leading Definition of Antisemitism

Part of an exhibit on the Holocaust supported by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. Photo: courtesy of IHRA.

The Georgia General Assembly on Thursday voted overwhelmingly to approve legislation, co-sponsored by Rep. Esther Panitch (D) and Rep. John Carson (R), that would require state officials to refer to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism when investigating antisemitic hate crimes, drawing praise from national civil rights groups and nonprofits.

The bill, HB30, passed nearly a year after similar legislation was blocked during the waning hours of the 2023 legislative session, an outcome that a legislator described to The Algemeiner at the time as “devastating to watch.” This time it passed in the Georgia House 129-5 and in the Georgia Senate 44-6. It now awaits a signature from Governor Brian Kemp (R).

“I am overwhelmed with gratitude to my co-sponsor Rep. John Carson and colleagues in the Senate for their bipartisan support of this bill,” Rep. Panitch told The Algemeiner in a statement. “Jewish Georgians know our state supports us and can better protect us with the added tool of the IHRA definition.”

HB30, proposed after a series of antisemitic incidents in the state involving harassment and literature drops by neo-Nazi organizations, faced numerous obstacles on its way through the Georgia Assembly. Last year, lobbyists representing the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) worked to add unfriendly amendments to it that would have defeated its purpose, and a Republican lawmaker, Sen Ed. Setzler, amended it to replace the IHRA definition of antisemitism with his own After Setzler proposed his amendment, three Democrats voted to approve it, prompting sponsors of the bill to motion to table it. Further efforts to pass it failed.

A surge of antisemitic incidents in the US and across the world after Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7 gave the measure new importance this legislative session, and both parties worked to ensure its success.

Jordan Cope, Director of Policy Education at StandWithUs, an antisemitism watchdog that has filed numerous civil rights grievances on behalf of US college students, commended the Georgia Assembly for passing the bill this year.

“With antisemitism having exploded worldwide post October-7, the IHRA definition remains a tool of paramount importance for helping identify and quell the mounting tide of antisemitism,” Cope said. “Georgia’s moral clarity on this matter sets a clear example from which other states ought to draw inspiration as Jews around the world desperately seek assurances of their own safety.”

StopAntisemitism, a nonprofit that tracks antisemitic incidents across the world, also praised Georgia lawmakers, calling the vote “great news,” noting that the IHRA definition will be used “for purposes of hate crime and prosecution.”

First adopted in 2005 by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism states that “antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews,” and includes a list of illustrative examples ranging from Holocaust denial to the rejection of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination. The definition is used by hundreds of governing institutions, including the US State Department, European Union, and the United Nations and is supported by lawmakers across the political spectrum.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post ‘Overwhelmed With Gratitude’: Georgia Assembly Passes Bill Adopting Leading Definition of Antisemitism first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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The International Court of Justice’s decision on Israel’s conduct in Gaza stops short of calling for a ceasefire—but casts a pall on Holocaust remembrance ceremonies

The International Court of Justice stopped short of ordering a ceasefire in the ongoing war between Hamas and Israel, but ordered Israel to take steps during fighting to prevent genocide, in a decision released in The Hague on Jan. 26. The court also ordered Israel “to prevent and punish” incitement to genocide against Palestinians. The […]

The post The International Court of Justice’s decision on Israel’s conduct in Gaza stops short of calling for a ceasefire—but casts a pall on Holocaust remembrance ceremonies appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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