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Some Thoughts on Israel’s Remarkable Next Generation

Israeli soldiers stand by a wall with names of fallen soldiers on Memorial Day, when Israel commemorates its fallen soldiers, at Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem May 4, 2022. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Since returning from Israel after my latest visit, I am constantly being asked – what was it that left the deepest impression? I imagine what people expect to hear is about one of the places we visited, or about one of the people we met who said something particularly memorable. And yes, there were numerous moments throughout our trip that were especially moving or striking in their own way.

For example, witnessing first-hand the dedication of the Lemaan Achai team was deeply inspiring. Lemaan Achai is a Beit Shemesh-based social welfare organization that has had to scale up in ways no one anticipated, so that they can take care of hundreds of displaced families across central and southern Israel, along with the spouses and children of soldiers deployed to the war zone.

The mayor of Beit Shemesh underscored the incredible work of Lemaan Achai’s indefatigable founder and director, Rabbi Avrohom Leventhal. His superhuman efforts defy imagination. But despite that, it wasn’t our visit to Lemaan Achai that left the deepest impression.

The time we spent at Kerem Shalom, meeting the security personnel who repelled Hamas terrorists pouring over the border on October 7th, yards away from the kibbutz perimeter, was truly shocking. Their candid accounts brought home the horrors of the evil Israel faced via the experiences of those who lived through and survived that terrible day.

We also visited the Nova rave music festival site, which was transformed into a scene of violent carnage on October 7th. Even months later, an atmosphere of horror still lingers. But it was neither of these two places that left the deepest impression.

We spent over an hour with Israel’s former chief rabbi, Rav Yisrael Meir Lau, a child Holocaust survivor who lost most of his family at the hands of the Nazis, and whose personal narrative is an inspirational rollercoaster of emotions, embodying the entire story of modern Israel. Rav Lau captivated our attention with his lucid account of the many wars Israel has faced since its founding, all of which he personally lived through and drew lessons from.

Rav Lau’s upbeat demeanor, despite the existential threats to Israel – as real now as they were when Israel came into being – was incredibly uplifting. But it wasn’t our time with Rav Lau that left the deepest impression.

Our visit to Herzog Hospital in Jerusalem – the oldest hospital in Israel, founded 130 years ago, in 1894 – lifted our spirits and gave us much hope for the future. The facility is gearing itself up for the mental health crisis Israel is expected to face in the wake of October 7th and the current war. The staff’s sensitivity and the mental health team’s dedication deeply reassured us. They are doing everything they can to mitigate the crisis’s traumatic impact in the coming period.

The staff also showed us the bombproof wards that they are currently completing in the basement in anticipation of an escalation of rocket attacks from Lebanon in the next few months. Work on these wards began just a few weeks ago, and, remarkably, they are almost ready. We were totally blown away. Nevertheless, it wasn’t Herzog Hospital that left the deepest impression.

What left the deepest impression on me, and I believe on all of those who joined our solidarity mission, was best expressed by my friend Douglas Murray, the heroic reporter whose daily dispatches from Israel since October 7th have become compulsory watching for everyone hungry for factual journalism in a world dominated by lies and distortion.

Douglas joined us for dinner on the mission’s second night, and after giving us his analysis of the current crisis, he shared a conversation he had had with an Israeli man in his 60s which stirred him emotionally in a way that nothing else has since he arrived in Israel in October.

“He said something to me that was incredibly moving,” Douglas revealed. “We were talking about what Israel is going through, and what his generation, people in their 60s, had been through – and he said to me, impromptu: ‘I owe the younger generation an apology, because over recent years I have thought, and used to say to people: they’re on Instagram, they’re on Twitter, they go to parties – they’re just after pleasure. But I owe them an apology, because they have stepped up – like my generation did, and like previous generations did.’”

That’s when it hit me. The thing that most impressed me in Israel during this visit, and on my two other visits since October 7th, was the younger generation. In which other Westernized country would kids in their teens and 20s clamor to go into battle to defend their homeland?

I vividly recall the exodus of military-age men from both Russia and Ukraine after war broke out between those two countries in early 2022. So much so, that both countries restricted movement for young men, stopping them at the border and preventing them from leaving. Israel’s experience has been the polar opposite, with young Israelis flying home from all over the world to join their military units and go into combat.

This, more than anything else, has left the deepest impression on me. Douglas called it: “one of the most amazing things about being in Israel.” At a recent Friday night dinner with friends, Douglas told us that had chatted with a friend’s daughter. He asked her how old she was. “Twenty-one,” was the response. “And what do you do?” Douglas asked her. “I am an expert on intelligence in Yemen,” she replied. It was an answer that rendered him speechless. Because, as he explained to us, while this barely adult young woman is at the forefront of tackling existential threats, her contemporaries in America “are being indoctrinated – their parents remortgage their houses to send them to universities to make them stupid and wicked!”

On the final night of our mission, we arranged a barbecue for soldiers at the IDF base in Hebron, a city plagued by extremism and radical Islamists. We fed over 500 soldiers – boys and girls, some of them fresh back from combat missions, in full combat gear.

As the barbecue came to an end, we had a surprise for them – Israeli singing sensation Ishay Ribo rolled in with his band and sound team and they performed.

But as the concert got underway, I wasn’t watching Ishay serenading the audience with his rich repertoire of tender songs. Instead, I was watching the audience, with tears in my eyes. I watched the fresh smiling faces of Israel’s next generation, brave heroes swaying to the music, voices raised in a chorus of melody.

Minutes earlier, the base commander had informed me that immediately after the concert many of the soldiers were going off on a dangerous mission to break up a Hamas terrorist cell located very close to Hebron.

But you couldn’t sense any kind of negative vibe. Rather, the atmosphere was one of superlative confidence and Jewish pride. These young soldiers were totally ready for what was expected of them. Nothing would hold them back. And it was this that left an impression on me that I will remember for as long as I live.

The author is a rabbi in Beverly Hills, California.

The post Some Thoughts on Israel’s Remarkable Next Generation first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Texas University Plans to Close Qatar Campus Amid Scrutiny of Hamas Ties

A Qatar 2022 logo is seen in front of the skyline of the West Bay in Doha. Photo: REUTERS/John Sibley/File Photo

On Thursday, the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents voted 7-1 to end its contract with the Qatar Foundation, which will result in the college’s Qatar campus shutting down over the next four years.

Texas A&M said it decided to reassess its relationship with Qatar after Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, in which the terrorist group murdered 1,200 Israelis and took more than 240 more hostage. It cites regional instability as one of the reasons for its decision. The Qatari government also has extensive ties with Hamas’ political and military leadership.

The Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development is funded by the Qatari government and is the institution that funds Texas A&M’s Qatar campus.

The Chair of the university’s Board of Regents said it “has decided that the core mission of Texas A&M should be advanced primarily within Texas and the United States.” He continued, explaining that “By the middle of the 21st century, the university will not necessarily need a campus infrastructure 8,000 miles away to support education and research collaborations.”

The decision also comes amid heightened scrutiny of Qatar’s role in American higher education — as it spent almost $5 billion on American universities between 2001 and 2021 — as well as its role in funding terrorist groups such as Hamas. 

In an article for The Free Press in October, Eli Lake outlined what he saw as the significant influence Qatar is having on American higher education. He lists the universities that have gotten significant donations from Qatar, such as Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown, and Northwestern. He also notes that Qatar’s influence goes beyond money, affecting policies and programs within specific academic departments as well. For example, the Qatar campus of Northwestern, which is home to the U.S.’s best journalism program, had an agreement with the terrorist-sympathetic Al-Jazeera that it would help train its students.

The significant attention paid to these relationships is likely driven by the steep increase in anti-Israel and pro-terrorist sentiment in the U.S., particularly on college campuses. 

A 2023 report from the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy also concluded that concealed donations from foreign governments to U.S. educational institutions are associated with an increase in antisemitic incidents on campus and the erosion of liberal norms. 

However, the Qatar Foundation believes the decision was made for political reasons. In a statement, it wrote: “It is deeply disappointing that a globally respected academic institution like Texas A&M University has fallen victim to such a campaign and allowed politics to infiltrate its decision-making processes. At no point did the Board attempt to seek out the truth from Qatar Foundation before making this misguided decision.”

There have been no indications thus far that other universities that receive a significant amount of Qatari funding, or operate campuses in Qatar, are reconsidering their relationship.

The post Texas University Plans to Close Qatar Campus Amid Scrutiny of Hamas Ties first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Antisemitic Vandals Strike Hillel Building at University of Leeds in UK

Antisemitic message graffitied on Hillel House of University of Leeds. Photo: Union of Jewish Students/X

The Hillel House of University of Leeds was vandalized on Thursday night, raising further concerns about a hateful campus climate and rising antisemitism across the United Kingdom, particularly since Hamas’ October 7 attacks.

The vandals, according to pictures shared online, graffitied “FREE PALESTINE” on the building and additional scribble on two window panes.

“We are heartbroken and angry that after an uplifting and inspiring Challah Bake, our JSoc Hillel House was defaced with antisemitic graffiti,” Leeds JSoc, which uses the building for club meetings, said in a statement also signed by the Union of Jewish Students, an advocacy group. “It is shocking and outrageous that those who hate us would stoop to this level.”

The groups noted that a University of Leeds professor may be responsible for leading anti-Zionist to the building, alleging that he shared its address “for the sole purpose of intimidating Jewish students on campus.”

“We are working with CST and the police to ensure that those who committed this crime get the consequences they deserve,” the group added.

Anti-Zionists extremists struck elsewhere on Thursday, storming University of Birmingham with socialists and other far-left groups while holding signs that said, “Zionists off our campus” and “75 years of illegal occupation!” Many concealed their faces, covering them with keffiyeh.

“Jewish students are feeling less and less safe at university because of these vile antisemitic acts,” National Jewish Assembly (NJA), a Jewish civil rights nonprofit, said in a statement about the incidents. “It’s time we say enough. Jewish students deserve and must feel safe on campus.”

Thursday’s incidents followed a set-back for the academic Jewish community. Earlier this week, it was announced that a UK government agency which arbitrates disputes over employment law ruled that University of Bristol lacked standing to fire sociologist David Miller, an extreme anti-Zionist who was accused of harassing Jewish students and promoting antisemitic tropes, and said his “anti-Zionist beliefs qualified as a philosophical belief and as a protected characteristic.”

Pervasive antisemitism and anti-Zionism at UK universities is forcing members of the Jewish academic community to conceal their identities on campus, according to a June 2023 report issued by the Parliamentary Task Force on Antisemitism in Higher Education, a committee of lawmakers and established by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2022 in response to complaints of anti-Jewish racism and discrimination.

“We were told it was commonplace for Jewish students to choose not to wear certain clothing or jewelry around campus because it would make them visibly identifiable as Jewish,” the Task Force wrote in the report, titled Understanding Jewish Experience in Higher Education, noting that academic staff “also raised important comparable concerns about negativity surrounding their Jewish identity.”

The Task Force recommended that all universities adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which, it said, has not, contrary to the claims of its many opponents, diminished free speech and academic freedom.

Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post Antisemitic Vandals Strike Hillel Building at University of Leeds in UK first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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US House Committee Threatens Harvard University With Subpoena for Antisemitism Documents

Illustrative Harvard University students displaying a pro-Palestinian sign at their May 2022 graduation ceremony. Photo: Reuters/Brian Snyder

Harvard University on Wednesday was given a “final warning” to fully cooperate with the US House Committee on Education and the Workforce’s investigation of antisemitism on its campus.

In January, Chairwoman Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) gave the school, which spent the fall semester under fire for allegedly ignoring rampant antisemitic harassment and intimidation, two weeks to deliver documents relevant to the committee’s investigation. Harvard never did, and now Rep. Foxx is threatening to subpoena the material she requested.

“The committee has sought to obtain information regarding Harvard’s response to the numerous incidents of antisemitism on its campus and steps taken to protect Jewish students, faculty and staff,” Foxx wrote in a letter to Harvard University interim president Alan Garber and Harvard Corporation senior fellow Penny Pritzker.

“Harvard’s responses have been grossly insufficient,” she continued. “If Harvard continues to fail to comply with the committee’s requests in a timely manner, the committee will proceed with compulsory process.”

Foxx has requested a trove of documents, including “all reports of antisemitic acts or incidents” and “related communications” going back to 2021 that were sent to Harvard’s offices of the president, general counsel, dean of students, police department, human resources, and diversity, equity, and inclusion, among others. She also requested documentation on Harvard Kennedy School professor Marshall Ganz, who, the school determined during an investigation, “denigrated” several students for being “Israeli Jews.” Originally, Foxx gave Harvard a deadline of Jan. 23 by which to comply.

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce is also investigating other top universities, including the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), to determine whether administrators at those schools ignored antisemitic discrimination. The probes were announced after the committee grilled the presidents of Harvard, Penn, and MIT about their plans to respond to rising anti-Jewish hate in their communities. During the hearing, Gay of Harvard and Elizabeth Magill of Penn — both of whom have since resigned from their positions — as well as Sally Kornbluth of MIT largely evaded lawmakers’ questions, infamously equivocating on whether calling for the genocide of Jews contravenes school rules.

For Harvard, America’s oldest institution of higher education and arguably its most prestigious, the presence of radical anti-Zionists on  campus has been a persistent issue. At the start of this academic year, a student and anti-Israel activist interrupted a convocation ceremony held by the school, shouting at Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana, “Here’s the real truth — Harvard supports, upholds, and invests in Israeli apartheid, and the oppression of Palestinians!”

However, the broader public largely did not take notice until Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre in Israel. As scenes of Hamas terrorists abducting children and desecrating dead bodies circulated worldwide, 31 student groups at Harvard issued a statement blaming Israel for the attack and accusing the Jewish state of operating an “open air prison” in Gaza, despite that the Israeli military withdrew from the territory in 2005.

For her part, Gay waited several days to condemn the Hamas atrocities, and when she did, her statement said nothing about antisemitism. When she resigned at the beginning of the new year, she accused her critics of racism.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post US House Committee Threatens Harvard University With Subpoena for Antisemitism Documents first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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