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A group of Israeli emissaries toured a Palestinian museum in DC, and came away with questions



WASHINGTON (JTA) — For Rotem Yerushalmi, a professional campus pro-Israel advocate, what stood out during a recent visit to the Museum of the Palestinian People was an exhibit showcasing different villages’ ceremonial dress.

She strolled past references to the Nakba, which means “catastrophe” and denotes the dispersion of Palestinians during Israel’s War of Independence. And she gazed upon a photograph of an elderly man clutching the key to the dwelling his family left amid that year’s Arab-Israeli war. None of those surprised her. 

“The references to the key, the Nakba, were very familiar,” Yerushalmi said. “But the garb! I didn’t know they had different dresses for different areas.”

Yerushalmi was part of a delegation of about 20 Israeli emissaries stationed at U.S. universities that visited the museum late last month. It was the first-ever tour the museum had organized for a group of Israelis. 

Like most Jews in Israel, many of them had relatively few interactions with Arabs inside the country, and learned little about Palestinian culture and history in school. But here at the Washington museum, located just a mile from Yerushalmi’s post at Georgetown University, they got a view into a society that is both largely off-limits to them and entwined with their country’s future.

“It’s important because it humanizes each other, I think, for Israelis to hear the Palestinian perspective,” said Bshara Nassar, a Palestinian from Bethlehem who founded the one-room museum in 2019. “Actually having a wall that separates Palestinians from Israelis — there is no way, there is no place to interact.”

The tour was the brainchild of Jonathan Kessler, the former longtime head of student affairs at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the pro-Israel lobby. He now helms Heart of a Nation, which organizes people-to-people encounters between young Israelis, Palestinians and Americans — and which marks a turn away from the pro-Israel advocacy he once championed. 

“For the first time, maybe in my lifetime, you’ve got young people from all three societies who simultaneously recognize that their politics is stuck and they desperately want to push forward into a better place,” he told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 

He worries that unless they move beyond their “narrow communal silos,” young Jews in the United States “will further distance themselves from Israel, young Israelis will turn their back on the pursuit of peace with the Palestinians, and young Palestinians will give up on coexistence with Israel.”

Recommending a tour of the museum, he said, was a way to make that happen. The Jewish Agency for Israel’s Campus Israel Fellows, which brought the emissaries to Washington, D.C., asked him to recommend museum tours for the group, and he suggested the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the National Museum of African American History and this tiny, barely known institution. 

Mohammed El-Khatib, a docent at the Museum of the Palestinian People, leads a group of Jewish Agency emissaries through the museum in Washington, D.C., March 22, 2023. (Ron Kampeas)

For at least some of the emissaries, the visit had Kessler’s intended effect. Mohammed El-Khatib, the group’s docent, described his experience as a Lebanese-born Palestinian refugee, and told of his family’s flight from their ancestral village during Israel’s War of Independence. 

“It opens our mind to hear his perspective, to hear him say that he’s Palestinian, but he’s never been to Palestine, he was born in Lebanon, but he identifies as a Palestinian,” said Lielle Ziv, who works at Cleveland Hillel. “He told a story, and not like, right or wrong, it’s not a black-and-white situation. We can both be right,”

The museum is nestled in a townhouse adjacent to a pet care outlet, a Middle East bookstore and a chocolatier. A similar and larger museum in the Palestinian West Bank city of Birzeit, called the Palestinian Museum, is in territory that is off-limits to Israelis.

At the Washington museum, there was a lot of common ground: A Kurdish Israeli emissary said the keffiyeh in one exhibit reminded him of pictures of his male relatives, who wore similar headdresses before they left Iraq for Israel. El-Khatib was pleased to learn that the Arabic name for Hebron, Al Khalil, has the same meaning as the city’s Hebrew name — a “friend of God.”

One of the Israelis recognized the British Mandate passport on display, which once belonged to a Palestinian woman. His grandmother had one that was identical, he said.

When El-Khatib greeted the group, he said “Marhaba, Shalom,” respectively the more formal Arabic and Hebrew terms of welcome, and the group spontaneously answered with “Ahalan,” a less formal Arabic greeting that is commonplace among Israelis. That delighted El-Khatib. 

The group was similarly pleased when he showed off some Hebrew phrases in a pitch perfect Israeli accent, which he said he learned from an Israeli ex-boyfriend. The group then pushed him to spill more details about his ex.

“In campus encounters we’re always kind of on duty,” said Nati Szczupak, the director of the Campus Israel Fellows program. “They’re on duty, right? They’re pro-Palestine. We’re pro-Israel. And it’s very rare that you can just talk and get to those moments of like, ‘Hey, I used to wear that hat too, when I was little.’” 

She was referring to an exhibit on different types of Palestinian headwear that included a fez, or traditional Moroccan hat, which elicited a squeal of delight from a Moroccan Jewish emissary who said she had a photo of herself as a toddler sporting one of her ancestors’ fezzes. 

“It’s not about facts,” Szczupak said. “We know the facts. What about the narrative? What is your story? We’re not arguing about the facts, but how we experienced them.”

The museum’s exhibits include photographs of Palestinians in Israel, the West Bank and in exile, and are marked by contrasts: images of resistance — of a small boy throwing stones — and of the mundane — of young men playing soccer. Arrays of black-and-white photos from the late 19th and 20th centuries feature celebrations juxtaposed with resettlement in refugee camps.

A case includes Palestinian glassware, pottery and headwear throughout the ages. There was a temporary exhibit of line drawings by a contemporary Palestinian artist, and a wall titled “Making their mark” of prominent Palestinians — including Rashida Tlaib, the Democratic congresswoman from Michigan; the late Edward Said, the literary critic and scholar; the sisters Gigi and Bella Hadid, who are models; and DJ Khaled, the rapper.

The museum does not hold back from addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The conflict’s most vexing issue — each side’s fear that the other side wants to replace it — was most evident in the museum’s maps: One depicted the scattering of the Palestinians throughout the Diaspora, and others showed how Israel expanded its territory from the land it was given in the 1947 United Nations partition plan. 

Outside the museum, while the Israelis were waiting for the tour to start, a pair of the Israel fellows examined a poster for an exhibit, “The Art of Weeping, by a Palestinian artist, Mary Hazboun. The line drawing of a Palestinian mother in a traditional dress, carrying her babies, evoked the map of the entirety of Israel, Gaza and the West Bank — and then some.

“The proportions are interesting,” one said to  the other, in Hebrew. “It includes not just Israel and the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but the Golan Heights and a part of Jordan.”

Ziv said the tour made her think that she “would like more connections” with Palestinians — and it was clear that it was easier to make those connections in Washington than it would be in Tel Aviv or Jenin. El-Khatib said he had never met an Israeli before he moved to the United States.

“When we have Palestinian visitors coming to the museum, they quickly doze off — I mean, to them, it’s more about the achievement of the space,” El-Khatib said. “But when this group came in, I really felt that they were very attentive and hanging on to every word that I said, which was wonderful.”

The post A group of Israeli emissaries toured a Palestinian museum in DC, and came away with questions appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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