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In Berlin, Netanyahu faces tough questions from a key ally, while Israelis abroad protest



BERLIN (JTA) – Approximately 1,000 people — most of them Israelis living in Berlin — gathered Thursday at the iconic Brandenburg Gate here to show solidarity with protests against judicial reform in Israel.

The protesters’ messages were intended for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was in the German capital for meetings with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Netanyahu also visited a Holocaust memorial, which is located at a site from which some 10,000 Berlin Jews were deported by train to slave labor or concentration camps in 1941 and 1942.

But Netanyahu never came near the protesters: Berlin took extreme security measures to keep the public away from the Israeli leader, who stayed at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, more than three miles away from the site of the protests. Many streets leading to the hotel were blocked.

That didn’t spare Netanyahu from hearing criticism of his legislation, which would sap Israel’s Supreme Court of much of its power and which is currently advancing in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. At a joint press conference after a private meeting, Scholz said he had urged Netanyahu to consider a compromise proposal advanced by Israel’s president, Isaac Herzog.

“As democratic value partners and close friends of Israel, we are following this debate very closely and — I will not hide this — with great concern,” Scholz said. “The independence of the judiciary is a high democratic good.”

Netanyahu rejected Herzog’s proposal before leaving for Berlin but sought to reassure Scholz, who leads a key ally of Israel, that he would not reject democratic norms. “I want to assure you that Israel will stay a liberal democracy,” Netanyahu said.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (R) and Benjamin Netanyahu. prime minister of Israel, hold a press conference at the chancellor’s office in Berlin, March 16, 2023 (Kay Nietfeld/picture alliance via Getty Images)

It was Netanyahu’s second trip abroad in a week, after a visit to Italy last week that also drew protests, though fewer questions from Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. The judicial reform proposals have drawn concern from many world leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden, as well as from an ideologically diverse coalition of Israelis.

Those gathering at the Brandenburg Gate, a few miles away from Netanyahu’s meeting with Scholz, said it was important to show their solidarity with protesters back home, even if the Israeli prime minister could not hear or see them. By some estimates, there are up to 10,000 Israelis living in Berlin, not including those who have come here with European passports, which many have by virtue of the fact that their grandparents escaped or otherwise survived the Nazi regime.

“We want to let our people at home, our families, our brothers and sisters, know that we are here, we see them and they are not alone,” one of the local organizers, graduate student Yael Hajor, 33, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency before the event. She said her loose coalition worked together with an Israeli counterpart to reach out to sympathizers in Berlin, posting regular updates in Hebrew via WhatsApp.

“Actually, the visit of Netanyahu here helped us create more bridges between the groups” in the two countries, said Hajor, who plans to return to Israel after her studies.

At the Brandenburg Gate, a mixed bag of protesters gathered with posters, some waving Israeli flags, chanting and dancing to Israeli music. Some carried homemade signs with pro-democracy messages; other signs called Netanyahu a would-be dictator and compared him to Russian president Vladimir Putin. A group of women paraded in red robes meant to resemble those worn by women in the novel and TV series “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which is also an emerging symbol of the protests in Israel.

“Most Jews are democratic and therefore this is really embarrassing, what is happening in Israel,” said German-Jewish scholar and pundit Micha Brumlik, one of about 30 Jewish intellectuals to sign a statement this week calling on Germany to “to distance itself clearly and publicly from the anti-democratic and racist policies of the Netanyahu government.”

Demonstrators protest against the Israeli government in front of the Brandenburg Gate during Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Berlin, March 16, 2023. (Carsten Koall/picture alliance via Getty Images)

American scholar Jonathan Schorsch, a professor at the School of Jewish Theology in Potsdam, said he had a positive impression after wending his way through the crowd.

“I see that people care, and are trying to voice some opposition to this crazy putsch,” said Schorsch, using the German word for coup that is associated with Adolf Hitler’s rise to power. “It really is an appropriate word to use. It is very scary to me.”

But tensions over what messages to prioritize, which have also arisen in the protests in Israel, replicated themselves in Berlin.

“We are here to protest together with other Israelis against the new legal overhaul,” said Israeli graduate student Nimrod Flaschenberg, who previously worked for the left-wing Hadash Party in the Knesset. “But we also are saying that the deeper problem is the occupation and the oppression of the Palestinian people. And we think you cannot talk about one thing without the other.”

Brumlik, who made the rounds through the crowd on Thursday, described the protest crowd as both pro-Israel and anti-Zionist. “I am not really happy with the posters,” he said, explaining that “Israel within the borders of 1967 is not an apartheid state, and on the West Bank it can be debated.”

Berlin Jew Evelyn Bartolmai, who lived in Israel for about 20 years, said she normally does not go to demonstrations in Germany that criticize Israel.

“I don’t want to  be lumped in with the antisemites who come to take advantage of the situation,” she said. “But this demonstration is not against Israel. Rather, it is against this government. It is for Israel, and that is why I am here.”

The post In Berlin, Netanyahu faces tough questions from a key ally, while Israelis abroad protest 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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