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‘We will not give up’ on judicial changes, right-wing protesters at Israel’s largest pro-reform rally are told



JERUSALEM (JTA) — The right-wing protest that took some 200,000 people to Jerusalem’s streets on Thursday night to demonstrate in favor of the government’s judicial overhaul felt bizarrely familiar.

In many ways, it mimicked the anti-government protests that it meant to oppose: Like the demonstrations that have filled Tel Aviv’s streets every week this year, this too featured lots of Israeli flags, chants to the tune of “Seven Nation Army” and signs declaring that the rally represents the majority of the country.

And like the protests in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem’s mass gathering felt driven by grievance: a sense that the country the rally-goers had fought for — the country they thought they had — was being taken away from them.

“There are those who have decided that they can make decisions for me, even though they have no right to decide for me,” said Michal Verzberger, who came from the central town of Mazkeret Batya with most of her family to protest in favor of the reforms. Verzberger was echoing a central message of Thursday’s protest: that the right won the recent elections, and therefore had every right to pass its desired judicial overhaul.

“The nation decided it wanted reform, and there are some who are protesting the reform, and they’re deciding in our place that there won’t be a reform,” she said. “The minority is deciding what is good for the majority.”

The idea that a loud minority is unjustly obstructing the will of the electorate inspired Thursday’s protest, which filled an artery of central Jerusalem with a largely Orthodox, religious Zionist crowd. The judicial overhaul would sap the Israeli Supreme Court of much of its power, and since it was proposed at the beginning of the year, hundreds of thousands have filled the streets — in Tel Aviv and elsewhere — weekly to decry the proposal as a danger to democracy.

Right-wing Israelis attend a rally in support of the government’s planned judicial overhaul in Jerusalem, April 27, 2023. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)

Those protests, and associated actions, led Israel’s right-wing government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to pause the reforms for a month — a period that ends in several days. The governing coalition and opposition are now negotiating over the legislation, a process that, if successful, will by definition soften the reforms at least a little.

Thursday’s rally was a show of force that aimed to strengthen the position of the government majority, several protesters said. One of the crowd’s chants was “64 seats” — the majority the right-wing holds in Israel’s 120-seat parliament, the Knesset. One homemade sign read, “64 > 56.”

The government ministers who spoke at the rally did not seem interested in half-measures. They promised that despite the delays, the substance of the reform would become law.

“Listen well, because this is my promise: We will not give up,” said Bezalal Smotrich, the far-right finance minister. “We won’t give up on making Israel a better place to live. We won’t give up on the Jewish state. … We’re fixing what needs to be fixed, and promising a better state of Israel for us and for the coming generations. Most of the nation agrees that the judicial reform is the right and necessary thing to do for the state of Israel, and I say again: We will not give up.”

Who is, in fact, in the majority on this issue is a more complicated question than it seems. Israel’s electorate has had a right-wing majority for years, both according to polls and election results. While the ideological bent of coalitions has varied, the past 22 years have seen only several months — last year — with a prime minister who didn’t build his career in conservative politics.

Justice Minister Yariv Levin at a rally in support of the government’s planned judicial overhaul outside the Knesset in Jerusalem, April 27, 2023. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)

But polls also show that a majority of the country opposes the court reform itself, which has been pushed through the Knesset without any support from opposition parties or even engagement with their concerns. The central motivation of the anti-overhaul protests has been the importance of defending democracy and an independent court system.

That idea vexed Thursday’s protesters. “We won’t give up on Israeli democracy, and no one will steal that word from us,” Smotrich said. Yariv Levin, the justice minister and architect of the judicial overhaul, said, “Two million Israelis, half a year a year ago, voted in the true referendum: the elections. They voted for judicial reform.”

Protesters who spoke to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency said they supported the overhaul’s provisions, which include giving the governing coalition a large measure of control over the selection of judges and allowing the Knesset to override most Supreme Court decisions with a bare majority. Observers across the political spectrum and around the globe have cautioned that those changes could damage Israel’s democratic character.

But protesters said that, rather than destroy democracy, the overhaul would restore balance to Israel’s branches of government, curbing an overly activist court.

“I want a real democracy in the state of Israel,” said Chanan Fine, a resident of the central city of Modiin. “In a democracy there are three branches that have balance between them, and what happened is that the judicial branch has taken for itself the powers of the legislative branch and the executive branch.”

He added, “The government needs to have the ability to determine policy and to pass laws, and if there’s a policy that contradicts the laws of the state then the Supreme Court needs to get involved,” but less often than it does now, he explained.

Under the proposed legislation, the governing coalition would not have to respect the determination of the Supreme Court.

The message of the protests wasn’t the only thing that separated it from the Tel Aviv demonstrations, which largely draw secular Israelis. While few haredi Israelis attended the event — a leading haredi newspaper instructed its readers not to go, even as it expressed support for the cause — religious ritual pervaded the demonstration. Men gathered in prayer quorums before sunset on the way to the protest, and rallygoers recited the Shema and traditional prayers for salvation en masse. Most of the men wore kippahs, and most of the women wore long skirts.

Some signs at the Tel Aviv rallies, in addition to opposing the overhaul, advocate for LGBTQ rights or Israeli-Palestinian peace. Signs and shirts at the Jerusalem rally instead trumpeted  settlements in the West Bank and the belief that the late rabbi of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement is the messiah.

One thing that the two rallies had in common: a preponderance of Israeli flags, something that has been particularly noted at the anti-overhaul demonstrations.

“It’s a desecration of our symbol,” Chen Avital, a protester from the West Bank settlement of Shilo, said about the anti-government protesters’ adoption of the flag. “They took it for a certain side that isn’t supported by the whole country, and they changed it to their side over the past few months. … It’s a flag that represents all of us, and they took it for their own side.”

The post ‘We will not give up’ on judicial changes, right-wing protesters at Israel’s largest pro-reform rally are told 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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