The Marc and Henia (z”l) Liebhaber Prize for the Promotion of Religious Tolerance in Israel was established in 1996, after the assassination the previous year of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin. The former publisher of the Jewish World, Rabbi Liebhaber, who has an abiding love for the Jewish state, wanted to do something to promote social amity in Israel and endowed a prize that has been awarded annually to individuals who “exhibit a personal commitment to democratic principles and tolerance, integrated with basic Jewish values and ethics.”
I have attended two of the Liebhaber Prize award ceremonies, and I plan to attend the 16th annual event, which will take place on Sunday evening, June 23 at the new Jerusalem campus of the Schechter Institute, as part of the commencement exercises of the graduate school.
The 2013 Liebhaber Prize recipients are Kobi Oz, a renowned musician and author, who writes a column for the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv; and Dov Elbaum, a journalist and TV personality, who hosts a talk show titled Welcoming the Shabbat. I will fill you in on what happens at the Liebhaber Prize awards ceremony. And I hear that Rabbi Liebhaber, who is 95 and living in Boca Raton, Fla., also plans to attend the event in Jerusalem.
My visit to Israel comes a year after I had to cancel a visit. On May 12, 2012, I had a bicycle accident, which resulted in six broken ribs and a partially collapsed lung. After three nights at Hennepin County Medical Center, I was discharged; but, as per the doctors’ orders, cautioned not to fly for one month. Happily, I’ve healed from my injuries and I’m looking forward to returning to Israel — it will be my seventh visit, Baruch Ha’Shem.
My itinerary will include stays in Jerusalem, Haifa and Tel Aviv. I have scheduled interviews and tours, a mix of political and cultural coverage. Since my last visit to Israel, in 2008, as part of a Minneapolis Jewish Federation mission, the Jerusalem Light Rail has started operating, so traveling through Israel’s capital promises to be much easier.
If any AJW readers have suggestions about what to see or do, I still have some gaps in my schedule.
It’s really not that hard to find stories in Israel, a promised land for journalists. Israeli domestic politics has experienced a reordering after the recent elections, which followed the unprecedented social protests of 2011. I will miss the next rumble at the Western Wall on Rosh Chodesh, June 9; but I likely won’t escape some manifestations of the Israeli conflict between the ultra-Orthodox and the mainly secular majority. And, of course, there is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is visibly represented by the 25-foot-tall concrete wall snaking along the hillside in Jerusalem.
On the latter point, this issue of the AJW is published on the 46th anniversary of the 1967 Six-Day War, which altered the map of the Middle East. I was a teenager then, and I vaguely recall the surge of emotions in the St. Paul Jewish community. A headline in the June 16, 1967, AJW reads, “Israel Emergency Fund Rally Raises Total to $910,000.” The story is about the Israel Emergency Fund’s “An Appeal to Conscience” rally at the St. Paul JCC. From a 10-year-old girl who donated 50 cents to families that contributed checks and cash, the evening raised $48,000 for Israel.
The story quoted the late Rabbi Bernard S. Raskas, of Temple of Aaron Synagogue, who referred to the days since June 5 (when war broke out) as “one of the most strained weeks in our lives.”
“History will also point out that Israel may have saved the world from [World War III],” Raskas added. “Never before in history have so many owed so much to so few. The whole world owes a debt to Israel. The task is before us, let’s begin.”
At the time, Rabbi Raskas likely did not contemplate that Israel’s occupation of Palestinian communities in the West Bank would become entrenched and eventually enter its 47th year. That’s a long time to lord it over another people, and Israel’s public image has been tarnished as a consequence of the occupation. The short-term prospects for arriving at a negotiated peace deal do not seem bright at the moment.
The Jewish World’s coverage of the epochal 1967 events in the Middle East also included the sad story of a 23-year-old St. Paul sailor killed in action. Robert Burton Eisenberg, a graduate of Monroe High School, attended the U of M prior to enlisting in the Navy in 1964. He was a communications specialist second class aboard the U.S.S. Liberty, which was attacked by Israeli jet planes and torpedo boats in the Mediterranean on June 8.
The Israeli attack on the Liberty killed 34 crew members (naval officers, seamen, two Marines, and one civilian) and wounded 171 crew members. Israel apologized for the attack, which it characterized as an accident amid the fog of war. A number of U.S. government investigations followed, at least one of which found Israel guilty of “gross negligence” in the attack on the Liberty. The controversy lingers.
Services were held for Robert Eisenberg on June 23, 1967, at Aaron-Hodroff & Sons chapel, according to the June 30, 1967, edition of the American Jewish World. He was buried in Chesed Shel Emes cemetery.
It is clear that events in the Middle East can touch our lives in Minnesota. We should be concerned about Israel and work for peace.
— Mordecai Specktor / firstname.lastname@example.org
(American Jewish World, 6.7.13)