We have some news about Israel in this edition of the Jewish World, ahead of the observance of Yom HaZikaron, Israeli Memorial Day, and Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day. The State of Israel is marking 66 years; and the local festivities are set for the evening of May 5 at the Sabes JCC in St. Louis Park.
Following the “delicious Israeli fiesta,” dancing and singing, fun fair and a tribute to American and Israeli war veterans, there will be a 7:30 p.m. preview screening of Beneath the Helmet, a documentary about the lives of five young Israeli soldiers, including two who are immigrants from Ethiopia and Switzerland. You can watch a trailer at: beneathhelmet.com.
As a catalyst for Jewish arts and culture in Minnesota, the AJW is happy to provide a preview in prose of the May 14 concert by the Idan Raichel Project, on Page 1. This Israeli ensemble blends the musical modes from Israel’s ethnic tapestry into a unique sonic stew. They’re big on the so-called “world music” scene, and they’ve scheduled a May 14 stop at The O’Shaughnessy in St. Paul. We’re happy that bandleader Idan Raichel was available to chat again.
And now let’s turn from the sublime to the political. Specifically, the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which were restarted last July by Secretary of State John Kerry, appear to be going nowhere. The peace talks are scheduled to end on April 29, without the resolution of any issues related to a two-state agreement. JTA reported this week that Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, threatened to unilaterally dissolve the P.A., which would annul the 1993 Oslo Accords, and leave Israel to police and administer the West Bank.
Likely, this chaotic scenario won’t come to pass, but some of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition partners are happy to see a negotiated settlement scuttled. For one, Naftali Bennett, Israel’s economy minister and Jewish Home Party chairman, dared Abu Mazen (Abbas’ nom de guerre) to make good on his threat.
“The people of Israel do not negotiate with the barrel of a gun pointed at their head,” Bennett told Ynet.
There also was another round of rocket fire into Israel from the Gaza Strip this week. And Israel struck back at Hamas facilities in Gaza.
The dismal state of affairs in Israel and Palestine echoes in this country, where the Supreme Court on Monday agreed to review a case that concerns the power of Congress to require that the State Department recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on U.S. passports.
The case, Zivotofsky v. Kerry, was brought by the parents of Menachem B. Zivotofsky, who was born in Jerusalem in 2002, not long after Congress passed a bill that would order the State Department to “record the place of birth as Israel,” the New York Times reports this week.
President George W. Bush signed the bill into law; but announced that he wouldn’t follow its provisions because it “impermissibly interferes with the president’s constitutional authority to conduct the nation’s foreign affairs.” The Obama administration takes the same position.
When you’re in Jerusalem, it certainly seems that you’re in Israel; but the U.S., and many other countries, maintain that the status of Jerusalem has to be determined in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
The case comes before the high court after the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in July for the executive branch, deciding that the congressional passport action “impermissibly intruded on what it said was the president’s exclusive power to recognize foreign governments,” according to the Times.
So, we will await the justices’ ruling on what is Jerusalem — is it the capital of Israel? Is it its own unresolved thing?
In any case, I’d like to visit Jerusalem again — Tel Aviv, too. There are more Israeli jazz musicians and authors to interview. And politicians of all stripes.
I’ve heard many favorable comments about my Israel Diary series from the June 2013 journalistic expedition. Perhaps I should plan another trip to the Jewish state. Would any readers chip in to defray the airfare, hotel and taxi costs? I’d also have to take Teddy Weinberger to lunch. We could start an Indiegogo or Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to raise the dough.
I volunteer to be your journalistic shaliach to Israel. There are many Minnesota connections with Israel, which could be explored in future AJW editions. Feel free to let me know what you think. Perhaps August would be a good time to visit.
— Mordecai Specktor / editor [at] ajwnews [dot] com
(American Jewish World, 4.25.14)