Saturday, April 30, 2005

End of an Era

While this will mean very little to my regular political readers, I can't ignore a very large part of my life that's rooted in the world of soap operas. That said, we now have a hole in the force. Last night William J. Bell passed away. Ever hear of The Young and the Restless or The Bold and the Beautiful? Both were created by Bill (along with his wife, Lee). To the daytime community, he was a legend. CBS named the studio Y&R tapes in after him. He's received numerous awards. There's a funny story about one of those awards.

Many years ago at the Daytime Emmy Awards, Y&R won for best writing. The next morning, Bill got a call. There'd been a mistake -- Guiding Light had actually won. The next time Bill's team won, Bill quipped, "And if you call me tomorrow morning, I'm not picking up!"

Bill will forever have my respect because, along with Agnes Nixon, he was a protege to the greatest soap legend of them all, Irna Phillips. What I would have given to have been born back then, to have had the opportunity he did to learn from the master -- the woman who essentially invented the genre.

My condolences to the cast and crew of both shows for losing their inspirational leader and father figure; to Lee for losing her life partner; to their kids Lauralee, Bill Jr. and Bradley; and to all the fans out there of this dying narrative form we affectionally refer to as soap opera.

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Friday, April 29, 2005

Hamas Threatens Israel -- Thanks to the US

Congress has a proposal on the table. They are preparing to ratify a bill calling for global recognition of Jerusalem as the Jewish capital and linking that recognition to the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state. I find it brilliant. Hamas, scared crapless, has threatened to ramp up the violence against Israelis if the bill is passed.

The bill also notes that while Jerusalem is central to the Jewish faith, it is not mentioned even once by name in the Koran.

“Jerusalem is essential in Judaism, it is mentioned in the Bible 766 times,” the proposal states.

Hamas is saying they want Jerusalem as the capital of a Muslim Palestinian state and will not accept less. Now I know it's smart in negotiations to shoot for the moon and to be talked down from there but they are simply out of their minds if they think it's going to happen. But their plan seems brilliant. They are making all sorts of wild demands, like wanting control of the Gaza boarder crossings, etc., and when Israel turns them down -- Israel will be the one blamed for not cooperating.

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Thursday, April 28, 2005

The Threat of International Terrorism

Last night I went to yet another interesting AIPAC event (usual caveats about my note-taking accuracy still apply). The speaker was Dr. Boaz Ganor. His credentials are numerous. Suffice it to say, he lectures on Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism at the High Command Academic courses of the Israel Defense Forces, and the Lauder School of Government and Diplomacy, as well as other Academic and International forums. He's consulted all over and written many articles published in Israel and abroad. This man gets it. Here is what he had to say.

The level of the Islamic terror threat is bigger than anything in the recent past, including the Cold War. There are various characteristics of the threat of International terror. They include: battlefield experience, extreme ideology, non-rational decision making, international network and non-conventional terror.

The war in Afghanistan in 1979 can be seen as the foundation of much of what we're seeing today as the Al Qaeda terror network. There was a call for global jihad and many from all over the world headed there to volunteer their services. It made three levels of fighters:

1) Those who stayed in Afghanistan would become the nucleus of Al Qaeda.
2) Those who returned to their homelands would form the local movements/cells of Al Qaeda around the world.
3) Those who wanted to return to their homeland but weren't allowed; they ended up moving to Western countries like the US seeking asylum. An example would be the Imam in NJ who inspired and helped prepare the people (those guys also fall into this category) who carried out the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

Dr. Ganor shared an interesting anecdote of when he was lecturing to the FBI; in the halls, he saw leaflets about various terrorists (this was pre-9/11) on the walls. He saw the one they had on Bin Laden, which listed his occupation as "unknown". This shocked him -- he told the FBI that Bin Laden's occupation was that of FULL TIME TERRORIST! He was at another FBI facility recently and saw the leaflets on the walls again -- and Bin Laden's occupation was still listed as unknown.

He said that these Islamic radicals are motivated by religion. This makes them much more dangerous than the average terrorist because they feel they have divine command. You can't compromise with them -- they'd tell you to compromise with G-d, since that's who is sending them. He said their ultimate goal is to spread Islam, to conquer the world through terror.

So what is the biggest enemy to Global Jihad? Is it the US? No. His answer: The biggest threat to Global Jihad is TURKEY -- a modern Muslim state. He said they feel they have to defend themselves against McDonalds, Coke, Microsoft -- against the modern world. Yet they have no promise to give their own people.

He then shared what he believes to be Bin Laden's 3-pronged plan:

1) Shake the stability of the Middle Eastern countries and Central Asia, to see local Islamic revolt against their governments.
2) Spread revolt to surrounding countries, like Western China, Indonesia, North Africa, etc.
3) See it spread to Western Society. The US is seen as one who prevents revolutions elsewhere and that is contrary to their efforts.

You can see this in Al Qaeda's demands after 9/11:

* Stop supporting corrupt regimes and Israel
* Call back troops from Muslim countries (because we could stop the revolutions from happening)

They want US to be isolationists. Had we reacted like Spain did after the Madrid bombings, we'd be in big trouble. THAT is the reaction they want.

The tactics of modern terrorism have evolved to include the suicide attacker, which he calls a "smart bomb" because the person, if they see their goal being blocked (by cops, security), they can immediately change locations and find a better target. That's a smart bomb! But what they want to evolve into is post-modern terrorism -- non-conventional attacks. You have to wonder, what if they kill Muslims in these non-conventional attacks. Is that okay? The ICT (International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism), whom he works with, monitored a site which was asked such a question. The religious scholar said yes, that since they're fighting a "defensive" war against the infidels, that they are in fact protecting Muslims.

Steps have been made to counter this with some success. They've stopped ricen attacks before they happened in both Great Britain and France. They stopped another attack (not sure where; missed it) involving many kilograms of cyanide.

There is no rational decision making process, weighing costs/benefits like there was with the Cold War. Our biggest deficiency is in understanding their rationality for doing the things they do, and that's one of the reasons this threat is more dangerous.

There was a Q&A session following his talk.

Q: Why no attacks since 9/11?

A: Al Qaeda doesn't have an interest in sporadic attacks (like the Palestinians). They do sophisticated, well-timed attacks. And it's harder for them now. They no longer have autonomy in Afghanistan, lost their infrastructure there, their training camps. 50% of them were killed or captured. There are tiers to counter-terrorism. First tier is intelligence. The second and the third are as well. And US intel is much better around the world and at home now than it was prior to 9/11. We still have a long way to go though.

Q: Didn't we make these people powerful by employing them in our quest to defeat the USSR during the Cold War?

A: We did work under the misnomer that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Israel did this as well with Hamas vs. Fatah. It doesn't work. To win a war against foes like these, you need to counter their motivation and their ability. And by countering their motivation, that means the masses, not the terrorists. And countering the masses' motivation is not the job of the US -- but is the mission of the moderate Muslims. Our mission should be to motivate the moderate Muslims. There is a whole generation affected by the "free services" that Mosques, Madrassas, etc. gave to poor areas in Muslim countries. They used these services to indoctrinate their extreme ideology onto this new generation. We should do the same thing but these free services should encourage moderate Muslim philosophy.

Modern terror is psychological warfare. They want to create anxiety. Rational fear is okay -- that gives you awareness, which is good. But irrational anxiety is the stuff that paralyzes you from doing what you usually do. When an attack happens, our natural impulse is to personalize it; "oh my gosh, I was there a week ago" or "my cousin walks down that street every day!" But the reality is that it's very rare to be in a terror attack. He recalled being asked by people if it was too dangerous to go to Israel. He replied, "Yes. Israel has awful drivers." 2002 was the biggest year in Israel for terror attacks. In that year, 300 people died. In that same year, 600 died from car accidents. It's called keeping things in perspective.

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Siding with the Enemy

Naomi Ragen, who lives in Israel, once again writes an interesting article with her take on what is happening with the Gaza Disengagement. Check it out.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Kosher Gospel

I often like to use this blog to introduce you to things you might not know about. Hat tip to my pal Renee for this post. There is a very special singer out there. Have you ever heard of Joshua Nelson? He was discovered by Oprah but don't hold that against him.

"We've been Jews for centuries, as long as anyone can remember," Nelson says. "Why is it that when people of color are Jews, questions are raised?"

That's right. Joshua Nelson, whose style has been compared to the late Mahalia Jackson, is black and Jewish.

Nelson is one of about 100,000 nonwhite Americans who were born Jewish. Another 300,000 people of color are followers of Judaism through marriage, adoption, conversion or the recent surge of Jewish immigrants from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, according to Yavilah McCoy, director of Ayecha, a New York-based group she founded five years ago to reach out to Jewish minorities.
Among black Jews, "you see the flavor of Jewish culture in a way you might not have seen before, when it was just black and white, so to speak — as in, Christians and non-Christians," says McCoy, 33, who is black and raised in Brooklyn's Crown Heights neighborhood, where she studied in a yeshiva with other Orthodox Jews.

The two communities have much in common, but lately divisions between the two have been more apparent.

The civil rights era made Jews and blacks close allies, but incidents like the Crown Heights riots of 1991 have put a heavy strain on the ties between the groups — a paradox to McCoy.

"Jews have been oppressed. And African-Americans have been oppressed," she says. "When a soul endures, there's something very beautiful in its music. It's not just oppression, but the spirit of joy that overcomes oppression — something so powerful that it's explosive."

And that expression of joy is prevelant whenever Joshua Nelson makes his beautiful music soar.

It was the sound of Jackson's recorded voice that first seduced Nelson when he was 8, living in Brooklyn with five siblings; their father worked as a truck driver, and their mother was a nurse. The fascination with Jackson's voice lasted after he graduated from Newark's Performing Arts High School and went on to sing at the funeral of another graduate, Sarah Vaughan.

While attending Hebrew University in Jerusalem, he started blending Hebrew texts with gospel melodies — or arranging Jewish hymns in gospel style, resulting in solo CDs like "Hebrew Soul."

He occasionally sings a real Christian gospel hymn — "for historical purposes" — but his "kosher gospel" avoids any mention of Jesus.

While Nelson is very comfortable in his own skin, it doesn't mean that others in the black community feel the same way about him.

Nelson says he resents the suggestion "that we need to come back to our faith," as one black minister put it.

"I told him, 'It's weird the way black Christians look at us as sort of strange. We came off the boat Jews. You didn't come off the boat Christians. Your faith was given to you by a slavemaster.'"

If you get the chance, check him out.

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Monday, April 25, 2005

Caroline Glick Takes on Jonathan Pollard

Caroline Glick from the Jerusalem Post decided to interview one of the mostpolarizing figures of our times, Jonathan Pollard. The former Navel intelligence analyst has already served 20 years of his life sentence for transferring classified US intelligence materials relating to Arab ballistic missile and nonconventional weapons programs to Israel from May 1984 until his arrest in November 1985.

For his contribution to Israel's security and for his long suffering in prison, Israelis consider Pollard a national hero. He is commonly considered the source of Israel's preparedness for the Iraqi missile attacks during the Gulf War. Israelis across the right-left and religious-secular divide are basically unified in their hope to greet Pollard in Israel as a free man.

In the meantime, he is far from free.

"I will give you an impressionistic description of my life. It involves constant noise, constant violence; profanity every conceivable type of profanity. There is no place to be quiet or to find quiet to read. You really have to be disciplined not to be provoked. You need to be disciplined to see when a situation is getting out of hand and to get away as quickly as possible. I have to be ready if my door opens at 2 in the morning.

One of the more profound exchanges occurred when Glick asked Pollard what it was like for him watching 9/11 on the TV:

"I felt sick to my stomach. The worst thing for me was that a lot of the Muslim inmates here greeted the attacks by saying Alla Akhbar and cheering."

But why would it bother you to see the US under attack? After all, you betrayed this country.

To this, Jonathan gave me a look of profound sadness and said, "I fell in love with two women Israel and the US. It doesn't work in private life, and it doesn't work in politics. My reaction to September 11 was as an American. As an American, I believe that this country is guarding the gates of Western civilization from the barbarians."

Also interesting is when Pollard describes the turning point for him, when he found out information and was trying to figure out what to do about it:

He claims also that "there was an incident during Operation Peace for the Galilee that provided me with my introduction to the US-Israel 'special relationship.' I saw the incredible cynicism with which the US views Israel. It flew in the face of everything that I thought was the point of the relationship. The way I viewed the world was destroyed. I had never before thought that my loyalties towards the US and Israel were in contradiction. But then I understood."

What did you understand?

"I understood that we are alone."

Pollard argues that his decision to spy for Israel, and thus betray the US, stemmed from his conviction that he "was preventing a second Holocaust."

When caught, Israel under Shimon Peres tried to deny any connection to Pollard.

Binyamin Netanyahu was the only prime minister to have made a serious effort to get Pollard released. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has abjectly refused to take any action on Pollard's behalf.

The intricacies of the case are very complicated and Glick does a very good job of laying it out all out -- the duplicity on the part of his handlers in Israel, etc. Read the rest here.

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Sunday, April 24, 2005

Israel's 7th President Ezer Weizman Passes Away

The Jerusalem Post reports the 80-year-old passed away Sunday night in his home in Caesarea after a long illness.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called Weizman a "symbol and model of the sabra."
Sharon said that every stop along Weizman's life represented a "cornerstone in the building up of Israel," including his days in the Irgun, his role in the establishment of the air force, the victory in the Six-Day War, as defense minister, his central role in the peace accords with Egypt and as a president "who was beloved by all segments of the population."

Check out the article to read what Ehud Barak and President Moshe Katsav had to say Weizman and to learn even more about this late great leader of Israel.

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Saturday, April 23, 2005

Have a Wonderful Passover

I flew all night and am now zonked at my folks. I want to wish all of you (I consider many of you honorary Jews!) a happy Passover. May Elijah come and drink you out of house and home. :)

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Friday, April 22, 2005

Israel expects full-scale Mideast war in 2006

Hat tip to Bridges for Peace for this article. I truly hope Israel is wrong, but as my friend The Weez pointed out, they can't afford to be.

Israel has reportedly expressed its belief to Washington that Iran and several of its Arab allies are preparing for a full-scale war against the Jewish state, possibly following the expected US withdrawal from Iraq in 2006.

Read the rest here.

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The Other Side

Just to show Jonathan I can have an ounce of objectivity, I found this article in the Jerusalem Post by Matthew Gutman. It is called, "It is not the apocalypse" -- the advice of Nahum Sheffer, a Sinai evacuee, to the people in Gush Katif.

"There is life after the destruction."

He'd know. His being forced to leave his home in 1982 due to the withdrawal from the Sinai caused him to lose his wife to a mental institution (she had a breakdown from the pressure) to this day. He was penniless. Three years later, his 19-year-old son was killed in combat in Lebanon. He's been through the mill, but he's come out the other side.

"I can't say I live 'the good life,' but I do live a beautiful life."

He is now living in a thriving farming community, north of Gaza. He understands what the people of Gush Katif are going through and recommends they pick up the pieces and start again, "otherwise you cannot live."

Words to the wise from others who had to move from the Sinai pullout?

The Sinai veterans told them that moving en masse to a similar type of community eased their experience. But they also warned that the government's efforts to publicly delegitimize the settlers caused the greatest damage.

Like Sheffer, many of the community members bear the scars of that time, scars recently inflamed by Sharon's decision to proceed with the second population transfer in Israel's history. Ein Habesor families bitterly recall that in 1982, people dubbed them "destroyers of Israel," and their new community Dallas, after the hit TV show that featured a spendthrift Texas family.

Sadly many of these people were treated horribly. Some were swindled out of money by contractors. Shopkeepers would not accept checks upon noticing "Bank Hapoalim Yamit," stamped on a checkbook. One woman tearfully shared the following memory:

After the evacuation, some of Ein Habesor's children were not accepted into certain area schools; they were accused of "sucking the land dry."

Ein Habesor residents offered a different term for when we refer to people who live in the cities and towns.

The Sinai settlers – Ein Habesor residents preferred the term "pioneers" – also clamored to set up their new communities on the Nitzanim beach, but were rebuffed. The government had found it more economical to pay them for each nut and bolt than to prepare new housing for them.

In the current plan to relocate Gush Katif settlers to Nitzanim, the government seems to have learned a lesson from Sinai. But Sheffer fears "that both sides will think they are standing against the enemy, but they are not."

We all know it's going to be tough for the pioneers. My heart goes out to them. At the end of the article, Sheffer said something that resonates...

"The toughest day," he responded, "is after the evacuation. The real struggle for them will begin when the headlines end, and no one remembers."

But hopefully we who populate the blogway will.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Here's Mud in Your Eye...or Tobacco

Apparently a Kansas City man, a vet, spit tobacco juice at Jane Fonda during one of her book signings.

Sarge -- was that you? ;)

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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Two Faces of Islam

Sorry to steal someone else's book title, but it's fitting. Patrick of Clarity & Resolve discusses it here, in which he blogs about Laura Mansfield's experience in a small town mosque that was having an "outreach" program. Only thing is, she decided to go an hour early. Oh -- and she's fluent in Arabic.

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Teach Kids Peace

In the wake of all the kids carrying/smuggling bombs into Israel or helping terrorists in the territories, has partnered with to try a pro-active approach to stopping the child abuse. Click here to view their 90-second introductory video and then visit for updates and alerts for activists.

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Monday, April 18, 2005

Gaza Pullout Delayed?

According to a DEBKAfile report, Sharon now wants to delay the Gaza pullout because he "could no longer ignore the fact that nothing is ready for the July 20 evacuation of 9,000 Israeli men, women and children from the Gaza Strip and N. West Bank." There has been a special cabinet session called for tomorrow, to confirm the one month delay. The report also acknowledges the disintegration of the "ceasefire" between Israel and the various terrorist factions in the territories. Today, 4 Israeli soldiers were injured in two separate attacks but there's been even more incidents in the last several days.

According to a communiqué from Israel’s high military command covering the last few days, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip fired eight mortar rounds at Israeli targets, injured three Israeli troops in nine sniper attacks and planted 7 explosive devices that were dismantled. The Palestinian force that Abbas “deployed” in the Gaza Strip when he took over melted away when the first mortar and missile firings were heard.

You're kidding! Abu Mazen's thugs became useless in protecting Israelis? No way! But wait, Ginsu knife lovers, there's more.

Furthermore, the post-disengagement arrangements charted with Egypt to secure the Philadelphi border strip and control the massive arms smuggling traffic from Sinai have fallen apart. Then, too, coordination with the Palestinians is a fading prospect. Mahmoud Abba poses hefty prior stipulations and the radical jihadists Hamas’ will not play along as they expect to oust his Fatah from government and overpower both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

DEBKA discusses how the Israeli government was trying hard to create the impression that things were moving speedily ahead, but they weren't the only ones.

The same false colors were presented by the Palestinians – especially to the American media - on purported reforms underway in the Palestinian Authority under chairman Mahmoud Abbas. He was said to have ordered the reorganization of all security organs under three authorities, made sweeping new appointments and was more than ready for his delayed trip to the White House.

Interesting that they also report that Sharon had hoped for hefty assistance from the US but Bush and other officials nixed that. But the following was of even more interest:

As for the Palestinians, Abbas’ claim that 1,000 former terrorists had applied for jobs with the new security forces “and opted for peace” was refuted this week when a Hamas spokesman declared that none of its members had any intention of joining Palestinian security services. Both Hamas and Fatah, each out of respective considerations of political expediency, are threatening to revive rival violent campaigns against Israel. Some DEBKAfile military sources estimate that they have put the date for ending the partial lull forward from June to May – or even earlier.

Is anyone really surprised?

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Sunday, April 17, 2005

It's a Jungle Out There

I live in a suburb. Not out in the boonies by any stretch. I'm having dinner with some friends when one of them, who literally lives in the woods, talks about the various animals who happen upon her home -- deer, raccoons, etc. She then mentioned she's even once seen an opossum. I've never seen one, which I'm perfectly fine with. As I walk her out to her car in my driveway, I notice our motion-detector light is on. I warn her to check her convertible for animals, almost as a joke. I then see the ugliest creature ever and I call her over. She thought I was kidding. It was an opossum! We then spent the next 20 minutes trying to encourage the bugger to get out from under her car. We ran water down the driveway, and it finally left. Anyone have any similar stories? (I know that Felis does.)

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Saturday, April 16, 2005

Uzbekistan Pups Seek Asylum in Israel

OK, maybe not exactly, but it's pretty close. This was too cute not to post.

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Friday, April 15, 2005

A True Hero

Last night I had the pleasure of attending an AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) event with a very special guest speaker: MP Ilka Schroeder. I'm first going to type out her bio that we were given to promote the event and then I will share with you the notes I took (my usual caveats about my handwriting/lack of note-taking skills still apply) during the session, which other than an intro by her was mostly Q&A. Two of the most interesting facts about this fascinating woman -- she was only 21 years old when she first became an MP in the EU Parliament (she is now 27 years old), and -- she is NOT Jewish.


Ilka Schroeder, a former German Green Party member who is now a member of of the EU Parliament [actually, this is out-of-date cause she isn't anymore], has been a courageous friend to Israel in a very difficult environment. She has been a leader in exposing terrorism and corruption in the Palestinian Authority, as well as anti-Americanism, and anti-Semitism in the EU's position towards Israel. Despite significant pressure from her colleagues, Ms. Schroeder was the initiator of a Parliamentary Inquiry Committee on EU funding to the Palestinian Authority, an investigation conducted by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) on the possible misuse of EU funds for financial support of terrorist activities.

As a member of the Committeee of Justice and Home Affairs and the Committee for Foreign Affairs, Ms. Schroeder has established the fight against anti-Semitism in the European Union as an issue on the Parliamentary agenda. She has also vocally criticized European policy in the Middle East, stating: "I consider this to be a mixture of naivety, moralism, anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism, and anti-Zionism and an altogether serious danger. It is against these trends that my efforts are directed."


Make no mistake about this -- taking the positions she has in support of Israel and the US and her stance against anti-Semitism -- HAS COST THIS YOUNG WOMAN HER POLITICAL CAREER. It took incredible moral fiber and plain old guts to do what she has done in the environment she has done it in.

It is her feeling that 9/11 was an act of anti-Semitism. She explained that the mind set in Europe and abroad is that it was an attack on the "East coast" -- on political and financial institutions, all of which are known code, according to her, for Jewish power. I found this theory fascinating... and scary.

Someone asked if growing anti-Semitism in Europe was because of the rising Arab populations. She said that their populations are so miniscule as to have no affect. Sadly, anti-Semitism is just rooted in their society and most people are simply becoming more comfortable expressing it.

Another asked about how the Holocaust and such is handled in Germany. She said that up to the 1960s it was not discussed. In the '70s, the school books started to discuss the Holocaust but grandparents wouldn't discuss their Nazi past. Today, in literature, song, most cultural things, etc., they are saying more and more that Germans were victims too (like the bombing of Dresden, being expelled by neighboring countries). Things are stressing more on Germans who had to flee after 1945. They say everyone suffered, but yet no discussion of the political part of this. She sounded pretty disgusted by it. She then added that after 1989, a new self-consciousness, a new awareness... like, "We're Germany -- what do you want?!" kind of attitude emerged.

She said that while Europe will readily compare Ariel Sharon to Hitler, that's something Germany knows they can't do (yet). Another thing they can't do yet -- divest from Israel.

She shared the story of a friend of hers in Brussels (I'm guessing someone high up in politics like she was). Her rhetoric was becoming offensive, so Ilka said, "You're sounding anti-Semitic." Her friend's response: "Yes! Anti-Semitism -- that's the cause now!" Ilka was shocked and appalled.

She said with rising tensions and worsening economic conditions, globalization, etc., everyone is of course blaming the Jews. She said that anti-Semitism is hard to fight since people aren't willing to face it. She was open. She listened to things. But most people don't want to be confronted with facts that could change their world view.

She said the EU feels competition with the US -- they want to challenge us, like a kid trying to show they've grown up. It's why they're supporting the Palestinian Authority. They simply want to be on the opposite side of the issue from the US.

She said she knows the EU doesn't want to see Iran with nukes but she also feels Brussels is willing to see that goal go by the wayside when they say "no" to the possibility of military force being used on them.

Someone asked if there is a link with anti-Semitism and the rise of power in the EU. She feels that it has simply become more prevalent post 9/11 and that anti-Semitism is definitely linked to anti-US sentiment. She does feel that the position Europe takes helps feed anti-Semitism.

When asked what the Jewish communities in Europe seem to be doing, she said that if they're not a Jew or married to a Jew, then they're not working against anti-Semitism. And she said that if you don't challenge anti-Semitism when you hear it, you're contributing to it. I couldn't agree more.

While I didn't go into it here, Ilka parted ways with the Green party pretty quickly as her interests began to diverge from theirs. As she learned more, she challenged the EU to take the moral high ground and was met with much resistance but while she was there, she was our champion. Ilka might be teaching courses at Georgetown University in the Fall. If you ever have the chance to hear her speak, I highly recommend you do whatever you can to be there (also, I linked to her Web site back at the beginning of this post, so you can probably read her speeches, etc., there). She is truly inspiring.

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Thursday, April 14, 2005

Something Fun for a Change

A special message from Davidi, the leader of Sar-El (known in the US as Volunteers for Israel -- where you can serve on an Israeli Defense Force base for 3 weeks, which helps them so much).

Over 334 volunteers joined Sar-El during the month of March. And the month ended with a special simcha: Manny Bloom (age 79) and Elizabeth Levi-Seniglaglia (age 62) were married on March 30 at Kurdani Base where they volunteered last year. The Sar-El volunteers and soldiers at the base worked hard all week to beautify the base. The wedding was a lovely affair, wonderfully decorated and catered, and attended by the whole base, several high level military personnel, Davidi, as well as Sar-El staff. The occasion also received media coverage. We wish them "mazel tov" and much health and happiness. Click here for pictures.

Spring has arrived. The clocks were turned ahead so we have an extra hour of sunlight each evening. The beaches, streets and cafes are full, and there is always a soccer or basketball game to watch. In less than two weeks, we will begin Passover. Our best to you and yours during this special holiday remembrance of our exodus from Egypt.

We at Sar-El are planning for a very busy summer, but there's always room for more volunteers!

So if you're looking to make a difference or perhaps just looking for love, volunteering in Israel could be your answer. I know I loved it!

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Wednesday, April 13, 2005


I would have linked you to this but it's not online yet (I got it in an email). So I will reprint it in its entirety so you're updated. From Roz Rothstein at

Friends of Israel,

I am writing to you from Chicago, having just left the Caterpillar shareholders meeting where the proposal to investigate what Israel is doing with CATERPILLAR was defeated, 97% to 3%. Although these were preliminary numbers, they are strong.

I must say that it was essential that we were here, and I would like to thank those members and friends who gave StandWithUs their proxy votes ... I arrived representing more than 1350 shares of stock in the company.

The anti-Israel propagandists were present at the meeting in full form, very polished, and made one presentation after another, in an attempt to demonize and marginalize the Jewish state, using CATERPILLAR as a forum. They will tell you that this was not their intention rather, that they want to improve Israel by criticizing her like this. Hmmm ... its an interesting thing to say after they go out of their way to give one-sided negative accounts about Israel.

During the question and answer phase, I was able to challenge the issues brought up by the speakers from Jewish Voice for Peace, BeTzelem, ICHAD, Amnesty International, and a spokesperson on behalf of Rachel Corrie, etc. By my side was Allyson Rowen Taylor from American Jewish Congress, who also spoke out against using CATERPILLAR as a platform like this.

I was concerned when a long presentation was made on the floor by a representative of Jewish Voice for Peace because there was no opportunity at that moment to offer a rebuttal. She held up photos of Palestinians, and she spoke at length about all the negative things you can possibly imagine regarding Israel as an alleged abuser human rights. We were gratefully able to take the microphone at the end of the meeting during the question and answer phase, while everyone was still in the room. We made many important points regarding information that was missing from the presentations that were given.

Had we not been there, the anti-Israel speakers would have been the only voices in that room, not only politicizing the shareholders meeting but giving distorted and misinformed speeches to unsuspecting Directors and shareholders.

A word about the rally that took place in front of the Northern Trust building prior to the meeting: Their theme was mainly related to labor unions but was hijacked by many anti-Israel demonstrators, who had disturbing street theater to make their points, including a tall "grim reaper" costume, as well as a hand made bulldozer costume, etc., all meant to create an atmosphere of blame against Israel. So, while it appeared that all the people who attended the rally were there to demonstrate REGARDING Israel or the issue of Caterpillar's sale of bulldozers to Israel, I spoke with some of the people at the rally who told me that they were actually surprised to see people with another agenda, the anti-Israel agenda, because they were sincerely there out of concern for their labor union issues.

IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT during the rally, I distributed our new flyers encouraging people to INvest IN Israel. This new StandWithUs campaign was officially launched this week (4-13-05) in response to this campaign against CATERPILLAR as well as the general campaign that we regularly hear about encouraging DIVESTMENT from companies who do business with Israel.

IT IS MANIPULATIVE to have used a company like CATERPILLAR in this way. But I leave Chicago relieved that I was here to provide a pro-Israel voice and certain that this will not be the last time that we will see people work hard to create opportunities like this for their anti-Israel, political agenda. We encourage our members and friends to keep your eyes open and BE THERE in order to counter distortions and one- sided information, as we did today.

Roz Rothstein, National Director,

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NYT Bends Ethical Rules

Hat tip to my pal renee for this one.

I suppose I shouldn't be shocked. Apparently, our charming friends at Columbia University decided that if The New York Times was willing to forego interviewing outside sources (namely the Jewish students involved), in exchange they could get a one-day advantage over the competition and receive the report on student charges of anti-Israel bias at the university. According to The Village Voice, The New York Times took them up on it. In the era of the Jayson Blair debacle, was this really a smart move for the credibility-impaired newspaper? Interesting side note: a campus paper was offered the same deal -- they turned it down. Glad someone is showing some journalism ethics.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

It's All Our Fault

Caroline Glick from the Jerusalem Post packs another winner with her Column One: Middle East mythology. It's inspired by the offensive 2004 Arab Human Development Report released by the UN that foolishly blames the lack of economic progress and political freedom in the Arab world squarely on the shoulders of Israel due to her creation in 1948 and the US support for its continued existence. Oh yeah -- and the US military presence in Iraq. Course it has nothing to do with how the Arabs live their lives or the choices they make. Blame Israel -- it must be their fault. Yet we all know it's more complicated than that.

...leads both Israel and the US to ignore the direct dependence of the Palestinian conflict with Israel on outside support by Arab League member states led by Egypt. Egypt, like the rest of the Arab world has never accepted Israel's inherent right to exist as a Jewish state in the Levant. Yet over the years, the rhetorical focus shifted from overt calls for Israel's destruction through war to overt calls for Israel's destruction through the establishment of a Palestinian state and unlimited immigration of millions of foreign born Arabs to Israel. These calls are obfuscated to a degree by a public fixation on the perceived weakness and actual misery of the 2.3 million Palestinians in Judea, Samaria and Gaza – both of which are blamed on Israel.

Yet the reality on the ground is vastly different from the picture painted by UN reports whose basic presumptions, though wrong, form the foundations of US and Israeli policy in the region. The squalor in which Palestinians reside is wholly premeditated. As far back as 1949, the Arab League decided that no member state would grant citizenship to the Arabs who left the Land of Israel as a result of the Arab invasion of the nascent Jewish state. And so these miserable people and their children and grandchildren have been incarcerated in the squalor of UN internment camps for nearly 60 years.

Now comes the really great sentence by Glick -- bold is my emphasis:

When in the early 1980s then prime minister Menachem Begin tried to dismantle the camps in Gaza and Judea and Samaria and provide permanent and decent housing for their residents, the "refugees" were warned, on pain of death, by the pan-Arab and PLO leadership to reject Israel's offers.

But back to the report -- if I were an Arab, I would be completely offended by it. Does the UN really expect us to believe that Arabs are incapable of taking responsibility for their own lives? Do they really think of Arabs only as victims? We all know how untrue that is. I'm sure the UN probably thinks anti-Semitism is Israel's fault as well. Glick sums it up perfectly with the following paragraph:

Arab strength is based on Arab control of the world's largest oil reserves; irredentist Arab immigrant communities throughout the Western world and specifically in Europe that demand their host governments' adopt stridently anti-Israel foreign policies or face violence and instability at home and in global oil markets; and Arab Islamic terrorism and militarism which is financed and engendered in the oil-rich, authoritarian Arab world.

Is it any wonder that anti-Semitism is on the rise or that the UN would put out such a ridiculous report?

I highly recommend the whole article.

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Monday, April 11, 2005

No More "Settlements"

My pal Jerry made the following suggestion, and I think it's brilliant! Let's start this right away:

"Population centers that are called settlements in Israel are called towns and cities in the US and Europe. Let's give these Jewish communities some permanency. Settlements do not have the 'ring of permanency' that towns and cities do. Let's help Israel with a little PR and use towns and cities when discussing Jews living in the West Bank."

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Oskar Schindler -- Hero?

Thanks to Steven Spielberg, the world sees Oskar Schindler as a hero to the Jews. Well, maybe not the whole world. Take my mother's cousin, for instance. He is the only survivor of his family that was in Europe during World War II. I think I've mentioned before how my mother's 92-year-old grandmother was taken behind her farmhouse and murdered by the Nazis. But my mother's then 16-year-old cousin was employed by Oskar Schindler. His life was spared. You'd think he'd love Schindler, right? You'd be wrong. He hated the man.

He hated him because he was powerless to stop Schindler from grabbing very young Jewish girls and raping them. So here is a man in the power position to end all power positions -- he held the possibility of life or death in his hands. Who could stop him? Who could say no?

Sure, he saved many and for that we should all be grateful, but at what cost to others? And if someone does a lot of horrible things in his life but also saves people, does he still get to be called a hero?

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Incident at the Capitol

When I visited my pal in Nancy Pelosi's office at the Capitol, I made the comment that there wasn't nearly enough security for my taste. Fast forward a little over a week later, and we have an incident. It was resolved, but hopefully security will be stepped up in the wake of this.

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Sunday, April 10, 2005

Thank You General Motors!

One of my favorite lines involves the LA Times -- asking how many times can I boycott something I've never subscribed to. Well, apparently I'm not the only one who is angered by their overwhelming bias (for me, it's about Israel). General Motors has pulled their advertising from the newspaper, which various reports say will be a loss somewhere between 10-20 million in revenue, because of what it calls "factual errors and misrepresentations in the L.A. Times' editorial coverage." This will surely hurt them because GM's the paper's largest advertiser by far. Thank GM yourself by clicking here. Hat tip to Join the Boycott.

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Saturday, April 09, 2005

Even More From The ADL Conference

Again, my same caveats apply -- this is a summary based on my notes, which aren't necessarily perfect, so keep that in mind. OK, on Monday afternoon, we heard from National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley on foreign policy challenges for the US in the 21st Century. Here are some of the highlights.

He stated that the president is committed to freedom and democracy. They refuse to support a regime compromised by terror. They feel democratic states don't breed terrorists.

He quoted Bush saying, "The definition of a state is in its institutions -- not borders.

Hamas is a terrorist organization. If they continue terror, they will not have a place in the government.

Since terror attacks two years ago in Saudi Arabia, they have worked with Saudi Arabia to stop money flowing out for terror. They've talked frankly about how terror is a threat -- they have more to do to stop terror.

This is not about oil. It's about terror.

We need to do more to contact pro-democracy elements in Iran.

He thinks Iran is discombobulated by our moves in last few weeks; they didn't expect it -- they thought they could pursue nuclear ambitions AND trade.

He says Palestinians are starting to end incitement. [ed.'s note: I think he quoted famous Holocaust denier Hanan Ashwari as telling him that, and I believe I rolled my eyes pretty fiercely]

Cooperation has grown tremendously since 9/11.

General Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan has had three assassination attempts in last couple of years yet they still help us.

All in all, it was a very interesting seminar.

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Friday, April 08, 2005

The Biggest Star... lives on Sesame Street

Originally uploaded by estherhoffman.
At the ADL conference, the appearance of Ernie solidified him as having Rock Star status. As you can see by the arm with the bracelets, I got the chance to get upclose and personal.

Of course, everyone taking pictures kept trying to shoo me closer to Ernie. I think they thought I was scared of the sweet fella.

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Palestinians Making Play For Jerusalem

Qureia said those who seek to unilaterally change Jerusalem “from a city of coexistence into a city of racial hatred, religious enmity, and eternal animosity…will be the losers.”

I'm going to give you all the chance to be flies on the wall during my phone call with PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia:

"Hey Pot, it's Kettle.... You're black!"

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Thursday, April 07, 2005

Polls -- Not Good News

The ADL reports that anti-Semitic incidents are at their highest level in nine years. At the conference, Abe Foxman reported that not one EU country didn't see a rise in anti-Semitism. The findings said that thirty percent of all Americans believe Jews killed Jesus -- this number is up 5%. When asked if it was Mel Gibson's movie's fault, Abe said it certainly didn't help. Another troubling statistic is that African Americans are four times more likely than whites to be anti-Semitic. This was truly shocking to me.

"At a time when anti-Semitism is at a high in France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Canada and other countries, it is disturbing to see that it is increasing in America as well," said Mr. Foxman. "While most of the incidents in the U.S. are less violent than those experienced recently by the Jewish communities of Europe, it is troubling that so many people in this country feel a need to act out their anti-Jewish animus in ways large and small. Just one act of anti-Semitism can deeply affect an entire community. Sadly, in an America where Jews enjoy a level of safety and freedom unparalleled in history, we still experience anti-Semitism at an average rate of nearly five incidents per day."

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Another ADL Conference Report

Same rules apply regarding my notes not being necessarily exact but rather my best effort. OK, on Monday morning we had the following panel:

Ambassador Daniel Ayalon, Israeli Ambassador to the US
Ambassador Karim Kawar, Jordanian Ambassador to the US
David Welch, Assistant Secretary of Near East Affairs, US Department of State

Moderator: James Bennet -- NYT reporter and former Jerusalem Bureau Chief

Each was given about seven minutes to make a statement and then people (or maybe just Bennet) were to ask questions. All paid tribute to the Pope. Here are the highlights.

Israeli: This is a time of opportunity and they're determined not to let it pass. They intend to ease humanitarian concerns. They hope for a smooth and orderly disengagement and hopefully with the cooperation of the Palestinians it will be completed in an orderly fashion. He acknowledged the weapons build up on the part of the terror factions and feels it's a ticking time bomb. He would like to see the PA move aggressively to dismantle the terror groups, curb incitement and feels this needs to be done if they want peace on solid ground. It is his hope that both sides live up to their agreements as well as the international community.

Jordanian: He insisted on calling it the "Gaza Withdrawal," because they have a peace partner now. It was "Gaza Disengagement" when there was no peace partner. [ed.'s note: Yeah. Sure.] It's their intention to help the Palestinians reform the PA and to help them provide security. He says they have tried to be a model for peaceful relations and wants Israel to be at peace with all Arab countries, not just her neighbors. He feels optimism but it's a fragile time. Enemies of peace could hurt the ceasefire. He wants Israel to honor their agreement to freeze settlement building. [ed.'s note: Bite me.] He'd like to see the moderates empowered and for the silent majority to speak out. He discussed the Religion of Peace™ and -- this is important -- he denounced those not abiding by those principals.

American: [ed.'s note: Keep in mind, he was the former Egyptian Ambassador until his recent appointment -- also, he obviously went way over his alloted time.] He has broader objectives.

1) broaden circle of peace
2) returning Iraq to their people
3) people mean us harm so he wants to keep us safe
4) expand freedom/bring reform

About Road Map [ed.'s note: Glad he finally realized where he was] This is a moment of unique opportunity. If Gaza Disengagement [ed.'s note: someone didn't listen or care what the Jordanian had to say] succeeds, it will be a historic chance to broaden the circle of peace. The Road Map -- both parties have obligations; they need to do more than prevention of terror attacks, they need to dismantle the ability for terror. In other words, they need to reform the PA. They need economic reform as well. Israel has responsibilities too -- the settlements and they need to relieve Palestinian hardships. [see "bite me" above] There is a bill before Congress for aid to the PA. [ed.'s note: He obviously is unaware of Condi's thoughts on this -- HA!] There is a need for: coordination on disengagement; security reform -- can't have chaos post-disengagement; and institution building to advance reform. The main challenge -- solidify international support for the process. Need to communicate greater sense of hope/opportunity.

Now to the Q&A. NYT guy himself asked a question.... can't recall it exactly but here are the answers:

Jordanian: Give Palestinians hope; go back to something that resembles '67 borders.

Israeli: Progress by performance -- results on the ground will establish trust to move ahead. He also said that everything agreed on is being done. [ed.'s note: Yeah!]

American: Road Map is performance based. Start with what people can perform now; accountability; need to provide what destination is.

NYT guy shows his bias by asking about the settlement policy.

Israeli: Real effort now is disengagement; will abide by commitments; remember settlers' needs; Israel will abide by law.

Jordanian: New realities being created (cause of illegal settlement building); wall is illegal; international law must be recognized (meaning ICC ruling); if wall on '67 borders, it'd be good; envision no walls and freedom of movement in the future. [ed.'s note: wonder if he envisions no terror too, grrrrr....]

Israeli rebutted: Denounced the ICC as shameful; fence is security, buffer zone -- not political fence but for security.

American: Is US satisfied with the past of the fence? We don't have a settlement policy and we stand by assurances from Israel. Settlements make negotiations harder/prejudices things; Israel has responsibility and the right to defend itself. Some concerns with the path but okay about it.

Question: Piece of advice to Abu Mazen? [ed.'s note: gal sitting next to me said, "Body armor." I laughed.]

Jordanian: Israel can show life has changed since Arafat is gone. [ed.'s note: okay, that was unclear.]

Israeli: Popularity keeps improving. Success of non-violence if he shows leadership now, he has mandate and authority -- a blueprint to reform and should move forward.

1) security reform done quickly is essential.
2) Israel has responsibilities [ed.'s note: not sure how that's advice for Mazen]
3) Governments in area have responsibilities.
4) International obligation to see peace

Question from Abe: What about the right/possibility of Jews living in a future Palestinian State? Why isn't anyone talking about this possibility?

Israeli: Premature to discuss it.

Question: Refugees?

Jordanian: Compensation package by international community

Israeli: What about Jewish refugees who were ousted by Arab countries? If we talk about permanent states, it could offset their claims.

All in all, a very spirited conversation but not as spirited if I'd remembered to ask my question about the State Department wanting Israel to accept safeguards from the IAEA on its nuclear activities.

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Wednesday, April 06, 2005

I'm Back

Finally. Will spend tomorrow responding to comments and reading/commenting on your sites. You guys are great!

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A Guy Named Joe

Joe Lieberman
Originally uploaded by estherhoffman.
I promise to do an overview blog entry of the entire leadership conference, but for now I would love to share with you all some of the big moments from Senator Joe Lieberman's speech to us Tuesday morning -- the same caveats apply that I laid out with Colin Powell's speech yesterday.

He entered the ballroom to a standing ovation. After the applause died down, he said, "I accept your nomination," which drew lots of cheers. He then confided that his wife Hadassa, looking to cheer him up after the election loss, greeted him daily with, "Good morning, Mr. Vice President." He won over the crowd instantly.

Joe's speech followed republican Norm Coleman's, whom I've heard before at an AIPAC function. One of the most amusing moments (yes, I realize amusing isn't a word often used with Joe) was when he told us about this amazing book by Novak entitled On Two Wings. Everyone started laughing. Confused, Joe looked to Abe Foxman as to why. Abe said, "Norm also spoke of this book." Joe laughed good-naturedly. Now, onto the meat of the speech.

He spoke of the transformational role that the ADL has played in American history, his pride in what we've done and the extraordinary opportunity it's provided for so many groups.

I was incredibly proud when he said that we are at war with Islamist terror -- not a war on terror as so many say. He called a spade a spade. You go, Joe! He said that Israel is a beacon of hope in the Middle East. He then informed us about a bill he's helping to sponsor in Congress called the Advanced Democracy Act -- and the pursuit of it as a basis for our foreign policy.

He sees two front lines (tho I can't really recall what this is in reference to):

1) our fellow Americans -- who are Muslim
2) immigrants -- who bring vibrancy to American life

He felt immigrants have suffered since 9/11, often being held for no reason thanks to immigration law. He is someone who is fully aware what immigrants have contributed to the USA. They have built it up to be the great country that we are and he doesn't want to see that be jeopardized.

Those are the main highlights. He struck me as a true mensch. I liked him a lot, and he made me proud to have supported him the way I have.

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Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Fight the Good Fight, Peter Jennings

I'm not a fan of his, but I wish him well in his fight against lung cancer.

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Colin Powell -- Report

Colin Powell -- Report
Originally uploaded by estherhoffman.
As I hinted at before, he and Abe Foxman (National Director of the ADL) seem quite fond of each other. Now, when reading this, keep in mind that not only was I eating lunch at the time, but I have lousy handwriting and it's kind of hard to read my notes. Also, I didn't necessarily hear things and remember them exactly right as I was jotting down thoughts. That said, let me try to fill you in. ;)

Abe talked about being a cadet with Colin Powell (not sure if this was true or a joke), but Abe dropped out. So they joked that Abe could have been one of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Powell could have headed up the ADL. So Powell was keeping the jokes coming, especially about retirement, saying, "It's a great pleasure to leave the house and see you!" Having been unemployed for a good portion of the last 6 months, I can totally relate.

Major thoughts/impressions:

* US will not rest as long as there's a threat out there that says people are in danger because they are Jewish.

* Even though he's retired, he is still with us.

Like every speaker, he acknowledged the passing of the Pope, calling him a man of the people who reached out beyond just Catholics.

He encouraged us to continue our work, "Keep kvetching."

He then quoted his favorite lines, from the Declaration of Independence. "Inalienable rights given by G-d. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness -- government secures these rights. He made a point of saying that while we have G-d given rights... it's our government who secures these rights.

That's pretty much the extent of it.

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Monday, April 04, 2005

Today -- Colin Powell

OK, will blog more tomorrow night when I'm back at the 'rents house (and free broadband) but for now, I just wanted to let you all know that this afternoon, I saw the former Secretary of State speak. You can probably read something about it online soon enough but if not, I'll definitely fill you all in. He and Abe seem to go back a long way and have genuine affection for each other. It's also pretty funny to hear the word "kvetching" coming out of Colin Powell. Good times.

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Sunday, April 03, 2005

Tonight's Show Time

While I checked into my hotel yesterday (and can I say what a beautiful room it is!), the conference doesn't begin officially until less than an hour from now. I was going crazy not having an Internet connection, not finding a hot spot anywhere in this hotel and being too cold to run around town with my laptop looking for one, so I broke down and paid the $9.99 for 24 hours. OK, you can all stop laughing now. I realize it's a small price to pay for feeling connected to the world but still... So what am I doing in an hour, you ask?

I have orientation and legislative overview, followed by a general reception and then the real thing kicks into full gear. There will be a dinner, with greetings from the ADL National Leadership Chair, followed by the welcome from the National Chair and then Abe Foxman himself is going to address us. His talk is titled, "350 Years of Jews in America: Where We Are Today."

I know, I know, how can it get any better than this? I'll tell you! We will then have Anti-Bias Education in the Formative Years: the ADL Miller Early Childhood Initiative with Harvey Miller and Walkaround Ernie from "Sesame Street" -- and I'll get to have my picture taken with him! (Tho don't count on seeing that one, guys, unless I can get him to pose with just my arm/bracelets for identification.)

The poor person forced to follow Ernie is Gabriela Kohen, who will be performing "Decoding the Tablecloth" -- and I promise afterwards to come back here to the comments section and tell you exactly what that means because right now -- I don't have a clue. So check back later for how the evening went -- but not too soon because after all of this, all the young leaders are going to the lobby bar to get to know one another. Should be entertaining....

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Friday, April 01, 2005

Capitol Fun -- Inside the Blogway

Originally uploaded by estherhoffman.
In town early for the conference, I managed to make plans with my pal who works for Nancy Pelosi. We decided to meet for lunch. This was exciting because it would be the first time I'd get to see her new office -- in the Capitol (she was in the Rayburn building before). Crazy as it may sound, despite having grown up in a Maryland suburb of DC, I'd never visited the Capitol. What a site to behold.

I got to go in the entrance reserved for people who have appointments with members of the House. Not nearly enough security for my taste, but soon I was on my way. I went up to the main entrance for Pelosi, and they called my friend (she was on a different floor) to come get me. She checked to see if Nancy was away (she was), so she took me in her office. As someone who graduated with an American History minor in college, the gravitas of the experience... was amazing. This was the same office Tip O'Neill had worked in! My mind wandered back in time, thinking of other politicians who'd worked here and walked these halls. I tried to drink in every detail.

After seeing my friend's office, she had a surprise for me. She took me down to the floor of the Chamber of the House of Representatives. I got to see where the president delivers the State of the Union address. I got to sit where representatives do to cast their vote. They put in their voting card and then can press a button corresponding to their vote. I almost messed up -- seeing the bag underneath the chairs, I went to reach for it to see what it was (I thought maybe it was a bag of candy or something and I thought it was cool if they needed a sugar rush, etc...). WRONG! It was a gas mask! D'oh! After 9/11, everyone received training on using a gas mask. Makes sense, since they're probably a pretty big target for a terror attack but still kind of scary.

On our way to lunch, we used the underground railway (looked like something you'd see at Disney World to get around) to get to the Rayburn building, which was closer to the metro station we were going to use. Way cool. That's all for now.

PS: The bracelets on my wrist in the picture are for breast cancer and Israel.

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