Why These People are Celebrating a Jewish Holiday at IHOP

By: Ben Sales; Jewish Telegraphic Agency-jta.org

A view of an IHOP in Chicago, Aug. 10, 2017. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

(JTA) — On Saturday night, when Lex Rofeberg convenes a group of Jews to study Torah, he expects to pore over Jewish texts. He expects to eat cheesecake. And he expects to decide between 12 different types of pancakes on a thick, laminated menu.

Like many rabbinical students, Rofeberg will observe the Jewish holiday of Shavuot with an all-night study session. But he’ll be one of the few people doing it at an IHOP.

The relatively obscure festival celebrates the traditional giving of the Torah to the Israelites, and Jews have historically stayed up until sunrise on its first night studying holy books and eating dairy foods.

These study sessions usually take place at synagogues. But IHOP is a large restaurant chain open 24-7, so Rofeberg thought it would be the perfect place for a twist on the tradition.

“We have got this dairy thing of Shavuot, we’ve got the all-night elements, and Waffle House and IHOP are open all night and have a bunch of dairy products available,” said Rofeberg, 27, who is a student at Aleph, Renewal Judaism’s rabbinical school. “What would it look like if we took Shavuot and put it in those spaces?”

Rofeberg will be inviting followers to an IHOP in Providence. Others took him up on the idea and similar sessions will take place at a Jackson, Mississippi IHOP, and at diners in Maryland, Washington D.C. and possibly a few other cities.

Besides the location, Rofeberg’s program will look a lot like traditional Shavuot study at a synagogue: A few speakers will each teach classes based around Jewish texts, with opportunity for people to break off into their own discussions. In his class, Rofeberg plans to discuss different English translations of Kol Nidre, the Yom Kippur prayer.

A native of Wisconsin, Rofeberg fell in love with Shavuot when he learned about it in college. Even though the holiday is observed by fewer Jews than Passover or Hanukkah, Rofeberg thinks it’s a better fit for the modern American Jewish experience: It combines intellectualism, schmoozing and unhealthy portions of food. Pioneering the observance in a comfortable location like a diner, he said, could open the holiday up to more people.

“I was flabbergasted that this wasn’t universally understood as the most amazing thing in the Jewish calendar year,” Rofeberg said. “If I had been a 7-year-old and you had told me, ‘Hey, Lex, you have this Jewish thing coming up, you get to stay up all night, eat a lot of cheese and learn with your friends’ — that’s a Jewish nerd’s dream.”

Lex Rofeberg, 27, a rabbinical student, feels that the Shavuot tradition of eating dairy and studying Torah all night will be more appealing at a diner than it would be at a synagogue. (Courtesy of Rofeberg)

Part of the inspiration for his Shavuot idea came from Rofeberg’s own time living in Jackson in 2014, where he worked at the Institute for Southern Jewish Life. In the south, the Waffle House chain is a cultural touchstone and communal meeting spot.

The person running the Shavuot program in Jackson this year, Leah Wittenberg, opted against meeting at Waffle House because of incidents of alleged police brutality that have taken place recently at its franchises. But she said the chain and others like it would be natural places for southerners to meet and hang out for a few late-night hours.

“In terms of fast food and breakfast food, it’s a lot about the communal space,” said Wittenberg, who has lived in Oregon, Illinois and Massachusetts. She moved to Jackson two years ago and runs Young Jews of Jackson. “The reason Waffle House is so huge is because it’s kind of a meeting place. People will come there, so its not necessarily about the food.”

The location and cuisine were also a cultural draw for Guy Tabachnick, an incoming doctoral student in linguistics who will be running the D.C. program. But Tabachnick’s heritage drew him to a classic 24-hour diner, like the ones that dot the New York City area.

“I grew up in New York, and my grandparents are from North Jersey, so diners are my favorite restaurants,” Tabachnick said. “I like learning things and preparing lessons. It seemed to be a cool opportunity to learn from other people and present some sort of interactive plan of study.”

The Shavuot idea fits in with Rofeberg’s other work, which seeks to test the borders of mainstream American Judaism. Renewal, Rofeberg’s movement, was founded as a kind of combination of Hasidic Judaism with the countercultural ethos of the 1960s. Rofeberg is the co-host of the Judaism Unbound podcast, which features conversations with Jewish thinkers and activists. He’s also involved in IfNotNow, the group of young American Jews protesting Israel’s control of the West Bank.

Rofeberg understands that traditionally observant Jews who keep kosher and refrain from using money on holidays may not feel welcome at his event. But he says most of those people already have spaces to study on Shavuot, while he’s targeting people who don’t. He also acknowledges that this is an experiment: Kosher food could be an issue. So might the noisy environs of a chain restaurant.

“I want to create a space where things like internet usage are going to be OK,” he said. “That wouldn’t be the way an Orthodox space would observe Shavuot. My main audience for this is folks that don’t already have a Shavuot practice, because I really do believe Shavuot is this magical holiday and I want it to be available and accessible to all sorts of different people.”

None of the event organizers knows exactly what to expect from the waiters on Saturday night. But they all feel like a raucous conversation over pancakes should be no problem.

“It’s probable that we’ll run into some trouble, but any 24-hour diner has an expectation for strange things going on,” Tabachnick said.


Why Jerusalem Matters

By: Ben Shapiro; patriotpost.us

This week, the Trump administration inaugurated the new American embassy in Jerusalem. The celebration in Israel was palpable; the embassy move came amidst the national celebration of the 70th anniversary of the creation of the state. The streets filled with Jews of all sorts, cheering and dancing.

Meanwhile, on the Gaza border, Hamas broadened its monthlong campaign to break down the Israel border, staging border “protests” attended by thousands — including terrorists who have used the supposed protests as a staging point for violent attacks on Israeli troops and territory. Palestinian terrorists have caused mass chaos, throwing Molotov cocktails at troops, attempting to rush the border, flinging explosives and tying incendiaries to kites in an attempt to set Israeli territory alight. The Israeli Defense Forces have responded with restraint. Despite this, a few dozen Palestinians have been killed, not the hundreds or thousands Hamas would presumably prefer.

But even as Yahya Sinwar, leader of Hamas in Gaza, suggested that “more than 100,000 people could storm the fence” between Israel and Gaza, and as 23-year-old Mohammed Mansoura announced, “We are excited to storm and get inside … to kill, throw stones,” the media covered the slow-rolling terror assault as a form of peaceful protest. A New York Times headline read “Israeli Troops Kill Dozens of Palestinian Protesters.” A Wall Street Journal headline reads “Scores Killed, Thousands Injured as Palestinians Protest US Embassy Opening In Jerusalem.”

Never mind that the riots had been going on for weeks preceding the embassy opening. Never mind that Hamas and the Palestinian Authority could quickly and permanently end all violence simply by stopping the violence. The real issue, according to the press, is President Trump and his Israeli friends.

What drives the leftist press’s coverage? Simply put, antipathy to the West. Israel is seen as an outpost of colonialism by leftists, and has been since the 1967 war. Then-President Barack Obama expressed the view well in his 2009 speech in Cairo, suggesting that Israel’s rationale relied on its “tragic history” that “culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust.” In this view, the Palestinians were shunted aside in favor of providing national reparations to Jews; the Jews took their Western ways into the heart of a foreign region.

This isn’t true. The living proof of that is Israel’s eternal connection to Jerusalem. That’s why both radical Muslims (including the Palestinian leadership) and the far Left deny Israel’s historic bond with its homeland and hope desperately to stop public recognition of that bond. If Israel exists because Jewish connection preexisted everything else, then Israel isn’t a new outpost of the West; it’s the oldest center of the West. That’s why Trump’s announcement is important: It’s a recognition that the West was founded on Jerusalem, rather than the other way around.

Peace will come when everyone recognizes what Trump has recognized: The Jewish connection to Jerusalem is unbreakable. And peace will come when Israel’s enemies realize that violence can’t change that underlying fact.


Jerusalem, New Home of US Embassy, at Core of Mideast Strife

By: Karen Laub; apnews.com

Flowers decorated as an American flag are seen on a road leading to the US Embassy compound ahead the official opening in Jerusalem, Sunday, May 13, 2018. On Monday, the United States moves its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the holy city at the explosive core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and claimed by both sides as a capital. The inauguration comes five months after President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

On Monday, the United States moves its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the holy city at the explosive core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and claimed by both sides as a capital. The inauguration comes five months after President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Here’s a snapshot of the city.


Jerusalem was partitioned after the Mideast war over Israel’s 1948 creation, with Israel controlling the west and Jordan the east, including major shrines of Islam, Judaism and Christianity. In 1967, Israel captured east Jerusalem, along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It expanded the municipal boundaries into the West Bank, increasing the size of east Jerusalem and annexing it to its capital, a move not recognized by most of the international community.

Since the 1990s, the fate of the city has been a core issue in U.S.-brokered talks on setting up a Palestinian state alongside Israel, with the Palestinians seeking east Jerusalem as a capital. Intermittent negotiations have failed, most recently in 2014, and chances of resuming them are slim. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he won’t give up any part of the city, while Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says Trump’s policy shift on Jerusalem disqualified the U.S. as a broker.



In 2016, Jerusalem was home to almost 883,000 people, 62 percent of them Jews and non-Arabs and 38 percent Palestinians. The Arab share of the population has grown steadily since 1967, in part because of a higher birth rate. After 1967, Israel built a ring of settlement neighborhoods in east Jerusalem to deepen its hold over the annexed area, where 207,000 Jews now live.

More than a decade ago, Israel built a West Bank separation barrier that slices through Arab neighborhoods in east Jerusalem, forcing tens of thousands of Palestinian residents of the city to cross crowded checkpoints to get to downtown areas. Israel says the barrier, which in urban areas is mainly made up of cement walls, is a defense against militants. Palestinians say it’s a land grab.



Most of the international community, including the U.S., did not recognize Israel’s 1967 annexation of east Jerusalem. The prevailing view, including by the European Union, is that the fate of the city must be determined in negotiations.

In 1995, Congress passed a bill with bi-partisan support that recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and required the U.S. Embassy to move there. Until now, presidents had signed a waiver every six months that put off the move on security grounds.

The U.S. stance on east Jerusalem now has been thrown into confusion. In its December announcement, the Trump administration emphasized that recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital does not change its stance that the two sides must work out the city’s final status. But Trump quickly appeared to contradict that, declaring, “We took Jerusalem off the table.”



In their 1949 armistice agreement, Israel and Jordan drew a “Green Line” of partition through the city. In one area of southeastern Jerusalem, they couldn’t agree and created a pentagon-shaped “area between the lines.”

The new embassy will operate temporarily from the U.S. Consulate compound, which is partially located in the old no man’s land and partially in west Jerusalem. The U.N. considers the area of the pentagon to be occupied territory because neither Israeli nor Jordanian forces were supposed to enter it after 1949, according to a senior U.N. official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the politically touchy issue with the media.

The State Department, presenting a defense of the location, argues that in practice, part of the no man’s land has been in continuous Israeli use since 1949.


Laub reported from Amman, Jordan.

Israel Prepares for Opening of US Embassy in Jerusalem

A road sign leading to the U.S. Embassy is seen ahead the official opening in Jerusalem, Sunday, May 13, 2018. Monday’s opening of the U.S. Embassy in contested Jerusalem, cheered by Israelis as a historic validation, is seen by Palestinians as an in-your-face affirmation of pro-Israel bias by President Donald Trump and a new blow to frail statehood dreams. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel is preparing a series of festivities Sunday to celebrate the opening of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, a move that has ignited Palestinian protests and raised fears of a further outbreak of violence.

As Israel marks Jerusalem Day, the 51st anniversary of what it refers to as the city’s “unification” following the 1967 war, it will also be hosting a gala reception for Monday’s embassy dedication that will include members of a delegation led by President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka, his senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin.

Dozens of foreign diplomats are expected, though many ambassadors of European nations who oppose the move will skip it. Hungary, the Czech Republic and Romania have reportedly blocked a joint EU statement on the issue.

Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed it in a move not recognized internationally. The Palestinians want east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, and view the relocation of the embassy from Tel Aviv to the contested city as a blatantly one-sided move that invalidates the U.S. as a Mideast peace broker.

Trump’s decision in December to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital ignited months of protests in the Palestinian territories. The weekly protests along the Israel-Gaza border are expected to culminate Monday in parallel to the celebrations in Jerusalem.

Since Mar. 30, 42 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in the weekly protests aimed primarily against the decade-long blockade of Gaza. More than 1,800 have been wounded.

Gaza’s Hamas rulers have led the protests, which are aimed to peak this week with the 70th anniversary of what the Palestinians call the “nakba,” or catastrophe, referring to their mass uprooting during the Mideast war over Israel’s 1948 creation. Organizers have indicated they may try to breach the border with Israel.

Israel says it has a right to defend its border and has accused Hamas of using the protests as a cover for attacking it. On Saturday, it destroyed the sixth Hamas attack tunnel it has uncovered in as many months. Rights groups say the use of potentially lethal force against unarmed protesters is unlawful.

A high-ranking delegation of Gaza’s Hamas rulers headed to Egypt on Sunday, amid diplomatic efforts aimed at containing the mass rally.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meanwhile said Israel would be celebrating Trump’s decision.

“President Trump promised to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and he did so. He promised to move the American Embassy to Israel and he is doing so. Of course we will all celebrate this day, a real celebration, tomorrow,” he said at a weekly Cabinet meeting.

Most countries have traditionally kept their embassies in coastal Tel Aviv rather than the contested holy site of Jerusalem. But after Trump’s move both Guatemala and Paraguay announced that they planned to follow suit.


Road Signs Pointing to ‘US Embassy’ Go Up in Jerusalem


In these photos released by the Jerusalem Municipality, Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat poses with a new road sign to the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, Monday, May 7, 2018. Jerusalem’s city hall says it has put up road signs pointing to the new U.S. Embassy, which is set to move to the contested city next week. Barkat placed the first signs on Monday in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood where the embassy is to be located(Jerusalem Municipality via AP)

JERUSALEM (AP) — Jerusalem’s city hall says it has put up road signs pointing to the new U.S. Embassy, which is set to move to the contested city next week.

Mayor Nir Barkat placed the first signs on Monday in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood where the embassy is to be located. According to a picture sent by Barkat’s office, the white signs read “U.S. Embassy” in English, Hebrew and Arabic.

The new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem is to be opened on May 14 with a huge American delegation expected to attend, perhaps including President Donald Trump.

The embassy move comes after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last year, heightening Israeli-Palestinian tensions.

Israel claims the entire city as its eternal capital. The Palestinians seek the eastern sector as capital of their hoped-for state.


Israel’s Mossad Spy Agency Shrouded in Mystery and Mystique

By: The Associated Press; nytimes.com

JERUSALEM — Israel’s seizure of Iran’s purported nuclear program archive and the dramatic display of the documents taken from a facility in the heart of Tehran marked a rare case of Israel going public about the operations of its top-secret Mossad spy agency.

The Mossad, long shrouded in mystery and mythology, is legendary in international intelligence circles for being behind what are believed to be some of the most daring covert operations of the past century. Only a few have come to light and often only years later. Israel is typically wary of exposing the exploits of the global arm of its vaunted intelligence community out of fear of revealing its well-cultivated sources or undermining its mystique.

On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu displayed what he said was a trove of Iranian nuclear documents collected by Israeli intelligence. Amos Yadlin, a former chief of Israeli military intelligence, said the seizure was a “very impressive” coup that sent a message that Israeli intelligence can penetrate Tehran’s deepest secrets.

“The counterintelligence in Iran will work very hard to close this gap,” he said.

More often than not, the Mossad’s actions have become known only when something has gone wrong.

A look at some of its successes and failures:


Lifting a half-century veil of secrecy, the Mossad opened its archive in 2012 to reveal the full story behind its most legendary operation — the daring 1960 capture of Nazi mastermind Adolf Eichmann.

On May 11, 1960, a seven-man Mossad team waited near the Buenos Aires bus station where Eichmann arrived each evening from his job at a Mercedes-Benz factory, where he worked under the alias Ricardo Klement.

After he got off the bus, agents jumped him, with one shoving a gloved hand inside Eichmann’s mouth in case he had a cyanide pill hidden in a tooth, as some former top Nazis were known to have to foil their capture.

Eichmann was held in a safe house for nine days until the group flew out in an El Al plane. Eichmann was drugged, dressed in an El Al uniform, seated in first class and passed off as a crew member who was ill.

Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem the following year featured gripping testimony of more than 100 Jews who survived torture and deprivation in concentration camps and brought to life the horrors of the Nazi “Final Solution,” of which Eichmann was the architect.

He was convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity and was hanged in 1962, the only time Israel has ever carried out a death sentence.


One of the Mossad’s first major achievements was placing one of its men inside the top echelon of Syria’s leadership. Eli Cohen managed to forge close contacts within the political and military hierarchy of Israel’s archenemy in the early 1960s, ultimately rising to become a top adviser to Syria’s defense minister. He obtained top-secret intelligence that is widely credited with helping Israel prepare for its swift victory in the 1967 Middle East war.

In 1965, Cohen was caught radioing information to Israel. He was tried and hanged in a Damascus square. His remains have yet to be returned to Israel, where he is regarded as a national hero.


After Mordechai Vanunu, a former technician at an Israeli nuclear plant, leaked sensitive details and pictures of Israel’s alleged nuclear weapons program to a British newspaper in 1986, the Mossad was given the task of bringing him to justice. A female Mossad agent, masquerading as an American tourist, lured Vanunu to Italy where he was drugged, abducted and secretly transported by boat to Israel.

Vanunu served 18 years in an Israeli prison. Israel neither confirms nor denies its nuclear capability.


The Mossad is believed to be responsible for the assassinations of a long string of Palestinian militants around the world.

Only in 2012 did Israel finally acknowledge killing Yasser Arafat’s deputy in a joint Mossad-military special operations raid in Tunisia in 1988. Khalil al-Wazir, known by his nom de guerre Abu Jihad, was the founder along with Arafat of Fatah, the dominant faction in the Palestinian Liberation Organization. He was blamed for a series of deadly attacks against Israelis. One of the commandos who came after him was disguised as a woman on a romantic vacation, and one of the weapons was hidden in a box of chocolates.

In 1995, the founder of the Islamic Jihad group Fathi Shikaki was gunned down in Malta by a man on a motorcycle in an attack widely attributed to Israel.

The Mossad is also suspected of killing several Iranian scientists working on that country’s suspected nuclear weapons program. It is also assumed to have had a hand in the 2008 car bombing in Damascus that killed Imad Mughniyeh, a top commander in the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.


On Sept. 5, 1972, members of the Palestinian “Black September” group attacked Israelis at the Munich Olympics, killing an athlete and a coach and taking nine others hostage.

The hostages died later during a botched German rescue attempt at a military airfield outside Munich. In all, 11 Israelis were killed in the siege that shocked the world and ushered in a new era of global terrorism.

In response, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir set up a special Mossad unit with the goal of hunting down all those involved. The reprisals spanned the globe and continued until the agency’s first high-profile fiasco: the accidental killing of Moroccan waiter Ahmed Bouchikhi in Lillehammer, Norway. The agents had mistaken him for Black September’s chief of operations, Ali Hassan Salameh. Several Mossad men were put on trial in a major blow to the agency’s reputation.


In 1997, during Netanyahu’s first term, Mossad agents tried to assassinate then-Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal in Amman, Jordan. Two agents entered Jordan using fake Canadian passports and poisoned Mashaal as he left the Hamas offices by placing a device near his ear. They were captured shortly afterward. Outraged by the violation of his sovereignty, Jordan’s then-King Hussein threatened to void the still-fresh peace accord if Mashaal died. Israel ultimately dispatched an antidote that saved his life, and the Israeli agents were returned home. Under pressure, Israel agreed to release the spiritual leader of Hamas, Ahmed Yassin, from prison. Mossad chief Danny Yatom resigned following the episode.

In 2004, New Zealand briefly cut ties with Israel after it captured two Israelis suspected of being Mossad agents who were trying to fraudulently acquire a New Zealand passport.

In 2010, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a top Hamas operative, was killed in a Dubai hotel room in an operation attributed to Mossad but never acknowledged by Israel. The case drew international attention because many of the supposed assassins were caught on camera and accused of using fake passports. The photographs of 26 suspects and their aliases were subsequently placed on Interpol’s most-wanted list.

Palestinians Must Make Peace or Shut Up, Saudi Crown Prince Said to Tell US Jews

By: TOI Staff; timesofisrael.com

Israel’s Channel 10 news: In meeting last month in New York, Mohammed bin Salman castigated Abbas and predecessors for spurning opportunities for 40 years

Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, crown prince of Saudi Arabia, attends a meeting at the United Nations in New York City, March 27, 2018. (Bryan R. Smith/AFP)

At a meeting with Jewish leaders in New York last month, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman castigated the Palestinian leadership for rejecting opportunities for peace with Israel for decades, and said they should either start accepting peace proposals or “shut up.”

Citing what it said were multiple sources, Israel’s Channel 10 News on Sunday night quoted what it said were remarks made by the crown prince at the meeting that left those who were present “staggered” by the ferocity of his criticism of the Palestinians.

“For the past 40 years, the Palestinian leadership has missed opportunities again and again, and rejected all the offers it was given,” the Saudi leader reportedly said.

“It’s about time that the Palestinians accept the offers, and agree to come to the negotiating table — or they should shut up and stop complaining,” he reportedly went on.

Prince Salman also told the US Jewish leaders that “the Palestinian issue is not at the top of the Saudi government’s agenda” and elaborated, “There are much more urgent and more important issues to deal with — such as Iran,” according to the TV report.

Nonetheless, the crown prince reportedly stressed that there would have to substantive progress toward an Israeli-Palestinian accord before the Saudis and other Arab states would deepen their relationships with Israel. “There needs to be significant progress toward an agreement with the Palestinians before it will be possible to advance negotiations between Saudi Arabia and the Arab world and Israel,” he was quoted saying.

The TV report dated the meeting to March 27, during the prince’s extensive visit to the US. It did not name those present. The Saudi Embassy said that the crown prince was to have met that week with Jewish leaders, including Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism; Rabbi Steven Wernick, head of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism; and Allen Fagin, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union. That meeting, however, which also included Christian leaders, took place on March 28.

The TV report was based on a cable to the Foreign Ministry from an Israeli diplomat in the New York consulate, who was briefed on the meeting by those present, and three other sources who were familiar with the content of the meeting. One of those present told the TV channel that the group was staggered by what the prince had to say, and all but fell off their chairs.

A number of news reports, including by The New York Times and Reuters, have claimed in recent months that the Saudi crown prince has pressured Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to accept a much-anticipated Trump administration peace proposal.

After he met with Jewish and Christian leaders on March 28, the Saudi Embassy in Washington said the meeting “emphasized the common bond among all people, particularly people of faith, which stresses the importance of tolerance, coexistence, and working together for a better future for all of humanity.”

A statement from the embassy added that “the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has always, and will continue to champion expanding dialogue, building a better understanding among the faiths, and focusing on the shared humanity of all peoples.”

No specific details of what the faith leaders and crown prince spoke about were released.

In an interview published a few days later,  the crown prince recognized Israel’s right to exist and extolled the prospect of future diplomatic relations between his kingdom and the Jewish state.

In an extensive interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, the prince laid out his vision for the future of the Middle East, including the possibility of cooperation with Israel.

Asked whether he believes “the Jewish people have a right to a nation-state in at least part of their ancestral homeland,” he replied: “I believe that each people, anywhere, has a right to live in their peaceful nation. I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land.”

However, in keeping with the terms of his kingdom’s regional peace proposal, the Saudi crown prince added that an agreement with the Palestinians was a prerequisite to formal relations. “But we have to have a peace agreement to assure the stability for everyone and to have normal relations,” he said.

Did he have “no religious-based objection to the existence of Israel?” he was further asked. To which the crown prince replied: “We have religious concerns about the fate of the holy mosque in Jerusalem and about the rights of the Palestinian people. This is what we have. We don’t have any objection against any other people.”

Asked about anti-Semitism in Saudi Arabia, he said: “Our country doesn’t have a problem with Jews. Our Prophet Muhammad married a Jewish woman. Not just a friend — he married her. Our prophet, his neighbors were Jewish. You will find a lot of Jews in Saudi Arabia coming from America, coming from Europe. There are no problems between Christian and Muslims and Jews. We have problems like you would find anywhere in the world, among some people. But the normal sort of problems.”

Israel and Saudi Arabia have no official relations and the kingdom does not recognize the Jewish state. Israel has hinted at clandestine ties with Saudi Arabia in recent years, stressing the two countries share an interest in countering Iran. The rumors of covert relations have been denied by Saudi officials. Still, a Saudi general visited Jerusalem in 2016 and met with Israeli lawmakers, and Saudi officials have met with Israeli officials on several occasions in public. Saudi Arabia also allowed Air India to fly to and from Tel Aviv via its airspace, last month.

Discussing whether a shared concern over Iran was bringing Israel and Saudi Arabia together, he said: “Israel is a big economy compared to their size and it’s a growing economy, and of course, there are a lot of interests we share with Israel, and if there is peace, there would be a lot of interest between Israel and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and countries like Egypt and Jordan.”

Salman also discussed the threat to the Middle East he said was posed by Iran, even saying that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic, “makes Hitler look good.”

“Hitler didn’t do what the supreme leader is trying to do. Hitler tried to conquer Europe. This is bad,” he explained. “But the supreme leader is trying to conquer the world. He believes he owns the world. They are both evil guys. He is the Hitler of the Middle East. In the 1920s and 1930s, no one saw Hitler as a danger. Only a few people. Until it happened. We don’t want to see what happened in Europe happen in the Middle East. We want to stop this through political moves, economic moves, intelligence moves. We want to avoid war.”

Shortly afterwards, Saudi King Salman reaffirmed his nation’s support for the Palestinians in a conversation with US President Donald Trump.

The king “reaffirmed the kingdom’s steadfast position toward the Palestinian issue and the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital,” the official Saudi Press Agency said.


Walmart Reps Look at 20 Startups in Israel

By: Shany Moses; globes.co.il

The US retail chain is sending a second delegation to Israel in June to seek out collaborations and investments.

A delegation of six representatives from US retail chain Walmart visited Israel last week. The delegation included a senior executive of Walmart subsidiary Sam’s Club who is responsible for cybersecurity, digital media and logistics. The delegation was reportedly the guest of Israeli businessman Ohad Finkelstein. The delegation looked at some 20 startups and met with senior Israeli businesspeople including website recommendations company Taboola founder and CEO Adam Singolda.

The aim of the visit, which ended on Friday, was to investigate potential collaborations or investments in Israeli cybersecurity startups. Sources inform “Globes” that a second Walmart delegation will visit Israel in June as part of Israel Cyber Week.

Members of the delegation last week stressed that Walmart has no plans to open “brick and mortar” outlets in Israel. What does interest the world’s largest retail chain is Israel’s innovative technologies and startups. Walmart has had informal activities in Israel for nine years, connecting it to Israeli companies with new technology to offer.

Sam’s Club, a chain of membership-only retail warehouse clubs in the US named after Walmart founder Sam Walton, was set up in 1983. In January this year it announced the closure of 63 branches, representing about 10% of its business.

Walmart, founded in 1945, currently operates some 11,600 stores worldwide under 63 brands and sub-chains. It has a market cap of $310 billion, and employs some 2.3 million people.


What did America know when about the Holocaust?

By James Grossman / Los Angeles Times

A ruthless dictator unleashes terror on his own citizens. Those fleeing elicit sympathy — but encounter obstacles to entering the United States. Americans learn of mass killings, but their moral revulsion doesn’t easily turn into policy or military intervention. One thing remains consistent: America doesn’t want refugees, at least not of this ilk; those people aren’t welcome here.
Historians like me are wary of the adage that “history repeats itself.” But comparisons and analogies help us learn from the past, showing us how context matters and conventional wisdom deceives. To most Americans in 1945, “those people” meant “European Jews.” Today, they are Syrians, Congolese, Hondurans.

No visitor to the new exhibition “Americans and the Holocaust” at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., will walk away with conventional wisdom about World War II intact. In the 1930s, anti-Semitism rested comfortably within American ideologies of race, but this context, not widely acknowledged at the time, has now virtually disappeared from mainstream collective memory. Instead, America’s pre-Pearl Harbor isolationism is viewed as a mistaken but understandable disinclination to intervene in another European war, further tempered by the suggestion that Americans had only slight knowledge of Nazi depravity.

Museum visitors enter the new exhibit’s galleries in 1933 and walk through 12 years without the benefit of 80 years of hindsight. They see what Americans knew about events in Nazi Germany as they learned it . Public opinion (as documented by polls) and U.S. policy are revealed within that context.

It is a sobering journey. Americans knew that something was dreadfully wrong in Germany. As early as 1932, and even more in 1933, popular magazines including Cosmopolitan, Time and Newsweek included major stories on the persecution of Jews in Germany and on Nazi governance. Hitler and Goebbels appeared on covers of Time in 1933, with Goebbels accompanied by a clear message: “Say it in your dreams — THE JEWS ARE TO BLAME.”

An imaginative crowdsourcing effort carried out by the museum uncovered no fewer than 15,000 U.S. newspaper articles documenting persecution published between 1933 and 1945. Newsreels told the same story.

Commentators who have the benefit of hindsight have criticized President Franklin D. Roosevelt for his refusal to intervene. In 1933, the U.S. ambassador to Germany recorded in his diary Roosevelt’s instructions: “The German authorities are treating the Jews shamefully and the Jews in this country are greatly excited. But this is also not a governmental affair.”

It comes across as cold-hearted in retrospect, but Roosevelt understood his fellow Americans; they would not march to war — or even expend substantial public resources — to save Jews.

If this feels in any way familiar, consider what comes next. Even when 94% of polled Americans claimed to “disapprove of the Nazi treatment of Jews in Germany,” 71% of them opposed permitting any more than a trickle of German Jews to enter the United States — two weeks after Kristallnacht. Two-thirds of Americans opposed admitting refugee children in 1939.

America kept its doors closed to the people for whom they professed sympathy. This sentiment, shaped by racism, was nothing new, nor was it confined to immigrants. One need only cross the National Mall to the National Museum of African American History and Culture to be reminded that in the 1850s white Northerners were as repulsed by the suggestion that emancipation would result in black migration northward as they were by the cruelty of slavery.

Anti-Semitism would remain central to American foreign policy even as the nation stared down Nazi Germany. The United States entered the war in Europe, of course, but Roosevelt was shrewd enough to cast the move as fighting fascism on behalf of democracy. The war was about preserving American values, not saving European Jews.

At war’s end, Americans encountered graphic, overwhelming evidence of what they had been hearing about regularly since the first news reports about the death camps in 1942. Films, photographs, articles and official documents laid out the horrific details of ghettos, concentration camps and gas chambers. Aside from the Jewish media, however, few of these accounts named the victims as Jews.

Terrible people those Nazis, those fascists. The survivors of their terror, however, the “displaced persons,” still could not be trusted to be our neighbors even if there was an orderly bureaucracy of refugee screening, documented here by a wall of letters and official forms.
The ring of familiarity impels us to ask chilling questions about our current moment.

James Grossman is executive director of the American Historical Assn.

Israel Pulls Fighter Jets from Drill in Alaska Amid Tensions with Iran

By: Anna Ahronheim; jpost.com

IDF confirms that the Air Force “adjusted” its participation “in light of situational assessment.”

Israeli Air Force F15 planes.
Israeli Air Force F15 planes fly during an aerial demonstration at a graduation ceremony for Israeli air force pilots at the Hatzerim air base in southern Israel, December 27, 2017.. (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)

The Israel Air Force has decided to scale back its participation in the Red Flag exercise amid increasing tensions on Israel’s northern border.

“In light of the situational assessment by the air force it was decided to adjust the planes’ participation in the exercise,” a statement by the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said, adding that “Israel’s first participation in the Red Flag exercise in Alaska will take place as planned.”

According to a statement by air force public affairs officer Kitsana Dounglomchan, Israel’s air force decided not to send F-15 fighter jets to the two-week-long drill that will run between April 26 and May 11 out of the Eielson Air Force Base in Fairbanks and joint base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage.

“Despite this change, we are looking forward to hosting the Israeli contingent that will be partaking in Red Flag-Alaska 18-1,” Dounglomchan was quoted by local media as saying.

The Red Flag exercises take place several times a year bringing together US and international forces for drills on realistic simulated combat situations. A statement released by Pacific Air Forces, the Alaskan Command’s higher headquarters that directs the exercise, said that over 60 aircraft “from more than a dozen units” will be taking part in the drill.

Israel regularly participates in the US Air Force’s main Red Flag exercises at the Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, but the drill in Alaska is meant to offer pilots the opportunity to fly in combat scenarios that involve winter conditions in which Israeli pilots rarely get to train.

The “exercise [is] designed to provide realistic training in a simulated combat environment,” reads a statement by the US Pacific Air Force’s Public Affairs, adding that “Red Flag-Alaska exercises provide unique opportunities to integrate various forces in a realistic threat environment.”

Tensions on Israel’s northern border have been rising in recent months as Israel fears Iran is entrenching itself deeper into war-torn Syria with its presence on Israel’s borders growing in strength.

With long-range strike and reconnaissance capabilities Israel’s F-15s are the backbone of the Israel Air Force, carrying out operations over Syria and the Gaza Strip.

In mid-April the Russian military announced that Israel carried out an air strike against Syria’s T4 airbase with two F-15s with guided missiles fired from Lebanese airspace. The air strike killed seven Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps soldiers, including Col. Mehdi Dehghan, who led the drone unit operating out of the base.

Following that strike, Israel placed its troops on alert, preparing for a direct attack from the IRGC itself – and not by proxies as had been done before – under the command of Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani in the form of precision-guided missiles or armed drones from a base in Syria.

Hossein Salami, the second-in-command of the IRGC, said on Friday that Israel should “not trust” its air bases, as they are “within range of our fire.”

“The finger is on the trigger and the missiles are ready at any given moment that the enemy conducts something against us, and we will launch them,” Salami said.