Israel InSight Magazine, March 2024

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I n S ide




What’s The Story with UNRWA?

Nine Big Lies being told about Israel… and what they mean

My Israel Story

It isn’t that nobody knew…

Pastor John Hagee Coach Bruce Pearl

“It is not enough anymore to say we love Israel… This nation needs action…in a very practical way.” Juergen Buehler, Executive Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem

4 About Israel InSight 62 Reading Israel



Escaping the Nova Festival Massacre on Oct. 7

Red Cross seen as AWOL for Israeli hostages in Gaza



Knowing who is native: Indigenous Peoples Embassy opens in Jerusalem

“Friendshoring” medical manufacturing to Abraham Accords countries

56 Israel Business 74 Seeing Israel

61 Biblical Calendar: Adar 75 Israel Marketplace

On the cover: At the November 2023 Rally Against Antisemitism on the National Mall in Washington Israel InSight • March 2024


The Beginning

A time such as this.

This has been a constant refrain at Christian events celebrating Israel — that this is a new day, when the Christian world stands up for Israel and the Jewish people, expressing love and solidarity, because these are special times.

And now, Israel finds itself at war — with a terror organization in Gaza that wants to eliminate Israel, Hezbollah to the north is itching for a fight, anti-Israel rallies all over the world are calling for Israel’s destruction, and the mainstream media are all too happy to paint Israel as the heavy in this fight, having to be dragged kicking and screaming to acknowledge anything bad that Hamas does — and the good that Israel does.

This is not a time to remain silent.

And with that, we launch Israel InSight, a new magazine for Israel’s Christian friends — and anyone else who would like to be better informed about Israel.

Israel InSight will educate about what is going on in Israel and explain controversial issues. We will highlight the amazing and selfless things that Christians throughout America are doing to promote Israel, ensure its well-being, and sustain the miraculous ingathering of the exiles as we witness Jews from all over the world returning to their Biblical homeland. Through our award-winning experienced news staff, we’ll also provide news and commentary that goes well beyond the often-superficial, and sometimes erroneous, coverage of Israel found in the mainstream media. We also will highlight the deep connections between Israel and the United States, through business, culture, cooperation and joint ventures. We will also highlight American organizations that are doing great work in Israel, amazing things that Israel does around the world, and how one can get involved in a wide range of ways.

We will also have stories about interesting people and places in Israel, ways to support Israel, and how the Jewish and Christian communities can work together.

Israel InSight will recognize and celebrate the support Israel gets from the Christian community, and hopefully will be a bridge between the Jewish and Christian communities, who need and desire to understand each other better. Naturally, we will be heavy on war coverage for the moment — but hopefully, victory will come, the hostages will be home, peace will reign and we can focus more on the lighter things.

It is an important time to be well-informed, so please subscribe today, and tell your friends. Come along on this journey, as a reader, subscriber and supporter. Israel InSight is in sight — and we can’t wait for you to take a look.

Lawrence Brook Publisher/Editor

We thank our many, many friends in the Christian community throughout the region who have been so helpful with their feedback, suggestions and insights as we launch this important publication, and have been patient as we negotiated a Covid-induced delay and other hurdles. All in God’s time.


March 2024 • Israel InSight

PUBLISHER/EDITOR Lawrence M. Brook ASSOCIATE EDITOR Richard Friedman ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER/ADVERTISING Lee J. Green CREATIVE DIRECTOR Ginger Brook SOCIAL/WEB Eugene Walter Katz CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Rivka Epstein, Nathan Klein, Tally Werthan, Bebe Hudson, Belle Freitag, Claire Yates MAIN OFFICE P.O. Box 130052 Birmingham, AL 35213 205/870.7889 TOLL FREE 866/446.5894 ADVERTISING Advertising inquiries to 205/870.7889. Media kit, rates available upon request. SUBSCRIPTIONS $24/year Subscribe online, call 205/870.7889 or mail payment to the address above. Copyright 2024. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or part without written permission from the publisher. Views expressed in Israel InSight are those of the respective contributors and are not necessarily shared by the magazine or its staff. We retain the right to refuse any advertisement.

Eagles Wings plans large mission for 20th anniversary of Prayer for Jerusalem Day Eagles Wings is planning a Watchmen on the Wall Solidarity Tour to Israel this fall, and Bishop Robert Stearns says this is a “pivotal moment” as “our most significant trip yet.” The trip will be a declaration to Israel and the Jewish community that “we stand with you.” It will also commemorate the 20th anniversary of Eagles Wings’ annual global Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem, held the first Sunday in October. The tour begins in Tel Aviv with orientation and a visit to Jaffa. There will be a stop at Independence Hall, where Israel’s declaration of independence was announced in 1948, on the way to Jerusalem for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. There will be a visit to Eagles Wings partner Abraham’s Bread, which feeds the poor daily, then the group will visit with the Christian community while touring Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity. The next day will be in Jerusalem, at the Western Wall and the Old City, the Jerusalem Market as everyone prepares for the Sabbath, and the Garden Tomb. There will also be visits to Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were

found, Masada, the Dead Sea and Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. Returning to Jerusalem, the group will visit the Mount of Olives, Garden of Gethsemane, the Palm Sunday walk and the Cardo, along with stops along the Via Dolorosa. Then, the Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem begins, with a Watchmen on the Wall commissioning ceremony. “Together with believers from the nations we will stand within Zion’s gates and pray for the peace of Jerusalem as Watchmen on the Wall,” Stearns said. After some Awake Jerusalem events, there will be a visit to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial, where the group will hear from a Holocaust survivor. The group will then head to Caesarea, the Carmelite monastery Muchraka, where Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal, and a baptism service in the Jordan River. Staying in the Galilee, the group will visit Nazareth and Magdala, Capernaum and the Mount of Beatitudes, leading to a boat ride on the Galilee. Reservations are already being accepted, with early bird pricing through April 1.

When Irish Hoops aren’t smiling In the EuroBasket 2025 women’s basketball qualifiers, Ireland tried to figure out a way to not have to play Israel, amidst calls in Ireland for a boycott. Ireland refused to host the Israeli team, so Latvia stepped in and the match was held in Latvia on Feb. 8. According to Basketball Ireland CEO John Feehan, Fiba Europe had told Ireland that they would face a hefty fine and be expelled from the 2025 competition if they did not play Israel. That would remove Ireland from international competition for five years and “we’d be effectively getting rid of a generation of players.”

Amidst that, a couple days before the match, Israeli player Dor Saar said it was motivation for Israel, as Ireland “are quite antisemitic.” Ireland is seen as one of the most hostile European nations toward Israel. Basketball Ireland took umbrage at Saar’s comments, using that as the reason they would not engage in prematch protocols with Israel, including formal handshakes, exchange of gifts and lining up for the national anthems at center court. Most international media coverage


In Case You Missed It Viewers of the Super Bowl on the Paramount streaming platform — but not the main CBS broadcast — saw a commercial calling attention to Israelis still held captive by Hamas in Gaza, sponsored by the Israeli government. That night, over 10,000 people filed complaints with the Federal Communications Commission, according to Abed Ayoub, national executive director of the American-Arab AntiDiscrimination Committee, who cited foreign influence over American media and said the ad “undermines the integrity of broadcast standards.” On Jan. 26, Imam Fadi Kablawi spoke at Masjid As-Sunna An-Nabawiyyah in North Miami, Fla., saying “Hamas is going to finish Israel, and they are going to start going to Europe and America. It is going to take a long time, digging a tunnel under the Atlantic Ocean, dude.” He also said Zionists were responsible for assassinations and bombings all over the world, including Sept. 11.

After Brazil President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva compared Israel’s war against Hamas to the Holocaust, Israel Foreign Minister Israel Katz summoned the Brazilian ambassador to an unusual public reprimand. Held at Yad Vashem, the national Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, Katz, the son of Holocaust survivors, declared Lula persona non grata in Israel “until he retracts his Israel InSight • March 2024



In Case You Missed It statements and apologizes.” During the encounter, Katz pointed to the Book of Names and showed the ambassador where his relatives who were murdered in the Holocaust are listed.

Israel announced it would bar Francesca Albanese, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on “the occupied Palestinian territories” from entering Israel. Though the UN position is supposed to be even-handed in its approach, Albanese is seen as one of the leading anti-Israel figures globally. She blamed Oct. 7 on Israeli “oppression” of the Palestinians, and frequently compares Israel to Nazi Germany. She has accused Israel and American evangelical Christians of trying to silence her with the label of antisemite. The Israel Defense Forces revealed that a Palestinian journalist with the anti-Israel Qatari network Al Jazeera has another position — he is a prominent officer in Hamas’ anti-tank missile unit. A laptop belonging to Mohamed Washah was found at a Hamas base by IDF troops, and information on the laptop showed his dual role. The previous month, the U.S. called the deaths of two Al Jazeera journalists an “unimaginable tragedy,” but Israel said the two were operating drones putting soldiers at risk, and had documents showing the two were a Hamas deputy squad commander and a Palestinian Islamic Jihad in charge of a PIJ rocket unit section.


March 2024 • Israel InSight

started with Saar’s remark, not mentioning the controversy leading up to the match, making Ireland the victim of a callous remark. For Israelis, who see Ireland as supporters of Hamas, the Irish basketball team expressed solidarity with Hamas

by getting thrashed by Israel, 87-55. In the next game, Israel fell to Latvia, 86-83. France leads the division at 2-0, Israel and Latvia are tied at 1-1 and Ireland is 0-2. Additional qualifiers will be in November and February. The Ireland-Israel rematch will be Nov. 10.

In February, Israeli Consul General Anat Sultan-Dadon from Israel’s consulate in Atlanta briefed faith leaders at the Georgia Faith and Freedom Coalition about Israel’s war against Hamas, the urgency in demanding the immediate release of all 134 hostages still in Hamas captivity, Iran and the threats to regional and global security, and the concerning rise of antisemitism globally.

Help The Hebrew University Community Serve Israel Through the ‘We Are One’ Fund The October 7th Hamas terrorist attack has threatened the State of Israel’s future like nothing before. Nevertheless, the country, its students, soldiers, and citizens have united amidst unimaginable tragedy. While Israel focuses on the immediate battle of protecting its borders and rooting out the Hamas threat, its people face both Hebrew University students volunteer to prep food short and long-term struggles. A massive and far-reaching effort looms in keeping the country moving forward and addressing Beyond Fundraising: Volunteering Where Needed the myriad economic, medical, and academic needs. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem community — its students, professors, staff, and families — are suffering. Some have lost relatives who were murdered in the attacks. Others continue to endure endless days worried about the status of kidnapped family members and friends. Students and faculty are once again soldiers, having been called up to serve, suspending their academic pursuits, research, and jeopardizing their financial security. Just in the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Law, alone, an estimated 40% of students have been called to active military duty.

Hebrew University volunteers are addressing urgent needs in their surrounding communities as well. Faculty of Medicine students are volunteering in Israeli hospitals struggling with staff shortages due to the war. The University is also working with the Jerusalem Municipality to establish a school and kindergarten for children evacuated from their homes in Sderot in southern Israel. In addition, some of the half million displaced people from the North and the Gaza border regions are being housed in Hebrew University dormitories.

In the face of dire need, Hebrew University has launched the We Are One fundraising campaign to provide aid and support to the 28,000 students, faculty, and staff impacted by the war.

In its role as Israel’s premier university and academic research institution, Hebrew University will continue to address the devastating impact of this terror attack, and its toll on human and financial suffering, just as it has faced adversity throughout Israel’s history.

“The Hebrew University’s American friends will do everything we can to support our community members during the war and its aftermath, which we hope will bring lasting peace,” says Joshua Rednik, chief executive officer, American Friends of the Hebrew University. “Every dollar raised goes to mitigating significant, critical needs to ensure safety, security, and continued educational excellence on campus once the academic year begins.”

Significant We Are One funding priorities include:

Scholarships and Academic Assistance for Soldiers Called to Duty Thousands of students who have been called to military service will incur academic and financial losses while risking their lives. We Are One will provide scholarships and financial aid for students and staff serving in the military. Once the school year begins, Hebrew University will also continue to provide financial and emotional support, and academic assistance for students, staff, and faculty serving in the reserves. Relocation and Shelter Hebrew University is assessing how best to help employees and students who have had to evacuate their homes. Many have lost all their possessions while facing the trauma of kidnapped, injured, and/or deceased loved ones. Campus Security The current conflict brings with it increased security needs on all campuses, including equipping guards with bulletproof vests and helmets, increased first aid supplies, and other security mobilization equipment. Counseling Services The University is providing counseling for anyone in the community who is coping with severe trauma, grief, and loss. This includes assistance for families of hostages and other missing people.

As the war continues to demand time, resources, and attention, Hebrew University, across its six campuses, must also continue doing what it does best: pursuing extraordinary innovation, developing transformational technologies, and delivering educational excellence to solve some of the world’s most urgent challenges. When the immediate crisis subsides, the University will once again provide an academic home for a full cadre of students, researchers, and faculty. In the meantime, the HU community is supporting each other, providing critical medical resources, helping farmers harvest their crops to prevent food shortages, and looking after the families left behind as Israel’s soldiers heed the call for security. “These tragic times remind us of the human cost of war and the true blessings of family and friends,” says Hebrew University President Prof. Asher Cohen. “As we mourn those we have lost and persevere through difficult days ahead, we find comfort in community and strength in solidarity. We hold onto hope — hope for the safe return of hostages and faith in our nation’s resilience. Hebrew University is grateful for the support.”

To make a tax-deductible contribution to the We Are One Fund, go to or mail a check payable to American Friends of the Hebrew University PO Box 98212 Washington, DC 20090 Israel InSight • March 2024



In Case You Missed It On Dec. 26, anti-tank missiles fired from Hezbollah in Lebanon hit the St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church in Iqrit in the western Galilee, wounding at least 10 Israelis.

A “We Stand With Israel” banner was hung from a bridge on Jan. 17 — in Tehran. The banner also showed support for an Iranian dissident who visited Israel and addressed the Knesset. The Iranian regime has been putting up billboards to drum up support for the Hamas war against Israel, but those billboards are repeatedly being burned. While Gaza gets the headlines, Rescuers Without Borders reports that in Judea and Samaria, also referred to as the West Bank, there were over 2,600 incidents targeting Israeli civilians and soldiers between Oct. 7 and Jan. 15. In three months, there were 127 instances of gunfire, compared with 100 in all of 2022. The figures do not include attacks on security personnel during counterterrorism raids. A Palestinian who was a security prisoner released in the hostage deal during the brief ceasefire with Hamas was caught trying to infiltrate into

UNbiased? United Nations General Assembly condemnations of countries since 2015:

140 Everyone else 65 Israel


March 2024 • Israel InSight

Photo by Guy Yechieli

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews provides ballistic and protective flak jackets to Israeli firefighters.

IFCJ presented $19 million in emergency aid to Israel in first 100 days since Oct. 7 To mark the 100th day of the war between Israel and the Hamas terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews released details of its 2023 impact, which includes emergency aid support for those affected by the ongoing conflict. From Oct. 7 through Dec. 31, 2023, IFCJ provided $19 million in emergency aid and assistance to hundreds of thousands of Israelis affected by the war. Additional security measures provided by IFCJ over the past decades continue to protect and care for Israelis throughout the country. “It has been 100 days of war, sorrow and uncertainty. But after these 100 days, and especially now with the global rise in anti-Semitism, the one thing I’m certain about — and gives us all tremendous hope — is the friendship

and support from our hundreds of thousands of donors, and the millions of Christians around the world who continue to stand with Israel and the Jewish people,” said Yael Eckstein, president and CEO of IFCJ. IFCJ will continue to support the more than 100,000 evacuees and displaced victims of the war with basic needs and other essentials throughout 2024. “The Fellowship has been on the ground for more than 40 years helping provide for the people of Israel and the Jewish people. We were on the ground distributing aid on October 7 as terrorists were still roaming our streets, and we have been doing so every day since,” said Eckstein. “In many ways, our work is really just beginning, but we will continue doing everything we can to help people begin to rebuild their lives.”

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Christians United for Israel announces 2024 Washington Summit, “Vacation” With Israel at war, Christians United for Israel is looking for supporters of Israel to join in the fight by attending the annual CUFI Summit, which will be held July 28 to 30 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., eight miles south of Washington. The Summit usually consists of a night to honor Israel, plenary and breakout sessions featuring Israeli and U.S. political figures and policy experts. There is also a day on Capitol Hill, visiting with Congressional representatives to lobby for legislative priorities. There are two add-ons — a CUFI Vacation with a Purpose Biblical American Heritage Tour from July 24 to 28, and the Daughters for Zion National Prayer Conference on July 28 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Vacation with a Purpose is a custom tour of Washington and the surrounding areas, with an emphasis on the Biblical heritage upon which the country was founded. About three dozen sites are on the itinerary, including the Museum of the Bible, White House Visitors Center, Supreme Court, Library of Congress, Mount Vernon, the National Archives Museum, Washington National Cathedral and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Numerous parks and memorials are also on the agenda, including the Lincoln, World War II, Korean, Vietnam, Martin Luther King, Three Soldiers and

Nurses in Combat, Iwo Jima, Sept. 11 Pentagon and the Jefferson Memorial. There are two packages for the vacation. The Land Only package includes the four-day tour, seven nights at the Gaylord National Resort, including the nights of the Summit, registration for the Summit, select meals, and gratuities for guides and drivers. The cost is $1500 per person, double occupancy. The San Antonio package adds roundtrip air from San Antonio and airport transfers. There will be a bonus tour day on arrival for the San Antonio group. Cost is $1900 per person, double occupancy. The Daughters of Zion National Prayer Conference is hosted by National Director Lynne Hammond. It includes a fellowship luncheon and sessions on prayer and intercession on behalf of Israel. Featured speakers include Billye Brim, Cheryl Morrison, Lynne Hammond and Diana Hagee. Camp CUFI will be a track for ages 5 to 15, with hands-on activities and learning sessions, focusing on developing a love of Israel. Summit registration is $150 through April 30, $200 after.

El Al adds Fort Lauderdale flights El Al will launch a new direct route, Fort Lauderdale to Tel Aviv, on April 15. The twice-weekly flights will be on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and are in addition to the five weekly flights between Miami and Tel Aviv. Florida to Tel Aviv will be on Mondays at 2 p.m., arriving 9:05 a.m. on Tuesday, or Saturday at 11:55 p.m., arriving at 7 p.m. Sunday. The return

flights are Monday and Friday, departing at 12:05 a.m. and arriving at 6:35 a.m. To help support Israel during the war, El Al is also offering travel vouchers for future visits to Israel, with 10 percent of the purchase price going to Friends of the IDF and organizations that help Israelis who have been evacuated from border towns.


In Case You Missed It Israel with someone’s Israeli identification documents. The 21-year-old was identified as a Hamas member who was shot in the leg during violent protests in Samaria.

The head of Liberia’s Israel Allies Caucus believes that the African nation will open an embassy to Jerusalem this year. Liberia was one of many nations that cut ties with Israel after the Yom Kippur War in 1973 due to Arab pressure.

In December, the Israel Defense Forces announced they found a weapons complex in north Gaza where civilians were staying, and among the cache was explosive belts that were adapted for children to wear. The weapons complex was close to schools, a clinic and a mosque. Canary Mission reported that Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, the only Palestinian in Congress, has “extensive fundraising ties to Hamas supporters,” with three activists ties to the terror organization fundraising for her 2018 campaign.

Israel was criticized for disturbing a cemetery in Khan Yunis, but Israeli soldiers discovered a Hamas tunnel running directly underneath the cemetery. The tunnel included an office from which a battalion commander managed the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, and the living quarters of senior Hamas officials. Hamas has also launched rockets into Israel from Gaza cemeteries. Israel InSight • March 2024


At 20th anniversary, Knesset Christian Allies Caucus shows solidarity By Etgar Lefkovits

(JNS) — Scores of Christian supporters from around the world gathered in Israel’s parliament on Jan. 23, marking the 20th anniversary of the Knesset’s Christian Allies Caucus in a show of solidarity amid the war against Hamas in Gaza. The event, which came on a somber day following the single deadliest attack on Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip since the war broke out three and half months ago, underscored the growing force of faith-based diplomacy around the globe. “Over the last 20 years, you have proven in the best possible way what true friendship is, what true love is and what shared goals and values we share,” Caucus co-chair Knesset Member Yuli Edelstein (Likud) told the gathering. The group, comprising mostly evangelical Christian leaders, some of whom have been active in the cross-party parliamentary group since its inception in 2004, had traveled to Israel for the occasion. “We struggle on the battlefield in Gaza, in the north and in the battlefield of the media, but looking in this room I know that Israel has true friends around the world,” said cochair MK Sharren Haskel of Benny Gantz’s National Unity Party, which is part of Israel’s emergency war government. “We are not just fighting for our country and people but for our identity and who we are,” she said.

Christian support for Israel.” The brainchild of the late Israeli legislators Yuri Shtern and Benny Elon, the bipartisan caucus has gathered strength over the years, overcoming both initial hesitation at working with Christians and concern over missionizing. It blossomed from cooperation with the largely supportive conservative evangelical community into an increasingly influential and pioneering body that has formed partnerships with over 50 parliaments around the globe and now boasts a network of over 1,500 legislators. Most recently, the Caucus launched an international push to dismantle UNRWA, the U.N. organization that deals exclusively with Palestinian refugees and their descendants amid growing national and international concerns over its terror ties with Hamas.

A Judeo-Christian war against radical Islam

All the Israeli parliamentarians who addressed the afternoon event stressed that the war against Hamas in Gaza was not just a war on Israel but a war on shared Judeo-Christian values. “This is a Jewish and Christian war against radical Islam and our way of life,” said MK Matan Kahana of the National Unity Party. MK Tatiana Mazarsky of Yair Lapid’s opposition Yesh Atid Party said, “It is not enough just to express sympathy — help us get the truth out actively. We don’t have anyone A commemoration of faith-based diplomacy to trust anymore except for you.” The event, held in the Knesset’s Jerusalem Hall, began The head of the largest evangelical organization in Jeruwith a prayer for the State of Israel, Israel Defense Forces salem concurred that now was a time of action and moral soldiers and the more than 100 hostages still being held in clarity. Gaza. “It is not enough anymore to say we love Israel,” said “It is very moving to see these alliances and the large Juergen Buehler, Executive Director of the International presence of people who want to help Israel,” said Yarden Christian Embassy Jerusalem. “This nation needs action…in Gonen, whose 23-year-old sister Romi is still a hostage after a very practical way.” being abducted from the Supernova music festival on Oct. He urged pro-Israel church leaders to go beyond lip ser7. “It gives me a lot of hope,” she told JNS. vice in their prayer services. “Today is not a celebration but a commemoration of “It is not acceptable that in our countries more Muslims something that happened in this building 20 years ago: the are demonstrating in our streets against Israel than Chrisstart of faith-based diplomacy,” said Caucus director Josh tians standing for Israel,” said Buehler. “We need to speak Reinstein. “Today everybody understands the importance of up in our countries as never before.”


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Israel InSight • March 2024


Big Issues

The real story behind the headline or the 30 misleading seconds on the evening news…

What is the story with UNRWA?

United Nations agency exists to help Palestinians continue a war to eradicate Israel By Jonathan Tobin

Sadly, so is most of the discussion about holding UNRWA accountable.

(JNS) — Let’s not get caught up in the details of the controversy that made headlines this past weekend about An unaccountable U.N. agency the fact that 12 employees of UNRWA — the U.N. refugee Much to the dismay of Israel-haters like Rep. Alexandria agency dedicated to assisting the Palestinians — took part Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the Biden administration anin the Hamas pogroms in southern Israel on Oct. 7. The nounced that it was suspending funding of UNRWA. But New York Times broke the story, and many of the governments that are the principal funders of UNRWA, including when the details are drilled down, it turns out that the United States is continuing to pay the money it already pledged the United States, which is the largest donor giving $422 but will only put a pause on sending cash for new projects. million to it in 2023, have since expressed various levels of The same is true for Germany and Canada, as well as some concern or outrage. other donor nations. The government of the Netherlands No one who knows anything about UNRWA can pretend has suspended all funding but other countries, like Ireland, to be surprised by what happened. The noSpain and Turkey, are refusing to take any tion put forward by some of its apologists actions to hold UNRWA accountable. The United Nations that the people who took part in the terror If the past is any indication of the future, attacks are just a tiny minority of its 13,000 resettles millions of even those who have spoken out about this, employees is not to be taken seriously. As refugees around the like the United States, will eventually, even The Wall Street Journal subsequently reworld — except for if quietly, resume full funding of UNRWA. ported, it is estimated that approximately the Palestinians, who As part of his policies that attempted to 10 percent of UNRWA employees are either hold Palestinians and their enablers acactive members or have ties to Hamas or are kept as perpetual countable for their support for terrorism Palestinian Islamic Jihad. refugees and rejection of peace, former President For years, it has been well known that Donald Trump cut all ties with and funding UNRWA facilities, including schools and for UNRWA in 2018. Unfortunately, among the first actions other places that are supposed to be devoted to charitable when Joe Biden took office in 2021, he reversed that move purposes, have been used by Hamas to store weapons or and restored funding. Biden and his foreign-policy team are otherwise assist terrorists. Its education programs are as steadfast supporters of the United Nations and everything it bad as those run by Hamas or the Palestinian Authority does, regardless of the fact that it has long been a cesspool when it comes to indoctrinating young Palestinians in of antisemitism. hatred for Israel and the Jews. UNRWA’s creation in 1949, Even those administration officials who have been the coupled with its actions and the infrastructure it has built most outspoken in reaffirming Israel’s right to self-defense up since then, is dedicated to perpetuating the conflict with — like John Kirby, the communications director for the Israel. Forget philanthropy or — as every other refugee agency in the world focuses on — resettling those displaced National Security Council, who has also denounced Hamas by war in some safe place where they can make a new start and supported the goal of its elimination — also defended UNRWA. According to Kirby, UNRWA does “amazing in life. work” saving lives. Incredibly, he even gave it credit for That said, the notion that anything is shocking about the wanting to investigate the problem. fact that a few of the UNRWA staff were caught taking part The reason for this is that UNRWA has made itself indisin the Oct. 7 attacks, including direct participation in kidpensable to the business of caring for Palestinians in Gaza. napping and mass murder, is a joke.


March 2024 • Israel InSight

It is, as it has been for the last 75 years, the primary conduit of assistance to a population that has been made dependent on the international community for all services, including employment. As such, it can and does present itself to the world as the embodiment of philanthropy, providing sustenance to an enormous number of people in need. That is why any effort to investigate its activities and penalize it for its close ties to terrorists is always derailed by invoking its good works and the notion that if it were shut down, millions would starve. So, even when UNRWA is caught red-handed storing rockets to be fired at Israel or even having its staff actively taking part in the largest mass slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust, the odds that Photo by Anas-Mohammed/Shutterstock its parent organization or the various nations that A Palestinian man outside the United Nations Relief and Works have spent billions of their citizens’ taxpayer dollars Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in Gaza on funding it will do anything other than slap it on City protests cuts to aid on June 20, 2023. the wrist are negligible. imprisoned and forgotten. As with the rest of his policies that ignored the advice of the foreign-policy establishment and the “experts,” Trump Nor was Europe the only region where there was a refhad it right on UNRWA. The only theoretical hope for ugee crisis. When Britain abandoned its rule of India, the there to be peace between Israel and the Palestinians must subcontinent was partitioned into two separate nations start with the abolition of institutions that not only provide — largely, Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan. The drawing assistance and employment to terrorists but have as their of those lines on the map created 14 million people who purpose the perpetuation of a futile quest to destroy the found themselves on the wrong side of the new borders and one Jewish state on the planet. UNRWA must not merely be became refugees. More than 1 million people died in the defunded. It must be abolished. ethnic and religious violence there as massive populations scrambled to find new homes.

A world full of refugees

The very fact of its existence is a function of the way the international community has acted to prevent a resolution of the conflict. When UNRWA was created by the United Nations in 1949, the plight of refugees was among the world’s most pressing problems. Up to 60 million people were displaced in Europe during and immediately after the Second World War. That included those Jews who had survived the Holocaust seeking to go to Israel or the West, as well as millions of others who had been uprooted for one reason or another. Among them were ethnic Germans who were thrown out of their homes throughout Eastern Europe, including traditionally German regions like East Prussia. As Europe adjusted to new borders largely imposed by the demands of the Soviet Union, many people were forcibly evicted and told to move to places where their ethnicity would be welcomed. Any who resisted were not supported by the international community. They were violently repressed,

Arab and Jewish refugees

Coming around the same time as the catastrophe caused by the partition of India was the refugee problem caused by Britain’s leaving another of its former possessions: the Mandate for Palestine. The United Nations voted to partition Palestine into two states: one for the Jews and one for the Arabs with Jerusalem being an international enclave. While the Jews accepted the partition scheme, the Arabs did not. The leaders of the Palestinian Arabs — like the pro-Nazi Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Al-Husseini — declared war on the Jews. Neighboring Arab nations supported them and invaded the newborn State of Israel on its first day of existence in May 1948. The Arab war to destroy Israel not only failed; the fighting led hundreds of thousands of Arabs in the former Mandate to flee. A small minority were forced out by Israelis during bitter fighting in some areas. But most of them left out of fear of what would happen to them if they fell under the rule of Jews (and with the expectation that they would take Israel InSight • March 2020


over all the land once the Jews were “thrown into the sea”). That was mostly the product of projection since in many instances Jews captured by their foes were massacred. But it was also the result of propaganda from the Arab side in the fighting in which they sought to demonize their enemies and strengthen the will of the Palestinian Arabs to fight. During the same period as approximately 700,000 Arabs became refugees, some 800,000 Jews either fled or were forced to flee their homes in the Arab and Muslim world where they had lived for centuries. The very different disposition of those two populations says all anyone needs to know about the next 75 years of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Jewish refugees were resettled in a massive philanthropic project funded by Jews around the world. Most of those refugees went to Israel, where they faced hardships in what was then a very poor and embattled country. Today, their descendants make up about half the Jewish population and have contributed enormously to its defense and flourishing as a modern state. Others found new homes in the United States and other parts of the world. Unlike every other refugee population, the Palestinian Arabs were not resettled. They were kept in camps throughout the Middle East with the largest concentration in Gaza, which was controlled by Egypt from 1949 to 1967. They were prevented from finding new homes in Arab and Muslim countries, where they spoke the language and shared a common culture. Nor were they enabled to go elsewhere to make new lives. Instead, they were kept in place to wait for the day when they could “go home” to their former villages in what was now Israel. Their leaders and the rest of the Arab world opposed their resettlement, doing all they could to prevent it. And the agency that enabled this policy to continue for generations was none other than UNRWA. It’s important to understand that at the time when all these refugee problems arose, the United Nations created two refugee agencies. One, UNRWA, deals only with the Palestinians. The other, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (or UNHCR) has the responsibility for all of the other refugees in the world. The UNHCR has its flaws, but its job is to help the refugees by giving them not just immediate aid in surviving being displaced by wars and other disasters but also assistance in resettling in places where it will be safe for them. Their goal is to ensure that their problems are resolved and that their children will make new lives rather than continue to live in camps. By contrast, the UNRWA exists solely to ensure that Palestinian refugees are never resettled. That’s why almost all of the people who are called Palestinian refugees are


March 2024 • Israel InSight

Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90

Israelis protest against UNRWA at their offices in Jerusalem on Feb. 5, 2024.

the descendants of the people who fled the war the Arab world started in 1948. Several generations have been born in the camps but, contrary to the way other populations are treated, all are given the same status as those who were the original 1948 refugees. Of all the tens of millions of refugees of the 1940s, the only ones whose descendants have not been resettled are the Palestinians. A humane and rational policy would have led to their being absorbed into other populations. But that’s not UNRWA’s job. It operates the ultimate welfare state in which generations are kept dependent on charity. Worse than that, its programs and policies all encourage the Palestinians to go on believing that someday Israel will cease to exist, and then they can return to where their grandparents and great-grandparents lived three-quarters of a century ago. Though it pretends to be a humanitarian force, it encourages its charges to look forward to the day when Hamas’s genocidal objective — the mass murder of Israel’s 7 million Jews — will be achieved. Therefore, it’s little surprise that UNRWA is riddled with supporters of Hamas and that among its staff are people who take part in terrorist atrocities. And that much of the aid it receives from the world goes to help Hamas continue to function. UNRWA allows the very people its donors think they are helping to be used as human shields in a cynical hopeless war. So, let’s not waste much time arguing about the details of UNRWA’s complicity in Oct. 7 or other acts of terror. The only discussion that needs to be held is one about its abolition and replacement by a genuine refugee agency. The world needs one that can give Palestinians new homes rather than keep them in misery awaiting another Holocaust for the Jews that they’ve been led to believe will magically solve their problems. Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him: @jonathans_tobin.

It isn’t that nobody knew

David Bedein has been sounding the alarm over UNRWA for decades By Judy Lash Balint

(JNS) — Palestinian children in United Nations Relief and Works Agency camps, mere yards from the border with Israel, talk in a video about killing Jews and returning to their land. “The actions of Hamas match the ideology of UNRWA,” the narrator says. “In the camps, we learned to defend our land and our country,” one boy says. “We learned how to fight, to attack.” Another says of Jews, “with God’s help, very soon, we’ll smash their heads, and we’ll return to our lands.” The three-minute video “The Terror of Return” was filmed at the same location where Palestinian terrorists breached the southern border and invaded Israel Photo courtesy Center for Near East Policy Research on Oct. 7. But the Center for Near East A school play performed at the UNRWA Nuseirat School in Gaza, in which Policy Research released the prescient students hold an Israeli hostage at gunpoint, April 2016. footage in 2018, some five years before countries, including the United States, suspended funding great-grandparents left more than 75 years ago. In fact, to UNRWA following allegations that the agency’s employ- most of those homes no longer exist. ees participated in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack. The report added that UNRWA perpetuates Palestinian The CNEPR, which has since been renamed the Nahum dependency without seeking realistic solutions to the plight Bedein Center for Near East Policy Research, has tried for of refugees, including resettlement. In language that could decades to raise the alarm about hatred and incitement fes- describe present-day conditions in Gaza, the report warned: tering in the 59 UNRWA refugee camps scattered through- “Refugees, encouraged by UNRWA to see themselves as out Gaza, Judea and Samaria, and eastern Jerusalem. Those entitled to a return that will never happen, believe they are warnings, its director told JNS, have fallen on deaf Israeli being cheated. As a result, they are filled with frustration governmental ears. and rage, and turn to radicalism.”

Refugee limbo

“They’re told that it was Israel who inflicted those indignities,” David Bedein, director of the present-day center, More than 20 years ago, the center issued a 37-page told JNS. “They didn’t know that it was the United Nations scholarly report about UNRWA. Despite its findings about keeping them in refugee camps.” UNRWA that could have directed policy, Israeli policymakAll of the center’s research shows that Palestinians are ers and leaders in other Western countries that fund UNR“indoctrinated with the idea that Israel stuck them in those WA largely ignored those and subsequent materials that the camps, ” Bedein added. Jerusalem-based center issued. Last month, a Wall Street Journal investigation revealed Multiple spokespeople for the Israeli government did not that 12 UNRWA employees were involved directly in the respond to a JNS query about whether Israeli policymakers Oct. 7 attacks, and some 10 percent of the agency’s staff has were aware of the findings in the center’s report. ties to Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad. (The center reThe 2003 report described how UNRWA is predicated port noted in 2003 that “most” of the 23,000 UNRWA emupon the belief that Palestinians have a “right of return,” so ployees are refugees and “they too are often associated with the agency keeps them in “temporary” limbo until, it says, terrorist groups such as Hamas” and that refugee camps are they can return to the homes and villages in Israel that their sites for bomb manufacture, recruitment and dispatching Israel InSight • March 2020


suicide bombers.) When the violence of the First Intifada emanated from refugee camps, Israelis didn’t know what was happening, according to Bedein. He thinks the indignities that the refugees suffered motivated their violent outbursts — then and now. “Everything we said then is true now,” he said. “Everything we warned about — all the incitement, the keeping people in the refugee situation, it’s all a formula for war.”

convince them that Jews need not be the enemy. Inspired, Bedein went on to study and then qualified as a social worker. He made aliyah. Later, a neighbor who owned a construction business told Bedein that he fired his Israeli workers and replaced them with Palestinians from the UNRWA Dheisheh refugee camp, near Bethlehem, to save money. Bedein tagged along to a construction site, where he heard workers singing, “We’re building homes for the Jews; for their children; and our grandchildren.” It became clear ‘It’s just children’ to him that UNRWA was planting unrealistic expectations Children and adolescents learned in UNRWA summer in the minds of the refugees. camps — in full view of the Israel Defense Forces and Israeli Before turning his focus full-time to UNRWA, Bedein intelligence cameras — to launch incendiary balloons and worked as a fixer for foreign news crews. kites with explosive material that burned large swathes On a trip to Gush Katif with a of Israeli agricultural land just BBC crew, Bedein met an Arab across the fence. fixer who was taking the journalBedein told JNS that the Israeli ists to one of the UNRWA camps. army didn’t take the summer Bedein and the Arab agreed camps seriously and told him, that nothing should be covered when he sounded the alarm, “It’s up and began to collaborate. Bejust children.” (An IDF spokesdein also hired a Moroccan TV man referred JNS to the Israeli crew, and UNRWA cooperated Foreign Ministry, which did not fully with the Moroccan reportrespond by press time.) ers, so the center was able to proBedein claims that Israel overduce first-hand information that looked the threat from Gaza due was published in Israel. The team to the 400 Israeli corporations, Photo courtesy of David Bedein has also provided footage from including major food conglomer- David Bedein and Shimon Peres in 1992. Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. ates and cement companies that After more than two decades investigating UNRWA had monopolies on supplying the Strip, that do business practices and its influence on the descendants of generawith the Palestinian Authority and with UNRWA. tions of refugees, Bedein is not surprised by IDF soldiers “In the Western mind, if you’re doing business with some- who report finding weapons in every building they enter in one you can’t possibly be at war with them,” he told JNS. Gaza, nor by revelations about the involvement of UNRWA Bedein told JNS that millions of people have visited the employees in Hamas. center’s website since Oct. 7 and that an eight-minute video, He thinks it is unrealistic to call for UNRWA to be dis“Askar-UNRWA: Cradle of Killers,” which was released a mantled and have the U.N. High Commissioner for Refufew months before Oct. 7, has drawn 15,000 views. gees take over its portfolio, since the U.N General Assembly The Arab interviewers who film the center’s videos within will never allow one U.N. agency to replace another. UNRWA camps are glad for the work, Bedein said. Donor countries should press the General Assembly to incorporate humanitarian principles from the UNHCR to ‘For their children and our grandchildren’ encourage descendants of refugees to voluntarily resettle, Bedein was first drawn to the work that would define his he told JNS. career as a high school student in Philadelphia at the Akiba He is also fundraising presently to press criminal charges Hebrew Academy. An Israeli sociologist who spoke at the against UNRWA for arming children and training them to school in 1968 told Bedein and his fellow students that use weapons; for using textbooks in its schools that glorify Israel had a chance after the Six-Day War to reverse the those who murder Jews; and for letting Hamas control its indoctrination that Palestinians internalized. It could also teachers association and workers union.


March 2024 • Israel InSight

Passages Christian leaders donate $500,000 to affected A Passages delegation presents a plaque to Benny Ledom, head of the security committee and a community leader of Netiv HaAsara in southern communities in Israel on Jan. 25. our moshav, showing care for our community, and we more Gaza Envelope than appreciate that,” said Benny Ledom, head of the securiPhoto by Cade Chudy

A delegation of Passages donors, alumni and staff wrapped up a weeklong solidarity mission, including traveling to the Gaza Envelope, to express their friendship and provide a donation of $500,000 to Jewish communities there. The delegation visited Netiv HaAsara and Kfar Aza, two of the hardest-hit communities in the Oct. 7 massacre by Hamas terrorists—a place they have brought their delegations several times a year for many years. On Jan. 25, they gave each community a donation of $250,000 and a plaque that expressed solidarity and assistance to help rebuild their communities. The funds are to go to psychological counseling for some of the younger members of the communities. Passages will make further donations to help with memorial projects and will continue to bring their student delegations to both communities as they have in the past. “These are two places where we have taken over 11,000 college students on Passages trips in the last eight years,” said Scott Phillips, CEO of Passages, a Christian organization that brings students to Israel to experience the roots of their faith and to build bridges with the Jewish people and the State of Israel. “In these communities live our friends— people we know, people we work with, people our students and alumni have interacted with.” He added: “And we’ll continue to introduce more and more young Christian leaders in America to Israel’s story.” In Netiv HaAsara, the Passages delegation visited the cemetery, where they were told the stories of those who were murdered that day, and the moshav itself, where they were shown how Hamas terrorists infiltrated and attacked the community. “I would like to thank Passages because you are the only Christian organization that has donated to

ty committee and a community leader of Netiv HaAsara. Soldiers who were part of the rescue efforts of the southern communities and those fighting in the Gaza Strip against Hamas operatives came to speak with the delegation, telling them it is vital that more people come to witness what took place there and to advocate for the release of the 136 hostages still being held captive in Gaza. “After Oct. 7, the Jewish community looked around for friends and allies. The Christian community showed up, and they keep showing up — not just in word but deed,” said Rivka Kidron, co-founder and board member of Passages. “These are communities which Passages students visit on every trip. They lifted up and supported our students, and now we must stand up and support them. Our students will continue coming here to bear witness to this tragedy and stand alongside the State of Israel and the Jewish people, especially in the most difficult times.” “It’s been a heavy honor visiting Kfar Aza and Netiv HaAsara, talking with residents who walked us through the horrors of 10/7,” said Daniel Anger, a Passages alum. “We share the grief. We earnestly pray for the return of the hostages and for the comfort of many, many people who are suffering such unthinkable loss.” The delegation also visited the memorial to the victims of the Nova music festival and met with families evacuated from the south. They spoke with Yami and Naomi Weiser, whose son, Staff Sgt. Roey Weiser, was killed while saving 12 of his fellow soldiers on the Erez Crossing base on Oct. 7. The group visited the Knesset, as well, meeting Knesset members from across the political spectrum. Wearing their distinctive “Christians Stand with Israel” shirts, they were stopped and thanked by passersby, soldiers and even Knesset staff for being such strong allies of Israel. Israel InSight • March 2020


Israeli forces on patrol in the Gaza Strip, Feb. 3, 2024.

Photo courtesy IDF

Israel’s war on Hamas is one of least deadly conflicts in the region By Daniel Greenfield

And then there’s the current phase of the war in Sudan (which the media is currently uninterested in) in which (Gatestone Institute) — The Associated Press recently 15,000 people have been killed over the course of last year, made headlines by falsely claiming that the Israeli campaign as part of a larger conflict that may have claimed as many as against Hamas “sits among the deadliest and most destructive in recent history” and was even worse than “the Allied 2 million lives. The Tigray War in Ethiopia over the last three years bombing of Germany in World War II.” (which you may have missed because the media chose not The Washington Post argued that “Israel has waged one to hysterically cover every single bomb dropped and proof this century’s most destructive wars in Gaza,” while The testers stayed home knitting instead of blocking traffic) may Wall Street Journal contended that it was “generating destruction comparable in scale to the most devastating urban have cost the lives of between 80,000 to 600,000 people. (El Pais, Spain’s newspaper, which did report on Ethiopia’s warfare in the modern record.” civil war, described it as “the deadliest of the 21st century” That’s all the more impressive since, even accepting the and then had to pivot to argue later that Israel was worse Hamas casualty figures (tainted and inflated numbers in in “25,000 deaths in Gaza: Why the destruction of this war which there are no terrorists, only civilians, and fighting age men are really children) as the media does, this is still prob- exceeds that of other major conflicts.”) In reality, every significant war and civil war in the region ably one of the least violent conflicts in the region. has had a much higher death toll than the Israel-Hamas In 2016, the Washington Post described the Syrian Civil war, including the Iraq-Iran War with an estimated 500,000 War, with a possible 250,000 deaths, as “the most destructo 2 million deaths. And in nearby Africa, the Congo War tive conflict in the region.” In 2020, the United Nations called the Yemeni Civil War, with 150,000 deaths, “the most has been blamed for 6 million deaths since 1996. How does the media justify arguing that 25,000 is more destructive conflict since the end of the Cold War.” than 2 million?


March 2024 • Israel InSight

There are plenty of statistical gimmicks available to anyone who wants to argue that two plus two is really five. Media “analyses” that claim that Israel’s campaign against Hamas is the deadliest and most destructive, and might even be worse than WWII, adjust their claims accordingly. As the author of every dubious research study knows, to get the results you want, you manipulate your parameters. Media analyses selectively compare Israel’s campaign to battles, rather than wars, narrowly focus on very specific timetables, attempt to estimate per capita rather than gross figures. But drawing a circle around a particular area and going per capita works both ways; The Hamas attack of Oct. 7 killed 10 percent of the population of Kibbutz Be’eri, making it far worse per capita than anything in Israel’s response to those atrocities. But statistical fudging is all in where the line is drawn to achieve a particular agenda. For example, The New York Times declares that “Gaza Deaths Surpass Any Arab Loss in Wars With Israel in Past 40 Years.” Of course, the last major Arab-Israeli war took place 50 years ago. The 40-year figure is based on the Lebanon War, but the actual numbers for that war vary wildly, from the thousands according to Israel, 10,000 according to the CIA, 18,000 according to Lebanon and 30,000 according to Arafat and the PLO. While the media at the time emphasized the highest estimates, in order to criticize the Israeli campaign against the PLO, they now use lower estimates to attack the Gaza campaign. Similarly, AP cites its own claim that battles against Islamic State in the Iraqi city of Mosul “killed around 10,000 civilians” to indict Israel. Some Iraqi estimates however peg it as high as 40,000. PBS headlined its coverage by warning that “the human toll of the battle for Mosul may never be known.” The New York Times, after using the shaky Lebanon numbers to prop up the shaky Gaza numbers, admits that “as in Gaza today, researchers say the number killed in Lebanon may never be known with confidence because of the fog of war, even four decades later.” That much is true. The Times cites its own claim that “numbering the dead correctly is virtually impossible.” That’s why the death toll for everything from the Syrian and Yemeni civil wars to the mass deaths in Sudan and the

Iran-Iraq War are broad estimates with vast differences between them. Aeschylus, the Greek playwright, warned that truth is the first casualty of war. And accurate casualty counts are the first and final casualty of every conflict. The Lancet, the British medical journal, once courted controversy with its claims first that the Iraq War had killed 98,000 Iraqis, and then over half a million, or 2.5 percent of the country. By 2007, a British data company claimed that 1 million Iraqis had been killed. These claims were quickly debunked and the claims are in the rearview mirror now that the debate over the war is over. During the Iraq War it was politically convenient to inflate the death toll, just as it’s now politically convenient to deflate the death toll while unthinkingly accepting casualty figures from a terrorist group whose main hope of survival lies in inflating civilian deaths while minimizing its own casualties. The most troubling thing about the universal acceptance of the Hamas numbers is just that. Estimated death tolls in the Syrian Civil War have varied

Is the Israel-Hamas War really the deadliest? Second Congo War

3,000,000 civilians Iran-Iraq War

1,250,000 Lebanon Civil War

150,000 U.S.-Afghanistan War

46,000 civilians U.S.-Iraq-Syria War (ISIS)

350,000 civilians Syrian Civil War

300,000 civilians Darfur Conflict

300,000 Yemen Civil War

375,000 Israel-Hamas in Gaza 28,000 (using Hamas figures) including over 10,000 fighters Israel InSight • March 2024


wildly from the low six figures to over 600,000. Different reported on and treated as fact and history. organizations with different agendas have produced very Techniques like these account for the wide range of redifferent sets of numbers. And while many of those may be ported deaths from other conflicts. And then we can expect unreliable, there is at least a healthy debate. debates over the X curve and the correct readings of geneWhen it comes to Gaza, the media cites no figures other alogical records. The end results will be deeply dubious but than those of Hamas. And it insists at the same time that there will at least be some room for debate. There is little most of Gaza has been destroyed, its medical centers pulpoint in even debating the current numbers coming out of verized and its government shattered, and that this same an arm of a terrorist organization. system can not only be trusted, but is also somehow capable But what the debates will reveal is that, agenda or no of producing infallible statistics that don’t exist in any other agenda, we don’t really know. Wars and natural disasters regional conflict. are messy. People disappear, some uproot themselves and The numbers for the Iran-Iraq War vary by 1.5 million, some it will turn out never existed but were a mistake in the those of the Syrian Civil War and Tigray War by half a mil- records of an unreliable part of the world. lion, and yet somehow Gaza is the place where the numbers Palestinian Authority and Hamas numbers, including never vary and where a terrorist group got population figures and birth rates, have reit just right. That’s something even America flected political agendas, rather than reality. The numbers game can’t do. As have those of UNRWA, the U.N. agency distracts from one On Sept. 11, 2023, DNA testing identified dedicated to serving the “Palestinians” but two more victims of the original Sept. 11 simple moral precept: locally staffed by Hamas, so there will be attacks. After 20 years, 1,000 human replenty of bad numbers to drown out the Are civilians being mains are still unknown. The exact number good ones. deliberatey targeted of deaths from when Hurricane Maria hit “There are three kinds of lies: lies, in a war? Puerto Rico in 2017 is still being debated damned lies, and statistics,” Prime Minister and it took months to nail down the death Benjamin Disraeli once reportedly quipped. toll from the Maui wildfires. And yet somehow the medical The media’s coverage has offered plenty of all three. experts at Hamas can produce better numbers in a shorter But numbers in war mainly matter when it comes to outtimespan in a war zone than we can while at peace. comes of victory or defeat. The obsession with numbers in Casualty figures have always been the subject of propaconflicts is an unhealthy distraction from the real issues. ganda, and the most obvious symptom of propaganda is The moral calculus between the Allies and the Nazis in the lack of meaningful debate. Why does every regional WWII did not change based on how many German civilians war, including the Iraq War, have a wide range of estimated were killed in the bombings and artillery shelling on the deaths, but not in Gaza? Because there is no dissent. road to Berlin. The morality of the American Civil War was There is no dissent in Gaza or in the media which pubnot measured in civilian deaths, and neither is any other. lishes absurd claims that a few months of fighting have A nation is actively evil when it sets out to exterminate a somehow been more brutal than WWII or regional concivilian population. Whether it is WWII or the Hamas war, flicts which claimed millions. only one of the two sides was engaged in a war of extermiHow many died in Gaza? The real answer is that, like the nation. other wars, nobody knows. The morality of a war is not measured in civilian casualAfter the fighting there will be studies that will pump ties, but in deliberate civilian killings. up the estimated total even higher by using excess-death On Oct. 7 and in the months since, Hamas has engaged in statistics. Surveys of empty houses, heat maps or satellite the deliberate killings of civilians. Israel has not. The numimages will be used to estimate even higher losses without ber games are meant to be a distraction from that simple regard as to whether they reflect deaths or evacuations. fact. Local research based on anecdotal accounts and statistical Morality is defined by intent, not statistics. legerdemain will be used to bake a variety of faulty figures Via JNS, originally published by The Gatestone Institute. into a far more grandiose number than the current 25,000. Expect claims that will go as high as the low six figures to be


March 2024 • Israel InSight

Israel InSight • March 2024


After Oct. 7, many Christian groups took action By Liza Ashley

(JNS) — In the aftermath of the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre and the subsequent onslaught of antisemitism, Christians have an opportunity to write a new chapter in their history; one in which they show up as allies and friends of the Jews. Thousands of Christians around the world are doing just that. The long and painful history of Jewish-Christian relations has seen few heroes and many moral failures. Both Protestantism and Catholicism, at different moments in their history, adopted antisemitism as doctrine. One famous example was Pope Paul IV’s On Oct. 26, the Philos Action League distributed white roses to Cum Nimis Absurdum, in which he called for Jews Jewish institutions across the country as a symbol of solidarity to live in ghettos and wear identifiable garments so from the Christian community. This was received at Chabad they could be spotted from afar — ideas Hitler would at Tulane University. Wendell Shelby-Wallace of Philos said later coopt. the Tulane deliveries “were most special, considering what happened just moments before we arrived,” as three Jewish Around the same time, Martin Luther published students were injured by anti-Israel demonstrators just off “On the Jews and Their Lies,” in which he instructed campus. all Christians: “First, to set fire to [the Jews’] synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever safety on other campuses. Father Dave Pivonka, president will not burn, so that no man will never again see a stone or of the university, explained: “Our radical fidelity to Christ cinder of them.” and the Catholic faith demands of us fraternal charity toIn our own day, the nausea-inducing videos pouring out wards our Jewish brothers and sisters, as it does towards all of London, New York City, Sydney, Los Angeles and all over people.” the world serve as a wake-up call for anyone who naively At the same time, several Christian-led advocacy cambelieved “never again” meant never again. Since Oct. 7, an- paigns have worked to combat the shifting narrative and retisemitism has increased as much as 1,200 percent. center the massacre of over 1,200 Jews by Hamas. In Times Nonetheless, Christians are rising to the horrible occasion. Square, Christians United for Israel launched a national campaign with their “Don’t Look Away” ad, imploring peoIn recent weeks, Jewish university students have faced unthinkable threats and hostility. One of the most poignant ple not to forget the Oct. 7 atrocities. Since then, CUFI has continued to post educational content, call for prayers and examples came from Cooper Union College in New York encourage people to support Israel and the Jewish people in City, where several Jewish students were forced to hide in the face of antisemitism. the library while pro-Hamas “protestors” pounded on the locked door. At Cornell University, which has more Jewish On Oct. 26, the Philos Action League — a global network students than any other Ivy League school, a barrage of of Christians committed to combatting antisemitism — orcredible threats of murder, rape and other forms of violence ganized a day of solidarity. Hundreds of Christians showed against Jewish students led the police to lock down the uni- up in almost 200 cities around the world to bring a card and versity’s kosher dining hall. white roses — a nod to the Nazi-era White Rose resistance movement — to their local Jewish community. While the responses from these universities and many others have been lackluster at best, Franciscan University of The same week, Franciscan University and the Philos Steubenville announced the creation of an expedited trans- Project held a conference called “Nostra Aetate and the fer system for Jewish students fearing for their lives and Future of Catholic-Jewish Relations at a Time of Rising


March 2024 • Israel InSight

Mollie Adams and Springhill Avenue Temple Rabbi Edward Boraz lead Hatikvah at the end of Mobile Stands with Israel, coordinated by the Mobile Area Jewish Federation and local Christian leaders, and held on Nov. 2 at Cottage Hill Baptist Church. Among the speakers was new Pensacola Israeli emissary Mia Slonimski, and during the memorial prayer led by Ahavas Chesed Rabbi Steve Silberman, there was the reading of a lengthy list of names of people she knew who were murdered on Oct. 7.

Antisemitism.” The conference, originally scheduled to coincide with the five-year anniversary of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting, providentially aligned with the current crisis. The event featured many Catholic and Jewish intellectuals, and culminated in the “Coalition of Catholics Against Antisemitism,” the most robust Catholic theological document condemning antisemitism to date. It has so far been signed by more than 350 leading Catholic voices. In the quiet corners of their churches, thousands of congregations and worship movements big and small have voiced their support for Israel and stood in solidarity, generosity and prayer with their Jewish neighbors. The Evangelical worship movement Upperoom announced a “Night of Hope for Israel” in Dallas, Texas. Jentezen Franklin, New York Times bestselling author and lead pastor of the Free Chapel church, shared with his one million followers his congregation’s campaign to raise money to build an Eshkol Resilience Center in the south of Israel to help families affected by the massacre. The Friday following the attacks, Holy Nativity Episcopal Church in Georgia partnered with a local Jewish communi-

ty for a night of prayer for Israel. In Arizona, Christ Church of the Valley opened its services with a call for moral clarity. “I want to make one thing clear: Hamas is an evil terrorist organization that attacked Israel… They raped women. They burned babies,” lead pastor Ashley Wooldridge said. “And my concern as a pastor, when I look at the situation, is we can’t defend against evil if we don’t define evil, and it breaks my heart that there are so many people… even here in the United States, that will not acknowledge the evil that has happened.” Hundreds more churches, from California to New York and everywhere in between, showed similar solidarity. The darkness shows no sign of waning, but Christians everywhere have brought a ray of light by demonstrating their commitment to changing the script of Christian-Jewish relations. Perhaps, years from now, when history asks, “Where were the Christians?” we’ll finally be able to answer: “Right in the thick of it.” Liza Ashley is associate director of the Charles Malik Institute and regularly writes on topics relating to culture, religion and foreign policy. Israel InSight • March 2024


Some mainstream churches attempting to pull evangelicals away from supporting Israel By Etgar Lefkovits

(JNS) — A concerted effort is underway by some mainstream churches to convince evangelical Christians to be less supportive of Israel, the incoming head of an evangelical organization headquartered in Jerusalem says. Rev. Peter Fast, CEO-elect of Bridges for Peace, spoke in an interview with JNS last summer. The remarks come two months after the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem lambasted Israeli restrictions on the number of worshippers allowed into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem for the Holy Fire ceremony over Easter. News agencies fanned the criticism worldwide, only to have it later emerge that a church engineer had requested the limitations over safety concerns. “The big churches are using a very loud voice to malign, fabricate and twist the story to make Israel look like a human rights violator and oppressor of faith,” Fast told JNS. These efforts to depict Israel as infringing on Christians’ freedom of worship are an effort to influence evangelicals around the globe, who are seen as the main Christian supporters of the State of Israel, and need to be countered with education, he said. “Christianity in Israel is the only place in the Middle East which is growing and protected, while elsewhere in the Middle East it is oppressed, shrinking, vulnerable or leaving,” Fast said. But public opinion polls have shown a dramatic drop in support for Israel among young evangelicals in recent years. “It’s not just Israel,” said Rev. Rebecca Brimmer, who is stepping down from her role as head of the organization after 18 years. “We are losing young Christian people to secular humanism,” she said, attributing the survey results to a general trend of a decline in belief in their faith.

Loving Israel “is in our DNA”

Like the larger International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, Brimmer’s unabashedly pro-Israel institution, which has offices in nine countries, has gained a name over the years for promoting Jewish immigration and helping the needy and Holocaust survivors in Israel.


March 2024 • Israel InSight

Courtesy of Bridges for Peace

Rev. Peter Fast, CEO-elect of Bridges for Peace, and his predecessor, Rev. Rebecca Brimmer, in Jerusalem, June 13, 2023.

“There have always been two camps,” she said of the criticism of Israel among other church denominations. “Organizations like ours have job security thanks to Christian antisemitism.” Looking back at her time in Israel, Brimmer said that she has seen an “incredible change” over the last three decades in how Christians are perceived by the Jewish people as concerns over proselytizing and bitter memories of the past have been increasingly overshadowed by their active support for the Jewish state. “Israelis have started to understand that not all Christians are identical, [even if ] there is still a tendency to lump us all together,” she said. “Loving God and Israel is in our DNA,” Brimmer said at a Jerusalem event marking the change of leadership at Bridges for Peace, where she received accolades from Israeli leaders involved in interfaith relations. Josh Reinstein, director of the Knesset’s Christian Allies Caucus, told Brimmer at the event, “Your love of God and the Bible is only matched by your love of Israel.” He noted that Brimmer was a pioneer in faith-based diplomacy, predating the establishment of the cross-party parliamentary lobby two decades ago. The event, where Jewish and Christian speakers pledged to continue working together with the next generation of leaders, was in itself testimony to the burgeoning relations between Israel and the largely supportive evangelical community around the world.

Educational work ahead

“We are guilty of resting on our laurels and we have a serious educational task not to lay back but to pursue and renew in each and every generation,” said Rabbi David Rosen, international director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee. He has said Israel is living in “the golden age” of Jewish-Christian relations. Rosen ascribed the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate’s baseless criticisms and international campaign against Israel to struggles within the Church to please rank-and-file Palestinian members. “This is a narrow segment of the Christian world using false disinformation that no one is buying,” Rosen said. He said Israel also has work to do to speak out against all forms of racism. A recent uptick in isolated incidents of Jewish extremists from the ultra-Orthodox community spitting at Christians has been condemned by the two chief rabbis of Israel as recently as last week as well as by the Chief Rabbinate.

Brimmer noted the 180-degree change from such actions, which she herself routinely encountered three-anda-half decades ago, to words of thanks from Israelis for standing with Israel. Both Fast and Brimmer said it took time to repair centuries of Christian persecution of Jews. “Although the horrors and tragedies that have strained the relationship between our two communities for more than 17 centuries cannot be erased, we strive to form a new future of uncompromising love and support to the Jewish people,” Fast said.

Closing a circle

Brimmer recounted how as a little girl in the U.S. during the 1967 Six-Day War, her family sat on the floor glued to the TV screens at the direction of her pastor father as Israel reunited Jerusalem. “Look, girls,” her father told them, taking out his Bible and referencing the Book of Ezekiel. “It is happening in our lifetime.”

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Escaping the Nova Festival massacre Rosh Ha’Ayin resident recounts harrowing experience in surviving the Hamas attack Rosh Ha’Ayin, the Israeli sister city of Birmingham and Partnership2Gether community of New Orleans, may be relatively far from Gaza, but it is by no means unaffected by events of Oct. 7. The Partnership among the three communities held a multi-generational panel online to discuss life in the central Israel city aftr the Hamas attack. Located east of Tel Aviv close to the pre-1967 Green Line, Rosh Ha’Ayin has seen several red Alerts for incoming rockets from Gaza, and has reported several residents killed either in the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre or the subsequent military operations. Noa Kalash started the program by describing her experiences in escaping the Nova Dance Festival, the outdoor music festival near Gaza where about 260 were killed in a direct Hamas attack. She said she had been taking a break after telling the world about losing one of her best friends and barely escaping the festival herself. She went to the festival with her boyfriend, arriving right before sunrise, around 5:30 a.m. Noa Kalash She met Noam, her friend, “and we ran to the rave area. We started dancing together, and after 15 minutes of freedom, joy, dancing and beautiful people, I started seeing rockets over us.” The sky “was shining” from the rockets, fired indiscriminately from Gaza toward Israeli communities. The 3,500 in attendance did not know what to do, though they were aware of the possibility that something could arise from Gaza.

Photo by South First Responders

Burnt and abandoned cars at the site of the Hamas massacre at the Supernova Sukkot Gathering in southern Israel.


March 2024 • Israel InSight

She said they went back to their cars and she started driving back to Rosh Ha’Ayin, though driving during a volley of rockets is very dangerous. After a couple minutes, they saw the rockets were continuing, so they stopped on the side of the road and went into a small shelter near a bus stop to wait for calm. But after 20 minutes, she decided to try and go home “even though everything was still happening and it wasn’t safe.” Just 10 seconds after she headed out, cars in front of her started suddenly turning around, and she could hear shouts of “terrorists shooting.” She turned around, then stopped in the middle of the road as a friend told her he had been shot in the leg and needed help. “We started driving the other way, toward the entrance of the party… there was a huge traffic of cars getting out.” The friend found someone to help him, but they figured there were terrorists all around. “Security and police told us, just run, run to the fields, run and hide. They didn’t have anything else to tell us,” she said. She and her boyfriend, Maor, took off, and she called Noam to tell her to run away. “At the time,” she said, “we didn’t realize how many terrorists were in the area. We just figured it was a small terror attack. It’s sad to say, but it sounded like just another day in Israel.” Thousands of festival-goers were running, and “we could hear the terrorists running after us, shooting at us.” For a while, they hid in a bush. Then, they heard gunshots in the direction to where they had been running, and wound up turning toward an open field with nowhere to hide. “My boyfriend said no way we are running that way, we ran to the nearest bush we saw” and burrowed deep inside. They were there for the next eight hours. “We heard everything around us… helicopters, terrorists, shooting really close, we heard motorcycles passing close to our bush.” Another girl was hiding in a nearby bush. “After three hours, we heard them passing by and they kidnapped her. We heard them speaking Arabic, then heard a car, then silence.” Four different groups tried to rescue Noa and Maor, but some encountered terrorists and had to retreat. Still, when

Photo by Yossi Zamir/Flash90

On Oct. 25, surveying the aftermath of Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre at a music festival in southern Israel, where hundreds of young people were murdered and and kidnapped.

of the Muslim students in the university support terrorism they heard calls in Hebrew, they remained silent, lest it be a Hamas trick. Only after someone called out her name did and Hamas, it’s something I can’t pass by. they respond. She added that she was so deep in the bush, “These people killed my friends, these people almost Maor had to pull her out. killed me.” Her friend, Noam, was killed in the initial attack, but Noa Hilton Burke, a newer member of the Partnership comdidn’t know that until the following Saturday. “They just mittee, moved to Israel from Zimbabwe 23 years ago, and couldn’t recognize the body for an entire week.” spent two years in the Israeli army at the Erez crossing to Gaza, “the exact place where this happened.” She said she does not know where her friend was found, nor what happened to her. “It’s probably better that way.” On Oct. 7, his wife woke him up, and they could hear While she was still hiding in the bush, her 25-year-old the Tel Aviv sirens in the distance. A brother in Gadera sister was already being called up to her unit in the IDF. reported constant sirens and booms. They turned on the television to see what was happening, “what Noa said the current fight in Gaza “is not was frightening was seeing the number of about choosing sides, or ‘I stand with Gaza “These people those murdered going up,” and then the or Israel.’ I stand with humanity. I stand killed my friends, “atrocious” images on social media. with things that are bigger than politics.” these people Two or three rockets have landed in their She said it is not about choosing sides, “it area, and he says his 5-1/2 year old is scared is helping Israel and the Palestinian civilians almost killed me.” to go to sleep. “I can see the fear in his to fight against terror” and against “people eyes… I don’t know what to say other than who have pure evil. It’s something I can’t everything will be okay.” understand, how a human being is capable of doing what they did to my friends.” At work, his entire department is now called up. He told those on the call that “this nation is very strong. Your supBut living through that day affected her. She had spent a port to us is so powerful and so meaningful.” year traveling Central and South America, making Christian and Muslim friends without a second thought. She They also said it is important for people outside Israel to travels to Egypt every few months to hang out with friends be on their social media, amplifying their voices. “The more living there. She would go to the Arab town of Kfar Kaswho are exposed to it, maybe we will get something good sem, located between Rosh Ha’Ayin and the Green Line, “all out of it, where people will see what is happening day and the time.” night,” Monica Levy said. “Everything you see, make sure After what’s occurred, “it’s impossible to see a Muslim on you post it, tell people, pass the word.” the street and not be scared something will happen… we Burke said “if you could put something on your feed, can’t trust anyone. Things are different, and knowing some that’s most important. Being vocal.” Israel InSight • March 2024



9 Big Lies against Israel

and what they really mean

By Gil Troy

In 1917, California’s isolationist senator Hiram W. Johnson captured the cynicism of politics — especially during wartime. “The first casualty when war comes is truth,” he said, echoing earlier sages, as America embarked on a “war to end all wars,” which we now call World War I. While fabricating here and there may be every general’s pastime, Palestinian terrorists and their enablers have taken lying to a whole other level. Yet, despite building so much of their case on a foundation of falsehoods, they keep conning the world. Everyone “knows” that Israel occupies Gaza — despite Israel disengaging from it in 2005; that “From the River to the Sea” envisions a democratic Palestine — when it envisions an exterminated Israel; and, most outrageously, that hundreds of innocent Israelis, young and old alike, deserved to be massacred, maimed, raped and terrorized — while others deny all the evidence that the atrocities happened. This primer picks nine of the most popular New Big Lies Palestinians and their enablers propagate. Let’s leave the number 10 for more godly commandments, while stressing that despite being debunked repeatedly, these lies have countless lives.

“From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free”

lahs’ death cries seriously. It’s actually bigoted not to take them at their word, to decide “they can’t really mean that.” “From the River to the Sea” leaves no rooms for Jews — or the Jewish state.

“This is what decolonization looks like”

The world is a tough place. Over the centuries, powerful countries have colonized other places, sending explorers, then groups of settlers, away from the mother country to Give the Palestinians credit here: At least they’re honest. establish settlements, usually in order to extract resources. Well, some Palestinians prevaricate. They claim the slogan Inevitably, especially as national self-determination became imagines a secular democratic state with Jews and Arabs a virtue, colonization led to decolonization. living together. In fact, the phrase’s history is exclusionary On one level, decolonization is simply a historical proand exterminationist. cess, whereby people in the colonies rebel, or the empire In 1964, three years before the Six-Day War, the slogan collapses. Over the decades, scholars defined decolonizawas popularized by the Palestinian activists and terrorists tion as a state of mind, too. Frantz Fanon (1925-1961), born who founded the Palestine Liberation Organization. Their in Martinique, helped make decolonization trendy among war aims were not to liberate the “occupied territories,” some of the most settled and privileged people in the which Israel only secured three years later. They wanted — world’s richest and most expensive universities. and still do — to liberate the world from Israel itself. SimiAs a psychiatrist, Fanon observed that colonized people larly, since Hamas emerged in the late 1980s, the slogan has often internalized a sense of inferiority. As a revolutionary, been a Hamas and Islamic Jihad mainstay. he wanted those colonies to break free — even violently. Oct. 7 offered at least one clear lesson: If your enemy Considering violence cleansing, restoring some balance, calls for your destruction — your enemy is calling for your some dignity to the powerless, he called violence “man recdestruction. Jews should take the Palestinian death cries reating himself.” seriously, and Americans must start taking the Iranian mulFanon built on Marx’s binary, dividing the world between


March 2024 • Israel InSight

the oppressing ruling class and the oppressed proletariat. For Fanon, the forever-guilty oppressor was the colonizer, the forever-innocent oppressed was the decolonizer. For the colonized, Fanon preached, “there is no compromise, no possible coming to terms; colonization and decolonization is simply a question of strength.” Fanon remains remarkably influential today. Call them woke. Call them postmodern. Call them identitarians. Today’s campus commissars have combined Marx’s seesaw between the oppressor and the oppressed with Fanon’s colonizer-decolonizer dynamic and deification of violence. These people frame the world — and America — as being caught in a zero-sum power struggle. The oppressive colonizers in this Manichean, black-and-white world are always guilty, while the oppressed are forever pure and innocent, no matter what they do. Viewing the world through this distorting prism, Israel is always guilty, the Palestinians forever innocent. As a result, the Oct. 7 barbarian bloodbath was exhilarating, joyous, justified. One influencer even injected the Hamas-romanticizing term “settler babies” into the mix. To see the world this way requires much fanaticism, many simplifications, multiple distortions and, at the end of the day, a very, very bruised soul. But those blinders explain how so many feminists fail to see Hamas’s rape culture and child abuse, how so many liberals fail to acknowledge the despotism, how so many humanists fail to cry out in shame and horror as Palestinian marauders crossed every civilizational red line.

“Israel is practicing apartheid”

The Jews seem to have magical powers. Over the centuries, Jews attracted all kinds of labels: Jews were too rich and too poor, too capitalist and too socialist, too traditional and too modern, too anxious to fit in and too eager to stand out. Today, the Jewish state has similar plastic powers. As trends change, Israel is deemed guilty of the most heinous of national sins. Today Israel is a white-supremacist or, even better, Jewish-supremacist state, and a settler-colonialist enterprise. In the 1990s, Israel was racist, colonialist, and imperialist, as well as guilty of “ethnic cleansing” once the Balkan mess introduced that phrase into the international vocabulary. But since the 1970s, as the international community justifiably turned away in disgust from apartheid South Africa, Israel has been called an apartheid state. Apartheid was a system of racial differentiation — apartness — based on all kinds of racial classifications and perverse beliefs that whites and blacks and colored people were not equal. The Apartheid Wall in Johannesburg’s Apartheid Museum lists 148 laws sifting people into different racial

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categories to keep them apart and calibrate who deserved which privileges — and which restrictions. Israel has never passed one law defining people by racial categories. In fact, Israelis and Palestinians are involved in a national conflict, not a race war. Moreover, if Israel’s goal was an apartheid state, it’s done an awful job. Israeli Arabs enjoy equal rights and have served as Supreme Court judges, Knesset members, key members of the last coalition. With about 20 percent of the population, Israeli Arabs are overly represented in Israel’s medical system: About 20 percent of the doctors, as much as 40 percent of the nurses and 43 percent of the pharmacists are Israeli Arabs. Finally, if Israelis hate Arabs so much and see them as inferior, why was there so much excitement about the Abraham Accords, and why are Hamas and Iran trying to subvert a Saudi Arabian deal with Israel? Maybe Israelis don’t hate Arabs — but only pass laws protecting themselves against enemies who seek to destroy them?

Photo by Lev Radin/Shutterstock.

In an anti-Israel “Christmas is Canceled” protest, hundreds marched on Rockefeller plaza and in Midtown Manhattan on Dec. 25, 2023.

“Israel is carrying out genocide”

Genocide, literally tribe-killing, is defined as a systematic series of violent acts “committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.” For decades, Palestinians have been crying “genocide,” claiming Israel seeks to wipe them out. Yet the Palestinian population has at least quintupled since 1967, from just over 1 million to nearly five-and-a-half million people. Zionists are even worse at genocide than they are at apartheid. Pure hatred often involves projection: You hate in others what you hate in yourself, you imagine your enemies would do to you what you would do to them if you had a chance.


March 2024 • Israel InSight

These false cries that Israelis are targeting Palestinians for genocide reflect the sweeping, categorical and thus genocidal tendencies in the Hamas charter, in the Oct. 7 sadism, and in too many twisted corners of the Palestinian national soul.

“Israel is engaged in disproportionate bombing”

When terrorists attack your civilians, then hide behind their civilians, what can a serious military do? Inevitably, some of those human shields will die. Moreover, when you have an air force, and you have a choice between bombing an enemy from the air and sending your troops in door-to-door, what’s the moral call? A leader’s primary moral responsibility is to the led — and a defender’s primary moral responsibility is to defend those unfairly and viciously attacked. In April 2002, Israel chose to send reservists into Jenin to apprehend terrorists instead of bombing from the air, U.S.-style. The result was a Palestinian ambush that killed 23 Israelis. Israel’s supporters may have felt momentarily pure — but 23 families were scarred for life that day. When an enemy attacks and then cowers in mosques and hospitals and kindergartens and schools, those protected places become military objectives. Complaining about a “disproportionate response” from a regular army when fighting terrorists embedded in a city is in essence complaining about any response from the army. When your enemy calls for your annihilation, acts on it, then vows to try again and again, it’s unrealistic to expect no collateral damage. Let’s be clear: The moral onus for every death, every injury, every misfire, remains on Hamas for initiating this conflict. It’s unfair to forget that ultimately war is a clash of

powerful, ugly forces. If you want to win, it’s logical — and moral — for your own side to mobilize as much force as it can, within the bounds of reason of course, while not being immediately criticized, as Israel is.

“Israel has occupied the West Bank and Gaza since 1967”

In June, 1967, threatened by three Arab armies, Israel fought for its life and more than tripled its size. It won the Golan Heights in the north from Syria. It took over Gaza and the Sinai in the South from Egypt. And it reunited Jerusalem, while securing the biblical lands of Judaea and Samaria from Jordan — which had, ahem, occupied what it called its “West Bank” territories, with no international authorization, since the Jordanian Legion invaded to its west during the 1948-1949 Israel War of Independence. While Israeli governments over the years wavered, using various legal theories including the laws of occupation to define Israel’s relationship to all the territories, calling them “occupied” was triply problematic — especially to historians. First, in defending itself legitimately, Israel seized territory from a hostile neighbor with no legal claim on it. From 1949 to 1967, the Jordanian conquerors ignored the U.N. 1947 Partition Plan to make those areas an independent Arab state. The United Nations never recognized Jordanian sovereignty there, making the territories truly disputed, not occupied. Second, this was no colonial expedition, going to some exotic locale in pith helmets and safari suits. Jews had international rights to the territories and a deep history there, especially the biblical territories of Judaea and Samaria, which were deemed Jewish and open for Jewish settlement under the 1920 (often overlooked) San Remo conference and, subsequently, the British Mandate. Third, as Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan presciently noted in 1980, calling Israel an “occupier” implicitly compared Israel’s far more benign, legitimate and rooted policies “to the Nazi practice of deporting or murdering vast numbers of persons in Western Poland — as at Auschwitz — and plans for settling the territory with Germans.” This false comparison, Moynihan noted, played “perfectly into the Soviet propaganda position” and the Palestinian projection that “Zionism is present-day fascism.” Today, alas, the occupation preoccupation has become the main launching pad not only for the Bash Israel Firsters, but those hyper-critical Jews who habitually doubt Israel. Moreover, Palestinians use the words “occupation” and “settlements” promiscuously, to delegitimize anything Zionist. Israel is “occupied,” all of Israel. Every Israeli is a

“settler.” The plundered kibbutzim of the southwest Negev are “settlements,” despite lying in pre-1967 Israel, within the “Green Line,” the borders from the 1949 armistice with Jordan, hastily drawn in green pencil. This sweeping Big Lie helped legitimize Hamas’s savagery, deeming every Israeli, every Thai volunteer, every tourist an “occupier” deserving of any violence Hamas and the other Palestinian murderers could mete out.

“Israel’s so-called disengagement from Gaza just turned it into an open-air prison”

In 2005, Israel disengaged from Gaza, uprooting over 9,000 Israeli citizens living in 25 settlements scattered through Gaza and northern Samaria. Amid the anguish, military strategists lobbied intensely to keep a strip of land for defensive purposes — the Philadelphi corridor. The Duke of Disengagement, Ariel Sharon, resisted. He claimed that if Israel retained even one grain of Gazan sand, critics would claim it was still “occupied.” And he was confident that once Gaza was no longer occupied, Israel could live in peace as the Gazans prospered. If there is one word that best explains Israelis’ current frustration and fury, it is “disengagement.” Eighteen years ago, there were some weapons in Gaza, no tunnels and a limited terrorist infrastructure, because Israel still retained some control. Yet, almost immediately after withdrawing from Gaza, primitive Qassam rockets started bombarding Israel — while critics kept bombarding Israel with the o-word, the occupation charge. The violence against Israel — and the criticism — intensified when Hamas seized power in Gaza in 2007, killing fellow Palestinians brutally. Under the gun, now facing an implacable foe vowing to exterminate the Jewish state and the Jews — see the Hamas Israel InSight • March 2024


charter — Israel tried blockading Hamas. As a result, a whole series of lies burst forth: that Israel is occupying the territory it withdrew from completely (in fact, note how little control it had and how ineffectual its blockade was as Hamas built its deadly arsenal); that Gaza is the “most densely populated place on earth” (it doesn’t compare to Manhattan, Hong Kong, and other super-skyscrapered city centers); and that the Zionists have made it an “open air prison” or concentration camp (when you can see on a map that Egypt controls Gaza’s southern border, and know it keeps Gazans far, far away from Egyptians). In short, Israel did everything it said it would when it disengaged. In doing so, Israel betrayed many of its own citizens. Nevertheless, Israel ended up with no peace, no peace of mind and a piece of territory that became Hamastan rather than the Mediterranean resort it could have been if its governing body had put its generous international aid to good use. Today, Israel has on its border a hostile, seething launching pad for tens of thousands of rockets and marauders, exporting so much trauma and misery — while those responsible treat their own people as cannon fodder, too.

“Israel must agree to a humanitarian ceasefire”

In the Middle East today, that phrase may be the ultimate oxymoron — like a moral terrorist, a pragmatic Hamasnik, a feminist jihadist, a liberal-democratic Palestinian Authority member, a healthy cancer. For 18 years the world has yelled “disproportionate bombing” and keeps demanding “humanitarian ceasefires” whenever Israel defends itself. For 18 years, much humanitarian aid has been diverted to Hamas itself. After Hamas invaded and raided and shat-

tered so many lives, from an Israeli perspective, what would be “humanitarian” about a premature ceasefire? Diplomats and pro-Palestinian demonstrators say “humanitarian ceasefire.” Israelis hear “a chance for Hamas to regroup” and “more of the same.” Many Israelis wonder: “When do the hostages get such a pause?” Until the hostages are released, Israel cannot relent. Israel can move to ease the burden of the truly innocent stuck between Hamas and the IDF. Israel can set up field hospitals or temporary refuges in empty parts of Gaza, in Egypt, or even in isolated parts of the Negev. But let’s not kid ourselves: Hamas will take advantage of any break or kindness. At least one-third of the first wave of what was supposed to be foreign nationals evacuated to Egypt were wounded Hamas terrorists trying to sneak away. Fuel delivered by international organizations has long been hijacked by Hamas for its war machine. Some claim Hamas is a small group holding the peace-loving Gazans hostage. But if Hamas is abusing people, a humanitarian pause giving the terrorists a break increases Palestinian misery, too. It delays the liberation they need. In fact, most Gazans, like most Palestinians, celebrated the carnage on Oct. 7, and many zealously participated. So, yes, try improvising ways to help, to minimize civilian suffering. But the phrase “humanitarian aid” sounds like resupplying Hamas, and “ceasefire” sounds like letting the killers regroup.

“Israel must pursue a two-state solution”

In 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 181. It was epic, recognizing the Jewish right to a national home — a right rooted in the Bible, promised in the Balfour Declaration and San Remo redeemed through the blood, sweat and tears of Zionist pioneers who had already built an impressive infrastructure for the state that would be declared in May 1948. To treat — in the parlance of the time — the Palestinian Jews and the Palestinian Arabs fairly, the United Nations partitioned the area, envisioning a Jewish state and an Arab entity, while internationalizing Jerusalem, the Jewish people’s forever capital. The Jews found this compromise devastating. But Palestinian Jewry’s leadership, pushed by David Ben-Gurion, decided that half a loaf was better than none. Two years after the Holocaust ended, Ben-Gurion feared more bloodshed. The Jews needed a state. The day after the U.N. Resolution Source: X/Greta Thunberg. passed, as Jews finished singing and dancing, Arab rejecClimate activist Greta Thunberg (left) rallies on behalf of tionists rioted, trashing Jerusalem’s commercial district. Palestinians outside the International Court of Justice at That started an historic pattern. Again and again, the Jews The Hague, Netherlands, on Jan. 26, 2024.


March 2024 • Israel InSight

— and after 1948 what became the State of Israel — offered compromises, were willing to split territory, to cede territory. Yet again and again, the Palestinian leadership rejected it. No wonder the leading historian Efraim Karsh titled his book about the era “Palestine Betrayed,” emphasizing that Hitlerian extremists like the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem betrayed their own Palestinian Arab people. In 1974, the United Nations passed a resolution endorsing “two States, Israel and Palestine… side by side within secure and recognized borders.” Thus began this diplomatic Holy Grail, pursuing a “two-state solution.” The most dramatic attempt to achieve it — the Oslo Peace Process of the 1990s — ended in bloodshed, when after the Camp DaPhoto by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90. vid Peace Talks in 2000 Yasser Arafat rejected any Israeli soldiers remove the corpses of civilians in Kibbutz Kfar compromise and led his people from negotiation Aza, near the Gaza border, Oct. 10, 2023. right back to terror. lies we told ourselves. Admittedly under great international So yes, for decades there has been talk of a “two-state pressure (don’t just throw Bibi under the bus) Benjamin solution,” and many Israelis would love to see a territorial Netanyahu and Israel’s military, diplomatic and intelligence split. But, especially after Oct. 7, the phrase stings. It reeks establishment decided that Hamas was “pragmatic,” could of three lies — the lies they tell us, the lies the world buys be contained. After all, no credible person could really and the lies we tell ourselves. believe the rantings in Hamas’s charter using the Koran to First, when Palestinian diplomats and propagandists justify destroying Israel and killing the Jews. play the two-state game, they imply that once they have This is not to say that the problem is insoluble. At certain their territorial share, one of two states, the conflict will be moments, no one imagined peace with Egypt or Jordan or solved. But the Palestinian leadership consistently refuses the United Arab Emirates. But that particular slogan is too even to adjust its sweeping, all-or-nothing rhetoric promcompromised, and too associated with the lives and limbs ising to wipe Israel off the map. The Americans worked so and love and faith Israelis just lost. hard in the 1990s to get Arafat to change the PLO charter Clearly, the Palestinians and their propagandists have calling for Israel’s destruction — and were so desperate developed a whole lexicon, a series of talking points and to succeed — they overlooked what Arafat kept saying in Arabic, when he thought Bill Clinton and company weren’t slogans that distort words, negate history and obscure Palpaying attention. Again and again, especially Arafat in 2000, estinian intentions. Israel went along with these lies for too long, often bullied into guilelessness by a gullible internaMahmoud Abbas when he rejected Ehud Olmert’s comtional community. promise in 2008 and, most dramatically, Hamas in Gaza, showed no interest in a true “solution” that leaves Israel Oct. 7 was a nightmarish wake-up call. Israel must be intact. Hamas’s charter is explicit about that. moral — for its own sake, for its soldiers’ consciences and Today, the phrase is even more misleading and infuriating its national soul. The game of buying into Palestinian lies and international niceties ended when those terrorists because it’s usually used as code in the international community and certain parts of the Jewish community for “Isra- swarmed the peaceful kibbutzim and villages, sowing death el, just do the right thing, give them their territory ‘back’ and and destruction. The challenge now is creating a new realwe will have peace.” But, especially after Oct. 7, most Israelis ity — and a new lexicon to acknowledge that reality — and build a better, fairer and genuinely safer new Middle East know that the call on the Palestinian side is a ruse. Gazans had the potential to make a state. Israel and the internation- from there. al community would have showered peaceful, constructive Professor Gil Troy is an American presidential historian Palestinians with money. Instead, they turned their strip of and, most recently, the editor of the three-volume set, “Theland into a multi-layered stationary warship — and the inodor Herzl: Zionist Writings,” the inaugural publication ternational community still showered them with money. of The Library of the Jewish People. This piece was originally published by The Jewish Journal. Most upsetting, “the two-state solution” represents the Israel InSight • March 2020


State, local governments boost Israel Bonds investments Purchases seen as show of solidarity with longtime ally following the Hamas attack

Throughout the region, state governments are putting sury to $200 million. their money behind their words in expressing solidarity and On Feb. 8, Ohio State Treasurer Robert Sprague anconfidence with Israel. nounced the purchase of a $30 million, three-year bond. Several states are increasing their investments with the “Israel’s need for support remains as they continue their Development Corporation for Israel, also known as Israel fight against terrorism,” said Sprague. “Not only do Israel Bonds. In recent years, numerous states have legalized the Bonds help provide much-needed liquidity to Israel, but investments for a wide range of investment portfolios. their solid repayment history and competitive rates also Florida has announced several Israel Bonds purchases provide a sound investment for Ohio and a great fit on our since the war began. On Oct. 11, Florida Chief Financial bond ladder.” Officer Jimmy Patronis announced a $25 million investOhio currently holds $262.5 million in Israel Bonds. ment in Israel Bonds, making Florida’s holdings $80 milAlabama Governor Kay Ivey and Treasurer Young Boozer lion, the most the state has ever held. announced on Oct. 20 that the state will increase its Israel “Florida and Israel have deep economic and personal ties, Bonds investment. On Oct. 30, Boozer said the state will and our state unequivocally stands with Israel following the purchase $6 million in bonds on the Nov. 1 issue date, heinous Iran-backed terrorist attacks this week,” Patronis adding to the $4 million the state already holds since the wrote on Oct. 11. “To the people of Israel, Israeli AmerLegislature approved such purchases in 2016. icans, and Jewish Floridians across our state, Florida is The governor’s office said the proud to stand with you.” state had been “placed in the “Especially now as they are The clerk of Palm Beach County, of the list of institutional forced to fight against terrorists, forefront in an Oct. 11 visit to B’nai Torah buyers” for the new offering. in Boca Raton, announced a $25 they deserve our support.” “Alabama unapologetically and million investment in Israel Bonds. Louisiana Treasurer John Schroder unequivocally stands with our Joseph Abruzzo said they were the friend and ally Israel. I am proud first county in the nation to increase our state will increase our investtheir investment in Israel Bonds ment in Israeli bonds as they rightfully defend themselves since the war started. and fight for their people,” said Ivey. “The state of Alabama That was followed by the announcement on Oct. 31 of was the first state to recognize Israel as a nation, and we an additional $120 million in Israel Bonds purchases by will always support them as one of our closest and stronthe state. Saying he was proud to announce the additional gest allies.” investment, Patronis said “Israel Bonds are a prudent use Boozer spoke of Israel’s ability “to weather storms and of state funds and offer a consistently positive return on emerge stronger.” investment.” Georgia Governor Brian Kemp on Oct. 13 instructed Also on Oct. 31, Palm Beach County announced an addiTreasurer Steve McCoy to purchase an additional $10 miltional $135 million, “the single largest one-time investment lion in Israel Bonds, the highest amount available on the in Israel Bonds” as a followup to the $25 million earlier in market. After the purchase, Georgia will have $25 million the month. Abruzzo said “to make that investment with our in Israel Bonds, with the state having purchased an aggregreatest ally, in one of the safest investments we can make gate of $50 million, half of which have since matured. – as Palm Beach County’s treasurer and CFO, it’s a win.” Kemp led an economic mission to Israel in May, with his The county has an investment portfolio of approximately wife and three daughters. Part of the itinerary was areas $4 billion. where Hamas attacked on Oct. 7. At the Israel Bonds Prime Minister’s Circle Gala in Boca Kemp said “Israel is one of Georgia’s strongest allies and Raton in December, Patronis announced an additional $25 greatest friends, and our support for its people as they million purchase by the State Board of Administration, endure horrific attacks from terrorists is unwavering.” He bringing the SBA holdings to $60 million and the state trea-


March 2024 • Israel InSight

urged Georgians to pray or Israel’s safety and “swift victory.” On Oct. 27, Arkansas Treasurer Larry Walther announced an additional $10 million investment, bringing the state’s holdings to $57 million. Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, “Arkansas state government has taken every action in our power to support our friends in Israel in their time of crisis. Treasurer Walther’s purchase of $10 million in Israel bonds allows us to support that country in actions as well as words. Arkansas stands with Israel.” Walther added that “Those who bless Israel will be blessed, and those who curse Israel will be cursed.” Mississippi Treasurer David McRae issued a statement on Mississippi’s bond with Israel, saying “To say that I condemn these barbaric attacks is an understatement.” While he said as a treasurer of Mississippi, he has limited influence on foreign policy, he noted that starting in 2019 the state was allowed to place excess general funds into Israel Bonds. “Not only is this a safe investment, but it provides a higher rate of return compared to many other options,” he said. Since 2019, Mississippi has earned over $1.7 million on its initial $20 million investment. He also noted that the state has received investments

from Israel, such as Stark Aerospace in Columbus, which produces key components for the Arrow 3 defensive missile. “Now more than ever before, our friendship with Israel must be unwavering,” McRae said. Louisiana Treasurer John Schroder announced on Oct. 12 that he was directing the state to invest another $5 million in Israel Bonds. A 2004 law allows the state treasurer to invest up to 5 percent of the Louisiana Education Quality Trust Fund and the Millennium Trust Fund in bonds from other countries. “When called upon to support our friends, I am confident in executing my charge as Treasurer and investing more funds in DCI bonds,” Schroder stated. The $5 million brings Louisiana’s holdings of Israel Bonds to $30 million. Schroder also issued a warning to any Louisiana business owner contemplating a boycott of Israel. State non-discrimination provisions prohibit executive branch agencies from executing a procurement contract with a vendor engaged in a boycott of Israel. “Louisiana stands firmly with Israel, a country with which we enjoy mutually-beneficial trade relations and consider a faithful friend,” said Schroder. “Especially now as they are forced to fight against terrorists, they deserve our support.” Israel InSight • March 2024


On Nov. 7, South Carolina Treasurer Curtis Loftis anTexas conservatives and Republicans. He urged fellow Renounced a $30 million purchase of Israel Bonds, bringing publicans to review applicants’ social media before hiring. the state’s investment to $155 million since 2011. In Oklahoma, State Treasurer Todd Russ increased the “Israel has been a strategic economic partner of South state’s investment in Israeli bonds, purchasing a $10 million Carolina for many years, and this latest investment reafbond from the country in early November, bringing the firms our state’s financial commitment to support them state’s total investment to $62.5 million. during this war with Hamas,” said Loftis. “I am fervent in The Treasurer’s Office also invested in a $5 million bond my support of Israel and her people as they defend themin mid-October, according to Russ’ office. The Treasurer’s selves from these unprovoked terrorist attacks. We contin- Office has invested in Jubilee bonds from Israel since 2007. ue to pray for the families and victims being impacted by “As a trusted source of investment, issuing new bonds to this senseless violence.” Israel during the current wake of attacks will help rebuild Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced on Oct. 13 Israel’s economy and future of one of our greatest allies,” that the state is purchasing another $20 million in Israel Russ said in a news release. As state treasurer, Russ is reBonds, bringing their current holdings up to close to $100 sponsible for investing Oklahoma’s $5 billion portfolio. million. Texas has purchased Israel Bonds every year since Lara Blubaugh, digital media coordinator for the Treasur1994, with $140 million in er’s Office, said Jubilee bond purchases since 2014. rates are more lucrative than “They are our friend and bonds issued by the U.S. ally, and Texas supports their Treasury, and they’re always right to defend their people paid on time and in full. against these cowardly terAs of Oct. 16, before many rorists. We will stand with of these purchases were anthem, and we will provide nounced, Israel Bonds said them with the financial over $200 million had been liquidity needed to respond raised, “sending an emphatic to the atrocities we’ve all message of hope to the peowitnessed,” he said. ple of Israel and the global Hegar also reminded that Jewish community.” the state is prohibited from Before the war began, contracting with companies Israel Bonds was close to its engaged in boycotts of Israel. annual goal of $1 billion in There is currently a list of 11 sales — but one month after such companies at the comp- Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis receives the Prime Oct. 7, Israel Bonds reported Ministers Circle Award from Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague, the troller’s office. over $1 billion in sales from inaugural chair of the Israel Bonds Government, Industry, and Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick Financial Services Leadership Group, at the Israel Bonds gala in Boca that month alone. announced his campaign Raton on Dec. 18. Israel Bonds CEO Dani is purchasing $3 million in Naveh said the support from Israel Bonds. The amount is what he received this summer the U.S., which cuts across partisan lines, “is incredible.” from Defend Texas Liberty, which caused a controversy He noted that “the response across many U.S. states was when its president met with white supremacist Nick Fuentimmediate and demand exceeded the amount of Israel es in early October. Bonds that we were able to sell at that time. At the same House Speaker Dade Phelan called on Texas politicians to time, thousands of Jews from all over the world have been redirect funds they had received from that organization to expressing their support for Israel by also purchasing bonds pro-Israel groups. for themselves and on behalf of various organizations such as hospitals, emergency service organizations, and an orgaPatrick, who initially called the Defend Texas Liberty meeting with Fuentes a “serious blunder,” noted on Oct. 9 nization supporting Israeli soldiers.” that he had condemned Fuentes, “an avowed anti-Semite,” New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio were among the initial and is appalled at learning of antisemitism among some wave of purchasers, at $20 million each.


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Photo courtesy The Israel Guys/HaYovel

American cowboys volunteer in Israel, Nov. 23, 2023.

American cowboys create a stir volunteering in Israel Tennessee-based organization provides Christian volunteers to assist Israeli farmers

The agricultural warehouse at this farming community just east of the southern Israeli city of Ashdod, which (JNS) — MOSHAV SDE UZIYAHU — When the group has been repeatedly hit by rocket attacks from Gaza, was of four American cowboys with their trademark widebrimmed hats, leather belts with heavy metal buckles, jeans buzzing with activity on Nov. 23 with dozens of volunteers, including both Israelis and Americans, packaging nearly a and rugged boots walked up to the security check at the thousand cartons of just-picked produce from farms near El Al counter at New York’s John F. Kenedy International the Gaza Strip for delivery across the Airport in November, security at first country. “This is the most important time didn’t know quite what to make of But it was the cowboys carting them. to come to Israel for anybody the fresh cherry tomatoes, peppers, In an instant, the image of the that wants to help” parsley, celery and other assorted strapping 20-something cowboys vegetables who immediately stood on their way to volunteer in Israel out in the crowd. following the Hamas attacks on Oct. 7 went viral, and they With thousands of Thai agricultural workers who used to became a media sensation in a country at war before they work at the farms currently out of the country, Palestinian even boarded the plane. The atypical volunteers from America’s farming heartland laborers unavailable for security reasons, and more than 360,000 Israelis called up for military service, local farmers were heading to the biblical heartland. have been seeking any and all assistance so that their crops — their economic lifeline — do not go to waste. A symbolic lifeline for agriculture By Etgar Lefkovits


March 2024 • Israel InSight

“We are not staying home and doing social media but doing something here that needs to be done,” said Tennessee-born Britt Waller, 24, logistics manager of HaYovel, a Christian Zionist group that organized the scores of U.S. volunteers. Every year, the organization, which his father, Tommy, established in 2005, has brought hundreds of people to work the vineyards in the land of the Bible. “For 2,000 years, Christians thought ‘that’s it with the Jews,’ but now the question is what is going on with Israel, where prophecies are coming true,” Waller told JNS. When the war broke out, the group launched an emergency campaign for hands-on agricultural helpers among its former volunteers (“people you could trust with your life during wartime”) coupled with a fundraising campaign aptly named “Operation Itai” — after the non-Jewish biblical general who joined with King David — for needed equipment that has already brought in $2.5 million. “As soon as I heard what had happened in Israel, I felt I needed to be here,” said volunteer Samuel Wearp, 27, from Texas, who grew up on a farm and now works in his family’s business, Blessed Buy Israel, selling products from the biblical heartland. “I felt that it was my own people that this was happening to.”

Nov. 23 visit to the south, the central region, the Jordan Valley and Har Bracha in Samaria, where HaYovel is based. They have met with Israeli evacuees from the south and paid a condolence call to the Jerusalem home of Elisheva Rose Ida Lubin, the slain Border Police officer who was born and raised in Atlanta and was a huge cowboy fan; her cowboy hat and boots line her graveside (story, page 18).

In Israel at her hardest hour

“We always say we support Israel, but if you can’t be here in the hardest time then it’s not real support but just words,” said Luke Hutslar, 19, from Arkansas, who works in construction. The cowboys, who are spending their six weeks in Israel all on their own dime, said that they were stunned by the publicity their visit spawned and are awed by the appreciation expressed by Israelis and the intense feeling of both solidarity and unity permeating the country. “It is beautiful to watch the unifying factor,” Hutslar said. “Unfortunately, it takes hardships for this to happen. “People have been calling us heroes but we are not,” he said. “The real heroes are the guys in green,” he said of Israel’s soldiers.

Taking center stage

The group of cowboys hail from Bible Belt states in the United States: Montana, Arkansas, Texas and Tennessee. Volunteers and passers-by stop to take photos with them, their modest and humble demeanor in stark contrast with their VIP status nationwide. “This is the most important time to come to Israel for anybody who wants to help,” said Yose Strain, 22, from Montana, who was wearing a metal Star of David on his belt buckle and who normally trains horses and rides them in rodeos. “As soon as the war started, I said if there was any way I could make it then I would.” The group has been working in locations throughout Photo courtesy The Israel Guys/HaYovel the country including the A group of American cowboys travels to Israel to volunteer their services, Nov. 23, 2023. Israel InSight • March 2020


Damaging the symbol of the cross

Red Cross failure regarding Israeli hostages brings disrepute

By Jonathan Feldstein

There are reports circulating in Israel of high-level talks involving negotiations to release more of the hostages brutally kidnapped by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7, and held captive in Gaza since. Reports of the hostages’ conditions from the over 100 who have been released are horrifying. They have suffered physical and psychological torture, starvation, held in underground cages in complete darkness, and suffered violent sexual assaults including gang raping women. Speculation is that many are dead, as some of the hostages’ bodies have been found, littered across Gaza as if

trash rather than human beings. When Israel launched its military operation, it had two goals: to eradicate Hamas and remove it and its leaders from any ability to ever control Gaza and its population or threaten Israel, and to free ALL the hostages. Over the course of a week in November, Israelis were glued to the TV every night as Hamas paraded out more hostages, mostly women and children, under the voyeurism of the world media. But some 130 hostages remain in captivity: Arab and Jewish Israelis, and non-Jews of other nationalities. Still, many of the hostages are women and children, one of

Tenn. Christian group urges churches to halt Red Cross support A Hamas terrorist releases Israeli hostages to the Red Cross in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Nov. 28. As this has been the only role the Red Cross has played regarding the hostages, many have derided the organization as little more than an Uber. Credit: Flash90. A Christian organization in Tennessee is calling on all other Christian organizations to withhold financial support to the Red Cross and the United Nations because of how they have ignored their mandates when it comes to Israelis held hostage in Gaza. Laurie Cardoza Moore, president of Proclaiming Justice to the Nations, said on Dec. 19 that “Hamas has infiltrated hospitals and schools where they are holding innocent men, women, and children hostage and the International Red Cross has utterly failed in its mission to secure the release or even inform the Israeli government, as well as the other nations whose citizens are being held captive, of the status of the hostages. I am calling on the international Christian community to hold the United Nations and the International Red Cross accountable by withholding all funding until they do their job.” PJTN is an international Evangelical Christian organization whose mission is to educate Christians about their biblical duty to stand with their Jewish brethren and Israel against the rise of global antisemitism. It was recently reported in The Jerusalem Post that Ahmad Kahlot, the director of a Gazan hospital, admitted to joining Hamas in 2010 at the rank of brigadier general and divulged that Hamas had set up a military operations center in the hospital to attack Israel. Additionally, he admitted that many of the hospital staff


March 2024 • Israel InSight

doubled as members of Hamas’s al-Qassam Brigades, including doctors, nurses and paramedics. Cardoza Moore wondered, “did those paramedics happen to be members of the International Red Cross as well? Was Hamas using International Red Cross ambulances not only during the hostage exchange, but also in the hostage taking? This is ludicrous, and the world, including the UN Secretary General Gutierrez, remains silent.” Additionally, Reuters reported that the International Red Cross chief has stated that the crisis in Gaza is a “moral failure of the international community.” Cardoza Moore said “the last organization which should be judging the war as an ‘utter failure’ is the ICRC. Not only is the ICRC complicit in failing to do its part to end the atrocities against the hostages, but so is the United Nations after Israeli soldiers found UN bullet proof vests stored in a Hamas location in Gaza.” She also noted that the nation assisting with negotiations between Israel and Hamas is Qatar, which is one of the shareholders of the largest textbook publishing company in the world, Pearson/Savvas publishers. PJTN has been tracking antisemitic, anti-Israel and anti-America propaganda in those texts, which are used throughout the United States. She added, “it is clearly time for both national and international Christian organizations to publicly condemn these organizations and to withhold all funding from these supposed life saving and peace making bodies for their unmistakable human rights violations.”

Photo by Flash90

A Hamas terrorist releases Israeli hostages to the Red Cross, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, Nov. 28, 2023.

whom is a year old, doesn’t even know his name, and who one horrific difference. The Red Cross, which is supposed to has spent a third of his life in captivity. protect the welfare of hostages and others, provided vehicles with clear windows, not remotely attempting to provide While Israelis celebrated the return of all the hostages, we were impacted by the psychological warfare that Hamas any privacy or dignity for the hostages or their well-being. inflicted. Manipulating the hostages until the last moment, It’s as if they were flaunting their prime-time shuttling of hostages to get maximal world attention, and take credit, armed and masked terrorists “escorted” the hostages, inmore than doing their job. structing them to wave for the camera. It’s not the first time that the Red Cross The terrorists handed off the hostages to It’s time for Christians has abandoned its responsibilities, and the representatives of the International Comto re-claim what the Jewish people. During the Holocaust, the mittee of the Red Cross, as if batons in a Red Cross avoided taking more aggressive cross stands for, and it relay race, a scene rehearsed night after action on behalf of the Jews of Europe and night. Israelis who watched the spectacle isn’t abandonment even issued a report whitewashing the Nazi understood that Hamas was trying to apof the Jews concentration camp Terezin. Only decades, pear humanitarian, and that the Red Cross and six million Jews later, the ICRC admitwas inept, playing the role of useful idiot ted its wrongdoing. or complicit partner to Hamas’ evil. They did nothing until that point to see or assess the well-being of all the hostages, Watching the hostages being released put a spotlight not providing needed medical care, or anything else that is on the Red Cross’ inaction. Visiting Israel, the head of the not only their mandate but their responsibility. ICRC balked at taking responsibility for advocating on The ICRC’s mission is to “alleviate human suffering, pro- behalf of the hostages, claiming that Hamas won’t allow it, rather than insisting Hamas comply. In another shocking tect life and health, and uphold human dignity,” especially instance, a Red Cross representative horrifyingly chided during armed conflicts and other emergencies. It has an families of hostages to “think about the Palestinians.” annual budget of $2.4 billion. By their own measure of fulfilling its own mission, they have been nothing but an Looking at its (in)action today, it seems that the Red expensive abject failure relating to the hostages. Cross is spending more time defending its shameful record than it is actually doing its job. Early on I realized that the Red Cross was serving as nothing more than a glorified Uber service. Yet there was Israelis and Jews are typically not familiar with ChristianIsrael InSight • March 2020


ity, yet many have a reflexive negative stereotype based on millennia of persecution. Historically, Jews feared Christians, their churches, and were revolted by the cross and everything it represented as a symbol of hatred to Jews. At a time when Christian support for Israel and the Jewish people is at historically unprecedented highs, this should bother Christians deeply. I have asked Christian friends if it angers or hurts them to see the cross, the penultimate symbol of their faith, being used to promote discrimination against Jews and Israelis. It’s not a time for Christians to turn the other cheek, but to reclaim what their faith stands for as represented by the cross, and affirming that to be a Christian means to love and support the Jewish people. As much as it is shameful that the Red Cross has failed the Jews so abysmally again, another shame of the Red Cross is that the symbol of the cross has been hijacked by the ICRC to portray a negative reflection on Christians. As I saw the hostages being released, I saw terrorists hiding behind their masks, and the ICRC staff hiding behind the purported neutrality of their cross. I realized that while some Israelis will recognize the Red Cross’ symbol, for many it is equivalent to seeing something Christian. With many Israelis not knowing much about Christianity, or having much interaction with Christians, for many the treacherousness of the Red Cross complements the historic reality of Christians persecuting Jews. Even though the Red Cross doesn’t represent Christianity, it is time that Christians take back their cross and what it represents. I realize that some will find it unusual, even off-putting and say it’s not my place as an Orthodox Jew to tell Christians what to think or do. There’s surely something

to that. But because I am concerned about building bridges between Jews and Christians which includes breaking down barriers and how Jews look at and perceive Christians and Christianity, I care. Maybe it comes across with great hubris to say if I were a Christian I’d do so and so. Nevertheless, if I were a Christian, I’d: • Urge Christians to flood the virtual gates of the ICRC, demanding that they do their job and stop their history of antisemitism. • Implore Christians speak out publicly against the Red Cross, and its history of antisemitic bias that continues to play out today. • Tell Christians to stop giving to the Red Cross, anywhere, unless there is a complete and permanent overhaul of their anti-Israel bias everywhere. • Beseech Christians to sign the petition demanding that the Red Cross support the well being and freedom of ALL the hostages. I don’t know if it’s possible or has any legal basis, but if I were a Christian, I would initiate a lawsuit against the Red Cross, barring it from using the word “cross” or the symbol of a cross anywhere because of the slanderous way it reflects on Christians and Christianity. These are big wishes, but Jews and Christians worship a big God. If we come together, these are little things we can achieve. And if not, I am sure that $2.4 billion can be used better by defunding the whole organization. May all the hostages be released soon. Jonathan Feldstein is president of the Genesis 123 Foundation in Israel.

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Built in Mississippi, sailing for Israel Navy receives landing craft constructed in Pascagoula

On Aug. 8, the Israeli Navy received the first of two landAccording to the Israel Defense Forces, the team of the ing crafts built at Bollinger Shipyards in Pascagoula. landing craft consists of dozens of naval combat soldiers, with a quarter of them being female. The commanding offiThe ceremony dedicating the INS Nachshon was led by cer has the rank of Lieutenant Commander. the Commanding Officer of Haifa Naval Base, Rear Adm. Tal Politis, and senior officials in the procureThe IDF stated that the crafts “will act as ment delegation of the Ministry of Defense. a central pillar in adapting the Israeli Navy to the modern and multi-arena battlefield. Rabbi Steve Silberman of Ahavas Chesed in Among other things, the landing crafts will Mobile attended the ceremony, along with his serve as a logistical axis for transporting wife, Manette. Silberman said there were brief equipment as well as the soldiers in near and remarks, then the American flag was raised as far areas.” the Star Spangled Banner played. The American flag was then lowered, replaced by the Politis said the craft’s completion “marks a Israeli flag as Hatikvah was played. significant milestone in adapting the Navy to the modern battlefield.” “Jewish, Israeli, American and maritime history were changed at a shipyard in Pascagou- Rear Adm. Tal Politis, Haifa The Israeli Navy used landing craft from the Naval Base commander, la,” Silberman remarked. “A high-tech vessel beginning in 1948, but the last of their crafts designed and constructed in accordance with speaks at the ceremony was decommissioned in 1993 when it was Israeli specifications by American engineers and American determined that there was no need for newer models. In workers, financially underwritten by American foreign asrecent years, the Navy sought to restore that capability. sistance for Israel, showcases cooperation, friendship and a Vice Admiral David Saar Salama, commander in chief of shared goal of Israel’s safety and wellbeing.” the Israeli Navy, told the first crew of the Nachshon that The project began four years ago, and was financed they “have a great privilege today, writing a chapter in the through U.S. military aid to Israel, almost all of which must history of the Israeli Navy.” He referenced the craft’s name, be spent in the United States. The Nachshon is about 95 as a midrash says that the Red Sea did not part when Moses meters long, 20 meters wide and weighs about 2,500 tons. waved his staff over it, but only after Nachshon wandered It arrived in Israel on Sept. 28, just before Sukkot, accominto the sea up to his head. “You are the pioneers of the way, panied by missile ships, a submarine and regular security the first to jump into the water and carve a new path in the vessels of the Israel Navy. heart of the seas,” Salama said. Israel InSight • March 2020



Native to the Land

Indigenous groups from around the world open Indigenous Embassy in Jerusalem By David Isaac

(JNS) — Wearing colorful traditional costumes, native peoples from around the globe made speeches, sang, danced, beat drums and, in one case, sounded a giant ram’s horn on Feb. 1 to celebrate the inauguration of the Indigenous Embassy Jerusalem. The embassy will serve as a much-needed antidote to the false claims by the Palestinians that there is no evidence of any Jewish life in Israel prior to 1948, when Jews ostensibly arrived as colonialist invaders. The embassy is in part due to the efforts of the Indigenous Coalition for Israel, a New Zealand-based group founded by native Maori to counter the false narrative about the Israel-Palestinian conflict that has “taken hold amongst indigenous peoples” and “has often bled into antisemitism,” its website says. “We recognize that Jews are the indigenous people of

this land, and we stand with you and your struggle,” ICFI co-founder Sheree Trotter told the 200-plus audience, noting that the Land of Israel is the place where the Jewish “nation was forged, its language and sacred literature developed, the beliefs, customs and traditions began. It is the most sacred place in the world to Jews… This deep connection to a particular land and its ancestors are defining features of indigeneity.” Trotter expressed her hope that the embassy would become an information hub and welcoming space for indigenous peoples visiting Israel, and act as a center to “galvanize” global indigenous support. The embassy will develop a digital production department to counter misinformation about Israel prevalent on social media and “to tell the story of our indigenous friendship.” The embassy will also host academic symposia and become a tourist attraction. “We plan in time to have an NGO presence at the United Nations,” she added.

Native American tribes establish ties to Israel In November 2008, the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana signed a formal declaration establishing ties. The tribe has done trade missions to Israel, looking to diversify their businesses. The Coushatta also declared May 14, Israel’s independence day according to the secular calendar, as Stakayoop Yanihta Yisrael, the Day to Honor Israel. For many years, Chief Joseph Riverwind of the Arawak Taino Nation, and his wife, Laralyn Riverwind, ambassador-at-large for the Georgia Tribe of Eastern Cherokee, have been building bridges with Israel. They told the Jerusalem Post that they were inspired by the story of an exiled people who returned and rebuilt their homeland and traditions. They bring indigenous groups to Israel to help counter the spread of anti-Israel narratives. In September 2020, the Northeast Alabama Cherokee issued a declaration of support for the “sovereign Jewish nation” of Israel and the recognition of Jerusalem as the eternal, undivided capital of Israel. Since then, tribal Photo courtesy John Buhler/AITF leaders have taken part in numerous Israel ceremonies Northeast Alabama Cherokee Chief Larry Smith and Seth in the region, from the Alabama Capitol to the region’s Penn with the declaration of ties with Israel, September 2020. Israeli Consulate, and with local Jewish communities.


March 2024 • Israel InSight

The opening of the Indigenous Embassy Jerusalem, Feb. 1, 2024.

While not an embassy in the ordinary sense — it will not represent governments of the indigenous peoples’ host nations or the indigenous peoples themselves — it has been recognized as an embassy by the State of Israel. The audience cheered when they learned from Gil Haskell, Chief of State Protocol for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, that the Indigenous Embassy was the 100th embassy to be opened in the Jewish state. The embassy will be hosted at the Friends of Zion Museum in the center of Jerusalem. Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, deputy mayor of Jerusalem, told JNS that when she was approached by indigenous groups wanting an embassy she immediately knew where to go. “I called up the Friends of Zion Museum and said here’s an opportunity to change the narrative that Jews are somehow foreign occupiers of our own land.” “We are grateful to the ICFI leadership for pursuing this initiative, especially during a time of war. The Jewish people are the indigenous people of Israel, and so we are thrilled with the support of the global First Peoples community,” Hassan-Nahoum said. Mike Evans, founder of the museum and a well-known Christian evangelist, told JNS he agreed right away. “I said yes, 100 percent. Our vision is to build bridges. And this was a huge bridge. There are almost a billion indigenous people in the world. This has great potential,” he said. “The Bible says, ‘Comfort ye my people, saith your God’,” Evans told those gathered, quoting Isaiah 40:1. “You’re go-

Photo by Yossi Zamir

ing to be an enormous comfort to the nation of Israel. And you are going to be the ambassadors to your nations.” Many of the indigenous representatives present similarly were motivated by religious belief. Xami Thomas, a representative from the Khoi, an indigenous people numbering some 15 million and divided into 20 or so tribes spread throughout southern Africa, Botswana and Namibia, told JNS, “Remember, God said to Moses, ‘Go tell Pharaoh that Israel is my firstborn,’ so we regard Israel as our big brother. And we love the Jewish people… We don’t just see this as a way of coming to support Israel but also to make sure to let Israel know that her enemies are far fewer than her friends.” Addressing the audience, Thomas apologized for “the horrible thing that the ANC [African National Congress] government did to this glorious nation. We are sorry. They do not represent all the Khoi or all the people of Southern Africa. They did not consult us and the allegations are without any substance,” referring to the genocide case his country brought before the International Court of Justice in The Hague. “Anybody who says that Israel is not indigenous doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Because if Israel is not indigenous there is no indigenous nation on the earth,” said Thomas. Greg Motu, a pastor of a Baptist church in New Zealand and a member of the Maori tribe, also spoke of the spiritual influences that brought him to support Israel. When the British missionaries arrived, they taught the natives “the Israel InSight • March 2024


word that Hebrew men had written over centuries, over thousands of years.” “Thank you for the culture and your history that you’ve preserved. It’s changed us,” he said. Ate Moala, the representative from the Pacific archipelago of Tonga, described how in the 1700s Tonga’s king accepted the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. “And [the king] said, ‘I give you my people for your protection.’ And he said, not only for him, but for every Tongan that comes after him,” she said. Moala brought a message of comfort from the king and queen of Tonga, who said that the God of Israel who delivered his people before will do so again. “He will protect you during this difficult time in the war with Hamas and Hezbollah,” she said. Among those in attendance were indigenous people from Tahiti, Hawaii, the Cree of Canada, the Hopi tribe in Arizona, the Arawak Taino from Puerto Rico and the Georgia Tribe of Eastern Cherokee. Expressions of support also came from American Samoa, Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands and Taiwan, as well as Native American chiefs and paramount chiefs from Southern Africa. The event included a blessing by the indigenous representatives over the Jews present, and the unveiling of the embassy’s plaque. There was a festive atmosphere with plenty of spontaneous dancing. The evening’s emcee, Channel 12 anchor Ofer Hadad, who frequently attends such events, said, “Let me just say that this is the most unofficial official ceremony I’ve been to.”

However, the significance of the moment was not lost on the attendees, who felt they were taking part in something historic. Ateret Shmuel, director of Indigenous Bridges, a group dedicated to advancing indigenous communities globally, said, “Many years now I’ve worked in some capacity for the rights and well-being of indigenous peoples around the world. But only relatively recently did I begin to work for the rights and well-being of mine.” As a career activist, she continued, “I watched in horror as people that I have known for decades, people who claim to care about human rights and indigenous rights, saw the worst genocide against Jews since the Holocaust, and took to the streets to support it.” They chant slogans for Israel’s destruction claiming that it occupies someone else’s land, she added. “We are called Jews because we are from the land of Judea. This land is a part of our basic identity and the soul of our people. It’s a part of us and we are a part of it,” said Shmuel. “It’s not about ownership. That’s a colonialist concept. It’s more about stewardship and responsibility. We are responsible for maintaining the well-being and perpetuity of the lands that we are indigenous to.” After seeing so much hate, she said it was heart-warming to witness “representatives of your ancient and beautiful, rich indigenous nations take the time and energy to drop everything on such short notice and fly across the world to extend your hands in friendship and partnership and stand with us in this difficult, complex and pivotal moment in history. It’s clear that something powerful and epic, I daresay biblical, is taking place here.”

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Israel InSight • March 2024



Pastor John Hagee speaking at the 2022 Christians United for Israel Washington Summit.

Pastor John Hagee

Founder of Christians United for Israel by Menachem Wecker (JNS) and IIS reports

As an 8-year-old boy, John Hagee sat at the kitchen table listening on the radio to the formation of the modern-day State of Israel in 1948. “Never did I think that I would one day stand in the holy city as a participant in history,” he told JNS. “I was simply awestruck.” One of the best-known Christian Zionists, the pastor — founder and chairman of Christians United for Israel — has met all 11 Israeli prime ministers since Menachem Begin, including Benjamin Netanyahu, whom he has known since 1985. But the pinnacle of his Israel experiences — what he calls participating in history — came in May 2018 when David Friedman, then Washington’s ambassador to Israel, invited Hagee to offer a prayer at the opening ceremony of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. That was an “exceptional honor and privilege,” Hagee told JNS. “Since CUFI’s founding, our position has always been that Jerusalem is the eternal and undivided capital of Israel, and the U.S. should acknowledge that in word and deed.” In a wide-ranging interview with JNS, Hagee reflected on


March 2024 • Israel InSight

Photo courtesy CUFI/Oren Cohen

why he first visited Israel in 1978 and what it has been like to return countless times over the past 45 years. He also discussed his decision to become a man of the cloth and, over the years, one of Israel’s most prominent supporters.

At home in a foreign land

Growing up in East Texas, Hagee aspired to serve in the military, and he received an appointment at 17 to go to West Point. “Ministry was the farthest thing from my mind,” he told JNS. One night at a church service that initially felt like thousands before it, he felt the desire very strongly to know God. “From one breath to the next, I could not imagine my life without Him,” he said. “Everything changed.” Hagee turned West Point down to attend seminary. In March 1958 — just before he turned 18 — he preached his first sermon “and never looked back.” As a devout Christian, he made no distinction between biblical and contemporary Israel. “The modern State of Israel is, and has always been, central to my worldview and my faith,” he told JNS. “I learned Israel’s story as found in the Bible and her history as found in the pages of books, and still learn and study her contemporary challenges as described in the pages of newspapers and articles.” In a 2007 interview in Hadassah magazine, he recalled an evening in his childhood when his usually unemotional father was listening to the radio broadcast of the United

Nations voting on the establishment of Israel. He had tears in his eyes, calling it the greatest day of the 20th century. It was not until 1978, when he was in his upper 30s, that Hagee had the financial means to travel the world, and he opted to visit Israel for the first time. He wanted to see where Jesus had lived and taught, as well as visit the Sea of Galilee and the Western Wall. “It is foreign to arrive in a foreign land and feel completely at home, and it is unusual, yet impossible, not to leave a piece of your heart in the land once there,” he told JNS. “I arrived in Israel a tourist, and I left a Zionist.” There is no substitute for visiting Israel, but one need not travel to the Holy Land to “understand its vital importance to all Christians, appreciate its modern incarnation and love its people,” Hagee said. “Since the time of God’s covenant with Abraham, Israel has always and forever shall be.” On his visit to Israel 45 years ago, Hagee experienced a “turning point in my life,” standing before the Western Wall for the first time. “As I prayed, I looked to one side and saw a Jewish man engaged in fervent prayer. And in that moment, I came to understand that he and I were spiritual brothers, but that I knew very little about him, and he may very well be scared of people like me,” said Hagee. “In the subsequent days, I bought as many books as I could to understand as much as I could about the history of the Jewish people.” He came to appreciate the extent of Jewish suffering under those claiming to bear Christianity’s banner. He talked to his wife Diana (née Castro) and arrived at a decision.

“While I didn’t know how or what exactly we were going to do, the Lord had placed it upon my heart to be a healing and uniting force between Jews and Christians,” he said. In 1981, he hosted the first Night to Honor Israel, and in 2006, Hagee founded Christians United for Israel. “Today, I believe CUFI’s greatest achievement is that its existence has changed the way many Jews and Christians regard each other,” he said. “Now more than 10 million Christians have come to understand the importance of standing with our Jewish brothers and sisters in both good times and bad.” It wasn’t easy. Hagee is fond of recounting how the first Night to Honor Israel came about. In June 1981, Israel had bombed the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq, where Saddam Hussein’s regime was reported to be working on a nuclear weapon. Israel was condemned around the world, but Hagee was convinced Israel had done the world a favor, and decided to organize an event to publicly thank Israel. He invited numerous churches to take part, and got no response. He then approached the Jewish community in San Antonio. After initial skepticism, they joined in the event, leading to Hagee’s long friendship with Rabbi Aryeh Scheinberg, who died in 2021. Hagee received a lot of hate mail over the event, and the evening itself ended with a bomb threat. He vowed to keep holding the event each year, until the antisemites “get used to the fact” that it wasn’t going away. When the United States-led coalition faced off against Iraq years later after the invasion of Kuwait, they were thankful to not be facing a nuclear-equipped Iraq. In February 2006, when Israel was again facing threats, he called on 400 Christian leaders from around the country, giving them two tasks — speak with their Congressional representatives about the importance of Israel, and hold a Night to Honor Israel in every state. That was the formation of Christians United for Israel. The next year, he was the keynote speaker at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee national conference.

I arrived in Israel a tourist, and left a Zionist

‘More times than I can count’

Photo courtesy CUFI/Oren Cohen

Pastor John Hagee and wife Diana welcome Ukrainian refugees to Israel.

“I’ve been privileged to have visited Israel more times than I can count,” Hagee told JNS. “What is most unique about Israel is not how it has changed, but how it has retained its character and ethos.” Israel has grown dramatically over the past nearly Israel InSight • March 2024


half-century. “Its modern cities have grown from nearly nothing at all,” he said. “The desert has truly bloomed in the Jewish state. Israel has become one of the most prosperous and powerful nations in the world.” Yet the core values that drive Israel and protect it have not changed in the 45 years Hagee has visited, he said. Stateside, however, Christian views of Israel have evolved quite a bit. Christians have long doubted that their faith had much of an impact on Israel, and did not translate that faith into action, Hagee said. That has changed. “Millions of Christians across the country have come to understand that our mandate is not to just pray for something to happen — though this is vital — but also to be agents of change for something to happen,” he said. “Yes, we pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and we also do what we can to confront and combat antisemitism, whether it be in churches, communities, campuses or Congress.” Hagee Ministries has donated more than $120 million to Israeli humanitarian causes, and more than $9 million to help Ukrainian Jews make aliyah, according to Hagee. “Support for Israel amongst Christians is a deeply-held religious belief, but without education about Israel’s modern struggle, there could be no action in support of the Jewish state,” he said. An overwhelming majority of evangelical Protestants (79%) view Israelis favorably, as does 69% of mainline Protestants, and 69% of Christians overall, according to a Pew Research Center report released in April 2019. (Among those groups, positive views of Palestinians were much lower: 35%, 38% and 41%, respectively. Meanwhile, 57% of the religiously unaffiliated viewed Israel favorably, and 54% saw Palestinians favorably.) As Christians become more “biblically literate,” they reject replacement theology, which holds Christians to supersede

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Jews, and as they learn more of Israel’s ancient and modern history, many become pro-Israel activists, Hagee told JNS. He declined to comment on domestic Israeli issues, such as judicial reform, which has divided many Israelis. “Israel is a democracy, and, as in all democracies, there are times of great challenge,” said Hagee. “But at the end of the day, truth will find its way and will bring unity and healing to the nation.”

‘God’s grace and time’s march’

Hagee has brought thousands of Christians to Israel over the years and has found common themes in their experiences. “Israel releases a healing force that heals the body and comforts the soul,” he said. “There is not a time that one soul has left that sacred soil without having been changed forever.” One standout Israel experience came in 2021 on a visit with Nikki Haley, then-U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and now a Republican presidential candidate. Hagee remembers vividly when Haley hugged a woman whose home had been destroyed by one of thousands of Hamas rockets. “There, amidst all that destruction and pain, these two women from wildly-different backgrounds understood each other completely. I saw in Nikki’s eyes how deeply she felt for this woman, and I was moved as I witnessed this brokenhearted woman find just a bit of comfort in that heartfelt embrace,” he said. Hagee encourages all people of faith to do “everything in their power” to visit Israel but said trying to describe a first visit to Israel is like attempting to convey adequately in words what it’s like to hold one’s child for the first time. “There are two constants in this world: God’s grace and time’s march. It doesn’t seem like my first visit to Israel was so long ago, but my focus is on each day and the days ahead,” he said. “Every trip to Israel is more meaningful than its last, and every time I leave, I am eager to return.” He takes large groups “to discover the joy and beauty of Israel.” “The memories and moments that stand out from my visits to Israel could fill a book,” he said. “I pray for the peace of Jerusalem. And because my hope is in God, I know Israel shall remain strong and prosperous, and I have every confidence that Israel’s best days are ahead of her.”

By Steven Leonard/Auburn

Coach Bruce Pearl with players from Auburn and the Israel U-20 squad before their August 2022 game in Israel.

Coach Bruce Pearl “loud and proud” about Israel Auburn basketball coach works to bring people of different backgrounds together With hostility to Israel prevalent on so many campuses around the country, it might seem hard to believe that a college basketball coach would lead chants of “Am Yisrael Chai,” the people of Israel live. But Auburn’s Bruce Pearl isn’t one to sit down and be quiet. Recently, he has been navigating a time where his attention is split. It is the thick of basketball season, and he has guided a team picked sixth in the Southeastern Conference in the preseason into a contender for the conference championship, ranked No. 14 at press time. But he is also heavily involved in defending Israel, as a prolific Tweeter and frequent speaker. Especially during the offseason, he speaks about Israel at churches and synagogues, and marvels at how amazing America is, that he can coach basketball and be embraced as an outspoken Jew in Alabama. At the Final Four in 2019, Pearl said he is grateful for “the religious freedom I have to be a practicing Jew in the

Christian community. I can tell you down South it is so comfortable there because we share the same God. And my Christian brothers embrace that. It’s a wonderful thing.” Pearl was born in Boston in 1960, and from an early age wondered why different people could not just get along. Sports was where he found the best form of coexistence — he said it did not matter what color someone was, “can you guard somebody? Can you rebound?” Though a great athlete as a child, he did not play basketball in high school, as a football injury his freshman year ended his competitive career before it got started. He decided to attend Boston College, figuring “I’m going to show them Jewish kids can be tough, we can get along.” He added, “That’s what I’ve been doing my whole life, trying to break stereotypes down.” He became a manager for the men’s basketball team after failing to make the team as a walk-on, and soon became an assistant coach. After graduation, he was an assistant coach at Stanford and Iowa. In 1992 he became head coach Israel InSight • March 2024


at Southern Indiana, taking a team that won 10 games the Recalling the 2009 Games, Pearl said “the experience our previous season and going 22-7, on the way to nine straight players had there was off the charts.” It was also his first tournament appearances and four conference titles. In time in Israel, having intended to go earlier, but basketball 1995, they won the Division II national championship. got in the way. Now, he frequently travels to Israel. He took over Milwaukee in 2001, winning conference “To take 12 Jewish men to Israel and to come back to the tournaments and getting to the Sweet 16 in 2005, and in U.S. as mensches was incredibly meaningful,” he said. “To a foreshadowing of his SEC days, included a tournament wear USA on our chests and to have a Star of David in our upset of Alabama, and going full circle, defeating Boston hearts was special,” he said in a 2019 interview. College in the next game. Pearl then left for Tennessee, where he took a 14-17 team Blazing Basketball Trails in Israel In 2022, Pearl was able to fulfil a long-time dream of takto a program-best 22-8. In 2008, he became the sixth-fastest ing his college basketball team to Israel. coach to win 400 games. A recruiting scandal forced him out in 2011, so he spent time as a marketing manager for a College teams can take one international trip every four company in Knoxville. years, and Auburn’s most recent trip was to Italy in 2017. “These foreign trips have been one of the greatest teaching In 2013, he spoke at a basketball tournament for Cooper moments I have been a part of in 40 years of coaching colYeshiva in Memphis, where he apologized to the students, lege basketball,” Pearl said. “Israel has not saying he felt that he had let those students been your typical destination for college down by reaching the pinnacle of the basFor college basketball basketball teams. Yet, Israel is one of the top ketball world as a Jewish coach, and then teams, “Israel has 2 or 3 countries in the world in its quality with one bad decision threw away his posiof competition and support for professional never really been tion as a role model. basketball,” which he said is important, as an option, and now After three years out of coaching, he was many universities have a hard time finding hired by Auburn in 2014. He vowed to reit is a great option.” quality opponents on overseas trips. build Auburn’s program, but his first season In 2008, he took his Tennessee team on a there was his first with a losing record as head coach. trip to the Czech Republic and Germany, and included visBy 2017, things had turned around, and the 2017-18 team its to the Dachau and Theresienstadt concentration camps had the best record in two decades. In 2019, Auburn became the second team in history to defeat the three winnin- on the itinerary. In a 2008 interview with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, he said he visits a concentration camp gest programs in a single season, Kansas, North Carolina every time he goes to Europe, and many of his players didn’t and Kentucky. That season, Auburn also became the first know anything about the Holocaust. team from the state to make the Final Four. “For me as a coach and a teacher, my whole thing is to His passion for Israel comes from his grandfather, Jack bring my team together, to accept each other’s differences, Perlmutter, who came to America from Europe in 1909, and to tolerate one another, and that helps us become a great worked as a plumber. team,” he explained. “During Israel’s Six-Day War in 1967, I saw my Papa cryWhen he got to Auburn, he was determined to put Israel ing as he watched the evening news. He told me about Israon the map for universities looking for an overseas experiel and how she was under attack,” Pearl said. He was afraid that if he went to bed, when he woke up the next morning, ence. Before then, Connecticut was the only Division I-A team to go to Israel, in 1998. The Toledo women’s team Israel would not be there. traveled to Israel in 2011, and the Wheaton (Ill.) College “I sense that my Papa was passing down to me, his only men’s team visited Israel in 2016. grandson, a love for my heritage and for Israel.” Working with Athletes for Israel, he called the trip BirthIn 2009, Pearl coached the U.S. men’s basketball team to right for College Basketball, after the Birthright Israel trips a gold medal in the World Maccabiah Games in Israel. His organized for Jewish college students, and said that after son, Stephen, now Auburn associate coach, played on the Auburn’s groundbreaking trip, Israel will become “one of 2009 team, and was an assistant coach on the gold medal the most sought after and impactful foreign trips in the winning 2017 team. future.” Played every four years, the Maccabiah is known as the The first-ever Israel trip by a Power Five team was broad“Jewish Olympics” and is one of the largest international cast back to the States on ESPN. sports events in the world.


March 2024 • Israel InSight

In 2023, Arizona and Kansas State made the journey to Israel, and expanded it into an Abraham Accords event as the first-ever American college basketball teams to play in the United Arab Emirates. When Auburn arrived in Israel, one team member — Lior Berman of Birmingham — was already there, having participated in the Covid-delayed 2022 Maccabiah Games, where the U.S. team won its fourth straight gold medal, going back to Pearl’s 2009 team. Auburn played three games in Israel. They defeated the U-20 national team in Jerusalem on Aug. 2, 117-56. On Aug. 7 in Tel Aviv, the match against Israel’s All-Star Select Team was tighter, but Auburn pulled away in the second half for a 107-71 win. The biggest challenge came in the final game, against Israel’s national team. The national team, which would represent Israel if it qualified for the Olympics, is comprised of professional players, led by Deni Avdija, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft, and current Washington Wizards player. He led the game with 25 points. Former Boston Celtics draft pick Yam Madar was also on the team, and scored 24. Still, Auburn held its own, leading 41-40 in the

second quarter and cutting its deficit to one in the fourth quarter, before falling, 95-86.

Should be seen as normal

Unlike many campuses, Auburn does not have active anti-Israel groups, but a few days before the team headed to Israel, the Council on American-Islamic Relations called on Auburn to either cancel the “propaganda tour,” or at least ditch their Israeli “handlers” and meet with average Palestinians. Pearl took umbrage at the request. Since he was an assistant coach at Stanford for a trip to Japan in 1982, through many other foreign trips including Auburn’s trip to Italy in 2017, “nobody asked me who we were going to talk to, or where we were going to go.” He asked, “Why is it okay for someone to ask me who I’m going to be talking to and where I’m going to be when I go to Israel?” The team did travel to Bethlehem, which is under Palestinian Authority rule. They walked through the marketplace, which Pearl said doesn’t look much different than the Old City in Jerusalem, and the team visited the Church of

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the Nativity. They also were hosted for lunch at the home of the coach of the Palestinian national team. “I felt grateful and very welcomed,” Pearl said. “He and I could probably figure out how to continue to have that dialogue for peace.” He said it should be seen as normal, not unusual or groundbreaking, that a Jewish basketball coach from Alabama would be having lunch with a Christian coach of a Palestinian team in Bethlehem. The team also participated in the Tamir Goodman Basketball Camp in Jerusalem, which brought together young players from the Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Druze communities at the YMCA. In addition to Goodman, known as the Jewish Jordan, Turkish Muslim NBA player Enes Kanter Freedom participated. Kanter Freedom has hosted basketball camps in the U.S. for Jewish and Muslim children, and promoted a Holocaust education program at a Muslim school. While many noted the interfaith aspect of the clinic, Pearl said “that stuff shouldn’t be any big deal” as Jerusalem is an international city, open to all. Another difference in playing in Israel is the possibility of a flare-up with the neighbors. Mid-way through the trip, Israel struck at Palestinian Islamic Jihad positions in Gaza as the terror group planned to launch a major terror attack in Israel. During the three-day operation, Israel took out the PIJ leadership, but the group responded by launching about 1,000 rockets from Gaza toward Israel. Many rockets fell short and hit in Gaza, killing many Palestinian civilians. Though rockets were aimed at the middle of Israel, Pearl said “we felt safe. Thank God for the Iron Dome,” which intercepted most of the rockets that were headed toward populated areas. “We heard the sirens, we saw some of the pops in the air and you could see and hear… It was obviously very real, but thanks to Iron Dome we were safe.” Naturally, “some of the reporting back home scared some of our parents, who had concerns about their sons,” Pearl said. “I spoke with a few by phone, made sure they understood we were safe.” Through Iron Dome, which was partially developed in Alabama, “Our taxpayer dollars were at work protecting not only the 9 million people of Israel, they were protecting the thousands of U.S. citizens, including the Auburn men’s basketball team.” A cease-fire was declared right as Auburn started its Aug. 7 game in Tel Aviv. In Jerusalem, the team walked from the Mount of Olives to the Garden of Gethsemane, and visited the Lion’s Gate


March 2024 • Israel InSight

A moment of reflection in Jerusalem

and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The next day included visits to the City of David, the Western Wall and Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust memorial. A highlight of the trip was the Dead Sea, where the big athletes who have trouble in swimming pools were able to float on the surface. The team also went to the Galilee, for a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee, and several team members and support staff took the opportunity to be baptized in the Jordan River. Auburn guard Wendell Green, who was among those who took part, said it was “truly a blessing” and he was “so thankful for everything.” A personal highlight for Pearl came at the end of the game against the Israel National Team, as he made his way to the stands where there were a couple hundred high school and college students. “All I had to do is say ‘Am Yisrael Chai’ (the Nation of Israel lives) and they went nuts,” he said. He told the students that “God has blessed us,” but that comes with a responsibility. Just as the Auburn players represent Auburn and their families when they wear the jersey, those students represent “God’s Children, the Jewish people, with how you act, with how you study, with how you love each other and what kind of neighbor you’re going to be.” Pearl said one of the greatest joys about going to Israel is “bringing people who have never been here before, and having them just see it.” For college basketball teams, “Israel has never really been an option, and now it is a great option.” He added that he will be back in four years, when it is Auburn’s turn again.

Staying active

Since October 7, he has facilitated conversations for the

small Jewish student contingent at Auburn, sometimes hosting them in the basketball locker room. Auburn Hillel joined Athletes for Israel and members of the Auburn basketball and baseball teams to make gift bags for soldiers and families in Israel, and Pearl also held his annual latke party for students at his home during Chanukah. He also has done the menorah lighting at the State of Alabama Chanukah celebration the past two years at the Governor’s Mansion. He has been the keynote speaker for the annual Alabama Holocaust Commemoration, and spoke at the opening ceremonies when the Jewish Community Centers Maccabi Games, a week of competition for high school students, was hosted in Birmingham in 2017. In November, as the war against Hamas was in its early stages, he spoke at a forum with U.S. Sen. Katie Britt at Birmingham’s Temple Emanu-El, where the main message was that Hamas must be eradicated. Last year, Pearl invoked his Hebrew name of Mordecai in expressing concern about governments coddling Iran as the Islamist regime pursues nuclear weapons, with the stated purpose of eliminating Israel. Just as the Biblical Mordecai warned his niece, Queen Esther, about inaction when Jewish existence is at stake, he feels an obligation to speak out despite how some may be uncomfortable. “I’m very concerned about what’s going on in Iran with the King of Persia now, and if we embrace that government, give them all that money, sign a bad treaty, it’s going to put the world in jeopardy.”

Pearl is active with Athletes for Israel, the United States Israel Education Association and Israel Team Advocates International, groups where Christians and Jews work together to help Israel. He was also the first president of the Jewish Coaches Association. Pearl contributed a chapter to a book by I-Team founder Aaron David Fruh, “The Casualty of Contempt: The Alarming Rise of Antisemitism and What Can Be Done to Stop It.” He recounted being at a Major League Baseball game, and outside the ballpark was a man in a gorilla suit, holding a sign, “F**k the Jews! They dominate the world!” There was no reaction from passersby, so Pearl decided to confront the gorilla. He challenged the man to take off his mask and talk face to face, and got no response. After the gorilla turned away, Pearl took the sign and broke it in half. The man in the suit walked away, silently. He realized “an antisemite is a coward at heart who hides behind derogatory stereotypes, fabricated history, Jewish conspiracy theories, religious myths, and, in this case, an ape costume. Secondly, I learned most people would rather remain silently indifferent to antisemitism because they think it doesn’t affect them.” Pearl wrote, “Antisemitism is an early warning sign that hatred and bigotry are on the rise — not just towards Jews but towards everyone, which is why we must confront it together. If we in the human family do not challenge it, we become an accessory to its evil.” It is time to confront, rather than pass by, the man in the gorilla suit.

Israel InSight • March 2024



Israel inside: Intel announces $25 billion investment (JNS) — Intel Israel and Israeli government authorities on Dec. 26 announced plans to build a new manufacturing facility in Kiryat Gat. “The global company Intel’s choice to approve the unprecedented investment of $25 billion right here, in Israel, is important and significant,” according to a joint statement by Israeli Finance Minister Betzalel Smotrich, the Israeli Economy Ministry and Israel Tax Authority. “Such an investment, at a time when Israel is facing a war against absolute evil, a war in which good is obliged to defeat evil… is an expression of confidence in the State of Israel and the Israeli economy,” said Smotrich. The Intel Corporation is an American multinational corporation and one of the world’s largest and most prominent semiconductor chip manufacturers. Under the terms of the agreement, Israel will provide Intel with a $3.2 billion grant over several years. Intel will undertake to hire thousands of Israeli high-tech workers, and also buy products and services from Israeli companies and contractors. The company’s obligation to meet these goals are a condition for receiving the grant. The new factory is expected to begin operating in 2028, and to remain in operation at least until 2035. “This is an expression of great confidence in the Israeli economy and exactly reflects the strength of the free econo-

my that we have built here, and the technological economy that we are developing here,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in June of the prospective investment. According to Intel Israel’s Corporate Responsibility Report published that month, the company posted record exports of $8.7 billion in 2022, accounting for 1.75 percent of Israel’s GDP and 5.5 percent of Israeli high-tech exports. The company employs around 10,000 people in Israel directly and another 30,000 indirectly. The chip-making giant has one plant already in operation in Kiryat Gat and is currently constructing another plant there at an investment of $10 billion. In a statement earlier this year, Intel said that its Israel operations “played a crucial role” in its global success. “Our intention to expand manufacturing capacity in Israel is driven by our commitment to meeting future manufacturing needs… and we appreciate the continued support of the Israeli government,” the company said. Intel’s involvement in Israel began in the 1970s when it established its first development center in Haifa. Over the years, Intel has expanded its presence in Israel with multiple R&D facilities in Haifa, Jerusalem and Petah Tikvah. These centers are involved in developing and designing advanced technologies for various products, including processors, chipsets, communication technologies and software.

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March 2024 • Israel InSight

Healthy Friendshoring

Pills for Peace: Effort would shift pharmaceutical manufacturing from China to Abraham Accords countries When the Covid pandemic hit and supply chains started getting strained, especially for pharmaceuticals, it quickly became apparent how much the United States relied on China for medicines and health care equipment. Dr. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), Rep. Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), Rep. Diana It soon became apparent that breaking the Harshbarger (R-Tenn.), Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, dependence was not only a matter of supply USIEA’s Heather Johnston, Rep. Rick Allen (R-Ga.), and Rep. Randy and demand, it was a national security issue — Weber (R-Tex.) on the 2023 USIEA Congressional mission. what if future disagreements caused China to if China ceased exporting its pharmaceutical ingredients, cut back supplies to the U.S., as it often did for its own use “military hospitals and clinics would cease to function withduring Covid? in months, if not days.” A bill has been introduced in Congress to address that Moving production from China would also cut intellectusituation, and to bolster peace in the Middle East through al property theft, Johnston said. the Abraham Accords in the process. According to USIEA, China was responsible for 95 perThe United States-Abraham Accords Cooperation and cent of U.S. imports of ibuprofen, 91 percent of hydrocorSecurity Act of 2024 would authorize the establishment of tisone, 70 percent of acetaminophen, over 40 percent of a U.S. Food and Drug Administration bureau in the Abrapenicillin, and 40 percent of U.S. imports of heparin. ham Accords region, to “friend-shore” the manufacture of pharmaceuticals and medical equipment, improving supply Johnston has long been involved in Middle East projects chains and reducing dependence on possibly adversarial to promote peace. Two decades ago, the Johnstons became countries. friends with Ron Nachman, mayor of Ariel, the “capital of Samaria.” They suggested that a leadership center be built in On Jan. 31, Reps. Diana Harshbarger (R-Tenn.) and Juan Vargas (D-Calif.) introduced the bill, with Reps. Rick Allen Ariel, based on their Christian retreat, JH Ranch, in Califor(R-Ga.), Andy Harris (R-Md.), Mike Levin (D-Calif.), Scott nia, but the Ariel center would have a curriculum to instill Israeli pride based on lessons from their Biblical heroes. Peters (D-Calif.), and Randy Weber (R-Tex.) as original co-sponsors. Rep. Donald Davis (D-N.C.) has since signed They soon became involved with the Judea-Samaria on. Chamber of Commerce, an effort to sow the seeds of peace on the ground, bypassing the corrupt Palestinian Authority The bill was promoted to Congress by the United States by promoting joint business ventures between Israelis and Israel Education Association, which is based in Alabama. Palestinians in the territories. Heather Johnston, founder of the non-profit organization, noted that during Covid, more than 150 common medicaThe USIEA was founded to bring high-level Congrestions were in short supply, including ulcer and severe aller- sional leaders to Israel, but unlike other tours that avoided gy medications. “Covid laid bare the alarming vulnerability the territories, the USIEA tours included that area, to help to America’s pharmaceutical supply chain and its overdelegislators get the full picture of the region. pendence on China.” Early USIEA tours are credited with building support for Johnston cited testimony before the U.S.-China Economic Iron Dome in Congress, and participants on the trips led and Security Review Commission in 2019, by Rosemary the effort to dramatically increase funding for its developGibson, author of “China Rx: Exposing the Risks of Ameri- ment. ca’s Dependence on China for Medicine.” She testified that The pharmaceutical effort, which they refer to as Israel InSight • March 2024


“friend-shoring,” would involve the Abraham Accords countries, as well as Egypt and Jordan. Having an FDA bureau in the region would be a “staging ground” for that cooperation. In 2023, Harshbarger and Vargas were on a USIEA trip to Israel, along with Allen and Weber. However, USIEA started working on the idea even before Covid, after a 2019 Congressional trip to Israel. “America’s national security is at stake if we do not safeguard our essential medical and pharmaceutical supply chains,” said Heather Johnston, Founder and CEO of USIEA. “By friend-shoring to our Abraham Accords allies, we not only diversify and fortify these lifesaving supply chains, but we gain newfound access to medical advancements, technological breakthroughs, and innovation emanating from this region.” The idea is to combine the research being done in Israel with funding from Gulf states, and the need for jobs in places like Jordan and Egypt. The United Arab Emirates have significant pharmaceutical manufacturing capabilities, and collaboration agreements with AstraZeneca. They have already invested billions of dollars in expanding physical and intellectual infrastructure for medical technology. Many American pharmaceutical companies have offices in Bahrain, and Morocco is becoming an African hub for pharmaceutical manufacturing. Israel has a large research system, and was the world’s foremost source of trial information about the Covid vaccine’s effect on large populations. Harshbarger said she and Vargas “believe this legislation is advantageous for current Abraham Accords members and serves as an incentive to other countries to join the Accords to benefit from an FDA presence in the region. This way, other economies can also help ensure the safety, quality, and effectiveness of medical products and food produced in their countries for approval to export to the United States.” The proposal “has the potential to improve Americans’ access to essential medical and pharmaceutical supplies, while working in tandem with Israel and the Arab nations who are seeking peace, normalized relations, and economic opportunities,” Johnston said. “Having a USFDA branch in Israel would be another great way of strengthening U.S.-Israel cooperation,” said Gideon Israel, president of the Jerusalem Washington Center, who was involved in previous such efforts over the last decade. “It would be a shame if an office isn’t opened [in Israel] now


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that there is congressional support on both sides of the aisle for such a move,” he added. The FDA operates regional offices in China, India, Costa Rica, Chile, Mexico and Belgium, but none in the Middle East. An office was briefly opened in Amman but was subsequently closed. The bill has a series of steps, including developing a list of essential products in the region, collaborating on good manufacturing processes, sharing regulatory information and offering technical assistance in manufacturing. Despite the war in Gaza, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has stated that virtually every leader he has spoken with in the Arab world supports moving forward with normalization with Israel.

Administration hindering research

Last June, the Biden administration reinstituted a ban on U.S. taxpayer funds being used on any research, development or scientific cooperation projects conducted in what are referred to as the territories — the West Bank, Golan Heights or eastern Jerusalem. Those restrictions had been eliminated by the Trump administration in October 2020, in a ceremony held at Ariel University, a large university in the heart of the West Bank. There are three science and technology foundations that provide grants to bilateral U.S.-Israeli projects, and when they were founded there was little to no infrastructure in the territories. Ariel University was established in 1982 and is now a major research center. According to Ari Sacher, senior policy advisor for the United States Israel Education Association, Ariel’s collaboration with U.S. universities went up “exponentially” after 2020, with seven proposals being granted funding in 2021. There were 32 proposals sent in 2022 and 60 submitted last year. Collaborations underway with Ariel include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on a mechanism for drug resistance in cancer cells, the University of Rochester on a new therapeutic modality for affective and cognitive function, and Biomirex on a targeted delivery system for pancreatic and triple-negative breast cancers. Sacher said that the foundations’ charters have not been altered from the 2020 prohibition on discriminating based on geography, but after the Biden administration’s decree, the percentage of proposals involving Ariel University that were approved plummeted. “Artificial political lines should not block access to critical science,” Sacher said. “America, Israel, and the world simply have too much to lose.”


Advances in early detection of Alzheimer’s, preventing memory deterioration (JNS) — Tel Aviv University researchers have found a method of preventing memory deterioration in the animal model of Alzheimer’s disease, the university announced on Feb. 13. The study, conducted in collaboration with the Hebrew University and published in Nature Communications, builds on the discovery by TAU professor Inna Slutsky’s lab in 2022 of a brain pathology in the animal model that long precedes the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms. According to Shiri Shoob, the doctoral student who led the current study, these physiological changes, which include an accumulation of amyloid-beta deposits and abnormal accumulations of tau protein, as well as a decrease in the volume of the hippocampus, can show up 10 to 20 years before the onset of the cognitive decline and memory impairment more commonly associated with the disease. During sleep, and especially during sleep induced by general anesthesia, the pathology causes “silent seizures,” which look like an epileptic seizure in terms of brain activity. Normally, activity in the hippocampus decreases during sleep and under anesthesia. Believing that there are mechanisms compensating for this pathology during wakefulness, thus prolonging the pre-symptomatic period of the disease, in the current study the team mainly focused on deep brain stimulation (DBS) using electrical signals to the nucleus reuniens. The nucleus reuniens is located in the thalamus, which is responsible for sleep regulation, and is a key component of a network of structures in the hippocampus and cortex, playing a vital role in cognition. “When we tried to stimulate the nucleus reuniens at high frequencies, as is done in the treatment of Parkinson’s, for example, we found that it worsened the damage to the hippocampus and the silent epileptic seizures,” said Shoob. “Only after changing the stimulation pattern to a lower frequency were we able to suppress the seizures and prevent cognitive impairment. We showed that the nucleus reuniens had the ability to completely control these seizures. We could increase or decrease the seizures by stimulating it.” According to Slutsky, epidemiological studies have provided evidence for a link between aging and a phenomenon

Professor Inna Slutsky.

Photo by Jonathan Bloom

called postoperative cognitive dysfunction (POCD), in which cognitive problems arise following surgery under general anesthesia. “In young people, the symptoms usually pass very quickly, but in older people, the chance of cognitive impairment increases, and it may last a long time. Our research indicates a potential mechanism underlying the phenomenon,” she said. “We found that suppressing the thalamic nucleus reuniens — by pharmacological or electrical means — successfully prevented both pathological activity in the hippocampus during anesthesia and cognitive impairment following anesthesia,” she added. “In addition, we identified a relationship between certain pathological activity in the hippocampus during anesthesia in the presymptomatic phase of Alzheimer’s to memory problems in a more advanced stage of the disease. This indicates a potential [method] for predicting the disease in the dormant state, before the onset of cognitive decline.” The researchers hope that their findings will speed the start of clinical trials in humans, potentially leading to advancements in early detection of Alzheimer’s, prevention of dementia symptoms associated with the disease, and progress in treating POCD. Israel InSight • March 2020


New Exhibit Showcases Kings David, Solomon Armstrong International Cultural Foundation will hold the world premiere of its newest Biblical archaeology exhibit, “Kingdom of David and Solomon Discovered” on Feb. 25 at Armstrong Auditorium on the campus of Herbert W. Armstrong College in Edmond, Okla. The exhibit includes over three dozen artifacts from the period of the united monarchy in biblical Israel, and will mark the world premiere of the extraordinary Ophel inscription, which some have linked to the biblical Queen of Sheba’s visit to King Solomon. Other significant artifacts on display include two bullae, small clay seal impressions, attesting to Eliakim, the servant of King Hezekiah and associate of Isaiah the prophet. The exhibit features about three dozen artifacts from 10th-century B.C.E. archaeological sites, including Jerusalem, Timna, Lachish and Khirbet Qeiyafa, many discovered by Eilat Mazar in the City of David. Also featured are two large dioramas of the 10th-century kingdom of Israel and the city of Jerusalem, as well as interactive displays and educational videos and timelines. “This exhibit is totally unique,” said Brad Macdonald, curator of the exhibit. “This is the first time such a diverse collection of 10th-century artifacts and archaeological features have been collected in one place and presented in the broader scientific, historic and biblical context to showcase the monumental nature of


March 2024 • Israel InSight

Ophel Pithos inscription

the kingdom of Israel during the reign of kings David and Solomon.” The artifacts are iron, pottery, stone and textiles. The exhibit will also feature elements of monumental Jerusalem, including a Phoenician-style capital discovered in Jerusalem. There will also be virtual reality tours and video presentations. The exhibit is presented and funded by the Armstrong International Cultural Foundation in association with Jerusalem’s Armstrong Institute of Biblical Archaeology, the Israel Museum, the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. It is Armstrong Auditorium’s third exhibit of biblical artifacts, following “Seals of Jeremiah’s Captors Discovered” (2013-2015) and “Seals of Isaiah and King Hezekiah Discovered” (2018-2019), which won an Oklahoma tourism award for Outstanding Temporary Exhibit. “Kingdom of David and Solomon Discovered” will be on display in the Grand Lobby of Armstrong Auditorium through Jan. 17, 2025. Admission is free beginning Feb. 26. The opening reception on Feb. 25 is at 1 p.m., and advance reservations are required.


The Biblical Calendar “Be Happy, It’s Adar’.”

The Hebrew month of Adar I begins on February 9 this year, 2024 on the common calendar and 5784 on the Jewish calendar. The major holy day this month is Purim — which is celebrated during Adar II, as this is a Leap Year on the Hebrew calendar. Because the Hebrew calendar is based on the moon, adjustments have to be made. A lunar month is 29.53 days, so Hebrew months are 29 or 30 days, depending on a range of factors — so 12 months is from 354 to 356 days — not the 365.25 days of the solar calendar. Muslims, who also use a lunar calendar, ignore that and have shorter religious years, which is why their holidays move around the secular calendar. But in Judaism, Passover is the spring festival, Sukkot is fall harvest — Sukkot can’t slip to February. For that reason, in seven out of every 19 years, there is a Leap Month, a second Adar — which is really Adar I. The “regular” Adar is called Adar II, and will begin on March 10. That is why Passover was really early last year, and will be about as late as it ever gets this year. Fast of Esther: Usually held the day before Purim. This year, the date moves from the traditional 13 Adar and will be on March 21. When Purim is on a Sunday, one does not do a fast on a Saturday, so it is moved to Thursday. The fast commemorates how Queen Esther fasted for three days, and asked all the Jews to do the same, before she approached King Ahasveros to plead for the Jews to be permitted to defend themselves from Haman. One did not just walk in and approach the king, even the queen could not normally do so, and if the visit were unwelcome, death would follow. As one of the four minor fasts of the year, it lasts from sunrise to sunset, and fasting in Judaism also includes a prohibition of drinking, even water. One is expected not to fast if it would adversely affect one’s health. Purim: One of the most joyous festivals in the Jewish year, when the events of the Book of Esther are commemorated. Through a series of twists and turns, a Jewish orphan, Esther (Hadassah in Hebrew), becomes the queen of Persia during the reign of Ahasveros. Her uncle, Mordecai, reminds her to never forget where she came from. Mordecai then learns of a plot by the king’s most trusted advisor, Haman, to kill all the Jews, partly because Mordecai re-

fused to bow to him as a god. The king, not knowing Esther’s background, had agreed to let Haman have his way. Haman set the day for 14 Adar by picking lots, or “pur,” at random. Esther approached the king and invited him and Haman to a banquet, and then a second banquet. It was then that Esther pleaded for her life and the lives of her people. The astonished king asked who would want to kill his queen, and she accused Haman. Because the king’s previous order could not be revoked, the king ordered that the Jews could defend themselves, and they defeated Haman’s forces, with Haman and his sons hanged on the gallows he had built for Mordecai. Today’s observance of Purim can be explained as a mix of Halloween, Mardi Gras and April Fool’s Day, in celebration of the Jews’ survival over our enemies. During Purim celebrations on 14 Adar, March 24 this year, it is common for costumes to be worn, and there are often carnivals and parties. Central to the observance is reading the megillah, the scroll of Esther, in its entirety. When Haman is mentioned, it is traditional to make loud noises to drown out Haman’s name. A traditional cookie is Hamantaschen, a triangular cookie filled with preserves, chocolate, even a Hershey’s Kiss, the shape reportedly echoing the triangular hat Haman wore. In Hebrew, they are known as Oznei Haman, Haman’s ears. One part of Purim practice is Adloyadah, meaning “until one does not know.” One is to drink until one can not discern the difference between “cursed be Haman” and “blessed be Mordecai.” However, the ancient rabbis, who emphasized moderation and foresaw the existence of DUI laws, said one should have only one drink more than that person would normally consume. There is also the practice of Mishloach Manot, gift packages of a couple varieties of food to friends and family, and charitable donations. Purim is not a work-restricted day, there is no need to take a holiday from work or school. Though God is credited with the miracles that allowed the Jewish people to survive, God is not mentioned once in the megillah. There is also a celebration called Shushan Purim for walled cities, on 15 Adar, March 25 this year. Today, Shushan Purim is observed only in Jerusalem. Israel InSight • March 2020



Prophetic Changes

“Jerusalem Rising” shows the extent of the city’s restoration over the last 180 years

Zechariah spoke of the restoration of Jerusalem, and today one can see the bustling city with its plethora of historical sites that have been restored to their former glory — but how can one really see the transformation of the city? Last September, Doug Hershey released “Jerusalem Rising,” a showcase of historical photos from Jerusalem taken from the 1840s to the mid-1900s, juxtaposed with current-day images done at the same locations and with the same angles. Hershey is founder of Ezra Adventures, a boutique travel and education company, specializing in exclusive customized small group travel throughout Israel and the Middle East. His first photography book, “Israel Rising,” was an Amazon bestseller on Christian and Jewish charts. Through taking groups on tours, Hershey saw the changes taking place in Israel. He “always had a love for the old black and white photos,” and going around the country, he would recognize where the photos had been taken. Initially, he figured “Israel Rising” would serve as publicity for his travel company, but its popularity led to him starting a series of Ancient Prophecy/Modern Lens, of which “Jerusalem Rising” is the second volume.” “I wanted to be able to bring the fact that the things happening in Israel right now aren’t happenstance or “I will save my coincidence, but are things people from the the prophets wrote about,” countries of the he said. “Things our parents east and the west. or grandparents could never I will bring them have dreamed of.” back to live in He wanted to document the Jerusalem; they will changes to Israel, “not just the be my people, and I growth of a land, but what happens when God fulfils His will be faithful and word.” righteous to them The success of “Israel Risas their God” ing” showed him there is “a — Zechariah 8:8 growing interest in the documentation of ongoing biblical prophecy. More and more people are not just curious about proposed future timelines and scenarios, but also about what is tangibly happening right now. The Ancient Proph-


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ecy / Modern Lens series is providing that concrete visual evidence.” The oldest photos in “Jerusalem Rising” date back to 1844, when the city had a population of 15,000. Hershey said it was unique and special “being able to make that connection to the very earliest visual documentation that the world has” for Jerusalem. He and world-renowned adventure-travel and extreme-sports photographer and filmmaker Edden Ram were able to get exclusive access to many of the locations in the historical photos, to re-shoot the exact angles and show the current day changes. “Doing that photo shoot, spending time around Jerusalem was truly stunning,” he said. In the book, “there are several groundbreaking aspects that have never been published before,” Hershey added. “We’ve documented the restoration of Jerusalem in a compelling way that has not been visually captured previously. I couldn’t be more excited to share this unique view of Jerusalem being restored just as Zechariah foretold!” The books have quotes from Jews, Christians and Muslims over the past 2,000 years, detailing how Jerusalem captured hearts around the world, even when it was in silent

desolation for centuries. In “Israel Rising,” he had a quote from an Arabic writer in the 10th century, “complaining that there are no worshipers in the mosque and there’s a Jewish majority.” In his first volume, he focused on the Galilee, a favorite area for him. A close second is Mizpe Ramon, “where it is isolated and no one’s there… I can get a motorcycle and a small tent and live in Mizpe Ramon for a long time.” A third volume is in the works, and volumes four and five are also being considered. Growing up in a Christian home, “I always had a heart for the Old Covenant,” Hershey said. His first Israel trip was about 24 years ago, and “like most people, you step off the plane for the first time and it feels different.”

While he is a believer, he kept more of a historical documentation tone in the books, while relating the Scriptural significance. Zechariah 8:3 relates “I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the Faithful City, and the mountain of the Lord Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain.” As “Jerusalem Rising” was being sent to the printer, a new cache of Dead Sea Scrolls was discovered, and some of the fragments were from Zechariah 8. “It’s a stunning confirmation to me that God is once again bringing Jerusalem to the forefront of the world’s attention and that ‘Jerusalem Rising’ is right on time,” Hershey said.

“Israel Matters” Opens Christian Hearts, Minds “Israel Matters: Why Christians Must Think Differently about the People and the Land” is the title of a relatively new and thought-provoking book by Anglican theologian Gerald McDermott, who was recently affiliated with Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. In his book, McDermott challenges his own previous belief that in God’s view Jews became a peripheral people when they did not accept Jesus as the Messiah and, as a result, their relationship to their land and the land itself lost its significance. McDermott also revises his own view that Jesus and the ascendancy of Christianity and the Church replaced Israel and the Jewish people as God’s covenantal partners. He also examines his previous inclination to accept the false claims that modern Israel was established on land “stolen” from Arabs; that Israel oppresses Palestinians; and that Zionism — which maintains that the Jewish people have a right to sovereignty in some portion of their biblical homeland — is a

racist ideology. With grace and humility, and an easy-toread style despite tackling complex subjects, McDermott writes that as a result of his continued Biblical studies, willingness to consider things in new ways, and multiple visits to Israel, that he was wrong on each of the above accounts. In addition, as part of his journey — a journey marked by some heavy-duty rethinking and rereading of both the Old and New Testaments — he evolved from being dubious about Christian Zionists to becoming one himself. The book is a fascinating exploration of how a growing number of Christian Zionists think about Jews, both Biblically and today; how they’ve come to reconcile Jewish non-acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah with their Christian belief that he is and that acceptance of him is the one true path to salvation; and how Christians have come to be among Israel’s most ardent supporters.

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The Long History of Christian Zionism in America Over the past 35 years, especially in the American South, Christian Zionism has emerged as the most significant new trend in Jewish-Christian relations, even though it continues to perplex and discomfort people on both sides of what Dr. Faydra Shapiro calls the “border” between the two faiths. This unprecedented and growing movement, characterized by a massive outpouring of Christian support for the well-being of the Jewish state, and its implications for Christian-Jewish relations, prompted Shapiro to write a superb book titled “Christian Zionism: Navigating the Jewish-Christian Border.” An Orthodox Jew with a Ph.D. in Religious Studies, Shapiro has had a lifelong curiosity about Christianity. In addition to her writing, Shapiro, a Canadian who immigrated to Israel, is the founding director of the Israel Center for Jewish-Christian Relations. In her book, Shapiro provides excellent insight into the theological, political, historical and cultural factors that motivate Christian Zionists, who base their support and activism on the Bible. Key to their views are that God has bequeathed the land of Israel to the Jewish people in perpetuity; that those who bless Israel will be blessed; that the return of Jews from throughout the world to their sacred homeland is the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy, and that the restoration of the Jews will lead to the second coming of Jesus. Shapiro and others who have studied the Christian Zionist movement believe that we may be at a transformative moment in Jewish-Christian relations. Writing in the Jerusalem Post in 2017, two years after her book first appeared, Shapiro observed: “Christian Zionism is undoubtedly a controversial topic. But one thing is for certain: Christian Zionism has brought millions of Evangelical Christians into an unprecedented positive relationship with Jews and Judaism.”


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“Through their core issue of support for Israel,” she continued “American Evangelical Christians are now far more interested in and sensitive to the Jewish roots of Christianity, the practices and beliefs of Judaism, and the centrality of Israel to our people.” Today, the author contends, the border between Jews and Christians is being demilitarized. This is happening largely as a result of Christian Zionist activism on behalf of Israel; Christian Zionist groups focusing on the principles and shared Biblical roots which unite rather than divide the two faiths, and their commitment to combat anti-Semitism, in part as atonement for the centuries of atrocities committed against the Jewish people in the name of Christianity. More and more Jews, in turn, are taking a deep breath and walking toward the border to welcome these overtures. Still it can be confusing — especially to those Christians who continue to see Jews as “incomplete” because they have not yet embraced Jesus as their personal savior, and to Jews who are still uncomfortable with the prevalent belief among Christians that their way is the only way to spiritual fulfillment and salvation. Shapiro’s book is at its best when she moves from being a commentator and analyst to being a reporter on the front lines, “embedded” among Christian Zionists visiting or living in Israel. She has a terrific ear and sharp eye which serve her well as she takes her readers into the heads and hearts of these dedicated Israel supporters. She concludes her book with a music analogy. Shapiro basically says that because of shared traditions, histories and roots, Christians and Jews definitely can be members of the same orchestra. But will the sounds their instruments make always be in harmony? Probably not, she concedes. However, she emphasizes, that doesn’t mean that Jews who care about Israel and Christian Zionists should stop trying.

Israel InSight • March 2024


Anti-ISRAEL Bias

Coming soon to a campus near you?

“Israelism” a dishonest smear of Israel and its supporters

By Ellen Ginsberg Simon

I would like to take five minutes of your time to shred this movie on every level. Humor my ire. The fallacies are never ending, the reduction of millions of people to the opinions of two is laughable, the inclusion of every woke, liberal slogan is just irritating, and the childish gloss over history so monumentally flawed that one wonders if the filmmakers insultingly think everyone who watches it is an uneducated dolt. In light of the current scene on college campuses, I suppose I can appreciate their low estimation of their target audiences. The greatest irony of all, however, is that a movie claiming to pierce the veil of generations of “propagandizing” to American Jewish youth itself is quite possibly one of the most blatant works of anti-Zionist propaganda I’ve seen since the Ayatollah’s latest rant on X. In their attempt to depict American Jewish education as a monolithic curriculum of youth movements, camps, and nefarious Jewish crafting projects, the film makers seem blind to the fact that they employ the stories of merely two American Jews and two Palestinian activists to represent the experiences of millions upon millions of people, as if entire cultures can be reduced in such an absurdly simplistic manner to the anecdotal experiences of two — did I mention it was two? — random Jewish kids. I do not accuse work of being propaganda lightly. Having been educated at Oxford’s Middle East Center, however, I am rather adept at recognizing propaganda related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when I see it. I was forced to live and breathe it for two years. So let’s start at the very beginning. I’ve been told by Julie Andrews that it’s a very good place to start.

Several months ago, I wrote about the disinformation campaign being peddled by the film “Israelism.” Well, I invested the $5 to watch it so you do not have to waste your money, time, or energy trying not to hurl a glass at your TV screen in disgust. A brainchild of some the most virulently anti-Zionist activists on the scene today (think Noam Chomsky, Cornell West, Peter Beinart and Jeremy Ben Ami, each of whom get a cameo), the film purports to tell the story of how American Jews are indoctrinated from childhood to believe in Israel’s centrality to their Jewish identity, its necessity for the security of the Jewish people, and its utter perfection and flawlessness. It fictionalizes a monolithic Jewish community, as if Jewish people across America all grow up under one form of education, one set of beliefs, one political and religious perspective, and one set of opinions. Naturally, those opinions and beliefs are simplistically and mindlessly accepting of everything Israel does and stands for, blindly loyal to a country across the world. It contends American children are so blindly loyal to Israel that they grow to feel such an irrational connection that they are willing to enlist in the IDF and die for this foreign land and foreign people. It then portrays the so-called moral awakening of a handful of Jewish 20-somethings who reached college and had their minds blown by learning the words apartheid, colonialism, and occupation “for the first time in their lives.” You read that correctly. They quite literally took the most ignorant, self-satisfied Jewish kids they could find, and put them on display to speak for all Jewish youth worldwide. As a Jewish woman who once was a Jewish child educated Cherry picking and selective editing in the same country, I can say this film does not speak for What is the definition of propaganda? me. I’d wager it does not speak for 90 percent of American The Cambridge English Dictionary defines propaganda Jews. One of its most dangerous aspects is the fact that it as: information, ideas, opinions, or images, often only givportrays a teeny, inconsequential group of woke, poorly eding one part of an argument, that are broadcast, published, ucated Jews as a significant movement.


March 2024 • Israel InSight

or in some other way spread with the intention of influenc- Jewish youth are awakening to rebel against those lies grossing people’s opinions. ly overstates the significance and size of this movement of self-loathers. Cornell West applauds the “new day” when No sentence better describes the content of “Israelism.” young Jews are undergoing a “moral and spiritual awakenIt does not offer a balanced review of a highly complex ing” to realize they do not want to perpetuate the hate Jews conflict. Rather, it cherry-picks stories, quotes, and bits of have faced. Noam Chomsky comments that Israel knows history to repaint reality into a grotesque, Picasso-esque patchwork mosaic of misrepresentation, bedtime fairy tale, there is a sea change in the air in the younger generation, implying fear. and insulting demonization. Let us be clear about one aspect of the current crisis The disingenuous nature of the film shines through in its facing Jews. These children may be loud on campuses right editing of statements by the purported purveyors of the now, but make no mistake. They do not represent anything evil, Zionist narrative — respected individuals like Abe Foxman, retired CEO of the ADL, and Rabbi Bennett Mill- more than a fraction of the weakest minds who fell prey not to fairy tales told by their Hebrew School teachers, but rather. The filmmakers actually hoodwinked respected Jewish er to the reams of anti-Zionist propaganda peddled on U.S. community members into participating and then did a college campuses by Students for Justice in Palestine and transparent hatchet job editing their comments to make other Hamas and Qatari-funded quasi-terthem seem like purveyors of a despicable rorist organizations. The idea that Jews plot to mind-control Jewish youth with the ever-wicked Birthright trips. They are obnoxiously loud because their might need a place voices are augmented and magnified by Even their very best efforts to cut and of refuge in the those who take advantage of their naivety paste sound bites to makes Israeli students, world is chalked up and pliant minds. Hillel directors and community leaders look to “paranoia” about reprehensible fall surprisingly flat, however, These kids swallowed propaganda, alright. because they are so laughably obvious. An Unfortunately, the propaganda that hooked antisemitism Israeli young adult employed by Hillel at them was the one that erases the legitimacy the University of Connecticut jokes that he is trying to help of Israel and sides wholesale with a Palestinian narrative the “P.R.” image of Israel — cue the dystopian, somber mu- that is not even honest about the history of the region’s sic. One of the film’s protagonists — a girl named Simone wars. They are so weak-minded, they do not even grasp Zimmerman who co-founded the anti-Zionist group If Not which propaganda has brainwashed them and the extent to Now (but whose family’s name literally adorns a synagogue which they are being used to harm their own people. in Jerusalem) shows a blue crayon drawing she made in In a stellar moment demonstrating a complete dearth of Jewish day school of a map of Israel as proof that she was self-awareness, Simone Zimmerman states, “How is it that never taught that Jews did not own all of the land. I am, like, the best the Jewish community has to offer, I’ve It is slightly hard to believe, however, that someone who been through all the trainings and the programs, and I don’t was admitted to UC Berkeley never once learned that Israel know what the occupation is, I don’t know what the settlewas any more complicated territorially than in the crayon ments are.” drawing she made in third grade that she proudly displays Oh honey. You are FAR from the best the community has as proof of her indoctrination. Apparently, she never to offer. learned anything about the Occupied Territories until she Simone reeducates herself by taking a tour of the West went to college, a college noted for its anti-Israel activism Bank with an anti-Zionist organization, as if replacing one and currently under Department of Education investigation form of purported indoctrination with another is a sound for Title VI violations related to its antisemitic hostile enviform of rounding out one’s education. The film shows a loronment. cal Palestinian describing how Jews poison their water wells The audience is left to wonder whether she is simply with chemicals and dead animals, and everyone on the tour obscenely ignorant and uneducated (believe me, in light of shakes their head in disgust. what we have seen in the past few months on college camIf you’re going to trounce out time-worn blood libels from puses, I do not discount the possibility) or simply lying to medieval Europe, I’d like a refund of my $5 now please. make her point. The two protagonists of the film — Simone and Eitan Not only does the film generalize regarding how millions — are juxtaposed with two Palestinian activists, Beha and of American Jews are raised and come by their knowledge Sami. The latter two ostensibly represent the Palestinian of Israel, but its conclusion that a whole new generation of Israel InSight • March 2024


perspective and people en masse. Soft-spoken with stylish scarves and stories of having visited Auschwitz, they play the role of the sole historians in the documentary. History is told from one perspective alone — the Palestinian. While it is important to recognize that there are multiple historical narratives that very likely exist as utter truths in various peoples’ minds, this movie is not here to present them. It is here to peddle one perspective, and one perspective alone. The one where, in 1948, Holocaust survivors came out of nowhere and violently, intentionally displaced and dispossessed 750,000 innocent Palestinians with malice aforethought. They show a map of Jewish settlements and the Palestinian population at the time. Jewish settlements are marked as scattered dots, and the entire rest of the land is shaded dark green as if it was teeming with an organized, Palestinian state. It is a total fiction. They say that, as a result of the war in 1948, Israel took control of 78 percent of the land and 750,000 Palestinians “were expelled or fled their homes.” They say NOTHING about how what Israelis call the War of Independence and Palestinians refer to as the Nakba, started and was prosecuted. Not a word regarding the UN Partition Plan that created both a Jewish and Palestinian State. Nothing about how five Arab neighboring lands immediately declared war on the nascent State of Israel and their intention to wipe it and its people — many of whom had just survived Nazi genocide — from the map. No mention of how those Arab leaders encouraged the residents of their villages to leave their homes for a few weeks until they had taken care of killing off the Jews and it was safe to return home. The two self-appointed Palestinian spokesmen declare that their ancestors magically were ethnically cleansed for no reason. A war just happened one day, and they were persecuted. They then skip straight to 1967 when another war mysteriously occurred without explanation or context. Beha states, “In 1967, the state of Israel managed to complete its control over Palestine by taking over the territory of the West Bank and the territory of Gaza.” If you were hoping for more of an explanation than that, you are out of luck. That is all you will get. It portrays the Six Day War as intentionally waged aggressively to take territory away from Egypt and Jordan, as if Nasser is not universally recognized as responsible for the saber-rattling that started the war, the Soviets did not promote Syrian aggression, and Israel was not again fighting a five-front war that it managed to win, gaining territorial and strategic advantages. If you pick every fight and you lose every fight, it is the height of chutzpah to play the perennial victim card. That should be the motto of every Israeli-Arab conflict, most especially the current war.


March 2024 • Israel InSight

Beha is the vehicle through which they plant every cliché in the woke handbook. “The intention of Israeli control over the land of Palestine is complete colonization of the territory.” Avowed anti-Zionist journalist Peter Beinart pops up to declare in a vacuum, “you see in some ways what non-democracy looks like up close” when you look at Israel. Rutgers’ anti-Zionist Professor Noura Erekat appears to state that “anyone who sees these facts on the ground or speaks to Palestinians would understand that this is a process of settler colonization of an apartheid regime.” In short, a rogue’s gallery of activists and partisan figures flash on screen to bore you with woke word salad. Trust me when I tell you they have nothing to say that is worth $5 to hear.

Blatantly misleading

Some of the ahistorical presentation is enraging. At one point, the film-makers interview Avner Gvaryahu, executive director of Breaking the Silence, an organization critical of the Israeli army and government. As Gvaryahu described his three generations of familial presence in Jerusalem, the film played newsreels to support its discussion of violence by the apartheid, colonial regime to which it reduces Israel. You hear a reporter’s voice narrate a scene — “in the battle for Jerusalem, at least 26 people are reported dead.” And then you see the remnants of the gutted Sbarro’s on the corner of Jaffa and King George St. from August 2001. They do not say what they are showing. They leave the impression that this is random violence that could have been perpetrated by Israelis upon Palestinians. Because they never once mention that Palestinians engage in violence. All violence in the movie is perpetrated by Israelis. The assumption is clear. But anyone who lived in Jerusalem at the time of the Second Intifada, however, knows exactly what they are viewing. I was there. I know. I remember frantically calling my friends who regularly ate lunch there on Fridays, terrified they had been killed. I recall my friend Dave telling me the blast knocked his 6’4” frame to the ground halfway down King George Street. They do not explain that this was part of the Second Intifada in which Israeli civilians were bombed in night clubs and pizzerias, stabbed on the streets, blown up in buses, and mortared daily. I went to bed to sound of mortars hitting Gilo, and gunfire nightly. For me, the disingenuous nature of the film is encapsulated in this one moment when a grotesque suicide bombing by a terrorist is unidentified and presented for the viewer to assume to be violence perpetrated by Israelis against Palestinians. The trick felt even dirtier than erasing the history of Israel’s many wars.

I had to walk away for a few minutes. lives. Israelis are not a foreign people to Diaspora Jews. They are our family. If the world learns anything from these two Another shameless and insulting moment occurs when Sami explains to Simone that he went to Auschwitz to bet- months, it will be that a crisis in the Jewish community is ter understand the Israeli mindset. His concludes that Jew- felt, viscerally, by Jews the world over. Differences are forgotten and cast aside instantly, and we are a singular family unit. ish inherited trauma is the cause of the conflict. Jews have It is as simple as that. We have never been more unified. so often been attacked, they assume they will be attacked again and are now acting pre-emptively. He uses the HoloAnd the idea that we do not need Israel to prevent another caust as an explanation for Jewish aggression and violent Holocaust? That we are paranoid and do not really need a safe nature toward Palestinians. haven as was drummed into us as children purportedly to make us blindly love Israel? If the world learns a second lesJewish paranoia based on millennia of very real persecuson from these two months, it is how very real and true is the tion and attempted genocides is the root cause of the conJewish need for a home in our ancestral lands. In every corflict. Not a Hamas charter that calls for the death of Jews worldwide. Not the war declared by five Arab countries the ner of this earth, shouts of “gas the Jews,” “out with the trash,” “intifada revolution,” and “from the river to the sea” threaten day of the U.N. Partition vote. Not the failed Palestinian us every single day. Us. The entire Jewish leadership that has siphoned billions of people. Defending Israel means defending dollars from their own people, preventing The major terrorist ourselves. Serving on behalf of Israel means them from building a state of their own. bombing of a pizzeria serving on behalf of our family, not some disNot Yasser Arafat and Abu Mazen’s refusal is unidentified, giving tant foreigners. There is nothing more logical to accept multiple two-state solution plans. the idea it could have than self preservation. Not the terrorists who three months ago burned whole families alive in their homes, So yes. We were taught that we need Isbeen an Israeli attack cooked a baby in an oven, drove nails into rael to be a safe haven. And we are learning on Palestinians the groins of 19-year-olds while raping right now just how accurate those lessons them, and shot young Israeli soldiers in the vagina after rap- were. ing them. Not the people who are holding over a hundred These lessons were not propaganda or brainwashing, nor Israeli hostages right this very minute under the earth in did they present Israel as a place of perfection. It is as if the their terror tunnels while they allow the Palestinian civilians world has never met Jews or noticed how often with disagree to die on the surface. with one another and criticize everything. Has the world forZero agency. Zero accountability. Jewish paranoia. gotten how Israel almost tore itself apart in the year leading up to October 7 with protests against the government? The only good aspect of the film is the timing of its release. I think it is quite apropos that it is being screened Anyone who forgot these lessons or thought they would right now on college campuses across the country while be welcome in woke circles when they checked their identhose campuses flagrantly display the dire results of 20 tity at the door now knows just how ephemeral was that years of the anti-Zionist propaganda machine. One can so dream. Jews are shifting away from leftist, woke groups beeasily discern that the two protagonists of the film, Simone cause of their exclusion and shameless discrimination. and Eitan, are products of the self-same education system In a way, we should thank these shoddy filmmakers for currently in antisemitic free fall. peddling a laughingly simplistic, one-sided hack job at a Jewish paranoia, indeed. time when it has become exceptionally clear why the world This idea extends to the treatment of American Jews who needs Israel as a haven for Jews and as a bulwark against choose to serve in the IDF. Sami cannot fathom why anyone Islamist designs on western civilization. At a time when it would risk life and limb for a country half a world away and has become abundantly evident that the real indoctrination a foreign people. He believes they come to claim foreigners’ has been occurring at the hands of those same Islamists in our greatest halls of learning. land as their own with no logical connection. He understands nothing of why they come, yet he speaks for them. Consider “Israelism” just another symptom of the madness that has gripped our universities, and consign it to the Imagine if a Jew tried to speak on behalf of the experience garbage bin, along with my Harvard Law diploma. of an Arab or an African-American in the way Sami and Cornell West do, coopting their identity and voice? They Ellen Ginsberg Simon is self-described as a “highly opinwould be eviscerated, and rightfully so. ionated Jewish lawyer, mother and writer.” Her Substack, Let me give a Jewish voice to why those young Americans where this was first published, is at ellenginsbergsimon.subfeel a connection to Israel and wish to defend her with their Reprinted with permission. Israel InSight • March 2024



Four Months of Disinformation By Karen Bekker

own course for the future. In 2006, when the people of Gaza had the opportunity for independence, and the opportunity (CAMERA) — Since the barbaric Hamas attack on Isto build a peaceful and prosperous society, they elected rael on October 7, 2023, in which 1,200 men, women, and children were tortured, raped and killed and over 200 more Hamas, a group dedicated to the destruction of Israel. On Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas acted on that sentiment, and taken hostage, MSNBC has churned out multiple biased everything that is happening today flows from that decision. and distorted reports, featuring some of the worst anti-Israel propagandists, such as Rula Jebreal, Noura Erekat, and But MSNBC commentators repeatedly ignored this, blaming Israel’s siege or occupation, rather than the election of Ilan Pappé. While Mehdi Hasan’s recent departure from Hamas, for the attack as well as for the current war. This the network is a positive step, it does not go far enough to type of omission is a form of disinformation. address the problems there. Many of the network’s other anchors and commentators continue to distort events relatAnother recurring issue is the elevation of Jews who hold ed to the war with Israel that Hamas started. fringe positions and have limited credentials, such as Sarah Schulman, a fiction writer who teaches at Of course, the reporting has not been the College of Staten Island, Daniel Levy, universally bad. For example, on Oct. 14, MSNBC routinely presented as an “Israeli peace negotiator,” José Díaz-Balart hosted Israeli spokesperplatforms fringe who never negotiated anything that was son Eylon Levy. Díaz-Balart also allowed Israeli soldier Rudy Rochman to provide the anti-Israel voices, who successful, Masha Gessen, a staff writer at the New Yorker, Simone Zimmerman, perspective of a soldier preparing for the give misleading and co-founder of the fringe group IfNotNow, ground invasion, as well as to speak about erroneous information or even MSNBC’s own Peter Beinart. The his experience defending Israel on Oct. 7 vast, vast majority of both American and Isand to describe the atrocities he witnessed that day. That same day, reporter Raf Sanchez described the raeli Jews support Israel in its defensive war against Hamas. But MSNBC presents such guests as if they hold expertise preceding week as “a nightmare that Israel can’t wake up or authority, creating a false impression of a division in Jewfrom.” On Oct. 15, Katie Phang interviewed ADL CEO Jonathan ish opinion about the war. Such individuals represent a tiny and extreme minority opinion at best, and are not represenGreenblatt who told her and her audience, “anti-Zionism, tative of the Jewish community. I’ve long said, is antisemitism. I was wrong. Anti-Zionism A third recurring problem is that MSNBC commentators is genocide.” On Oct. 26, Mandana Dayani appeared on presented Hamas casualty statistics without caveat, emphaMorning Joe, talking about her experience as a Jew who fled Iran and how, in light of that experience, she perceived sizing the alleged number of civilian and child casualties, without noting that Hamas itself does not distinguish the worldwide reaction to Oct. 7. Memorably, correspondent Martin Fletcher movingly spoke about his own family between civilian and combatant casualties, without noting that Hamas recruits child soldiers, without noting that members who had been taken hostage by Hamas. Yet, some specific problems have recurred. One theme in some of those casualties have been caused by shortfalls of the coverage was commentators who ignored or minimized Palestinian rockets, and without noting the numbers of combatants the IDF claimed to have killed. This is another the 2005 disengagement, when Israel withdrew every last example of an omission that is itself a form of disinformacivilian and soldier from Gaza, leaving Gaza with a greention, as it skews people’s perceptions of events. CAMERA house agricultural business, a beautiful coastline for tourism, and the opportunity for the people there to chart their noted at least two cases in which MSNBC falsely character-


March 2024 • Israel InSight

ized the entire Hamas-supplied casualty count as “civilians.” it. Nor do we know how many of the casualties were killed by misfired Palestinian rockets. Moreover, Hamas uses Other type of errors were made as well. A partial list of child soldiers, which is itself a war crime precisely because some of MSNBC’s worst reporting is below. it makes them targets. Obeidallah then went on to make • On Oct. 9, just two days after the worst attack on Jews an apples and oranges comparison to the number of chilsince the Holocaust, as previously noted by CAMERA, Joy dren killed in the Ukraine war. But at the very start of the Reid and her guests Peter Beinart, Ayman Mohyeldin, Ali Ukraine war, women and children were allowed to flee to Velshi and Lt. General Stephen Twitty ignored Hamas’s neighboring states, to get out of harm’s way. In comparison, dedication to genocidal violence as expressed in its charter as NPR reported, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and in its leaders’ rhetoric, omitted any mention of offers “said in October that he rejects Palestinians being displaced, of Palestinian sovereignty and independence, and sought to saying it could forever undermine the push for Palestinian imply that the carnage was inevitable due to Israel’s actions. statehood.” In other words, foreign leaders are keeping Gaza In doing so, they excused and justified Hamas’s barbaric children trapped in a war zone, yet Israel, again, is blamed attack, instead blaming Israel for the attack on itself. for the consequences. • On Oct. 29, Ayman Mohyeldin hosted Sarah Schulman, a novelist, a professor at the College of Staten Island (part of CUNY), and an advisory board member of Jewish Voice for Peace. Schulman has no qualifications as an analyst on the Middle East, and gained notoriety only due to her association with a fringe group that, while purporting to be Jewish, has, in the past, proudly stated that its members in fact need not be Jewish. Mohyeldin allowed Schulman, unchallenged, to falsely claim, “for 75 years Palestinians have been murdered and displaced and incarcerated.” Schulman went on to falsely claim that Gaza has been under “occupation,” even though every single Israeli, civilian and soldier, was withdrawn from Gaza in 2005. Schulman claimed that “the conditions have been created that are completely untenable and they exploded,” and that “the violence is a consequence of the oppression,” even while insisting that she was not “excusing” Hamas’s attack.

• On Nov. 10, Dean Obeidallah, a guest on Joy Reid’s program, claimed that up to that point in the war, the IDF had killed “upwards of 4000 children.” There was not then, and still today is not, any way to know how many of the casualties are children, other than by taking Hamas’s word for

• On Nov. 11, Ayman Mohyeldin did a nine minute segment on conditions in the Gaza hospitals, featuring Hamas propagandists from the NGO Doctors without Borders, without mentioning IDF claims or evidence that Hamas was operating out of hospitals, especially Al-Shifa. On the same date, Mohyeldin also featured a two-anda-half minute segment on the Bedouin population of Israel that presented a completely distorted picture. The segment included NBC correspondent Jay Gray reporting that 15 Bedouins were killed in the Oct. 7 attacks and seven captured as hostages, as well as an interviewee who complained of rocket fire. But which party committed that attack, which party took those hostages, which party is firing the rockets that fall on them, MSNBC doesn’t say in this report. (After this report was broadcast, one of the hostages that it featured, Samer al-Talalka, tragically, was mistakenly killed by IDF fire.) Even worse was Mohyeldin’s criticism of Israel over the Bedouin community’s nomadic, off-thegrid lifestyle. When Israel tried about a decade ago to get the Bedouin into permanent housing, where they would have had electricity, running water, bomb shelters and Iron Dome protection, that plan was widely condemned as “ethnic cleansing” and abandoned. But again, Israel is blamed for the result. • On Nov. 12, Peter Beinart advocated that Marwan Barghouti be released from Israeli jail so that he would be able to assume a leadership role in the Palestinian Authority. Beinart neglected to mention that Barghouti has been convicted of murdering five people, downplaying his actions by saying only that Barghouti was “involved in armed attacks in the Second Intifada.” • CAMERA has previously described Ilan Pappé as “among the most extreme of a group of radical Israeli histoIsrael InSight • March 2020


rians who have sought to rewrite Israel’s history to suggest the country was born in original sin.” He has made clear his willingness to falsify history when it suits his political agenda. Yet, despite being totally discredited, he was introduced on the network on Dec. 10 as a “historian.” Pappé grotesquely and falsely claimed that “ethnic cleansing, which was attempted in 1948, is one of the means to make sure that the Palestinians are not part of the citizenship of the Jewish state.” This is false both because there was no organized attempt at ethnic cleansing in 1948, and because Arab Israelis are indeed an integral part of the citizenry of Israel. Pappé continued, “I’m afraid that the horrible attack by Hamas on the 7th of October is used as a pretext to downsize the one piece of historical Palestine that really causes the Israeli headaches… they hope that this war allows them and gives them the opportunity to get rid of a large number of Palestinians either by transferring them to Egypt, if Egypt won’t allow that, then to other places in the world.” He then went on to absurdly suggest that Israel must negotiate for peace with Hamas, and called on the U.S. to “bring an end to the destruction of Gaza,” in other words, to force Israel to surrender. • On Dec. 14, Joy Reid introduced guest Daniel Levy as an Israeli “peace negotiator,” though he doesn’t appear to have ever negotiated any agreement that was actually implemented. Levy is a man who, elsewhere, just days after the barbaric October 7 attack, denied that Israel’s response was targeting the Hamas terrorists that perpetrated it, saying, “these kind of lies can’t be allowed to pass.” On Reid’s program, Levy said that, “no Israeli government has ever endorsed two states,” ignoring the multiple times that Israel has offered the Palestinians their own, independent state. Reid erroneously claims that, “one of the slogans of the Likud party, which this ambassador [she appears to be referring to Ben Gvir, who is neither an ambassador or a member of Likud] and Bibi Netanyahu belong to is ‘from the river to the sea’.” The claim that Netanyahu has made is that


March 2024 • Israel InSight

Israel must maintain security control in the entire area. This is not comparable to a call to destroy an existing nation, and to leave the fate of its citizens unknown. Levy falsely called Palestinians the “indigenous people” of the area, and baselessly claims they will be “driven in to reservations.” Levy falsely claimed that the people living in refugee camps in Gaza are there because they were expelled. Reid closed the segment by stating that, “the other option of course, the Ottoman Empire had Jews, Christians, and Muslims, all living in peace. It can be done.” Reid appears oblivious the second-class or dhimmi status that Jews were subjected to for centuries under Muslim rule, including for most of the time that they lived under Ottoman rule. In the late 16th century, for example, Ottoman Sultan Murad III ordered Jews to wear specific hats that distinguished them from Muslims and forbade the construction or repair of synagogues. This latter prohibition continued into the mid1800s. • On Jan. 2, Peter Beinart was up to his usual, again ignoring the fact that the people of Gaza had their independence in 2005, and used that opportunity to elect the group whose charter stated, “Israel will exist, and will continue to exist, until Islam abolishes it,” and that eventually acted on this when it committed the attack of Oct. 7, 2023. Beinart then claimed that the current Israeli government, “is dominated by people who want Jewish supremacy,” adopting a Nazi slur. He also falsely claimed that Israel, and not Hamas, “made Gaza unliveable,” and that most residents of Gaza were “expelled to Gaza in Israel’s war of independence in 1948.” • On Jan. 18, Chris Hayes and Senator Bernie Sanders spent the vast majority of the eight and a half minute segment discussing massive food shortages in Gaza and how those shortages are affecting children, but completely failed to note that Hamas commandeers aid coming in to Gaza for its own benefit. The above is not even a full accounting of misinformation purveyed by MSNBC since the Oct. 7 attack. While, as noted above, there has been some coverage sympathetic to Israel’s predicament as well, with such distortions so common on the network, MSNBC’s viewers are not being well-informed. A longer version of this originally appeared on CAMERA. org. Karen Bekker is the Assistant Director of CAMERA’s Media Response Team. Prior to joining CAMERA, she practiced law for nine years as a commercial litigator. With research by Myron Kaplan.

Israel InSight • March 2024



If you can’t make it to Israel… While in the future, this feature will highlight unusual or little-known places in Israel that are interesting to visit, this month we highlight a taste of Israel in the Deep South

Palestine Garden 201 Palestine Gardens Road Lucedale, Miss. 601/947.8422


March 2024 • Israel InSight

“This is second-best”

Even though he hasn’t been there himself — yet — Don Bradley urges people to travel to the Land of Israel. But if one is unable to do so, he says visiting his backyard is “second best.” His is no ordinary backyard — Palestine Gardens is a scale model of the Land of Israel, filled with representations of how the Biblical towns looked 2,000 years ago, during the time of Jesus. From March to November, he offers tours to anyone who wanders in, and people from all over the world find their way to his part of the Mississippi woods. When Walter Harvell Jackson was a seminary student, a teacher challenged the students to study the Bible as a “place book.” He was ordained in 1933 and served churches in Kentucky, North Carolina and Alabama before going to First Presbyterian Church in Lucedale. Remembering the charge from his teacher, Rev. Jackson used his life savings to buy 40 acres in the woods, and in 1953, he and his wife Pellerree started building a scale model of the Land of Israel, to make the Bible “come alive.” On Easter Sunday in 1960, Jackson opened the gardens to the public, with Biblical cities created out of concrete, cinder blocks and landscaping stones in a folk art style. The site is scaled at one yard to one mile. To them, though, the message was more important than the models — showing what the landscape was like during the time of Jesus as a means of relating the story of Jesus. In 1971, the Jacksons’ daughter and her husband, Jim Kirk-

The Marketplace patrick, moved to the area and helped expand the site. After Rev. Jackson and his wife died in 1992 and 1993, respectively, the Kirkpatricks struggled to keep the attraction open. In the early 1990s, Don Bradley was a senior maintenance analyst at Martin Marietta. He felt a calling to return to the garden, which he had visited as a third grader, and propose that he purchase it. In 1994, he became the owner and started restoring the cities and adding structures. Until then, the site was known as Palestinian Gardens. Bradley wanted to honor what Jackson had created and not alter the name too much, but he changed it to Palestine Gardens, lest anyone assume it was an Islamic establishment. While the emphasis is on the story of Jesus, Bradley says he gets visitors of all faiths. In an effort not to offend anyone, he makes sure they know the Christian orientation of the garden and acknowledges any difference in beliefs while explaining sites from a Christian perspective on the tour. One enters the garden by crossing the River Jordan, then the first city that is encountered is Jericho, not far from the Dead Sea. Tucked near a sign is a pillar of salt, representing the story of Lot’s wife during the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. As with the real-life Israel, the Dead Sea is at the lowest point in the garden, and one climbs up the hill up to Bethlehem and Jerusalem, and Mount Hermon, the highest point in Israel, is the highest point at the distant end of the garden. The garden is about 5 miles off US 98 near Lucedale, about an hour from Mobile, Pascagoula or Hattiesburg. There is no admission charge, but donations are welcomed, and large groups are urged to contact him in advance.

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Having an Israel event? Send us information beforehand for a calendar listing, and photos afterward! Israel InSight • March 2020


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