Sugihara and the Jews: A Chanukah Story

Thanks again to Jack Cohen of the Netanya Branch. You can read Jack’s blog here.

This event took place on Sunday, December 1, 2013 in Netanya.

Sunday I saw a movie entitled “Conspiracy of Kindness” at the AACI about Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat who saved the lives of thousands of Jews during WWII.  The movie was shown by Naftali Bet-Ram, a retired professor from Touro College, New York, who provided some commentary.

Although Japan became an ally of Nazi Germany in the Axis powers during WWII, nevertheless they refused to introduce anti-Semitic laws in Japan and treated the Jews who came under their control with respect.  It should be noted that the Japanese Government had a positive view of the Jews for one main reason.  When they wanted to go to war with Russia in 1902 they could not find any banker to finance their plans, except for Jacob Schiff of New York, who loaned them m$200, which was a huge sum.  When the surprised Japanese envoy asked him why he gave them the loan Schiff replied, “as a banker I should not give you this loan, but as a Jew I must give it to you,” and then he wished them luck in defeating the Russians, which they did in the Russo-Japan war of 1904.  In the 1930s a serious proposal had been floated called “the Fugu Plan” that Jews who were being forced to flee Europe should be settled in Manchuoko, the name given to the Japanese-puppet colony of Manchuria that Japan had captured from China.  But, the American Jewish leader Rabbi Stephen Wise rejected this proposal before the anti-Jewish atrocities in Europe became known and by then it was too late.

Chiune Sugihara had become a Japanese diplomat and had learnt Russian and German.  He was instrumental in buying the Manchurian railway from the Russians and was involved in learning the plans of the Russians prior to WWII.  In other words he was a diplomatic spy, and he was then sent to the Japanese Embassy in Berlin.  From there he was sent to the Embassy in Helsinki, and then he set up a consular office in Kaunas, Lithuania, which was closer to the Russian border.  Then Lithuania was invaded by the Russians and  they ordered all foreign Embassies to close.  During this period thousands of Polish Jews fled to Lithuania from the advancing German Army.  They brought with them tales of the atrocities carried out against the Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators.

One day Sugihara was in a store in Kaunas when a young Jewish boy named Solly Ganor came in.  He asked his aunt who owned the store for money to go to a movie, and she demurred.  Sugihara then offered the boy the money, but he refused it, saying that he could not accept money from strangers.  Sugihara told him to consider him an uncle.  Whereupon the boy said, if you are my uncle you must come to our Chanukkah party.  So Sugihara went to the family Chanukkah Party with his wife and children, and learnt about Jewish customs.  There Sugihara also learnt about the anti-Jewish atrocities being commited by the Germans in Poland and reported them to his Foreign Ministry.  Miraculously his correspondence  with the Ministry survived the American bombing of Tokyo, when most of the Japanese Government archives were destroyed.

Quite coincidentally, a Dutch Jewish couple who had fled from Poland to Lithuania asked the nearest Dutch Embassy if they could receive a visa for the Dutch Caribbean colony of Curacao, since due to the war it was impossible to return to Holland.  They were told that no visa was necessary for Curacao.  They asked the Ambassador if he would write this in their passports and he complied.  Soon they returned and asked for him to do the same for 30 of their Polish friends, and he did so.  Eventually thousands of Jews, finding no escape from Lithuania simply wrote in their passports “no visa needed for Curacao” and used this as a destination visa from Lithuania.  But, to leave Lithuania they needed two other visas, an exit visa from the Russians (who occupied Lithuania at this point) and a transit visa thru another country.

The Dutch couple approached Sugihara who worked out of his house in Kaunas as the offical Japanese Consul in Lithuania, from where he had spied on the Russians and the Germans.  They asked him for a transit visa thru Japan and he gave them one.  Soon his office was besieged by hundreds of Jews seeking similar visas.  He cabled the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo for approval to give out transit visas, but was refused.  He was refused three times, but nevertheless he started to give out visas to these desperate Jews seeking any haven, and in fact ended up giving 2,120 visas, according to the list of names that he subsequently submitted to the Ministry.  Note that because he had no staff, making out these visas by hand was a herculean task.

The Rabbi of the Mir Yeshiva, whose 300 teachers and pupils had escaped from Poland to Lithuania, came to Sugihara and asked him for transit visas, and he agreed.  But, in order to do the work the Mir Yeshiva Rabbi and a German volunteer worked together with him day and night.   However, this is not the total of visas he gave out, even when he had closed the Consulate he continued to give out visas, even at the railway station and even on the train.  In addition, noone knows how many visas were copied and forged.  Yet the Russians gave everyone (except Lithuanian citizens) exit visas from Lithuania, as long as they could buy a ticket on the Trans-Siberian railway to Vladivostock and the Japanese authorities honored all the visas, even those that were obvious forgeries.

In this way thousands of Jews manged to escape the Holocaust.  Solly Ganor, who was Lithuanian, was not allowed to leave, and when the Germans captured Lithuania and the Russians withdrew, he saw the ferocity with which the Lithuanians themselves massacred Jews in the streets.  He was sent with 30,000 other Jews to a Ghetto in Kaunas.  From there some 10,000 Jews were taken out one day and murdered.  Many of them were shot and many were thrown alive into the huge pit in the Ninth Fort, a remnant of the medieval fortifications around Kaunas. Altogether 30,000 Jews were murdered there.

Solly was lucky to remain in the Ghetto and was on a forced death march when he lost conscousness and awoke to find all the Germans soldiers gone.  Then he was rescued coincidentally by soldiers of the all-Japanese American unit, the 442 regiment.

Sugihara remained in Europe after the war, but when he was ordered back to Japan he was forced to resign his post at the Foreign Ministry due to his disobeying of orders and was stripped of his pension and was officially disgraced.  He did odd jobs until he returned to Moscow working in the import-export business.  After 16 years living there in obscurity he returned to Japan.  He was sought out by Jews who he had saved and was given the award of Righteous Gentile by Yad Vashem in Israel in 1985.  He was only recognized as a hero by the Japanese Government after that and all his pension amounts were repaid to his family after his death in 1986.  When he was asked why he did it, he seemed not to understand the question and then replied “but anyone would have done it.”  He refused all attempts to glorify his name and to receive rewards.  Now there are monuments to him in Kaunas and his hometown of Kamakura in Japan.

Of those Jews he saved, many were shipped out of Japan to Shanghai during the war, but none were killed.  Some were given visas to Australia and New Zealand and other countries before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and America entered the war.  None of the Jews went to Curacao.  About half of the Jews eventually made their way to Israel where they and their descendents live today. One of those he saved, Zerah Warhaftig, who was a Zionist leader in Poland, later became a Minister in the Israeli Government and a founder of Bar Ilan University.   It is estimated that today there are ca. 40,000 descendents of the Jews Sugihara saved.



Exotic Jewish Communities – Part 2 – Ethiopian Jews

Thanks once again to Jack Cohen for his summary of this interesting lecture, part 2 of a series taking place in Netanya. Thanks also to Gabriella Licsko, our guest lecturer, who was kind enough to review Jack’s summary (and the previous one) and approve it.

Click here for part 1.

Thanks to guest poster, Jack Cohen from the Netanya branch of AACI. This is from his blog, Isblog.

This lecture series with Gabriella Licsko continues in Netanya with Exotic Jewry:  Communities and Lost Tribes on Nov 3, Nov 17 and Dec 8.

Call 09-8330950 or visit

Scroll down for information and details about upcoming lecture series in November, “Let’s Surf on the Map!” and in December, “Jerusalem of Gold, Jerusalem of Colors” at the AACI – Max & Gianna Glassman Family Center in Jerusalem.

For her second lecture in the series on Exotic Jewish Communities, Gabrella Licsko spoke about the Ethiopian Jewish community.  There are about 120,000 Ethiopian Jews living in Israel and the largest concentration of them is in Netanya.  It is common to see them in our streets and working around the city.  But, the Ethiopian community has had a hard time adapting to Israel, perhaps more than most immigrant communities.

The origin of the Ethiopian Jews is shrouded in mystery.  The popular theory is that they are descended from the liaison between Kind David and the Queen of Sheba.  Sheba was not in Ethiopia itself but across the Red Sea in Yemen.  In biblical times and later it was a very verdant area often ruled by Queens.  The son of the Queen of Sheba was Menelek who is considered to be the founder of the royal line of Ethiopia descended from King David.  Much later they converted to Christianity.  Another theory is that the Ethiopian Jews are descended from the tribe of Dan.

Around the 15th century there is eyewitness testimony of a Jewish Kingdom in Ethiopia, and for several hundred years it was ruled by a Jewish dynasty.  But, wars between the Jewish and Christian kingdoms resulted in great destruction and finally the Christians won and reduced the Jews to penury.  Jews were only allowed to be farmers and petty artisans, they were driven out of the main cities and those who survived ended up in Gondar province in the north east and some in Tigre province.  They spoke Amharic, which is a southern semitic language, but their sacred texts were written in a special language called Geez, that only the priests (Kesim) could read.

Because of their remoteness and isolation from other Jewish communities, the Ethiopian Jews never developed Rabbinic Judaism, had no access to Ashkenazi and Sephardi texts and never celebrated Hanukkah, a later festival.  They do however celebrate a unique festival of Sigd, 50 days after Yom Kippur, when they pray as a community to be returned to Israel.  This day is now a holiday for them celebrated in Israel.

During the 18-19th century things became worse for the remaining Jews who were named Falasha, a derogatory term.  Many were forcibly converted to Christianity, forming a group called Falash Mura, or “impure people.”  The relationship between the Jews and the Falash Mura is complex, some Jews regarding them as brothers, and others looking down on them as traitors.

By the 19th century their numbers had declined drastically because of a general famine in Ethiopia and attempts were made to help them.  In the 1920s Rav Kook, Chief Rabbi of Palestine, wanted to arrange their aliyah, but unfortunately it did not happen then.  Later several individuals, mostly the educated children of senior Kesim, managed to reach Palestine and then Israel.  But, the very poor majority continued subsistence farming in Gondar through civil wars and political strife under Haile Selassi and the Marxist dictator Mengistu, both of whom would not allow them to leave.  In 1974 Rav Ovadia Yosef, the Sephardi Chief Rabbi, agreed to accept them as Jews and this helped their aliyah, even though many Haredi Rabbis refused to accept them as Jews and still do.  In the 1980s many of them trekked across the desert to Sudan, although thousands died on the way.   In 1984 they were spirited out of Sudan secretly to Israel in operations Moses and King Solomon by El Al and with the help of the US.  But, eventually this route was closed and it only became possible for the rest to leave once the regime changed and wanted greater contact with the US.

Due to controversy about whether or not they are truly Jews there were bureaucratic hold-ups in their transfer to Israel and their acceptance under the “law of return.”  Finally most senior rabbis accepted them as Jews, allowing the Ministry of the Interior to recognize them.  The Falash Mura immigrated more recently and were also accepted, but they are required to convert.

Since they came from almost a stone-age background, they had no idea what things such as planes, toilets, elevators and TVs were.  Not only was it difficult for them to adapt to modern life in Israel, but they had to learn Hebrew and often how to read and write.  Also, since the men had been farmers there was not much they could do in Israel and often the wives, who were younger and more adaptable, became the bread winners, thus undermining their traditional family structure.   But, we should point out that this year’s Miss Israel is an Ethiopian girl from Netanya named Titi and there are now Ethiopian MKs and even one Ambassador.  The Ethiopian Jews are still adapting to Israel, and prejudice against them is gradually fading and in several generations it will probably be difficult to remember how hard it was for them to be absorbed here.

Gabriella Licsko is a lecturer on Jewish history and society focusing on different religious communities.  She leads tours of different neighborhoods in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and across the country, and is one of  AACI’s Scholar in Residence for our travel program.  Gabriella holds a bachelor’s degree in Culture Studies and a master’s degree in Jewish Studies and made aliyah from Hungary in 2007.

Gabriella Licsko is a lecturer on Jewish history and society focusing on different religious communities. She leads tours of different neighborhoods in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and across the country, and is one of AACI’s Scholar in Residence for our travel program. Gabriella holds a bachelor’s degree in Culture Studies and a master’s degree in Jewish Studies and made aliyah from Hungary in 2007.


November:  Let’s Surf on the Map!

Join us for a new series about the Land of Israel, about the geography and society:  get to know the amazing geographic, social and cultural diversity of this Land, explore holy cities and the secular ones


Wednesday, November 6th at 14:00

The four holy cities: Hebron, Jerusalem, Tzfat and Tveria; past, present and future.

Wednesday, November 13th at 14:00

”If you want to be a mayor, go and build for yourself a city” Meir Dizengoff. Tel-Aviv and the center of Israel

Wednesday, November 20th at 14:00

“The South and the North will rise again! But how and when?”

Wednesday, November 27th at 15:30

Yehuda and Shomron and a crash course on Kibbutzim, Moshavim, Yishuvim, development towns and planned cities.

Cost of series:  170 NIS / AACI members 150 NIS (Individual lectures 50 NIS each) Pre-registration with payment required.


December:  “Jerusalem of Gold, Jerusalem of Colors”

Get to know more about the capital of the State of Israel.  Learn about the neighborhoods, both old and new, their history and society, the culture and population of different areas, the famous residents, institutions, schools and synagogues, social and demographical changes, real estate prices and new projects in town.


Wednesday, December 4th at 14:00

The OldCity, Yemin Moshe-Miskenot Sheananim, Musrara, Kfar David.

 Wednesday, December 11th at 14:00

Meah Shearim: Learn how a relatively modern religious neighborhood established by Polish and Lithuanian Jews in 1874, turned to be the symbol of extreme ultra-orthodoxy and anti-Zionism.

Wednesday, December 18th at 14:00

The most popular areas and neighborhoods in the city and the “Anglo colonies”

Wednesday, December 25th at 14:00

Lesser known and less central neighborhoods, their population changes and potentials, and Jerusalem real estate in the past and now.

Cost of series:  170 NIS / AACI members 150 NIS (Individual lectures 50 NIS each) Pre-registration with payment required.

 Gabriella Licsko is a lecturer on Jewish history and society focusing on different religious communities.  She leads tours of different neighborhoods in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and across the country, and is one of  AACI’s Scholar in Residence for our travel program.  Gabriella holds a bachelor’s degree in Culture Studies and a master’s degree in Jewish Studies and made aliyah from Hungary in 2007.

AACI is the home for English Speakers in Israel with offices in Jerusalem, Netanya, Tel Aviv, Beer Sheva and Haifa.
AACI Jerusalem – Dr. Max and Gianna Glassman Family Center Pierre Koenig 37, corner of Poalei Tzedek 2 (across from Hadar Mall) Talpiot, Jerusalem
Buses # 10, 21 & 49 stop on Pierre Koenig across from AACI; 71, 72, 74 & 75 stop at Tzomet Habankim, a 10-minute walk away.
(02) 566-1181 for more information about any programs or to register.

Live from Jerusalem! It’s Avraham Avinu!

So by now, if you are a member of AACI, you have received a letter in the mail. And if you receive our free enewsletter, or if you are like us on facebook, or follow us on twitter, then you may know that Avraham Avinu was recently sighted in our Jerusalem office in Talpiot.

Here are some highlights of his visit.

Please like and share the video. And of course, you can donate by clicking here.

AACI is the home for English Speakers in Israel with offices in Jerusalem, Netanya, Tel Aviv, Beer Sheva and Haifa.
AACI Jerusalem – Dr. Max and Gianna Glassman Family Center Pierre Koenig 37, corner of Poalei Tzedek 2 (across from Hadar Mall) Talpiot, Jerusalem
Buses # 10, 21 & 49 stop on Pierre Koenig across from AACI; 71, 72, 74 & 75 stop at Tzomet Habankim, a 10-minute walk away.
(02) 566-1181 for more information about any programs or to register.

An unknown American hero of the Holocaust

With thanks for this blogpost to Jack Cohen

(the original post can be found at

Blowing the Whistle on Genocide- Josiah E. DuBois and the struggle for an American response to the Holocaust

Beyond the famous individuals who saved thousands of Jewish lives in the Holocaust (Shoah), such as Raoul Wallenberg and Oscar Schindler, there are the less famous heroes, some of whom were overlooked and forgotten.  Among these were the British Major Frank Foley, the Portuguese Consul in Hungary Sousa Mendes (who may have been of Bnei Anusim origin), the Japanese Vice-Consul in Lithuania, Chiune Sugihara, and a Chinese diplomat in Berlin, Feng-Shan Ho, each of whom saved many Jewish lives by providing visas, against the wishes of their Governments.  Another, who worked for the US Government in Washington DC and who deserves to be included among them, was Josiah E. DuBois Jr.  By his actions he may have saved more Jewish lives than any other righteous gentile. We were informed about the story of Josiah DuBois in advance of the upcoming Yom Hashoah by Leslie Portnoy, a regular lecturer at AACI who always gives a meticulous and enlightening talk.

DuBois was born in Camden, NJ, in 1913 and went on to study law at Penn U.  In 1941, at the start of the Holocaust, DuBois was working in the Foreign Funds Control Board of the US Treasury.  A request for $170,000 to pay a bribe to rescue 70,000 Jews came to his desk and he immediately approved it and passed it on to the State DeptHe was later horrified to find that State had deliberately delayed dealing with the request, and despite his efforts he was not able to get them to act for five and a half months, by which time the Jews had already been murdered!  This was a shock to him and he started collecting information on the apparently deliberate and systematic actions (and inaction) of the State Department under Asst. Secty. Breckenridge Long, whose policy was later expounded in an intra-department memo of June 1940: “We can delay and effectively stop for a temporary period of indefinite length the number of immigrants (i.e. Jews) into the United States. We could do this by simply advising our consuls to put every obstacle in the way and to require additional evidence and to resort to various administrative devices which would postpone and postpone and postpone the granting of the visas.”. Thus, 90% of the US quota places available to immigrants from countries under German control were never filled. (Later Long was caught lying to Congress about the number of visas authorized and was forced to resign in 1944.  But, he and other anti-Semites had done irreparable damage to the Jewish people.

In response to this systematic policy, that was never opposed by Secty. of State Cordell Hull or Pres. Roosevelt, Du Bois began to collect information and on 25 December 1943 he wrote a Report to his boss, Treasury Secty. Henry Morgenthau, who happened to be Jewish but who had deliberately avoided taking up the case of the European Jews with Roosevelt.  This now famous case of whistle-blowing was entitled “Report to the Secretary of the Acquiescence of This Government in the Murder of the Jews.”  To avoid the same kind of bureaucratic silencing that had been going on for those crucial years DuBois told Morgenthau that if the Secretary did not pass his report on to the President he would resign and present the report to a press conference.  To avoid problems in the election then due in onlly 10 months, Roosevelt established the War Refugee Board, in which DuBois was General Counsel, with his colleague John W. Pehle as its Director.

Very quickly the WRB began to take actions to rescue the lives of Jews in Europe by various means, including bribery.  (This usually required sending money, but they also arranged for Raoul Wallenberg as an emissary under Swedish auspices to help rescue the Jews of Budapest)  They also established havens for Jewish refugees in N. Africa, Sweden and elsewhere, but only one in the USA, at Fort Ontario, New York, that housed a mere 982 Jews.  After the war ended in 1945 it was estimated that the WRB’s direct actions had saved ca. 200,000 Jews, and many more had been rescued, ca. 48,000 in Transnistria alone, as well as the 120,000 saved in Budapest.  All of this could not have happened if DuBois had not acted on his principles.  He ended his crucial Report with these words: “If men of the temperment and philosophy of Long continue in control of immigration administration, we may as well take down that plaque from the Statue of Liberty and block out the ‘lamp beside the golden door.'”  However, WRB director Pehle described the work as “too little, too late”.

Later DuBois was part of the legal team as part of the Nuremberg Trials that prosecuted those who ran I.G. Farben, the chemical company that used slave-labor under the Nazis.  He wrote a memoir about this trial entitled “the Devil’s Chemists.”After that he played no further role in these events and his crucial role was almost entirely forgotten until Arthur Morse in his 1968 book mentioned him.

PS. This is my summary of Leslie Portnoy’s lecture that was based largely on Rafael Medoff’s book “Blowing the Whistle on Genocide: Josiah E. DuBois and the struggle for an American response to the Holocaust,” Purdue Univ. Press, 2008.
AACI is the home for English Speakers in Israel with offices in Jerusalem, Netanya, Tel Aviv, Beer Sheva and Haifa.
AACI Jerusalem – Dr. Max and Gianna Glassman Family Center
Pierre Koenig 37, corner of Poalei Tzedek 2 (across from Hadar Mall)
Talpiot, Jerusalem
Buses # 10, 21 & 49 stop on Pierre Koenig across from AACI; 71, 72, 74 & 75 stop at Tzomet Habankim, a 10-minute walk away.
(02) 566-1181 for more information about any programs or to register.

Preparing for an emergency

Special Guest Post by our own David London, Executive Director. And this time, I can safely say that the opinions expressed in this guest post DO reflect the opinions and policies of the AACI, The Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel, serving English speakers from countries all over the world for over 60 years who have decided to make Israel their home!

And now, without further ado, a few words from David London, as it appeared in the Jerusalem Post.

As we know, life in Israel can be fraught with challenges. That is why AACI has been caring for and supporting Israel’s English-speaking community for over 60 years. In today’s Jerusalem Post (page 7), you will see the first in a series of articles reprinting the latest AACI Emergency Handbook.

Making aliyah, living in Israel and being part of Israeli society is, for most of us, the ultimate expression of our Zionism and Judaism. We should be proud that we have made our homes here and have raised our children here.

We live in a vibrant and vital society where life is never boring.

I made aliyah 22 years ago with my wife and year-old son – immediately after the Gulf War. Over the years three additional children – two boys and one girl (in that order) – were added to our family.

My oldest is finishing his third year of compulsory military service and the others are on the way to serving; thus, one of my children will be serving in the IDF for the next 10 years.

After over 20 years of living in Israel and having worked intensively on the production of the AACI Emergency Handbook in English, I should have been well prepared when the sirens went off in Jerusalem and its environs for the first time last Friday evening. However, I initially froze, like everyone else. Then, after that initial fright, I immediately took action and found a safer location and immediately gathered the frightened and skeptical around me.

Only after we heard the explosions of the Grads did everyone understand that this war was also on our doorsteps.

When I returned home and calmed down my family, my wife complained to me that everyone else had an Emergency Handbook but the family of the director of AACI did not. Obviously, it was because I was focused on getting the handbooks mailed out to all the members of the AACI family, country-wide.

For those who are not members I encourage you to join. However, we have made a free on-line edition that you can find at the websites of the AACI or The Jerusalem Post.

New immigrants always ask when they will become real Israelis. My answer (as well as that of AACI) is that “aliyah never stops.” No matter when you made aliya or how long you have been here, we will always be olim (immigrants) even if we speak perfect Hebrew. I know that when dealing with major issues such as health, finances or, in this case, security I prefer my information in English.

Even when the issue is not life-threatening, many of us prefer their information in English.

For over 60 years AACI has been providing information in English. Information is power, and AACI works hard to provide the latest and most up-to-date information in every area – health, housing, schooling and higher education, employment, military service, finances, tax reporting requirements, voting in Israel and abroad. This material is gathered by AACI’s amazing professional aliyah, klitah and employment counselors, assisted by volunteer experts. We are proud that we offer our services in all of Israel’s major cities; Beersheba, Haifa, Netanya, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

You will find our branches filled with a small, dedicated and professional staff and thousands of wonderful volunteers.

Our volunteers are great and they are there to help no matter your gender, religious or political beliefs or where you live. We believe that the English-speaking community deserves an address to turn to. That place is AACI.

In times of national emergency or just everyday living, AACI is your home and provides that safety net when things don’t go right. I encourage all of you to join AACI and be part of our community.

Our hope and prayers are that you will only read AACI’s Emergency Handbook as anecdotal material and never have to put the recommendations into actual use. May the whole house of Israel return to a somewhat quieter existence, and may the next big lights we see be in our homes during Hanukka.

sample page:

Download the handbook at

Editor’s note:  Do you have an Israeli Army story — or other personal story of life in Israel — that you would like to share with us? We are always interested in stories that will inform, uplift and inspire our readers. Of course, we reserve the sole right to publish or not, and to edit before publishing. Please submit your story, preferably including (non-copyright) photos as well, to forward to hearing from you!

AACI Jerusalem – Dr. Max and Gianna Glassman Family Center
Pierre Koenig 37, corner of Poalei Tzedek 2 (across from Hadar Mall)
Talpiot, Jerusalem
Buses # 10, 21 & 49 stop on Pierre Koenig across from AACI; 71, 72, 74 & 75 stop  at Tzomet Habankim, a 10-minute walk away.
(02) 566-1181 for more information about any programs or to register.

Rain: A Prize-Winning Poem

Mazal tov! Mazal tov!

AACI staffer Miriam Green, our counselor in the South Chapter (Beer Sheva),  just won a prize at for her lovely poem, “Rain.” This is an evocative picture of an important aspect of life in Israel — our dependence on the  winter rains to supply us with water for the year.

We are pleased to share Miriam’s poem with you.


by Miriam Green

No, it doesn’t rain here
in the summer, I tell the tourist.
She is dazzled, expectant
on her first visit to the land,
her carefree American eyes
unconnected to God.
I want to explain how the year is split
between Succot and Passover;
how after a dry, hot season,
our prayers change in the autumn
supplicating He who makes the wind blow and the rains fall,
mashiv haruach u’morid hageshem;
how if it rains before then, it’s as if God, the master,
throws a glass of wine in the face of his servant;
how the land needs our prayers to survive;
how our toilets have two flush buttons
to minimize water use for small loads;
how, between lathering and rinsing,
we shiver under the shower with the water off;

shower like a soldier from
photo courtesy Davey C while in Iraq

how the rain descends without warning,
drenching our hair, clothes, shoes;
how rare black irises bloom on the sand dunes near Netanya,
and flash floods form in the wadis;
how there are winter days where all you wear is a t-shirt;
how, sometimes, it snows in Jerusalem,
and if the eruv falls, they announce it on television;
how we dress in layers
because it’s colder inside the houses than out in the sun;
how, when it’s time, our prayers change
in the spring to morid hatal asking for dew.
NOTE: An eruv is a halachic boundary around homes and communities, often made of wires tied to poles, that allows carrying of items on the Jewish Sabbath.

IICC – Israel Intelligence Heritage and Commemoration Center

    On Tuesday we went on a trip (tiyul) with AACI to the IICC. AACI is the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel, our English-speaking club in Netanya and IICC is the Israel Intelligence Heritage and Commemoration Center. I have lived in Israel for 15 years and had never before heard of this organization, that was established in 1985 to commemorate the Israeli heroes who died in the service of the State while carrying out intelligence operations.
    The IICC was formed by the three arms of Israel’s intelligence services; the Shin Bet (responsible for internal security), the Mossad (responsible for foreign intelligence gathering and analysis) and Aman the Intelligence Corps of the IDF. More than that, the IICC sits in an obscure location on a small side street, which I used as a short cut going home from work and passed it many times without realizing that it was there. It would indeed require information and intelligence to find it.
    It was founded by former intelligence officers to commemorate their fallen colleagues. The memorial consists of a stone maze with the names of the deceased carved on the walls.
    There is also a small synagogue containing a 120 year old Syrian Torah scroll that was one of over 100 rescued by the Mossad during the rescue of Syrian Jewry, and adjacent is a library containing a file on each individual, that contains official letters as well as material added by family members and friends. It should be emphasized that all this information is now public, although some individuals still cannot be named.
    Part of the Center includes the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center that has a large library on intelligence and terrorism information as well as a tiny museum on terrorism (see . This is a private organization that has ties to the formal State intelligence organizations and produces reports on various topics that contain only publicly available information. For example they produced the Report that was submitted as the official Israeli reaction to the Goldstone Report.
    We were shown an introductory video on the Center, then a video about one of the successful operations carried out in 1953, soon after the State was founded, in order to rescue Jewish children from Morocco, under the aegis of “Nativ” that was a part of the Mossad given the responsibility to rescue endangered Jews from anywhere in the world.
    For this operation the Mossad recruited a young British Jew named David Littman, code-named “Mural,” who was living in Switzerland with his wife and child. David was anxious to help Jews who were endangered, partly because as a historian he had studied the Holocaust. He was asked by the Jewish Agency to go to Morocco and see if he could rescue 500 Jewish children, but he was unaware that he had been recruited by the Mossad.
    He took his family with him and posed as a British Christian under a false identity. He set up an office in Casablanca that was a charity offering free holidays in Switzerland to children under stress. He made contacts with the Swiss and British diplomats and Moroccan authorities. He was accepted as genuine by them and he then signed up children for the holidays, all of whom incidentally were Jewish. The Moroccan authorities granted him mass visas for 100 children at a time, and he successfully rescued 530, some by boat and some by plane. From Switzerland, from a genuine holiday villa, the children were then transported to Israel. Neither the children nor their parents actually knew that Israel was their destination, although many suspected this. After the success of Operation Mural, the Moroccan authorities, maybe partly out of embarrassment and partly out of the realization that they could not prevent the Jews from leaving, allowed 100,000 Jews to be transported by sea via France and Italy to Israel. The parents of the rescued children joined them in Israel.
    Incidentally, Littman’s wife, Gisele, who was expelled from Egypt with her parents in 1957, writes under the nom-de-plume of Bat Yeor and authored a famous book entitled “Dhimmi,” the Arabic for protected minorities.
     After lunch we also heard a lecture by Prof. Yoram Kahati on “Radical Islam”, in which he described the modern origins of radical Islam from Hassan al Banna who founded the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928 and Said Kuttub (Sayid Qutb) in Egypt in the 1940’s to Yussuf Qaradawi, the Muslim cleric who has justified under Islam much of the current terror used against Israel and the West. He also explained the symbolism that is used by the terrorist groups such as Hizbollah and Hamas in their flags and slogans and described their world-view. Altogether not a pleasant subject but very interesting and informative.
(You can expect to hear more from Jack who was born in London, UK, lived in suburban Washington DC area for 30 years, moved to Israel in 1996. A retired Professor. Thanks again, Jack!)