Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Michael Sean Winters on "The War in Gaza"

... The Israeli action has not moved the Arab governments in the region to defend Hamas. Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have nearly as great an interest in Israel’s defeating the terrorists as Israel does. They know that there is no negotiating with these fanatics even while they overlook their own complicity in stoking the anti-Israeli fires over the years.

Of course, there remains one very simple way to break the cycle of violence in the Mideast: The Palestinians must unequivocally accept Israel’s right to exist and abandon their hopes for turning back the clock to 1966. As long as the Palestinians insist on half of Jerusalem, they will never have complete control of Nablus. And until their universities stop being recruiting grounds for terrorists, those of us who live in countries that insisted on the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany should be careful about condemning Israel.

We all want to break the circle of violence. But, Pope Benedict XVI, perhaps more than most, knows the nasty consequences of mixing fanatic ideology with politics for he witnessed those consequences as a young man. Hamas and its allies bring eschatology where Hitler brought the Occult mixed with Wagnerian Germanic mythology, but the effects are the same: a regime that is a curse for its own people and its neighbors. Peace can only come when Hamas is defeated.

The War in Gaza America 12/30/08

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Thoughts on the Israel's War with Hamas

On December 27th, 2008, Israel launched a series of air strikes on Hamas training camps, headquarters, weapons storehouses, underground missile silos and command-and-control centers in Gaza -- the start of an open-ended offensive to stem the increasing barrage of rocket-attacks that have plagued Southern Israel in the past months.

Israeli ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shaleb defended the operation:

"Israel is taking the necessary military action in order to protect its citizens from ongoing terrorist attacks originating from the Gaza Strip and carried out by Hamas and other terrorist organizations," Shalev said, adding that Hamas "holds the sole responsibility for the latest events."

Israel, she continued, "has exhausted all means and efforts to reach and maintain quiet and to respect the state of calm… Israel's response is aimed solely against the terrorists and their infrastructures in the Gaza Strip. It is not intended against the civilian population. Israel is committed to prevent a humanitarian crisis."

Shalev asserted that "No country would allow continuous rocketing of its civilian population without taking the necessary actions to stop it."

Commenting on the three-day air assault by Israel on Hamas, Deal Hudson states "Bombing Gaza Won't Make Israel Safer". It's a good post and, if anything, certainly jeopardizes Hudson's standing as a member of the cabal of "Catholic neocons" beholden to Israel and the Republican Party (see Robert Sungenis and other tirades from the fringe-right). That said, I wish to register some thoughts in reaction, both to Hudson and our fellow critics at Vox Nova:

Friday, November 28, 2008

5 Dead at Chabad House in Mumbai

Five hostages have been found murdered at the Chabad House in Mumbai, including Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg, and his wife, Rivka -- as PowerLine blog reports, coverage by the Western media leaves something to be desired:
From the start British and American coverage concentrated on the hotels with stress of the targeting of British and Americans. The Jewish target was ignored until day two and day three. The two luxury hotels were selected by the terrorists because they are occupied by tourists. People who escaped from the hotels claimed that the terrorists asked for British and Americans. However, they were selected because they were foreigners.

Nariman House was selected by the terrorists because the Chabad building was a specific Jewish target that also included Israelis. Let me make this clear. Chabad House was the only target chosen by the terrorists in Mumbai because of its specific character - Jewish and Israeli. Hostages in Chabad House were killed because they were Jewish and Israeli.

Yet this terror venue was largely ignored by most of the Western media until the final day. We, in Israel, were able to follow events there because of the involvement of the Israeli Foreign Ministry and the Israeli media. Information from these and other sources was essential for me to relay reports to many people in Britain and the States who were unaware that Jews or Israelis were deliberate terror targets in Mumbai. When revealed, the final story of Chabad House will be tragic yet not properly covered by the world's media.

  • Brooklyn Couple Killed in Attacks New York Times November 28, 2008:
    In a news conference broadcast Friday on Israeli radio, Tzipi Livni, Israel’s foreign minister said: “We know that the targets there that were sought out by the terrorists were Jewish and Israeli targets as well as targets that are perceived as Western targets — American and British.”

    She added: “We need to understand that there’s a world here, our world, that has been attacked. And it doesn’t matter if it’s happened in India or somewhere else. We have here radical Islamic elements who do not accept either our existence or the values of the Western world. And only when incidents of this sort occur is it suddenly understood from conversations with leaders from around the entire world that we are actually party to the same battle.”

  • Slain Rabbi's only concern was helping Jews away from home Reuters. November 28, 2008:
    "After he got married he was looking to make an impact in the world, in the Jewish world, and in his case reach out to people who are really, really far away both literally and spiritually from their roots," said Rabbi Berel Wolvovsky of Maryland, a childhood friend of Gavriel Holtzberg.

    "His fears were not fears of terrorism. His fears were of maybe not being able to help as many people as he'd like."

Our prayers go out to the family of Rabbi Hertzberg and his wife, and all the victims -- let the world recognize that we all face a common enemy in this 'long war".

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI to visit Israel in 2009?

A Vatican spokesman has confirmed that the Vatican and Israel are considering a papal trip to the Holy Land in 2009 (Zenit News Service):
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, responded today to a report from an Israeli newspaper that Benedict XVI could visit the Holy Land next year.

The spokesman's brief statement was: "I can confirm that contacts exist at a diplomatic level between the Holy See and Israel to study the possibility of a trip by the Pope to the Holy Land next year."

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Why "Yahweh" Isn't Used in Catholic Liturgy

Why "Yahweh" Isn't Used in Catholic Liturgy - prohibition has its roots in Jewish tradition. Zenit News interviews Father Michel Remaud, director of the Albert Decourtray Institute, a Christian institute of Jewish studies and Hebrew literature.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Rabbi becomes first Jew to address a Synod of Catholic Bishops

Shear-Yashuv Cohen, the Grand Rabbi of Haifa, on Monday became the first Jew to address a synod of Catholic bishops at the at the Second General Congregation of the Bishops’ synod on the Bible Catholic News Agency reports:
Calling the fact of his presence “very meaningful,” “a signal of hope,” and “a message of love,” he discussed support for Israel before addressing the praise of God, prayer, and Jewish habits of sermon writing.

Rabbi Cohen, the co-president of a commission for dialogue between the Vatican and Israel, added: “There is a long, hard and painful history of the relationship between our people, our faith and the Catholic Church leadership and followers, a history of blood and tears,” Agence France Presse reports.

The rabbi then alluded to the anti-Israel remarks of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad before the U.N. General Assembly last month, saying Israelis felt “deep shock at the terrible and vicious words of the president of a certain state in the Middle East in his speech.”

Speaking to the synod, Rabbi Cohen added: “We hope to get your help as religious leaders ... to protect, defend and save Israel ... from the hands of its enemies.”

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI: to be anti-Semitic is to be anti-Christian

By her very nature the Catholic Church feels obliged to respect the Covenant made by the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Indeed, the Church herself is situated within the eternal Covenant of the Almighty, whose plans are immutable, and she respects the children of the Promise, the children of the Covenant, as her beloved brothers and sisters in the faith. She compellingly repeats, through my voice, the words of the great Pope Pius XI, my beloved predecessor: Spiritually, we are Semites (Allocution to the Belgian Pilgrims, 16 September 1938). The Church therefore is opposed to every form of anti-Semitism, which can never be theologically justified. The theologian Henri de Lubac, in a time of darkness, as Pius XII (Summi Pontificatus, 10 October 1939) described it, added that to be anti-Semitic also signifies being anti-Christian (cf. Un nuovo fronte religioso in: Israele e la Fede Cristiana [1942]). Once again I feel the duty to pay heartfelt recognition to those who have died unjustly and to those that have dedicated themselves to assure that the names of these victims may always be remembered. God does not forget!
-- Meeting with representatives of the Jewish community Apostolic Journey to France (September 12, 2008)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

"1948, Israel and the Palestinians"

1948, Israel and the Palestinians, by Efraim Karsh, head of Mediterranean Studies at King's College, University of London. Web-exclusive from Commentary Magazine.

According to which, the declassification of millions of documents from the period of the British Mandate (1920-1948) and Israel’s early days refutes the claim of premeditated dispossession and the consequent creation of the longstanding Palestinian “refugee problem” by Israel.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Truce? No truce? -- Boy, that was quick.

  • Previous cease-fires with Palestinians paint a bleak picture by Abe Selig. Jerusalem Post June 18, 2008:
    Aiming to end months of bitter clashes between the IDF and Hamas terrorists in Gaza, a fragile truce has been formally recognized between both Israel and the Hamas-led government there, in which rocket attacks on Israel will stop and Israel will ease its blockade of the Gaza Strip.

    But a look at previous tahadiyehs (the Arabic term meaning "period of calm" that Hamas uses for its informal cease-fires) casts doubt on the possibility of a cessation of violence and the likelihood of this latest truce holding at all.

  • According to Senior Defense Ministry Official Amos Gilad, one of the conditions of the truce was a cessation to weapons smuggling by Hamas (Ynet News June 19, 2008):
    Gilad described the conditions according to which the terror organizations were to be judged during the ceasefire. "We need a total ceasefire – all included. If tomorrow morning one single rocket is fired, it will be a violation of the agreement. There is no room for interpretation, and no mediating body is needed. We will not accept the firing of even one Qassam.

    "Egypt, on its side, is committed to preventing the smuggling activity from Gaza. It's simple; Egypt has a border with Gaza, through which weapons and terrorists are smuggled. Smuggling is a serious violation of the terms. Any such infraction will lead to a change in Israel's stance from the way in which it was presented to the Egyptians," he said.

    they've already broken it.

  • Rockets hit Israel, breaking Hamas truce International Herald Tribune June 25, 2008:
    JERUSALEM: Three Qassam rockets fired from Gaza on Tuesday struck the Israeli border town of Sderot and its environs, causing no serious injuries but constituting the first serious breach of a five-day-old truce between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic group that controls Gaza.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Latin patriarch Fouad Twal: "it’s time to put an end to the Wall"

According to Vatican Radio, the newly appointed Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal cited "freedom of movement for priests and religious between these regions is a primary pastoral concern":
“We receive a lot of help and we are grateful but at the same time we say we need more. What we need is peace. We don’t only [want] to be a begging Church, we don’t want to be beggars with a licence. I don’t like this. We need a political horizon, it’s time to put an end to the Wall, the Checkpoints, it’s time for a Palestinian State, it’s time for an end to our problems with visa’s. The majority of our priests, nuns, schools, families are in Jordan. We need a link to Jordan we need to be able to move with freedom and liberty for our pastoral work. I am not speaking about politics, let’s leave politics to the politicians, I am a bishop, we want to move for our pastoral work and we are handicapped”.

"Time to put an end to the Wall"? -- Granted that freedom for clergy and religious is a legitimate concern in the administration of their pastoral duties, it is unfortunate that the Archbishop gives little thought to the welfare of those for whom "The Wall" and the "Checkpoints" were established:

Before the construction of the fence, and in many places where it has not yet been completed, a terrorist need only walk across an invisible line to cross from the West Bank into Israel. No barriers of any kind exist, so it is easy to see how a barrier, no matter how imperfect, won't at least make the terrorists' job more difficult. Approximately 75 percent ofthe suicide bombers who attacked targets inside Israel came from across the border where the first phase of the fence was built.

During the 34 months from the beginning of the violence in September 2000 until the construction of the first continuous segment of the security fence at the end of July 2003, Samaria-based terrorists carried out 73 attacks in which 293 Israelis were killed and 1950 wounded. In the 11 months between the erection of the first segment at the beginning of August 2003 and the end of June 2004, only three attacks were successful, and all three occurred in the first half of 2003.

Since construction of the fence began, the number of attacks has declined by more than 90%. The number of Israelis murdered and wounded has decreased by more than 70% and 85%, respectively, after erection of the fence.

Even the Palestinian terrorists have admitted the fence is a deterrent. On November 11, 2006, Islamic Jihad leader Abdallah Ramadan Shalah said on Al-Manar TV the terrorist organizations had every intention of continuing suicide bombing attacks, but that their timing and the possibility of implementing them from the West Bank depended on other factors. “For example,” he said, “there is the separation fence, which is an obstacle to the resistance, and if it were not there the situation would be entirely different.”

Source: Israel’s Security Fence by Mitchell Bard.

In 2008, Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Abdallah Shalah was interviewed in Damascus by the Qatari newspaper Al-Sharq, and likewise admitted to the effectiveness of the security fence in impeding terrorist attacks:

He said that the second intifada was currently characterized by rocket fire, which had replaced the previous stage of suicide bombing attacks. That, he said, was because the enemy [i.e., Israel ] had found ways and means to protect itself from such attacks: “… For example, they built a separation fence in the West Bank . We do not deny that it limits the ability of the resistance [i.e., the terrorist organizations] to arrive deep within [Israeli territory] to carry out suicide bombing attacks , but the resistance has not surrendered or become helpless, and is looking for other ways to cope with the requirements of every stage [of the intifada]…” (Al-Sharq, March 23, 2008 ).
Honestly, I expect the Wall will come down when Israel's enemies decide to abandon their suicide attacks.

Archbishop Fouad Twal appointed new Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem

Archbishop Fouad Twal is the new Latin patriarch of Jerusalem AsiaNews.it June 21, 2008:
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - As of today, Archbishop Fouad Twal is the new Latin patriarch of Jerusalem. Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation presented by His Beatitude Michel Sabbah, whose coadjutor Archbishop Twal has been since 2005.

The new patriarch was born in Madaba, in Jordan, on October 23, 1940. In October of 1959, he entered the major seminary of Beit-Jala, and was ordained a priest on June 29, 1966. In September of 1972, he began studies in canon law at the Pontifical Lateran University, and in October of 1974 he entered the ecclesiastical Pontifical Academy. In 1975, he received his degree in canon law.

From 1977 to 1992, he served as a diplomat at the apostolic nunciature of Honduras, the council for public affairs at the Vatican secretariat of state, the apostolic nunciature in Germany, and the apostolic nunciature in Peru.

On May 30, 1992, he was appointed bishop of Tunis, and was ordained on July 22 of the same year. On May 31, 1995, he was made archbishop. He has also been president of the Regional Episcopal Conference of North Africa (CERNA). On September 8, 2005, Benedict XVI appointed him coadjutor for the Patriarchate of Jerusalem of the Latins.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Holocaust Survivors meet with Benedict XVI, convey thanks to the Church for saving their lives

Survivors of the Holocaust met with Pope Benedict XVI to convey their gratitude to the Church for saving their lives. Four members of the Pave the Way Foundation met with the Pope this past week -- Zenit News Service reports (June 18, 2008):
Gary Krupp, president of that foundation, told ZENIT: "The Jewish survivors were all very grateful for the opportunity to greet the Pope in German and Italian and to thank him for the intervention of the Roman Catholic Church for saving their lives during World War II."

One of the survivors, Ursala Selig, was saved by Monsignor Beniamino Schivo, in those years rector of a seminary in Città di Castello, Italia, and now 97 years old. The monsignor saved Selig along with her mother and father, by shuttling them around to keep them safe, Krupp recounted.

"She spoke of her and her mother dressing like nuns and staying in a convent," Krupp said. "Her father was protected on a little farm eight hours away. She still speaks to Monsignor Schivo twice a week. He was supposed to come but is too frail."

Krupp also presented Benedict XVI with the symposium on the papacy of Pius XII the foundation is preparing for September.

The symposium, he said, aims to reveal "the true hidden story of the dark days of the Holocaust."

Saturday, June 14, 2008

New York Times on Christians for a Fair Witness on the Middle East

Lawyer-Turned-Nun Rises to Israel’s Defense - New York Times profiles the founder of Christians for a Fair Witness:
Sister Ruth Lautt works from a single room on the 19th floor of the God Box. Such is the nickname for the Interchurch Center, the office building on Riverside Drive in Manhattan that is the closest thing to a Vatican for America’s mainline Protestant denominations. Indeed, Sister Ruth’s fellow tenants include agencies of the United Methodist Church, the United Church of Christ and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Wearing the tapered suits left over from an earlier career in law and the crucifix of her more recent life as a Roman Catholic nun, Sister Ruth cuts an inconspicuous figure at the elevator bank. And on many of the issues that animate the mainline churches — ecumenical outreach, social justice — she makes a perfectly companionable neighbor. On the subject of Israel, however, she qualifies as something more like the enemy within.

Through the organization she founded three years ago, Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East, Sister Ruth has frequently and sharply clashed with the very denominations housed under the God Box’s roof. When they have proposed divestment from Israel or more generally condemned its actions against Palestinians, she has fought against those positions, vociferously speaking out for Israel’s right to self-defense and security.

In the rancorous and relentless debate on the Middle East conflict, Sister Ruth stands as a sui generis player. She has little contact with Jewish advocacy groups, none with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee lobby. She disassociates herself from Christian Zionists of the theological and political right. Even while defending Israel’s defensive measures, including the separation barrier, she openly criticizes its occupation of the West Bank and laments Palestinian suffering.


Little in Sister Ruth’s professional background anticipated her current cause. Before she joined the Dominican order in 1996, she had earned a law degree from New York University and worked at Skadden, Arps. Even after becoming a sister, she continued to litigate cases for a smaller firm on Long Island, close to the Dominican residence where she lived.

Sister Ruth did, however, earn a master’s degree in Jewish-Christian Studies from Seton Hall University in New Jersey, and participated in several ecumenical groups on Long Island.

While she said that she received a divine call to advocate for Israel, that call coincided with a rising tide of protests against Israel for sending its army back into the West Bank’s major cities after a rash of suicide bombings in early 2002. The criticism of Israel from liberal churches grew even greater with construction of the separation barrier, which for portions of its route crosses into Palestinian territory.

Sister Ruth made her first trip to Israel in 2003. (Since then she has returned five times, generally visiting the West Bank as well.) In December 2005, she incorporated Fair Witness and sent out its first news release.

Although the group has a board with Roman Catholic and Protestant members, the operation is essentially all Sister Ruth, all the time. She raises the money for its $120,000 annual budget. She assembled its database on the Israel-Palestine conflict and the positions of mainline Protestant groups. She leads Protestant delegations on study tours to the region — African-American clergy members will be going in August, Lutherans in November — and gives her historical analysis of Zionism and Israel to Christian audiences.

In a typical speech last November at Boston College, she commended the liberal churches for “a wholesome, Gospel-centered concern for Palestinian suffering, which is real,” and endorsed a two-state solution. But she also made the case for Israeli self-defense, even in the form of the separation barrier.

“I need to question how people feel they have the right in the name of peace and justice, to tell other people not to try to preserve their own lives,” she said at one point. “You’re not obligated to lay down and die.”

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Catholics in Israel: an Interview with David Mark Neuhaus, SJ

Zenit News Service interviews Jesuit Father David Mark Neuhaus, secretary-general of the Hebrew-speaking Catholic Vicariate in Israel, known also as the the Association of St. James -- on the history, mission and challenges facing the Hebrew-speaking Catholic community in Israel:
Q: You say on your Web site that being a Hebrew-speaking Catholic community within a predominantly Jewish society is a new experience in the history of the Church. What led to the establishment of the Association of St. James?

Father Neuhaus: The Association of St. James that became the Hebrew-speaking Catholic Vicariate was officially established as a part of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem in 1955. This was shortly after the establishment of the state of Israel. It was founded in order to serve the myriads of Catholics who had immigrated to Israel, often within mixed Jewish-Catholic families, and they came predominantly from Europe.

It was also founded as a Catholic presence within Jewish society to nurture a new type of relationship between Catholics and Jews. The new reality of a Jewish state with Hebrew as the official language rendered important the existence of a Catholic milieu in which Hebrew was used and spoken.

Among the founders of the Association were Jews who had become Catholics -- mostly in Europe -- and Catholics -- mostly from Europe -- who had a vocation to live in solidarity with the Jewish people in the state of Israel. Our founding fathers and mothers had a vision of a Hebrew-speaking Catholic community at home within the Jewish people in Israel and living its life of faith in profound dialogue and solidarity with the Jewish people.

Q: What new perspective does a Hebrew-speaking Catholic in the Holy Land have to offer?

Father Neuhaus: A Hebrew-speaking Catholic lives within the only Jewish society that constitutes a majority, where the rhythm of day-to-day life is established by Jewish religion, history and culture. For us, the universal Catholic reflection on the Jewish identity of Jesus and the Jewish roots of our faith is not just one element in our renewal after the Second Vatican Council. It is also part of our daily existence.

Dialogue with Jews here is not with a marginal minority but with the dominant majority. As part of our attempts to inculturate, we are challenged to integrate into our Catholic identity, into our liturgy and into our thinking, this daily encounter with Judaism and the Jewish people.

All of this takes place within the very land that is at the center of the biblical narrative, the land in which biblical Israel, her prophets and Our Lord Jesus walked, taught and lived. ...

Read more


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Why Do Palestinian Terrorist Groups Agree to Cease-Fires?

In the News Myth and Fact
“Palestinian terrorist groups agreed to a cease-fire to advance the peace process.”


In an effort to stop the nearly daily onslaught of rockets from Gaza, Israeli officials have discussed the possibility of a cease-fire with the Hamas terrorists bombarding the Israeli civilian population. Egypt and others have also tried to mediate a cessation of terror that would allow Israel to end its counterterror measures. Rather than agree to a simple cease-fire, however, Hamas, has engaged in verbal gymnastics to suggest it will adopt a policy that will, at best, offer a temporary respite while the organization continues to build up its arsenal to pursue its long-term goal of destroying Israel.

The latest example of this Hamas tactic is the proposal in May 2008 to accept a “tahdiyah,” or period of calm. Earlier, in June 2003, Islamic Jihad and Hamas agreed to a hudna in response to demands from then Palestinian Authority prime minister Mahmoud Abbas to stop their attacks on Israel so he could fulfill his obligations under the Middle East road map. The agreement was interpreted in the Western media as the declaration of a cease-fire, which was hailed as a step forward in the peace process. Violence continued after the supposed cease-fire, however, and Israeli intelligence found evidence the Palestinians exploited the situation to reorganize their forces. They recruited suicide bombers, increased the rate of production of Qassam rockets, and sought to extend their range. Over the last five years since the declaration of the hudna, attacks on Israel increased and Hamas succeeded in smuggling in more weapons with longer ranges.

While any cessation of violence against Israeli civilians is to be welcomed, it is important to understand the cease-fire the radical Islamic groups are contemplating in the Muslim context.

The media and some political leaders portray a hudna as a truce or a cease-fire designed to bring peace. Though the term hudna does refer to a temporary cession of hostilities, it has historically been used as a tactic aimed at allowing the party declaring the hudna to regroup while tricking an enemy into lowering its guard. When the hudna expires, the party that declared it is stronger and the enemy weaker. The term comes from the story of the Muslim conquest of Mecca. Instead of a rapid victory, Muhammad made a ten-year treaty with the Kuraysh tribe. In 628 AD, after only two years of the ten-year treaty, Muhammad and his forces concluded that the Kuraysh were too weak to resist. The Muslims broke the treaty and took over all of Mecca without opposition.212

A modern-day hudna is not a form of compromise, rather it is a tactical tool to gain a military advantage. Hamas has used it no fewer than 10 times in 10 years.


Source: Myths & Facts Online -- A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict by Mitchell G. Bard.

See also Mitchell Bard's blog: http://blogs.britannica.com/blog/main/author/mbard.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Christians for a Fair Witness on the Middle East

Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East was founded by Sr. Ruth Lautt, O.P., Esq., who serves as its National Director. She is a professed member of the Sisters of the Order of St. Dominic, Congregation of the Holy Cross, Amityville, New York.

Sr. Ruth received a law degree from NYU School of Law and was previously associated with the law firms of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and Parcher & Hayes in New York. Prior to founding Fair Witness she was a litigation partner in the Law Firm of Vollmer & Tanck, P.C. in Jericho, New York.

Sr. Ruth has also served on the Ecumenical Commission of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn , Catholic-Jewish Dialogue, and the Executive Committee of the National Christian Leadership Conference for Israel. She was previously the Co-Convener of the Five-Towns/Rockaway Interfaith Clergy Council. Sr. Ruth is currently finishing her Masters Degree in Biblical Studies in the Jewish Christian Studies Department at Seton Hall University in New Jersey.

Further Reading: The Church’s Witness on Issues in the Arab/Israeli Conflict, based on a speech given by Sr. Ruth Lautt, O.P., Esq. at Boston College, November 14, 2007.

Vatican, Israel report progress in talks

The plenary meeting of the Bilateral Holy See-Israel Commission to implement the Fundamental Agreement signed 15 years ago ended today in the Vatican after making “real progress", reports AsiaNews.it:
Reports indicate that all participants came out of the meeting with “cautious satisfaction”.

Although it is not known what was discussed, from the start the Church has called on Israeli authorities to recognise its historic tax exemptions as well as return Church properties lost over the years.

The Commission decided that its next meeting will take place in December. The recent round of negotiations comes after five years of deadlock. They began with a meeting on 21 May 2007, followed by another on 13 December 2007, and then today’s session.

With the next plenary meeting scheduled for December in Jerusalem, the Commission now seems set to meet on a regular basis, twice a year.

Background Reading: Israel-Vatican Relations & The Fundamental Agreement February 12, 2007.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Israeli Ambassador on "smoothing things up" with the Vatican

John Thavis interviews Israeli Ambassador to the Vatican Mordechai Lewy on his recent appointment, which he describes as "smoothing things up and not for stressing the corners" (Catholic News Service. May 16, 2008):
ROME (CNS) -- Israeli ambassadors to the Vatican have a tradition of being press-friendly, and Mordechay Lewy is no exception.

Three days after presenting his credentials to Pope Benedict XVI, Lewy sat down with six Vatican journalists for a conversation at the Israeli Embassy in Rome's Parioli neighborhood.

Over coffee and cookies May 15 he chatted about his new job and did a little parsing of the pope's speech, which was handed to him at the credentials ceremony.

Lewy left no doubt that he relishes the role of ambassador to the Holy See. He said that when diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Israel were established in 1993 he told himself, "That's a job for me." He's had a long interest in the history of religion in the Middle East. ...

Ambassador Lewy also took the opportunity to address some questions regarding the status of Christians in the Holy Land and concerns expressed over their freedom of passage:
One church complaint in recent years has been a tightening of entry visas for church personnel working in Israeli territory. Lewy said the stricter policy was the result of the many suicide bombings during the second intifada that began in 2000.

The ambassador said Eastern churches in the Holy Land often have personnel coming from countries like Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, so they are going to be carefully checked. Those whose job it is to protect the country view it simply as a security issue, he said.

"I see a clergyman. The security supervisor sees a Syrian," he said.

When it was pointed out that Christians have not carried out suicide bombings, the ambassador recalled the case of Melkite Archbishop Hilarion Capucci, a Syrian prelate arrested by Israel in 1974 and charged with running guns for terrorists but freed under Vatican pressure.

"It was a long time ago, but this remains in the collective memory. It did a lot of harm," Lewy said.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

President Bush: "Our friendship ... is grounded in the shared spirit of our people, the bonds of the Book, the ties of the soul."

The alliance between our governments is unbreakable, yet the source of our friendship runs deeper than any treaty. It is grounded in the shared spirit of our people, the bonds of the Book, the ties of the soul. When William Bradford stepped off the Mayflower in 1620, he quoted the words of Jeremiah: "Come let us declare in Zion the word of God." The founders of my country saw a new promised land and bestowed upon their towns names like Bethlehem and New Canaan. And in time, many Americans became passionate advocates for a Jewish state.

Centuries of suffering and sacrifice would pass before the dream was fulfilled. The Jewish people endured the agony of the pogroms, the tragedy of the Great War, and the horror of the Holocaust -- what Elie Wiesel called "the kingdom of the night." Soulless men took away lives and broke apart families. Yet they could not take away the spirit of the Jewish people, and they could not break the promise of God. (Applause.) When news of Israel's freedom finally arrived, Golda Meir, a fearless woman raised in Wisconsin, could summon only tears. She later said: "For two thousand years we have waited for our deliverance. Now that it is here it is so great and wonderful that it surpasses human words."

The joy of independence was tempered by the outbreak of battle, a struggle that has continued for six decades. Yet in spite of the violence, in defiance of the threats, Israel has built a thriving democracy in the heart of the Holy Land. You have welcomed immigrants from the four corners of the Earth. You have forged a free and modern society based on the love of liberty, a passion for justice, and a respect for human dignity. You have worked tirelessly for peace. You have fought valiantly for freedom.

My country's admiration for Israel does not end there. When Americans look at Israel, we see a pioneer spirit that worked an agricultural miracle and now leads a high-tech revolution. We see world-class universities and a global leader in business and innovation and the arts. We see a resource more valuable than oil or gold: the talent and determination of a free people who refuse to let any obstacle stand in the way of their destiny.

I have been fortunate to see the character of Israel up close. I have touched the Western Wall, seen the sun reflected in the Sea of Galilee, I have prayed at Yad Vashem. And earlier today, I visited Masada, an inspiring monument to courage and sacrifice. At this historic site, Israeli soldiers swear an oath: "Masada shall never fall again." Citizens of Israel: Masada shall never fall again, and America will be at your side.

- From an Address by President George W. Bush at the Knesset, honoring the 60th Anniversary of Israel. May 15, 2008.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Irena Sendler 1910-2008: "Righteous Among the Nations"

The face of a guardian angel - Irena Sendler 1910-2008
Irena Sendler, Lifeline to Young Jews, Is Dead at 98 New York Times May 13, 2008:
Irena Sendler, a Roman Catholic who created a network of rescuers in Poland who smuggled about 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw ghetto in World War II, some of them in coffins, died Monday in Warsaw. She was 98.

The death was confirmed by Stanlee Stahl, executive vice president of the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, an organization that supports rescuers of Holocaust victims.

Mrs. Sendler was head of the children’s bureau of Zegota, an underground organization set up to save Jews after the Nazis invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939. Soon after the invasion, approximately 450,000 Jews, about 30 percent of Warsaw’s population, were crammed into a tiny section of the city and barricaded behind seven-foot-high walls.

On April 19, 1943, the Nazis began what they expected would be a rapid liquidation of the ghetto. It took them more than a month to quell the Warsaw ghetto uprising. By then, only about 55,000 Jews were still alive; most of them were sent to death camps.

Also by then, however, Mrs. Sendler’s group of about 30 volunteers, mostly women, had managed to slip hundreds of infants, young children and teenagers to safety.

“She was the inspiration and the prime mover for the whole network that saved those 2,500 Jewish children,” Debórah Dwork, the Rose professor of Holocaust history at Clark University in Massachusetts, said Monday. Professor Dwork, the author of “Children With a Star” (Yale University Press, 1991), said about 400 children had been directly smuggled out by Mrs. Sendler. ...

The Wikipedia entry has further details:

In December 1942, the newly created, the newly created Children's Section of the Żegota (Council for Aid to Jews), nominated her (under her cover name Jolanta) to head its children's department. As an employee of the Social Welfare Department, she had a special permit to enter the Warsaw Ghetto, to check for signs of typhus, something the Nazis feared would spread beyond the ghetto. During the visits, she wore a Star of David as a sign of solidarity with the Jewish people and so as not to call attention to herself.

[Sendler] cooperated with the Children's Section of the Municipal Administration, linked with the RGO (Central Welfare Council), a Polish Relief Organization tolerated under German supervision. She organized the smuggling of Jewish children from the Ghetto, carrying them out in boxes, suitcases and trolleys. The children were placed with Polish families, the Warsaw orphanage of the Sisters of the Family of Mary or Roman Catholic convents such as the Sisters Little Servants of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Mary at Turkowice and Chotomów. Some were smuggled to priests in parish rectories where they could be further hidden. She kept lists of the names, hidden in jars, in order to keep track of their original and new identities.

Arrested in 1943 by the Gestapo, she was severely tortured and sentenced to death. The Żegota saved her by bribing the German guards on the way to her execution. She was left in the woods, unconscious and with broken arms and legs. Officially, she was listed on public bulletin boards as among those executed. Even in hiding, she continued her work for the Jewish children.


  • Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project - a website by rural Kansas school students who -- initially skeptical about the claim to have saved 2,500 children -- started a research project:
    They found that Irena Sendler, as a non-Jewish social worker, had gone into the Warsaw Ghetto, talked Jewish parents and grandparents out of their children, rightly saying that all were going to die in the Ghetto or in death camps, taking the children past the Nazi guards (in body bags, saying they were ill, or using one of the many means of escape from the Ghetto-the old courthouse for example), and then adopting them into the homes of Polish families or hiding them in convents and orphanages. She made lists of the children's real names and put the lists in jars, then buried the jars in a garden, so that someday she could dig up the jars and find the children to tell them of their real identify.

    The Nazi's captured her and she was beaten severely, but the Polish underground bribed a guard to release her, and she entered into hiding. The students wrote a performance (Life in a Jar) in which they portrayed the life of Irena Sendler. They have performed this program for numerous clubs and civic groups in the community, around the state of Kansas, all over the U.S. and in Europe (225 presentations as of November 2007). The community of Uniontown has little diversity and no Jewish students in the school district. The community was inspired by the project and sponsored an Irena Sendler Day. The students began to search for the final resting place of Irena and discovered she was still alive and living in Warsaw, Poland. Irena's story was unknown world-wide, even though she has received esteemed recognition from Yad Vashem in the 1960's and support from the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous in New York City. Forty-five years of communism had buried her story, even in her own country.

    From that time on they would take a jar to every performance and collect fund for Irena and other Polish rescuers. ...

  • A TV movie about the life of Holocaust hero Irena Sendler is being readied for production and will air next season on CBS:
    "The Irena Sendler Story" is based on an authorized biography of the woman credited with rescuing some 2,500 Jewish children from the Nazis by smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto, producer Hallmark Hall of Fame said Monday. ...

    John Kent Harrison, who became familiar with Sendler's bravery while in Poland three years ago filming a CBS miniseries about Pope John Paul II, wrote the script for the Sendler film and will direct.

    The movie is drawn from the 2005 book "Mother of the Children of the Holocaust: The Irena Sendler Story," written by Anna Mieszkowska.

  • I'm no hero, says woman who saved 2,500 ghetto children The Guardian March 15, 2007:
    Mrs Sendlerowa, who is in a Warsaw nursing home, insisted she did nothing special.

    In an interview she said: "I was brought up to believe that a person must be rescued when drowning, regardless of religion and nationality."

    "The term 'hero' irritates me greatly. The opposite is true. I continue to have pangs of conscience that I did so little."

  • Irena Sendler Tribute by Yad Vashem ("The Righeous Among the Nations").

Monday, May 12, 2008

Pope Receives Israeli Ambassador, Asks Israel to Aid Catholics

Pope Benedict XVI received Monday Israel's new Vatican ambassador, expressing the need for a 'just peace' to resolve the conflict between the Jewish state and the Palestinians:
Mordechay Lewy presented his credentials to the pontiff at a ceremony in the Vatican.

'The Holy See joins you in giving thanks to the Lord that the aspirations of the Jewish people for a home in the land of their fathers have been fulfilled, and hopes soon to see a time of even greater rejoicing when a just peace finally resolves the conflict with the Palestinians,' Benedict said.

The Vatican recognized Israel's 'legitimate need for security and self-defence', in the same way that it believed that all people should have a right to be given equal opportunities to flourish,' the pontiff told Lewy.

'Accordingly, I would urge your government to make every effort to alleviate the hardship suffered by the Palestinian community, allowing them the freedom necessary to go about their legitimate business, including travel to places of worship, so that they too can enjoy greater peace and security,' Benedict said.

The pontiff also offered his 'good wishes' for the 60th anniversary of the founding Israel which is being celebrated this year.

He also recalled the establishment in 1993 of diplomatic relations between Israel and the Vatican.

See also: Pope asks Israel to aid Catholics YNet News. May 12, 2008.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Pakistani Christians - Praying for Israel and a right to Pilgrimage

Pakistani Christians praying for Israel which Islamabad ought to recognise AsiaNews.it:
Karachi (AsiaNews) – Christians across Pakistan are praying for the 60th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel in the hope that one day Islamabad and Tel Aviv may establish diplomatic relations and allow them to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, said Asharf P. Butt, president of the Association of Pakistani Christians, at a press conference in Karachi organised to express best wishes for Israel and its population.

The organisation “demanded once again that the government of Pakistan recognise Israel and normalise diplomatic relations,” Asharf said, “not only as a question of international justice but also to allow Pakistan’s ten million Christians to make a pilgrimage in the land of the Bible.”

Christians in Pakistan “have a long-standing dream, to visit this land but cannot because of the current diplomatic situation,” he said. “This means that we are deprived of our religious rights. Hence we shall pray in all of Pakistan’s churches for peace and protection for the holy city of Jerusalem.”

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Israeli-Vatican Relations: Update from the Bilateral Permanent Working Commission

Cordiality & trust mark Holy See/Israel relations, by Arian Cohen. Spero News. April 17, 2008. Emerging from the Bilateral Permanent Working Commission is a renewed commitment by Israel and the Holy See to accelerate the conclusion of an agreement. Among the objectives is the restitution of the site of the Last Supper. Meeting set for May 28.