As the Presbyterian General Assembly prepares for its Birmingham meeting (see below), a California group wants to be sure that the Presbyterian leaders hear from Jews who support the divestment process.
Birmingham’s Jewish leadership is moving to make sure that does not rest unchallenged.
The San Francisco Presbytery Peacemaking Task Force posted a call on the Internet to encourage members to ask Jewish friends to write Presbyterian leaders supporting the divestment initiative. According to the request, “Presbyterians working on the issue feel that the one of the most influential voices that needs to be heard are Jews in support of the Presbyterian's phased selective divestment plan.”
The task force is affiliated with the pro-Palestinian Middle East Fellowship, the U.S. arm of Holy Land Trust, founded in Bethlehem in 1997 by Palestinian Christians. The organization’s website touts summer trips to “Palestine” and promotes dialogue between North Americans and “the Arab World.”
Out of at least 14 Overtures that have been submitted for this year’s assembly regarding divestment, the San Francisco Presbytery submitted the only one that reaffirms the 2004 decision.
The Birmingham Jewish Community Relations Committee’s task force on the Presbyterian divestment issue is also looking for letters to be sent to Presbyterian leaders, “but not the letter that the California group is seeking.”
Rather, the JCRC wants to express “concern about the Presbyterian process of phased selective divestment that singles out Israel as the whipping boy in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
The task force has set a goal of 1,000 letters from the Jewish community of Birmingham to the national Presbyterian leadership before the assembly begins on June 15. The JCRC requests that they also be sent copies of letters.
Joyce Spielberger, who oversees the JCRC for the Birmingham Jewish Federation, has copies of sample letters by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, and a letter written by Rabbi Jonathan Miller.
Miller and Steven Brickman are heading the JCRC task force coordinating the local Jewish community’s response to the General Assembly.
As the 217th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) begins, a pre-assembly conference will discuss the Middle East.
On June 15, “Visions of Peace and Justice in Israel and Palestine” will be held, to “share visions and perspectives regarding justice and peace in Israel and Palestine.”
According to the PC-USA, the conference is not a forum for or against proposed items of GA business. The issue of divestment from Israel is anticipated to be one of the most hotly-contested issues during the assembly.
According to a PC-USA release, the program will include an assessment of human rights, a description of Presbyterian ministry and mission, and a panel discussion with Jewish, Christian and Muslim perspectives,
Mark Pelavin, associate director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, is scheduled to be one of the speakers. He will be joined by Salam Al-Marayati, director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, and Munib Younan, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.
Tickets are $25, including a box lunch, and registration is required. Registration information can be found at the PC-USA website, www.pcusa.org. The event will be at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex starting at 8:30 a.m.
As the Presbyterian General Assembly prepares for its Birmingham meeting (see below), a California group wants to be sure that the Presbyterian leaders hear from Jews who support the divestment process.
The attention of the Jewish world will be focused on Birmingham this month as the Presbyterian Church (USA) holds its General Assembly, which will begin on June 15.
The church’s initiatives on divesting investments from companies doing business with Israel will be a major topic of discussion, and representatives from many national Jewish organizations will be on hand to monitor the discussions.
The controversy erupted during the 2004 General Assembly, held in Richmond, Va. According to the church the Presbyterian position has always been to affirm Israel’s right to exist in “secure, internationally recognized borders,” affirm the Palestinians’ right “to self-determination” including an independent state, and to condemn anti-Semitism, terrorism “and other acts of violence against innocent people by either party to the conflict.”
In Richmond, the roughly 500 commissioners called for an end to violence and “Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands” and a process of “phased, selective divestment in multinational corporations operating in Israel.”
“It was the culmination of decades — not years, but decades — of hostility toward Israel and Zionism, not by the rank-and-file members of these churches, but by some of the leadership,” said Rabbi A. James Rudin, senior interreligious adviser for the American Jewish Committee, where he staffed the interfaith department for 38 years.
What happens there will have a lasting impact on the already strained relationship between Jews and the entire Protestant community. The estimated 3 million Presbyterians in the United States influence the other white mainline Protestant churches in this country, whose members number more than 20 million.
Presbyterians are considered the “conscience” and reason of the Protestant community, serving as something of a “swing vote,” Rudin said.
Indeed, after the Presbyterians’ 2004 resolution on divestment, several other Protestant communities took up the issue. The Methodists decided to study their options; the United Church of Christ, also known as the Congregationalists, endorsed divestment but did not create a process to enact it; the Episcopalians considered but rejected divestment; and the Lutherans rejected a divestment resolution, and instead passed a resolution to invest in cooperative ventures between Israelis and Palestinians.
A Presbyterian committee assessed the church’s stock portfolio and singled out five companies last August:
• Caterpillar, because the Israeli military uses its equipment to demolish Palestinian homes and construct roads for Israeli settlers in “the occupied territories”;
• Citigroup, due to charges that it has transferred funds to Palestinian terrorist groups;
• ITT Industries, for supplying communication devices to the Israeli military used in “the occupied territories”;
• Motorola, because it also supplies the Israeli military with communication devices, and takes “advantage of the Israeli government policy of delaying or prohibiting the importation of modern equipment into Palestine”; and
• United Technologies, for providing helicopters to the Israeli military that have been used in attacks against suspected Palestinian terrorists.
Rev. Terry Newland, executive of the Synod of Living Waters in Birmingham, told the Jewish community last November that Presbyterians have already divested themselves from companies dealing in tobacco, alcohol and supplying the military. “We have a policy that says we don’t want to make money off people’s suffering,” he said, adding that the policy against military suppliers does not make the denomination anti-American, so nobody thought a similar statement on the Middle East was anti-Israel. “That surprised us, and we were not sensitive to that.”
Divestment means pulling the movement’s funds from investments in offending companies. Despite the 2004 vote, divestment “did not happen” and likely will not take place in 2006, even if the 2004 resolutions are upheld. “There is no recommendation to divest from any particular company yet,” Newland said.
After identifying a company, Presbyterians then have a meeting with company executives to see about changing their behavior. If they are not satisfied, a shareholder’s resolution is introduced at the company’s annual meeting. Only after those avenues have been exhausted would divestment take place.
Rabbi Jonathan Miller of Birmingham’s Temple Emanu-El said divestment’s damage isn’t economic. “It has opened up an opportunity for people” who question Israel’s existence “to say that there is no need for Israel as a Jewish state.”
He noted that the only context most Americans have with the term “divestment” is in connection with the apartheid regime of South Africa. Palestinian activists routinely try to forge a connection between the two, to paint Israel as an illegitimate, racist state.
Nearly one-fifth of the 137 proposals to be considered at the 2006 assembly address divestment. Some want to press forward with the divestment process, many others aim to rescind the original resolution and express serious concern about the damage the issue has done to Jewish-Presbyterian relations and the church’s reputation.
The first one was submitted by the Presbytery of Mississippi, and it is seen as the one most strongly opposed to the 2004 decision.
Steve Ramp, pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Hattiesburg, was asked about the resolutions in the fall of 2004. Surprised, he researched it, and also heard from Rabbi Celso Cukierkorn of B’nai Israel in Hattiesburg.
In January 2005, First Presbyterian Church of Bay St. Louis submitted an overture to the Mississippi Presbytery calling for repeal of the resolutions. Their organist, who was Jewish, had resigned in protest.
The Mississippi Overture, passed unanimously in May 2005, reaffirms “concern for ‘a just resolution of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians,” but “some of the means for achieving peace advocated by the 216th General Assembly (2004) were not appropriate and, in light of changing circumstances, should not be implemented. They should be rescinded or, in some cases, significantly modified to advance more effectively and fairly the cause of peace.”
It criticizes the “arrogant and condescending” tone of the resolutions and how the “viewpoint expressed suggests bias in favor of the Palestinian cause and prejudice against Israel.”
The resolution states that “fair criticism” of the security fence because of its placement “into the Palestinian territory” is appropriate, but the church should not “tell a sovereign nation whether or how it can protect its borders or handle matters of national defense.”
It also calls the blanket condemnation of Christian Zionism as “misleading and incendiary.”
Another resolution is being submitted by the Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley, which is in central Alabama. It calls for rescinding the authority to divest, and encourages investment in efforts “that are likely to promote peace and reconciliation.”
Miller has been working with the clergy from South Highland Presbyterian Church and Independent Presbyterian Church in formulating a response.
The Overtures go before committees, which will meet over the weekend. The Overtures will be condensed into one resolution, or alternatives will be presented to the assembly during one of the final days of the conference, which ends June 22.
Asked about the issue by JTA, Clifton Kirkpatrick, chief ecclesiastical officer of the Presbyterian Church, said it has been “very painful that in our effort to secure peace and justice for all,” the church has hurt members of the Jewish community, for which the church has “deep respect.” The Presbyterian Church is committed to both good interfaith relations with Jews and Muslims while pursuing “peace and justice in the Middle East.”
Some devoted to Jewish-Christian relations have made overturning divestment a priority. They include the National Christian Leadership Conference for Israel, a network that long has worked with Jewish and Christian supporters to promote Israel’s cause.
The group is hosting a May 18 conference on divestment at the Central Presbyterian Church in New York City and coordinating a Presbyterian mission to Israel later this month.
There’s “a real groundswell of opposition that’s occurred within the church, and it’s very widespread,” said Jim Roberts, a Presbyterian from San Diego, who heads a committee of volunteers and a Web site called “End Divestment Now.”
Roberts’ group argues that divestment is rooted in bias and flawed theology, and considers the divestment push a breach of the church’s principles of fairness and bottom-up governance.
Insiders say several sources gave rise to the 2004 divestment resolution and the pro-Palestinian feelings among many Presbyterians.
For one, Palestinian Christians have deeply influenced the church by framing the Israeli-Palestinian issue in terms of “liberation theology,” portraying the Palestinians as powerless victims who must be freed from their ostensible oppressors, the Israelis.
The most influential group espousing this platform is the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem, which sponsors conferences around the world and speakers at Christian gatherings, and advocates divestment from Israel.
Jewish groups, and many Christians, call Sabeel a corrupting influence.
Christians for Fair Witness in the Middle East holds news conferences about Sabeel nearly every time the group holds a meeting in America, said the Rev. Roy W. Howard, an executive committee member who is pastor of Saint Mark Presbyterian Church in Rockville, Md.
According to Howard, Sabeel is ambiguous about Israel’s very right to exist: Its devotees speak about a “Greater Palestine” in which there is no Jewish state, he said.
The Rev. Richard Toll, chairman of Friends of Sabeel North America, calls these charges a distortion.
“There has never been a call for the destruction of Israel or anything like that at all,” he said. Leaders of mainstream Jewish groups are often invited, but don’t respond, he said.
San Francisco, a presbytery that has presented an overture affirming divestment, was influenced less by Sabeel than by Presbyterians who visited Palestinian areas, said the Rev. Will McGarvey, pastor of the Community Presbyterian Church, who will present San Francisco’s proposal at the assembly.
Jewish officials in San Francisco felt insulted that the local presbytery never informed them of its overture.
Some say Presbyterian leaders have sidelined Jewish voices on divestment.
It’s “downright embarrassing that the Presbyterians have not made certain that they have multiple points of views and interpretations of what’s going on,” said Christopher Leighton, director of the Baltimore-based Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies.
Leighton cited a conference on divestment last year in Louisville, Ky., site of the church’s national headquarters. The Baltimore delegation walked out because of the lopsided pro-Palestinian representation.
“It was an appalling example of having a foregone conclusion that you want to trumpet and so you know where you want people to end up before they even start out,” he said. “It seems to me that that’s symptomatic of how our leadership has handled this.”
The day before this year’s General Assembly, for example, the church has scheduled a Middle East forum with three representatives — a Palestinian Christian, an American Muslim and an American Jew, Mark Pelavin, associate director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Why, anti-divestment forces wonder, is there no Israeli represented?
Address to Jewish community
The day before the GA begins, Rev. John Wimberly, co-chair of Presbyterians Concerned for Jewish and Christian Relations, will speak at the Birmingham Jewish Community Relations Committee annual meeting, June 14 at noon in the N.E. Miles Jewish Day School library. The meeting is open to the community.
A similar JCRC meeting about the topic drew many times the usual attendance last fall.
The PCJCR is an informal group of members, ministers and congregations belonging to Presbyterian Church (USA), though it is not an official agency of the church. Its members are “committed to a positive, constructive and respectful relationship with Jews.”
Given the wave of overtures to reject divestment, “one would hope they would see that as the will of the people,” Wimberly, pastor of Western Presbyterian Church in Washington, said. He has been a pastor in the Washington area for 24 years, and in 1994 received the Conscience of the Community Award from the American Jewish Congress.
However, “this issue has become the ‘in’ issue,” Wimberly said. “It’s the issue of the left today in the Presbyterian Church and it gains a kind of life of its own.”
His organization will have a booth offering anti-divestment literature. Members of the local Presbyterian and Jewish communities will be paired at the booth on every 2-hour shift, and volunteers are currently being recruited.
(Additional material by Rachel Pomerance of JTA).
Deep South File:: Ala. candidate calls for Israel's destruction; too late to remove name from June 6 ballotPosted by DSJV at Thursday, May 25, 2006 5.25.2006
A candidate for Alabama attorney general in the Democratic primary has stated that the United States military should “wipe Israel off the map… then come home and export a little payback to Mexico.”
Larry Darby, former head of the Montgomery-based Atheist Law Center, is also attracting attention for his views about the Holocaust, which he refers to as the “HoloHoax,” and his remarks about “Jewish supremacism” in the United States.
In the Montgomery Advertiser, he also supported a fringe gubernatorial candidate who advocated public hangings of illegal immigrants.
On May 19, the Alabama Democratic Party issued a statement distancing itself from Darby’s “bizarre and offensive positions,” though it also stated that it was too late to remove Darby from the June 6 ballot.
Party Chairman Joe Turnham advised “all Democratic primary voters to be aware of Mr. Darby’s comments and to study fully the credentials, qualifications, and statements of all primary candidates before casting a ballot.”
Zac McCrary, communications director for the party, said Darby is “not in the mainstream of anything in Alabama, much less the Democratic party.”
Darby attempted to run for attorney general in 2002 but dropped out of the party before the state convention.
Loretta Nall, who is the Libertarian gubernatorial candidate this year, had invited Darby to the press conference announcing her candidacy, but stated in her blog last month that “In all honesty I did not know that Larry Darby was a white supremacist/holocaust denier until he attended my news conference on the steps of the State Capitol and made it a point to inform the media of his stance on those particular issues… Had there been a rock large enough for me to crawl under at that time I think I might actually have done it.”
While she finds his views “offensive,” she nevertheless stated “to take away one’s freedom to think repugnant thoughts is to also take away my right and yours to think nice, tolerant, peaceful ones.”
Darby, who did not respond to requests for an interview, is best known in Alabama as founder of the Atheist Law Center in Montgomery. He was frequently seen leading small demonstrations against former Chief Justice Roy Moore and his Ten Commandments monument. Moore had placed the monument in the State Judicial Building because of his personal “duty” to “acknowledge the sovereignty of God,” and was removed from office when he refused to follow a court order to remove the monument.
Darby’s radical views started becoming known last summer when the center invited Holocaust denier David Irving to speak at the Holiday Inn in Prattville. Darby explained that he was interested in hearing a person who caused so much controversy, and who was under attack for his personal views.
Though Irving was to speak about freedom of expression, Darby refused to allow DSJV or other reporters into the meeting, which drew roughly a dozen people.
News of the July 5 gathering for Irving drew immediate controversy in atheist circles. The American Atheists distanced itself from Darby, and last fall, Darby stepped down as director of the Atheist Law Center.
Some in the atheist community noted that Darby’s “Atheist Daily Briefing” on email had become less about atheism and more about Holocaust denial and allegations of Jewish control over government. He now considers American Atheists to be “Zionist oriented.”
Darby now says the briefing reports on topics “including jew supremacism and jew terrorism. The ALC is not one of the Communist popular front atheist or near-atheist organization. That is why the ALC treats all religions equally and speaks out against Communust (sic) activities, which we all know comes from Judaism believers.”
On Jan. 18, he spoke to the Alabama House Judiciary Committee, testifying against hate crimes laws. As examples of those facing prosecution under hate crimes statutes, Darby cited Irving, Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel, and French comedian Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala, “for pointing out in a comedy routine that racism comes from Judaism,” a claim that Darby has echoed in his writings.
He added that “The Holocaust has evolved into a religious industry with sacred precepts that are examined only under penalty of law. Free speech is anathema to the Holocaust Industry.”
He claims that no more than 140,000 Jews were killed during World War II.
In recent months, he called Ten Commandments displays, like Moore’s, examples of “Jew supremacism,” and stated that “Jewish law is now telegraphed by Alabama's Judicial and Executive branches as being Alabama's State Religion. Over and above Alabama's Constitution and the United States Constitution.”
Darby stated that one of his first tasks as attorney general would be to shut down the Montgomery-based Southern Poverty Law Center, which he called “the Mossad outpost in Montgomery.”
Many of his writings speak about “the traditional enemies of free speech,” meaning the Jewish community.
He dismisses the term “anti-Semite,” saying that it “is just a phrase used by jews and righteous christians who promote Jewish-Communism and the destruction of European values formerly making the USA a proud nation of Gentiles.”
On May 3, Darby appeared on Alabama Public Television’s “For The Record,” during which he suggested that the defendants in a string of church fires in Alabama in February are Jewish and that it is being covered up.
White supremacist and conspiracy sites are circulating the theory that the church fires — which were all against Baptist churches — were Jewish revenge for Southern Baptist support of missionary groups that target Jews. A letter critical of that support, by Anti-Defamation League Director Abe Foxman, is cited as the “inspiration” for the fires.
During the show, Darby also mentioned his views on the Holocaust. Turnham said that was the first time he had heard of Darby’s views on the subject.
On May 13, Darby spoke to the monthly meeting of the National Vanguard in New Jersey. The organization is a splinter group from the white supremacist National Alliance, and describes itself as a “white nationalist” group.
About two dozen members attended the speech, and many reportedly had placed plywood over their license plates to hide their identities. There were also about 20 demonstrators outside, according to news reports.
Among those reportedly in attendance were David Duke, and Lamb and Lynx Gaede, twins who are part of the Prussian Blue “white pride” band.
Deborah Lauter, Southeast regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, said "We were disturbed by Larry Darby's views on the Holocaust before he was a candidate for Attorney General, but now he has taken his beliefs one step further by presenting them in person to a group of active white supremacists… It is outrageous for Darby to use the platform afforded him as a candidate for public office to burnish his credentials among the extremist set."
Darby faces Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson in the primary. Tyson told the Montgomery Advertiser that Darby is “a crackpot trying to get some publicity.”
Many other Democratic activists dismiss Darby as a fringe candidate with no real chance of winning.
Still, a late April poll — before Darby’s views were widely reported — showed that Darby was favored by 12 percent of primary voters, which would be a low figure, but opponent John Tyson polled only 21 percent. The rest were undecided.
Olmert said he would delay his march toward a unilateral withdrawal from parts of the West Bank, something he had said earlier was all but inevitable because he did not see a credible Palestinian peace partner.
“I intend to exhaust every possibility to promote peace with the Palestinians according to the road map, and I extend my hand in peace to Mahmoud Abbas, the elected president of the Palestinian Authority,” the Israeli prime minister said, referring to the peace plan backed by the United States. “I hope he will take the necessary steps, which he committed to, in order to move forward.”
For his part, Bush warmly endorsed the possibility of unilateral action, as long as Olmert exhausted all other options.
“I would call them bold ideas,” Bush said, referring to the unilateral actions Olmert outlined. “These ideas could lead to a two-state solution if a pathway to progress on the road map is not open in the period ahead. His ideas include the removal of most Israeli settlements, except for the major Israeli population centers in the West Bank.”
It was the firmest endorsement to date of Olmert’s plan to go it alone should all else fail.
Emboldened by Bush’s endorsement, Olmert said the major settlements “would remain under Israeli control and become part of the state of Israel as part of the final-status agreement.”
That was the most unequivocal to-date statement signaling Olmert’s intention to annex the major Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
Bush reiterated his commitment outlined in an April 14, 2004 letter, in which the United States recognized that some Jewish settlements were realities on the ground and would become part of Israel.
In a briefing to Hebrew-speaking reporters, including JTA, late Tuesday evening, Olmert said he did not get an outright American endorsement of his plan to extend Israel’s boundaries to include the major populations centers, where some 200,000 Jews live.
Another 70,000 settlers in more remote areas of the West Bank would be evacuated under Olmert’s plan, which is already meeting resistance from members of Olmert’s own government.
Olmert said he would embark on an international tour this summer to explain his plans to world leaders. He intends to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and King Abdullah II of Jordan in the region. He will then continue on to meet with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, President Jacques Chirac of France and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The goal is to pressure Abbas into confronting Hamas and to prepare the ground for Israel’s unilateral actions should that effort fail, Olmert told reporters at Blair House, the Washington guest residence where he was staying.
The prime minister said he did not raise the issue of U.S. economic assistance in the wake of Israeli withdrawals from Gaza last summer and planned further withdrawals from the West Bank. He said it was “premature.”
On Wednesday, the prime minister addressed a joint session of the U.S. Congress, an honor afforded to few foreign leaders. In his speech, which was interrupted several times by warm applause and standing ovations, Olmert reiterated that he is ready to negotiate with Abbas, but would not entertain contacts with the Hamas-led Palestinian Cabinet until the group renounces terrorism and recognizes the State of Israel.
If negotiations fail, Olmert said to Congress, he is ready to conduct a unilateral withdrawal from parts of the West Bank.
At the joint news conference on Tuesday, Bush and Olmert appeared to enjoy each other’s company. Later, the two leaders met at the Bush residence, along with Olmert’s wife, Aliza, without advisers — a sign that one goal of the session, to establish a bond, was a success.
“The meeting with Prime Minister Olmert really is, in many ways, a getting-to-know-you session,” Tony Snow, Bush’s press secretary, said just before Bush and Olmert met.
The two leaders also agreed on the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program. “We’re determined that the Iranian regime must not gain nuclear weapons,” Bush said. “I told the prime minister what I’ve stated publicly before: Israel is a close friend and ally of the United States. And in the event of any attack on Israel, the United States will come to Israel’s aid.”
The last time Bush and Olmert met was in 1998, when Bush was the governor of Texas and Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem.
Olmert said he would meet with Abbas soon, reversing his earlier dismissals of the P.A. president as ineffectual. In a CNN interview Sunday, Olmert said the landslide victory of the Hamas terrorist group in Palestinian Authority elections in January profoundly undercut the authority of Abbas, a relative moderate who leads the rival Fatah Party.
“Mahmoud Abbas was deprived of all his powers,” Olmert said Sunday. “He is powerless. He is helpless. He is unable to even stop the minimal terror activities among the Palestinians, so how can he seriously negotiate with Israel and assume responsibility for the most major, fundamental issues that are in controversy between us and them?”
In that view, Olmert has a powerful ally: the U.S. House of Representatives, which voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority. Like Olmert, the House largely ignores Abbas as an alternative.
The provisions of the bill the House passed, which also severely limits humanitarian aid and restricts the movement of Palestinian officials in the United States, would outlive a Hamas government.
In his address to Congress, Olmert commended the House for passing a bill that cuts off assistance to the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act “sends a firm, clear message that the United States of America will not tolerate terrorism in any form,” he said to a standing ovation.
He also praised Congress for legislation known as the Iran Freedom and Support Act, which would further isolate the Islamic republic.
The House bill restricting aid to the Palestinians, approved 361-37, split the pro-Israel community in Washington. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee welcomed its passage.
“Today Congress made it clear that Hamas’ decision to continue its support for terrorism has direct and immediate consequences,” said AIPAC, which lobbied hard for the bill.
Americans for Peace Now, the Israel Policy Forum and Brit Tzedek v’Shalom all opposed the bill, saying its restrictions would burden peacemaking. Peace Now said the bill “is an exercise in overreaching that will undercut American national security needs, Israeli interests and hope for the Palestinian people.”
The Bush administration, which believes the Hamas government might not live out the year, fears the bill would tie its hands in a region the president still hopes to transform before his departure from office.
Bush favors a Senate version of the bill that grants him greater leeway in dealing with the Palestinians. The Senate version, with 87 co-sponsors, is guaranteed passage, and will likely prevail as House and Senate work out a compromise.
Meanwhile, some of the tensions a further Israeli withdrawal would engender followed Olmert to Washington.
About 150 American Jews gathered outside the Capitol on Tuesday to protest any West Bank withdrawal.
By David Morris, Florida Jewish News
HOLLYWOOD, Fla., May 17 (JTA) — More than 700 people gathered in Florida this week to remember Daniel Wultz, a teenager who died Sunday in an Israeli hospital as a result of wounds suffered in the April 17 suicide bombing attack in Tel Aviv.
After a memorial service in Jerusalem on Monday, his family accompanied his body to Florida for the funeral.
At the funeral, Rabbi Yisroel Spalter called upon Daniel’s family and friends to celebrate his life, and to remember him and his ideals.
“Those who sow with sorrow will reap with joy,” the rabbi quoted from the book of Psalms. “I’m not looking for joy, there’s no silver lining. But the lesson here is that Daniel’s was a life worth celebrating.”
One of Daniel’s closest friends, Solomon Braun, spoke of his depth of character, sensitivity and special kind of stubbornness.
“Daniel’s stubbornness came out of his demand for righteousness.” Braun said. “Rabbi Spalter told me that the way he was always asking questions, always desiring to do the right thing, it was Daniel who made him really feel like a rabbi. On Shabbos, Daniel didn’t think it was enough to wish people a ‘Good Shabbos,’ so he changed it to, ‘Great Shabbos.’ ”
Daniel’s grandmother, Margie Cantor, asked, “How can one moment in time change an entire family and a community, and in one second raise awareness all over the world? How can one crazy moment in time exist in a place like Israel where they live to celebrate life and their demented neighbors live to celebrate terror and death? Go now, Daniel, and help God to right the wrongs on this earth.”
Daniel’s burial coincided with the Jewish observance of Lag B’Omer, and Spalter compared Daniel to the second-century kabbalist Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, who died on Lag B’Omer, and to the students of Rabbi Akiva, a first-century scholar.
Thousands of Rabbi Akiva’s students died in a plague that ended on Lag B’Omer. “Like them,” said Spalter, “Daniel stood before God and died sanctifying his great name.”
At one moment in her eulogy the boy’s older sister, Amanda, asked those gathered to recite “Shema Yisrael” with her.
“My brother’s favorite question was, ‘Why?’ Now we are left to ask, ‘Why?’ My only answer is that God always wants his angels back. It would be so easy for me to pity myself and my parents because of the way Daniel died, but I must find a way to be satisfied for the time he was with us. I will always be with you, Daniel, and love you with all my broken heart.”
Sheryl Wultz, Daniel’s mother, told of how he became more observant in his Judaism during the last year and a half and of his deep love for Israel.
“My son had a smile to match his heart. There’s nothing he wouldn’t do for his family and friends and he acted regardless of personal consequences for himself. In his short life he taught me so much and I was blessed to have him,” she said.
Tuly Wultz, the boy’s father, was born in Israel. He was eating with Daniel at a falafel stand in Tel Aviv when the bomber struck and immediately saw the severity of his son’s injuries, which eventually made him the 11th victim of the Palestinian suicide bomber.
“Of the many talks we had about Judaism, I remember the most interesting being about the coming of Moshiach. Daniel truly believed and would ask me, ‘Will I see Moshiach before I die?’ Daniel, you can’t imagine how much I was hoping you were right about Moshiach and that he would appear and rescue you. It is so hard to say goodbye.”
A moment of silence was held in Daniel’s memory before Game 5 of the Miami-New Jersey NBA playoff game Tuesday night.
At a memorial service at Daniel’s school on Monday, classmates who have been wearing handmade blue and white beaded bracelets as a reminder to keep Daniel in their prayers, ended the assembly by cutting off their bracelets and placing them in a box to present to Daniel’s family.
“We said we would not take these off until Daniel comes home again,” said the 10th-grade class president, Sarah Azizi, “but now we must and everyone is crying.”
Holding back her tears, Azizi addressed the several hundred students and teachers, describing Daniel as someone who wanted to get his message of making a better world to everyone he met.
“We all knew Daniel — his permanent smile, his love of basketball and above all his love and devotion to Torah studies and God. He has connected to each and every one of us with his faith, his hope and his acts of loving kindness,” Azizi said. “He wanted to be heard and share his passion for Judaism and Israel. How ironic that Daniel’s tragic ending will have been heard worldwide and that he has touched the hearts and souls of so many. Please, in Daniel’s memory don’t ever have regrets.”
One fellow student, Frima Enghelberg, who recalled how she often asked Daniel for help in math class, shared part of a letter she wrote to him before placing it under a yahrzeit candle.
“Now everyone in heaven is more happy cause you’re there. You’re illuminating the sky now and I hope you can illuminate my brain with math. I will miss you until we meet again one day.”
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