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"This story should be told and retold every year, so that it should not be forgotten."
 
High school students and teachers, KKL-JNF representatives IDF soldiers, and Danish expats mark the 70th anniversary of the rescue of Danish Jewry during the Nazi occupation of Denmark. The ceremony took place on October 24 at KKL-JNF's Golani Plant Nursery in the north. Honored guests at the ceremony included Esther Herlitz, former Israeli ambassador to Denmark and president of the Israel-Denmark Friendship society, Alexander (Sasha) Wolfson, and Ministry of Education officials.
 
 
 

 


Group photo in front of the recognition plaque for Denmarks rescue efforts in WWII.
Photo: Tania Susskind

 

 On Thursday, October 24th, high school students, Israeli soldiers and Danish ex-pats living in Israel met at KKL-JNF's Golani plant nursery in the north to mark the seventieth anniversary of the rescue of Danish Jewry. The rescue of the Danish Jews occurred during Nazi Germany's occupation of Denmark during World War II. On October 1, 1943 Nazi leader Adolf Hitler ordered Danish Jews to be arrested and deported. Despite great personal risk, the Danish resistance movement, with the assistance of many ordinary Danish citizens, took part in a collective effort to evacuate about 7,800 Jews in fishing boats to nearby neutral Sweden. 


 Honored guests at the ceremony, which was graciously emceed by KKL-JNF's Elisha Mizrahi, included Esther Herlitz, former Israeli ambassador to Denmark and president of the Israel-Denmark Friendship society, Alexander (Sasha) Wolfson, who was one of the children rescued at the time, Ministry of Education officials and schoolteachers. The audience also included Israeli army soldiers and students from schools in the Haifa region and Mazkeret Batya, together with their teachers.

 
 


Esther Herlitz. Photo: Tania Susskind

 
Sasha Wolfson and Esther Herlitz told the story of the rescue to the audience, and Sasha shared his personal memories with them. Denmark had been occupied by Nazi Germany at the beginning of 1940. Legend has it that when the Nazis demanded that the Jews wear the yellow star, the Danish king, Christian X, said that he would be the first to put it on, and the Germans let the matter go until 1943, when the order was given to deport the Jews to Auschwitz. The German diplomat Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz leaked word of the order to the Danish resistance movement and to the Jewish community leaders, and the Jews went into hiding until safe passage by sea could be organized to nearby Sweden. After the war, Duckwitz was appointed the German ambassador to Denmark. 
 


Unveiling the recognition plaque. Photo: Tania Susskind

 "I was a child of four when all this happened," Sasha recalled. "I want to emphasize that the entire country helped the Jews. For example, when things first started getting bad, I went to sleep every night at our neighbor's home, so that if anything happened, at least I would remain alive. When we took the train to the harbor, the conductor warned us that Gestapo officers would be boarding at the next station and told us to get off the train. A taxi drove us to the port and refused to accept payment. I will never forget the bravery and courage of the extraordinary Danish people." 


 Esther Herlitz said that the story of the rescue of the Danish Jews is not unlike the exodus from Egypt: "This story should be told and retold every year, so that it should not be forgotten. It was mentioned at the Eichmann trial, and the judge said that it was a reminder that even during the Holocaust, there were good people in the world who saved their friends and neighbors. There are no individual Danish Righteous of the Nations, because almost everyone was part of the rescue operation. At Yad Vashem, there are three trees for the Danes – one for the king, one for the Danish resistance and one for the entire Danish people. 


 "During the time the Jews were in Sweden, some of them received military training and eventually made it to Israel and fought in the War of Independence. Today's ceremony is very important, because it draws public attention to this chapter in our history and teaches young people about it, "Esther concluded. 

 


The rescue of Annette Goldman and her daughter, as reported in Sweden, after disembarking from one of the Danish fishing boats. Photo: Courtesy of Gil Atzmon

 Elisha Mizrahi introduced KKL-JNF regional forester Gil Atzmon, who had an amazing story to tell: "My mother fled from Berlin to Copenhagen with my grandmother, Annette Goldman, when she was just a young girl. They were saved on one of the fishing boats you heard about, and when they arrived in Sweden, a photographer took a picture of them right after they disembarked that was published in Copenhagen and London." Gil showed the picture to the audience. "After the war, my grandmother returned to Denmark and found her home exactly as she had left it. She always felt a deep sense of gratitude towards the Danish people. I find it very meaningful that today, as part of my duties as KKL-JNF regional forester, I am responsible for the forest planted in honor of the Danish resistance, which is located just three kilometers away from here." 


 Before unveiling the new stone sign in honor of the Danish resistance movement at the Donor Appreciation Center at the KKL-JNF nursery, Israel Ministry of Education officials Sarah Eilatand Zachi Cavti thanked KKL-JNF for organizing the event. ZufNoamTomerYaniv andEliad, eleventh-grade students at the Mazkeret Batya high school, spoke about their experience. "The twelfth-graders from our school already visited the concentration camps in Poland, and we will also," said Zuf. "Being here today is part of learning about the Holocaust and helps prepare us for our journey to Europe." 

Aden Malul, an eleventh grader from Kiryat Bialik, belongs to a group called "Young People Remember the Holocaust."


Aden Malul, 11th Grade. Photo: Tania Susskind

"We study about the Holocaust from many different angles; I feel it is very important. I hadn't known anything about what happened in Denmark, this was entirely new for me and also for my friends." 

 Laura and Niels Nygaard from Denmark, who were at the ceremony with their two young children Iben and Bork, live near Tiberius and represent an organization called "The Word and Israel." "We are friends and supporters of Israel," Niels explained, "and run programs for people visiting here, such as a three-month long program for Danes close to the age of 21, and shorter two-week programs. The idea is to teach people about Israel's past and present, which is very misrepresented in the media. We first came here for our honeymoon and fell in love with Israel, and we believe that it is God's plan for the Jewish people to return to their land." 

 Pinhas Afik, who is also active in the Israel Denmark Friendship Association, noted that the seventieth anniversary of the rescue of Danish Jewry was marked by a festive concert in the presence of the Danish prime minister in Copenhagen. In addition, a gala concert marking this occasion will be performed on October 30 at the Rebecca Crown auditorium at the Jerusalem Theater, with the Danish crown prince and Knesset Speaker Mr. Yuli Edelstein as honored guests.

 

 

The Conference, held in cooperation with UN Women and the United Nations Development Programme, will provide a forum for meeting and dialogue among worldwide colleagues, with special focus on gender equality and women's empowerment.

The 28th International Women Leaders’ Conference, which will be held from November 3-8, 2013 will focus on the subject of the centrality of gender equality and women’s empowerment in formulating the next sustainable development goals agenda of the U.N.

 

The 50 participants from throughout the world will include government ministers (from Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Romania, Papua New Guinea, and Samoa), members of parliament, scholars and senior representatives of U.N. agencies and international aid organizations.

 

The Conference will be held in cooperation with UN Women and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and will provide a forum for meeting and dialogue among worldwide colleagues on global issues on today's agenda in the area of international development, with special focus on gender equality and women's empowerment.

 

The Conference will open on Sunday, November 3, at the Krieger Center for Arts in Haifa in a festive ceremony with the participation of the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Israel Minister of Culture and Sport Livnat, and the Mayor of Haifa.

 

This, the 28th conference of its kind, is sponsored by the Golda Meir Mount Carmel International Training Center (MCTC), the oldest extension institution of MASHAV - Israel's Agency for International Development Cooperation at the Foreign Ministry.

 

 

 

 

 


UNITED NATIONS, 23 October 2013, (BWNS) — Despite recent signals by Iran that it intends to improve on its human rights record, there has been little evidence of change, according to a report issued yesterday by the UN's expert on human rights in that country.

"The human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran continues to warrant serious concern, with no sign of improvement," said Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran.

Among other things, Dr. Shaheed expressed concern over Iran's high level of executions, continuing discrimination against women and ethnic minorities, poor prison conditions, and limits on freedom of expression and association.

He also said that religious minorities in Iran, including Baha'is, Christians, Sunni Muslims, and others, "are increasingly subjected to various forms of legal discrimination, including in employment and education, and often face arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment."

His report, which will formally be presented today to the UN General Assembly, devoted several paragraphs to the persecution faced by Iran's Baha'i community.

"The Special Rapporteur continues to observe what appears to be an escalating pattern of systematic human rights violations targeting members of the Baha'i community, who face arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment, national security charges for active involvement in religious affairs, restrictions on religious practice, denial of higher education, obstacles to State employment and abuses within schools," he wrote.

Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha'i International Community to the UN, welcomed the report, saying that it provided a clear picture of what has been happening in Iran—and continues to happen even since the election of President Hassan Rouhani, who has made public promises for improvement.

"Recent reports from Iran give disturbing details indicating there has been no improvement whatsoever," said Ms. Dugal. "Indeed reports to our office actually indicate a worsening of the situation facing Baha'is in Iran. And we note that although much has been made in the news media of recent releases of a few prisoners of conscience, no member of the Baha'i Faith has yet been included among them."

Ms. Dugal stated: "What we see is the continuation of the usual tactics, attempting to delude the international community and to appease the family of nations, even as repression continues at home with full force. The Baha'i community in Iran, like many other minorities in that country, remains deprived of its most basic rights, including ultimately the right to exist as a viable community. Iran's government must be held accountable for this hypocrisy and double standards."

She continued: "In Iran's official reply to Dr. Shaheed's report, the government claims that 'the citizenship rights of followers of other faiths including Baha'is are entirely observed.'

• If this is so, how is it that the barrage of hate-filled incitement against the Baha'is continues unabated in the state-controlled media, and has indeed intensified in recent weeks?

• If this is so, how is that ordinary Baha'is face constant cruel harassment in earning a basic livelihood and official government documents explicitly prohibit Baha'is from engaging in dozens of professions while in practice they are debarred from many more.

• If this is so, how is it that all the properties of the Baha'i community remain confiscated and even Baha'i cemeteries are not immune from destruction?

• If this is so, what is the explanation for an official edict to 81 universities not to accept Baha'i students and why is the government decree expelling any student who is discovered to be a Baha'i still in full force?

• If this is so, how is it that even the courageous lawyers who defend the Baha'is against injustice are themselves thrown into prison?

• And if this is so, why would the country's Supreme Leader issue a fatwa declaring Baha'is as "unclean" and call for them to be systematically identified and socially ostracized?

These and countless other actions, all of which are evidence of obvious religious discrimination, establish beyond the shadow of doubt the presence of a chilling, state-organized, insidious campaign aimed at the eradication of a religious community in the land of its birth."

"How long" asked Ms. Dugal "will the Iranian government persist in its duplicity?"

For more information, go to: http://www.bic.org/media/media-information

http://news.bahai.org/story/971

 

 

Following are Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's greetings on the occasion of the Sigd.


"Dear friends, honored kesim, public leaders and members of the Ethiopian [Jewish] community,



I greet you on the occasion of Sigd. You have been celebrating this holiday for hundreds of years in Ethiopia and now you are celebrating it in the State of Israel along with all Israelis. I view this holiday as important because it is important to me that all Israelis are familiar with the cultural heritage of the Ethiopian [Jewish] community, a community which kept alive its love for Zion over thousands of years in Africa. What greater testimony is there for the yearning to return to Zion than this community – which was cut off and distant yet never gave up, not even for a moment, the idea of returning to Zion and Jerusalem.



Today, I told in the Knesset about how excited I was when I saw a member of the community telling on Mt. Herzl, on Memorial Day for Ethiopian Jews who Perished on their Way to Israel<http://www.knesset.gov.il/lexicon/eng/yom_zik_ethiopian_eng.htm>, about the march, it is possible to call it a 'death march', in which members of his family were attacked and murdered, and this child saw it all – and they continued to march and reached Israel. There stood a man, already an adult, and he wept, and we wept with him and I embraced him, and I embrace you because this is highest expression of the yearning to return to Zion, the ingathering of the exiles.



I was very moved then just like I am very moved now. I know that the first mission to bring Ethiopian Jews to Israel. I am proud that as Prime Minister I have twice been fortunate to have brought Ethiopian Jews to Israel: Once from the compound in Addis, and now those who remained. I see this as a supreme duty – a supreme Jewish and Zionist duty. But I know that is not enough to help bring you to Israel, we must facilitate your absorption. I am familiar with the difficulties and we are devoting resources to this and our hand is still extended.



I know that there are also other difficulties – of racism and harassment. I am beside myself at such phenomena. When I heard about what happened in Kiryat Malachi, I went there with ministers in order to express my protest. I see you as an integral part of the Jewish People; you are an integral part of the Jewish People and yours is a great story that attests to our identity.



I want you to know that this commitment is genuine and I want it to be expressed in recognition of your heritage – not only should you recognize your heritage, you and your children and your grandchildren – I want the entire Jewish People to know this glorious community and love it as I do.



I wish you a happy holiday and may we continue to work together for the revival of Zion."

 

Sigd - A Holiday of Ethiopian Jewry

Sigd is a holiday of Ethiopian Jewry, the community named “Beta Israel.” The name of the holiday is derived from the Hebrew word for bowing or prostration, “sgida”. Sigd is celebrated on the 29th of Heshvan – 50 days following Yom Kippur (similar to the holiday of Shavuot, celebrated 50 days after Passover), and the community rejoices for the renewal of the alliance between the people, God, and His Torah. This act is reminiscent of the treaty made for the People of Israel by Ezra and Nehemiah upon the return from Babylonian exile in the 5th Century BCE. The holiday originated in the Book of Nehemiah: “And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and when he opened it, all the people stood up. And Ezra blessed the lord, the great God. And all the people answered: 'Amen, Amen', with the lifting up of their hands; and they bowed their heads, and fell down before the Lord with their faces to the ground” (Nehemiah, 8:5-6). “And they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of the Lord their God a fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they confessed, and prostrated themselves before the Lord their God” (Nehemiah, 9: 3). During Sigd, Ethiopian Jewry pray to God, and plea to return to Zion. The community also holds communal self-examination, in addition to that held in private during Yom Kippur. In accordance with tradition, the public must examine itself and amend itself socially to be worthy to return to Jerusalem from exile. Sins of the community members are being forgiven for during Yom Kippur and the following 50 days, the last of which is the communal self examination carried out in a similar way to that of Yom Kippur itself in prayers and fast. The holiday in Ethiopia
In Ethiopia, the community used to gather from all distant villages to celebrate communally. The day prior to the holiday was used for carrying out special prayers to welcome the following day and for washing their festive clothing. The Kes (spiritual leader) would prepare cow and sheep meat for the feast to be held to end the holiday, during which the community fasted. The Sigd ceremony was held on a high mountain, considered to be pure due to its resemblance to Mt. Sinai on which Moses was given the Torah. Elder members of the community would climb up to the place of prayer and ensure its purity and strengthen its surrounding fence, in front of which they would prepare the area to place the Torah scroll. Early in the morning, the community would bathe in the river and gather at the prayer house. The Kes would then extract the Torah to the sounds of singing and cries of happiness and lead the crowd up the mountain. Some of those present would carry with them a rock symbolizing their surrender before God and as a sign of regret for their sins. The ceremony opens with the Kes reading excerpts from the Bible, spoken in Ge’ez and translated to Amharic. The excerpts included: Receiving of the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai (Exodus, 19-20), Nehemiah’s ceremony for renewal of the alliance with those returning from the Babylonian exile (Nehemiah, 8-9), and excerpts from the books of Leviticus, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and Psalms. Furthermore, the Kes would pray and accompany their service with sermons and preaching. During the ceremony the members of the community would kneel, bow and direct their hands at the sky. This was followed by an interval of trumpets, while saying: “As we have had the fortune to celebrate the holiday this year, we shall have the fortune to hold it in Jerusalem in the next year.” The prayers following these words expressed joy, comfort and their hope for the return to Zion and the building of Jerusalem. The participants would return to the prayer house in the afternoon to hold a festive meal, accompanied with songs and dance. The holiday in Israel
Today, as the majority of the Ethiopian Jewish community has made Aliyah to the State of Israel, members of the community make their way to Jerusalem, to the Wailing Wall and to the promenade at the “Armon Hanatziv” neighborhood in the city. The holiday serves as an annual gathering of the entire Ethiopian community and they see it as a chance to strengthen their affinity to their history and culture. The Kessim carry the Bible holding colorful umbrellas. They stand on top of a stage to read the excerpts and prayers before the community. Many officials come and greet the audience, while the crowd continues to observe their fast until late in the afternoon. The Knesset legislated the Sigd Law-2008, declaring the 29th of Heshvan as a national holiday. 

Memorial Day for Ethiopian Jews who Perished on their Way to Israel - 28th of Iyar

The 28th of Iyar is marked by the Israeli Ethiopian community as the memorial day for those who perished on their way to Israel. A mass immigration of Ethiopian Jews ("Beta Israel") took place in the years 1980 – 1984, from their villages in the area of Gundar and through Sudan. Many of them, who dreamt for many years of making Aliyah to Israel, managed to flee Ethiopia and arrive at the Ethiopian-Sudanese border, where they waited in provisional camps to make Aliyah. The passage through Sudan was made possible by an unspoken agreement, only known to a few senior officials in Sudan. Agents of the Mossad awaited the immigrants at the Sudanese border and instructed them to hide their Jewish identity. In their escape and in the Sudanese camps, they suffered from disease, hunger and acts of harassment, rape, and violent robberies. The families, with their elderly and younger members, walked for long periods of up to several months and were forced to wait in refugee camps in Sudan for up to two years. Approximately 4,000 members of the community perished on the way and in the camps, in their attempt to arrive at Israel. Their instructions on minimizing their Jewish identity made it difficult on them to observe Jewish law and tradition; they could not bury their dead in the desert for fear of robbers, and they could not perform Jewish burial ceremonies at their camps for fear of the Sudanese guards. "Operation Moses" began in November 1984, and it was the first national operation for bringing the Ethiopian Jewry to Israel. The operation was done in secret and brought some 8,000 Ethiopian Jews over on Israeli aircrafts. A leak of information to the Israeli press brought the operation to an end before schedule. Many families were left behind, torn apart, and remained there until May 1991, when 14,324 immigrants were brought within 36 hours during "Operation Solomon." In 1989, the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption erected a temporary memorial for those who perished at Kibbutz Ramat Rachel with the help of the Jewish Agency and the Israel National Fund. In late 2003 it was decided by the ministerial cabinet for immigration, absorption and the Diaspora that a memorial will be established at Mt. Herzl. The government had decided that a national memorial ceremony will be held each year on the 28th of Iyar, Jerusalem Day. In March 2007, the memorial for Ethiopian Jewry who perished en-route to Israel was erected on the southern part of Mt. Herzl. Its establishment was made possible with the assistance of the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, the Israel Land Administration, the World Zionist Organization and representatives of the Municipality of Jerusalem. The commemoration department in the Ministry of Defense was the coordinator of the technical aspects for the planning and design of the memorial. It was designed by architect Gabriel Kertesz, in cooperation with artists and authors of Ethiopian origin. Their work was introduced into the design of the memorial, as well as monologues by the members of the community describing their way of life in the Ethiopian villages, their journey to Israel, waiting in the refugee camps in Sudan and their yearning for Jerusalem. The area surrounding the memorial serves as a gathering place for uniting with the loss and courage of the thousands of Ethiopian Jews who perished on their way to Israel. The Ethiopian community in Israel consisted in late 2007 of 114,070 people: 79,545 of which made Aliyah since the 1980s, and the remaining 34,525 were born in Israel. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

President Shimon Peres speaks to the Jerusalem Post Editor-In-Chief Steve Linde

Photo : Silvia G. Golan

 

 

President Peres on Iran

"An Iranian Spring is possible; don't underestimate the power and ability of the people"

 

 

President Peres on negotiations with the Palestinians:

"There is enough to bring the two sides together"

 

The President of the State of Israel, Shimon Peres, opened   The Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference, with an onstage interview with Editor-in-Chief Steve Linde. President Peres addressed the Iranian nuclear issue and said of President Rouhani's election, "I think it's part of a new puzzle. People voted for him not because he is a revolutionary but because he was the least extreme and most reasonable. All of us are concerned about the enrichment of uranium but there is a wider picture. Dictatorships only seem strong but they are the weakest, an Iranian Spring is possible; don't underestimate the power and ability of the people." President Peres addressed Iran's nuclear program and said, "Khamenei says that religion forbids the nuclear weapons, then why do they develop long range missiles with warheads capable of carrying nuclear weapons? Those missiles have no civilian purpose. As long as they keep enriching uranium, developing long range missiles, supporting the revolutionary guard then they will remain prisoners of their own work. It is not just a matter of speeches; they have complicated themselves into an impossible system."

 

President Peres was asked about the negotiations with the Palestinians and said, "I've known Abbas for 30 years, I believe his choice is to arrive to an agreement and he has said there is no need to return to the old cities and if we reach an agreement there won't be further demands. I'm not saying he agrees with us but there is enough to bring the sides together. At the beginning of negotiations and both sides start with maximum positions, the aim of negotiations is to bring the two sides together."

 

Photo  Silvia Golan