Tag Archives: Israel

Behind Farm 54: The Making of the Story “Houses”

Earlier this week, Galit and Gilad Seliktar shared the making of the first story  and the second story in Farm 54. In their final post, they share the background behind “Houses,” the third story in their graphic novel. They have been blogging all week for the Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning‘s Author Blog.

Galit: This story is the most autobiographical of all three texts, the most true-to-life. I was drafted to compulsory army service in 1989 during the first Intifadah and, after basic training as an educational non-commissioned officer, I was assigned to a base near Bethlehem.  Continue reading here.

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JBC Bookshelf: Expanded Edition

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter
In an effort to create some pre-book award ceremony (tomorrow!!) order in my life, I’ve finally gone through some of the spring titles that have come across my desk.  Continue reading here.

Leaving Mother Russia

In his last posts, Gal Beckerman wrote about barbecuing with hijackers and his other baby. His first book, When They Come for Us, We’ll Be Gone: The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry, will be available September 23rd. Gal, a staff writer at the Forward, has been blogging for the Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning’s Author Blog series all week.

There is a strange irony in having worked on a history of the Soviet Jewry movement at a moment when Israel often sees those who most cherish the upholding of human rights and international law as its enemies. The recent wars in Lebanon and Gaza happened while I was researching and writing the book, conflicts that were followed by allegations that Israel had committed war crimes, and then by Israel’s defenders fiercely denouncing the NGOs and other international bodies who made those claims.

I say ironic because during the period I examine in the book – the early 1960s to the late 1980s – it was Jews who spoke most often about the respect for human rights. It was the Soviet Jewry movement that made such effective use of the language of international law. It wasn’t so long ago, but attitudes have so clearly shifted, that the years I wrote about now seem like a Twilight Zone inverse of today. Setting aside that there are those who see extreme bias (and even anti-Semitism) behind the claims of Israeli human rights violations, the reality is that Israel appears to be on the opposite side of these universal principles, not the force that is defending them. And that is a real change.

Back in the 1960s, Israel helped clandestinely to foment an international movement to help Soviet Jews, and they specifically focused on what they saw as the trampling of minority rights as the cause’s main argument. Throughout the years of the struggle, there was nothing more effective for both refuseniks (Jews who were refused emigration permits) and their American friends than to point to Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.” In one samizdat journal, these words sat comfortably on the masthead next to Psalm 127, “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem.” Soviet human rights activists like Andrei Sakharov supported the movement passionately and his photo still hangs on Natan Sharansky’s office wall. He looked up to him as a hero.

And most importantly, when the Helsinki process started in 1975 – a series of multilateral meetings that consistently put the Soviets on the defensive about their internal policies – it was the condition of Soviet Jewry that most clearly illustrated the problem. There was almost complete overlap between the goals of those focused on defending universal principles and those who cared about what was also very clearly a Jewish cause.

When They Come for Us, We’ll Be Gone will be available next week.

Moment Magazine’s Intriguing Books of 2009

Posted by Naomi Firestone
Moment Magazine lists its “Intriguing Books of 2009…continue reading here.

Yehoshua in the NY Times

Posted by Naomi Firestone
An interesting piece on A.B. Yehoshua’s new novel…continue reading here.

Celebrate Israel with AJL

Posted by Naomi Firestone
The Association of Jewish Libraries just released a new reading list on Israel for adults and children. Continue reading here.

mmmm…

Posted by Libi Adler

It was Thursday, 5 pm, and I am making a mental shopping list. The time is coming up where I will have to buy food and make plans for my Shabbat Meals. The problem is, what do I make? Continue reading here.