May/June 2017
CURRENT PERSPECTIVES                                 

News from Israel

This week's news from Israel reveals the complex tensions between Arabs and Jews, between Jews themselves, and between government and religion. We think it's important to understand those tensions so that we don't rush to apply simple solutions to complex problems, and so that we understand that Israel is a full, complicated, and evolving country.

Building a shared society: Conflicts are often resolved through changing hearts and minds, giving hope, exposing people to realities they didn't know they could imagine. The Harold Grinspoon Foundation is supporting a program in Israel's Ministry of Education to provide books to Arab-Israeli preschoolers. (This program is akin to their P.J. Library program, which is locally administered by the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center.) The Israeli program hit a milestone when it recently distributed its 2 millionth free book. Read more here.
In the West Bank, Palestinian and Israeli teens from nearby settlements are meeting each other in a unique coexistence program oriented around photography. Calling the connection "a first," Shaul Judelman, a founder and director of Roots, said of the project: "It never happens. Nowhere in the West Bank do Israeli pre-teens and young teenagers from settlements meet Palestinian kids from nearby town and villages. They live in two different, absurdly parallel worlds." Read more here.
While there are efforts to create more personal connections between Israelis and Palestinians, a new survey reveals that most Jewish and Arab Israelis do not want to live in the same neighborhood. Avinoam Bar-Yosef, president of the Jewish People Policy Institute, said of the survey results: "What is worrying is that what we see here is that in Israel, basically the majority is happy, but they are not ready to live together. So you have a few groups that feel at home here but separately." Read more here.
In a symbolic and also practical milestone, Israel has appointed its first female Muslim diplomat. Rasha Atamny was named Wednesday to the first secretary in the Israeli embassy in Turkey. She was inspired by her three months as a youth ambassador at the U.N. " I listened to the speeches from Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, and Egypt condemning Israel's 'systematic violations of women's rights' while I, an Arab-Muslim woman of Palestinian origin represent Israel at the UN General Assembly," she said. Read more here.
Pluralism or a betrayal of Jewish values? Israel's High Court of Justice ruled this week that Tel Aviv can permit mini-markets to operate on Shabbat. Mayor Ron Huldai said that Tel Aviv-Jaffa is "free and will remain free" but Interior Minister Aryeh Deri called the ruling "a serious blow to the holy Shabbat and the character of the Jewish people." Read more here.
A Jubilee for our Political Certainties: Yossi Klein HaLevi, writing in Shma, reflects on the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War and what it means to be a centrist. "Centrists Israeli have, in effect, internatlized the left-right debate, which is no longer happening only between rival political camps but inside each of us. Continuing the occupation endangers our most cherished assumptions about ourselves as a people - rachmanim bnai rachmanim, merciful children of merciful parents - and threatens the viability of a Jewish and democratic Israel. And so, I embrace the left's conclusion that we must end the occupation. But ending the occupation could endanger our ability to defend ourselves in an imploding Middle East and lead to a Palestinian state that could resemble Gaza, if not Syria or Iraq. And so, I embrace the right's conclusion that we don't have a credible Palestinian partner for a durable peace." Read the full article here.
News from Gaza: Explosive materials were found in the luggage of a cancer patient from Gaza who was entering Israel to receive medical treatment. Israeli authorities said that the explosives were sent by Hamas and that the group was planning to carry out terror attacks in Israel in the near future. Read more here.   Patients in Gaza hospitals are facing a different crisis. This week, Israeli and Palestinian officials estimated that Gaza hospitals would finish their reserve fuel for generators within 48-72 hours. A dispute between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas has led to cuts in fuel supplies to the power station. Read more here.
What's the long term vision for Gaza? After sitting through an hours long Knesset committee hearing about Operation Protective Edge, the 2014 Gaza War, Judah Ari Gross opines in the Times of Israel that "Israel has no idea what to do with the Gaza Strip." Read about the hearing and Gross' analysis here.
Barghouti's moral authority and NYTimes' mistake: One of the topics at the hearing was a recent hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners. The most prominent among them was Marwan Barghouti, a convicted murderer who wrote about the strike in an op-ed that ran in Sunday's New York Times. The Times has been roundly criticized for running that piece without offering proper biographical information about its author, an omission that struck the newspaper's public editor as problematic. "Failure to 'more fully identify the biography and credentials of authors, especially details that help people make judgments about the opinions they're reading risks the credibility of the author and the Op-Ed pages,'" wrote public editor Liz Spayd. Read Spayd's article  and JTA's coverage.
What about Syria? Speaking from Israel, United States Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said that Syria still has chemical weapons. "There can be no doubt in the international community's mind that Syria has retained chemical weapons in violation of its agreement and its statement that it had removed them all. "I can say authoritatively they have retained some, it's a violation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions and it's going to have to be taken up diplomatically and they would be ill advised to try to use any again, we made that very clear with our strike." Read more of Mattis' comments at a press conference with Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman here.
Israeli military officials reported earlier this week that the U.S. gave Israel two hours warning before last week's missile attack on a Syrian airbase. Read more here.


When my worlds met up:
I want to share a few special experiences I had in March with you.
Last month, I had a rare and special opportunity. The Milwaukee Jewish Federation, guided by Hannah Rosenthal's vision and supported by anonymous donors, managed to bring to life the dream of bringing MJF staff to Israel. Twenty seven full-time workers spent six full packed days touring the sites (both Jewish and Christian) and seeing what it was all about.
My favorite parts of the trip were the personal ones. We experienced Partnership2Gether, Milwaukee's very own "twin" region, Sovev Kinneret, by meeting people who have been touched by Partnership. We sat around tables with Shinshin parents, delegation participants and steering committee members and heard stories about how funds raised by Federation touch lives in the region. We ate dinner together and danced. Partnership2Gether is a powerful platform for creating people to people connections.
We were guests in the Yemin Moshe home of my mother's husband, Prof. Uriel Bachrach, who together with other scientists, were approached by Ben Gurion to secretly create weapons, to defend what was not yet the state of Israel.
MJF Staff
The highlight for me was the visit to my kibbutz (Tzora), where we toured the community to understand how it functions, heard from the current mazkir (head of the kibbutz) about his vision for the future of the kibbutz and of Israel, watched a multi-generational Purim play which has been a tradition for 45 years, and squeezed into our house (the one we will be returning to in a few months). This moment was very meaningful to me. Both my worlds met. I was no longer a virtual Israeli from an unseen place. People saw the exact location where I will be sitting and eating dinner this summer, the porch where we will be having lemon or herbal tea from our very own garden, while watching the sun set to the west over the Judean foot hills. It was important for me that my co- workers understand that we chose to temporarily leave our vibrant and wonderful community, to join yours, because we see Shlichut in this. Transitioning back may not be easy for all 5 of us, but totally worth it.
Hear testimonies from the trip.
In addition, while I was visiting in Israel, Keren Weisshaus, who will take my place as Community Shlichah this summer (yes - 3 years are almost up!) invited all the 15 former Shlichim to her Modi'in home, to share some special moments from an accumulated 50 years in Milwaukee. Not everyone showed up, but I am sure you will recognize a Shaliach or spouse in this picture:

Between laughter and tears, many shared memories emerged, including plowing and navigating in the snow, keeping warm in the winter, the Shlichut house, Camp Interlaken, lectures at Chai Point, local friends and lasting friendships. I managed to record some footage to be included in the film we are making to celebrate 50 years of Shlichut in Milwaukee, to be shown on June 25 th at 4pm, at our going away event.

After I got back to Milwaukee, our family took a last road trip, before returning to our corner of the universe. We drove over 2000 miles to see what North America can be very proud of, its natural wonders: Arches, Canyon-land, Monument Valley, Lake Powell, Bryce & Zion National Parks. WOW!

One of the benefits of Shlichut is family bonding. Yonatan, our eldest, will be graduating high school and joining a "Mechina" (a pre-Army program called "Kol Ami"). Our time here has enabled us to bond and explore and appreciate. So, March was a very special month.

Thank you for giving us these opportunities!

Amit Yaniv-Zehavi
Community Shlichah 

P.S. Feel free to contact me at

Jordan Salinsky
Jordan Salinsky, a junior at UW-Madison was looking for valuable professional experience in her field  - environmental policy  - as well as a meaningful Israel program. In Onward Israel, she found both. Salinsky started her summer of 2016 doing Birthright Israel, a way or her to see the country before starting her internship, and a way to have her plane ticket for Onward subsidized. During her Onward experience, Salinsky lived with 4 roommates in Bat Yam, a laid back and diverse community close to the beach. She worked for an Israeli lawyer at Adam Teva V'Din, doing research on the environmental impact of pesticides worldwide to help formulate policies in Israel. Salinsky said the work was very interesting, relevant to her professional aspirations, and a great stepping stone to work she wants to do after graduation. She said Onward also provides seminars and day trips that enhance the program. The entire experience was incredibly valuable personally and as professional preparation.

Yom HaZikaron, Community Commemoration
April 30 * 6 pm
Harry & Rose Samson Family JCC, 6255 N. Santa Monica Blvd.
Yom HaAtzmaut Seudah
May 2 * 6:30-8 pm
Anshe Sfard Kehillat Torah, 6717 N Green Bay Ave.

Café Ivrit with Hillel Milwaukee
May 3 * 3 pm
University Wisconsin Milwaukee, in Curtin Hall Room B84
Yom HaAtzmaut, Community Celebration
May 7 * 4-8:30 pm
Milwaukee County War Memorial, 750 N. Lincoln Memorial Dr.

Survival of a Nation: Exploring Israel Through the Lens of the Six-Day War
6 Mondays, Beginning May 9 * 7:30-9 pm
The Shul Center, 8825 N. Lake Dr.
Picnic for Israelis
May 21 * 11:30 am - 2 pm
RSVP for location

Farewell to the Zehavis and Celebration of 50 Years of Shlichut in Milwaukee
June 25 * 4-6 pm
Congregation Sinai, 8223 N. Port Washington Rd.



The Israel Center, a department of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, serves as Israel's central address in the greater Milwaukee community. Our mission is to create connections between the people of Israel and Milwaukee through cultural, professional, educational and travel experiences. These connections are developed in part through Shlichut and Partnership2Gether, two programs that are made possible through the Milwaukee Jewish Federation's partnership with the Jewish Agency for Israel. Learn more.


Questions? Email or call Rabbi Hannah Greenstein, VP outreach, Israel and overseas, at 414-390-5764. 

The Jewish Community Relations Council, a department of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, builds strategic relationships to protect and defend Jews, individually and collectively. Our mission is to speak as the representative of the Jewish community on issues of public affairs and public policy by convening and mobilizing the Jewish community through education, advocacy, social justice, and support for Israel.
Learn more at or contact Elana   Kahn through email or by calling 414-390-5736.