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Lee Israel

Lee Israel

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There had been some snide little items about her (Dorothy Kilgallen) in the columns, an occasional short profile in the magazines, and frequent strafing from television performers. Jack Paar led the pack in 1960, taking up Sinatra's slack. That tempestuous round began when Dorothy swiped at him in the column over his impassioned support of Fidel Castro. She was violently opposed to the new Cuban leader and peppered her column with anti-Castro items, many of which appear to have been fed to her by Miami-based exiles or CIA fronts on an almost daily basis. Paar retaliated on his prime-time, high-rated television show.

Under the headline NEW DOROTHY KILGALLEN EXCLUSIVE - TALE OF "RICH OIL MAN" AT RUBY CLUB - Dorothy printed Mark's secret testimony. But his testimony implicated a trio at the Carousel: Ruby, Tippit, and Weissman. Reexamining the transcript of Ruby's testimony before the commission, she noticed that the questions posed to him concerned not a trio, but a quartet. Earl Warren, in his questioning, informed Ruby that Lane had said: "In your Carousel Club you and Weisman (sic) and Tippit... and a rich oil man had an interview or conversation for an hour or two."

Dorothy, who did not have access yet to the complete Warren Report, had to deduce:

"The mention of the "rich oil man" by Chief Justice Warren would indicate then, that the Commission was informed of the meeting by a source other than Mr. Lane, and that this second source provided the name of a fourth party - the oil man. If that is not the case, if the Commission had only Mr. Lane's testimony to go on, it would appear that the oil man was "invented" by the investigators. And it is difficult to imagine the Commission doing any such thing.

The introduction of the rich oil man into the questioning effectively discombobulated the already-confused Jack Ruby.

When the report was released, it was clear that no testimony was given by any of the 552 witnesses about a rich oil man. Either there was a significant omission in the report of the Warren Commission, or the oil man was part of the unofficial corpus of information to which Warren was privy, or Dorothy's thesis - however "difficult to imagine" - was correct.

During one of her (Kilgallen’s) visits - sometime in March, before the verdict – she prevailed upon Joe Tonahill to make arrangements through Judge Brown for a private interview with Jack Ruby.

Brown, awestruck by Dorothy, acceded readily to Tonahill’s request. The meeting room in the jailhouse was bugged, and Tonahill suspected that Brown’s chambers were as well. Brown and Tonahill chose a small office off the courtroom behind the judge’s bench. They asked Ruby’s ubiquitous flank of four sheriff’s guards to consent to remain outside the room.

Dorothy was standing by the room during a noon recess. Ruby appeared with Tonahill. The three entered the room and closed the door. The defendant and Dorothy stood facing each other, spoke of their mutual friend, and indicated that they wanted to be left alone. Tonahill withdrew. They were together privately for about eight minutes, in what may have been the only safe house Ruby had occupied since his arrest.

Dorothy would mention the fact of the interview to close friends, but never the substance. Not once, in her prolific published writings, did she so much as refer to the private interview. Whatever notes she took during her time alone with Jack Ruby in the small office off the judge’s bench were included in a file she began to assemble on the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

As the thirtieth anniversary of the JFK assassination approaches, I must tell the world about a 58-year-old man who can identify the conspirators. What follows has never been published before. I am a journalism student at Virginia Commonwealth University who was born after the assassination. I don't have the money to travel to New York City where I know of people who can testify that this 58-year-old man holds the key. In the limited time I have had to solicit media people who could expose this story, they have all dismissed the idea as libelous. The Washington Post and the New York Press (a free weekly) turned it down. My faculty has no pull.

So please, somebody, steal the following story! I'm a poor student who must prepare for final exams. Can you send this along to a journalist you know who can publish or broadcast it? He or she knows that the best defense against libel is the truth, which is:

The JFK assassination conspirators recruited Ron Pataky, now 58, to seduce and kill journalist Dorothy Kilgallen. Their motive was to prevent her from printing the truth about November 22, 1963 in her widely read newspaper. She had already published front-page stories in newspapers around the country implicating Chief Justice Earl Warren and the Justice Department in the cover-up. She worked closely with Mark Lane, a lawyer who in 1964/65 was working on his ground-breaking assassination book "Rush To Judgment." He gave Kilgallen leads for her news stories. In the fall of 1965, she told him and other friends that she was about to travel to Dallas, where she expected to find evidence that would break the JFK case wide open.

But on November 7, 1965, a newspaper columnist named Ron Pataky waited for his intimate friend Dorothy Kilgallen to arrive for a prearranged meeting in the cocktail lounge of New York's Regency Hotel. That night she appeared as usual as a panelist on the TV game show called "What's My Line?". Millions of people around North America saw her figure out the careers of two contestants as CBS broadcast the series live from 10:30 to 11:00 pm. She then joined Bob Bach, the producer of "What's My Line?", at a club called P.J. Clarke's, whose employees later admitted having seen her. After midnight, she left Bach to visit the cocktail lounge of the Regency Hotel (Park Ave. and 61st St.), whose employees have never admitted what they saw.

One Regency employee, Harvey Daniels (press agent), did tell a writer in 1976 that he saw Kilgallen enter the cocktail lounge at about 1:00 am on November 8. But he did not pay attention to where or with whom she sat. He left the building shortly thereafter. This writer who interviewed him is Ms. Lee Israel, a veteran magazine journalist whose conversations with Helen Gahagan Douglas and Katherine Hepburn had appeared in Esquire and Saturday Review. When Ms. Israel tried to interview other Regency employees for the Kilgallen book she was working on, the management (Loews Hotels) warned her away.

I found out earlier this month (November 1993) that several employees of the Regency who were on duty that night still work there. The only name I know is John Mahon, a bartender. He told me that he and various waiters and bellhops will talk if you clear it with Loews Hotels. The contact person, Debra Kelman, did NOT work there in 1976 when Loews told Lee Israel to keep away.

The direct line to Debra Kelman is 212-545-2833. On the phone she sounds too young to remember the assassination. But I don't have the money to stay in New York to interview anyone.

What could you get out of an interview with a Regency employee? Well, the official cause of Dorothy Kilgallen's death is an overdose of barbiturates and alcohol, "circumstances undetermined." I interviewed Ron Pataky and I believe he gave her a Mickey Finn in that hotel lounge. When Loews Hotels warned away Lee Israel in 1976, the media did not have the power it has today. Oprah Winfrey and cable TV had not yet come along, and the JFK assassination was still largely a taboo topic. Someone who approaches Loews and then bartender John Mahon and other Regency employees may get better results today.

You might wonder about contacting Ron Pataky. I already interviewed him on the phone for three hours and taped it. In the beginning of the conversation he became very upset when I asked about his frequent stays at the Regency in 1964/65. He then rambled on about his "close friendship" with Dorothy Kilgallen. He later admitted to talking to her on the phone long distance five times a week, often at three in the morning. He revealed that she made overseas calls to him from a vacation she made to Europe, and she sometimes used his Regency Hotel suite to change clothes before they painted the town in New York. He says he wrote the lead paragraph to one of her JFK articles. He first met her a year and five months before she died, but he denies that they had an affair.

So posterity needs to evaluate each mysterious death according to how plausible the murder theory is. Lee Israel puts in this book some evidence that a broken love affair with Johnnie Ray and the fall of the Hearst newspaper empire gave Dorothy Kilgallen trouble sleeping, and she could have mixed barbiturates with booze. But Lee also details the strange circumstances of Dorothy's death. Police and medical examiner reports say her body was found in a bed in which she never slept. Nobody slept in it. It was a showroom to convince celebrity houseguests who partied in the next room that everything was hunky dory in the 25 - year marriage of Dorothy and her husband Richard Kollmar.

There was no pill bottle on the bedside table or anywhere else in the death scene. Dorothy had fallen "asleep" while reading a new novel by Robert Ruark, even though she had said in her newspaper column four months earlier that the protagonist of the book dies in the end. She had discussed said novel with her hairdresser Marc Sinclaire some weeks before cops and doctors found the book in her dead hand. She had told Mr. Sinclaire that she had enjoyed the work after having finished reading it.

That's what you will find in this book. Now I'll add the two things I've seen while sight seeing. First, you can find Dorothy Kilgallen's death certificate at the National Archives in Maryland, a popular tourist site. In the section where the doctor makes the classification of natural causes, suicide, homicide, etc., the thing says "undetermined pending further investigation." Strangely, the deputy medical examiner of Brooklyn signed it "for James Luke," the chief medical examiner. Kilgallen died in the borough of Manhattan, and Dr. Luke had no reason not to sign it. He visited the death scene for 45 minutes, according to the Washington Post obituary. That Brooklyn deputy M.E., Dominick Di Maio, is still alive.

The second thing I've seen that's not in the book is a video interview with criminal defense attorney Joe Tonahill preserved at Lamar University in Texas. On it he says his last telephone conversation with Dorothy Kilgallen happened a short time before she died, "maybe a week before." They planned to participate in a radio talk show about the JFK assassination, but she died before the plans could materialize. Shortly before that conversation, Dorothy visited Miami to discuss Oswald, etc. on the talk show of a young Larry King. The same Larry now on CNN.

Kilgallen ran one last column on the JFK assassination on September 3, 1965. It was little more than a rehash of questions surrounding the photos, and an assertion that if Marina Oswald could explain the "real story" it would undoubtedly cause a "sensation." She closed by vowing, "This story isn't going to die as long as there's a real reporter alive - and there are a lot of them."

She evidently found time to investigate one lead on her own in New Orleans. Her make-up artist for "What's My Line?" recalled Kilgallen telling him in October that she had planned to go to New Orleans to meet someone who would give her "information on the case." The appendix to Israel's book indicates that the contact was either Jim Garrison or one of

his associates. This would make a great deal of sense. Mark Lane, in addition to providing Kilgallen with information, would also become a prime source of assistance to Garrison once his "investigation" kicked into high gear, and it may be possible that he or one of the other conspiracy authors he associated himself with, had referred Garrison to Kilgallen. It is worth noting that the connections of Lane and his associates to Garrison is never mentioned in Israel's book.

What she learned, if anything, was never written up. In the early morning hours of November 8, 1965, just four hours after doing the live broadcast of "What's My Line?" and not long after she had left her next-day's column under the door of her apartment, Dorothy Kilgallen died under circumstances that remain puzzling to this day. The official explanation of complications from barbiturates and alcohol remains dubious to some people because they felt that Kilgallen was largely over her addictions by 1965, especially since she had recently begun a happy affair with a gentleman Israel describes as "The Out-Of-Towner". The tape of the "What's My Line?" broadcast however, clearly shows her slurring her speech at various points (not "crisply perfect" as Israel falsely claims). None of this affected her game-playing abilities, which were always superior to any other member of the panel, but it is clear that she was not in the best of health that particular night. In 1978, HSCA counsel Robert Blakey asked for a review of Kilgallen's autopsy (a copy of which is in the JFK Assassination files in the National Archives), but he and his staff evidently found nothing worth pursuing since no mention of Kilgallen ever made it into the final report.

Someone might be able to prove someday that there was more to Dorothy Kilgallen's death than met the eye that night. But if someone succeeds in doing that, he will still not be able to show that it could have had any remote connection with the JFK assassination. If one encompasses everything she knew at the time of her death, it is clear that she did not have a clue as to what the truth really was. Her entire investigation had consisted of shoddy detective work on her part, coupled with false and misleading information from a dishonest gentleman named Mark Lane. Had she been able to tell the world everything she knew on the night of her death, they would have been given another sneak preview of some of the stories Mark Lane would trumpet in his book (I) Rush To Judgment (I), as well as a possible preview of some of Jim Garrison's outlandish assertions that culminated in his witchhunt against Clay Shaw. In both instances, Kilgallen had been nothing more than a courier, not an investigator. Considering that no ill-fortune befell either Lane or Garrison when their respective work appeared in full bloom by 1966 and 1967, the likelihood of Kilgallen's death being assassination-related becomes even more remote. Indeed, the FBI files available to us, indicate that at no time were they ever concerned about the nature of any of her 1964 assertions about the case that were fed to her by Lane. The only thing about Dorothy Kilgallen that ever worried the FBI was the prospect of more columns unjustly maligning their image if they continued their investigation of who leaked the Ruby transcript to her.

Dorothy Kilgallen was without question a bright, intelligent woman who had solid credentials as a reporter, and who was the key to much of the success of "What's My Line?". It is unfortunate that at a time when she was not up to her best standards of health and deductive reasoning, she became a willing target for the deceptions of Mark Lane and company. She would not have been the first intelligent person to fall victim to Lane's chicanery. The distinguished historian Hugh Trevor-Roper also would be suckered by Lane, when he agreed to write the introduction to (i) Rush To Judgment (ii) and made assertions about the case that only repeated unchallenged what Lane had told him. So too, did Dorothy Kilgallen have a bizarre willingness to accept everything Lane had given to her without utilizing any of her usual skills of reporter's skepticism and investigative prowess. The end result caused her tragic death to be surrounded in pointless sensationalism and disinformation that ultimately did her memory a tragic disservice.

Lee Israel, a Writer Proudest of Her Literary Forgeries, Dies at 75

In a rented storage locker on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, the writer Lee Israel kept a cache of antique typewriters: Remingtons and Royals, Adlers and Olympias. Each was tenderly curated, hung with a tag whose carefully lettered names — Edna, Dorothy, Noël, Eugene O’Neill, Hellman, Bogart, Louise Brooks — hinted at the felonious intimacy for which the machines were used.

Ms. Israel, who died in Manhattan on Dec. 24 at 75, was a reasonably successful author in the 1970s and ’80s, writing biographies of the actress Tallulah Bankhead, the journalist Dorothy Kilgallen and the cosmetics magnate Estée Lauder.

In the early 1990s, with her career at a standstill, she became a literary forger, composing and selling hundreds of letters that she said had been written by Edna Ferber, Dorothy Parker, Noël Coward, Lillian Hellman and others. That work, which ended with Ms. Israel’s guilty plea in federal court in 1993, was the subject of her fourth and last book, the memoir “Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” published by Simon & Schuster in 2008.


The staple dish of the Middle East is as contested as the region, with different peoples claiming it as their own.

Falafel is as contentious as the region itself. While the Israelis have fêted it as one of their national dishes, the Palestinians are resentful of what they perceive as the ‘theft’ of a distinctly Arab speciality. Meanwhile, the Lebanese have tried to have it recognised as their own even the Yemeni say it is they who invented it. This is not just a matter of culinary pride. More often than not, arguments about the origins of falafel are refracted through the lens of political rivalries. Particularly for the Israelis and the Palestinians, ownership of this most distinctively Levantine dish is inexorably bound up with issues of legitimacy and national identity. By claiming falafel for themselves, they are each, in a sense, claiming the land itself – and dismissing the other as an interloper or occupier.

Egyptian origins

Such rhetoric, however, scarcely matches up with the facts. Despite all the claims and counter-claims, falafel was almost certainly developed in Egypt, although when and by whom is a matter of debate. Some have suggested that it dates back to ancient times, though this is almost certainly incorrect. There are no references to anything resembling falafel in pharaonic texts in any case, the vegetable oil in which falafel is fried was then too expensive to be used to cook such a simple dish. Nor does it seem any more likely that falafel was invented by Coptic Christians as meat-free food for Lent. There is not a shred of evidence to support this besides, ‘falafel’ is most definitely not a Coptic word.

In all probability, falafel is comparatively modern. As Paul Balta and Farouk Mardam Bey have shown, falafel only appears in Egyptian literature after the British occupation in 1882. Why this should have been the case is unclear but Balta and Mardam Bey have speculated that British officers, having acquired a taste for fried vegetable croquettes in India, may have asked their Egyptian cooks to prepare a version using local ingredients. There is no proof of this but it is not implausible. There were plenty of Indian dishes which were made in a similar way (e.g. vada and bonda), which could have provided the necessary inspiration. Perhaps the most intriguing candidate has recently been suggested by historian Shaul Stampfer. In the late 19th century, the Jews of Kerala and Calcutta often made fried balls of split green peas known as parippu vada or filowri, which, as Stampfer has observed, were ‘strikingly similar to falafel’.

If our fragmentary evidence is to be believed, falafel emerged in Alexandria – then, as now, the country’s principal port and home to the largest concentration of British and European troops. At first, its principal ingredient was fava beans, which were grown in large quantities nearby and which had established themselves as a staple of the Egyptian diet under the Muhammad Ali dynasty. So closely were the dish and the ingredient associated with one another that it appears to have been from fava beans (fūl) that falafel took its name.

From Alexandria, falafel spread throughout the country, gaining such popularity that, further south, it became known simply as ta’miyya – literally ‘a bite of food’. Having conquered Egypt, it began to migrate, though the exact trajectory is difficult to reconstruct. But shortly after the First World War, it had reached what is now Lebanon and, in 1933, Mustafa Sahyoun opened his falafel shop in Beirut. At about the same time, falafel travelled down the Red Sea coast towards Yemen, north along the Mediterranean to Turkey and west towards Libya. All those who adopted it made it their own. Though they generally left the basic recipe unchanged, they altered the ingredients slightly to suit their own tastes or to reflect the balance of local agriculture. In the Egyptian town of Mersa Matruhh, for example, fava beans were replaced with hyacinth beans and a bit of beef. In the Levant, chickpeas were used instead.

An Israeli dish?

Falafel also reached the Jewish communities in Palestine. Their relationship with falafel was, however, more complex. Together with the indigenous population, the earliest settlers (halutzim) adopted it readily. Having long grown used to cultural exchange with their Muslim neighbours, they gave no thought to whether it was an ‘Arab’ food or not. They simply integrated it into their own cuisine, as they had countless other foods. Its attractions were manifest. Not only was it tasty and filling, it was also simple. The ingredients could either be bought cheaply or grown without difficulty and they were convenient to eat, too. The balls are not easily squashed and – unlike a great many dishes – they could be served either hot or cold.

The Jews who came to Palestine from Eastern Europe, especially during the Fifth Aliyah, or wave (1929-39), were more hostile. Suspicious of anything they regarded as ‘Arabic’, they stuck doggedly to their own cuisine, shunning falafel as an ‘alien’ – even ‘unclean’ – dish.

By the independence of Israel in 1948, falafel was still far from being accepted as a Jewish, much less ‘national’ food. Though recipes extolling its nutritious qualities appeared frequently in newspapers such as Haaretz, its popularity was patchy. Two developments, however, ensured its transformation.

The first was the introduction of rationing. Struggling to cope with the influx of new immigrants, and lacking both food and money, Israel introduced a strict programme of austerity (Tzena’) in 1949. Staple foods – such as margarine and sugar – were rationed while meat consumption was limited. This boosted falafel’s popularity. Not only was it a good source of protein, but its ingredients were also readily available even to the poorest families. Though some continued to treat it as a somewhat ‘foreign’ import, a growing number of cookbooks began to feature recipes.

The second was the arrival of ever-growing numbers of Jews from Yemen, Turkey and North Africa. In 1949, 100,690 people arrived in Israel from these regions (41 per cent of all immigrants in that year), up from 12,517 (12 per cent) the year before. Having already encountered falafel in their native countries, they happily brought it with them to their new home and cooked it without seeing anything ‘strange’ about it. This had an immediate effect. Not only did it help to convince their still sceptical co-religionists that falafel genuinely was a suitable food for Jews, but it also allowed falafel to shed its associations with the Arab peoples. This was something the Israeli government was glad to encourage. In the wake of the Arab-Israeli War of 1948-9, there was a concerted effort to foster a distinctive sense of Israeli national identity and to separate its culture and cuisine from that of its neighbours. Helped by the fact that many Yemenis soon started opening falafel stalls, the Israeli government avidly promoted the idea that falafel had been imported not from Egypt but from Yemen. It was a patent falsehood, but it served its purpose.

Israel and beyond

The consumption of falafel took off. Before long, it had become so popular – and so closely identified with the Israeli state – that songs were being written about it. Perhaps the best known is Dan Almagor’s Ve-Lanu Yesh Falafel (‘And we have falafel’), released in 1958. Made famous by the singer Nissim Garame, it was unambiguous in claiming falafel for Israel: ‘Every country in the world has a national dish that everyone knows’, it began:

Every child knows that macaroni is Italian.
The Austrians in Vienna have tasty schnitzel
and the French eat frogs …
And we have falafel, falafel, falafel,
a present for Dad,
even Mum buys it here,
or old Grandma we’ll buy half a portion.
And today even the mother-in-law will get falafel, falafel,
with lots and lots of peppers.

By the 1960s, this process of ‘nationalisation’ was complete. Falafel had been enshrined as the Israeli dish par excellence. It was proudly served on long-haul flights by El Al, the Israeli national carrier while haute cuisine chefs prepared special versions for entries in international cookery competitions – much to the chagrin of Israel’s Palestinian neighbours.

By then falafel had begun to reach more distant shores. Waves of migration – principally of Arabs and Turks – had taken it through Europe. In Germany in particular, where a large Turkish population put down roots, it enjoyed huge popularity. At first it was a dish consumed principally by migrants but by the early 1970s, the appearance of Turkish food stalls and restaurants made it available to a growing number of hungry Germans, which led to yet another transformation of its recipe.

Even more strikingly, falafel also made it to the United States. There, its progress was slow. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, it remained the preserve of migrant communities. But in the last decades of the 20th century, it began to be appreciated by a wider audience. This was, at first, marked by a rather ‘orientalising’ approach. For many consumers, falafel remained something exotic and strange. But, with time, as cultures mixed and social divisions disappeared, these associations were overcome. Now, it has become so much a mainstay of American cuisine that it is hard to think of a time when it was anything other.

This is encouraging. Though falafel remains a deeply divisive food in the Middle East, its fate elsewhere in the world shows that it can also overcome differences. Despite all the debates about where it came from and whose it ‘really’ is, what matters is that it is something we all share and that we can all enjoy. If we keep eating it with that in mind, falafel can perhaps bring us together, rather than keeping us apart.

Alexander Lee is a fellow in the Centre for the Study of the Renaissance at the University of Warwick. His latest book is Humanism and Empire: The Imperial Ideal in Fourteenth-Century Italy (Oxford, 2018).

Modern Israel at a Glance

Jewish Immigration to Pre-State Israel

My Jewish Learning is a not-for-profit and relies on your help

Reprinted with permission from The Gully Online Magazine.

Although the idea of a vibrant queer community in Israel, reputed birthplace of the biblical condemnation of same-sex relations, may seem far-fetched, Israel today is one of the world&rsquos most progressive countries in terms of equality for sexual minorities. Politically, legally, and culturally, the community has moved from life at the margins of Israeli society to visibility and growing acceptance.

In the Beginning

There is no magic mythical beginning to Israel&rsquos LGBT community, like the 1969 Stonewall riots that spurred American queers into action. Instead, changes in the values and politics of Israeli society over the past twenty years or so created the space in which a gay and lesbian community could coalesce.

The first gay organization was established in 1975, thanks largely to the work of immigrants from the United States and other English-speaking countries influenced by the development of gay liberation and the counterculture of the 1960s.

The very name of this first organization, the Society for the Protection of Personal Rights (then, as today, known as the Agudah, in Hebrew), reflected the difficulty of organizing sexual minorities at a time when the existence of a sodomy law was thought by many to make homosexuality itself illegal. In its early years, the Agudah functioned more as a support and social group rather than as a political organization.

Lesbians began organizing within the Israeli women&rsquos movement, which provided some space for the discussion of lesbian issues and radical feminism. But for many years, Israeli lesbians funneled most of their energies into feminism, rather than the struggle for gay and lesbian equality.

The development of a gay identity was difficult for many at a time when Israeli society was still in the midst of its Zionist revolution. Zionism, the national liberation movement of the Jewish people, sought to create a &ldquoNew Jew&rdquo as part of the rebirth of Jewish sovereignty. The New Jew would work the land or engage in blue collar jobs, rather than in the &ldquobourgeois&rdquo professions taken up by Jews in the Diaspora (the early Zionists were resolute socialists).

The security problems facing the Jewish state also precluded for many years discussion of a variety of social issues and problems. Pleading more pressing issues, the public agenda did not include the place of mizrahim (Jews who immigrated to Israel from the Arab countries) in a society dominated by European-born Jews, women&rsquos liberation, equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel, or gay rights. Moreover, the collective values preached by the early founders of the Jewish state likewise left little room for exploration of personal identity.


By the early 1980&rsquos, the values of Israeli society began to evolve, and with them, the scope of public discourse. The socialist certainties of Israel&rsquos founders gave way to a consumer society. The certainties of Zionism gave way to a multitude of political and cultural identities: ultra-orthodox Judaism, growing assertion of a Palestinian identity among Israel&rsquos Arab citizens, nationalism, and yearnings for a more Western, liberal society competed for the allegiance of Israelis.

Yet, gay identity and politics still did not go public. The close-knit nature of Israeli society made coming out exceedingly difficult, as did Israeli society&rsquos emphasis on family and reproduction. So it fell on non-gay supporters of gay rights to move things forward.

By the late 1980&rsquos, these efforts began to pay off, laying a road map for future gay political success. As part of a broader reform of Israel&rsquos penal code, liberal Knesset members decided to try to repeal the sodomy law. In 1988, they literally called a vote to repeal the sodomy law in the middle of the night, when it was prearranged that religious Knesset members would not be present, promising not to draw too much attention to the effort. The next day, following repeal, religious politicians screamed to the heavens on the radio and in the press, but it was largely for show. This pattern of doing things quietly, even under the table, would repeat itself.

The next few years marked the golden age of gay political success in Israel. By 1992, lesbian and gay activists had succeeded in getting the Knesset to amend Israel&rsquos Equal Workplace Opportunities Law to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

In 1993, the Israeli military rescinded its few regulations discriminating against gays and lesbians. And in 1994, the Israeli Supreme Court ordered El Al Israel Airlines to grant a free plane ticket to the partner of a gay flight attendant, as the airline had long done for heterosexual partners of employees.

Since then, there has been steady progress, especially in the courts. As the victories mounted, so, too, did the number of people prepared to be open about their sexual orientation.

Mainstream Success

The reasons for gay and lesbian political success during this period from 1988 through the mid-1990s were many. Chief among them was the fact that gay activists pursued a very mainstream strategy, seeking to convince the wider public that gay Israelis were good patriotic citizens who just happened to be attracted to the same sex.

This strategy, pursued until recently, reinforced the perception that gay rights was a non-partisan issue, unconnected to the major fissure in Israeli politics, the Arab-Israeli conflict and how to resolve it. Embracing gay rights enabled Israelis to pat themselves on the back for being open-minded, even as Israeli society wrestled less successfully with other social inequalities.

Another reason for success was that the only source of real opposition to gay rights in Israel stems from the country&rsquos religious parties. This may seem contradictory, but it is not. While religious parties have played a role in every Israeli government since the establishment of the state in 1948, in recent years, as their power has grown, so has the resentment of secular Israelis. Thus, the opposition of religious parties to gay rights has engendered the opposite reaction among non-religious Israelis.

The Revolution Begins

The mainstream path started to grate on some gay and lesbian Israelis in the late 1990s. The fuse of disaffection was finally lit at what became known as &ldquothe Wigstock Riots.&rdquo Wigstock is an annual drag festival in Tel Aviv that raises money for AIDS services in Israel. In 1998, a boisterous demonstration broke out when the police attempted to shut down the event as the Jewish Sabbath was beginning. Protesters spilled onto the adjacent Hayarkon Street and blocked traffic for a few hours. Lesbian and gay activists denounced what they saw as police coercion. Sounds like the Stonewall riots, right?

Well, not quite. The police came only because of a bureaucratic mix-up. Organizers had gotten a permit from City Hall allowing the event to continue until 8 pm, but the police permit ran only until 7 pm. While queer media immediately labeled the event &ldquothe Israeli Stonewall,&rdquo it was perhaps the only Stonewall to result from confusion over a festival permit.

1998 was a banner year for a more in-your-face agenda. A few weeks before Wigstock, Dana International, a popular transgender singer, brought home first place for Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest. Dana&rsquos victory enabled the Israeli gay and lesbian movement to add the &ldquot-word&rdquo to its name. Previously, the Israeli gay movement had shunned transgendered people, fearing what their inclusion would do to its public image, but with Dana receiving congratulatory telegrams from the Prime Minister and being made an honorary ambassador by the Knesset, it was now &ldquosafe&rdquo for the movement to expand its focus.

In November of that year, Michal Eden won a seat in the Tel Aviv City Council, becoming Israel&rsquos first openly lesbian elected official. Her victory was made possible by the growth of &ldquosectoral&rdquo parties in Israeli politics, be they religious, Palestinian, or economic. In such a political environment, gays and lesbians could have their own elected political voice as well, although such representation does not yet exist at the national level. That year constituted a watershed in how the community viewed itself, and how its politics would develop.

Left Behind

But the radical critique has not been all-encompassing. The Israeli LGBT movement has not embraced feminism (in fact, sexism and tensions between gay men and lesbians are both quite prevalent), and until recently, the place of gay Arabs in the community was neglected, reflecting the wider society&rsquos indifference to Israel&rsquos Arab minority (some 20 percent of Israel&rsquos population).

Against the backdrop of clashes between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the 2001 Tel Aviv&rsquos Pride Parade, typically a celebratory, hedonistic affair, got a dose of politics when a contingent called &ldquoGays in Black&rdquo marched with a banner proclaiming, &ldquoThere&rsquos No Pride In Occupation.&rdquo A group called &ldquoKvisa Sh&rsquohora&rdquo (Dirty Laundry) also sprung up, linking the oppression of sexual minorities to what it sees as the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians.

World Pride

The holding of World Pride in Jerusalem in August 2006 highlights the successes and challenges of Israel&rsquos gay and lesbian community. The successes are many: 1) the growth of viable communities outside of Tel Aviv, symbolized by the Jerusalem community&rsquos hosting of World Pride, an international gay pride event continued legal successes, especially with respect to couple&rsquos rights and broad cultural visibility.

Likewise, the challenges remain. Israel&rsquos gay and lesbian community is shaped by the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians and the Arab states. The central part of World Pride, a parade through Jerusalem, had to be postponed (to an unknown date as of this writing) for two years in a row&ndashfirst because of Israel&rsquos redeployment from Gaza, and then, because of the war that broke out on Israel&rsquos northern border following Hezbollah&rsquos provocations. But before the parade had to be cancelled because of regional tensions, it was shaping up as a struggle between Israel&rsquos religious establishment and the gay and lesbian community.

The Jerusalem municipality and a veritable alliance of religious leaders united only in their opposition to homosexuality were determined to thwart the holding of the parade. An alliance of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religious leaders, both local and international, contended that such a parade would constitute an attack on the sacred character of the city. They claimed that homosexuality so contradicted the teachings of all three of the monotheistic faiths that a parade for acceptance and equality of the GLBT community would forever stain the holy city. Even many secular Israelis normally supportive of the Israeli GLBT community viewed holding an international gay pride parade in Jerusalem as an unnecessary provocation, showing just how successful Israel&rsquos religious establishment has been in shaping a degree of obedience to its sensitivities.

Since the writing of this article, the World Pride parade was finally held in Jerusalem on November 10, 2006 without the violence that many feared. Israel also elected its first openly gay member of the Knesset, Nitzan Horowitz.

Israel Science and Technology Directory

Written by: Israel Hanukoglu, Ph.D.

  • Note: An earlier version of this article is available in PDF format:
    "A Brief History of Israel and the Jewish People" published in the Knowledge Quest magazine.

Quote from Charles Krauthammer - The Weekly Standard, May 11, 1998

"Israel is the very embodiment of Jewish continuity: It is the only nation on earth that inhabits the same land, bears the same name, speaks the same language, and worships the same God that it did 3,000 years ago. You dig the soil and you find pottery from Davidic times, coins from Bar Kokhba, and 2,000-year-old scrolls written in a script remarkably like the one that today advertises ice cream at the corner candy store."

The people of Israel (also called the "Jewish People") trace their origin to Abraham, who established the belief that there is only one God, the creator of the universe (see Torah). Abraham, his son Yitshak (Isaac), and grandson Jacob (Israel) are referred to as the patriarchs of the Israelites. All three patriarchs lived in the Land of Canaan, which later became known as the Land of Israel. They and their wives are buried in the Ma'arat HaMachpela, the Tomb of the Patriarchs, in Hebron (Genesis Chapter 23).

The name Israel derives from the name given to Jacob (Genesis 32:29). His 12 sons were the kernels of 12 tribes that later developed into the Jewish nation. The name Jew derives from Yehuda (Judah), one of the 12 sons of Jacob (Reuben, Shimon, Levi, Yehuda, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Yisachar, Zevulun, Yosef, Binyamin)(Exodus 1:1). So, the names Israel, Israeli or Jewish refer to people of the same origin.

The descendants of Abraham crystallized into a nation at about 1300 BCE after their Exodus from Egypt under the leadership of Moses (Moshe in Hebrew). Soon after the Exodus, Moses transmitted to the people of this newly emerging nation the Torah and the Ten Commandments (Exodus Chapter 20). After 40 years in the Sinai desert, Moses led them to the Land of Israel, which is cited in The Bible as the land promised by G-d to the descendants of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Genesis 17:8).

The people of modern-day Israel share the same language and culture shaped by the Jewish heritage and religion passed through generations starting with the founding father Abraham (ca. 1800 BCE). Thus, Jews have had a continuous presence in the land of Israel for the past 3,300 years.

Before his death, Moses appointed Joshua as his successor to lead the 12 tribes of Israel. The rule of Israelites in the land of Israel started with the conquests and settlement of 12 tribes under the leadership of Joshua (ca. 1250 BCE). The period from 1000-587 BCE is known as the "Period of the Kings". The most noteworthy kings were King David (1010-970 BCE), who made Jerusalem the Capital of Israel, and his son Solomon (Shlomo, 970-931 BCE), who built the first Temple in Jerusalem as prescribed in the Tanach (Old Testament).

In 587 BCE, Babylonian Nebuchadnezzar's army captured Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple, and exiled the Jews to Babylon (modern-day Iraq).

The year 587 BCE marks a turning point in the history of the Middle East. From this year onwards, the region was ruled or controlled by a succession of superpower empires of the time in the following order: Babylonian, Persian, Greek Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine Empires, Islamic and Christian crusaders, Ottoman Empire, and the British Empire.

After the exile by the Romans in 70 CE, the Jewish people migrated to Europe and North Africa. In the Diaspora (scattered outside of the Land of Israel), they established rich cultural and economic lives and contributed significantly to the societies where they lived. Yet, they continued their national culture and prayed to return to Israel through the centuries. In the first half of the 20th century, there were major waves of immigration of Jews back to Israel from Arab countries and Europe. Despite the Balfour Declaration, the British severely restricted the entry of Jews into Palestine, and those living in Palestine were subject to violence and massacres by Arabs mobs. During World War II, the Nazi regime in Germany decimated about 6 million Jews creating the great tragedy of The Holocaust.

Despite all the hardships, the Jewish community prepared itself for independence openly and in clandestine. On May 14, 1948, the day that the last British forces left Israel, the Jewish community leader, David Ben-Gurion, declared independence, establishing the modern State of Israel (see the Declaration of independence).

Arab-Israeli wars

A day after the declaration of independence of the State of Israel, armies of five Arab countries, Egypt, Syria, Transjordan, Lebanon, and Iraq, invaded Israel. This invasion marked the beginning of the War of Independence of Israel (מלחמת העצמאות). Arab states have jointly waged four full-scale wars against Israel:

  • 1948 War of Independence
  • 1956 Sinai War
  • 1967 Six-Day War
  • 1973 Yom Kippur War

Despite the numerical superiority of the Arab armies, Israel defended itself each time and won. After each war, Israeli army withdrew from most of the areas it captured (see maps). This is unprecedented in World history and shows Israel's willingness to reach peace even at the risk of fighting for its very existence each time anew.

Including Judea and Samaria, Israel is only 40 miles wide. Thus, Israel can be crossed from the Mediterranean coast to the Eastern border at the Jordan river within two hours of driving.

References and resources for further information

    - An excellent high-quality book including a chronology of the history of Israel by Francisco Gil-White. This is the best revolutionary exposition of the influence of Judaism on World culture in a historical perspective.

Ingathering of the Israelites

This drawing by Dr. Semion Natliashvili depicts the modern ingathering of the Jewish People after 2,000 years of Diaspora.

The center image of the picture shows a young and old man attired in a prayer shawl and reading from a Torah scroll that has united the Jewish People. The written portion shows Shema Yisrael Adonay Eloheynu Adonay Echad (Hear, Israel, the Lord is our G-d, the Lord is One).

The Star of David symbolizes the gathering of the Jewish People from all corners of the world, including Georgia (country of birth of the artist), Morocco, Russia, America, China, Ethiopia, Europe and other countries joining together and dancing in celebration. Other images inside the star symbolize modern Israeli industry, agriculture and military. The images on the margins of the picture symbolize the major threats that the Jewish People faced in Exile starting from the Exodus from Egypt, followed by Romans, Arabs, and culminating in the gas-chambers of the Holocaust in Europe.

Lee Israel - History


Age: 76

Race: Caucasian--English/German

Marital Status: Single


  • High School Graduate
  • Seminary Graduate
    Graduated from Apostolic Bible Institute, St. Paul, Minnesota in 1967 as Honor Student of the Year and awarded Scholarship Award Certificate.
  • Bachelor of Theology in Apostolic Studies
  • Apostolic Bible College - St. Paul, Minnesota
  • Doctor of Christian Philosophy in Christian Education - Institute for Christian Works Bible College and Seminary - South Carolina Campus
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Divinity
  • Southern Eastern University
  • Administrative Address in the UK (SEU)
  • 9 Unity Street, Bristol, BS1 5HH
  • Signed: John C. Stacey-Hibbert & Chairman (SEU)
  • Pastored three different churches since 1967 pioneering one new work from the ground up through "Christmas For Christ" support.
  • Evangelistic Preaching and ministering between pastorates and now extensively for the last 20 years.
  • Evangelistic Work throughout the United States and on foreign soil including the nations of: England, Scotland, Fiji, Hawaii, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, St. Croix, St. Marten, Guatemala, Taiwan, El Salvador, Philippines, and New Zealand.
  • In addition, has traveled to: Italy, Switzerland, Greece, Egypt, Turkey, and Israel.
  • Former contributing Lecturer for Kent Christian College.
  • Tape ministry which has reached into many foreign destinations.
  • Conducted condensed School of the Scriptures seminars in United States, Hawaii, Canada, New Zealand, and Singapore.
  • Have conducted 18 tours to Israel to visit Holy Land sites and one personal touring experience in 1968.
  • Total visits: 21
  • Awarded a special plaque from Israeli Ministry of Tourism at Jerusalem in April, 1996, for longtime contribution in promoting travel to Israel.
  • The Gifts of the Spirit by Lee Stoneking, copyright 1975, which enjoys a wide circulation throughout the world has been and is being translated into foreign languages in several countries.
  • Five-fold Ministry and Spiritual Insights by Lee Stoneking, copyright 2003, and has already been translated into the Russian language and will soon appear in Chinese also.
  • My Miracle - Story of his resurrection from the dead in 2003 by the Hand of Jesus
  • These books can be purchased from Bookstore on this website. www.leestoneking.com

He is presently working on more manuscripts.

Much of Reverend Stoneking's ministry has been directed toward young people. Uppermost in his thinking is that it is better to build children than to repair men and in the words of J. Edgar Hoover, "If you want to change the world, change one generation."

It only takes one generation to lose the truth. It does not take two or three generations. If this generation of young people does not see the Apostolic demonstration of the Spirit and Power of God, then it is lost to future generations.

Mixed martial artist: Uncovering Bruce Lee’s hidden Jewish ancestry

Did martial arts legend Bruce Lee have Jewish blood?

Although he died 45 years ago at the young age of 32, Lee remains among the world’s most famous martial arts masters. His punches, kicks and fighting prowess are instantly recognizable in his hit movies such as “Enter the Dragon.”

Yet one aspect of his background remains obscure — evidence indicates he had a Jewish great-grandfather.

Lee’s Jewish lineage is among the revelations in a new book, “Bruce Lee: A Life,” by author Matthew Polly. A martial artist himself, Polly seeks to go beyond the many myths surrounding Lee and present a more nuanced portrait of the famed fighter and movie star.

“Bruce, for me, is a diverse and interesting person who is not generally thought of in that area,” Polly said. “Even people who know his story think of him as Chinese. He was a polyglot from lots of different ethnic backgrounds. That he was part Jewish indicates how diverse an individual he was.”

Lee bridged East and West, creating a hybrid fighting style called Jeet Kune Do (The Way of the Intercepting Fist) and transforming Asian martial arts from a small-scale interest in the US into a nationwide surge.

Since Lee’s films were released, there have been over 20 million martial arts students in the West.

One of them is Polly, who calls Lee an inspiration. He has trained in various disciplines across the world, studying with the famed Shaolin monks in China to learning the more contemporary mixed martial arts (MMA).

Polly describes these experiences in his first two books. His third and most recent work, though, combines journalism with scholarship.

In addition to interviewing surviving members of Lee’s family, including his widow, Linda, and their daughter Shannon (the couple’s son Brandon, a star in his own right, tragically died while filming the movie “The Crow” in 1993), Polly also conducted research that contradicts established versions of Lee’s life.

Buried roots

In the book’s footnotes, Polly refers to “incorrect statements” that led to assumptions that Lee’s maternal great-grandfather was German Catholic. Polly found evidence that this great-grandfather, Mozes Hartog Bosman, came from a Dutch Jewish family of German descent.

Bosman was born in Rotterdam in 1839 to teenage parents Hartog Mozes Bosman and Anna de Vries. His father was a kosher Jewish butcher.

“[Mozes] did not want to take up his father’s business,” Polly said. When he was a teenager, Bosman joined the Dutch East Asia Company and “jumped on a boat halfway across the world, ending up in Hong Kong.”

“He was one of those boys who wanted adventure,” Polly said. “He could very easily have died at any moment on the journey.”

Instead, in 1866, he became the Dutch consul to Hong Kong, where he left a complicated legacy. He bought a Chinese concubine named Sze Tai and had six children with her all grew up to become “extremely wealthy, the richest in Hong Kong,” Polly said.

One of their sons, Ho Kom-tong, had a wife, 13 concubines and a British mistress. With his mistress, he had his 30th child — a daughter, Grace Ho, who became Bruce Lee’s mother.

By this time, Bosman was gone. He had involved himself in what was called the coolie trade, in which he and other Hong Kong merchants signed Chinese laborers to “exploitative contracts” to work in the US building railroads, Polly said.

But Bosman went bankrupt and abandoned his family for California, changing his name to Charles Henri Maurice Bosman. “He would not see his sons again,” Polly said.

Bosman started a separate family after marrying the daughter of a wealthy businessman involved in the China trade. They moved to England, where he was buried in a Christian cemetery.

“He may have converted later in life,” Polly speculated.

Polly thinks the story of the Dutch Jew “could have made a good movie,” but there is another plot twist — some doubt whether Bruce Lee’s grandfather Ho Kom-tong was actually Bosman’s biological son.

Of Bosman’s six Chinese children, Polly said, “all of them looked different,” with Ho Kom-tong’s features “the most Chinese of all the sons.”

“There are rumors that maybe the concubine had an affair with a Chinese man on the side — that Mozes was the official father but not the biological father,” Polly said. “If that’s true, there’s no Jewish blood lineage.”

But Polly said there is no evidence to back up the rumored affair. “Eurasian children often looked different from their siblings. Bruce looked far more Chinese than his brothers Robert and Peter.”

Polly also questioned “whether or not a Chinese concubine in 1860s Hong Kong married to a European trader would dare to cheat.” And, he noted, “Ho Kom-tong officially told everyone Mozes Hartog was his father on his identity card.”

“In my view, Mozes Hartog Bosman was the father of Ho Kom-tong,” said Polly.

The story of Bruce Lee’s Jewish genealogy has resulted in a video made by educational producer BimBam.

“I love it,” Polly said. “It’s spot-on. It balances the line between treating the subject lightheartedly while allowing for this fascinating story that no one ever heard about — Mozes Hartog’s life story that led to Bruce Lee, the greatest Chinese kung fu martial artist of all time.”

A star is born

Lee himself was born in San Francisco in 1940 before returning to Hong Kong and living as a toddler under Japanese occupation in World War II. Only one-third of Hong Kong’s population survived the war.

“The atrocities the Japanese committed against the Chinese are staggering,” Polly said, citing a death toll of 50 million. “It was as miserable as you could imagine. His very first experiences in the world were what it was like to live in wartime.”

In postwar Hong Kong, Lee became a young film star in movies that had nothing to do with martial arts. He also trained in the ancient fighting styles, but had a troubled adolescence. For a change of scenery, he went to live in the US at age 18.

Polly sees parallels between the experiences of Chinese and Jewish newcomers to the US — including the discrimination that Lee and other Chinese immigrants suffered.

“It’s not unique to the Chinese,” Polly said. “Jewish, Italian, Irish immigrants were initially greeted as cheap labor before eventual racism and discrimination [arose] against them.”

But, he said, “the Chinese story is not as told as some others. They were the first group of immigrants to have a law passed excluding all of them, the Chinese Exclusion Act, based on country of origin,” passed in 1882 and only repealed during WWII.

“There were [anti-Chinese] riots, pogroms,” Polly said. “They would drive them out of cities, huddled into Chinatowns — as it were, ghettos. It was the only part in San Francisco where they were allowed to own property to ensure they would not live anywhere else. There was a lot of discrimination similar to Jewish people in Europe, and also America.”

There were also instances of acceptance. When Lee began teaching martial arts in the US, his first student, Jesse Glover, was African-American.

“At the time, the Chinese community and the African-American community were at odds,” Polly said. “Bruce did not care about race and ethnicity as long as you were sincere. His first class was the most diverse group of students in the history of kung fu.”

Lee also found acceptance when he married his college sweetheart Linda Emery, whose background includes Swedish and German roots. According to the book, Lee “proudly told everyone” about his newborn son Brandon’s diverse features, describing him as perhaps the only Chinese person with blond hair and grey eyes.

Breaking the celluloid ceiling

One place where Lee struggled for inclusion was Hollywood — even after his initial success as martial arts master Kato in the TV show “The Green Hornet.”

“No one had ever seen an Asian martial arts master on a Western TV show,” Polly said.

After its cancellation, Lee “dedicated himself to becoming a martial arts movie star, playing a heroic role over and over again,” Polly said. “Hollywood did not think audiences would accept it.”

Finally, Lee went back to Hong Kong, where he portrayed a martial arts master in the films “The Big Boss,” “Fist of Fury,” and “Way of the Dragon.”

They became “the biggest box office sensations Southeast Asia had ever seen,” Polly said.

This led to “Enter the Dragon,” a precedent-setting co-production between Hong Kong and Hollywood. It was the world’s first ever English-language kung fu movie. Produced on a $1 million budget, the film made $90 million at the box office.

“I was stunned anybody could fight like that,” Polly said. “He seemed superhuman.”

Yet when the film was released on July 26, 1973, it would come amid tragedy. Lee had died six days earlier in what Polly describes as mysterious circumstances.

“Writing the book, I knew I had to say something about it,” Polly said. In his book, he presents “a new theory for his death — he died from heatstroke.”

Lee was buried in Lake View Cemetery in Seattle, which had two sections — “a very tiny Chinese section and a bigger one for Caucasians,” Polly said. “They asked if he wanted to be buried ‘with his people.’ He chose to be buried in the white section of the cemetery.”

At his funeral, former student Glover stayed by his grave and shooed off the workmen who were filling it in, shoveling in the final piece of earth himself.

“Imagine an African-American man filling in a Chinese grave in a white cemetery in Seattle,” Polly said. “It’s a quintessentially American experience.”

I’ll tell you the truth: Life here in Israel isn’t always easy. But it's full of beauty and meaning.

I'm proud to work at The Times of Israel alongside colleagues who pour their hearts into their work day in, day out, to capture the complexity of this extraordinary place.

I believe our reporting sets an important tone of honesty and decency that's essential to understand what's really happening in Israel. It takes a lot of time, commitment and hard work from our team to get this right.

Your support, through membership in The Times of Israel Community, enables us to continue our work. Would you join our Community today?

The Jewish history of Israel is over 3,000 years old. That's why it's complicated

My first visit to Israel was when I was 12 years old. The group was led by my father, a rabbi from Philadelphia. We had been invited to participate in an archaeological dig near the city of Beit Shean, in the country’s north, near the Jordan River Valley. Soon after we arrived, one of my friends happened upon a pottery shard, really an ostracon, a fragment with writing on it. The archaeologist on site said something to him in Hebrew. My father translated: “He said you are the first person to hold that in over 2,000 years.”

Such shocks of antiquity are not rare in Israel. In 1880, archaeologists discovered a Hebrew text carved in stone in a tunnel under Jerusalem. It recounted how workers had chiseled from opposite ends of the ancient city as they grew closer the sounds of stone cutting grew louder until they met in the middle. The tunnel is believed to be dated from the time of Hezekiah, a king who reigned 715-687 B.C., almost 3,000 years ago and 100 years before the Temple was razed, and Jews were sent into the Babylonian exile. Hezekiah ordered the tunnel’s construction to bring water from outside the city walls into the city. Jerusalem may be a city of sanctity and reverence, but its citizens needed water as much as they did God.

That intersection of the holy and mundane remains. Over the past month of crisis, turmoil, protest and death we have been inevitably captured by the situation of the present. But part of the intractability of the conflict in the Middle East is that the Jewish relationship to Israel did not begin in 1948. Our history here, of both pain and holiness, stretches back dozens of generations.

Our ancient historical markers, scattered throughout this land, are the tactile expression of Jewish memory, and an ancient spiritual yearning. For thousands of years, Jews in the Diaspora would leave a corner of their homes unpainted, to remind themselves that they were not home. They prayed in the direction of Jerusalem. They knew the geography of a land they would never see, often far better than the country in which they lived. They recited prayers for weather — in services during the winter, we yearn for rain or dew — not to help the harvests outside Vilnius or Paris or Fez, but for those in Israel, since we expected at any moment to return.

The Bible depicts an ideal land, one flowing with milk and honey. Yet Israel has always been one thing in dreams and another in the tumult of everyday life. When the five books of the Torah end, the Israelites are still in the wilderness and Moses, our leader out of Egypt, has been denied the promised land. The message is manifest: The perfect place does not yet exist, and you must enter a messy and contested land armed with the vision God has given you. Jews conclude the Passover Seder with “next year in Jerusalem.” Yet if one has the Seder in Jerusalem, the conclusion is not “next year here.” Rather, it is “next year in a rebuilt Jerusalem” — a city that reflects the ideals and aspirations of sages and prophets, one marked with piety and plenty.

For many Jews, that vision is as relevant today as it was in ancient Israel. That means the past, present and future of the land is not just an argument about settlements or structures alone, but an ideal of a place of safety, a heavenly city on earth one that we continue to strive and pray for, especially after the violence of these last few weeks.

Though we famously admonish ourselves to ever remember Jerusalem in Psalm 137 — the sacred city of stone and tears is not the sole focus of Jewish yearning. Israel is haunted by historical memories. In the northern town of Tsfat, a pilgrim can wander among the graves of the Jewish mystics who re-established a community in that mountain town after the expulsion from Spain in 1492: Isaac Luria who taught that God’s self-contraction made way for the world Joseph Caro, author of the Shulchan Aruch, the authoritative code of Jewish law, who believed an angel dictated visions to him in the evening. They were joined there by Greek born Solomon Alkabetz, who wrote the poem, L’cha Dodi (Come to me, Beloved), a lyrical love song to the Sabbath that is sung in synagogues all over the world each Friday night.

Despite the deep meditations on evil and afterlife in Jewish tradition, the concept of hell is not as developed in Judaism as in other traditions. However, there is a popular name for it: Gehenna. It derives from a place where children in antiquity were said to have been sacrificed to the pagan god Moloch.

In 1979, archaeologists began excavating in the area that is believed to be ancient Gehenna. Not far from the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, they found what is considered to be one of the oldest bits of scripture that exists in the world, more than 400 years older than the Dead Sea scrolls. It dates from the time just before the destruction of the first Temple, the Temple of Solomon, in 586 B.C. The scorched ground yielded two rolled up silver amulets that are on display to this day in the Israel Museum. When painstakingly unfurled, the text was almost verbatim to the Bible verses:

“May God bless you and keep you.

May God’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you.

May God turn His face toward you and give you peace.” (Num 6:24-26)”

This is the priestly blessing, one parents recite for their children each Friday night, a fervent prayer for the future. In other words, the oldest bit of scripture that exists in the world is a blessing of peace that was snatched from hell. In that beleaguered and beautiful land, the prayer endures.

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Related coverage

It’s Not Anti-Israel, It’s Antisemitic

In May 2021, the world witnessed a sharp escalation in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that was partly triggered by a .

Most striking about the belated Palestinian identity is its derivation from Jewish sources. Like other Middle Eastern Muslims, Palestinians claim Ishmael, Abraham’s son by his servant Hagar, as their ancestral link to “their” patriarch Abraham. The Canaanites have been adopted as their own victimized ancestral people. Ironically, their insistent claim of a “right to return” for Palestinian refugees (and their descendants) emulates the Israeli Law of Return. Palestinian teenagers have preposterously compared themselves to Anne Frank, suffering from an Israeli “Holocaust.”

Writing in the Jewish News Service (February 9), Zionist activist and author Lee Bender points out that one-quarter of the Palestinian localities in Israel, Judea and Samaria have ancient biblical names. Among them: Bethlehem (Beit Lechem), Hebron (Chevron), Beitin (Beit El), Jenin (Ein Ganim), Silwan (Shiloach), and Tequa (Tekoa).

Allegations endlessly repeated by the United Nations, Palestinians, and, to be sure, The New York Times, that Israel has no legitimate claim to the territory now commonly known as the “West Bank” (of Jordan) are fallacious, if not mendacious. They lack any familiarity with the history of Jews in the Land of Israel — and the absence of any identifiable “Palestinian” presence or identity until quite recently. But old falsehoods never die they may not even fade away.

Jerold S. Auerbach is the author of Print to Fit: The New York Times, Zionism and Israel, 1896-2016, to be published this month by Academic Studies Press.

Israel’s long history of anti-Black racism

Israel presents itself as a “homeland for all Jews” that welcomes and provides safe haven to all Jewish people. The ironically-named Law of Return, passed on July 5, 1950, declared that all Jewish people had the right to come to live in Israel. But does Israel actually accept all Jewish people? Of course this law is inherently racist towards the Palestinian people, whose land was stolen to create the state of Israel. And it is also clear that the Zionist political movement has a particular history of anti-Black racism.

This helps us understand not only the contradictions within pro-Israel ideology, but also the deep connections between the Black struggle for freedom and the Palestinian struggle.

The Uganda Scheme

At the Sixth Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland in 1903, a proposal titled “The Uganda Scheme” was put forward by the founder of Zionism, Theodor Herzl. Herzl had been approached the year before by the infamous imperialist and Colonial Secretary of Great Britain, Joseph Chamberlain. Chamberlain had a vested interest in the ongoing settlement of the African continent and the pillaging of the continent’s resources. He once wrote, “It is not enough to occupy great spaces of the world’s surface unless you can make the best of them. It is the duty of a landlord to develop his estate.”

The British had already carved up most of the continent after the Berlin Conference of 1884 — the meeting of imperial powers where they decided what lands they would occupy. Chamberlain had a special interest in East Africa, specifically the colonies of Kenya and Uganda.

On a trip to Uganda, Chamberlain thought of Herzl and the budding Zionist movement while on the Uganda Railway. He said, “If Dr. Herzl were at all inclined to transfer his efforts to East Africa there would be no difficulty in finding land suitable for Jewish settlers.” He offered 5,000 square miles of land between Kenya and Uganda. Herzl was greatly interested in the idea of a Jewish homeland in Africa, and presented it at the Sixth Zionist Congress. It was formally supported by the Congress but caused controversy amongst members.

Chamberlain eventually rescinded the offer, but eventually the Zionist movement with the essential assistance of imperialist powers succeeded in setting up the state of Israel in Palestine. Israeli leaders worked for years alongside Britain and the United States to create a white supremacist colonial state. The Uganda Scheme shows that Zionism, at its core, is about taking the lands of Indigenous people in order to steal their resources.

Racism towards Ethiopian Jews

Racism is integral to Zionism, and we see this not just in the treatment of Palestinians, but also in how they treat Jewish people of African descent. The Zionist project is fundamentally about capitalism, settler-colonialism and maintaining an “ethnically” Jewish state. The Ethiopian Jewish community has existed for thousands of years, tracing its history to the ancient kingdoms of Aksum and the Ethiopian Empire. Many Ethiopian Jews immigrated to Israel in the late 20th century.

Since arriving in Israel, many Ethiopian Jews have faced constant discrimination.Their faith was questioned by rabbis and their communities ostracized from the rest of Israeli society. In 1990, the National Israeli Blood Bank routinely destroyed blood donated by Ethiopian Israelis because they were “afraid that the Ethiopians carried HIV.” There was a cap on the number of Ethiopian Jews entering Israel until relatively recently.

The minority status of the Ethiopian Jewish community creates poor material conditions. They have the highest poverty rate among the Jewish population in Israel, and face the highest levels of police violence after Palestinians. Israel calls itself a bastion of human rights and progress, while denying rights to both Palestinians and Ethiopian Jews. The treatment of Ethiopian Jews is completely different from the warm welcome offered to Jewish people from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, for instance.

The anti-Black racism is consistent. And it doesn’t stop with the Ethiopian Jewish community — it also affects Jews of African descent around the world.

Israel’s discrimination towards the Abayudaya

For example, in Uganda there is a community called the Abayudaya, which in Luganda means “people of Judah.” They practice both Conservative and Orthodox Judaism. The Law of Return was meant to provide Jewish settlers from all over the world citizenship and a “homeland” on Palestinian land. However, this Law of Return does not apply to the Abayudaya.

Even though this community keeps Jewish law by keeping kosher, observing the Sabbath, and converting according to Jewish religious doctrine, they are not able to access citizenship. Israel’s interior ministry claims that the Ugandan Jewish community and their conversions are invalid because they were not part of a “recognized” or “established” Jewish community. Several attempts by the Abayudaya to be formally recognized have failed.

Netanyahu has likened the Ugandan Jews seeking citizenship as “outsiders.” The Law of Return does not apply to Palestinians nor does it apply to many non-white Jewish people.

The very existence of Israel relies on racist, settler-colonial logic. Zionism privileges a select few while dehumanizing, discriminating and killing others that are deemed lesser by white supremacist ideology.

Black people around the world have been victims of settler colonialism, imperialism and war. We have had our lands taken, our bodies dehumanized and our communities decimated. Whether it’s the Congo, Ferguson or Sheikh Jarrah, our struggles are the same. The struggles of Black people worldwide and that of the Palestinians are connected. We must connect Israel’s history of anti-Black racism with its abhorrent history of occupation and genocide towards the Palestinian people as we fight for freedom.

Feature photo: 1884 illustration of the imperialist Berlin Conference

Watch the video: 73 χρόνια Ισραήλ (June 2022).


  1. Spear

    I will allow will not accept

  2. Walt

    I find that you are not right. I'm sure. We will discuss it. Write in PM, we will talk.

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