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Richard Goldstone

It was a strange experience for me watching the recent debate at Brandeis University between Ambassador Dore Gold and Richard Goldstone.  Strange in that I was listening to what I would have expected someone like Jimmy Carter to be saying about Israel but saying it with a South African accent.  It has been a most upsetting almost shattering experience for the South African Jewish community to have one of their own primarily responsible for a report that accuses Israel of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.

The South African Jewish community is today about 80,000 strong, down from a peak of 120,000 in the early 1970s.  It is however a community almost universally committed to the Jewish State and one that has a sizable expatriate community living in Israel.  South African Jews have been prominent in organizations like the Jewish Agency and the World Jewish Congress.  They are often seen as a model community for their organizational structure and strong Zionist commitment.

Up to the time the report came out many hoped that it would be balanced, fair and objective.  It was too much to ask for.  It was, after all, a report commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council which has focused on Israel to the almost total exclusion of the worst perpetrators of human rights abuses world wide.  In South Africa, Goldstone had been regarded as a favorite son by the Jewish community.  He was a widely respected and able jurist who had been appointed to the country’s highest court.  He involved himself in the Jewish community, held leadership positions in Jewish organizations including the presidency of Ort International and was a trustee of the Hebrew University.  Those who knew him well would swear to his Zionist credentials.  Now both he and his name would be linked forever to the most Israel-damning document since the 1975 UN resolution equating Zionism with Racism.

The reasons Richard Goldstone agreed to chair the commission and issue such a report one can only speculate. Maybe he is an opportunist with his eye on the position of Secretary General of the United Nations. Maybe, maybe not.

Ascendens ad Astra

During a recent lunch break, my colleagues, Jono Dove, Linda Twain and Linda’s son Matthew walked over to Coit Tower on a glorious San Francisco day.  To reach Coit Tower one has to ascend 350 plus steep stairs.  There are other more comfortable ways of getting there but hardly as exhilarating or exhausting!!  Jono and I took four minutes to reach the top and then decided once was not enough and descended for another up climb.  Linda and Matthew waited patiently at the top for us.  It would bring the total number of steps climbed to 700 and with it sore quads and calfs!!  On the way up the second time we were passed by a U.S. Marine (at least he looked like a Marine). We asked him,” Is this your second?”

“No third, sir,” he replied.  The “sir” convinced us he was a Marine.

After we completed our second, he joined us at the top.” Did you complete four?” we asked.

“I walked at the half way point of the fourth, sir”

“Well you can call it three and a half,” we encouraged.

“No sir, only three.”

This was a true Marine.  Tough, fit, honest and extremely polite. We need more Marines and Marine-like people in this country.

Days of Celebration and Commemoration

Yom Ha-atzmaut – Israel’s day of independence, the countries 4th of July, is always a cause for celebration.  In the course of 61 years, the Jewish state has created an exemplary, thriving democracy and has become a world leader in medicine, biotechnology and in fact the entire realm of technology.  In addition the universities are combustion engines of innovation, discovery, controversy and provocative thought.  Fields of study like desert reclaiming (the Negev is the only desert in the world that is shrinking in size) and advanced agricultural methods have attracted students world-wide while schools of art, dance and music add to the excitement of the land’s vibrant culture.  Even in athletics Israel has become competitive like Davis Cup tennis and world cup soccer.  Every Jew wherever they may live can take enormous pride in what Israel has accomplished and what it will continue to accomplish.

All this of course in what has been a perpetual state of war for the country since those founding moments in May 1948.  Nothing brings this to mind more so than yesterday’s Yom Hazikaron – the day of remembrance for the young men and women who gave up their lives in defense of Israel.  The entire country comes to a standstill on this day for a moment’s silence as the people pay tribute to its fallen.  Yesterday at a memorial service in the Federation building, a video was shown of Michael Levin, a young Philadelphian who made Aliyah upon completing high school.  His dream was to live in Israel but first to become a member of its armed forces.  Michael was a sparkling personality who had so much to offer.  He was killed in battle and his loss epitomizes the losses suffered by so many families to enable the country to survive.  But survive it has and flourish it has and let us rejoice in that regard on this special day.


Mervyn K. Danker