ראש ממשלת קנדה, ג’סטין טרודו, מתח ביקורת קשה על פעילות צה”ל ברצועת עזה וטען כי הרג נשים, ילדים ותינוקות חייב להיפסק. טרודו קרא לממשלת ישראל לנהוג באיפוק מרבי. העולם צופה, בטלוויזיה וברשתות החברתיות. אנחנו שומעים עדויות של רופאים, בני משפחה, ניצולים, ילדים שאיבדו את הוריהם, הוסיף עוד אמר טרודו במסיבת עיתונאים שקיים לפני מספר ימים במחוז קולומביה הבריטית
מאז מתקפת הטרור בשבעה בחודש אוקטובר קנדה הבהירה כי לישראל יש את הזכות להגן על עצמה מפני חמאס. במסיבת עיתונאים טרודו אף הפציר בארגון הטרור להפסיק להשתמש באזרחים חפים מפשע בעזה כמגן אנושי, כלשונו. ובמקביל על חמאס לשחרר את החטופים המוחזקים בשבי החמאס זה חודשיים ימים. עם זאת, ראש ממשלת קנדה כאמור לא חסך ביקורת על התקיפות הקשות נמשכות של ישראל ברצועת עזה
העולם עד להרג הזה של נשים, של ילדים, של תינוקות. זה חייב להיפסק לדברי טרודו. הוא קרא לאחרונה לא פעם להפסקה הומניטרית משמעותית. וזאת כדי לאפשר את שחרור החטופים ולספק סיוע הומניטרי לאזרחים ברצועת עזה, כך שניתן לתת מענה לצרכים אזרחיים. ראש הממשלה, בנימין נתניהו מיהר לגנות את דבריו של טרודו, וצייץ ברשת החברתית טוויטר: לא ישראל תוקפת בכוונה אזרחים, אלא חמאס שערף ראשים, שרף וביצע טבח באזרחים, בזוועות הקשות ביותר שבוצעו נגד יהודים מאז השואה
לדברי נתניהו, בעוד ישראל עושה הכל כדי להרחיק אזרחים מאזורי התקיפות, חמאס עושה הכל כדי לשמור עליהם שם. ישראל מספקת לאזרחים בעזה מסדרונות הומניטריים ואזורים בטוחים, בעוד חמאס מונע מהם לעזוב באיומי אקדח. נתניהו סיכם את דבריו: החמאס, ולא ישראל, הוא שצריך להיות מואשם על ביצוע פשע מלחמה כפול והוא פגיעה באזרחים תוך הסתתרות מאחורי אזרחים. על כוחות הציוויליזציה לתמוך בישראל בהשמדת הברבריות של חמאס. טרודו ציין כי קרוב לארבע מאות אזרחים קנדיים ובני משפחותיהם פונו כבר מעזה
בדברי הביקורת שלו על ישראל מצטרף איפוא טרודו לנשיאה של צרפת, עמנואל מקרון, שאמר בראיון לרשת הטלוויזיה הבריטית הבי.בי.סי. כי על ישראל להפסיק להרוג נשים וילדים ברצועת עזה. ביקורתו של של מקרון עוררה סערה קשה וזכתה אף לגינויים פומביים רבים מחברי הממשלה בישראל בראשות נתניהו שהעיר, כי המדינה לא צריכה הטפות מוסר מאף אחד
חבר קבינט המלחמה של ממשלת ישראל השר בני גנץ שוחח עם טרודו לאור דבריו, עדכן אותו בהתפתחויות במלחמה והדגיש בפניו את המשך השימוש של חמאס בתושבי עזה כמגן אנושי. בשיחה ציין טרודו את תמיכתו ארוכת השנים בישראל, זכותה להגן על עצמה וכן את הצורך לפעול להשבת החטופים באופן מיידי. טרודו הוסיף כי המשך הסיוע ההומניטרי לתושבי הרצועה הוא בעל חשיבות לשמירה על אפשרות לעתיד טוב יותר לאזור כולו
בינתיים דווקא תומכי הפלסטינים יצאו נגד טרודו ומשטרת ונקובר נאלצה הגן עליו בפני המפגינים. טרודו הגיע למסעדה בוונקובר באחד הערבים האחרונים. קרוב לשלוש מאות מפגינים תומכי הפלסטינים ששמעו על כך הגיעו למקום וקיימו הפגנה מול המסעדה. משטרת ונקובר הגיעה למקום עם כמאה שוטרים. לדברי המשטרה שניים מהמוחים אף נעצרו, ואחד מהם חשוד שהיכה את אחד השוטרים שנזקק לטיפול רפואי. במשטרה מציינים עוד כי המפגינים התאספו ללא התראה מוקדמת ליד המסעדה, החזיקו דגלי פלסטין, וקראו שיש לבצע הפסקת אש מיידית ברצועת עזה. המפגינים צעקו לטרודו כי יש לו דם על הידיים
On Oct. 31, among the ruins of Kibbutz Be’eri, Israel Defence Forces personnel brief a delegation of Conservative rabbis and lay leaders from the United States, Canada and Britain, which was on a three-day solidarity mission organized by the Fuchsberg Jerusalem Centre. (photo by Boaz Pearlstein)
WARNING: Extremely graphic reporting.
Since Hamas’s Oct. 7 cross-border assault on multiple army bases, kibbutzim, cities and a music festival in the Gaza Strip periphery, staff at the Israel Defence Forces’ Shura base have been working around the clock to identify the remains of the 1,100 civilians and 315 IDF soldiers, reservists and police officers massacred by jihadi terrorists. With so many bodies, the victims were initially kept in refrigerated milk trucks in the morgue’s parking lot. Plain wooden coffins are stacked in the corridors, waiting for a positive identification so the remains may be released to their families for burial at a military or civilian cemetery. Only then can Judaism’s seven-day period of mourning begin.
A month on, the sickly smell of death lingers. Pathologists at this normally quiet IDF logistics centre and home base of the military rabbinate corps – located on the outskirts of Ramla, a mixed Jewish-Arab city not far from Ben-Gurion Airport – continue their painstaking, harrowing but holy forensic mission.
Dismembered limbs and badly decomposed bodies continue to be delivered. The human remains are sniffed out under the rubble of destroyed buildings by IDF canine units, staff told a 33-person Oct. 31 delegation of Conservative rabbis and lay leaders from the United States, Canada and Britain.
Initially, it is often impossible to determine if the remains are those of victims or perpetrators, Col. Rabbi Haim Weisberg, head of the IDF’s rabbinic division, told the religious leaders. Many are mutilated with limbs and heads dismembered, making the ghoulish jigsaw puzzle even more complex.
“We are in an abnormal situation and that is why it is taking so much time to identify the bodies. In most cases, we have had to identify people via deep tissue DNA or dental records because there is nothing left,” he explained.
The complex identification process has been compounded because so many of the victims were not Israeli residents.
Pathologists can take several hours to assess a body, photograph it and document the fatal wounds. Out of respect for the dead and their families, the IDF is not releasing those photos.
Weisberg spoke not only about whole bodies but also about charred and incomplete remains, including what in one case turned out to be a corpse so severely burned that only a CT scan revealed it was a mother and baby bound together in a final embrace.
The grisly job is complicated by uncertainty over the tally of victims. According to constantly updated data from the IDF, more than 1,400 Israelis and foreigners were murdered. Some 238 people are believed to be held hostage by Hamas inside the Gaza Strip and the fate of dozens of others is unknown. Some may be held inside Gaza by other terrorist groups, like Palestinian Islamic Jihad, or even by individuals. Others may still be among the dead, yet to be identified by the staff at Shura.
When drafted, all IDF recruits provide samples of their DNA and fingerprints, and have their teeth X-rayed. The army does not rely exclusively on identification made through a soldier’s twin dog tags kept in their combat boots and worn on a chain around the neck.
According to halachah (Jewish law), fallen soldiers are buried in a coffin in their blood-soaked uniform. They are not ritually washed in the tahara ceremony – the Jewish tradition of purification of the dead – nor are they wrapped in shrouds. The intention is that God should be angered by witnessing the fallen defenders among his Chosen People. Personal effects like a cellphone, watch or wallet are washed of blood and then returned to the family of the deceased. Artifacts that cannot be cleansed of blood are buried with the deceased.
By contrast, civilian dead are ritually washed and wrapped in shrouds. Generally, in Israel, they are interred directly in the ground without a coffin.
While dental records can allow straightforward identification of dead soldiers, that information is often unavailable for civilians. Many dental offices in the city of Sderot near Gaza were destroyed, and with them their files.
Ritual washing is tasked to male and female reservists who have volunteered for the mitzvah (commandment) of chesed shel emet (true kindness).
Women soldiers perform tahara for the hundreds of girls and women who were murdered. The team is working in shifts around the clock. Among them is Shari, an architect living in Jerusalem whose surname may not be released under IDF security regulations. She volunteered for the unit when it was established more than a decade ago to ensure that the modesty of female recruits killed in action was protected.
“We saw evidence of rape … and this was also among grandmothers down to small children,” she stated.
Shari said she and the other volunteers received specialized training from the IDF, which prepared them practically and mentally to care for the bodies of the dead. Until Oct. 7, she had not been called for active duty.
“I’ve seen things with my own eyes that no one should ever see,” she said, describing how she took care of the dead women. Many were still dressed in their pajamas. Their bodies had been booby-trapped with grenades, and the remains bore evidence of extreme brutality.
Shari’s duties begin with opening the body bags to remove the dead person’s clothes, jewelry and any other personal possessions in order to return them to the families.
“The only colour among the blood and dirt was their nails, beautiful manicures, painted the brightest colours,” Shari said, adding, “Their nails made me weep.”
“We gathered this group of 33 Jewish communal leaders from across North America to witness the horrors our brothers and sisters have suffered,” said Dr. Stephen Daniel Arnoff, chief executive officer of the Fuchsberg Jerusalem Centre – a home for Conservative and Masorti Judaism in Israel, which organized the three-day solidarity mission. Located in Jerusalem, the centre offers opportunities to study, pray and explore within an egalitarian and inclusive setting, creating multiple pathways for finding personal and communal meaning.
The solidarity group included the first civilians to tour the devastated remains of Kibbutz Be’eri, where terrorists went house to house slaughtering the inhabitants. Wearing flak vests and helmets, the clergy and communal leaders recited the El Male Rachamim and Kaddish prayers for the dead as soldiers continued their search for human remains.
“We literally saw the blood of our people crying out to us from the ground,” said Arnoff.
“It is our moral obligation to make sure that the world knows what happened there.”
Gil Zohar is a writer and tour guide in Jerusalem.
המלחמה הנוכחית שנכפתה על ישראל מציגה שני מראות עיקריים: אסון וזוועה על מה שעשו מחבלי חמאס וכישלון גדול של הממשלה בראשות בנימין נתניהו, הצבא, מערך המודיעין, השב”כ ואולי גם המוסד
החמאס הוכיח שהוא ארגון טרור רצחני ולא אנושי תוך שהוא מותיר מאות הרוגים ופצועים. אחרים נלקחו בשבי. לא מדובר רק בחיילי צה”ל אלה בעיקר באזרחים, נשים וילדים, גברים וזקנים. חלקם נטבחו, חלקם עונו וחלקם כך סתם נרצחו. החלק האחר הוא אולי במצב הקשה ביותר: נלקח בשבי על מנהרות החמאס בעזה הצפופה. מאז קום המדינה לא היה אירוע כזה בו נהרגו ביום אחד מאות רבות של אזרחים וחיילים. הפוגרום הנורא ביותר בתולדות הישוב היהודי בארץ ישראל. התמונות בערוצי הטלוויזיה ואתרי החדשות באינטרנט על הנרצחים, הפצועים ואלו שנשבו, הם קשות מנשוא. חיות אדם בסגנון דאעש אחראים לדבר הנורא הזה
במקביל הכישלון של ישראל שנתפסה מופתעת לחלוטין מתקפת הפתע של חמאס, ולאחר מכן לקח זמן רב מדי לכוחות צה”ל ומערך הביטחון להגיע אל ישובי חבל עזה, ולהציל את אלה שהמחבלים לא הספיקו להרוג. נתניהו קיבל מידע ואזהרה מהמצרים ממה שחמאס עומד לעשות והתעלם מכך. היה לו הרבה יותר חשבו לעבות את השמירה הצבאית על ההתנחלויות בשטחים הכבושים, שנציגיהם יושבים בממשלתו. נתניהו הזחוח והשחצן ייזכר לדראון עולם כראש הממשלה הגרוע ביותר בתולדות ישראל. זאת, כיוון שהוא לא מנע את האסון הגדול ביותר שקרה למדינה ולאזרחיה. “שותפים מלאים” לכשלונו של נתניהו חברי ממשלתו שאין להם מושג איך לנהל מדינה והם דואגים רק לאינטרסים האישיים שלהם. גם לצבא הגנה לישראל יש חלק גדול בכישלון הנוראי שגב המחיר קשה מנשוא. מערכת ההגנה על יישובי חבל עזה עם כל הטכנולוגיה שלה קרסה תוך דקות על ידי עשרות מחבלי חמאס שנהרו אל הישובים החשופים. מערך המודיעין של צה”ל, השב”כ ואולי גם המוסד לא ידע כלל על הכנות של החמאס לביצוע המבצע לכניסה לשטחי ישראל. לקיום מבצע שזה דרושים חודשים ארוכים תוך תיאום עם גורמים באיראן ואחרים. כל אלה הצליחו להערים על המודיעין הישראלי בקלות בלתי נתפסת
לאחר שהמלחמה תסתיים צפוי שבכירים בצבא, במערך המודיעין והרמטכ”ל, בכירים בשב”כ ובמוסד והעומדים בראשם יתפטרו עוד לפני שוועדת החקירה הממלכתית תדון בסוגיית האחריות והכישלון שאפשר לחמאס לבצע את פשעיו. לעומתם נתניהו כרגיל לא יקח שום אחריות למעשיו. בכל הקריירה הפוליטית הארוכה שלו הוא תמיד ידע להאשים אחרים. אבל שום אחריות אישית. נתניהו יעשה הכל כבעבר להמשיך ולשבת על כיסא המלך כי נתניהו דואג רק לנתניהו
נתניהו מינה חברי ממשלה חסרי יכולת לטפל בתיקים עליהם הם אחראים. לא כישוריהם הביאו אותם לשולחן הממשלה, אלא הנאמנות למנהיג נתניהו. לכן לא מפתיע לגלות את חוסר יכולתם של שרי הממשלה הנוכחית לטפל במצוקות הרבות של ישראל בימי המלחמה הקשים האלה. נשמעה ביקורת נוקבת על שרי ממשלת נתניהו שלא ביקרו פצועים בבתי החולים ולא השתתפו בהלוויות הקורבנות הרבים
בתור אחד שגר בישראל ארבעים וחמש שנים לא האמנתי שהמדינה תגיע למצב שכזה. החברה מפוררת מבפנים בעיקר לתודות הרפורמה המשפטית של נתניהו. הצבא לא ערוך לאתגרים האינסופיים שלו ואת ההנהגה תפסו פוליטיקאים קטנים שנכשלו בתפקידם. ישראל משלמת היום מחיר כבוד מאוד לאור מחדלי ההנהגה שלה. אני לא צופה עתיד ורוד בהמשך הדרך. על נתניהו מוטל לעשות רק דבר אחד: ללכת הביתה
As in the instance of many complicated issues, we cannot begin a discussion of specific issues without providing background and context. Earlier this month, the Israel Defence Forces entered Jenin, located in what many Jews call Judea and Samaria. This portion of the originally mandated territory is in Area A under the governing authority of the Palestinian Authority in accordance with international agreements called the Oslo Accords.
This agreement was voluntarily implemented by Israel because the accords were never signed by the PA, then under the leadership of the now-deceased Yasser Arafat. At that time, there was the international aspiration that there might be a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Under the agreement, the disputed territory occupied by Israel after three wars was divided into three areas. Area C, the largest piece, was essentially vacant land with little population and was solely under Israeli governance. Area B was under joint Israel-PA governance. Area A, which was the most populated and had all-Arab cities, was under sole PA governance. Jenin is one of those cities.
Under the accords, Israel retained overall responsibility for security, including responsibility for maintaining security for all borders.
Over the years, Israel made a number of offers to the PA to resolve differences. The PA declined to consider any of them. They insisted on a return to 1948 Armistice borders and independent statehood with their own armed forces. Based on Israel’s experience with Gaza and Lebanon, this was unacceptable to Israel.
The goodwill toward Palestinians that was evidently held by an important element of the Jewish population seems mostly to have been forfeited over time. An appreciation has grown that there is no acceptable solution for the Arab side that would allow for a viable Jewish state. Consequently, for many, the idea of a two-state solution is no longer feasible.
Meanwhile, the PA has maintained a hostile attitude to Israel, educating young Arabs to hate Jews and to aspire to murder them, and paying the families of deceased and jailed terrorists substantial pensions. Many suicidal activists have been incentivized in their actions by these awards for their families. These payments are a part of the PA budget.
Further, popular support from the Arab population has shifted from the PA to the terrorist organizations headquartered in Gaza and in Beirut, Lebanon. Elections for PA leadership have continually been postponed to avoid the takeover by Hamas that occurred in Gaza. Hezbollah controls the government of Lebanon. Both these entities are now financed by Iran, which has publicly announced their intention to eradicate the Jewish state.
The situation has been aggravated by the increasing incapacity of current leadership. PA President Mahmoud Abbas is reportedly in ill health. There is now competition as to who will replace him. This has caused further internal conflict, which has impaired PA functioning. Measures aimed at controlling terrorist operations or crime gangs would not encourage popularity.
With this background, we can turn to consideration of the Jenin event.
While there is theoretical cooperation with the PA on security matters, more and more it has fallen to Israeli forces alone to carry out this task. Although the PA claims statehood, more and more it has failed to build the infrastructure required. Particularly over the last two years, security in the major Palestinian centres under their jurisdiction has been lacking. Crime is rife and terrorist organizations have used the vacuum to establish a network aimed at destroying Israel, financed primarily by Iran.
In recent months, Israel has suffered 58 attacks having their origins in Judea and Samaria. Often, the perpetrators escape to hide in sanctuaries established within the Arab population centres in the region. Arms and monies have been smuggled into that area from Jordan. One diplomat from Jordan has been arrested and charged in this regard.
The IDF exercise involving a brigade-strength force is likely the first of a number that will try and establish a return to law and order in Area A, in Judea and Samaria. Remarkably, the IDF was able to carry out its mission in densely populated Jenin while avoiding any civilian casualties. Sadly, there were two IDF fatalities.
The failure of the PA to carry out its responsibilities leaves Israel with no alternative. Even with the IDF’s efforts, many of the terrorists in this specific area escaped. Four locations in the local network were disrupted, one of them located in a mosque basement. Arms caches were removed along with funds that were found, which were being used to finance terror activities. Almost 100 operatives were arrested and 18 were killed – all were combatants.
The situation indicates that this is only the first of similar necessary exercises to discourage attacks on innocent civilians. We will probably see this not only in Jenin but in other population centres in the region. We may see the program carried out despite efforts by many parties around the world seeking to vilify the Jewish state.
Max Roytenbergis a Vancouver-based poet, writer and blogger. His book Hero in My Own Eyes: Tripping a Life Fantastic is available from Amazon and other online booksellers.
There will be no charges arising from allegations that the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) has been recruiting members illegally in Canada.
The case began in 2020, when several progressive groups and individuals laid a complaint with Justice Minister David Lametti calling for an investigation and possible charges against those who recruit or encourage recruiting for the Israel Defence Forces among non-Israeli citizens in Canada.
Lametti referred the matter to the RCMP, which, on June 8, issued the following statement to the CJN: “A review was conducted. [H]owever, a criminal investigation was not initiated. The file is now concluded and the RCMP has no further comment.”
Israel’s consulate in Toronto was unavailable for comment. The country’s embassy in Ottawa did not respond to a request for comment.
The case began when the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute, Palestinian and Jewish Unity, and Just Peace Advocates presented the complaint to Lametti, alleging that recruiting by the IDF in Canada violated the Foreign Enlistment Act. The act states that any person “who, within Canada, recruits or otherwise induces any person or body of persons to enlist or to accept any commission or engagement in the armed forces of any foreign state or other armed forces operating in that state is guilty of an offence.”
The complaint focused on online ads from Israel’s consulate in Toronto, which said an IDF representative was available for personal appointments for those wishing to join the forces, not just those required to do their compulsory military service.
“Young people who wish to enlist in the IDF or anyone who has not fulfilled their obligations according to the Israeli Defence Service Law are invited to meet with him,” the ad stated, according to the complaint.
The complaint also alleged that the consulate had arranged for Israeli soldiers and veterans to appear in Jewish schools, summer camps and other venues in Canada with the goal of inducing young people to enlist.
The allegations were unfounded, said Israel’s consul-general at the time, Galit Baram.
“Israeli law dictates compulsory military service to Israeli citizens over the age of 18, whether male or female. Consequently, Israeli citizens of drafting age living abroad are required to settle their status with the Israeli authorities, through Israeli consulates around the world,” she said.
Baram called the charges an attempt to “smear” Israel.
At the time, Lametti said diplomats representing Israel in Canada “follow Canadian law.”
Included in the complaint was an open letter signed by U.S. academic Noam Chomsky, musician Roger Waters, author Yann Martel and more than 170 prominent Canadians. It was delivered to Lametti, asking him to probe recruitment for the IDF taking place in Canada.
The complaint noted that there were some 230 Canadians serving in the IDF as of 2017, and that it was “unclear” how many were recruited in ways that violated the law.
After the complaint was laid, Winnipeg human rights lawyer David Matas said Israel’s consulates in Toronto and Montreal practised neither recruitment nor inducement, since Canadian citizens wishing to join the IDF had already made up their minds to do so.
In the latest development, Matas said he believes the RCMP dropped the matter because they did not have evidence to reach a conviction, and that there is “no evidence potentially available through investigation that could change that conclusion.”
Matas’s view is that the case “had no merit at all.”
The matter was further pressed in 2021 when NDP MP Matthew Green sponsored a petition calling on Canada to investigate allegedly illegal recruitment by the IDF in Canada.
In its response the following year, the justice ministry said the responsibility for investigating and prosecuting offences under the Foreign Enlistment Act “rests with independent law enforcement and prosecution services.”
The case is another loss for pro-Palestinian activists. Last December, a criminal charge they initiated against Sar-El Canada, the Canadian arm of an Israel-based organization that provides volunteers for the IDF, was withdrawn because there was no reasonable chance for a conviction. That case alleged that Sar-El Canada also violated the Foreign Enlistment Act by recruiting volunteers for the IDF.
The Foreign Enlistment Act was passed in 1937 to prohibit the recruiting of Canadian volunteers to fight in the Spanish Civil War. Roughly 1,700 Canadians signed up anyway to fight for the anti-Franco Loyalists, the vast majority of whom were recruited by the Communist Party of Canada. They formed the storied Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion (the “MacPaps”).
According to historian and legal scholar Tyler Wentzell, no Canadians have been charged or prosecuted under the act.
Soldiers of Tomorrow, about Itai Erdal’s experiences in the Israeli army, is at the Roundhouse Feb. 3-5. (photo from the Elbow Theatre)
“I know that this play will piss off a lot of people on both sides of the conflict, but I welcome the controversy. I am taking some strong stances and talking about some explosive subject matters (pun intended) so, if it wasn’t going to piss people off, then I probably didn’t do my job properly,” Itai Erdal told the Independent. “I think it’s good to challenge people and I welcome the discussion that this play will generate.”
Erdal was talking about Soldiers of Tomorrow, which he wrote with Colleen Murphy. The play is part of this year’s PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, and sees its world première Feb. 3-5 at Roundhouse Performance Centre.
Presented by the Elbow Theatre and PuSh, Soldiers of Tomorrow is directed by Anita Rochon and performed by Erdal with Syrian musician Emad Armoush.
“When I was a kid growing up in Israel, peace seemed inevitable – it was just a matter of time, there were countless songs about the day peace will arrive. The adults would always say, ‘By the time you grow up, we won’t need an army anymore.’ No one says that today,” writes Erdal on his website. “Most Israelis accept that their children will be soldiers. One day, when my nephew was 8, he came home from school with an empty box to fill with stuff to send to soldiers on the front line. Inside the box his teacher had written: ‘To the soldiers of today from the soldiers of tomorrow.’”
This experience inspired the play. While fictional, it is about real events that happened to Erdal during his time in the Israel Defence Forces in the early 1990s.
“I served in the army for three years and as a combatant soldier,” said Erdal. “I would have had to be in the reserves until the age of 45, which I didn’t want to do. I was in Jerusalem during all the suicide bombings in the ’90s and my reluctance to continue to be a soldier and my exhaustion of the political situation definitely contributed to my decision to immigrate to Vancouver.”
Erdal has made his mark here in many ways, including as an award-winning playwright, performer and lighting designer. He created the Elbow Theatre in 2012 “to confront urgent social and political issues.” Soldiers of Tomorrow is its sixth production. The PR blurb notes that, in it, Erdal “relates his actions in the army, exploring his personal culpability in the face of complex geopolitical forces in his former country – a place that he loves ‘with a broken heart.’”
“I pitched the idea for this play to Colleen Murphy in 2018 when we were working together in Stratford,” Erdal told the Independent. “We met a few times that year, but it really took off when the pandemic started. For almost two years, Colleen and I would meet on Zoom every Monday and Thursday for two hours. It was really great to have a project during the lockdown, it kept me sane.”
Although it is a one-man play, Armoush will also be on stage with Erdal, performing the music live. As to how he connected with Armoush, Erdal said, “I was looking for a Palestinian musician but there aren’t many of them in Vancouver and Emad was highly recommended by my Israeli musician friends.”
About the timing, Erdal explained, “During my lifetime, the situation for Palestinians has only gotten worse, it never gets better. Israel recently formed the most extreme right-wing government in its history, with several openly racist and homophobic ministers. Many Israelis and Palestinians are bracing themselves for the worst. Unfortunately, this play is more relevant than ever.”
He is not concerned about how Jews in general or Israelis specifically will be perceived by non-Jewish people who see the play.
“I am a very proud Jew and, even though I criticize the state of Israel, I do so because I love it, and I think that love is clear in the play,” said Erdal, who shared the following quote from the play: “I am aware that this is a topic that intimidates many Canadians. I’ve seen the glazed look in your eyes. I’ve had many people ask me to explain the conflict to them and, after one minute, they are searching for the exit. I’ve also seen many people twist themselves into pretzels in order not to take sides because they were concerned about appearing antisemitic. I hope by the time you leave here, you’ll be able to criticize Israel without worrying about appearing antisemitic.”
Soldiers of Tomorrow is at the Roundhouse Feb. 3-4, 7:30 p.m., and Feb. 5, 2 p.m., with a post-show talkback after the Feb. 4 performance. The show is 75 minutes long, with no intermission. Tickets ($34) can be purchased at pushfestival.ca.
The PuSh International Performing Arts Festival runs Jan. 19-Feb. 5. It features 20 original works – theatre, dance, music, multimedia and circus – from 12 countries and includes six world premières, one North American debut, six Canadian and two Western Canadian openings and one Vancouver première. Single tickets start at $34 in-person, $25 online, plus there are pay-what-you-can and free events; passes, which offer a discount and other perks, are available for both in-person and digital shows. Visit pushfestival.ca or call 604-449-6000.
A criminal charge against the Canadian arm of an Israel-based organization that provides volunteers for the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) has been withdrawn because there was no reasonable chance for a conviction.
On Dec. 12, the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC), which assumed carriage of the case, withdrew a charge that Sar-El Canada violated the Foreign Enlistment Act, which prohibits Canadians from enlisting in or accepting any “commission or engagement” in the armed forces of a foreign country. The charge was withdrawn because there was “no reasonable prospect of conviction,” Sar-El Canada’s lawyer, John Rosen, told the CJN. “The case is now completed.”
The charge was approved in September by a justice of the peace in a private prosecution initiated by David Mivasair, a Hamilton, Ont.-based rabbi with a long history of activism targeting Israel, and Rehab Nazzal, a Palestinian-born, Toronto-based artist who was shot in the leg in Bethlehem in 2015 while photographing an IDF crowd control weapon. They alleged that Toronto-based Sar-El Canada broke the law because it recruited or induced individuals to volunteer for Israel’s armed forces. They further alleged that, once in Israel, volunteers reside on military bases, wear military uniforms and complete tasks that would otherwise be assigned to soldiers; those allegedly included packing food rations and medical kits, cleaning tanks, painting helmets, radio repairs and gas mask refurbishment.
In a statement, they said the “recruitment” in Canada of volunteers “to assist the Israeli military ought to be a concern of all Canadians.” They began a private prosecution after they said police and the federal government failed to act on a complaint.
Sar-El Canada sends 100 to150 volunteers a year from this country to Israel, the group’s national president, Jeff Sarfin, told the CJN when the matter began.
In a statement to the CJN, Sarfin said Sar-El Canada is “very pleased” that the charge was withdrawn. He said the “attempt by anti-Israel activists to intimidate us and the Jewish community has failed. We are also grateful to the support we have received from the Jewish community as we deepen and strengthen the connection between our community and Israel.”
Rosen echoed the sentiment. The complaint “was merely another failed attack on Israel and those who support it, this time by attempting to hijack Canada’s legal system,” he said. He said the charge should never have been authorized and agreed with the prosecution that there was never a reasonable prospect of conviction.
“More importantly,” Rosen added, “the prosecution of this baseless complaint would also have been against the public interest, given Canada’s implicit approval of similar activities that directly support Ukraine’s defence against Russia.”
Ukraine has openly called for soldiers from around the world to join the fight against Russia. Ukraine’s consul general in Toronto was recently quoted as saying that “hundreds” of Canadians got in touch to offer assistance.
Sar-El Canada’s parent organization in Israel was established 40 years ago. It operates in more than 30 countries and has to date sent some 160,000 volunteers to Israel to provide “broad logistical support to the IDF,” its website says. Volunteering takes place on IDF bases throughout the country.
Programs offer volunteers “an opportunity to live and work beside Israeli soldiers and gain an insider view of Israel.” Working alongside soldiers and base employees, the “non-combat civilian support duties” encompass packing medical supplies, repairing machinery and equipment, and cleaning, painting and maintaining the base. The Sar-El program “is a morale booster and motivator for the soldiers,” the group’s website states.
In a hearing in September before the justice of the peace who approved the charge against Sar-El Canada, Mivasair testified that, to the best of his understanding, the Foreign Enlistment Act prohibits recruiting people for “non-combatant engagements” with foreign armies.
Asked for a comment and whether an appeal is being considered, Shane Martinez, a lawyer for Mivasair and Nazzal, told the CJN: “We disagree with the decision of the Federal Crown and are exploring all available options.”
Two years ago, a campaign launched by progressive groups and 170 prominent Canadians alleged that illegal recruiting for the IDF of non-Israeli citizens was taking place in this country. Justice Minister David Lametti was asked to investigate. He referred the matter to the RCMP.
The Diamond Foundation is leading the way in contributing to JWest, with an historic $25 million gift – and community donors have matched this gift with another $25 million.
The Diamond Foundation’s matching gift is the first philanthropic contribution to the project and it is the largest donation ever made by the Diamond Foundation. Completing the match means $50 million toward the JWest capital campaign target of $125-plus million.
Alex Cristall, chair of the JWest capital campaign, had this response: “I want to thank the Diamond Foundation for this transformational gift. A project of this magnitude will not be possible without the tremendous generosity demonstrated by the Diamond Foundation, as well as philanthropic support from the community at large. It is our hope that the Diamond Foundation’s incredible community leadership will serve as inspiration, and we are now calling on others to work with our team to champion this project in an equally impactful way.”
The Diamonds’ gift will have a significant impact on the plans for JWest, providing a social, cultural, recreational and educational asset for all. This is the most extensive project in the history of the Jewish community in Western Canada and it is estimated to cost more than $400 million. Bringing it to life will require philanthropy, government funding and astute financing.
Gordon and Leslie Diamond, who are honorary JWest campaign co-chairs and members of the Diamond Foundation’s board, shared: “We are pleased to be the first family to make a significant contribution to JWest’s capital campaign. Our family has called Vancouver home for almost a century, and we have always believed in contributing whatever we can to ensure there is a bright future for our children and their children.”
The announcement builds on the $25 million funding provided in 2021 by the B.C. government.
“Mazal tov! I’m so pleased that our government’s shared mandate commitment of $25 million and a $400,000 investment in redevelopment planning has been bolstered with philanthropic support from the Diamond Foundation and community,” said Melanie Mark, Hli Haykwhl Ẃii Xsgaak, minister of tourism, arts, culture and sport. “These generous contributions underscore the importance of a renewed Jewish Community Centre to 22,590 Jews and all people living in this community. It speaks to the power of working together to shine a light on our province’s diversity and inclusion.”
The new space, once complete, will deliver a state-of-the-art community centre, expanded space for the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, double the current number of childcare spaces, expanded seniors’ programming, a new theatre, a relocated King David High School and two residential towers that will provide mixed-use rental housing (a portion of which will be below-market rates).
“JWest is the amalgamation of decades of work, and the fact that we saw our gift matched so quickly sends a clear signal that the community stands behind this project,” said Jill Diamond, executive director of the Diamond Foundation. “The Diamond Foundation has had a unifying focus to assist and advocate for initiatives in the Vancouver area that help improve the quality of people’s lives. The impact JWest will have on the Jewish community and the surrounding Oakridge community is undeniable.”
* * *
The Louis Brier Jewish Aged Foundation has added two new members to its board of directors: Mervyn (Merv) Louis and Michelle Karby. They join an impressive group of volunteers, who for the past decades, have donated both their time and funds to care for the elderly of the Vancouver Jewish community.
Louis, a certified public accountant, emigrated with his family from South Africa to Canada in December 1978 and joined a small accounting firm in Vancouver. In the summer of 1979, the firm was acquired by Grant Thornton LLP. In 2016, Louis retired as a partner of Grant Thornton LLP, where he worked for 38 years, of which 33 were as a partner specializing in audit, accounting and business advisory services. Louis advised and worked with clients in many different industries, including manufacturing and distribution, real estate investments and construction, entertainment, and professional practitioners.
After his retirement from Grant Thornton LLP, Louis worked as the chief financial officer of Plotkin Health Inc. and MacroHealth Solutions Limited Partnership until retiring again, in August 2020. During these years, he successfully helped merge a U.S. partnership and a Canadian company to form the parent partnership of MacroHealth Solutions Ltd. Partnership, a medical cost management and solutions provider in North America.
Louis has been married for 46 years and has two sons. He and his wife love to travel and are particularly fond of cruises; they have toured North America, Europe, Asia, Australia and Southern Africa. Louis is an avid sports fan and, while his playing days are over, he loves watching all sports, notably hockey, golf and rugby.
Karby is an experienced wills, estates, trusts and corporate lawyer heading up the wills and estates group at Owen Bird Law Corp. She helps clients plan, build and protect their legacies. Prior to developing her expertise in this area, Karby spent many years in and out of a courtroom honing her skills as a commercial litigator.
While born and raised in Vancouver, Karby’s adventurous spirit and love of travel translated into 18 years studying and working in places that included Montreal, Toronto, Israel, Cape Town, Melbourne and Sydney. Now settled in Vancouver with her husband and two teenage sons, Karby enjoys the beautiful natural environment, being close to her family and giving back to the community that she grew up in.
* * *
Kimberley Berger has joined Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver as its new outreach worker in the regional communities. In particular, she will focus on White Rock, South Surrey and New Westminster.
Berger has worked in the nonprofit sector for more than 30 years, focusing on community development and family support. She has held many roles, ranging from frontline work to executive director of South Vancouver Family Place. She also dedicates time to supporting parents whose children are undergoing cancer treatment at B.C. Children’s Hospital with the West Coast Kids Cancer Foundation.
Berger believes that a strong sense of connection makes both individuals and communities more resilient. Building relationships is central to her role at Jewish Federation and in her own personal life with her family of four in East Vancouver.
* * *
This year, the Isaac Waldman Jewish Public Library raised more than $30,000 for the library. These funds will help it purchase new books and supplies for programs. Thank you to all of the Friends of the Library, and to the volunteers who helped make the fundraising a huge success.
* * *
The Israeli Ministry of Education has granted Boys Town Jerusalem an Award for Excellence. The school ranked in the top 10% of the 838 high schools examined over the 2021-22 academic year.
In releasing its findings, the Israel Ministry of Education cited Boys Town Jerusalem (BTJ) for reaching outstanding achievements in the academic and social realms, as well as for instilling crucial ethics and values. BTJ principal Yossi Cohen noted that the prize reflects the ministry’s findings of the extraordinary efforts by BTJ instructors to spur students to reach a high academic level, avoid dropout and advance to Israel Defence Forces enlistment and higher education.
This marks the third time in the past decade that Boys Town Jerusalem has been awarded the prize for excellence, and the first time in which the school has reached the top-echelon rank. The Ministry of Education Award for Excellence includes a monetary reward for teachers among the highest-scoring schools.
In saluting BTJ’s instructors, Cohen stressed the COVID-related hardships over the past two years, which have demanded exceptional efforts to keep students focused and excelling despite the increased illness, poverty and strife they face at home.
* * *
A ceremony dedicating the new home of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) Communications Branch School for Software and Cyber Security was held in August at the Advanced Technologies Park (ATP) located at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU).
BGU president Prof. Daniel Chamovitz, IDF chief-of-staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, head of the communications branch Col. Eran Niv, Be’er Sheva Mayor Ruvik Danilovich and other officials and guests were in attendance.
The school’s new location will enable collaboration with BGU and the high-tech companies in the ATP. The school is the first of the communications branch units to move south as part of the national move to strengthen the Negev following the government decision to move the IDF south. The branch’s new main base is under construction alongside the ATP.
The move will assist in the preservation, development and empowerment of the technological human-power in the IDF while creating opportunities and a space for new collaborations in the south.
The monument for the 73 Israel Defence Forces soldiers killed in the 1997 helicopter accident over She’ar Yashuv in northern Israel. (photo by Geoffrey Druker)
This year’s community Yom Hazikaron commemoration on May 3 will mark the 25th anniversary of Israel’s worst air disaster.
On the evening of Feb. 4, 1997, two Israel Air Force helicopters collided into each other. One crashed in Moshav She’ar Yashuv, the second near Kibbutz Dafna. All 73 people on board the helicopters were killed, including eight air crew members. No one on the ground was hurt.
“The presence of Israeli forces in southern Lebanon, following the 1982 operation, led to ongoing battles with the Hezbollah,” explained Geoffrey Druker, who leads the annual Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) ceremony, which this year takes place at the Rothstein Theatre. “Many IDF convoys going into southern Lebanon were ambushed and hit by IEDs, so the IDF started flying in its troops.”
Druker said the accident was devastating. “It was the largest helicopter crash in all helicopter aviation,” he said. “Until, in 2002, a Russian helicopter downed by Chechens killed 127.
“The accident increased the pressure to withdraw from southern Lebanon,” he added, “which happened in May 2002.”
Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver’s Gesher Chai (Living Bridge) programs connect Metro Vancouver’s Jewish communities with Israel’s Galilee Panhandle communities. One of those connections is that King David High School’s sister school in Israel is Har Vagai, which is located on Kibbutz Dafna, where a part of one of the helicopters fell. In 2017, KDHS Grade 8 students traveled to Israel and spent time with their Har Vagai peers.
“The students visited the memorial and documented their meeting there, and the video was shown at our Yom Hazikaron ceremony here,” said Druker. “The memorial site is located in the ravine where a helicopter fell, not far from Kibbutz Dafna. On the site are 73 boulders, each the height of a person and all names are recorded on the site – a very moving memorial site.”
The 73 boulders surround a small pool. Among those remembered are three soldiers from our partnership region: Sgt. Tomer Goldberg, from Moshav Dishon; Staff Sgt. Tsafrir Shoval, from Kibbutz Baram; and Staff Sgt. Alejandro (Ale) Hofman, from Kibbutz Merom Golan, who was a graduate of Har Vagai. Hofman was 19 when he died.
In addition to that physical memorial, Druker said, “An annual conference is held in memory of the fallen, attended by the bereaved families. Students from the region participate in the conference. It’s attended by groups of soldiers and, over the years, the prime minister, the president, minister of defence and the chief of staff have attended and spoke at the conference.
“Every year, they focus on another topic, not necessarily on loss and grief – the bereaved families choose to have educational and other topics of interest. This year was about solidarity in times of COVID-19. Due to COVID, only 400 people attended this year, and the chief of staff spoke on behalf of the country’s leadership.”
Druker added, “An interesting point about that conference – the organizers do not adhere to official protocol because that might take away the decision-making from the bereaved families, regarding who can speak and what elements must be included. The wife of the then-chief of staff when the accident happened, Tali Lipkin-Shahak, has taken part in all the events. She personally is committed to be with the bereaved families.” (Amnon Lipkin-Shahak died from cancer in 2012.)
The local Yom Hazikaron ceremony will pay respects not only to the 73 who died in the helicopter accident 25 years ago, but all of Israel’s fallen soldiers and victims of hostile acts.
The commemoration at the Rothstein Theatre on May 3 starts at 7:30 p.m. and registration is required for those wanting to attend in-person, as seats will be limited: jewishvancouver.com/zikaron. The ceremony also will be broadcast live.
Left to right: Amit Shmuel, Eitan Feiger and Matan Roettger. (photo by Bentzi Sasson)
On Nov. 24, Chabad UBC invited two former Israel Defence Forces soldiers to the Nest on the University of British Columbia campus to speak about their personal stories and life lessons from serving in the army.
Amit Shmuel, a former soldier in the elite Palchan unit, and Matan Roettger, a former soldier in the Kfir Brigade, shared some of their experiences in service; stories of their courage and the sacrifice they made protecting and defending the state of Israel, and especially of their perseverance in the face of suffering and adversity. Both suffered career-ending injuries in the line of duty, and their strength and resilience to mentally and physically recover from their trauma were remarkable.
The two soldiers were at UBC as part of a larger tour of college campuses all across North America, along with Belev Echad, an organization dedicated to providing financial and moral support to IDF veterans wounded in action and to easing their transition back into civilian life.
The local event was sponsored by Hasbara Fellowships, which helps train young student leaders to become Israel ambassadors and activists on campus. As a Hasbara Fellow myself and having firsthand experience in Israel, I found the stories of Shmuel and Roettger to accurately represent the victory of hope over despair, the value of the sanctity of life, freedom and dignity that have been deeply encoded in the fabric of Israeli society and the Jewish community worldwide.
Just as the Maccabees 2,000 years ago rededicated the Second Temple from destruction to restoration, so too did these two modern-day Maccabees rededicate their lives from tragedy to triumph. They inspire us to not focus on what we cannot control, but rather on what we can: to elevate our attitude and response toward life’s misfortunes by sharing with others our light of faith and hope for a brighter future.
Eitan Feigeris a student at the University of British Columbia, class of 2024.