Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Israel's Answer to "Get the Hell out of Palestine"

People are still talking about the interview of veteran Hearst Syndicate reporter Helen Thomas by Rabbi David Nessenoff in front of the White House on May 27, 2010. The interview was connected with a tour being made by young Jewish media people, which Rabbi Nessenoff and his son were part of. Ms. Thomas, a veteran White House media reporter, had covered events there for more than 50 years, involving US Presidential administrations going back to Dwight D. Eisenhower.

When asked by Rabbi Nessenoff what advice she had for the young journalists who were on a tour to the White House, she said "go for journalism and keep learning – you'll never regret it". But when he asked her what advice she had in light of Jewish Heritage Month in regards to Jews and Israel, her "off the cuff" remarks came as a complete surprise when she said: "I think they [the Jews] should get the hell out of Palestine!" When the Rabbi asked why she felt this way, she replied "They [the Jews] have been occupying land that belongs to people who have lived there for hundreds of years. Jews should go back to where they came from, such as Poland Germany, etc."

When asked if she had any knowledge to back up her remarks, Ms. Thomas said that "I am of Arab extraction", since her family emigrated from Lebanon more than 80 years ago.

Needless to say, Ms. Thomas's remarks have made reverberations around the world, especially the Jewish World. The reaction was so strong that Thomas was forced to make a public apology for her remarks on June 4, and announced her "retirement" from the Media a few days later. Rabbi Nessenoff, who was virtually unknown until his interview with Thomas, accompanied by video clips made by his son's cell phone, says that he has received thousands of hate messages and even death threats in the aftermath of the interview, making him wonder if the remarks made by Thomas are an indication of how many Americans really feel towards Israel.



While also shocked by Ms. Thomas's candid remarks, Israelis are used to hearing such jargon, especially from countries in the Middle East as well as many European countries. That these remarks came from a veteran member of the US press corps, however, was most upsetting; but are also seen as just a part of the unusually heavy amount of "Israel bashing" that has been going on in the world media in recent weeks. This is especially true in the aftermath of the first encounter involving Israeli commandos and the so-called "Free Gaza Peace Flotilla" on board the Turkish vessel Mavi Marmara.

Israel's resilience in the face of such adversity is not going to be diminished by PR ploys conducted by those trying to champion the Palestinian cause, especially that of the tyrannically ruled Hamas regime in Gaza. In fact, Jews are coming to Israel in even larger numbers, due the efforts by groups such as Nefesh b'Nefesh, which has brought more than 30,000 North American and British Jews to settle in Israel in past 9 years.

Now, another organization called Aish Machal is planning on bringing young Jewish high school graduates to Israel for a one year program of voluntary service either in the IDF or in a number of National Service projects in various parts of Israel. The idea of this project is to not only to help these young people make a better "connection" to their Jewish Homeland, but with the idea that some of them will decide to complete their university studies in Israel and also settle there. Aish Machal is a combination of the religious Aish ha Torah religious youth organization and the Mahal or voluntary Israel Defense Forces program which has been in existence in Israel since the War of Independence in 1948. Some of Israe's most outstanding English speaking or "Anglo Saxon" citizens came to Israel originally on Mahal, or on other similar volunteer programs which continue to this day.

These programs show people like Helen Thomas (who said she "regretted" her remarks made to Rabbi Nessenoff) that the Jews of Israel have no intention of "going back where they came from", as they are already "Home".

Information on Aish Mahal volunteer programs can be found by accessing the websites www.JoinTheIDF.com and www.MyIsraelYear.com




Photos of an event in Jerusalem involving IDF soldiers and Aish Machal Volunteers.

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