My Tribute to Maurice Ostroff z”l

This is currently published in the Times of Israel:

http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/tribute-to-maurice-ostroff-zl/

There are giants and legends that walk among us and when they pass on, the void is tremendous. A true giant left us today. Maurice Ostroff z”l, was a man whose contribution to Israel, the Jewish people and humanity was priceless.

Maurice was a legend in Hasbarah circles and beyond. He was the founder of the International Coalition of Hasbarah Volunteers (CoHaV) and more recently, Truth be Told, of which I am a proud member. Long before I made aliyah, I could always count on Morrie for his wise council and he was our Media Team’s (an advocacy body based in South Africa) “go to” guy when we really needed help.

Maurice or Morrie as he was fondly called, had an innate ability to make cogent and rational arguments that set an example for all of us to follow. He was a gentleman and a mensch and completely devoid of ego. His response to Israel’s detractors was never aggressive or mired in accusations but rather like the uncle you were fond of who gave you a firm rebuke that was factually correct and beautifully crafted. In my opinion, it was his well-researched and rational argument that got Justice Goldstone to recant his findings against Israel after the inquiry into Israel’s conduct during Operation Cast Lead. What a shining example he set for all of us he mentored!

Maurice lived a life filled with purpose. He was a MACHAL volunteer and remained a warrior for the State of Israel all his life. Apart from leading the charge against Israel’s detractors, he was a past chairman of the Israel South Africa Chamber of Commerce and an honorary officer of the Chamber. He was a former member of the Board of Governors of the Technion and part of the team which created the Herzliya Medical Center and Beth Protea. Morrie had a technical prowess that could put many of our generation in the shade – he was well versed in hashtag and status update.

Many will be familiar with his prolific blogs in the Times of Israel and many other publications. His salient opinion and analysis was sought after by many and he had infinite patience to comply with all of our requests.

I confess to being more than a little bit star-struck when I met him and I am so blessed to have known him and learnt from him.

I used to call Morrie, Mo. His delight at being an instrumental part of our Truth be Told group was contagious. He was our backbone – keeping us well informed and well fed! He was our “speedy Gonzales” – responding to something or having the perfect reply long before anyone else.  His joy at seeing other people achieve was true testament to a man who needed no approval but was confident in his purpose. On a personal level, his support for me and my work and our countless phone calls will always be treasured. This true gentleman has wielded a profound impact on my life in mentoring me.

Morrie used to end our conversations with a suggestion for a whiskey. I used to say, Mo if you are pouring, I am drinking. L’Chaim Mo – yours is a life worth toasting and celebrating and you will always be remembered and missed.

Rolene  Marks – Member Truth be Told, Chair: Telfed Media Committee

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Mo & Ro at a Truth be Told function. 

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Nous Sommes Unis

Terror has struck a cruel and devastating blow again. Paris, the city of love, light and culture in a country that brought us the tenets of liberty, equality and fraternity has been wounded and hurt and our hearts are broken for the pain that her citizens are enduring.

Daesh (ISIS) have claimed responsibility for this attack and said that France remains at the “top of their list of targets”. Paris is the latest stop on ISIS world tour of terror. Not satisfied with wreaking havoc on the Middle East in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Libya and wherever they can cause maximum devastation, these arch terrorists have their eyes set firmly on the west. Beirut was also a target this past week with many casualties, proving that a Muslim country is also in their sites. It is no longer a clash of civilisations – it is a battle for the future of humanity.

And let’s call them what they are. They are terrorists. Not fundamentalists, extremists or militants but terrorists.

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The city of Tel Aviv rallies and stands in solidarity with Paris

No amount of outstretched hands and unclenched fists is going to placate those who have declared war against humanity in the hope of re-establishing their caliphate. It is time to call a spade a shovel. Pussyfooting around the issue by speaking fluent politically correct is not going to solve anything.

Terrorists don’t care about platitudes and overtures. Their goal is to sow fear and cause as much destruction as they possibly can. Until we call them what they are, we cannot defeat them.

Nobody is immune to their ideology of hate. ISIS bring a level of terror and barbarity so depraved that not even your common garden variety terror organizations like Hamas, Al Qaeda or Islamic Jihad want to be associated with them. They have marched through the Middle East using medieval torture techniques, raping, slaughtering and beheading Christians, Yazidis and Muslims who do not subscribe to their particular brand of religion and destroying priceless and holy antiquity in their wake.

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The surrounding walls of the Old city in Jerusalem lit in the colours of the French flag

Terrorists love soft targets. The diners eating in a restaurant. The music fans attending a concert. The person waiting for a bus. The family driving to loved ones to celebrate a special Shabbat. They prey on those who cannot defend themselves.  They are the consummate cowards.

In the weeks to come we will start debating what should be done in the wake of these horrific events. Perhaps Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has a valid point when he says he would rather take the fight to them before they barge through the door and into Russia.

It is a difficult dilemma – how do we provide humanitarian support and assistance to those refugees fleeing the very perpetrators of this terror but are being exploited by terrorists who are using the situation to enter countries granting refuge and attack their citizens? It is a horrendous side effect of terrorism when those in need of our assistance become targets of suspicion because their plight has been used as a Trojan horse for terrorists.

It may sound repetitive but Israelis really understand, perhaps more than most, the veracity and trauma caused by terror. Israel is the litmus test and is the frontline battlefield in the global war against terror but instead of listening to us, the world and in particular the media, castigate our efforts to defend ourselves. A repugnant moral equivalence has been drawn between victim and perpetrator and any excuse is used to justify attacks. This has to stop now.

Many Israelis have taken to social media and expressed their frustration at the lack of concern and solidarity shown to us as we endure this current wave of terror. Nobody is placing temporary Israeli flags on Facebook pictures and while it is hurtful that our pain does not register among the family of nations and even many Jews in the diaspora, I am proud that despite all of this, Israel stands in solidarity with our French brothers and sisters. I am proud that we have lit our national buildings in the colours of the French flag and lowered our flags to half-mast. I am proud that we have dispensed aid and security expertise to our French counterparts. This is the Israel I know and love. An Israel filled with compassion and humanity to those who are in pain because we empathise and understand it better than many others.

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The Knesset (Israeli Parliament) lit up and flags at half mast

Tragedy also brings with it the best of humanity. Today the world is united in our grief and random acts of kindness are a reminder that terror will never win.

But we need to stay united in our fight against terror. Now is the time for world leaders to do more than say catchy soundbites or shy away from the truth lest it offends those who buy into this murderous ideology. Now is the time to take a page from Churchill who led the offensive against the Nazi war machine and famously said “We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

We shall never surrender. Nous sommes unis. We are one.

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A tweet from Charlie Hebdo cartoonist, Joanne Sfar

Our answer to terror

This blog has been featured by Israel Forever:

http://israelforever.org/interact/blog/our_answer_to_terror/

Terrorists have very simple intentions. Kill as many as possible and create an atmosphere of deep terror, the kind that holds its victims in a perpetual state of siege, afraid to leave their homes or go anywhere.

But we Israelis will not be victims! Are we scared? Of course we are. Anyone would be terrified of a knife wielding psychopath whose intention is to kill you and has no fear of being killed because to become a “Shaheed” or martyr is an achievement, worthy of having football stadiums and roads named after you.

This is the diet of incitement that many Palestinian and Israeli Arabs are fed from birth. In my opinion, encouraging a death cult of martyrdom is child abuse and counterproductive to nation building for the Palestinians.  Where is the encouragement to become teachers, entrepreneurs, doctors, nation builders? Anyone from the UN want to sponsor a resolution against the Palestinian leadership for child abuse in the form of incitement to hate? Anyone? Beuller?

Two year old girl describes how she wants to stab Jew – MEMRI.org

It is important to note that many Israeli Arabs and Palestinians have had enough of this and are saying NO to the incitement. It is not in the best interest of both communities. There are so many examples of bridge building between the two communities and so many who are fed up with the divisive and hate-filled tactics of inciters.

“We must put out the fire, and I am willing to do anything for that. As far as I’m concerned, I will go to the Knesset and speak for peace if I have to, without blood and without violence. If I’m in pain, I shout. I don’t pick up a knife. You can be angry and then it goes away, without this killing of innocent people, “ says Arab-Israeli singer, Nasrin Kadri.

The Mayor of Nazareth has a message for inciters…..

While Palestinians declare more and more “Days of Rage” we Israelis prefer other kinds of “days”. The sanctity of life is so important to us and it is what sustains us through our darkest moments.  We don’t have days of rage, that is a waste of productive energy. Instead, we have Book Week, Family Day, Woman’s Day and others that fill our calendars with hope and celebration.

Our answer to terrorism is to keep building, keep innovating and keep looking for ways to improve. We are far from perfect but are also not the ogres we are portrayed as.

Two weeks ago, Zionists from around the world gathered in Jerusalem for the parliament of the Jewish people, the World Zionist Congress.  From the left to the right and in between, from the Druze Zionist Movement (yes, there are many!) and from all corners the earth, Zionists gathered to participate in our preferred sport – vigorous debating and arguing. Raised voices and passionate flailing of hands is a signal that robust discussion is happening!

I was thrilled to represent WIZO (Women’s International Zionist Organisation) along with Chaverot from around the world.  The first World Zionist Congress was held in Basle, Switzerland in 1897. Convened by the father of modern Zionism, Theodore Herzl, who said at the time: “Were I to sum up the Basel Congress in a word – which I shall guard against pronouncing publicly – it would be this: At Basel I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today l would be greeted by universal laughter. In five years perhaps, and certainly in fifty years, everyone will perceive it”.

Nobody laughed, in fact everybody celebrated. This is the spirit that sustains us. Our focus is on building our dream, not inciting hatred. Long before we had a state, Jews worked feverishly to ensure that the dream became a reality. Even though women were not allowed to participate in the Congress, it did not stop us from becoming active and WIZO was formed. 95 years later we can claim to be an integral part of the fabric of Jewish decision making. When women were admitted to the WZC, you can bet we raised our voice to bring about change and today women form part of the upper echelons of leadership.

Through the hallowed halls of the WZC have walked giants like Golda Meir and Chaim Weizman.  When the State of Israel was declared, Golda Meir and WIZO wonder woman, Rachel Kagan, were signatories to the Declaration of Independence. We are clearly leaving our mark everywhere.

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Excerpt from “My Life” – Golda Meir’s Autobiography. Meir describes the day the State of Israel was declared.

There are some that ask if the World Zionist Congress is relevant today. It has changed dramatically over the years and some say the dream has been realized so why do we need this?

It is all about continuity and the engagement of the next generation. It is also about evolving and looking for solutions to pressing issues. It is about providing space in the tent for all opinions and streams of Zionism, including the Druze with whom we share a blood covenant.

Most of all it is about investment in our future. This is our answer to terror.

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