Nostalgia Sunday – Warsaw Ghetto Testimonies

Tonight Israel will mark Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day. The central theme for this year is Defiance and Rebellion during the Holocaust: 70 Years Since the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. At 10:00 on Monday morning, there will be siren and 2 minutes of silence.

My personal connection to the Warsaw Ghetto is twofold. First is my Israeli mother, who came from Polish family stock, including cousin Estherka who was one of those children that survived by hiding in the sewage tunnels and came to the pre-State Land of Israel after the war.

Second is my own work as the translator of Itamar Levin’s book Walls Around: The Plunder of Warsaw Jewry during World War II and Its Aftermath. The author’s argument is that the plunder of Jews in the Holocaust was not only a product of murder, but also a tool of murder.

What was striking about this plunder was the methodical way in which Jews were initially forced into the Ghetto, (a walled off area that did not exist prior to the Nazi occupation), and then systematically stripped of their possessions, from large items (real estate, cash holdings) to medium-sized (furniture, furs, etc.), and then — once the ghetto inhabitants had been transported to Treblinka and other extermination camps and killed — the small: clothes, shoes, glasses, teeth and hair.

Yad Vashem – The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority has prepared a new online exhibition, Voices from the Inferno. This exhibition presents video testimonies given by the survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto and former combatants in the uprising. This unique oral documentation sheds new light on the fate of the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, with a special focus on the uprising in which 13,000 Jews were killed (some 6,000 among them were burnt alive or died from smoke inhalation). Of the remaining 50,000 residents, most were captured and shipped to concentration and extermination camps.

In the new Yad Vashem video series, the speakers describe the atmosphere in the Warsaw Ghetto following the Great Deportation of the summer of 1942: continuing aktions, certainty of death, preparing bunkers for the rebellion and storing food. Below is the first video in the series and more videos can be viewed here.

The official Opening Ceremony for Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day will take place on Sunday, April 7, 2013 at 20:00, in Warsaw Ghetto Square, Yad Vashem, Mount of Remembrance, Jerusalem.

The ceremony will be broadcast live on television on Channels 1, 2, 10 and 33, and channel 9 in Russian, and for the first time on JLTV in the United States, and by radio on Kol Israel and Galei Zahal. It will last about one hour and a quarter.

There will also be a national gathering at the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum at Kibbutz Lohamei Haghetaot.

Yad Vashem calls on the public to fill in Pages of Testimony to commemorate the names of Jews murdered in the Holocaust. Volunteers are available to help Holocaust survivors fill out Pages of Testimony (Call: +972 2 644 3111).

At the same time, Yad Vashem is continuing the Gathering the Fragments campaign in an effort to rescue Holocaust-related documents, artifacts, photographs and art. To donate material: collect@yadvashem.org.il or call (from outside Israel) +972-2-6443888 or (in Israel) 1-800-25-7777).

The oral history department continues to film survivor testimonies. Yad Vashem personnel travel to interview and film survivors in their own homes; the testimonies are housed in the Yad Vashem Archives. To coordinate a visit: testimonies@yadvashem.org.il or call (in Israel) +972 2 644 3752/3.

Foto Friday – President Obama comes to visit

Barack-Obama-visit-2013_logoUS President Barack Obama leaves today and soon it will be all over but the shouting. Although, this being Israel, probably the shouting will continue.

In anticipation of Barack Obama’s first official visit to Israel since becoming US president over four years ago, Israel’s Government Press Office switched into high gear with new media applications such as a smartphone app — compatible with both iPhone and Android — featuring real-time updates, video, photographs and behind-the-scenes glimpses at the visit. (The app is available in Hebrew and English and will soon be available in Arabic as well).

The busy bees at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Office of the Prime Minister and the President of the State of Israel were working overtime to keep their Facebook pages, Flickr photo streams and Twitter feeds updated with news of the impending visit, starting with preparations on the Ben Gurion Airport tarmac…

Barack-Obama-visit-2013_0_500wPhoto by GPO

There, an Dome Battery defense system was on display for the American president to review. President Obama was then whisked up to Jerusalem and the International Convention Center to deliver a speech on policy before an audience of students.

.Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Outside stood activists from all sides of the political and social spectrum, from the Green Peace activists climbing up Jerusalem’s Chords Bridge in protest of exploratory drilling in the Arctic Circle…

.Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

While on the other side of the street were supporters of Jonathan Pollard, calling for his pardon and release from US prison after 28 years in jail.

JONATHAN POLLARDPhoto by FLASH90

The visit to Jerusalem include a stop at the Israel Museum for a remarkably Israel21c-like presentation of Israeli innovations that improve daily life for people around the world. Here, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Obama observe Radi Kioff, a Druze Israeli citizen who was wounded while serving in the Israel Defense Forces during the first Lebanon War. Kioff, a paraplegic, is aided by the ReWalk exoskeleton that enables him to walk upright. (You read it here first in 2008).

Barack-Obama-visit-2013_5_500wPhoto by Kobi Gideon / FLASH90 / GPO

The welcome at the Palestinian Authority was a little less public protest, a little more Yanqui Go Home

.Photo by Issam Rimawi/FLASH90

All went well at the joint press conference with President Obama and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, held at the Muqata Presidential Compound.

.Photo by Issam RImawi/FLASH90

And soon it will be time to bid our guest — laden with hopes, wishes and messages from all sides — goodbye.

Barack-Obama-visit-2013_9_500Photo by GPO

Nostalgia Sunday – Zvi Oron in the service of the High Commissioner

Zvi OronA new exhibit of wonderful old photos by Zvi Oron (Oroshkes) of pre-State Israel opens on March 21 at the Eretz Israel Museum in Ramat Aviv.

The exhibition displays Oron’s perspective of the British Mandate years, through photographs that show the construction of Jewish settlements, state and military events of the British administration, and the lifestyle of the traditional Arab population.

Photographer Oron came to the Land of Israel in 1918 with the Jewish Legion. Curator Michal Ben-Tovim writes: “Having already acquired his photographic skills in Poland, he opened his first photography studio in Tel Aviv in 1920.

“Initially, most of his photographic work was commissioned by the information department of the Jewish National Fund. In 1925 he began working for the British administration.

“In 1929, High Commissioner John Chancellor officially appointed him as provider of photography services to the British administration in Palestine. Thanks to this position he was able to move without difficulty between British military facilities, and stay outdoors during curfew hours.

“Because the British trusted him, Oron managed to establish professional ties with the Arab population, and was on friendly terms with Emir Abdullah. He thus became one of the few photographers who were able to photograph the different populations that inhabited Palestine during the British Mandate.

“In a letter he wrote in 1938 to Moshe Sharet, his friend from the Jewish Legion and then head of the Jewish Agency Political Department, Oron described his impressions of the situation in Eretz Israel as reflected in his photos:

“‘…When I went over the collection of the photos I published in the press in the past two years, I had the impression that the English were making extraordinary efforts to calm down the situation; the Arabs were revolting, and the Jews were weeping at funerals.’”

“Oron, a sworn Zionist, made an effort to convey a standpoint as objective as possible in his photographs.”

“His Jewish origins, his ties with British officials, and the trust he had among the Arabs yielded an outstanding photographic archive, which documents objectively the life in Eretz Israel of that time.”

If you can’t get to Ramat Aviv in time, there are some lovely examples of his work — including celebrated persons of the time such as High Commissioner Arthur Grenfell Wauchope — on Wikimedia Commons. Enjoy.

Foto Friday – Frames of Reality

Frames of Reality is a seminar and workshop advocating thought, personal criticism and open dialogue among professional Israeli and Palestinian photojournalists. The project was initiated in 2008 by the Peres Center for Peace together with the group that founded Local Testimony, a regional exhibition of photojournalism that runs concurrently with the annual World Press Photo exhibition of work by international press photographers.

Frames of Reality_Daniel TchetchikPhoto by Daniel Tchetchik

This project aims to bring together Israeli and Palestinian photojournalists and documentary photographers to participate in a joint creative process, recognizing that under regular circumstances they have little opportunity to work together.

Frames of Reality_Adi SegalPhoto by Adi Segal

This year through a series of workshops and lectures by journalists and photo-journalists, 11 Israeli and Palestinian photographers worked together to develop their professional skills as well as to open their minds to the reality of the “other side”.

Frames of Reality_Elias HalabiPhoto by Elias Halabi

The programs encourage participants to express their own experiences and portray alternative views of the conflict in an unrestricted environment. Throughout the year-long program, each participant develops a body of work which is then presented in a professional trilingual book and a photographic exhibition.

Frames of Reality_Wael DaoudPhoto by Wael Daoud

The annual exhibition of works by “Frames of Reality” participants opens next Friday at the Peres Peace House in Old Jaffa. The event is also the book launch party – to date, 70 photojournalists have participated in the workshops, resulting in three books that have sold over 3,000 copies and have been viewed by thousands in exhibitions worldwide.

Frames of Reality_Hosam SalemPhoto by Hosam Salem

Among the topics chosen by the photographers: urban loneliness, community life on the fringes of society, the elderly, immigrants and foreign workers.

Frames of Reality_Shady AblasiPhoto by Shady Ablasi

Work produced by the participants of “Frames of Reality” can be viewed in full on the Local Testimony website.

Frames of Reality_Yehoshua YosefPhoto by Yehoshua Yosef

“Frames of Reality” will be on display at the Peres Peace House, 132 Kedem St., Tel Aviv-Jaffa from March 22 through April 13, Sun-Thu 9:00 – 17:00 and Fri/Sat 10:00 – 14:00. Next Friday’s opening event is open to the public free of charge.

Frames of Reality_David DectorPhoto by David Dector

A Miss Israel to be proud of

miss israelHours after Israelity posted about the current IDF soldiers vying for the title of Miss Israel, the competition took place Wednesday night at the Haifa Congress Center and a surprise winner emerged – a former IDF officer Yityish (Titi) Aynaw. She’s made history by becoming the first Ethiopian-born Israeli to win a beauty pageant.

At a time when Ethiopian Israelis are making their mark in more and more realms of society – from up and coming acclaimed r&b singer Esther Rada to the first female Ethiopian MK, Pnina Tamano-Shata – it’s only fitting that the natural beauty of the Ethiopian community in Israel is recognized.

“It’s important to have a first (beauty) queen from the Ethiopian community. Israel has many ethnic groups and many colors, and it’s important to show it to the world,” Aynaw said during the competition in response to one of the judges’ questions.

She cited Martin Luther King as the historical presence that influenced her the most: “He fought for justice and equality, and that’s one of the reasons I’m here – to show that there are also good things in my community, which are not presented in the media.

“I see it as a mission to represent Israel’s different colors. There are not enough dark-skinned models in Israel. I hope to become a successful model thanks to the contest and create a change in the perception of dark-skinned models. I would be happy to be the first Ethiopian television host, an Israeli Tyra Banks.”

That lofty goal is a far cry from Aynaw’s beginning in the country, where she arrived at age 12. She admitted that it was a rocky absorption.

“I’m lucky to have had a friend, Noa, who befriended me from the start and helped me out. I didn’t study in a ulpan. I was thrown into the deep water and learned the best that way,” she told Ynet.

Less than 10 years later, Aynaw is now a role model, not only for other young Ethiopian Israelis, but for anyone facing adversity.

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