What Gives Israel the Right to Defend Itself?

Standard

What Gives Israel the Right to Defend Itself?

It’s important to understand what Hamas stands for.

Hamas defines itself as being in a continuous state of war with Israel. The group refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist. Hamas’ charter states:

“Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.”

Hamas’ so-called spiritual leaders provide religious justification for unimaginable depravity. In their sermons, they consistently incite their followers to hate Israel and Jews.

“…our mantle is ‘Death to the Jews and to America.’”
Friday Sermon on Hamas TV, December 2, 2011

“The annihilation of the Jews here in Palestine is one of the most splendid blessings for Palestine.” – Muhsen Abu ‘Ita, July 13, 2008

Hamas’ political leaders proudly emphasize their desire to destroy Israel.

“The Hamas movement will lead Intifada after Intifada until we liberate Palestine – all of Palestine, Allah willing.” – Ismail Haniyeh, Decmber 14, 2011

Hamas is a terrorist organization, and it’s not just the government of Israel that says so. TheEuropean Union, the United StatesCanada, and Japan also classify Hamas as a terrorist group.

It’s easy to see why. Hamas’ suicide bombers have murdered hundreds of men, women and children in hotels, buses, nightclubs and restaurants.

Operation Pillar of Defense

Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza have fired more than 12,000 rockets into Israel in the past 12 years.

In response to these incessant rocket attacks, which accelerated in recent days, the IDF has launched a widespread campaign against terror targets in Gaza. The operation, called Pillar of Defense, has two main goals: to protect Israeli civilians and to cripple the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza.

“Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations…” – U.N. Charter, Article 51

In accordance with the instructions given to it by the government of Israel, the IDF will continue to act to ensure the safety of all Israeli citizens. It’s our right.

Related posts:

  1. Meet the Citizens that Help Defend Israel’s Most Threatened Communities

  2. Learn How To Defend Yourself: Krav Maga 101

  3. Protective Structure Used to Defend Civilians from Sniping to be Dismantled Due to Stability in Area, 12 Aug 2010


Share:

 


Comments:

83 commentsSocial RankingChronologicalReverse Chronological

Analysis: Examining the future of the IDF

Standard

Does Israel’s air force have a self-inflicted monopoly on firepower, should the IDF reassess and be investing more in special forces & cyber-ops, or are boots on the ground what is essential in winning a war?

As the Middle East becomes ever more anarchic and unpredictable, a group of high-ranking former and current military figures gathered at Bar-Ilan University this week for what would turn out to be one of the liveliest and frank public debates on the future of the IDF ever held.

BESA

The conference, called IDF Force Structure, was organized by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies and Israel Defense magazine, and contained two panels of speakers, each of which used their rich personal experience in the security world to build up deep and well-founded arguments on how Israel should tailor its armed forces in the first quarter of the 21st century.

The former navy chief, R.-Adm. (res.) Eliezer Marom, used the opportunity to say that the Israel Air Force enjoys an unreasonable monopoly over the IDF’s firepower. The monopoly was in fact dangerous, Marom said, since an unpredictable challenge to air power would severely limit Israel’s ability to direct long-range fire at enemy targets.

“If something happens to the air force, like it did during the Yom Kippur War, there won’t be firepower directed at the depth of the enemy’s territory,” he warned.

Most of the IDF’s guided weapons systems are launched autonomously these days, and it would be easy to spread out the weapons more evenly among the air force, ground forces, and navy, Marom said.

Israeli Dolphin class submarine (left) courtesy IDF Spokesperson's Unit, picture of a nuclear-armed Harpoon missile launched from a Dolphin-class submarine (right).

Israeli Dolphin class submarine (left) courtesy IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, picture of a nuclear-armed Harpoon missile launched from a Dolphin-class submarine (right).

The ex-navy commander cast doubt on the idea that squadrons of fighter jets have to take off every time a target needs destroying. “It would not be a problem at all,” he said, to direct surface-to-surface missile fire when needed.

In truth, senior elements in the IDF agree with Marom’s analysis, believing that the navy can and should play a bigger supporting role in ground combat.

Navy vessels should serve as floating guided- weapon launch pads. That said, they still regard the air force as Israel’s supreme strategic branch.

In the IDF’s coming four-year working plan, called Teuza (Hebrew for “valor”; the plan is awaiting government approval), the air force and its guided weaponry appear to take second place in the military’s priority list. Intelligence would appear to be in first place.

The air force continues to be perceived as the most effective operational tool for strategic gains in war.

Ground forces hold third place in the priority list, and are seen as an inseparable component of an Israeli victory in any full-scale war.

Bedouin Reconnaissance Unit during exercise – Photo courtesy: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit

Moreover, the navy might find itself playing additional, classified roles that could be game-changers in a future conflict.

During his address, Marom paid tribute to the IDF’s networking capabilities, in which the three branches – air, ground and navy – and their various platforms are merged into one. In effect, this means that today, an infantry battalion commander can order an attack on a target in Gaza by simultaneously employing missiles on navy ships and tank fire.

Yet with all due respect to technology, Marom pointed out, “in the end, in order to win, we need boots – with human legs in them – on the ground.”

Maj.-Gen. (res.) Gal Hirsch, deputy head in the reserves of the IDF’s Depth Corps, presented one of the most fascinating and radical visions during his address. Hersch argued that technological advances and regional changes have prepared the ground for a second revolution in military affairs (the first occurring in the late 1970s to the early 1980s).

Faced mainly with enemies that know no limits, and which employ terrorism, guerrillas or subversion rather than organized military forces, Israel now has to create its own surprise force, Hirsch said.

He showed a graphic of a floating iceberg, and then a second image, in which an intricate matrix of wires, signals and colors pulsed inside the iceberg.

“What you see is not the whole picture. We need to know what is happening underneath the iceberg,” he explained.

“We need capabilities and forces that know how to exit the frame,” Hirsch said, adding that a combination of secret services, commando units and special forces fit the bill.

Creating a force based on what Hirsch described as the “Six Cs,” command and control, computing, intelligence, surveillance, cyber and special forces, would make the IDF “far more effective.”

Photo: News outlets around the world are publishing their 'people of the year' for 2013. Who are ours? Our sons, our brothers, our friends - our soldiers who work 24/7 to protect our home. This year, the Golani Reconnaissance Battalion received the Chief of Staff Award for Excellence in recognition of their hard work protecting all of Israel, especially the north, which is under constant threat. We are proud, and feel confident knowing that they are watching over us.The Golani Reconnaissance Battalion received the Chief of Staff Award for Excellence in recognition of their hard work protecting all of Israel – Photo courtesy: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit

Amir Rapaport, editor-in-chief of Israel Defense magazine and a member of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, noted the intensive debate being held in the IDF on whether to prioritize firepower, or ground maneuver capabilities.

A lack of training and proficiency in basic skills, neglect of ground forces and a failure to invest in armored vehicles led to systemic failures during the Second Lebanon War, Rapaport noted, adding that the IDF repaired these shortcomings between 2007 and 2011.

Now, he said, some of this work is being undone.

According to Rapaport, in the coming years, cyber warfare capabilities will be at the top of the IDF’s its priority list – higher even than the air force.

“If there is a recruit suitable to become either a pilot or a cyber-operator, he will be sent to be a cyber-operator,” Rapaport said. The Intelligence Unit 8200, which according to reports, runs cyber war programs, can inflict as much damage with the press of a button that paratroopers can with weapons, he said.

Intelligence-gathering units are next on the list of priorities, enjoying an enormous budget, followed by the air force, which is due to receive the F-35 fighter jet in the coming years.

But budget cuts will affect numbers of armored fighting vehicles (AFVs), tank units and ground forces combat training. “I’m not sure there will be enough AFVs in the next clash,” Rapaport said.

Rapaport’s concerns for the future of the ground forces are well-founded.

The Ground Force Command’s special staff, who oversee key functions, have experienced a 20-percent budget cut in 2013-2014. When combat units resume training programs this year, the drills will be limited to frontline fighting forces.

Combat support units will not train much – if at all – unless the IDF’s budget is increased again in 2015.

Conscripted soldiers this year will spend nine months carrying out operational duties, before holding short war-training exercises, and returning to normal duty.

Nevertheless, in the eyes of army brass, robust ground maneuvering capacities remain a vital component in Israel’s ability to strike deep in enemy territory, making conflicts short, and, unlike past clashes, making an Israeli victory appear convincing.

The current cuts appear to be guided by an element of risk management for the coming year, rather than a permanent downgrading of ground forces.

During the panel, Brig.-Gen. (res.) Avigdor Klein, former Armored Corps chief officer, argued in favor of cutting back on armored vehicles, saying that such tools were becoming increasingly irrelevant.

He supports focusing more on firepower, and less on ground maneuver force build-up.

With no current existential threats facing Israel, and enemies seeking to inflict damage on Israel’s civilian sector, the IDF should focus on being able to strike the enemy’s infrastructure, weapons and commanders, while minimizing harm to Israeli civilian casualties and noncombatant deaths on the other side of the border.

“I very much agree with the reduction [of heavy vehicles]. What will remain constitutes an enormous core [of military forces] in comparison to other armies in the world,” Klein said.

Maj.-Gen. Meir Kalifi, former military secretary to the prime minister, said Israel should seek to build a flexible military, guided by its capabilities, rather than trying to design the IDF according to a forecast of future developments. Strategic and security forecasts are less relevant now than ever, he argued.

Maj.-Gen. Gershon Hacohen, current corps commander of the General Staff, looked at how differing cultures play a part in military force build-ups, and offered some salient perspectives.

Whatever technical advantage Israel develops, hostile Arab entities like Hamas and Hezbollah will work to neutralize them, he said, turning disadvantages into advantages. Israel’s enemies adapt quickly, and leverage their inferior strategic conditions as tools against the Jewish state. Recent examples include Hamas’s movement of human shields to rooftops of buildings designated for destruction via air strike.

“When we identify a problem, we look for a technical solution. We think like graduates of a business school. They focus on primitive adaption, and then watch how it creates a new situation,” Hacohen said.

The Mandela moment: Now it’s time to move forward South Africa

Standard

The past few weeks have been a milestone in our country’s history — there’s no doubt about that. We’ve made huge pronouncements about how we are so very thankful for all that Madiba has done for us, how we pledge to continue and honour his legacy, how so much still needs to change. But what now? I’m sure many of us are asking ourselves this question. Sure we’ve made progress since 1994 and sure many of us are already hard at work moving our beloved country forward. But this week of reflection — both of our history and what still needs to be done — has given many of us renewed energy for the road ahead. What do we need to do to make things right for the past in our country? How does what we do depend on where we were located in the past? As an architect of apartheid injustice or as architect of resistance to injustice; as an implementer of apartheid injustice or as an implementer of resistance to injustice; as someone dishonoured by apartheid injustice or dishonoured in the act of resisting or perpetrating apartheid injustice; as a beneficiary of apartheid injustice or as a beneficiary of resistance to injustice; or as a young inheritor of apartheid injustice or as an inheritor of resistance to injustice. Definitely loads to discuss on this point — but the real point is wherever we were locate our history is complex and not uncomplicated — all of us need to participate in actions to move us forward as a country.

These actions of restitution — “doing sorry” rather than just “saying sorry” and “receiving sorry” rather than believing “sorry is not enough” — need to happen urgently and on multiple levels. Not only in the large institutional, legal and structural ways — by government through affirmative action, black economic empowerment, land restitution and our past truth and reconciliation commission but also in everyday ways — where people can contribute to making things right at individual, interpersonal and community levels — where everybody has a role to play, and does so not out of the largesse of charity (that makes us feel good but not obligated to doing our part) but out of a duty to moving forward.

So what can we do to move forward South Africa?

As an academic (at the Human Sciences Research Council and the University of Cape Town) and as a practitioner (the current Chair of the Restitution Foundation, a small Cape based NGO) I have a few ideas (that I’m sure not everyone will agree with, but at least they are ideas for action). I think, however, that together we can all come up with many more creative and everyday actions. As a new year begins and as we live in the moment Nelson Mandela’s passing has given us to reflect, refocus and renew our efforts to change, let’s think deeply and creatively about the actions that must be done to move forward.

Broadly speaking these actions should include helping people to remember the past so our actions are motivated by duty; to recover lost dignity and to dismiss feelings of shame associated with poverty or undue senses of superiority; to experience a sense of belonging and equality no matter who we are; and to have access to a decent life through opportunities for fair work and useful education. Some will cost money; all will cost time and effort.

In practical terms here are a few I have thought about:

  1. Inheritance of personal wealth: Change your will today to include someone who does not own property rather than just pass on your inherited wealth to your kids. Remember that your inherited wealth was only possible through apartheid’s unjust laws (job reservation, land ownership, differential education).
  2. Education of another: Pay for another young South African to get a great high school education and go to university. Include in your financial sponsorship the mentoring and social capital that your own kids will receive because you know how to help them access jobs, helpful networks and make good personal decisions along the way.
  3. Look people in the eyes: When someone asks for work, money or any other help, no matter how you respond materially, look them in the eye and talk to them with dignity and respect.
  4. Living wages: Beginning with the people you employ at home or in business, sit down and do a job and personal needs assessment. Then pay the person a living wage (rather than a minimum wage).
  5. Public holidays: Make each of our public holidays (Human Rights Day, Youth Day, Women’s Day, Heritage Day and Reconciliation Day) an opportunity to share a meal and a chat about its significance. Do so with a small group of people of who at least half come from a different history in the South African community as you. Tell each other your stories of growing up in South Africa, and listen intently. Repeat frequently.
  6. Cross “racial” adoption: Adopt a child with a different history to yours. And live your family life in such a way that celebrates all of your historical heritages, which may mean learning another language and celebrating different customs.
  7. Religious groups: Change the colour of Sunday mornings or Friday evenings/afternoons. This may mean starting something new, or intentionally gathering a diverse group of people in a mid-week prayer, study or discussion group. So many of us in this country are religious that this action alone could really help us to move forward.
  8. Learn/teach a language different to yours: Works both ways. Ask someone to help you learn to speak isiZulu, isiXhosa or seSotho. Help someone become proficient in business or academic English.
  9. Vote: It doesn’t matter who for but don’t just stay at home. Become active in insisting that people in power deliver on their promises for the benefit of those most excluded. Don’t let your opposition only be heard as a grumble over a beer or over supper. Support the ruling party if you like but hold them accountable to good governance at every turn (booing included!). Strengthen the opposition parties if you like but insist they come up with viable alternatives rather than just complaining about existing polices or looking after the interests of their local constituencies (potholes be damned!). This is the democracy we wanted after all.

Please send your ideas to samovingforward@gmail.com or post a response here. Please also share this post widely to your networks via Facebook or on email. Written submissions can be made to: SA Moving Forward, Private Bag X9182, Cape Town, 8000. Please include a short paragraph about who you are in your submission. I’m planning to make the outcome widely known in the coming few months, while we are still living in this Mandela Moment!

Sharlene Swartz is a research director at the Human Sciences Research Council, adjunct associate professor with the department of sociology at University of Cape Town and chairperson at the The Restitution Foundation.

Tags: 

Boycott Israel? Not on my campus ( Reblogged)

Standard

BY JUDEA PEARL

Follow JewishJournal.com on 

Judea PearlJudea Pearl

There are many good reasons to oppose the American Studies Association (ASA) decision to boycott Israeli universities. But there are some bad reasons as well. Many arguments against the boycott play exactly into the hands of the pro-boycott propagandists and give them the ammunition they need to continue their racist campaign with renewed vigor and self-righteousness.

The two most dangerous “objections” to the boycott consist of these arguments: 1) There are worse violators of human rights in the world, so why pick on Israel?  And 2) Israel is aware of her crimes, and is willing to confess and repent, with the help of an international team of expert “confessors” who are about to fix all that is broken with Zionism.

I will not comment on the second point because anyone who has been watching Israel’s relentless effort to extricate itself from having to control other people’s lives, how her poets, playwrights, educators, philosophers, journalists, jurors and political leaders have been struggling for the past 66 years to redefine Zionism to fit the changing dynamics of society and circumstances would laugh at the idea that what Zionism needs at this point is expert confessors from the Diaspora, to teach it what it truly stands for.

But the first point deserves a comment or two, because it has been used as a crutch by many commentators, not least among them UCLA professor David Myers, writing in these pages.

Admitting “You caught me stealing, but there are bigger thieves in town” is precisely what the boycott cronies want to hear, and the ASA president’s response, “We have to start somewhere,” sounds much more compelling and honest than the plea for first chasing after the other thieves in town. After all, once you admit to being part of the Mafia, you have no business telling the police how to go about fighting crime, and you should not be surprised if you are arrested first.

I want to assure our students that the case against academic boycott is not as flimsy as these arguments make it sound, and that the majority of faculty on our campuses do recognize both the difficult predicaments of Israel and the non-academic character of the boycott campaign. They recognize that Israel did not choose to occupy another people; her presence in the West Bank was imposed upon her by neighbors who admit to wishing her disappearance and who make sure she understands that lifting the occupation would only intensify their wishes.

They recognize that, obviously, the occupation “has a negative impact on the working conditions of Palestinian researchers and students” (this is a quote from the ASA resolution). But it is also obvious that Israel cannot lift movement restrictions in the West Bank while she is intimidated daily, both rhetorically and physically, with existential threats; normalcy must be symmetrical.

They recognize that while occupation is ugly and unsustainable, the Arab side shares (at least) equal responsibility for prolonging this conflict by nourishing a culture in which coexistence is non-existent.

In particular, Palestinian educators, researchers, students and academic institutions who now call for boycotting Israel are greatly responsible for perpetuating this culture of anti-coexistence, hence no less deserving of a boycott than their Israeli counterparts. Most ASA members should agree that denying peoplehood to a people, for more than 65 years, is no less a crime than causing students at Nablus University to be late to class.

ASA members should be concerned about the reputation of their organization if allowed to be hijacked by the rhetoric of the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement and its radical supporters.

While the resolution itself may sound benign, ASA members should take a hard look at the purpose for which this document will be used in the future, given the radical agenda of its supporters.

The leaders of the BDS movement do not hide that purpose: In every conversation with them. they make it crystal clear that their ultimate goal is not to end the occupation, nor is it to achieve a peaceful solution in the Middle East, but rather to defame Israel in the public eye, to choreograph an arena where Israel’s criminality is debated, to intimidate pro-coexistence voices into silence, if not shame, and eventually bring about Israel’s isolation, if not her demise.

Omar Barghouti, a key ideologist of BDS, stated publicly (Sept. 29, 2013),  “Colonizers [read: Zionists] are not entitled to self-determination, by any definition of self-determination.”

ASA members should also take a hard look at what the passing of this resolution would do to campus climate, how it would isolate faculty members who choose to collaborate with Israeli universities and what it would mean to the posture of Jewish students on campus once BDS supporters sense the smell of victory, however mild.

The commentary by UCLA professor Robin Kelley, who wrote in support of the boycott in these pages, was a perfect reflection of this BDS mentality. We are witnessing a “professor of history” who is as quick to desecrate the word “apartheid” as he is to ignore the historical context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the responsibility of the Arab side in sustaining that conflict. Some “professors of history” can preach for hours and hours on the moral right of the Palestinian people to self determination and, at the same time, ignore or deny the historical right of their neighbors to the same self determination.

In the old days we used to label such professors “racists,” but nowadays that label is reserved strictly for Islamophobes and “white settlers’ colonial societies,” so, on a technicality, Kelley is exonerated. One of Israel’s painful misfortunes is that professors like Kelley formed their worldview at a time when the only villains in town were “white settlers.”

Today, when there are no such settlers in existence (except perhaps the British settlers in the Falkland Islands), history professors must invent them, no matter how absurd the resemblance. And you can guess whom they chose for the honor — the only functioning society in the Middle East that speaks the language of its historical birthplace.

On the positive side, we should not forget that despite its symbolic victory in the ASA case, the BDS movement has given the Jewish people two important gifts. First, support of BDS has become a crisp and unmistakable litmus test by which to distinguish potential discussants from hopeless bigots, and by which to determine whom to include and whom to exclude from the broad tent of “Jewish conversation.” Drawing such red lines was one of the smartest things our sages enforced to preserve Jewish identity. At times it involved painful decisions, which left the Karaites, the early Christians, the Shabtaim, the Spanish Conversos and “Jews for Jesus” out of the community. But these were necessary, life-saving decisions. Today, as if by divine supervision, BDS supporters find themselves excluded from the Jewish conversation — a life-saving demarcation line has been drawn, and a stronger, more united community has emerged

The second blessing has been a miraculous awakening and an unprecedented galvanization of Jewish students and faculty to confront the dangers of the BDS assault. It is still too early to assess, but I would nevertheless venture to predict that next year will not be an easy one for Israel’s enemies on campus.


Judea Pearl is a professor at UCLA and president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation (danielpearl.org), named after his son. He is a co-editor of “I Am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl” (Jewish Lights, 2004), winner of the National Jewish Book Award.

Tracker Pixel for Entry

COMMENTS

We welcome your feedback.

PRIVACY POLICY

Your information will not be shared or sold without your consent. Get all the details.

TERMS OF SERVICE

JewishJournal.com has rules for its commenting community.Get all the details.

PUBLICATION

JewishJournal.com reserves the right to use your comment in our weekly print publication.


Post your comment below!

Click here to return to the homepage.

Tags

,,,,,

Email

Tell a friend about this story by email

More

Next | Previous


Posting as Kim-Jonty Stephen Drus (Change)
Post to Facebook
  • Charles Richman · University of Virginia

    ***
    SO YOU WANT TO BOYCOTT ISRAEL, DIVEST IN OR SANCTION ISRAELI PRODUCTS: YOU ARE A BDS ADVOCATE
    UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU USE THE FOLLOWING:
    The PillCam (capsule endoscopy) is used to detect blockages or other problems in the intestine and esophagus. This device is ingestible (Made in Israel).
    TA Count-A Real-Time Microbiology—Detection and Counting Harmful Microorganisms in pharmaceuticals, food and drink which are complete in minutes and not days as the antiquated cell culture procedures require. Time might be vital, BDS supporters you can’t use it since it was made in Israel.Mazor Robotics’ Spine and other Surgery Robots is a highly accurate procedure that requires less time and less intense radiation. (Guess where it is made, Israel of course, thus BDS fans it is a no, no for you).Optical Heartbeat Monitor—…See More

    Reply · 3 · Like · Follow Post · 9 hours ago
  • Jan Clausen · Syracuse, New York

    Boycotting Israeli universities because you disapprove of the policies of the government is like boycotting Harvard because you didn’t like Bush going to war in Iraq.
    Reply · 2 · Like · Follow Post · 9 hours ago
  • Alan Rockman ·  Top Commenter

    I stand with Dr. Pearl. He knows terribly – and first hand how intolerant militant Islam is.The Nazis – for that is exactly who and what they are – of the ASA, Lisa Duggan, Robin Kelley, and Curtis Marez should try living under Sharia sometime soon. They’ll find they will have NO rights whatsoever if they had the courage of their convictions. But they’re cowards. They always are.And shame on my fellow Scrantonian, the current head of the Department my major was under at UCLA, David Myers, for his lame opposition to Kelley and the other Fascist scum which went like this.

    “I know how terrible Human Rights is in the Arab Moslem entities and Iran and I deplore it..But on the other hand”…

    Correcto Mundo, Myers (you probably didn’t grow up in the Flats. I did…) You don’t defend nor make excuses – you call those Jew-baiting bigots out for who and what they are…and you fire Kelley, who apparently teaches some kind of Afro-Centric garbage to begin with.

1st chief rabbi inaugurated in Albania

Standard

The first chief rabbi of Albania was inaugurated in Tirana last week in the presence of a representative of Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha and Chief Rabbi of Israel Shlomo Amar.

Prime Minister Berisha had expected to attend but because of the floods in Albania, he sent his representative with a blessing and greeting to the new chief rabbi and the Jewish community.

New Emissary
Russia’s Subbotnik Jews get rabbi / Ynetnews
Rabbi Shlomo Zelig Avrasin ‘s mission to focus primarily on community of Vysoky in southern Russia, to include teaching Hebrew and Judaism, organizing prayer services and conducting range of diverse educational activities for Jewish youth
Full story

The inauguration is the result of a meeting a number of months ago between Prime Minister Berisha and the Rabbinical Centre of Europe (RCE) in the RCE’s offices in Brussels. The RCE is an organization dedicated to meeting the needs of Jewish communities in Europe.

During the meeting, the representatives of the RCE thanked Berisha for his efforts and expressed their gratitude for the great support and assistance that the Albanians have made for the Jewish community through sheltering and saving many Jews during the Holocaust.

Rabbis with PM Berisha’s representative (Photo: Meir Alfasi)

The RCE broached the subject of appointing Rabbi Joel Kaplan, who is affiliated with the RCE, as the first Chief Rabbi of Albania. Berisha consented to the idea. The ceremony, including the traditional agreement between a community and its new chief rabbi, was presided over by Rabbi Aryeh Goldberg, Deputy Director of the RCE and Rabbi Gershon Mendel Garelik, Head of the Rabbinical Court in Milano and founder of the RCE.

“The Rabbinical Centre of Europe’s mission is to assist any European Jewish communities, whether they are large of small, affiliated or non-affiliated,” Rabbi Arye Goldberg, Deputy Director of the RCE said. “Albanian Jewry has a long and illustrious history and the current community needs a spiritual leader to ensure its vitality and continuity.”

“The RCE thanks Prime Minister Berisha for his support and the fact that only the devastating floods kept him away from the inauguration is a testament to his commitment to the Albanian Jewish community.”

Reinvigorated Jewish community

The event was also attended by representatives from the Albanian Christian and Muslim communities.

During the RCE’s visit to Tirana, a Jewish center called “Moshe Rabenu” and a synagogue named after the visiting Chief Rabbi of Israel was inaugurated as “Hechal Shlomo”.

Rabbi Kaplan will now preside over a reinvigorated Jewish community. “This will be the first time in 70 years that there will be a minyan (Jewish prayer quorum) in Albania,” Rabbi Kaplan said.

The rabbi’s first task will be to import kosher food into Albania and he will enjoy diplomatic status.

Rabbi Kaplan, formerly the Chabad emissary to Thessaloniki in Greece, had approached the RCE with the idea of reinvigorating the small Albanian Jewish community. The number of Jews in Albania is thought to be around 150, although these numbers are buttressed by large numbers of Jewish tourists and businessmen who visit the small nation.

Albanian Jewry dates back over 1,300 years, but was at its peak after many Jews expelled from the Iberian Peninsula made it their home. During the Communist era, the Socialist People’s Republic of Albania banned all religions, including Judaism. After the fall of Communism in 1991, all but a small number of Albanian Jews moved to Israel.