Tag Archives: Israel

Jew of the Week: Natan Sharansky

The Refusenik

Anatoly Borisovich Sharansky (b. 1948) was born in Donetsk, Ukraine. He was a child chess prodigy, and won his city’s chess championship as a teenager. He went on to study math in Moscow and later worked in a secret Soviet research lab. In 1973, Sharansky applied for an exit visa to Israel and was refused. Henceforth, he became a vocal activist on behalf of Soviet Jewry, and became the world’s most famous refusenik. He soon expanded his scope to work for all human rights, and was the spokesperson for the Moscow Helsinki Group, today Russia’s primary human rights organization. In 1977, Sharansky was arrested on trumped-up charges of treason and espionage, and sentenced to 13 years of hard labour. He was tortured, and kept in solitary confinement for long periods of time. (He would later remark that one of the things that helped him through it was playing chess in his mind.) After ceaseless activism from his wife, mother, and countless international supporters, Sharansky was finally released in 1986. Shortly after, he received a Congressional Gold Medal from the US government. He moved to Israel and started going by his Hebrew name, Natan. A couple of years later, he published a bestselling memoir, Fear No Evil. (This book was passed on by Helen Suzman to Nelson Mandela, then still in prison, and inspired his ongoing struggle.) In 1995, Sharansky co-founded the Yisrael BaAliyah political party to advocate on behalf of hundreds of thousands of new Soviet Jewish immigrants to Israel. They won seven seats in their first election. Sharansky served as Minister of Industry and Trade, then Minister of Internal Affairs, and even Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister. In 2003, as chairman of his party, he merged it with Likud, and became Minister of Jerusalem Affairs. In 2005, Sharansky resigned in protest of Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza. He is a staunch supporter of Israeli settlements, and co-founded One Jerusalem, an organization that works to keep the Jewish capital from being divided ever again. President Bush awarded him the Medal of Freedom in 2006, and he won the Israel Prize in 2018. Last year, he won the prestigious Genesis Prize, and donated all $1 million of it for coronavirus relief. Currently, Sharansky heads the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy, and continues to serve on the board of the Jewish Agency.

Sharansky: The Dangerous Rise of the Un-Jews

Understanding the Arab-Israeli Conflict in 5 Easy Points

Words of the Week

Jews came here 3,000 years ago and this is the cradle of Jewish civilization. Jews are the only people in history who kept their loyalty to their identity and their land throughout the 2,000 years of exile, and no doubt that they have the right to have their place among nations—not only historically but also geographically. As to the Palestinians, who are the descendants of those Arabs who migrated in the last 200 years, they have the right, if they want, to have their own state… but not at the expense of the state of Israel.
– Natan Sharansky

Jew of the Week: Chuck Schumer

America’s Top Senator

Charles Ellis Schumer (b. 1950) was born in Brooklyn to a Jewish family with Russian, Ukrainian, and Polish ancestry. He scored a perfect 1600 on his SAT and went to Harvard, where he first studied chemistry before switching to law. He passed the bar in 1975, but went right into politics, having once been inspired when volunteering on a presidential campaign. Schumer was elected to the New York State Assembly straight out of law school. After three terms, he won a seat on the US House of Representatives. He served on the House for nine terms until 1998, when he ran for a Senate seat instead and won again. He has since been re-elected to the Senate three times, with consistently high approval ratings. In 2016, he was voted head of the Senate Democrats, making him the minority leader. Earlier this year, when the Democrats took control of the Senate, he became the majority leader. In both cases, Schumer became the first Jew (and first New Yorker) to hold the Senate leader title. Impressively, Schumer visits every single one of New York’s 62 counties every year to meet with his constituents. He has been praised for helping average New Yorkers deal with even minor issues that are not the role of a senator to address. Over the years, Schumer has worked hard to keep jobs and factories in America, and has been fiercely critical of China. In 2017, he tried unsuccessfully to get Trump to impose a ban on Chinese buyouts of American companies. (This week, he finally pushed through a massive $250 billion “China competition bill”.) Schumer has also been praised for his assistance to veterans and for lowering healthcare costs. In 2001, together with John McCain, he introduced a bill to open the prescription drug market to more generic, cheaper versions, resulting in savings of billions of dollars. Schumer has fought for net neutrality, and criticized Republicans for allowing the FCC to pass new internet restrictions in 2018. While Schumer is pro-choice, he has also supported Efrat, an Israeli anti-abortion organization. He is currently trying to push legislation to ban BPA, cadmium, and other toxins. Over the years, Schumer has fought for tougher sanctions on Iran, Russia, and North Korea, and is one of the few Democrats that continues to oppose a nuclear deal with Iran. He is a huge supporter of Israel, defending both its blockade of Gaza, and its settlements. Schumer cosponsored a 2017 bill making it illegal to boycott Israel. He praised Trump for finally moving the US embassy to Jerusalem. Schumer has voted for more gun control and more college tuition credits, as well as stricter regulation of Wall Street. He has developed a “Marshall Plan for Teachers” to revamp education in America. Schumer is an avid cyclist. He has never lost an election in his life, and has always sought to be a balanced voice of reason in Congress.

Words of the Week

You can be a Jew and care about Israel and it does not make you any less American. You can be a Jew and lobby for Israel and it does not make you any less American. You can be, all at once, completely Jewish, completely pro-Israel and completely American.
– Chuck Schumer

Jew of the Week: Eilat Mazar

Israel’s Indiana Jones

Eilat Mazar (1956-2021) was born in Israel to a family of archaeologists, and grew up playing and learning on excavation sites. Her grandfather, Benjamin Mazar, was the State of Israel’s first official archaeologist, and was the president of the Hebrew University. Eilat studied archaeology at the same university, and began her field work in 1981. She made a big splash right away by discovering the Royal Quarter of the ancient City of David in Jerusalem, including what is thought to be the royal palace of King David himself. She went on to uncover some of the biggest finds of the last century, including parts of the walls built by King Solomon, the seal of King Hezekiah, and the seal of the Prophet Isaiah. Mazar was driven by her belief that the Tanakh records actual historical events (whereas many of her secular colleagues often viewed the Tanakh as mythology). She would say that “I work with the Bible in one hand and the tools of excavation in the other.” Over the decades, her work played a major role in helping to prove the authenticity of the Bible. Mazar discovered countless treasures from the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem, and was a vocal activist trying to stop Palestinian and Jordanian authorities from destroying Jewish artifacts on the Temple Mount. (The worst case of this was in November 2000, when some 6000 tons of precious earth from the Temple Mount was illegally excavated by the Waqf and dumped in a landfill.) In 2013, Mazar discovered a large cache of treasure from the 7th century that contained a gold coin depicting a menorah, shofar, and Torah. She taught at the Hebrew University and published three books on archaeology, along with dozens of journal articles. She also paved the way for more female archaeologists to enter the field. Despite suffering from an illness, Mazar continued working and digging. Sadly, she passed away earlier this week. Israel Prize winner David Be’eri said that she “will forever be remembered as a pioneer standing shoulder to shoulder with the greatest scholars of Jerusalem throughout the ages.”

Archaeological Proof for the Torah and Exodus

Words of the Week

I fully understand that any minority would prefer to be a majority, it is quite understandable that the Arabs of Palestine would also prefer Palestine to be the Arab State No. 4, No. 5, No. 6 – that I quite understand; but when the Arab claim is confronted with our Jewish demand to be saved, it is like the claims of appetite versus the claims of starvation.
Ze’ev Jabotinsky

Some of Eilat Mazar’s biggest finds (clockwise from top left): gold medallion with menorah, shofar, and Torah scroll from the 7th century CE; seal of King Hezekiah, 7th century BCE; King Solomon’s walls, 10th century BCE; seal of the Prophet Isaiah, 7th century BCE.