The United Nations was just stunned into silence by surprise guest speaker
It is not every day that one of their own tells them off in the UN. That’s right an Arab who uses the word “Palestinian” to describe himself tells off his own brethren for blaming Israel for all of the ills of the world.
Sometimes, it’s great for some of the world’s leaders to receive a wake-up call.
The looks on their stunned faces say it all.
This guy has guts. (UN Watch)
US State Department distances itself from its own Israel ambassador again
The State Department declined to defend David Friedman, its ambassador to Israel, on Thursday after he claimed in an interview that Israeli settlements built after 1967 are a part of the country.
The claim – which runs contrary to decades-old US policy, continued by the Trump administration – “should not be read as a way to prejudge the outcome of any negotiations” and “should not be read as a shift in US policy,” State Department spokesman Heather Nauert told reporters.
“I just want to be clear that our policy has not changed,” Nauert said. ”I want to be crystal clear.”
And yet, it was the second time the State Department spokesman had come to her podium to walk back comments from the Israel envoy this month, after Friedman referred to the “alleged occupation” in a Jerusalem Post interview on September 1, confusing many as to whether US policy had shifted.
“We have some very effective leaders and representatives,” Nauert replied, before referring to Jason Greenblatt, US special representative for international negotiations, and Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law tasked with leading the peace effort. She did not name Friedman.
From Washington, senior administration officials say that settlement activity is not helpful to the pursuit of peace between Israelis and Palestinians – a top priority for Trump.
Nauert said she had heard about the interview, but had not seen its full context, or spoken with the ambassador.
Friedman told Walla news that he thinks “the settlements are part of Israel,” according a preview released on Thursday morning.
“I think that was always the expectation when resolution 242 was adopted in 1967,” Friedman said. “The idea was that Israel would be entitled to secure borders. The existing borders, the 1967 borders, were viewed by everybody as not secure, so Israel would retain a meaningful portion of the West Bank, and it would return that which it didn’t need for peace and security.”
“So there was always supposed to be some notion of expansion into the West Bank, but not necessarily expansion into the entire West Bank,” he continued. “And I think that’s exactly what, you know, Israel has done. I mean, they’re only occupying 2% of the West Bank. There is important nationalistic, historical [and] religious significance to those settlements, and I think the settlers view themselves as Israelis and Israel views the settlers as Israelis.” (Jerusalem Post)
Hamas leader places prisoner swap deal ‘in Israel’s court’
Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar claimed on Thursday that the organization accepted an Egyptian proposal for an Israeli-Hamas prison swap. In an meeting with Palestinian youth, Sinwar said that “the ball is in Israel’s court”.
Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds revealed details of the proposed three-stage deal. Israel would hand over 39 bodies of Hamas members and other persons. In return, Hamas would provide Israel with information regarding Israeli prisoners and missing persons now believed to be held by Hamas in Gaza. The third step would be Israel releasing Palestinian prisoners it had released after the Gilad Shalit prisoners-swap of 2011, but subsequently re-arrested.
The bodies of IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul are believed to be held by Hamas, Goldin was killed in the 2014 battle of Rafah and Shaul was killed in the Battle of Shuja’iyya of the same year.
It is also believed that Hamas is holding Israeli citizens Abera Mengistu, who is of Ethiopian heritage, and Hisham Abu-Sayid who is a Bedouin-Israeli. Both men were described by their families as suffering from mental illnesses and it is still unclear how they ended up in Gaza to begin with.
Ehud Yaari of channel 2 news reported that the negotiations in Cairo were led by Major General Khaled Fawzy, director of the Egyptian Intelligence Directorate (EGID).
Yaari also stated that the deal is only one element in a much larger process the Egyptians are working on, the reconciliation between the PLO and Hamas.
During the Thursday meeting Sinwar supposedly said that Hamas will not disarm due to this process, instead it will merge with other Palestinian groups to create a unified Palestinian army.
Unnamed Israeli political sources were quoted in a report by Haaretz as saying that this is nothing but a “cynical attempt” at manipulation by Hamas.
During the Gilad Shalit prison swap of 2011 1,027 Palestinian prisoners were released to ensure the release of the Israeli-French former IDF soldier. Shalit was captured in 2006 and released in 2011, that deal also involved Egyptian intelligence and he was taken from Gaza to Cairo before being returned to Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
Paramedics treat more than 1,500 Israelis over Yom Kippur
Paramedics from the Magen David Adom ambulance service treated over 1,500 Israelis over Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement and the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, which began Friday at sundown and ended Saturday evening.
Like every year, secular Israelis took advantage of the deserted roads and highways, filling the streets in droves over the holiday, which is marked by a 25-hour fast and intense prayer by religious Jews. But, like every year, injuries were not far behind, with MDA treating 1,659 people, it said in a statement, among them 265 injured while biking, skateboarding and rollerblading.
Another 228 people were treated for dehydration and fainting spells due to the fast, which includes a ban on drinking water; 21 required resuscitation, according to a statement released by the service.
MDA said paramedics were called to treat 134 women in labor and helped seven women deliver at their homes or in ambulances.
For paramedics, Yom Kippur is one of the busiest days of the year with hundreds of extra medics, paramedics, ambulances and volunteers deployed across the country.
On Friday afternoon, prior to the start of Yom Kippur, a 75-year-old man drowned while swimming at a beach in the central city of Netanya. Paramedics tried to revive the man but were forced to pronounce him dead.
With the end of the fast on Saturday night, public transportation, as well as radio and television broadcasts, again resumed.
The West Bank and Gaza Strip, which were closed off by the Israel Defense Forces beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, were set to be reopened at midnight Saturday, “depending on a situational assessment,” the army said.
The closure is a routine procedure during Israeli and Jewish holidays. However, in a less common move, the military also announced that Palestinian workers would be barred from entering Jewish settlements in the West Bank — a measure that is not normally taken during closures. The army said special permission may be granted in some cases.
This additional restriction is likely tied to a terror attack on Tuesday morning, in which a Palestinian gunman hid among a group of laborers waiting to enter the Har Adar settlement, outside Jerusalem. When he was called to stop, the terrorist opened fire with a handgun, killing three security officers and wounding a fourth.
In addition, the Jewish high holiday season, which began last week with Rosh Hashanah, is generally seen by defense officials as a time of increased tension in the region, when the risk of terror attacks is higher. (the Times of Israel)
Attacking Israelis seen as way out for troubled Palestinians
For years, Palestinian laborer Nimr Mahmoud Ahmed Jamal would make the short daily commute from his West Bank village of Beit Surik to the nearby community of Har Adar, where he was known as a conscientious worker who earned the trust of local residents, some of whom he even befriended and invited to his wedding.
Then on Tuesday, he pulled out a gun at the back entrance to Har Adar, killed three security men and seriously wounded another before he was shot dead himself.
While Israeli and Palestinian officials traded blame for the shooting, the motive appears to be more pedestrian: Jamal was despondent over his broken marriage and apparently on a suicide mission.
Israeli and Palestinian experts say there have been dozens of similar cases throughout a two-year spate of violence in which suicidal Palestinians plagued by emotional and psychological issues carried out deadly attacks that retroactively were cloaked in nationalism.
Out of some 400 Palestinian attacks tracked by Israel since September 2015, about 18% of assailants were driven by personal issues, according to Israel’s Shin Bet security agency. Roughly two-thirds of the cases were ideologically motivated, and 15% were driven by unknown factors, the agency said.
A Shin Bet official said despondent attackers have included the mentally ill, victims of domestic violence, people with economic hardships and women who had “dishonored their family” with sexual indiscretions.
Turning a personal grievance into a nationalist attack carries several advantages. While suicide is frowned upon in Palestinian society, attacks on Israelis, especially settlers or security forces, enjoy widespread support, and anyone killed in a clash with Israelis is seen as a “martyr.” Their families are eligible for help from the “martyrs’ fund,” which provides stipends to relatives of people killed or imprisoned by Israel. The Israelis have long claimed this provides an incentive for Palestinian violence.
In the case of Jamal, a Shin Bet investigation found that the 37-year-old was a troubled man with a history of domestic violence. His wife had recently fled to Jordan to escape his abuse, leaving him behind with their four children. In a Facebook post, Jamal called himself a bad husband and asked for his wife’s forgiveness.
His attack shocked the community of Har Adar, where he was a welcome visitor in many homes. The upscale settlement boasts of good relations with neighboring Palestinian villages like Beit Surik, Jamal’s hometown.
“This is a single attacker, one guy who is a psycho, and we don’t want to associate him with all the other Palestinian workers who have been coming here peacefully for 30 years,” said Chen Filipovitz, the head of Har Adar’s local council. “He had problems and he brought his problems to us.”
Unlike previous rounds of fighting that were organized primarily by established militant groups, the current round has been characterized by “lone wolf” assailants. Israel accuses Palestinian leaders of inciting the violence, while Palestinians say it’s the result of the frustration of living under occupation.
Critics say Israel has crippled the Palestinian economy with restrictions on trade, movement and development. With Palestinian unemployment high, tens of thousands of Palestinians work in Israel and settlements like Har Adar.
“People have no alternative to working in Israel and [in] settlements. We are under occupation and have no real economy,” said Ahmed Jamal, the mayor of Beit Surik.
Still, in a book coming out this week, Palestinian lawmaker Khalida Jarrar said she conducted an informal study in Israeli prisons in which she found that of the 93 women jailed, 46 were there as a result of “social oppression.”
Jarrar details the accounts of 10 who turned to violence because they were forced to marry against their will. Others described a desire to escape sexual harassment, embarrassing divorces, and abusive parents.
One 16-year-old girl told Jarrar that her father tormented her mother and made their life miserable. “I couldn’t stand it, so I took a knife and went to the checkpoint,” she was quoted as saying.
Jarrar, who spent over a year in prison after being convicted of incitement, denies the allegations and says Israel jailed her to silence her. In her book, the long-time advocate of women’s and workers’ rights also described difficult conditions for Palestinians in Israeli prisons.
Israel has enacted a policy of demolishing the houses of terrorists’ families, claiming it is a deterrent. The military said Wednesday it was already preparing to raze Jamal’s home, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revoked the work permits of his relatives.
Hawkish politicians have advocated even tougher collective measures, such as banning Palestinian entrance into Israel completely, punishing the Palestinian Authority and launching a massive settlement drive.
But none of that would do much against those already in Israel with permits, or Palestinian residents of east Jerusalem, who have residency rights and freedom of movement in Israel.
in October 2015, Alaa Abu Jamal, a Jerusalem technician for Israel’s phone company, rammed his company car into a crowd, killing one Israeli and wounding another without an apparent motive. A month later, Raed Masalma, an employee of a Tel Aviv restaurant, stabbed two people there.
In the Palestinian society, where psychological issues are considered taboo, many were reticent to discuss the phenomenon because they said it undermined their national cause. In Jamal’s village of Beit Surik, most denied he was troubled.
The Palestinian Prisoners Affairs Ministry refused to discuss the issue for the same reason. However, a lawyer who works closely with many inmates agreed to do so anonymously so as not to violate the confidence of clients.
“Many assailants, particularly women, have carried out attacks to escape social problems,” the lawyer said. “When you attack an Israeli you are a national hero.” (Israel Hayom)
Border Police, IDF seize illegal sniper rifles in West Bank village
Border Police and IDF units raided an illegal weapons factory in the West Bank Palestinian village of Bani Naim overnight Sunday, arresting an alleged arms dealer and seizing sniper rifles featuring advanced scopes and night vision.
According to police, the operation was initiated after intelligence was gathered that arms were being stored and sold at the site.
“A number of weapons equipped with telescopic lenses and night vision were found and confiscated at the scene, and one suspect was arrested and is being questioned,” said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.
“The sniper rifles are being examined to determine where they came from, and an investigation into why they were being stored in that area, and if they are connected in any way to terrorist activity, has been opened,” he added.
Police and IDF forces routinely investigate illegal arms manufacturing and sales in the West Bank, where the weapons frequently end up in the hands of terrorists who carry out attacks in Jerusalem and nearby Jewish settlements.
“Operations are continuing across Judea and Samaria in order to find terrorist cells and prevent weapons from being used in any terrorist activity,” said Rosenfeld.
Bani Naim made national headlines in July of 2016 when the two brothers of the terrorist who stabbed 13-yearold Hallel Yaffa Ariel to death while she slept in her Kiryat Arba home were arrested in the Arab village for allegedly serving as accomplices. (Jerusalem Post)
Hundreds of anti-Semites march in Sweden on Yom Kippur; 50 arrested
Police said at least 50 people were detained Saturday during a right-wing demonstration in Sweden’s second-largest city that left one police officer and several others injured.
The rally by the Nordic Resistance Movement in Gothenburg, 400 kilometers (248 miles) southwest of Stockholm, featured an estimated 600 people marching in formation in all-black outfits. Some wore helmets and held shields, while others hoisted the movement’s green-and-white flags.
Police had posted flyers before the event warning people not to act in a way reminiscent of German Nazis demonstrations in the 1930s and 1940s.
NMR, which promotes an openly anti-Semitic doctrine, originally sought to pass near a downtown synagogue during the march, which coincided with Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest day of the year. But Swedish courts intervened and shortened the route to less than one kilometer (0.6 mile.) The rally’s ending time also was shortened to avoid clashing with a nearby soccer game.
Counter-demonstrators threw fireworks and attempted several times to break police lines, allegedly to confront NMR members, who also tried to get past riot police. Several were detained on suspicion of rioting, police said.
“Stones, bottles and sticks were also thrown at us,” police spokesman Hans Lippens said.
Police offered to shuttle NMR members away in buses after they were circled by riot police on a Gothenburg square, preventing them from completing their march. Police said the move was meant to keep both sides apart.
The NMR later demanded that its leader who had been detained, Simon Lindberg, be released before they would leave the square.
Counter-demonstrators threw rocks at police outside the Liseberg amusement park, which reportedly shut down its main entrance.
Some 20 people, mostly Danes and Germans, were stopped as they arrived in Sweden to take part in the demonstration.
“As a democracy, we should do much more to oppose Nazism and extremism,” Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven told reporters Friday at an EU summit in Tallinn.
Gothenburg was scarred by violent demonstrations in 2001 on the sidelines of a European Union summit.
Members of the Jewish community, which typically is under tight security, said ahead of the march that they were worried about harassment and physical threats from the marchers, said Allan Stutzinsky, chairman of the Gothenburg Jewish community.
People affiliated with the Nordic Resistance Movement were responsible for anti-Semitic threats that led to the shuttering in April of the Jewish community center in Umea, a city in northeastern Sweden, according to Stutzinsky.
A community center is part of the synagogue complex in Gothenburg.
“The threat against us is always large, and it becomes even larger when they are marching,” Stutzinsky told JTA, adding that left-wing counter protesters may also be a threat to Jews.
Swedish Jews face anti-Semitism both from the nationalist far right as well as the far left, whose strong criticism of Israel sometimes veers into anti-Semitism.
Stutzinsky noted that Holocaust survivors and their descendants are members of the Gothenburg Jewish community.
“Almost all of our members have some sort of connection to the Holocaust,” he said. “It is obvious that it is upsetting for them to see, and maybe hear, Nazis protest close to the synagogue, when everyone is there at the Yom Kippur service,” he added, speaking before the route of the march was moved away from the synagogue.
The community is not opposed to the group’s right to march, he said, but to the event’s location and timing.
Stutzinsky said the planned march did not represent an isolated incident.
“One would have thought that World War II was an effective vaccination against anti-Semitism. But it didn’t last that long, now it’s back again,” he said.
“We have anti-Semitism here again like in the 1930s. We thought Europe had learned its lesson, but that’s apparently not the case.” (the Times of Israel/JTA)
Netanyahu apologizes for absence at Yom Kippur memorial
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday evening apologized to bereaved families for the absence of Cabinet members at the official memorial ceremony for people who lost their lives during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
“I apologize that there was no representation of the government at the memorial ceremony for those who died in the Yom Kippur War,” Netanyahu said. “This is a sad mistake and I apologize to the bereaved families.”
The Prime Minister, a bereaved brother himself, instructed the government secretariat to ensure that the Cabinet is represented in future ceremonies in memory of the victims of Israel’s wars. “There is no greater duty than this for our loved ones who fell so that we will live in our country,” he added.
The state ceremony commemorating the fallen of the Yom Kippur War, marking the 44th anniversary of the war, took place earlier on Sunday on Mount Herzl without the presence of a government representative.
Zionist Union chairman Avi Gabbay criticized the government and wrote on Facebook that “a government that does not respect the past, its present is also poor, and is destined to end its way.”
“A disgrace, there is no other word to describe what happened today on Mount Herzl at the ceremony to commemorate the 2,222 soldiers,” Gabbay charged. “Every one of them has parents, brothers, sisters, comrades in arms, some of whom were there today, carrying a heavy sack of pain on their backs from that terrible war – and no minister thinks it is important enough to come and look them in the eye.” (Arutz Sheva)
Israeli Identity: What Has Changed This Year?
By Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen BESA Center (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies)
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: This year, when Israeli Jews assemble for high holiday prayers, as they hear the voice of the shofar and the hush of “Unetanneh Tokef,” they will be haunted by an issue that has intensified over the past year: the struggle over Israeli identity.
External threats to our existence as Israelis create an awareness of a common fate. It is tempting to focus on such threats, because they provide a comfort zone in which security-political experts can ask the familiar question: how will we continue to defend our existence over the coming year? By concentrating on this question, we have found a way to repress basic questions about Israeli identity.
Beyond anxiety over our common fate as residents of this country stands a key question: do we still have anything in common? This debate, which has gathered steam over the past year, invites us to reconsider who we are and what we expect from our joint existence as a nation.
This past year, the Israeli identity crisis was expressed in new ways in the public discourse. President Reuven Rivlin described it in terms of the four tribes of the state of Israel: the religious, the secular, the ultra-Orthodox, and the Arabs. Amnon Rubinstein addressed the issue in his book The Tribes of the State of Israel: Together and Separately – Liberalism and Multiculturalism in Israel. Haaretz has devoted many articles to the topic.
Notwithstanding the president’s view, a focus on the deep structure of Israeli society, especially among the Jews, reveals an important common denominator, one that is more and more evident in the synagogues. Between Mizrahi and Ashkenazi Jews there are differences of formulation, not of essence. Hence a new trend is apparent in large synagogues in Tel Aviv: the conducting of frequent integrated prayer quorums and the use of blended versions of prayers.
Not only is there a new trend of integration of communities, but religious and secular Israelis are intermingling. Israeli sociologists largely concur with one another that “secular Jews are the majority.” They tend to identify the large numbers who identify as traditional as a secular subdivision – “secular lite.” As sociologist Oz Almog put it, “The majority of Israeli society is secular and traditional.”
Based on the same data, however, one can propose a different perspective and a contrasting conclusion. If we merely change the point of departure for the distinction between secular and religious – if we agree that not everyone who drives on Shabbat is necessarily secular, as in the case of Shalom Asayag in the fascinating TV series The 1980s – we can assert that the majority of Israeli Jewish society is religious and traditional. Those of a pronounced secular bent are in the minority.
It is worth observing Shabbat evening prayers in hotel synagogues in Israel. There are always many Israelis present who have come to pray with genuine enthusiasm. After dinner, most of them – without qualms and with the same enthusiasm – will head out for “secular” recreation at a discotheque. The halachic religious person will ask them: If you came to pray, why did you then go dancing? The “halachic” secular person will ask: If you came to the discotheque, then you’re like me – so what were you doing earlier at the synagogue? This is a dichotomous approach to the religious-secular divide that enables a tacit alliance between the two rigid extremes, as they try to ignore the widespread trend that does not obey the strict rules of classification.
The question of who is the majority and who the minority is not just a matter of sociological research. It is fundamental to the struggle over the nature of the public space. The secular demand for a public space with a secular character is based on the claim that they are expressing the majority opinion. Thus the minority behaves like the majority, while the majority is trapped in the false impression that it is a minority.
All the disputes that have escalated, from the nature of the Israeli Shabbat to the curricula in the schools, center on one core issue: how to shape the public space in a Jewish state of Israel. That is the nub of the controversy: not who is the majority and what is common to their identity, but what is the desirable nature of the public space.
That is the true context of the new struggle over the contents of Jewish studies in state schools. Here it needs to be clarified whether a state school in Israel is necessarily secular or, first and foremost, an Israeli Jewish school. The choice by parents to enroll their children in a state school does not mean they want them to get a totally secular education. It can be argued that most parents, especially those in the traditional majority, are pleased with the education minister’s push to integrate Jewish heritage into the curriculum.
While serving as commander of the National Security College, I visited Moscow with my students. On Shabbat evening we were hosted at the Great Synagogue. For some of the students, who were senior officers in the defense establishment, this was an unfamiliar experience. When, during the welcoming of the Shabbat, the congregants came to the song “Lecha Dodi,” an outstanding officer asked me: “Where do you know that song from?” Is this what we aspire to in the Israeli educational system?
What has changed, and where are we headed?
At the end of his service in the Jewish Brigade in 1919, Berl Katznelson, one of the spiritual leaders of the Labor movement, came to Jerusalem and wrote about his visit. “The most important day for me in Jerusalem was the day I went to the Temple Mount,” he wrote. “The day that helps me understand everything connected to volunteering, and makes my heart throb and overflow.” In a quite different vein, the author Meir Shalev recently said about the passion for a bond with the historical past: “All the politics of the Middle East is based on fake history.” Today, Katznelson’s elation would probably be seen as a case of religionization. What, then, has changed?
Katznelson was not just fondly embracing a memory of the past. He wanted to know what it meant in the present, and how it could orient our path towards the future. In my assessment, Israel’s Jewish majority of today identifies with Katznelson’s Temple Mount experience.
Between a unified and a multicultural Jewish nation
The tension between forging a unified nation and preserving the riches of multicultural variety should be seen as a fortunate advantage. This perpetual tension, which the Jewish people has experienced since it came into existence, is also its uniqueness. Rabbi Yehuda Leon Ashkenazi, known as Rabbi Manitou, expressed it well:
The Jews maintain their unique identity and also amass the identities of each place and adopt them. They are at the same time people of the path of Abraham and people of the path of France, Lithuania, and Morocco. When they assemble in Jerusalem, they unite all of the human identities, and reunite all of humanity in the path of Abraham”.
So it should be.
Why an Israeli athlete’s decision not to play on Yom Kippur matters
Jerusalem Post Editorial
Conjuring up memories of Sandy Koufax, our top-ranked male tennis player, Dudi Sela, quit the quarterfinals of a Chinese tournament mid-match Friday out of deference to the holiness of Yom Kippur.
Sela’s request to play the first match of the day on the main court so that he would have time to finish before sunset was turned down by the organizers of the contest. Instead, he was scheduled to play the second match of the day, which meant that he would almost certainly not finish in time.
Sela was tied after two sets against Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov and Sela was trailing 1-0 in the third set when he abruptly approached the umpire’s chair and told him that he needed to retire
Sela’s personal sacrifice was huge. It is believed that he forfeited $34,000 in prize money and 90 ranking points. His last appearance in an Association of Tennis Professionals tour level final was in Atlanta three years ago, according to Vavel, an international sports site.
Like Koufax’s decision on October 6, 1965, to sit out the first game of the World Series against the Minnesota Twins, Sela’s retirement on Yom Kippur eve made a statement – there are some things that stand above sports, whether it be team sports like baseball or single-player sports like tennis.
The athlete’s complete dedication to winning is sometimes subordinated to greater ideals. Loyalty to people, to God, sometimes takes precedence.
And this is a powerful message. Life is not all about self-realization and personal advancement. True meaning often comes from selfless acts that affirm our deeper affiliation and belonging.
Like Koufax, Sela is personally not a very religious person, according to his brother Ofer. He does not normally fast on Yom Kippur.
“He did it only because he respects Yom Kippur and the country that he represents,” noted Ofer.
Refraining from playing on Yom Kippur for someone who is not adherent is in many ways more significant because it reflects a conscious decision.
It was a greater sacrifice because Sela did not take it for granted that he would not play. Sela could have rationalized playing on Yom Kippur. He could have told himself that a good showing in the tournament would put Israel’s name on the map. Similarly, Koufax could have cited his need to be a “team player” and not let his teammates down.
Sela could have subsumed his Jewish identity under his tennis persona. He could have stretched his secular Israeli identity to include participation in international sports contests on Yom Kippur.
Similarly, Koufax could have taken on an American identity that canceled out or subordinated his unique Jewish identity. That these men chose not to is a testament to deeper, more authentic currents of self-definition that provide meaning.
Of course, the comparison between Sela and Koufax cannot be taken too far. There were special circumstances surrounding Koufax’s demonstrative act.
He happened to be the best pitcher in baseball, which at the time was still the most popular sport in America. With just three TV networks, the World Series commanded the attention of most of America.
And Koufax honored Yom Kippur two decades after the liberation of the concentration camps, when the memory of the Shoah was just beginning to be reckoned with.
In contrast, Sela, who is Israel’s best tennis player, is ranked 77th in the world. His decision to stop playing mid-match was done during a quarter-final game in Shenzhen, China, making it one of many different sporting events that vie for the world public’s attention.
Still, both men demonstrated by example what is important in life and what is less so. Will Israeli boys and girls start inviting Sela to their bar and bat mitzva ceremonies? It is unlikely. But like Koufax, Sela is a source of pride for the Jewish people. Even in Shenzhen, China, at great personal expense, a Jew should remember his roots.