Israel Resource Review 27th September, 2006


Arrest of Man for Blowing the Shofar During Prayer in the Old City in Jerusalem
David Bedein

We ave been working on this story for the past 48 hours.

The police spokespeople are saying that the shofar blower was arrested AFTER the prayers, claiming that he purposely blew the shofar in order to create a public disturbance near an Arab neighborhood.

However, our news agency has verified that the shofar blower was in the midst of a congregation in prayer at the Kotel HaKatan when he was told to stop blowing the shofar and was arrested and dragged out during the Amidah.

We have asked Shmuel Ben Ruby, spokesman of the Jerusalem police department, whether the police will apologize for their action.

We await a response.

Article which appeared by Hillel Fendel on Israel National News on September 25th:

Shades of the 1920's: A Jewish man was hauled off to the Old City police station in the middle of prayer for sounding the shofar during Rosh HaShanah services at the area known as the Kotel HaKatan.

The incident occurred around 7:30 in the morning, at the northern-most section of the accessible Western Wall - a little-known area called the Kotel HaKatan, the Small Wall. It is considered to have extra sanctity, as it stands opposite the presumed spot of the Holy of Holies of the Beit HaMikdash.

Yesterday morning (Sunday), a group of some 10 men and two women gathered at the site, as they have done for several years on Rosh HaShanah, for early-morning prayers. The holiday prayers feature the blowing of the shofar (ram's horn) at several different times. Towards the end of the first shofar sounding, a Border Guard policeman came in, made an unclear motion with his hand as if to ask what was going on, and then left. He said nothing.

Shortly afterwards, Eliyahu K., the 20-year-old prayer leader, blew the shofar a second time, in the midst of his silent prayer (in accordance with Sephardic custom). Policemen came in once again and began trying to pull him away. However, Eliyahu was in the midst of reciting the Amidah - a long passage during which one must stand in one place without moving - and he therefore did not move.

The policemen informed their supervisors by radio that he was praying and refused to move, and reinforcements were soon sent - no fewer than 20 policemen, according to several witnesses.

They then started dragging him out, and when they stopped for a moment, he got up and resumed his prayers. They then began to drag him away again, and shortly afterwards again stopped for a moment - and again he resumed his prayers. At this point, the policemen allowed him to complete his prayers.

In the meanwhile, the other members of the prayer group came out and tried to prevent the policemen from taking Eliyahu away. At this point, the policemen started swinging their clubs violently; no one was hospitalized, but "it was a big brawl," in the words of one witness, with many people being dragged around and beaten while wearing their prayer-shawls and Sabbath suits.

Meanwhile, Eliyahu was taken to the small police station at the Western l plaza, and several of his friends followed him there. They wanted to go up the steps into the police station, and demanded that at least the shofar be returned, but the police again came down with their clubs.

They finally took Eliyahu by foot, accompanied by his fianc?e, all the way around the Old City, past Mt. Zion and through Jaffa Gate, to the Kishle police station inside Jaffa Gate. At this point, there was no longer any violence, and Eliyahu was released around 11:30 - after being charged with attacking a policeman, disturbing a policeman in the line of duty, and disturbing the public order.

One witness related, "It's not only that they stopped him from blowing the shofar, but rather the fact that the police beat us up very harshly. I was on my way to the Wall for prayers when I saw 5-7 policemen going with Eliyahu and protecting him very closely. I walked after them, and then a few of his friends came, and then the violence started. We asked the policemen to return the shofar, and they started kicking us and punching us."

The worshipers said that the police had apparently been called by an Arab woman who said the sound of the ram's horn disturbed her children.

A Jewish resident of the Old City told Arutz-7, "How ironic. The loud Arab weddings and nightly prayers by the muazzin [over a powerful loudspeaker]at 4:30 a.m. disturb our sleep every night." Similar complaints are heard from Jews living near Arab villages in Judea and Samaria.

A member of the Jerusalem Police spokesman's office, contacted by Arutz-7 for a statement on the matter and asked whether this signified a new policy towards shofar-blowing at the Wall, said, "When we have an answer for you, we will get back to you."

The head of the local council of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, Shmuel Yitzchaki, could not be reached for comment by the time of this report.

The rabbi of the Western Wall, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, told Arutz- "This is a very grave incident, and I have asked the local police commander, Yossi Priente, to check into it - both the violence and the prevention of the shofar blowing. It reminds us of the days of the British Mandate when Jews [had to make] super-human efforts to blow the shofar at the Western Wall."

He was referring to the 1ate 1920's, when the British, in an attempt to appease the Arabs, and following violence at the Wall, forbade shofar-blowing at the Wall. In one famous incident in 1929, a man named Moshe Segal blew the shofar at the conclusion of Yom Kippur - and was immediately arrested by the British. Though he had fasted for the previous 25 hours, the British detained him without food until midnight, when he was released. It was later reported that the release came about when then-Chief Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook informed the commander that he himself would not eat until Segal was released.

Nearly 40 years later, following the first Yom Kippur service at the Wall under Israeli sovereignty, shortly after the Six Day War, the shofar was again sounded - by Moshe Segal.

The Jerusalem police department can be faxed at (972-2) 539-1190.

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UNRWA's Tunnel Vision
Arlene Kushner

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has followed a consistent pattern over the course of more than two months now. They register complaints to the media with regard to IDF humanitarian "abuses" in Gaza. These "abuses," according to Commissioner-General Karen AbuZayd, include the siege of Gaza, the targeted killings of "suspected militants" and Israeli incursions into densely populated neighborhoods, causing terror among the civilian population. All of this "has badly shaken the society."

An on-going UNRWA complaint has been the IDF practice of closing crossings into Gaza, which inhibits the agency's ability to move in goods and supplies. This is particularly the case with the Karni Crossing. IDF soldiers have been killed in attacks at this site in the past, and Israel finds it necessary to close this crossing when there is warning of an imminent attack a not infrequent occurrence. UNRWA declines to utilize alternate crossing sites made available by the IDF, claiming that this would require a re-packaging of supplies palletizing that is prohibitively expensive. The choice thus made by UNRWA in these instances is to allow potential recipients of its goods to go without, even in instances when the possibility to get at least some supplies in does exist.

Says AbuZayd, once access to Gaza is more readily achieved, UNRWA is "ready with a major development program to rehabilitate the overcrowded and dilapidated refugee camps, and reconstruct houses and school buildings . . . " To that end, major fundraising efforts are underway. It is difficult not to speculate on the relationship between a population that "does without" and UNRWA's anticipated success in fundraising.

The major news here, however, is the degree to which UNRWA has moved beyond its mandate. UNRWA is, clearly and unequivocally, defined as a humanitarian social service agency. According to GA Resolution 302, of December 1949, UNRWA was founded to carry out "relief and works programs" on a temporary basis. As "temporary" morphed into "permanent" with its mandate repeatedly renewed, UNRWA developed a major bureaucracy in order to provide the Palestinian refugees (as defined by UNRWA) with humanitarian services. The agency, on its very own website, says that it is "a relief and human development agency, providing education, healthcare, social services and emergency aid." Nowhere is there a suggestion that UNRWA has jurisdiction in the political sphere.

This has hardly stopped UNRWA, however. At a press conference on September 7, AbuZayd openly criticized the UN directive to all staff not to have any contact with Hamas: "We should engage with them and encourage them, discuss with them. This is a movement that has been more or less underground and had little contact with the outside world. It needs to hear from other people and we are discouraged from doing that." The last thing that the UN which was at least nominally attempting to establish a policy with regard to the isolation of Hamas needed was second guessing from a constituent agency.

Apparently on a roll, AbuZayd went on to make a broadly publicized suggestion that an international presence be introduced into Gaza, although she was vague as to the nature of such a presence ("civilian, military, whatever"). Her vision has something to do with observers who would somehow make certain that crossings into Gaza were kept open more of the time. At first blush, one is hard-pressed to know whether she thought that this international presence would discourage Israel from closing the crossings even if there were terrorists threats, or would discourage terrorists from making such threats. In due course, however, it all becomes quite clear.

To emphasize what she has in mind, she pointed out the "success" of the placement of European Union observers at the Rafah Crossing between Gaza and Egypt last year as part of a US-brokered deal between Israel and the PA. "It allowed people to move. It was very exciting . . . " The EU observers, who were in place until the IDF shut down Rafah with the violence this summer, were, quite literally, observers. They observed as wanted terrorists moved unhindered into Gaza. Undoubtedly the terrorists were excited to be able to do so.

In response to a question at the press conference, AbuZayd elaborated still further: There would be no need, she explained, for the tunnels, if people were permitted to move back and forth freely.

"The tunnels" to which the UNRWA Commissioner-General was alluding are furtively dug between Egypt and Gaza in order to facilitate the smuggling of weapons into Gaza, intended, of course, for use against Israel. Or, between Gaza and Israel, allowing for terrorists and their weapons to enter Israel in an effort to launch terrorist attacks. These latter tunnels, it should be noted, are frequently directed at or near the site of crossings.

Thus, at last, does AbuZayd make her vision clear: Israeli security be damned; Israeli deaths are without import. Open those crossings, come what may, so that UNRWA, "a social service agency," can move its supplies in with ease and enlarge its operation. With this clarification, she has provided a huge rationale for reigning in or shutting down her agency, which has stepped perilously beyond its original humanitarian mandate.

This article was published in | September 26, 2006

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