Saturday, July 05, 2008
I recently discovered another branch of our family, consisting of over 200 relatives, in the USA. The last time that the two branches had been in contact was four generations ago, in 1914. Why is this important?
There are over 75 Jewish Genealogical Societies world-wide: 50 in the U.S. and Canada, plus in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Israel, Netherlands, Russia, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland and Venezuela. They are active societies, holding conferences and workshops, meeting regularly, and publishing newsletters. They have established web sites and searchable web indexes of old records, to facilitate the identification and location of relevant documents, many of them handwritten. Some of these web sites also facilitate contact between researchers who, unknown to each other, may be researching similar family names in a geographic region.
Why do people spend time and effort tracing their roots, finding information about their ancestors, and piecing together their family narrative over many generations?
What we each do in our lives is based on what our parents did before us, and for us; and it sets the scene for how our children will behave after us. We each contribute to our families’ and our people’s history and destiny.
In each generation, when they rise up against us, our enemies try to disconnect us from this shared history. The Assyrians scattered ten tribes, which are now lost to Klal Yisrael forever. Hitler tore a gaping hole in the heart of our people: burning books and murdering millions.
We, the generation after Hitler, are the remnants, the scattered fragments of generations before us. But even when a book is burnt by a tyrant, the wisdom of the book cannot be destroyed. Even in the gas chambers and crematoria, the neshamot of the martyrs endure. If we don’t abandon them, the wisdom of our forefathers will build a better world and their legacies will flourish. We, the remnants, remain connected to our shared destiny, at least spiritually.
And so I encourage my children to cherish their identity and their proud heritage.
I also rake over the ashes of the Shoah seeking to connect to previous generations and to honour the memories of my late father Israel (“Srulec”) Lieblich (Yisrael ben Zvy) and my late Uncle Joe Liblich (Josef ben Zvy), who, as far as we knew, had been the only living remnants of our paternal line.
I was researching our family history, when I crossed paths with another researcher, Joe from Philadelphia, on the same web site (which automatically informed each of us that the other was searching for the same surname in the same area.)
Joe is the grandson of one of six siblings who came to Philadelphia from Galicia, at the turn of the century. Their father (Joe’s great grandfather), Markus (Mordechai) Bratspis, joined them in 1914, aged 61. The passenger manifest establishes that he was a “trader” who left a son “Bratshpis Is.” in Stobernia, Galicia. Bank records also show that immediately after arriving in the USA, Markus bought a ticket for a “Chaie Bratspis”, then 18 years old, to be delivered to “Isak Bratspis” in Stobierna.
On the other hand, my father told me that his mother’s name was Chaya Bratshpis. (Both my sister and first cousin are named after her.) Her father was Yitzchak, and they were from Stobierna. My Uncle Joe was born in 1923, my father in 1924 and they had a third, younger brother Moniek (Mordechai ben Zvy), born probably in 1925-6. (Dad and Uncle Joe survived the Shoah. Their parents Zvy and Chaya, and brother Mordechai, were lost.)
The documents, and other anecdotal clues, prove that the seventh child, “Isak”, who Markus left behind in Stobierna, to look after their horse trading business, was my great grandfather Yitzchak (the father of Chaya, my grandmother). Any plans for her to travel to USA was probably prevented by the outbreak of the First World War, then by Chaya’s marriage to my grandfather Zvy. Furthermore, as Markus died in 1925, it seems likely that Chaya named her third son, who was born shortly afterwards, “Mordechai” in honour of her grandfather in Philadelphia.
My own son Samuel Mordechai is named after my uncle Mordechai, and so therefore, in turn, after the patriarch of the extended family in Philadelphia, Markus (Mordechai) Bratshpis.
And thus, the spiritual connection, which was always there, has been tangibly re-created. As one friend said, it’s like the resurrection of the dead. What was just ethereal - a dream - has been made into flesh and blood.
In the coming weeks, my son Judah hopes to visit this new-found branch of our family. When he does, please G-d, he will bridge five generations of separation.
The following are the only known pre-Shoah photos of relatives of Joe and Srulec Lieblich, who survived the Shoah and lived in Perth.
Sheva Weintraub (nee Bratshpis) c1940. Sheva is sister of Chaya Bratshpis, mother of Joe and Srulec Lieblich. Sheva and Chaya’s grandfather Markus Bratshpis, followed six of his children to Philadelphia in 1914, leaving his seventh child, and their father, Isak, in Galicia to look after the family’s horse trading business.
Summer Picnic in Galicia c1930. From L to R: (unknown), Shmuel, Leah*, (unknown), (redhead- name not recalled), Ephraim*, Tsluva*, Chaim Weintraub (brother of Hirsch, who married Sheva Bratshpis - Chaim is the only person in these photos known to have survived the Shoah.), "Lum-e (lame) Zaylig", Getzel*, Shloime(?)*
[*cousins of Joe and Srulec Lieblich, who survived the Shoah and lived in Perth]
IN November 2005, ambassadors representing 25 European countries with missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah submitted a joint report warning that urgent intervention was needed to salvage hopes of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Specifically, the report noted, the ongoing expansion of Jewish settlements in and around East Jerusalem and the construction of a "separation barrier" to physically separate "greater Jerusalem" from the rest of the West Bank would "complete the isolation of East Jerusalem, the political, commercial and infrastructural centre of Palestinian life".
...This March a 26-year-old Palestinian man with no known affiliation with any Palestinian organisation walked into the Mercaz Harav, a Jewish religious school in Jerusalem, carrying a concealed AK47 assault rifle. After killing eight students and wounding 10 others, he was himself killed by one of the students.
Though the exact motives of the massacre are impossible to determine, the target seems to have been carefully chosen. The Mercaz Harav is the ideological centre of the Gush Emunim (Bloc of the Faithful) religious settler movement.
.... In March, Kevin Rudd tabled a motion in parliament that celebrated the 60th anniversary of Israel's establishment and reiterated his support for a two-state solution, yet Australia's silence on the expansion of Israeli settlements has been deafening.
In an interview for the Australia/Israel Review, the Prime Minister presented the most detailed exposition of his views on the Middle East to date. Without once mentioning Israeli settlements and the security barrier Israel is building through Palestinian land in defiance of the UN, he claimed that the failure of the Middle East peace process was attributable to Iran, which was "not only an existential threat towards Israel but also the broader Middle East, Europe and the world".
....As an aspirant to a seat on the UN Security Council and close US ally, Australia is well positioned to play an important middle-power role in the resolution of these issues. Its capacity to do so, however, will not be realised unless it develops a reputation as a sensitive honest broker that is prepared to intelligently engage with all parties to the conflict.
The following is a full first draft of a brief letter that I sent to the Australian in response:
Mssrs Heywood-Smith and Dally (“Rudd must …clamp down...” Weekend Australian 5-6 July) are no “friends of Palestine” if they continue to act as if hurting Israel, and dividing Australians, somehow helps Palestinians.
Instead of justifying terrorist attacks on religious schools and agitating for Australian-government anti-Israel positions, they should be directing their attention to overhauling the failed Arab leadership that has impoverished and tormented the objects of their “friendship”.
Palestinian Arab leaders persecuted their Jewish minority population from the 1920s, and launched a relentless campaign, against the interests of their own people, to obliterate the Jewish national revival.
Hajj Amin al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem and leader of the Palestinian national movement during the 1930s and 1940s, not only rejected partition of the British Mandate of Palestine, but collaborated with the Nazis' genocidal agenda.
Even after Transjordan (now Jordan) had been formed from 80% of the British Mandate of Palestine, he rejected the 1937 Peel Commission proposal to partition the remaining 20%.
In 1947, the UN partition would have created an even larger Arab state. But for the Arabs' violent attempt to abort the partition, there would have been no war and no dislocation in the first place.
At the Rhodes Armistice talks and Lausanne Conference in 1949, Israel offered to return captured land as part of a formal peace agreement. Arab rulers refused.
Had Yasir Arafat sought peace and reconciliation, instead of rejectionism and terrorism, a Palestinian state could have been established from the late 1960’s, most recently at Camp David in 2000.
From 1948 to 1967, Israel did not control the West Bank. The Palestinians could have demanded an independent state from the Jordanians but did not. They rejected the offer of Palestinian autonomy in the 1979 Egypt-Israel peace negotiations. They scuttled the Oslo process that began in 1993 leading toward the creation of a Palestinian state, by violating their commitments.
In 2000, Arafat also rejected the offer at Camp David to create a Palestinian state.
For sixty years since their self-inflicted, violent and catastrophic rejection of the UN partition, misguided, self-serving Arab leaders have kept the refugees of 1948 and their descendants in squalid camps, fed on hatred and false hope, and squandered repeated opportunities for statehood and economic progress. Hajj Amin and Arafat are just examples of the cynical and self-seeking leaders produced by the despotic Arab political system.
Yet here we are, six decades after the mufti condemned his people to statelessness by rejecting the UN partition, and the latest crop of Arab leaders (including the so-called “moderates”), continue the futile policies of vilifying and de-legitimising Israel and seeking its destruction either openly or covertly.
Similarly our Australian "Friends of Palestine" seek "justice" by vilifying Israel and agitating for its political isolation. Instead they should be clamouring for a new and fundamentally different Arab leadership, and abandoning their adversarial fuelling of the conflict.
Neither Israel, nor Australian friends of Israel are the enemies of the Palestinian people. Their own leaders are.
Friday, July 04, 2008
...Newspapers, television and the Internet do not merely disseminate information; they explain its significance, provide frames of reference, create and reinforce attitudes.
That's exactly what happened Wednesday when an Arab from the southeast Jerusalem neighborhood of Sur Baher killed three and injured dozens in a bulldozer rampage - one that, coincidentally, culminated under the windows of major news outlets headquartered on Jaffa Road.
Journalists sprang into action providing the "who, what, where, when and how" of the tragedy. Within minutes, consumers of news around the globe were in the loop. Even before all the dead had been buried, the injured hospitalized and the wreckage cleared from the streets, the media proceeded to provide "context."
WHY DID Husam Taysir Dwayat do it? The hasty and erroneous answer offered by an overwhelming number of news outlets amounted to: "It's the occupation, stupid."
That is the type of "context" one would expect from Al-Jazeera, which described the rampage as an "operation."
Yet even the otherwise fine coverage provided by The New York Times was marred, apparently by editors, who inserted a tendentious paragraph about... bulldozers: "Caterpillar equipment has a special resonance among Palestinians. Human rights activists have lobbied the company to stop selling its heavy vehicles to the Israeli military out of concern that they have been used to demolish Palestinian homes, uproot orchards and construct Jewish settlements in occupied land."
Reuters unhelpfully contrasted Israel's supposed oppression of Palestinians generally with its maltreatment of Jerusalem Arabs: "Unlike Palestinians in the blockaded Gaza Strip and in the occupied West Bank, those living in occupied east Jerusalem have free access to the Jewish west of the city and to Israel." The wire service added that it found no evidence that Dwayat was a "guerrilla."
As for the Associated Press, it was almost as if the world's leading content provider sought, under the guise of uncovering a motive for the rampage, to provide justification for it: Dwayat had been fined for building his house without a permit, and a demolition order was on file.
"In contrast to West Bank Palestinians," AP noted, "Arab residents of Jerusalem have full freedom to work and travel throughout Israel," begging the question of why Israelis restrict the movement of West Bankers.
Xinhua, the Chinese news agency, headlined its report: "Hamas refuses to laud Jerusalem rampage." That certainly helps frame, in the minds of millions of Chinese, Hamas's Gandhi-like ethos against killing innocent civilians.
London's The Daily Telegraph focused on the romantic angle. "'His heart [was] broken by a young Russian Jewish woman,' Dwayat's friend told the paper. 'She came here, she lived here in his parents' house with him, she stayed for a month… But then a radical Jewish group seized her one night and returned her to her family.'"
The Guardian Web site prominently connected its straightforward coverage with a Homepage link to a column by Jerusalem-based Seth Freedman entitled "The inevitable overreaction." "There can be no excuses. Nothing; not the occupation, nor the siege of Gaza… But just because there can be no excuses, does not for a minute mean there can be no explanation…40 years of cruel and unusual punishment of the Palestinians was likely to bear such murderous fruits. It's not because we're Jews; it's because of the relentless oppressive tactics employed by successive Israeli governments…"
Over at the London Times, Foreign Secretary David Miliband is quoted as urging Britons to keep the bigger picture in view: "Our first thought is for the victims and the relatives of the victims… Our second thought is obviously for the process of building a Middle East peace that's enduring."
IN FACT, the prospects for peace-building are immeasurably undermined by the moral relavatism encapsulated above. The media's smug, even disingenuous, contextualization of Palestinian violence in general, and Wednesday's carnage in particular, as attributable to the "occupation" completely demoralizes those Israelis who genuinely want to see a resolution of the conflict.
Any "root causes" appraisal of Arab brutality that ignores more than 60 years of Palestinian rejectionism, intransigence, self-defeating violence and denial of Jewish rights offers neither context nor candor.
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
In 1938 Austria joined the Third Reich. Millions cheered Hitler and in the referendum 99.75% said 'yes' to 'Greater Germany'.
But after World War II, many Austrians sought comfort in the idea of Austria as "the Nazis' first victim". Factions of Austrian society tried for a long time to advance the view that it was only annexation at the point of a bayonet(te).
But it's time to embrace history. It's time to remember the feel-good days of 1938. It's time to let our real feelings out! It's time to hug the Nazi, Austria! Finally!
Three Israelis are dead and 46 others were injured when an East Jerusalem Palestinian man purposely plowed his tractor into a crowd of pedestrians and overturned two busses in downtown Jerusalem.
According to France 24 TV, an organization called The Movement to Liberate the Galilee has taken responsibility for the attack. The same group claimed responsibility for the attack on the Mercaz Harav religious seminary in March in which eight students were murdered.
The driver was working with a company constructing Jerusalem’s light rail system. Many of the wounded were on the number 13 Egged bus that the tractor turned over. The terrorist was shot dead in order to force the tractor to a stop and prevent further casualties.
From JPost, 2/7/08:
....The attack, at the junction of Jaffa Road and Sarei Yisrael St., set off a panic in the area and left a large swath of damage in the heart of the capital. Traffic was halted, and hundreds of people fled through the streets in panic as medics treated the wounded.
A car was dragged several meters by the bulldozer before being crushed under the vehicle. The parents of a baby being treated in Sha'arei Tzedek Hospital have yet to be tracked down, and it is believed that the baby was thrown out of the car by one of his parents before the vehicle was crushed.
A policewoman was first to react, firing at the bulldozer and apparently hitting the terrorist. Another policeman then climbed onto the vehicle and was lightly wounded in a struggle with the attacker.
Finally, an off-duty soldier took a gun from an elite policeman at the scene and shot the terrorist dead. The soldier, Moshe Klessner, 18, is the brother-in-law of IDF officer David Shapira, who killed the terrorist in the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva attack on March 6. Klessner was assisted in neutralizing the attacker by Eli Mizrahi, a member of police's Yasam elite anti-terror unit.
Police said the incident was definitely a terror attack, but stressed that they had no specific warning. Three Palestinian terror groups claimed responsibility for the attack...
Police added that the terrorist, Jabr Duwait, a 30-year-old father of two from Tzur Bahar in southeast Jerusalem, was carrying an Israeli identity card. They said he had a criminal record and was employed by the construction company working on the Jerusalem light rail project. The man drove the bulldozer out of the construction site before perpetrating the attack.
..."I saw the bulldozer smash the car with its shovel. He smashed the guy sitting in the driver's seat," said Yaakov Ashkenazi, an 18-year-old seminary student.
Esther Valencia, a 52-year-old pedestrian said she barely escaped the carnage. "He almost hit me. Someone pushed me out of the way at the last moment. It was a miracle that I got out of there."
Sixteen-year-old Eyal Lang Ben-Hur was in a bus when the driver yelled out, "Get out of the vehicle! Everyone out!" People fled in a panic, he said, and the bus was hit an instant later....
...For more than a half-century, [Middle East] politics revolved around Arab nationalism. Individual states sought to have influence, leadership, or just to survive. The Arab-Israeli conflict was an important issue in this framework, though not the sole or even the most significant one.
...Today, the centerpiece is a struggle between two blocs, one well-organized, the other weak and facing internal conflict. The former is the Tehran-led alliance of the HISH (Hamas-Iran-Syria-Hizballah); the latter is just about everyone else, call it the coalition of the unwilling....
...while Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates don't want to be dominated by Iran or ruled by radical Islamists, they find it rather hard to work together or with their best potential allies.
The region now faces many overlapping problems:
- HISH's ambitions,
- Iranian nuclear drive,
- radical Islamism,
- terrorism, and
- the struggle for power in each country.
Oh yes, and there's the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, largely reduced from the Arab-Israeli conflict.
...There are powerful factors pushing Arab regimes and a portion of the populations toward indirect cooperation. Kuwaitis remember what Saddam Hussein did to them; Saudis fear Shia power; Iraqis are angry about foreign support for terrorism against them; Lebanese Christians, Druze, and Shia Muslims don't want to have Hizballah telling them what to do.
Yet on the Arab side there are also huge limitations to cooperation.
- Their adversaries are unrelenting. They will not make peace, moderate, or live up to any compromise deal they sign. These include not only the HISH but other Islamist elements which may be both revolutionary and anti-Iran, notably Muslim Brotherhoods and al-Qaeda.
- Working with the West and Israel could undermine the regimes at home.
- The Arab rulers simultaneously manipulate propaganda and believe their own statements.
- What is worst of all, however, is how the unrelenting are backed up by what we can call the inconvincible, that is a radicalized public opinion. There is no moderate silent majority. The rulers cannot go over the heads of a few extremists to appeal to a public preferring coexistence, peace, human rights, and stability. Even if the rulers helped create this radicalism of the masses, it isn't just a matter of easily reversible false concsioucness based on regime propaganda but is rooted in many other things as well.
In short, while the rulers have the advantage of guns and resources, the radical opposition has the asset of the regimes' incompetence, corruption, and a public opinion open to their arguments. To shake this combination will take many decades, at best.
But what about the West and Israel? They can also sell out the Arab side due to a strong temptation to deal with the radicals and not with the moderate--or perhaps I should say the less radical--forces.
By apologizing, conceding, refusing to defend themselves, or by negotiating, exaggerating the potential for moderation, and dropping sanctions, they can strengthen the extremists and undercut the regimes. When that happens, the regimes know they might better cut their own deal. So while there are arguable reasons to bargain with Hamas, Hizballah, Iran, or Syria, such a strategy splits the anti-HISH alliance and starts a race toward appeasement.
...The best one can hope for is the wisdom to build on coinciding interests and courage to stand up to unrelenting enemies.
Lebanon said on Tuesday a prisoner swap deal reached between Israel and Hizbullah marked a "big failure" for Israel, which had earlier refused to agree to such a plan.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert secured cabinet approval on Sunday for a prisoner swap with Hizbullah, which would see Israel free Samir Kuntar and four Hizbullah fighters for IDF captives Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. Prior to the cabinet vote on the proposal, Olmert said that according to the information currently in Israel's hands, the two are most likely dead.
"The release of the prisoners through a German mediator, after this long time and according to the conditions published in the media, marks a big failure, and a very big failure of Israel 's policy which refused, before the July 2006 war, to seal a complete exchange deal," a Lebanese government statement said. ... "This deal ... is a new and clear condemnation for Israel , its tactics and its policies."
In additional to the five Lebanese prisoners, Israel will also release an undisclosed number of Palestinian prisoners and the bodies of Lebanese and Palestinian gunmen killed since 1978 and buried in Israel. The deal is expected to take place within several days.
In parallel to the Hizbullah talks, Israel has said it is interested in opening peace talks with Lebanon, a move the Lebanese government has rebuffed. Lebanon's Prime Minister-designate Fouad Siniora has often said Lebanon would be the last Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel.
Also see previous JIW posts here and here.
GAZA, June 27 (Reuters) - Palestinian militants ["militants " ??? - actually TERRORIST MURDERERS - SL] in the Gaza Strip fired two mortar shells into southern Israel on Friday....The shells landed in a farming community near the border with the Gaza Strip...
...the cross-border fire, [is] the fourth such incident since the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire took effect on June 19....
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
...Labor and Shas .... Together with Ehud Olmert's ruling party Kadima...have once more betrayed their national obligations. By extending the prime minister's political lease of life by at least another six months after having repeatedly proclaimed that he is incapable of leading the nation, Labor leader Ehud Barak demonstrated that he and Olmert are birds of a feather.
...In the past, Israel was renowned as a nation of courage, determination and sophistication. Deterrence was the hallmark of our defense and our adversaries were highly conscious that they would face swift retribution if they shed innocent Jewish blood. Today, our enemies are aware that empty threats are the order of the day. The impotence of our government was highlighted when it abandoned citizens in the south, transforming many of them into refugees in their own land.
Today, despite having the most powerful army in the region, both Olmert and Barak violated their repeated mantra that "there will be no truce with terrorists" and the numerous pledges extended to the cabinet and to the Schalit family, that no Gaza agreement with Hamas would be consummated without securing Gilad's freedom. They entered into a truce with a terrorist militia which openly proclaimed that it had no intention of enforcing compliance on other groups. Hamas also made abundantly clear their intention to exploit the lull in order to regroup, obtain more lethal weapons from Iran and renew their attacks on us at a time of their choosing.
After having canvassed the world to reject any relationship with Hamas, we have now provided all countries with a green light to recognize and deal directly with them. That a terrorist militia could impose a military stalemate on us amounts to an even greater national disgrace than our debacle with Hizbullah in Lebanon. The "truce" also contradicts our repeated insistence that appeasing terrorists is a guaranteed prescription for disaster that will embolden jihadists worldwide.
Appeasement and unilateral concessions are also underway on the broader diplomatic front. Our prime minister is engaged in secret negotiations behind closed doors in frenetic efforts to reach an accord with his impotent Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas before the end of the year. This is especially bizarre in view of the virtual certainty that the PA will ultimately merge or be taken over by Hamas, who will then reap the benefits of our largesse. What is even more incredible is that the concessions Olmert has offered the Palestinians relating to Jerusalem and other vital national assets have still not been revealed to the cabinet or Knesset.
There are the negotiations with Syria, also initiated by the prime minister without prior Cabinet approval, signaling the Syrians of a willingness to relinquish the Golan. Olmert did so realizing that an accommodation with the Syrians, who are deeply entrenched with the Iranians, is currently virtually impossible. In doing so, we outraged the Americans and rehabilitated Assad, who until now was regarded as an international pariah. The UN representative to Lebanon, Terje Roed Larsen - no friend of Israel - condemned our government for "giving Syria a huge gift without thus far getting anything in return." To top it off, we are also signaling the reluctant Lebanese that we are willing to cede the Sheba Farms to them despite the fact that hitherto the UN itself rejected Lebanese territorial claims to this highly strategic piece of land, on the grounds that it belonged to Syria.
The prime minister and his spin merchants utterly mishandled the cruel negotiations relating to our missing soldiers. They issued contradictory statements every day, inflicted unbearable pain on the families, undermined the morale of the nation, and provided grist for the propaganda mills of Hizbullah and our enemies.
In parallel to this chaos we have the ongoing flow of irresponsible outbursts by self-promoting ministers. Haim Ramon, a deputy prime minister, wails that the truce is a defeat for Israel. Shaul Mofaz, another deputy prime minister, proclaims that Israel will bomb Iran. Both the foreign affairs minister and the defense minister, directly or implicitly, call on the prime minister to resign because of his immoral behavior. Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna'i tells Sderot citizens to stop moaning about missiles being launched against them. Interior Minister Avi Dichter condemns the government for not taking military action against Hamas. Justice Minister Daniel Freedman describes the truce with Hamas as an act of insanity. This list could be substantially extended and an entire section devoted to the political perfidy and twists and turns of Defense Minister Ehud Barak....
....The people are enraged and frustrated....
...Throughout this entire unhappy period, our nation has displayed courage and resilience. Under a new leadership, they will again rise to the occasion. The IDF is in good hands and has been dramatically upgraded. When authorized by a new government to employ genuine deterrence, it could transform the entire situation overnight....