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A Ḥasidic Leader’s Tale of Holocaust Survival

When the SS murdered Benzion Halberstam in a forest in eastern Poland in 1941, his son Shlomo had already been groomed to succeed him as rebbe of the Bobover Ḥasidim. Shlomo, immediately recognized by his father’s followers as their new leader, set about trying to provide aid and comfort to his flock while attempting to escape with as many of his family members and fellow Ḥasidim as possible. Samuel Heilman tells his harrowing story:

[In 1941, Shlomo and his own son and presumptive successor Naftali] were hustled to Bochnia in southern Poland, where they hoped to “disappear” in the ghetto there. In January 1942, Shlomo’s wife, younger children, and mother-in-law joined more than 8,000 Jews who flooded into what would become a large labor camp in Bochnia. . . .

Through the skills of one or two of his Ḥasidim with a talent for forging documents, Shlomo acquired false papers as a Hungarian. Identified thus as what Germans called an Ausländer (foreigner), he was able to escape the restrictive boundaries of the Bochnia ghetto, as well as to help others flee by providing them with forged papers or with food. . . .

From outside the ghetto, [thanks to] his forged papers, Shlomo would slip into the ghetto to spend some time with the remaining Bobover Ḥasidim. In secret gatherings at Sabbath’s end, after curfew, when the Ḥasidim would gather together, hold hands, and form a silent circle, as if dancing and singing, he would offer hushed words of Torah, ḥasidic teaching, and spiritual encouragement. At times he stole Naftali, who was eleven years old at the time, in with him, taking the risk that if he were caught on the streets after curfew they would both be punished, if not shot. He wanted the boy to see how a rebbe had to act.

Shlomo . . . argued that the best method to prepare for the imminent coming of the messiah (whose arrival would surely end Jewish suffering, a belief that roared through the hearts of many of those whose belief in God’s redemption rose in the face of horror) was to pave his way by saving Jewish children from death or abandonment at the hands of non-Jews.

Read more at Moment

More about: Hasidism, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Polish Jewry

The EU Violates International Law, Steals Palestinian Land, and Then Demands Compensation from Israel

Nov. 17 2017

Last month, the eight European countries that make up the West Bank Protection Consortium sent a formal letter demanding €30,000 in compensation for two classrooms with solar panels that Israel dismantled in August. The letter, as Ruthie Blum explains, ignores the fact that the structures, located in part of the West Bank called Area C, were built in violation of international law:

[The 1995 agreement known as] Oslo II, which created the Palestinian Authority (PA), divides the West Bank into three geographical sections—Areas A, B, and C—and specifies which government controls each. Area C is under the military and civil jurisdiction of Israel alone. . . . Yet, for years, there has been non-stop building in Area C, . . . in a transparent effort to populate Area C with Palestinians. . . .

[The] Middle East analyst Bassam Tawil [has] noted massive “behind-the-scenes” Palestinian construction, the goal of which is “to create irreversible facts on the ground” and completely encircle Jerusalem. He points out that while Israel is condemned for any and every attempt to build housing in the West Bank and Jerusalem [which it never does in Area A, assigned by Oslo to the sole jurisdiction of the Ramallah], the Palestinian Authority has been undertaking, with impunity, a “colossal” construction project that is “illegal in every respect.” . . .

On a recent tour of the area, [another] Arab affairs expert, Khaled Abu Toameh, explained that this ongoing construction, funded mainly by the EU and Qatar, is made possible through the “confiscation” of privately owned tracts of Palestinian land by unlicensed contractors whose interest is solely financial. . . All they want, he said, is to line their pockets at the expense of helpless landowners, who are told that they must sacrifice their property to help the Palestinian Authority populate the area for political gain against Israel. . . .

It takes particular gall for European Union representatives to express “humanitarian” outrage at Israel for razing illegal structures in the West Bank—while the EU is in league with Palestinian criminals who have been brazenly stealing Arab-owned land.

Read more at Gatestone

More about: Europe and Israel, European Union, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian Authority, West Bank