Shabbat with Ukraine’s Refugees

March 16 2022

A group of volunteers from Israel has been helping Ukrainian Jews as they make their way to the Holy Land. Cole Aronson writes about his Shabbat with refugees in the Moldovan capital of Chișinău (formerly Kishinev):

Tonight is different from all other nights. “Stand and leave the tumult; too long have you lived in the valley of tears” reads the third verse of L’kha Dodi, the central hymn of Friday night’s liturgy. Tonight, God has brought these people to a safe waystation between war in Ukraine and a Jewish nation free in its land.

A man in his early thirties standing next to me knows the first few lines of the sh’ma, the central Jewish prayer recited twice each day, which he says, eyes shut, while holding an infant son. After he finishes his own recitation, he gestures at me to say the rest of my own prayer louder, so he and his child can hear what our ancestors have said for thousands of years. After the sh’ma, we continue: “He is the Lord our God, there is none besides Him, and we are Israel His people. The One who saves us from the grasp of kings—our King, who redeems us from the hands of tyrants . . . ”

In Kishinev, these lines aren’t a memory but a description. My sh’ma companion, his son, and the others are traveling to new lives under the guard of a Jewish army, itself much of the answer to two millennia of dispersal and powerlessness.

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Read more at Common Sense

More about: Judaism, Moldava, Refugees, Sh'ma, Shabbat, War in Ukraine

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy