Replacing the Crosses on the Gravestones of American Jews Who Died Fighting Fascism

Yesterday, Americans recalled the sacrifices of their compatriots who, from the Revolutionary War until the present day, have given their lives to defend their country. Jamie Betesh Carter reports on the accomplishments of Operation Benjamin, an organization dedicated to making sure the memory of the Jews among them is properly preserved:

Shalom Lamm, Operation Benjamin’s CEO, grew up in Manhattan and always had an obsession with U.S. military history, so much so that while working full time and raising five children he went back to school and received a master’s degree in American military history. Around the same time, a rabbi and Lamm’s close friend named Jacob J. Schacter led a small tour through France, where he visited the Normandy American Cemetery. He returned from the trip and let Lamm know that while he was very moved by the experience, he expected to see more Stars of David in the cemetery.

Lamm and Schacter assumed that many fallen Jewish soldiers were mistakenly buried under Latin crosses, and conducted an experiment to see if their theory was true. . . . “It turns out there are thirteen World War II cemeteries, and in at least twelve of them there are hundreds of Jewish soldiers buried under crosses, mistakenly,” [said Lamm]. It was then, in 2020, that Operation Benjamin was created. . . . Lamm left his career in real estate to become CEO of this new nonprofit. Lamm estimates that there are between 400 and 500 Jewish soldiers mistakenly buried under crosses. Their goal is to find Jewish soldiers at American military cemeteries, and give them a proper Jewish burial and headstone.

This month, for Memorial Day 2023, Operation Benjamin will be leading a mission of over 60 participants to correct historical errors at the Normandy American Cemetery and Brittany American Cemetery in France. Soon they’ll be working to change the graves of American Jewish soldiers buried in Italy and England. “We’ve changed 23 headstones so far, and we have another 30 or so that are under active investigation,” said Lamm. “And as we go through those, we will continue further and further.”

Read more at Tablet

More about: American Jewry, Jewish cemeteries, Jews in the military, World War II


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount