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  • Lara Crigger

Travels With The Rabbi & An Update Closer To Home

Recently, Rabbi Gerber visited Israel along with a small delegation from the New Orleanian Jewish community. During his trip, he was kind enough to record in real time what he witnessed and experienced for This Week In Zionism.

rabbi in a vineyard

In case you missed any of them, we've collected his blogs below:

It is always a wonderful feeling to arrive home in Israel. While much of Ben Gurion Airport felt familiar, there are two things that stood out to me. First, it was pretty empty. I'm used to seeing hordes of birthright students, tourists, and spending at least an hour getting through customs... Second, the walkway to the baggage claim was lined with posters of the hostages. The entire state of Israel is lined with posters of the hostages. They are at the forefront of everyone's mind. READ MORE

Sagiv Ben Zvi, zichrono l'vracha (may his memory be a blessing), had his life taken from him on October 7th. He was attending the Nova music festival when Hamas attacked. Today I met his mother, Natalia, as well as his cousin and aunt. Natalia spoke lovingly about her son. Telling us that he was strong and beautiful like King David. That he was a pursuer of peace like Aaron. That he was the type to hold the door open for strangers and carry heavy items for the elderly. He was a person of character who would do the right thing when nobody is looking. READ MORE

At the Nova Music Festival, revelers came from all over the world to dance, sing, rejoice, and watch the sun rise. At Kibbutz Be'eri, intergenerational families share traditions and the pursuit of peace. All of these people chose to be in this part of Israel because of their love for humanity. The proximity to Gaza allowed residents like Vivian Silver to transport Palestinians in Gaza to and from the hospital. It allowed the residents at Be'eri to employ Palestinians and build bridges of peace. READ MORE


From The River To The Port, Israel Stands Strong

container ship

Meanwhile, closer to home, we're seeing an increasing number of anti-Israel political demonstrations. One such event took place during Thursday's open meeting of the Port of New Orleans. Ninoshka Friedman shares the details:

On March 21st, there was a political demonstration and public commentary during an open meeting at the Port of New Orleans.

The demonstrators belong to a group called “NOSHIP” (New Orleans Stop Helping Israel’s Ports). Their overall mission, as stated on their Instagram account: “We are committed to ending economic and cultural ties between New Orleans and Israel." More specifically, they want to stop commercial trade between New Orleans and the Israeli port of Ashdod, one of the country's three main cargo ports located south of Tel Aviv.

The majority of demonstrators were young adults. From social workers to salsa players, the crowd seemed to dance around the tunes of an echo chamber. We've heard these hits before: Israel is apartheid. Israel is committing genocide. Israel has killed 13,000 children. And so on.

Not only are these comments antisemitic, but they aren't factual or even based in reality. (As an aside: Criticism of Israel isn't inherently antisemitic, but self-righteous criticism lacking evidence to back it up sure can be.)

Let's just look at the first accusation, that Israel is "apartheid." If that were true, one would think there existed strong labor and class divisions based upon religion or ethnicity alone. Although economic divisions do exist in Israel, as they do in all countries of the world, the idea that Israel specifically discriminates against Arab-Israelis because they are Arab is simply not accurate.

Twenty percent of Israel is Arab. Arab-Israeli citizens have all the same rights as Jewish Israelis. They serve in court and hold political office. While it's true that the median income of Arab households in Israel tends to be lower than that of Jewish households, structural economic discrimination against minority groups is not unique to Israel nor alone indicative of "apartheid."

I want to leave you with this: Our young adult Jewish community in New Orleans, which I’m proudly part of, is strong as ever. We are a diverse group of people aiming to make our community better and welcoming for all. Yes, there are challenges we all face--and we can also acknowledge these issues and come up with solutions.

On March 21st, there was a small demonstration against the presence and cultural values of Israel. That same day, I also sang music by Ofra Haza while driving on I-10, and I practiced my Torah portion and understood very clearly: Am Yisrael Chai. 


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