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First-ever Jerusalem house of prayer to unite Christians, Jews and Muslims

“Amen” initiative part of Mekudeshet 2016 festival, Sept. 4-23, to
harness Holy City’s spiritual power, connect people of all faiths amid troubling times

JERUSALEM, Christians, Jews and Muslims will unite in an unprecedented and potentially historic interfaith prayer and spiritual gathering in the Holy City from Sept. 4-11 called “Amen – A House of Prayer For All Believers.”

Intended to create a single home for the world’s three major religions, “Amen” will play a featured part in the 2016 Mekudeshet Festival from Sept. 4-23 that will harness the city’s ancient powers to inspire artists, musicians and cultural figures from around the world to redefine their art and traditions and connect amid troubling times.

Amen will seek to bring together Christians, Jews and Muslims who share a belief in one God and a boundless love for Jerusalem to dialogue, study, sing and pray together in one temporary house of worship. Amen will create both a physical and metaphysical space that will seek to encourage commonality rather than to sanctify age-old divisions, say Mekudeshet organizers.

“We will study, argue -- yes, this is also allowed -- and pray -- together and alone. We will see if it is possible, despite all the corporeal difficulties and earthly obstacles, to create a new reality,” said Mekudeshet Artistic Director Itay Mautner.

Amen culminates a months-long series of discussions among representatives of the three religions, who cooperated to design the shared house of prayer. The venue, the Jerusalem Music Center at Mishkenot Sha’ananim, will be open from morning to night, with meetings and preparations for prayer taking place at 10 a.m., 6 p.m., and 8 p.m daily throughout the week in Arabic, Hebrew and Coptic.

“It is nothing short of a miracle that between four walls, we will inaugurate a temporary home for the three religions that share Jerusalem and for all those who wish to dwell under the wings of the Almighty,” said Mautner.

The nearly month-long Mekudeshet (Hebrew for “holy” or “sanctified”) is being presented by The Jerusalem Season of Culture (JSOC). Mekudeshet will feature scores of artists, actors, musicians and media figures from around the world and thousands of participants.


Jews "On the Edge" - 1944: Between Annihilation and Liberation

Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day 2014

Yom Hashoah is a It is a solemn day, beginning at sunset on the 27th of the month of Nisan (April 27, 2014) and ending the following evening, according to the traditional Jewish custom. Places of entertainment are closed and memorial ceremonies are held throughout the country.

The central ceremonies, in the evening and the following morning, are held at Yad Vashem and are broadcast on the television. Marking the start of the day - in the presence of the President of the State of Israel and the Prime Minister, dignitaries, survivors, children of survivors and their families, gather together with the general public to take part in the memorial ceremony at Yad Vashem in which six torches, representing the six million murdered Jews, are lit.

The following morning, the ceremony at Yad Vashem begins with the sounding of a siren for two minutes throughout the entire country. For the duration of the sounding, work is halted, people walking in the streets stop, cars pull off to the side of the road and everybody stands at silent attention in reverence to the victims of the Holocaust. Afterward, the focus of the ceremony at Yad Vashem is the laying of wreaths at the foot of the six torches, by dignitaries and the representatives of survivor groups and institutions. Other sites of remembrance in Israel, such as the Ghetto Fighters' Kibbutz and Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, also host memorial ceremonies, as do schools, military bases, municipalities and places of work.

The central theme for Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day 2014 is Jews "On the Edge" - 1944: Between Annihilation and Liberation, reflecting the situation of the Jews in 1944 - exactly 70 years ago. The expression "on the edge" is taken from Nathan Alterman's poem Joy of the Poor, which so aptly expresses the feeling which prevailed that year among the Jews of Europe. While cities from east to west, such as Vilna and Minsk, Warsaw and Riga, Belgrade and Sofia, Paris and Rome, were being liberated from the yoke of Nazi Germany, the Jews of Hungary were sent to Auschwitz, the Lodz and Kovno ghettos were liquidated, the last of their former inmates were deported and murdered, and death marches were initiated from the liberated territories to the heart of what remained of the "Third Reich".

In March 1944, the Germans invaded Hungary and immediately commenced preparations for the swiftest and most organized deportation any Jewish community had ever witnessed: From the middle of May, over 430,000 Jews from Hungary were sent almost exclusively to Auschwitz, where the vast majority was murdered in the space of two months.

In June, the "Auschwitz Protocols" were disseminated around the world. This detailed account, written by Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler, two young Jews who managed to escape from the infamous concentration and death camp, exposed for the first time the central role of the camp in the extermination system.

In October, an uprising in Auschwitz was staged by the Sonderkommando, the group of Jewish prisoners tasked with the unspeakable job of handling the bodies of the murdered victims. They blew up one of the gas chambers with the help of explosives smuggled in to them by a group of young Jewish women.

These events are at the heart of the tension between annihilation and liberation, a tension that was literally a question of life and death for the Jews at that time, who were living on the very edge.

"Unto Every Person There is a Name"

Six million Jews, among them 1.5 million children, were murdered in the Shoah while the world remained silent. The worldwide Holocaust memorial project "Unto Every Person There is a Name" is a unique project designed to perpetuate their memory as individuals and restore their identity and dignity, through the public recitation of their names on Yom Hashoah - Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day. By personalizing the individual tragedies of the Jewish victims of Nazi Germany and its collaborators, this project counters persistent efforts by enemies of the State of Israel and the Jewish people to deny the reality of the Holocaust and cast it as history’s seminal hoax.

"Everyone has a name" - Poem by Zelda
[translated from Hebrew]

Everyone has a name
given to him by God
and given to him by his parents.
Everyone has a name
given to him by his stature
and the way he smiles.
and given to him by his clothing
Everyone has a name
given to him by the mountains
and given to him by the walls.
Everyone has a name
given to him by the stars
and given to him by his neighbors.
Everyone has a name
given to him by his sins and given to him by his longing.
Everyone has a name
given to him by his enemies
and given to him by his love.
Everyone has a name
given to him by his holidays
and given to him by his work.
Everyone has a name
given to him by the seasons
and given to him by his blindness.
Everyone has a name
given to him by the sea and
given to him
by his death.

"Unto Every Person There is a Name" is conducted around the world in hundreds of Jewish communities through the efforts of four major Jewish organizations: B'nai B'rith International, Nativ, the World Jewish Congress and the World Zionist Organization. The project is coordinated by Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority, in consultation with the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and enjoys the official auspices of the President of the State of Israel Shimon Peres. In Israel, "Unto Every Person There is a Name" has become an integral part of the official Yom Hashoah commemoration ceremonies, with the central events held at the Knesset and at Yad Vashem with the participation of elected officials, as well as events throughout the country.
The names of the Holocaust victims

Confusion over Iranian leaders' Twitter messages to Jews

WJC, Twitter messages that appeared to have been issued by newly-elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, wishing Jews a good Rosh Hashanah, have been met with mixed reactions by the international community.
On Wednesday, the eve of Rosh Hashanah, a message was posted on Rouhani's English-language Twitter account where he wished all Jews a happy Jewish New Year. “As the sun is about to set here in Tehran I wish all Jews, especially Iranian Jews, a blessed Rosh Hashanah,” the tweet read. A day later, as the message was analyzed abroad and in Iran, the semiofficial Fars news agency quoted a Rouhani aide as saying that the account was no longer active. That appeared to be a dodge, especially since the same account was also used Thursday to announce the change in Iran’s nuclear negotiating team.
In only his second tweet, Iran's new Foreign Minister Javad Zarif wished Jews a "Happy Rosh Hashanah." Zarif even replied to a tweet from Christine Pelosi, the daughter of US House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who said to him: "Thanks. The New Year would be even sweeter if you would end Iran's Holocaust denial, sir" by distancing himself from Iran's former leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Zarif first tweeted "The man who did is now gone," but then deleted that post and replied again to clarify: "The man who was perceived to be denying [the Holocaust] is now gone." The foreign minister confirmed to CNN that he did write those tweets and was aware he was responding to Nancy Pelosi's daughter. Rouhani also retweeted Zarif's "Happy Rosh Hashanah" post.
Access to Twitter is officially banned for most Iranians.
World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder said that while the Iranian leaders' message were "a surprising gesture and a welcome change in tone", “words are meaningless if they are not backed up by credible actions. Until Iran ends its support for the enemies of the Jewish state, until it stops providing support to terrorist groups targeting Israeli and Jewish targets worldwide, and a regime that is gassing thousands of its own citizens in order to remain in power, these words sound hollow.”
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was "not impressed", and that the Iranian regime would "be judged only by its actions and not by greetings" whose purpose, he said, was to deflect attention from its nuclear program. He called on the international community to strengthen sanctions on Iran meant to curb its nuclear activities.


Majority of Israeli Jews Oppose Withdrawal to '67 Borders with Land Swaps; Large Majority of Israelis Favor Peace Referendum

Majority of Israeli Jews Oppose Withdrawal to '67 Borders with Land Swaps Even in Peace Deal with Demilitarized Palestinian State, End of Conflict
62% of Israeli Jews, 72% of Israeli Arabs Favor a Referendum for Peace Treaty Requiring Dismantling of Settlements
Israel Democracy Institute, With long-awaited, US-sponsored peace talks underway and the requirement for a public referendum in Israel on any peace deal being hotly debated, the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) and Tel Aviv University release the results of their latest monthly Peace Index poll.
Israelis were asked their opinion about peace negotiations.
• Prospects for Success of US-sponsored Peace Talks: 79% of Jewish Israelis think the new round of negotiations have a low chance of success of yielding a peace agreement, while 18% believe they have a high chance of succeeding. 41% of Arab Israelis think there is a low chance of success, and 47% believe there is a high chance.
• Sincerity of the Sides: 63% of Israeli Jews and 58% of Israeli Arabs believe the Israeli government is truly interested in returning to the negotiating table. 85% of Israeli Arabs believe that the Palestinian Authority is truly interested in returning to peace negotiations, but only 29% of Israeli Jews agree.
• Trust in Netanyahu on Security: 60% of Israeli Jews trust Netanyahu to conduct negotiations in a way that safeguards Israel's security, while 37% do not. 29% of Israeli Arabs trust him to do so, and 64% do not.
• Trust in Netanyahu's Ability to Finalize an Agreement: 48% of Jewish respondents trust Netanyahu to conduct negotiations in a way such that, to the extent that it depends on Israel, a peace agreement will be signed, while 47% do not trust him in this regard. 32% of Arab respondents trust Netanyahu in this regard, while 59% do not.
• Support for Concessions: Under the conditions of a permanent peace agreement with security arrangements, a demilitarized Palestinian state, international guarantees, and a Palestinian declaration of the end of conflict, 77% of Israeli Jews oppose recognition of the Palestinian "right of return" involving the return of a small number of refugees and financial compensation for the rest; 63% oppose withdrawal to the 1967 borders with land swaps; 58% oppose dismantling settlements while leaving Ariel, Maale Adumim, and the Gush Etzion bloc intact; and 50% oppose transferring Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority along with a special arrangement for the Holy Places.
• Coalition Politics
o Bayit Yehudi - Leave or Stay? 51% of Jewish Israelis do not believe that the Bayit Yehudi party headed by Naftali Bennett should immediately leave the coalition in order to not participate in a process which, if successful, will require dismantling settlements, while 33% believe they should. Among Bayit Yehudi voters, 49% are against quitting, and 46% are in favor.
o Labor - Join or Remain in Opposition? 48% of the Jewish public and 71% of the Arab public think the Labor party should immediately join the Netanyahu government in order to support the peace process from within, while 36% of the Jewish public and 9% of the Arab public think they should not.
Israelis were polled on their attitude towards a public referendum.
• The Need for a Referendum: 62% of Jewish Israelis and 72% of Arab Israelis believe that a referendum is necessary if a peace agreement is reached that includes a withdrawal from Judea and Samaria and an evacuation of settlements, while 34% of Jewish Israelis and 20% of Arab Israelis believe there is no need and such a decision should be left to the the government and Knesset.
• Participation in a Referendum: 88% of Israeli Arabs and 46% of Israeli Jews think that all Israeli citizens should vote in such a referendum, while 4% of Israeli Arabs and 49% of Israeli Jews think that the vote should be limited to Jewish citizens only.
• Referendum Results: If a referendum were held today on a peace agreement including withdrawal from Judea and Samaria and an evacuation of settlements, 58% of Jewish respondents and 33% of Arab respondents believe the agreement would be rejected by the people; 29% of Jewish respondents and 58% of Arab respondents believe it would win a majority.

Israelis were asked their thoughts regarding the recent elections for the Chief Rabbi.
• Clean vs. Corrupt: 42% of Israeli Jews rate the elections for Chief Rabbi as corrupt, while 23% rate them as midway between clean and corrupt and 12% rate them as clean.
• Effect of Election Results on the Rabbinate: 31% of the Jewish public believe the results of the elections will have no effect on the status of the Chief Rabbinate, while 27% believe they will be weakened and 19% believe they will be strengthened.
This survey, conducted July 28 - 30, 2013, included 602 respondents who constitute a representative sample of the adult population of Israel. The measurement error for a sample of this size is 4.5%.
The full results of the Peace Index are available on IDI's Peace Index website. An infographic summarizing key points of this month's survey is available for use on the condition that it is used in full.

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