Do something special with Rebbetzen Tap
This holiday, why not encourage your girls to join Kerry Bar-Cohn – better known as “Rebbetzen Tap” – and take the opportunity to connect with her personal mission: “To inspire Jewish children to love being Jewish.” Kerry is an Orthodox Jewish woman who lives in Israel and believes it is important to see Orthodox female role models from Israel.
Above: An introductory video from Kerry Bar-Cohn. She offers hours of fun and skill for Orthodox girls who are bored during the holidays.
Kerry, a Jewish tap dancing star, has now made dance and drama available to Jewish kids all over the world
Because this is online, it’s available to Jewish kids around the world, no matter their affiliation or where they live. The courses are taught by a Jewish female teacher in Israel using Jewish music.
Location is no longer an obstacle to connecting to Rebbetzen Tap’s unique, sparkly personality.
RIGHT: Rebbetzen Tap
Her mission statement is that as a female Jewish role model, to inspire Jewish children to love being Jewish.
“Dance and drama encourage creativity, co-ordination, self-awareness and self-esteem,” says Kerry.
On the tap course, kids tap to Jewish musicians such as Ari Goldwag, Chanale, Shaindel Antelis, Benny Friedman and Rebbetzen Tap’s own original creations. The online classes are interactive and students are encouraged to send in assignments and get video feedback from Rebbetzen Tap herself.
“Kids love getting a personalised video from me,” she says..
The new acting course focuses on expression, body language and voice. It teaches self-awareness and social skills which can be used in acting and real life.
Past students have come from four different countries. The course has been enjoyed by kids and teachers who say that they are overjoyed to learn from a teacher who is professional and fun. “Parents report that the courses help improve their child’s self-esteem,” she says, and that their kids love it!
She quotes students on her website as saying:
- “Rebbetzen Tap is such a fun teacher! I always look forward to her classes!”
- “When you first see a step, it looks so hard, but then Rebbetzen Tap teaches it and you realise it’s actually pretty easy.”
Is Israel heading for its own 6 January?
(JTA) As Benjamin Netanyahu makes a last-ditch attempt to stay in power, even with a rival coalition set to take office, American journalists and scholars are offering a dire comparison: 6 January.
In Israel, the political turmoil now seems eerily similar to what was happening in America prior to the insurrection at the Capitol that day.
Like Donald Trump, Netanyahu is trying to foil a democratic process that historically has been little more than a formality. Also like Trump, the prime minister says the new administration is the product of the “greatest electoral fraud in the history of the country”.
On Monday, 7 June, Netanyahu’s Likud party claimed that the new coalition would be a “dark dictatorship” with laws “akin to the dictates of North Korea or Iran” because it will seek to institute term limits that could disqualify Netanyahu from running again.
Netanyahu, Israel’s leader for the past dozen years, has a loyal and passionate base that feels aggrieved and betrayed, similar to the former United States president.
One key difference is that an event that would have gathered Netanyahu supporters for a potentially volatile rally was denied a permit on Monday.
Even as the head of Israel’s internal security agency, the Shin Bet, has warned of political violence, the leaders of the incoming coalition, Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid, have tried to stress that democracy will take its course while condemning incitement.
But a left-wing member of their coalition, incoming Environmental Minister Tamar Zandberg, tied Netanyahu’s verbiage to that of Trump during the fraught presidential transition.
“It’s similar to what Trump and his hate groups and supporters were doing in the time before the Capitol attack,” she told Politico in an article published on Sunday.
Zandberg has borne the brunt of violent rhetoric from the extremist right. Last week, she and her family fled their home in Tel Aviv after receiving death threats. A fake notice of her death circulated on social media.
Meanwhile, other politicians have received death threats or faced protests outside their private homes that have been promoted on social media by Netanyahu allies.
Still, the Israeli transition is proceeding, albeit slowly.
On Monday, Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin, a Netanyahu ally, officially announced that parliament would vote on the new coalition by 14 June, though he didn’t set a date. With the coalition having the slimmest of majorities – 61 of the Knesset’s 120 members – Netanyahu is desperately trying to get one rival legislator to defect. His goal is to deadlock the Knesset into a 60-60 tie and prevent the new government from taking office. Thus far he has failed.
Meanwhile, a potential flashpoint for conflict appears to have been removed, as the Israel Police cancelled a right-wing nationalist parade through the Old City of Jerusalem scheduled for Thursday, 10 June. The march was denied permits amid fears that it would reignite violence just weeks after the conflict in Gaza, as well as the precarious electoral transition.
The parade, known as the Flags March, takes place annually on Jerusalem Day, which marks Israel’s 1967 capture of eastern Jerusalem. Israel subsequently annexed the area as part of its capital city. The march is meant to celebrate Israeli sovereignty over the Old City, and its route generally takes the mostly Orthodox Jewish marchers through the Muslim Quarter. In past years, the march has featured racist chants, and Arab shopkeepers in the Old City have been advised to board up their stores while it is taking place.
This year, on Jerusalem Day, which fell on 10 May, the parade was interrupted by rockets fired by Hamas launching 11 days of warfare between the terrorist group that controls the Gaza Strip and Israel. The march also took place amid escalating clashes between Jews and Arabs in Jerusalem and across Israel.
Last week, after organisers announced that the parade would be rescheduled for 10 June, Defence Minister Benny Gantz, who is also part of the incoming coalition, advised that the route be changed. After refusing to approve the permit for Thursday, police did invite organisers to reapply with a new route or date.
The Biden administration also reportedly urged a change of route, fearing that Jerusalem could again experience violence.
Two Netanyahu allies, far-right legislator Itamar Ben-Gvir and May Golan, a Likud member, have vowed to lead the parade down the same route on Thursday anyway, with or without a police permit.
“We won’t give a prize to those Arab rioters and chicken politicians,” tweeted Golan, who compared her parliamentary opponents to “suicide bombers” on Sunday. “We will preserve our Jewish sovereignty in Jerusalem!”
Fears remain that tensions could still erupt in Jerusalem, parade or no parade. On Monday, Ha’aretz reported that Israel’s attorney general wouldn’t intervene to stop the pending eviction of Palestinian families from the eastern Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, making the eviction more likely. The pending evictions were among several contributing factors to the violence in Jerusalem last month.
“I’ll take my chances,” says resident on Hamas’s firing line
“Living on the Gaza border is 95% heaven, and 5% hell,” said Adele Raemer. She’s made it her mission to tell the world what life is really like in the shadow of Hamas rocket and mortar attacks on Israel. When the weapons went silent in “Operation Guardian of the Walls” on 21 May after 11 days, Raemer was at her laptop, documenting her experiences and feelings. This fiery, courageous teacher and part-time hospital clown has become “an unwitting war correspondent”. She even addressed the United Nations Security Council in 2019.
Raemer was speaking on a webinar hosted by the Gilah Branch of Bnoth Zion WIZO Western Cape on Monday night.
She has lived on Kibbutz Nirim in the Negev, about 2km from the Gaza border, since she made aliyah from the United States in 1975. She showed pictures of the “heaven” – wild poppies bursting into bloom and tranquil green fields growing in the desert. Raemer reminisced about when it was possible to go the beach or the suq (marketplace) in Gaza.
Israel withdrew unilaterally from Gaza in 2005. When Hamas took over the territory, it began to fire rockets at southern Israel. Soon Iran replenished these with deadlier, longer-range missiles.
In the 2008 to 2009 “Operation Cast Lead”, they had no safe rooms on her kibbutz, and no Iron Dome missile defence shield. The Israeli government spent billions of dollars on reinforced concrete safe rooms within a 7km radius of the border over the next year.
“Being so close to the border,” she said, “I have about 10 seconds to get into my safe room when there is a red alert (tzeva adom).” When rockets rain on the area, life becomes unbearable and people in their path can suffer severe trauma, especially children and senior citizens. And the retaliatory strikes by Israel in Gaza also cause much pain and anguish.
Raemer started a Facebook group in 2011 to document her experiences, which now has more than 6 500 members. It was her way of telling the world what was really happening. It also helped her process her feelings. Raemer is on “the prime minister’s list” of people who can be interviewed by local and foreign media during attacks. She started blogging on CNN’s iReport and then for the Times of Israel.
Back in 2014, “Operation Protective Edge” lasted 50 days. Raemer was on her kibbutz, documenting the hostilities every day. She also began tweeting the conflict. “Israelis aren’t on Twitter so much, but Gazans are,” she said.
A tractor on the kibbutz accidently uncovered a subterranean tunnel hidden under the fields. Raemer showed a picture of her inside it. “These terror tunnels aren’t for transporting food or medicine,” she said. “They have one purpose only – to attack and kidnap Israeli soldiers and civilians. This tunnel was three stories underground, wired for electricity and communications. We have no idea what other tunnels may be under our fields or our homes.”
In the 2014 escalation, a mortar exploded just 3m from her bedroom window. She smelled smoke and gunpowder. If she wasn’t in her safe room, she would have died from shrapnel wounds. On the last day of that war, two kibbutznikim lost their lives to rockets, and another lost both his legs. He’s now the mayor of the area.
In April 2018, Gazans began sending kites and balloons attached to smouldering coals over the border to burn Israeli fields and properties. Raemer developed an online map showing where they fell. The entire region is blanketed with fire sites. That year, Palestinians also massed at the border, sending acrid smoke across the fence from violent protests.
Raemer has been in contact with many people “on the other side”. They have organised joint bike rides, but a plan to develop a cross-border choir singing in Arabic, English, and Hebrew has been shut down by Hamas. Most ordinary people, she says, just want to live in peace and have a hopeful future for their children.
Raemer supplied some stark facts about the just-completed “Operation Guardian of the Walls”. A total of 4 360 rockets and mortars were fired into Israel from Gaza, 1 661 of which were downed by the Iron Dome (which doesn’t fire if rockets are aimed at the sea or sparsely populated land). About 176 missiles fell in populated areas, showing the Iron Dome to be about 90% effective. About 680 rockets from Gaza misfired, killing 20 Gazans. More than 200 died in Gaza and 12 in Israel.
When asked why she hasn’t moved away, Raemer replied, “This is my home. Where am I going to move? There are attacks on Be’er Sheva, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and knife attacks and car ramming. There is nowhere that you can promise is terror free. So I’ll take my chances.”
Nevertheless, Raemer retains hope that this endless cycle of violence will end. “I’m old enough to have known a reality that was different. There is no reason not to get to this again,” she said. “But there has been no real Gaza strategy from the government since 2006. These wars are started and ended by Hamas, on its terms. At present, desperate Gazans have nothing to lose … And if we are attacked, we have every right to fire back.”
Israel’s new president – a friend of SA Jewry
Israel’s new president-elect, Isaac Herzog, is a great friend of South African Jewry and has been determined to mend ties between the South African and Israeli governments for years.
“He is a great friend to the Jewish community here,” says Liat Amar Arran, the head of the Israel Centre in South Africa, who worked closely with him in his role as leader of the Jewish Agency for the past two years. “He has strong relationships here in South Africa, and has been tracking all the projects he set for us when he was last here in 2019.”
South African Zionist Federation chairperson Rowan Polovin said “President-Elect Herzog is a great friend of the South African Jewish community, and we look forward to strengthening our friendship and partnership with him and the State of Israel.”
Herzog – the 11th president of Israel – comes from the so-called Zionist royalty, with his father, General Chaim Herzog, having been a former Israeli president, his uncle, Abba Eban, Israel’s first foreign minister and ambassador to the United Nations, and his grandfather Israel’s first Ashkenazi chief rabbi.
Herzog, formerly the chairman of the Israeli Labour Party, served as the opposition leader from 2013 until 2018. He served as a member of Knesset between 2003 and 2018, having held several ministerial posts. It was as the head of the Jewish Agency, effectively the leader of the Jewish world, that he visited South Africa in 2019.
Many of his supporters believe that although the presidency is more of a figurehead role, Herzog will focus on building relations between Israel and the Jewish world, and working towards peace in the Middle East.
When he was in South Africa, he told the SA Jewish Report that he objected vehemently to the South African government pulling out its ambassador to Israel and moving to downgrade its embassy. He said he was determined to do everything he could to change this.
Herzog, a soft-spoken, no-nonsense leader, told the SA Jewish Report he was passionate about the South African and Israeli connection and its long-term importance. However, he is even more dedicated to the longevity of the Jewish people and ensuring we have a solid future.
“The South African government can contribute hugely toward the advancement of peace in the region if it wants to, but not if it cuts ties,” Herzog said.
While he described the South African Jewish community as “hugely impressive”, he said it was “being challenged dramatically with an unclear future”. He was worried about the “strong anti-Israel line from the African National Congress (ANC), which put a certain cloud over the ability of Jews and Zionists to express themselves and be able to thrive as Jews”.
Herzog said at the time he wanted to “strengthen Jewish communities and enable each and every Jew to feel free as Jews and to express their Zionism with no fear or harassment”.
He clarified at the time that South Africa was known as the world leader in the so-called “new antisemitism”, which is classic antisemitism intertwined with the delegitimisation of Israel. This problem, he said, stemmed from within the ANC.
“Its position is due to historical relations with the Palestinian national movement,” Herzog said. “The problem is that it hasn’t acknowledged that the region has changed and many of those countries that called for our annihilation 50 years ago are now some of our best allies. Meanwhile, it’s trying to pursue a whole set of resolutions against Israel worldwide.”
And then you have the situation, Herzog said, of “the average South African brainwashed by a machine that tells it lies about Israeli democracy”.
Herzog said he believed Israel-hatred should be dealt with on three fronts. First, he said, “We have made sure Jews are well protected and defended. This is clear from the impressive organisation that deals with this in South Africa.”
Second, he speaks of fighting antisemitism in the courts, and trying to get governments around the world to adopt the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) resolution on antisemitism.
As for education, “this is complex in a political climate that doesn’t want to hear. There are modern-day tools we use like social networks, and we can try and do our best to show the true story of Israel.”
When he was here, he spoke of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as “complicated”.
“What haven’t we tried? We tried peace agreements, unilateral withdrawals, economic packages, and other measures. There is an overwhelming majority in Israel who want peace, but there is a total lack of trust in Palestinians to deliver.
“In 2005, Israelis were out there supporting the unilateral pull-out of Gaza. We uprooted Jewish settlements in the process, we promised there would be a Hong Kong of Middle East, but instead we got 10 000 missiles fired at us.
“Israelis are wary of trying this again. We have to find new ideas. A major development between 2005 and today is that there is a strong political coalition of moderate nations with Israel confronting Iran in the region. These nations – including Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and others – once wanted to throw us in the sea, but are now working with us.”
It will be interesting to see what, as president of Israel, Herzog does to act on these beliefs.
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