Google Search

Newsletter : 5fax0926.txt

Directory | Previous file | Next file

Your Plymouth Rock Was Not My Plymouth Rock: Israel News Faxx recently visited the New York City Tenement Museum. If you parents or grandparents arrived via Ellis Island or Castle Gardens in the Port of New York, they probably first lived on the Lower East Side of NYC -- possibly at 97 Orchard Street. This article tells of our visit to that tenement.

Israel Expands Raids in Gaza and West Bank

By Robert Berger (VOA-Jerusalem) &

Israeli forces launched a second day of air strikes in the Gaza Strip, and arrested more than 200 members of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad in the West Bank. The operation is aimed at stopping Palestinian rocket attacks. The Associated Press said a top Islamic Jihad militant was killed in the attack.

Israeli helicopters fired missiles at buildings used by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza. The army went into action after terrorists in Gaza fired more than 40 rockets at Israeli towns. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told his Cabinet that he ordered a prolonged military operation to halt the rocket attacks. "We will use all means necessary to hit the terrorists, their weapons and their bases," Sharon said.

Cabinet Minister Yitzhak Herzog said Israel withdrew from Gaza, and returned to the international border, and now there is no excuse for Palestinian attacks.

Militants fired rockets at Israel after at least 15 Palestinians were killed in an explosion during a Hamas military parade in Gaza on Friday. Hamas blamed Israel, but the Palestinian Authority said locals who mishandled explosives caused the blast. Palestinian officials condemned the Israeli raids, but they also criticized Hamas for parading weapons. Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat appealed to both sides to uphold the cease-fire. "And we urge the international community's direct intervention; direct intervention in order to maintain the quiet, in order to maintain the cessation of violence," said Erekat.

The international community had hoped that Israel's Gaza pullout would revive the "Roadmap" peace plan. But just two weeks after the withdrawal, the cease-fire is in danger of collapse.

In a Gaza press conference, Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar told the group to stop all attacks from Gaza, including Kassam rocket attacks, in order to "protect Palestinian people from Israeli aggression. We call on our military arms to stop their operations from the Gaza Strip against the enemy," al-Zahar said., adding that Hamas was still committed to intra-Palestinian truce understandings. However, IDF officers were unimpressed with the announcement and said it will be tested by events. "This is a statement of a person with a record of a terrorist," one source said. "If the announcement is serious, it will be tested by the reality on the ground." Meanwhile, the army stressed operation "First Rain" will continue in a bid to foil attacks and Kassam strikes.

Al-Zahar also noted Hamas was committed to ending military parades. Palestinian sources said the decision followed intensive contacts between the movement and an Egyptian security delegation that in the past two days invested great efforts in preventing further escalation in the Strip. However, while the Hamas promised to end its attack, the Islamic Jihad vowed to avenge the killing of Sheikh Mohammed Khalil, assassinated by Israel Sunday evening. "The retaliation will take place deep inside the Zionist enemy's territory," an Islamic Jihad source said.

A humorous aside circulating via the Internet claims that relief groups successfully ended negotiations with the U.S. about assistance for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, A Palestinian spokesperson for the Red Crescent Society, Farouk El-Farouk has confirmed their nation's participation in the relief effort. It was confirmed that at 9:15 a.m. Sunday, four planeloads of volunteers from Gaza and the West Bank left Amman, bound for New Orleans to assist with the looting.

Thousands of Gaza Muslim Terrorists Poised to Enter Israel from Sinai


More than 15,000 Arabs from Gaza have moved into the Sinai Peninsula, and many plan to infiltrate the 124-mile-long Egyptian-Israeli border. Israel may build a new security system.

The massive unregulated entry to the Sinai came immediately after Israel surrendered the Gaza region to the Palestinian Authority. The potential terrorist infiltration has forced the government to consider a plan for a $900 million security system along the border, according to the Middle East News Line report. "We're going to require a serious security system," Deputy Defense Minister Zev Boim said. Intelligence officials have warned Israelis not to travel to Sinai because of concrete evidence of terrorists in the region.

Infiltration from Sinai, where the lengthy border is not hermetically sealed, would give terrorists free access to urban centers without having to pass border checkpoints. Security officials also have reported an increase in cooperation between terrorists and Negev Bedouin. The Bedouin, many of whom serve in the IDF, have in the past limited most of their smuggling to drugs but recently have turned to weapons and ammunition. Several Bedouin were arrested in the past few months for planning attacks against Israeli targets.

The Negev Arabs also have taken advantage of leniency in Israeli laws that granted free entry to Israel for Arabs from Judea, Samaria and Gaza who married Israeli Bedouin. The government recently placed severe restrictions on the practice. Israeli officials have recognized the Bedouin claim that bigamy is a religious right, and many Bedouin have several wives, including non-Israeli spouses.

Falashmura Pledge to Renew Hunger Strike, Demand Airlift


Members of the Falashmura community in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia have complained that police had prevented them from continuing a hunger strike to press their demand that they be taken to Israel. Members of the Falashmura community, whose ancestors converted from Judaism to Christianity, had been on hunger strike for three days to publicize a promise they claim Israel made to airlift them to the Holy Land when police told them to disperse.

"More than 1,500 members of the community were told early Thursday night by police that they should disperse as the permit for the three-day hunger strike had ended," Getinet Megesha, a spokesman for some 3,500 community members in Addis Ababa, said, adding that most of those on hunger strike wanted to continue for several more days, at least until Jews in various parts of the world made contact. "We were disappointed that no one contacted us by the end of our three-day hunger strike."

He indicated that the Falashmura in Addis Ababa plan to apply for a permit to hold the hunger strike for additional days to publicize their demand, "this time until we hear from Jewish communities worldwide of their support for our predicament." Getinet said that 26 of those who took part in the hunger strike needed medical attention by the end of the third day. He reiterated that some 20,000 members of the community remaining in Ethiopia want to join some 70,000 of their relatives taken to Israel in massive airlifts during the past 20 years.

Upon arrival in Israel, the Falashmura undergo conversion to Judaism, after which they are entitled to all the benefits of new immigrants under the Law of Return.

Your Plymouth Rock Was Not My Plymouth Rock

By Don Canaan

On a humid September Wednesday this year, I was on a New York City subway car hurtling toward the Lower East Side. The air-conditioned car was delightful, unlike the stuffy subway car in which I used to travel to school 50 years previously. It seemed as if many of those trains were identical to the original subway cars that traversed the line in 1905, one year after the Interborough Rapid Transit Company commenced its initial run. Today's ride was so comfortable that I dozed off.

I found myself-walking the streets of the Lower East Side. But all was different. The people were speaking Yiddish and Italian, not English or Chinese. The streets were filled with people, wearing early 20th century garb, pushcarts and horse dung punctuating the street. As I turned the corner onto Orchard Street I saw my refection in a window. I was dressed just as they were dressed.

My mindset was 2005, but the surroundings said 1905. I was in the neighborhood in which my immigrant grandparents lived after arriving from Europe. I do not know how that happened, but it did.

Sure it was the neighborhood and the tenement that I wanted to see. But it was the façade of 97 Orchard Street approaching middle age in its 42nd year not its 142nd year at that site. I wanted to visit the Lower East Side Tenement Museum at 97 Orchard Street. But instead of a building bordered by automobiles parked on both sides of the street, I saw wall-to wall humanity trying to escape the hot and putrid conditions inside their miniscule apartments.

Years later, the city would force owners to improve conditions for their tenants. More than 200.000 people (mostly immigrants) lived in tenements located in the square mile surrounding Orchard Street.

In my head I knew that for many years, until it was converted into a museum, the five-story 97 Orchard Street tenement had been a blighted-decayed shell of history. But in 1998, concluding that the museum was the best site in the United States from which to interpret the urban, working class immigrant experience, President Clinton and the U.S. Congress designated the site as a National Historic Area affiliated with the National Park Service. And 97 Orchard Street was also been designated a National Historic landmark and featured property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Like other early tenements, the building contained 20 three-room units with no heating, lighting and for many years, indoor plumbing or running water. And during its history, it housed as many as 7,000 immigrants from 20 foreign lands.

In 1867, New York City started to enact legislation to improve tenement conditions. Those regulations prompted the landlord of 97 Orchard Street to install gas lines; running water and interior flush toilets. By the early 1900s, he had also transformed the building's entryway, dressing it up with tile floors, burlap wall coverings, pressed metal ceilings and oil paintings. The laws also called for increased air and light in the apartments. Landlords blanched at this provision, but eventually complied by cutting windows in the walls that connected rooms in the apartments. Suddenly, it was July 13, 1918. Newsboys hawked their wares, shouting the news of the Great War. It was just four years after my father, Louis Swerdlow, was born on nearby Eldridge Street, and just a few months before my grandmother, Fannie, would die during the Spanish Flu pandemic. I'm about to visit the Orthodox Jewish Rogarshevsky family from Telz, Lithuania. They moved into the 325-square-foot apartment at 97 Orchard Street in 1910. The father, Abraham, and mother, Fannie, lived in that tiny three-room apartment along with their five children and orphaned niece. I silently enter the apartment as the family sits Shiva, mourning Abraham's death from tuberculosis on the previous evening at 11. Because the Sabbath started on Friday evening only minimal funeral arrangements could be made. (Shiva is the Jewish rite of mourning.)

Because the Sabbath is considered a day of rest, Abraham's body could not be moved and Sabbath candles were not permitted to be placed near him. The body was not touched until 20 minutes after death. And after his death a window was opened so that Abraham's soul could escape. The window was immediately shut so that the soul could not return. Fannie continued to live in her second floor apartment until 1941 even though there were just a few other tenants in the building when it closed in 1935. She then moved into an area housing project.

And when the Rogarshevsky apartment reopened as part of the Tenement Museum, visitors were invited to make a "Shiva call." Visitors learn about many of the rite's aspects, such as the seudat havra-ah, the traditional mourning meal of eggs, lentils, roll, and other round foods representing the circle of life.

Abraham's death was not the only tragedy that the Rogarshevsky family would endure. Visitors to the museum will learn what happened to Fannie and her family after 1918. The Rogarshevsky family showed great strength despite the obstacles and the poor conditions they faced and, as is true of all of the families represented at the museum, their story serves as an example to all of us.

Visitors also learn about the significance of the landsmanshaftn, associations of immigrants from the same hometown, as well as the practice of medicine during the early 20th century.

David Jacobson, consultant to the project and the Executive Director of United Hebrew Community of New York (the largest Jewish burial organization in the United States) stated, "When someone died on the Lower East Side, the whole neighborhood came to a halt. When the body of the deceased was carried out of the building, the shops closed down and everyone came out onto the street to pay their respects and to follow the funeral procession."

Wash Gjebre, a 1935 immigrant, who lived with his parents at 97 Orchard Street, observed, in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article dated May 1, 2005, that rumors had circulated in Europe that the streets of New York were paved with gold. "When I got there I found out three things: First the streets weren't paved with gold. Second, they weren't paved at all. Third, I was expected to pave them."

The East Side Tenement Museum Visitor center is located at 108 Orchard Street (at Orchard and Broome). Additional information is available by phone at 212-431-0233 or via e-mail at The museum's web site is at

Home Search

(All material on these web pages is © 2001-2012
by Electronic World Communications, Inc.)

Read today's issue
Who is Don Canaan?
IsraelNewsFaxx's Zionism and the Middle East Resource Directory