2-8 Nissan, 5781                                              March 15-21, 2021 -- THE JEWISH OBSERVER, LOS ANGELES--645th Web Ed.



International March of the Living will hold a Virtual March on Holocaust Remembrance Day led by Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, Holocaust survivors, Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion, Jewish Agency Chair Isaac Herzog, KKL Chair Avraham Duvdevani and Rabbi Israel Meir Lau.

Among the Holocaust survivors participating are those who survived due to the selfless acts of medical professionals. Participants in the Virtual March from across the globe were filmed using innovative 3D technology so they appear to be marching along the traditional March of the Living route at Auschwitz – Birkenau. 

As a tribute to the medical professionals who risked their lives during the Holocaust, numerous medical associations around the globe, including the World Health Organization, as well as those on the forefront of the fight against COVID-19 will participate in this virtual program. Among those marching will be doctors, nurses and paramedics. Also marching will be Israel’s Coronavirus Commissioner Prof. Nachman Ash, second generation to doctors during the Holocaust who is today leading physicians on Israel's medical front against Covid-19, Prof. Idit Matot, Director of Anesthesia in Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital and Galia Rahav Head of the Infectious Disease Unit and Laboratories at Sheba Medical Center, Magen David Adom Director General Eli Beer, and Haim Freund, CEO of Ezer Mitzion who is marching with his mother, Holocaust survivor Tzipora Freund. 

The Virtual March will air on Thursday April 8, at 8am EST/ 2pm Europe/ 3pm Israel and will be followed immediately by an online memorial ceremony with the first torch of remembrance lit by President Rivlin.

Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin: “We all have a duty to pass on the memory of the Holocaust to future generations, not to forget, not to let it be forgotten. During this pandemic we are prevented from stepping on the accursed earth, saturated with the blood of six million of our people. Yet, we have vowed never to forget or let go. Technology allows us, each and every one of us, to participate in the March of Living without leaving home, while contributing to the commemoration of the Holocaust and its victims. We must harness all the tools at our disposal to fight racism, anti-Semitism, attempts at denial. We must continue marching.”

One of the most moving aspects of the March of the Living is the opportunity for participants to memorial plaques with personal messages on the train tracks at Birkenau. The public is invited to participate and have their personal message virtually placed against the backdrop of the infamous train tracks at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. 

"The fact that this is the second year that we will not march in the March of the Living on Holocaust Remembrance Day at the site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camps is difficult," said March of the Living World Chair, Dr. Shmuel Rosenman and March of the Living President, Phyllis Greenberg Heideman. “However, will never stop the work of remembrance. This year we found a unique way to hold a virtual march in a way that brings us as close as possible to a feeling that cannot be explained in words. We will be in Auschwitz-Birkenau in spirit and soul, and we will be joined by millions of people around the world.”

Jewish Agency Chair Yitzhak Herzog: “The ‘March of the Living’ connects between those who learned about the Holocaust firsthand and those who did not; between the generation of survivors that is disappearing, and the younger generation that grew up around the world not knowing firsthand the story of the Holocaust and the struggle of the Jewish people as well as the predatory powers of racism and antisemitism.”

International March of the Living is the largest annual international Holocaust education program which, until the Coronavirus outbreak in 2020, has taken place in Poland and Israel without interruption, since its inception in 1988. To date, close to 300,000 International March of the Living participants have marched en masse along the 3.2-kilometer path from Auschwitz to Birkenau, in tribute to the greatest loss in the history of the Jewish people and all humanity.


Israel's environmental protection minister suspects a tanker linked to Iran was behind one of the country's worst ecological disasters.

Globs of tar washed up along much of Israel's Mediterranean shoreline last month, harming birds and sea turtles.

Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel said she believed the tanker spilled oil smuggled from Iran in Israeli waters and that Iran might be guilty of "environmental terrorism".

Iran has not commented on the claim. Israel's military and intelligence agencies have also distanced themselves from Ms Gamliel remarks, with a local TV channel reporting that the defence establishment "does not share this assessment".

Some marine scientists have meanwhile said the tar might be old and have been lifted from the seabed by a storm.  It came a day after Israel blamed its arch-enemy for an explosion that damaged an Israeli-owned ship in the Gulf of Oman last week.

There are fears it will take months, or even years, to clean up the tar that was found on more than 90% of Israel's 190km-long (118 miles) Mediterranean coastline.

Ms Gamliel wrote on Twitter on Wednesday evening that for the past two weeks researchers at her ministry had been working day and night to find the "criminal ship" responsible.

"After limiting the number of suspects in the incident, we discovered that it was not just an environmental crime, but environmental terrorism."

"A pirate ship owned by a Libyan company that came from Iran is responsible for the environmental attack," she added.

At a news conference, Ms Gamliel and the environmental protection ministry's director-general Rani Amir presented what they described as "strong circumstantial evidence" pointing to the involvement of a Panama-flagged tanker called "the Emerald", having ruled out other sources.

A worker at the Israeli Sea Turtle Rescue Center cleans a sea turtle at their center in the Israeli coastal moshav of Mikhmoret, north of Tel Aviv on February 21, 2021.

They said the tanker was loaded with Iranian crude oil in the Gulf and sailed to the eastern Mediterranean via Egypt's Suez Canal. It then turned off its automatic tracking devices and entered waters inside Israel's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), they added.

They alleged that the vessel polluted the sea off about 70km (40 miles) off Israel's coast between 1 and 2 February, and then continued its journey towards the Syrian port of Latakia, where it transferred its cargo to smaller ships to evade sanctions on Syria. It later returned to Iran.

"We think the leak that affected us was not during the transfer of oil from Emerald to smaller ships, but either a deliberate leak - that is to say terror - or an accident," Mr Amir said.

Israel's military and its intelligence agencies did not comment publicly on the allegations, but Israeli media cited unnamed officials as saying they had not been involved in the investigation and had been caught by surprise by the news conference.

Later, an official at Ms Gamliel's ministry was quoted by the Haaretz newspaper as saying "there's high probability this isn't a terror [incident]".

While there was no immediate response from Iran, Libya's state-owned General National Maritime Transport Company said it had sold the Emerald at auction in December.

The tanker was purchased month by Emerald Marine Ltd, which is registered in the Marshall Islands. The company has not commented on the Israeli allegations. --BBCi

Coins minted by Jewish rebels and used during the short-lived revolt against Rome were found.

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Fragments of a Biblical scroll and other relics have been found in what officials call an "historic discovery" in desert caves in Israel. The dozens of pieces of parchment were written in Greek, with just the name of G[-]d appearing in Hebrew.

The scroll is believed to have belonged to Jewish rebels who fled to the hills following a failed revolt against Roman rule in the 2nd Century.

They were found during an operation to prevent caves in the area being looted.

It is the first such find of its kind since the early 1960s when similar fragments and some 40 skeletons were discovered at the site which became known as the Cave of Horror.

The newly found remnants contain verses from the books of Zechariah and Nahum, which form part of writings known as the Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets. The parchment had been written in Greek, the language adopted after the conquest of Judea by Alexander the Great in the 4th Century BC. The name of God, though, exclusively appears in Hebrew.

Israel Antiquities Authority's (IAA) director Israel Hasson said the scroll and other relics found there were "of immeasurable worth for mankind".

A cache of rare coins from the period of the Jewish revolt, a 6,000-year-old mummified skeleton of a child and a large intact basket dating from about 10,500 years ago were also discovered at the site.

Located some 80m (260ft) beneath a cliff-top, the cave is practically inaccessible and could only be reached by teams abseiling down to it.

The expedition was part of what the IAA called a "complex and challenging" operation to protect the network of caves from antiquities looters.

Searches of the cliffs and caves in the Judean Desert have yielded a treasure trove of finds over decades, including the world famous Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest known copies of Biblical books. --BBCi


France is to return a painting by the Austrian artist Gustav Klimt to the heirs of the Jewish family that was forced to sell it by the Nazis. French culture minister Roselyne Bachelot said restoring it to its rightful owners was an acknowledgement of the crimes they suffered.

She said the painting bore witness to the "broken lives" of the Nazi era. The French state bought the work, its only Klimt, in 1980 without realizing its history.

The pre-war owner of Rosiers sous les Arbres (Rose Bushes Under the Trees) was Nora Stiasny, from a well-known Austrian Jewish family. She had inherited it from her uncle, the Austrian industrialist and art collector Viktor Zuckerkandl, Ms Bachelot told a news conference at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.

Ms Stiasny was forced to sell it in August 1938 at a knock-down price to survive financially, months after the Nazis annexed Austria. In 1942 Ms Stiasny was deported to a concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland, and died the same year. The art dealer held on to the masterpiece until his death in the 1960s. France bought it at auction in 1980 for the Musée d'Orsay.

"Today we know that it is indeed a work that was looted in Austria in August 1938," Ms Bachelot told reporters. "The decision we've taken is of course a difficult one. It results in taking a masterpiece out of the national collections which is the only painting by Gustav Klimt which France owned.

"But this decision is necessary, essential. Eighty-three years after the forced sale of this painting by Nora Stiasny, this is the accomplishment of an act of justice."

The beneficiaries will be the descendants of Nora Stiasny's sister. The French government will have to pass a bill to allow it to be released from the national collection and returned to the family, Ms Bachelot added. In 2017 a floral Gustav Klimt painting was sold for nearly £48m at Sotheby's in London. --BBCi


AMSTERDAM – As the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact travel and in-person gatherings around the upcoming Passover holiday, Yahad, a free digital platform dedicated to making virtual Jewish encounters more meaningful, has added several new content and technical program options for users.

The first upgrade includes a near doubling of haggadot that participants can choose from, now at nearly 50 which span most ethnic, language and religious varieties in the Jewish community.  On a technical level, the new split screen feature not only enables participants to follow the seder at their own pace, but also allows them to track it with a table-like atmosphere of seeing and speaking with fellow attendees, helping to infuse engagement. Updates this year also include designated seder leaders and functions that allow users to jump ahead between different haggadot and back to the leader’s page without impacting the view of other participants in their virtual room.

Also new for this year is the platform’s capability to be used as a tool for synagogues, congregations and other communal groups. Rabbis and community leaders can utilize Yahad to invite up to 1,000 participant screens to their seder in place of the large in-person gatherings they might have held pre-pandemic. Museums and Jewish centers have already reached out to coordinate specialized events, which include tailored mini-sites, custom selections of haggadot and more. Groups looking to coordinate their larger seder can reach out to  for more information. 

Passover this year will be celebrated across the Jewish world from sundown March 27 through April 4. Through Yahad, seder hosts can create their own virtual meeting rooms, invite their friends and family members using secure codes, and interact with each other via video and audio while following along in the seder text.

Presented by the Jewish Heritage Network (JHN), Yahad is a partnership between the Fooksman Family Foundation and dozens of content partners including Jewish institutions and museums who have uploaded haggadot in English, Hebrew, Yiddish, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, and other languages.

Yahad created its virtual seder platform in six weeks last year as it became apparent most of the world would enter lockdowns from the COVID-19 pandemic and prohibit Jewish families from gathering together to celebrate the Passover seder. Yahad “hosted” more than 230 virtual seders last year that they believe served several thousand Jews worldwide. The inability to get together was particularly difficult for elderly or immunocompromised people, many of whom were left on their own to conduct a seder. In some cases, people who joined with family for the seder in the past had never led a seder themselves because they relied on others. The virtual solution was a way to connect and celebrate the holiday digitally.

Israel President Reuven Rivlin, Screenshot – March of the Living

The Jewish Observer,

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