June 12, 2011 by David Singer
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David Singer visited Limmud-Oz in Sydney and reports for J-Wire….

Fay Sussman and her band entertain at Limmud-Oz

Superb organisation and seamless arrangements to end sessions and get the next session to start on time earn the organizers of Limmud Oz high praise and congratulations.

The incredible program contains something for everyone. A dazzling array of speakers both local, interstate and from overseas ensures many hours of happy listening and informed debate over the long weekend.

On the opening night I first attended the session “The Arab Revolution: Causes, Implications and Prospects for Peace”  featuring Professor Elie Podeh as guest lecturer. Professor Podeh is Chair of the Department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the Hebrew University, He was not prepared to venture which way the wave of protests sweeping the Arab world end up. However he was inclined to consider recent events not merely as the Arab Spring but rather as the Arab Four Seasons. Not all was birth and renewal. There was a distinct chill of winter in the air in Libya. He predicted there would be a lot of bloodshed in Syria as Assad’s minority Alawites would not peaceably surrender their decades long power to the Sunnis. He thought the time might be appropriate for Israel to make a “meaningful gesture” in an effort to bring the two-state solution to some finality.

I followed this address to listen to a panel debate “Who Is A Friend of Israel?” Chaired by Justice Stephen Rothman the all star panel included Edwin Black an award winning and New York Times best-selling investigative journalist, Naomi Chazan President of the New Israel Fund, our own Ron Weiser and locally born but now proud Israeli Ari Briggs from the Eretz Israel Academy in Kedumim.

Black, Weiser and Briggs focused on the activities of the New Israel Fund (NIF) and its funding of various organizations who they claimed were not friends of Israel. Chazan – who asked to speak last and was granted her request – unfortunately did not seek to answer her accusers on their specific and detailed allegations. She pointed out the scope of the work carried out by NIF and the large number of other organizations it funded. She admitted mistakes could be made and indicated funding had been dropped to some organizations after some of their activities were bought to NIF attention. NIF is setting up a branch in Australia and needs to ensure it is squeaky clean when it comes to funding other organizations – if it hopes to make an impact here.

On Sunday I heard a talk on the History of the Settlement Movement given by Zvi Slonim – a seventh-generation Israeli and descendant of the famous Slonim-Schneerson family in Hebron. His grandfather was Chief Rabbi of Hebron at the time of the 1929 riots. Being the first General Secretary and spokesperson of Gush Emunim in the 1970’s he was in a unique position to relate the history of the settlement movement which he emphasized was not undertaken on privately owned Arab land but on State owned land. He was untroubled by the prospect of the UN declaring a Palestinian State in September which he said would not happen. He now heads the Eretz Israel Academy in Kedumim and detailed its activities in redeeming privately owned Arab land in Judea and Samaria by private negotiation with its Arab owners. He recounted how Arabs and Jews have co-existed in the territories but lamented the implanting of terrorists into the local populations which has affected the previously good relationships between the two populations.

I then went to listen to a talk by Professor Andrew Markus from Monash University titled “Is Israel an Apartheid State?” in which he detailed the arguments for and against that proposition. He promised to take up the challenge from someone in the audience to produce a pamphlet which students could use encapsulating his arguments against that canard.

I was feeling peckish by then but the large queues waiting to taste Passionate8 mouth watering fare convinced me to go to Katzy’s. Guess the varied and interesting program had whetted everyone’s appetite. We are not only the people of the Book but also people of the recipe book.


Tomorrow is another day ……..Come along and join the throng. You won’t be disappointed



One Response to “Limmud-Oz”
  1. Otto Waldmann says:

    I attended today,Sunday, Naomi Chazan’s lecture on the structure and substance of Israeli politics.
    Riddled with description of some political sructures and parliamentary functions , pedestrianat best and also clearly offensive “funny” quips about sides of Israel she sanguinely dislikes, such as the vulgar and arrogant comment that “Israel was fuounded by Polish chicken farmer Zionists ” Naomi Chazan managed to convince the allert attendance to her one hour vitriolic rants that she is indeed natural material for all her known undertakings meant to deligitimise Israel.
    In her “detailed” presentation of the “ills” of Israeli society,political and civil,as she divided it, Chazan was careful to inform us that, as much as she coniders most Israelis to be “confused”, “iarational”, practically “schizofrenic”as she indeed termed them, all problems unfolding in Israel in terms of politics and social instability are exclusively determined by the local Jewish conflicting stances. Not a word about certain palestinian presence in the region, or, why not, Hamas.Not a word about the known agenda of quite a number of well known statements addressed quite directly at the destruction of Israel by …any outside or even inside entities. ALL problems Chazan identified are the sole making of the way Jews carry on in Israel, politicians or all other your “very day” Jews.
    As a tactic of ingratiating herself with the audience she regaled us with of humoristic indulgences, condimenting almost all her comments with jocular interludes of the lowest spirituality.
    It was, therefore,only normal that I suggested to her that, given her procliviy for humoristic entertainment she should take up the popular pursuit of comedy.
    The instant hissing from most of the selectively deaf audience convinced me once again that we do contain an allarming proportion of people completely detached from comprehending not only the direction of a demonstratively destructive institution in the one President of NIF,but the mennerisms of politeness, largesse and reluctance to frontally retorting to outreageous offence to OUR Israel is only going to perpetuate the serious problems which shall fill up the “interesting and engaging “topics of our future Limud Oz festivals of Jewish – would you belive – …identity !!!

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