Saturday, April 12, 2014

JETS Seniors Program -- Hot off the Press

·      Who are the Haredim and why are they at loggerheads with a large part of Israeli society?

·      Who are the "singing rabbis?"

·      How does Bibi Netanyahu get ready for Pesach?

·      What's going on with the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks?

·      Is the United States finally ready to release Jonathan Pollard?

These and many other questions were addressed on Monday night at the most recent session of "Hot off the Press," a JETS Israel initiative for seniors.

The April 7th session brought Rabbi Joel Cohn to the Morse Senior Center of Palm Beach in a dynamic distance learning session that provided the participants with up-to-date information about the "real Israel", as well as some background about additional events that are of interest to people who follow the news in the Middle East.
Rabbi Joel Cohn, presenter

Residents who joined the web-conferencing session "met" the Jerusalem-based Rabbi online as he summarized what's currently happening in Israel regarding political, social and cultural events. Hot off the Press is aimed at providing a look at the kinds of stories that don't generally make it to international media reports about Israel as participants have a chance to "experience" – virtually – the day to day beauty of life in Israel. 

During the session Rabbi Cohn dealt head-on with a major confrontation that is currently taking place in Israel. Haredim (Ultra Orthodox) are locked in a struggle with the non-Haredi public over recent legislation that mandates military conscription for all Israelis. The subject is a touchy topic in Israeli society, but Rabbi Cohn presented all sides of the story to ensure that the Morse residents would be able to get an overview of the sensitive issue's complexities.

The vibrant class also included snippets of day-to-day life in Israel, including Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu's visit to a matza-baking facility to observe the process of making hand-made matza. Rabbi Cohn also screened a clip that appeared on Israel's "Star is Born" TV program that showed two Hassidic rabbis singing Simon and Garfunkel.

Although the program is aimed at focusing on little-known aspects of Israeli news and life, Rabbi Cohn was asked to address the question of what's happening in the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, a topic that is of particular interest to the Morse residents. He presented a summary of the demands of both the Palestinians and the Israelis, some information about the stumbling blocks that the negotiators are facing, and a few insights into the reasons that the talks seem to have broken down. Regardless of personal convictions, the presentation and subsequent discussion remained open and unbiased. 

Another issue that is on everyone's mind involves the question of if and how releasing Jonathan Pollard could play a part in the peace talks. Rabbi Cohn discussed Pollard's story, including the irregularities involved in his conviction and sentencing.  He explained the connection that US Secretary of State John Kerry might be trying to draw between the American government's possible release of Pollard and the Palestinian demand that the Israelis release Palestinians who have been convicted of terrorist acts. Rabbi Cohn reviewed the question from all sides to provide the participants with a full understanding of the issues involved in the possible release of Pollard.

A question and answer session concluded the session and after Pesach, Morse residents will again meet Rabbi Cohn to learn what's Hot off the Press in Israel.

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