Monthly Archives: March 2023

Remembering The Passover Massacre

By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency / Jewish News Agency


Jerusalem, Israel — March 27, 2014 … It was 12 years ago and the days before Passover in Israel were not much different than today.

Just yesterday, three people were murdered at the Jewish Community Center in Kansas City. A neo-Nazi and former KKK leader went searching for Jews to kill. By mistake he shot two Christians. But for him, it made no difference. They were with Jews.

Twelve years ago, it was cloudless skies, sun drenched streets, birds chirping as the Spring weather smiled. The summer’s intense sauna was ahead of us, and the winter’s steady, freezing rain has just passed.  Israeli shopping centers and Internet chat rooms were abuzz with Israelis discussing Passover recipes, cleaning tips and talk of vacations up north.

My former wife, new born daughter Amanda and I had just arrived at my in-law’s home for Passover dinner in Netanya.

As we stood around the carpeted living room sharing compliments and jokes as last minute Passover table preparations were being made, we heard a crack of thunder.

This was not unusual. There was a slight drizzle coming down as we parked the car minutes earlier.

Thunder storms are still generous in Israel’s March before we enter the seven months of endless days of sun. Then we heard an ambulance siren. Again nothing usual about that either, there are an abundance of nursing homes mixed in with the hotels marking Netanya’s seafront. A second and third siren screamed passed our building. The TV was turned on and we heard the first reports of what is known today as the Passover Massacre.

In one of the most brutal terrorist attacks sustained by Israel, an Islamic suicide terror bomber from the Hamas terrorist organization walked into Netanya’s Park Hotel on March 27, 2002. He strode passed the reception desk and calmly walked into the main dining hall. As elderly Jews and children were sitting over matza and chicken soup, the terrorist detonated a lethal charge, murdering 30, and wounding 140. The dead included babies, grandmothers and six married couples.

It was 7:30 p.m. and I had to make a judgment call, leave my family at the start of this festive family meal or cover another terror attack in Israel.
I struggled with the decision, my family kept saying don’t go. But I really had no choice.

When I arrived on the scene, which was a mere two blocks away, there were about a dozen ambulances caring for the bleeding wounded.

Five dismembered and blood soaked bodies lay covered with blue and grey blankets outside on the hotel’s sidewalk. Many of the guests who had survived the terror attack and were being rushed to nearby hospitals were still dressed in their holiday best; the women in festive dresses, the men in white shirts and dark pants.

Shreds of glass were sprinkled throughout the ground. The hotel lobby and the second floor of the hotel had all of its windows blown out. The only thing moving were the torn, white window curtains twisting in the cool wind.
A large pool of water created by the hotel’s safety sprinkler system and broken water pipes filled the reception area.

But this was not ground zero – broken glass and water were only a prelude to the horror which was about 50 feet passed the front desk, the burned and blood stained remains of a festive Passover dining room. White tables and
chairs were thrown several feet into the air, landing against the hotel wall. Unopened bottles of Passover wine and colorful flowers now littered the floor. 

An eerie, death filled quiet had settled in where moments before there was laughter, life and hope.

People were walking out of the hotel in a silent daze, frozen in shock.
One elderly man walked slowly down the street with no apparent direction wearing a blue dress suit with blood spilling out of his grey hair.

“I saw little children, bodies. And I want to say something to the Arab leaders in Beirut. This is not resistance. This is murder. This is terrorism it’s most purest form,” Natanya Mayor Miriam Feyerberg was telling the TV

Among the dead and wounded in the bombing were entire families, Israelis and foreign Jews visiting from abroad for the holiday. The force of the blast devastated the dining hall, knocked down the facade of the hotel lobby, shredded the paneled ceiling inside and crumpled cars parked on the street outside.

Nichama Donenhirsch, a guest at the hotel, said that as she and her family fled, they saw a little girl, about 10 to 12 years old, lying dead on the ground, her eyes wide open as if in surprise.

Some of the wounded staggered out of the lobby, which was plunged into darkness by the explosion. Others were taken to ambulances in stretchers, including a young boy who had an oxygen mask pressed to the face. One elderly man was covered by a blue blanket, blood dripping from his face. An elderly woman, her face covered with blood, sat on the sidewalk, attended to by several people.

The Park Hotel is located directly opposite the city square and on a hill overlooking the beach. There are several other hotels in this residential area of Netanya.

The mutilated bodies of murdered Israel men, women and children, who minutes earlier were celebrating a Passover meal, lay lined up outside the Park Hotel in Netanya.

As police arrived they started to create a perimeter, a safety area as police sappers began searching for additional explosives. About one hour after the attack took place, Israeli security forces discovered that explosives had been placed inside one of the many ambulances at the scene.

Immediately all of the ambulances and rescue workers were evacuated.

Mayor Miriam Feyerberg spoke with me and stated that Israelis must remain strong. That we all must continue with our lives, go to work, continue shopping, visit restaurants, otherwise the terrorists would win.

In recent days, these terrorist groups have begun describing their actions as acts of resistance’, but resistance is not blowing up children and babies,” Feyerberg said.

“As the Arab leaders are talking peace in Beirut, their associates are committing some of the worst acts of barbarism ever witnessed in present history. The Israeli government will not swallow this. The same people who destroyed New York’s World Trade Center are the same one’s responsible for tonight’s atrocity.” 

When the bomb exploded tonight, the Mayor had been attending a Seder – with mothers of the victims of last summer’s (2001) bombing in Tel Aviv.

Over 62 people were rushed to Laniado Hospital, 15 in serious condition among them a 45-year-old man and a 5-year-old boy, both with head injuries, who were later moved from Laniado to Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva.
Hospitals were overwhelmed, setting up triage in their synagogues and shuffling the less seriously wounded to their cafeterias. As is usually the case, the bomb contained nails and other metal pieces to enhance its lethal

Another 33 of the injured were taken to Meir Hospital in Kava Sava, two of them in serious condition.

Israel accused Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat of doing nothing to rein in terrorists. Raanan Gissin, a Sharon adviser, said the attack in Netanya “will require us to reevaluate our overall policy. We are still working to achieve a cease-fire to which we are fully committed, but if the Palestinians have decided to choose the road of terrorism … then we have to decide what measures we will take,” Gissin said.

Secretary of State Colin Powell had urged Arafat to go on television and demand an end to attacks against Israelis. The attacks endanger any negotiations toward a Palestinian state, Powell said.

“This sort of activity and the tolerance of this sort of activity will destroy the very vision the Palestinian Authority stands for and Chairman Arafat says he’s committed to,” Powell said in Washington.

The 2002 massacre in Netanya came just hours after Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah presented a new peace initiative at the Arab summit in Beirut, offering Israel normal relations with the Arab world in exchange for a
complete withdrawal from the territories it occupied in the 1967 Mideast war.

Israeli police had been on high alert for possible attacks during the Passover holiday, with more than 10,000 officers deployed in potential trouble spots.

The country’s police commissioner, Shlomo Aharonishki, said it was impossible to prevent all attacks. “Even with more policemen and a broader deployment, we cannot block the centers of the cities,” he said. “This attack is more evidence of that.”

Police and IDF roadblocks had been set up throughout the country with increased patrols within both commercial and residential areas after the Passover Massacre.

The mood in Israel had turned from festive Passover joy to depression and anger.

Many Israelis who once held out hopes that a breakthrough peace agreement might still be within reach, were eating matzah in March 2002 with salt in a more realistic and pragmatic environment.

It takes two willing parties to negotiate a peace agreement and Israelis have no plans to make a second Exodus here in the Middle-East.
After the Passover Massacre bombing, President Bush called on Arafat once again to do all in his power to stop the escalating cycle of bloodshed. This callous, this cold-blooded killing must stop. I condemn it in the
strongest terms. I call upon Arafat and the Palestinian Authority to do everything in their power to stop the terrorist killing because there are people in the Middle East who would rather kill than have peace,” Bush said during a stop in Atlanta. 

In Washington, D.C., Secretary of State Colin Powell formally labeled an Arafat-linked militia a terrorist organization yesterday. The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a branch of Arafat’s Fatah organization, has claimed responsibility the week before for a suicide bombing at a Jerusalem shopping mall that killed two and injured more than

If Hamas, Hezbolah, Islamic Jihad and Fatah believe that they can wear down the Israeli people – then don’t know the Israeli Sabra and his resolve. As Americans became stronger after September 11th, Israelis have also closed political and religious ranks and prepared for measures which will prevent future terror attacks. Those measures in the Spring of 2002 took the form of the IDF’s Operation Defensive Shield.

Today, Israeli Defense Minister, Shaul Mofaz announced during the government cabinet session that the closure imposed on Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip will last until after Independence Day. Mofaz added that security
authorities have decided on a series of preventative measures to thwart terror attacks, including increased pressure on terror hubs, particularly in Nablus.

The army and security services have once again gone on high alert in anticipation of the Passover holidays. Defense sources report 50 warnings of possible terrorist attacks, some in revenge for the assassination of Hamas
leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin two weeks ago.

The IDF has imposed a closure on the Gaza Strip for the duration of the holiday. The Israeli border passes at Karni and Erez have closed down to workers, but will enable the passage of merchandise. The Erez industrial park will continue operating during the holiday. Authorities repeat that all humanitarian aid will continue to flow into the West Bank and Gaza.

Thousands of policemen, border police, IDF troops and civil guard volunteers will safeguard the borders, entertainment places and recreation sites over the holiday. Security in synagogues, hotels and West Bank settlements will also be beefed up with troops and technological auxiliaries. Israeli police are beefing up security in shopping malls, market places and other crowded places. Police also intend to set up more road barriers and intensify its search for illegal Palestinian workers.

As Israel readies for this 2004 Passover, the news headlines are filled with “Russia Condemns Israel’s Threat Against Arafat” and “US Tells Israel Not to Harm Arafat.” The Passover Massacre did not take place in Washington or

Israel in it’s war against terrorism, killed Hamas master terrorist Achmed Yassin.

Yassin was responsible for the murders of 377 Israelis in at least 425 terrorist attacks over the past three-and-a-half years of the Palestinian Authority’s war against Israel. Among the most devastating attacks Hamas has claimed responsibility for were the Park Hotel Passover Massacre in Netanya on March 27, 2002; 30 murdered, a suicide bombing of the number 2 bus coming from Jerusalem’s Western Wall on Aug. 19, 2003; 23 murdered, including three
children and two babies; a suicide bombing at the Dolphinarium discotheque in Tel Aviv on June 1, 2001; 22 killed, mostly teens; a suicide bombing of Sbarro’s in Jerusalem on Aug. 9, 2001; 15 murdered, including five members of
the same family – three children and their parents; a suicide bombing of the Matza restaurant in Haifa on March 31, 2002; 15 killed, including two fathers each with his two children and the list goes on.

On Passover night we traditionally ask at the Passover dining table:  “why is this night different from any other night?”

We must now remember – it’s not.

Israel Democracy – A Prayer And A Plea To IDF Reservists

Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency / Jewish News Agency

Jerusalem, Israel — March 19, 2023 … In my many years of living in Israel and serving in the Israel Defense Forces (Handasa Kravit, MAGAV, Spokesperson’s Office) I have witnessed the good, the bad and ugly. Scud missiles missed me by yards, rockets missed me by inches. I walked through a hotel lobby where a suicide bomber had murdered dozens (Passover Massacre), a disco in Tel Aviv where the dead rested on a dance floor, ambushes at IDF security checkpoints, coming face to face with Islamic suicide bombers. But I never witnessed a threat that I found so hard to articulate than hearing about a few IDF soldiers refusing to serve as a protest to a political event.

In the IDF we learn to never mix politics with service. If we do we jeopardize every life in Israel and we jeopardize our very democracy. We give our enemies meat to hang us with both in words and actions. Islamic terrorists have already realized what they perceive as weaknesses and soft targets in Israel’s security and have coordinated terror attacks against protestors.

If you wear an IDF uniform, you took an oath to protect and defend the State of Israel and all Jews outside of Israel’s borders. That oath was not based on politics but rather our very survival.

If you want to peacefully protest against a government – go for it but never for one second think about not serving as a protest. If you do – you commit treason.
In a democracy we have the right to free speech but we do not have the right to lay down our arms and allow our enemies to murder our children.

In a Conservative synagogue in the United States, a very brave, intelligent and wise Rabbi (not Left or Right wing) provided an alternate prayer for the State of Israel, which followed prayers for the United States. Please share the below with your family and friends.

Lastly, as one who has worked with Netanyahu, you must know that he is one of finest, most intelligent and effective global leaders. A man who served in an elite IDF commando unit, who served in the UN and has and continues to sign peace treaties with our Arab neighbors. Judge him by what he does, not what he says. Yes, he gave offices, salaries and cars to ministers that none of us would ever agree with to continue leading Israel. He will not destroy democracy and your protests will give him leverage to find a compromise with all political parties.

Yes, carry the Israeli flag, but never step on it by refusing to serve.

A New Prayer for Israel

By Alan Elsner

Like many American Jews, I have been watching recent events in Israel with consternation, wondering what might be an appropriate way to respond. I was thinking about this a few weeks ago while attending the Shabbat service at Kol Shalom, my Conservative congregation in Rockville.

After the Torah reading, we came to the Prayer for Israel. Sometimes, this is one of the moments in the service when I switch off a little. But on that particular Shabbat I really wanted — and not just wanted but needed — to pray for Israel. I guess we pray with greatest fervor when we sense that Israel is in danger, and I feel very strongly that Israel is in immense danger right now. But reading the words we recite every week, I realized they didn’t really reflect my hopes and fears at this time. They were more concerned with the external military threats that Israel has traditionally faced than the internal moral threats that it is facing right now.

What is it that I wish for Israel? Of course, I want Israel and Israelis, including my family and many dear friends to be safe. I want Israel to be successful and to prosper. I also want Israel to live up to our values — Jewish values, democratic values, its own values as stated in its own Declaration of Independence. I want Israel to be strong and I want Israel to be good.

At that moment, I decided to write a new prayer and offer it to my congregation. With the support of our interim rabbi, Eric Rosin, and lay leadership, my text was accepted and had its first public reading. The reception from congregants has been overwhelmingly positive.

What did I wish to accomplish with this prayer? It was not my intention to replace the prayer we have — merely to offer an alternative. I think it’s important that we continue to pray for Israel but I want our prayer to be meaningful and relevant. So my text seeks support for those defending Israeli democracy as well as those defending its borders. It calls for the rule of law and moral accountability. It asks Israel to share the land with all those who live there in peace and to promote worldwide Jewish unity while acknowledging and accepting the growing diversity within our people. It calls for Israel to wield the power it has accumulated with wisdom and restraint.

I see this prayer as a message we send to our brothers and sisters in Israel. “Od lo abda tikvatenu.” — We still hope. We still pray. The words may change as circumstances evolve and the threats facing Israel change — but the love we feel remains the same.

Alternative Prayer for the State of Israel

We pray for our beloved Israel, invoking these words from its Declaration of Independence:

“The State of Israel will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”

Let us pray that these words will continue to guide Israel’s leaders and its people; that the Jewish state will be inclusive, promoting the unity and embracing the full, glorious diversity of the Jewish people. Let us never forget that our history teaches us to stand with the oppressed around the world. Strengthen the hands of those who defend Israel’s borders, its security and its democracy and uphold a government which enshrines the principles of equal justice and moral accountability. Let Israel foster the generosity of spirit to share the land in peace with others whose home it is. May Israel remain a place where the still, small voice is heard. Let its leaders resist the temptation to believe that might makes right.

Rather, let us recall the lesson of Zechariah: “Not by might and not by power but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Hosts.”

Alan Elsner is a congregant of Kol Shalom in Rockville.
With thanks to Rabbi Randall Konigsburg of Connecticut.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Meets with AIPAC Leaders, Addresses Iran

By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency /
Jewish News Agency

Jerusalem, Israel — March 15, 2023 … Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this afternoon, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, met with the AIPAC (The American Israel Public Affairs Committee) Board of Directors.

At the beginning of his remarks, Prime Minister Netanyahu thanked the AIPAC directors for their activism and support for the State of Israel, and for strengthening the bond between Israel and the US. The Prime Minister said:

“Superpowers need alliances. So a small country like Israel definitely needs alliances.”

Regarding Iran, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that Israel and the US, together with other countries, had to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and added that he was working to expand the circle of peace with additional Arab countries.

Participating in the Jerusalem meeting were Israel National Security Council Director Tzachi Hanegbi, Prime Minister’s Chief-of-Staff Tzachi Braverman, Prime Minister’s Military Secretary Maj.-Gen. Avi Gil, AIPAC President Michael Tuchin, AIPAC Executive Director Howard Kohr, AIPAC-Israel Director Cameron Brown and members of the AIPAC Board of Directors.

First-Ever Israel National Pavilion Inaugurated in Japan Defense Exhibition

By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency / Jewish News Agency

Jerusalem, Israel — March 14, 2023 … The Israel Ministry of Defense’s first-ever national pavilion in Japan will be inaugurated tomorrow (Wednesday) at the DSEI Japan defense exhibition taking place between March 15-17, 2023. SIBAT, the Israel Ministry of Defense’s International Defense Cooperation Directorate, is leading the delegation of Israeli defense industries participating in the event. The national pavilion will be inaugurated by the Head of SIBAT, Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Yair Kulas, who will meet with various Japanese counterparts during the week.

Fourteen Israel defense industries will be presenting their technological solutions at the exhibition. Some of the solutions include unmanned aerial systems, land systems, rocket and missile systems, communication and targeting technologies, and more.

Head of SIBAT, Israel Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Yair Kulas: “We are happy to participate in the DSEI defense exhibition and to inaugurate Israel’s first national pavilion in Japan, constituting an additional step in deepening our defense cooperation. Despite the physical distance between Israel and Japan, we share many similarities as technology-oriented and innovation-driven nations. The Israeli defense industries participating in the exhibition each bring their own unique technological solutions to the table here, many of them the leading of their kind in the world.”

The Israel defense industries participating in the defense exhibition include: Copterpix, CTI-INTL Solutions, Elbit Systems, Gate Technologies, IAI-Israel Aerospace Industries, Magna BSP, Manta Air, Ophir Optronic Solutions, Orbit Communication Systems, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, RT LTA Systems, Smartshooter, Steadicopter, and Trekace Technologies.

Netanyahu: Terrorists Responsible for Murder of American Citizen Elan Ganeles Captured

By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency / Jewish News Agency

Jerusalem, Israel — March 1, 2023 … Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this afternoon announced:

“A short time ago, Israel apprehended the three terrorists who were responsible for the murder of American tourist Elan Ganeles.

I salute the IDF and ISA for quickly locating the terrorists and carrying out a precise operation.

Whoever tries to hurt us will pay the price.”

Elan Ganeles, a 26-year-old Israeli-American murdered in a terror attack near the Dead Sea on Monday, was laid to rest in a Ra’anana cemetery on Wednesday.

Ganeles’s family, who live in West Hartford, Connecticut, flew to Israel for the funeral. Thousands of Israelis were in attendance and several thousand viewed the funeral online.

Eulogizing her son, Ganeles’s mother Caroline said, “He was the brightest boy in the world… he had never-ending inquisitiveness.”

“While in Israel, he fell in love with the land and the people. This is where he wanted to be,” his father Andrew said. “He was going to make aliyah.”

Ganeles was raised in West Hartford, where his family belonged to the Young Israel of West Hartford synagogue, and he attended Modern Orthodox schools.

Statement from the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford

Our community is shocked and outraged at the brutal murder of 27 year old West Hartford, CT resident, Elan Ganeles.  Elan was gunned down in a terrorist attack in Israel Monday evening.  Ganeles, who grew up in West Hartford and was in Israel to attend a wedding, was driving when 2 Palestinian terrorists drove up to his car and opened fire.  He was rushed to Hadassah Medical Center in critical condition as paramedics attempted to resuscitate him. He was sadly pronounced dead at the hospital.

“Once again, a civilian was targeted by those who see violence toward the innocent as a solution ” said David Waren, President of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford. “We extend our deepest condolences to the Ganeles family and affirm our solidarity with the people of Israel at this time of escalating violence.  May Elan’s memory be a blessing for his family and our entire community.”

Statement from Jewish Federations of North America

Jewish Federations are devastated by the news of the horrific terror attack that took the life of West Hartford, CT native Elan Ganeles.  Elan’s love for the Jewish people and Israel led him to volunteer in his local community and to serve in the IDF. A recent college graduate, Elan had a bright future ahead of him. Our hearts go out to his family and to the West Hartford community and we cry together with them. May Elan’s memory be for a blessing.