Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Articles written by Sam Sokol

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  • One of Ukraine's chief rabbis endorses siege of US Capitol by Trump supporters

    Sam Sokol and Cnaan Liphshiz|Jan 15, 2021

    (JTA) — Rabbi Moshe Azman, a prominent Ukrainian cleric with ties to several Trump associates at the heart of last year’s Ukrainegate scandal, endorsed Wednesday’s violent attempt to prevent the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s election win, comparing the clashes to his own country’s recent pro-democracy revolution. Following the storming of the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters, Azman, a Hasidic rabbi who is one of several figures claiming to be the chief rabbi of Ukraine, posted on Facebook that the “Maidan has begun in the USA,...

  • A bipartisan protest movement is rocking Israel and growing by the week

    Sam Sokol|Aug 7, 2020

    TEL AVIV (JTA) - Noam Ofer might have been an unlikely candidate to join Israel's burgeoning protest movement. At 76, he is older than most of the people who have taken to the streets in recent weeks to protest the government's handling of the coronavirus crisis. He also doesn't share the political views of many of the protesters. But Ofer was there anyway on Tuesday evening marching outside the Tel Aviv home of Israel's internal security minister in charge of law enforcement, Amir Ohana, who wa...

  • Israeli President Reuven Rivlin takes a lead role in pushing back against Europe's Holocaust revisionism

    Sam Sokol|Feb 7, 2020

    JERUSALEM (JTA)-Israeli President Reuven Rivlin assailed Polish complicity in the murder of European Jews during the Holocaust during a visit to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Speaking at a joint appearance Monday with Polish President Andrzej Duda in Krakow, Rivlin said that both Jews and Poles were victims during World War II. He then launched into a subtle rebuke of recent efforts to rewrite Poland's wartime history. "Poland, the place where the Jewish people flouri... Full story

  • Putin skews Holocaust history at global Auschwitz commemoration event in Jerusalem

    Sam Sokol|Jan 31, 2020

    JERUSALEM (JTA)-Russian President Vladimir Putin's prime speaking slot at a Holocaust commemoration event here was generating controversy even before the longtime leader took the podium. His remarks Thursday at the event commemorating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Red Army has done little to quell it. Speaking at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum, Putin claimed that 40 percent of the Jews who died in the Holocaust were citizens of the Soviet Union. Historians called... Full story

  • Israel gets dragged into Europe's memory wars

    Sam Sokol|Jan 31, 2020

    JERUSALEM (JTA)—A major gathering of world leaders in Jerusalem meant to highlight the world’s determination to learn the lessons of the Holocaust has become mired in controversy, dragging Israel into a battle over history debates still raging in Europe three-quarters of a century after the end of World War II. Some 46 presidents, princes and prime ministers converged on the Israeli capital on Thursday for the Fifth World Holocaust Forum, an event organized by President Reuven Rivlin, Yad Vashem and the Israeli Foreign Ministry to com... Full story

  • Launch of Amazon's Hebrew storefront offers American expats a taste of home

    Sam Sokol|Jan 24, 2020

    (JTA)-Walk into an Israeli post office or one of the many local stores that have lately been serving as ad-hoc delivery centers and you'll be confronted by a jumble of boxes sealed with the telltale black and blue packing tape from Amazon.com. Orders from the American online retail giant have surged here in recent weeks, following the launch of the company's Hebrew-language online storefront and the offer of free shipping from the United States. American immigrants to Israel have long relied on... Full story

  • Turkey allows Hamas to plan terror attacks against Israelis

    Sam Sokol|Dec 27, 2019

    JERUSALEM (JTA)—The Turkish government has allowed Hamas members to use the country as a safe haven from which to plan attacks against Israelis. The Daily Telegraph cited transcripts of Israeli interrogations of suspected Palestinian terrorists in its report Tuesday. Not only do Hamas members have free rein to travel around the territory of the NATO member and ostensible U.S. ally, the British newspaper said, but that they are in regular contact with representatives of the Turkish intelligence community. According to the report, Ankara has a... Full story

  • Squeezed for burial space, Jerusalem prepares to open an underground city of the dead

    Sam Sokol|Nov 1, 2019

    JERUSALEM (JTA)-Carved into the rock on the side of a mountain directly under the Har HaMenuchot cemetery here lies the entrance to Jerusalem's newest necropolis, a city of the dead that its designers hope will relieve a shortage of burial space in the capital. A local engineering firm and Jerusalem's largest burial society have devised a plan to radically change how Jerusalemites dispose of their dead by building a modern system of burial caves, a throwback to a practice discontinued some two... Full story

  • Israeli lawmakers say 2-state solution is 'far more dangerous'

    Sam Sokol|Aug 23, 2019

    JERUSALEM (JTA)—Twenty-one right-wing Israeli lawmakers rebuffed a House bill that endorsed a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while rejecting efforts to boycott the Jewish state. In a letter addressed to U.S. Reps. Brad Schneider, Lee Zeldin, Jerry Nadler and Ann Wagner, the co-sponsors of the bill and staunch supporters of Israel, the Israeli lawmakers asserted that a Palestinian state is “far more dangerous to Israel” than BDS. House Resolution 246, which passed 398-17 last month, condemned the Boycott, Dives... Full story

  • Gaza battle 'not over'

    Sam Sokol|May 10, 2019

    JERUSALEM (JTA)—Despite Monday morning’s cease-fire, which ended two days of intense fighting between Israel and Hamas, the “campaign is not over,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. “Over the last two days we struck Hamas and Islamic Jihad with great force,” Netanyahu said. “We hit over 350 targets. We struck at terrorist leaders and operatives and we destroyed terrorist buildings. The campaign is not over and it demands patience and sagacity. We are prepared to continue. The goal has been—and remains—ensurin... Full story

  • ACLU sues Texas over anti-boycott law meant to protect Israel

    Sam Sokol|Dec 28, 2018

    (JTA)—The American Civil Liberties Union announced that it is suing the state of Texas over a 2017 law prohibiting government contractors from engaging in boycotts of Israel, which is says is an unwarranted violation of Americans’ right to free speech. Signed into law by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott last May, the bill was the 20th measure enacted on a state level meant to counter the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, or BDS. However, the legal basis of such laws has come under attack and two such bills have thus far been str... Full story

  • A soldier's death brings grief to Israeli army's fervently religious battalion

    Sam Sokol|Dec 21, 2018

    JERUSALEM (JTA)-"Yosef! Yosef!" wailed Rabbi Eliyahu Meirav, calling out the name of his stepson lying covered in a shroud on the marble slab before him. "You were righteous. I didn't want to believe it. Yoåu were all heart, completely pure, a holy and wonderful boy." As he broke down in tears, the grieving father was joined by the sobs of those in the crowd, which included a mix of Orthodox Jews-haredi and religious Zionist-as well as secular mourners. Many were in uniform, bearing the unit... Full story

  • Haredi dropouts battle Orthodox extremists in a divided Israeli city

    Sam Sokol|Aug 17, 2018

    BEIT SHEMESH, Israel (JTA)-Built in the 1990s in part to ease crowding in haredi Orthodox neighborhoods elsewhere in Israel, Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet is both an Orthodox boom town and a site of ongoing tensions between different streams of religious Jews. National-religious Jews have long complained of harassment by members of the haredi community, who style themselves as enforcers of strict codes for dress and conduct. Now there is another front in the simmering battle: several dozen haredi... Full story

  • Settlers welcome Mike Huckabee

    Sam Sokol|Aug 10, 2018

    EFRAT, West Bank (JTA)-Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee laid bricks in a new neighborhood in this settlement in a ceremony Wednesday that took its language and cues from Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" rhetoric. During the ceremony in Efrat's Tamar neighborhood, organizers distributed red caps bearing the slogan "Build Israel Great Again" and spoke of how thankful they were for the president's support. Leaders of the Yesha Council, which represents the settlement movement,... Full story

  • These academics want to mend Israel-Diaspora relations-but can this marriage be saved?

    Sam Sokol|Jul 13, 2018

    JERUSALEM (JTA)-When Adam Ferziger wants to describe the "deteriorating" relationship between American and Israeli Jews, he reaches back to a 2,000-year-old divide. "To use a metaphor, we have a contemporary Jerusalem and Babylon kind of dynamic," said Ferziger, a history and contemporary Jewry professor at Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv, "with two truly significant creative and vibrant Jewish centers developing across the world from each other." Ferziger and others point to polls in recent... Full story

  • Social media groups are helping new immigrants navigate life in Israel

    Sam Sokol|Jun 29, 2018

    JERUSALEM (JTA)-Vanessa, a Venezuelan-American olah, or immigrant, had experienced a hard landing in Israel. Faced with persistent financial problems, she had trouble holding on to an apartment. Turning to the Internet, she found Keep Olim in Israel, an online group dedicated to crowdsourcing solutions for newcomers to the Jewish state. There she found people who were able to help her solve her personal housing crisis. Later, after she underwent surgery, the same group, which boasts 40,000... Full story

  • 'Terror kites' shake residents in southern Israel, but not their resolve to stay put

    Sam Sokol|Jun 22, 2018

    NAHAL OZ, Israel (JTA)-Dani Ben David fiddles with his radio, switching between it and his cell phone as he drives through the Beeri Forest, a nature reserve located on the border of Israel and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. As his Jeep jolts over the dirt road, he quickly and calmly jumps between multiple conversations, coordinating efforts to extinguish the multiple fires that have sprung up across his territory. As regional director for the Western Negev for Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish... Full story

  • For reporters covering Gaza, charges of bias overshadow the stories they witness and tell

    Sam Sokol|Jun 15, 2018

    JERUSALEM (JTA)-Of the more than 60 deaths that occurred during the recent clashes between Israel and Palestinians at the Gaza border, none was as divisive as that of Layla Ghandour. Ghandour, an 8-month-old girl, died after an uncle, himself only 12, brought her to the edge of the protest zone, where she was reported to have inhaled Israeli tear gas. Palestinians immediately raised Ghandour as a symbol of Israeli oppression, elevating the infant to the status of martyr and blaming the Israeli a... Full story

  • At US embassy dedication, a day for marking history

    Sam Sokol|May 18, 2018

    JERUSALEM (JTA)-Israeli leaders and citizens responded with euphoria as the Trump administration moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem on Monday, designating a pre-existing consular building as the official U.S. diplomatic mission to the Jewish State. Hundreds of revelers, many wearing Trump's signature red baseball caps commemorating the move, sat on bleachers outside the new embassy in Jerusalem's Arnona neighborhood on Monday afternoon as an honor guard of U.S. Marines paraded the national... Full story

  • Israel failed to mobilize Christians ahead of UNESCO vote

    Sam Sokol, JNS.org|Oct 28, 2016

    JERUSALEM—Israel could have done a better job of enlisting Christian allies in its efforts to prevent the United Nations from passing a resolution erasing the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount and Western Wall, one South African legislator claims. Speaking with JNS.org in Hebron Wednesday, MP Kenneth Meshoe, of the African Christian Democratic Party, alleged that Jerusalem was slow in mobilizing its allies across the world, which prevented organizing a grass roots campaign on its behalf. “If many of these countries knew beforehand what was... Full story

  • Two killed in Jerusalem terrorist shooting

    Sam Sokol, JNS.org|Oct 21, 2016

    JERUSALEM-A police officer and a civilian were killed and six were wounded during a drive-by shooting in Jerusalem this weekend, raising concerns about the possible resumption of the wave of lone wolf terror attacks that convulsed Israel earlier this year. Yosef "Yosi" Kirme, 29, and Levanah Malichi, 60, were killed in the attack, which occurred at the Ammunition Hill light rail station on Sunday when a Palestinian man drove past spraying bullets from a car. Malichi, who was waiting for the... Full story