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Marcy Oster
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Praying for three boys whose plight hits close to home

WorldPublished: 20 June 2014

KARNEI SHOMRON, West Bank — Four days into the search for three kidnapped Israeli teens, I attended a group prayer session dedicated to their safe return.

Dozens of women gathered together for a responsive reading of psalms seeking God’s mercy and intervention before the start of our morning Jewish studies classes. Our voices broke as we prayed for the boys’ safe return, though most of us do not know the families personally.

I returned home to find my teenage daughter, who is about the same age as two of the boys and should be studying for finals, preparing to perform special mitzvot to help bring them home. My teenage son returned home from school and immediately ran off to participate with the community’s youth in special prayers on behalf of the captives.


Charedi violence in Beit Shemesh catches world’s attention

WorldPublished: 30 December 2011

For several years now, the Jerusalem suburb of Beit Shemesh has been the site of on-again, off-again religious violence.

It was not until the plight of a fearful eight-year-old girl from a Modern Orthodox immigrant family from the United States was broadcast on Israel’s Channel 2 over last weekend that the religious tensions in Beit Shemesh captured the nation’s attention, including that of Israel’s prime minister and its president. It also has captured attention worldwide.

In the broadcast, the girl, Na’ama Margolis, told a reporter that she is afraid to walk the 300 yards from her home to her Modern Orthodox girls’ school for fear that the charedi Orthodox men who protest outside of the school will hurt her. Video showed Na’ama’s mother encouraging her to walk the short way to school punctuated by the girl’s whimpers and cries of “No, No.”


Shalits trying to adjust to new normal

WorldPublished: 28 October 2011

JERUSALEM – A week after Gilad Shalit returned to Israel after being held in captivity for more than five years in Gaza, things were getting back to normal at the Shalit family home — sort of.

The Israel Police said they would remove a barrier placed in front of the family’s house in Mitzpe Hila. The flowers, placards and other paraphernalia that littered the streets of the northern Israeli town following the celebration marking Shalit’s return have been cleaned up. Even the Shalit protest tent opposite the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem was taken down and carted away.


Song contest searches Diaspora for ‘the next Jewish star’

WorldPublished: 26 August 2011

JERUSALEM (JTA) -- When Israeli music producer-to-the-stars Eitan Gafni put on a global song contest for Jews nearly 20 years ago, finding contestants was difficult. At the time, he called on Jewish Agency shlichim, or emissaries, residing in capitals around the world to find young Jews with musical talent and ask them to send in an audition tape, a process that took months.

Gafni’s Hallelujah global Jewish singing contest ran for three years, beginning in 1992, but a lack of funds led to its cancellation.

Seven months ago, Gafni decided to put his song contest out there again, after a friend of his son’s -- who was a teenager at the time of the original contest -- returned home to Israel from an extended stay in Australia and encouraged him to help young Jews in the Diaspora reconnect to Israel through song.


After attack near Eilat kills 7 Israelis, worries over the Egypt border

WorldPublished: 19 August 2011

JERUSALEM –After a deadly string of terrorist attacks in southern Israel, officials in Jerusalem are on the alert for how instability in neighboring Egypt may be opening up more avenues for terrorists intent on attacking Israel.

Thursday’s coordinated attacks left seven Israelis dead — six civilians and one soldier — and seven terrorists were killed in subsequent firefights with Israeli soldiers.

Palestinian gunmen attacked two buses and two cars traveling near the southern resort city of Eilat just after noon Thursday, according to the Israel Defense Forces. When Israeli troops arrived, roadside bombs planted by the terrorists detonated. More than 40 people were reported injured in the attacks.


‘Check-ing’ out the Wall, $50M penthouse, Grandpa’s jackpot

WorldPublished: 12 August 2011

Riches, or just Wall paper?

One visitor to the Western Wall tried to seal the deal to assure divine intervention, inserting a $100,000 check made out to the “Holy Western Wall” between the cracks.

The Israel Hayom newspaper reported that the check was found last week by a 22-year-old man who has made a habit of coming late at night to look through the notes left in the Kotel by visitors wanting their prayers answered. A friend of the young man told the newspaper that it wasn’t the first time he had found money between the cracks of the Wall.

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Activists, Israel prepare for flotilla

WorldPublished: 30 June 2011

JERUSALEM – Israel has spent weeks preparing for the pro-Palestinian flotilla that was poised to set sail for the Gaza Strip from Mediterranean ports this week.

Commandos from the Israeli navy’s elite Shayetet 13 unit have been preparing to stop the flotilla from reaching Gaza, including practicing new ways to quickly board the ships’ upper decks and using water cannons and other non-lethal riot control methods.

The navy was aiming to avoid a repeat of the violence that occurred when Israeli commandos boarded a ship in last year’s flotilla to Gaza. Nine Turkish activists, including a dual Turkish-American citizen, were killed in clashes with the commandos aboard the Mavi Marmara in May 2010.

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On Independence Day, a reminder about Gilad Shalit

WorldPublished: 13 May 2011

JERUSALEM – As Israelis celebrated the country’s 63rd Independence Day, they had much more on their minds than barbecues and fireworks.

The carefully crafted theme of the day, “Looking after one another — the year of mutual care,” raised the hackles of some Israelis who do not believe the state is looking after everyone.

At a ceremony Monday night at Mount Herzl that ushered in Independence Day celebrations, Yoel Shalit, the brother of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, disrupted the iconic torch-lighting by bolting with his girlfriend to the stage shouting and waving a sign that read “Gilad is still alive.” He was quickly ushered away by security personnel.

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Arrest of two Palestinians for Itamar killings can’t console Fogels’ kin

WorldPublished: 22 April 2011

JERUSALEM – They came armed with knives and wire cutters looking for a Jewish target.

It was a Friday night, the Shabbat of March 11, and Palestinian teenagers Amjad Awad, 19, and Hakim Awad, 18, both from the Palestinian village of Awarta, hurried through the dark before climbing over the fence of the nearby Jewish settlement of Itamar, in the west bank.

The first house they entered was empty of people, but they found an M-16, magazines and a flak jacket. They took the material with them.

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Israeli commission’s flotilla report: Preaching to the choir?

WorldPublished: 28 January 2011

JERUSALEM – The response was predictable when Israel released the findings of its commission of inquiry into the May 2010 Turkish flotilla incident: Israel’s defenders heralded it as absolving Israel of wrongdoing, Turkish critics of Israel dismissed it as not credible.

Now the question is how the international community will view the report, which found that the Israeli Navy was not at fault in the May 31confrontation aboard one of a flotilla of Gaza-bound ships that left nine Turkish passengers dead.

“We think that this is an independent report, [the result of a] credible and impartial and transparent investigation that has been undertaken by Israel,” U.S. State Department spokesman Phillip Crowley said late Monday. “It will contribute to the broader process that continues through the secretary-general” of the United Nations.

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