Ancient Chinese Community Celebrates Its Jewish Roots, and Passover

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Becky Davis reports: Over the remains of the Chinese-style Passover banquet – soups with bamboo and huge chunks of fresh tofu, steamed fish and platters of crisp greens in mustard sauce – Li Penglin, 16, lifted a glass of Israeli wine from his place at the head table. Quietly but without faltering, he read out a Chinese translation of a Hebrew prayer.

About 50 guests, including several local government officials, responded with a chorus of amens, downing their thimblefuls of wine while self-consciously leaning to the left. Some poked neighbors who, unfamiliar with the Jewish custom, had neglected to incline.

It was an atypical scene on an atypical occasion: a Chinese celebration of Passover, the Jewish holiday commemorating the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt more than 3,000 years ago.

“There’s no conflict between Passover and Qingming. They’re both about remembrance of ancestors – very similar, just with different methods.”

In a hotel dining room festooned with purple garlands for a coming wedding, Chinese of Jewish descent in the central city of Kaifeng came together on Friday night for a Seder, the traditional Passover meal over which the Exodus story is recounted. Just two days before Qingming, the “tomb-sweeping” festival when Chinese traditionally pay their respects at family graves, they had gathered to recall ancestors even more ancient and a world away.

The millennium-old Jewish population of Kaifeng has witnessed a surprising revival in recent years, a phenomenon all the more notable for the tolerant eye that the Chinese government, which does not count Judaism among state-sanctioned religions, seems to have turned toward it.

Eight clans in Kaifeng claim to be able to trace their lineage back to a small number of Sephardic Jews who made this fertile region their home in the 12th century, when Kaifeng was the capital of the Northern Sung Dynasty and a bustling hub on the Silk Road. But intermarriage, assimilation and isolation eroded their numbers over time. Floods and fires repeatedly destroyed the city’s synagogue, which was not rebuilt after a flood in the 1850s. The Cultural Revolution in the 1960s further quashed any lingering expressions of religious practice. Read the rest of this entry »


Nous Soumettons à Aotre Autorité: ‘Blasphemous’ Artwork Removed From Paris Exhibition After Threat, to Avoid Offense

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Artwork showing women’s shoes on Muslim prayer mats is removed from exhibition after warnings of possible violence

David Chazan reports: An artwork depicting high-heeled shoes on Islamic prayer mats has been removed from an exhibition after a Muslim group warned of possible violence in the wake of the Paris attacks.

The French-Algerian artist, Zoulikha Bouabdellah, withdrew the work from an exhibition in a northern Paris suburb with a large Muslim population after an Islamic group told local authorities it could provoke “uncontrollable, irresponsible incidents”.

“I’m left wondering at the reasons that push a certain fringe among French Muslims to see this work as blasphemous. I’m from a Muslim background and my intention was not to shock or provoke, but to offer a vision as a starting point for a dialogue.”

It is considered disrespectful to step on Muslim prayer maps with shoes.

Ms Bouabdellah has replaced the artwork, “Silence”, previously exhibited in Paris, New York, Berlin and Madrid, with a video installation showing belly-dancing to the French national anthem, with swirling red, white and blue shawls symbolising the national flag.

“I protest against all pressures and/or threats that would result in a peaceful art work being pulled from an exhibition, be it due to a Christian group, a Muslim group, or a group of other beliefs.”

The decision sparked protests from other artists who complained that freedom of expression was being undermined only weeks after 12 people were killed when gunmen attacked the office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. Another four people were killed at a kosher supermarket, and a policewoman was shot dead near a Jewish school.

Ms Bouabdellah, 37, said on Wednesday that the “lack of understanding” of her work was probably related to “heightened emotions” after the attacks. Read the rest of this entry »


Arabs Riot for Third Day on Temple Mount

For the third morning in a row, Arabs rioted on the Temple Mount, attempting to attack groups of Jews who sought to visit the holiest site in Judaism during the Sukkot holiday. Police again Thursday deployed large numbers of officers to keep the Arabs from attacking the Jews.

Police have reported that there were mild protests during recent days, but video footage showed dozens of young Arabs actively trying to attack Jews who were visiting the Mount. In one video, a Wakf official is seen threatening to break the camera of a Jew filming footage of the Arab rioters.

Earlier in the week, Arutz Sheva reported on a large Arab riot that greeted Jews who attempted to visit the Temple Mount on the first day of Chol Hamo’ed, the intermediate days of Sukkot. “When we went up on the Temple Mount, we were greeted with cries of ‘Allah is Great,’” said Asaf Fried, one of the members of a group that visited the Mount Tuesday. “The police again did nothing, even towards the end of the visit when the Arabs really came close to us and blocked our exit, shouting, ‘We will expel the Jews in blood and fire and will butcher Jews.’ The police still did nothing,” and the group of Jews escaped without harm, Fried said.

During the rioting, police arrested five Arabs for attacking a police officer. One Jewish worshipper was detained as well, police said, for failing to listen to their instructions.On Tuesday, police arrested Likud activist Moshe Feiglin, along with another Israeli, for attempting to pray at the site. On Wednesday, Rabbi Yehuda Leibman, director of the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva was taken into custody for allegedly praying at Judaism’s holiest site. Later in the day, 87-year-old Dr. Menachem Ben-Yashar, a long-time activist for Jewish rights on the Mount was arrested. Also detained was Elyashiv Sherlo, son of Rabbi Yuval Sherlo, head of the Petach Tikva yeshiva.

Jewish activists once again called on police to learn how to respond more effectively to Arab riots, and to establish a procedure at the Temple Mount similar to that at the Machpelah Cave – allowing Jews access to the site, at least on Jewish holidays.

By David Lev >> via Security – News – Israel National News