Thursday, June 30, 2005

Jerusalem of...

Lihiyot Am Chofshi B'artzeinu... To Be a Free Nation in our Land

From Hatikva (The Hope), Israel's national anthem

Today, the fourth annual Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade will be held Thursday under the theme of 'Love Without Borders' after a Jerusalem District Court ruled earlier this week that the city had to allow the event.

Now, forgive me for echoing a similar theme to that of my last posting, but today's parade perfectly highlights the conflicting ideologies inherent in Zionism. In a society that were to describe itself as promoting western, liberal, secular, pluralistic and democratic values, today's parade could be seen as an event showing the strength of the given society.

True, many people may not agree with the message of the Gay Pride Parade, but that is the essence of pluralism and democracy, whereby there is freedom of expression and tolerance for those of varying beliefs.

"The trial and the event are all about freedom of speech and the right for everyone to have dignity, visibility and equality in Jerusalem," said Hagai El-Ad, Director of Jerusalem Open House, a gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender advocacy group.

The burning question is, is that what the State of Israel is meant to be?

Turning again to Israel's national anthem, "Our hope is not lost, our hope of 2,000 years... to be a free nation in our land, in the land of Zion and Jerusalem", was it truly the hope of the Jewish People, over a 2,000 year exile, who hoped, yearned and prayed for a return to Eretz Yisrael, simply to be a "free nation in our land" or to be "the only democracy in the Middle East"?

"Love Without Borders"... in Jerusalem?

"These are issues that are of concern not just for the gay community but for everyone that holds Jerusalem dear to their heart", said Hagai El-Ad.

The Prophets also describe Jerusalem as a place of "Love Without Borders", but this love is not a love of the perverse, but a love of G-d and all that is holy. "For my house (The Beit HaMikdash) will be a house of prayer for all the nations of the world, who seek out G-d".

The challenge and mission of the Jewish People today is to decide which Jerusalem we want as the capital of our state, one that will be a source of 'Gay Pride' or one that will be a source of 'Jewish Pride'.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Goal of Zionism

In a speech on Tuesday to the Jewish Agency General Assembly currently meeting in Jerusalem, PM Sharon quoted the Zionist Revisionist leader (and ideological father of the Likud) Ze'ev Jabotinsky in defining the purpose of Zionism:

"Ze'ev Jabotinsky, defined the purpose of Zionism in his article "Majority". And I quote, 'The creation of a Jewish majority was, is and always will be the primary goal of Zionism; of all Zionism.' End of quote.

Since the publication of the article in 1923, we have succeeded in the mission to create a Jewish majority in the State of Israel. However, the existence of this majority is still not assured. Today, the goal of Zionism is to actively and determinedly ensure the Jewish majority in the State of Israel".

There is nothing new in these statements by both Jabotinsky and Sharon, and most on both sides of the political spectrum would agree with this statement. Yet, I am very troubled by this definition of Zionism.

Is Zionism only about creating a state in Israel that has a Jewish majority where we can live in peace and be a "normal" people and country, like everyone else in the world?

Is there nothing greater to Zionism and the purpose of the Jewish People returning to their ancient and eternal Homeland than the simple goal of being a majority?

The question that is often neglected when discussing the purpose of Zionism, is what exactly do we want to accomplish with a Jewish majority here?

What type of state do we hope to create, exactly? One where we strive to mimic every aspect of Western culture, or perhaps a state that will serve as one of the central foundations to creating a uniquely Jewish society that will serve a beacon of light and truth to all the nations of the world, and will serve to sanctify the name of Hashem?

In my eyes, a Jewish majority can't be the goal or purpose of Zionism, rather it can only serve as a means to a greater end... The sooner that the Jewish People collectively begin to focus on how best to achieve our ultimate goal will be able to truly fulfill the goal and mission of Zionism.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Avi Bieber and American Aliyah...

I don't want to get into the whole issue right now over whether or not one should refuse orders in connection with Sharon's expulsion plan. But, in light of recent events, I just wanted to share some thoughts.

Today, Corporal Avi Bieber, who 'was arrested on Sunday after refusing to participate in the violent suppression of protestors seeking to prevent the IDF from demolishing abandoned structures near the Gush Katif community of Shirat HaYam', was sentenced to 56 days in military prison for his actions.

What caught my eyes is that Avi was quoted as saying that he didn't leave America and make Aliyah to Israel, so that he could forcibly expel Jews from their homes. "It's not right. It's not right and it's not just."

Avi Bieber made Aliyah with his family, at age 10, from Passaic New Jersey, and currently lives with his family in Gush Etzion.

To me, in many ways, this is what American Aliyah is all about. People who choose to make Aliyah from America are not running away from problems, they are not fleeing anti-Semitism or economic hardship, rather they are choosing to play an active role in shaping the destiny of the Jewish People.

Aliyah from North America is not about being complacent; rather it represents a striving for Jewish fulfillment, both on an individual and national level.

Avi Bieber made it very clear that he is a proud Jew and Zionist and he came here with his family to build and not to destroy - to be a part of the Jewish People returning home to their Land, and helping to ensure that it flourishes.

Regardless of where one stands on the refusal issues, I think there is a lot that we can learn from Avi Bieber.

No Turning Back???

I came across an interesting article in today's Jerusalem Post, entitled "Canceling pullout would spark recession".

The article quotes a study headed by Prof. Daniel Tsiddon of Tel Aviv University, which claims "From an economic perspective, completing the disengagement is a vital action. If... the disengagement is not carried out, the economy will deteriorate into a deeper recession than that into which it was dragged as a result of the last Intifada".

Prof. Tsiddon's study considers 4 different scenarios whereby the "disengagement" plan could be stopped and explains the economic consequences of each one.

The findings of the study have already come under criticism, in particular by 'Yakir Plessner, Hebrew University economist and former deputy governor of the Bank of Israel, dismissed it as "unprofessional" and... In truth, the effect of canceling the withdrawal is "anybody's guess," Plessner said, questioning the authors' grounds for arguing that it would cause a deeper recession than the one of 2002-2003. "I don't know where they got this".

What interests me is the motivation behind conducting this study in the first place. The publication of the findings of this study comes in the footsteps of the Israeli Left (the media, in particular) admitting that "disengagement" is not going to bring peace and security to the citizens of Israel, which was one of the main motivations for the plan, but that now the main reason for implementing "Disengagement" is because of the need to end the "occupation".

Clearly, what is happening here is that one by one, the myths that were created and fed to the Jewish People as to why "Disengagement" was in their best interests are being unmasked - and it is clear that the Emperor is naked.

So, what is the latest reason as to why the destruction of Jewish communities in Israel must go forward?

Well, of course, if we don't carry out Sharon's expulsion plan (which won't bring peace or security, and in the eyes of the world not even end the "occupation"), Israel will face economic ruin. So, we have no choice but to push forward, right?

Makes perfect sense to me.

So, the choice that the Jewish People are faced with today, is do we continue to go along with the plan calling for the destruction of Jewish communities throughout Israel, that won't bring peace or security all because our esteemed leaders wrote checks that they knew they couldn't cash?

My parents taught me when I was growing up that sometimes people make mistakes, and when you do, you have to fess' up to them, and make things right - even if it is painful.

It is time for the Government of Israel to fess' up to their mistakes, and begin making things right for the Jewish People. Even if the findings of the study are accurate, which is hardly a given, the ruin that would befall the Jewish People and the State of Israel should Sharon push this plan through will be much more costly.

Jewish Morality

The other day, while riding a bus in Jerusalem, the bus driver, after picking up all the passengers at the particular stop, announced to all of the passengers on the bus that he was not going to continue driving the bus until a seat was found for a pregnant woman who had just boarded.

Of course, in no time at all, a seat was found for the woman. I looked around, and I couldn't help but notice how nearly everyone was smiling and nodding their heads, signaling their approval of that the bus driver had done.

This driver, with a true Jewish heart, was able to speak up at an injustice that he perceived and took swift action to remedy the situation.

This was in stark contrast to a news story from this past week.

Recently, I came across an article with the following headline: Israel Will Use Airstrikes To Defend Disengagement .

This headline caused me to take a double-take... and I was even more bewildered after reading the article, which stated:

"On Wednesday a senior Sharon security aide repeated a warning given to Abbas the day before that if his security forces fail to curb terror attacks during the mass evacuation of settlers from Gaza this summer, Israel may launch air strikes in Palestinian territory, even at the cost of innocent Palestinian lives.

"If pinpoint response proves insufficient, we may have to use weaponry that causes major collateral damage, including helicopters and planes, with mounting danger to surrounding people," said Brigadier-General Eival Giladi, while briefing journalists on Wednesday".

Can someone explain to me why during Operation Defensive Shield, Israel sent 13 of its very best, soldiers in the IDF, the army of the Jewish People, to premature deaths, when in sending them into Jenin, AKA Suicide City, the government and army decided to send in ground forces, as opposed to using heavy weaponry, for fear of collateral damage?

The answer that was given was that the Jewish People hold themselves to a higher standard of morality...

Can someone tell me where the higher standard of morality is, when during this past week more Jews were murdered and wounded in terror attacks simply because they committed the crime of being Jewish and living in Israel, and there is no response?

Can someone tell me where the higher standard of Jewish morality is, hundreds of thousands of rockets and mortars continue to rain down on Gush Katif and Sderot, and yet there is no response?

Why is it that only when it comes to the desire of Ariel Sharon to destroy Jewish communities in Israel and uproot thousands of Jews from their homes, that those very same terrorists who have so much Jewish blood on their hands are finally threatened with the use of "weaponry that causes major collateral damage"? Where is the morality?

The Talmud states that one who shows mercy to the cruel will ultimately shows cruelty to those who are deserving of mercy.

The Jewish People are deserving of leadership that reflect authentic Jewish values, and restore a sense of Jewish of Pride to the Jewish Nation and lead them in fulfilling their destiny - "Who is like Israel, one nation in the Land"

What's the Difference Between a Jewish and Zionist State?

The results of "The Arab-Jewish Index 2004", a survey conducted by Prof. Sami Smooha and funded by the Jewish-Arab Center at the University of Haifa and the Citizens' Accord Forum, were recently released and shed light into the (im)possibilities of Jewish - Arab co-existence in the State of Israel.

The survey, as reported by Ha'artez, (click here for article) produced the following results:

1) 70 percent of Israeli Arabs are able to accept Israel as a Jewish, democratic state.

2) Only 13.8 percent agree to the concept of Israel as a Zionist state.

3) Over 72 percent believe that "Israel as a Zionist state, in which Jews and Arab live together, is racist."

These results naturally lead to the following question:

What exactly is the difference between a Jewish State and a Zionist State?

"According to Prof. Smooha, Israeli Arabs differentiate between Israel's Jewish character and its Zionist nature. Israeli Arabs believe that a Jewish state is a state in which most of the citizens are Jewish, whereas a Zionist state is a state for the Jewish people from around the world."

"For Zionists, one of the goals Israel should set itself is maintaining its Jewish majority at all costs," says Smooha. "That is a Zionist goal, and includes settlement in the Jewish sense and the ingathering of exiles by means of the Law of Return. But the Arabs are not willing to accept this situation in perpetuity."

What does all this mean?

Basically, it means that Israeli Arabs only accept the right of the Jewish People to a Jewish State so long as they feel that they have the ability through (democratic, demographic or other means) to ultimately turn the Jewish State of Israel, where they are currently a minority, into an Arab state, whereby they will be the majority.

As such, the Israeli Arabs, who do not accept the concept of the State of Israel being a state for the Jewish People around the world, are naturally opposed to Israel's Law of Return, which gives the right of Jews everywhere to move to Israel and receive automatic citizenship - as this, in their eyes is a racist law.

Even more than that, what this survey shows us, is that Israeli Arabs are willing to accept Israel as a Jewish State, so long as it exists as a State of the Jews, whereby the State is only Jewish in that there is a (temporary) Jewish majority, yet the overall character, policies and national goals of the state would not be specifically Jewish.

It is important to keep in mind that this survey reflected the beliefs of Israeli Arabs, those who are citizens of the State of Israel. If Israeli Arabs are not willing to accept as a "Zionist State", than what does that say about our chances of making peace with the "Palestinians"?

If Israel is to truly serve as a Jewish / Zionist State, then it is imperative that the State of Israel concern itself immediately with the ramifications of this survey, which poses a clear and present danger to the future of Israel as a Jewish / Zionist State, as opposed to wasting its time and resources planning the destruction of Jewish communities, in the name of "peace", which as this survey makes clear, is not a viable option.

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