Sunday, July 31, 2005

The War of Words - Political Deception in the Holy Land

In the Bible, we are told of the "Sin of the Spies" - the spies who were sent by Moshe to scout out the Land of Israel, promised to them by G-d, prior to entering it. Upon the spies return, 10of the 12 spies proceeded to speak "Dibbat Ha'aretz" (Slander about the Land of Israel), as a result of which, they were able to convince the majority of the Jewish People that they were better off remaining in the wilderness, or even turning back to and returning to Egypt.

Many of the Biblical commentators ask how they were able to accomplish this; after all, this was the land that G-d Himself had promised to the Jewish People. The answer given was that spies (for reasons that I will not elaborate upon here) did not want to enter the Land of Israel. Yet, they knew that if they returned and said that the Land was a terrible place, no one would accept their report. Instead, having understood human psychology, they began their report by speaking in glowing terms about the Land of Israel, and then, in a subtle manner, they were able to weave their lies and falsehoods into their account, in order to dissuade the Jewish People from wanting to enter the Land of Israel.

As a result of this first occurrence of the use of "political language" the Jewish People were forced to wander in the wilderness for 40 years, until every member of the generation of the spies had died.

George Orwell, in his essay "Politics and the English Language" defines political language as follows:
"Political language - and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists - is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind...".

The political language that emanates from the Israeli government today fits this description perfectly, and eerily resembles what life was like in another of Orwell's more famous works, "1984".

While one can cite perhaps dozens, if not hundreds of examples of political language in Israeli society, I would like to focus on how the government and press have used seemingly innocent language to sway public opinion. (For a more comprehensive list of terms and their hidden meanings, see the Arutz 7 Lexicon). Ironically, the government and media have been so successful, that even those who oppose the plan regularly use terminology that is meant to bring about support for it while delegitimizing those who oppose it.

1) Disengagement / Evacuation of Settlements: The very name of Sharon's plan is meant to cover up the fact that this plan involves the following actions: expulsion of thousands of Jews from their homes, the destruction of 10's of Jewish communities in the Land of Israel, the destruction of synagogues and centers of Torah study, the unearthing of thousands of Jewish graves, awarding Arab terrorists for their murderous actions and whetting their appetite for more... Of course, if Sharon referred to the plan in those terms, it would be logical to expect that far fewer people would be supportive of this plan.

2) Extreme Right-Wing: In Israel today, anyone who speaks out or demonstrates against the "Disengagement" plan is described as being an extreme right-winger. Could it not be that these people have legitimate concerns over this plan, as has been expressed by many military and political leaders. It seems that there is no room for legitimate opposition.

3) Likud "Rebels": Why is it that those within the Likud party who oppose the actions of Prime Minister Sharon (and head of the Likud) are referred to as rebels? Would it not make more sense to refer to them as Likud "Loyalists", as it is they who are remaining loyal to both their party platform, as well as party promises from the past election. By referring to them as rebels, it seems as if they are the ones who are being traitorous, when it reality, it is Sharon and his followers who have betrayed the Israeli electorate.

4) "Settlers": The term settler today has implications of lawbreakers and anarchists. While their actions are almost entirely similar to the Halutzim (Jewish pioneers) of the mandate era, who are viewed as Zionist heroes, the devotion of those Jews (Israeli citizens) who have shown true devotion and dedication to the settlement of the Land of Israel are viewed, instead, as outlaws. When Jews who reside in YESHA (Judea, Samaria and Aza) are killed or wounded, they are referred to as settlers, and not as Jews or Israeli citizens - as if to imply that they have a lesser status than other Israeli citizens...

5) The West Bank / the Territories: "It is illogical to think that a bank of such a narrow brook as the Jordan should spread out over tens of kilometers, from the Allenby Bridge to Elkanah". By referring to Judea, Samaria and Aza (YESHA) as the West Bank or the Territories, the government and media are actively hiding the connection and right of the Jewish People to these lands. The term West Bank gives the implication that these lands are part of Jordan and not Israel. When places such as Chevron, Beit El, Beit Lechem are referred to as "territories" one would never be aware of any of the historical connection and right of the Jewish People to them, and as such, helps to create a willingness within society to part with them.

As I mentioned above, the list goes on and on. It is incumbent upon us not to allow the Sin of the Spies to occur once again in our generation. We must be diligent in fighting for truth and justice, and opposing those who seek to slander and delegitamize those who seek to promote a spiritual and physical connection to the Jewish People and Land of Israel.

Friday, July 29, 2005

A Lack of Standards...

On a daily basis, I read dozens of articles from a wide array of Israel's media outlets. Of late, I have been troubled by some of the things that I have been reading. Over the course of the past week, I have read articles that contained the word "sh*t" at least half-a-dozen times, an article that included a quote that used a rather distasteful reference to colored people (rhymes with trigger), and in a third, a security officer involved with implementing SHaron's "Disengagement" plan making reference to "wet dreams".

I recall, while growing up, when the show NYPD Blue came on the air, and it was a big deal because they had fought for the right to be able to show partial nudity. Today, from what I understand, one of the most popular shows on TV is a show called "Desperate Housewives" which appears on ABC - a channel that anyone with a TV receives. No longer does one need to subscribe to channels like HBO, Showtime or Cinemax in order to have access to shows filled with sexual innuendo, lewd conduct and scantily dressed women.

Here is what the show is about:
A primetime soap with a truly contemporary take on "happily ever after," this new hour- long drama takes a darkly comedic look at suburbia, where the secret lives of housewives aren't always what they seem.

From her unique vantage point, Mary Alice sees more now than she ever did alive, and she's planning to share all the delicious secrets that hide behind every neighbor's closed door in this seemingly perfect American suburb.

This leads me to a question for which I do not have an answer:

Which came first, a decline in societal values and morality, which is reflected in the media and entertainment industry, or, were these outlets the cause for the decadence that we now find plaguing our societies and invading our homes - whether on TV, radio, newspaper or internet?

If we, as Jews, believe in creating a society that reflects our beliefs, values and principles, than this can't be something that we take lightly. I don't have answers as to what actions can be taken, but I do know that this is something that demands our attention. These messages enter our consciousness in many ways, and it is almost impossible to shut them out without putting up thick and high walls.

As I see it, we have 3 choices:

1) Cut ourselves off totally from the modern world
2) Accept the fact that this a fight we can't win, and accept the consequences that go along with this issue
3) Find a way to help create a better reality...

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Future of Religious Zionism

Here's a great article in Ha'aretz which does a pretty good job of explaining the mind-set and goals of the Religious Zionist camp today, in comparion to the direction and mindset of the Secular Zionist movement.

The article is entitled At Kfar Maimon the State of the Faithful was founded by Kalman Neuman.

"The public that gathered last week at Kfar Maimon - almost entirely from religious Zionism (apart from representatives of the messianic stream of Chabad) - does not see the future of the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria (West Bank) as a strictly political issue. It sees the disengagement plan as an expression of a value vacuum, mental tiredness and a loss of the dedication that characterized the generation of the state's founders".

"To them the source of the collapse is clear: There are those who stress the prime minister's personal responsibility, but all of them see in the plan an expression of a crisis in Jewish identity, with respect to the Jewish people and the Land of Israel and the adoption of Western mass culture. As opposed to these, they describe the masses who gathered at Kfar Maimon as an idealist public that is sure of itself and prepared to take the reins from those who have grown tired. There is no need to convince the convinced. But the explanation touches the root: The struggle for Gush Katif is only the tip of the iceberg of the struggle for the State of Israel."

"If this is the ultimate aim, how is religious Zionism supposed to perceive its appropriate place at the head of the camp? In conversations with many people the reply comes up again and again: "face to face." The idea of the unmediated encounter can lead to a breakthrough of the siege on those who feel that there voice is not heard, and as Rabbi Shlomo Aviner puts it: "The engagement movement is traveling on a road that bypasses the media, bypasses politics and bypasses demonstrations." Rabbi Tau says that "it is necessary to meet with our brother Jews, to enable them to leave the television for a moment and encounter a different spirit, a pure spirit, and one with clear, true and eternal beliefs. A bit of light will dispel much of the darkness and everything will begin to flow in a different direction."

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Rabbi Melchior on...

In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, Member of Knesset Rabbi Michael Melchior (Labor - Meimad), currently serving as Deputy Minister of Education has recently been appointed to be in charge of Diaspora Affairs for the Israeli government - the 2nd time that he has found himself in this post - recently vacated by Natan Sharansky, who resigned from the position in protest to Prime Minister Sharon's expulsion ("Disengagement") plan.

Here are some of the things that Rabbi Melchior had to say during the interview (along with my thoughts on them:

"We have to make it understood that anti-Semitism is not a Jewish problem, that this is society's problem and civilization's problem. We need to activate a leadership among non-Jews who believe in human rights to take responsibility... it can't be only Jewish organizations who are working on this."

I have heard this idea many times before, and I just don't get it. Can someone please explain to me how anti-Semitism is anyone's problem other than the Jewish People's? Yes, anti-Semitism isn't pretty, but to say that it is in the best interest of general society and civilization is a bit of a stretch, as I see it.

When there is anti-Semitism, the Jews suffer - not the Christians, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, agnostics or anyone else. The sooner we internalize this message ,the sooner we will come up with ways to successfully deal with this issue - if we expect the nations of the world to solve this problem for us, we will be waiting a long time - and it won't be pretty.

Combating Assimilation:
"I don't believe in fighting assimilation by saying that we should fight assimilation," he said, "I believe that you will fight assimilation and invite Aliyah by working toward an active, relevant, young, exciting Jewish community".

Right on.

"I also don't believe that we will gain one new immigrant by saying, 'You have to make Aliyah,'" Melchior continued. "Likewise, you can't run around telling people for four years that Israel is a terrible place and all the people are miserable, that you need to pay for barbed wire around every kindergarten, that people are blowing up on every corner, that there is deep hunger and so on, and then say, 'Now, come on Aliyah.'"

On the money. At the same time, I do not believe that anyone should be misled into believing that Israel is something that it is not. There are many challenges facing the Jewish People here in Israel, but those living here are taking an active role in helping to create a better future for the Jewish State of Israel (not to mention, fulfilling the will of G-d).

Sadly, for too many Jews, when you mention Israel, they will immediately think of Palestinians, terror, "Disengagement", and so on... We need to be able to help Jews think of Israel in a positive light and recognize how they as individuals, and as part oft he greater Jewish People can find fulfillment and growth in the Jewish State.

The Future of Secular Zionism...

On the blog "Out of Step Jew" there is an excellent post entitled "Welcome Back" which discusses the future of (and hypocrisy) of Secular Zionism, and their belief that they own a monopoly on all that is Zionist.

Here's another article from today's Ha'aretz along the same lines entitled The faded blue of the left by Gideon Samet.


Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Ilan Ramon: Gone, but Not Forgotten...

On the blog "Sweet Rose", I was reminded that today NASA launched it's first manned shuttle, Discovery, since the Columbia shuttle disaster two and a half years ago.

While it's nice to see NASA and the US Space Program moving forward, I am still saddened by the loss of Ilan Ramon Z"L, Israel's 1st astronaut. In these trying times, we are sorely in need of role models of his caliber who can inspire the Jewish People today. Most likely, there will be many more space missions in the years to come, but I doubt if any shuttle, or any astronaut will be able to reach the heights of Ilan Ramon.

One of the last thoughts that Ilan shared with us was the following:
“The Jewish People have an ability to survive everything, including horrible periods, and go from the darkest days to days of hope and faith in the future.”

Ilan, from your mouth to G-d's ears. We could really use your prayers right now.

In that spirit, I am reposting here an essay I wrote immediately following the Columbia shuttle tragedy.

The Zionist Question - Answered

From the moment the tragedy of the space shuttle Columbia occurred until Ilan Ramon’s funeral yesterday, it has been a time of reflection here in Israel. Everyone, each in their own way, has experienced a wide range of emotions – from pride to sadness, all at the same time - and has tried to understand the significance of what occurred, and how it impacted them as individuals.

In my eyes, Ilan Ramon is a hero. Not simply an Israeli hero, but a Jewish hero. He is a hero, not because he was Israel’s 1st astronaut (although it’s nice to see that the Zionistic spirit of the chalutzim – pioneers – still exists today) but because he showed Israel, the Jewish people and the world what the State of Israel and the Jewish people are truly all about.

Since the founding of the State of Israel, and in the decades preceding it, leaders of the Zionist movement have long debated what the purpose / goal of having a Jewish State is. Is it to merely serve as a place of refuge for Jews in distress? A place where Jews can live “normal” lives, like citizens of other countries? Or, was the Jewish State to represent and (serve to implement) the collective dreams, traditions and beliefs of the Jewish People that have survived through thousands of years of persecution and exile?

Ilan Ramon provided the answer

Ilan’s mother was a Holocaust survivor and his father fought in Israel’s War of Independence. From the very start Ilan was imbued with both a sense of the great tragedies that had befallen the Jewish People, as well as the key to ensuring not just the survival of the Jewish People but its flourishing. Ilan, over the course of his life would demonstrate that he internalized both messages.

In 1981, Ilan helped to avert a tragedy of a great magnitude against the Jewish People, as he was one of the eight Israeli Air Force pilots who blew up Iraq’s Osiraq (near-finished) nuclear reactor. That mission was one that safeguarded lives of each and every one of the millions of Jews living in Israel. The mission that Ilan recently undertook was to help save the Jewish people again, but this time the threat was not of a physical nature. Officially, the mission was to be a scientific one – one where experiments were conducted not just for the benefit of Israel or the Jewish people but for mankind as a whole. Yet, for Ilan, this mission represented something more.

As a representative of Israel and the Jewish People Ilan requested to be provided with kosher meals while in space, as well as having asked how he could keep Shabbat in space. Keep in mind, that on Earth, Ilan was not an observant Jew, and kept neither Kashrut nor Shabbat. Ilan wasn’t finished there. Onto the shuttle he brought with him a mezuzah which he affixed to one of the doorposts in the shuttle, a Kiddush cup which he used on Shabbat, a small Torah which survived the Bergen Belsen concentration camp, a drawing of a boy murdered in Auschwitz, of how Earth might look from the moon, and the national flag of Israel. While orbiting over Jerusalem, in a moment of great pride, Ilan recited “Shema Yisrael”.

In a video conference with Prime Minister Sharon, Ilan remarked that, “I think it is very, very important to preserve our historical tradition and I mean historical and religious tradition... From space Israel looks like it does on a map: small but charming. I think we have a great people in Israel, and we have to maintain our Jewish heritage.” To which Sharon responded, “I would like to congratulate you for standing up as a Jew.”

Therein lies the answer. What made Ilan Ramon so remarkable was that everything he did was done as a Zionist, as an Israeli and, most importantly, as a Jew. Ilan Ramon was the embodiment of Jewish pride. We in Israel and Jews the world over are facing difficult challenges, whether it be the resurgence of anti-Semitism, or the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians, it is not an easy thing to step back and look for the good in Israel, and what we, the Jewish People have accomplished in such a short time here in the Jewish State. Ilan also showed the world that there is more to Israel than “occupation” or suicide bombings. Indeed, Israel has something to contribute to the world, and she will do so with pride and her head held high.

There is a story told, in the Talmud Taanit, of a man who was traveling through the desert. He was weak, thirsty, hungry and tired. He miraculously came upon a tree (Ilan in Hebrew) of whose sweet fruits he partook, drank of the stream that ran beside it, and found comfort under the shade that the tree’s branches provided. When the traveler had regained his strength and was ready to continue his journey, he turned to the tree and in an effort to show his gratitude for all that the tree had done for him exclaimed, “Ilan, Ilan, bameh averechechah” (“Tree, tree, how can I bless you?”)? “I could bless you that you should have sweet fruits, but behold you already have sweet fruits. I could bless you that you should have water running beside you, but behold you already have water running beside you. I could bless you that you should have branches with which to provide shade, but behold you already have branches to provide shade. As such, I bless you that all of your offspring should be just like you”

Our Ilan has given us so much, yet how can we possibly show our appreciation. We could bless him that he should have a love of the Land of Israel, a love of the Jewish People or a love for the heritage of the Jewish People, but behold he already possessed each of these qualities. As such, what remains is for us to bless Ilan that his offspring – his family, as well as his fellow Israeli’s and all of the Jewish people – should be just like him.

While orbiting above us, Ilan offered his own observation and blessing to the Jewish People – one that should we follow his example we will all be blessed to see come to fruition. “The Jewish People have an ability to survive everything, including horrible periods, and go from the darkest days to days of hope and faith in the future.”

Ilan has already helped us take the 1st step towards that better tomorrow.

We Answer to a Higher Authority...

In a Ha'aretz article entitled: Democracy needs to go on the offense by Ze'ev Segal, we find the following (contradictory) remarks:

"Many of the settlers may have forgotten that the most convincing reasons for needing to maintain law and order can be found in Jewish teachings. Rabbi Hanina said that were it not for fear of the Almighty, people would eat their comrades alive. Rashi explained that the injunction in the Torah not to stray from the path is valid "even if you are told about left that it is right, and about right that it is left."

The Supreme Court invoked these teachings in connection with obeying the Knesset's decision and legal instructions expressing the sovereignty of the entire nation."

One can infer two complimentary points from the above:

1) Segal believes that in the modern State of Israel "fear of the Almighty" means - 1st and foremost - fearing all state institutions, such as the Knesset and Supreme Court... as opposed to G-d.

2) It is, in fact, those whom Segal refers to as "settlers" who have remained consistent with the Jewish teachings that Segal quotes: "Rabbi Hanina said that were it not for fear of the Almighty, people would eat their comrades alive". After all, it is not the "settlers" who are preparing to destroy Jewish communities in the Land of Israel, expel thousands of Jews, give over their homes and land to murderers, and are preparing to build a casino on rubble of these Jewish homes for Israeli's which will go directly towards funding future terror attacks against the Jewish People and State - all in the name of "fearing the Almighty", "following orders" and "upholding the rule of law".

Ha'aretz and the followers of its ideological bent can continue to worship at the altar of their false gods, but please spare us all the manipulation of Jewish sources for such un-Jewish ends.

To close on a positive note...

Thank you, Ze'ev Segal and Ha'aretz for unequivocally showing the truth of the Torah and the teachings of our sages - "Moshe Emet V'Torato Emet".

Gambling Away the Jewish State...

The cat is finally out of the bag, and it's time to place your bets...

Can you guess who stands to gain the most from Israel's "Disengagement" plan - who the big winners and losers are going to be?

If so, it's time to put your money where your mouth is, and click here to find out if you were right...

(If you guessed Sharon and friends, then CONGRATULATIONS, you're the big winner!!!)

Remember though, in the game of "Disengagement", played according to the "Sharon House" rules, the Jews always lose.

Home is Where the Ballot Box Is...

Over the past week, there have been a number of articles debating whether or not Israelis who are overseas during elections should have the right to vote. Currently, only those residing in Israel at the time of the elections (and who can physically make it to the ballot box are entitled to vote. Only Israeli consular / government officials(and their families) can vote from overseas.

In the most recent article, the Jerusalem Post reports:
"That was fast. Tuesday's Post reported that a bill to allow absentee voting in Israeli elections was "likely to advance in the Knesset this week." Thursday's paper reported that "the bill was rejected" this time around.

The vote was 25 to 23, and some might call it unfair. The only Knesset members voting were the ones in their seats at the time. If voting rights were granted to MK’s outside the chamber, maybe those MK’s in turn would be more likely to grant voting rights to citizens outside the country.

According to the news reports, it's a political thing. "The Left opposes absentee voting because it reduces the weight of the Arab vote."


From Bon Voyage to Shalom...

Yesterday, 330 Jews from France made Aliyah through the help of the AMI fund. The AMI fund is a private venture, started with seed money from the Jewish Agency, intended to encourage Aliyah by providing financial support to French Olim, as well as arraigning for "community absorption," where immigrants settle together in neighborhood clusters around the country.

These Olim are part of the 3,300+ Jews expected to make Aliyah from France this year, the highest total in 30 years.
"The main reason is an ideological reason, a Zionist reason," said Arieh Azoulay, chairman of the Jewish Agency's Aliyah and absorption committee, pointing to intermarriage rates over 50% which threaten the next generation's ability to retain its Jewish identity.

"The wave of anti-Semitism [only] enhances the Zionism of Jews in France," he said.

Whatever it takes... We're just happy to be able to say "Welcome Home"!

The Jewish Suicidal Urge...

"Then the Devil Said"

- Natan Alterman, Jewish / Israeli Poet (1910 - 1970)

"Satan then said:
How do I overcome
This besieged one?
He has courage
And talent,
And implements of war
And resourcefulness.
Only this I shall do,
I'll dull his mind
And cause him to forget
The justice of his cause."

H'aretz reports:

The Jewish National Fund will place signs commemorating the Palestinian villages of Yalo and Amuas, destroyed in 1967, which were located in what is today Canada Park, near Latrun.

The decision was made following a petition to the High Court by the Zochrot organization, dedicated to commemorating destroyed Palestinian villages and supporting the right of return for Palestinians that fled or were expelled in 1948.

The JNF said that it did not oppose putting up the signs as long as they did not damage the park's aesthetic value.

To make things even more preposterous, the managing director of Zochrot is Eitan Bronstein - a nice Jewish name if I ever heard one. Eitan is going to tell us what one of the main goals of Zochrot is:

Signs posted at demolished villages will invoke the question of a Law of Return for Palestinian refugees. The signs will place the question of the Palestinians' right to return on the public agenda by testifying to that which existed here, to that which cannot be ignored forever. Jewish recognition of the ongoing refugee problem and determined striving towards an agreement on the issue of return are keys to real reconciliation between the two peoples. Without a fair solution to the problem of return, the conflict can never be resolved.

We are a group of Israelis that aim to raise awareness to the tragedy and suffering of the Palestinian people, particularly among the Jewish population of Israel. Posting signs at demolished Palestinian villages is one way to advance this goal, but is only one element of an expansive effort to commemorate the Naqba in Hebrew. Calling attention to the Naqba in Hebrew-at schools, universities, and in other public arenas-should be an objective of all who desire mutual recognition and peace between Arabs and Jews in the Middle East. At a time when the word "mahsom" (roadblock) is so ubiquitous that young Palestinians are unaware that it's a term belonging to the occupation, let alone a word in Hebrew, it is appropriate that Israelis think and speak of the Naqba as a way to begin to understand Palestinian suffering.

Now, for some basic questions:

1) What is a nice Jewish boy like Eitan Bronstein doing serving at the head of an Israeli organization that refers to the creation of the State of Israel as the Naqba (Catastrophe) and which calls for the "Palestinian" Right of Return - which would utterly destroy the Jewish State of Israel?

2) Why is it that Israel's Supreme Court, time and again, undercuts anything and everything that characterizes Israel as a Jewish State and our connection to the Land of Israel?

3) What is the Israeli / Jewish visitor to these "aesthetically beautiful" parks supposed to feel when reading such a sign? That he is a thief? That this land does not belong to him - not the 67' borders and not the 48' borders either? When Jewish students will be brought to these parks on outings, will it be a required part of their curriculum to understand that they have no right to be here? (Ok kids, now go and have a good time...).

In the opening poem, Natan Alterman, Israel Prize winner and lover of the Land and People of Israel, divined the major challenge that the Jewish People in the State of Israel are facing today. Alterman recognized that the greatest threat to the Jewish State and the ability of the Jewish People to fulfill their collective destiny were not the enemies that surround us, but our Jewish brothers and sisters who have forgotten the "justice of our cause" - who have lost sight of the unique mission and destiny of the Jewish People that justifies our continued existence, and as such, have lost the ability to perceive the historical, moral and divine legitimacy of the re-establishment of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel.

Today, we have the government of the State of Israel preparing to destroy Jewish communities in the Land of Israel and expel thousands of Jews - all in the name of "Democracy". 20,000+ military and police personnel were called up to besiege those who were protesting against the plan (more troops than have been used to fight against "Palestinian" terrorists" - in the name of "upholding the rule of law".

Have we gone mad? Have we lost our minds? Have we forgotten our millennia-old yearnings and prayers to return to the Land of Israel and to restore what was rightfully ours? Have we forgotten who is the true enemy, who has spent the last 100 years trying to wipe out any Jewish presence in the Land of Israel? Have we become so consumed in our quest to adopt every western value and cultural norm, no matter how perverse, that we are willing to sell our birthright for a pot of American lentils? Have we lost the ability to inspire our young through our heritage, that they must embrace the cause of our enemy in their quest for self-fulfillment?

It's time to wake up... It's not too late... But we're getting close!

Monday, July 25, 2005

I Hate to Beat a Dead Horse, But...

Check out this article on Ha'aretz, entitled: Sa Nur settlers: Two Shin Bet provocateurs outed .

In many ways, the Shabak's use of agent provocateurs to portray Jews of religious and nationalist leanings in a negative light is similar to the "Palestinians" use of terror as a political weapon...

So long as it produces results, there's no reason not to... (even if it is wrong)

In spite of all of the declarations by the Shabak that they are not making use of agent provocateurs, it continues to happen, and the government does nothing. Again, a similarity to the government's response to dealing with "Palestinian" terrorism.

One would imagine that if the government were truly bothered by either, they would take steps to ensure that neither continued, but alas...

Asleep at the Wheel...

The following was caught on camera during the 3rd day of the anti-"disengagement" march to Gush Katif, where 40,000 Jews were being held under siege, surrounded by 20,000 military and police personnel:
"I want arrests and I am telling you to use water cannons without holding back. Don't call me, just use the cannons. Shit on them. Let them burn. Use the cannons and batons. Hit them on their lower body and work the way you know how."

- Negev police commander Brigadier-General Nisso Shacham, telling a Border Police chief Deputy-Commander Roni Ohana to use violence against anti-expulsion activists.

Learning of the footage and the Channel 10 program, Shacham explained his statements were made in a closed conversation with a senior officer following a number of days without sleep, expressing remorse for his harsh words. He said that this was not his usual style of speech, and that he was "tired" when the recording was made. (Excerpted from Israel Insider)

About two weeks ago, the following was said by Ehud Olmert at the Israel Policy Forum dinner in the US, as the motivation for Israel's "Disengagement" plan (and his support of it):
“We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies….”

One can't help but notice the similarities here. Both the police officer who sanctioned violence against innocent civilians, as well as a government official who supports the destruction of Jewish communities and expulsion of thousands of Jews in Israel is out of an overwhelming sense of tiredness.

This tiredness is not merely from physical exhaustion, but a tiredness that comes from having lost sight of the justness of our cause - of the right of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel - and of the desire to just live in peace, regardless of the concessions that need to be made to bring it about.

I can only suggest that those who feel "tired" go home and get some rest, and let those who are still strong in spirit and who still believe in the rightness of our cause take over the responsibility of leading our nation.

Only on eBay...

Ha'aretz reports that the following items are up for sale on eBay.

1) "The original eye patch worn by former defense minister and chief of staff Moshe Dayan" - $75,000 - (click here to bid).

2) "A hanukkiyah (multibranched candelabra) belonging to prime minister David Ben-Gurion and made from bullet cartridges" - $12,500 - (Click here to bid).

3) Autographed ticket stub from the flight I made Aliyah on. Guaranteed to be one-of-a-kind!!! Opening bid $50 (View it as an investment - I might be famous one day) - serious bidders only, please.

The 7 Unconvincing Rationalizations of "Disengagement"-Minded People...

Can someone please remind me (or tell me, for the first time) why / how "Disengagement is good for us? ("Us" being the Jewish People, the Jewish State, and at the very least, the State of Israel...).

In an article entitled: King Arik and the 7 Excuses by Rabbi Yisrael Rosen, takes a look at the 7 different reasons people who support the "Disengagement" give, but how none really stack up (not to mention that we don't know which of them represents the true motivation of our esteemed leader, Prime Minister Sharon). (Another article which echoes the mystery behind the motivation for "Disengagement" is Disengagement is costing us by Eytan Bentsur).

Rabbi Rosen suggests we all try the following:
Let’s do a simple exercise. Ask your next door neighbor, or someone at work or just anyone on the street: what is the goal of the “disengagement” according to its supporters? Please explain!

You will receive a plethora of vague, stammering answers. Try and follow them as I grade them below, on a scale of “truth” value as I see it.

To see the "answers" given, you'll have to check out the article.

He Concludes:
In the Yeshiva world in which I grew up, there’s a common expression that many explanations generally points to a weakness in the argument. No explanation at all – only underscores that. But the law says that “a king will do as he will and there is none to check his hand”. (Maimonides, Laws of Kings 5:3).

But the end of that sentence is: “if that is what he needs to do”.

Even the all-powerful ruler has a duty to explain whether this is what “he needs to do”. If he doesn’t, then he shouldn’t complain about soldiers refusing orders or standing in his way, be it in small actions or in big.

Yossi Beilin, Hareidim & Israeli Army Service - It's Not What you Think...

It's not everyday that I can say that I agree with something that Yossi Beilin, head of the ultra-left wing, ultra-secular Meretz - Yahad party, but today might be one of those days. yes, this is the same Yossi Beilin who tried to push the Geneva Accords down our throats which basically gives the "Palestinians" everything short of the keys to my apartment, and the same Yossi Beilin who seems to abhor anything which is outwardly Jewish.

However, it looks like he may have come up with a workable solution to solve a major source of conflict within Israeli society, namely, the ultra-Orthodox (Hareidim) being exempted from military service, so long as they are enrolled in full time learning (while the State of Israel and Joe Taxpayer foot the bill for their living expenses).

In an article entitled "Exemption for All" he writes:

"Rather, the true problem is that these people play no role in the work force (at least the legal work force, that is). According to some estimates, the yeshiva community bilks about 3 billion shekels per year from the economy.

When I was Minister of Economy and Planning, I asked Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to propose a law that would exempt any applicant from mandatory army service who applied on religious or moral grounds.

I said such a law would allow ultra-orthodox youngsters who don’t serve in the army to enter the work force, to study outside the yeshiva context, without the country needing to finance their studies or help so many yeshivas, since a large number of ultra-orthodox people become yeshiva students only to avoid army service."

What Beilin acknowledges is that many of the Hareidim who sit and learn all day, are doing so merely in order to exempt themselves from the army. In Beilin's proposed solution, as I understand it, those students who are truly qualified to sit and learn all day will continue to do so, but those that were only there for fear of being drafted will be able to learn a skill or a trade and enter the workforce (in a way that would still be consistent with their way of life (and still be able to make time for Torah study, each consistent with their abilities and dedication).

I once had a rabbi who felt that he had no issue with people receiving exemptions from military service so that they could study Torah, as both were needed for the defense of the State of Israel - but, there was to be a single condition that had to be fulfilled in order to receive this exemption... namely, that each student who was studying Torah in lieu of military service had to learn with the same intensity and devotion required of one who serves in the military - anything less, and they wouldn't be fulfilling the purpose of their exemption. Clearly, this would allow the top students to continue studying full time, at the expense of the State of Israel, while allowing others who were not on the same level to find other meaningful ways to contribute to society, while balancing their own needs for personal and spiritual growth.

Think about it... I still am.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

It's Not About Democracy, Stupid... (and it never was)

Much talk has been made about how the "Disengagement plan has been pushed through in rather undemocratic means. In particular, there has been much said about the particularly undemocratic measures taken in order to prevent last week's march to Gush Katif from taking place.

The various examples can be found in the following articles:

1) Nobody is Listening - Ari Shavit and Yair Sheleg - Ha'aretz
2) Democracy and Disengagement - Evelyn Gordon - Jerusalem Post
3) The Settlers Show Their True Colors - Caroline Glick - Jerusalem Post
4) Anti-democratic and stupid - Ofer Shelah - Yediot Achronot

As true as the arguments made in the above articles may be, what can't afford to be overlooked, is that the struggle that we are facing today is not over Israel as a democracy, or whether or not Israel should be "Disengaging" from parts of the Land of Israel.

The true conflict in the State of Israel was, is, and will be for the foreseeable future, over exactly what type of state we are trying to create here, and what the national aspirations of such as state are to be. Democracy and "Disengagement" are mere signposts along a much longer road whose ultimate destination has yet to be determined.

Is the State of Israel meant to be a Jewish State, consistent with the mission set forth by G-d for the Jewish People, as set down in the Torah (both Written and Oral), or are we meant to be "K'chol HaGoyim" - a nation like all others, whereby there is nothing inherently unique or special about the State of Israel, aside from the fact that there is a majority of Jews living there who dictate the policy of the state?

This is the true challenge and conflict facing the State of Israel today and the Jewish People. For the majority of the history of the State of Israel, the government has been forced to deal with external issues (security), as opposed to dealing with the internal rifts that developed within the Jewish People, particularly in Israel. Today, with "Disengagement" upon us, we are being forced to begin to deal with these internal conflicts and challenges.

As such, the political left in Israel has shown that their opposition to the anti-"Disengagement" segment of society is not on democratic grounds or t heir not following / accepting the rule of law, but in the threat they pose to the left, in their opposition to Israel being a state like all others. On the other side of the coin, it is less than honest for the right to portray this as fight over Israel as a democratic state as many on the right have tried to do. Thee fight over disengagement is not over strengthening Israel's democratic system, as far as the right are concerned, but over protecting the Land of Israel, and trying to shape Israel as a truly Jewish State.

It is my fervent hope that the Jewish People will be able to rise up to the challenge and collectively work together to build a State in Israel that will be a source of pride for all of the Jewish People.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

We Shall Overcome: From Kfar Maimon to Gush Katif

Over the course of my journey to Kfar Maimon and Gush Katif I witnessed events that have left me with a number of powerful messages that I have taken home with me, and I believe that they clearly express the unbelievable character and strength of the Jewish People, and should serve as a source of inspiration and hope for a brighter future for the Jewish People in the Jewish State of Israel, throughout the Land of Israel.

To hear me discuss some of them, you can listen to my interview on Israel National Radio (Arutz 7) by clicking here. (In the top part of the page, in the middle there is a section entitled: "The Struggle for Gush Katif - INR special coverage" - Click on Yishai and Malkah Fleisher's show on July 20th. I come on 12 minutes into the show...).

1) Put politics aside for a moment and ask yourself the following question: What cause would you consider important enough to put your life on hold for 3+ days, take off from work, travel hours away from your home, alone or with your spouse and children, have to live in a tent or sleep in sleeping bags, eat non-perishable foods, sit outside in unbearable heat during the day and march through the dark of night - all while going head to head with the government and security establishment?

40,000+ Jews (men, women & children - more on this in a moment) in Israel felt that the struggle over stopping Sharon's expulsion plan, and the battle over the character of the State of Israel (whether it will be a Jewish State or "A Nation like all others") were strong enough causes to warrant taking all of the above steps - and then some.

2) Children in Israel currently find themselves on summer vacation. Generally speaking, over summer vacation, children will go to camp, hang out at the mall, go to the beach, spend time with friends, or pehaps watch a movie... But of the 40,000+ Jews that participated in "The March", I would say that well over 50% (possibly as high as 60 - 75%) were under the age of 18 years old. To me, this says that the current generation of Jews loyal to the Jewish People, the Land of Israel and Torah of Israel care enough to spend their summer vacation involving themselves in the struggle over these causes, instead of just looking to have a "good time".

3) While besieged in Kfar Maimon, the spirit of the 40,000+ Jews was so incredibly high. People were singing, playing musical instruments, learning, catching up with friends, and dancing... It was as if these Jews felt some type of internal confidence, that not only was their cause just, but that in the end, we were going to succeed, and that our success would not come through fighting against our brothers, but by continuing to live as proud Jews in the Land of Israel - and letting the love for our fellow Jews, the Land of Israel and our heritage speak for themselves.

4) It's easy for me, on an intellectual or even ideological level to feel a strong connection towards the Land of Israel, as was expressed most clearly in my having made Aliyah to Israel from New York, but it is not often that I am able to connect with the Land of Israel on a physical level the way I did at Kfar Maimon and Gush Katif. Whether walking through fields to get from Netivot to Kfar Maimon, sleeping on the wet grass without a tent, sleeping bag, or blanket, walking along the Mediterranean coast of Shirat Hayam, and feeling the waves crash against me as I collected seashells, represented a type of personal bonding with the Land of Israel. I truly felt as if I had become one with the Land of Israel, and I have no doubt that that is how most people who participated in "The March" felt, as well.

Many people have the misconception that the Land of Israel is just another land, merely a physical piece of territory with no intrinsic value, and not worth sacrificing for. Throughout the Torah and other major Jewish sources, it is made very clear that without the Land of Israel the Jewish People are incomplete, and they are unable to fulfill their potential as a nation. We learn how the Land of Israel is conducive to the spiritual growth of the Jewish People and is a necessary component of the upcoming redemption - a sign of whose coming is when the Landof Israel gives off its fruits, which can be seen particularly clear in Gush Katif.

To have had the opportunity to re-connect with the Land of Israel has helped to recharge my batteries, and has left me on a high that will hopefully last myself, and all those who participated on "The March" through the coming month, when, with G-d's help we will all be able to celebrate the re-dedication of all of the Jewish communities in Gush Katif.

5) This was not your typical demonstration where people come for a few hours after work, chant some slogans, listen to some speeches and then go home. Many people on the left have questioned why the event couldn’t have been held in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, but in asking the question they totally fail to understand the purpose of what took place at Kfar Maimon and the message that it was meant to convey..

"The March" was not a rally or demonstration. The 40,000+ Jews who participated were not asking any politicians to consider a different point of view. These Jews were saying that the current situation is unacceptable, abd we are going to work towards helping to bring about a different reality ourselves. With our feet. With our bodies. With our hearts. The time for speeches has come to an end, and the Jewish people have responded to the call for action.

6) I was blessed to visit the new home of Nadia Matar, co-founder of Women in Green, who has moved with her family to Kfar Yam (in Gush Katif) from Efrat. She and Women in Green have been influential in raising funds, through Minhelet Kela (The Gaza Absorption Authority), that have gone towards fixing up empty homes and structures in Gush Katif in order that Jews can move down to Gush Katif, and create a situation where there are tens of thousands of Jews living in the Gush - too many to be expelled.

(For more info about Minhelet Kela, and ways that you can contribute to this important cause, you can send an e mail here.

Among the homes that have been (or is in the process of being refurbished) is the home of Nadia Matar in Kfar Hayam. When I arrived at her home there were about a half dozen teenagers who were busily involved in building a deck for the back of her home - true Jewish labor. (Again, we see what types of activities Jewish teenagers are involved in during their summer break). This deck will allow Nadia, and many other Jews to sit in comfort while watching the waves crash against the shore, just a few feet away, with G-d's help, for many generations to come.

Another thing that struck me was the contrast between the way Nadia has been portrayed in the media, and how I perceived her. According to the media in Israel Nadia is a right-wing fanatic who represents extremist causes. What I saw was a Jew who is full of love for the Jewish People and who has devoted her life to ensuring that Israel will be a Jewish State, where the Jewish People will be able to live in all parts of the Land of Israel - proudly, as Jews are meant to do. She, along with many other special Jews who are in Gush Katif today can serve as role models as to what we, both as a nation and as individual Jews can be doing to help the Jewish People fulfill their collective destiny.

7) In Neve Dekalim, I visited another family who has also moved down to Gush Katif and will be staying there until the "victory celebration", as the mother put it. Again, she and her children all came off as being extremely positive and upbeat. This was all the more impressive when I saw the home immediately next door to theirs, which had a sizeable hole in the roof where a Qassam rocket had fallen.
When I asked her about, she was able to laugh it off. Her children were among those who were helping to build the deck at Nadia's house, and who spend their days in Gush Katif at the beach, and are enjoying life to the fullest, as Jews, living in the Land of Israel.

I visited the nursery in Atzmona, one of the largest in Israel, and a major exporter of plants and flowers worldwide, and there to one finds Jews continuing to plant, continuing to build, continuing to flourish.

If there is a single message that comes out in all of these stories, it is that the spirit of the Jewish People is alive and well. Yes, we are going through a difficult time period, but I believe that the above examples clearly display that the future belongs to us, those who are loyal to teachings and heritage of the Jewish People, and to the Land of Israel.

Without a doubt we are being challenged from on high, challenged to raise ourselves up to levels that we previously believed to be unattainable. We are being challenged as to how we relate to our fellow Jews, how we relate to our traditions and heritage, and how we relate to the Land of Israel - the three foundations of Religious Zionism - Am Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael & Torat Yisrael.

After spending 24+ hours in both Kfar Maimon and Gush Katif, I have no doubt that the Jewish People will not only rise up and overcome all of the aforementioned challenges, but we will use them as the springboard towards laying the foundation for a truly Jewish State in the Land of Israel... may we see it speedily in our days.

A Journey: Jerusalem -> Kfar Maimon -> Gush Katif

Over the course of a little over 24 hours - from Tuesday afternoon, until Wednesday night, I was part of an unforgettable journey, and I would like to share some of my experiences with you. (I will post a follow-up with some more specific examples of things that I saw and lessons that I learned, but for the sake of brevity, I won't do it here).

Monday afternoon was the first day of the 3 day trek, sponsored by among other groups, the Yesha (Judea, Samaria, Gaza) Council, whose stated goal was to strengthen our brothers and sisters in Gush Katif, not merely by showing solidarity, but by attempting to reinforce their spirits and numbers by having tens of thousands of additional Jews join their ranks.

The 1st day of the planned 3-day trek began Monday night in Netivot. The march was scheduled to have begun earlier in the afternoon, but due to "technical difficulties" many of the participants were "delayed" in their arrival until later in the evening. Over the course of Monday afternoon and night, I found myself listening to updates on the march, and felt a gnawing sense of guilt growing within me. Basically, I felt that I did not make Aliyah from New York to simply sit on the sidelines while the future of the Jewish People is being played out, and certainly not to be sitting in front of my computer at home checking for updates instead of being there myself and taking an active role in the struggle of the Jewish People not only to prevent the destruction of Jewish communities in the Land of Israel, but to help shape Israel into a truly Jewish State that will allow the Jewish People to fulfill their destiny.

So, Tuesday morning, as I was leaving for work, I decided to throw my talit and t'fillin in my back pack, some basic toiletries and figured I would see if over the course of the day I would be able to find a way to make it down towards Kfar Maimon, the location of where the marchers had progressed after the 1st night of marching. On Tuesday afternoon, after picking up a few bottles of water, I caught a bus that was going down to the area, and thankfully the bus did not experience any "technical difficulties" "technical difficulties".

The bus took us as far as Netivot, the starting point of the march, and from there, the new wave of marchers either caught rides with people who had driven down in their cars, or walked through fields in order to make their way towards Kfar Maimon (many people ended up doing a combination of both). Upon arriving at Kfar Maimon, it looked to me like scene out of the movie "Outbreak" with the marchers literally under siege like conditions, with thousands upon thousands of police and soldiers surrounding Kfar Maimon. In a conversation I had with a police officer (many were very approachable, and in fact, were interested in talking with me to try and understand why we were here) I mentioned this comparison to me, and he responded that there was no reason to be afraid, as they were only here to protect us. When I asked from whom we needed protection, he responded, "From yourselves".

I proceeded to enter Kfar Maimon at around 11pm, and wherever one looked one saw tents... thousands of tents filled with Jews who were making themselves right at home, on their way to Gush Katif. As I had not taken a tent or sleeping bag with me, I got to sleep on the ground, using my backpack as a pillow, and my hat to shield my face. It was quite an experience, even if I didn't get much sleep. Initially, I thought that we would be continuing the march that night (as it was easier to march at night than in the heat of the day, but it was decided to wait until Wednesday to continue).

I awoke Wednesday around 5:45am, and over the next few hours, hundreds of minyanim sprung up all over Kfar Maimon. From 7:30am or so, a long line began forming outside the local makolet (convenience store), and as I see it, this little store must have done the equivalent amount of business that they probably see over the course of a month or two (at least). At 9am, there was an update by the heads of the Yesha Council, informing the marchers that we would be continuing our march in the early evening. Sprits amongst the marchers were high, and people were singing, dancing, reading, learning, relaxing, and overall, just having a good time.

I found the thought of waiting around for the next 9 hours to be quite a daunting thought, and being that it was very hot outside, I was not looking forward to the rest of the day. At around noon I came across a friend who was going to be going to Gush Katif, and I jumped at the opportunity to take her up on her offer to show me around (as I had only been to Gush Katif one time before).

The road to Gush Katif was a rather troubling one. All along the way, there are checkpoints and roadblocks, aimed at keeping Jews away. Along the roads are military encampments, and as one approaches this only increases. Once through all the checkpoints, we entered Gush Katif.

Over the course of the next 4 hours I had an opportunity to visit a number of the various communities found in Gush Katif, and see first hand both the beauty, resiliency as well as the challenges facing the Jews there. I visited the dairy in Katif, a world-renowned nursey, among the largest in Israel, in Atzmona. I spent time on the beach at Shirat Hayam and Kfar Yam, allowing the waves of warm water to break on me, and collected many seashells. I met Jews who had recently moved down to the area where they were building a deck onto their home - clearly with the intention of getting more than a few weeks use out of it. Another family had moved down until "the victory celebration". I visited Neve Dekalim, which is the central area of Gush Katif, and while there I was interviewed by Israel National Radio (Arutz 7).

All in all, nearly the whole time I was in Gush Katif I had a tremendous smile on my face. One is able to see so clearly, with their very own eyes the miracle that is the Jewish communities of Gush Katif, and it is my fervent hope and prayer that the Jewish communities of Gush Katif will be blessed to witness many more miracles, and will continue to flourish for many more generations to come.

For pictures of the March, click here and here.

For pictures of the various communities of Gush Katif, check here.

For a virtual tour of the communities in Gush Katif and the Northern Shomron, click here.

Pictures of the march by Jonny Stein.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

A Journey Into the Unknown...

In the next few minutes, I am going to be heading down in the direction of Gush Katif to join with my Jewish brothers and sisters who are marching towards the Jewish communities of Gush Katif in protest of Prime Minister Sharon's expulsion plan.

Honestly, I do not know what to expect, nor how long I will be away for. Aside from basic amenities, my talit and t'fillin, a sefer and some water, I won't have anything with me. In a way, I imagine that I feel similar to the way the Jewish People must have felt as they were leaving Egypt and heading out into the wilderness, relying on faith in Hashem that things would work themselves out, even though their ultimate destination was far from being in sight.

Hopefully, the journey of the Jewish People today, making their way towards Gush Katif will be a smoother journey than the original trek through the wilderness, but with no less presence and assistance from Hashem.

With blessings from Israel...

The 10 Commandments of... Zionism

I recently posted Sultan_Knish's satirical posting entitled: The 10 Commandments of Expulsion. In response, my good friend Haim, who is of the opposite political spectrum, but a lover of the Jewish People and an ardent Zionist all the same, came up with his own version of the 10 Commandments.

I wouldn't say that I agree with Haim's version, but I do know that I have gained a tremendous amount from my discussions with Haim regarding the future of the Jewish People, Jewish State and the purpose of Zionism today, and in that regard, I post this here.

Haim has informed me that he welcomes all comments, so feel free to respond directly to Haim.

10 Commandments of Zionism

1. I am Zionism Who brought you out of the lands of your exile, out of the bonds of slavery to foreign nations, to the ghetto and to your rabbi – to be a free people in your own land, with the ability, the right and the responsibility to make decisions for the good of the Jewish people.

2. You shall have no other G-d but the G-d of Israel. A G-d who commands you to be just, loving and caring to the non-Jew. You should never assume to know his thoughts nor should you claim in her name any travesty of justice or criminal act.

3. Your oath is sacred. Know the power of the words you speak and write and take responsibility for all that you say and is said in your name.

4. You shall honor your parents. You should remember that many genrations have died in exile so you could inherit this land – do not disgrace their memory by continuing the path of bloodshed so that more can die in this land. You should honour the leaders of this country. You must accept the decisions of the elected government of this country, for there is no other choice but chaos. You should honour the heritage of the pioneers who came before you – good, honest Zionists who recognised that the time has come to free the Jewish people from the bonds of a Galut mentality. Do not dishonour their memory or pretend to speak in the name of Zionism if you actually belong to a fanatical religious extremist grouping with no connection to original Zionism. Do all this so that you may live peacefully in your land with your neighbours.

5. Honour the Shabbat. Allow all the people of Israel freedom to rest. Recognise that each person may find rest in a different way. Do not enforce your version of Shabbat on others – allow them to choose how they wish to rest.

6. You shall not kill. Whether you believe this land is yours or not. Human life is a superior value than Land. You have no right to harm any human, Jew or non-Jew in pursuit of your own ideology.

7. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not claim loyalty to the ethos of Zionism while actively fighting against the principles of Jewish Democracy, of Jews as a free nation, of the right of the Jewish People to decide their own fate. You shall not return to a Galut mentality and understanding of Jewishness centered on Theocracy, while still pretending to be part of the Zionist movement.

8. You shall not steal the land of other people, whether you believe G-d promised it to you or not.

9. You shall not bear false witness. You shall not try and pretend that atrocities commited by members of your ideological camp were in fact not. You should not try and hide the crimes of your leaders. You shall not pretend that Yigal Amir was not acting on the orders of those above him. You shall not forget the crimes of Baruch Goldstein. You shall not pretend that a lynching is a blood libel. You shall not lie!!

10. You shall not covet that which is your neighbours – neither his home, nor his land, nor his Olive groves, nor anything that is your neighbours.

WOW! I Must Be Dreaming... Ha'aretz Doing T'shuva?

I don't know what has come over Ha'aretz over the last 24 hours, but check out the following two articles:

The first, by columnist Danny Rubinstein, entitled: "On Second Thought" states, among other things:
"The argument for second thoughts stems from the events of recent days, which raise fears that a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza is causing serious security damage to Israel".

An article that I find to be even more amazing is an article entitled "Continuing the engagement process" by Nadav Shragai, another Ha'aretz regular. In a beautifully written article, this aside from the conclusion could have been written by the most ardent opponents of “Disengagement” and lovers of the Land and People of Israel, states:

In the middle of this crisis and harsh reality, many Gush Katif residents still find time for some self-examination regarding the sin of secluding and distancing themselves from other crises in Israeli society. At this time, many of them are still going door to door in a personal attempt to convince people to oppose the disengagement. They insist that the slogan, "With love we will triumph" is not just a marketing device, that only love (sometimes baseless love) and dialogue will lead to a renewed engagement, and that even if disengagement is the punishment, engagement is the correction.
"Everyone has his own engagement. Gush Katif residents see not just engagement with territory, but primarily engagement with a different spirit - a spirit of faith, with Jewish tradition, with a different type of relationship among individuals and between each person and his God."

Perhaps Ha’Aretz is choosing to re-engage with Ha'Am v'Ha'aretz? This is a land of miracles where stranger things have happened. Let's hope (and pray).

Monday, July 18, 2005

Fighting Terror - "Palestinian" Style

According to a report in IMRA:

"The masterminds behind last week's suicide bombings in Netanya are being protected by the Palestinian Authority at a government compound in Tulkarm, Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin told ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting, Army Radio reported".

After reading this article, the question that immediately comes to my mind is where does the Shin Bet chief find the time to investigate the complicity of our "Palestinian" peace partner's in the murdering of Jews - I thought that the Shabak only had time for framing religious, right wing, extremist Jews these days???

"The 10 Commandments of Expulsion"

Here is a sadly humorous (or humorously sad) satire on Sharon's Expulsion plan (AKA: "Disengagement") by Sultan_Knish.

The 10 Commandments of Expulsion

1. I am the secular post-Zionism which took you out of Gush Katif and to Tel Aviv where you may write poetry and go to nightclubs and abandon your God.

2. You shall have no God before this godless regime. You shall pledge no faith in any higher power than your commanding officer, the media and the Prime Minister. The fear of being an extremist or disobeying the government. These shall be your gods, Israel.

3. Your oath is not to your God or the IDF or to the people of Israel but to Dov Weinglass so he may build a casino to profit himself and the Prime Minister on the broken houses of the people you expell.

4. You shall not honor your parents. If the government calls on you to expell your parents, you shall break their bones and throw them out.

5. Forget the Sabbath for the Expulsion is far greater than the Sabbath in the eyes of the Prime Minister, who is to be your god. Violate and desecrate the sabbath to keep Jews out of Israel for this is the new law.

6. You shall kill, for the settler is an enemy of the state, an extremist, a fanatic, a weed who must be weeded out. If he resists being thrown out of his home, along with his family, then slay him and the Prime Minister, your god, will surely approve.

7. You shall commit adultery by turning from loyalty to G-D, to the people and the state of Israel and fulfill the demands of the Bush Administration, the corrupt Sharon regime and Europe and Abbas and all those who seek the destruction of Israel as you turn against the people you are sworn to protect.

8. You shall steal the house which a man has built and cared for and in which his family dwells and give it to his enemies and to those who would kill both him and you.

9. You shall bear false witness. You shall slander any who resist being thrown out of their homes. If you strike them, claim they struck you first, even if they are a woman or a small child.

10. Covet not truth or justice or allegiance or faith, covet only obedience, promotion and personal satisfaction.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

From Munich to Sderot: The 'Spitz' Factor

Today, we witnessed once again how Islamic terror has successfully managed to crush the Olympic spirit, and in this particular instance, it was the "Jewish Olympics", formally known as the Maccabiah Games, currently taking place in Israel, of which they managed to make a mockery.

Today, a number of the Maccabiah sporting events that were scheduled to take place in the Negev town of Sderot were cancelled. (For those unfamiliar, the Maccabiah Games occur every 4 years, where Jews from all over the world come to Israel to participate in the 'Jewish Olympics”. This year, there are 7,700 Jews participating in the games).

"According to a Maccabiah spokesman, the decision to cancel competitions scheduled to be held in Sderot were made by police, town and Maccabiah officials after dozens of Qassam rockets were fired at the town in recent days", as reported by an article in Ha’aretz. This comes in the aftermath of the Netanya terror attack, where many of the Maccabiah games are taking place, which killed 5 Jews and wounded dozens more.

As if this example of the Jewish People and state retreating in the face of Islamic terror wasn’t disgraceful enough, we have been served an extra helping of shame to make this all the more difficult to swallow. In what was to be an act of solidarity with the beleaguered Jewish town of Sderot, which has suffered from an onslaught of hundreds of Qassam rockets over the last year, Mark Spitz, the Jewish U.S. Olympian, who at the Munich Olympic Games in 1972 won an astonishing 7 gold medals, was scheduled to give swimming lessons to 100 Jewish children, which as a result of the rocket attacks had to be cancelled.

In what only can only be described as strangely ironic (and perhaps darkly fitting), Mark Spitz, 'Jewish hero" is once again forced to flee from terror - this time, in the Jewish State of Israel. During the Munich Olympics, after the Israeli delegation of athletes was taken hostage by "Palestinian" terrorists under the name of Black September, The U.S. rushed Spitz back home, fearing that his Jewishness made him a potential target (Interestingly enough, in this instance the U.S. had the clarity to recognize that the “Palestinians” were not only a threat to the Israeli athletes, but to Jewish – American ones as well). The Israeli athletes were not as fortunate, and returned to Israel in body bags, courtesy of our "Palestinian" and German friends, in what came to be known as the “Munich Massacre”.

While at the Munich Olympics it could be argued (weakly) that there was little that Israel could have done to save its athletes, what is our excuse today? Sderot is not Munich, and Israel is not Germany. Is there no place in the world where Jewish blood is no longer cheap? Is there no place in the world where Jews are prepared to stand up in the face of her enemies and fight back? Is there no place in the world where Jews can gather in the spirit of Jewish brotherhood and pride without having to fear the specter of Islamic terrorism?

The Maccabiah Games are named after the heroic Maccabim who were able to fight against seemingly insurmountable odds, defeating the Syrian - Greeks (along with their Hellenist, Jewish supporters) with the help of G-d, and who succeeded in restoring Jewish dignity, pride and sovereignty to the Land of Israel. Seemingly, in Israel today, the Maccabim exist only in name, but not in spirit.

Where are you Mattityahu, our High Priest? Where are you Judah the Maccabi, our Jewish warrior? Where are you, Jewish leaders, who can serve as men of spirit, courage and action and lead the Jewish People just as the Maccabim did in the days of old?

The blood of our Jewish brothers and sisters who have been murdered as a result of our weakness cries out for justice! The spirit of the Jewish People which has been trampled for too long cries out to be uplifted! The pride of the Jewish People which has been replaced with Jewish shame cries out to be restored!

Is there no one who can answer their cries?

"Disengagement", Pornography & Left-Wing Politics

(Breaking News: My colleague in the Jewish blogsphere "CosmicX" has pointed out to me that Biur Chametz scooped me on this story, so after reading mine, you can read his...)

As most are aware by now, there is an intense color war taking place in Israel surrounding Prime Minister Sharon's "Disengagement" plan. Those who are against the expulsion plan affix orange ribbons to their cars, bags... and those who are in favor affix blue ribbons.

My friend Yishai pointed out to me, over Shabbat, a little known fact about these blue ribbons... The Hebrew word for ribbon is seret, which also happens to mean film or movie in Hebrew. So in Hebrew, the way to say "blue ribbon" would be seret kachol (Kachol means blue in Hebrew).

Ironically enough, Israel, as is the case in Europe, refers to pornographic movies as "blue movies", which in Hebrew is, believe it or not, seret kachol!!!

Is it merely a coincidence that the symbol chosen by those who support the expulsion of Jews from their homes and the destruction of Jewish communities in Israel - the blue ribbon, and pornographic movies have the same name in Hebrew, namely seret kachol???

Could there be a connection of shared western, individualistic values between the two, as opposed to Jewish ones?

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Terrorism, Testosterone & the 'Jewish Olympics'

In today's Jerusalem Post there is a rather interesting article entitled: "Maccabiah athletes: Make love, not war" that discusses how the 7,700 participants in the Maccabiah games currently going on in Israel (in Netanya, in fact) have already put Tuesday's terror attack behind them.

Here are a couple of quotes from the article:

"The terrorism is, of course, scary. Some of the girls are finding it very scary. Maybe they need a big strong man to protect them," said Piedro, a member of the Italian delegation. "You have to look at the bright side sometimes. Maybe the terrorism will make the girls more friendly."

"Let's be honest," said an Argentinian team member. "We are all of us young athletes, with nice bodies, some very nice, and we are here in this new place... who knows what can happen."

"There are movies, and all sorts of other cultural exchanges being planned," said Sarah Kahn, part of the American delegation. "But I think the most popular "exchanges" happen in the private rooms".

I have decided to leave it to the reader to decide for themselves whether these quotes represent something fun and innocent, or perhaps something else less wholesome about the 'Jewish Olympics' and Jewish youth today. I haven't made up my mind yet... At the very least, just about everyone involved is Jewish, so if there are private "exchanges" going on - at least it's with other Jews...

Quote of the Day... 7th of Tammuz / 14th of July - Rewarding Terrorists with Jewish Land and Blood (Double Edition)

"There needs to be a diplomatic process to end the terror... This attack proves the importance of implementing disengagement and the road map."

- German Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer, in his remarks condeming Tuesday's suicide bombing in Netanya...

"Otherwise the terrorist groups will dismantle the PA before they do it to us"

- Israeli Foreign Minister, Silvan Shalom, urged the Palestinan Authority to take action, charging that the terror attacks threatened PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's regime more than Israel.

I wonder if it's the nature of foreign ministers to simply distort reality - or are they both just too blind to comprehend the reality of the situation?

For full story

Egyptian Gas - Jewish Heartburn & Indigestion

According to an article in the United International Press, as published in the World Peace Herald, "Israel, Egypt look to sign $2.5B gas deal".

"Israel's Eastern Mediterranean Gas expects to sign a deal with Egyptian General Petroleum Corp. and Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Co. to import Egyptian gas.

The companies signed multibillion-dollar agreement last week in Cairo; under the deal, EMG will import gas for 20 years. The agreement is worth between $14 billion and $28 billion, depending on whether all the gas is sold in Israel or re-exported to European and Middle Eastern countries".

Just for the record, after the 6-Day War and Yom Kippur War, Israel had control over the entire Sinai Peninsula. Within this territory, Israel discovered enough oil reserves to cover 100% of all of its needs for many years to come.

In return for "peace" with Egypt, based on the Camp David Accords, Israel ceded the entire Sinai Peninsula, leaving behind both all of the oil reserves and state of the art military bases and installations, in addition to uprooting flourishing Jewish communities, in particular, the Jewish town of Yamit.

What has Israel received in return for these concessions with their "peace" partner, Egypt? A neighbor who continues to stockpile weapons which are intended to ultimately be used against Israel whose government, media, and religious bodies continue to incite their population towards a hatred of the Jewish People and the Jewish State, and who continues to directly and indirectly assist terrorists who seek to destroy the Jewish State,

Let's take a look at some telling numbers:

U.S military aid to Egypt: $2 Billion (a country who is under no threat from any bordering countries - so what in the world do they need all those weapons for???)

Cost of Israel buying oil from Egypt (for the next 20 years): $14 - $28 billion

Cost of Israel not being dependant on foreign countries to provide for all its energy needs: Priceless

One can only wonder how $14 billion and a little freedom in setting it's policy without needing approval of the nations of the world might have gone to benefit the Jewish People and State if not for another one of our "sacrifices for peace"

Ironically enough, I found this article on a website entitled: Good News From Israel.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Good News From Israel: "And the Children (of Israel) Return to their Borders"

Today, history was made... and Ariel Sharon was at the center of it...

No, I am not talking about Sharon's decision to seal-off Gush Katif from the rest of the Jewish People and State of Israel, in anticipation of the (planned) upcoming destruction of the Jewish communities there.

So, what am I talking about?

Today, 520 Jews from North America - 2 plane loads - made Aliyah - courtesy of one of the greatest Jewish organizations in the history of the Jewish People and the State of Israel, namely, Nefesh B'Nefesh.

These 520 olim mark the single largest group of Jews to ever make Aliyah from North America, and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was on hand to greet them.

The Jerusalem Post reports:

"Since it began offering financial, logistical and emotional support for North Americans wishing to make Aliyah, Nefesh B'Nefesh-arranged Aliyah has grown from 500 in 2002 to just under 3,000 last year. This year, with twice as many flights - eight - as last year, the organization expects to bring as many as 4,000 people, according to spokesman Charlie Levine".

It is easy to assume that the only news coming out of Israel these days deals with Israel "Disengaging" from the Land of Israel, retreating in the face of terror, and a collective effort to run and hide from our collective Jewish destiny.

Today's events, however, show the very opposite. The 520 olim that Nefesh B'Nefesh brought today from North America represent the true future of the Jewish People and the Jewish State. These 520 Jews have chosen to make Aliyah, to come home, and take an active role in helping to fulfill the destiny of the Jewish People. They recognize that the future of the Jewish People is, in fact, in Israel. These are Jews who did not run from anti-Semitism or economic hardship - and they are coming at a time where on paper, it would seem to make absolutely no sense.

It is ironic that Prime Minister Sharon was on hand to greet the olim on the same day that he ordered Gush Katif a closed military zone until after the (planned) "disengagement". I truly believe that in the years to come, through the generous assistance of Nefesh B'Nefesh, thousands upon thousands of North American Jews will return home to Israel by making Aliyah, and that they will have the opportunity to live and visit in all parts of the Land of Israel that they so desire.

Today's events represent the Jewish answer to "Disengagement". The Jewish People are not disengaging from the Land of Israel, rather they are returning home to it, by choice, embracing the Land of our forefathers, the Land of Israel - "V'Shavu banim l'gvulam"!!!

Terror, Frustration and More Terror...

Perhaps, while watching the news, checking your e-mail, or listening to the radio, you may have heard that 4 Jews were killed yesterday in another terror attack against the Jewish People and State, this time in Netanya.

Granted, this attack may not have been on the scale of the bombings in London that took place last week - but, the impression I have gotten, both from people in Israel and abroad (and if one takes a look at various Israeli news websites or Israel / Jewish related blogs) no one is really talking about it.

After all, it was only 4 Jews who were killed (and dozens wounded) for having committed the crime of taking part in the fulfillment of the dream and destiny of the Jewish People, namely livings as Jews in our eternal Homeland.

Now, I don't expect the world to care, because we're talking about Israel and Jews, and therefore we probably did something to deserve it, in their eyes. But what is our excuse, as Jews, for not caring? Where is the outcry? Where is the pain? Are our lives even the slightest bit different today than the day before, or have we come to accept Jews being murdered in the Land of Israel as natural and acceptable, and nothing to get all worked up over (unless of course, at least 15 Jews are killed in a single attack...).

I am not saying not to feel compassion for the people who were affected, either directly or indirectly in the London bombings, but above all else, we must remember that we are Jews, that we are family, and if we don't look out for each other and cry out in pain when other Jews are suffering, than there is something terribly wrong with us. It doesn’t matter whether one lives in New York, London, Paris, Sydney or Jerusalem, the suffering of the Jewish People in one area should cause Jews everywhere to feel pain and want ot help alleviate the suffering by any means possible. That's what family is all about.

Food for thought.

Quote of the Day... 6th of Tammuz / 13th of July - The Real Tragedy of the "Disengagement"

"The (disengagement) is difficult and causing me to lose sleep".

- Minister of Defense, Shaul Mofaz, commenting on the effects the whole "Disengagement" process (and presumably his direct involvement in it) has been having on him.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Long and Winding Road... Home

Even the biggest proponents of Aliyah (of which I would consider myself to be among) will admit that Aliyah is not an easy process and that even after one makes Aliyah and is all settled into their new surroundings, more often than not, much has been left behind.

On the blog "The Jewish Connection" I came across a very heartfelt posting by Jack's Shack entitled "Aliyah- Stuck Between Two Lands" where he discusses the challenges of making Aliyah with a family and the missed opportunities of not having done so when he was younger and the transition of making Aliyah would have been significantly easier.

A very worthwhile read.

Quote of the Day... 5th of Tammuz / 12th of July

"When Tony Blair cites the conflict in the Middle East ("the Israeli occupation," of course) as one of the three reasons for Islamic terror, he is no different from your common anti-Semite".

- Yoel Marcus, of Ha'artez, in response to British Prime Minister Tony Blair blaming Israel for London's terror attacks.

Good News From Israel: "Who is Like Your Nation Israel - One Nation in the Land"

Continuing the theme of my last post, I am going to make a concerted effort to regularly post positive occurrences relating to life here in Israel. It is unfortunate if the only things we find time to write about are the challenges and difficulties involved in the re-establishment of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel after a 2,000 year exile, while neglecting all of the amazing and wondrous events that happen here on a regular basis.

So, on that note...

According to the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, Israel's Jewish population to outstrip U.S. by 2006 (as reported by Ha'aretz). The key fact in this article is the following point:

"Israel is the only country in the world expected to see significant growth in the size of its Jewish population, while all other communities in the world are expected to shrink or remain stable."

What this basically means, is that in spite of all of the challenges facing the Jewish people in the State of Israel, Israel is the only country in the world where the Jewish community is flourishing. Neither Jewish communities of the U.S., Europe, or even Australia can make the same claim. (For an analysis of some of the Halachic ramifications of having a majority of the Jewish People living in the Land of Israel, see "BI'AT KULCHEM: A Majority of Jews in the Land of Israel".

In addition to Israel's Jewish community flourishing in a demographic sense, the State of Israel has also become the epicenter of Torah study in the Jewish world, fulfilling the vision of: "From Zion will come forth Torah and the word of G-d from Jerusalem". (Not to mention world leaders in the fields of technology, security, medicine, agriculture...).

Israel, Weather, and the Half-Full Glass...

This morning, as I was listening to the radio, the radio show host started discussing today's weather. Now, living in Israel, and it being mid July, there isn't much doubt as to what the weather will be - after all, there are only two choices: hot & hotter.

The radio show host had a rather interesting perspective on the weather here. He was bothered that in one of the Israeli newspapers it was talking about how while yesterday was hot, today is going to be even hotter, and that it's not worth going outdoors.

The host asked why the paper couldn't just say that it was going to be hot today - why did it have to put today's weather in a negative context, as compared to the weather of the day before?

I believe that he has an excellent point. Today's media, both in Israel and the world are built on negative energy. Sensationalism. They seek out stories whose goal is to shock, scare and otherwise dampen the mood of just about any happy and healthy person. Yet, it bothers me even more when I see it happen here in Israel. There are just so many great things happening here in Israel (which I will discuss in posts later today), but that more often than not, don't get covered. Even more than that, when all one hears on the news are negative reports, it kills the spirit of the society.

In Israel, we could use a healthy dose of some optimism and positivity - after all, the Jewish People have come home, yes, we do have our challenges, but that's the beauty of living here - we're part of an ongoing process - the process of the redemption of the Jewish People - and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

So, for today's weather, yeah, it's hot, but I heard it was raining the other day in NY!

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