Friday, September 30, 2005

****Jewish Trivia****

What are the only 3 mitzvot (commandments) that a Jew can fulfill with his/her entire body?

Post your answers in the comments section...

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Come Hell or High Water...

It's not often that I have to read a newspaper headline twice, but an article in today's Jerusalem Post made me do a double take:
Israelis sneak into New Orleans to help in post-Katrina chaos


Why in the world do Israeli's need to sneak into New Orleans if they are going there to help?

Thankfully, the article manages to answer all that question, while highlighting a side of Israel that is not often covered in the media.
Washington may have rebuffed Israeli offers of expert assistance in the days after Hurricane Katrina, but a team of Israeli rescue personnel managed to deploy in some of the worst-hit areas around New Orleans, JTA has learned.

It seems like the goodwill of the Jewish / Israeli People and their determination to help those in need in New Orleans overcame the (less than good) will of the U.S. government to rebuff any and all assistance from Israel.
Asked about the Israeli personnel aid, a spokesman for FEMA said only that "there were many volunteer groups from different countries who came to Louisiana to help the people and the state."

Thankfully, in spite of the efforts by the U.S. government to hide Israeli relief efforts, Israel's efforts did not go unnoticed or unappreciated by those directly in the field.
Rep. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) said he was grateful for the Israelis' work.

"The work being done by IsraAID and their team members to help the people of Louisiana is greatly appreciated," Jindal told JTA in an e-mail message. "They are providing support services for people who have been devastated by the tragedy, offering whatever assistance is needed as it is needed. Their presence will make the effort to get people home and on with their lives that much easier."

Rep. Charles Melancon (D-La.) said the Israelis "performed courageously in south Louisiana when we needed them most."

"I'm personally very grateful for their efforts and I know that those they touched will always remember the generosity of the Israeli people, who sent help from so far away," he said in an e-mail to JTA.

Through their relief and rescue efforts, the Israeli delegation was able to perform a Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of G-d's name) and serve as a "Light unto the nations", setting an example for all the nations of the world to follow.
The Israeli team received a two-ambulance escort onto a ferry and from there headed into the outlying parishes, where they were received with slightly puzzled appreciation.

"The soldiers were shocked seeing us," Lusky said. They asked the Israelis, "How come you came from so far? You have your own troubles. You're such a small country.

"The answer," Lusky continued, "is that we're a small country but big friends. For us it was so obvious. America has been such a good friend for ages."

If only the feeling were mutual...

Why Israel's PR stinks...

Time and again we have heard how bad Israel Hasbara / public relations efforts are. Many reasons have been given for this, among them being the poor English language skills of Israel's spokespeople, as well as the fact that Israel is a "democracy" and as such, we don't always speak in a single voice with a clear message...

While those reasons may be part of the problem, Evelyn Gordon, in her article, Making the Palestinian Argument, accurately assess the root cause of the problem for Israel's poor image in the world.
Nobody ever accused Israel of effective public relations. But the latest tactic adopted by the Foreign Ministry and American Jewish organizations represents a new low: arranging speakers and cultural performances that openly slander the country, in a misguided effort to demonstrate Israel's liberality.

A case in point was the recent tour of Israel organized by the American Jewish Committee for non-Jewish American politicians. It featured a visit to an Arab town where officials from Sikkuy, an Arab advocacy organization, regaled the guests with tales of how Israel mistreats its Arab citizens. Sikkuy's co-chairman, Ali Haider, for instance, told the visitors with a straight face that Arab Israelis are deprived of fundamental civil rights, and "the minute that Palestinian citizens of Israel try to protest, the police kill them..."

THE FOREIGN Ministry prefers its anti-Israel propaganda in the form of cultural events, to which it traditionally devotes about one-third of its PR budget. Last year, for instance, it financed a tour of American college campuses by the Israeli hip-hop group Hadag Nahash. Many of the group's lyrics are "acrimonious attacks" on the government; for variety, it also has some songs advocating socially beneficial behavior such as drug use. Aviva Raz Schechter of the Israeli Embassy in Washington acknowledged to Haaretz that some of the lyrics are problematic, but declaimed: "The intention is not to be so caught up by the minutiae of the lyrics, but to create an atmosphere of peace"...

UNFORTUNATELY, however, Israel's cultural exports almost all follow the Hadag Nahash model. Numerous Israeli films, for instance, have won awards at international festivals. But almost without exception, these films portray Israel as a brutal occupier oppressing the Palestinians for no good reason...

Similarly, the Foreign Ministry routinely finances translations of books by leading Israeli authors and lecture tours by these same authors. But most of Israel's award-winning authors – people such as Amos Oz, David Grossman and Sami Michael – deem Israel primarily to blame for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and espouse this theory in both their novels and their speeches...

It would seem self-evident that the best way to convince others of the justice of Israel's cause is not by underwriting vicious anti-Israel slander. Clearly, however, this is not self-evident to either the Foreign Ministry or the American Jewish establishment.

With friends like these...

Be afraid... Be very, very afraid!

Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics released its annual report on the make-up of Israel's population this week.

The Diagnosis:
The Jewish state is becoming less Jewish

It is important to note that the statistics listed below only include those with Israeli citizenship - and as such, these statistics are not referring to the "Palestinian" demographic threat, where one can (mistakenly) argue that Israel, by withdrawing from Judea and Samaria could attempt to solve the problem. The statistics below indicate that within the "Green Line" Israel is facing a serious demographic threat, whereby if Israel is to remain a Jewish State, she must be willing to face-up to some difficult questions:

1) Would Israel, in order to maintain its Jewish majority as well as "democratic" character, be willing to "Disengage" from the Galil, Negev and Eastern Jerusalem, all areas with significant Israeli Arab populations (and all within the "Green Line")?

2) Would Israel, in order to remain a Jewish State, be willing to limit the scope of its "democratic" character and principles towards non-Jews in Israel, in order to ensure not only a Jewish majority in Israel, but a Jewish character, that would be reflected in her policies and culture?

If the State of Israel (as a Jewish State) decides to do nothing, it is only a matter of time before she will cease to exist as a Jewish State and becomes a bi-national state of its citizens. This bi-national state will be free to rename itself Palestine, change the Law of Return to apply to Arabs and not Jews, and change national anthem from Hatikva to something more representative of this new state.

Without further ado...

From Yediot Achronot:
* By the end of 2004, Israel's population reached 6,869,500, including 5,237,600 Jews (76.2 percent), 1,340,200 Israeli Arabs (19.5 percent) and 291,700 "others" (4.2 percent).

* In 2004, the Jewish community constituted 76.2 percent of Israel's total population in comparison to 77.8 percent in 2000. However, the Muslim population reached 16.1 percent in 2004, in comparison to 15.2 percent in 2000.

* The Israeli population is regarded as the "youngest" population, with 28.4 percent under the age of 14 years, compared to an average of 17 percent in other westernized countries. However, in comparison to other communities in Israel, the Jewish population is the "oldest", while the Muslim community is considered the "youngest."

* Furthermore, 11.6 percent of the Jewish population is over the age of 65, compared to 2.7 percent in the Muslim community; 43 percent is under the age of 14 compared 25.6 percent among the Jewish community.

From Globes:
* The growth rate among Israel’s Jewish population was 1.4%. The growth rate among Muslims was double the Jewish rate, at 3.3%

From the Jerusalem Post:
* Fertility rates have remained stable, however, among the Jewish population at 2.9 children per woman, according to the CBS. Since 2000, the rate has dropped among Muslims, from 4.7/4.6 to 4.4.

* Growth in the Israeli population in 2004 in Gaza and the West Bank (5.2%) well out-paced growth in Jerusalem (2.4%) and Tel Aviv (1.1%)... Dor-Shav attributed the relatively high Jewish birthrate to the premium national religious and haredi communities place on large families.

The time has long since passed for Israel and the Jewish People to face up to the true demographic threat facing the Jewish State of Israel, namely the ever increasing Israeli-Arab population, and begin to address this issue in a serious manner. We must once and for all determine our answers to the following questions:

What role does the State of Israel play in the lives of the Jewish People? Is it imperative that Israel remain a Jewish State? If so, what are we willing to do to ensure that it remains one?

I include the Jewish People in this equation, because no Jew who cares about Israel remaining a Jewish State should be able to claim ignorance on this point. If Israel is to remain a Jewish State, then it requires Jewish bodies and lots of Jewish babies (aside from any other steps the State of Israel may feel compelled to take on this matter). By choosing to remain living outside of Israel, those Jews are showing where Israel stands on their list of priorities, and as such, will be required to live with any actions that the State of Israel ultimately takes in order to save itself from this grave threat.

While there may be a difference of opinion as to the actions that the State of Israel should take, there is no question that if Israel is to remain a Jewish State, that the time to act is now - if only we will find the courage to do so.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Proof is in the Rubble...

In my last post, The Temple Mount Is..., I discussed the sorry state of affairs that currently exists on Har HaBayit (Temple Mount). Here's an article from todays Jerusalem Post which only strengthens the points raised in that post:
A First-Temple period seal has been discovered amidst piles of rubble from Jerusalem's Temple Mount, an Israeli archaeologist said Tuesday, in what could prove to be an historic find.

The small - less than 1 cm - seal impression, or bulla, discovered Tuesday by Bar-Ilan University archaeologist Dr. Gabriel Barkay amidst piles of rubble from the Temple Mount would mark the first time that an written artifact was found from the Temple Mount dating back to the First Temple period.

The 2,600 year old artifact, with three lines in ancient Hebrew, was discovered amidst piles of rubble discarded by the Islamic Wakf that Barkay and a team of young archaeologists and volunteers are sifting through on the grounds of a Jerusalem national park.

How long will we sit in silence and allow our holiest site, the very place where the presence of G-d rests, to be defiled and desecrated by those who seek our destruction?

To once again quote the Jewish / Israeli poet, Uri Tzvi Greenberg:
He who controls the Mount controls the Land

The Temple Mount is...

On June 7th, 1967 / the 28th of the month of Iyar, 5727, Motta Gur uttered 3 words that shook the very foundations of the world and served as the culmination of 2,000 years of Jewish hopes, dreams and prayers: Har HaBayit BeYadeinu!!! (The Temple Mount is in our hands). Sadly, just under 40 years later, that is no longer the case.

Today, I had the distinct privilege of ascending to Har HaBayit (the Temple Mount), and visiting the holiest site of the Jewish People. (Before any Jew visits Har HaBayit he should consult with a Halachic authority well versed in the laws concerning such a visit). Har HaBayit is the site where the 1st two Batei HaMikdash (Holy Temples) stood, and upon which the 3rd will be built - speedily, in our time. It is on this very place where the presence of G-d rests, and many central events in Jewish history occurred on this very spot (such as Akeidat Yitzchak - the binding of Isaac).

While I am thankful for the opportunity to visit the holiest of sites of the Jewish People (an act, which throughout our long Exile, so few Jews merited - and I dare not proclaim to be of greater spiritual worth, and as such more derserving), and in reality, the holiest site in the entire world, there is a sense of shame that accompanies me. When a Jew visits Har HaBayit today - specifically religious Jews - he does so as a visitor, as a guest, and not as sovereign.

After the Six-Day War, when Jerusalem was liberated from Jordanian occupation, the Jewish People had once again returned to Har HaBayit, the focal point of all of our prayers. Sadly, Moshe Dayan, then Minister of Defense, ordered the Israeli Flag lowered from the Mount, and gave the Muslim Waqf day to day control over Har HaBayit, and this remains the status quo until this very day.

As such, today, when a Jew visits Har HaBayit, he must play according to rules set by the Muslim Waqf. He is only allowed to visit during limited hours. Religious Jews are given "special" treatment, where they are instructed that if they do any act of prayer while visiting Har HaBayit, they will be forcibly removed and charges will be brought against him (this speech is given by a Jewish, Israeli police officer). These restrictions include uttering prayers, bowing, tearing clothing, singing, dancing... The powers that be ensure compliance on this matter by ensuring that all religious Jews visiting Har HaBayit are escorted by Israeli police, as well as Muslim Waqf officials. (This treatment is only given for religious Jews, tourists are able to move freely on Har Habayit without escort).

To make matters worse, Har HaBayit today is not given the respect and reverence that is befitting a place of such holiness. Arab children can be seen riding bikes and playing ball. Garbage is strewn all over the Mount. Illegal excavations continue round the clock in order to erase any physical evidence of a Jewish connection to the site. When the Arabs come to pray at the mosques found on the Temple Mount, they hear sermons filled with hatred and vitriol cagainst the Jewish People and State, comparing Jews to monkeys and pigs, alongside calls forthe destruction of Israel.

To see pictures of Har HaBayit today, click here.

The poet, Uri Tzvi Greenberg Z"L, understood the centrality of the Temple Mount to the conflict that the Jewish People are faced with in the Land of Israel:
He who rules the Mount rules the Land

Today, it is clear from the actions (or inaction) or successive Jewish governments since 1967, that the Jewish People do not rule the Mount, and as such, our hold on Eretz Yisrael today is tenuous.

Consider this: If the State of Israel is unwilling to stand up and enforce the right of the Jewish People to Har HaBayit, out holiest site, then for what are we willing to stand and fight for? For Gush Katif? For Hebron? For eastern Jerusalem?

The Arabs are not a stupid people. They see that we are unwilling to stand up for what is ours - in this case, our holiest site - and they understand that if that is the case, we will not truly stand up to them anywhere else in the Land of Israel either.

The time has come for the Jewish People to reconnect with our holiest site. To raise an outcry over the injustices taking place on Har HaBayit. To demand, at the very least, that Jews should have equal rights with the Muslims, and be able to pray on Har HaBayit, in accordance with Halacha. How can it be that in the Jewish State of Israel (which also claims to be a democracy) that freedom of religious worship is not extended to Jews at their holiest of sites?

Here's a better question: How can it be that this descration of G-d's name and sanctuary bothers so few Jews, both in Israel and the world?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Kol HaKavod, Tel Aviv!

It is not often that I find myself identifying with much that comes out of Tel Aviv, but today is one of those days.

I found myself in the Old City of Jerusalem today, and lo and behold, I saw hundreds upon hundreds (if not thousands) of elementary school students from Tel Aviv who were spending the day touring the area.

I inquired as to what was the occasion that so many students from Tel Aviv were in Jerusalem, and I discovered that the Tel Aviv municipality had sponsored day long trips to Jerusalem's Old City for all 7th graders.

Believe it or not, but there are tens of thousands of Jewish youth in Israel who grow up having never visited Jerusalem, and feeling absolutely no connection to her. For many, the 1st time they visit Jerusalem is during their army service.

This initiative by the Tel Aviv municipality is not only commendable, but should be modeled by schools all over the country - incorporating into the curriculum a mandatory visit to Jerusalem and other sites in Israel that will strengthen the connection of these Jewish students to their Land, people and heritage.

As I have written in numerous posts, if Israel is to have a future as a Jewish State, educational initiatives such as this one are crucial.

Kol HaKavod, Tel Aviv!

Monday, September 26, 2005

What does the word deterrence mean?

I am confused.

I thought I knew what the word deter meant, but now I am not so sure...

Ha'aretz reports:
The Israel Air Force launched new air strikes on the Gaza Strip Monday afternoon, targeting open spaces to deter Palestinian militants from firing Qassam rockets at Israeli communities.

Clearly, the State of Israel's understanding of the word deterrence is different from the traditional definition.

The word deterrence can be defined in the following ways:
1) The inhibition of criminal behavior by fear esp. of punishment
2) The act or process of discouraging actions or preventing occurrences by instilling fear or doubt or anxiety
3) Measures taken by a state or an alliance of states to prevent hostile action by another state

Seemingly, the measures undertaken by the State of Israel, meant to deter Arab terrorists from raining rockets down on Jewish communities in Israel, meets none of the above definitions.

The only message that Israel is sending by bombing open fields in Gaza is that we have powerful weapons which we are not prepared to really use, only serves to embolden those who seek to destroy the Jewish State, making it crystal clear, that unless they decide, for some senseless reason, to launch their attacks from open fields, Israel is not prepared to strike at them with full force (certainly not if these attacks originate from civilian population centers).

Perhaps Israel should seek an agreement with these terrorists groups whereby they will only launch their attacks against the Jewish State from places where Israel feels able to respond.

Biur Chametz and IRIS share similar sentiments.

What Israel can learn from the Statue of Liberty...

The United States of America has always been known as a country that has welcomed immigrants from all over the world (In this post, I'm not going to discuss the times when the US seemingly closed her doors on those who needed her most).

In the harbor of New York, the gateway of immigrants to the United States, stands proudly the Statue of Liberty, upon which one finds the following words etched in stone (written by the Jewish Poetess Emma Lazarus):
Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free...

The time has come for the State of Israel to take these words to heart.

In todays Ha'aretz we find the following troubling report:
Israel is set to deport a young ultra-Orthodox Jew from Brooklyn suspected of having intended to assassinate Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Israel Radio reported Monday.

The case is believed to be the first time that Israel has sought deportation of a Jew for alleged intentions to commit security violations.

Perhaps the raison d'etre for the establishment of the State of Israel, a basic definition that nearly all can agree upon, was that the Jewish People would never again be homeless and defenseless. Every Jew who so desired could come home to the Land of Israel, and live proudly, freely and securely as a Jew. It is for this very reason that among the very first laws legislated by the State of Israel was the Law of Return, granting immediate and automatic citizenship to any Jew, from anywhere in the world, who chose to move to Israel.

Equally troubling are those that argue that Israel should only accept Jews who can support themselves financially, or otherwise not burden the state, as candidates for citizenship.

Whether one is religious, and as such believes that the Land of Israel is promised to the Jewish People by G-d, or if one is secular, and believes in the right of the Jewish People to self-determination and sovereignty in their historical homeland - in either case, no one has the right to refuse any Jew from living in Israel.

Every Jew in the world, whether rich or poor, religious or secular, right or left, criminals and convicts have a right to live in Israel. If a Jew is poor, then the Jewish State of Israel will extend her hand in kindness to him. If a Jew is sick, there must always be a bed in a hospital in Israel to care for him. If a Jew is a criminal, then he has the right to sit in a jail cell in the Land of Israel.

The State of Israel is not meant to serve as some type of exclusive country club for elitist Jews where only those deemed desirable by the powers that be may be admitted.

Perhaps the State of Israel should build a monument of her own, on which the words of Jeremiah (and the unceasing prayer of Rachel Imeinu) will be engraved:
V'shavu Banim L'Gvulam... / And the children (of Israel) will return to their borders (the Land of Israel)

The children of Israel - the Jewish People - all of them... No questions asked.

Delusional in Israel

There is a well-known saying by Lord Acton, "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely".

This quote accuratley sums up the state of affairs in the Likud today, where the Likud Central Committee is currently meeting to determine when to hold their internal primaries.

With the Likud Central Committee set to vote on this issue later today, let's see what justifications some well-known Likud personalities are offering for delaying the primaries (and balance of power within the Likud):

Meir Sheetrit
"I have never before seen a party prepared to give up on its ruling power with such joy and jump into the abyss," Sheetrit said. "I'm telling you: Be careful. Those who support advancing the primary are going to destroy the Likud... The left could rise to power and give up the entire Land of Israel."

Meir... you have become the left, and you have already destroyed the Likud. It is the Likud who has shown time and again that the Likud, and not the left, are the ones who do not hesitate to give away parts of the Land of Israel (from the Sinai, to Hebron, and most recently, Gush Katif and the northern Shomron).

Silvan Shalom
"Have we gone mad?" he asked in a heated address against the November primary date.

"Twelve years ago when we were obstructed by infighting, all we got was [Yitzhak] Rabin, the failed Oslo accords, and [late Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat. But in 1996 we managed to regain control, and likewise in 2001 and 2003. We won because we were united," Shalom said.

He recommended against rushing the primaries, as it could lead to advancing the general elections and the potential loss of the Likud's grip on the government.

"Then what will we get? [Left-wing MK Shimon] Peres? [Yossi] Beilin? Ahmed Tibi?" Shalom demanded.

Silvan, I think it is you who has gone mad. If it is a united Likud that has brought us the expulsion of thousands of Jews from their homes, and the destruction of Jewish communities and holy sites, then I prefer a divided Likud.

The Likud, a once glorious party, has become a party full of apparatchiks and political appointees, devoid of the Jewish / nationalist ideology that once made it such a proud party.

Tzipi Livni
"For political reasons that are not relevant, it appears that we won't be able to be together..."

Amen to that.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The 1st Fruits of Disengagement (updated)

In this past Shabbat's Torah portion, we read about the Jews of Israel who would bring their 1st fruits (of the 7 species special to the Land of Israel) to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, and thank G-d for all of his benefice.

This weekend, the Jews of Israel became familiar with another type of 1st fruit, which seems to be in season here in Israel.

I am referring, of course, to the 1st fruits of the post-Disengagement reality.

1) This weekend, over 20 Qassam rockets were fired by the "Palestinians" into Israel. Prior to Israel's Disengagement from Gaza, the government and military promised very swift and harsh responses to such attacks. As could be expected, this response has yet to be seen.
The government ruled out a ground assault on Gaza. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told the security Cabinet, "We left Gaza not in order to return to it." The Cabinet approved IDF strikes on terrorists preparing rocket attacks and okayed a world-wide information campaign against Hamas.

I am sure that Hamas is shaking, now that the Israeli government has finally authorized a world-wide information campaign. (Why this wasn't done ages ago or that this needed government authorization is beyond me).

There was in fact a swift and harsh Israeli response, but it wasn't directed against the terrorists who fired missiles into Israel:
The Sderot municipality and the Sha'ar Hanegev regional council announced Saturday night its plans to suspend school on Sunday due to the deteriorating security situation. In addition, the city-run market will not be operating in its regular capacity.

In an official statement, the municipality said the closures are the result of the security assessments that were passed onto Sderot mayor Eli Moyal during a meeting with heads of the defense establishment. Municipality heads will reconvene on Sunday to decide on further steps.

Undoubtedly, these further steps will continue to disrupt the daily lives of the Jews of Israel, while the terrorists will continue to freely and openly plan future attacks against the Jewish State.

(As we speak, Prime Minister Sharon has issued the following order:
"I have ordered that there be no limitation regarding use of all means to hit the terrorists, the men of the terror organizations, to hit them, their equipment, and their hideouts,"...

"The order is unequivocal."

The prime minister said that israel had embarked on "an ongoing operation, whose aim is to hit terrorists, and not to relent from this. All means are fit for this. Apart from our usual practice of refraining from harming civilians, all means should be used to halt this phenomenon."

And what if the terrorists are based within civilian populations, and that it is precisely from there that they are firing missiles into Israel? Will we sit on our hands, since we are unwilling to harm civilians?)

2) Two Words: Another Fence.

It seems as if Israel's answer to every and any type of security threat that she is faced with is to simply build another fence. It is as if Israel has bought totally into the mantra that fences make good neighbors... if only that were true.
Israel has examined a plan to establish a $900 million security system along the 200-kilometer border with Egypt. The Defense Ministry and the Israel Defense Forces have been reviewing requirements for a security system that could halt infiltration of insurgents and smugglers from the Sinai Peninsula into Israel. Officials said they expected intensified Palestinian infiltration into Israel from the Sinai.

"We're going to require a serious security system," Deputy Defense Minister Zeev Boim said.

Officials said Israel 's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip has provided Palestinians with unregulated entry to Sinai. They said more than 15,000 Palestinians have entered the Sinai over the last five days and many of them plan to infiltrate Israel.

Can someone remind me again, of how the Disengagement from Gaza was benificial to Israel?

Israel's Revisionist History 101

We are all familiar with the saying, "time heals all wounds", yet it seems that that is not the case here in Israel, as not only does time not heal old wounds, but manages to open new ones - that are generally of the self-inflicted sort.

David Kimche, former Director General of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in this past Friday's Jerusalem Post, gives us a revisionist history lesson on who is to blame for the lack of peace in Israel and the Middle East.

Lessons 1
ON FEBRUARY 14, 1971, history was made in our country, or rather, it could have been made. For the first time ever one of our neighbors, Egypt no less, used the magic word of "peace" in an official note to Israel. Thunderstruck Foreign Ministry officials could hardly believe their eyes when UN Special Representative Gunnar Jarring delivered the note. It declared that "Egypt will be ready to enter into a peace agreement with Israel” under certain conditions, the principal one being the return of Israel to the international boundary with Egypt.

There was no mention of Palestinians. The Foreign Ministry wanted to send a positive reply, welcoming Egypt's willingness to enter into a peace agreement and proposing immediate negotiations. The hawks in the cabinet, foremost among them prime minister Golda Meir, were skeptical. They distrusted the Egyptian intentions.

Golda took upon herself the final wording of Israel's reply, which contained the following key sentence: "Israel will not withdraw to the pre-5 June 1967 lines." No to the return of Sinai.

Two years later the Yom Kippur War broke out with its thousands of casualties. That war would never have occurred if the Foreign Ministry had been allowed to send its reply. The attitude of "nothing good can come from talking to the Arabs" had vanquished the professionals of the Foreign Ministry. The result? A war that should never have happened, thousands of dead, and, despite our hawks, Sinai returned to Egypt to the last grain of sand.

In David Kimche's revisionist history class, he fails to note two very important facts:

1) How did Israel find itself in the Sinai in the 1st place? Was it not as a result of the Six Day War, where Egypt, led by her President, Nasser, spoke of driving every last Jew into the sea, of how the streets of Tel Aviv would run red with Jewish blood? Was it not Egypt who closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, serving as a casus belli, and justifying Israel's pre-emptive strike?

Israel need not apologize, if as a result of Egyptian aggression, she is able to expand her borders, and increase the overall security of the Jewish State.

2) Perhaps Golda Meir, and the other Israeli hawks that did not wet their pants at the sight of seeing the word "peace" in an official letter from Egypt could be forgiven. After all, Egypt was a country who sought Israel's destruction in Israel's War of Independence, the Sinai campaign in 1956 9where Egypt closed off the Straits for the 1st time), the Six Day War, and the War of Attrition.

Perhaps, those Israeli "hawks" had reason to be skeptical of Egyptian overtures towards peace. A scant two years later, Egypt made it perfectly clear that what they could not get through negotiations they were willing to take by force, by launching a surprise attack on the Jewish State on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year for the Jewish People, and it was that which led to the thousands of Jewish dead and wounded, and not Israel's supposed stubborness in rejecting Egypt's peace proposal.

Lesson 2
It's 1967 and the West Bank and Gaza have fallen to our advancing troops. A team of reserve officers is given the task of discovering who among the Palestinians belong to the political elite, and what are their opinions. The officers reach the conclusion that a peace deal is possible.

At that time Fatah was still weak – it was only two years old – Hamas was non-existent, there were no settlements to complicate the issue, and the Palestinians were hugely dissatisfied with the previous Jordanian rule. Leading Palestinians were willing to organize an assembly in Jericho in which they would declare their desire for peace with Israel, in return for some form of independent entity bound in alliance with Israel.

The officers delivered their findings. They were rejected on the grounds that "Jordan made war against us and we must make peace with Jordan, not with the Palestinians."

"Jordan First" was the prescribed policy. Disillusioned, the Palestinians flocked to the open arms of Fatah, and the inevitable spiral of violence took root, with the helping hand of Yasser Arafat and his cronies. Creative thinking at that particular crucial crossroad could have engendered very different results, a very different history.

Once again, Prof. Kimche is forgetful of some basic facts surrounding this event in Israel's history:

1) Why is it that from 1948 - 1967, when Judea and Samaria were under the Occupation of Jordan, did the "Palestinians" not declare a "Palestinian" State?

2) How could anyone have taken these "Palestinians" seriously of their desire to live in peace with Israel when a mere 3 years earlier, in 1964, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was established with the main objective being the destruction of the Jewish State - this call coming before there ever were any "occupied territories"!!!

If there is one thing that Prof. Kimche should be aware of, with all of his experience in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is that Arab declarations, as well as signed agreements are worth less than nothing.

In David Kimche's world, Israel must apologize for her military victories over those who seek to destroy her. Sadly, David Kimche's world is also that of Israel's Foreign Ministry - and we wonder why it is that Israel has an image problem around the world, as well as a disillusioned Israeli populace who can't understand why the Arabs won't let her live in peace, and assume that it must be they who are at fault.

Class dismissed.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Reconnecting with the Land of Israel

Last night I had the distinct privilege of visiting some friends who live in Sde Boaz, a newly established Jewish community just outside of Neve Daniel in Gush Etzion.

I want to share some special things that I noticed about Sde Boaz:

* Sde Boaz is situated on one of the highest points in Israel, and as such, one can see for miles (kilometers) in every direction. There are likely few better places in Israel from where one can take in so much of the Land of Israel - and I believe that it is for this reason that this area was frequented by our forefathers.

* Sde Boaz is surrounded by beautiful hills and valleys full of nature. The air is crisp, cool and fresh. With every breath that one inhales, he is cleansing his body, both in a physical sense, as well as spiritually, as the very air seems to have a mystical quality to it.

I had the opportunity to visit the spring just outside of Sde Boaz (which has goldfish in it), and to eat figs right off the trees that surround Sde Boaz. This had an added signifigance, as figs are one of the 7 species special to the Land of Israel, and as such, I got to also make a Shehechiyanu blessing on the fruit (as I had not had one in quite some time), thanking G-d for having blessed me with the opportunity to partake of the fruit of His chosen land, the Land of Israel, as a proud Jew, who had returned home.

* Sde Boaz, home to about 25 people, is full of both religious and secular Jews, new immigrants and native Israelis, who live together with a shared love for the Jewish People and the Land of Israel and the desire to live in a Jewish State.

* Sde Boaz is not surrounded by any fences (that would otherwise restrict the natural growth of the community), and all work that is done in the community is done through Jewish labor.


* Sde Boaz also happens to be, in the eyes of the world, and some in Israel, an illegal outpost which the State of Israel has committed itself to remove.

* Sde Boaz is considered to be an illegal outpost even though it is built on state owned land (via the Jewish National Fund) that was purchased through money that was collected by our grandparents, who stood on street corners holding the small, blue JNF tzedaka boxes, in order that Jews would be able to live anywhere in the Land of Israel.

Illegal outposts like Sde Boaz are communities full of some of the most wonderful Jews around, modern day pioneers who believe in working the land and in building new Jewish communities throughout the Land of Israel, Jews who do not apologize for believing in the right of the Jewish People to a Jewish State in the Land of Israel - and who are committed to this ideal not merely in word but in physical deed, Jews who are willing to live with less material comfort, but whose lives are full of a richness that money simply can't buy.

Even for one who lives in Israel like myself, it is easy, in the course of day-to-day living, to have one's physical connection to the Land of Israel become a bit removed. Thankfully, last night, I was able to recharge my batteries. There is just something special about walking through the hills and valleys of the Land of Israel, eating the fruits of the land right off the tree, and doing so with my fellow Jewish brothers and sisters who also have chosen to make Aliyah and build their lives in the Jewish homeland.

Next time one hears of the need for Israel to remove these illegal outposts, consider the following:

* Is it really the presence of communities like Sde Boaz and the Jews who live there that are standing in the way of peace with the Arabs?

* Are the values of self-sacrifice and dedication towards one's fellow Jews and to the Land of Israel, as well as the value of a Jew to being able to live anywhere in the Land of Israel as a proud Jew - the very foundations upon which communities like Sde Boaz are built upon - are these values that we want to remove from our society?

* Ask yourself what exactly an illegal outpost is. Can it really be illegal - a crime - for a Jew to live, build and settle in the Jewish Homeland?

* If one believes in the right of the Jewish People to a Jewish State in the Land of Israel, will removing these communities serve to strengthen or weaken our claim to the Land of Israel?

Think about it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Israel, the "Security" Fence & The Shawshank Redemption

In the film The Shawshank Redemption, there is a scene where prison inmate Andy Dufrene asks the warden of Shawshank prison for funding to build a library for the prisoners of Shawshank. The warden responds that there are 3 things that the State is willing to spend money on when it comes to prisons: more guards, more walls and more bars.

It seems that the leaders of the State of Israel have been stricken with this prison mentality, as well.

Today, in the State of Israel, it seems that the answer to all of Israel's problems can be solved by building longer fences, higher walls, deeper tunnels and stronger roofs.

What is the answer to combatting Arab terrorism?

Of course, we'll just throw all the Jews out of Gaza, build a 3 tiered fence around the entire area, build the "security" fence along the "Green Line", and another fence around Jerusalem, and then we'll all be safe.

What's the answer to Arabs shooting at Jews driving along the roads in Israel?

We'll build tunnels, by-pass roads, and place concrete slabs alongside the roads to stop incoming sniper fire.

What's the solution for incoming Qassam rocket and mortar fire on Jewish towns from Gaza?

We'll invest millions of dollars fortifying the roofs of all the buildings within the range of rocket and mortar fire, so this way, when the rockets hit, they won't cause as much damage.

Of course, none of these methods actually deal with the problem at hand, of permanently eliminating the terror threat against the Jewish People and State. Each of these half-measures is meant to give the impression that the State of Israel is taking steps to fight terror and keep her citizens safe and secure, when in reality, it is doing neither, and perhaps even exacerbating the problem.

Once and for all, let us understand that the "security" fence, Israel's great hope, is in reality, a disastrous policy for Israel.

A fence doesn’t stop terror, it only causes the terrorists to come up with new and improved ways to strike at the Jewish State. Furthermore, when the fence is built (more or less) along the "Green Line", who is the winner and who is the loser? If the security fence is truly meant to keep terrorists out, then build it around Ramallah, Jenin, Qalkilyah and every other Arab occupied city and village from where the terrorists originate. Don't build the fence around the Jewish cities and force us to live in a ghetto while telling us that it is for our own good.

Let us not forget the political aspect of the security fence. The security fence is the "silent disengagement" plan devised by the leaders of the State of Israel to disengage from the biblical heartland of the Jewish People and create a permanent border for both Israel and a future "Palestinian" state. What the Arab States couldn't achieve through battle, the State of Israel gives them on a silver platter, all in the name of "security".

Can anyone explain to me how a fence that is meant to fight terror forces the State of Israel to retreat from the Jewish communities of Hebron, Kiryat Arba, Beit El, Shiloh, Elon Moreh, Ofra... which will all find themselves on the "other" side of the fence, and not protected from terrorists?

It seems that the true message of all of these half-measures is to announce both to the world and to the terrorists themselves, that the State of Israel is not willing or able to act to defend what is rightfully theirs, and as such, is willing to retreat into ghetto-like borders and pretend that all of the terrorists and enemies sitting on her narrow borders will magically disappear.

More guards, more walls and more bars - just like in the movies. Let's hope this one has a happy ending.

I hope.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Has Anyone Seen Gaza?

This is a translation of a letter written by Uri Gav, a refugee from Ganei Tal in Gush Katif. It is directed to the world community and those Jews who supported Sharon's expulsion plan. This letter was published in the Hebrew newspaper HaTzofeh on Friday the 5th of Elul.

His words speak for themsleves.

Has Anyone Seen Gaza?
Has anyone seen Gaza?

Now, that all is destroyed, finished, dried out, there's one question hanging in the air, screaming out the lie with all its might, the lie that you've tried very hard to hide. But we see it all so clearly.

Has anyone seen Gaza?

In all the pictures that were taken among the scattered homes, on the paths, in the sea of teenage girls and boys, the pride of this country, between one synagogue and the next, between all the tears and cries, on the lawns that were planted with tears and devotion, in the kindergartens, yeshivas, libraries, on the shores of the sea, in the grocery, in the passages between the notices has anyone seen Gaza?

For years you're screaming that we are living within a Palestinian population. For years you're yelling that our soldiers are being killed protecting 2nd rate citizens. For years you're inciting an entire nation through the media against law abiding, tax paying citizens who serve in the army. For years you cry about the money that is streaming to the "settlements,? while the millions of dollars of debts owed by the kibbutzim are being dissolved by the government and will never be repaid. For years you protest that if the territories are "returned” peace will reign.

Wait a minute, Has anyone seen Gaza?

Finally, there were cameras; you have seen the communities and all the truth can be thrown in your faces: If we had been truly sitting in Gaza, you would have seen it! If we were really sitting inside a very crowded civilian population, as was presented all the time it would have been seen on the screen! The panorama would have been crowded buildings, with neither grass nor paths and white buildings! The best "right-wing" camera couldn't hide it.

"We've left Gaza?" We weren't in Gaza!

Gaza is 20 kilometers away from Ganei Tal and even further from many of the other communities. For the sake of comparison, Kalkilya is in Kfar Saba.

Should we demolish Kfar Saba?

For years you hint about occupation, about the control of another nation, about the security situation. The time has come for you to admit, you simply hate us and it doesn't matter where we live. You see us as controlling and taking over, your greatest fear. Those who coerced the government until now are you. While we filled Rabin Square in Tel Aviv with hundreds of thousands of people, dispersed demonstrations throughout the country, Kfar Maimon, Netivot, Sderot you've coerced an entire nation with an idiotic minority's view. Those who controlled were you.

You don't know how to take us. That's your problem. We're religious, that makes us easy to hate, but we are also in the army, we're with a yarmulka on our heads, and that's a good enough reason, but we also work and are supporting ourselves.

The truth is, you're jealous of us. Jealous of the education that includes, Torah and reverence, of our emotionally healthy children, the marvelous youth imbued with direction and values, heeding their parents and educators, of mothers who are able to raise six children, work outside the house and still be able to smile.

We are not too worried. It seems that we are oppressed now. Our noses are in the ground, the tears that can't seem to stop, the children not registered in any school. Thousands of us have been added to the unemployment lists not due to any fault on our part. You've thrown us to the four corners of the country without pity.

Our house you've destroyed but we have a Father in heaven, friends, a G-d of vengeance is Hashem.

He sees, He hears, He knows. I'm not saying this to frighten anyone, just facts. You've declared war on Him, not on us. We have merited becoming stronger, despite your anger and hate.

Here's to a complete redemption and good news.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Revising the Prayers on Behalf of Israel and the IDF

In Shul this past Shabbat I noticed that that when the prayer for the Welfare of the State of Israel, as well as the prayer for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) was recited, there were changes made to the text of each of the prayers.

From the Prayer for the Welfare of the State of Israel:
Our Father Who are in Heaven, Protector and Redeemer of Israel, bless Thou the State of Israel which marks the dawn of our deliverance. Shield it beneath the wings of Thy love; Spread over it Thy canopy of peace; Place at her head able men, those that fear G-d, men of truth, who hate unjust gain.

(This is in place of: "send Thy light and Thy truth to its leaders, officers, and counselors, and direct them with Thy good counsel").

From the Prayer for the IDF:
May the Almighty cause the enemies who rise up against us to be struck down before them. May the Holy One, Blessed is He, preserve and rescue our fighters from every trouble and distress and from every plague and illness, and may He send blessing and success in all their missions against our enemies...

(This is in place of: "and may He send blessing and success in their every endeavor".)

These changes were proposed, by among others, Rabbi Zalman Melamed, Shlita, of Beit El.

Rabbi Ya'akov Ariel, Chief Rabbi of Ramat Gan, also expressed his views on the matter.
The prayer for the welfare of the state should continue to be recited, "even more fervently," with added emphasis on granting ministers and advisors sound advice "and even add a supplication to grant them more merciful hearts and more humane attitudes."

"I recommend that the prayer for the well being of IDF soldiers omit the clause, '...and send blessing and success in all the work of their hands.' Not all of the hands of the IDF's soldiers are worthy of blessing and success - only those that fight against our external enemies,"

Personally, I don't have a problem with either change. I imagine that when these prayers were instituted by Israel's Chief Rabbinate, that this was their original intention, and it is only now it has been decided that these ideas must be clearly expressed.

I think that the State of Israel would be a much better place (and more Jewish State) if we had leadership that was G-d fearing and honest (not that the two are mutually exclusive). As for the Prayer for the IDF, I do not wish them any success in throwing Jews out of their homes, or in any other actions against the Jewish People - that is not why they exist. For more on this idea, see what Rabbi Melamed has to say).

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Saying Goodbye to Youth...

Yesterday Mark Messier retired, ending his 25 year NHL career.

I imagine that there are 2 questions that many of you are asking:

1) Who is Mark Messier?


2) Why am I posting about him on this blog?

To answer the 1st question, I suggest reading the linked article above, or go to Google, and read a few of the articles that come up (ones from Canadian papers will be more interesting). In short, he was one of the greatest hockey players and leaders to ever play the game, and he helped end the New York Rangers 54 year championship drought by leading them to victory in the 1994 season.

As for the 2nd question, I grew up loving hockey, both watching and playing. Many of my fondest childhood memories revolve around hockey. I vividly remember the spring of 1994, watching each of the Rangers playoff games, cheering every goal, celebrating every victory, and getting caught up in the hockey fever that swept the city of New York that spring.

Since moving to Israel, I haven't watched much hockey (to be frank, NY Rangers hockey hasn't been much fun to watch the last 7 years), and I haven't played much of late either, as it's not easy to find a game to join in this part of the world.

I'm not 14 anymore. My high school days are long behind me. I no longer live in NY, but in Israel. I don't have the luxury of living in a carefree world as I did when I was only 14. I am now married, have a family, mortgage payments, a job. When I was 14, in the spring of 1994, my biggest concern was whether the NY Rangers would finally win, while today, at 26, living in Israel, my concerns are over the future of the Jewish State and Jewish People.

Part of me wouldn't mind being 14 again (at least for a little while), going back to the Spring of 1994, and just getting totally caught up in hockey, and feeling that nothing else mattered. I used to have a t-shirt that said something like: "Hockey is life, the rest is just details". I don't think I could wear that t-shirt today (even if it would still fit me). At 26, while I still follow sports, it's no longer as central to my life as they once were, and overall, I do feel that I am the better for it.

The spring of 1994, just over 11 years ago, seems both so close and yet so far away from where I stand today. I feel, with the retirement of one of my childhood icons, that I am retiring in a way as well. Retiring from my youth.

So, it's time to say farewell.

Goodbye, Mark, I'll miss you, but it looks like it's time for both of us to move on with our lives.

Thanks for the memories.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Blogs of Zion

Check out the new blog Blogs of Zion.

Blogs of Zion is an on-line forum for Zionists from across the ideological and social spectrum to decipher, develop and debate issues affecting the Jewish people around the world.

Today, more often than not, that conversation is muted—especially in the Diaspora. Left does not speak to Right, nor Right to Left. The Religious have given up on the Secular, and the Secular find no reason to speak to the Religious. Israelis feel that those in the Diaspora just do not understand, and those in the Diaspora think Israelis have no perspective and don't know what they're doing. Thus, we have become fractured, fractious people, and our potential to do great things—to be a light shining forth from Zion—is held hostage by the many shades in which each community would like the light to shine.

Blogs of Zion seeks to reopen the dialogue in the hope that thesis and antithesis will produce a new, unified thesis—or at least a common vocabulary with which we can discuss our common future.

Desecrated Synagogues, Israeli National Parks & the Future of the State of Israel

I have little room in my heart for the "Palestinians" who, along with the rest of the Arab / Islamic world are dead set on the destruction of the Jewish State in the Land of Israel. Yet, begrudgingly, I must admit that in one particular area, we have much to learn from them.

When it comes to the "Palestinians" belief in the righteousness of their cause and of their right to a "Palestinian" State in all of greater "Palestine", their commitment and dedication is second to none. The "Palestinians" are united in their goal, and will seemingly stop at nothing until they have achieved all of their objectives.

In what hardly can be called a surprise, the "Palestinians” took the very 1st opportunity, upon taking control of the former Jewish communities in Gush Katif, to raze the remaining synagogues to the ground.
"Symbols of the occupation have to be taken down," Hisham Abdel Razek, a Palestinian lawmaker, told Israel's Army Radio.

Now, contrast this with the following (excerpted from an earlier post: The Jewish Suicidal Urge):

Ha'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.

One the one hand, we witness the "Palestinians" who are so certain of the justness of their cause - of their right to all of "Palestine", and of the illegitimacy of the Jewish claim to the Land of Israel, that they immediately removed all signs of the foreign occupation from the newly "liberated" land. On the other hand, we have Israel, the supposed Jewish State, who is so uncertain of the justness of their cause, of their right to a Jewish State in the Land of Israel, that it builds memorials on national park land to eternalize the memory of "Palestinian" villages that once were, throughout the Land of Israel.

The message is clear. If we continue to "disengage" from our collective Jewish identity and heritage, if we are not convinced of our right to a Jewish State in the Land of Israel, and if we continue to view ourselves as occupiers, thieves, and colonialists, then in the coming years we will witness many more scenes as the one we have witnessed today, namely, Israelis - Jews - retreating from the Land of Israel, watching every last remnant of the once flourishing Jewish presence in the land going up in smoke - and we will have no one to blame for this but ourselves.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Yom HaAliyah - A New Jewish Holiday (Part 2)

In my last post, about the new American Jewish holiday, Arrival Day, I gave my reasoning behind rejecting such a holiday as inconsistent with Jewish tradition and beliefs. In response, my wife critiqued me for not having used the concept of Arrival Day for something positive, as opposed to merely criticizing the idea. After all, it's always easy to be critical of new ideas, the challenge is to find something positive in them, and build upon it.

On that note, I would like to present to you my suggestion for a new Jewish holiday, based on the concept of Arrival Day, to be known as Yom HaAliyah (National Aliyah Day).

What exactly is Yom HaAliyah?

* Yom HaAliyah is a day which celebrates the Aliyah of millions of Jews from the 4 corners of the Earth to the Jewish State of Israel.

* Yom HaAliyah is a day which celebrates the undying will and spirit of the Jewish People throughout the 2,000 year Exile to return Home to the Land of Israel, as is expressed through Jewish tradition and heritage.

* Yom HaAliyah is a day which will focus on educating Jews both in Israel, as well as abroad, of the importance of Aliyah, and the fulfillment that it brings to one's Jewish life.

In Israel, education programming would be geared towards helping Jewish Israelis appreciate the significance of Aliyah to the future of the state of Israel, both in a demographic sense, as well as a spiritual one. Additionally, educational programming would be geared towards helping native Israelis understand the challenges and sacrifices involved in making Aliyah, in an effort to try and build a connection and understanding between both native Israelis and Olim Chadashim (new immigrants).

Additionally, on this day, all Jews who made Aliyah in the past year would be invited to a special ceremony lead by Jewish / political leaders throughout Israel in a gala celebration of Kibbutz HaGaluyot (the Ingathering of the Exiles).

In Jewish communities throughout the world, the educational message will be varied depending on the needs and circumstances of the particular community. Jewish communities will learn of stories of famous Jews, both past and present who in word and deed embodied the Jewish idea of Shivat Zion (the desire to return to Zion).

Additionally, Jewish communities will learn how they can find both personal and communal fulfillment in Israel, be it professionally, educationally, religiously, spiritually, or physically. Olim from their respective communities will return to their native communities to give 1st hand accounts of their lives in Israel.

I propose that Yom HaAliyah be celebrated annually on the 6th of Tammuz. On the 6th of Tammuz over 500 Jews made Aliyah from North America (with the generous assistance and support of Nefesh B'Nefesh), the largest contingent of North American Jews to make Aliyah in one day in Israel’s history. Granted, I may be partial, being a North American Oleh myself, to proposing a date connected to North American Aliyah, but I believe that this is a fitting date for a more central reason.

North American Aliyah represents Aliyah by choice. Jews who make Aliyah from North America are not fleeing from anti-Semitism or economic hardship. These are Jews who are leaving behind perfectly comfortable lives because they recognize that the only place where they can truly find fulfillment as Jews (both individually and nationally) is in the Land of Israel and the State of Israel. That, I believe, is the very message that Yom HaAliyah will seek to get across. Aliyah is not only for Jews who have nowhere else to go, but for Jews who want to take an active role in shaping the destiny and future of the Jewish People.

It seems I have turned over a new leaf. Arrival Day isn't such a bad idea after all, so long as we are celebrating the arrival and return of the Jewish People to their one and only true home - the Land and State of Israel.

Yom HaAliyah. It has a nice ring to it, no? Anyone else think so?

Thursday, September 08, 2005

A New Jewish Holiday?

During my daily surfing of all that the Jewish Blogsphere has to offer, I stumbled across the Velveteen Rabbi blog that directed me to The Head Heeb blog, who posted about the new (self-declared) American Jewish Holiday, Arrival Day that commemorates the arrival of the 1st Jews to America (New Amsterdam) on Sept. 7th, 1654.

In The Head Heeb's own words:
Arrival Day is a holiday of the American Jewish people rather than the Jewish religion - a celebration of the Jewish community and its contributions to the United States. As such, non-Jews as well as Jews are welcome to join in the celebration. In the wise words of Ikram Saeed, everyone is Jewish today, just as everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day.

I hope to see all of you next September for Arrival Day 352. Mazel tov, and next year in America.

Ok, let's go through the issues I have with this new holiday.

1) Whether one refers to Jews (and Jewish communities) outside of Israel as being in the Diaspora or in Exile (Check out the definition for Diaspora and Exile), the common denominator is that regardless of one's preferred choice of word, the American Jewish community is not where they are naturally meant to be (from a Jewish perspective), namely the Land of Israel (today, the State of Israel) and as such, their existence is at best a b'dieved (not an optimal) situation, regardless of whatever contributions they may have made to American society, or how welcoming American society has been towards the Jews.

Celebration of Arrival Day is the equivalent of throwing a party for the team that finishes in 2nd place.

No one will doubt the comfort, affluence and success that American Jewry has experienced during its stay in America, and of the many contributions that individual Jews (and not Judaism) have made to American society, however, it must be noted, that, sadly, the greatest (in number) contribution that American Jewry has made to the United States has been to give it hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of it sons and daughters, who have chosen Americaness at the expense of their Jewishness, and that is not something worth celebrating.

2) If all Americans are Jewish on Arrival Day, does that mean that all Jews become good Irish Catholics on St. Patrick's Day?

I hope to see all of you next September for Arrival Day 352. Mazel tov, and next year in America.

I can only respond with some words from our great Jewish sages:

Rabbi Meir Simcha HaCohen, The Ohr Somayach, in Meschech Chochma, p. 191-192 (The year these words were uttered was 1926).
"If a Jew will forget his origin and true identity and consider himself a full-fledged citizen of the country of his exile… If he thinks that Berlin is Jerusalem…then a raging storm will uproot him by his trunk… the tempest will arise and spread it's roaring waves, and swallow, and destroy and spread forth without pity."

Rabbi Yaacov Emden, (The Ya'avetz) in his Siddur Beit Yaacov, p. 13
It seems to me, in our present peaceful existence outside the Land of Israel, that we have found another Eretz Yisrael and Jerusalem; this to me, is the greatest, deepest and most obvious and direct cause of all the awesome, frightening monstrous, unimaginable destruction that we have experienced in the Diaspora."

The Head Heeb, in response to a comment on this post, writes:
"and next year in America".
Are you saying that the US is the new Promised Land for the Jews?

You asked this question tongue in cheek, but I used that phrase very deliberately. I'm not saying that the United States is the new Promised Land, but I am saying that Diaspora Judaism is something that has intrinsic value and deserves to be celebrated. That isn't the orthodox Zionist position, but my Zionism isn't particularly orthodox.

Whether Arrival Day is about supplanting the Land of Israel as the eternal Homeland of the Jewish People is irrelevant.

While in exile, Jews never stopped mourning for and praying to return to Jerusalem. The word Zionism - the national movement of the Jewish people - comes from the word Zion, one of the Jewish names for the holy city of Jerusalem.

Three times every day, when Jews pray, they face toward Jerusalem, and pray for their return to the Holy City.

After every meal, Jews pray that God will "rebuild Jerusalem speedily in our days."

"Next year in Jerusalem," is recited by every Jew at the end of the Passover Seder and at the end of the Yom Kippur fast.

At Jewish weddings, a glass is broken in commemoration of the destruction of the Temple. Blessings recited during the Jewish marriage ceremony pray for the return of Zion's children to Jerusalem and for the sound of joyous nuptials to be heard in Jerusalem's streets.

Arrival Day is the antithesis of 2,000 years of the Jewish tradition, which it (unintentionally?) seeks to undermine. Arrival Day is the celebration of the American Jewish community's having found their home - in America - where they no longer see the need to yearn or hope to return to their other home.

It is ironic, that on this year's Arrival Day, Sept. 7th, another 200 Jews made Aliyah from North America, through the generous assistance and support of Nefesh B'Nefesh (the 6th such flight of this summer, totaling over 1,800 North American Jews) returning to their one and only true home.

Now, that's something worth celebrating.

Now They're Really Going To Get It...

Among the many reasons I had for making Aliyah from my comfortable life in New York, physical security was not amongst them (at least not for the foreseeable future, as I made Aliyah during the midst of the ongoing Arab terror war against the Jewish State - although, in the long run, I do believe that a Jew in Israel is safer here than anywhere else in the world).

That being said, I am troubled by an article in today's Jerusalem Post where IDF Chief of Staff, Dan Halutz (and others) declared that it was his desire for the IDF to respond to attacks against the Jewish State emanating form Gaza with a stronger response then in the past.
"The chief of Staff [Halutz] said very clearly, and very accurately, that the IDF has a broad spectrum of military responses to terrorism," said former deputy defense minister Ephraim Sneh. "Which of these means will be elected in the future in response to Palestinian fire is a decision that will have to be taken at that given moment."

In response to fears that Palestinians mortars were within striking distance of several major Israeli cities, Halutz answered, "We too have mortars," and reportedly told the committee that the army would not hesitate to use the arsenal of weaponry at their disposal.

MK Ehud Yatom added that once every soldier had left Gaza, it was likely that the IDF would begin instituting harsher responses towards hostile fire.

For the life of me, I can't understand the logic behind this decision. Why is it that only after Israel cleanses Gaza from Jews, that attacks on Israel become unacceptable? Why is it that attacks that emanated from Gaza (both on the Jews who lived Gaza, as well as into areas of Israel within the Green Line, such as Sderot) were tolerated with minimal response? What message is the IDF sending to Israel's enemies by telling them that they will only seriously deal with terror after they have 1st retreated in the face of it?

As I said, I accept that fact that living in Israel today comes with a certain amount of risk (although, to be totally honest, I believe it to be absolutely minimal, and in no way affects the way the vast majority of Jews in Israel live their lives). What I can not accept is a government who is not willing to fulfill the absolute minimal requirement that every government in obligated in, namely ensuring the physical well being of her citizens. Among the reasons that Zionist leaders gave for re-establishing Jewish sovereignty in Israel was so that Jewish Blood would no longer be cheap. Sadly, that is still the case today.

It is my hope, that in the very near future the State of Israel and the Jewish people will be blessed with leaders who will implement a policy that will allow every Jew to live in peace, and restore that pride that was once associated with being a member of the Jewish people to the Nation of Israel, both her People and the Land.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Greatest Threat to the State of Israel

I often spend my waking hours thinking of the challenges that are facing the Jewish People, and how best we can overcome them. When I am together with friends, invariably, we most often spend our time discussing these matters, as well. I am an avid reader, and one of the things that I take pride in is the sizeable library of both Jewish books, as well as books relating to Israel and the Jewish People, that I have established in my home.

Growing up in America, I attended from kindergarten through University, Orthodox Jewish day schools. I received the best Jewish education money could buy, and yet, at no point do I really recall ever being taught about what it meant to be a Jew, why the Jewish People should continue exist today, the centrality of the Land of Israel to the destiny and mission of the Jewish People. The emphasis seemed to always be on the "how's" and "what's" of Judaism, but not the "why's".

Personally speaking, if not for my year of study upon graduating high school, in Israel, as well as my willingness to read and learn on my own, I would most likely still remain ignorant to the bigger picture of Judaism and the Jewish People.

It seems that according to a recent study, this seems to be the case in Israel as well.
The study, which was based on an analysis of data appearing in the Program for International Student Assessment from 2003, reveals that Israel languishes at the bottom of the world table when it comes to demand for achievement from students, with most developed European and American countries ranking above it.

"The study paints the picture that teachers in Israel spoon-feed the material to the students and don't challenge them," Mevarech says.

"The teacher in Israel spoon-feeds the students, processes the material for them and poses a low demand threshold," Mevarech says. "The figures show that teachers in Israel are prepared to receive sloppy work from their students."

The greatest threat that faces Israel, as a Jewish State, today, is not the "Palestinians", it is not demography, and it is not even the threat of a nuclear Iran. The greatest threat being posed to the Jewish State of Israel today is the inability of its educational system to produce proud, caring and knowledgeable Jews. A system where the average Jewish child graduates high school without understanding what it means to be a Jew, what it means to have a Jewish State, and why both are worth fighting, sacrificing and even dying for.

The strength of the Jewish People throughout the millennia of exile and persecution has been our ability to pass on from one generation to the next, without fail, a love for Judaism and the Jewish People. The backbone of every Jewish community that survived the long Exile was its Synagogue and its Cheder (Jewish educational system). It is this, and only this, that gave the Jew the strength to get up in the morning when he knew that all that awaited him was discrimination and persecution, pain and suffering. The Jew knew who he was, knew that he was the descendant of Prophets and Kings, and the Jew knew that he was destined to reach those great heights once again, so long as he stayed true to his faith.

There is no excuse that I can think of as to why Israel’s educational system should not be among the best in the world. Israel’s schools should be filled with teachers who are highly motivated and dedicated to the subject matter, a system where the educators would strive to bring out the very best in their students, to encourage growth and creative thinking, and not be willing to merely spoon-feed their students and accept the very least that they have to offer.

The State of Israel must be able to produces generation after generation of proud and knowledgeable Jews (not necessarily religiously observant ones). Jews who will be prepared to work, study, fight, and grow all for the glory of Israel. The key is for every Jew to know who we are, why we are, where we have come from, and where we are going. With that knowledge, I believe that nothing can stand in our way. Without it, I do not believe that we have a future.

New Blog Format

Over the 2+ months that I have been sharing my thoughts on this blog, I have given much thought as to the tone, style and content that I would like my blog to have, some of which I elaborated upon in this post.

To date, there have been two types of postings on this blog:

1) My commentary and thoughts on current events / issues facing Israel and the Jewish People (without a personal connection / 1st person account)

2) 1st person accounts / thoughts on life in Israel and the challenges facing the Jewish People and the State of Israel.

I have noticed that it is the 2nd type of posting that seems to generate the most interest from my readers, as well as helping to give my readers the best ability to understand what life is like in Israel (at least from my perspective) and the challenges that we are facing as a nation.

I do feel that the 1st type of post is also important, and fortunately, now that I have become a contributor at Israpundit I now have an outlet for my general thoughts on the issues of the day, while leaving this blog reserved for more personal thoughts / 1st hand accounts of what is happening here in Israel, as it relates to the greater Jewish People.

From time to time, I imagine that I will include the 1st type of posting on this blog as well, if I feel that it is important enough for my readers to be aware of.

I may change the format of this blog again, as I am relatively new to blogging, and am just trying to get a feel for how I can best get my point of view across, while providing my readers with posts that they will find to be of interest and that they can personally relate to.

I am certainly open to the suggestions and feedback of my readers. If you feel that I should continue to post everything here, please let me know. If you have any other comments and suggestions for this blog, I would be most appreciative for them.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Israel's Friends & Israel's Interests

The Jerusalem Post reports that Egypt has become the biggest arms buyer in the Middle East. (Worth reading the full article)
The report issued last week in Washington said Egypt recorded $6.5 billion worth of weapons purchases from 2001 to 2004. Israel bought $4.4b. during the same period and Saudi Arabia recorded $3.8b.

For Egypt, which receives $1.3b, in annual US military grants, most of its weapons were purchased from the United States ($5.6b.). Most of this has been for military platforms and weapons, including advanced attack helicopters and fast missile vessels. The United States has sold some weapons to Egypt of superior quality than it has sold to Israel, such as the Harpoon II missiles.

Based on this information, 2 questions must be asked:

1) Egypt has a signed peace agreement with the State of Israel. Additionally, Egypt has no natural enemies that threaten her borders. As such, what reason could Egypt have for amassing such a tremendous arsenal of weapons?

Could it be for the eventual use against the Jewish State of Israel? (Egypt has been involved in every war against Israel since its inception, and is a sponsor of Arab terrorism and anti-Semitic and anti-Israel incitement against the Jewish State).

2) If the US is truly committed to maintaining Israel's military and strategic edge in the Middle East, why would it allow Egypt (and other Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - 2 countries who are still in a state of war with Israel) to stockpile such an enormous arsenal of US military hardware where the logical use of the weapons will be against the interests of the State of Israel?

It seems that the US arms policy is being driven by a desire for both oil and profits, which is coming at the expense of Israel's security.

It would be wise for Israel to follow the words of former President of France Charles De Gaulle:
Countries don’t have friends, they have interests.

It's time that Israel started looking out for her own interests, because it is clear that if she doesn't, no one else will.

Cross Posted at Israpundit

False Praise...

In an Article in Ha'aretz, Akiva Eldar argues, that in order for Israel to "get" acceptance, praise and support from the nations of the world, Israel must be prepared to "give".

In return for Israel’s expulsion 10,000 Jews from their homes, and her willingness to hand over the land to the very ones who seek to destroy her, she has received lavish praise from the nations of the world. This can be seen most recently with the upcoming visit of the King of Jordan to Israel, the developing relations between Israel and Pakistan and Indonesia, and PM Sharon being invited to address the UN General Assembly this coming week.

As Yediot Achronot reports:
The international community has rediscovered Israel. Sources in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s office say they are overflowing with letters of praise from around the globe.

Many world leaders have requested meetings with Sharon. The New York Times and Washington Post are thrilled by his leadership, The (London) Guardian has complimented the prime minister on his "courage," and Le Monde has remarked favorably on his "vision."

The question that begs to be asked is if this new found love for Israel by the nations of the world is really in Israel’s best interests?

Let’s see if you can find a pattern here:

1) Menachem Begin was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the Camp David Accords in 1979, where Israel ceded the entire Sinai Peninsula to Egypt, abandoning enough oil to have made Israel entirely self sufficient, state of the art military installations, as well as the expulsion of Jews from their homes and the destruction of Jewish communities at the hands of the IDF.

Of course, Egypt, as a result of signing this accord with Israel has been able to stockpile $2 billion a year worth of US weaponry (for use against whom, I wonder), has one of the most virulently anti-Semitic / anti-Israel propaganda machines in the Middle East, and has sponsored and encouraged countless acts of terrorism against the Jewish State of Israel.

2) Yitzchak Rabin and Shimon Peres share the Nobel Peace Prize with Yasser Arafat, for the signing of the Oslo accords. Of course, since the signing of the accords in 1993, over 1,000 Jews have been murdered and 10's of thousands wounded in Arab terror attacks whose aim is the destruction of the Jewish State of Israel.

3) Ariel Sharon has already received consideration as a worthy candidate for this year's Nobel Peace Prize, for his role in the destruction of the Jewish communities of Gush Katif and the Shomron.

So, what do these 3 things have in common? Shaul Rosenfeld of Yediot Achronot shares the answer with us:
Israel is loved when it suffers a blow, such as a deadly suicide bombing, but only on condition it does not respond. The international community has followed this pattern for the past 12 years. Exploding buses bring us global empathy, but a reasonable Israeli response invariably brings the wave of compassion to an end.

The international community’s love is conditional. The world loves us as long as we concede land and refrain from responding to terror attacks. Love hurts.

Just as the seer Laocoon warned the Trojans of the wooden horse and expressed his concern over the “gift,” so too should we fear the world’s compliments.

The choice that lies before the People of Israel, the State of Israel and the leaders of Israel is which type of Jew (and Jewish State) do we wish to be? Do we wish to be loved by the nations of the world, at the expense of Jewish blood, Land and self respect, or do we wish to live as proud Jews in our Land, all the while being viewed as a “stiff-necked people” by the nations of the world?

I have no doubt, if one were to ask the thousands of Jews who have been murdered (or the loved ones they left behind), wounded or expelled from their homes over the last 25+ years as the “sacrifices” of our blind desire to attain the false peace and goodwill of our neighbors, what their answer would be.

Cross Posted at Israpundit

Jewish Holy Sites: Not In This Land!

Israel's Supreme Court is currently deliberating over the fate of the 30 synagogues that remain in Gush Katif, as reported in the Jerusalem Post. In an effort to try and save these Jewish holy sites, the "Palestinian" Authority was asked on two separate occasions to guarantee the safety of the synagogues in the Gaza Strip, to which they refused. (Islamic (and Arab) hatred of holy sites is not limited to Jewish sites, rather, this hatred has been manifest against other faiths, as well, as can be seen from this article).

The question that begs to be asked is the following:

Why are the "Palestinians" against preserving Jewish holy sites in the areas under their control?

The answer is rather simple. The "Arab - Israeli" conflict is not a conflict over land, rather it’s a conflict between Judaism and Islam. It is not enough for the "Palestinians" to take control over land in Israel on which they can establish a “Palestinian” State, rather they feel compelled to cleanse any presence of Jewish ties from the land of Israel (Palestine) in the process.

Let us look at a number of examples which will prove this point:

1) The systematic destruction of the Temple Mount by the Muslim Waqf in order to remove any physical evidence of the two Jewish Temples that existed on the site.

This can be further seen from the open denial of Arab leaders of any Jewish connection to the Temple Mount or Jerusalem. (Compiled by the ADL)
"For 34 years [the Israelis] have dug tunnels [around the Temple Mount]…they found not a single stone proving that the Temple of Solomon was there, because historically the Temple was not in Palestine [at all]. They found only remnants of a shrine of the Roman Herod… They are now trying to put in place a number of stones so that they can say 'We were here.' This is nonsense. I challenge them to bring a single stone from the Temple of Solomon."

Yasser Arafat
Al-Hayat (London), October 5, 2002
[Trans. MEMRI and BBC Worldwide Monitoring]

2) The destruction of Joseph's Tomb in Shcem in October 2000 at the hands of "Palestinians".

3) The burning and pillaging of the ancient synagogue "Shalom Al Yisrael" in Jericho by "Palestinian" mobs.

4) The fact that on official maps of "Palestine" distributed by the "Palestinian" Authority, Israel does not exist.

All of these examples show that the true desire of the Islamic world in general, and of the "Palestinians" in particular, is not a desire to live in peaceful co-existence with Israel as a Jewish State, but for the destruction of any Jewish connection and presence from within the Land of Israel. (This hatred, by Islam and its adherents, of Jewish holy sites has expressed itself against other faiths, as well, as can be seen from this article).

It is for this reason, and this reason only, that the Arabs of Gaza refuse to guarantee the safety of the Jewish holy sites, as according to their worldview, it is a holy task to cleanse "Palestine" from the presence of the Jews - and they will be not be prepared to live in peace until they have finished the task.

Cross posted at IsraPundit

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