Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Being Wrong, Even When You're Right...

I had the pleasure of spending my day touring Jerusalem with Michael, a relative of mine who is currently visiting from the US. Among the sites that we visited were the City of David, Hezkiyahu's water tunnel, and the Kotel Tunnels.

Michael had a friend of his, Jamie, join us for our visit to the Kotel Tunnels. While we were literally in the middle of the tunnels, an individual, who I am not certain if he worked at the site, or was just a "concerned" Samaritan, felt the need to mention to Jamie, that he didn't believe that she was dressed in an appropriate enough manner befitting the sanctity of the site that we were visiting.

Now, it is possible that he may have been right (although, in all honesty, I do believe that in this case it could have gone either way), but so what. As I see it, it is not as if he made his comment and then offered Jamie a shawl to cover herself. Nor did he say his comment in a friendly tone of voice where he might have explained to her in a respectful and understanding manner what his concern was. Instead, he simply made his comment in an unpleasant tone of voice, with a disgusted look on his face and moved on. Neither Michael nor Jamie are religious and neither have been to Israel in quite some time. Jamie took particular offense to the comment, and while she may have recognized that this person may have had a point, the manner in which he did it both upset and embarrassed her.

I do not doubt that the person who offered the critique meant well, but in his zealousness to defend the sanctity of the site he embarrassed his fellow Jew in front of her peers, did not offer her a way to rectify the situation, and I can only hope that he hasn't left her with a bad taste in her mouth as far as how she will look back on her trip to Israel and the Jews that she encountered there.

It is of the utmost importance that we Jews learn to live together. Observant Jews have the tremendous responsibility (particularly in Israel) of defending Jewish tradition and sensibilities but trying not only not alienate our fellow Jews in the process, but to inspire them with a love for all that is Jewish.

In our quest to shape Israel as a Jewish State we cannot forget that in the end we will need a united Jewish People for the State to not only exist but also flourish. This will not happen through coercion, but through understanding, and through the knowledge of when to stand firm on principle and when to bend for the sake of the greater good.

In this instance, I believe a little flexibility would have gone a long way towards enhancing the connection of this particular Jew to her nation and her Land - let us hope that while this opportunity may have been lost, that there will be others to make up for it.

Am I more "Modern" than "Orthodox" / Am I more "Religious" than "Zionist"?

Just like most Modern Orthodox Jews growing up in America, I had a TV in my home, went to movies, followed (and played) sports, and basically allowed myself to partake of all that American culture offered (so long as it didn't conflict with my religious beliefs - or at least not too much). Generally speaking, up until my graduation from high school the conversations that I had with friends revolved around my areas of interest, as stated above.

(Shoshana, of Sweet Rose, has an excellent post entitled "Comparison and Contrast" where she questions whom she has more in common with, the Chassidim who frequent the neighborhood where she works, or her secular / non-Jewish co-workers. (Check out the post to find out her conclusion).

Now that I live in Israel, I no longer define myself as being a Modern Orthodox Jew, but as a Religious Zionist Jew (not that I am a big fan of labeling myself at all, but that is for another post). I do not have a TV in my home, I am more selective of the movies that I watch, and while I still follow US sports, they are not as important to me as they once were. Generally speaking the theme of the conversations that I have with friends revolves around the future of the Jewish People, the challenges that we face, (particularly relating to those here in Israel), and what we can be doing to overcome them.

I am not sure if I would still consider myself to be "modern", although, if I am not "modern", than what am I? I can't claim to be up on the latest in Israeli culture (music, TV, movies...), nor American culture for that matter - and I do not feel that I am any worse off for it. On the other hand, I can't say that I fit into the ultra-Orthodox world either. My clothes are not their clothes, I don't speak Yiddish too well, I imagine that I am not as strict in Mitzvah observance as they are (I do not know if an ultra-Orthodox Jew would eat in my home, even though I would eat in his), I value interacting with the surrounding world (with those who are different from me, and who share different beliefs than I) and involving myself in shaping Israeli society as opposed to spending my days immersed in Torah study (and only Torah study). In that sense, I do have much in common with the secular Israeli Jew.

I encounter the same dichotomy in labeling myself as a Religious Zionist. I do believe that the State of Israel (and the Land of Israel) play a central role in the "redemption" of the Jewish People, just as the secular Zionist does - granted our definitions and vision as to what the redemption of the Jewish People are exactly may differ slightly. On the other hand, I do not believe, when a conflict exists between Jewish Law and the rule of law in the State of Israel, that the authority of the State is superior. I do not believe that Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel has entitled the Jewish People to determine for themselves which parts of Judaism are and are not relevant in the shaping of Jewish / Israeli society in the State of Israel - similar to the ultra-Orthodox Jew.

So, at the end of the day, who am I? Whom do I have more in common with, the secular Israeli of Tel Aviv or the ultra-Orthodox Jew from Meah She'arim? Whom should I be striving to have more in common with?

My goal has never been, with my making Aliyah, to become Israeli . I am just a simple Jew trying to fulfill my individual potential in this world, and trying to collectively help the Jewish People achieve theirs. I view both the secular Israeli, as well as the ultra Orthodox (chareidi) Jew as my brothers, regardless of the differences that we may have, and I can only hope that they feel the same way about me.

A Stranger at Home

In the days immediately prior to the expulsion of Jews from their homes in Gush Katif (AKA "Disengagement"), a friend and I trekked down to the Kissufim junction (the checkpoint that lead into Gush Katif). The last 15+km we did on foot, evading security forces as we went.

I have noticed, in the 2+ weeks since that 36+-hour adventure that I have begun looking at Israel (in a physical sense) differently. The other day, I was riding the train from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (an absolutely stunning view), and I kept imagining to myself exactly where I could walk in the terrain without being seen. This was not the 1st time I have had these thoughts.

It troubles me that in my own home, in the Land of Israel, that one must consider ways to evade the Jewish security forces in defense of our fellow Jewish brothers and sisters. I guess, for me, I have lost my innocence. Don't get me wrong, I still wouldn't want to live anywhere else in the world, I just am more acutely aware of the challenges that are facing the Jewish People in the Land of Israel, and the individual challenges placed upon Jews who try to overcome the obstacles laid before them in their efforts to help overcome those national challenges.

The question that I am left with is whether or not one is better off living life with their innocence intact, or is it better to live life with one's eyes wide open, able to see the good and the not yet good?

Monday, August 29, 2005

Thankless Heroes

I remember after the 9/11 attack that there was such an outpouring of appreciation towards New York City's Finest (Fire Dept.) and Bravest (Police Dept.). I personally remember, following the attacks going over to many members of both the police and fire departments and just thanking them, shaking their hands and wishing them well.

It is clear that the heroism of the two security guards at the Central Bus Station in Be'er Sheva saved countless lives, and let us hope that they do not pay for that act of heroism with their own. Treppenwitz highlights this point beautifully in his post "Please Take a Moment".

Just last night, I attended the closing night of the "Chutzot HaYotzer" (Jerusalem Art Festival). As I had not yet been home since Shabbat, I was still carrying around with me my bag from Shabbat. The 1st of 2 security guards began thoroughly checking all of the compartments of my backpack, and while doing so, two of the ladies behind me in line asked if they could go by, as they didn't have any bags. The security guard said no, and kept on checking my bag. One of the two ladies said to the other (in Hebrew) "In any event, Kol HaKavod to her, for doing such a thorough job".

I then passed on to the 2nd security guard who had to "wand" me, checking to see if I had any weapons on me. I tend to carry lots of things on me (cell phone, palm pilot, loose change, keys, inhaler, pen...) and most of those things tend to set off the wand, so the check also took a bit longer than usual. The security guard began to apologize to me, to which I responded, "It's not your fault, for having to check me". He asked, "Whose fault is it?", to which I answered, our "friends", and to which he rightly corrected my choice of word, "You mean, our "cousins".

All in all, these brave men and women who put their lives on the line, day in and day out (for very little pay) so that we can live our daily lives, at the very least deserve our thanks. For those of us living in Israel, perhaps it's something we might want to take upon ourselves to make a habit of doing.


In the wake of the suicide bombing in Be'er Sheva yesterday, I kept hearing over and over again on the news report of officials stating that Israel had no prior warnings of any impending attacks.

I find it a little hard to believe, as over the weekend, every media outlet in Israel was reporting on the video released by Hamas featuring terrorist mastermind Mohammed Deif, top bomb maker, who vowed that Hamas would not rest until the Jewish State was wiped of the face of the earth, and to turn Israel into a hell for Jews.

Do our enemies really need to be any clearer of their intentions towards us for us to take them seriously? Are we only to consider taking preemptive action to prevent such attacks only when Hamas tells Israel that she can expect a suicide bomber to attack the central bus station in Be'er Sheva on Sunday morning August 28th?

For too long we have busied ourselves reacting to terror and burying our dead and comforting our wounded. When will we take the fight to the heart and homes of our enemies and allow the People of Israel to begin to know true peace?

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Yet Another "National Mission"...

In an interview with Haaretz, (Israel's President Moshe) Katsav called the absorption of the evacuees a "national task."

This comes in the wake of an article in this past Friday’s Jerusalem Post, which called upon the Jewish refugees of Gush Katif to take upon themselves the national mission of settling and developing the Negev desert.
Developing the Negev has long been recognized as one of Israel's top national missions. Israel's leadership must admit what we all know: Only a community of faith, comprised of determined, selfless people, possesses the wherewithal to achieve this mission. I'd like to believe that such a project could capture the imagination of thousands of former Gazan Jews..

If the President of Israel is calling the process of absorbing the Jewish refugees who were recently expelled from their homes as a "national mission" - just as settling and developing the Negev is a "national mission" then the Jewish refugees need not hold their breath waiting for the government, or those on the political and ideological left to lend a hand.
Israel's leadership must admit what we all know: Only a community of faith, comprised of determined, selfless people, possesses the wherewithal to achieve this mission.

Thankfully, it has been these very people who have undertaken the mission of taking care of the needs of the Jewish refugees - their Jewish brothers and sisters - from the very start, without needing to be told by any government official where our national and responsibilities priorities should lie.

Perhaps the first message that the Religious Zionist camp should make an effort to impart to the Jewish People here in the Land of Israel in the aftermath of "Disengagement" is the concept of "Kol Yisrael areivim zeh la'zeh" - "Every Jew is responsible for his fellow Jew". If we can, as a nation, internalize this age old message, I am certain that the State of Israel will once again regain its sense of purpose and direction, and will be well on its way to becoming a truly Jewish State (and not ot mention the settling of the Negev).

Hevail Hevalim #34

Check out the latest Hevail Hevalim (a review of the week that was from the Jewish Blogsphere), this week hosted by Shilo Musings.

I will be hosting this coming week's edition of Hevail Hevalim #35, so please e mail me any submissions that are deemed to be HH worthy to zevinzion@yahoo.com

Saturday, August 27, 2005

7 of Life's Certainties... (and 1 Uncertainty)

1) Death

2) Taxes

3) The PA will not crack down on terror groups (including itself)

4) Hamas (and other Islamic terror groups) will not rest until the entire Jewish State is utterly destroyed

5) The nations of the world will only have generous praise to bestow upon the State of Israel so long as it continues to destroy Jewish communities and expel Jews from their homes in the Land of Israel. (This is similar to a parent who expresses satisfaction when a child follows in their footsteps - in this instance, the State of Israel showing its own ability to persecute its Jewish citizens).

6) There are many Jews whose sole mission in life is to win the approval of the nations of the world, and they will continue to express their willingness to pay any price to ensure that our new found "friends" will continue to show us their "love" - even at the cost of national suicide.

7) The Jewish people will ultimately attain complete redemption.


1) How much pain and suffering we will have to continue to endure (and inflict upon ourselves) before the redemption arrives.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Making the Desert Bloom and the Future of Religious Zionism

Of the many accolades attributed to the early Zionist pioneers was that they were able to (with the help of G-d) make the desert bloom. For nearly 2,000 years the Land of Israel was an uninhabitable wasteland.

Mark Twain, who visited the Land of Israel in 1867, described it as:
“ ...[a] desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds-a silent mournful expanse....A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action....We never saw a human being on the whole route....There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of the worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.”

There are calls now for the Jews who were expelled from Gush Katif, today's pioneers, to go and take their expertise of making Gush Katif bloom to the Negev and fulfill the age old dream of Zionism.

Avrum Ehrlich, in todays Jerusalem Post states:
Developing the Negev has long been recognized as one of Israel's top national missions. Israel's leadership must admit what we all know: Only a community of faith, comprised of determined, selfless people, possesses the wherewithal to achieve this mission. I'd like to believe that such a project could capture the imagination of thousands of former Gazan Jews..

I am troubled by this suggestion for a number of reasons:

1) If developing the Negev is a "mission of national importance", why is it that it is unrealistic to expect all of Shimon Peres' followers in Tel Aviv and Herzliya, all of the Kibbutznikim, and all of the left-wing youth movement graduates to be the ones to take up this call?

2) Clearly Prime Minister Sharon and his followers have failed to read Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People". Why should the Jews who have been expelled from Gush Katif involve themselves in any missions of behalf of the government of Israel? If the government truly believes that Jews such as the one's they expelled from their homes in Gush Katif that are crucial to settling and developing the Negev, wouldn't it make sense to treat them with a little bit of honor and respect? The old adage of "One can attract more bees with honey than with vinegar" applies here.

3) The Jews who settled in Gush Katif and the northern Shomron were also on a "mission of national importance", as were the Jews who were expelled from Yamit. One thing that has become very clear in the State of Israel is that the "missions of national importance" to one generation are a burden that must be cast off by the next.

I am all in favor of Jewish pioneers, such as those expelled from Gush Katif to lead the way to the development of the Negev, along with all other parts of the Land of Israel, but let us not make the same mistake this time around of being the "suckers" who are always doing as they are told. If we are to lead the way in settling the Negev, then it will need to come along with the Religious Zionist camp beginning to lead the nation in other areas as well. The time has come for the powers that be in the State of Israel to recognize that they need the Religious Zionist camp, their pioneering spirit and their rootedness to our Jewish heritage, if the State is to have any future.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

To the Nations of the World, I Raise My Eyes in Hope of Salvation...



Have we no shame?

Two editorials in today's Jerusalem Post sum up the sickness afflicting many of my Jewish brothers and sisters both in Israel and abroad.

Larry Derfner, in an article entitled: "Friends, give us a break" states:
There's a lot of well-intentioned sentiment, mainly from overseas, for Israel to "strike while the iron's hot." The idea is to build on the momentum of the last two weeks and move as soon as possible into Stage 2 of disengagement – evacuating the 60,000 to 70,000 settlers on the far side of the West Bank security barrier, and thereby end the occupation completely.

While I agree with the goal, I don't think now is the time to reach for it... So to all of Israel's well-intentioned friends abroad – talk to us next August. January 2007 at the latest. We should have our strength back by then.

Gershon Baskin, in an article entitled: "No longer a pariah state" states:
I am writing from Sweden, where I am attending an international conference on water... The impact of the withdrawal for the Israeli participants is obvious. No longer the pariah in international settings, Israeli participants are more than welcome...

There is great admiration for Israel's democracy, even from the Arab participants. In the past, when I attended international conferences with Lebanese and Syrian participants, I was boycotted by them, together with the other Israeli participants. Today I was approached by the Lebanese and Syrian participants to engage in discussion – and not in secret, but right in front of everyone else. Israel's international reputation has reached new heights.

It is time for Israel to come to terms with the reality that there is no chance for it to continue to colonize the West Bank. What we have begun in Gaza must now continue in the West Bank.

Three things are clear from this articles: 1st, that the world (including the Arabs) will love us so long as we are willing to throw Jews out of their homes and destroy Jewish communities in Israel. 2nd, that if we want this love fest to continue, we had better be prepared to keep the expulsion machine well oiled with Jewish pain and suffering. 3rd, that both authors are more than willing to pay the price - anything to earn the "respect and admiration" of the nations of the world, and in particular of our Arab "neighbors".

Rabbi Berel Wein, in another Jerusalem Post article offers a possible cure to this Jewish malady:
The collapse of traditional Zionism and of land and building leaves a void. And this is where the opportunity for the religious community arises.

The Orthodox community should state that it wishes to build a fair and just society, infused with Torah values. It cannot insist on coercing religious observance of the mitzvot – a counterproductive policy if there ever was one – but it can offer a vision of a more equitable and just society based upon the traditional values and heritage of Judaism...

None of the recently proposed reforms for the Israeli school system will have any lasting value so long as Jewish values and Jewish knowledge are not an essential part of the curriculum... The religious political parties and establishment have been woefully silent about this "vision thing"...

Orthodox Jews here in Israel, in spite of our various shadings and internal divisions, nevertheless now have the opportunity to fill the void in the Israeli soul.

The mission for the Religious Zionist camp must follow the teaching of the Prophet Isaiah (62:1):
"For Zion's Sake I will not be silent, for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out brightly and her salvation like a blazing torch"

Let us hope and pray that we are able to find the right words that will enter the hearts of our Jewish brothers and sisters and teach them that for the Jewish People salvation does not lie with the nations of the world, that the Jewish People have a unique destiny, and that together we can truly perfect the world.

The Double Standard of Holocaust Comparisons (updated)

There has been a tremendous uproar, both in Israel and abroad over the attempted comparison by some, of Ariel Sharon's "Disengagement" plan that consisted of the destruction of Jewish communities and the expulsion of their Jewish residents. (Orthomom has covered this issue extensively, as can be seen from this post).

That being said, I take offense with the hypocrisy of many in Israel who have offered strong condemnation for those who have made allusions of comparison between the "Disengagement" and the Holocaust, while they themselves have cheapened the memory of the Holocaust through comparisons of their own when it has suited their needs

I will use MK Yosef (Tommy) Lapid, head of Israel's anti-religious Shinui party, and Israel's Holocaust survivor poster boy, to show the extent of the double standard involved as to whom and when the memory of the Holocaust may be invoked.

Today's Ha'aretz reports the following:
A organization opposed to the disengagement has announced plans to build a memorial center called "Yad Vashem for Gush Katif and the Northern Samaria…"

Shinui party chairman Yosef Lapid, a survivor of the World War II Nazi Holocaust, reacted with anger to the idea of the center, whose name recalls the national memorial to Hitler Germany's wartime destruction of the Jews.

"They are saying that the IDF is the SS, and [are equating] people that were moved from their homes to hotels to people in gas chambers," Lapid said.

"It is very sad that people exploit the name of the Holocaust for political ends."

Let's compare this with the following comments by Lapid from just over a year ago:
In stark and emotional language, Deputy Prime Minister Yosef Lapid… told Israeli radio that the country risked further international condemnation if the army continued its campaign of pursuing Palestinian gunmen, demolishing homes and expelling civilians from the heart of the populous Rafah refugee camp.

"On TV I saw an old woman rummaging through the ruins of her house looking for her medication, and it reminded me of my grandmother who was thrown out of her house during the Shoah," (or Holocaust).

"We look like monsters in the eyes of the world," he added. "This makes me sick."

As I see it, either it's ok to make comparisons to the Holocaust, or it's not, but one can't have it both ways.

(Kudos to Orthomom, who in spite of being among those who are passionate in their opposition to Holocaust comparissons, was able to recognize the double standard that exists on this issue, and posted her feelings about it here).

The State of Israel: A Failed Experiment?

In response to a recent posting on the future of the State of Israel, in particular of the need of the relgious Zionist public to devote our energies towards working together with our fellow Jewish brothers and sisters to rebuild Israel as a Jewish State, I received the follwoing E-Mail from a thoughtful Jew in America:
While there were undoubtedly some misguided, but well-meaning, Jews who thought the expulsion plan was good for Israel, I fear the majority who supported the plan were those who oppose the national religious segment of the Jewish population in Israel and their supporters abroad. I’m not sure I agree with you that there is anything left to rebuild. Sometimes, it’s important to recognize defeat. When more than half the population of the country planned and then celebrated the humiliation of a sizable percentage of their fellow citizens, it may be time to throw in the towel and declare the experiment we called the State of Israel a failure.

Here is my respnse:

Thanks for your thoughtful response to the article that I sent you. If I may respond to the points you raised, as I have a number of my own thoughts and questions regarding what you wrote.
I fear the majority who supported the plan were those who oppose the national religious segment of the Jewish population in Israel and their supporters abroad.

I personally do not believe that to be the case. True, political parties such as Labor - Am Echad, Meretz and Shinui (and obviously the Arab parties) are no lovers of the Jewish people or the aspirations of Religious Zionism; however they do not make up the majority of either Israel's Knesset or the Jewish electorate in Israel. These 3 parties combine for 41 seats out of 120. It is also important to remember that currently, the largest single bloc of registered Labor votes are Israeli Arabs, so even calling Labor a Jewish party is questionable, and from which one can infer that many of their seats have come from Arab votes, and not Jewish ones.

As for the Likud, the Likud is a party that believes in Israel existing as a Jewish State, throughout the Land of Israel, as can be seen from the party platform. What we have seen happen in Israel is not the will of the Likud party, its members (who rejected "Disengagement" in an internal party referendum), and those who voted for the Likud in the general elections, rather we see how one man, PM Ariel Sharon was able to hijack Israel political, electoral and judicial systems to push "Disengagement" through. The Likud MK's who voted for "Disengagement" were able to do so because there is no direct accountability of elected representatives to a constituency in Israel. As such, elected officials such as Silvan Shalom ,Ehud Olmert, Limor Livnat… will never have to face the voters and be directly held accountable for their actions. Keep in mind that Ariel Sharon and the Likud were overwhelmingly supported in the last elections, trouncing Amram Mitzna and the Labor party, specifically because he ran on a platform which rejected "Disengagement".

It is clear that the Jewish people in Israel are not with Sharon or favor the expulsion of Jews from their homes and the destruction of Jewish communities in the Land of Israel. True, the media and academia are controlled by the ultra-secular left which makes their influence and voice stronger than they truly are, but that is not the reality of the average Jew on the street here. True, there may have been a small Jewish majority who favored the “Disengagement” plan (which is debatable), but even so, the majority of the Jews who supported it did so out of a feeling that there was no other alternative, and not out of any malice or hatred for Religious Zionism, or the “settlers”. These Jews are hungry for a leadership that will stand strong on Jewish rights and values and will exude the spirit of Jewish national pride in all of the policies of the Jewish State of Israel. We thought that is what we were getting with Ariel Sharon. We were mistaken.
When more than half the population of the country planned and then celebrated the humiliation of a sizable percentage of their fellow citizens.

I am not sure to what you are referring when you say that more than half the population planned and celebrated the humiliation of their fellow citizens. The "Disengagement" plan was planned in fact by only Sharon's closest associates, such as Dov Weissglass and his son, Omri. Those who spoke out against the plan, such as former Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon and head of the Shin bet, Avi Dichter, were summarily dismissed. Those members of Sharon's cabinet who did not vote in favor of "Disengagement" were fired, and votes of other MK's were bought by offering them cushy portfolios... As for celebrations, I have not heard of any. I do not doubt that there may be those in the media and academia who are overjoyed at the sight of Jewish suffering, and there may be members of the Jewish public in Israel who were happy to see the “Disengagement” plan implemented, but they are certainly not the majority or even close to it. True, there are many who accepted "Disengagement" because they believed that there was no alternative, but to believe that they have been celebrating is just not true.
I’m not sure I agree with you that there is anything left to rebuild... it may be time to throw in the towel and declare the experiment we called the State of Israel a failure.

If that is the case, then what are the implications of what you are saying? Should we all just pack up our bags and join you in America until Mashiach comes? No one ever said that the Jewish People returning to their Homeland after 2,000 years of Exile would be easy. After 2,000 years in Exile we have picked up a lot of bad habits and gone through many traumatic experiences and it is going to take us a little bit of time until we get the whole idea of Jewish sovereignty, with all that it entails, down pat. Ideally, we would have the best and brightest of our Jewish brothers and sisters here to help us make the "experiment" of the State of Israel an absolute success, but sadly, that is not the case, and as such, we are doing the best that we can here, shorthanded as we are.

I do not believe that the State of Israel can be considered a failure. True, we have not merited leaders who have feared the G-d of Israel nearly as much as they fear the President of the United States, but the State of Israel today represents the beginning of the redemption of the Jewish People, setbacks and all, as can be seen from the fulfillment of many prophecies , such as: "From Zion Torah will come forth and the word of G-d from Jerusalem". Israel is the center of Torah and Judaism today, with the flourishing of Torah institutions throughout the Land, and with more Jews returning to Judaism everyday. The State of Israel represents the fulfillment of the Ingathering of Jewish exiles from the four corners of the earth, where the majority of the Jews who remain living outside of Israel are doing so because they are actively choosing not to take part in the building a Jewish State in the Land of Israel. If not already, then certainly in the next decade, the State of Israel will have the majority of the Jewish People living within her borders. For 2,000 years the Land of Israel was a wasteland that refused to give its fruits to any who settled within her borders. Miraculously, the Jewish people have returned, and with the help of G-d, we have been able to take the desert of Gush Katif (and many other parts of Israel) and make it flourish in ways that no one could have ever dreamed possible. This, of course, being the surest sign that the Talmud gives for the onset of the redemption of the Jewish People.

One can not deny that the Jewish People in Israel are currently facing many challenges, but Baruch Hashem, they are our own challenges, and with G-d's help, we will be able to overcome then and be stronger for it. For 2,000 years the Jewish People did not have the luxury of having the ability to overcome their own challenges - the challenges of a sovereign nation - and had to turn to our non-Jewish "friends" for assistance. Today, that is not the case. Do we make mistakes? Sadly, we have made more than would be expected for a nation that is described as the "children of kings and prophets", but we are trying our best, and in the end, I have no doubt that we will be successful in creating a truly Jewish State in the Land of Israel that will serve as a light unto the nations and will serve to perfect the world through the kingdom of the Almighty.

The future of the Jewish People, in spite of all our challenges and setbacks, is here, in the Land of Israel. I reach out my hand to you, inviting you to come join us and help the Jewish People to fulfill both their own potential, as well as the lofty potential that we both know exists for the future of the State of Israel.



Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Hamas, "Disengagement" & the Desecration of G-d's Name...

In an Arutz-7 article, we are able to clearly see one of the overlooked tragedies of the "Disengagement", and another reason why Arab terrorists are able to celebrate - courtesy of the State of Israel and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
"Palestinian Authority Television hosts and participants alike are calling the Israeli moves from its towns a 'great victory for Allah'," write PMW's Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook.

One poster shows the laughing face of Hamas founder and arch-terrorist Ahmed Yassin, next to that of a somber religious Jew, with the caption: "Our Koran proves that we were right and your Talmud proves that you were wrong."

Another Hamas poster shows a rifle and the Koran, with the words: "With these two together, the victory has been achieved."

Too many of us, both here in Israel and around the world fail to realize (or choose not to) that the "Palestinian - Israeli" conflict is in reality a conflict between Islam and Judaism. On many occasions Israel has taken steps that would have brought about a "Palestinian" state (Arab rejection of partition in 1947 which led to Israel's War of Independence, the 6 Day War - before there were any "Occupied territories"...). As long as we continue to fail to recognize what the root of the conflict we can have no realistic expectations in hoping to resolve it. The conflict is not about Jewish settlements, it is about Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel, which constitutes an affront to the Islam, and as such, every Muslim must make Jihad against the Jewish State of Israel until this "Naqba" (tragedy) is corrected.

As a result of the continuous pattern retreat and concessions that the State of Israel has made in the name of "peace", we have only managed to embolden Arab terrorists who view our weakness as a sign of their own strength, as a victory for Allah and Islam, and another step towards Islamic domination throughout the entire Middle East. At the same time, this leads to a desecration of the G-d of Israel, who is perceived by all, Jew and non-Jew alike to be weak, and unable to defend the rights of His people to His land.

Until we are able to remedy this situation and once again, as was the case during the Six Day War, to live as proud Jews in the Land of Israel, as Jews who are willing to stand up and fight for Jewish rights without apologizing to the world for doing so, we will continue to suffer retreats and setbacks as we have become accustomed to.

Never Forget... Together We Will Rebuild!

Walking through Jerusalem over the last 48 hours, I have noticed posters with a bright orange background (the color of those opposed to "Disengagement") that state in big, bold, black letters the following (in Hebrew):

The first time I saw this slogan was in the wake of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin, when the secular-left sought to place collective guilt on any and all who were either religious or politically right-wing, as if they all were responsible, one way or another, for the murder.

Just as I did not approve of the message behind the slogan then, I do not approve of the use of the slogan now, even if it is coming from those who were (are) opposed to "Disengagement", the camp to which I belong.

Granted, I will never forget the Jewish communities of Gush Katif and the northern Shomron. I will not forget the vitality of Jewish life that existed there, and the miraculous ways in which the Jewish People, with the help of G-d, were able to make the Land flourish in ways that no one could have dreamed possible. I will also never forget how it was that the government of the State of Israel, and in particular, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was able to make an total mockery of Israel's political, electoral and judicial institutions in order to bring about the destruction of these Jewish communities, as well as for having manipulated the Israel Defense Forces, defenders of the Jewish People, into carrying out his expulsion decree – the expulsion of the very Jews they were sworn to defend, from their homes in the Land of Israel.

However, if we are to remain a united Jewish People, if the State of Israel is to have a future as a Jewish State, then we must be prepared to forgive, and move forward – together, as “one nation in the Land”. I am not suggesting that we forgive Prime Minister Sharon (or his political cronies and henchmen who happily obeyed their puppet master’s bidding - selling their souls and credibility in the process), but we must not make the same mistake that the left made after the assassination of Rabin, for which the Jewish People are still paying the price today. The hatred and vitriol unleashed by the secular-left against the entire religious Zionist population in Israel has managed to cause rifts within the Jewish People (both in Israel and abroad) that have yet to be healed, over a decade since that fateful day.

We, members of the religious Zionist camp, cannot afford to place collective guilt on all those who supported the "Disengagement" plan. There are many Jews in Israel (and in the world) who truly believe that the "Disengagement" plan was good for both the Jewish people and the State of Israel (and perhaps, even for Israel as a Jewish State). Personally, I believe them to be very wrong, and sadly, I am confident that history will prove that to be the case. Yet, I do not believe that the overwhelming majority of these Jews who supported "Disengagement" took any pleasure in seeing it carried out or had any malicious intent as their motivation for supporting the plan. I truly believe that the majority of Jews who passively supported the "Disengagement" plan did so, not as a result of being convinced that it was a good thing for Israel and the Jewish People, but rather out of having been (mis)led to believe that there was no viable alternative. As such. these Jews meekly accepted the decree in silence, with bowed heads and troubled hearts.

These Jews are not our enemies. These Jews are our brothers and sisters, and we can never, ever forget that we need them as much as they need us. The vast majority of Jews in Israel today share our dream, namely, to live as proud Jews in a Jewish State in the Land of Israel, for which we have hoped and prayed for over 2,000 years. It is up to us to work together with our fellow Jews to turn our collective dream into a reality. We may not see eye to eye on all issues, but at the end of the day, we the vast majority of Jews want the same thing. The question is over the means of how to achieve our common goal, not over the goal itself. .

My choice of slogan: Never forget... Together we will rebuild!!! (Both the nation and the Land)

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Israel, Blogging, and the Quandry of a Lover of Zion...

One of the reasons why I created this blog was to provide myself with a forum where I could express my feelings and experiences relating to the excitement that comes with living in the Land of Israel today - both the positives as well as those things that could use some improvement - to as broad and diverse an audience as possible.

My goal being to strengthen the connection of as many Jews as possible to both the Jewish People and the Land / State of Israel and encourage them to take an active role in the ongoing drama that is the life of the Jewish People in the Land of Israel and perhaps instill within my readers a desire to take an active role in the destiny of the Jewish People that is playing itself out in (and only in) Israel.

One of the biggest dilemmas that I face when writing my thoughts on the challenges facing the Jewish People here in Israel, is that for better or worse, there never seems to be a shortage of challenges, and one can find with great ease numerous issues where both the Jewish People and the State of Israel could use more than a little improvement.

I do not delude myself by believing that the State of Israel is a perfect place, quite the contrary, I recognize that the State of Israel - as a Jewish State - is very much a work in progress that has both its fair share of successes as well as setbacks. I personally view myself as being privileged in that I am able to play my small part in helping the Jewish People to overcome these challenges, and to help shape Israel into a truly Jewish State that will serve as a light unto the nations and sanctify the name of Hashem (G-d).

However, it is possible that people may read what I write on this blog about the challenges that the Jewish People are facing here in Israel and misconstrue or misinterpret what I am writing as merely being criticisms against the State of Israel or her particular policies. These people can use what I write here to justify their mistaken belief of how a Jew can be better off not living in Israel, and perhaps even worse, to take the challenges that I raise in my postings and use them to speak negatively about Israel to others and discourage them from wanting to take an active role in the life and destiny of the Jewish People in the Land of Israel.

I am not sure how to resolve this dilemma. I do not want to fall into the trap of the 10 Jewish spies in the wilderness who slandered the Land of Israel and convinced the Jewish People that it was better to stay in the desert, contrary to the will of G-d. With all the frustrations that I may express on this blog with the current (lack of) leadership in the State of Israel and their policies, that does not take away from how fortunate and blessed I feel to be living in the (Jewish) State of Israel after a 2,000-year long exile. I would like to count myself amongst the camp of Joshua and Calev who countered the slanderous report of the spies and stated that the Land of Israel, a very good land, has been promised to the Jewish People by G-d himself, and with His help we will be able to overcome any challenges that may be placed before us.

I can only hope and pray that all those who will read this blog will understand that any criticisms that I may raise against the State of Israel, her leaders or her policies stem from a deep love of Israel and the Jewish People and a desire to see them fulfill their shared potential that is laying just under the surface.

If anyone has any suggestions as to how to overcome this dilemma, I would love to hear them.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Israel: A J****h & "Democratic" State

Why is it that there are so many Jewish leaders and Jewish organizations, both in Israel and abroad who are always warning of the need to protect Israel's democratic character, yet one virtually never hears any calls from these organizations to protect Israel's Jewish character?

There is currently an initiative in the works to have the leaders of major Jewish organizations convene to confront the rift in Israeli society that the "disengagement" plan has caused, and the threat that the "opposition" to the expulsion of Jews from their homes has posed to Israel's "democratic" character.
"This would be a special emergency session initiated by leading Jewish figures from around the world who love Israel and respect democracy," Anti-Defamation League Director Abraham Foxman said Monday.

"The events that have taken place surrounding the evacuation of Gush Katif prove there is in Israel a large fundamentalist minority that poses a real threat to the democratic character of Israel," Foxman said.

"I fear that the message of Meir Kahane that democracy cannot exist alongside Judaism has penetrated a large segment of the Jewish public," Foxman said.

Here are the problems I have with this initiative:

1) Why is there no mention of the threat to Israel's democracy that Prime Minister Sharon poses, where he was able to make a total mockery of Israel's "democratic" institutions in order to push his "Disengagement" plan through? (Running on an election platform which was totally against "Disengagement" from Gaza, rejecting the results of the internal Likud referendum which he promised to accept, firing cabinet ministers who refused to go along with his plan, buying votes of MK's by offering them ministerial and deputy ministerial portfolios...)

2) Why are these leaders of major organizations not convening to address how Israel can continue to refer to itself as the Jewish State when it expels Jews from their homes, destroys Jewish communities in the Land of Israel, destroys synagogues and houses of Torah study, uproots the graves of those murdered by Arab terrorists, and hands over the Land to the sworn enemies of the Jewish People and State?

3) Who elected these "leaders" of major Jewish organizations in the 1st place? Whom do they purport to speak for? They certainly don't speak for me.

4) Could it be that it is more important to these Jewish leaders of the world that Israel maintain its facade of being a "democratic" state over Israel's Jewish character, as it allows them to fit in better in their home countries by showing how western, liberal and progressive Israel is?

If so, it would seem that these leaders of major Jewish organizations have only their own best interests at heart, and if that's the case, please spare those of us here in Israel any ideas for emergency initiatives that you may have which only seek to stengthem themselves at Israel's expense.

5) Perhaps Abe Foxman of the ADL (an organization that one would have expected to naturally be against the expulsion of Jews regardless of where it was being perpetrated or how "democratic" the decision to carry out the expulsion was reached) is correct about one thing. I imagine that more and more Jews every single day are coming to the realization of the inherent conflict between Israel existing as both a Jewish and democratic state, and are recognizing the need to place one before the other. It is clear what the leaders of major Jewish organizations have chosen, now it is time for the Jewish People, and particularly those of us living in Israel to decide.

As opposed to sweeping this issue under the rug, which both leaders in Israel, as well as world Jewry have done at every opportunity, perhaps we would be best off discussing this issue out in the open and coming to the necessary conclusions, as painful as they may be, for the sake of the future of the State of Israel?

The Jewish Dream & The Israeli Nightmare

In Today's Yediot Achronot, ultra-secularist Israel Prize laureate Amos Oz clearly expresses the difference between the Jewish and Israeli vision for the State of Israel.
They (religious Jews) have their own dream. The first stage is the "whole land of Israel," filled wall-to-wall with Jews-only towns.

The second stage is to transform Israel into a halachic state', a country ruled by Jewish religious law.

But we non-religious Israelis also have a dream. We want to live in an enlightened, open and just country, not in some messianic, rabbinic monarchy, and not in the whole land of Israel. We came here to be a free people in our own land.

To be a free people means each person is entitled to choose which parts of Jewish tradition are important to him, and which to leave behind. It means to have the freedom to run our country according to our free will, rather than rabbinic dictates.

Putting aside for a moment Oz's description of the Jewish "dream" for the State of Israel, what Oz recognizes is that the present struggle in the Land of Israel is not over the fate of Gush Katif or any of the other settlements. The present struggle in Israel has nothing to do with the "Palestinians". The struggle that the Jewish People are facing in the Land / State of Israel today is over the fundamental issue that affects all others challenges that the Jewish people face in israel today:

Who are we? & Why are we here?

Who are we? : Are we Jews or are we Israelis?

Why are we here in Israel?: Are we here, as Jews, to fulfill the collective Jewish destiny, of creating a truly Jewish State (which means significantly more than simply having a Jewish majority) that will serve as a light unto the nations, and as a result, sanctify the name of G-d? Are we here, as Jews, as another link in the continuous chain that is the history of the Jewish People, where for for the last 2,000 years each and every Jew passed on to his children the eternal hope, dream and prayer of the Jew: "Next Year in Jerusalem"! - Not so that we could be the "Only democracy in the Middle East", but so that we could live as proud and committed Jews in out eternal Homeland?

Or, are we here in Israel as Israelis, as Amos Oz would have us be, and not Jews (or, at the very least, "New Jews")? Are we here in Israel simply because we discovered that we couldn't live anywhere else, where even the option of mass conversion and assimilation failed us? Are we here in Israel, simply to build a society and state based on western, secular and pluralistic values, where one of the only things Jewish about the State is that a majority of its citizens happen to be Jewish? Are we here in Israel as a refuge, not merely a physical one, but a spiritual one, where we can be free of the Judaism of exile - of subservience to the G-d of Israel and His Law (both Written and Oral)? Are we merely to be a "free nation in our Land" and nothing more?

How we, the Jewish People, and in particular, the ("New") Jews of Israel answer these questions will ultimately determine the fate of the State of Israel, as well as the fate of the Jewish People remaining a single nation. What Amos Oz makes perfectly clear is that the Jewish dream (as he understands it) is his - the Israeli's - nightmare, and that is a thought that should keep us all awake at night.

Economics and Israeli "Settlements": Myths and Facts

Myth: The growing poverty in Israel is a direct result of the money that Israeli governments, both Labor and Likud, have invested into Jewish settlements in Judea, Samaria & Gaza. If only Israel would abandon the "settlement enterprise" and invest its funding and energies in social welfare projects in its stead, all of Israel's social ills would be cured.

Fact: Today's Ha'aretz reports the following troubling statistic:
Just 16 families hold the economic power in Israel, according to BDI Code's ranking by Business Data Israel released yesterday. The 16 control 20 percent of the revenues generated by Israel's 500 leading corporations.

The 16 families wield enormous economic power, having sway over more than 20 percent of that combined revenue, and employing more than 100,000 people.

What this translates into is that a handful of families control Israel's economy and are able to dictate to the government the types of laws and regulations that it would and wouldn't like to see legislated in the State of Israel.

With so few controlling so much of the Israeli economy it helps to create a tremendous gap within society between the "have's" and "have not's", which works to only divide Israeli / Jewish society and ensure that the rich continue to get richer and the poor stay poor.

The fact is that the supposed shortage of funs for Israel social welfare projects is not as a result of funds and energies invested in Jewish settlement throughout the Land of Israel, for which in a Jewish State, should be viewed as a national imperative, and for which no apologies or justifications should be necessary. The reason why there seems to be a shortage of funds is as a result of an unbalanced economy that stifles economic growth amongst the middle and lower classes. (This does not even begin to address the issue of economic corruption which can be found in the largest companies and the highest levels of government, where public money ends up in the pockets of the most powerful).

I am all for social justice and welfare in the Jewish State. I am also all for Jewish settlement throughout the Land of Israel. The two are not mutually exclusive. A just, fair and balanced Jewish economy would help to strengthen both.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

A "Disengagement" related Moral Dilemma (Part 1)

The expulsion machinery is running like clockwork here in the Land of Israel. The last 6 Jewish communities in Gush Katif / Gaza have been emptied of Jews today, and tomorrow it will be on to the Jewish communities of the northern Shomron.

I can't imagine there being a Jew in Israel or anywhere in the world for that matter, who when listening to the news, watching footage of the expulsions, or even merely reading about it in paper or on the internet can't feel a tremendous pain in their heart. This pain, if not over the desecration of G-d's name, and if not over the destruction of Jewish communities and expulsion of Jews from their homes in the Land of Israel at the hands of a Jewish government and security services, must at the very least stem from knowing of the pain and suffering of the thousands of Jews who are being personally affected in this Jewish (& human) tragedy.

That being said, is it wrong for one to avoid listening / watching / reading the news so that they can keep their own personal peace of mind and not walk around feeling depressed and saddened all day? Or, is this the type of tragedy that every member of the Jewish People should force themselves to feel and endure as much as possible, until it's all over, and not allow themselves to "fiddle while Rome burns"?

Here's How You Can Still help the Jews of Gush Katif...

Donations to help the homeless heroes of Gush Katif can be made to the One Israel Fund.

(Add in the comment: "attn: Eve Harrow" so she can direct it to where it will help the most).
Despite declarations to the contrary, the Israeli government has not made adequate provisions for the majority of families of Gush Katif. "Disengagement" busses drove around with families for nine hours going from one hotel to another, until they were able to find some who could accommodate them. Others were sent to school dormitories in Jerusalem. Some were dropped off in the middle of the night on the streets of Sderot with nowhere to go.

Thank to Joe Settler for providing this important information.

Peace, Peace, but There is No Peace...

For those who are hoping to see the "sensible and moderate" "Palestinian" leadership headed by (Holocaust denier) Abu Mazaen to begin cracking down on terror in the wake of the destruction of the Jewish communities in Gush Katif and the expulsion of thousands of Jews from their homes, check out this blog by The Jewish Worker who will set the record straight...

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Media and "Disengagement": False Praise (Part 2)

Much has been made in the Israeli press of how professionally Israel's police and military have carried out the expulsion of Jews from their homes. I find this to be problematic for two reasons:

1) Why is it considered a big deal when the police and military carry out the task assigned to them? Were we to expect that the police would go into the homes of the Jews that they were about to expel with clubs swinging? True, expelling Jews from their homes is a mission more difficult than ordinary, but with the months of training that those involved in the expulsion plan received, nothing short of robotic, mechanical observance to their orders should have been expected.

2) As I see it, the expulsion of a Jew from his home in the Land of Israel at the hands of Jewish security forces is something that regardless of how professionally and efficiently it has been done is not something that merits praise. Expelling a Jew from his home by the 1st Jewish army and police force in 2,000 years is not something that can be done nicely and engender feelings of goodwill and praise. It just doesn't work that way. There are somethings in this world that are just plain wrong, and this is one of them.

I am sure that Prime Minister Sharon, along with the powers that be in the military and police powerbase will reward their loyal troops well for carrying out a job well done, but when we will look back at this dark chapter of Jewish history in the generations to come, I don't foresee much praise being passed around to the expulsion forces, regardless of how professional they may have been in "following orders".

Friday, August 19, 2005

The Media and "Disengagement"

Here are two quick observations that I have made since watching Jews being expelled from their homes on TV here in Israel:

1) I find that the media is overly obtrusive. Here we have Jews being pulled from their homes, from their lives, and all I keep seeing are cameras and microphones shoved in their faces. I understand that the media is going to be there, but show some basic human decency. These people do not want to be interviewed right now, get your shots from a respectable distance - we do not need to have an up-close-and-personal shot of the heartbreak and disgrace that our fellow brothers and sisters are going through.

Also, the commentators just keep talking in the background while it all is happening. Sometimes, less is more. What is happening in Gush Katif speaks for itself; I don't need to be told by someone sitting in a studio what I am watching, thanks.

2) Today is Friday, the 3rd day of the expulsion, and aside from a brief amount of coverage this morning, there is no live coverage of what is happening today. I guess, after 3 days, expelling Jews from their homes isn't newsworthy anymore...

Is Nothing Sacred?

Here in Israel, Jews around the world, and just about everyone who has a stake in what happens here in the region is wondering if "Disengagement" represents "Gaza 1st" or "Gaza only".

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, in an interview with a Kuwaiti daily published Thursday, laid out Israel's vision for the future. Among the most notable statements was the following:
No topics, including Jerusalem, were off-limits to peace negotiations with the Palestinians, the Israeli official said. However, confidence should be built before final status talks on Jerusalem - which Palestinians claim as the capital of their state - refugees, borders, and water, he said.

On disrupted peace talks with Syria, and whether Israel would be willing to give up the settlements in the Golan Heights as it did with Gaza, the foreign minister said: "Every party can come to the negotiation table with the topics they want, and we have to talk about everything."

What troubles me, however, is the underlying reason as to why we are implementing the "Disengagement" as I write these very words. From reading the interview with Israel's Foreign Minister, it appears that nothing is sacred anymore in the State of Israel. We are willing to give everything and anything to chase after the elusive "Holy Grail" or "Golden Calf" of "Peace".

The question that I have had for a long time is, "and then what"? What happens when we have given away everything, including Jerusalem, and we are living in our pre-1967 Israel in "peace" - what is it that we are hoping to accomplish as a nation.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, there are two major problems with this way of thinking (check out the post to see what I am talking about).

An additional concern that I have is that in having Israel's Foreign Minister's broadcast to the world that everything is negotiable, then how strong can our claim to the Land of Israel really be? The world looks at us and looks at the "Palestinians". We say that everything is on the table for the sake of peace. The "Palestinians" say that unless we put everything on the table and rightfully restore all that is theirs, there won't be peace.

The difference: The "Palestinians" truly believe that the Land of Israel (Palestine) belongs to them, and they are willing to fight for it. We, however, have seemingly forgotten that this Land belongs to us, and until that changes, the policy of the Israeli government will reflect the fact that in the Jewish State, nothing is sacred any longer.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words...

Isn't it ironic that this picture showing an Egged (Israel's national bus Company) bus full of Jewish refugees who had moments earlier been expelled from their homes carries an ad for the "Mini Israel" theme park?

Photo courtesy of Sultan_Knish.

Today's "Disengagement" Forecast...

With the destruction of Jewish communities and expulsion of Jews from their homes in the Land of Israel in full swing, let's take a look at some of the reactions from around the world, as they can shed some light as to what to expect in the short and long-term future:

US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice:
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday said that while she feels for evacuated settlers Israel will be expected to make further concessions that would ultimately lead to an independent Palestinian state.

"Everyone empathizes with what the Israelis are facing," Rice said, but added "It cannot be Gaza only."

Such steps would include loosening travel restrictions in the West Bank and withdrawing from more Palestinian cities.

Let us not forget that the United States is Israel's "best friend". With friends like these...

King Abdullah II of Jordan:
During his meeting with Senators, King Abdullah II said "Frankly, we in Jordan should stand up to any plan that aims to deprive the Palestinians of their right to return to their homeland or to establish their independent state on Palestinian soil, and nowhere else."

Israel has a signed "peace treaty" with Jordan. I'm sure that by calling for the Right of return, Jordan only has Israel's best interests at heart.

The United Nations:
Banners declaring "Gaza Today, the West Bank and Jerusalem Tomorrow" have been prominently displayed throughout Gaza since last week, as the Palestinian Arabs revel in the Jews' departure.

The tag line on the banners reads "Paid for by the United Nations Development Program," and bears the official symbol of the world body, reported The New York Times.

UNDP representative Timothy Rothermel admitted to Fox News that his organization had indeed provided the "Palestinian Withdrawal Committee" with financial aid to communicate its propaganda to the general population.

The banner suggesting the Palestinian Arabs would soon "liberate" Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem from the Jews was "prepared by the disengagement office with financial support from the United Nations Development Program," Rothermel said.

Rothermel argued that the slogan is "consistent with the relevant UN resolutions and Security Council resolutions about the status of Palestine."

This follows in the wake of Israel's Ambassador to the UN, Dan Gillerman's pathetic pleading with the member nations to be nicer to Israel in the wake of "Disengagement":
"It is time for the United Nations to acknowledge Israel's actions," Gillerman said. "We hope that in the United Nations there will be no more business as usual as far as the Middle East is concerned... No more Israel-bashing, no more ongoing resolutions which keep repeating themselves time after time."

Israel hopes Annan will show his support for the disengagement "in a very real way," he said. Though Israel isn't seeking resolutions of support for the pullout from either the Security Council or General Assembly, he said, "we would be very happy" to get them.

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal declared on Wednesday that the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank marked the beginning of the end of the Zionist dream in Palestine.

"The resistance and the steadfastness of our people forced the Zionists to withdraw," he boasted. "The resistance is capable of ending the Israeli occupation and achieving all our rights. The armed struggle is the only strategy that Hamas possesses."

"We will continue the struggle until we liberate all our lands. This is an important day for the Palestinians and proof that the armed struggle has born fruit."

Asked about Hamas's future plans, Zahar said: "Neither the liberation of the Gaza Strip, nor the liberation of the West Bank or even Jerusalem will suffice us. Hamas will pursue the armed struggle until the liberation of all our lands. We don't recognize the state of Israel or its right to hold onto one inch of Palestine. Palestine is an Islamic land belonging to all the Muslims."

All in all, here is how the future forecast for Israel looks: Cloudy, with a very good chance of raining mortars and Qassam rockets, and it appears as if there's an incoming terror storm on the horizon. Looks like it's going to be more of the same for the foreseeable future, so bundle up, stay indorrs and avoid crowded places...

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Religious Zionism at a Crossroads (The Other "Disengagement" - Part 2)

Over the last few weeks there have been a number of articles by religious Zionist personalities discussing the future of religious Zionism in the wake of "Disengagement". With the expulsion of Jews, destruction of Jewish communities, dismantling of Synagogues and houses of Torah study in the Land of Israel taking place - being carried out by Jewish soldiers and police, as ordered by the Jewish government of the Jewish State of Israel, we have reached the moment of truth.

I have no doubt that the entire religious Zionist movement is doing a collective soul searching to see where we may have gone wrong, what lessons can be learned from this tragedy and what are the plans for the future. At the same time, and no less important, I envision that this soul searching is being done by every individual Religious Zionist Jew in Israel, as well.

Among the questions that are being asked:

* Did we place too much emphasis on the value of the Land of Israel and settlement, and not enough on reaching out to our Jewish brothers and sisters to help them understand the values which we hold to be so dear?

* Were we remiss in not working to strengthen the Jewish educational curriculum of Israeli public schools and other bodies, leaving them to be run by Meretz, as opposed to solely focusing on our own institutions?

* Can we still work together with the State of Israel as a partner, when we feel betrayed by nearly all of her major institutions: the Knesset, the Supreme Court, the Army, the Police, the media...?

* Who are now the partners of Religious Zionism? The secular public, or the ultra-Orthodox who choose to separate themselves from the workings of the State?

* Is it possible, with greater involvement, for Religious Zionism to make a meaningful difference in the above mentioned bodies and institutions? If not, what implications does one draw?

* Is there anyone in government today that we can rely on? Who are our leaders?

* How do we reconcile the conflicting opinions that emanated from Religious Zionist Rabbis as to how to respond and protest the "Disengagement" (refusing orders, blocking roads...)? Are we a united, single camp, or divided, competing factions?

The answers to these questions will have a tremendous effect on the future of the State of Israel, and the unity of the Jewish People... The question that remains is:

* Who ultimately decides what the answer of the Religious Zionist movement will be?

A Birthday Oath

Today, the 12th of Av (according to the Jewish calendar) is my birthday.

Today, the 12th of Av is the day that the physical destruction of the Jewish communities of Gush Katif and the expulsion of thousands of Jews from their homes in the Land of Israel at the hands of Jewish soldiers and police, as commanded by a Jewish government, has begun.

I have decided to take an oath (neder) upon myself, whereby I will refrain from any public / festive celebrations of my birthday (this year's, as well as future ones) until the Jewish communities of Gush Katif are restored in all their glory.

May it be speedily in our days...

Hello... Is There Anybody Out There (The Other "Disengagement" - Part 1)

Today is a very sad day in the history of the Jewish People, and what makes it even sadder for me is that so few Jews outside of Israel truly grasp the gravity and implication of the events taking place here in Israel..

I have heard time and again from my peers living in the United States, (and not only in connection with Israel’s “disengagement” from Gush Katif and the northern Shomron) the following sentiment:
I have to admit to not following as closely as I should what is going on in Israel

It frustrates me to no end that the most passionate, knowledgeable, caring and observant Jews can be so detached from what happens here in Israel on a daily basis. It's as if what happens here in Israel is only of concern to the Jews living here.. I have no doubt that if one were to stop the average observant American Jew on the street and ask him / her if they care about Israel that they will answer in the affirmative. Yet, when it comes down to it, the vast majority of these Jews know very little about what goes on here in Israel on a day-to-day basis, and make little effort to change that reality. Anyone with access to the internet can get the same exact news that I read here in Israel on a daily basis, and yet how many truly take advantage of that ability?

Why has the observant Jewish community in the U.S. not cried out over what is happening here in Israel? Can it be that these Jews are not truly pained by the fact that their Jewish brothers and sisters are being expelled from their homes, and that Jewish communities are being destroyed by a Jewish government in the Land of Israel??? How can anyone with a Jewish heart not be crying out in pain - regardless of where they might live?

I think I speak for many Jews here in Israel when I say that we feel let down by our Jewish brothers and sisters living abroad. This is their home as much as it is mine, even if they choose not to make their homes here yet. We feel alone. Let Down. This is not only our fight. The fight over the Land of Israel, over the character of the State of Israel (fighting to make it a truly Jewish State) is something that every single Jew in the world is obligated to be involved in. It's bad enough that nearly all of the state's institutions have abandoned us in our struggle, but what of the help and support of world Jewry?

Another common statement made by Jews who don’t live in Israel is:
Jews who don't live in Israel shouldn't have an opinion about what goes on in Israel, as they don’t live there and don’t have to live with the consequences

I strongly disagree... When one doesn't have an opinion about something, it means they aren’t interested in it. If one doesn't make the effort to be well informed or educated about a particular issue, it means they don't care about it. There is no excuse for any caring, involved Jew to be ignorant about anything relating to Israel, and certainly not something as momentous as the tragedy that is befalling the Jewish People today.

Every Jew must know that the tragedy of the destruction of these Jewish communities and the expulsion of Jews from their homes in the Land of Israel by the 1st Jewish army in nearly 2,000 years is one of the greatest desecrations of G-d's name in our history as a nation. The entire world is watching with joy as we do to ourselves what they have done to us time and again throughout history and are saying to themselves "Look at these Jews, they are no better than us". Was this the reason why we hoped, prayed and dreamed for 2,000 years to re-establish Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel - so we could throw Jews out of their homes and hand them over to murderers?

To my Jewish brothers and sisters around the world - we need you here in Israel! We need Jews who are passionate about the Torah of Israel, the People of Israel and the Land of Israel, and who are up to the challenge of building a society that will reflect those values. We can't do it by ourselves.

The Jewish People have a mission; a destiny, and it falls equally upon all of our shoulders. When one person decides not to carry their share, it means everyone else has to work that much harder, and eventually it becomes a burden too heavy for so few to carry. Short of an act of direct divine intervention, the Jewish communities of Gush Katif and the northern Shomron are going to be destroyed... but I am certain that should that tragedy befall the Jewish People, that one day they will be rebuilt and will have even greater splendor than before. I believe that one day we will have Jewish government that will be a source of pride to the Jewish People. I do believe that one day the State of Israel will truly be a Jewish State and will be a light unto the nations... I believe in all of that and more...

I also believe and know that none of those things will happen so long as so many of my Jewish brothers and sisters don't involve themselves in making them happen. We are obligated to have faith and trust in Hashem, but we are also obligated to act and not rely on miracles. We have faith here in Israel, and we are trying to do our part, but as I said, we can't do it alone.

In hope of better times...

Thursday, August 11, 2005

George Bush on... "Disengagement"...

Hey, Israel, pay attention... Jewish People, listen up... The President of the United States has a message for all of you: Worried about the danger that "Disengagement" poses to Israel? Well, there's no need to worry. Everything is going to be A-OK.

In an interview given on Israel's Channel 1, George Bush had the following to say:
"I believe the decision that Prime Minister Sharon has made and is going to follow through on will be good for Israel," Bush said, interviewed at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Asked why he thought Israel's disengagement from the occupied land would help Israeli security, Bush replied: "First of all the previous system wasn't working. There was an intifada (Palestinian uprising), there was death, there was killing. And if you notice, there's been a calm in attacks".

"In the meantime we've got to work, you know, to dismantle terrorist organizations, and that's precisely what the road map calls for."
Ok, just to sum up how the "Disengagement" plan is good for Israel...

1) "The previous system wasn't working"... That means what exactly? What system?

2) "There was an intifada, there was death, there was killing"... Yes, but George Bush seems to like using vague terms... Yes, there was an "intifada" and "death and Killing" - it's called terror, the same type of terror that happened in the US on 9/11. In this case, Islamic terror against the Jewish State. For some reason, when it happens in Israel, terror demands the implementation of a government policy which retreats in the face of terror, whereas in the US, it gives license to invade and occupy two countries (and counting).

3) "And if you notice there's been a calm in attacks" - let's see what Evelyn Gordon of the Jerusalem Post has to say about that:
According to the Shin Bet, the number of Palestinian attacks in July exceeded the total for any other month of the past year and a half.

Thus far from reducing Palestinian violence, the impending disengagement appears to be fueling it – which is precisely what pullout opponents have always predicted.

As a result, the disengagement would convince the Palestinians that violence works, and therefore encourage them to do more of it.

In other words, six months into the truce, the number of Palestinian attacks per month is now higher than it was during the entire year preceding the truce. Indeed, more Israelis were killed by Palestinians in June and July than during the same months last year, when there was no truce.

The Shin Bet statistics thus indicate that Sharon's two main security policies – the disengagement and the truce with Abbas – have been undermining Israel's security rather than improving it.

But one can easily understand the media's reluctance to publicize this fact. The press, after all, mobilized almost to a man behind both the disengagement and the truce – and journalists are no different from anyone else in their dislike of having their errors hit the headlines.

The same can seemingly be said of Presidents and Prime Ministers.

Lies... Damn Lies... and Israel's Demography...

Miriam of Bloghead seems to fall prey to siren song of how Israel must "disengage" from the "territories" and the Arabs, as a result of the demographic threat that they pose to Israel's continued existence as a Jewish State. She bases her case on an article from Ha'aretz that states:
For the first time, the proportion of Jews living in territories under the country's control has dropped below 50 percent, standing slightly more than 49 percent .The results are based on figures supplied by Israel and the Palestinian Authority's official statistics bureaus. According to the figures, following the upcoming disengagement, the proportion of Jews in territories under Israeli control will jump to 56.8 percent. As a result of this development, demographic expert Prof. Sergio Della Pergola of the Hebrew University said the country is ensured of a Jewish majority within its territories for the next 20 years.

Did you hear that... If we "disengage from Gaza, then we can claim to be both a Jewish and "democratic" state for another 20 years!!! Yet, let's follow this argument through to the very end...

There is no doubt, that basing our future according to demography, Israel will need to "disengage" from Judea and Samaria in the not too distant future. This will be followed by Israel "disengaging" from the Galil and the Negev (both within the pre 1967 borders) where Jews are currently a minority, and much of eastern Jerusalem. Israel will continue to exist as a Jewish State in western Jerusalem, the Jewish communities between Jerusalem and the coast, and then, along the Mediterranean coast, from Ashkelon to Haifa... We will have safe passage to Be'er Sheva and Eilat (the Golan will have been ceded to Syria...).

Most importantly, though, no one will be able to say that Israel is not both a Jewish and democratic state. Although, one wonders how many Jews would want to live in such a state.

Let us not forget, that when the modern day Zionist movement began, and Jews began settling in greater numbers in Palestine, the Jews were a demographic minority. had Zionism's founding fathers taken demographic concerns into account, we would still be in Europe. The right of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel does not come from our demographic superiority, nor because we are "the only democracy in the Middle East", but from G-d, who gave this Land to the Jewish People for eternity. If we choose not to "buy into" this idea, well... then we have no choice than to play the demography game - a game which we can't win, so long as we pretend to be a democratic state which grants equality to all its citizens.

However, if we believe that the Land of Israel truly belongs to the Jewish People, than we will begin to take the steps to ensure that the Jewish People not only remain a majority in the Land, but that we continue to flourish, while taking measures to ensure that the Arab population decreases in size. Is this racist? Hardly. Not so long as one believes that G-d gave this land to the Jewish People. If not, well, then yes, the Jews have no greater claim to the Land of Israel than Arabs do, and taking steps to ensure a Jewish majoirty would be racist and discriminatory against Israel's non-Jewish citizens.

Israel's best kept secret over the last few decades has been that it's only a matter of time before the Jews will be outnumbered, not just over the Green Line, but within it as well. It is for this reason that Israel decided against annexing Judea, Samaria and Gaza which were liberated in the Six Day War, but as we see today, has not solved the issue.

It is not too late for Israel to save itself from impending disaster. All that is required is for us to decide who we are, and why we are here. Are we Jews or are we Israelis? Are we striving to be a Jewish State, or a nation like all others... Time is running out... If we are to remain a Jewish State with a flourishing Jewish majority, we must begin implementing a policy that will serv to strengthen Israel as a Jewish State without feeling the need to apologize for it. (If we choose to be Israeli's and be the "only democracy in the Middle East", within the next 50 years, the Israeli Knesset will vote to turn Israel into Palestine, and have the Law of return apply to Arab refugees and not Jews).

The future is in our hands... we must decide which future is to be ours, and we must act... and act fast!

Israel's Chief Rabbinate: Rubber Stamp or Representative of G-d?

A Jerusalem Post editorial echoes what many have been saying over the course of (at the very least) the last year+. Namely, calling into question the purpose and merit of the continued existence of Israel's Chief Rabbinate.
There is former Ashkenazi chief rabbi Avraham Shapira, who this week reiterated his view that evacuating settlers from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria would be downright sinful, and that soldiers and policemen must refuse orders to participate in the crime. Whoever handed over part of the Land of Israel "will not have clean hands "not in this world and not in the next," said Shapira.

Then there are the current chief rabbis, Yonah Metzger and Shlomo Amar, whose statements against refusing orders have been barely audible. Amar has even participated prominently in a prayer rally against the "evil decree."

If the chief rabbis of the State of Israel are unable to naturally and confidently explain the right of the government to make decisions and the obligation of religious Zionists to obey those decisions, then why do they not resign their posts? If they cannot speak out stridently against calls to Orthodox soldiers to refuse orders "a campaign that threatens to tear apart the state" they are failing in the obligation of leadership they accepted when they took on the post of chief rabbi.

So, here is the question: What is the purpose of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel? Is it to merely give a rubber stamp of religious approval to all of the State's actions, or are Israel’s Chief Rabbi's meant to speak out on all issues that affect the Jewishness / religiousness of the State of Israel, regardless of whether it may go against a particular policy of the government?

If the Chief Rabbinate truly feels that the "Disengagement" plan, or any other government policy goes against Jewish law, should they not be allowed to express that from within their official capacity? If not, then why have a Chief Rabbinate altogether? If the Chief Rabbinate views a particular policy as being a conflict between democratic and Jewish values, is it not logical that they would defer to the Jewish values over the democratic ones?

Israel's Road Map to...

On Wednesday, President of Israel, Moshe Katsav addressed the nation. Personally, I found very little in his speech to be new or of any particular interest. That is, with the exception of one of the last things that he said in his speech.
"The army is one of the instruments of the redemption of Israel. The coming of our redemption does not depend on the disengagement plan."

"With God's help," the president prayed, "we will be able to overcome the difficulties and to achieve the desired purpose: security and peace."

It seems, according to President Katsav, and many in Israel, when we speak of redemption, we are referring to the achievement of "security and peace". Ask the average Israeli what our national goal is, and he will most likely say, "peace".

However, this is a very dangerous mistake to make, for two reasons:

1) Peace can't be a national goal, since it is a goal that can't be achieved on our own. It is not entirely up to the State of Israel as to if it will be able to live in peace, but also up to our (not so) friendly neighbors. it can take certain steps to achieve "peace", but at the end of the day, it takes two to tango. To set as the nation's ultimate goal that which the nation can't possibly achieve serves to set the nation up for failure and despondency - which in turn causes the nation to adopt policies out of desperation and frustration in an effort to reach the non-existant pot-of-gold at the end of the rainbow, as can be seen today.

2) "Security and peace" and not end goals or forms of "redemption" in and of themselves, rather they are means to an end (means to achieving redemption). The true question is, what is it that the Nation of Israel hopes to achieve once we have achieved a state of "security and peace”? If the answer is that we merely desire to live normal lives like everyone else, then that is not redemption (at least not in the Jewish sense of the word). However, if our aspirations to achieve "security and peace" are meant to allow us to grow as a nation, in a spiritual sense, to connect with our heritage and our roots, to (re)connect with the Land of Israel, the Torah of Israel and the People of Israel, then "security and peace" are meaningful steps on the path to the true redemption of the Jewish People.

During these days, lets us not chase after false messiahs and false hopes for peace. There are no short-cuts to true redemption, just as there are no short-cuts to achieving "security and peace". May the G-d of Israel bless the Nation of Israel with the insight to stay true to our heritage and with the strength to overcome the desire to go after quick solutions that will bring us neither peace, nor security.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

It's Never Too Late to Say: "I'm Sorry"...

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz sparked furious debate Wednesday by saying that there was "no indication" that the 1995 assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin had been sparked by incitement.

On the other hand, Mazuz told the Knesset State Control Committee, "what is certain is that there was a failure of security at the site of the murder."

"The atmosphere within the public has an influence, but it must not be used as an excuse to shut people's mouths," he said.

Wait... Let me get this straight... Every Kippa wearing Jew in Israel isn't really personally responsible for the murder of Yitzchak Rabin?

I am confused, why would Ha'aretz and the rest of the secular left try to place collective guilt and deligitmize an entire segment of the population? What could they possibly gain from such actions?

Hmmm... if I'm not mistaken, the same tactic of guilt by association which was used to force the Israeli public to accept further concessions to our "cousins" in the name of the "peace process" following the murder of Rabin is being used today, to force the "Disengagement" plan through, as well. After all, isn't every opponent of "Disengagement" an enemy of the State of Israel, the Jewish People, "democracy" amd the "rule of law", and destroyers of the "peace process"?

On the bright side, I'm relieved that I will finally be able to get a good night's rest - my 1st in over 10 years, now that I have been absolved on any wrong doings - and Yom Kippur isn't even for another 2 months...

(I won't hold my breath waiting for mass apologies to the Religious Zionist public over the malicious campaign of slander from which they were victimized - until this very day - as a result of what happened on that fateful November night, 10 years ago).

Israel's New "Law of Return"

Today's Ha'aretz shows how Israel has found new ways to interpret the 'Law of Return". The "Law of return", of course, is the one of the 1st laws passed by Israel that grants every Jews the right to live and acquire citizenship in Israel. At least, that's what it used to mean...
In rare steps a week before the onset of evacuations, authorities have ordered an Israeli-American Kach activist deported to the United States for 40 days... Attorney General Menachem Mazuz decided to deport Sa'adia Hershkopf - a dual American and Israeli citizen and one of the three Kach activists put into administrative detention by Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz earlier this week - to the United States for 40 days.

So this is what it has come to... Israel seemingly has decided that it has the legal right to "return" those citizens that it doesn't "approve of" to their countries of origin - a new Law of Return. The very thought of a Jewish State handing over a Jew, for whatever reason to a foreign entity is a disgrace, and is par for the course for a government that has shown that it has no concept of Jewish pride or shame, and which proudly marches forward in its quest to destroy Jewish communities and expel thousands of Jews from their homes, livelihood and property in the Land of Israel.

G-d have mercy...

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