Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Blog Update

To all my loyal readers, I apologize that I haven't posted much of late. The past few days I have been taking a tour guiding course at the City of David (Biblical Jerusalem), as well as having been very involved with some political work (along with my regular work and family responsibilities).

I hope to return to my regularly scheduled blog routine starting this coming week (although perhaps having some time on Thursday).

Try not to miss me too much.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Children will say the darndest things...

I, along with my family, spent this past Shabbat at some family friends in Beit Shemesh. Among the many children who were running around the house, there was one, a boy of around 3-4 years old, who kept repeating that he wanted to be a chayal (Israeli soldier).

Finally, one of us got around to asking him what type of chayal he wanted to be exactly - perhaps a paratrooper? An elite forces soldier?

The boy responded: I want to be a chayal who is m'sareiv p'kuda (a soldier who refuses orders).

This caused everyone at the table to let out a good laugh, but the more I thought about it, the more my feelings became conflicted.

On the one hand, it is sad that a Jewish boy, growing up in the Jewish State, needs to now associate serving in the IDF with refusing orders. On the other hand, he clearly is still motivated to serve in the IDF (as motivated as one can be at the age of 3-4).

I would imagine that both of these messages - of the importance to serve in the army, and of the importance of not blindly accepting orders have been ingrained in the home (although I could be wrong), and I just wonder at what age we should be teaching our children these lessons and values?

I'm relatively new to the parenting business myself, but isn't there a time to just enjoy being a kid and growing up? Or maybe that's just it - that education - particularly Jewish education begins at day 1...

Either way, being a parent is a big responsibility, and I can only hope that I am blessed with the insight and wisdom on how best to raise my family and how and when to best impart all of the values and messages that are so central to being a Jew.

G-d help me... and all of the Jewish People.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Why settle for the JIB Awards when you can have the real thing?

For the most part, I have been silent about the ongoing JIB Awards. The reason my silence was my being peeved that due to technical difficulties (which for the most were of my own making) this blog was not included in the competition - and while I did not expect to win, I was interested in the added exposure that being nominated in the JIB Awards would bring.

As I have posted about before on a number of occasions, the reason why I blog (blog can be used as a verb, right?) is to promote a vision that I have for the Jewish People and State to as wide an audience as possible, and perhaps inspire others to consider these ideas in a new light, who would then, ideally, help in bringing them to fruition.

Well, that being said, it looks like I may have found a better venue for promoting my ideas (at least in the long-term) than the JIB Awards could ever provide.

What venue am I talking about?

Why, the Knesset, of course.

That's right, it looks as if I will be a candidate on the National Union party ticket in the upcoming elections - and what better place is there than the Knesset to try and take an active role in shaping the future of the Jewish People and State?

So, to all of my loyal readers out there (with Israeli citizenship) who weren't able to vote for me in the JIB Awards, you can now express your support by voting for me (or, more accurately, voting for my party - The National Union / HaIchud HaLeumi) in the upcoming Israeli elections.

I don't know exactly in which position I will find myself on the National Union party list, but once I find out I will be sure to let all of you know and then you can let all of your friends and family know, who will let all of their friends and family know, and then, just maybe... (Even if I don't get elected this time around, it will be something to tell the grandkids one day, and I imagine it will look pretty impressive on my resume).

At this point, I wouldn't say that I am making a career change from Jewish / Israel education into politics. As I see it, I am just trying to find the best way for myself to take an active role in helping the Jewish People achieve their destiny - in the Jewish State, of course.

We are taught in Pirkei Avot - Ethics of the Fathers (2:21):

It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task. Yet, you are not free to desist from it...

A good friend of mine said, "Aliyah is not the goal, it's the starting point".

I didn't make Aliyah to simply settle down and live a quiet life - there are many challenges currently facing the Jewish People and State, and I came here to do my part in helping to overcome them.

The only question that remains is how can I best do that?

Any suggestions?

I'm proud to be a Jew living in the Jewish State...

One of the main purposes, according to traditional Jewish teaching, for there being a Jewish State in the Land of Israel is to enable the Jewish People to serve as an Or LaGoyim - A light unto the nations, by creating an ideal society within the Jewish State, which will help to perfect the world under the Kingdom of G-d - something which is not possible on the national. universal level so long as Jews remain scattered in the Exile.

Unfortunately, during challenging times, it is difficult to see if we, the Jewish People in the Jewish State, are truly fulfilling our Divine mandate.

Thankfully, today, the Jewish State and People got it right.

Kenya asks Israel to train rescue crews

Kenya has requested Israel's assistance to train and set up a rescue-and-relief team similar to the IDF's Home Front Command, Lt. Col. Yishai Malka, head of the command's operation division said...

Since arriving in Nairobi on Tuesday morning to assist in the rescue of workers trapped beneath the rubble of a five storied building that collapsed on Monday, Home Front Command personnel have pulled out two survivors and seven bodies...

The entire delegation has received a warm reception from the locals as well as the local Jewish community, Malkah said. "Everyone has been extremely friendly and helpful, and we have enjoyed their full cooperation."

This is in addition to these Israeli humanitarian relief efforts around the world. (All in all, the State of Israel has provided humanitarian aid to 140 countries):

Israeli Medical Aid to Flood Victims in Central America

Israeli Aid to Kosovo Refugees

Israel Sends Emergency Aid to Ethiopia

Israeli Aid to Earthquake Victims in El Salvador - January-February 2001

Israeli Aid for Turkish Earthquake Victims

Israeli Aid to Earthquake Victims in India - January 2001

Israel aids Hurricane Katrina victims

Israeli Aid Group Saves Lives of Five Iraqi Children

Pakistan accepts relief aid from Israel

Israel Offers Humanitarian Aid to Iranian Earthquake Victims

I can't think of any better example of what it means for the Jewish People & State to act as a "Light unto the Nations" and to sanctify G-d's name in the eyes of the world.

It's time like these that remind me of how fortunate I am to be a member of the Jewish People, and to be living in the Jewish State.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Guess Who? Quotable Quotes...

Who said the following statement?

"Ben-Gurion called Hebron Jerusalem's elder sister. If we were a normal nation, when a visitor arrived here we would take him not to Yad VaShem but, rather, to Hebron. We'd take him to the place where our roots are. No other people has a monument like the Tomb of the Patriarchs, where Abraham and Sarah are buried. And Isaac and Rebecca. And Jacob and Leah. There isn't anything like it. Therefore, under any agreement Jews will live in Hebron...

"We put too much stress on the security issues. That was a mistake. My mistake, too. The element of the cradle of the Jewish people is critical for us to be able to live here. Indeed, there is a constant questioning of our right. We have to talk about the continuum of Jewish life that has been here. Even in order to live in Tel Aviv, we need a root in Hebron."

Look how far we've come...

To witness the effects that the Post-Zionist ideology has had on the State of Israel, consider the following examples from the last six months alone:
  1. Calls for the division of Jerusalem.

  2. The expulsion of Jews in Hebron from property legally belonging to the Jewish community Hebron.

  3. Allowing Hamas to run in the "Palestinian" elections - including in Jerusalem.

  4. The expulsion of thousands of Jews from their homes in Gush Katif and the Shomron at the hands of the IDF and police.

  5. The right of the Jewish People to a Jewish State in the Land of Israel is now dependant on it fitting into the "Defensible Borders" doctrine, or it falling within an area where there is already a Jewish majority - as can be seen by the route of Israel's "security fence".

Forget "Both sides of the Jordan River" or even the dream of "Greater Israel" - today, the battle is over whether or not Israel will exist as a Jewish State or merely a State of the Jews (A 2nd hand imitation of America) - and if left up to the State of Israel's current leadership, the decision has already been made.

Quick Question...

Do the Israeli media and Israeli left still care if anyone is praying for Ariel Sharon - or is he not considered newsworthy anymore?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

"Save the Diaspora" - Why?

The Jerusalem Post, in a recent editorial entitled Save the Diaspora, has found the latest cause for the Jewish State of Israel to champion:

According to data presented this week by the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, based on studies by the demographer Sergio DellaPergola, America's 5.28 million-strong Jewish community is but 45,000 people larger than Israel's... Israeli Jewry is growing rapidly while the Diaspora's current population of 7.75 million Jews is already a drastic 2.25 million people smaller than a mere 35 years ago, according to DellaPergola's studies.

It is clear to anyone who is intellectually honest that the Jewish community of the United States is in a rapid decline, that the State of Israel is primed to become the largest Jewish community in the world (the only one with a positive growth rate), and that the future of the Jewish People is going to be taking place in the Land of Israel - which is consistent with the fundamental principles of both Judaism and most streams of Zionism.

As such, the logical conclusion that the State of Israel should be drawing from these statistics would be for her to be doing everything in her power to ensure that the shifting of the center of Jewish life from New York & Washington to Jerusalem & Tel Aviv is done as smoothly as possible, and to begin assisting American Jewry in coming to terms with this new reality and demonstrating to them that the Jewish State of Israel can be considered a viable option for those interested in continuing their Jewish lives.

Makes sense, right?

Wrong. At least if you write Op-Eds for the Jerusalem Post.

This is anything but a welcome trend... The way we see it, the demographic and spiritual survival of the Diaspora is vital for the future of the Jewish nation in general, and the Jewish state in particular... We, as the Jewish state, must get down to the business of nourishing the Diaspora... The next government should formally define the revitalization of the Diaspora as a strategic aim.

I will be the first to admit that I would have liked to see the State of Israel become the largest Jewish community in the world through Aliyah alone, and not through the assistance of assimilation. Yet, what is the basis for the claim that the Jewish People and State can't survive without a strong Jewish presence outside of the State of Israel?

We have witnessed over and over again, throughout the long and tortuous 2,000 year Exile, that the Jewish People can not find any lasting peace and security (whether physical or spiritual), and that sooner or later, they will be asked or forced to leave their countries of residence. This was the reasoning behind the establishment of political Zionism and the quest of the Jewish People to re-establish a Jewish State in the Land of Israel; the re-established State of Israel would be a place where the Jewish People could live as masters of their own destiny and not need to rely on the kindness and goodwill of the nations of the world.

That being said, I am in favor of the Jewish State of Israel providing the Jewish communities of the world with assistance for endeavors that are meant to strengthen their Jewish identity, and their connection to the Jewish People, State and the Land of Israel. Yet, by no means should the State of Israel be interested in "revitalizing" the Diaspora, and I say this for three reasons:

1st, it's a bad investment. Despite all the resources (financial and otherwise) that the State of Israel has allocated to trying to "revitalize" the Diaspora, on the whole, there continue to be fewer and fewer Jews to show for it. Programs like birthright and MASA that strengthen Jewish identity while strengthening the connection to the Jewish People and State are worthwhile investments, and should continue to be funded, but they seem to represent the exception rather than the rule.

2nd, the Jewish People belong in Israel - both from a Zionist and Jewish perspective. Why should the State of Israel help the Jewish communities of the world do something that is contrary to their own well-being and that of the State of Israel? Granted, The State of Israel can't force any Jew to come and live in Israel, but that doesn't mean that the State of Israel needs to assist them in their decision to remain in the Exile.

The proper approach that the State of Israel should be taking is the one that was taken a few years ago in response to the economic crisis in Argentina. The State of Israel opened her doors to the Jews of Argentina, offering them a lifeline - a way to get back up on their feet, through their choosing to come home to Israel where the Israeli government was waiting with open arms to do everything possible to assist them - and many took them up on their offer.

3rd, imagine what an impact the Aliyah of 1-2 million American Jews would have on the State of Israel! Imagine the impact on the economy, on the way people do business and treat each other. Imagine the impact that 2 million Jews from AMERICA would do to the morale of this country. Imagine an Israel that can tap into the American know-how, drive, passion and creativity. Imagine the impact that 2 million Americans would have on the way Israel's electoral and judicial systems, as well as the media operated. The Jewish State would no longer need to consider retreating from parts of her Homeland due to demographic considerations. There would be enough Jews to settle the Negev, the Galil, the Golan, Jerusalem and Judea & Samaria.

Would Israel miss the millions of dollars donated annually by American Jews? Sure, but right now, Israel misses actual Jews more. Also, imagine an Israel where all of these wealthy Jews brought their capital, as well as their businesses over to Israel and invested them into the economy - that would be doing more for Israel than any check from America ever could. Additionally, with the American Jewish community in decline, and with the younger generation of American Jews showing a disconnect with the Jewish State, it can be expected that in the not-to-distant future, the stream of American $$$ is going to dry up.

For all those reasons and so many more, it is in the absolute best interests of the Jewish State of Israel to do everything it can to allow Jerusalem to become the center of the Jewish world, in mind, spirit and body. The American Jewish community is in decline, following the natural course of all Jewish communities in Exile throughout the last two thousand years.

The United States of America has been good to the Jewish People and State, and the American Jewish community has, by and large, been a tremendous asset and faithful ally, and for all of this the State of Israel should be appreciative. However, the State of Israel can't afford to let nostalgia stand in the way of Jewish destiny - and that Jewish destiny is playing itself out in the Land of Israel.

To my Jewish brothers and sisters in the Diaspora (AKA: Exile): Come home now, while good seats are still available... (Or, act now and avoid the Mashiach rush).

Monday, January 23, 2006

Courtesy, Professionalism and Respect... from the police... in Israel???

When I was still living in NY, I remember seeing on the side of all NYPD vehicles in big, red, bolded letters: CPR, alongside which were the words:





Established in October 1996 to test, measure and assess the level of compliance with courtesy, professionalism and respect displayed by members of the service to both citizens and members within the Department.

Until today, I assumed that CPR and police were things that seemed to just work better in NY, like bagels and cream cheese.

That all changed as a result of a car ride and a phone call.

This past Friday, I was on my way to Zichron Ya'akov where I was going to be spending Shabbat with my family. On the way, I passed a field where I noticed a large fire burning. I fulfilled my civic responsibility by calling the police department (I didn't know the # for the fire department off hand), and that was seemingly that.

Earlier this afternoon, I received a phone call (with a blocked number) from a very serious sounding gentleman and the conversation went something like this (in Hebrew. mostly):

Police: Hello.

Ze'ev: Hello.

Police: Am I speaking with Ze'ev *******? (I know that 99% of you already know who I am, but...)

Ze'ev: Yes.

Police: This is so and so (I don't remember his name) from the Zichron Ya’akov Police Department.

Ze'ev: Ok. (Wondering what I possibly could have done wrong).

Police: I am calling regarding a complaint that you filed on Friday regarding a fire that was burning in a field.

Ze'ev: Well... I wasn't complaining, I was just reporting the fire, that's all.

Police: That's just the word we use (in Hebrew: T'lunah) - it doesn't mean that you were actually complaining.

Ze'ev: Oh, ok.

Police: I'm calling to follow up and make sure that your "complaint" was handled in a professional and courteous manner. I wanted to know, how did the person whom you reported the fire to treated you?

Ze'ev: Huh? (I couldn't believe that he was serious).

Police: Was she patient? Did she rush you?...

Ze'ev: She was fine. It was a very quick conversation. I saw the fire. Called. Told her the details and that was it.

Police: So, she treated you well?

Ze'ev: Yes, she was fine.

Police: Good, because we take these things very seriously. It's important that people know that the police are here to help them, and that we take their concerns seriously. We want people to feel comfortable coming to us and knowing that we will help them, whether it's a concern that directly relates to them, or if its for the general public welfare, as was the case with your "complaint".

Ze'ev: Ok, great. Thanks.

Police: Thank you.

Don't get me wrong. I still have plenty of issues with Israel's police force, but credit must be given where credit is due.

Now, if only we could work on the bagel and cream cheese situation...

Why live in America?

One of the primary reasons that many (otherwise observant / committed) Jews give for not living in Israel is that Israel needs Jews in the United States to help influence US foreign policy in a direction that would be favorable to Israel.

I wonder how that logic is affected by the following headline:

ADL chief: Franklin affair could pose threat to Jewish lobbyists

Now, let's put aside for a moment the question as to how effective Jewish lobbying efforts on behalf of Israel truly are, and how many Jews can truly say that they personally are needed in the US for those efforts to continue bearing fruit. (Personally speaking, I do not believe that the US has ever made a foreign policy decision relating to Israel that was not, first and foremost, in her own best interest - if it also happened to benefit Israel, mah tov.)

Two days after former Pentagon analyst Larry A. Franklin was sentenced to 12 years and seven months in jail for sharing classified information with pro-Israel lobbyists, several American Jewish community leaders echoed a single refrain: There's reason to worry...

Anti-Defamation League director Abe Foxman said the Franklin affair could potentially pose a threat to all Jewish lobbyists.

Some American Jewish leaders are concerned by the influence the trial could have on the relations between Jewish groups and the administration.

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, said on Sunday that he found Franklin's sentence "disturbing."

With Jewish lobbying efforts having been seemingly neutralized by the current Bush administration ("the best friend in the White House Israel has ever had"), what reason is there for Jewish lobbyists to continue living in the US - there can be no doubt that they can now do significatly more for Israel from Israel than they can by remaining in the US?

Believe me, the US will continue to pressure Israel to capitulate to murderers and terrorists and retreat ("disengage") from even more of our ancient Homeland even without your lobbying efforts. So, why not come home, and enjoy the fruits of your labor first hand?

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Hebron "Situation": A matter of perspective

There are many who believe that the situation that is currently unfolding in Hebron represents a desecration of G-d's name - the question is, who is guilty of it, and why.

There are those who are quick to point an accusing finger at the Jewish residents of Hebron, along with those who have gathered in Hebron to support them, for refusing to allow themselves to be expelled from land that legally belongs to the Jewish community of Hebron. It is claimed that these Jews are not respecting the rule of law, and by actively resisting the security forces, they are desecrating G-d's name.

Now, I do not condone the use of unprovoked violence against the security forces - short of self-defense. However, before we are quick to judge the Jews of Hebron, ask yourselves how you might react if you were being expelled from a home that legally belonged to you. Now consider that this home has been in your family for thousands of years, and is the very place where your forefathers are buried?

The last time the Jewish People were expelled from Hebron was after the 1929 Hebron massacre where the British allowed the Arabs of Hebron to slaughter the peaceful Jewish inhabitants, slaughtering 67 Jews and wounding many more. At the end of the riots, the British expelled the remaining Jews from Hebron, stating that they could not provide for their security.

What if it were the British, today, who were once again trying to expel the Jews from Hebron - would resisting still be considered a desecration of G-d's name?

Is it truly a desecration of G-d's name to stand up against injustice - even if it is other Jews who are responsible, in this case, the Government and the security services of the State of Israel? Is not a Jew accepting falsehood for truth and injustice in the place of justice a desecration of the name of G-d?

If a Jew is not allowed to stand up for his right to live in Hebron, of all the places in Israel - a place where no one can question the Jewish connection to - and in the present situation, where a legal claim has already been established that the buildings legally belong to the Jewish community of Hebron - then when would it be ok for a Jew to stand up for his rights?

If one is looking for a desecration of G-d's name, then shift your focus away from the Jewish community for a moment. Is it not a desecration of G-d's name that the government of the Jewish State of Israel has ordered the Jewish army and police forces to expel Jews from the city of our forefathers before the eyes of the entire world?

It's all a matter of perspective.

The ultimate insult

Over the last year Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has had a number of choice comments directed towards Israel and the Jewish People. Among the more exciting ones have been:
* "Israel must be wiped off the map"

* "If the Europeans are honest they should give some of their provinces in Europe - like in Germany, Austria or other countries - to the Zionists and the Zionists can establish their state in Europe.

To be totally honest comments such as there don't get me too excited, and the reason for that is, is that anyone who doesn't realize that Ahmadinejad is merely saying what every Arab leader in the world thinks (along with many European ones as well - as far as Israel being wiped out is concerned) was living in a fantasy world.

What troubled me about these comments was the lack of action taken by the world, short of fiery condemnations. In the year 2006, a mere 60 years after the Holocaust ended, the Jewish People and State are being threatened with (nuclear) annihilation and no one in the world seems to care. The world today relates to Israel as the modern day equivalent of Czechoslovakia in the wake of World War II, with Ahmadinejad playing the role of Hitler, and Iran that of Nazi Germany.

But, this past Thursday, Ahmadinejad, on a two-day visit to Syria, finally went too far. In echoing his earlier call for Europe to allow a Jewish State to be established on its soil (in place of the one that currently exists in Israel), he added that that no Jew would continue living in Israel 'if the doors of Europe were opened to them.'

Does he really believe that the vast majority of Jews in Israel would pick up leave for greener pastures the moment they were provided with a Green Card or European passport? Does he really believe that Zionism has become so empty of Jewish ideals and values that Jews in Israel are looking to hop on the 1st plane out of here? Does he really believe that there are no proud Jews left in Israel?

I can live with the threat of annihilation or the pie in the sky calls for Jews to return to Europe - but I can't live with someone intimating that the Jewish State is full of a bunch of sell-outs.

That one really hurt!

I mean, he's wrong, isn't he?

Remember: You were once a slave in the Land of Israel

In the wake of yet another suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, here is what Israel's Chief of Police, Moshe Karadi, had to say in a recent interview with Israel's Channel 2...

Police chief: We'll use force... if needed
"The scenes we have witnessed throughout last week are very bad. There is something worse than using violence, and that is giving in to violence...".

"This is why we must not accept the phenomenon we have seen. These people are law breakers who do not recognize the state's authority, which is why we have no other choice but to enforce the law and do what needs to be done," Karadi, concluded.

Believe it or not, Karadi was not referring to last week's terror attack and the need for a strong response by the State of Israel to end the threat against the Jewish State once and for all, and not continue to give into Arab violence. No, Karadi was referring to the Jews of Hebron who have refused to quietly leave an area that has been recognized as legally belonging to the Jewish community of Hebron.

Caroline Glick said it best in her Friday column in the Jerusalem Post - 'Cool' anti-Semitism:
Case in point is the government's handling of the Jewish "squatters" in the former marketplace in Hebron. The property in dispute is owned by a Jewish trust - the Magen Avot Sephardic Community - which purchased the land 199 years ago. Today, the Magen Avot Sephardic Community is headed by former Sephardic chief rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu. The Community wants the property to be used to house Jews.

On the face of it, it all seems rather cut and dried. The area is directly adjacent to the Jewish Avraham Avinu neighborhood. It is owned by Jews who want its current Jewish residents to remain in place. Why would the government have a problem with eight Jewish families living in the former shops in full accord with the expressed wishes of the property's owner?

On Tuesday morning I asked Lieutenant Assaf Azoulay, the spokesman for the Judea and Samaria Division, this question during a visit to Hebron. Azoulay responded angrily, "It's an issue of the supremacy of law!"

What law is being broken? Is it illegal for Jews in Israel to live in land that is legally recognized as being owned by other Jews for hundreds of years? Is it legal for the Government of Israel to act as if the State of Israel is a police state, in which those in power have the absolute authority to arbitrarily decide to throw out any Jew from his home just because they feel like it?

If the Government of Israel and the security and judicial establishments are so concerned about upholding the rule of law, to the point that they are willing to use 4,000 members of Israel's security forces to destroy the Jewish community of Amona which they deem as being illegal, then where is the concern for upholding the rule of law when it comes to illegal Arab construction throughout Israel?
Illegal construction has become an effective means to challenge Jewish sovereignty over Jerusalem, to undermine major infrastructure and housing projects in the Negev and Galilee, to limit the freedom/security of Jewish movement along major transportation arteries, to facilitate terrorism and to exacerbate crime. While Israel has faced that threat meekishly, it is enforcing the law in an iron-fist manner when it comes to a few scores of Jewish houses throughout Judea & Samaria and Hebron (built on a Jewish-registered property, which was ravaged by Arabs in 1929).

Where is the Israeli government's outcry as illegal Arab construction cuts off Gush Etzion from Jerusalem? Is not Gush Etzion considered, even by the most left-wing to be part of the ultimate borders of the Jewish State? Why the blind eye and deaf ear being turned by the government and judicial establishment in the wake of this heinous land grab by our enemies?

And what of Jerusalem, the as of yet, undivided and eternal capitol of the Jewish State?

* Over 1,000 illegal houses are built annually – by Jerusalem Arabs – since 1997. Only 30-40 are demolished by the authorities.

* Since 1967, there has been more Arab residential (largely illegal) construction in Jerusalem than Jewish construction in the capital of the Jewish State.

* About 10,000 illegal houses are built, annually, by "Green Line" Arabs in the Galilee, Negev, "Triangle", Lod and Ramleh. About 100 are demolished.

Where are the Peace Now petitions decrying the illegal Arab construction, demanding that Israel's Supreme Court uphold the rule of law? Where are the calls by acting PM Ehud Olmert or IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz to use any and all means to put down these law breakers?

This is not the first time in the long history of the Jewish People where Jews received "special" treatment at the hand of the ruling regime. Just as we survived and outlasted all the others, so to will we outlast this one and live to witness the establishment of a truly Jewish State in the Land of Israel.

It would only be logical that before the State of Israel decides to expel the Jews of Hebron from homes that legally belong to them that they should concern themselves with upholding the laws that they themselves have enacted in an even-handed manner.

Friday, January 20, 2006

I love Israel more than you do...

Poll: Israelis biggest patriots in West

Before we delve into the findings of this poll, it is important for us to understand the definition of the term patriotism:
A) Love of and devotion to one's country.

B) love of country and willingness to sacrifice for it [syn: nationalism]

Now that we have an understanding of what it means to be a patriot, let's take a look at the results of the study which examines what it means to be a patriot in the State of Israel today, and which segments of Israeli society are the most patriotic.
Israelis are the most patriotic people in the Western world according to a survey taken by the Institute for Policy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya...

"Patriotism is a sentiment that is often neglected in Israel; it is almost a taboo subject," said Arad. "We are very quick at self flagellation and criticism."

But patriotism he noted is a vital component in measuring national security. "It is impossible to measure a country's strength without addressing the patriotic component among its citizens," said Arad...

85% of all respondents did express a willingness to fight (to defend Israel) compared to 63% in the US, 53% in Italy, 51% in France, 37% in Spain, 32% in Germany and 32% in Japan...

Patriotism among Jewish citizens is stronger among people on the political right than on the political left. It is also stronger among religious and traditional Jews than it is among secular Jews; and older people tend to be more patriotic than younger ones.

One might have expected the poll to reveal that the most patriotic segment of Israeli society would be those living in Tel Aviv; the Meretz, Labor and Kadima voters - those who, in the name of democracy and rule of law would throw their own brother out of his home and into the street.

Yet, amazingly enough, we find that those portrayed by the Government, media, IDF, police and Supreme Court as being the enemies of the State of Israel - namely those on the political and religious right - are in fact the most patriotic segments within Israeli society today.

This poll sheds light on an amzing fact. In the State of Israel, being patriotic is more than merely an expression of subservience to the rule of law or democracy, but to a belief in higher ideals and principles.

What is it about the relious and political right - the enemies of democracy and the rule of law - that have earned them the distinction of being among the most patriotic members of Israeli society?

I belive that it is specifically because for these Jews, the purpose of there being State of Israel is not to be a "nation like all others" or the "only democracy in the Middle East". These Jews share the belief in the right of the Jewish People to a Jewish State in the Land of Israel - as promised to them by the G-d of Israel - and it is this belief that allows them to remain the ultimate patriots, standing in the face of those who have shown a willingness to sell our Jewish birthright for the proverbial bowl of lentil soup.
Although education is one of the tools to encourage patriotism, the survey found that patriotism was stronger among people without university education than among those with academic degrees.

This is hardly surprising, as Israel's Universities have become dens of post-Zionist and anti-Israel sentiment, full of professors who aim to poison the minds of all who pass through their doors, by teaching them to hate their Jewishness and to hate the very idea of the right of the Jewish people to a Jewish State.

It is the traditional Jew, the Jew of simple faith, who understands what it means to be a Jew without the need of any university professor; he knows where he has come from and where he is headed and what it means to have a Jewish State after 2,000 years of Exile. This Jew of simple faith may not be the most educated, but it is not he who undermines the existenace of the Jewish State of israel, or seeks to leave it for greener pastures abroad.
All in all however, Arad's assessment is that there is a "patriotic deficit" attributable in part to post-Zionism... National pride was eradicated in the post-Zionist era he said...

Patriotism in the State of Israel is directly linked to Jewish Pride. Without pride - Jewish pride - whereby one knows why he is a Jew and why the Jewish should People continue to exist - and the role that a Jewish State in the Land of Israel plays in that - one can't possibly be a true patriot to the Jewish State of Israel.
"And without pride there is no patriotism."

And no State of Israel...

Perhaps there is what to learn from the religious and the "settlers" after all?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Falling asleep at the wheel - Part II

Generally speaking, my postings aim to be clear and concise (albeit a bit wordy). This post is not like that. I have been struggling with some ideas of late, and I am using this blog as a place to vent. I do not know if in a few hours I will still feel the way that I do, but only time will tell. In the meantime, you are now holding a front row ticket to the inner workings of my heart and mind.

In the last few days alone I have heard two sentiments expressed over and over again by those who, in the past, have been at the forefront of Jewish activism in defense of the right of the Jewish People to a Jewish State throughout the Land of Israel (West of the Jordan):

1) "I can't listen to the news or open a newspaper, the news is just too depressing."

2) "I don't plan on voting in the upcoming elections. We have no voice in this country, our votes don't count for anything, so why bother?"

There is a sense of despondency and hopelessness pervading the hearts of some of our very best and most committed Jews in the Land of Israel.

For the last week I have been shocked by the fact that Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has taken steps to expel the Jews of Hebron out homes which legally belong to the Jewish community of Hebron, as well as taking steps to divide Jerusalem by allowing the upcoming PLO elections to take place there - and by and large, there hasn't been much of a response.

Where are the tens of thousands of Jews who took to the streets this past summer in an effort to stop the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif and the Shomron, now that Hebron and Jerusalem are on the chopping block?!?

My sense is that many of those thousands feel betrayed. Betrayed by their government, by their army, by their leaders... and these Jews have come to the painful realization that short of divine intervention, there seems to be little standing in the way of the new bulldozer operator, Ehud Olmert.

These are challenging days.

I don't have any real answers, but I do believe that if we give up hope, then all will certainly be lost. It is up to us to do all that we can for our nation and our Homeland and hope that our actions will not be in vain.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

When "right" becomes wrong...

I was talking with a friend of mine who works in the Israeli media earlier today, and among the things that I asked this person was how I could begin having my writing featured in more mainstream publications in order to get my ideas out to a wider range of people.

The rest of the conversation went something like this:

Journalist friend: In your writing you (Ze'ev) need to learn how to separate between being pro-right and being pro-Israel.

Ze'ev: What exactly does that mean?

Journalist friend: If you (Ze'ev) want to be able to write for more mainstream publications and organizations, then you need to focus more on the consensus issues.

Ze'ev: Can you give me an example of a consensus issue?

Journalist friend: The right of the State of Israel to exist.

Ze'ev: We must really be going for the lowest common denominator here. I remember when the idea of Jerusalem being the undivided capitol of the Jewish State of Israel was also a consensus issue.

Journalist friend: Not a good idea.

Ze'ev: What's not?

Journalist friend: If you want to write for more mainstream publications, those are the types of things you shouldn't be saying.

I came to the realization that were I to focus my writing on being pro-Israel, as opposed to being pro-right (as my journalist friend defined it), then there would be no real point of my writing anymore. I recognize that my views are not mainstream, but I write from the heart, and I try to bring awareness to the challenges facing the Jewish People and State and what we can being doing to overcome them.

I write about the subjects and ideas that I do, not to win any popularity contests, but because I believe them to be true, and I believe that they present a vision that will lead to the strengthening of the Jewish People and State; a vision which will enable us to fulfill our collective mission and unique destiny in this world.

It is my hope, that in doing so, some people out there just might be inspired by these ideas; inspired or intrigued enough to give these ideas some thought and even spread them around to others; perhaps there may even be a few of you out there who will be so inspired or convinced by some of what I have to say that you just might be willing to help take some of these ideas and help bring them to fruition.

I'm an idealist - I think big and have high hopes, what can I say.

For the time being, any dreams that I may have of making a career in writing are on hold, but at least I still have this blog, along with a few other venues, which enables me to express my ideas to a rather broad audience, and most importantly, if you're reading this, I still have you.

So, whoever you are, and for whatever reason you might happen to be here, thanks for reading, and I'll try to keep things interesting enough to keep you coming back for more.

And if any of you happen to know of anyone who might be interested in hiring a non-mainstream or non-consensus writer (when it comes to issues relating to Israel and the Jewish People), drop me a line.

Falling asleep at the wheel - Part I

(Thanks to Lynn of In Context for reminding me of this speech by Acting PM Ehud Olmert which should be a cause of great concern to all of us in Israel, regardless of one's political and/or religious beliefs).

In a speech delivered a mere 6 months ago, at a dinner for the ultra-leftist Israel Policy Forum, our Acting Prime Minister had the following words to say:
We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies, we want that we will be able to live in an entirely different environment of relations with our enemies. We want them to be our friends, our partners, our good neighbors, and I believe that this is not impossible...

(For an analysis of the entire speech, click here).

Is it any wonder that today, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who has already expressed to the world that he is tired, is in the process of giving away both Jerusalem and Hebron while willfully ignoring the tremendous terror threat that continues to hover over the Jewish State of Israel?!?

I do not know how anyone in Israel can sleep at night knowing that the man leading the country has given up hope; a man who no longer believes in the absolute right of the Jewish People to a Jewish State in the Land of Israel; a man who has lost the will to fight and stand strong for our rights and our lives.

Ehud, if you're so tired, please do us all a favor and go home and allow someone who isn't tired of fighting; who isn't tired of being courageous; who isn't tired of winning and who isn't tired of defeating our enemies to take your place.

Hopefully, there is still someone left in Israel who fits that description.

Monday, January 16, 2006

"Justice, justice you shall pursue..."

It's days like today that make it clear to me how relevant the prayers that we say each day are.

Court rejects Jonathan Pollard's bid to become Prisoner of Zion
The High Court of Justice on Monday rejected a petition by Jonathan Pollard, an American Jewish citizen convicted and jailed in the U.S. for spying for Israel, to be granted Prisoner of Zion status, which would have required the government to do all it could to secure his release. Israel had previously refused to grant him this status, originally created for Jewish activists imprisoned in the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 80s.

The court rejected the petition on technical grounds, saying that Pollard did not qualify for Prisoner of Zion under Israeli law.

Let's take a closer look at the criteria that must be met in order to be recognized as a Prisoner of Zion, and we will discover that Jonathan Pollard meets every single criteria.

Background: Definition of "Prisoner of Zion" Compensation Law 1992
Chapter A Section 1 Definitions (A) In this Law -

"Prisoner of Zion" - each of the following:

(1) Someone who was imprisoned or who spent at least six months in detention or exile because of their Zionist activity in a country where such activity was illegal, and all this if he is an Israeli citizen by power of return and a resident of Israel;
(3) Someone imprisoned, detained or exiled because of any of the aforesaid reasons in passages (1) and (2) ...and all if the Law of Return 1950 would have applied to him.

IMRA: It should be noted that there is no reference in (1) to the country where the "Zionist activity" took place being an "enemy" country - only that the "Zionist activity" that the Prisoner of Zion carried out was illegal in that country. Jonathan Pollard's "Zionist activity" is illegal in the U.S.

Pollard is currently imprisoned because of his "Zionist activity" per (1) and Jewish, and thus the Law of Return of 1950 would apply to him - thus fulfilling (3).

The rejection by Israel's Supreme Court to grant Pollard Prisoner of Zion status (even though he has been officially recognized as a Prisoner of Zion by the Prisoners of Zion Organization, by former Prisoners of War and their respective organizations, and Israel's Knesset, which has issued a statement to that effect) basically condemns him - as far as the State of Israel is concerned - to rot in hell for the remainder of his life; his reward for years of service and self-sacrifice to the Jewish State and People being the continued abuse and torture (see end of the article) at the hands of our "closest ally", the United States.

Jonathan Pollard's Attorney in Israel, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, stated that...:
"The Government's refusal to grant Jonathan Pollard PoZ status, even though he legally qualifies for this status, can only be understood as politically motivated, and as an attempt on the part of the Government to continue to avoid discharging its legal obligations to Mr. Pollard.

Three times a day the Jewish People recite the following words in their daily prayers:
Restore our judges as at first,

And our counselors as in the beginning,

Removing from us sorrow and sighing;

Rule over us, You alone, Hashem,

With kindness and mercy,

And vindicate us in the judgment.

Blessed are You, Hashem, King who loves righteousness and judgment.

May we merit to see this blessing come to fruition speedily in our days (along with the release of Jonathan Pollard), and see the cruelty, tyranny and wickedness of the current judicial system come to an end, with those responsible for the current state of affiars being held accountable for their perversion of justice.

Look who's (not) praying now...

I have the utmost respect for Israel's media.

I have no doubt that all of their calls for prayer on behalf of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, along with their efforts to determine who in fact was and was not praying for him, were all out of a genuine concern for the well-being of the leader of the Jewish State and People.

As such, I am confident that the Israeli media will be no less vigorous in their calls for prayer by the Israeli public on behalf of Rabbi Yitzhak Kedouri (Yitzhak ben Tufcha), the 100+/- year old Kabalistic sage who is currently fighting for his life in an Israeli hospital, and who so many among the Jewish People, particularly within Israel, have looked to for blessings and prayers for divine intervention upon their behalf.

It's just a matter of time before the Israeli media will pick up on it...

Any minute now, I'm sure of it...

I just can't imagine that the Israeli media would allow itself to be guilty of such a double standard - of politicizing prayer and using it to adavance their own leftist / secular political agenda, would they?

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Politicking away the Jewish State...

In the wake of the stroke suffered by Ariel Sharon, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had the enormous burden of trying to solidify the government, inspire confidence in the citizens of the State of Israel, and last, but certainly not least, pull the Kadima party together for the upcoming election run.

Believe it or not, he has been relatively successful on all counts.

What is the secret to his success?

Olmert, a lifelong politician and the right-hand man of Ariel Sharon, knows better than most that Israelis love more than any thing else a strong leader who is able to stand strong against the enemies of the State of Israel - and that is exactly what Olmert has been doing, while putting all other concerns on the backburner.

Here are some examples:

1) 'Criminal acts' and Arab olive trees
In his first public statement, after taking over the chairing of the cabinet following Prime Minister Sharon's incapacitation, Olmert said that the acts (the recent chopping downof thousands of olive trees cultivated by "Palestinian" farmers) were "a terrible thing which should not be countenanced... This must be prevented; the perpetrators must be apprehended."

2) Government official: Illegal outpost to go no matter what
"The planned evacuation at the Amona outpost alongside Ofra will go ahead come hell or high water. The police will receive full backing," the government official said. "The settlers' protests prior to the expected evacuation aren't make any impression."

3) Olmert: We'll punish violent settlers
"In recent days we see radical elements assaulting IDF and defense establishment personnel," Olmert said. "I ordered security forces to act decisively to prevent the continuation of this phenomenon."

"The State of Israel is a law-abiding country and whoever raises a hand against defense establishment members will be punished in the most severe manner," the acting prime minister warned.

4) Main Road in Judea and Samaria May be Closed to Jewish Traffic
The next step in the government’s attempts to implement the US-backed Road Map for setting up a Palestinian state may be to prohibit Jews from driving on the main highway in Judea and Samaria.

The military authority charged with building the security barrier roughly along the state’s pre-1967 boundaries, Keshet Tsvaim, has already drafted a proposal to restrict Jewish traffic on the highway. If implemented, the proposal would force Jews to travel dozens of miles out of the way in order to reach their homes or get to work.

5) Olmert OKs Palestinian Voting in Jerusalem
Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert faced his first major test on Sunday when he led his Cabinet in a unanimous decision to let Palestinians vote in Jerusalem later this month, defusing a crisis that threatened to derail the parliamentary elections.

6) Israel to use commandos against Hebron Jews
Security sources said acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has approved a proposal for the deployment of army and police commandos to expel and dismantle an unauthorized Jewish neighborhood in Hebron...

"The decision reflected the priority of the government over the next two weeks," a security source said. "The government has based its credibility on the destruction of this illegal outpost."

Here are some of the issues that Olmert, in his zeal to fight the enemies of the State of Israel, has neglected to deal with:

1) Israel: Palestinian missiles' range extended to 40 km
An Israeli military report said Palestinian insurgency groups have obtained the technology to extend the range of their missiles to up to 40 kilometers.

Israeli officials said a review by the military and Israel Security Agency asserted that Hamas and Islamic Jihad have acquired technology and expertise from Iran and Hizbullah to extend the Qassam-class missile to 40 kilometers. They said the two groups have already succeeded in extending the range of their missiles to about 14 kilometers.

2) Weapons smuggling into Gaza rising
"The amount of weapons and explosives smuggled into the Gaza Strip from Egypt has grown drastically, by more than 300 percent," (Shin Bet Director Yuval) Diskin told the committee, which convened in his Tel Aviv office.

"If before the disengagement they smuggled in 200 to 300 rifles a month, they are now smuggling in close to 3,000..."

Terror organizations, Diskin said, have used the last few months to build up their military forces and to develop long-range Qassam rockets.

3) Rocket threat prompts water company to stop using chlorine gas
Israel's water company has stopped injecting chlorine gas at a facility near the Gaza Strip for fear that Palestinian-fired rockets would hit tanks holding the potentially deadly substance, a company official said Sunday.

Just to recap... While Qassam rockets continue to fall on Israel (within range not only of Jewish communities - which is deemed acceptable in the eyes of the Govermentof Israel, but industrial zones crucial to the day to day existence of the State of Israel) and an unprecedented amount of weapons and terrorists continue to flow into Gaza, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert busies himself with the following concerns:

* Determining who has been uprooting the "Palestinian's" olive trees - strongly suggesting that Jews of Yesha are responsible for all of the incidents. (This has been proven to be false, as can be seen from the following posts: #1, #2, & #3).

* The destruction of Jewish communities in Yesha - by any means possible - including the Jewish community of Hebron.

* Creating "Apartheid Roads" whereby roads that had been built for the use of both Jewish and Arab drivers are now to be kept Jew-free.

* The former Mayor of Jerusalem has been busy with his plans over how best to divide Israel's "undivided & eternal capitol".

* Last but not least, no Israeli Prime Minister has ever dared to even consider giving away both Jerusalem and Hebron, let alone taking practical steps to implement such a plan. Ehud Olmert, less than two weeks into his tenure of Acting Prime Minister, has done just that.


In case you haven't figured it out yet, in the eyes of Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the enemies of the State of Israel are not the Arabs who seek the destruction of the Jewish People and Jewish State, but those Jews who still believe that the State of Israel is meant to exist as a Jewish State, as opposed to a State of the Jews - in particular, the Jews of Judea and Samaria (Yesha).

If only Arik were around, then everything would be O.K... right?

Israel: Where there is more to life than meets the eye...

Last night, after a "night-out" on the town, my wife and I were on a bus back home from Jerusalem. As the hour was fast approaching midnight, we had the pleasure of having a bunch of rowdy teenagers join us for the ride home. I recall remarking to my wife that these loud-mouthed, spiked (and bleached) haired, earring-wearing teenagers reminded me of some type a gang.

Of course, by the end of the bus ride, I would (thankfully) end up eating my words.

As the bus entered Ma'aleh Adumim, and people began getting off the bus, some of the teenagers took advantage of the newfound room on the bus to start roaming the isles. One of these teenagers noticed a wallet on one of the seats where someone had recently gotten off the bus. He quickly proceeded to take the wallet to the bus driver.

The other members of the "gang" gave him a funny look, seemingly asking him, "why did you give the wallet to the bus driver - you could have kept it"?

This loud-mouthed, spiked haired teenager (this one didn't have an earring) responded (in Hebrew) "It says in the Torah that it's forbidden to steal".

My wife and I broke out into huge smiles.

Sure, I wouldn't say that I agree with his style of dress or the way he and his fellow "gang-members" seem to carry themselves on a bus late at night, but this particular teenager reminded me that in Israel, one can't always judge a book by its cover.

This teenager might be just that - a teenager, but he also is a Jew; A Jew who in a single action, by my count, fulfilled many Mitzvot (commandments): He didn't steal, he returned a lost object, he sanctified the name of Hashem in the eyes of his peers, and last but not least, he reminded me that outwardly observant looking Jews (like myself) do not have a monopoly on what it means to live as a proud Jew in the Land of Israel and that observance of the Mitzvot does not fall solely within the domain of the outwardly religiously observant.
"Who is like Your nation Israel, one nation in the Land".

Friday, January 13, 2006

From Israel with love...

It is all too easy, living in Israel, to get caught up in all of the challenges that are facing the Jewish People in State; to get caught up in all of the negativity and cynicism, and in the process forget how truly special a place the Jewish State of Israel is, and how fortunate one is to be able to live here today - challenges and all.

Yesterday, a colleague of mine at work went to the post office to pick up some stamps. When she returned from the post office, she took a look at the sheet of stamps that she had purchased and was pleasantly surprised by what she saw (Hint: Scroll up).

It's the little things that make living here so special. There's nowhere else in the world where one can learn Torah from a stamp; there's no other place in the world where it is just feels so natural to see a stamp like this being sold in the post office and affixed to letters that you get in the mail (this stamp is only one set of a larger series).

Only in Israel...

Thursday, January 12, 2006

It's a little bit ironic, don't you think?

Jirias Jirias, an Israeli Arab who served as the former local council head of the Western Galilee Arab village of Fassuta, was convicted recently convicted by the State of Israel for spying for Israel's arch enemy, Iran.
...they (Iran) asked Jirias to enter Israeli politics and acquire research information on Israeli society and government," states the indictment.

The security services believe the Iranians wanted Jirias to build ties to government officials and join a political party. Jirias became a registered member of Meretz-Yahad at the end of 2004.

Isn't it a bit ironic that Jirias Jirias, spying for the country whose president openly called to "wipe Israel off the map", decided to join, of all parties, the Meretz party, which is also dedicated to getting rid of the Jewish State - albeit through very different means and for different ends.

(Sorry Haim & PP, nothing personal.)

For a rather humorous look at Meretz's involvement in this whole affair, I strongly recommend reading this article by former Meretz head, Yossi Sarid. The last line, in particular, is a classic.

Welcome to the Kitzoni Cafe

I've been honored with the chance to guest-blog over at The Muqata as Jameel Rashid prepares for his son's Bar-Mitzvah (don't ask).

I have decided to use this guest-post opportunity to announce the opening of the Kitzoni Cafe.

We all know how it is... After a long day of "grabbing hilltops", blocking roads, constructing "illegal outposts", refusing orders, and 'uprooting "Palestinian" olive trees, you just need a place to unwind - a place where everyone (not just the Shabak) knows your name - a place where you can feel at home (until the IDF comes to "disengage" you)...

To find out more about the Kitzoni Cafe, and to see what's on the menu, you'll have to head on over to The Muqata.


Deal-Makers and Deal-Breakers...

Pat Robertson - you crossed the RED line - at least in the eyes of Israel's Ministry of Tourism.

Reacting to Ariel Sharon's massive stroke, US evangelical leader Pat Robertson had the following to say (Courtesy of Jerusalem Post):
"God considers the land to be his… For any prime minister of Israel who decides he is going to carve it up and give it away he says, 'No, this is mine.'"

In response, Tourism Minister Avraham Hirchson has decided to suspend all progress on a joint project - headed by Robertson - "who agreed to raise more than $50 million to build the Heritage Center on a 14-dunam plot of land on the shores of the Sea of Galilee... The government expected the center to bring an additional 750,000 visitors to the country annually", stating,
"The minister has very strong views on this and cannot accept what was said," Tourism Ministry spokesman Ido Hartuv said. "We reconsidered the deal and realized that we cannot sign with Robertson or anyone who supports his views."

Personally, I have no problem with this. In fact, I admire the position of the Government of Israel - showing a willingness to stand up for principle in the face of certain financial (and political) loss.

The only question I have is why is it that the Government of Israel is only makes willing (or able) to take such a principled stance in this instance, but when it comes to, for example, making (peace) deals with the Arabs, we are willing to turn a blind eye to their continued calls for the destruction of the Jewish People and State?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

True Jewish Heroes

Without Aliyah, the State of Israel would be lost.

I am not speaking merely in terms of demography, where, in the Jewish State of Israel, every time a Jew makes Aliyah or a Jewish child is born, it serves as one of the greatest expressions of Jewish / Zionist fulfillment that one can actualize today - as it helps to ensure the continued vitality of the Jewish State of Israel.

No, Aliyah plays a much greater role in strengthening the Jewish State of Israel than simply bumping up the Jewish population statistics.

To see how great a role olim play in Israeli society all one needs to do is follow Ariel Sharon's medical situation, and see who has been treating him since his stroke last week.

Sharon's Argentinean-born surgical team
The surgical team that has performed brain surgery three times on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon reportedly treats him like any other patient, with no shaky hands or thoughts that the whole nation - and much of the world - is watching...

The chief surgeon is Dr. Jose Cohen, who, five years ago - living and working as a neurosurgeon in Argentina - would never have dreamed that he would perform lifesaving operations on Israel's leader.

Cohen, 39, was born and trained as a physician in Rosario, and subsequently specialized in Buenos Aires before coming on aliya four years ago to work at Hadassah. He is on call by his stroke unit 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Regarded as "an angel" by many of his patients, he heads a multidisciplinary team of some 20 physicians, nurses, computer experts, technicians and others...

(Felix) Umansky, 62, immigrated in 1973 and did his specialty in neurosurgery at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva. He spent three years in the early 1980s at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. Since 1984, Umansky has been at Hadassah, becoming a full professor at the Hebrew University Medical Faculty in 1991. He is an expert in surgery of the base of the skull and has conducted much basic and clinical research on microanatomy of the brain...

The three-member anesthesiology team that has taken part in Sharon's surgeries consists of Dr. Yoram Weiss, who was born in Tel Aviv in 1959; and brothers Dr. Ya'acov and Dr. David Gozal, born in 1959 and 1958 in Morocco. They both immigrated from France.

I have no doubt that all of these immensely gifted individuals could have excelled in their respective fields in their countries of birth. Yet, I doubt whether these doctors - these Jews - would have ever had the opportunity to contribute to the Jewish People on as grand a scale (and stage) had they decided against moving to Israel - had they decided against coming Home and devoting their talents and energies to their people and to their Homeland.

These doctors are true Jewish heroes and role models - at least they are in my eyes.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Inside the mind of an Israeli voter...

I had an interesting experience the other day.

I attended (for work) a demo educational program geared to educate overseas students who are currently studying in Israel about issues relating to the upcoming Israeli elections, and I was pleasantly surprised to find sitting to the right of me, my good friend Haim, who in all other aspects is far to the left of me.

Early on in the demo, the educator running the program asked the (rather diverse) group (of Israelis - representing various educational organizations / institutions) the following question:
How many of you already know whom you are going to be voting for in the upcoming elections?

Of the 15 of us sitting in the room only 2 (or perhaps 3) of us raised our hands.

Guess who?

That's right...

I was one of them, and Haim was the other.

This didn't surprise me all that much, as polls have been showing that anywhere between 25%-35% of Israeli voters are still uncertain as to whom they will be voting for in the upcoming elections.

Haim and I, however, have no such dilemmas. I will be voting for the ideologically right-leaning National Union party, and Haim for the ideologically left-leaning Meretz party.

What Haim and I tried to discern was why it is that we are blessed with such clarity when it comes to deciding whom to vote for, in contrast to the prevailing uncertainty plaguing so many of our fellow Israelis.

I believe, to offer a very simplified answer, that when it comes to deciding whom to vote for, we both place ideology over politics and "pragmatism".

The idea behind voting based on one's ideology was explained rather eloquently in an article in the Jerusalem Post by Avraham Feder of the Masorati (Conservative Judaism) Movement - (I strongly recommend reading the entire article, as it sheds light into the thought process of the Israeli voter):

The First Word: Cherishing my ideological vote
Where does this leave me as far as our coming election is concerned? I am arguing, on the one hand, for the validity - nay necessity - of a voter's ideological commitment to some vision of Jewish and Zionist fulfillment. On the other hand, I am accepting the reality of politics and the limitations that politicians face, even if they have the best of intentions.

Therefore, my conclusion is that (1) I will vote ideologically; and (2) I will leave the running of the country - do I have a choice? - to the government that is formed, however it is formed.

If I am to vote ideologically, it is clear that I cannot bring myself to vote for any of the three major parties leading the polls. Labor and Likud, despite their rhetoric, appear to host a hodge-podge of views, with their chief "conviction" being their readiness - under the right conditions, of course - to join in a coalition with Kadima....

My search for an ideological vote, then, continues to the parties outside the mainstream. But to vote with the extreme Left would be to vote for a non-Jewish non-Zionist never-never land. That leaves the extreme Right...

Of course, the National Union won't be in the government. The government will be the amorphous, disputatious Center - may it serve the ship-of-state well. But on this coming Election Day, I cherish the right to vote not for the government but for my dream - a Jewish-Zionist dream.

I believe, at the end of the day, that both Haim and I are dreamers - idealists, if you will. We don't live - or vote - for the moment, but for the future. We are willing to take the long road towards helping to fulfill (what we believe to be) the collective destiny of the Jewish People in the Land (State) of Israel - the only place where the Jewish People can actualize their potential.

We may not represent the mainstream or consensus opinions of the State of Israel (or the Jewish People), but I do believe that we each represent (in spite of our political beliefs falling on opposite sides of the spectrum) the ideological backbone of the State of Israel - the rudder, perhaps - without which the country would be lost.

Governments, like peace plans, come and go, and before long, are forgotten. Sadly, it seems, the majority of the country has gotten into the habit of living (and voting) for today; forgetting where we have come from and where we are going - seeking easy answers to difficult challenges where there are none to be found.

Speaking for myself, I recognize that voting for the National Union party will not win me any popularity contests - certainly not in Israel. I also recognize that voting for the National Union party will not (in the short term) solve all of the challenges that the State of Israel is currently facing. However, I also recognize that my vote is going to a party that takes into account the history of the Jewish People and State - where we have come from, along with aspirations for the glorious Jewish destiny that awaits us - where we are going. My vote is going to a party that concerns itself with the Jewish past, present and future - and I don't believe that I, as an Israeli voter, can ask for anything more.

Aliyah & The Blue and White Elephant

There have been so many great Aliyah posts of late (McAryeh, Jameel, If You Will It, Jack's Shack, Hear, O Israel), as well as an article on Aliyah in today's Jerusalem Post by Judy Montagu, that I just felt compelled to throw my hat in the ring (or my post in the J-Blogsphere).

Yesterday, January 9th, marked my 3 year Aliyah Anniversary, but since I began using the Jewish calendar as my primary calendar at some point over the last year, I will save my "Reflections on Living in Israel - 3 Year Aliyah Anniversary" post for the 6th of Shvat - just under a month from today.

In the meantime, I will address an idea that was raised in the Jerusalem Post article, which struck a chord with me, and if that's not enough to satisfy your Aliyah-post cravings, then I strongly recommend reading the other posts I linked to above, as they are all written from the heart and are full of both the passion and challenge that life is Israel represents to so many Jews.

About living in Israel and losing friends
You make aliya to Israel, and it's what you wanted. You're an exile who's been ingathered, and you're living the life you've chosen among those who are your kin. But that doesn't mean shunning friends from your former life, whom you've known for decades. You'd like to stay close.

I've really wanted to do that, and with some friends I've succeeded, albeit from a distance. But with two of my oldest associates, one from school, the other from college, both Jewish - as they say in Yiddish, "it doesn't go." Anytime I talk to either of them I'm conscious that there's an elephant in the room named the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I am fortunate to have friends and family who not only live in Israel, but who made Aliyah to Israel about the same time that I did. Friends and family who shared the passion and dream of making Aliyah, and who recognized that they, as Jews, could only actualize their dreams and potential by living in Israel.

However, at the same time, I do have friends that for a number of reasons, are unable (or unwilling) to make Aliyah. As much as it pains me, I can't help shaking the feeling that when I am talking to them that there is an "elephant in the room". This "elephant" is not the "Israeli-Palestinian conflict" as is the case with Judy Montagu and her friends living in the UK - for me, there is a blue & white elephant in the room nearly every time I talk to my friends who live in America, and the elephant's name is Aliyah.

For better or worse, and as is evident from this blog, I am consumed by the challenges facing the Jewish People and State and in what ways we can work to overcome them (especially now that the Giants are out of the playoffs). These issues are always on my mind, and are more often than not, the topic of any given conversation that I am involved in. Now, right or wrong, I have difficulty discussing such issues (especially Israeli politics, which is really Jewish politics because what happens in Israel concerns and affects every Jew in the world) with my peers who do not live in Israel, simply because I do not feel that we are on the same page.

The page to which I refer should is not one where everyone I talk to is expected to agree with my beliefs and ideology on any given issue, quite to the contrary, as I welcome discussion and debate. The page to which I refer is relates to the issue of where it is that the Jewish People can (and are meant to) actualize their potential and destiny as a people, and through my limited understanding of Judaism, there is only one place that fits the bill - namely, Israel.

This is not to say that Jews who live outside of Israel don't care about these issues, that they are bad people, or that they don't want to live in Israel. I know many committed Jews who are proud of their Jewish identity, who are genuinely concerned with the challenges facing the Jewish People and State, and who truly want to live in Israel but are unable to for whatever reason.

Yet, at the end of the day, I can't get rid of the elephant. He's always there (don't ask me how I know it's a male "elephant", you'll just have to trust me on this one) making his presence felt.

There is a natural (or perhaps unnatural) tension in the conversations, on how best to deal with the elephant, which everyone knows is in the room. Do I try to ignore the elephant, try to make meaningless small talk, about issues that I am not really interested in, or do I try to talk to them as if they did live here, knowing full well that they don't, and that they can't possibly have the same understanding / appreciation / concern for what's going on here that I do? Over the course of one any given conversation with one of these friends, I invariably keep asking mysel the question of why they aren't living in Israel, and if there is anything I could do or say to help change that.

I feel at times, as if my friends and I are living in two different worlds. Their's is the world of Jewish theory, and mine is the world of Jewish reality - a world where one is challenged over how to incorporate Judaism into his life on more than just a personal level, but on a national and even global one. They may be genuinely concerned about the issues confronting the Jewish People and State, but so long as they are there, and not here, they are on the sidelines, living as spectators or even as fans, if you will, rooting for the HOME team, but who, at the end of the day, win or lose, will be returning to their other home.

I don't really have any good suggestions as to how to deal with this issue between myself and my friends living in the US, which explains why, in many cases, I have just avoided it altogether, causing many of those relationships to suffer as a result.

If the "elephant" could talk, I wonder what he would say, since he always seems to be there, listening and watching, with that sad & knowing look on his face.

So, Mr. Elephant, what do you have to say?

I'm all ears.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Remember that you read it here first...

After a long night of putting together the latest edition of Haveil Hevalim, I figure I was entitled to a light-blogging day.

As such, I am going to pat myself on the back, and highlight two recent examples of Israel perspectives scooping Israel’s mainstream media:

1) On Sunday, December 25th, I wrote a post entitled "Cleaning out the Likud..." in which I state:
Bibi Netanyahu's efforts to cleanse the Likud of it's criminal elements (read: to get rid of Moshe Feiglin) are a true litmus test as to where the party now stands in relation to what it once stood for...

The law that Bibi is working to implement would likely have disqualified Ze'ev Jabotinsky - founder of the Revisionist Zionist movement (and predecessor to the Likud) - from running for a slot in the Knesset, as he was exiled from Palestine for his Zionist activities by the British...

What about Natan Sharansky? He is another member of the Likud with a criminal record, having spent over a decade in numerous prisons and work camps throughout the former Soviet Union.

On Friday, December 30th, the Jerusalem Post ran the following article by Gil Hoffman, "'Ridiculous' Likud plan would bar Sharansky, not just Feiglin" that stated:
Will the Likud banish from its ranks former Prisoners of Zion Natan Sharansky and Yuli Edelstein and former Knesset speaker Dov Shilansky?

"A Likud member who has been convicted of a crime and sentenced to at least three months in jail cannot run for the Likud's Knesset slate or any Likud institutions," the proposal states, without differentiating between "crimes" committed in Israel or abroad...

Sharansky and Edelstein, who are both running for reelection to the Knesset, served jail time in Russian prisons because of their Zionism.

2) On Monday, October 24, 2005 I wrote a post entitled "The PLO / PA, Hamas and the Destruction of Israel - A Refresher", as well as another on Tuesday, January 03, 2006 post entitled "Sex, Hamas, and the "Palestinian Authority".

The gist of both of these posts was that there was no real difference between the aims of Hamas and the aims of the "Palestinian Authority", only in method, perhaps.

On Thursday, January 5th, 2006, Evelyn Gordon of the Jerusalem Post wrote an article entitled "Fatah is no better than Hamas" where we find the following:
But in all this hysteria, no one has yet explained why Hamas is so much worse than Fatah - whose list, despite the lip-service denunciations of terror routinely uttered by Fatah leader and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, is also comprised mainly of prominent terrorists and terror advocates.

It's not always easy... but I know that it isn't my good looks that keep you coming back - and that's why I make the extra effort to bring you expert insight and analysis of the challenges facing the Jewish People and State - often before anyone else.

All in a days work.

For the record, I couldn't write those lines while keeping a straight face - but I did enjoy writing them all the same. We're all entitled to some ego-stroking every now and again, even if it's self-administered.

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