Sunday, May 28, 2006

A good American, but not a very good Jew

Without a doubt, Henry Kissinger - the American - was a very accomplished man.

Kissinger played a dominant role in shaping U.S. foreign policy from 1969 - 1977, serving as Secretary of State under Presidents' Nixon and Ford, and winning a Nobel Peace Prize in 1973.

Kissinger - the Jew - is a different story, altogether.

One of Kissinger's trademarks was his steadfast belief in realpolitik (politics based on strictly practical rather than idealistic notions, and practiced without any sentimental illusions), and it seems that this philosophy was not only limited to shaping his worldview (and the foreign policy of the US) vis' a vis' the nations of the world, but towards his very own - the Jewish People & State - as well.

Kissinger sought 'small friendly' Israel

The United States reached out to hostile Arabs three decades ago with an offer to work toward making Israel a "small friendly country" of no threat to its neighbors and with an assurance to Iraq that the U.S. had stopped backing Kurdish rebels in the north.

"We can't negotiate about the existence of Israel," then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger told his Iraqi counterpart in a rare high-level meeting, "but we can reduce its size to historical proportions."

This is consistent with Kissinger's attitude towards the Jewish State leading into the Yom Kippur War in 1973, when he pressured Israel into not launching a pre-emptive strike against those preparing to attack her.

For six crucial days during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger reportedly delayed a much-needed airlift of weapons to Israel, even as Israelis were dying in their hundreds repelling the surprise attacks from Egypt and Syria. Sources other than Eban say that it was only when a desperate Israel showed a readiness to deploy nuclear weapons against its enemies that the airlift was allowed to go ahead. An unnamed source “close to former US Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger” confirmed an Israeli suspicion that the arms had been withheld to ensure Israel would be more pliable in America’s hands after the war. Kissinger's strategy was to "let Israel come out ahead, but bleed," the source said.

Israel, the Jewish State, paid with the lives of 3,000 of its soldiers.

Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Dual loyalty was never a concern for Kissinger, a Jew serving as Secretary of State of the United States of America.

Good American. Poor Jew.

Google and God

Today, I created a G-Mail e mail account.

For some strange reason, I felt compelled to actually read through their Terms of Service before agreeing to create my account. (I had heard rumors that Google reserved the right to save every single e mail you ever receive or send for their own purposes - which, if they do, they don't make mention of in their Terms of Service).

In any case, within the terms of service, I came across something rather interesting:

Without limiting the foregoing, under no circumstances shall Google or its licensors be held liable for any delay or failure in performance resulting directly or indirectly from acts of nature, forces, or causes beyond its reasonable control, including, without limitation, Internet failures, computer equipment failures, telecommunication equipment failures, other equipment failures, electrical power failures, strikes, labor disputes, riots, insurrections, civil disturbances, shortages of labor or materials, fires, floods, storms, explosions, acts of God, war, governmental actions, orders of domestic or foreign courts or tribunals, non-performance of third parties, or loss of or fluctuations in heat, light, or air conditioning.

I found it interesting that buried in the middle of this all encompassing list was "acts of God", for which, after conducting a Google search, I found the following definition:

ACT OF GOD - A natural event, not preventable by any human agency, such as flood, storms, or lightning. Forces of nature that no one has control over, and therefore cannot be held accountable.

This phrase denotes those accidents which arise from physical causes, and which cannot be prevented.

What I found to be quite amusing, was that "acts of God" appeared on the list well after "acts of nature", as well as appearing after "fires, floods, storms, explosions".

I am left wondering, what exactly can be Google be referring to when they mention "acts of God", if they already individually listed just about everything that could have been considered an act of God well before listing "acts of God" itself.

I think we can find the answer at the very end of their list of natral and unnatural disasters:

...or loss of... air conditioning.

Hurricanes and earthquakes pale in comparisson to the power of the Almighty God who sends Google running for protection with His ability to giveth and taketh away air conditioning.

How divine.

Friday, May 26, 2006

What do you stand for?

Among my many Yom Yerushalayim experiences that I had yesterday, one in particular stood out, and unsurprisingly enough, it involved a conversation wtith an Israeli taxi driver.

I was in a taxi, on my way to the Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof, and as usual, I was talking it up with the driver, in this case a 22 year old from Katamon who shares the taxi with his father, and makes considerably more money a month than I do (and yet, for some reason, still has dreams of going to America for a few years to strike it rich - if only he could get a visa).

As we entered Har Nof, he mentioned to me that driving two cars ahead of us was the car of the former Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel and the Shas party's (Israel's Sephardi political party) spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who lives in Har Nof.

Ze'ev: So are you as Shasnik? (Are you affiliated with the Shas party?)

Driver: No, I'm a right winger who's against Arabs.

Ze'ev: Ok, but what are you for?

Driver: What?

Ze'ev: You said that you're a right winger who is against Arabs, but what are you for?

Driver: You mean you want to know which party I voted for in the elections?

Ze'ev: No, I just want to know what you're for.

Driver; [Hesitating] I want this country to be Israeli... er... Jewish... [voice trailing off]

At that point, the driver received a reprieve of sorts, as we pulled up to the requested address, and the conversation came to an end.

It is often much easier for a person to know what he's against, but not what he's for. This is certainly the case among many of the members of the Jewish People and State.

For instance, all too often I hear from people (and political parties) that "I am against giving away land; I am against the fence; the government is corrupt; the media is biased; the Supreme Court has an anti-Jewish (or ultra-secular) agenda...

All those things may be true, but after hearing such an individual articulate all that it is that he is "against", I am no closer to understanding exactly what it is that he is for (and in many cases, neither is the individual himself any closer).

If we, as Jews do not understand why the Jewish People should continue to exist; if we, as Jews, can't articulate why it is that a Jewish State in the Land of Israel should exist and what our right to it is; If we, as Jews, are unable to understand what it is that we believe in and why it is that we believe in it, then we are nowhere and no one at the same time, and as such, stand for absolutely nothing, regardless of how many things we might stand against.

During the 2,000 year Exile, without fail, Jewish parents passed on to their children the essence of what it meant to be a Jew - what it was that being a Jew stood for, giving the next generation of Jews the inner (if not physical) strength to stand strong against their oppressors (be they of a physcal or spiritual nature). If the Jewish People and State are to have a future, we must do the same for our children. We owe all the generations who sacrificed so much to ensure that the Jewish Perople would endure at least that much.

In truth, we owe it to ourselves and our children so much more.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Yom Yerushalayim Thoughts: A Matter of Perspective

Today (and tomorrow), the Jewish People will celebrate Yom Yerushalayim. To gain an appreciation of what we are celebrating on Yom Yerushalayim, click here).

Unfortunately, for a few different reasons, my heart is not full at the moment (although perhaps that will change as the day progresses), so instead of writing another "downer" of a post, I am going to share some words of Torah and inspiration from Rabbi Moshe Lichtman's new sefer entitled: "Eretz Yisrael in the Parashah" from the section devoted to Yom Yerushalayim that I found to be particularly meaningful (and hopefully you will, as well):

Before doing so, as this is my blog, I am going to take the liberty of endorsing this tremendous sefer, where Rabbi Lichtman has compiled every single source relating to Eretz Yisrael in the entire Torah, sharing with us both his own wisdom, and that of our sages, leaving no doubt of the centrality of the Land of Israel to the Jewish People and the necessity of the Jewish People living in the Land of Israel in order to fulfill our collective destiny.

"Eretz Yisrael in the Parashah" can be found in book stores in Israel for +/-95 NIS. It should be reaching the bookstores in Chu”l in the near future.

... When one reads accounts of the Six Day War, one cannot help but be awestruck by the magnitude of the events that took place in Eretz Yisrael just four decades ago. Whether we call our victory a miracle, Divine intervention, or Divine Providence, anyone who is not blinded by preconceived notions has to admit that what transpired here was of biblical proportions. Even enemy soldiers, foreign journalists, and secular Israelis admitted that G-d's hand was at work.

Therefore, one is completely dumbfounded when one encounters... people - often very religious Jews - who deny the extraordinary nature of the times in which we live. How can anyone fail to see the Divine Providence at work behind the scenes (and quite often in full view) in the Holy Land?...

...It is well known that the manna, the heavenly bread that B'nei Yisrael ate in the desert, tasted like anything a Jew wanted it to taste like. But what - asked the Chafetz Chayim - did the manna taste like to a person who did not think of anything in particular while eating it? One is forced to say that the manna did not taste heavenly at all to such a person. Only one who contemplated his actions and gave thought to what he was eating tasted the delicacies of the manna...

The same is true - concluded the Chafetz Chaim - of the advent of Mashiach. At that time, G-d will reveal His Shechinah to the entire world, but only those who contemplate the historical processes unfolding before their very eyes will sense the extraordinary nature of the times in which they live. "He who does not reflect upon the coming of the Mashiach will not feel anything at all." (Cited in HaTekufah HaGedolah, p. 20)

...Finally, the famed Nazir of Jerusalem, R. David Cohen zt"l, shed new light upon a prayer we say three times a day: "V'techazenah eineinu b'shuvchah l'Zion b'rachamim". on a simple level, we beseech G-d, "May our eyes behold your merciful return to Zion." That is, may we please be zocheh to witness Your eventual return to Jerusalem. However, the Nazir added another, more "updated" dimension to the prayer. He explained that when G-d returns to Zion there will be those who will not recognize the events for what they truly are. Therefore, we pray to G-d: "When You actually restore Your Shechinah to its proper place, please let us see what is taking place before our very eyes. Let us not be blinded by peripheral events, whose purpose is to conceal Your great light; and let us not be influenced by those who (willingly or not) fail to see beyond the superficial."

Over the past sixty years (and more) we have witnessed events of such great magnitude that it would not be presumptuous to say that G-d is clearly returning to Zion. Let us just open our eyes and enjoy the view; and let us show Hashem how much we truly appreciate all that He has done for us so far and all that He continues to do for the sake of out ultimate redemption."

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

It's all a matter of timing...

Some amazing news was announced this past week in Israel, and it seems if hardly anyone took notice.

Israel's new Public Security Minister, former head of the Shin Bet and current Kadima MK, Avi Dichter, made a stunning announcement this week:

Dichter: We beat terror, now we must fight societal violence

Public Security Minister Avi Dichter said Monday that the burgeoning phenomenon of violence in Israeli society would be defeated just as Palestinian terrorism was defeated.

So, why has this piece of great news flown right under the radar?

I'm guessing that Avi Dichter's announcement of Israel's having defeated "Palestinian" terrorism a day after a Qassam rocket landed in a classroom in Sderot just might have had something to do with it.

But, it gets worse for Dichter. Since his remarks, the following headlines have appeared in the Israeli media:

1) Halutz: Terrorists smuggling tons of TNT from Sinai

While Israel spends billions to fortify its border with the Gaza Strip, terrorist groups have found a bypass route into Israel through Sinai...

Instead of risking the high-tech security checkpoints that Israel has designed between Gaza and Israel, terror groups are establishing routes through the largely unfenced Negev and Sinai deserts.

Although the IDF has increased patrols in the area, terrorists have already smuggled 6.5 tons of TNT, 15 rockets, and dozens of RPGs, said Halutz.

"My problem with the consolidation [plan] is that you get a Palestinian
quasi-state without a peace agreement and the terror continues."

In a visit to his hometown of Sderot on Monday, Defense Minister Amir Peretz toured a school that had suffered a direct hit from a Kassam rocket and conceded that anti-Kassam protection measures for schools and kindergartens in the Western Negev won't be in place by September...

Approximately 400 Kassam rockets, launched from Northern Gaza, have landed in Israel since the Gaza disengagement, according to IDF sources.

There you have it.

I'm sure, as the former head of the Shin Bet, Dichter knows what he's talking about, so if he says that Israel has defeated "Palestinian" terrorism, then regardless of any facts showing otherwise, he must be right, and everyone else must be wrong.

He just should have waited another week before making the announcement.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Should Jews not living in Israel have the right to express their opnion on affairs concerning the Jewish State?

I have always been conflicted as to whether Jews not living in Israel should have a say in the decision making process within the Jewish State of Israel.

On the one hand, I believe that as The Home(land) of the Jewish People, the Jewish State of Israel has an obligation to place the overall interests of the Jewish People above all else. As such, it is essetnial for the Jewish State to have an open ear towards their considerations, as nearly every decision that is made in some way effects the greater Jewish People.

That being said, I do have trouble accepting the idea that Jews who do not live in Israel (whatever their reason may be) should have a meaningful say in determining the policies of the Jewish State, and an Op-Ed by the very successful and influential Rabbi Marc Schneier (who also just happens to be the President of Kadima USA) in today's Jerusalem Post makes it clear why that is the case.

As Prime Minister Ehud Olmert makes his first state visit to the United States, it is time for Jews around the world to firmly support his efforts to set defensible borders for the State of Israel...

I have embraced the convergence policy of Kadima for two reasons: terrorism and the preservation of the Jewish majority in the Jewish state...

We hope that Hamas will sincerely denounce its terrorist proclivities and recognize the right of both Israel and Palestine to exist and flourish in the Middle East. Yet we must always retain a Jewish majority in the Jewish state. This is the promise left to us by our ancestors, and the legacy we in turn will leave for our children.

What bothers me most about this article is not Rabbi Schneier's support for Ehud Olmert's expulsion plan, but his reasoning for supporting it.

Yet we must always retain a Jewish majority in the Jewish state. This is the promise left to us by our ancestors, and the legacy we in turn will leave for our children.

I really do hate to be cynical, but Rabbi Schneier, by choosing for himself the "good life" of America over living in the Jewish State has made it perfectly clear that his driving concern is not ensuring a Jewish majority within the State of Israel, because if that was truly what concerned him, he would be actively encouraging American Aliyah, and would be packing his own bags, as well.

No, for Rabbi Schneier, the key to securing a Jewish majority in Israel is not through Aliyah (or other measures), but through the expulsion of tens of thousands of Jews from their homes, which of course, he will watch from the comfort of his own home, in either the Hamptons or New York City.

For better or worse, Rabbi Schneier is entitled to express his opinions as they relate to the Jewish State, but that does not give him the right, in stressing the imperative of securing a Jewish majority within the State of Israel, to pay empty lip service to "the promise left to us by our ancestors", or to speak of ensuring the "legacy" of a Jewish majority within the State of Israel "for our children", when in his words and actions he makes a mockery of both.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Jerusalem Day: Broadcast of the Liberation of the Temple Mount and Western Wall by the Israel Defense Forces

On the 28th of Iyar, which falls out this coming Thursday night, the Jewish People will give thank to G-d for the liberation and unification of Jerusalem, the eternal Jewish capitol, which took place on the 3rd day of the Six-Day War, June 7th, 1967.

In the historic live broadcast on Voice of Israel Radio (courtesy of IsraCast), one will hear arguably the three most significant words uttered in the last 2,000 years of Jewish History, and perhaps the most significant since the Jewish People uttered the words of "Na'aseh V'Nishma" ("We will do and we will listen") prior to their accepting of the Torah at Mt. Sinai, nearly 3,500 years ago.

Of course, I am referring to the words uttered by Colonel Motta Gur Z"L, "Har HaBayit B'Yadeinu!" ("The Temple Mount is in our hands!").

Below you will find the complete transcript of the historic live broadcast on Voice of Israel Radio, June 7th, 1967, of the Liberation of the Temple Mount and Western Wall by the Israel Defense Forces (courtesy of IsraCast):

This is Mordechai Twersky reporting from Jerusalem:

What you are now about to hear is perhaps one of the most riveting recordings in the modern-day history of Israel. I refer to the dramatic sounds of Israeli Defense Forces entering and liberating Jerusalem’s Old City and the Western Wall on June 7th, 1967. You hear the sounds of gunfire. You hear the footsteps of Israeli soldiers, as they draw closer and closer and as General Uzi Narkiss instructs them and asks to be shown where the Western Wall stands. We hear a triumphant Brigadier General Shlomo Goren, later to become the Chief Rabbi of Israel, as he recites the memorial prayer and sound the shofar, as Israeli soldiers weep with sorrow over their comrades killed in combat.

Listen closely to this piece of history, which is housed in the archives of the Avi Yaffe Recording Studio in Jerusalem.

Colonel Motta Gur [on loudspeaker]: All company commanders, we’re sitting right now on the ridge and we’re seeing the Old City. Shortly we’re going to go in to the Old City of Jerusalem, that all generations have dreamed about. We will be the first to enter the Old City. Eitan’s tanks will advance on the left and will enter the Lion’s Gate. The final rendezvous will be on the open square above.
[The open square of the Temple Mount.]

[Sound of applause by the soldiers.]

Yossi Ronen: We are now walking on one of the main streets of Jerusalem towards the Old City. The head of the force is about to enter the Old City.


Yossi Ronen: There is still shooting from all directions; we’re advancing towards the entrance of the Old City.

[Sound of gunfire and soldiers’ footsteps.]

[Yelling of commands to soldiers.]

[More soldiers’ footsteps.]

The soldiers are keeping a distance of approximately 5 meters between them. It’s still dangerous to walk around here; there is still sniper shooting here and there.


We’re all told to stop; we’re advancing towards the mountainside; on our left is the Mount of Olives; we’re now in the Old City opposite the Russian church. I’m right now lowering my head; we’re running next to the mountainside. We can see the stone walls. They’re still shooting at us. The Israeli tanks are at the entrance to the Old City, and ahead we go, through the Lion’s Gate. I’m with the first unit to break through into the Old City. There is a Jordanian bus next to me, totally burnt; it is very hot here. We’re about to enter the Old City itself. We’re standing below the Lion’s Gate, the Gate is about to come crashing down, probably because of the previous shelling. Soldiers are taking cover next to the palm trees; I’m also staying close to one of the trees. We’re getting further and further into the City.


Colonel Motta Gur announces on the army wireless: The Temple Mount is in our hands! I repeat, the Temple Mount is in our hands!

All forces, stop firing! This is the David Operations Room. All forces, stop firing! I repeat, all forces, stop firing! Over.

Commander eight-nine here, is this Motta (Gur) talking? Over.

[Inaudible response on the army wireless by Motta Gur.]

Uzi Narkiss: Motta, there isn’t anybody like you. You’re next to the Mosque of Omar.

Yossi Ronen: I’m driving fast through the Lion’s Gate all the way inside the Old City.

Command on the army wireless: Search the area, destroy all pockets of resistance and make sure to enter every single house, especially the holy places.

[Lt.- Col. Uzi Eilam blows the Shofar. Soldiers are singing ‘Jerusalem of Gold’.]

Uzi Narkiss: Tell me, where is the Western Wall? How do we get there?

Yossi Ronen: I’m walking right now down the steps towards the Western Wall. I’m not a religious man, I never have been, but this is the Western Wall and I’m touching the stones of the Western Wall.

Soldiers: [reciting the ‘Shehechianu’ blessing]: Baruch ata Hashem, elokeinu melech haolam, she-hechianu ve-kiemanu ve-hegianu la-zman ha-zeh. [Translation: Blessed art Thou L-rd G-d King of the Universe who has sustained us and kept us and has brought us to this day]

Rabbi Shlomo Goren: Baruch ata Hashem, menachem tsion u-voneh Yerushalayim. [Translation: Blessed are thou, who comforts Zion and builds Jerusalem]

Soldiers: Amen!

[Soldiers sing ‘Hatikva’ next to the Western Wall.]

Rabbi Goren: We’re now going to recite the prayer for the fallen soldiers of this war against all of the enemies of Israel:

[Soldiers weeping]

El male rahamim, shohen ba-meromim. Hamtse menuha nahona al kanfei hashina, be-maalot kedoshim, giborim ve-tehorim, kezohar harakiya meirim u-mazhirim. Ve-nishmot halalei tsava hagana le-yisrael, she-naflu be-maaraha zot, neged oievei yisrael, ve-shnaflu al kedushat Hashem ha-am ve-ha’arets, ve-shichrur Beit Hamikdash, Har Habayit, Hakotel ha-ma’aravi veyerushalayim ir ha-elokim. Be-gan eden tehe menuhatam. Lahen ba’al ha-rahamim, yastirem beseter knafav le-olamim. Ve-yitsror be-tsror ha-hayim et nishmatam adoshem hu nahlatam, ve-yanuhu be-shalom al mishkavam [soldiers weeping loud]ve-ya’amdu le-goralam le-kets ha-yamim ve-nomar amen!

[Translation: Merciful G-d in heaven, may the heroes and the pure, be under thy Divine wings, among the holy and the pure who shine bright as the sky, and the souls of soldiers of the Israeli army who fell in this war against the enemies of Israel, who fell for their loyalty to G-d and the land of Israel, who fell for the liberation of the Temple, the Temple Mount, the Western Wall and Jerusalem the city of the Lord. May their place of rest be in paradise. Merciful One, O keep their souls forever alive under Thy protective wings. The Lord being their heritage, may they rest in peace, for they shalt rest and stand up for their allotted portion at the end of the days, and let us say, Amen.]

[Soldiers are weeping. Rabbi Goren sounds the shofar. Sound of gunfire in the background.]

Rabbi Goren: Le-shana HA-ZOT be-Yerushalayim ha-b’nuya, be-yerushalayim ha-atika! [Translation: This year in a rebuilt Jerusalem! In the Jerusalem of old!]

Mordechai Twersky,

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Poor of Your City Come First: The Kindness of Fools - Part III

When it comes to giving charity, Jewish Law instructs us to give it in the following manner:

"When there will be a needy person from among your brethren, in one of your gates in your land that the Lord your God has given you, don't harden your heart and don't close your hand from your needy brother. Surely open your hand and lend him according to his need that is lacking to him" (Deuteronomy 15:7-8).

Rashi's commentary points out that the description of the poor person uses the relatively unusual word "needy," indicating that the neediest individuals come first. And the mention of "your gates" indicates that the poor of your city precede those from other cities.

Unfortunately, those leading the government of the State of Israel must have all skipped "Hebrew School" on the day that this lesson was taught, as is woefully evident from the two following articles that appeared in Israeli newspapers this past weekend.

Cabinet okays NIS 50 million medical aid to Palestinians

Now, let us put aside for a moment that the "Palestinians" are engaged in a war of destruction against the Jewish State of Israel. Let us pretend for a moment that we get along just swell with our "Palestinian" neighbors in Gaza.
Even in this fantasy world, there would still be absolutley no justification for the government of the State of Israel allocating a even single Shekel towards the "Palestinians" - not to buy medication nor to buy weapons, and here's why:

Save Ethiopian Jewry, again

...According to the Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews (, 70 percent of Ethiopians have no salary income and the average Ethiopian salary is below the poverty line. About 40% of Ethiopian students in grades 1-9 are below the class level for reading. Ethiopians drop out of school between the ages of 14 and 17 at a rate twice the national average...

Unfortunately, the Jewish State of Israel has too many of its own citizens who are in dire need of financial (and other forms of) assistance, and as Jewish Law (and common sense) teach us, they must come first.

What message is the government of the State of Israel sending to the weakest elements of Israeli society when it allocates millions of Shekels to assist our enemy, while claiming to not have the means to help its very own; all the while, raising the price of bread and considering doing the same to the price of milk, harming 400,000 of the weakest families within the State of Israel?

What message is the State of Israel sending to the greater Israeli society when it shows that it cares more about the wellbeing of the enemies of the Jewish State than it does of its very own citizens?

Still Waiting... The Kindness of Fools - Part II - B

I recently posted about a group of 30 intellectual & cultural elites within the State of Israel who wrote a letter to PM Olmert demanding that the IDF "provide the children of the village with full and proper protection which will guarantee these children travel to and from school in peace", and for the State of Israel to ensure their right to education in response to supposed attacks on Arab children by Jews in the Hebron region.

I highlighted the utter hypocrisy of these 30 Israeli elites, who only expressed concern for the rights of Arab children to travel to and from school in safety, while having, in the past, completely ignored attacks against Jewish children on their way to and from school, which unlike in the case of the Arab children, resulted in fatalities and serious casualties to the Jewish children.

In doing so, Purple Parrot took me to task (as can be seen in the comment section of the post) for unfairly judging these 30 elites. In response, I challenged Purple Parrot to show me an instance where these 30 elites had written a similar letter to the Prime Minister of Israel, or publicly condemned such attacks against Jewish children with the same conviction as they did the supposed attacks on the Arab students, and if she could do so, I would retract my words.

Well, G-d works in strange ways, and even though Purple Parrot has yet to provide any proof refuting my claims against these 30 elites, today's headlines have presented these 30 elites with yet another chance to prove that they don't care more about the rights of Arab children than they do Jewish ones, and another chance for Purple Parrot to make me eat my words.

Kassam rocket hits empty classroom in a Sderot school

A Qassam rocket landed in an empty classroom in a Sderot school on Sunday morning while students were in the synagogue reciting the morning prayers.

The classroom and the nearby restrooms sustained heavy damage.

In their letter to PM Olmert, these 30 Israeli elites wrote:

"The right to education is a basic human right and the State of Israel is responsible for its full protection. We demand the IDF be instructed to provide the children of the village with full and proper protection which will guarantee these children travel to and from school in peace. We call on law enforcement authorities to apply justice to the settlers from Maon and the outpost of Havat Maon, and not stand in the way of the activists aiding the children of the villages," continued the letter.

Let's see if these 30 elites call on the State of Israel and the IDF to "apply justice" against those threatening the "right to education" of the Jewish children of Sderot, and to ensure "the full and proper protection (of the Jewish children of Sderot) which will guarantee these children travel to and from school in peace".

Let's wait and see.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

There's no place like home - Part II

Having lived in Israel for over 3 years now, it doesn't occur as often as it once did, but every now and again, I am asked why I chose to leave America / NY and make Aliyah. This question is generally asked by secular Israelis who are genuinely curious as to why someone would leave behind all that the US has to offer and exchange it for a life in the State of Israel, with all of the challenges that go along with it.

Often, after hearing why I chose to live in Israel, these Israelis walk away (I think) feeling better about the country they call home, while others just think that I am crazy and would give anything to be able to move to NY.

Yet, I am often tempted, although I rarely indulge myself, to turn to my questioner (or to other secular Israelis) and ask them, what is it about this place that keeps you here? What's keeping you from leaving for "greener pastures"?

Israeli celebrity, Yair Lapid, shares his answer with us.

Better than we thought

Here’s a trivia question: What is the second largest Greek city in the world?

Don’t run to the atlas. The second largest Greek city in the world is Melbourne, Australia. Only Athens has a larger Greek population. The reason that so many Greeks migrated to Australia is because they were unhappy in Greece and looked for a different place to call "home."

The second largest Israeli city is Tel Aviv; followed by Haifa, Beer Sheva, Holon, etc. New York would be somewhere on the list, but pretty far down. In the final analysis, the majority of Israelis prefer to live in Israel...

It’s not that there are no alternatives... But most of us don’t leave and that’s not something to sniff at...

The big question is why? What is this country giving them that does not show up in the statistics?

...The prime minister is wasting his time and ours when he promises us that in another four years this will be a wonderful place to live. We have chosen this place. We have chosen 30 days (at least) of IDF reserve duty a year, income tax, religious - secular tensions, the Palestinian threat. We have chosen and we continue to choose every day. This makes us better people because we matter and that allows us to feel that between our birth and our death, something vital and real is happening to us.

There aren’t many countries that give their citizens that kind of feeling.

We may not see eye to eye on most things, but we have both chosen (in different ways) to make Israel our home - despite, and perhaps because of all of the challenges that go along with living here, hoping that we can both play a role in helping to make this country the best it can possibly be.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

"If a tree falls in the forest..." - Lag Ba'Omer and the Israeli Media

"If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, does it still make a sound?" is a question that has been long debated, and yet, it remains as timely as ever as we celebrate Lag Ba'Omer this year, when the following question begs to be asked:

If 200,000 Jews show up in Meron to celebrate Lag Ba'Omer, but there is no Israeli media there to cover it, did it really happen?

The celebration of Lag Ba'Omer in Meron, located in Israel's Galil region, is believed to be the largest attended annual Jewish celebration in the world. Each year, hundreds of thousands of Jews of all background converge on Meron, the burial site of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, marking the anniversary of his death that took place over 1,800 years ago. (For more background on Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, click here).

Yet, based on the Israeli media's coverage of the Meron festival, one gets the impression that a gathering of 200,000 Jews of all backgrounds - the single largest annual Jewish gathering of the entire year - uniting in a celebration of their Jewish heritage, is simply not a story worth writing (or getting excited) about.

Ha'aretz chose to focus their Lag Ba'Omer coverage around a man in Bnei Brak who received serious burns at a Lag Ba'Omer bonfire, only devoting the last paragraph of their article (comprised of a single sentence) to the Meron festival.

Man, 20, seriously burned at Lag Ba’Omer bonfire

A 20-year-old man was seriously burned all over his body Monday after pouring gasoline on a bonfire in Bnei Brak during Lag Ba’Omer festivities.

The man, who attended a religious ceremony of Lag Ba’Omer, was burned when his clothes caught on fire as he poured the flammable substance...

Some 150,000 on Monday attended the celebrations at the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai on Mount Meron in the Galilee, where a large feast is held traditionally.

The Jerusalem Post took a different approach. They devoted an entire article to the Meron festival, except their coverage focused on all of the injuries sustained at the event.

Medics treat fire burns across country

Emergency services were kept busy overnight Monday - Lag Ba’Omer Eve - treating youth who were injured in bonfires throughout the country and the many attendants of the Shimon Bar Yochai festival at Mount Meron...

MDA teams treated 123 people at the Mount Meron festival. Army Radio reported that twice as many people received medical treatment at the same event in 2005...

An estimated 200,000 people have been reported to participate in the event, with an equal number still expected to arrive. 5,000 policemen were securing the festival, with 100 medics and 10 ambulances present as well.

Not to be outdone, Yediot Achronot focused the bulk of their Lag Ba'Omer coverage on, among other things, the actions of fringe elements on the political right and only at the very end of the article was a single sentence devoted to the Meron festival.

Lag Ba’Omer: Olmert photos burned

Tens of thousands of bonfires were lit across the country to mark Lag Ba’Omer. Firefighters stood ready to prevent bonfires from spreading out of control... The Ministry of Environment published a list of suggestions to reduce air pollution...

A 20 year-old man was seriously injured after pouring flammable liquid on a fire in Bnei Brak... In Bat Yam a seven year-old boy was injured by a car while on the way to a Lag Ba’Omer bonfire... Extreme right-wing activists burned pictures of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in different areas in Judea and Samaria...

Over 150,000 people marked the anniversary of the death of Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai at Har Meron. The site has attracted ultra-Orthodox and secular Jews for hundreds of years.

One is left to wonder why the Israeli media would pass up a golden opportunity to focus their Lag Ba'Omer coverage on the aspect of Jewish unity that the Meron festival brings about, bringing together annually hundreds of thousands of Jews annually; both religious and secular, Ashkenazim and Sephardim. Particularly now, at a time when there seem to be so many rifts within the Jewish People and State, the Jewish unity achieved at the Meron festival should be hailed as a model of what we should be striving to achieve the entire year round.

Instead, the Israeli media focuses their coverage of Lag Ba'Omer on bonfire injuries and other isolated incidents, as if they were themselves trying to douse the very flames of the revival of the Jewish spirit and Jewish unity that the bonfires of Lag Ba'Omer, particularly those at the Meron festival, seek to kindle within the hearts of the Jewish People throughout Israel.

What a wasted opportunity.

Monday, May 15, 2006

There's no place like home... Part I

I still owe West Bank Mama a post on why I made Aliyah, but until I get around to writing that one, here is the first (of at least 2 posts) that will focus on why (native) Israelis consider Israel, despite all of the challenges that go along with living here, to be their one and only true home.

Memorial Hall in Sanders Theater at Harvard University started to fill up half an hour before Tal Ben-Shahar's lecture was due to begin... When Ben-Shahar, 35, who is bespectacled, lean and inclined to smile, enters, he does not look like a guru who attracts hundreds of students... It's a pleasure to listen to him. He is intelligent and funny and his remarks are rich with a profusion of details. The students are plainly riveted. When the class ends, they applaud. Afterward, a long line of students forms to exchange a few words with him. He sits at the front of the stage and speaks patiently with everyone...

Ben-Shahar is a genuine star on the Harvard campus... Indeed, the demand by 850 students to take the course ("Positive Psychology") compelled the university to allocate this hall, the largest on campus. The demand outside the university, which is equally intense, is met by a television crew that films Ben-Shahar's lectures for broadcast on the Internet...

Tal Ben Shahar has it made. At the age of 35 he is one of the most popular professors at Harvard University; people around the world listen to his lectures, he has a book deal all lined up, and his course has been covered by media outlets including The Boston Globe, CNN, Fox News, National Public Radio, and the New York Times.

(To view Tal Ben-Shahar's lectures, go to and click on "Lecture Videos.")

And yet, despite all of the above, he is preparing to walk away from Harvard University at the end of the year.

What could possibly compel Tal Ben-Shahar to walk away from a situation where he seems to be set for life?

"We are coming back to Israel in July. I am obligated to give one more semester-long course at Harvard in two years, and that is all. After so many years away, I want to return home. I want to be with my family and friends. I just miss it. I have a boy of 22 months, Davidi, who wants to be with the family in Israel.

Despite all the problems, we have a wonderful country. Israel is my home and I love the country. When I ask myself what will bring me personal happiness, happiness for my family, the answer is to live in Israel. The Israelis are very authentic. In no other place have I experienced the bond I have with the state and with the people who live in it - and I am not the first Israeli to say this."

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

On the Choseness of the People of Israel and the Land of Israel - Eretz Yisrael in Jewish Sources #3

1) Midrash Tanchuma, Re'eh 8

The Land of Israel is beloved since the Holy One Blessed be He chose it. You find that when G-d created the world He distributed the various lands to the heavenly ministers and chose the Land of Israel for Himself. How do we know this? Moshe said, "When the Supreme One apportioned to the nations their inheritance, when He separated the children of man, He set the boundaries of the people according to the number of Children of Israel" (Devarim 32:8). He also chose the people of Israel as His portion, as it is written, "For the Lord's potion is His people; Ya'akov is the lot of His inheritance" (Devarim 32:9). Said the Holy One Blessed be He: "Let Israel, who became My portion, inherit the Land which became My potion".

2) Midrash Tanchuma; Mas'ei 6, Re'eh 8

The Holy One Blessed be He said to Israel, "The Land of Israel is My portion, as it is written, 'A Land which the Lord your G-d seeks out' (Devarim 11:12); and you are My portion, as it is written, 'For the Lord's portion is His people' (Devarim 32:9). It is befitting that My portion dwell in My portion.

A Look into Gaza

There can be no doubt that the "Disengagement" plan, whereby 10,000 Jews were expelled from their homes in Gush Katif, Gaza and the northern Shomron, has provided the State of Israel with neither peace nor security.

In the wake of the expulsion, Hamas has since risen to power to lead the PA, Qassam rockets are still being fired into Israel on a daily basis (and not from just Gaza, anymore). The suicide bombings haven't stopped, and both the victims of the terror attacks, along with those expelled from their homes in Gush Katif feel as if they have been abandoned by the government of the State of Israel.

But, all that being said, let's see if the "Palestinians" are using the newly "liberated" lands to benefit the "Palestinian People"...

1) Gaza: Gunmen raze Morag hothouses

Several greenhouses belonging to the former settlement of Morag in the Gaza Strip were destroyed over the weekend during an attempt by dozens of gunmen to take control of the area... hundreds of greenhouses and other agricultural installations have been sabotaged over the past few months.

"These greenhouses and other installations and projects provide a source of income for over 4,500 families," company officials said. "We are very disturbed by the recurring attacks and thefts.

Militiamen belonging to various groups in the Gaza Strip have set up training bases on some of the evacuated lands, further escalating tensions in the area. Most of the camps belong to Fatah, Hamas and the Popular Resistance Committees.

Palestinians struggle to restart a thriving settlers' business amid poor security.

After years of producing bug-free lettuce and other vegetables for Jewish farmers, the sands of Gaza have reverted to their old ways. PA farmers report failure in keeping the bugs away... In addition, the PA workers complain that their wages from their compatriots and brethren are significantly lower now than what they received from the Israelis.

Most importantly of all, to date, no "Palestinian refugees" have been allowed to leave their refugee camps and take up permanent residence in the former Jewish communities of Gaza and Gush Katif.

Isn't it great when a plan comes together to the benefit of all involved. If the "disengagement" plan was such a resounding success, I can hardly wait for the "Convergence" plan to get off the ground.

Israel Perspectives has finally made on to the Front Page!!!

...While numerous police investigations were launched on the basis of allegations that Jews were vandalizing Palestinian trees illegally, no one has been convicted and most of the cases were dismissed. On the other hand, there have been several reports and accusations that local Jewish leftists have intentionally destroyed trees as part of a campaign to make the “settlers” look responsible. The accusations against the “settlers” have been refuted at length on a new website devoted to fighting the “SDL: Settler Defamation League.”

Guess which "new website" the article is referring to?

That's right.

Israel Perspectives.

I'm on the map! Pretty soon, high school and college students are going to be crediting my blog in their research papers, as I have now become a reputable source of information on Israel and the Middle East. You just have to love the power of the internet.

(My more astute readers might have noticed that the date of the article is Jan. 10th, 2006. For some reason, I only discovered that I was receiving hits from the article over the weekend. Go figure.)

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Beginning of the Redemption? Eretz Yisrael in Jewish Sources #2

How can we be sure that the return of Jewish People to the Land Israel is the beginning of the redemption?

Consider the following sources:

1) Rabbi Yehoshua of Kutno (1820-1893) - Responsa Yeshu'ot Malko:

There is no doubt that [settling the Land] is a great mitzvah, for the ingathering [of the exiles] is the beginning of redemption. (Yoreh De'ah 66)

2) Rabbi Eliezer Yehudah Waldenberg - the Tzitz Eliezer:

The very gathering [of Jews] in Eretz Yisrael is a telltale sign of the beginning of redemption. (Tzitz Eliezer 7:49, Orchot HaMishpatim, chap. 12)

3) Ramban (Nachmonides) writes (Shir HaShirim 8:12):

The beginning of the future redemption will occur with the permission of the kings. Some of the exiles will gather in Eretz Yisrael, and afterwards, Hashem will extend His hand again [to gather the remaining exiles]. The verse, therefore, says, "The Lord your G-d will bring back your captivity and have mercy on you, and He will return and gather you from all the nations." (Devarim 30:3)

With the above sources in mind, consider this recent headline:

Report: More Jews in Israel than in any other country

For the first time since the first century, there are more Jews in Israel than in any other country, and within 30 years the majority of Jews in the world will be living here, according to one of Israel's top demographers.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Kindness of Fools - Part II

In "The Kindness of Fools - Part I" I highlighted a new initiative being promoted by the leaders of the major American Jewish organizations that damages both the Jewish People and State.

Sadly, it seems that foolishness is distributed equally amongst the Jewish People and that we have our share of them here, as well, in the Jewish State.

Artists urge PM to curb settler attacks on Palestinian children

More than 30 Israeli artists and intellectuals signed a letter sent Tuesday to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, urging him to order Israel Defense Forces soldiers to defend Palestinian children in the southern Hebron Hills from residents of the Maon settlement...

"The right to education is a basic human right and the State of Israel is responsible for its full protection. We demand the IDF be instructed to provide the children of the village with full and proper protection which will guarantee these children travel to and from school in peace. We call on law enforcement authorities to apply justice to the settlers from Maon and the outpost of Havat Maon, and not stand in the way of the activists aiding the children of the villages," continued the letter.

Perhaps I missed it, but I don't recall seeing any letter from these Israeli elites "demanding that the IDF be instructed to provide the children of the village with full and proper protection which will guarantee these children travel to and from school in peace" in response to the "Palestinian" attack on a Jewish school bus in Kfar Darom (Oct. 2002) that killed two adults (a school teacher and an escort for the children) and wounded 5, including 3 children from the Cohen family, all of whom lost limbs in the attack.

Did the Cohen children, along with the others who were murdered and wounded in the "Palestinian" attack on the school bus, have less of a right "to travel to and from school in peace" than the Arabs of Hebron?

Perhaps, in the eyes of these Israeli elites, the answer to the above question is yes, because, in their eyes, Kfar Darom was "Occupied Territory", making the teacher, escort and children on the school bus "settlers" and "occupiers" and as such, fair game.

That being the case, I seem to have missed the letter from these Israeli elites, "demanding that the IDF be instructed to provide the children of the village with full and proper protection which will guarantee these children travel to and from school in peace" in response to the unending "Palestinian" Qassam rocket attacks against the city of Sderot over the last 4+ years, which have caused schools to be closed, and the children of Sderot to live in fear.

If, in the words of these elites, "the right to education is a basic human right and the State of Israel is responsible for its full protection", wouldn’t that apply equally to the children of Sderot, and obligate the State of Israel to "guarantee these children travel to and from school in peace"?

Could it be that these Israeli elites, burdened with unbearable guilt over the "orginal sin" that was and is Zionism, namely the establishment of a Jewish State in the Land of Israel, are driven to care more about the rights of the Arabs of Hebron than than those of their Jewish brothers and sisters?

Eretz Yisrael in Jewish Sources #1

Under the title of this blog, one can find the following words, which attempt to sum up the purpose of this blog:

Perspectives on the challenges confronting the Jewish People and State through the eyes of one who finds himself taking an active role in the compelling drama that is the life of the Jewish People in the Land of Israel.

More often than not, my posts seem to focus on the challenges that we are facing here, and what we can be doing to overcome them and thus enable the Jewish people and Jewish State to reach their potential and allow the Jewish People to fulfill their destiny in this world.

That being said, I have felt for a while (as well as having been told by my wife) that I do not have enough "positive" Israel content on my blog, and that in focusing mainly on the challenges, it is easy to lose sight of all of the positive reasons for the Jewish People living in the Land of Israel.

To remedy this problem, I hope, with G-d's help, to post on a daily basis a different Jewish source discussing the centrality of the Land of Israel to the Jewish People, because in spite of all of the challenges that the Jewish People may be facing in the Land of Israel, there is truly no better place for a Jew to live or call home.

From the Tzitz Eliezer (Rabbi Eliezer Yehudah Waldenberg) - Responsa Tzitz Eliezer 7:48:12 (Translation from: "A Question of Redemption: Can the Modern State of Israel be the Beginning of the Redemption?")

...It seems clear to me that there is no reason whatsoever to refuse to come to the Land just because the heads of State have - for the most part - cast off the yoke of Torah (due to our numerous sins). There is also no basis for the argument that the heavenly redemption cannot possibly arise through people who have no fear of G-d in their hearts. [Such claims] are inherently flawed and their refutation is obvious, for it is clear that the greater the religious Aliyah is, the more influence Orthodox Jewry will have on the State's institutions. The, in the course of time, our efforts to improve matters will be crowned with success (with G-d's help).

Besides this, who can fully comprehend Divine Providence and fathom the Almighty? Such events have occurred before. Namely, when there was "none surviving and none remaining," Hashem sent His hallowed assistance through an evil king of Israel, to widen the borders of the Land and settle multitudes of Jews there. Most astounding is the fact that Scriptures mention this [conquest] in praise of that king, immediately after mentioning how wicked he was. [We can only explain this anomaly] in the sense of "a sin cannot extinguish a mitzvah." Here are the verses I am referring to: "In the fifteenth year of Amatzyahu son of Yoash King of Yehudah, Yerovam son of Yoash King of Israel began to reign in Shomron..." (Melachim 14:23-27)

Thus, the prophets of truth and righteousness describe clearly - like a dream and interpretation - the wondrous sight of Israel being saved from an enemy by way of an exceedingly wicked man, in all respects. Now, it is well known that nothing included in the Holy Scriptures, even in story form, is written merely for the sake of storytelling, G-d forbid. Rather, it serves as prophecy and instruction for future generations. It follows, then, that the verses cited above are included [in the Prophets] for the same reason - to serve as a guiding light and to give us clear insight into every event that occurs throughout the generations.

Therefore, who could assure us - and confirm it with a handshake - that we were not considered "very bitter, with none remaining and no helper..." after the great destruction perpetrated by that enemy of mankind, Hitler (yimach shemo)? [Our situation during the Holocaust] was certainly no less [dire] than in the days [of Yerovam]. It seems to me that there has never been such a ruthless and widespread genocide since the creation of humanity. However, Hashem showed us His loving kindness and did not speak to erase the name of Israel from under the heavens.

Therefore, it is not farfetched to say that when we desperately needed an independent state on solid ground like our Land, Hashem assisted us, in His great mercy, through those who held the reigns of national leadership all along and were willing and able to do the job. And he did not pay attention to the fact that most of them failed to observe Torah and mitzvot. Why do you involve yourself with the Merciful One's hidden matters?

Primarily, we must fulfill our obligations towards G-d and keep His mitzvot including the great and lofty mitzvah of ascending to and settling the Land of Israel, which is equal to all the mitzvot in the Torah, as it says in the Sifrei (Parshat Re'eh) and the Tosefta (Avoda Zarah 5:2). We must also try to motivate, to the best of our abilities, anyone who bears the name of Israel - in the government and outside of it, in cities and in villages - to return to G-d and His Torah, for our own benefit. "Fools who sin [will eventually suffer the consequences]," (Avodah Zarah 54b) and Hashem will do whatever is good in His eyes.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Kindness of Fools - Part I

Many centuries ago our Sages passed on to us the following words of wisdom:

“He who is compassionate to the cruel will ultimately become cruel to the compassionate” (Tanhuma, Parashat Mezora,1; Yalkut Shimoni, I Samuel, Chapter 121.)

It seems that there are those amongst the Jewish People who have yet to learn this lesson.

American Jewish organizations gear up to help Arab Israelis

The Jewish community in the United States is gearing up for a new challenge: raising funds to promote equal rights for Israel's Arab minority. Having proved its strength in struggles for the Jews of Russia, Ethiopia and Iran, American Jewish organizations are now readying to help improve the lives of Arab Israelis.

This initiative is an absolute disgrace for two very different reasons:

1) There can be no doubt that that the Arabs who posses Israeli citizenship do not recognize the legitimacy of the State of Israel existing as a Jewish / Zionist State. This applies equally to both to the masses (as can be seen here and here), as well as their leaders (as can be seen here and here).

Now, it's one thing to argue that the State of Israel has an obligation to ensure the rights of all of its citizens, regardless of their race or religion, and as such, has an obligation to provide services to Arabs who posses Israeli citizenship. However, this does not explain why private Jewish organizations should be raising funds to support those who are clearly enemies of the Jewish State!?!

2) This leads to the second problem I have with this initiative. Let's pretend for a moment that the Arabs of Israel were not enemies of the Jewish State; that they accepted the fact that the State of Israel was, is and will continue to be a Jewish State, and that they had no desire to change that reality.

(ahhh... how nice).

Even were this to be the case, it still does not justify spending private Jewish funding on the Arab citizens of the Jewish State.

* Are there no poor Jews in the State of Israel who could use a little support from their Jewish brothers and sisters?

* Are there no Jewish communities in the State of Israel that couldn't use a little boost?
* Are there no worthwhile causes or charitites whithin the State of Israel that seek to strengthen the Jewish People and State that are worht supporting?

* Have the Jewish communities outside the Land of Israel overcome all of their own internal challenges confronting them, such as the skyrocketing intermarriage rates, assimilation, waning Jewish identity and support for the Jewish State that they can afford to be throwing money at the Arabs of the Jewish State?

* Do those behind this initiative truly believe that by investing in the Arabs of the Jewish State that they will be able to buy their loyalty and friendship the Jewish State?

* If the Arabs of the Jewish State are so badly off, why is it that they choose to remain?

* Furthermore, if the situation of the Arabs of the Jewish State is so dire, why do we not hear of the Sheik's of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar rushing to provide financial aid to their "brothers"?

Of all the questions, the last is the easiest to answer.

Why should the sheiks of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar send aid to the Arabs living in the Jewish State when they can count on the misplaced kindness of their enemies (the Jews) to do the job for them?!?

There’s a sucker born every minute… and they seem to end up either in the government of the State of Israel or heading major Jewish organizations where they spend all their time developing absurd initiatives that cause the Jewish People and State more harm than good.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Rejecting the Will of the (Jewish) People

The (Jewish) People have spoken... at least the ones who live in the Jewish State of Israel.

Poll: 62% want Arab emigration

Annual survey shows Israel continues to decline in democracy index; nearly one third of respondents say Jewish majority required for crucial national decisions, almost two thirds want to encourage Arabs to leave the country.

This actually represents a slight increase from a similar poll taken last year which found that 60% of the Jewish population in Israel was in favor of encouraging Arab emigration from the Jewish State.

The problem is, nobody is listening.

It seems as if the government of the State of Israel, led by Ehud Olmert, is not interested in what the (Jewish) People want, as they choose to pursue a policy that calls for the expulsion of tens of thousands of Jews from their homes, along with the destruction of countless communities in heart of the Land of Israel, even though there is another solution to the demographic threat facing the Jewish State; a solution that the majority of Jewish citizens of the State of Israel seem to support.

Not only is the government of the State of Israel not willing to consider the option of encouraging Arab emigration from the Jewish State, but the Supreme Court of the State of Israel considers any talk of encouraging Arab emigration from the Jewish State as being illegal.

To make matters worse, it is clear that a large percentage of the Jewish citizens of the State of Israel believe that a Jewish majority should be required for any crucial government decisions, and in spite of this, Ehud Olmert continues to make a mockery of the will of the (Jewish) People of Israel.

Kadima boosts Arab influence in Knesset

The Kadima ruling party has already started acting to promote the future withdrawal from the West Bank, by removing potential obstacles that may work to impede the implementation of the plan. The Knesset's largest faction intends to do so by creating a majority of Arab and left-wing Knesset members on the parliamentary committees that are set to vote on the convergence plan – the Economics Committee and the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee.

The Arab and left-wing MKs will be assigned to the committees on the expense of members of the Likud, Israel Our Home and the National Union-National Religious Party factions.

This leaves me with three questions (that I will leave unanswered for the moment):

1) Why is the government of the State of Israel so hell-bent on expelling tens of thousands of Jews from their homes and destroying the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria, as is evident through their failure to even consider exploring options (such as encouraging Arab emigration) that do not involve the expulsion of Jews from their homes in the Land of Israel?

2) Why are the Jewish citizens of the State of Israel willing to accept the rule of those who place the rights of the Arabs of Israel ahead of the rights and interests of the Jewish People and State?

3) Why is it OK for the Jewish State to encourage Jewish immigration (Aliyah) through the Law of Return (which applies only to Jews), but not OK to encourage Arab emigration from the Jewish State?

Monday, May 08, 2006

Lost and Found in the Holy Land

There are days when it is all too easy to lose faith in the Jewish People and State; to focus only on the negativity and the problems.

Yesterday was shaping up into one of those days for me.

While walking through the center of Jerusalem on my way to work, I lost my cell phone. Unfortunately, I didn't realize until lunchtime, over three hours later, that it had gone missing, and by the time I retraced my steps my cell phone was nowhere to be found.

Having deemed any additional efforts to find my cell phone as being futile, I headed to the "Orange" store on Ben Yehuda.

When I arrived at the "Orange" store, I asked the girl behind the counter how she was doing, and proceeded to tell her what happened. She started laughing, surprised that I would be in such a good mood, considering that I had just lost my cell phone. I told her that that should be my biggest problem in life... I then asked her how often cell phones that are lost get returned. She responded that it almost never happens.

I proceeded to disconnect my phone line, and was advised to wait 24 hours, "just in case", before getting a new phone

Upon leaving the "Orange" store I was a little disappointed. Not so much that I had lost my cell phone, but that in the Jewish State, I would have expected that it would be the exception, rather than the rule for an effort not to be made to try and return a lost object to its rightful owner. After all, hashavat aveida - the obligation to return a lost object - is such a basic principle of Judaism; one which receives a disproportionate amount of attention within Jewish Law for something that might otherwise seem to be so inconsequential.

Sure enough, my faith in the Jewish People was not misplaced. Lo and behold, my wife received a phone call later in the day from "Orange" informing her that someone had in fact found my phone and wanted to return it.

I got in touch with this individual, and it turned out that he was a police officer working at the National Police Headquarters in Jerusalem.

I met the police officer, Udi, this morning. As 1st impressions go, he seems like a real nice guy - a mensch. All he asked was that I write him a letter of commendation that would be given to his commanding officer and put in his file. I was more than happy to oblige, and I also gave him a bottle of wine.

When I returned to the "Orange" store to have my service reconnected they were all shocked that someone had actually returned my phone to me, reiterating to me that "it's just not done in Israel".

Perhaps "Orange" needs to place a little more faith in the Jewish People, and perhaps the rest of us can learn to be a little bit more like Udi.

On that note, I came across the following related story:

Samuel Bar Sosrati was called an ox, a sheep, and an ass; Called an ox by his boss who fired him, because he was stubborn; Called a sheep by the crowd, whom he mindlessly followed, until the winds of fashion shifted and they turned their back on him; And called an ass for being so stupid as to lose both his job on account of his stubbornness and his friends on account of his lack of principle, by his wife who left him to go live on a kibbutz and rebuild the homeland.

Samuel Bar Sosrati tried to reconcile himself to the situation. He left town, destitute and forlorn, humming the tune to the Passover Haggada: “Arami oved avi”, ‘My father was a wandering Aramean.’

By and by he came to a forest, through which he walked for many days until he finally saw another human being.

“Excuse me,” said the other running up to him, “Ibaditi et haderech--I’ve lost my way in this forest! Do you know the way get back out?” “No I do not,” said Samuel Bar Sosrati, “But I do know that the way I have come will not take you out of the forest, and if we walk together also avoiding the wrong ways you have taken, perhaps we shall find the right way out.”

Together, they did in fact manage to return to a road that led out of the forest. Now at this time, it really was true that all roads lead to Rome, so Samuel Bar Sosrati went there. What he didn’t know though, was that the great city was in an uproar: The empress had lost her precious gems which she wore on a necklace over her heart.

Sure enough, Samuel Bar Sosrati found them along his way. Citing the conventional wisdom “finders keepers, losers weepers” he picked up the gems and took them with him to the city. No sooner had he arrived when horses galloped through the Arch of Titus where he stood. The delegation of guards stopped and blew their trumpets, unrolled a royal proclamation and announced:

“He who returns the empress’ gems within 10 days will receive such-and-such a reward. If after ten days, he’ll lose his head on the chopping block. If he’s a Jew, we’ll kill him twice.”

This certainly put a new perspective on “finders keepers, losers weepers!” So, Samuel Bar Sosrati rented a room and had a good think about the situation.

He recalled a day in the first or second grade at Shorashim Sunday school. The teacher was discussing the mitzvah of hashavat aveida, returning what is lost. He could remember the precise wording of the Torah which his teacher had read: “If you should see your brother’s ox or sheep gone astray, don’t ignore it. You must return it to your fellow… and the same goes for his donkey, his garment—anything that your fellow loses and you find: you must not remain indifferent.”

Now Samuel Bar Sosrati got to thinking about all the other aspects of this mitzvah hashavat aveida returning what is lost, which he had learned over the years: One who finds something without trying to return it is considered a thief. One must take care of the found animal or object—even at her own expense--until the owner is notified. You must not wait for the owner to come to you, you have to publicize the found object, and verify that the claimant is the rightful owner.

He chuckled when he recalled the case of Rabbi Jeremiah who brought a pigeon to the beit midrash, the house of study. According to the law, a pigeon found within fifty cubits of a dovecote must be returned to the owner of the dovecote, but a pigeon found more than 50 cubits from a dovecote is considered a wild pigeon and may be kept by the finder. Rabbi Jeremiah claimed that this pigeon was found with one foot standing within 50 cubits and one foot standing beyond 50 cubits: what should he do? They threw him and his bird out of the beit midrash!!

But these gems were not pigeons. Samuel Bar Sosrati still couldn’t decide what to do. The he remembered the teaching of the sage Bachya. At first, in Exodus chapter 23, the Torah legislates that you must return a lost animal to your enemy, then in Deuteronomy chapter 34 (we know already) it says you must return it to your brother, your fellow. Why the change in wording from enemy to fellow? Well, says Bachya, when you show the kindness of returning the lost thing, your enemy ceases to be your enemy and becomes your brother, your fellow. Returning the lost object is an opportunity to change and grow to start anew.

Samuel Bar Sosrati began to think about his situation as an opportunity. With any opportunity comes risk. Mumbling the words of resolve Queen Esther used when she took her fate and the fate of the Jewish People into her own hands, he decided to wait it out: ve-kha-asher avadeti avadeti “If I perish, I perish,”

On the eleventh day, he went to the palace and returned the gems. The empress called him in before her throne:

“Were you not in the city all this time?”

“I was,” he said.

“Did you not hear the proclamation?” She asked.

“I heard it,” he answered.

“Then why didn’t you return my gems within the ten days?!”

“So that you shouldn’t say I returned them out of fear of you or for reward. I returned them because it was the right thing to do, I returned them in order to seize for myself the opportunity to change my life, correct my past mistakes, recover what I’ve lost. Performing the mitzvah of hashavat aveida has been the reward itself.”

The empress congratulated him, “Blessed be the God of the Jews.”

And blessed be Udi.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

A Post-Zionist Yom Ha'Atzmaut

One might think that at least one day a year, on Yom Ha'atzmaut - Israel's Independence Day, that the right and the left, the religious and the secular could unite in expressing their appreciation for the existence of the Jewish State of Israel.

That being said, I was very troubled by Ha'aretz's special coverage of Yom Ha’Atzmaut. One would expect that even the ultra secular, leftist Ha'aretz, would one day of the year put aside their post-Zionist agenda and devote themselves to expressing pride and thanks for the (Jewish) State of Israel.

Quite to the contrary, Ha'aretz seemed to use the occasion to achieve the exact opposite agenda, publishing one article after another which sought to demoralize any spirit of hope and pride that anyone in Israel might feel towards the Jewish State.

Here are the top (bottom?) 10 articles that Ha'aretz published in their Independence Day Supplement and Magazine sections (along with the brief description provided by Ha'aretz):

1) The country that wouldn't grow up - Tony Judt

At 58, Israel has no friends aside from the U.S. and its claims of victimhood and anti-Semitism are falling on increasingly deaf ears. The time has come to mature.

Like a middle-aged man, Israel has lost its youth and ideals, and is focused now on covering up the bald spots.

3) Impressed, their press - Danny Rubinstein

Why are Arab newspapers flooded with translations of Hebrew articles on a daily basis, and yet Israeli publications run nothing from Arab journalists?

An internal army study has come up with an unavoidable conclusion: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is irresolvable. The challenge is how to live with this persistent confrontation without going mad.

5) Reexamining an old ethos - Uri Dromi

Perhaps myths concerning Israel's 'few' against the enemies' 'many' continue to exist no matter what, and are even beneficial. This anthology proposes that they be approached with caution.

6) A garden of unearthly delights - Esther Zandberg

Today's generation of Israeli gardens are free of ideology and seasonal change - sometimes even of soil - and have been neutralized of any sign of identity.

Jerusalem's Arab houses inspire Israeli architects, but to Palestinians, they represent a catastrophic memory and the erasure of their national identity.

What if the cleaning lady-spy had not found the torn-up papers that whipped up the Dreyfus affair? And Theodor Herzl had not been stirred to write 'The Jewish Nation'?

Two imaginary scenarios about the very real threat of the Iranian bomb.

10) My good God, let me be free - Yochi Brandes

For as long as I remember myself, I was attracted to that other world, the free one. The very desire of an ultra-Orthodox girl to belong to the other camp shows the special relationship that existed between the religious and the secular in 1970s Israel.

On the bright side, there's always Barbara Sofer of the Jerusalem Post, who shares with us what has now become a Yom Ha'atzmaut staple, with her column, 58 reasons why I love Israel.

It's nice to see that within the mainstream Israeli media, there are still a few Barbara Sofer's out there who are thankful for the privilege of living as a proud Jew in the Jewish State of Israel, and who try to instill those sentiments through her writing within the hearts of the the People of Israel.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Dreaming on Yom HaZikaron

I have always been a bit of an idealist; a dreamer, if you will.

7 years ago tonight, I was sitting in the library of Yeshiva University, having just attended a tekes / chagiga commemorating Yom HaZikaron and celebrating Yom Ha'Atzmaut. It was my first year in University, after having spent the last year studying in Israel - a year that ultimately changed my life.

7 years ago, on Yom Hazikaron 5759 / 1999, I wrote the following letter:

Elliot, how are you? Chag sameach.

I just want to share some thoughts that are racing through my head as we speak. Have you done anything special for Yom HaZikaron / Yom Ha'atzmaut? I just went to hear Rav Goldwicht and a retired Israeli officer who fought in both the Six Day War and in the Yom Kippur War. I must say that I feel that the way I acted on this day a year ago, was, in a word, childish. Whether or not to say Hallel, with a bracha, without a bracha, tachanun... what I would give to be in Israel now, and being able to ask myself these same questions.

No matter how many speeches I'll hear, be it today or tomorrow, it doesn’t make up for not being there, in Eretz Yisrael. I honestly feel like there is something missing in my life right now - and I don’t think that the void can be filled here. Unfortunately I know, that within another day or so, this feeling will surely pass. That’s not to say that it will go away totally, but it will recess to the back of my mind, or back into my heart, from where it originated. It’s almost impossible to keep these sorts of feelings on an everyday basis - I guess that’s the challenge that we must overcome.

It’s almost funny, a year ago, at this time we were in Israel - at Har Herzl, at Castel... it seems like yesterday, but so much has changed since then, and life seems to have moved us much further away from that day. For better or worse, time stops for no one, and we have to make the most of our moments while we have them, because before we know it, all we'll have left are memories.

I wonder when I'll be able to go back to Israel, I miss it very much, and I think about it almost everyday, I really want to go back. But when...? Probably not until I finish college, and depending what I do about graduate school, maybe not until after that either. That’s so many years away. I've only been away from Israel for 10 months, and I miss it so much already, how can I be certain that these feelings will last me 3,4 or even 5 years down the road? I guess there’s no guarantee that they will - I'm sure you've heard this just as much as I have, that when we come back from Israel, we're on some big Israel high, and we all are certain that we are going to live there, but alas, people get side tracked, and they start to lose the feelings that they once had, and then it becomes just another dream that most likely goes unfulfilled.

I guess the best thing to do is to surround yourself with people who are like minded, and most importantly, when looking to get married, to find a girl who believes as strongly as you do about Israel, and to make sure that the goal of making Aliyah always remains as a reality, and not just another dream put on the back burner, hoping that one day, either you'll forget about it totally, or rationalize to yourself as many different reasons as possible as to why making Aliyah isn’t really as important as you once thought it was, when you were just a "kid".

I wish us both luck in the days, months and years ahead, may the feeling and hope inside both of us never dwindle. If we are to be called dreamers, dreamers by those who were once dreamers themselves, but who have long since tossed their dreams aside for "reality", then may it be His will, that we never wake up.

Well, I have to run, I'll talk to you later. Kol tuv.


Here I am, 7 years after having written the above letter, sitting in my very own home in the Land of Israel, overlooking the hills of Jerusalem and the Judean desert.

Here I am, 7 years after having written the above letter, sitting only a few feet away from my beautiful, sleeping daughter, who was the first member of my family to be born in Jerusalem in who knows how many generations.

Here I am, 7 years after having written the above letter, knowing that tomorrow, on my bus ride to work (working for an organization whose goal is to strengthen the connection of Jewish students to Israel), I will be privileged enough to overlook the Temple Mount, as well as pass Jerusalem's Old City walls.

Yet, here I am today, troubled by the unimaginable events of the past year, and concerned about what the immediate future holds in store for the Jewish People and State.

In spite of it all, today I am still a dreamer - just as I was 7 years ago.

I still believe in the dream of a Jewish State in which the Jewish People will be able to live in peace, as proud Jews.

I still believe in the dream of a Jewish State in which an exemplary society will be created by the Jewish People; one that will serve as a true light unto the nations and to all of mankind.

I still believe in the dream of a Jewish State in which Jews from the four corners of the earth will live together as brothers; as one nation in the Land, working in harmony to fulfill our collective destiny.

I still believe in the G-d of Israel, Who neither sleeps nor slumbers.

I still believe in the Nation of Israel, who throughout the 2,000 years of the bitter exile forsook neither the G-d of Israel nor the Land of Israel.

I still believe that in spite of all of the challenges that we are facing today, the re-establishment of the Jewish State in the Land of Israel, was the best thing to happen to the Jewish People over the last two millennia.

Lastly, I still believe that if we are to have any future at all, it is going to happen here, in a Jewish State in the Land of Israel...

And, most importantly, I believe that we can still make it work.

Ze'ev - formerly known as Jason

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