Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Does a Jewish State = Racism?

It seems that Israel's Supreme Court and Arab Member of Knesset Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List) have something in common - namely, they both believe that the notion of the State of Israel existing as a Jewish State is racist.

Let's start with Israel's Supreme Court:

Gov't school plan struck down as 'racially based'

The High Court of Justice on Monday struck down a government educational plan that gives preferential treatment to 500 Jewish communities and four Arab ones, ruling that the plan discriminates against the Arab sector...

"We have been convinced that the government decision on the matter of determining the national priority zones does not sit well with the principle of equality, as its consequences lead to unacceptable discrimination against members of the Arab sector in the fulfillment of their right to education, thereby resulting in its illegality," wrote Supreme Court President Aharon Barak...

"The result is contaminated by one of the most suspect distinctions, which is distinction based on race and nationality," wrote Barak. "This is a result that Israeli democracy cannot tolerate."

The Education Ministry said it would study the ruling and "come to the necessary conclusions" regarding the consequences.

Let's take a moment to enumerate some of the conclusions and consequences that the Education Ministry (and the rest of us) can draw from Supreme Court President, Aharon Barak's comments:

* The concept of Israel existing as a Jewish State, whereby the interests and needs of the Jewish People are placed above all others, is racist, as it represents a "distinction based on race and nationality".

* For Aharon Barak, and Israel's Supreme Court, preserving Israel as a democracy in which there exists absolute quality for all, takes precedence over Israel's existence as a Jewish State.

* In the (Jewish) State of Israel, the Education Ministry is forbidden from placing a stronger emphasis or allocating greater funding towards Jewish communities and Jewish education - as it " does not sit well with the principle of equality".

Now, let's compare Supreme Court President Barak statements to those recently made by Arab member of Knesset, Ahmed Tibi:

MK Tibi: Jewish state not democratic

"I certainly oppose Zionism and the Jewish character of the State. Everything I've said tonight, I will also say in the Knesset, and that is that a state can't be equal and democratic and prefer one ethnic group over another. Despite the fact that I'm aware of the presence of Basic Laws defining the country as a Jewish state, this does not take away from the logical contradiction between the two definitions of Jewish and democratic in our opinion, and our opinion is also shared by a wide echelon of a group of intellectuals and Israeli left-wingers."

"We won't accept a coercion of Zionism, which we oppose as we oppose the foreign and defense policies of the government, and the validity of the occupation. A million Arabs in the country oppose the occupation, oppose Zionism, and oppose the liberation of land which is a Zionist value. You can't force these things on us and our public... Our platform talks about equality of rights for the Arab public as a national minority in the context of a legal battle to change the country into a state of all of its nations," Tibi said.

Ahmed Tibi (who is scheduled to meet with Hamas' new PM Ismail Haniyeh), along with other Arab Members of Knesset, such as Azmi Bishara (Balad) - who has met with his fare share of terrorists who call for the destruction of the Jewish State of Israel during his tenure as an MK, see the inherent contradiction between Israel being both a Jewish State and a democracy, and recognize that ultimately one of these two ideologies must take precedence.

They, along with Israel's Supreme Court, believe that it should be the State of Israel's democratic character that is the ultimate arbiter of all values and policies in the State of Israel.

As such, it will only be a matter of time before we see the following decisions rendered by Israel's Supreme Court:

* The annulment of the Law of Return, which establishes in law the right of every Jew in the world to move to the State of Israel and be granted citizenship, as it "does not sit well with the principle of equality" between Jewish and Arab citizens of the State of Israel.

* The rejection of Israel's national anthem, the Hatikvah, which contains the words: "The soul of a Jew yearns". The current national anthem is "contaminated by one of the most suspect distinctions, which is distinction based on race and nationality" and must be changed to an anthem that can equally represent all elements of Israeli society.

* The State of Israel must change it's national flag, as Israeli Arabs do not feel a connection to the Shield (Star) of David, nor to the blue and white stripes representative of the Jewish tzizit (ritual fringes) and talit (prayer shawl). This ruling will also apply to the State of Israel’s national emblem, the Menorah, which only holds meaning to a particular segment of Israeli society, and as such, is discriminatory.

* The State of Israel will establish all Muslim holidays as national holidays, as Arab citizens are not able to celebrate the State of Israel's current national holidays, which are by and large, Jewish in nature.

* Calls to "Judaize" the Galil and Negev regions of the State of Israel, in order to preserve a Jewish majority in those areas will be forbidden. As the State of Israel is a democracy, it should be of little consequence if a particular region is populated by a majority of Jewish or Arab citizens.

* The State of Israel will no longer publicly celebrate her Independence Day (Yom Ha'atzmaut), as for many of the State of Israel's Arab citizens, this day is mourned as The Nakba (The Catastrophe) - lamenting the terrible day in which the State of Israel - the Jewish State - was established. To continue publicly celebrating this day would represent the height of cruelty to an entire segment of Israeli society.

With leaders such as these, one can only wonder what future the Jewish State of Israel has.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Treat us like Jews!

Amir Peretz, Labor party leader, has stumbled upon a new cause to champion:

Peretz: The time has come to treat settlers like human beings

My first (and obvious) reaction to the headline was that this represented a pathetic attempt at electioneering - with Peretz and the Labor party trying to reach out to a new segment of the voting public to boost Labor's numbers in the upcoming elections.

Yet, even so, I was hopeful.

It's not everyday (during elections or otherwise) that you have a left-wing party reaching out to the "settlers". Generally speaking, as is the case with Ehud Olmert and the Kadima party, votes are won in Israel by demonizing and abusing this segment of the public (think Amona).

As such, I decided to give Amir Peretz the benefit of the doubt, and I took a closer look at what he had to say:

Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz told settlers on Sunday that he would act for generous compensation and support by the state in exchange for voluntary evacuation of West Bank settlements...

"The time has come to treat settlers as human beings. They are the salt of the earth. We must build new towns and neighborhoods for them," Peretz said. "It's even worth giving the evacuees double the compensation, to prevent a confrontation and because it is an investment that pays itself off," he said.

There you have it.

In Amir Peretz's world, and sadly for many others here in Israel (particularly the country's leadership and elite), nothing is sacred, nothing is worth fighting for, nothing is worth sacrificing for and nothing is worth dying for. Everybody has a price. Faith, ideology, and a life lived based on belief and ideals are all admirable, but at the end of the day, those are also for sale - even if it requires paying a hefty sum (in this case, double the amount spent by the government on those expelled from Gush Katif).

If Amir Peretz truly wanted to treat the "settlers" with respect, why not talk to them as Jews, and not as human beings? Why not try to understand where they are coming from - of the centrality of the Land of Israel to the Jewish People and Jewish destiny? Why not try to understand the ideals, the vision and beliefs of those who are living through Judea and Samaria (and formerly Gaza) and why they (along with countless Jews throughout the ages) have been willing to sacrifice so much in order to live by those ideals?

Instead of talking to the "settlers" as human beings, and investing billions of NIS in expelling them from their homes (whether through force or coercion), why not treat these "settlers" as Jews, and invest that money into bridging the gaps that exist between the Jews of Judea & Samaria and those elements of Israeli society whom the Labor party represents - and thus work towards strengthening Israel as a Jewish State, as opposed to the State of Israel merely being a refuge of human beings?

We find the answer to these questions in a related article in the Jerusalem Post, through an encounter between one of the "settlers" and Peretz:

"It was your party's spirit that founded the settler movement," accused Hadera. "You are talking about this as if it was in the past and the decision has been made that we would leave. I don't want to leave, she said.

"The new spirit of my party is one of peace," responded Peretz. "The spirit of the settler movement and the spirit of peace are not on the same path. It is the spirit of peace that will direct our future, he said.

Amir Peretz's future is driven by his quest to achieve peace. Whether peace will come through the Oslo Accords, the Road Map, the Geneva Initiative or "Disengagement" matters little to Peretz. The fact that the road to (a false) peace for Peretz is paved with Jewish blood and tears is of little consequence, so long as at the end of the day we can live in peace, and exist as a normal people - as a nation like all others.

Peretz, however, is right about two things:

1st, that the "spirit of the settler movement", namely the recognition that the future of the Jewish People and State revolve around our faithfulness to the Land of Israel, People of Israel and Torah (Heritage) of Israel stands in direct contrast to Amir Peretz's "spirit of peace" that is based on retreat, appeasement and the abandonment of the Jewish Heritage and Homeland.

Peretz's "spirit of peace" is a spirit that is based on the desire to run from Jewish destiny and history; a desire to no longer live our lives as Jews and for the State of Israel to no longer view itself as a Jewish State (with all of the obligations and responsibilities that go along with that); a desire to undergo a conversion from Judaism to Secular Humanism, and to replace the Jewish State of Israel with a State of Israel that exists as a nation like all others; a nation made up of people who believe in nothing and stand for nothing short of the present, the temporary and the fleeting (Read: Peace Now) - a nation made up of individuals who all have a price.

2nd, that the future of the State of Israel hangs in the balance of which path - which spirit - we decide to follow.

Will we follow the "sprit of the settler movement" or the "spirit of peace"?

Amir Peretz has made his decision. Have you made yours?

Sunday, February 26, 2006

The destruction of Shuls & the lack of moral clarity in the State of Israel

The silence is deafening... but hardly surprising.

Tajikhistan razing country's only Shul to make room for presidential home

Authorities in Tajikistan (a country whose population is 85% Muslim) have started demolishing the country's only synagogue in order to make way for a new presidential residence, an official said Friday.

The century-old synagogue on government land in the ex-Soviet republic's capital Dushanbe will be completely torn down by June "as part of the plans to build a new presidential palace," said city administration spokesman Shavkat Saidov.

Last month, city authorities demolished the synagogue's ritual bathhouse, classroom and kosher butchery, the Norway-based international Forum 18 religious rights group said.

Tajikistan's Jewish community, mainly made up of Bukharan Jews, is mostly elderly and poor and cannot afford to build a new synagogue. About 280 Jews live in Dushanbe, of about 480 across the country.

One might have expected the government of the State of Israel to try and intervene in the matter, and save this century old synagogue from being destroyed, yet the government of the State of Israel has been strangely silent.

Could it be that the government of the State of Israel, ever since it carried out the expulsion of thousands of Jews from Gush Katif - leaving behind the synagogues (and other Jewish holy sites) to the Palestinians (thus welcoming their desecration and destruction - as is the accepted behavior of the "Palestinians" towards any Jewish holy site they come into contact with) - has lost the moral authority to speak out against the persecution of Jews and the destruction of Jewish holy sites around the world?

Could it be that the government of the State of Israel now finds itself unable to carry out one of the most fundamental obligations that it has as the leaders of the Jewish State - namely to defend the rights of Jews throughout the world (and even within Israel) to live proudly and freely as Jews?

I guess that's the price one must be willing to pay for peace err... security umm... international support well... having a Jewish State... hmmm... being the only democracy in the Middle East...

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Election Reflections #2: The National Union - National Religious Party merger

(For the 1st installment of Election Reflections, click here and here)

I have been asked by a number of my loyal readers as to my thoughts on the merger between the National Union Party (HaIchud HaLeumi), of which I am a candidate for Knesset, and the National Religious Party (the Mafdal).

The short answer is:

Ideologically: I don't like it.

Politically: I accept it, understand the need for it, and can see the potential benefits (while being aware of the obvious drawbacks).

Now for the longer answer...

(Important background info: The National Union party is currently composed of 3 parties: Moledet, Tekuma, Tzionut HaDatit. The National Union party was founded in 1999 when Moledet, along with Herut and Tekuma joined forces. Since then, Herut left the National Union, Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu joined prior to the last elections, and has since left to run on its own, and most recently, Effie Eitam and Yitzchak Levy broke away from the Mafdal, formed the Zionut HaDatit party and joined the National Union).

If one goes back to the elections in 1992 that led to Yitzchak Rabin's (and Labor's) rise to power, there was not a single (non-Arab) party in the Knesset that openly advocated for the establishment a "Palestinian State" (at the time, even talking to Arafat's PLO was against the law at the time); there was not a single party that would have would have openly called for using the Jewish State's security forces to expel thousands of Jews from their homes; nor was there any party that would have dared to suggest the possibility of dividing Jerusalem.

Today, even the Likud has amended its platform to accept the creation of a "Palestinian State" west of the Jordan River (and of course, was the party in power that implemented the Expulsion plan). Shas was instrumental in helping to push the Oslo Accords through the Knesset, and of late has made it clear that it accepts future territorial concessions; the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party had no trouble sitting in Ariel Sharon's government as the Expulsion plan was implemented; Avigdor Lieberman's "right-wing" Yisrael Beiteinu party has called for redrawing the borders of the State of Israel in order to cut-out areas with too many Arabs; and sadly, even the Mafdal stayed in Sharon's government of Expulsion until the almost the last moment, and recently stated that they would sooner have a "settlement" uprooted than have a religious day school closed.

Furthermore, just about every party from Ehud Olmert's Kadima party and leftward has expressed a willingness to divide the ancient and eternal capitol of the Jewish People, Jerusalem.

That being said, the National Union party came to the conclusion after their inability (along with others) to stop the Expulsion plan from within the Knesset, that if we wanted to really turn the State of Israel into a Jewish State - working from the top down - it wouldn't be possible in a party that only had 6-7 seats in the Knesset.

Ariel Sharon was a master at playing one small party off of another in order to garner enough support for whatever it was that he was trying to accomplish. If he couldn't get what he wanted from the National Union, he would turn to the Mafdal, and if Mafdal wouldn't help him, he would turn to the ultra-Orthodox parties of Shas and UTJ, offering them increased funding for their institutions, and sooner or later, one (or more) of the parties would swallow the bait, and Sharon would be able to bulldoze through his Expulsion agenda.

In order to change that reality, Benny Elon, Chairman of the National Union party, saw the need to work towards uniting the parties of the national / religious right (Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu, Mafdal, National Union, Shas and UTJ). The goal being to put together a untied bloc that could potentially form a coalition of 61 Members of Knesset on their own, and thus be able to form the next government of the State of Israel (and at the very least form a sizeable opposition that leave any Kadima led government relying on the ultra-secular Meretz party, the socialist Labor party, and the Arab parties to stay in power - in other words a very unstable coalition that would not likely be able to accomplish very much and would not last very long).

The drawback to this, of course, is that inevitably one is forced to unite with parties who do not share all of your ideals or principles. That is clearly the case with the merger with the Mafdal, and would likely be the case if we were to be successful in uniting, at least in principal, with the ultra-Orthodox parties as well as Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu.

In this case, the potential of being able to put together the future government of the State of Israel, one that would strive to strengthen Israel as a Jewish State - through settlement, education, defeating our enemies... - might very well be worth the discomfort that comes with sitting with those who you do not see eye to eye with on every single issue.

Is it a perfect solution?

No, but is voting for Baruch Marzel's Jewish Front party a better answer?

True, you might not be compromising on a single one of your ideals, but at the end of the day, you will have voted for a party that will likely (once again) not pass the electoral threshold, thus wasting tens of thousands of votes that might have otherwise gone to strengthen an already existing party on the right - or, if the Jewish Front does get into the Knesset, what can they hope to accomplish with their 3 seats?

The whole idea of the merger between the National Union and the National Religious Party is to show that we are no longer content being a small party - it is time for the parties of the nationalist / religious right to lead this country, and that will only happen if we find a way to unite our political power in some way.

As I said in the beginning of this post, ideologically, I do not like it, as when it comes to ideology, there is no room for compromise. Yet, I do believe that the potential advantages of such a merger - both with the Mafdal, and with the other parties on the national / religious right have the potential to outweigh the ever-apparent disadvantages.

Time will tell.

(In the next installment of Election Reflections I will discuss how I came to be involved in politics and how I ended up as a candidate in the upcoming elections for Knesset.)

Monday, February 20, 2006

Who is a Jew? A contemporary answer to an age-old question

Traditionally speaking, the answer to the question of "Who is a Jew?" has always been a simple one. According to Jewish Law, anyone who is either born to a Jewish mother, or who underwent a conversion process consistent with Jewish Law is considered a Jew.

However, the ultra-secular Meretz party, finding the traditional answer to be terribly outdated, has provided us with a more contemporary answer - an answer that is more consistent with the post-modern, post-nationalist times in which we live.

Meretz: Recognize non-Orthodox conversion in Israel

The Meretz platform states: "Anyone who shows an interest in joining the Jewish religion and nation, defines himself as a Jew, speaks Hebrew, wants to live in Israel, and is acquainted with Jewish history and culture will be recognized as a Jew."

Dr. Tzvia Greenfeld, the lone ultra-Orthodox candidate on Meretz's Knesset list said, "Anyone who views themselves as a son or daughter of the Jewish nation has the rights to all citizenship privileges."

"The definition of the Jewish nation is much broader and more flexible than in the past, since religious affiliation is no longer the nation's unifying element," Greenfeld added, "There are other aspects such as Jewish collective memory, attachment to tradition, and a feeling of national belonging. The definitions from a hundred years no longer apply today."

To display how malicious Meretz's answer to the question of "Who is a Jew?" is, consider the following hypothetical scenario:

What if millions of individuals (who happen to view themselves as "Palestinian" Arabs) who consider themselves to be among the Children of Abraham, the progenitor of the Jewish People, who are knowledgeable of the Hebrew language; have an awareness of basic Jewish history, traditions and culture; and who are very interested in living in the Land of Israel chose to convert to Judaism en masse, under the new guidelines proposed by Meretz - would Meretz advocate that the State of Israel accept these millions of potential converts to "Judaism", no questions asked?

Would Meretz advocate giving these millions of new "Jewish" converts’ complete equality and citizenship rights?

Would Meretz advocate the right of these new "Jews" to change the name of the "Jewish" State of Israel to "Palestine" along with other changes that would remove the Jewish character of the State of Israel, such as the Law of Return?

Would Meretz advocate allowing these new "Jews" to serve in the IDF and defend the borders of the "Jewish" State of Israel from the enemies of the Jewish People?

If not, why?

Because they are Arabs?

That would be racist.

Because their intentions aren't pure?

Who are you to judge?

In short, Meretz's proposed answer to the question of "Who is a Jew?" has little to do with any genuine concern for the future of Judaism and the Jewish People, and has everything to do with Meretz's desire to bring about the end of Israel as a Jewish State and erase any notion of the Jewish People being G-d's Chosen nation, one with a unique mission and destiny to accomplish in this world.

Is it any wonder that today, in the Jewish State of Israel, after having had the 3 different Ministers of Education from the Meretz party in the last 15 years (Yossi Sarid, Shulamit Aloni, & Amnon Rubinstein), that so many Jewish children graduate high school ignorant of the basic tenets and principles of Judaism, of what it means to be part of the Jewish People, and of the significance of a Jewish State in the Land of Israel to the Jewish People?

How sad.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

On Helplessness and the Illegitimacy of the Israeli Government

Last night, before going to bed, my wife was busy "surfing the web" while I was unloading the dishwasher. All of the sudden I heard her gasp, followed by her calling me into the room to look at something. What caught her attention was the following headline:

Fatah Al Aqsa Martyrs claims Ma'aleh Adumim stabbing

Sadly, there is nothing really unique about this terror attack. Jews have been on the receiving end of such attacks in the Jewish State at the hands of our enemies for far too long. However, throughout it all, Ma'aleh Adumim (where we live) has been relatively untouched.

After reading the above article, my wife, clearly disturbed, stumbled across the following video that was released by Hamas (in the aftermath of it's rise to the leadership of the the "Palestinian Authority") - courtesy of Palestinian Media Watch, in which a Hamas suicide bomber had (among other things) the following to say before he embarked on a mission to murder as many Jews as possible:

"My message to the loathed Jews is that there is no god but Allah, we will chase you everywhere! We are a nation that drinks blood, and we know that there is no blood better than the blood of Jews. We will not leave you alone until we have quenched our thirst with your blood, and our children's thirst with your blood. We will not leave until you leave the Muslim countries."

"In the name of Allah, we will destroy you, blow you up, take revenge against you, purify the land of you, pigs that have defiled our country... This operation is revenge against the sons of monkeys and pigs."

"I dedicate this wedding [i.e. death for Allah] to all of those who have chosen Allah as their goal, the Quran as their constitution and the Prophet [Muhammad] as their role model. Jihad is the only way to liberate Palestine - all of Palestine - from the impurity of the Jews...

This video really had my wife shaken up. She asked me why Hashem was letting this happen; why this was happening at all?

I told her that G-d is not to blame for the threat that Hamas poses to the Jewish People and State.

It is not G-d's fault that the government of the State of Israel chooses to take no concrete actions against the sworn enemy of the Jewish People and State, short of withholding some funding, or that it chooses to ignore the barrage of missiles that has been falling on the Jewish State over the last 4 years, and is now within striking distance of the highly sensitive Ashkelon industrial region.

It is not G-d's fault that the current (and previous government) of the State of Israel have invested the bulk of their energies towards expelling Jews from their homes; towards selectively "upholding the rule of law" only when it furthers their defeatist agenda, and towards incting the general public against those who still believe in the right of the Jewish People to a Jewish State in the Land of Israel.

The most basic obligation that a government takes upon itself- and the very reason that a private individual will accept limitations on his own personal freedom - is because it is understood that the government will provide for his security and wellbeing. Any government that is unable to provide for the security of her citizens is a government that has lost the moral and legal authority to rule.

The current and previous government of Israel has not met this most basic of obligations - of providing security for her citizens.

In addition to the above obligation, the Government of the State of Israel has another central obligation that it must fulfill if it is to be viewed as a legitimate government - and this obligation is unique to the State of Israel.

The State of Israel was founded to exist as a Jewish State; a state where the interests and needs of the Jewish People would come before all others; a state in which the Jew would no longer need to live in fear, worry about what the nations of the world might say or think about him, or need to apologize for living his life as a proud Jew in the Land of Israel.

Any government of the State of Israel that is unable to defend the right of the Jewish People to a Jewish State in the Land of Israel; defend the Jewish People and State against those who threaten their security; defend the rights and interests of the Jewish People above and beyond all others; and defend the right of the Jewish People to live as proud Jews in their Homeland is a government that has lost its legitimacy to rule over the Jewish People and State.

Let's hope (and pray) that the future government of the State of Israel will be one that will be able to meet the most basic of its obligations, and allow the Jewish People to live securely in their land, while holding their heads high, restoring, once again, the sense of Jewish pride and dignity to the hearts of the Jewish People, which the current and previous government have worked so hard to extinguish.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Election Reflections #1 (part 2)

Over the last 7 - 10 days there were two particular (politically related) events that I have given much thought to since. The first of these two events was the signing away (potentially) of my American citizenship, and the second was the National Union - National Religious party merger (which I will address in another post).

In the wake of the election of Rabbi Meir Kahane to the Knesset there has been a law forbidding any Member of Knesset from holding dual citizenship. (In this post, I won't go into the reasoning behind why it was only once Rabbi Meir Kahane was elected to the Knesset that this law was legislated, and not on account of Golda Meir and Moshe Arens, two individuals who served in the Knesset with dual American / Israeli citizenship).

That being said, as the deadline approached to submit all party lists to for the upcoming elections, I received a phone call from someone in the party instructing me that I had to sign some papers in order to officially be added to the list. When I asked what I would be signing, I was informed that in order to run for the Knesset, I need to sign a document, that among other things, states that should I get elected to the Knesset I would be willing to renounce my US citizenship.

At first, I didn't really think much of it. In the three years that I have lived in Israel, I have only been back to the US once, so I really haven't made much use of it. Nor have I been a proponent of those in Israel who view their American passport as a life preserver, holding on to it "just in case things in Israel don't work out".

Yet, when I mentioned this to my wife, she was less than thrilled, and the more I thought about it, I understood why. In many ways, an American passport, even if it isn’t used, is a bridge back to ones roots (in a general sense). By agreeing to renounce ones US citizenship, he is, in some ways, severing those roots. Sure, one can still visit the US with an Israeli passport, but he would need to obtain a visa, and then upon his arrival, wait on the foreigner line and be forced to justify why it is that he should be granted entry into the US. Throughout the entire process, this expatriate would likely remember how easy it once was for him to come and go in the United States as he pleased.

With all those thoughts racing through my head, and with a slight shiver running through my body, when I met the party representative the next day, I signed the form, no questions asked.

Why did I sign it? Am I really willing to renounce my US citizenship?

Those are two questions that I have thought about often since I signed the form. I believe that the simple answer is that, and I have written about in previous posts, the reason why I made Aliyah just over 3 years ago from new York City is to allow me take an active role in helping the Jewish People to fulfill their collective mission and destiny in this world, which I believe can only be fulfilled in the Land of Israel.

I have not yet discovered what my exact role is in the grand scheme of things, but if in order for me to do my part for the Jewish People and State I should be put in a position whereby I would be forced to renounce my US citizenship, then how could I, in good faith (pun intended), refuse?

I am very thankful for all that the United States has provided for me in the time that I lived there and for what it has provided the Jewish People on the whole, since its founding. However, I still very much believe in the words of the song that was played as I walked down to Chuppah at my wedding - "Ein li Eretz Acheret" (I have no other Land / home).

Israel. The Jewish State. Home. The only one I have.

Having to renounce my US citizenship would be far from ideal, but it would be a small price to pay for the privilege of living in the Jewish State of Israel and being able to take an active role in shaping the destiny of the Jewish People.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Election Reflections #1 (part 1)

As I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago, I am on the list of candidates of the National Union Party (HaIchud HaLeumi) /National Religious Party in the upcoming Israeli elections.

(This is also one of the reasons why I have not had as much time to blog of late).

Both David of Soccer Dad and Ezzie of SerandEz suggested, given my personal involvement in the upcoming Israeli elections and the campaign of the National Union / National Religious party, that I provide some type of "insider" look at the elections - at least from the perspective of my party.

Personally, I think the idea is a great one, but at the same time, I am apprehensive. I do not view myself as a party hack, and the views I have always expressed on this blog have been my own. I do not agree 100% with any political party in Israel, let alone the one in which I am a member and candidate for Knesset, and I would hate for my blog to come to be viewed as a simply a mouthpiece for the National Union / National Religious Party - a blog where I would be merely spouting off empty slogans and ideas.

I am happy, for the greater good of the Jewish Blogsphere, to post occasional updates from my "insider" perspective. However, I will not be writing about why I think everyone should be voting for the National Union - National Religious Party per se, although I may focus a bit on why and how I got involved with the party. Instead, I intend to post about some of the particular issues that will arise (or have arisen) during the campaign, and how I personally relate to them.


To be continued...

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Aliyah Reflections - 3 Years Later...

This past Shabbat, on the 6th of Shvat, my wife an I celebrated our 3 year Aliyah anniversary.

It really is amazing how quickly time flies by. It really feels as if I have been living here for much longer than 3 years, just as it feels as if I have been married to my wife for much longer than the 3 and a half years that we have been together (I can hardly remember my bachelor days). Thankfully, in these two instances, I have no burning desire to return to what once was.

In the eyes of my wife (and I tend to agree with her), these two ideas - that of marriage and living in the Land of Israel, are closely related - and I will return to this point in a moment.

I gave much thought as to how best to relate to my 3rd Aliyah anniversary. 3 years represents some type of chazakah - permanence - in the Jewish sense, and thank G-d, I do believe that in the last 3 years my wife and I (along with our beautiful daughter) have planted strong and deep roots that will allow us (and hopefully all future generations that will come from us) to live in the Land of Israel - in the Jewish State of Israel - as proud, passionate and committed Jews.

Our 1st Aliyah anniversary was an easy one to celebrate. After all, it was our first year in Israel. We had returned home. We had begun a new life - with all the joys and challenges that go along with that.

Our 2nd Aliyah anniversary was, in many ways, even more special (at least in my eyes) than our first. During our 2nd year in Israel we moved into our new home (that we are privileged to own) in a wonderful community where we are surrounded by many friends. Even more significant, we were blessed with our 1st child, who was born in Jerusalem - the first child in my family to merit such an honor in who knows how many generations. It was also during this year when I switched from my English name - Jason - to my Hebrew one - Ze'ev.

Looking back at our 3rd year since having made Aliyah, there is nothing specific that stands out that really merits any type of celebration. Thank G-d, our daughter continues to grow, and she truly is a gift from Hashem (even though my wife and I still aren't exactly sure how our daughter ended up with blond hair and blue eyes while we both have brown and brown).

Also, over the last year, I began using the Jewish calendar (whenever possible) in place of the Gregorian one, which serves as a compliment to my having adopted the use of my Jewish name a year earlier. I have found that my decision to begin using my Jewish name along with primarily using the Jewish calendar has really helped to strengthen my connection to my People, Land and Torah. Additionally, two significant events happened over the course of the last year: 1st, I started my blog, and 2nd, the Jewish community in Israel surpassed that of the United States to become the largest in the world.

However, this past year, on the whole, has been a difficult one. In the last 6 months, thousands upon thousands of Jews have been expelled from their homes at the hands of the 1st Jewish government and army that the Jewish People have known in 2,000 years, with no end to the retreats and expulsions of Jews from the Land of Israel in sight. At the same time, the government turns a blind eye to the ongoing threat to the very existence to the continued existence of the State of Israel that our Arab neighbors (from within and without) pose.

Yet, in many ways, I feel, looking back at my 3rd year in Israel that it has been this year, challenges and all, which has been the most fulfilling of the 3 years. It was over the course of the last year that I truly felt as if I was living in the center of the Jewish world, watching Jewish history play itself out before my very eyes, and in being here, having the ability to play some role in shaping the events central to the Jewish People and State.

Personally, I can't even imagine what it would have been like to still be living in NY as the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif and the Shomron played itself out, or during the frightening events that occurred at Amona this past week; to be 6,000 miles away from home, watching and reading about these tragic events, but knowing that there was very little that you could do about anything - short of prayer or charity - which aptly sums up 2,000 years of Jewish life in the Exile.

This leads me back to my wife’s comparison between marriage and living in the Land of Israel. Speaking from experience, neither marriage nor life in the Land of Israel is always perfect - there are bumps along the way, and challenges that must be overcome - but if a husband and wife are committed and dedicated to each other, knowing in their hearts that they need each other in order to be complete and to fulfill their shared mission in life, then they will ultimately be able to overcome and build a strong and lasting relationship.

Similarly, life in the Land of Israel for the Jewish People is not always easy, but so long as we remain committed to who we are as a people, understand why it is that we continue to exist, and recognize that it is impossible for the Jewish People to fulfill their collective destiny in this world anywhere but in the Land of Israel, then ultimately we will be able to overcome all of the obstacles and challenges that stand in our way and live our lives as proud, passionate, knowledgeable and committed Jews in the Land of Israel - in the Jewish State of Israel.

It's been a great 3 years, and while I know that there are still many challenges and obstacles ahead, both for myself along with the Jewish People, I can't imagine being anywhere else - not now and not ever.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Why illegal Arab housing in Israel is OK...

It has been asked of late, if Israel is a country that values, seemingly above all else, upholding the "rule of law" - in whose name Jews have recently been expelled and brutalized from the Jewish communities of Hebron and Amona - why it is that the government of the State of Israel seems to be so obsessed with destroying all "illegal (Jewish) outposts" while turning a blind eye to the tens of thousands of blatantly illegal housing units constructed by Arabs throughout Israel - with 10,000 illegal units in Jerusalem alone?

Thankfully, Dr Ghazal Abu Raya, Spokesperson for the Sakhnin municipality and the Director of "The Jewish-Arab Center for Peace" Givat Haviva Northern Branch in Sakhnin has provided us with the answer:

Sakhnin Spokesperson: Illegal Israeli Arab construction is different

Dr Ghazal Abu Raya, Spokesperson for the Sakhnin municipality and the Director of "The Jewish-Arab Center for Peace" Givat Haviva Northern Branch in Sakhnin, told Israel Radio in a live interview broadcast this morning that illegal construction in Sakhnin is not that same as illegal Jewish construction in the West Bank. Abu Raya explained that the illegal construction in Sakhnin was justified because the residents of Sakhnin have lived there for over 3,500 years and need to build more housing for their growing population.

Sakhnin is, indeed, an ancient city dating back at least to the time of the Mishna and Talmud where there are references to the then Jewish city. The graves of two Rabbis from the third century - Rabbi Yehoshua of Sakhnin and Rabbi Shimon of Sakhnin are located in the city.

Of course, the connection of the Jewish people to Judea, Samaria and the entire land of Israel dates back over 4,000 years to the time of our forefather Abraham, but, sadly, that is not something that the powers-that-be in the State of Israel (including the government, media, Supreme Court & academia) are either aware of, or are inclined to mention out of a fear of being perceived as being too Jewish or extreme in the eyes of the world.

How sad it is that the leaders of the State of Israel fail to recognize that our claim to a Jewish State the Land of Israel is only legitimate when it is based on this historic and divine relationship between the Jewish People and the G-d of Israel, and without it, our right to the Land of Israel is as fictitious as that of the "Palestinians".

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Amona related thoughts...

(To view a slideshow of pictures from Amona, click here)

1) In the State of Israel, there seems to be those who have greater concern for the well-being of horses than that of Jews who believe in the right of the Jewish People to a Jewish State throughout the Land of Israel.

'Don't use horses for evacuation'

Tnu Lahayot Lihyot - Israel's main animal rights groups - protested against the use of horses in Amona's evacuation on Wednesday.

According to the organization, the horses that were recruited for the evacuation found themselves in a battlefield, susceptible to rocks being hurled at security forces by "dozens of law-violating settlers."

The group called upon Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz to... refrain from using them for purposes that effectively place their lives in danger. Tnu Lahayot Lihyot suggested alternatives such as jeeps or motorcycles, such that no animals would be endangered.

2) In the State of Israel, an Israeli Arab Member of Knesset who has called for the destruction of Israel as a Jewish State has more rights than Jewish members of Knesset who are beaten by police for defending the right of the Jewish People to a Jewish State throughout the Land of Israel.

3) In the State of Israel, while the government and security forces are busy enforcing the "rule of law" in Amona, Qassam rockets continue to rain down upon Israel, this time, landing in the Ashkelon industrial zone (as well as in Sderot).

While the government of the State of Israel willfully neglects to fulfill its basic responsibility to the citizens of the State of Israel - namely to ensure their security - by ending the Qassam rocket threat against the Jewish State once and for all, they manage to find the resources and manpower (over 7,000 members of the security forces at Amona) to wage war against the "Jewish Hamas" - the term used by an aide to acting Prime Minister Olmert, referring to Jews who still believe in the right of the Jewish People to a Jewish State throughout the Land of Israel.

4) In the State of Israel there are tens of thousands of illegal Arab housing units throughout the country (with 10,000 illegal housing units alone in Jerusalem) that while being in direct contravention of the "rule of law" the government of the State of Israel chooses to ignore.

At the same time, the government of the State of Israel sends 7,000 members of its security forces to destroy 9 Jewish homes at Amona, and thousands more to expel Jews from their legally owned property in the ancient Jewish city of Hebron.

The logical conclusion to be drawn from these actions is that the main priority of Israel's security services, in the eyes of the current government of the State of Israel, is to act without restraint against any Jews (and Jewish communities) who still believe in the right of the Jewish People to a Jewish State throughout the Land of Israel (while turning a blind eye to the actions of those who seek to destroy the Jewish State of Israel - both from within and without).

In a word: Frightening.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The State of Israel & the "Rule of Law"

In the State of Israel, Judaism is no longer the official religion, and Israel is no longer the Jewish State. The powers-that-be in the State of Israel (the government, media, Supreme Court, academia...) now worship at the Temple of the Rule of Law.

All actions undertaken in the State of Israel today must conform with the "rule of law" - or so the government would have you believe.

Today, the government of the State of Israel, in the name of enforcing the "rule of law" destroyed the Jewish community of Amona, brutalized hundreds of Jews who came to defend the right of the Jewish people to a Jewish State throughout Israel, and beat up members of Knesset who dared to oppose its actions.

Kadima's Bar-On: Era of restraint in dealing with protests is over

"We will not allow any law-breaker, even if he is a member of Knesset ... to harm the state of Israel as a state of law," Bar-On told Army Radio.

"We restrained ourselves... for a long time. That's finished. The era of restraint has come to an end. From now on, this will be a nation of law, which enforces the law."

"What is more traumatic than a country losing its ability to enforce the law, to carry out the decisions of a sovereign government in Israel?" The result of failure to act against law-breakers, he said, would be "anarchy... No one in the State of Israel will be above the law." (Unless you happen to be an Arab living in Jerusalem)

Yet, it would be unfair to view these actions of the government of the State of Israel out of context, after all, there have been numerous ruling powers who controlled this tiny strip of land who also believed in the utmost importance of enforcing the "rule of law" when it came to the Jews of the Land of Israel:

* In the name of enforcing the "rule of law", the Greeks, in 199 B.C.E, began putting to death any Jew in the Land of Israel who was caught keeping the Sabbath, circumcising their son, or studying Torah.

* In the name of enforcing the "rule of law", the Roman Emperor Hadrian, in the year 135, forbade - under penalty of death - Jews from studying Torah, observing the Sabbath, circumcising their children, meeting in a synagogue, attending a Jewish court, eating unleavened bread of Passover...

* In the name of enforcing the "rule of law", the British issued a White Paper in 1939, which severely restricted Jewish immigration to Palestine (which could have saved hundreds of thousands of Jews during the Shoah), the ability of Jews to purchase land in the Land of Israel, and decreed that Palestine - which had been given to the British as a mandate in order to create a Jewish national home for the Jewish People in the Land of Israel - was not to a Jewish State, but a state of its citizens. Those Jews who broke these laws were either flogged, hung, thrown into prison or deported to detention camps in Cyprus.

For nearly 2,000 years Jews throughout the world prayed for a return to the Land of Israel and to reestablish Jewish sovereignty there. They did not pray for a return to the Land of Israel out of a desire to live in a country that was guided by the "rule of law" or to live in the "only democracy in the Middle East", but to return home to the Land of Israel where they could live proudly, as Jews, in their ancient and eternal homeland; to live in a place where no Jew would be discriminated against for living as an openly proud Jew and where no Jew would need to live in fear.

Cabinet Minister Roni Bar-On asked: "What is more traumatic than a country losing its ability to enforce the law, to carry out the decisions of a sovereign government in Israel?"

The answer, of course, is that in the State of Israel it is much more traumatic that there is a government that has forgotten that it represents the Jewish People and State; a government that is made up of individuals who have forgotten where they, as Jews, have come from, and why it is that we have a Jewish State; a government that has adopted the anti-Jewish practices of its predecessors who used the facade of upholding the "rule of law" to try and crush the Jewish spirit.

Yet, like the regimes that came before them, the current government of Israel will ultimately be relegated to the dustbin of history, while the Jewish spirit will continue to endure and flourish throughout the Land of Israel.

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