Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Haggadah shows us enslavement: we are enslaved

In a few hours, the end of Passover will begin. This year in Israel, that end is just one day, tomorrow, Monday, April 1, 2013. In America and elsewhere, that end takes two days, Monday and Tuesday.

Celebrations in Israel are so much easier.

Still, as we think about the last day(s), let’s rethink our first day: what's the Passover Haggadah about? Is it just a story-book, or is it something else?
It could be something else-- a guide designed to teach us about freedom and safety.

If there’s one thing most Israelis want, it’s to be free and safe. In today’s world, however, that’s exactly what Israel does not have. Passover brings good news: our Haggadah shows us the secret to freedom and security.
Did you know that?
The Haggadah is not just about Egypt and Jews. It’s about G-d. That's the secret--but it's one that doesn’t sit well with some people. These people  don’t like reading about G-d. In fact, they don’t like G-d.
That’s too bad, because according to a new Haggadah, (prepared by Rabbi Yosef Zvi Rimon ,The Shirat Miriam Haggadah, trans. Rabbi Dr Shmuel Himmelstein, published by Mosad Harav Kook and Halacha Education Center, Jerusalem, 2012), the Haggadah is not only about Jews, slavery and freedom. It’s about G-d’s role in our life. More precisely, the obligation at our Seder is not just to tell and remember what happened, but to thank G-d for it (ibid, p130, quoting Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik)--and to remember that the road to our freedom depends upon our connecting to our G-d (ibid, 142-149). It’s right there in front of us: because we committed to the G-d of Israel by displaying the courage to slaughter an Egyptian god (a sheep), G-d redeemed us to our freedom and our destiny.
It’s a formula: when we as a people commit to Him; He commits to us. It doesn’t get any simpler than that.
Anti-Jewish Jews reject this. They lack the courage to commit. They choose to depend on Man or, more precisely, non-Jews. The irony is, the anti-Jewish Jew is the one most frustrated about Israel’s lack of freedom and safety.  He wants that safety. He demands it. But because he rejects G-d he is frustrated. He doesn’t feel free. He doesn’t feel safe. He doesn’t feel joy. Instead, he feels shame.
In the Shirat Miriam Haggadah (ibid, p. 144), we see shame in the Passover story.  This ancient shame is the shame of our modern anti-Jewish Jew. It is the shame of enslavement, one that brings bitterness. That bitterness is a bitter herb that comes from being constrained and then hated by those who enslave you.
A slave, you feel shame. You become bitter.
The anti-Jewish Jew, we realize when we read the Haggadah in this way, is indeed a slave to all that is non-Jewish-- its philosophy, culture and beliefs. To commit to such a foreign world-view is to step into an enslavement one cannot get away from. It is a psychic, toxic Velcro; that which hates you clings to you until its breath becomes your breath.
Those who are religious and pro-Israel experience a bitterness and a bread of affliction once a year, at the Passover Seder, while celebrating our story of slavery-to-freedom. But for the anti-Jewish Jew, there is bitterness and affliction every day.
It is the bitterness of slavery.
How enslaved are such people? They worship the not-Jewish. They cringe with fear when the non-Jew denounces Israel. They assist the non-Jew to act against Jews; and to earn non-Jewish approval, they will even tax Jews to support those who hate Jews.
For example, this past week, in the middle of our Passover holiday, anti-Jewish Jews announced that Israel will release to the Palestinian Authority (PA) taxes collected by Israel from 80,000 Arabs who work in Israel. That’s fine. This regular transfer of funds is a courtesy one nation extends to another, especially when citizens of one place work in another place.  It is how one expects nations to behave if they live in peace. The problem is, part of the monies to be released include dollars Israel had discussed withholding in 2012 to settle a 730-million NIS (Israel Shekel) debt the PA will not pay.
You see, Israel provides electricity to the PA. This is a business arrangement: electric power in exchange for an agreed-upon payment. Without Israel, the PA has no electric power. It cannot sustain itself. So it contracts with Israel for its electricity, except for one thing: the PA refuses to pay for what it receives. Last year, Israel announced that it would, in essence, garnish the tax transfers in order to satisfy the debt. Anti-Jewish Jews, however, have decided--on Passover no less--that Israel will allow the PA debt to remain uncollected.
Almost immediately, Jews in Israel found out what this decision meant:  the Israel Electric Company announced, also during Passover, that they now will have to raise their rates for everyone (mostly Jews) by 3% for (perhaps) a year in order to recoup financial losses incurred by this non-payment—this, on top of an average twenty per cent increase already imposed on consumers in the last year. Essentially, this amounts to a tax imposed on Jews to support those who hate Jews so much they refuse to honour even basic agreements.
The Haggadah teaches us that those who worship others lose their future, and those who make themselves subservient to their enemies lose their freedom. The anti-Jewish Jew teaches us that the Haggadah is correct.

So it is that anti-Jewish Jews enslave us. So it is that Israel does not enjoy safety or freedom.
Perhaps certain Jews should re-read their Haggadah.



Signs that the Redemption is near?

For years, the American magazine, Sports Illustrated, has run a weekly mini-report entitled, “Signs of the Apocalypse” (or something like that).  It is a one-or-two sentence announcement that features some weekly occurrence in the Sports world. Typically, it focuses on someone doing something really stupid. It highlights how incredibly awful highly-paid or famous people can be. Such   behaviour by those we honour, the piece suggests, is surely a sign that our world must soon end.

Mostly, these incidents entertain.

That magazine comes from America. We live in Israel, which follows a different religious and cultural orientation. So if someone in America thinks about Christian-inspired world Destruction, perhaps we can think about a Jewish-inspired Redemption.

Consider now some recent examples from the news that, in some way—humorous and not so humorous-- might suggest that the world might be preparing for something New. If you don’t see how these headlines might pre-sage a Jewish Redemption, that’s okay. That just means that your ‘Redemption training’ isn’t up-to-date.

For March, 2013:

- Chaos grips Egyptian cities, clashes ongoing between police and protestors (Al Arabiya English)


- US faces huge job losses as Obama orders $85bn cuts (the Guardian)

-Massacre of Syrian Soldiers in Iraq Raises Risk of Widening Conflict (New York Times)

-Strip and strike: Iranian activists go topless to protest against hijab (Al Arabiya)

-Yemen unyielding on child executions (Al Jazeera)

-Furious over sanctions, NKorea vows to nuke US (YahooNews!)

-Wanted: Arab Tom Friedmans (Al Jazeera English)

-'The Bible': Does devil character in History Channel show look like President Obama? (Chicago Tribune)

- Why does The Bible's Satan look so much like Barack Obama?  (Yahoo!News)

- Experts: NKorea training teams of 'cyber warriors' (Yahoo!News)

- Egypt Struck by Swarm of Locusts Ahead of Passover (Arutz Sheva)

-Pharoah’s Magicians’: Egypt’s TV puts a spell on you, warns Islamist preacher (Al Arabiya English)

-Greeks find cause of all their woes: the Jews (The Times of Israel)

-Satan comes to Jordan (The Times of Israel)


Do these headlines signal that a ‘change’ is coming?

While America worries about Israel, is America neglecting North Korea?

Will there truly be a ‘new world’ ahead if the Arabs get a Tom Freidman? For example, will an Arab Tom Friedman write about the horror of child executions—or the horror of ‘Israeli settlements’?

Perhaps more important than an Arab Tom Friedman, why does the American Barack Obama look like Satan?

More important than that, why is Satan (devil worship) appearing in Jordan?

Is there change afoot?

Should we believe that locusts and magicians in Egypt—and Jew-hate in Greece--mean a return to Biblical stories where we see political chaos, Jewish slavery—and then Redemption?

Well, maybe such headlines are meaningless. Perhaps the Jewish Redemption is a fake. Perhaps we needn’t worry about these things. After all, why should we care about massacres in Syria, more Jew-hate, American economic instability—or a Biblical plague of locusts in Egypt?

What, you think these things mean something?

Here’s a hint: if all those headlines are so meaningless, why are newsmakers writing about them?


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Obama visits Israel before Passover: what you might have missed

 Today, a day-and-a-half after US President Barack Obama has returned to America following his first Presidential visit to Israel, life appears to return to a pre-Passover frenetic normalcy. If you were not in Israel for that visit, you might have missed some of the action. Here’s an Israeli view of that trip:

Beginning Tuesday afternoon, March 19, 2013, the day before Obama landed, Israel Highway 1 from Ben Gurion Airport to Jerusalem was intermittently blocked off to accommodate US Secretary of State John Kerry’s motorcade, Kerry having arrived that day. Highway 1 is the major travel route for those who live in Central Israel and work in Tel Aviv. It’s one of Israel’s most heavily used roads. Fortunately, it was not closed for as long as had been announced. 

Next day, Wednesday, traffic disruptions continued on Highway 1 for several hours, to accommodate the arriving motorcade for the President and his entourage.

In Jerusalem, several major streets in city-center were to be closed off to both traffic and parking from Wednesday morning to Friday afternoon. Light-rail transport was to be  stopped intermittently between Wednesday and Friday. City-wide bus traffic would also be disrupted, re-routed, often halted.

The police created a public hotline for information on traffic disruptions.

Also on Wednesday, it was announced that portions of Highway 60—from Jerusalem to Bethlehem--were scheduled to close Friday to all traffic. The Highway was to become ‘sterile’ for a motorcade to Bethlehem for a brief stop. No vehicles were to be permitted. That included ambulances. Emergency service would be available only by helicopter.

Meanwhile, Arabs in Bethlehem started demonstrating early against the President, on Monday, two days before the official visit was to begin. They threw shoes and garbage at an American ‘advance’ team that had arrived to prepare sites and confirm security. Demonstrators defaced and destroyed Obama posters.

Over 1,000 journalists came to Israel to cover the visit. The President's entourage brought another 600.

On Wednesday, the official Palestinian Authority news outlet published an editorial blaming America for the 9/11 attacks on New York’s World Trade Center.

Jewish residents of Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter complained bitterly that security arrangements for President Obama were putting them into a ‘siege’ situation. Food, which is delivered daily, would now be hard to find. Residents were told that there would be no deliveries into the Quarter for any items for the rest of the week, Wednesday through Friday. Passover preparations were going to be severely disrupted. Shabbat preparations would be nearly impossible to complete. Residents were not amused.

Former POW captive Gilad Shalit wrote a publicized letter to President Obama calling for the release of Jonathan Pollard, whose stay in a US prison was approaching 10,000 days.

Wednesday, the big day, the President arrived at Ben Gurion Airport--and got stuck. The limousine brought to transport him would not start. Someone had filled the gas tank with the wrong fuel, putting diesel in instead of gas (or the other way around; reports weren’t clear).

When Mr Obama shook hands with Israeli officials upon his arrival, two Members of Knesset spoke to him, asking that he free Jonathan Pollard. He was reported to have replied to one of them saying, ‘nice to meet you.’

That afternoon, a community in Judea announced that a neighbourhood would be named after Jonathan Pollard. 

The women of the Rachel’s Tomb Foundation wrote a letter to Mr Obama asking him to release Jonathan Pollard.

As the President’s motorcade entered Jerusalem, signs captioned, ‘Welcome Mr President. Please Free Jonathan Pollard’ lined a portion of his route.

Israel President Shimon Peres asked President Obama to pardon Jonathan Pollard.

On Thursday, prominent Rabbis marched in Jerusalem with the intent to ask President Obama to pardon Jonathan Pollard in time for Passover.

On Thursday, Arabs in Gaza fired rockets into Israel.  

Arabs in Ramallah protested Obama’s arrival there to meet with Mahmoud Abbas. The demonstrations were kept several blocks from the meeting place. The Palestinian Authority announced that it would  impose a 'curfew' in Ramallah for the President’s visit.

Also Thursday, Arab lawyers announced that they would file a request with the Palestinian Authority prosecutor-general demanding that the US President be arrested during his stay in Ramallah because of the US army’s responsibility for the death of a Palestinian journalist in Iraq, in 2003, some  five years before Mr Obama became US President. An Arab speaker told a crowd of protesters gathered in Ramallah that,  ‘the US and Obama were the number one enemy of Islam and Muslims.’

In Gaza, protesters set fire to US and Israeli flags. Signs at the protest called Obama the ‘Hitler of the 21st Century’.

In Iran, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei chose this day to announce that the Islamic Republic of Iran would destroy Tel Aviv and Haifa if Israel attacked it.

In Hevron, Leftists from Europe joined Arab demonstrators to attack Israeli security personnel. Police arrested several Arabs and deported the Leftists.

In Thursday's speeches in Ramallah and Jerusalem, Obama said that Jewish settlements in Judea-Samaria were an obstacle to peace; the only way Israel can thrive as a Jewish democracy was to recognize ‘the state of Palestine’; Palestine deserves to be a state; peace is possible; Israel cannot negotiate with people who are dedicated to its destruction; Mahmoud Abbas is a partner for peace.

At his Thursday speech in Jerusalem, Mr Obama was interrupted by a heckler. Reuters news service reported that the heckler had shouted at the President ‘in Hebrew’.  Israel news interviewed the heckler, who turned out to be an Arab who termed Obama’s speech ‘extremist and Zionist.’ Reuters had neglected to mention that.

Meanwhile, Greenpeace activists climbed a bridge in Jerusalem to protest US drilling in the Arctic.

On Friday, Mr Obama went to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial. There, he said that Israel exists to make sure the Holocaust does not happen again. He was then scheduled to fly by US helicoper to Bethlehem while others in his entourage would motorcade on the 'sterile' Highway 60. But an intense sandstorm had arrived and had blotted out heaven and earth. The Presidential helicopter was grounded. The President had to ride a hostile gauntlet through clusters of Arab protesters holding signs along Highway 60, the most creative of which said, 'Gringo, return to your colony.'

Friday ’s plan to hold a departing ceremony at Ben Gurion Airport was also cancelled: the sandstorm was too strong. Then the media tent at the Airport collapsed from high winds. Herb Keinon of the Jerusalem Post asked (from the airport) in a twitter, ‘what does the mother of all sandstorms at the end [of Obama’s visit] signify?’

Here’s a picture of Bethlehem from Friday afternoon, just before 2:00 pm local time, about the time of the Obama arrival. The picture is from The Times of Israel, which credited Israel Channel 2 TV. If you have ever wondered what a Biblical-style sandstorm looks like, this is it:

In Bethlehem, just meters away from the Church that Mr Obama was scheduled to visit, a Muslim cleric declared that ‘the US is Satan and Obama is its head.’ Crowd control just before Obama arrived began to ‘get ugly’.

 Friday, an Israeli tourist travelling in the Sinai Peninsula (against official Israeli warnings) was kidnapped at gunpoint by armed Bedouins. The Israeli was an Israeli Arab. He was still kidnapped.

Late Friday afternoon, Elhanan Miller of The Times of Israel reported that, while Israel had been running blanket minute-by-minute coverage of the Obama visit for the past three days, the Voice of Palestine made almost no mention of Obama at all, playing nationalistic songs instead.

So it is that, as a Biblical-like sandstorm blotted out reality, US President Barack Obama left Israel. Tomorrow night, we begin our Jewish Passover. Perhaps, as we celebrate our First Redemption and think about the ten plagues of ancient Egypt, we can also discuss the question, was Friday's  blinding sand-storm a Divine message--or reaction--to Mr. Obama?
Enjoy your Passover Seder.






Tuesday, March 19, 2013

President Obama versus Passover

If you plan to go into Jerusalem this week, be forewarned: there’s trouble afoot.

This is the week before the Jewish holiday of Passover. In Israel, Passover is not a minor holiday. It’s not even a major holiday.

It’s a gigantic holiday.

When you walk the streets of Jerusalem this week, you might deduce that every Jerusalemite has chosen to rush onto the city’s sidewalks at the same time. People are everywhere.  You cannot avoid them. They rush. They don’t stroll. They don’t lounge. They are not in ‘vacation mode’. They are on the streets with a purpose. They march—each to his own beat. They have stores to go to, things to buy, shopping lists to attend to.

If you watch these crowds and listen carefully, you can guess what they’re shopping for: dish racks, glassware, plasticware, tableclothes, towels, linens, clothing, the Passover Haggadah—you name it and everyone’s either looking for it, talking about it or carrying it.

Even shopkeepers join the crowds: they push display racks out in the sunlight. They hang ‘SALE’ signs on the racks. Everything you need for the holiday is before you. Indeed, if you don’t buy it today—right now-- it will be gone tomorrow; just don’t linger too long outside a store fingering merchandise because you’ll attract an elbow or two from the stream of people pushing past you on narrow sidewalks.

This is a week of preparation. In this, the most Jewish of the world’s cities, Jews rush to complete their duties much as they have done for more than 2,800 years. There is excitement in the air. There is an energy you can feel. Everyone is animated. 

Passover is the celebration of freedom. It is, our liturgy says, the ‘Time of our Redemption’. It is the time for joy—and you can feel that sense of joy growing from day-to-day as the week unfolds and the holiday pulls closer and closer.

This is our time. We work at it. We enjoy it. Today, you might see people shopping. But this is no ordinary shopping. It’s shopping with a purpose—a Jewish purpose.

When we compare the prophecies of our Tanach (Jewish Bible)with actual events of Jewish history, we learn that this is exactly the energy and spirit that the enemies of Israel want to destroy. These enemies have always had one goal: to come into Jerusalem to parade as conquerors. In modern parlance, that means driving through the city of Jerusalem in some kind of parade or motorcade that blocks and disrupts the Jew in order to show the world who wields power over the Jew.  The Jew may want to celebrate. But the enemy of the Jew aims to invade Jerusalem to spoil that celebration.

So it is written. So it has happened: The Crusades. The Christians. The Muslims. The pagans.

So it is today yet again. You see, this is not only the week Jews of Jerusalem crowd into their city streets to prepare for their Passover celebration; it is also the week that United States President Barack Hussein Obama has chosen to drive into Jerusalem on his first Presidential visit to Israel. So it is that, along with advertisements and announcements about sales and Passover family activities, Jerusalemites must now deal with warnings: your shopping could be disrupted. Your preparations for joy could be interrupted or curtailed altogether if you don’t pay attention. Streets will be closed. Pedestrian and vehicular traffic will be re-routed or even stopped completely. Neighbourhoods could be blocked. Business deliveries and distribution routes could be changed or stopped—all in order to accommodate the President’s motorcade.

You better get to Jerusalem before Wednesday. After that, good luck getting to where you want to go. If you are on the wrong street at the worst hour, your three most important pre-Passover shopping days could be devastated.

In our Tanach, there is one future scenario where Jerusalem is blocked off. No one is able to leave.  Jews are trapped as those who wish to conquer the Holy Basin shut down the city.

As it is in our Tanach, so it is today: if you plan to leave Jerusalem in order to get to the airport during the President’s visit, you might not make it. The highway out of Jerusalem will be shut down. You could be trapped, unable to leave the Holy city. The leader of the west’s most powerful nation, a descendant of the ancient Edom, will have caused Jerusalem to be shut down.

So it is that we see a miniature ‘attack’ of Jerusalem by the leader of Edom. He will motorcade as if triumphant through the Jewish city. He will ride like a conqueror while Jews will be trapped.

As your Passover Seder begins, let this be your holiday lesson: Edom lusts for your Jerusalem.



Sunday, March 17, 2013

Barack Obama, Jonathan Pollard and Passover in Israel

This week, US President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit Israel. There appear to be at least five storylines that have begun to swirl around his arrival. Taken together, they could make for an interesting Passover, which follows the President’s visit.

First, the US has declared that this trip will not be political. The President will not come with a peace plan. He won’t speak to the Knesset. If you believe the White House, this trip will be closer to kissing babies than doing business.

The second storyline says that Obama isn’t going to kiss anybody in Israel. He’s coming to kick butt, most particularly that of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  According to this storyline, Obama has an agenda. He will threaten Israel. He wants to see a ‘state of Palestine’ in place of Judea-Samaria, and he wants it now. His message to Benjamin Netanyahu will be simple: it’s my way or else.  

That ‘or else’ could be withholding US help for Israel against Iran; withholding military assistance;  cutting aid to Israel; threating to increase military aid to Israel’s enemies—or all of the above.

The third storyline suggests Netanyahu at his best—or worst. This storyline highlights the trouble Netanyahu has had forming a coalition. That ‘trouble’ has been in Israel’s news for weeks. Yes, he’s finally got his coalition. But it’s shaky. It’s built around two newcomers, Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennet. These two have been tough, according to Israel news. They have pushed Netanyahu to the wall. They give Netanyahu a coalition--but it’s not the one he wants.  These men are not dependable.  They could embrace Obama and endorse whatever Netanyahu agrees to-- or, they could reject Obama’s agenda and collapse the coalition.

But such a ‘shaky’ coalition could be Netanyahu’s ace-in-the-hole. His supposed ‘troubles’ could be a pre-mediated game-plan to prepare for any American ultimatum. You see, if Obama pushes too hard, Netanyahu can now push back: reduce your demands and deal with me, he can claim-- or, provoke my delicate coalition to collapse and force new elections. Then, you could end up dealing with two loose cannon balls. His argument will be as simple as Obama’s: better the devil you know than the two devils you don’t know.

The fourth storyline leading to Obama’s arrival is about Jonathan Pollard, who is now closing in on 10,000 days of incarceration in the US for spying for Israel. No spy in US history has served so much prison time. The President has refused to release him; still, some talk openly about Pollard playing a key role in the Presidential visit.

Given the tough stance many say Obama will take towards Israel on this trip, some speculate that the President might use a Pollard release as his own ace-in-the hole. It would be brilliant politics to announce that Pollard will indeed be released just as Obama demands—perhaps-- an immediate surrender of land for a new Palestine. The impact of such a double declaration could be tectonic. It could rival the celebration over Gilad Shalit’s release. It certainly would consume reams of newsprint and hours of gushing TV news stories just at a time when Israel could be facing its greatest existential political challenge.

A Pollard release could be the ticket that gets ‘Palestine’ into Judea-Samaria.  Look at Israeli poll numbers. Depending on whose numbers you look at, some 45 - 52 per cent of Israelis appear ready  today to accept  ‘Palestine’. If a Pollard release is played right, how many Israelis would jump over to a pro-Palestine vote?

Will Obama play the politician and attempt to trade Pollard for Palestine—or will he be Pharaoh and harden his heart?

The last storyline is unusual. It falls well below most everyone’s radar screen. This story posits that Barack Obama will play an active role in the Jew’s Final Redemption. Most people reject such talk. The West might indeed be considered related to the descendants of Biblical Edom, and America might be a Western leader. But few connect such ‘religious’ talk to the real world of modern international politics: Obama is a politician, not a Jewish history figure.

But then, it’s certainly a coincidence that Obama arrives at Passover, the time of ‘our Redemption’.  Could there be a connection?

For many, ‘coincidence’ is not an accident; it’s another name for ‘Hand of G-d’. Whatever you believe about politics and religion, headlines about Obama, Pollard, the new Israeli coalition—and Passover—all converging at the same time seems odd. Obama coming into Israel with a Pharaoh-like hardness towards Israel seems just as odd. Then there’s Israel: in December 2012, how many of you expected to see a new Netanyahu government containing Tzipi Livini, Amir Peretz and the son of Tommy Lapid?

Now, Passover 2013, Obama arrives and Pollard is in the headlines.

What other headlines will Passover bring—and what will you be talking about at your Seder table?




Sunday, March 10, 2013

Our modern Passover: Two exiles

Population numbers are almost always inaccurate. This is especially true with Jews. Some who are counted as Jews aren’t Jews. Some who are Jews don’t want to be counted. Sometimes, the counters prefer to count only these Jews and not those.

Jewish census numbers can be tricky. They don’t always tell the truth. But if you close your eyes, you might see something important. You might see trends.

Jews love numbers. Numbers are precise. They are easy to understand. But numbers aren’t ‘truth’. Sometimes, the ‘trend’ is more truthful than the ‘number’.

Here are some trends:

Israel has recently announced that her Jewish population now stands at six million (this number does not include an additional 319,000 citizens from the former Soviet Union who live now in Israel but who are not Jewish). This number, six million, is important for two reasons. First, it is the number we commonly associate with the Holocaust, where six million perished. Now, Israel has another six million. There is something symmetric about that.

Second, the number six million echoes both the original Redemption from Egypt and the birth of the modern State of Israel in 1948. In both ancient Egypt and the year 1948, the number of Jews participating in those historic events (Redemption and rebirth) was (approximately) six hundred thousand.

Six hundred thousand left Egypt in the Exodus. A different six hundred thousand were present in Israel when she declared                          
Independence. Now, that six hundred thousand has become six million. There is something intriguing about that symmetry.

Today, Israel’s new Jewish estimate represents about forty-five per cent of the world’s total Jewish population. That makes Israel—no matter whose numbers you look at—the country with the world’s largest Jewish population. America is number two, with perhaps forty-four per cent.

That’s interesting. With so much bad press about Israel spreading around the world, you’d think that Jews would be running away from Israel as fast as they could. But even as some Israelis do that, the trend doesn’t lie: Israel’s Jewish population grows—and grows. There is something suggestive about that.

Does a Biblical ingathering unfold before our eyes?

If this population estimate suggests that forty-five per cent of the world’s Jews live in Israel, then fifty-five per cent do not. That’s actually an important observation because, when most of the world’s Jews don’t live in Israel, the word, ‘exile’, doesn’t sound so harsh. For example, when America held the largest number of world’s Jews, ‘exile’ wasn’t the way you referred to America. Instead, you called America, ‘home’.

But that’s about to change. It may have taken Israel more than 64 years to contain the world’s biggest Jewish population, but it won’t take anywhere near that long for Israel to reach an even greater milestone: being home to more than half the world’s Jews.                                                   

Once more than half of the world’s Jews live in Israel, the definition of ‘home’ will change. ‘Home’ has always been where the majority lives. ‘Home’ will become Israel. Once that happens, then every place outside Israel will by definition become ‘not home’; and once that happens, ‘not home’ will really mean ‘exile’. When most of the world’s Jewish population resides in Israel, it becomes much easier to call everyplace else, ‘exile.’

This recent Israeli census announcement even suggests something about the nature of exile itself. You see, when most of the world’s Jews will make Israel their true ‘home’, ‘exile’ becomes more than a concept or philosophic conceit. It becomes reality, one that can be divided into two parts: a good exile and a bad exile.

A good exile is geographic. It is the exile of one who wants to be in Israel but cannot. It is the exile of one who recognizes he belongs ‘home’. It is the exile of one who longs to return.

A geographic exile is a good exile because it can be corrected.

The bad exile is different. It is spiritual. It cannot be corrected. It is not benign. It eats away at your heart. It seduces you. It is a kind of exile where choice and desire focus against Israel in favour of some ‘other’ place.

That was the attraction of ancient Egypt—the ‘gold’—the materialism. Yes, there was physical slavery. That was bad. But for eighty per cent of the Jews there, the physical slavery wasn’t bad enough.                                                  

 In America, we see a similar spiritual slavery, one that consumes both religious and non-religious Jews. These Jews appear to commit more to America than to Israel—each for his own reasons, each with his own justifications.

It was the same in ancient Egypt. Even in slavery, eighty per cent justified their spiritual exile. They committed to Egypt. Then they disappeared.

Where do you live?

What’s in your future?


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Humanitarians  and journalists need Israel


There is a certain gathering place in downtown Arab East Jerusalem known for attracting foreigners-- photo- and TV-journalists, the occasional Western diplomat, Humanitarian employees and other assorted workers of good will. One may not hear much about the price of liquor or the quality of the food in this favoured spot; victuals and drink don’t seem to be the attraction. What attracts these foreigners to this non-Jewish section of Jerusalem is the after-hours chatter—and the camaraderie one seems always to find among like-minded people who do the dusty and sometimes dangerous work commonly associated with Humanitarians and journalists who ply their trades in difficult, far-away lands.
There is something bracing about sitting among educated, articulate and highly-motivated professionals whose names are known and whose faces are sometimes famous. It’s even more bracing to listen in on their conversations, to hear how they made the day’s stories. If you’re lucky, you might even  overhear how tomorrow’s news will be  shaped.

These professionals know how to enjoy an end-of-the-day drink among friends. Their friendship seems especially warm because it is fuelled by a shared ideology. They are united in their contempt for Israel; and, because Israel is a free country, these foreigners know they can drink as much as they want and be as contemptuous as they want.

Israel protects them.

When these friends talk, they talk openly about hate. They hate when Arabs are killed. They hate when Arabs are arrested. They hate when Jews stop Arabs at security check-points.

But they love Israel. They really do. Like nowhere else in the Middle East, they can work here safely. They can accuse Israel of anything they want. The Israelis won’t arrest them or torture them. They can manufacture news. They can misrepresent facts. They can distort sources. Truly, they can concentrate on their main professional goal: who accused Israel of a Humanitarian crime today?

In the 64 years since modern Israel was established, Israel has been at war against Arab enemies who vow repeatedly to destroy the Jewish State. During those 64 years, perhaps 75,000 Arabs have been killed by Israel (the number of Arabs killed depends upon whom you talk to). Humanitarians demonize Israel for defending itself. Journalists write that every Arab killed by Israel is an innocent victim.

The world of the Humanist and the journalist is clear-cut: the Arab can do no wrong. Israel can do no right.

Of course, most of the Arabs who have died in their unending war against Israel did so as the result of attacks initiated by the Arabs themselves.  But that doesn’t matter. The truth is irrelevant. It’s all Israel’s fault. Israel is a murderer. Israel is guilty.

Humanitarians and journalists love their work. It’s easy. The salaries are good; and the Israelis give you above-average protection against harassment. Better yet, Israel is the perfect foil for promoting anger against injustice. Israel is perfect because, generally speaking, when you call Israel immoral and unjust, the world cheers.

Israelis, meanwhile, won’t get mad at you. They’re afraid you might get insulted if they accuse you of lying.
Where else in the Middle East can you work against a government like that? In the Middle East, Israel is a Humanitarian and journalistic Garden of Eden. Speak or write against the ruling powers in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza or Iran, and you could end up ‘disappeared’; and if you are a Humanitarian or journalist, you have no illusions about what that means. In the Arab Middle East, you keep your mouth shut, or else.
But Israel is different. There seem to be no restrictions. You can accuse Israel in the morning and then go happily in the evening to your favourite Arab East Jerusalem watering hole.
Israelis won’t touch you.
Without Israel, a Humanitarian would have to risk his life in the Middle East. Without Israel, a journalist could be murdered.
Syria is a good example of this risk. During a time when less than 400 Arabs have been killed in their war against Israel (2011-2013) as many as 90,000 Arabs (or more) have been killed by Arabs in Syria. Why should Humanitarians or journalists write about such slaughter when they can write about the evil israelis? 

Syria is dangerous. Syrians aren’t Israelis. They kill each other—and they’ll kill Humanitarians and journalists. In an orgy of internecine hate compounded by bloodcurdling inhumanity, Syria is pounding itself back to the Stone Age. Daily, Arabs killing each other violate every international Human Rights code known to man--and commit horrific war crimes. What’s a Humanitarian or a journalist to do about that?
Risk his life?
Instead, they can work for truth and justice in Israel without risking anything more serious than a parking ticket. Do you really expect Humanitarians and journalists to risk everything by going to Syria-- or Egypt or Libya or Lebanon or Iraq or Tunisia or Sudan or Iran or Saudi Arabia or Gaza?