Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Netanyahu’s UN speech: why Arabs should turn to Israel

The next time you see Israel demonized (Israel is a brutal oppressor) or dehumanized (Israel’s Jews are pigs and apes), take a look at what those ‘demonish’  and ‘piggish’ Israeli Jews have accomplished  during the first 66 years of modern Israel’s existence. You might discover something about Islam and the Middle East.  

The following information comes to you courtesy of the Ari Rusila’s BalkanBlog.

Israel is the world’s 100th smallest country. Nevertheless:

-It has the highest literacy rate in the Middle East.

- It has the highest ratio of university degrees to its population in the world.

-It produces more scientific papers per capita than any other nation in the world.

-It ranks third in the industrialized world—after the US and Holland—in per cent of workforce holding University degrees (24 per cent).

-It is number one in the world for the number of scientists and technicians in the workforce. It has 145 per 100,000 of population. The US has 85 per 100,000. Japan has 70+. Germany has less the 60 per 100,000.

-It is first in the world for per cent of work force (25 per cent) employed in technical professions.

- In proportion to its population, Israel has the largest number of start-up companies in the world. In absolute terms, Israel has the largest number of start-up companies than any other country in the world except the US.

- On a per capita basis, Israel has the largest number of biotech start-ups.

-It ranks #2 in the world (behind the US) for venture capital funds.

-It ranks number 3 in the world for rate of entrepreneurship. It is number one in the world for women entrepreneurs. It’s also number one in the world for entrepreneurs over age 55.

- Israel has the highest average living standard in the Middle East.

- Israel’s economy is larger than all of its immediate neighbours combined.

- Israel has the highest percentage of home computers per capita, in the world.

It has the world’s second highest per capita of new books.

-It has more museums per capita than any other country.

You should note that Israel has done all of these things while engaged in regular wars with an implacable enemy that seeks its destruction, and with an economy continuously under strain by having to spend more per capita on its own protection than any other country on earth (ibid).

Note: the ranking above may not be new. Newer ranking numbers may be different. But the numbers above strongly illustrate how Israel has become an intellectual and entrepreneurial powerhouse.

But that’s not the end of the matter. In 2010, two Iranian researchers working in America created an Islamic economic religiosity index, to measure how closely Islamic countries adhere to Islamic economic teachings (An Economic Islamicity Index , Sheherazade S. Rehman and Hossein Askari, George Washington University, 2010). They examined 57 Islamic countries. They also applied their test to an additional 151 non-Muslim countries. They wanted to see if any of those countries might also adhere to Islamic economic principles.

The index looked at such factors as laws and governance, human and political rights, international relations, and economics (“ Islamicity index: 32 non-Muslim countries ahead of Malaysia”, astroawani, June 12, 2014).

The results of this study are clear—and startling: the Koran's teachings are better represented in Western societies than in Islamic countries. Islamic countries, meanwhile, have completely failed to embrace the values of their own faith in politics, business, law and society (“Ireland 'leads the world in Islamic values as Muslim states lag'”, The Telegraph, June 10, 2014). The highest ranked Muslim country is Malaysia. It ranked 33rd.

In the Middle East, the one country which most meets Islamic economic values isn’t even Islamic. It’s Israel. It’s ranked 27th in the world, ahead of Malaysia.

Yes, Israel—the Jewish State.

The country which ranks second in the Middle East for its ability to meet Islamic economic values is Kuwait. It’s ranked 42nd.

Turkey ranks 71st. Jordan ranks 74th. Lebanon ranks 87th.

Not a single majority Muslim country made the top 25 – Saudi Arabia was 91st (“LISTEN: Ireland Tops ‘Islamicity’ Index”, islamiCommentary, June 19, 2014).

One of the authors of this study, Hossein Askari, explained the study’s findings this way: the reason for the low ranking of Islamic countries is their governance.  Islamic countries, he said, “use religion as a tool of power…They don’t care about the Muslim people” (“Ireland is more faithful to the Qu’aran than Saudi Arabia”, the journal.ie, June 9, 2014)”. According to Askari, the teachings of the Koran say that economic prosperity is good for society. But prosperity rarely trickles down in Islamic countries (ibid).

Go ahead. Draw your own conclusions about Islam in the Middle East.

There’s a lesson here. Yesterday at the United Nations, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested that peace would come to the Middle East when Arab countries worked with Israel, not against it.

Perhaps Arab Islamic countries could look to their Jewish neighbour for the inspiration they need to follow their own religion.

The G-d of Israel has a Jewish Story for you to see. It is the Story of Israel's Destiny, its Final Redemption. How Islam manifests itself is part of that Story.

Stay tuned. This Story is just beginning.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Abbas desecrates Man’s ‘Temple of Peace’

Friday, September 26, 2014 was the second and last day of the Jewish Rosh Hashanna Holiday—the celebration of the beginning of the Jewish New Year. For Jews around the world, Rosh Hashanna is not the Holiest moment in the Jewish calendar. It’s second to Yom Kippur, which falls exactly eight days after the end of Rosh Hashanna.

For Jews, the ten days which contain Rosh Hashanna and Yom Kippur create a season of reflection, confession, prayer and forgiveness. For those who hate Jews, it’s a season to attack, demonize and condemn the world’s only Jewish state.

That’s not a coincidence.

While the G-d of Israel judges everyone and everything, a brazen Jew-hater has once again taken stage-center in the world‘s biggest diplomatic arena. That arena is the United Nations (UN), which has become Man’s ‘Temple of Peace’. That Jew-hater is Mahmoud Abbas.

Abbas knows what he’s doing. He has steeped himself in the anti-Jewish world of Holocaust denial and Jew-hate. He has a PhD from a Communist (Russian) University that’s entitled, "The Other Side: the Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism” (“Report: Abbas’ Holocaust-Denial Dissertation Widely-Taught in PA”, Arutz Sheva, April 28, 2011).  That 1982 dissertation was published as a book in 1984 (ibid). By 2011 that ‘book’ had become the basis for Holocaust studies throughout the Palestinian Authority (PA) (ibid).

His dissertation doesn’t completely deny the Holocaust. It does allow that some Jews were murdered. But it denies that gas chambers were used to kill Jews. It accuses Zionist leaders of establishing a partnership with Hitler. It argues that Zionist leaders encouraged Hitler to persecute Jews (ibid).

That PhD is now used in the PA’s educational curriculum (at least as of 2011). It’s part of reason many ‘Palestinians’ call Israelis Judeo-Nazis.  

Today, Abbas leads a Fatah political Party whose Charter seeks to remove Jews from the Middle East. When the 2013 American-led ‘peace talks’ with Israel began, he declared that there will be no Jews in his Arab-only state called, ‘Palestine’ (“Abbas: 'Not a single Israeli' in future Palestinian state”, Reuters news service, July 30, 2013).  

Abbas has an agenda. That agenda is not statehood or self-determination for an Arab ‘people’. His agenda is the complete removal of the ‘Zionist entity’ (the Jewish State) from the world map. His Party logo reflects that: his new ‘Palestine’ isn’t portrayed on that logo as sitting beside Israel; it’s pictured as replacing Israel.

That’s why he travels to the UN. He wants a judgment against the Jewish state. He wants the world to approve his plan for ethnic cleansing against the Jews.  

This isn’t the first time he’s gone before the United Nations to make such a demand. He did it on Rosh Hashanna 2011 (September 23, 2011). He did it again on this year’s Rosh Hashanna (September 26, 2014).

In this year’s UN speech, Abbas revealed what kind of ‘peace partner’ he is for Israel. He didn’t talk about peace and reconcilement with the Jewish State. He didn’t talk about the benefits of peace for both the Jewish and ‘Palestinian’ peoples. Instead, he called Israel ‘genocidal’ (“Abbas at UNGA: Israel perpetrated genocide in Gaza, we won't forget or forgive”, Haaretz, September 26, 2014). He cited Israel for ‘war crimes’ (ibid). He accused Israel of ‘state terrorism’ (ibid). He described Israel as creating ‘apartheid’ conditions for the ‘Palestinian’ people (“US says Abbas UN speech undermines peace efforts”, PLO news service, September 27, 2014).  He said that his ‘people’ could never forgive or forget what Israel had just done to Gaza in the 50-day war that ended August 26, 2014.

He forgot to mention that Israel had attacked Gaza in order to defend itself against hundreds of rockets being fired from Gaza at its civilian population. He didn’t mention that Israel, as a sovereign state, has the right to defend itself against such attack. He simply declared that the Gaza war was “a new war of genocide perpetrated against the Palestinian people” (“US slams Abbas’s ‘genocide’ UN speech as ‘offensive’”, Times of Israel, September 27, 2014).

It was not a speech a peacemaker makes. It was, the US said, ‘offensive’ (ibid). Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman went further. He called Abbas’s speech, ‘diplomat terrorism’ (“Palestinian leader accuses Israel of 'genocide' at UN”, BBC, September 27, 2014).

Liberman is right. Mahmoud Abbas didn’t go to the UN to seek peace. He went to that ‘Temple of Peace’ and deliberately desecrated it with diplomatic terrorism.

What will the nations of the world do about that desecration? Will they condemn it—or sanctify it?

The G-d of Israel has a Jewish Story He wants to you see. Diplomatic terrorism against the Jewish State is part of that Story. Man’s anti-Israel ‘Temple of Peace’ is part of that Story.

Stay tuned. This Story is just beginning.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Where will you be next Rosh Hashannah?

Rosh Hashannah is over. Now, we are in the Days of Penitence. Now, we get the chance to think over how we can improve. We get the opportunity to think about where we want to be next year at this time.

A reader has just sent an essay to me from the ‘Dixie Yid’. I don’t know who that is, but the essay below appears to have been written by Rav Moshe Weinberger. It was written for Parshat Ki Tavo, which we read two weeks ago.

I’d like you to take look at it. Here are some excerpts. Perhaps it will affect how you approach your thinking about next New Year’s Day:

I met with a Jew from Paris this week. From the news alone, one cannot properly appreciate the effect increased Anti-Semitism is having on the Jewish community there. This community is over one thousand years old. But now, the main topic of conversation among Parisian Jews is [not if they’ll move to Israel, but] when and how they will move… .

 For hundreds of years, they felt they had found a place of refuge in Paris. But now they simply feel like strangers, like they do not belong. They wish they had a place in France. But they now realize that they must move on to either the next step in their exile or back home to Eretz Yisroel. …

Our people thought, many times in history, that we have found “rest” with various nations of the world. But, sooner or later, they [were reminded that they were] G-d’s wandering dove, longing and searching to find its way home. In the late thirteenth century and early fourteenth century, the nation of Poland guaranteed Jews’ religious and civil rights and invited the Jews to emigrate there. It was a country with nothing and they practically begged the Jews to build a community there. Our people even said that the Hebrew word for Poland (פולין) is a contraction of the words “פה לין, here, you shall rest.” To our dismay, we know what happened to the Jews of Poland during the Holocaust.

The Jews of Morocco used to have a sizable and beautiful Jewish community. Even today, the small community of 3,000 Jews believes that the government of “friendly Arabs” will always protect them. But we see what happened to the Jewish community protected by the Shah of Iran. I have had many students from Persia who showed me pictures of their estates, swimming pools, and mansions with servants from the time of the Shah. Jews had some of the most prominent positions in the government in Iran at that time. But now, the community has dwindled and they are ruled by despots and Islamic extremists. Similarly, the Meshech Chochma [1843-1926] presciently wrote that “If the Jew thinks that Berlin is Jerusalem [as Jews had declared often between the 19th century and the rise of the Nazi Party]… then a raging storm wind will uproot him by his trunk and subject him before a faraway gentile nation…”

…Hashem told his people, who feel homeless and hapless, who are seeking His refuge: “I shall make a place for you.” One of the tzadikim [righteous ones] of the previous generation acutely felt the call to return home just after the Holocaust. The Klauzenberger Rebbe, zt”l, first moved to New York when he left Europe after the War [he had survived the concentration camps]. Some time later, over parshas Ki Savo, the Torah reader reached the psukim [sentences] of the rebuke. He followed the regular custom of quietly and quickly reading the horrible curses that will befall our people if we do not keep the mitzvos [commandments]. But the Rebbe interrupted the reader, calling out, “Louder!”

Confused, the Torah reader paused, not knowing what to do. On one hand, he could not ignore the Rebbe. But on the other hand, the custom is clear. One does not read the curses of the rebuke loudly and slowly. The Rebbe then called out again, “I said, Louder!” The reader was dumbfounded and did not know how to respond. He therefore continued standing there in silence. So the Rebbe spoke up: “Why are you afraid of reading these curses out loud?! We have already endured all of them. We have been through it. It is done. This whole exile is done. I am through here. It is time to return home.”

Indeed, the Rebbe had already begun making plans to return to Eretz Yisroel. The Torah reader began reading the curses loudly and slowly. Many people in the shul began to openly weep as the enormity of everything that they had been through washed over them. Not long afterward, the Rebbe and many of the chassidim returned home to Eretz Yisroel to build the Torah community of Kiryat Sanz. 

This year, may the wandering dove, the Jewish people, finally find rest for its weary wings in its true home of Eretz Yisroel with the coming of Moshiach and the arrival of the complete redemption.

Where will you be next Rosh Hashannah?


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

When the nations will be judged

Note: here’s a second look at HaShem judging the nations
We are judged on Rosh Hashannah. Our Heritage talks about that judgment. Our Heritage also talks about how the nations will be judged (Avodah Zarah 2a-b). Our Heritage is very specific about that judgment.
When the nations will be judged, they will come to stand before HaShem (our G-d), one at a time. The first to appear will be the most prominent among them, Rome. Rome is the West. Rome created the exile that dominates our modern Jewish life. Rome still seeks to control Israel.
Rome will stand before HaShem. It will tell HaShem that it deserves reward, not punishment. It will say, ‘we have established many marketplaces. We have constructed many bath houses. We have amassed much silver and gold’ (ibid, 2b).
Rome will then add, ‘we have done all of this for the benefit of the Jews. Because of our actions, Jews were able to involve themselves with Torah study’ (ibid, 2b).
To this claim, G-d will reply, your actions did indeed benefit the Jewish people. Your efforts did help Jews involve themselves with Torah study. But that wasn’t your intention. Whatever you have done was done for yourselves only, for your own interests. Your motivations for your efforts were not altruistic.
G-d will tell Rome, you established markets, but not for Jews. You did that for your own commercial interests—and to create a quarter for prostitutes. Your bath houses were mostly for you, to ‘luxuriate yourselves in them’ (ibid).
G-d will judge Rome. He will tell Rome, your actions do not merit rewards.
The next nation to stand before G-d will be Persia—Iran. G-d will ask, ‘in what did you involve yourselves?’ (ibid,2b).
Persia (Iran) will reply, we constructed many bridges. We have conquered many cities. We have fought many defensive wars. We have done all this for the Jews, so that they should be able to involve themselves with Torah study (ibid).
G-d will reject Persia’s argument. He will tell Persia, whatever you have done, you have done for yourselves only. You constructed bridges to collect tolls from those who used those bridges. You conquered many cities not for Jews, but in order to press their citizens and livestock into serving your kings. The wars you have waged were possible only because I allowed them to be fought.
G-d will judge Persia-Iran. He will say, your actions do not merit rewards.
The Persians, our Heritage tells us (ibid, 2b), will be shocked. They will expect rewards because, they will believe, they weren’t Rome.
Rome had destroyed the Jews’ last Temple (70 CE). The Persians, however, had allowed the Jews to return to their homeland with Ezra (perhaps 510 BCE), to rebuild the first Temple, which had been destroyed by the Babylonians.
Nevertheless, Persia-Iran will not merit rewards.
Other nations will follow. Each will plead its case before G-d. Each will argue that it had worked to benefit the Jews. Each will praise its own secular accomplishments. Each will claim that Jews clearly benefited from those accomplishments. Each will argue that its actions and behaviour merit reward, not punishment (ibid).
They will all focus on Rome. They will all say, ‘we are not Rome. We never destroyed the Holy Temple’. Each will claim that it never subjugated the Jewish people—certainly not like Rome has done.
G-d will reject their claims. We learn from this rejection that the way each of these nations treated the Jews will in fact become evidence against them (see ibid, 2b, the notes in the ArtScroll Avodah Zara Shottenstein Edition). Their behaviour towards the Jews will not bring them merit for reward.
Rosh Hashannah is before us (tonight, Wednesday, September 24, 2014). All of us will be judged. Nations, too, will be judged (Rosh Hashanna, 8b).
Have the nations been righteous with Israel? Have they treated Israel fairly?
That will be for you to decide. That will be for HaShem to judge.
The G-d of Israel is Just. He is Merciful. To those who wish to return to His ways, He is Patient and Loving.
For the nations, there may yet be time to change for the good. But if, as time passes, the nations use the time allotted to them only to harass Israel ever more aggressively, then the G-d of Israel may no longer remain Patient.
On Friday, September 26, 2014—our second day of Rosh Hashannah--the enemy of Israel, Mahmoud Abbas, is scheduled to appear before the United Nations. He has already announced that he will attempt to rally the entire UN General Assembly against HaShem’s Treasure, Israel (“Abbas Will 'Drop a Bomb' on Israel at the UN”, Arutz Sheva, September 24, 2014).
Do you see the irony? On Rosh Hashannah, just as we all stand before HaShem to be judged, Mahmoud Abbas will ask the United Nations to pass a judgment against Israel. As he and they do that, the G-d of Israel will judge Abbas and the United Nations.
How do you think that’s going to work out?
This is Rosh Hashannah. It the time when HaShem judges everyone.
Shannah Tova. Happy New Year.

Rosh Hashannah: when HaShem judges everyone

Our Heritage teaches us that Rosh Hashannah, the Jewish New Year celebration, is unique. It’s the time for silent introspection, repentance, prayer and joy. It's the time each year when HaShem (our G-d) judges us.

On these two days of prayer, we pass before our G-d as sheep pass before the shepherd. As we pass before Him, He looks at each of us. He judges us.

Through this judgment, our fate for the coming year is determined: who will live, who will die, who will be at peace, who will be troubled, who will be safe, who will be at risk, etc.

That’s a simplified look at the Rosh Hashanna process. But it tells you the basics.

This year, our two-day Rosh Hashannah Holiday begins in a matter of hours. It begins tonight, Wednesday, September 24, 2014.

Are you ready to be judged?

Since a judgment is being prepared for each of us, it’s appropriate to become introspective. It’s appropriate to do an accounting of all we have done this past year.

It’s appropriate to think about our actions. After all, we’ve got to accept responsibility. We started the year with hopes and plans. Some may have added ‘resolutions’. Now we must account for those plans, hopes and resolutions.

That’s Rosh Hashanna. It’s the time for our annual ‘performance review’.

On one level, that’s what Judaism is all about—accepting responsibility for our actions. That’s why it’s appropriate that, as Rosh Hashannah approaches, we should ask ourselves, how did we do this year?

Were we as honest as we should have been? Did we treat our loved ones with love? Did we follow our mitzvot (commandments) as thoroughly as we should have?

There are many things for which we will be judged. In our Rosh Hashanna prayers, we talk about ourselves. We get specific. We confess our sins. We accept HaShem’s Kingship over us.

Our prayers reveal that we have many reasons to ask HaShem for His Mercy. On Rosh Hashannah, we have many opportunities to ask Him for that Mercy.

But Rosh Hashannah is also about a different kind of judgment. It’s not just individuals who are judged. Our Heritage teaches us that, on Rosh Hashannah, HaShem also judges the nations of the world (Avodah Zara, 2b).

Since the nations are to be judged, it’s appropriate to become introspective. It’s appropriate to do an accounting.

It’s appropriate to review what actions the nations have taken during this past year.

After all, they must accept responsibility for their actions. Like us, they must prepare to stand before HaShem.

To prepare for—and understand—how nations will be judged, it’s correct for us to ask, how did the nations do this year?

Were they as honest as they could have been? Did they treat HaShem with respect? Did they treat HaShem’s Treasure—Israel—with respect?

The United Nations (UN) demonized Israel. It didn’t simply condemn Israel. It accused HaShem’s beloved of war crimes. It sought to criminalize Israel. It condemned Israel ‘in the harshest manner’ possible.

The European Union (EU) showed nothing but scorn for HaShem’s Treasure. The EU didn’t just ignore Israel’s claim over the land of Israel. It told Israel it was losing its patience over Israel’s apparent refusal to give it away to those who hate HaShem.

The United States (US) claimed it was Israel’s best ally ever. It told Israel it would ‘always protect your back’. Then it tried to force Israel to give away HaShem’s Gift (the Land). It even threatened a third Intifada if Israel didn’t comply.

When Israel went to war against those who are committed to destroying Israel—HaShem’s Treasure—the US cut off some of the war supplies Israel had asked to receive. The US—after confirming that it’s Israel’s greatest ally ever--criticized Israel for killing human shields. The US ignored those who deliberately, cynically and illegally used those human shields to attempt to protect legitimate and legal military targets. The US pressured Israel to accept a cease fire before Israel could extinguish the enemy’s ability to attack it, HaShem’s Chosen.

This past year, the Arab nations closest to Israel have demonized and dehumanized Israel and its Jews. Arabs attacked Israel. They kidnapped and murdered Jews. They committed crimes against humanity—and then worked hard to have Israel criminalized for those crimes.

On Rosh Hashannah, HaShem (our G-d) judges everyone. He judges Mankind. He judges the nations.

He has recorded all that we—and the nations—have done.

Nothing has been left out. Nothing has been overlooked. Nothing has been deleted.

HaShem (the G-d of Israel) has a Jewish Story He wants you to see. Rosh Hashannah is part of that Story. Our repentance is part of that Story. The nations of the world are part of that Story.

Stay tuned. This Story is just beginning.





Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Do Israel’s headlines reveal our truth?

You are reading this essay because you are an English speaker—or, at the very least, a reader of English. But when you read your English news headlines, do you understand the potential inner essence of the headline?

Headlines are more than just a group of words that provide information. They also tell a story. Sometimes, they unwittingly reveal an underlying truth.

Take the headline, “Lapid Holds Press Conference --On Shabbat?”, (Arutz Sheva, September 20, 2014). How would you read those words?

Well, first of all, the headline is both a statement (Lapid holds a Press Conference) and a question (on Shabbat?). The statement is clear: leading Israeli politician Yair Lapid gave a press conference. That’s news. But it isn’t new.

Politicians give Press Conferences all the time. It’s how they speak to voters.

It’s the question that’s new. The question suggests two things: first, it suggests that a Press Conference in
Israel on Shabbat is not the norm; and second, it raises a potential question about Lapid’s judgment.

In fact, that’s what the story was about. Yair Lapid, by calling a Press Conference on Shabbat, forced news reporters who might have been Shabbat-observing to travel (a potential violation of the Shabbat) in order to do their job.

But this news headline also contained a hidden revelation. It reminded us that Israel isn’t what we might have thought it was.

What’s the problem here? Many Israeli politicians are not Shabbat-observing. Many are not religious. Many speak ill of religion. Many so dislike religious Jews they are openly hostile to anything religious, including Shabbat.

A politician who’ breaks’ the Shabbat is not news.

Yes, for religious Jews, such a story is a frustration. It’s cause for negative feelings towards anti-religious Jews. It causes strife within the Jewish nation. It provokes us to separate from one another. It keeps us from uniting.
Such a story highlights the differences between us. It’s one of the sad realities of modern Israel. We are not a united nation.
This story has two companion pieces (“Will Lapid's Sabbath Desecration Bring Down the Coalition?”, Arutz Sheva, September 20, 2014; and, “MKs lash Lapid for Shabbat press conference”, Times of Israel, September 21, 2014). Together, these three stories suggest that Lapid didn’t just anger religious Jews when he held this news conference. He offended, these stories suggest, Leftists as well.
That’s where the revelation lies.
Generally, Leftists aren’t a Shabbat-observing group. Typically, they are not religious. Typically, they are anti-religious (read Haaretz).
Now, it’s true that the Leftist Lapid reportedly most offended (Meretz Party Chairperson Zahava Galon) was probably being sarcastic when she criticized Lapid—though the Times of Israel story suggested she wasn’t. She said, “While you [the readers]were enjoying your day of rest, Finance Minister Yair Lapid decided to drag all the financial journalists from their homes in the middle of Shabbat, inviting them to park at the entrance to his house in Tel Aviv so that they could hear him read off a thoughtless announcement.”
It turns out that, at least according to Galon, Lapid’s ‘Press Conference’ took all of a minute-and-a-half. But, she said, “it certainly was enough to destroy the Shabbat of the cameramen and journalists forced”  to endure the meaningless utterances of the meaningless Lapid. It was, she said, ‘a demonstration of insensitivity” (Times of Israel, ibid).
On one level, this story is similar to other ‘news stories’ that get posted on weekends: they’re often more fluff than substance, more meaningless than meaningful.
But, despite this ‘weekend fluffery syndrome’, this story reveals something. It contains a hidden message: everyone in Israel, no matter his or  her religious affiliation, knows what Shabbat is all about.
That’s the hidden truth here. I don't know if Zehava Galon is religious. But all of us who live here understand that Israel is different. Non-religious Jews here usually know about Shabbat. They understand (the upcoming) Rosh Hashannah. They understand G-d in a way non-affiliated Jews elsewhere don’t.
Religious Jews, particularly those who call themselves 'Religious Zionists', should remember that. Yes, we are indeed not united. But we are a lot closer to being united than Jews in, say, America.
Whether or not Zahava Galon knows about Shabbat, she should be invited out to a Shabbat meal. She should be rewarded with a smile for her Shabbat recognition, even if that recognition was more for humour or ‘politics’ than anything else.
Whatever her religious affiliation, Zehava Galon is a lot closer to us than we think. We shouldn’t forget that.
The G-d of Israel has a Jewish Story He wants us to see. Zehava Galon is no less a part of that Story than you.
We hasten our Redemption through uniting. Zehavah Galon reveals that she understands something about the path to that Redemption. We shouldn’t ignore that.

We should reward it--even if she is a Leftist.

ISIL: the West just doesn’t get it

ISIL is an acronym. It means ‘The Islamic State for Iraq and the Levant’. It’s a name that is used synonymously with two other names: IS (‘The Islamic State’) and ISIS (‘The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’).

All three names refer to a single organization. The easiest form of the name is, simply, IS: The Islamic State.

Although both US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister have stated that IS isn’t Islamic, it’s pretty hard to ignore IS’s Islamic connection when the word, ‘Islamic’ shows up in its name. It’s pretty hard to ignore the Islamic nature of IS when it declares as often as it can that it’s going to establish an Islamic Caliphate wherever it goes. It’s pretty hard to ignore its Islamic character when we hear that IS groups have told hundreds of victims, ‘convert to our form of Islam or die’.

The IS is unusual. Judged by Western standards, it isn’t a large organization. Current Western estimates suggest that the IS has less than 32,000 fighters (“CIA Says IS Has Up to 31,500 Fighters”, Arutz Sheva, September 12, 2014). For the West, IS seems to be a relatively small group of ‘extreme’ terrorists who know how to frighten an awful lot of people.

For example, in a matter of weeks, the IS has driven close to two million Iraqis and Syrians out of their homes, to become wandering refugees (“Fundamentalist onslaught in Iraq: made in USA”, The Freedom Socialist, August 2014).

 It seems surprising that such a small group can create such chaos so quickly. But then, when Western leaders tell us that IS isn’t even Islamic, that might be a clue to their understanding of IS. Such pronouncements might just be the West’s way of telling us they don’t have clue who these fighters are, why they’re so barbaric or why they’re so open to IS recruitment.

The proof of such an observation comes not from the West but from the Middle East. According to Al Jazeera, there aren’t ‘up to 31,500’ IS fighters, as the CIA estimates (above). Instead, Al Jazeera reports there are perhaps 50,000 IS fighters in Syria alone—and another 30,000 in Iraq. In addition, IS is recruiting up to 6,000 new fighters a month (“Islamic State 'has 50,000 fighters in Syria'”, August 19, 2014).

Yes, Al Jazeera could support IS. Al Jazeera is owned by the ruling family of Qatar which, you might note, has been called by some the ‘godfather to terrorists’ (“Qatar’s Support of Islamists Alienates Allies Near and Far”, New York Times, September 7, 2014).

But even if Al Jazeera inflates IS numbers because it supports IS, their estimates seem far closer to reality than the West’s estimates. The IS isn’t a small terror group. It’s a monster in the making. It grows at a voracious rate. It carves a path through Syria, has taken over vast portions of Iraq (ibid), and is creating thousands of refugees a day (“Some 130,000 Syrians reach Turkey, fleeing Islamic State”, Times of Israel, September 22, 2014).

The West still doesn’t get it. They’ve never seen such a human plague before. The West cannot believe people can be this murderous. The West cannot believe that IS is so linked into ‘the religion of peace’ (Islam).

Besides, most Western states aren’t highly motivated to strike against Muslims. Many have large and growing Muslim populations. With some Western nations already facing a growing threat of home-grown Muslim terror, the fear of a “backlash from Muslim populations [is] part of the reason why European countries do not want to get involved in what is now a regional Middle Eastern war” (“5 Reasons Why the US Coalition Against ISIS is an Empty Shell”, The Clarion Project, September 18, 2014).

The West looks to its leaders for leadership in troubled times. But in the face of this Islamic attack, the only substantive declaration those leaders can make is, ‘IS isn’t Islamic’.

As recently as August 29, 2014, US President Obama didn’t have a clue what to do about IS (“Obama: ‘No strategy yet’ on Islamic State”, Times of Israel). When he finally did create a ‘strategy’, he couldn’t form a coalition that was actually ready to fight (“The Obama Administration's Member-less Coalition Against The Islamic State: What Good Are Allies Anyway?”, Forbes, September 16, 2014): Obama called for help, but no one seemed interested in joining him (ibid).

The West doesn’t get it. A plague threatens to wash over the Middle East. That plague threatens Europe and America (“ISIS, in Magazine, Warns of 'Armageddon' Against US, West”, Newsmax, September 16, 2014).  Millions run for their lives. Thousands are murdered.

But no one will act. The US will run air strikes against this plague. The US will be as successful against this plague as doctors of old were successful against the plagues of the Middle Ages.

The G-d of Israel has a Jewish Story He wants you to see. The IS is part of that Story. The West’s reactions to both Israel and IS are also part of that Story.

If you want to see how all the dots connect, stay tuned. The G-d of Israel will not disappoint you.






Monday, September 22, 2014

Lewis Carroll, Israel—and the looking glass

In 1871, Lewis Carroll published a book entitled, Through the Looking-Glass and what Alice Found There. It was a sequel to Alice in Wonderland, which Carroll had published just a few years earlier, in 1865. In both of these fictional fantasies, a young Alice finds herself in a fantastical world where things are not quite what they appear to be.

In Through the Looking Glass, Alice discovers, much to her amazement, that she can walk through a mirror (the ‘looking  glass’). She enters an alternative world. In that world, she has to look anew at each experience to see what is true and what is not true.

Alice’s experiences are much like Israel’s. Both she and the Jewish State live in an alternative world.

For example, Israel, like Alice, is told it exists only as something imaginary: it’s not a real State. It has no right to exist (“Israel Faces Deepening Isolation, Kerry Warns”, The Bloomberg View, August 12, 2013). Therefore, it’s nothing more than a ‘Zionist entity’.

What’s a ‘Zionist entity’? It’s exactly like Alice who, in her own alternative world, isn’t human at all. Instead, she’s nothing more than ‘a flower that can move about’.

US President Barack Hussein Obama isn’t the leader of the world’s most powerful country. He’s the Red King, who appears to Alice at first glance to be ‘fast asleep’ (“'Barney Fife is in charge': Obama under fire for 'we don't have a strategy' gaffe on ISIS as he's accused of having 'head buried in hole on first green'”, The Daily Mail, August 29, 2014).

Yes, on September 10, 2014, President Obama did say the US would attack ISIS. But does anyone believe that the US can actually ‘degrade and destroy’ (Obama’s words) ISIS with limited air strikes only? There is no historic evidence that such a strategy has ever worked in the Middle East.

President Obama is the Red King. He lives in an imaginary world.

Alice meets two men, Tweedledee and Tweedledum. These two are self-important but nonsensical characters who, for example, agree to do something but never do it. That’s like Mahmoud Abbas and John Kerry, who talk of peace but never get there.   

Tweedledee and Tweedledum are twins. When they sing together, they transform magically into the UN and the EU who, like them, are mirror images of each other. They never contradict one another when it comes to Israel—or, for that matter, when it comes to ‘Palestine’. For the UN and the EU, Israel is always the villain. ‘Palestine’ is always the victim.

Just as the UN and EU attempt to frighten Israel, it is Tweedledee and Tweedledum who frighten Alice. They tell her she doesn’t exist. They report to her with much as much authority as they can muster that she exists only as an imaginary figure in the Red King’s dream. They suggest that poor Alice will no longer exist the instant the Red King wakes up.

That sounds a lot like the UN and the EU. They look at US President Obama as if he were the Red King: the instant he awakens from the hold that US Jews have over him, the UN and EU appear to think, there will be peace because Israel will no longer exist.

Alice meets the White Queen. In Israel’s world, these are Jews who oppose Israel. Both the White Queen and these anti-Israel Jews are absent-minded. They forget where they’ve come from. They boast that they can remember future events before they have happened.

For example, anti-Israel Jews once boasted that Israel will have peace if it surrendered Gaza. They now boast that if Israel surrendered ancestral Jewish homeland in order to create a ‘two-state solution’, Israel will have the same result they had once predicted for Gaza.

Alice walks with the White Queen just as Israel’s government walks with these anti-Israel Jews. But Alice discovers that, at a crucial moment, the White Queen fails her: the Queen turns into a talking sheep.

Whenever Israel’s government walks with these anti-Israel Jews, the same thing happens:  anti-Israel Jews are no more useful to us than the talking sheep is to Alice.

Worse, Alice ends up buying an egg from the sheep. That egg is useless. It turns into Humpty Dumpty.

Some say that Humpty Dumpty was a reference to King Richard III of England who, despite his armies, was defeated in 1485. That sounds like anti-Israel Jews who, despite their power, advocate a path towards national destruction. They are exactly like Humpty Dumpty: all the king’s men and all the king’s horses can’t put them back together again. They are forever cracked.

Before the end of her story, Alice must face a Red Knight who aims to capture her. Israel, too, must face an enemy—Jihadi Islam. Like a Red Knight, Jihad wants to capture Israel.

In the end, Alice is crowned Queen. The crown appears abruptly on her head. Israel, too, will find a crown so placed upon its head.

But Israel is not Alice. At the end of her story, Alice isn’t sure what was real and what was fantasy. At the end of Israel’s story—our Final Redemption—there will be no such uncertainty.

The G-d of Israel has a Jewish Story He wants you to see. Alice and Israel are part of that Story.

Stay tuned.

The propaganda war against Israel continues

The propaganda war against Israel never sleeps. Even in the face of evidence which contradicts it, the propaganda war won’t stop.
That’s the bad news. The good news is, there’s plenty of evidence to show how hollow, empty and downright false that war is.
Consider the impact of the 50-day Gaza war on Israel’s economy. According to anti-Israel advocate Shir Hever (“Israel Facing Major Economic Consequences for 50 Day War on Gaza”, The Real News, September 15, 2014), the recent 50-day war with Gaza has cost Israel’s economy dearly (ibid). Because of the war, he claims, Israel’s economy has slowed—and that slow-down will have a long-term negative impact on Israel (ibid).
He’s wrong. On the same day that Hever was predicting doom-and-gloom for Israel’s economic future, the Bank of Israel was announcing that the impact of this war had been to slow Israel’s economic growth from an annualized 2.9 per cent to 2.4 per cent (“War Puts a Snag in Israel's GDP Growth”, Arutz Sheva, September 15, 2014).
To put that drop into context, this year’s economic growth for the US and Europe will be close to just one per cent (ibid). Israel’s drop to a 2.4 per cent growth isn’t exactly a ‘long-term negative impact’ for Israel’s economy. In fact, even folding into the mix a negative quarter because of the fighting, Israel’s economy is still among the strongest in the West.
Now, Israel’s Globes Business News  reports that the S&P has weighed in on the war’s impact on Israel: so far as the S&P is concerned, the effect of the war on Israel’s economy  was negligible (“S&P: Gaza operation's fiscal effect minor”, Globes, September 21, 2014). After looking at Israel’s economic numbers, the S&P has concluded that the “Gaza conflict will lead to only a modest weakening of Israel's fiscal trajectory” (ibid).
Hever’s view (The Real News, above) is that this war has proven to be so economically unsustainable that Israel’s international credit ratings will drop (ibid). He claims that Israeli’s know this; that’s why, he says, young Israelis are leaving Israel if they can.
For Hever, Israel’s economic ship is sinking. The young are abandoning it. The inference is, you should also abandon Israel.
But the S&P Ratings company doesn’t agree with that assessment. Instead, it declares that the “fighting has not changed our view of Israel's core credit strengths, such as its prosperous and diverse economy” (Globes, ibid). As a result of its assessment, it has chosen to leave its rating of Israel unchanged (ibid).
Whom do you believe—an anti-Israel provocateur who has an anti-Israel agenda, or Standard and Poor’s?
The propaganda war against Israel grinds on. But the G-d of Israel protects His beloved. Israel remains strong, not weak. Israel grows stronger, not weaker (“Through War and Peace, Israel's Economy Continues to Soar”, Arutz Sheva, August 31, 2014).
Shir Hever says that time is working against Israel. How strange. Some in Israel believe the exact opposite: time, they argue, is actually working for Israel (Arutz Sheva, ibid).
All the economic indicators one can look at, these observers say, “confirm that Israel has experienced splendid economic integration, and unprecedented economic growth, in defiance of ongoing war, terrorism, boycotts and international pressure” (ibid).
That doesn’t sound like Israel’s economy suffers—or will suffer. It sounds like Israel’s economy is healthy—and strong. Nevertheless, those who hate Israel won’t back down.
They can’t stand to see Israel succeed. They prefer the lies of their propaganda.
That’s the only way Israel will suffer—through their lies.
The G-d of Israel has a Jewish Story He wants you to see. Israel’s economic strength--in a Region where economic turmoil is the norm--is part of that Story.  The propaganda of those who hate Israel is also part of that Story.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

How Religious Zionists should view Naftali Bennet

Israel’s 2013 national elections seemed to empower Israel’s Religious Zionists. The Jewish Home Party won enough seats to become Israel’s leading Religious Zionist political Party. It won 12 seats in the Knesset.
The Jewish Home’s 12 seats also gave Naftali Bennet, its leader, a place in the nation’s ruling Coalition. He can honestly make the claim that he is now the political leader of Religious Zionism in Israel.
Some twenty-one months later, in September, 2014, polls suggest that Jewish Home could gain even more seats in a new election (if held today). Bennet’s star rises. He looks at the possibility of becoming Israel’s Prime Minister (“Bennett Ready to Abandon Values to be Prime Minister”, Arutz Sheva, September 12, 2014).
Conventional wisdom says he won’t be able to be our Prime Minister on a Religious Zionist platform; there simply aren’t enough Religious Zionists in Israel to push him into the Prime Minister’s office. Conventional wisdom says he must widen his appeal. He must attract those who are not religious and, possibly, not entirely committed to the call of Zionism (ibid).
Bennet seems to be listening to this conventional wisdom. He seems to want to attract seculars, Russian-speakers and Druze (ibid), some of whom are not religious Jews, some of whom may not be entirely Zionistic.
Some people worry about that. Some worry that if Bennet attempts to broaden his base in this manner, he could compromise his core values.  One reason for this concern is his apparent commitment to conventional wisdom (Arutz Sheva, ibid). He, too, seems to believe that he cannot become Israel’s leader with a Religious Zionist message.
Is that conventional wisdom correct? I don’t think so.
Israel is a special place. It doesn’t operate by Man’s conventional wisdom. Religious Zionists should be among the first to understand this.
A Religious Zionist could become Prime Minister without going outside the sector’s target market. There is more than one scenario to suggest such a possibility.
For example, look at what happened to PM Netanyahu’s approval ratings in the month of August, 2014. His approval ratings plummeted from 82 per cent to 32 per cent. That collapse didn’t occur because he had been weak in the recent 50-day war with Gaza. It didn’t happen because he had lost that war. It didn’t’ happen because too many Israelis had died in that war.
It happened because he hadn’t been aggressive enough. Can you imagine what would have happened to he had been weak or confused in war—or had been perceived to have lost that war?
Politicians would have jumped to precipitate new elections. They would have acted to collapse the coalition. Then, if Netanyahu couldn’t rebuild a coalition for himself, he’d be forced to call for new elections.
If Israel faces another war, such a scenario is possible, especially if Israelis believe that Netanyahu—or any other sitting PM—doesn’t defend Israel ‘properly’.
If anything, that was one of the main lessons of this most recent war. In war, Israelis want a strong pro-Israel leader, not a ‘compromiser’.
It’s a lesson Bennet doesn’t seem to have learned.
In war, Israelis turn Right. If the next war (and there will be a ‘next’ war) is truly serious, Israelis could not only turn Right, they could turn to look squarely at Religious Zionists in order to find a leader—because many believe that Religious Zionism produces the strongest defenders of Israel.
But Israel will do that only if there’s a strong Religious Zionist available. If the leading Religious Zionist candidate (Bennet) has compromised his core values for short-term gains, he will not get the call to lead Israel.
Bennet needs to prove he is a strong and dependable Religious Zionist.  Certainly, he cannot support Arab building in Jerusalem, which some suggest he has just done (“Jerusalem Passes Landmark Arab Building Project”, Arutz Sheva, September 18, 2014).
Religious Zionists need to present Bennet with a ‘Statement of Beliefs’. That Statement should lay out clearly what are the values of Religious Zionism.
The message to Bennet should be clear:  Religious Zionists will support any leader who is true to Religious Zionism’s basic values. Bennet should be expected to understand those values. He should be expected to talk every day about one or more of those values. He should be expected to vote according to those values—always.
If Bennet can follow that prescription, he should earn the support of the Religious Zionist movement. If he compromises those values, he should be abandoned.
This is the least Religious Zionists should do with every leader candidate. It is the only way Religious Zionists can protect their ‘brand’. Otherwise, false leaders will surely lead us astray—and then betray us.
The G-d of Israel has a Jewish Story He wants you to see.  Israel’s political arena is part of that story.
Stay tuned.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Rav Kook, Israel and the Hebrew letter vav

On Shabbat, September 20, 2014, Jews around the world will read the weekly Torah Portion, Parshat Netzavim (D’varim 29:9-30:20). In that reading, we find three p’sukim (sentences) that affect how we think today about the phenomena called, ‘modern Israel’.
These p’sukim begin with our leader Moshe telling us that “(30:1) It will be that when all these things come upon you—the blessing and the curse that I have presented before you—then you will take it to your heart among the nations where HaShem, your G-d, has dispersed you; (30:2) And you will return unto HaShem your G-d…” (The ArtScroll Chumash, The Stone Edition).
These two p’sukim seem to tell us four things: first, at some time after Moshe spoke these words, the Jewish nation would rebel against HaShem their G-d; second, G-d will exile the Jewish nation because of the (specific) sins they will commit against Him; third, Jews in exile will be scattered among the nations; and fourth, at some point during that exile, the Jewish people will once again seek to ‘return’ to G-d.
It’s the next posuk (sentence) that affects how Jews around the world think of modern Israel. How we read that posuk determines whether or not you see modern Israel as the first flowering of G-d’s Promised Redemption.
That posuk (D’varim 30:3) begins with the Hebrew letter, vav. Typically, the letter vav at the beginning of a word is normally translated as ‘and’. It can also be translated as ‘then’. How this letter is translated depends upon what semantic or grammatical context the reader assigns to the text.
Readers traditionally translate this vav in this posuk (D’varim 30:3) as ‘then’. Therefore, the posuk reads, “Then HaShem, your G-d, will…have mercy upon you and He will gather you in from all the peoples to which HaShem, your G-d, has scattered you.”
This translation (‘then’) assigns a chronology to the meaning of these three p’sukim: you will be exiled and then you will return (through repentance) to G-d; and then, after your repentance, G-d will gather you into Israel once again. The chronology implied by the word, ‘then’ means that before G-d will formally bring you back to Israel, you will have first ‘returned to G-d’ (t’shuva).
This is an important point. It has influenced literally hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of religious Jews, across more than a hundred generations, to believe with a very firm belief that they cannot return to Israel until the Jewish nation as a whole has repented (‘t’shuva’).
For these G-d-fearing Jews, we as a nation must be meticulous about keeping the sequence we derive from this vav: t’shuva, then aliyah: a religious return before our physical return.
But what happens if the translation of that vav isn’t ‘then’? What happens if the translation should be ‘and’?
The posuk would read, ‘And HaShem your G-d will… have mercy on you and He will gather you in…”
There is no suggested sequence.
The Torah often uses the letter vav. It doesn’t always suggest a chronology. Sometimes, it’s just a connector between two sentences. Sometimes, the ‘and’ suggests two things happening simultaneously.
For example, in this same Parsha (D’varim 29:23-24), we read that the Jewish nation (during the future exile) will describe Israel as a devastated place. At that same time, we read, “(29:23) And the nations will say…(29:24) And they [the nations] will say…”
This is not a chronological reference. It’s a reference to statements that will all occur at the same time.
If ‘and’ is not chronological in the three p’sukim we are discussing here, then we have a question: can we argue that the t’shuva (repentance) and aliyah referenced within these three p’sukim are simultaneous occurrences?
Such a reading suggests that HaShem doesn’t wait for the Jewish people to repent fully before He starts the ingathering, which is the beginning of our Redemption. It suggests instead a parallel process. It suggests that, once HaShem sees the Jewish people ‘returning’, he will start the Redemption.
Is that possible?
Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook (1865-1935) is considered by many to be the founder of modern Religious Zionism. He has written that Redemption is an “ever-active historical process” (The Art of T’shuva, The teachings of HaRav Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook, commentary by Rabbi David Samson and Tzvi Fishman, Jerusalem, 5759 [1999], p57). He sees Redemption unfolding visibly through history.
He also sees t’shuva occurring on an individual and national basis among the Jewish people—and in the non-Jewish world as well (ibid). He describes individual repentance as a process of perfecting oneself in preparation for Redemption (ibid, p56). But he also believes that all “cultural reforms which lift the world out of moral decay, along with social and economic advancements…all of them comprise a single entity, and are not detached one from the other” (ibid, p56-7).
That ‘single entity’ is the process of ‘perfection’—what he calls ‘one giant unified t’shuva’ (ibid, p57).
He also suggests that t’shuva and Redemption are not sequential. One does not precede the other. T’shuva and Redemption, he says, are parallel processes (p 58). They lead to the same destination (ibid). They are, he argues, intertwined (ibid).
History validates Rav Kook. Since the end of World War Two, t’shuva and aliyah (which is, after all, the process of in-gathering) have indeed unfolded on parallel tracks. Since 1945, the world has seen a resurgence of Torah and aliyah to Israel on a scale never seen before. The rise of modern Israel is truly intertwined with the rise of Torah, t’shuva and aliyah.
That’s not a coincidence.
When Rav Kook suggests that t’shuva and Redemption unfold on a parallel course, perhaps he had these three p’sukim in mind. Perhaps he realized how t’shuva, Israel and aliyah would unfold hand-in-hand.
Perhaps he understood more clearly then we how to read the simple letter vav.