Sunday, April 24
Friday, April 22
The Passover (Pesach) Season is upon us. The celebration of the Israelites’ escape from bondage in Egypt led by Moses is here. Most observant Jews in Israel and in the Diaspora will be sitting down to the Pesach meal or Seder with all its symbolism of freedom from slavery in Egypt. The Haggadah, is read before the Seder meal. I feel that it is so archaic and lacking in relevance. The reading is rushed through rapidly as it becomes a tedious exercise in resilience.
It should be a challenge to all of us as Jews to seek new meanings and learning new lessons as to how relevant Pesach remains today. It is not enough to celebrate the liberation of the Israelites, who to all intents and purposes, are our ancestors.
While very few even think of Pesach from a wider more modern spectrum and are so involved in out dated rituals as to what is Kosher for Pesach and what is not. The religious hair-splitting explanation over what is “kitniot” –“legumes” that are forbidden to be eaten by religious Ashkenazim.
We should be giving more thought to those who are still not free in countries that deny their citizens basic human rights.
The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict still defies a solution. The occupation has taken on a different perspective. It is a moral dilemma. On the one hand, it is desirable that there should be a move to ending the occupation of the Palestinians by Israel so that the Palestinians do achieve an independent state with freedom coinciding with human dignity and democracy. On the other hand, even if Israel withdraws all the settlers from the occupied territories on the West Bank, there will be no desire on the Palestinian side to sign a peace treaty. The corrupt, wealthy Palestinian leadership have no desire to recognize Israel’s right to exist. It is their bread and butter.The terrorist activity coming from the Palestinian side is not conducive to any solution in ending the Israeli occupation.
The conflict does not appear to have any solution in sight. The moral idea of an independent Palestinian State alongside Israel is just not going to occur. It remains within the realm of the impossible. All we can do as Jews is to declare the desire for an independent, free, Palestinian State alongside Israel living in peace. It is a similar desire of “Next year in Rebuilt Jerusalem” at the end of the Haggadah reading which we know will also never occur.
Here is a thought that comes from Rabbi John Rosove,
J Street Rabbinic Cabinet, Co-Chair:
J Street Rabbinic Cabinet, Co-Chair:
“As the festival of Passover approaches, we are all challenged, this year even more than most years, to reflect and act on the universal message it conveys -- especially in the light of very disturbing trends both in the United States and Israel.
The overriding message conveyed through the Haggadah is that it is our duty to experience the story of our liberation from Egypt as if it happened to us personally -- and not just a story that happened to our ancestors countless generations ago. As former slaves, our tradition teaches us to be sensitive to the plight of the oppressed throughout history and in our own time. Accepting our role as active participants in that drama, we realize that we have a hand in forging our own destiny and cannot allow ourselves to become mere bystanders.
We are sensitive even to the pain of our enemies, taking a drop of wine out of our glasses for each of the ten plagues visited on the Egyptians, lessening our joy as we recall their suffering.
As our sages have noted, the one commandment in the Torah reiterated more than any other is to care for and love the stranger -- for we ourselves were strangers in Egypt. It is repeated no fewer than 36 times.
Perhaps the repetition is necessary because this commandment tells us to do something that is both counterintuitive and very hard to do. It goes against something that is very deep and fundamental within us. We’re hardwired to be loyal to our own tribe and to be suspicious of and hostile to “the other.” When we’re hurting or in distress, some of us blame strangers and pour out our rage on them. It’s happening again, right now, in Syria, Iraq and in sectors of America.
In the 2016 presidential campaign, some of the leading candidates have built their campaigns by exploiting the fears and anxieties of fellow Americans. They have cynically fomented an anti-immigrant, xenophobic, nativist feeling against Muslims, Hispanics and others.
In Israel, we see the same phenomenon in the very disturbing recent polls showing that a sizeable proportion of the Jewish population would favor depriving Arab Israelis of their democratic rights or even expelling them from the country. And tragically, Israelis and Palestinians have become strangers to each other, meeting in fewer and fewer places and not currently engaged around the negotiating table.
Yes, Israelis have been subjected to heinous terrorist attacks, rockets, missiles and constant psychological pressure -- and we must stand with them in upholding their right to defend themselves and our Jewish homeland -- but returning hatred with hatred is not the response our tradition teaches. We’re taught as Jews despite cruelty leveled against us not to become cruel and hard-hearted ourselves. That is the key lesson of Pesach, and we ignore it at our moral and spiritual peril.
This is not who we are as Jews -- nor who we can be and should be.
As individuals and collectively, working through organizations like J Street and its many American-Jewish, Israeli and Palestinian allies, we need to change this. We are called upon by tradition to pursue peace and justice and to love compassion. We must see that our neighbors are fellow humans with the same desires and aspirations as us -- and we must never abandon our goal of reaching a two-state solution to end the conflict.
That is the great challenge of our time and it is deserving of particular reflection this festival season.
As the former Chief Rabbi of Britain, Jonathan Sacks, has noted, “Judaism is God’s call to human responsibility. From this call you can’t hide, as Adam and Eve discovered when they tried, and you can’t escape, as Jonah learnt in the belly of a fish. The first humans lost paradise when they sought to hide from responsibility. We will only ever regain it if we accept responsibility and become a nation of leaders, each respecting and making space for those not like us.”
"WE ARE TROUBLED when we see fear and hatred toward “the other” in Israel. In our beloved Israel, it is sadly common to encounter fear and loathing of “the other” with whom we share the land. Even in times of turmoil and insecurity, we must strive to empathize with our neighbors and treat all with dignity. We must commit ourselves to working together with Israelis and with Palestinians to realize a future of freedom, justice and peace. LET US
STRIVE TO LOVE THE STRANGER and journey toward our Promised Land. Tonight, as we reenact our enslavement and celebrate our freedom from oppression, let us work toward loving the stranger, treating all with dignity and equal protection. Only then can we truly inhabit our Promised Land and reach the future we wish to see.
WE REMEMBER when we were strangers. Tonight, at our Seder, we remember when we were strangers. We recall the Exodus from bondage and reaffirm our memory that we were once the dispossessed, the immigrants, those who fled from the lash in the hopes of finding our way to our Promised Land. We remember countless times in the Jewish story when we were pushed away, wandering, vulnerable, even hated. Why do we tell this story year after year?
WE SEEK TO KNOW the heart of the stranger. The Torah explains: “Know the heart/the feelings of the stranger, for you once were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9). We tell the story so that we remember to empathize with “the other,” so that we will not do to others that which was hateful to us. “Love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deut. 10:19). In this moment, we seek to know the heart and feelings of those who are treated as “the other” today and dwell on what it means to love them.
WE ARE TROUBLED when we see fear and hatred toward “the other” here in America. In the United States, we sit down to our tables at a time of unprecedented anti-immigrant and xenophobic sentiment, Islamophobia and the stirring of hatred towards those who look different than us. We remember tonight that once we were proud to call ourselves a nation of immigrants."
This Passover supplement was created by Rabbi Burton Visotzky and Sarah Beller Possible discussion around the table: As you think about the current situation in America and in Israel ask yourself: Who today is being treated as “the stranger” or “the other” in the United States? Who is being treated as “the stranger” or “the other” in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza? Drawing on the Jewish historical experience of being strangers, what action can I take to help alleviate the challenges faced by those who are treated as “the other” today?
Chag Pesach Sameach! שמח! חג פסח
Saturday, April 9
|Flag of Kach and later Kahane Chai. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Racism is inherent in many segments of Israel’s society. This is reflected in voting patterns when there are General Elections for the Knesset.
|MK Bezalel Smotrich, Deputy Speaker of the Knesset|
Had this racist not been a Knesset Member, we could view him as an insignificant, racist on the fringes (perhaps the tzizit fringes) of little significance. He is basically soft-serve Price Tag with views similar to the Hilltop Youth scum that vandalises Palestinian property in the territories.
Bezalel Smotrich dared to utter racist anti-Arab statements that are so shocking and deserve nation-wide condemnation. Even the leader of this extremist right wing Jewish Home Party, Naftali Bennett, the Minister of Education, condemned the Smotrich racist statements. It is unfortunate that he did not go far enough. He should have demanded the resignation of Smotrich. Smotrich represents all that is ugly in Jewish Home Party ideology. He is a reprehensible character in the Knesset. It is unfortunate that there is no shortage of them that is dragging Israel’s reputation into disrepute and serving the agenda of BDS and anf anti-Israel groups. What more does one need to give grist to the mill of those double standard, self-styled “progressive” humanists, who never miss an opportunity to accuse Israel of practising South African-style apartheid? Smotrich has achieved this.
There is another way in the settler way of thinking and this is well illustrated by Hadassah Froman, wife of the late Rabbi Menachem Froman of Tekoah. The following is her response to Bezalel Smotrich:
I may not know you personally, but I know your parents. On a certain level, one could say that you represent the second generation of the Gush Emunim settlement movement, among whose founders were your parents and me. Recent events – the fire bombing in Duma; the soldier who shot a disarmed attacker in Hebron; your comments this week – and the polemic they engendered have reawakened the need to bring into focus the profound meaning of our presence in this land.
The settlement movement that issued forth from the teachings of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook bore with it a spiritual vision of the return to the land. In his book “Orot,” Rabbi Kook repeatedly describes the Jewish people’s mission to bear the torch of the light of God, of justice, morality, love and kindness, in the world. Notably, he portrays this mission in universal terms. That is the purpose of our return to the land, that is the true Jewish courage, and that is what we must actualize here.
Let me tell you, Bezalel, that his son, Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, said on multiple occasions, “We have nothing against Ahmad or Mustafa. We do not fight the Arab man because he is Arab.” Or, as the elder Rabbi Kook put it, Jewish nationalism must remain untainted by the impurity of racism, for otherwise it has no right to exist. Rabbi Kook, like other early Zionist thinkers, saw the Zionist idea as a spiritual message that would imbue the world with the light of justice and morality, with love of man and his holiness, and that would realize its message in the land we’ve always yearned for.
That is our message, and it is with that grand spirit that we established a state. That is the historic, divine process that reconnected us to this land, and that is our mission in the world.
Within this process, we must bear in mind that the Palestinian people that dwells in this land is not a mistake of the divine plan. It is here so that we can learn to establish ourselves in the land while broadening our perspective on reality. This is a word of God that we must internalize: how to live here by building dialogue with another people, another culture, another religion. Indeed, it is a difficult task, one that we must carry out by way of the structures with which we conduct our lives: the institutions of government, culture and welfare; civil society and the military; and the education system.
The issue goes way beyond the question of where to build a settlement and how to protect it; it is at the core of our very existence, and if we will fail to internalize that fact, we will not remain here. The Jewish people, consciously or not, is the bearer of a profound spiritual message for the world, and it will not allow you to lead it if you are guided by a racist outlook that denies the other’s existence.
If you see the other in a negative light, if you can’t relate to his celebrations, or if you consider his child a potential murderer, then you do not comprehend, and you are unfit to lead, because you are narrow-minded and controlled by your existential fear. Your outlook pulls the ground out from under our very existence in this land. That is not the purpose of our arrival here – to dominate, to expel the other, or to deny his right to exist.
The idea that one can embody holiness, purity and a deep connection to the land through the denial of another’s existence is not only unrealistic; it is evident of a profound spiritual miscomprehension. Sadly, your words lead our entire national religious community to the brink of a chasm that undermines and threatens our very existence.
Both you and your wife, who was quoted in the media, and we, as a community that seeks to blaze the path of our return to the land, must search our souls and realize that we will lose our way if we give in to fear, segregation and hatred.
You, Bezalel, have lost your way. Take back what you said before it is too late and everything will crumble into the abyss. I call upon you, and upon the community of which you are a leader, to internalize a turn of phrase coined by my late husband, Rabbi Menachem Froman: “The settlements are fingers extended in peace.” Only through a deep connection to the land, and to the word of God, can we truly succeed in bringing the Palestinian people closer to the love, peace and holiness inherent in it.”While Smotrich remains in the Knesset and is not made to resign, despite the opposition to his racism, we can assume that he still represents the views of many members in the Jewish Home Party towards 20% of Israel’s non-Jewish citizens. Smotrich must go!!
The Jewish Home has strayed from what Judaism is supposed to mean. It has become more extreme and less tolerant of non-Jewish Israelis.
The Jewish Home has strayed from what Judaism is supposed to mean. It has become more extreme and less tolerant of non-Jewish Israelis.
Monday, March 28
The shooting of a Palestinian terrorist in a prone position lying on the ground poses a great moral issue. It has aroused the ire of the Coalition Government, including PM Benjamin Netanyahu, (who later backtracked according to reports) and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. On the other hand, Naftali Bennett, Education Minister supports the soldier who shot the prone terrorist.
A Betzelem (the Human Rights Group) observer had filmed the incident which was broadcast on all Israel’s TV Channels and publicized on the social media and beyond. Had Betzelem not filmed this incident, it is doubtful if the soldier, who had shot the Palestinian terrorist after he had been rendered harmless, probably dying in the street would have created a stir in the media. The IDF would have investigated the incident and the soldier involved may have been let off the hook with cautionary warning.
Contrary to what many Israelis think, Betzelem did a service to Israel and the IDF by filming the incident. It will give a clue as to what really happened as legal experts will use this vital information to see whether there is room for indictment of the soldier involved. The moment that evidence is hidden when it is available in order to “whitewash” a possible crime is in itself criminal.
The IDF protocol on using a weapon in order to kill is clear and acceptable by any standard. It prohibits soldiers from firing indiscriminately at an enemy when he/she does not endanger life. We have no right to question or doubt IDF decisions on this issue. We have every right to support the IDF in carrying out its duty to protect Israel’s citizens from Palestinian terror. We have no right to support the soldier’s shooting a Palestinian terrorist, who has been rendered harmless by the IDF. The right wing politicians in the Israeli Coalition Government and even some rabbis have behaved irresponsibly in a case that is sub judice, in praising the soldier for carrying out an “act of heroism” which, according to the Betzelem film clip, does not appear to be the case. Shooting a terrorist or murderous criminal who is unarmed and rendered harmless because of a whim whatever that may be is criminal.
Polls have been taken using samples of the Israeli electorate which show an overwhelming support for the soldier’s act. This is rather disappointing and is really indicative of the public’s support of vigilante actions against a Palestinian terrorist who is lying in a prone position on the ground.
One thing is certain and that is the Palestinian terrorist was no danger to anybody’s life when he was fatally shot by a soldier who was not authorized to do so. This is how the Betzelem film portrayed the situation. Betzelem had performed a positive service in this case in order that justice is done.
- Netanyahu, IDF, MKs Condemn Shooting of Subdued Palestinian Terrorist
- Israeli soldier arrested for apparent shooting of prone Palestinian stabber
- Israeli Medic Detained After Killing Disarmed, Wounded Palestinian
- Blood-Chilling VIDEO: IDF Soldier Executes A Wounded 'Palestinian Attacker' Lying On The Ground
Friday, March 18
Israel’s TV Channel 2 has been airing accusations that Breaking the Silence, the left wing NGO has been going beyond its aims of exposing human rights abuses of Palestinians by the IDF. There are reports claiming that it is also divulging military security secrets.
|Gilad Ach, director of the right-wing 'Ad Kan' organization, in the West Bank (screen capture: Channel 2/Uvda)|
The problem is that Ad Kan, a right wing organization,is involved in vigilante activity funded by the settler movement. Ad Can infiltrated Breaking the Silence to spy on them is sinister and smells of intrigue for political gain of the right wing Israeli Government. If the Shin Bet that is non-political did this acting on suspicion that military secrets were being disclosed to countries or groups hostile to Israel (there are no shortage of them), then this is justifiable. If Breaking the Silence violated security laws by extracting secret military information from soldiers’ testimonies they must be held accountable and charged in a court of law. Extracting military secrets and getting testimony on human rights abuses are not connected. The latter is justifiable while the former is treachery and is against the law.
Israel is faced with many problems that other countries in the western world do not face. Palestinian terrorists infiltrate daily and stab innocent Israelis because of a whim - very often a personal, psychological issue or even a family problem. Their stabbing and ramming innocent people with vehicles are not even connected to the occupation issue. It is connected to hate for Jews that even spills over into stabbing Arabs, who resemble Jews. The hate propaganda of the Hamas and PA leadership is in no way constructive in solving the conflict. It just exacerbates it. The praise for Palestinian terrorists and declaring them shuhada (martyrs) encourages them on the social media to carry on with their murders of innocent people. Apart from periodic Islamic State attacks in Europe, what other country has the security problems and an implacable “partner for peace” that has closed the door for any form of dialogue? The “implacable partners” have no interest in peace - their interest is Israel’s total destruction by their own admission as well as the personal enrichment of its leaders. The hackneyed “occupation” mantra used so much by BDS and other hostile anti-Israel organizations that are also anti-Semitic who are allies of the potential “liberators of Palestine” such as Hamas, Daesh and Salafi Islamists, are being served by those who divulge Israel’s military secrets.
The work of Breaking the Silence in gaining testimony on human rights abuses should not be viewed as treacherous but viewed as a watchdog to prevent human rights abuse by the military against innocent Palestinians if this is done without compromising on Israel’s security. This function should be performed by the IDF that would render this NGO redundant. However, this is not the case at present. The IDF and Breaking the Silence should cooperate with each other and information gleaned by Breaking the Silence should be referred to the legal dept of the IDF before the dirty washing is hung out in the streets in order to denigrate Israel even further.
At this stage an investigation will be undertaken by the legal authority on the issue of divulging military secrets by Breaking the Silence. It is inexcusable that this NGO serves the interest of Israel’s enemies. Most of the enemies wish to see Israel’s destruction and its replacement by an Islamic State that is monolithic and insensitive to human rights is not an option nor is it justifiable on a moral basis.
Tuesday, March 15
Yitgadal v’yitkadash sh’mei raba b’alma di-v’ra
chirutei, v’yamlich malchutei b’chayeichon
uvyomeichon uvchayei d’chol beit yisrael, ba’agala
uvizman kariv, v’im’ru: “amen.”
Y’hei sh’mei raba m’varach l’alam ul’almei almaya.
Yitbarach v’yishtabach, v’yitpa’ar v’yitromam
v’yitnaseh, v’yithadar v’yit’aleh v’yit’halal sh’mei
d’kud’sha, b’rich hu,
l’eila min-kol-birchata v’shirata, tushb’chata
v’nechemata da’amiran b’alma, v’im’ru: “amen.”
Y’hei shlama raba min-sh’maya v’chayim aleinu
v’al-kol-yisrael, v’im’ru: “amen.”
Oseh shalom bimromav, hu ya’aseh shalom aleinu
v’al kol-yisrael, v’imru: “amen.”
Glorified and sanctified be God’s great name throughout the world
which He has created according to His will.
May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days,
and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon;
and say, Amen.
May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.
Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored,
adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He,
beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that
are ever spoken in the world; and say, Amen.
May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us
and for all Israel; and say, Amen.
He who creates peace in His celestial heights,
may He create peace for us and for all Israel;
and say, Amen.”
|Intransigence of Hamas and PA towards a solution|
Many may not agree that it is appropriate to recite Kaddish (the Mourner’s Prayer) over the death of the Two-State Solution to the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict. The Two-State Solution has been dying for many years now and those who believe that it can be resuscitated live in fantasy land. It has reached a stage of rigor mortis. Unlike the death throes of rigor mortis in humans, this takes a long time. There are still countries that stick to the mantra of the two-state solution. In viewing the reality of it being a viable solution, unfortunately, it is drifting away as the parties on both sides of the conflict are not doing anything to sit down and negotiate. Negotiations over a solution are like fertilizer. When there is no fertilizer the solution passes away.
The solution to the tragic conflict that is draining both Palestinians and Israelis must once again return to the drawing board for re-assessment. Bi-national state, One State for Two people, Federation or Confederation of States (not one state but many states representing the various tribes that comprise the Palestinian People - each in its own state and of course, Israel), are some possible solutions. The Two-State solution will just not occur. It is moribund beyond resuscitation. Those who still believe that it is a solution are living in cloud and cuckoo land. Those who wish that it is the solution and have come to terms with its death and are in mourning, might as well recite the Kaddish (I have enclosed it at the beginning of this article for convenience) to get some comfort in these pessimistic times.
The main ingredient for any solution to the conflict is absent. That ingredient is the desire to end the conflict does not exist in the Palestinian Leadership (Hamas and the Palestinian Authority). Both Palestinian groups are certainly not “Ying and Yang”. They have signed an agreement that they cannot keep. Hamas has no desire to recognize Israel’s right to exist and Mahmoud Abbas does not have the support of his people to negotiate either. He has even given the green light for the stabbing attacks on Israelis in his 30th September 2015 UN Assembly Speech. The Palestinian violence against Israelis continues and shows no sign of abating.
It is obvious that a solution to this conflict is by negotiating with a responsible Palestinian leadership. This does not exist. Hamas is maintaining its position of never recognizing Israel’s right to exist and views Israel’s occupation as Israel’s existence since its Declaration of Independence on 14th May 1948. It shows no sign of deviating from that standpoint. By adopting this uncompromising and non-negotiable attitude it has closed every door to a solution to the conflict. It remains a terrorist organization, using the money from world donors for rebuilding tunnels to carry out terror attacks from Gaza by infiltrating Israel, sporadic rocket fire and not doing anything to rehabilitate Gaza since the 2014 Protective Edge Campaign. Hamas prefers to keep the Palestinian People in a state of poverty and suffering so that they can blame Israel for their plight. Meanwhile, the Hamas leadership gains from this attitude financially. The leadership are multimillionaires in dollars and foreign assets, leading an ostentatious, luxurious life-style in 5-star hotels in Doha, Qatar. This is a refuge also for Hamas leaders, resident in Gaza, who know how to disappear, when hostilities between Israel and Gaza break out, using Palestinian children as human shields then crying “crocodile tears” when they are killed in the crossfire.
The suffering of the Palestinians and the occupation mantra that is engraved in their brains serves them very well. Why should they give it up? They do not care about the Palestinian People, nor does Mahmoud Abbas and his croneys. Mahmoud Abbas is as corrupt, and a close second in wealth to the Hamas leadership. According to a Gatestone Report by Khaled Abu Toameh May 18 2012, Mahmoud Abbas is worth $100 million. Not bad! So the pot boiling Palestinian suffering will continue. It is not Israel that holds the full blame for the occupation and Palestinian suffering. It is the Palestinian leadership, who are indifferent to the Palestinian People’s plight under their rule, whether it is Hamas or the Palestinian Authority. If they were to negotiate a settlement, whether a Two -State Solution, or whatever solution compatible with the interests of both Israelis and the Palestinians, peace would be achieved. This is even admitted by Bassem Eid, born in the Jordanian-occupied Old City in Jerusalem who currently resides in Jericho, is the founder and executive director of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group established in 1996 during the Oslo process to monitor human rights violations committed by the Palestinian Authority against its Palestinian citizens.
As the situation remains today, it is far from ideal. The deadlock remains in place with no progress towards peace. Another severe problem is the more radical position taken by the Palestinian leadership. The conflict is becoming more influenced by the turbulence in the Middle East and the influence of Daesh (ISIS) on Hamas. There are reports that Hamas and Daesh are cooperating in the Sinai.