Thursday, April 23

Independence Day - 67 Years - Yom Ha'atzmaut

Flag of Israel. Shows a Magen David (“Sh...
Flag of Israel. Shows a Magen David (“Shield of David”) between two stripes. The Shield of David is a traditional Jewish symbol. The stripes symbolize a Jewish prayer shawl (tallit). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Israel is celebrating its 67th year of independence. Lots of pageantry, TV shows speeches, firework displays and traditional barbecues. The public parks are packed to capacity with picnickers who litter the parks without any consideration for the environment. Litter bugs leave garbage in the parks in every bit of square space available. My desire on Independence Day is rain to dampen the spirits of barbecuing litterers to keep them at home in order to give a breathing space for the environment.

The litter bugging picnickers bring their accessories such as loudspeakers, blaring at a decibel rate that almost bursts the eardrums. Civic consciousness and consideration for others is on the bottom rung of their frolicking agenda. The scene in the public parks and nature spots is macabre if not bizarre.

 Another characteristic of Independence Day is that approximately 20% of Israel's citizens do not feel any identification with Israel's independence. This is sad. We have not done enough to bring many of Israel's minority non-Jewish citizens closer to a common civil identification with Israel as their country no less than it is for Jewish Israelis. The narrative of both  peoples should be taught in schools  in an objective manner. This would help to heal the historical rift between the two peoples The Independence Day celebrations are viewed by the Arab community as "the Naqba (Catastrophe(

In the diaspora, Jews, who are citizens of the countries of their birth, share a common civil identity with the majority non-Jewish citizens. There is no conflict of interests. Many Jewish citizens living in the diaspora are supportive of Israel, but have no desire to immigrate to Israel. They enjoy their standard of living and quality of life. Many who are traditional or observant have a very satisfying Jewish communal life affiliated with the synagogue, where they are members.

 While most Arab citizens are loyal to Israel, they do not share the Jewish majority's identity with Israel and its symbols. This is very noticeable on Independence Day. There is no Israeli pageantry displayed on the street light poles or hanging from the homes of Arab citizens. There is even a certain fear entering the Arab villages and displaying Israeli flags on one's vehicles, which could be viewed as a provocation by the Arab villagers. It is as if Israel is divided into two entities - Jewish and Arab, with a schism between the two communities which is disadvantageous to both.

How can we unite the various communities in Israel so that a common patriotism is forged between all irrespective of race, color and creed? Perhaps a start can be made in education by establishing integrated schools from the age of 6 years until matriculation. All Israel's citizens should be taught the same common secular subjects including the Hebrew, Arabic and English languages as compulsory subjects. When it comes to religious studies, each religious group should have its own religious leader teaching a few hours a week the precepts of the various faiths to each religious group. This is similar to the state schools in the diaspora, where the rabbi, priest or imam gives lessons to the various religious groups in each class.

The national anthem of Israel should remain unchanged, but an additional stanza or two could be added to represent the non-Jewish minorities. If this is done with discretion by a composer the result could also help initiate a common patriotism. It will also improve relationships between all Israel's citizens without compromising on each group's heritage. Additional symbols like olives and the olive tree could also be incorporated into a common Israeli heritage inclusive of all groups.

 When South Africa became a democracy in 1995 under late President Nelson Mandela, the national anthem became all-embracing of a multiracial society and united all South Africans. The South African National Anthem was re-arranged by Jeanne Zaidel Rudolph and is a great success. This example could be taken by Israel. The ingenuity of a composer that can arrange Hatikvah with a tune that can keep the old as well as adding the new in an all-embracing musical arrangement can go a long way in uniting a very fragmented society into a common loyalty.

We all need to pledge ourselves in creating a just and fair society in a very tough part of the planet - The Middle East! 

Friday, April 17

Holocaust Context Today

It has become rather trendy to equate the Israeli occupation with all sort  of stereotypes and mantras. The occupation is a problem caused by the inability of the Arab states to recognize Israel's right to exist. Mainstream Palestinian thought today is according to the Hamas Charter. The PA is weak and has very little support in Palestinian street. Most Palestinians want peace but the PA leadership claiming to represent them, fear Hamas.
We are all aware of the wars that Israel fought to defend its citizens against Arab aggression prior to the June 1967 Six Day War. Israel was forced to carry out a preemptive strike after President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, had closed off the Tiran Straits, choking Israel's shipping just after he (Nasser) ordered the UN observers to leave the area. Israel won the war and occupied the West Bank, Golan Heights, Gaza, the Sinai Peninsula and East Jerusalem. Prior to 1967, Israel never had occupied Palestinian lands and yet the desire to destroy Israel from the day of its establishment remained in the mindset of the Arab countries. As far as Hamas is concerned, the whole of Israel, established since 1948 is occupied territory and not just the areas occupied after the Six Day War.
What is happening today? Various Palestinian terrorist groups or "Freedom Fighters" infiltrate Israel carrying out terrorist attacks against innocent Israelis. Many act on their own as individuals, ramming civilians in Jerusalem with vehicles at their disposal, stabbings or suicide attacks. “Peacemaking” NGOs, who have adopted the Palestinian cause against the Israeli occupation, arrived as volunteers to get involved in so-called coexistence projects. Superficially it seems noble but in practice, these organizations are indulged in spreading lies and hate against Israel as well as exaggerating the plight of the Palestinians and IDF abuse of them. Their silence on Palestinian terror gives a clear sign as to whom they support.
These NGOs are funded by many European countries and the whole plan is to delegitimize Israel by creating falsehoods about Israel's treatment of Palestinians. The BDS movement is a ramification of these NGO activities to wear Israel down in the hope of capitulation to Palestinian "freedom movements” such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other splinter terrorist groups whose aim is Israel's total destruction.
Many of us were deceived by these European funded NGOs into believing in the nobility of their cause for peace. These "peacemakers" glorify the Palestinians. They do not know the history of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict or Middle Eastern history, let alone Palestinians.
They equate Israel's treatment of the Palestinians with apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany. They even talk about Israel's acts of genocide against Palestinians. These self-righteous, ignorant, double standard, hypocrites come to Israel to spread their ignorant lies. Why do they not go to Syria, Iraq and Yemen, where there is bloodshed, killings of a dimension that boggles the mind? In these countries Arabs kill each other and no condemnation of worth is uttered in the UN. What about the persecution of Christians in these countries who are being killed like vermin as well as Muslims who do not follow Jabhat el Nusra and ISIS? This proves that underneath all the NGO "peace motives" is a more sinister all encompassing, race hatred - anti-Semitism! They deny this of course, by saying that they hold the Jewish People and Israel to a "higher standard" and feel they must speak out against the "cruel oppression of the Palestinians" that Israel commits, calling it "war crimes" against Palestinians.  There are some Israelis in the employ of these NGOs, who invent stories about torture of Palestinians and create a new truth by uttering lies and distortions that are publicized in the media sympathetic to the Palestinian cause whatever that represents. Tell a lie often enough and it becomes the truth. This was evident in Operation Naked Edge in July/August 2014 in Gaza.
The aftermath of this last war in Gaza witnessed a rise in anti-Semitism the likes of which has never been experienced since the end of the Holocaust in Nazi Germany. The sympathy for the Palestinian fight against the occupation has taken root in Europe. Attacks against Jews, destruction of synagogues and this is all the result of a resurgence of classic anti-Semitism that has reached a zenith in France with an attack on a kosher Supermarket in Paris as well as anti-Semitic attacks gaining momentum in Sweden, Denmark, Belgium and many other European countries. It is a weird mix of classic anti-Semitism and Islamist extremism that has overtaken Europe. IS has its roots in many mosques in Europe, brainwashing European youth to their cause for establishing a caliphate in their home countries with fiery Imams delivering the most rabid anti-Semitic sermons that has become anti-Christian as well.
The Western world stands in silence while the US kowtows to the wily President Hassan Rouhani of Iran - the charming sugar-coated bitter pill of the cruel, despotic ayatollah regime of Khamenei and its hate of the US and Israel. Pathetic! Is President Obama the modern Neville Chamberlain appeasing Iran? Time will tell and that time is on Iran's side, not on the side of the civilized world. The Holocaust denials - part of Iran's stock and trade, as well as of many NGOs active in the Palestinian quest for freedom from Israeli occupation.
These self-righteous, hypocritical, double standard NGOs should be sent to Syria, Iraq and Iran to monitor human rights and torture, where they can promote peace. Israel is easy meat for them. In the above mentioned countries, they will be beheaded in no time while their allies in the UN will remain apathetic to their plight.
The attempt at creating conditions for committing genocide against the Jews has never been as rife as it is today since the end of World War 2. The anti-Semitism has even spread to places as far as South Africa, Australia and even New Zealand firing the imagination of many Muslims in these countries Thank you, European NGOs, for fomenting anti-Semitism and xenophobia internationally in countries where it was never an issue.

Thursday, April 2

Passover - Has it Become Irrelevant?

A page from a 14th century German Haggadah
A page from a 14th century German Haggadah (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Pesach (Passover) is here and apart from gorging ourselves to the hilt and reciting the Haggadah to celebrate the liberation from slavery of the Israelites from Pharoanic Egypt over 5 000 years ago, much has happened to the descendants of the Israelites over the centuries.

Suffice it to say, Jews were a persecuted minority for centuries in Christian Europe. This had changed in the 19th Century when awareness of human rights for all was in the process of becoming part of the constitution of much of the Western World as we know it.

During the years of persecution, Jews all over the world celebrated Pesach with a feeling of joy and hope including the centuries-old desire to return to Jerusalem, which was never forgotten, and is recited at the end of the Haggada-reading ritual, an integral part of the Passover Seder. Today the words “Next year in rebuilt Jerusalem” are recited at the end of the reading.

While we in Israel celebrate Pesach, the festival of our liberation from the Pharaohs of Egypt, there is a feeling among many of us that Pesach has lost its significance. Many observant families go to great lengths to ensure that the food eaten during the Pesach week is Kosher for Pesach including, of course, refraining from eating leavened bread. The meaning of Pesach is freedom and liberation from oppression and slavery.

If we are so concerned about freedom and liberation of our people, we should also be concerned with other people in Israel, who are not free. Thoughts of failure in our treatment of refugees (non-Jewish) in our midst as well as migrant or foreign workers should be uppermost. We have a new government in Israel that is right wing and is insensitive to those who happen to arrive here because of  the danger to their lives in their mother countries under despotic rule. Many refugees arrive here fleeing from the "pharaohs" of their countries. The Sudanese from Darfur and Eritreans are examples. Some refugees arrive after months of wandering in deserts, escaping marauding tribes of Bedouins, who were out to threaten them unless they paid them ransom money to survive. Egypt had blocked them. In their survival quest, they landed up in southern Israel. It is a moral dilemma for Israel but if they receive refugee status according to international law of which Israel is a signatory, Israel becomes responsible for their welfare.

How does Israel treat these refugees? Detention in various inhuman camps such as Saharonim and Holot in the south is prevalent. Conditions in these camps are shocking and the overcrowding is beyond words. Refugees are encouraged to leave but have nowhere to go. If they return to their countries of origin, they face death.

The migrant and foreign workers, many of them coming from the Philippines, India and Thailand are contract laborers. The caregivers of our aged are on duty 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. While these people get free board and lodging by their employers. Time off is a gesture and not compulsory as there is no law to protect them from exploitation. Many caregivers do other chores in the home and do housework which is not part of their contract. They also do Pesach cleaning for the family. I guess this is how we celebrate our freedom from oppression according to the teachings of the revered Late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who said that the "goyim (strangers or non-Jews) were created by God to serve the Jews".  This "sage" has made many hurtful, racist statements in the past. This explains many paradoxes in our treatment of "the goyim". Sources in Judaism seem to back this up. If a contracted foreign worker's work permit expires, come hell and high water, he /she cannot renew the work permit under any circumstances.What about the lot of asylum-seekers whose future is perpetual exile? It is a matter of time before the Israeli Immigration Police sniffs them out and deports them to a detention center awaiting expulsion from Israel under demeaning conditions. They live in fear as this could happen at the whim of an unscrupulous employer or informer (shtinker).

Our treatment of our own fellow non-Jewish citizens in Israel can be improved. We were warned by our Prime Minister on Election Day that the Arabs and leftists are coming out "in droves" to vote and could be a danger to our survival. The apathetic right came out to vote in panic to neutralize "Arab danger" in order to ensure "our freedom".

It is sad that our country, Israel, prides itself in its democracy is lacking in sensitivity towards those, who are the weaker sectors of society and this includes the minorities. Freedom from oppression and exploitation should be applicable to all sectors of our society and this should be the message of Pesach. If we become slaves to Pesach rituals and not respect the right of freedom from exploitation of others then Pesach ceases its relevancy. Children of asylum-seekers have the worst deal and officially are non-existent. 

Happy Pesach to all and spare a thought for the weaker members of our society and not only be partisan towards our own people.