Wednesday, September 27

Yom Kippur Thoughts

Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) is the Holiest Day in the Jewish Calendar, surpassing even Shabbat. On this day, it is customary for religious or even non-observant (“once a year” observant) Jews to fast for 25 hours. The secular Jews, who view themselves as non-believers may or may not fast depending on their motives if any. Some secular do fast and may attend Kol Nidrei (All Vows)1 services and maybe go to synagogue the next day for a bit in order “to identify” with their fellow Jews whatever that means.

 As for the rest, well, it is the “Day of the Bicycle” when thousands of kids of all ages take advantage of the traffic-free roads and ride their bicycles, many of whom land up in the casualty dept at the various hospitals around the country.

Jews Praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur

The Israeli news website Mako published a provocative article three years ago, questioning whether there is a point in a secular person fasting on Yom Kippur when he or she continues sinning the next day 2. I would go even further and ask if there is a point of pseudo-religious people fasting for the same reason such as the Chief Rabbinate and its political shenanigans in the Knesset? In any case, the day after Yom Kippur, the routine of most people returns and the lesson of Yom Kippur is forgotten very fast the moment the stomachs are full after ending the fast.

Many of us sit at home quietly and do not see any purpose in fasting as it has lost its meaning for many of us (including Yours Truly) and has become a frivolous competition to see who can last out the longest, a sort of a competition of physical endurance without any self-examination involved.

What is the purpose of Yom Kippur? Yom Kippur means "Day of Atonement" and refers to the annual Jewish observance of fasting, prayer and repentance 3. Leviticus Chapter 16 וַיִּקְרָא
gives an idea from where the tradition comes.

The Morning Service of Yom Kippur the Torah portion is Leviticus Chapter 16 and Numbers Chapter 29 7-11 בְּמִדְבַּר is read. Both portions explain the rituals involved and are meaningless to many people as it mentions all kinds of animal sacrifices that must be performed.

The Haftorah portion Isaiah Chapter 57  -  Isaiah Chapter 58 יְשַׁעְיָהוּ of the Morning Service of Yom Kippur -  is more relevant and is directed towards those who fast as a ritual without Kavanah (Intent) to better oneself is as if he/she has not fasted at all. This applies to the majority of people who fast on Yom Kippur to this day. (See the inserted commentary from the Soncino Press Edition of the Pentateuch and Haftorahs below).

From the “The Soncino Press Edition of the Pentateuch and Haftorahs. Hebrew Text, English Translation & Commentary (Second Edition) 1969 p 960”

During the Yom Kippur Service, the prayer Ashamnu is recited by the congregation a number of times as well as the prayer Al Het. These prayers are really the heart of the Yom Kippur service. People beat their breasts as they recite these two prayers. I often think to myself “What hypocrisy! What double standards!” Hardly anybody who attends Yom Kippur services intends to better their relationships with their fellowmen or improve themselves or even ask their fellowmen to forgive them for the wrongs they may have committed towards them. According to Jewish tradition, one must be granted forgiveness from one’s neighbour before asking forgiveness from God. This must be done before entering the synagogue for Kol Nidrei.

Perhaps the Al Het prayer should be updated to make it more relevant to our modern times. Many people say that one should never mix politics with religion. Here in Israel the establishment certainly does. It starts from the Chief Rabbinate and filters its way down the line. The religious political parties in the Coalition Government of Israel are calling the tune on religious Jewish Orthodox observance. Reform and Conservative Jews are considered persona non grata. On a recent visit to Paris, Rabbi Shlomo Amar, Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem and former Chief Sephardi Rabbi of Israel stated that Reform Jews were worse than Holocaust deniers.  He was picketed by the French Jewish Community for his divisive statements. The Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel, Yitzhak Yosef, is on record saying that non-Jews should not be allowed to live in Israel and some chief rabbis of Israel in the past have made disparaging and insulting remarks 5 concerning them. Have they ever asked forgiveness from them before they enter the synagogue on Erev Kol Nidrei? The religious parties - Shas, Torah Judaism and the Jewish Home are politicized Orthodox to ultra-Orthodox Jewish Parties in Government, each with their own agenda of blackmail and bribing the government to satisfy their own agendas whether parasitic yeshivas or illegal settlements in the occupied territories captured after the Six Day War of 1967. They are certainly not the moral compass in Israel - far from it! These “paragons of virtue” in the Coalition Government, have played their part in dividing the Jewish People and inculcating intolerance towards the minority non-Jewish population.

Israel’s Government treatment of Sudanese and Eritrean refugees by not giving them permits to work in Israel and imprisoning those who have nowhere to go when they are threatened with deportation. Where is Israel’s “moral compass” within the Religious Orthodox parties? They have forgotten their history of being deported in the past from the Diaspora. The Minister of Interior- the former jail-bird, Aryeh Deri, the head of the Shas ultra-Orthodox Party, also being investigated and interrogated at present for crimes of corruption and bribery supports this move to deport Sudanese refugees.

There are the aged who get very low old age pensions after paying all their working lives to National Insurance 
(2 400 Sh a month to live on). It reminds me of the ancient  Eskimo legend of putting their aged out on an iceberg with sufficient food until they starve to death. The handicapped of Israel fare no better and are largely ignored as well as having the extra burden of various accessories that must be paid for. Those who fare the best under the National Insurance handouts are the eternal yeshiva students in the ultra-Orthodox community, who never paid a shekel for generous handouts.

Now we get to the Palestinians in the occupied territories, a subject that is avoided and overlooked by many traditional Israelis. Their situation could be improved upon 4. Here too there are human rights violations by Israel.

Perhaps all these sins of the Israeli Government, which the people have elected, should also be added to the Al Het prayer and hopefully, the liturgical poem (Piyyut) - Unetanah Tokef could be recited or sang with more conviction than the automatic uttering without kavanah as is the practice today.

[Just an afterthought, Israel's Government seems to have lost its moral compass when it comes to condemning fascism in all its forms, as in the case of Germany. The AfD (a neo-Nazi Party in Germany that received the third highest amount of votes in the recent German General Elections) has a history of xenophobia that is a cause for concern.  If the fascism is not directed at the Jewish Community, the xenophobia is overlooked and we can expect an official invitation from the present Israeli Government to the leader of this party for a state visit.]


  1. "Kol Nidre - Wikipedia." Accessed 24 Sep. 2017.
  2. 22 Sep. 2015, Accessed 24 Sep. 2017.
  3. Accessed 24 Sep. 2017.
  4. "Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territories - Amnesty International." Accessed 24 Sep. 2017.
  5. Racism and Gender in Israel  Israel Religious Action Centre Publication see p 32 

Thursday, September 21

Rosh Hashanah Thoughts

While everybody sits with their families on Rosh Hashanah eve, there may be time to even think about the significance of Rosh Hashanah 1 for many of us. Rosh Hashanah and the Ten Days of Repentance 2 afterwards until Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement - the day of fasting) is a time of reflection.

It is a time when we should be thinking of all the incidents that have occurred over the past year to the detriment of mankind with an emphasis on where we can improve matters that will be beneficial to all mankind irrespective of race, colour or creed. During the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, everyone gets a chance to put things right with other people before asking God's forgiveness 3.

Here in Israel, we view ourselves as “a Light unto the Nations” or as in Hebrew “אור לגוים”. In many respects within Israel itself, apart from the amazing contributions to medicine, computer chips, science and technology as well as token missions to countries, who have suffered from wars and natural disasters, we have failed in our relationships with our own population within Israel.

If we look at the way Israel has treated the refugees, who have fled their countries of origin, because of severe persecution by despotic regimes that threaten their lives and that of their offspring. Israel has not shown them the mercy that they deserve. They are viewed as and referred to as “infiltrators” which is so derogatory. When Jews fled Nazi Germany and were refused entry into many countries in the West, this was viewed by Jews living in the free world as disgraceful and correctly so. Much lobbying was carried out by Jewish leaders in the free world to get these Jewish refugees entry permits to allow them entry into countries that restricted immigration of Jews. Can one imagine the outcry if these people were referred to as “infiltrators”? Why in Israel, where much of the population’s parents including parents of some members of the present Knesset had to flee their countries of origin for similar reasons, there is such lack of sensitivity towards Sudanese and Eritrean refugees?  Draconian laws are introduced to prevent them from seeking shelter so that their lives could be saved 4. We in Israel have forgotten where we have come from and that we were once refugees in the Diaspora.

There is also a trend of increased racism and intolerance towards those who are different from mainstream (or what is accepted as such). There is the concept of “Sinat Hinam”(שנאת חינם) or “Unjustifiable Hatred” This is most visible in Israel’s society of today. The lack of tolerance for those who do not conform to the present government line, whether it is culture, Judaism (used by the various religious parties as an instrument of blackmailing the government for their own narrow religious political interests and agendas). The hatred of non-Orthodox streams in Judaism (Reform and Conservative) by the establishment Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Rabbinate is deplorable.

These streams are not recognized as legitimate and their rabbis cannot marry couples according to their interpretation of Judaism. They have not been allotted a place at the Western Wall, where they can have egalitarian prayer services, despite promises by PM Netanyahu, who reneged on the agreement to give non-Orthodox streams of Judaism a place to pray at the Western Wall 5.  It is a disgrace that the Government of Israel with all its blah-blah about Israel “being the only democracy in the Middle East” denies non-Orthodox streams in Judaism to practice in total freedom and not recognizing their rabbis to perform marriages. Members of Reform 6 and Conservative 7 congregations in the Diaspora applying to marry in Israel must find an Orthodox rabbi to vouch for them since the Chief Rabbinate does not accept letters of certification from non-Orthodox rabbis 8.

The hypocrisy and double standards of the Chief Rabbinate is a disgrace and is far from the spirit of Judaism in its widest possible interpretation according to the School of Hillel. They have “blacklists” of rabbis that they do not recognize from the Diaspora 9. Many are Orthodox and of course Reform and Conservative. The Chief Rabbinate denies this but can one believe them 10. ?

This is estranging many Jews from the US, the majority of who are Reform and Conservative. However, when it comes to money that these non-Orthodox streams donate to causes in Israel, that is “Kosher” of course.

Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians in the occupied territories also adds some moral questions as to whether the treatment they receive is fair and reasonable 11. Nobody denies that this is a very problematic issue and it is very difficult if not impossible to examine this emotional issue without getting into some argument in an attempt to be unbiased and objective. There are security issues involved and in order to maintain the safety of both Israelis and Palestinians in the shadow of Palestinian terrorist attacks on innocent people within the Green-line and beyond is a tremendous challenge that involves many moral issues as well. However, the question remains as to whether it is morally acceptable to rule over a people and keep them disenfranchised under Israeli rule.  It is morally unacceptable no less than the desire of Hamas to destroy Israel and not to recognize Israel’s right to exist. If there are no negotiating partners on both sides of the conflict with no genuine desire to end it, there is no real answer. The only option from Israel’s side is to treat the Palestinian People as humanely as possible at checkpoints until both sides reach their senses and are prepared to negotiate a just and lasting peace that satisfies both sides to the conflict.

  1. "Rosh Hashanah - Wikipedia." Accessed 20 Sep. 2017. 
  2. "Ten Days of Repentance - Wikipedia." Accessed 20 Sep. 2017.
  3. Accessed 20 Sep. 2017.
  4.  "Israel: Drop City Ban on Released Eritreans, Sudanese | Human ...." 31 Aug. 2015, Accessed 20 Sep. 2017.
  5. "Chief Rabbinate of Israel | The Times of Israel." Accessed 20 Sep. 2017.
  6. "Reform Judaism - Wikipedia." Accessed 20 Sep. 2017.
  7. "Conservative Judaism - Wikipedia." Accessed 20 Sep. 2017.9 Jul. 2017, 
  8. Accessed 20 Sep. 2017.
  9.    "Israeli Chief Rabbinate blacklists 160 Diaspora rabbis - Israel News ...." 9 Jul. 2017, Accessed 20 Sep. 2017.
  10. "Chief Rabbinate says list of rabbis not a 'blacklist' | The Times of Israel." Accessed 20 Sep. 2017.
  11. "Israel's Treatment of the Arabs in the Occupied Territories | The ...." Accessed 20 Sep. 2017.

Friday, September 15

The Commissars of Israel

The present right-wing Coalition Government of Israel, in the eyes of many of Israel’s right to the extreme right-wing section of Israel’s electorate, which, unfortunately, is the majority of the electorate, who view some of the cabinet ministers as representing Israel’s interests. Those on the left to centre left are increasingly viewed as traitors of Israel. This trend is, unfortunately, on the increase. 

Those connected with various criminal files (seen as victims of a hostile left-wing press in right wing eyes) are viewed as “fake news” to use a “Trump Esque” definition. It appears that any news negative to the Likud and its coalition partners, including the latter’s supporters, are viewed as close to treason. The ruling government views the police enquiries of Bibi Netanyahu and the indictment of Sara Netanyahu as a tactic of the left to create a situation conducive to Netanyahu’s downfall.

Even the rearguard, Yair Netanyahu,  Bibi and Sara Netanyahu's son, has been using anti-Semitic memes on his Fb page 1. as revenge for the indictment of his beloved mom, Sara. Papa Bibi never even reprimanded him for his shocking behaviour. No comment from Papa Bibi Netanyahu means tacit support for squirt Yair’s nefarious activity on his Fb page. Is it possible that Papa Bibi is priming Yair for becoming part of the “Netanyahu Dynasty” in the future? Who knows and who can predict?

What is not even surprising even though it should be is the support that Yair gets from many of Netanyahu’s supporters 2, despite the disgust expressed by many Jewish organizations beyond Israel’s borders and even political leaders within Israel itself.

The present Likud is a disgrace to Israel. It is such a far cry from its founding fathers, the Late Ze’ev Jabotinsky and Menachem Begin, who were liberals, believers in democracy and idealists that never sought their own personal aggrandizement like the present lot with its Commissars of Justice, Culture and Sport - just to name two outstanding examples. These two individuals - Ayelet Shaked (Justice Commissar) and Miri Regev (Culture and Sports Commissar) are the most outstanding examples. Another Commissar is the suspected fraudster, Arye Deri, Minister of the Interior 3.

While the police investigation of Netanyahu and his wife have raised speculation on whether Netanyahu will eventually be forced to step down, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said he would not legally be required to if indicted 4.

Ayelet Shaked wants to apply Israeli Legislation to the illegal settlements enterprise within a year and thus have de facto annexation of the settlements that are not recognized as part of Israel according to international law.

Shaked wishes to pack the Courts with conservative judges conforming to her and her party’s agenda of justice that is moving towards a fascist interpretation of the Jewish State that comes first and democracy comes second if not third. There are some very disturbing trends in Ayelet Shaked’s Ministry of Justice that are a threat to Israel’s democracy that appears to be moving towards fascism.
Ayelet Shaked

The other well-known commissar is the Minister of Culture and Sport, Miri Regev 5. She views her job as that of the national censor. In which country of the free world does the Minister of Culture and Sport decide what cultural projects in theatre, art, film and literature are deserving of state funding? Where does the Minister of Culture unilaterally decide that cultural projects that are not in line with her government agenda must be ostracized and viewed as potential fifth column and not deserving of state subsidies? Our Minister of Culture and Sport has become the Commissar of Culture as in totalitarian states under  Communist or Fascist dictatorships.

 She decides what is culture and what is not. She has introduced a "Culture and Loyalty Bill" in the hope that it will pass all three readings and become law. Anything that goes against her personal agenda and that of her party is ridiculed and stands a chance of not being granted state funding for cultural projects as if state funding comes from her pocket. She has a severe problem with cultural projects that do not tow her government line. She views these projects as serving the interests of Israel’s enemies. She is boisterous, loud, and exudes ignorance of culture that is not within her personal party agenda. An example of this was at the Cannes Film Festival, where her disgraceful behaviour brought no honour to Israel in her choice of dress 6.

She threatens artists and calls them enemies of Israel if their projects are not in accordance with her agenda.  She appears to gain admiration for her outspokenness by many of her Likud Party supporters and colleagues, who view her as the “custodian of culture” 7.
Miri Regev, the Commissar of Culture, in her controversial dress

  1. Recently the Israeli film “Foxtrot” won the Silver Lion Grand Jury Prize at the Venice International Film Festival on Saturday, Sept 9th, 2017. The paranoiac Commissar of Culture, Miri Regev, viewed this achievement as a move by Israel’s enemies to discredit Israel. She never even saw the film but relied on the information supplied to her by her fellow party cronies 8. She has no idea what culture is and views anything beyond her narrow world view as anathema and inimical to Israel. This film received great acclaim. Only a warped biased mind can view it as being anti-Israel. The latest is that this Commissar of Culture has been snubbed by Israel's Ophir Awards Committee, which is Israel's Oscar Awards and has not been invited. She views herself as the custodian of Mizrachi culture. She deserves the snub as it symbolizes her lack of respect for those who are different and she creates unpleasantness with her threats as well as forcing acceptance of her agenda on culture.This occurred at the previous Ophir Award ceremony when she addressed the audience and created a rumpus. To quote her own words she said they must "Cut the Bullshit". Probably the only English sentence she knows as she illustrates the heights of her own boorishness. She claims that the snub is undemocratic. She, of course, is "democratic and tolerant - a true paragon of culture".

Commissars in cabinet posts in Israel do not bode well for Israel’s democratic future. It bodes well for the seedlings of fascism to take root and those in opposition to the right-wing Coalition Government will continue to be viewed as traitors to Israel as their mouths and minds will be clamped eventually.

  1. "Israel prime minister Netanyahu's son under fire for 'anti-Semitic' social ...." 10 Sep. 2017, Accessed 12 Sep. 2017.
  2. "Yair Netanyahu exposes Israel's own version of the 'alt-right' | The ...." 12 Sep. 2017, Accessed 12 Sep. 2017.
  3. "Deri questioned, 14 detained in corruption investigation - Israel News ...." 29 May. 2017, Accessed 14 Sep. 2017. 
  4. 3 Aug. 2017, Accessed 12 Sep. 2017. 
  5. "Meet Miri Regev, Israel's Trump in high heels - Israel News - Haaretz ...." Accessed 14 Sep. 2017.
  6. "Israeli minister's Jerusalem dress proves controversial in Cannes ...." 18 May. 2017, Accessed 14 Sep. 2017.
  7. "Miri Regev's Culture War - The New York Times." Accessed 14 Sep. 2017.
  8. "Foxtrot Review: The Israeli Film Condemned by Israel's Cultural ...." 10 Sep. 2017, Accessed 14 Sep. 2017.

Tuesday, September 5

Corruption on the Periphery of the Netanyahu Government

The present Government Coalition is a disgrace to Israel. The whole government is composed of various political parties and each party has its own agenda. None of them represents the majority of the Israeli electorate. They represent various “pockets” of voters and are far from representing the majority. Hence the party that receives the most votes cobbles up a coalition with partners that together have right wing to extreme right wing views close to the majority party (Likud) that in this case received 30 mandates a mere 23% of total votes cast in the General Elections of 2015.

If elections were held today there will be no change. Benjamin Netanyahu is the longest serving prime minister in Israel’s history and is still going strong despite the suspicions of various involvements in misdemeanours and possible activities that are against the law. It is as if the noose of justice is very wide and is slowly tightening around Netanyahu’s neck as more evidence is being uncovered as to whether he will be indicted or not. There are four cases under police investigation that may or may not incriminate PM Netanyahu:

1.   Case 1000: Hollywood film producer Arnon Milchan provided what was described as “important” testimony late last week during a second round of questioning about expensive cigars and champagne that he allegedly gifted to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara.
2.   Case 2000 is focused on an alleged clandestine quid pro quo deal made between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher and owner Arnon “Noni” Mozes, in which the prime minister is said to have promised Mozes he would advance legislation to reduce the circulation of Yedioth’s main commercial rival, the freebie Israel Hayom, in exchange for friendlier coverage from Yedioth. No such deal was ever implemented. Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.
3.     Case 3000 - The Submarine Purchase Case:  Netanyahu not implicated  The justice ministry on Monday stressed that Netanyahu himself was not a suspect in the case but confirmed that in light of evidence collected by police, a full-fledged investigation was underway.
Some evidence raises suspicions that some of the people involved have committed "crimes pertaining to public corruption," a ministry statement said.
Both Netanyahu and Shimron have denied any impropriety, while the Kiel-based ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems said it has no contractual connection with the lawyer.
     4.  Case 4000: In a fourth corruption case, sometimes called “Case 4000”, police were investigating Shlomo Filber, the director-general of the Communications Ministry, over suspected securities offences related to a merger involving the national telephone company Bezeq.
Israel’s state comptroller released a report earlier this month that accused Netanyahu of failing to originally disclose his close ties with Bezeq head Shaul Elovitz, and raised suspicions that the prime minister — who at the time held the post of communications minister — and Filber made decisions at the ministry in favour of Bezeq.
When we examine these various cases, one cannot help but question: How come PM Netanyahu was oblivious of case 3000, where many of his close associates, advisers, senior IDF personnel past and present are under suspicion of committing  various crimes of corruption in the hope of enriching themselves on massive kickbacks involving state funds in mega-submarine purchasing deals?
This is totally outrageous and it is the kind of behaviour one would expect from a third world banana republic, certainly not from senior PM advisers, past and present IDF personnel, whose main object is to make millions of shekels on submarine deals. Is this the new face of modern day Zionism - GREED? To date more and more senior government officials are being arrested and brought in for investigation of bribery and corruption. Case 3000 is becoming more complicated and well-known officials in government are under suspicion of committing one of the greatest economic crimes in Israel’s history.
Perhaps there is some light at the end of the dark tunnel. Israel’s law enforcement authorities and justice system are our leading lights. Nobody is immune - from the highest government official to the lowliest criminal to prosecution and trial in a Court of Law if they break the law. This is Israel’s strength.
PM Netanyahu’s behaviour is like that of a cornered rat. His wife Sarah is expected to be indicted shortly. He holds rallies of support, attacking the media, the left wing, accusing them all of trying to unseat him by making up “fake news” reports. He views himself as the people’s choice and that he is beyond criticism as well as being a victim.
While PM Netanyahu, despite the police interrogations, has not been accused or indicted to date and can remain in office legally. However, is it acceptable from the public point of view that he should remain in office rather than resign? This seems to be a very politically toned question rather than a legal one and the answer is not clear cut, but rather dependent solely on the majority political view.