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Post  Admin on Fri 03 Oct 2014, 8:45 pm

People Can Change
by Rabbi Nechemia Coopersmith
How to access the transformational power of Yom Kippur.
Can people change?
After breaking so many resolutions, encountering the same bad habits and mistakes each and every year, it is understandable that deep down many people don’t believe they can really change.
Understandable, but wrong. And damaging. That attitude undermines our confidence and sabotages our efforts at teshuva, repentance, even before we start.

Yom Kippur and the Secret to a Happy Life
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
The connection between envy and the holiest day of the year.
Do you want to know the secret for having a happy life?
Strangely enough, we can derive the answer from Yom Kippur, the day that seems to be dedicated to depriving ourselves of pleasure. But to really understand it we have to grasp the deeper purpose of this last of the 10 days of repentance.

Midnight in the Old City
by Sara Yoheved Rigler
What draws tens of thousands of Jews, night after night, to the midnight Selichot service?
Tens of thousands of Jews from all over Israel, most of them not religious, come to the Old City of Jerusalem, night after night at this time of year. What draws them? Not a rock concert, nor a massive sale, nor a political demonstration. They come to participate in “Selichot,” penitential prayers appealing for God’s forgiveness.

The Power to Change the World
by Rabbi Yonason Goldson
Don't miss your opportunity for greatness.
The collective effort of bystanders saved three lives due to one man who convinced them to act.

Sticking to Your Resolution
by Emuna Braverman
Just because I did it imperfectly today is not a reason to give up the fight.
Okay, I did the preparation. I did the introspection. I figured out what to work on. I made a decision (not a hard and fast commitment but a decision). And here it is, the day after Rosh Hashanah and it’s hard to put it into practice. Am I a failure already? Without being too personally revealing, my resolution involved engaging in certain specific spiritually-related tasks before beginning all the other more mundane chores of my day. But my morning was like “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” mommy-style.

Video: Living for Your Résumé ... or Your Eulogy
by David Brooks and TED Talks
Can we balance our drive for success with our drive for meaning and virtue?
Within each of us are two selves: the self who craves success, who builds a résumé, and the self who seeks connection, community, love – the values that make for a great eulogy. Can we balance these two selves? Based on Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik’s The Lonely Man of Faith.

Video: Yom Kippur: Coming Clean
by Charlie Harary
Try your best, and God takes you all the way.

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Post  Admin on Tue 23 Sep 2014, 8:08 pm

A Vision in AuschwitzA Vision in Auschwitz
Walking to the crematorium, she suddenly saw her mother from whom she was separated weeks earlier.
by Hindy Rozenberg, as told to Yitta Halberstam         

Miriam Perlstein was one of eight siblings who survived Auschwitz. It was so unusual for a family of eight – seven sisters and one brother – to emerge intact from the notorious death camp that when they landed on Ellis Island after the War, they became a media sensation. Repeatedly photographed and interviewed, they were besieged by reporters who wanted to know: How was this possible? What made you so unique? Practically everyone else’s family was decimated. Most of the survivors who limped into “The New World” had lost parents, children, spouses, siblings. But for an entire family of eight to have survived and found each other! How could it happen?
“Miracles,” the siblings answered patiently to everyone who asked.
And it was true. Miracles had abounded in all of their lives during their incarceration at Auschwitz, but Miriam’s, they agreed, was vastly different from those experienced by Esther, Faigy, Sima, Yitu, Monci, Binyamin, and Leishu. While their miracles fell under the realm of what could be called the rational, Miriam’s belonged to a different category altogether.

Miriam had been directed to join the column of prisoners marching slowly towards the crematorium that would turn them into ash

Several weeks after her arrival at Auschwitz – after having survived several “selections” and having kept death at bay – sixteen-year-old Miriam was suddenly pulled out of the row of prisoners lining up for “roll call” one morning, and transported to a separate section of the camp where a different procession was in place. Perhaps something about Miriam’s demeanor that day had displeased the Nazi soldier whose gaze had settled upon her, or perhaps there was simply a quota to fill. For whatever random reason that no one could ever explain (and was there an explanation, after all, for the Nazis’ haphazard and merciless decrees?) Miriam had been directed to join the column of prisoners marching slowly towards the crematorium that would turn them into ash.

The Ray Rice Video
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
We are all caught on tape. A timely Rosh Hashanah lesson.

5 Inspiring Ways to Start the New Year
by Yvette Alt Miller
Spiritual growth based on scientific research.

Video: The Gaza War in 5 Minutes
by JerusalemU.org
Col. Richard Kemp defends Israel's actions in the Gaza War.

Video: Think Ahead First
by Rabbi Tzvi Sytner
If you could change anything this upcoming new year, what would it be?

Uniting Out of Love, Not Hate
by Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein
How to free ourselves from the burden of isolation and anti-Semitism.

Am I a Grinch?
by Emuna Braverman
I don't want to strike up personal conversation with the salesperson.
At the risk of seeming contrary, after writing last week’s blog on the importance of courtesy and decency, I’m about to advocate the opposite. Actually I’m not really coming out in favor of rudeness but I am wondering if there’s such a thing as too much friendliness.

Video: Take The Un-Selfie Challenge
by Kurt Stein
No selfies until after Yom Kippur! Spread the word.

The Death of Klinghoffer Controversy
by Yvette Alt Miller
It is a disgrace that The New York Metropolitan Opera insists on performing this offensive, anti-Semitic work.

Video: Why I Think This World Should End
by Prince Ea
A musical plea to meet anger with sympathy, hatred with compassion, cruelty with kindness.

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Post  Admin on Sun 07 Sep 2014, 3:18 pm

Joan Rivers: Can We Talk?
She used her acerbic wit to defend Israel and the Jewish people.
by Sara Debbie Gutfreund         
On June 8, 1933 a little girl, Joan Alexandra Molinsky, was born. Her parents, Beatrice and Meyer, were Russian Jewish immigrants who raised their two daughters originally in Brooklyn before settling in Larchmont, New York. Joan graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Barnard College in 1954 and before entering show business, she worked as a tour guide at Rockefeller Center, as a writer at an advertising agency and as a fashion consultant at Bond Clothing Store. She changed her name to Joan Rivers when she entered the acting world, and in February 1983, she became the first female comedian to ever perform at Carnegie Hall. She became famous for her direct sense of humor and for her insistence in "telling it like it is."

Though Joan was not an observant Jew, she was a member of Temple Emanuel in New York and often stated publicly that she "loved Israel." In the middle of Operation Protective Edge this past summer Joan told the media: "Let me just tell you, if New Jersey were firing rockets into New York, we would wipe them out. And Palestinians, you cannot throw rockets and expect people not to defend themselves. Don't you dare put weapon stashes in private homes. They started it. You're all insane. How do I know? Because I have been over there. That's how I know. And I wish the world would know. And BBC should be ashamed of themselves and CNN should be ashamed of themselves and everybody stop it already."
Joan Rivers -- GOES OFF on Epic Israel/Palestine Rant

When Joan died on Thursday afternoon at the age of 81, from a series of cardiac complications following a routine surgery, the Jewish people lost one of our most outspoken and unapologetic voices. We may not have appreciated all of Joan's jokes or her satirical humor style, but we can learn from her courage and strength. Here are ten of her quotes that teach us how to follow our own dreams and stand up for who we are:
1. Appreciate the moment. "Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery, today is God's gift, that's why we call it the present."
2. Be grateful. "I enjoy life when things are happening. I don't care if it's good things or bad things. That means you're alive. Things are happening."
3. Examine your beliefs. "Don't follow any advice, no matter how good, until you feel as deeply in your spirit as you think in your mind that the counsel is wise."
4. Speak up. "I succeeded by saying what everyone else was thinking."
5. Learn to smile. "Life is very tough. If you don't laugh, it's tough."
6. Be true to yourself. "I'm in nobody's circle, I've always been an outsider."
7. Pursue your dreams even when the world tries to take them away. "What are people going to do? Fire me? I've been fired before. Not book me? I've been out of work before. I don't care."
8. Face your fears. "I lived to be on stage and I'm terrified. Terrified before every show."
9. Use every opportunity. "I was smart enough to go through any door that opened."
10. Have confidence in your work. "You can find my book at your favorite bookstore and if it isn't there find a new favorite."
But the greatest legacy that Joan Rivers left the world is her famous expression: “Can we talk?” Joan was a person who lived her life as a connector, as someone who wanted to reach audiences, small and large and share ideas and struggles with others. In 1997, Joan published a candid book describing her struggle with bulimia after her husband’s death. And despite undergoing multiple plastic surgeries, Joan was open about her continuing challenges with her self- image culminating in her bestselling book “I Hate Everyone Starting with Me.”

Speech helps us to get out of our self-absorption and self-contained world. We do not need to face our struggles alone. Can we talk? Can we share our struggles and our triumphs with each other? Can we be proud of who we are and where we come from? Can we stand up for what we believe in? Can we talk? Can we admit that we are afraid and show up anyway? Can we talk? Can we learn to smile even when life is tough? Can we remember how to laugh with each other even when we see things differently?
Can we take this precious lesson from Joan Rivers and use it to change our own lives? To speak up when we need to. To face our fears. To share our struggles. To reach out to the world and to each other even when it seems like no one is listening.
Is there someone that you need to speak to? Is there something you have been wanting to share? Is there a conversation you know you need to have, but you can’t seem to build up enough courage? Try Joan’s three words: "Can we talk?" Sometimes that is all you need to say.
Thank you, Joan for teaching us how to speak up and how to share our struggles with each other. And for using your talents for defending Israel and the Jewish people.
READ MORE http://www.aish.com/ci/a/Joan-Rivers-Can-We-Talk.html

Ban Ki-moon, Why Are You Silent?
by Gila and Doron Tragerman
A letter by Daniel Tragerman's parents to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Text of a letter sent by Gila and Doron Tregerman, parents of 4.5 year-old Daniel, who was killed during a mortar attack on his kibbutz, to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
For UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon
Dear Sir,
My name is Gila, I am an Israeli citizen, and I am a resident of Kibbutz Nahal Oz, near the border with Gaza.
A week ago, we lost our eldest son, Daniel 4.5 years old, when he was killed by a mortar shell fired from Gaza into Israel.
I address you after your announcement to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to establish an international investigation Committee to investigate "Israel's crime" in the recent fighting in Gaza.
About us: Doron and I were married five years ago and we have three amazing kids: Daniel 4.5 yrs, Yoval 3.5 yrs and Uri 4 months old. We were a happy family. We lived in Kibbutz Nahal Oz near Gaza, and found ourselves constantly debating whether not to abandon Nahal Oz and move to another location, quieter, safer, far from rocket fire from Gaza, and far away from the alarms.
Then came the threat of terrorist tunnels, which Hamas members dug from Gaza to Israel under our home to hurt us. At night we heard noises and voices digging beneath us. Thus, in the last six months our children slept with the window closed and locked. We were afraid that they will be kidnapped from us.
Can you imagine our life, Mr. Secretary-General? How do you live in constant fear of mortar shell and terrorists emerging from tunnels?
Then, last Friday [August 22], Daniel was killed. All the precautions we had taken failed. Daniel, 4.5 yrs old, was killed in our House, while playing with Yoval in a tent built indoors and not outside, because it's dangerous. He was killed from a mortar shell that was shot by terrorists from Gaza, he died in our hands. Daniel died in front of his little sister and his best friend Yoval, 3.5 years old; he died in front of Uri, only four months old and right before our eyes, his mother and father.

We failed. We couldn't protect our beautiful and talented baby. Daniel was killed from a mortar shell that was fired by Hamas members from an elementary school for boys in Gaza City. It wasn't a stray shell. It wasn't accidental death. From that school terrorists fired deliberately at the kibbutz to murder civilians — children, women, old people. This time, they also achieved their goal. Daniel was killed almost immediately. Daniel's father, Doron, covered him with a blanket while crying bitterly and we escaped from home with two small children, leaving our precious son behind, in order to protect them from bombings that continued to explode around the house. Yoval, Daniel's sister, saw the terrifying sight and understood that something terrible happened.
It is unbearable to watch that little child staring at the wall, in overwhelming silence with teardrops from her eyes.
This week, during the "shiv'ah"(Jewish ritual of mourning) at Doron's parents home, we heard of your decision to appoint an international investigation committee to investigate "Israel's crime" during the recent fighting in Gaza. You informed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu half an hour after our Daniel was killed, perhaps while he was lying dead in our living room, covered in a blanket.
The investigation committee will examine the "crimes of Israel" during the fighting.
The investigation committee is not asked to investigate how terrorists shoot out of U.N buildings and schools.
The committee is not asked to investigate how inside buildings of the United Nations and in hospitals in Gaza terrorist infrastructure flourishes and is maintained over time, or how from these places terrorists depart for activity aimed against innocent people.
It won’t investigate how Hamas abuses the Palestinian people, and how its members force residents of Gaza, even children, to dig tunnels aimed only for terrorism against Israel.
It won’t investigate how after these excavations, carried out under duress and in slave-like conditions, the Hamas murdered the diggers, even the children, just to be sure they won't be able to pass information to Israel.
Why are you silent? Does your silence indicate consent with the abuse of the Palestinian people and the Israeli people?
The answers to these questions will remain unknown.
And I want to ask you, Sir:
Do you and the U.N not see the links that make up the global terrorism picture?
The terrorists units, fully equipped and full of hatred that attacked us in our homes, are the same units that kidnapped 43 UN observers in Syria; They are the same units that decapitated innocent people in Syria and Iraq; these units crashed aircrafts into crowded buildings in 2001 in New York; these units threaten the essence of democratic life, and life itself, in Europe, in the United States and anywhere on the planet.
Let me tell you some more about the history of our lives here, on the border with Gaza. My husband's parents, Doron, also live near the border fence and three and a half years ago a Qassam rocket exploded and destroyed their home.
Up until a few years ago they had good relations with the residents of Gaza. They hired workers from Gaza to work in their fields and Paulina, Daniel's grandmother, drove them home – to Rafah, every evening after work. They used to invite each other for weddings and other celebrations and often traveled to Rafah or Gaza to enjoy life at cafes there.
All that ended when Hamas rose to power and ordered the civilians who worked in Israel to kill their Israeli employers; otherwise, Hamas would hurt their families. Daniel's grandparents used to tell us this, longing and hoping that the good proximity will resume. They even found ways to maintain contact with their friends from Gaza during the mortar shelling. Like the parents of Doron and their friends from Gaza, we want to live in good proximity, in peace and security. It is our hope that our neighbors, the people of Gaza, will be able to live peacefully in their homes and build and develop their beautiful country. We believe that the vast majority of the people on this planet do not want to see the sights of blood, tears and fire of the radical Islam movement, but to live peacefully, enjoy kid's laughter, wait for a better tomorrow.
We do not seek the people responsible for our Daniel's death.
We only wish your response and your voice against this crime and the crime Hamas has committed against their own people.
Gila and Doron Tragerman
Parents of Daniel (RIP), Yoval and Ori

Identifying Your Life's Mission
by Sara Yoheved Rigler
This Rosh Hashanah, electrify your life with purpose.

Why They Were Beheaded
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
The profound meaning of this gruesome death.
Daniel Pearl, James Foley, Steven Sotloff all shared a gruesome death that has become the signature murder carried out by Islamic fanatics. It is the kind of killing that Isis and its followers promise to inflict upon Americans and all other infidels around the world.
And it is the kind of butchery that creates perhaps the most primal visceral response of disgust, of fear, and of horror.
Murder by any means is a crime beyond compare. Yet beheading seems to comprise a category all of its own. We shudder as we contemplate it. Our mind cannot absorb its reality. In the most powerful sense of all we cannot grasp a divide between the self-awareness of our heads as distinct from the responsiveness and wholeness of our bodies.
The very thought of beheading is in an ironic way almost enough to make us lose our minds.
Yet that has become the preferred method of execution by the contemporary enemies of civilization. And I believe there is a profound subconscious motive, aside from the obvious desire to create dread, which guides today’s terrorists to choose decapitation.
Human beings, we are told in the Bible, are created in the image of God. It is not in our physical appearance that we share a likeness to our Creator. It is in our minds that we share of his wisdom, intuit his greatness, and sense his sanctity. That is why our heads are given the task to direct messages to the rest of our bodies. From there come the signals that oversee all of our actions.
No wonder that Jews are commanded to daily bind tefillin – phylacteries - “for a sign upon their hands and for frontlets between their eyes.” There are two components to this mitzvah, two symbolic boxes to serve as reminders of our link with God and our need to live lives of holiness. One box is placed on our hand to symbolize that we dedicate our deeds to God. The other is on our head, over the seat of our intellectual activity. Its message is to make clear that we understand ultimate sovereignty of our actions comes from the free willed decisions of our minds, keys to our shared image with our Creator.
Head and body linked define our spiritual identity.
There is a fascinating story in the Talmud which at first glance seems almost incomprehensible. It tells us of a beheading that took place in biblical times at the time of the burial of our patriarch Jacob.
Jacob’s body was brought to Hebron, to the Cave of the Patriarchs, Me'arat Ha'machpelah. There were eight burial plots in the cave; Adam, Eve, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca and Leah were already buried there, leaving only a single available grave. Esau, Jacob’s twin and older brother, acknowledged that he had sold his birthright to Jacob but maintained that he hadn’t given up his right to be buried in the Cave and with armed force prevented his brother’s burial from proceeding. Jacob’s children sent fleet-footed Naphtali back to Egypt to bring the proof of ownership.
While all this was going on, Chushim, the deaf son of Dan, asked what the commotion was all about, and was incensed to learn that Esau had halted the funeral of his revered grandfather. With a mighty blow of his sword, Chushim severed Esau’s head, which rolled into the Cave of Machpelah and came to rest in Isaac’s lap, where it remains to this day. Thus it came to pass that “Esau’s head lies in the bosom of Isaac.”
So ends the story. And so we are told that to this day the holiest tomb of our people contains not just the remains of eight holy ancestors but the head of one other, held close to the bosom of his father.
What is the meaning of this strange tale?
Esau was a villain. Of course he knew better. He was the son of Isaac. As Jacob’s twin, he assuredly had the same potential for spiritual greatness. But Esau followed a different path. His life was that of a hunter and hedonist. Between head and body, he chose the latter as guide for his behavior.
His body did not deserve to be buried in a place of holiness. It would not be accorded this honor. But his head, his link with the image of God and blessed with the potential for greatness, was granted the gift of internment together with his father who loved him not for what he was but for all that he might have become.
Head and body together unite us in thought and deed. Separating them conveys a statement of profound meaning; its intent is to reject the power of mind. It seeks to destroy the influence of the one divine gift that is the distinctive feature of civilized mankind. Its mission is literally to make human beings mindless, barbarians motivated solely by bodily desires.
That is why today’s battle against the Islamic savages videotaping their murders by decapitation is a war that must be waged if civilization is to survive.
Published: September 6, 2014

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Post  Admin on Wed 27 Aug 2014, 7:11 pm

ISIS, Jim Foley & Confronting Evil
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
It's not enough to condemn evil; it must be confronted and conquered.
In the aftermath of the Holocaust, Romain Gary, in his powerful masterpiece The Dance of Genghis Khan, summed up civilization this way: “The ancient Simbas, a primitive tribe of cruel cannibals boiled their victims and then consumed them. The modern day Germans, heirs to thousands of years of culture and civilization, turn their murdered victims into soap. This, this passion for cleanliness – that is civilization.”
Last week James Foley, an American journalist, was brutally and sadistically beheaded with a 6 inch knife by a masked terrorist with an educated British accent, and a video of the gruesome murder was immediately available for viewing around the world on YouTube. This, this technological wonder that allows for the virus of violence to spread its message across the globe in an instant – this is what is fast becoming the sign of 21st century civilization.

Not to worry, says the President of the United States in his response to but the latest of horrors emanating from ISIS, the jihadist Islamic state in Iraq. He is well aware of the killing of innocents, the genocide of those with different beliefs, the abduction of women and children subjected to torture, rape and slavery. He knows, he tells us, that ISIS has no place in the 21st century. But he reassures us that based on his understanding of history “people like ISIS will ultimately fail.”
The reason? Pres. Obama explained, “They fail because the future is won by those who build and not destroy and the world is shaped by people like Jim Foley, and the overwhelming majority of humanity who are appalled by those who killed him.”
But that is not what both history as well as the Bible have taught us.

The good will not triumph over evil simply because an overwhelming majority of humanity are appalled by it
Yes, in many ways history has moved forward. There are civilized societies that value human life and reject racism and prejudice. But the future of mankind has not been secured. There is still far too much evil for anyone to feel complacent. And the one thing we need desperately to recognize is that the good will not triumph over evil simply because an overwhelming majority of humanity are appalled by it.
Nazi Germany had a vision for world supremacy. It included the genocide of an entire people, the subjugation of all other nations and cultures, as well as the eventual extermination of non-Aryans. At first the scope of its horrific intentions went unrecognized by a world which couldn’t imagine the reality of evil of this magnitude – even when its author didn’t hesitate to make clear his goals and his “final solution.” Hitler published his manifesto, Mein Kampf, and the civilized world was appalled. But it did nothing. The Chamberlains preached passive acceptance of evil for the sake of peace. The world continued to be appalled as the Nazis built their concentration camps and crematoria. Yet moral outrage accomplished nothing.
Civilization and the values of civilized society survived to this day, at least to the extent that they did, is for one reason only. The United States and its allies thankfully realized that being appalled isn’t sufficient response to the kind of evil which threatens the very justification for the continued existence of human kind.
What saved the world was “the greatest generation” that took to heart a biblical truth: evil must not just be condemned – it must be confronted and conquered.

A Biblical Paradigm
Shortly after the children of Israel acquired their identity as a nation and found deliverance from the bondage of Egypt at the Red Sea, they were attacked by a people known as the Amalekites. It was then, at that moment, they were shown the divinely approved response required of them. “And Moses said to Joshua choose for us men and go out and fight against the Amalekites.” Only then Moses, Aaron and Hur ascended a hill overlooking the battle and prayed to God for victory.

When Joshua and his soldiers prevailed, God then commanded Moses to write this down in an everlasting book for a memorial. The Amalekites became a paradigm for evildoers in every generation and the response in the recorded story in the Torah was meant as a message for all time. Pray, and do not become the victim of evil by refusing to challenge and fight it.
There are Amalekites in every generation. Jews in particular have been very familiar with them. And history has taught us, in the immortal words of Ecclesiastes, that “there is a time for peace and a time for war.”
Speaking at a recent Holocaust commemoration this past August, at Platform 17 at the Holocaust Memorial Site in Berlin, Yair Lapid, the Israeli Minister of finance, wondered “Why didn’t they fight? That is the question that haunts me. That is the question that the Jewish people have struggled with since the last train left for Auschwitz. And the answer – the only answer – is that they didn’t believe in the totality of evil.”

We can only pray that the question asked by Lapid won’t be asked years from now as historians struggle to understand the perilous decline of the West and its values in the face of Islamic barbarism. Why didn’t they fight? Why did America, once the most powerful country in the world and the torchbearer of democratic ideals stand back and feel content to merely mouth its appalled disapproval as modern day Amalekites destroyed the very fabric of civilization.

As Bernard Lewis was perceptive enough to point out years ago, what we are involved in today is a veritable “clash of civilizations and rearrangement of world orders.” In an astounding echo of the biblical choice offered to the Jewish people in the book of Deuteronomy, we are now facing the same choice verbalized by Moses: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse: therefore choose life, so that you may live, you and your seed” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

The butchery of James Foley must spark more than moral outrage. It needs to become the clarifying moment for all those committed to the survival of the sanctity of life over the cult of death. It needs to alert us to the reality of an evil that we dared not imagine and that in our naïveté we still continue to refuse to acknowledge.
Most important of all it requires of us to recognize that we are far beyond a time for mere condemnation. We must be much more than appalled. We must come face-to-face with evil and destroy it if we do not wish to be guilty of suicide.
Published: August 24, 2014

Why Jews Are Worried
The renowned historian on the rising anti-Semitism in Europe.
by Professor Deborah Lipstadt         
An old Jewish joke goes like this: “What’s the definition of a Jewish telegram? ‘Start worrying. Details to follow.’ ”

I am often asked by fellow Jews about contemporary manifestations of anti-Semitism, particularly in Europe. “Is this just like 1939? Are we on the cusp of another Holocaust?” Until now, my answer has been an unequivocal “no.” I have criticized community leaders who, either out of genuine concern or to advance their own purposes, use Holocaust analogies to describe contemporary conditions. These claims are ahistorical. They overstate what is going on now and completely understate the situation in 1939.

The differences between then and now are legion. When there is an outbreak of anti-Semitism today, officials condemn it. This is light-years away from the 1930s and 1940s, when governments were not only silent but complicit. Memory also distinguishes the present from previous events. Now, in contrast to the 1930s, we know matters can escalate. Jews today are resolute in their determination: “Never again.”

And despite all this I wonder if I am too sanguine. Last month, pro-Gaza protesters on Kurfürstendamm, the legendary avenue in Berlin, chanted, “Jews, Jews, cowardly swine.” Demonstrators in Dortmund and Frankfurt chanted, “Hamas, Hamas; Jews to the gas!” And a pro-Hamas marcher in Berlin broke away from the crowd and assaulted an older man who was quietly standing on a corner holding an Israeli flag.

On the eve of Bastille Day, a group of Parisian Jews were trapped in a synagogue by pro-Palestinian rioters and had to be rescued by the police. A few weeks ago signs were posted in Rome urging a boycott of 50 Jewish-owned businesses. In central London last week, anti-Israel protesters targeted a Sainsbury’s grocery, and the manager reflexively pulled kosher products off the shelves. (The supermarket chain later apologized.)

It would be simple to link all this outrage to events in Gaza. But this trend has been evident for a while. In March 2012, four people were killed at a Jewish day school in Toulouse, France. (Last month, a Jewish community center there was firebombed.) In December 2012, Israeli officials warned Jewish men who wanted to visit synagogues in Denmark not to don their skullcaps until they were inside the building. It is increasingly common for Jewish tourists in Western Europe to avoid carrying anything that might distinguish them as such. A shooting at the Jewish Museum in Brussels in May, a month before the latest Gaza conflict began, killed four people.

I am unpersuaded by those who try to dismiss what is happening as “just rhetoric.” It is language, after all, that’s at the heart of the ubiquitous slippage from anger at Israeli military action to hatred of Jews.

Nor am I comforted by the explanation that these actions are being taken by “disgruntled Muslim youth.” (By one estimate, 95 percent of anti-Semitic actions in France are committed by youths of Arab or African descent.) Many of these Muslims were born in Europe, and many of those who weren’t are the parents of a new generation of Europeans.

In the past century a distinct strain of Muslim anti-Semitism has emerged.

It’s true that this is not the anti-Semitism of the 1930s, which came from the right and was rooted in longstanding Christian views that demonized the Jews. Traditionally, Islam did not treat Jews this way. But in the past century a distinct strain of Muslim anti-Semitism has emerged. Built on a foundation of antipathy toward non-Muslims, it mixes Christian anti-Semitism — imported to the Middle East by European missionaries — and a more leftist, secular form of anti-Semitism. It is evident in political cartoons, editorials, television shows and newspaper articles.

The Hamas charter is an example. It contains references to “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” a notorious forgery created by Russian czarist police officers in 1903 and later used as Nazi propaganda. The charter accuses Jews of relying on secret societies to foment global economic and political disasters. It calls on adherents to prepare for “the next round with the Jews, the merchants of war.”

The rationales — “it’s just rhetoric,” “it’s just Muslims” — bother me almost as much as the outrages. Instead of explaining away these actions, cultural, religious and academic leaders in all the countries where these events have occurred should be shaken to the core, not just about the safety of their Jewish neighbors, but about the future of the seemingly liberal, enlightened societies they belong to. Yet when a Hamas spokesman recently stood by his statement that Jews used the blood of non-Jewish children for their matzos — one of the oldest anti-Semitic canards around — European elites were largely silent.

Seventy years after the Holocaust, many Jews in Europe no longer feel safe. Hiring an armed guard to protect people coming for weekly prayer is not the action of a secure people. In too many cities worldwide, directions to the local synagogue conclude with, “You will recognize it by the police car in front of the building.” France has seen a sharp rise in the number of Jews who have decided to emigrate (though the figures are still fairly small).
The telegram has arrived. Jews are worrying. It is time for those who value a free, democratic, open, multicultural and enlightened society to do so, too. This is not another Holocaust, but it’s bad enough.
This op-ed originally appeared in The New York Times.
Published: August 24, 201

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Post  Admin on Mon 25 Aug 2014, 12:15 pm

What Do I Know?
When not knowing is true wisdom.
by Sara Yoheved Rigler         
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In the Calcutta orphanage where I worked in the 1980s, the girls used an expression that challenged my worldview. When I would ask a simple question, such as, “Where’s Bhavani?” or “What time is Didi coming back?” they would usually answer with two Bengali words: Ki jani? Rather than a specific, “I don’t know,” ki jani is a more sweeping, “What do I know?” It’s a global confession, an existential declaration of the sheer inability of mere mortals to know.

In the Western world where I was raised, knowledge was the ultimate value. Textbook knowledge got you into a good college or grad school. Knowledge of current events and national politics won you the approbation, “well-informed.” Even knowledge of trivialities, such as where Babe Ruth was born or what year Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo, became a passion, spawning a million-dollar trivia industry. During my twenties, I used to devour Newsweek and Time, lest someone at a cocktail party would ask me about some recondite political figure and I would have to publicly confess to the cardinal sin of not knowing. (Alas, in my life I was invited to only one cocktail party, and no one asked me anything, not even my name.) Not knowing was an embarrassment, a public pillory to be avoided at all costs. If I didn’t know, I would guess. If I couldn’t guess, I would fake it.

Of course, knowledge is one of the important motivators of humanity and has great inherent value. But for many of us, the thirst for knowledge can turn into an alcoholic-like compulsion to know, an inability to accept the insecurity of ignorance. Then we fill in the blanks at any cost, stamping the imprimatur of “truth” on every supposition. The knowledge-addicted mind can turn fantasy into fact, assumptions into character assassination, and conjecture into condemnation.

No wonder I felt challenged every time my Calcutta orphans humbly declared, “Ki jani? — What do I know?”
Related Article: How Can We Be Sure of Anything?

Insufficient Evidence

Reb Shlomo Carlbach was once praying in a South African synagogue. Much to his horror, the cantor appointed for that service was terrible. He could barely carry a tune and garbled the Hebrew words. As Reb Shlomo listened to this affront to his musical sensibilities, he became more and more irritated. How could they let such an incompetent lead the services? he wondered with mounting indignation. He surmised that the man must be a wealthy donor and the synagogue leadership had kowtowed to him by giving him the honor of leading the prayers. What a sacrilege! What a capitulation to the power of money!

After the service, Reb Shlomo complained to shul’s rabbi. He was told that that man had, before the Holocaust, been the most prominent cantor in all of Europe. Hearing of his reputation, the Nazis had deliberately targeted him for torture. They had mangled his tongue with iron instruments and had injured his hearing. The rabbi, in deference to who this cantor had once been and what he had suffered, honored him by asking him to lead the prayers that day.
The Nazis had mangled his tongue with iron instruments and had injured his hearing. The rabbi asked him to lead the prayers that day.

The Nazis had mangled his tongue with iron instruments and had injured his hearing. The rabbi asked him to lead the prayers that day

Reb Shlomo told this story with the anguish of one who has judged harshly — and wrongly. He heard the man’s incompetent singing. What did he know of his past? How could he know the whole story? Ki jani?

Individuals are commanded to give the benefit of the doubt (See Leviticus, 19:15). This means that even if you witness someone doing something wrong, unless the person is a known miscreant, you are obligated to find some favorable interpretation. Often your “not guilty” verdict will be based on “insufficient evidence,” your admission that you don’t know the whole story. Can anyone ever know the whole story?
Here’s how this looks in real time:
You ask your rich friend to sponsor you in a charity marathon, and he offers you a paltry sum. You conclude that he’s stingy, but is it possible that he’s suffered financial reverses that you don’t know about?
Your new supervisor is acting tense, critical, and unfairly demanding. You conclude that she’s cantankerous by nature, but is it possible that she’s going through a divorce that you don’t know about?
Your intelligent child comes home from school with bad grades. You conclude that he’s lazy and isn’t trying, but is it possible that he has a learning disability that you don’t know about?
Your neighbor is neglecting his property. The grass is too long and the garbage is starting to pile up on his side of the fence. You conclude that he is shamefully negligent, but is it possible that his wife was diagnosed with cancer and they are preoccupied with life-and-death matters?

My friend Jen is a 35-year-old widow with four young daughters. She used to rent out the roof of her former apartment for events. The day after she got up from sitting shiva for her husband, her phone rang. When Jen answered, the woman on the other end inquired about renting the roof for a wedding. “I don’t rent out the roof anymore,” Jen said simply, and hung up. A moment later the phone rang again. This time it was the inquirer’s husband, ranting and yelling at Jen for hanging up on his wife. What do we ever know?

All the anger and resentment we feel starts with a negative judgment: s/he is doing something wrong. If we could quell the negative judgment by telling ourselves, “I really don’t know the whole story,” we would save ourselves and others so much grief.
Judging God
The most destructive negative judgments we make are when we judge God. “How could God have let that child die?” “How could God have let the hurricane destroy the home of that wonderful couple?”

Here, more than anywhere else, we are judging with insufficient evidence. As Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller says, we are on page 324 of a 400-page book. All we are able to see is pages 310 through 340. The rest is hidden from us.

The sacrosanct name of God, uttered only on Yom Kippur by the High Priest in the Holy of Holies of the Temple in Jerusalem, can be understood as the condensation of three verbs: He was, He is, He will be. That is, God’s infinitude encompasses all time, from the primordial beginning of time to its ultimate end. Only God knows the intricacies of all our past and future incarnations and how every single action affects every being on the planet. Such mega-ecology is far beyond our ken.
When I gave up the presumption of knowing, I started to learn.

When I started to learn Torah 26 years ago, my insistence on my ability to know was perhaps my greatest obstacle to actually knowing God. My questions – about the Holocaust, the suffering of the innocent – were arrogant demands that the Infinite God fit into the confines of my three-pound brain. My turning point came when Rebbetzin Heller said to me, “This world, olam in Hebrew, comes from the root word meaning ‘hidden.’ God is essentially hidden in this world. No matter how smart you are, no matter how much you know, you will never fully know God.” Then she added, “And would you really believe in a God that was no bigger than your finite mind’s ability to grasp?”

When I gave up the presumption of knowing, on that day I started to learn.
Obvious Conclusions
Alex, at age 39, was intelligent, artsy, sensitive, handsome, and spiritual. No wonder my friend Denise fell for him. I would see them sitting on a bench in the neighborhood square, engrossed in deep conversation. A few months went by. Then, when we were all anticipating that they would announce their engagement, suddenly Alex broke it off. Denise was heart-broken.
I was angry. Denise was kind, generous, and smart, but she had an acne-scarred complexion. Obviously Alex, for all his vaulted spirituality, couldn’t get past the externals. Is his sense of beauty only skin-deep? I protested under my breath. And if he was so turned off by her bad complexion, why did he lead her on?

A few months later my friend Shirley phoned. She told me she was interested in a match with Alex and asked me to speak to him about her. Shirley was pretty, stylish, and spiritual. Like Alex, she had become observant several years before. Thirty-eight years old, Shirley was eager to get married. It sounded to me like a perfect match, so I called Alex. He told me he wasn’t interested in going out with her. “Why?” I insisted. "What are you waiting for?” Alex stonewalled me. I hung up annoyed.
Obviously he wants someone younger, probably much younger, I concluded. But why would a topnotch 25-year-old want to marry Alex? He overrates himself. This is why there are so many wonderful women who never get married. Guys like Alex are always looking for girls half their age.
A couple months later the head of our local Chesed Committee called. She told me that Alex was sick with bronchitis and she asked me to make soup for him. I cooked the soup—grudgingly. If he had married one of my friends, I sputtered to myself, she would be taking care of him instead of the neighborhood women.

During that spring, I sporadically saw Alex, thin, pale, and all wrapped up, sitting on a bench in the sun. Once, I stopped to speak with him. I told him that his problem was that he needed to get married, that the bachelor life obviously did not agree with him, that there were many wonderful women who would be happy to make a home with him. He nodded silently, pursing his mouth, making me feel like a meddlesome neighbor.
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Three months later Alex died of AIDS. What, indeed, did I know?
For the aliyat neshama of my mother, Leah bas Yisrael, on her 20th yahrzeit. She truly embodied the humility of not judging others negatively.

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Post  Admin on Mon 25 Aug 2014, 11:51 am

Higher Standard or Double Standard?
Don’t set a double standard for Israel on norms of war.
by Natan Sharansky         
The pictures of destruction and mourning in Gaza that have filled media around the world for the past several weeks have been very painful and sad to view. One would be hard-pressed to find an Israeli who does not sympathize with the suffering of Gaza’s victims.

Yet there are also few Israelis who feel we are responsible for this suffering. For us, the tragedy of Gaza is inseparable from the tragedy of the entire Middle East. Over the past three years, in countries around our tiny state, more than a quarter of a million people have been killed in the most horrific ways. This wave of terror recognizes no official borders. The only border at which the savagery stops is Israel’s.

Hamas and Hezbollah are doing their best to change this. So what protects us? The United Nations or human rights groups? No. Only the military power of the Israel Defense Forces. In response to our enemies’ relentless campaigns, the army is constantly developing new ways to defend us. One new weapon, Iron Dome, has in the past few weeks protected civilians from almost 3,000 missiles.

But while Israelis have developed missile shields to protect children, Hamas has been using children as shields to protect missiles. This perverse strategy is the brainchild of a society that hails death. For Hamas, using living shields serves the double function of increasing the number of martyrs and galvanizing a free world that values life to pressure Israel to stop fighting.

The sad irony, then, is that while the world can do so little to stop the terror in Syria or Sudan, it can do a lot to press Israel to stop defending itself. We ask ourselves, is this hypocrisy? Is this a betrayal by the free world whose values we are defending? And in response, Israel hears from the international community, “Of course you are judged differently. You insist that you are part of the free world, so we hold you to a higher standard than neighboring countries, where wanton destruction of human life is the norm.”

I strongly agree with this argument.

Israel, like any other free country, should be held to a higher moral standard than its unfree neighbors. As the war against terror becomes increasingly global, it is imperative that all free countries develop and uphold common norms in our military conduct against armies of terror. Israel, with its decades-long experience, can contribute much to this effort.

For example, 12 years ago, during the Second Intifada, I was a member of the Israeli security cabinet when the army first decided to use aviation to target terrorist leaders. In nearly every cabinet meeting, Israel’s attorney general insisted that our targets must be chosen not on the basis of crimes already committed, but solely in light of proof that they were planning new terrorist acts. In other words, no matter how much death and destruction someone had caused, a targeted killing could be justified only by documented intentions to carry out another attack. A serious case had to be prepared for each assassination attempt, and therefore the number of such operations could be counted on one hand. Now that targeted killings are practically the norm – when the United States uses drones for this purpose all over the world – I would hope others are as scrupulous as Israel has been.

Around the same time, we in the cabinet also discussed the importance of using weapons that minimize civilian deaths, even if this meant decreasing an operation’s chance of success. Many operations were modified or canceled because of this. Today, Israel goes even further. Before the IDF bombs an area in Gaza, residents are alerted by radio, e-mail, phone and text message telling them to leave. The Israeli army also uses small warning missiles to let civilians – that a real missile will soon be fired. Do other free countries go to similar lengths?

In 1999, when NATO launched its offensive against the criminal Milosevic regime in Yugoslavia, hundreds of civilians were killed in the bombings. Many more civilians were killed when U.S. warplanes hunted down Saddam Hussein’s family and supporters, and later al-Qaeda terrorists. They were killed in cafes, cinemas and even a wedding procession.

Let me be clear. I believe that it was the free world’s obligation to fight against the Milosevic regime, which carried out ethnic cleansing in the heart of Europe. I believe it is the obligation of the United States and free countries to lead an uncompromising struggle against terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. But the obligation of the IDF to protect Israeli citizens from thousands of missiles and from underground terrorist infiltrations is just as sacred. In view of the developing global war between the free world and terror, it is time that leading military experts from Israel, the United States, Britain and other countries, along with international lawyers and politicians, compare their experiences and agree about the standards according to which the free world can defend itself.

But once these standards are accepted, they should be applied to every free country. Otherwise, stop calling it a higher standard and call it by its real name: a double standard.
This op-ed originally appeared in the Washington Post.

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Post  Admin on Sun 17 Aug 2014, 8:57 pm

The Muslim Spy who Became a Jew
Avraham Sinai was a Hezbollah informant who risked his life for Israel.
by Avraham Sinai, as told to Chananya Bleich         
I grew up in a non-religious Muslim home in a small village in Lebanon. My family supported the Western-oriented Lebanese government. But the Beirut government was very weak, and in reality, Palestinian terrorists ruled the area. They made sure to harass and punish those of us in various ways because of our political opinions.
In 1982, the Israeli army came to Lebanon and life improved. Even before they arrived, I admired Israel. I could see the hills of northern Israel from Lebanon and wished I could go there. It seemed so peaceful. Not like Lebanon. Our lives before the Israelis came were filled with terror. The Israelis made our lives better in so many ways. The Israeli Army restored order. Suddenly everyone had a job, money, a good life and peace.

Of course, it was to their advantage as well. Anyone who wanted to live in peace accepted the Israeli presence gladly. There is a saying in Arabic: “If your neighbor is happy, then you are happy as well.”

In the eyes of the terrorists I was a traitor and a spy.

Over time, I bonded with the Israeli soldiers. I connected with them. They were good to us and I wanted to return the favor. If I saw terrorist activity, I would tell the soldiers, so basically you could say I became an informant. Yes, in the eyes of the terrorists I was a traitor and a spy. But I wanted to have a quiet village, a normal life. The terrorists’ activities were making life difficult for us, the local people. I wanted to help get rid of them.

In 1983, Hezbollah began staging more attacks against Israel, just like Hamas is doing now. Actually Hezbollah terrorists are the same Palestinians, they just changed their name to Hezbollah in order to get Shiite support, as the area has a Shiite majority. My family is Shiite, but we continued to reject the radicals and Hezbollah began harassing my family more and more, because they knew what we thought of them. They didn’t trust us.


In 1985, Hezbollah actually tried to kill my entire family, so we fled to a town in southern Lebanon, which was near the Israeli army base that controlled the area. By day the men in our family would tend to business back in our village but at night they’d return to the safety of the south. Until one day Hezbollah ambushed us in our house. My father and I and two of my brothers were kidnapped. We were locked in an underground bunker. We were held there for a whole year. It was very difficult. They tortured me often, cut me with knives, and the worst was when they burned my nine-month-old baby son in front of my eyes. You cannot imagine the suffering I went through there.

During that year, I had lots of time to reflect. I had grown up in a non-religious Muslim home; I never went to the mosque. We didn’t even have a mosque in the village. Growing up, I never read the Koran, so I didn’t know too much about the religion. In the bunker, I found a Koran, and I started to read it. I wanted to know what Hezbollah believed. Maybe they were right and I was ignorant. To my surprise I discovered that what they preached is not in the Koran at all.

The Koran makes no mention of martyrdom or warring against the Jews. That is all the invention of the terrorist extremists. In fact, according to Islam, someone who commits suicide is not permitted to be buried in a Muslim cemetery. All the Islamic violence is for political reasons, when they started to mix religion and politics. There is nothing written about fighting. What I did find, in the opening chapters, were all these remarkable stories about the Jewish patriarchs, about the Exodus from Egypt, about the giving of the Torah. [The Koran incorporates much of the Chumash, with some specific changes according to Islamic belief.] I started to believe that God was watching over me and didn’t want me to die. My life was in His hands.

I decided to try to join the inner circle of Hezbollah in the hope to help Israel

After a year in the bunker, our captors released us believing that we had all become true believers in Hezbollah’s cause. The first thing I did was go to the mosque, but when I heard the sheik say: ‘If you commit suicide and become a shaheed [martyr] you will be escorted over a river of fire and go to heaven.’ I thought to myself: If everything is so good there, why doesn’t the sheikh go himself? Besides, I had now read the Koran and knew that what he was saying was baseless. After my new realizations while imprisoned, I knew I would not follow this sheikh’s exhortation. I decided to do something else: I would try to join the inner circle of Hezbollah, in the hope to help Israel. I was determined to rid my country of Hezbollah so we can be free to practice true Islam.

Joining Hezbollah
At first they suspected my reasons for joining, so I explained to them that all the political problems I had had before were because of my brothers, and they shouldn’t blame me because of them. I was soon accepted into their ranks and lived among them. I saw everything. At one point, I was even part of a squad of terrorists that planned to attack an Israeli military base. That was the opportunity I was waiting for. I slipped out of the camp and hitched rides and walked and ran, until I reached the Israeli Army base in the south. I recognized some of the soldiers and gave them the information. There was one particular Israeli who had been to our house previously. I met with him privately and told him I wanted to work for Israel from within Hezbollah. He tried very hard to dissuade me.

He said “They already burned your child. If they catch you they will burn your whole family.” But I insisted. I told him: “Look what they did to me. Let me work with you. I hate them and want revenge for my baby.”

Of course, the IDF doesn’t just hire any Lebanese Muslim who claims he wants to be a spy for Israel. They have a rigorous system of background checks and personality tests. But after several months of being investigated, I became an Israeli plant in the echelons of Hezbollah.

For security reasons, I cannot discuss details of my time in Hezbollah. All I can say that I interfered with many of Hezbollah’s plans, prevented attacks and saved a lot of soldiers’ lives. I did a lot. God wanted me to succeed.

But I will tell you about that first attack I prevented. There were 150 terrorists, including suicide bombers, who were supposed to enter the base and kill many Israeli soldiers and kidnap others. I knew everything about this operation: where the missiles were; who would take part in the operation; who planned it; what vehicles would be used. I gave over all this information and, thank God, our forces prepared themselves. The Army buried mines along their intended path prior to the attack, killing many of the terrorists. I have many similar stories, how Israel dealt with those men who had the blood on their hands.

I worked from within Hezbollah for 14 years, from 1986 until 2000, helping prevent many terrorist attacks

Each time, I traversed 60 kilometers at night, to meet with the Israelis and transfer information. I loved the Israelis so much, I made the tremendous effort to reach them and bring them information. I know they relied on me to prevent attacks and I felt responsible to be a reliable conduit and bring them as much information as I could.

Crossing Over
In 1997 some members of the group became suspicious of me. I knew my time in Lebanon was coming to a close. One wrong move and I would be killed. It was time for my dream to be realized and move to Israel. With swift planning with the Israelis, my wife and children who were young then met me at a checkpoint and we crossed over. We settled in Tzfat. I continued to assist the IDF, this time from the other side of the border, for three more years. Knowing that my family was safe in Israel gave me encouragement to serve even more. I worked at gathering information with all the security forces: the Army, the Shin Bet and Mossad. To them I was better than any other soldier because I knew the area and the people very well.

On Erev Yom Kippur, in 2000, my life changed again, this time spiritually. I was sitting on the porch with my wife, and I saw all my neighbors are going to shul. I said to my wife: “A mosque is God’s house and a synagogue is also God’s house. I want to go there.” I asked my neighbor if it was permitted for me to go, and he said yes. The rabbi of the shul of course didn’t recognize me, and he gave me a kippah to put on figuring I was a non-religious Jew.

The day after Yom Kippur, I went back to work and I told my friend there that I went to the shul on Yom Kippur and they made me feel very welcome. He started to laugh. “What were you doing there?” Despite that, I started to go more often; I was drawn to Judaism. I felt it was part of my belief, my truth. It got to the point that I wanted to convert, but everyone turned me away. Finally, after great effort and a long time studying, I was converted by Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, chief rabbi of Tzfat.

Today we are a regular religious family. Anyone who sees me or my children could never tell of our past

My children cannot even converse in Arabic. But now we are having this war in Gaza and I think back to my earlier days. I know how terrorists work, how Hamas thinks. They have no goals except for destruction. Their sole intention is terror and destruction. Even their own self-destruction is meaningless to them. Peace in not what they seek. With them it’s all or nothing. I have dealt with suicide bombers. They do not think like humans. They do not love themselves so they treat others with total disregard.

We have given them so many options to make peace. We worked with Arafat and Abbas. Israel wants peace so badly and what did we get in return? Dozens of terror cells and tunnels. Remember, it’s not only the Jews that Hamas is fighting. They are fighting against the Palestinian Authority as well. They just need to fight. That’s all these terrorists know. Their lives have no purpose. With God’s help we will be strong and win.

I still have connections in Lebanon. I speak to my family and others. I also know many Arabs here in Israel and believe me, most of them want to live in peace and quiet. I think 90% would prefer to live under Israel than under Arab rule.

By the way, my family is very proud of me, that I have chosen a pleasant path to live my life. We are in touch and speak often. The Koran respects Judaism. If you do not believe in Moses, you do not believe in Islam. Choosing Judaism does not go against the Koran. Islamic terror groups murdering thousands in Syria to create a Muslim state? That is going against the Koran.
People ask me if I am afraid, if I have received threats from Hezbollah. I know if they could, they would kill me. I have heard that they are looking for me. But it doesn’t concern me. I feel safe here. I am not afraid. God put me here and my soul belongs to Him.
This article originally appeared in Ami Magazine.

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Post  Admin on Sun 17 Aug 2014, 8:20 pm

Saying Shema in Gaza
The Jewish prayer may have stopped a would-be suicide bomber who was Jewish.

by Rabbi Nechemia Coopersmith         
I am rather skeptical when it comes to “miracle stories” – especially ones that emerge from war. So I did not believe the story about the female suicide bomber in Gaza who flinched upon hearing the Israeli soldier cry out “Shema Yisrael”, allowing them to apprehend her. Turns out the terrorists' mother was an Israeli Jew who married an Arab, and the would-be suicide bomber was in fact a Jew whose soul was rattled upon hearing Shema.

Well, apparently the story might be true. An unnamed Israeli military source spoke to Breitbart News, revealing details about the attack that killed Lt. Goldin and two other soldiers, and he also mentioned the incident with the Jewish suicide bomber. The article reports:

The officer explained how, after the suicide bombing that killed Lt. Goldin, a second kidnapping team of Hamas terrorists... ran back into the tunnel from which the terrorists emerged. The tunnel led back into a mosque. From the mosque, they escaped in a clearly marked UNRWA ambulance. 

The terrorists then made contact with high-ranking Hamas officials hiding in the Islamic University.
Israeli intelligence intercepted a conversation between the kidnappers and the Hamas officials at the Islamic University and thus got all the particulars regarding the hiding place of the kidnappers. 

Within minutes, the IAF attacked both the kidnappers' location and the Islamic University.
In the midst of this attack, a second force of IDF soldiers--which had gone into a mosque looking for weapons, explosives, and rockets-- encountered a female suicide bomber who was about to detonate the belt she wore, which would have resulted in the deaths of the soldiers. One of the soldiers instinctively recited the opening words of the holiest Jewish prayer “Shema Yisrael”. The female suicide bomber hesitated and began trembling, giving the soldiers a chance to grab her and disable the device.

The soldiers then took her prisoner and turned her over to a counter-intelligence unit. Their investigation uncovered that the female suicide bomber’s mother was a Jew who had married a Palestinian in Israel and, after the wedding, was smuggled against her will into Gaza. There she lived a life filled with abuse and humiliation, and was basically a captive. In addition to the female suicide bomber, there were two smaller children as well. An armored force went in and rescued the two small children.

The story is reminiscent of Rabbi Eliezer Silver who rescued Jewish children in Europe who had been hidden during the Holocaust in Christian orphanages and monasteries. The children themselves, raised as Christians for years, no longer knew they were Jewish. And there were times the local priest denied harboring any Jewish children. So how did Rabbi Silver discover the Jewish children? Dressed as a high ranking U.S. army officer, he would visit the children during bedtime and loudly proclaim “Shema Yisrael” – "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One!"

Many children burst into tears and cried out “mommy” in the various languages they spoke. The Shema which their mothers had said to them each night was so deeply ingrained in their minds they had not forgotten it. And that is how the chaplains were able to identify the Jewish children.
The Shema saved those Israeli soldiers and rescued three Jewish souls – the suicide bomber and her two children -- from the bowels of Gaza. Something she heard startled her. Her Jewish soul, buried by years of indoctrination, hate and abuse, was stirred.

My teacher, Rabbi Noah Weinberg, of blessed memory, would tell the story of Rabbi Silver as a lesson that the Jewish soul always has a pulse. It is our responsibility to find the words that will penetrate. If this story is true, then through his tragic death Lt. Goldin enabled three bewildered Jewish souls to be brought back to their people.
With thanks to Rabbi Stephen Baars

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Post  Admin on Wed 13 Aug 2014, 9:17 am

Hamas' Phony Statistics on Civilian Deaths
by Alan M. Dershowitz
Reliable sources say half of those killed were combatants.
It's a mystery why so many in the media accept as gospel Hamas-supplied figures on the number of civilians killed in the recent war. Hamas claims that of the more than 1800 Palestinians killed close to 90% were civilians. Israel, on the other hand, says that close to half of them were combatants. The objective facts support a number much closer to Israel's than to Hamas'.

Walking To Shul With My Dad
by Jeffrey Dunetz
I was a three-day a year Jew who stopped by McDonalds on the way to the golf course every Saturday morning. Now I'm being called an observant Jew. What happened?
My face felt flushed and I tried to retain my composure. "This is volunteer work. I don't need the fights, the name calling." The rabbi sat across from me quietly. I was telling him why I felt it necessary to resign from the board of trustees. When I ran out of reasons (and breath), there was a moment of silence as he studied me. He leaned backwards into the chair and began to speak very softly. The rabbi had his own checklist of reasons why I should remain in my position. The last item stopped me dead in my tracks. He said I was an observant Jew who encouraged other people to embrace Judaism.

With Rifle and Baby in Hand
Hamas’ perversely brilliant strategy in using human shields should serve as a wakeup call to all of humanity.
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
In the nuclear age, more nations have the capacity to totally obliterate not only other countries but the entire world as well. With unprecedented and unlimited power comes the fear that civilization is doomed. Will the world end as it began, with a big bang not of creation but of final and total destruction?
To prevent this doomsday scenario concerned leaders have placed their hope on disarmament treaties, on limiting the muscle of the mighty, and the deterrence of MAD – mutually assured destruction where the threat of using strong weapons against the enemy prevents the enemy's use of those same weapons. It has been almost universally assumed that evil can only triumph when the wicked are stronger than those whom they seek to destroy.

10 Reasons Why We Need the Messiah Right Now
With outrageous levels of insanity overtaking the world, we need him now more than ever.
by Rabbi Nechemia Coopersmith         
Who needs the messiah? you may be wondering. Isn’t that a Christian concept?
The notion of the messiah is as Jewish as Shabbat, the Shema and chicken soup.
Who is the messiah? He will be a great leader, pious and wise, who will become the next Jewish king. He will oversee the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash, the Temple in Jerusalem, gather all the Jews to their homeland, Israel, and most importantly usher in a new era of world peace and spiritual awakening when the entire world will recognize the truth of God and Torah; "The earth will be full of the knowledge of God, as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9). (Click here for more elaboration and sources.)
With outrageous levels of insanity overtaking the world, we need him now more than ever. Here are my 10 reasons why:

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Post  Admin on Wed 06 Aug 2014, 5:40 pm

10 Myths and Facts about the Gaza War
by Yvette Alt Miller
Key facts you need to know to defend Israel.
It is said that truth is the first casualty of war. Here are some lies that have been spread about Israel in recent weeks – and the truth behind these slanders. Only by clarifying the facts can we look forward to a realistic solution to the tensions.

(1) Israel started this war, using the murder of three Israeli teens as a pretext.
In the first half of 2014 – prior to the outbreak of fighting – Hamas launched nearly 200 rockets at Israeli civilians. When the three Israeli teens were brutally kidnapped, Israel went looking for them in the West Bank; they were later found murdered. To divert attention from Hamas accountability, the terror group launched hundreds of rockets at the length and breadth of Israel, sending 80 percent of the Israeli population racing into bomb shelters.
Israel responded by rooting out the rocket sites in Gaza – in the process fortuitously discovering a vast network of terror tunnels that Hamas reportedly planned to used to stage a single day of mass kidnappings and murder of Jews.

(2) Fighting Israel is the only way Hamas can build a better life for its people.
If Hamas were serious about building a better life for its people, it wouldn’t have violently seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2006 and suppressed all future elections. Instead, Hamas imprisons and kills political opponents with impunity. Hamas “morality police” punish women for smoking and wearing “un-Islamic” clothes such as jeans and t-shirts. Honor killings of women are punished lightly, with as little as six months in jail.
It takes millions of dollars, tons of cement, and a year’s worth of labor to build a tunnel from Gaza into Israel. In the past two weeks, Israel has uncovered 30 such tunnels – representing millions of dollars Hamas could have spent on the population of Gaza, but instead spent on fighting Israel.
If Hamas truly wanted a better life for Gazans, it wouldn’t have spurned trade and development in favor of terror and dictatorship. In 2005, when Israel removed all Israeli residents and soldiers from Gaza, Hamas and other looters destroyed 3,000 greenhouses donated by American Jews to help build their fledgling country – leaving a sorry symbol of Hamas corruption and terror.

(3) Hamas is trying to minimize Palestinian casualties.
Instead of minimizing human casualties, Hamas seems to be courting them. They have launched thousands of missiles at Israel from locations adjacent to or within schools, mosques, hospitals, and residential buildings: a staggering 11,000 since 2005. Far from building bomb shelters to protect their population, as Israel has done, Hamas has deliberately used the entire civilian population as human shields.
Hamas has turned Gaza's largest medical facility, Shifa Hospital, into a military command center – knowing that Israel's higher morality makes it a safe haven from Israeli fire.
(4) The rate of Palestinian civilian deaths is alarmingly high.
Hamas claims that 75% of those killed in the current conflict in Gaza are civilians. Israeli sources found the overwhelming majority – two thirds – are males between the ages of 18 and 60, despite that demographic accounting for only 20% of Gaza’s population.
During a brief humanitarian ceasefire on July 24, Hamas executed 25 people without trial, accusing them of spying for Israel. These 25 were later added to the tally of people killed by Israel, and hailed as “martyrs." In the words of Bassem Eid of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, Palestinian casualties are ultimately "in the interest of Hamas."

(5) Israel’s actions are contrary to international law.
Human Rights Watch has accused Israel of “violations of the laws of war” and the United Nations has opened an inquiry into alleged war crimes by Israel – though not of Hamas, which deliberately targets Israeli civilians as an ongoing policy.
In attacking legitimate military targets lodged among civilians, international law places full responsibility for any civilian deaths on the fighters who've embedded themselves. (The Conduct of Hostilities Under the Law of International Armed Conflict, Cambridge University Press, 2004)
Caught in the difficult situation of responding to rocket fire from within civilian areas, Israel’s army has taken unprecedented actions to limit human casualties, calling the cell phones of people near or in targets to warn them of imminent bombings, and dropping Arabic-language leaflets warning civilians, as well as the “knock on the door,” whereby Israel fires a small round to warn people to leave an area before a strike.
Alarmed that this might reduce civilian casualties, however, Hamas has forced Gazans to act as human shields for the many rocket launchers imbedded in private homes. The New York Times dramatically described the recipients of one such warning, who quickly marshaled family members – including children – to enter the targeted building, forming a human shield.

(6) Israeli actions are "disproportionate."
Brazil has recalled its ambassador to protest Israel’s “disproportionate” response to Hamas rockets and terror tunnels. But proportionality isn’t measured in terms of death toll on either side: Israel, which has invested in bomb shelters for its citizens, in anti-rocket ammunition to protect its cities, and which doesn’t place its rocket launchers in civilian areas, has protected its people; even playgrounds in southern Israel have been ‘missile-proofed’ with millions of dollars of reinforced steel. Should Israel be blamed for properly protecting its citizens?!
In World War Two, 67,000 British civilians and 12,000 American civilians were killed, compared to the Nazis who lost over one million civilians. Clear responsibility for these deaths rests on the Nazis who started the war. More recently, in the 2004 urban warfare of Fallujah in Iraq, the U.S. killed 800 civilians and destroyed 9,000 homes. Did we hear cries of "disproportionate"?
As military analyst Colonel Richard Kemp concludes: "I don't think there has ever been a time in the history of warfare when any army has made more efforts to reduce civilian casualties and deaths of innocent people, than the IDF is doing today in Gaza."

(7) Hamas is a humanitarian organization.
Hamas bills itself as a "humanitarian organization," yet it’s anything but. As the people of Gaza endure high unemployment and limited economic growth, Hamas’ leadership skims off profits, collecting ruinous taxes on business transactions, and steals international aid outright. Ismail Haniyah, Hamas’ leader, reportedly owns numerous homes throughout Gaza, and in 2010 paid $4 million for a beachfront home in Lebanon. His deputy, Khaled Mashal, controls a $2.6 billion fund donated to Hamas by the governments of Qatar and Egypt.
If Hamas were truly fighting for the rights of ordinary Palestinians, it also would hold elections, ensure human rights, and stop pursuing political opponents. But it chooses to spread terror.

(8) Hamas just wants to live in peace.
Gaza's leaders encourage violence, allowing Islamic Jihad to run “terror summer camps" for children as young as six, where kids learn hate and practice kidnapping Israeli soldiers. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon calls Hamas’ indiscriminate firing on Israeli civilians “a violation of international law.”
The Hamas Charter calls for the destruction of Israel and the death of Jews around the world: “the Zionist plan is limitless” and “our struggle against the Jews is very great... until the enemy is vanquished.” Who can doubt that, if given the chance, Hamas would inflict mass casualties on Israel and Jews? Given this existential threat, Israel has no choice but to try to demilitarize Hamas and destroy its tunnels.
Ironically, in 2013 Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh boasted that Hamas had acquired new rockets that were capable of hitting Tel Aviv – at the very time that his own granddaughter was being treated in Schneider Children’s Hospital near Tel Aviv!

(9) All the Gaza casualties are Israel's fault.
Many of the rockets Hamas has launched into Israel have fallen short, hitting targets in Gaza instead; often, Israel is blamed for these hits and their resultant civilian casualties. One high-profile case is the UN-run school bombed on July 24 with 16 casualties. Israel categorically denies bombing the school when anyone was present, and has produced aerial footage proving its case.
Four days later, a Gaza park was bombed, killing nine children and an adult. The Israeli army explained that the incident was carried out by Gaza terrorists whose rockets fell short and hit the Shifa Hospital and the Beach (Shati) camp.
Further, at least 160 children were killed in constructing Hamas' extensive terror tunnel network.

(10) Israel must stop occupying Gaza, denying humanitarian aid, and committing genocide.
Israel does not occupy Gaza, having unilaterally disengaged – withdrawing every soldier and civilian – in 2005. Despite the thousands of terrorist rocket and missile attacks emanating from the Strip for years, Israel continues – even during this crisis – to truck in tons of medical supplies, food, humanitarian goods and fuel.
Despite the war, Israel has kept the Kerem Shalom crossing open to a steady stream of humanitarian aid into Gaza, and allows humanitarian access at the Erez Crossing in northern Gaza. The Israeli military also operates a full-scale hospital at the Erez Crossing, treating Palestinians from Gaza. Both crossing points are under a steady stream of attack every day from Hamas forces.
While many Gazans are indeed suffering from a supply shortage, signs point to Hamas intentionally exacerbating the crisis as a propaganda weapon against Israel – while creating a flourishing black market that filled the pockets of Hamas thugs.
Get Aish.com's Free Email Updates and Be Inspired.
Soon there will be calls for shipments of tons of concrete into Gaza to "rebuild." Past concrete shipment have gone to construct terror tunnels. Will the international aid agencies be fooled again?
If Israel is perpetrating genocide, it is doing a terrible job. Why hasn't Israel acted worse? Where are the slave labor camps and the nightly massacres? It is difficult to reconcile the idea of "genocidal Israelis" with 1,000 Palestinians, mostly combatants, killed in the fighting. Two-thirds of European Jewry exterminated by the Nazis? That's genocide. 800,000 Tutsis (7 out of 10) killed in Rwanda? That's genocide.
Israel has faced difficult choices in Gaza and has acted at every step to minimize casualties, protect her citizens, and help build a better life for all the people – Jews and Arabs – in the region.
Published: July 31, 2014

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Post  Admin on Wed 06 Aug 2014, 5:15 pm

The Shocking Murder of Ilan Halimi
In 2006 a young Parisian Jew was kidnapped and brutally murdered because he was Jewish. French authorities initially refused to believe it was a hate crime.
his article originally appeared in Ami Magazine.
Little did Ilan Halimi know that day that the customer walking into the cellphone store where he worked as a salesman would be the agent of his death. The young woman looked around at the merchandise, asked questions and engaged him in friendly conversation. They hit it off so well that before leaving, she asked Ilan for his phone number.
The next evening Ilan received a call from his new acquaintance, inviting him out for a drink. Only 23 years old, Ilan had no suspicions. He was ambushed by a gang of thugs, held prisoner in an apartment in the Bagneux neighborhood of Paris for 24 days and tortured until they finally abandoned him in a forest. When Ilan was found, he had burns over 80% of his body. He was the first French Jew murdered after WWII simply because he was Jewish

How You Can Defend Israel
by Robert Walker
We put together a successful Israel rally. You can make a difference too.
Does it frustrate you to know that according to recent polls most of your neighbors see no real moral difference between Israel and Hamas? Or that while anti-Israel protesters assemble freely in cities around the world, people who publicly stand up for Israel in Canada, the U.S. and Europe have been harassed and even abused by swarms of thugs?
I felt frustrated and helpless sitting in Toronto doing nothing to make a difference while Israeli soldiers were risking their lives – and some dying – to defend the Holy Land.

Until my wife and I decided to take urgent action and try to make a difference.
What Are You Going To Do?

Proportionality in Gaza
by Dore Gold
The accusation that Israel is acting disproportionally has no merit. Here's why.
The images of destruction after the battle between the Israel Defense Forces and Hamas that began July 20 in the Shajaiya neighborhood in the Gaza Strip have caused many to declare, in a now-frequent refrain, that the IDF is behaving “disproportionately.” Some commentators are simply dressing up in sophisticated language their belief that Israel is using excessive force, but others clearly mean to accuse Israel of violating the laws of war — specifically, of violating the doctrine of proportionality. These accusations have no merit.
Shajaiya was not just another neighborhood in Gaza, but rather a crown jewel of Hamas' effort to intertwine civilians and terrorists to complicate Israel's ability to defend itself. Shajaiya was crisscrossed with an elaborate network of underground bunkers and tunnels containing equipment for the manufacture of rockets, storage facilities for rockets and other weapons, and launching sites from which the rockets were fired at Israeli towns. It was a civilian area where Hamas embedded its most important military capabilities, precisely to encourage condemnation of Israel should the IDF be forced to fight there.

Hamas Vs. Israel: Moral Fog Awards
Those who refuse to grasp the simple, stark truth.
by David A. Harris         
In the current conflict, there are those who refuse to grasp the simple, stark truth.
Although the distinction between Israel and Hamas couldn't be clearer – between a democratic nation and a terrorist organization, between the victim and the aggressor, between a society that protects its civilians and one that uses them as human shields, and between a military that operates by a strict code of conduct and a group governed by no scruples whatsoever – some consider all that irrelevant, unimportant, or beside the point. When moral clarity is needed, they live in a moral fog.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said: "We have been witnessing this systematic genocide every Ramadan since 1948. Now, [Israel's] barbarism has surpassed even Hitler's."

But, then again, what else would we expect from the recipient of the Muammar Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights (named for the late Libyan strongman), host of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir (who is wanted for genocide by the International Criminal Court), and author of the unforgettable statement, "A Muslim could never commit genocide"?

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Post  Admin on Thu 10 Jul 2014, 10:13 pm

What If Terrorists Could Shoot Rockets at Your Country?
Imagine if Gaza terrorists were your neighbors and could shoot the deadly M-302 rocket at your home.
by Idfblog.com         
It is now clear that Hamas has received powerful M-302 rockets from Iran, placing over 3.5 million Israelis in danger. Yesterday, an M-302 rocket hit the city of Hadera, which is 100 km (62 mi) away from Gaza. The Israel Navy found the same type of rocket onboard the Klos C vessel in March. The ship, intercepted in the Red Sea, was carrying Iranian weapons destined for Gaza terrorists.
The M-302 has a strike range of 160 kilometers, allowing Hamas to target most of Israel.
Imagine if Gaza terrorists were your neighbors and could shoot the M-302 rocket at your home. Click here to see an app we created to help you put Hamas’ threat in perspective. You can type in your home town and it will show you just how far these rockets can reach.
Imagine if Gaza terrorists were your neighbors and could shoot this rocket at your home
Here is a series of illustrated maps that show the Gaza Strip next to other countries throughout the world. The maps demonstrate the reach of the M-302 rocket inside each of these countries. Share these with your friends and neighbors to show them what living under Hamas terror looks like.
United States
If Gaza was in New Jersey or New York

If Gaza was in California

If Gaza was in Canada

United Kingdom
If Gaza was in England
Click here to view the article on idfblog.com and the app they created.

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Post  Admin on Thu 10 Jul 2014, 10:05 pm

Israel Under Attack
What you can do when your brothers and sisters are at war.
by Sara Yoheved Rigler         
Growing up in New Jersey, war was something we read about in history books. Since moving to Israel 29 years ago, I’ve lived through five wars.
The first was the Gulf War of 1991. Saddam Hussein’s threats to incinerate all of Israel had us making “sealed rooms” of plastic and tape. When the siren went off, we ran to our sealed rooms and donned our gas masks. My three-year-old daughter refused to wear her mask. Panicked, I forced the mask onto her. The next morning the news reported that, while there were no casualties from the Scuds, a four-year-old Israeli Arab girl had suffocated to death when her parents forced her gas mask onto her. I listened to the radio trembling. Thirty-nine Scud missiles landed in Israel, decimating buildings but killing only one man. Instead of poison gas, the air of Israel was thick with miracles.

Instead of poison gas, the air of Israel was thick with miracles.
Not so the Terror War of 2000-2004. The front lines of that war were on our busses, in our malls, at our Bar Mitzvahs and Seders, and in our downtown areas. Over 1,000 Israelis were murdered in that war, mostly by suicide bombers. For four years we lived in fear and prayer. We tired of attending the funerals of children. Our Books of Psalms were drenched in our tears.

The Second Lebanon War, in the summer of 2006, started as an effort to retrieve two reserve soldiers abducted by Hezbollah terrorists at the Lebanese border. Hezbollah fired a barrage of missiles on northern Israel. Forty-four civilians were killed in the bombing, and most of the residents of the North fled southward. When all the hotels of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem could not hold the refugees, community centers with army cots and thousands of private homes opened their doors. Taking a walk one night, my husband and I passed a young couple pushing a baby in a stroller. They had fled from their home near Haifa and had stayed for three nights in a Jerusalem hotel. Now, however, the hotel had evicted them because someone else had reservations. We invited them into our home, and they lived with us until the war was over. Tragically, 121 of our young soldiers were killed. And when the two abducted reservists were finally returned, in exchange for arch terrorist Samir Kuntar and four other Hezbollah prisoners, we got back only their corpses.
While Israel’s North was struggling to recover and rebuild, the South came under repeated rocket attacks from Hamas that Gazans had democratically elected as their government. Hamas launched over a thousand missiles on civilian targets in Israel. Life in Israel’s South became a continuous nightmare of Code Red sirens, sending children and adults desperately scurrying for shelter. So, in December 2008, Israel mobilized Operation Cast Lead, sending in ground troops to stop Hamas. Our role in that war was to pray, and to send food packages and warm socks to our soldiers at the front.
After a short period of quiet, rocket attacks from Gaza, now augmented by longer-range Russian Grad missiles that terrorized major cities such as Beer Sheva and Ashdod, gradually increased again. So in November 2012, Israel launched Operation Pillar of Cloud. The international community, silent as Israel was bombarded by Hamas, loudly condemned Israel’s military campaign to stop the rockets. Fighting Hamas on one front and international opprobrium on the other, Israel was hit by 1456 rockets and missiles, which killed six Israelis, injured 240, and sent another 200 into shock. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder became an epidemic in southern Israel.
At War Again
And now we are at war again. Some 40,000 reservists – mostly husbands and fathers – have been called up. Our soldiers – those who can be spared from quelling the Arab riots throughout Israel – are amassed at the border of Gaza. Over the last eight days, close to one million Israelis have sought refuge in bomb shelters. Some 225 Hamas missiles have been fired at Israel in the last 36 hours, some reaching Tel Aviv and almost to Haifa.

On Tuesday night I was giving my weekly Marriage Webinar from my Jerusalem home to women all over the world – in France, England, Ireland, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Israel, and throughout the United States. In the middle of the webinar, a comment appeared in the Question Box from a woman in Ashdod: “We had a Code Red siren so we had to go down to the bomb shelter. Now I have to put my children back to bed. I’ll have to listen to the webinar recording tomorrow.”
I resumed giving my class, but a few minutes later I heard the wail of a siren pierce the air.
I was taken aback by this live message from the war zone. I recounted to my listeners that the night before, my daughter was at an outdoor wedding near Beit Shemesh, a 40-minute drive from Jerusalem, when the Code Red siren went off. The dancing stopped, and the bride, groom, and wedding guests, having no building to take refuge in, ran to a decorative wall. Looking up, they saw the missile from Gaza as a beam of light streaming across the sky. Suddenly it was hit by the Iron Dome (Israel’s anti-missile defense system), creating a loud explosion and a brilliant glow in the sky. Happy wedding!

At that point in the webinar, I told the participants that we were going to stop and pray. Israel is at war. We should pray for the residents of the South and the safety of our soldiers. After a minute, I resumed giving my class, but a few minutes later I heard the wail of a siren pierce the air. I was puzzled. We had not heard air raid sirens in Jerusalem since the Gulf War had sent us dashing to our sealed rooms. “I’m hearing a siren,” I told my listeners across the world.
Our building has no bomb shelter. We are supposed to use the bomb shelter across the street, but it can barely hold the residents of that building. So I simply sat here, feeling shaken, and asked my listeners to pray, this time not just for the residents of the South, but also for the Jews of Jerusalem. It turned out that Tel Aviv, Rehovot, and every major town in the crowded center of the country was also under attack.
Then comments started to pour into the Question Box:

  • Siren in Beit Shemesh now!

  • My friend is currently in Jerusalem and told us that a rocket just landed in his neighborhood.

  • Don't continue the workshop if it's not safe for you! [from Texas]

  • My son and grandchildren are in Tel Aviv [from New Mexico]

  • Please know that every Jew in Ireland & I'm sure worldwide are praying for you in Israel! [from Dublin]

What Doesn’t Help
We are at war again. Here’s what doesn’t help:

  • Worrying and hand-wringing

  • Blaming – anyone on the other end of the political or religious spectrum.

  • Obsessing on the news. (Phoning an elderly relative will help Israel more than your checking the news for the 8th time today.)

  • Wasting energy on hating our enemies.

  • Cancelling your upcoming trip to Israel. (Such cancellations make us feel abandoned.)

Here’s what will help:
Pray for the safety of our soldiers, for the protection of every Jew in Israel, and for the wisdom of our political and military leaders.

Sign up for the Shmira Project, an ongoing, grassroots program that pairs IDF combat soldiers with Jews around the world, who do acts of kindness, prayer or Torah learning to increase the soldier’s spiritual merit and protection.

Support Israel by disseminating the truth in Letters to the Editor, letters to your government, blogs, Facebook, and internet comments: That Hamas in Gaza, which is committed to Israel’s destruction, has launched hundreds of rockets and missiles at civilian targets in Israel, and Israel must defend its citizens.

Support the I.D.F. by sending goodies, care packages, and letters of support. 
Undertake mitzvot, good deeds, donations to charity, and Torah learning in the merit of the people of Israel. Judaism teaches that every mitzvah generates merit, and just as you can send your money to wherever you choose, you can send your merit to wherever you choose.

And one last thing: Go against your basic human drive to avoid pain, and allow yourself to feel the pain of your brothers and sisters in Israel. 
Feel the pain of mothers and fathers whose precious sons have been sent to the front lines, of wives whose husbands have been called to active duty. Feel the pain of children throughout southern Israel who live in daily trauma: ten-year-olds who have reverted to bedwetting, teenaged girls whose periods have stopped, four-year-olds who cannot sleep for fear of the next siren.

Feel their pain, and allow it to move you to the constructive actions outlined above. Now is not the time for numbness.

Click Below and Scroll down 15 second Video

Watch the short video below to feel what it is like to have 15 seconds to reach a bomb shelter.

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Post  Admin on Sun 06 Jul 2014, 2:38 pm

For Being a Jew
by Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein
Rabbi Akiva, Daniel Pearl and our three boys.

In defiance of the mighty Roman Empire, which destroyed Jerusalem and our Temple, Rabbi Akiva taught Torah to his disciples, for which he was arrested and brutally murdered on a bed of nails. In his last moments he said the words of the Shema and became one of the greatest symbols of Jewish martyrdom in history.
And yet the Talmud tells us that as he was dying the angels in the heavens cried out before God the terrible question: “This is Torah and this is its reward?!” At this time of agony, as we see the pictures of the pure shining faces of Gilad Shaer, Eyal Yifrah and Naftali Fraenkel, and of their bereft parents, when we see the sad, lonely, flag-draped coffins, we can almost hear the angels in heaven thunder in protest: “This is Torah and this its reward?!”
But we remember in our grief how the Talmud describes God’s response that the angels be silent; we remember the brave and unflinching faith of Rabbi Akiva and generations of Jews who, in the spirit of King David’s Psalms, walked “in the valley of the shadow of death” and did not fear “for God is with me.” And so too at this time of terrible pain, we bow our heads before God in humble, yet resolute, acceptance of the tears of this unredeemed world.

My 18 Days of Waiting
by Yehudit Channen
My story is different, but I relate to the horror the three families experienced not knowing if your child will survive.
Eighteen days is a long time to wait for the verdict of life or death. Although my 18-day ordeal cannot compare to the horror of a kidnapping, I am familiar with the waiting game. My daughter, Shani, spent 18 days in a coma when she was 16, and I dwelled in that twilight zone of waiting for my child to come back. Thankfully I knew where she was and that the people surrounding her were competent and kind, so unlike the three boys who were kidnapped and murdered by monsters.
But I understand something about waiting for answers to “How long will this go on?” “If she does come back, what condition will she be in?” and “Why is this happening? And why to us?”
Shani was on her way to a babysitting job and I was taking my youngest daughter to a school fair. She had run ahead of us so she wouldn’t be late. Two minutes later we came upon her dying in the road. She was having Sudden Cardiac Arrest.

The Unified Nation Theory
Thoughts from the funeral of the three teens.
by Rabbi Shraga Simmons         
The Mideast desert heat melted away our socio-political-religious-ethnic differences. We flowed as a single human river, moving in steady unison along the winding path where the Maccabees once called home, to accompany three innocent boys to their resting place.
There were no shouts for revenge, no angry cries. Groups of young people spontaneously broke out in song.
Why is everyone so calm and peaceful?, I wondered.
Then I understood. For 18 days, three Jewish mothers had courageously stood up and declared: I believe with perfect faith, that God is just, that God is kind, and that God is one.
In doing so they lifted an entire generation. Whether it was yeshivas and synagogues saying Psalms for the boys, or Israel's Finance Minister praying for the first time in many years, millions of people strengthened their faith in God.
This serenity is only possible for one who flows with the twists and turns of Divine orchestration – in recognition of a higher purpose behind it all.

An Extraordinary Wedding
Two young adults with Down syndrome got married and we witnessed a miracle.
by Emuna Braverman         
I went to a wedding last week where the hosts were extra considerate of the needs of their guests. What was the mark of their thoughtfulness? There was a small package of tissues on every seat. They knew everyone was going to need them.
This marriage was something extraordinary, the product of hard work, determination, grit and the kindness of the Almighty. It was the marriage of two young adults with Down syndrome, of Danielle Magady and Shlomo Meyers. (It didn’t hurt that Danielle’s parents met in our living room so I felt an extra share of nachas!)
As the groom, Shlomo, told me on the day before the wedding, “Everyone is going to cry happy tears tomorrow.” And boy was he right! Not just because we had a glimpse of the work involved in getting to this moment (none of us could actually claim to really understand what was required). Not just because we had seen the bride’s parents fight and push and struggle to mainstream their daughter and give her the same opportunities as her classmates. Not just because of the drive and determination and just plain old-fashioned effort required to bring about this moment. But because we all felt that we were witnessing something out of the ordinary, something where the world “special” just isn’t enough, something perhaps that we would never witness again.
It was like seeing a revealed miracle in our times. And yes, those happy tears flowed and flowed. As one of the guests whispered after the chuppah, “If this doesn’t bring the messiah, I don’t know what will.”

 A 3-Step Formula for Unity
by Rabbi Yaakov Salomon
We all agree that we need to love each other. But how do you do it?
View SHORT Video

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Post  Admin on Sun 06 Jul 2014, 2:06 pm

Could You Ignore a Holocaust?
Chief Editor's BlogCould You Ignore a Holocaust?
Without this quality, it's likely you would. With it, we can remain united.
by Rabbi Nechemia Coopersmith         
The Frankel, Shaer and Yifrach families are about to get up from sitting shiva, and many of us are wondering: now what? After all the prayers, Torah learning, and extra mitzvot, after experiencing such anguish that unified our people, where do we go from here? How do we ensure that this unity doesn't evaporate?

I think there is one foundation upon which our unity rests that is simple but profound, and also rather difficult to do: feel someone else's pain.
We are naturally selfish beings; we live in our own bubble, consumed by our own needs and desires. The kidnapping and tragic murders of Gilad, Naftali and Eyal pierced our individual bubble and woke us up to the very real pain that someone other than ourselves is experiencing. Their searing agony forced us to get out of ourselves and compelled us to act. No one had to tell us that we should do whatever we can. There was a spontaneous, natural outpouring of prayer, concern and dedication of good deeds in their merit because we felt their pain and were motivated to act.
Unfortunately sometimes it takes a tragedy to wake us up to someone else's suffering.
1941: What Would You Do?
Imagine it's 1941 and you are studying in a university in North America, and find out that thousands of Jews are being herded onto trains and headed towards a concentration camp. I have presented this scenario to over a thousand students and asked them: How many of you would drop everything you're doing and try to save some Jewish lives?
Invariably a smattering of students raises their hands. The vast majority would do nothing.

Then I change the scenario slightly: Imagine it's 1941 and you are from a small town in Eastern Europe. Your parents have sent you to North America to attend university, and you discover that your entire hometown – your parents, grandparents, siblings, neighbors – they are all being herded onto a train heading towards a concentration camp. How many of you would drop everything you're doing and try to save their lives?
Invariably every single person raises his hand.
Does it make any difference if the woman sitting on that train is your mother or your friend's mother?
What's the difference? Objectively speaking, does it make any difference if the woman sitting on that train is your mother or your friend's mother? Jewish people are heading towards a concentration camp! The reality is exactly the same in both scenarios.
The only difference is that when it is your family on the train, now you feel the pain. Only now do you see the reality of the situation which compels you to do whatever you can. How many of us would be able to sleep at night?
The ramifications of this are sobering. If we don't put in the effort to get out of our bubble and feel the pain of others, the fact is that the majority of people are willing to turn their heads away from a holocaust and not do anything to help. They will continue to live with their heads in the ground.
It is not because we don't care. We do care. When we feel the tragedy we are motivated to act and live up to our responsibilities. But when we are disconnected from each other, stuck in our own universe, we are inured to someone else's pain.
The past few weeks we broke out of our self-contained world and we felt the pain of a Jewish parent not knowing if and when her son is coming home; we felt the horrific anguish of parents whose son is murdered by barbarians. We felt as if it was our family. We got out of ourselves and connected with families we did not know, who are just as real as we are.
How to Retain the Unity
Feeling someone's pain is the foundation of the mitzvah to "love your neighbor as yourself." Treat someone as you would treat yourself, because he or she is just as real as you. When we connect to this reality we naturally spring into action.

Unity happens when we break down our shell and truly connect to the other. We enter someone else's world and out of genuine care, respond to his pressing need. We don't need to be told what to do; no one has to give us a laundry list of action items to build unity. It's organic. When we step out of ourselves and realize the aching needs of those around us, we reach out and give, bridging the distance that separates us. That other-centeredness, that love, builds family, community, our nation and the world.

It doesn't come naturally. It takes concerted effort to break down our walls and feel the reality of another person's universe. For the merit of Eyal, Gilad and Naftali, we can work on retaining the unity by putting our focus on unity's primary catalyst: feeling another person's pain. Start in your home – your spouse, your kids, your community – and you will know exactly what action needs to be taken, and be motivated to reach out with love. Everything stems from that recognition. Without it, we can ignore a holocaust.

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Post  Admin on Tue 01 Jul 2014, 6:31 pm

Heartfelt Prayer Is Never in Vain
Rachel Frankel said, “If tomorrow, God forbid, I’ll hear the worst news, I don’t want my children to feel that where did all my prayers go?”
by Rabbi Dovid Rosman         
I am feeling intense pain. Pain for those beautiful teenage boys whose lives, full of potential, were cut short in a horrific way. Pain for their families. Pain for their friends and communities where they lived. And pain for the entire Jewish nation which unified during this time to do what they could to bring them home.

In addition to the incredible efforts of the IDF to find the boys, people around the world were doing anything they could to try to help the cause.
Sitting in my office that faces the Western Wall, I witnessed thousands of people from all walks of life coming daily to pray for them. There were 24-hour Torah learning programs set up in the boys’ communities to serve as a merit for their well-being. People accepted upon themselves to be more meticulous in their speech and in the way they treat others. Shabbat was accepted early. The nation united; we felt like one family.
Now we are left reeling, devastated by the vicious murders. And many are wondering: what happened to all of our prayers over the last 18 days? Were they for nothing?

The Hebrew world for prayer “tefillah” comes from the root “palel” which means to connect. A successful prayer doesn’t necessarily mean that we get what we ask for. God is not a vending machine and there are times when the answer we receive is “no.” But the prayer may still be deemed “successful” since the primary goal of prayer is to connect with God. That has been accomplished.
Our responsibility to this terrible situation was to do whatever was in our power. We prayed, we performed extra mitzvot, and we united in a unprecedented manner. We gained a greater appreciation of preciousness of life, of the Jewish people, and we genuinely connected with God. All that will go to the merit of Naftali, Gilad and Eyal.

The parents of the three boys displayed enormous strength and faith in God. In an interview with the Times of Israel last week, Rachel Frankel said this: “We repeatedly requested people to pray, and people from different faiths, and people that are secular. They each have their own way of sending positive energy, whatever it takes, and prayer means a lot to me. I just want it clear and I kind of repeated myself a few times: Prayer is very powerful but it’s not a guarantee for anything.
“I didn’t know they were taking pictures then [at the Western Wall] but I think the words they caught me saying were, “God doesn’t work for us.” Just because I’m praying with all my heart. It might help. I believe it could help, especially when thousands and millions are praying. They are. 

But nobody owes me anything. And if tomorrow, God forbid, I’ll hear the worst news, I don’t want my children to feel that where did all my prayers go? It was a group of children I don’t know and I feel a responsibility. God forbid, it shouldn’t be a crisis for them.”
No prayer goes wasted. Our sages teach us that all prayers, even ones which seem to go unanswered, are stored away by God and come into fruition at a later date. Kind David says to the Almighty, “You have counted my wanderings, place my tears in your flask, are they not in Your record?" (Psalms, 56:9) Rabbi Shimshon Pinkus explains that every tear shed in prayer is saved and kept by God until it is used at its designated time of need. Only God can know when that time is.

The holy Steipler Gaon of Bnei Brak once said, “Do not be dismayed. There is no such thing as a sincere prayer that goes unanswered. Any heartfelt request addressed to God must be answered. It can’t be otherwise. If it is not answered today it will be answered tomorrow. If not tomorrow it will be answered in a week. If not a week, in a month. If not answered in a month it may be answered in a year, or in ten years, or in one hundred years or more. If your prayers are not answered in your lifetime they will be answered for your children or for your children’s children. We cannot say for sure when a prayer will be answered, we can rest assured only that every prayer will be answered somehow, someday.” (A Letter for the Ages, Artscroll)
Our pain is great and we cannot understand how this fits in with God’s greater plan. In just over two weeks these boys were able to create great change within the Jewish People, more than some are able to do in a lifetime.
May we be comforted together with the family and may all our prayers, extra study of Torah, and performance of mitzvot serve as a merit for these holy souls and the Jewish People.

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Post  Admin on Sun 15 Jun 2014, 6:33 pm

The Kidnapping of Three Israeli Teens
by Sara Yoheved Rigler
How should Jews respond to crisis?
We did not find out about the kidnapping on the Internet. Early Friday afternoon, my husband was praying the afternoon prayer in an ancient synagogue in our neighborhood, the Old City of Jerusalem. The prayer leader appended Psalms 121 and 130 onto the regular liturgy, as is done when an extra dose of heavenly mercy is urgently needed. Afterwards, my husband asked who was sick, and he heard the heart-stopping news.

Cardinal O'Connor Was a Jew
by Rabbi Nechemia Coopersmith
Does it really matter?
So it turns out the Cardinal John Joseph O’Connor, the Catholic Church’s top official in New York for 16 years until his death in 2000, was a Jew.
Mary O’Connor Ward, the cardinal’s 87-year-old sister, recently discovered that their mother was Jewish, a daughter of an Orthodox rabbi, while digging into her genealogical roots.

The Kidnapping in Israel by Rabbi Yaakov Salomon
Focus your efforts on prayer. It makes a difference
Home   »  Current Issues   »  Salomon Says Weekly Video Blog
The Kidnapping in Israel by Rabbi Yaakov Salomon
Focus your efforts on prayer. It makes a difference.
Published: June 15, 2014
Please pray for the safe and speedy return of 
Yaakov Naftali ben Rachel Devorah, Gilad Michael ben Bat Galim, and Eyal ben Iris Teshura.

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Post  Admin on Mon 02 Jun 2014, 2:22 pm

King David’s Heart
Life’s difficult challenges aren’t interruptions. They’re what we need to compose our unique song.
by Batya Burd         
It is no coincidence that Shavuot, the anniversary of the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, is the yahrzeit of King David. On Shavuot, the Jewish people received their national mission to be a light onto the nations. King David teaches us about our unique mission in the world as an individual.
I have always admired King David. I even named a son after him, who was born on Shavuot. King David inspires me.

The youngest son of Yishai, from an early age David was sent out to tend the sheep and forced to eat at a separate table because of his family's embarrassment of his seemingly questionable lineage. After being secretly anointed as the new King of Israel by the prophet Samuel, David revealed himself as more than a harp-playing shepherd and poet when he courageously stood up to the 9-foot giant Goliath, slaying him with a few rocks and sling. After marrying King Saul's daughter Michal, he spent years being chased by his father-law who out of jealousy attempted to kill him several times. David responded with compassion and love, trust and devotion to His Creator who he knew orchestrated the ways of His world. He lost a baby at birth, one of his son's raped his daughter, and another son attempted to kill him and oust him from his throne.
Through it all he remained our hero, fought and won many battles on behalf of Israel and had his son Solomon build the Temple of Jerusalem. But the depth and heart of David remains most revealed in his poetry-turned-prayers called Psalms.
In the Psalms, King David moves me because of the intensity of his experience of life, because of his honesty, candidness, rawness and courage to expose his frailties and fears. Because of his humility and yearning to be closer to His maker in the light and in the dark times. He was not embarrassed to be him. He was not shy about his feelings. He exposed himself and then gave it all back to God. Nothing he felt or experienced was wasted. All was used to connect back. All was sanctified through his actions.
I also love that he was a singer. It is written that the highest gate of prophecy is through song, sung with pure intentions.
Each one of us has a unique song that lies deep in our soul. It is the most pure type of music that stems from who we truly are, in all of our splendor and beauty, the one that reveals us completely, imperfections and all.
Every experience of anguish is a note that we weave together to make a song that no one else can sing.
When we have a difficult challenge in life and experience some suffering, some of us view it as an interruption to life, a blip. But those troubles aren’t distractions – they’re precisely what create us. The pains and the uncomfortable parts of our story help craft our unique personality and character. The moments of distress create the peaks, dips and special viewpoints we have; they create the flats, the sharps and the octaves of our song. Every experience of anguish
is a note that we weave together to make a song that no one else can sing. And when we sing that song back to God through prayer, just as 

King David did, we fulfill the spiritual purpose for the suffering we were given.
This was part of King David's greatness and the lesson he teaches to every one of us.
Suffering, pain and turmoil are not intermission times in our lives; they create our intricacies, depletions, accents and twists for a reason. When we are honest with our pain and lacks, and allow ourselves to laugh or cry or scream as a vehicle to come closer to our Maker, that's part of our chorus. That’s part of our song that no one can sing but us. We can transform the darkness into sparks of light. When we turn pain into a vehicle for connection with the Almighty, we invest meaning into the suffering and make it holy. God doesn't do that; that choice is in our domain.
King David became King David not despite his difficult life, but because of it. Can you imagine if he had a normal, steady and balanced life full of everything he wanted and no struggles? He would not have become King David. We would not have written the psalms to open up the Heavenly gates. He would not have become the spiritual hero that we aspire to be.

The world is our classroom. We face the tests that are given to us, to overcome a weakness and write new stanzas to our life’s song. And we can rely on God for His help and guidance. My kids recently lost their father. At the shiva I continuously heard from friends who lost parents at an early age that a hole remained with them for life. But they also gained a special connection to God that none of their friends seemingly felt. A double dose of God's help and closeness in place of that parent, just as King David writes in his Psalms.
Would my kids have chosen that combination if asked? I don’t think so. But who chooses anything? When we stop fighting against why we have a certain life circumstance and accept the Divine plan, embracing what we do have and are here to do. That’s when we can finally make use of all the beautiful, awkward-like and seemingly off key notes we possess to compose the special song only our soul can sing.
Easier said than done. Trust me, I know. But time is so precious, and so are you.
Published: May 31, 2014  

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Post  Admin on Mon 26 May 2014, 11:04 am

A Billion People Hate Me
Should the ADL global study on anti-Semitism be cause for alarm?
by Rabbi Nechemia Coopersmith         
On July 10, 1941 in Nazi-occupied Poland, half the town of Jedwabne brutally murdered the other half -- 1,600 Jewish men, women and children. Individual Jews were clubbed and stoned to death. Polish men cut the head of the youngest daughter of the cheder teacher off and then kicked it around. The majority were forced into a barn which was then set ablaze. Only seven Jews survived, hidden by a Polish woman. According to Jan Gross's chilling book, Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland, the Nazis tried to persuade the Poles to keep at least one Jewish family from each profession, but the Poles responded, "We have enough of our own craftsmen, we have to destroy all the Jews, none should stay alive."

The Jews of Jedwabne weren’t killed by faceless Nazis; they were murdered in cold blood by their neighbors who knew them.
The Jews of Jedwabne weren’t killed by faceless Nazis; they were murdered in cold blood by their neighbors who knew them, led by the town’s mayor, Marian Karolak, and sanctioned by the town council.
For decades Poland tried to cover up the pogrom, blaming Nazi and Gestapo soldiers for the massacre. Gross’s book definitively showed that it was the locals who committed the atrocities, sparking national debate.
Sixty years after the massacre, on July 10, 2001, Poland commemorated the deceased by unveiling a monument at the site of the slaughter, changing the text on the original stone memorial that shifted the blame to the Germans. The monument now reads, "In memory of the Jews of Jedwabne and surrounding areas, men, women, and children, fellow-dwellers of this land, murdered and burned alive at this site on 10 July 1941." Notice that it does not specifically mention the Poles.
In Sept., 2011 the memorial was defaced with a swastika and graffiti that read, "They were flammable" and "I don't apologize for Jedwabne."

I was in the middle of reading Neighbors when the ADL’s Global 100: An Index of Anti-Semitism was released. It shows that more than a quarter of the world’s population harbors intense anti-Jewish sentiment. Apparently 1.1 billion people hate me, even though 70% of those queried have never met a Jew. Is the survey cause for alarm?
Pew recently released a different study about Europe. The research study shows that anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe exceeds that against Jews by a significant margin. (See the chart below.)

Jews are not the only victims of bigotry. On a whole, people are bigots and hatred exists everywhere, anti-Semitism being just one form of it. In fact in some quarters it’s even worse for Muslims. And, as many Aish.com readers point out to articles that discuss recent anti-Semitism, what’s the surprise? We know that many non-Jews hate Jews. The world is filled with bigots, so what’s the big deal about the ADL survey?
Perhaps Jan Gross’s book provides an answer. Anti-Semitism is different. Throughout history Jews have not only been discriminated against, they’ve been incinerated. They’ve been brutally murdered en masse by their neighbors. They’ve been the target of genocide, the Holocaust being only the most recent example.

Throughout history Jews have not only been discriminated, they’ve been incinerated.
Racism indeed exists, but Jew-hatred is unique in its intensity and virulence, as well as its universality and longevity. As Reverend Edward Flannery writes in The Anguish of the Jews, “As a historian of anti-Semitism looks back over the millennia of horrors he has recorded, an inescapable conclusion emerges. Anti-Semitism is different because of its longevity and consistency.”
Furthermore, anti-Semitism is completely irrational. Hatred of one group can usually be traced to concrete, well-defined (and mistaken) reasons. The reasons for given for anti-Semitism are contradictory. As the Aish HaTorah seminar Why the Jews? states, “Jews are hated for being a lazy and inferior race ? but also for dominating the economy and taking over the world. Jews are hated for stubbornly maintaining their separateness ? and, when they do assimilate ? for posing a threat to racial purity through intermarriages. Jews are seen as pacifists and as warmongers; as capitalist exploiters and as revolutionary communists; possessed of a Chosen-People mentality, as well as of an inferiority complex.” Clemens Heni, a young German scholar and author of Anti-Semitism: A Specific Phenomenon, writes, “No single group of people, except for the Jew has been singled out and blamed simultaneously for mutually exclusive developments like capitalism, communism or liberalism and humanism.”
It’s hard to imagine non-Jews killing their Jewish neighbors because they are Jews. But the town of Jedwabne was not on a different planet, and it didn’t happen a thousand years ago. The Holocaust was planned and executed by human beings just like you and me, who hated Jews enough to murder them. We cannot brush anti-Semitism under the carpet and blithely think that people are different today.
The ADL survey may have revealed that 46% of the world population has never heard of the Holocaust, but it is imperative that we know about it and learn a lesson or two. Jew-hatred isn’t just racism; it can conflagrate into genocide.

It’s also not rational because its roots transcend human thinking. God has made a covenant with the Jewish people; we are an eternal nation. He won’t allow us to disappear as a nation, despite the incessant pull of assimilation and intermarriage. Anti-Semitism is one of His ways to remind us that Jews can never fully assimilate into the non-Jewish world; Jews will always be reminded that they are different. As attributed to Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin: If the Jew doesn’t make Kiddush (the sanctification of Shabbat and holidays over wine), then the non-Jew will make havdallah (the service said at the end of Shabbat separating Shabbat from the weekdays).
Published: May 19, 2014

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Post  Admin on Sat 17 May 2014, 7:44 pm

Why Rabbi Akiva is My Hero
10 life lessons from an accessible giant.
by Rabbi Dovid Rosenfeld         
The period of counting the Omer is also a time of national mourning. The Talmud (Yevamot 62b) recounts that Rabbi Akiva, one of the greatest scholars of the Mishna, lost 24,000 students to plague during this time of year. The world was “desolate” until he raised five new students – who were able to restore the Torah to its full glory in that dark period.
Rabbi Akiva’s life is a fascinating tale of inspiration, of a man of humble origins who overcame it all to achieve greatness. I would like to outline some of the highlights of his life story – and demonstrate why I feel he serves as a personal role model to us all.

1. He was of Humble Origins
Rabbi Akiva began his life as a shepherd. He was entirely unlearned until his middle years. He likewise had no Jewish lineage to speak of (Talmud Brachot 27b). He descended from converts. And as he rose to greatness in his later years, he never forgot who he was or where he came from. His favorite principle was “Love your fellow as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). Rich or poor, simple or scholarly, tall or short, strong or weak: We are all God’s children. God and His Torah are not the monopoly of the wise or the well-pedigreed. We are all precious to God.

2. He Saw Inspiration and Acted on it
The Midrash (Avot d’Rav Natan 6:2) records the turning point of Rabbi Akiva’s life. One day, at the age of 40, Akiva passed a well. He saw a rock with a hole carved into it. He inquired who shaped the rock, and was told it was caused by the slow but constant dripping of water on top of it.
Akiva then reasoned: If a substance soft as water can penetrate a rock with slow, persistent motion, so too the Torah, which is hard as iron, can slowly but surely penetrate my heart. And this was Akiva’s turning point. He promptly set off to study Torah – for an uninterrupted 24 years.
So many times in our lives are we moved by inspiring words or events. We know they are speaking to us, that God has a message for us. Yet the inspiration fades before we do anything about it – and life moves on. Not R. Akiva. He saw his moment – and he changed his life right then and there.

3. He Patiently Started from the Bottom
When Akiva went to study, he did not exactly hire a private tutor or join an adult study program. Nor did he sign up for an anonymous on-line course. The Midrash describes how he, together with his young son, went to cheder to learn the alef-bet together with the youngest children. And his past humility showed. He wasn’t fazed by the awkwardness; he didn’t care for his own dignity. He set right down to work.

4. He was No Super-Genius
It is not as if Rabbi Akiva really had an IQ of 180 all along but was just withering on the vine during his years as a shepherd. He had to work – and work hard – to become who he was.
The Talmud (Yevamot 16a) records a meeting R. Akiva had with a monumental scholar, to discuss a debate they had about a touchy subject in Jewish law. The other scholar was the raving genius type. No one could keep up with him in an argument – not even R. Akiva, by then the acknowledged leader of his generation.
The other scholar, after R. Akiva failed to convince him, had nothing but snide remarks for the supposed leading scholar of the generation. But as the Talmud continues, it didn’t faze Akiva in the slightest. He was still the shepherd-turned-scholar. He had no airs about him whatsoever.

5. He Asked All the Tough Questions
Rabbi Akiva, in spite of his late start, had a distinct advantage over his colleagues. Unlike they who began their study as small children, he came to it as an adult. And as a result, he approached the Torah with mature eyes. Nothing was taken for granted or viewed as, “Well, that’s just the way things are.” R. Akiva probed every aspect of Judaism – and discovered truths where others failed even to look.

R. Akiva discovered truths where others failed even to look.

We thus find Rabbi Akiva posing some of the most profound questions of life. In Pirkei Avot (3:19) he grapples with the contradiction between man’s free will and God’s knowledge of the future. If God already knows what I will do tomorrow, do I really have the free will to decide? He likewise discusses (3:20) how God’s governs and judges the world. The Midrash (Avot d’Rav Natan 6:2) describes R. Akiva as a persistent student, leaving no issue unexplored and unexplained. His colleague characterized him with the comment – “Matters hidden from people, R. Akiva has brought to light.”

6. It was All Because of His Wife – and He Knew it
So much of R. Akiva’s greatness was on account of his devoted wife Rachel. She “discovered” him. He served as shepherd for one of the wealthiest men of his time, Kalba Savua. Kalba’s daughter took a liking to the humble shepherd, whom she saw as modest and refined. She proposed to him – on condition that he agree to study Torah. He agreed and they married secretly. Kalba promptly disowned his daughter and for years the young couple lived in abject poverty (Talmud Ketuvot 62b).

If not for Rachel, Akiva would have no doubt remained an anonymous shepherd with little future. But she believed in him. Rachel left a life of fabulous wealth to make home for Akiva – because she knew he could become great – and she had the faith and the patience to see it happen. And when he was ready, she encouraged him to leave home to study – which he did for an uninterrupted 12 years.

But that was only half of it. The Talmud (Ketuvot 62-3) records that on his return, already an accomplished scholar, R. Akiva was about to enter his home. Just then he overhears a conversation. An elderly man challenges Rachel: “How long will you live as a widow with your husband alive?” She responds, “If [my husband] would listen to me, he would remain for another 12 years in yeshiva!” On that providential note, R. Akiva returns for another 12 years of study.

At last, after 24 years, R. Akiva returns to his hometown, now the leading scholar of the generation, escorted by an entourage of 24,000 students. His wife, still dressed in her simple house clothes, goes out to greet him. She falls before his feet. It creates a scene – an elderly woman thrusting herself before great rabbi surrounded by scores of devoted students. They move to push her away. But R. Akiva stops them, uttering a line which has since become famous: “Leave her. What is mine and what is yours is hers.”

7. He Never Forgot His Origins
R. Akiva “made it” in every sense of the word. By the end of his life he was the acknowledged spiritual leader of world Jewry. He became wealthy. He was revered and admired by all. His opinion was sought and regarded on all matters Jewish. Yet he never forgot where he came from. He was still one of the masses. He knew what it was like to be poor, to be unknown, and to be unlearned.
And his love for humanity showed. His favorite verse was Leviticus 19:18: “Love your fellow as yourself” (Sifra 4:12). In Pirkei Avot (3:18), he states, “Beloved is man for he was created in the image [of God],” as well as, “Beloved are the Children of Israel for they are called children of the Lord.” We are all precious to God. There is no favoritism in Heaven.
R. Akiva in fact well remembered his past hatred for Torah scholars (Talmud Pesachim 49b). He knew what it was like to be coarse and ignorant. And he remembered the resentment – and the hatred – felt by the underprivileged classes. He had love and patience for all – because he was one of them himself, and he realized how difficult it is to outgrow one’s past mindset.

8. He Lost All – and Kept Going
After achieving fame, R. Akiva became teacher and spiritual mentor to an astounding 24,000 students. As the Talmud (Yevamot 62b) recounts, every one of them died in an exceedingly brief period of time – during the several week period between Passover and Shavuot – due to epidemic. And as the Talmud puts it, the world was desolate. The human tragedy was devastating, the loss to the Torah world unimaginable.
But apart from all of that, R. Akiva personally witnessed his entire lifeworks go down the drain. Years of training the greatest minds of the next generation were lost to R. Akiva, with nothing remaining to show for himself.
If there were anyone in this world who could be forgiven for spending his remaining years wasting away feeling sorry for himself, it was R. Akiva. Could there have been a clearer sign from heaven that God was not interested in R. Akiva’s works, that his precious legacy was just not meant to be? How could a human being not become paralyzed from misery and indecision at that point?
But R. Akiva picked himself up and started again. As the Talmud continues, he found 5 new students – five to replaced 24,000. Rather than attempting to amass students without number, he focused on 5 precious souls, who would between them restore the Torah to its past glory.

He didn't let his inability to explain stand in the way of achievement.

No doubt R. Akiva never recovered from the pain of the loss. As we saw, his way was to ponder the most difficult questions of life. Yet he didn’t let his inability to explain stand in the way of his life’s mission. We all have questions in life we cannot answer. Even with his great intellect – or perhaps because of it – R. Akiva was no exception. But questions and doubts did not stop him. The rabbi’s intellect was far from assuaged, but he kept on going – and ultimately persevered.

9. He Always Saw the Positive
Looking back at his difficult life, Rabbi Akiva saw God’s goodness in all that transpired – not only in his personal life but in all the events of the world. He became famous for the saying, “Whatever God does is for the good.”
The Talmud (Brachot 60b) recounts how R. Akiva was once traveling. He had with him a lantern, a rooster, and a donkey. He came to a village seeking lodging. No one took him in. Undaunted, his trademark reaction went through his mind: “Whatever God does is for the good.” He set up camp in the wilderness nearby. During the night a wind blew out his lamp, a fox ate his rooster, and a lion slew his donkey. R. Akiva took it all in stride.
He awoke the next morning to find that during the night soldiers had sacked the village which refused him lodging. Not only would the rabbi have been captured with the other residents had he been there, but had his light or animals betrayed his camp he would have equally been doomed.

His colleagues cried at the pathetic sight but R. Akiva laughed.

The Talmud (Makkos 24b) relates that once R. Akiva and a number of colleagues passed by the former location of the Temple in Jerusalem (they lived shortly after its destruction). They saw a fox run out of the place of the Holy of Holies. The colleagues began crying at the pathetic sight. R. Akiva, however, laughed. To his surprised colleagues he explained: "We have both the prophecy of Uriah and of Zechariah. Uriah foretold, ‘Zion shall be plowed like a field’ (Micha 3:12). Zechariah foretold, ‘Again shall old men and old women sit in the streets of Jerusalem... and the streets of the city shall be filled with boys and girls playing’ (Zechariah 8:4-5). Until the prophecy of Uriah was fulfilled (fully and literally) I was fearful lest the prophecy of Zechariah not be fulfilled. Now that the prophecy of Uriah was fulfilled, it is clear that Zechariah's prophecy will be fulfilled – to the final detail."
R. Akiva lived through it all, yet he never lost hope. The very sights that brought others to tears of despair filled him with undying hope. All that occurs in this world, both the good and the bad, emanate from an infinitely-good Creator. But life isn’t always for us to understand. We must at times just be patient and wait.

10. He Died a Hero’s Death
We might hope that after living so troubled yet heroic a life, R. Akiva and Rachel would at last settle down to live happily ever after. But that was denied them as well.

The Talmud (Brachot 61b) describes Rabbi Akiva’s bitter end. He was incarcerated and tried by the Romans for his “crime” of publicly teaching Torah. He was found guilty as charged. They tortured him to death, flaying off his skin with sharpened iron combs.

R. Akiva spent his final moments on earth reciting the Shema, accepting upon himself the yoke of Heaven. His students asked him: “Our teacher, this far?!” He answered: The Shema teaches us to love God with all our souls (Deuteronomy 6:5), which I understood to mean “even if they are taking your soul.” My entire life I agonized over this verse: Would I really love God even if my soul were being taken? I at last have the opportunity to demonstrate this. How could I not do so now? And as the rabbi recited “the Lord is one” his soul left him.

R. Akiva is counted as one of the “ten martyrs” slain by the Romans – the ten leading Torah giants killed during and shortly after the destruction of the Second Temple. Most of the other scholars, in spite of their greatness, you might not have even heard of if you are not a Talmudic scholar yourself. But not R. Akiva. He was one of us: His story is our story, his life is our life. He began his days simply and humbly as so many of us, yet he grew to become whom we all know we too could be. May his memory be for a blessing.
Published: May 10, 2014

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Post  Admin on Fri 02 May 2014, 11:47 am

Anti-Semitism Adapts and Thrives
The oldest hatred has assumed a new form for a new age: hostility to Zionism and Israel.
by Jeff Jacoby         
It wasn’t a failure of Holocaust remembrance that explains why Frazier Glenn Miller opened fire outside two Jewish community facilities in Overland Park, Kan., murdering three people on the day before Passover.

Miller, a 73-year-old former Ku Klux Klan grand dragon, knows all about the Holocaust – enough, at any rate, to extol Adolf Hitler as "the greatest man who ever walked the earth" and to shout "Heil Hitler!" after his arrest. Like his hero, Miller is obsessed with Jews. Asked once in an interview whom he hated more, blacks or Jews, he didn't hesitate: "Jews!" he said. "A thousand times more!"
Such anti-Semitic malevolence led 70 years ago to the Shoah – the industrial-scale annihilation of two-thirds of Europe's Jews: six million men, women, and children, among them my father's parents and four of his brothers and sisters. They were murdered not as a means to an end – not for their money or their land or because they posed a military or political threat – but as an end in itself. Hitler's purpose in exterminating the Jews was for the Jews to be exterminated.
For decades after the Holocaust, it was tempting to believe that such genocidal prejudice against Jews was a thing of the past, at least in the enlightened West. The world had seen what anti-Semitism at its most uninhibited could do. What people had been sure could never happen had happened – but by harnessing the power of memory, we could ensure that it never happened again. So Holocaust memorials and museums were erected in cities large and small. Concentration-camp survivors published their memoirs and spoke about their experiences. Students were taught about the Nazis and the Final Solution. Yom HaShoah – an annual Holocaust Remembrance Day, which we mark this week – was added to the calendar each spring.

But Jew-hatred hasn't been purged. On the contrary: It has erupted in recent years with shocking scope and strength. It has been revived "in the halls of parliament and in the streets," writes political scientist Daniel Jonah Goldhagen in a new book, The Devil that Never Dies. "Among elites and common people. In public media, places of worship, and in the privacy of homes. Where Jews live and where they do not."
An old-style white-supremacist neo-Nazi like the shooter in Kansas, evil as his crime was, is the least of this resurgent threat, especially in this country. Hitler-idolizing anti-Semites like Miller, widely regarded as abhorrent, are a negligible phenomenon in the United States. His deadly rampage was instantly condemned across the board; only among the kooks did anyone express support for Miller's vilification of Jews.
Where anti-Semitism is gaining market share today is not among those who yell "Heil Hitler" or demonize Jews as Christ-killers. The oldest and most protean of hatreds has assumed a new form for a new age: hostility to Zionism and Israel. The classic anti-Semitic motifs – Jews are aliens, Jews are murderous, Jews are rapacious, Jews are disloyal, Jews manipulate governments – have been repurposed for a post-Holocaust generation that speaks with a post-Holocaust vocabulary.

Sophisticated and educated Westerners today know better than to blame "the Jews" for society's ills, or to suggest that the best solution to the "Jewish Problem" is for Jews to disappear.

But it is widely acceptable in many circles to debate whether the world's only Jewish state has a right to exist. Or to insist that the Middle East's turmoil would be resolved if only that Jewish state would make peace with its enemies by conceding to their demands. Or to claim with a straight face, when Israel defends itself against Arab and Islamist violence, that it is behaving as the Nazis did.
This helps explain why anti-Semitism soared in recent years even as Palestinian terrorism against Israel soared. For if Zionists are tantamount to Nazis – if the Jewish state is the equivalent of Hitler's Germany – then decent people everywhere must oppose it. Through endless repetition of the most odious "Israelis = Nazis" canards, the memory of the most lethal horror ever inflicted on the Jewish people has been transmuted into a new bludgeon with which to batter them. Meanwhile, waves of incitement build against the largest Jewish community on the planet, whipped up by enemies who make no secret of their ultimate goal: to annihilate it.

Thus does the old plague bacillus of anti-Semitism mutate and flourish once again, in the very shadow of the Holocaust memorials put up as a warning of what unchecked Jew-hatred can lead to. Truly, it is diabolical.
This article originally appeared in the Boston Globe.
Published: April 27, 201

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Post  Admin on Fri 02 May 2014, 11:28 am


A mother and daughter are giving a voice to 77 million Iranians being denied their freedom.

For the past 35 years, Manda Zand-Ervin has been crusading on behalf of 77 million Iranians – an entire society – “held hostage” by a fanatical mullah regime that has denied the Iranian people their basic freedoms.
1980s: Manda Zand-Ervin (L) with her daughters Banafsheh Zand.As documented by human rights groups, widespread arrests, tortures and executions have been carried out against journalists and dissidents who speak out in the name of civil rights, women’s rights, and even religious rights. Iran hangs more people per capita than any other country in the world; the majority have no access to a lawyer or jury. Under the allegedly “moderate” President Rouhani, 687 Iranians were executed in 2013, with the rate rapidly rising. “The Iranian people have been terrorized into submission,” says Manda.

She speaks from experience.
In 1979, when the Islamic Revolution brought the Ayatollah Khomeini into power – along with his violent, fanatical brand of Islam – the regime began “eliminating” all existing political and educational leadership. At the time, Manda – with an MBA from NYU – was overseeing Iran’s imports and exports as Managing Director of the Customs Administration.
“My father told me: ‘They are coming after you. You have to leave,’” Manda told Aish.com. “But I said, ‘I haven’t done anything wrong – why would they kill me?’”
Manda started feeling the heat when her uncle, a general in the Iranian Army, returned from Japan on government business and was promptly arrested and executed - though he likewise said, “I haven’t done anything wrong.”

“The Ayatollah required no reason to eliminate people.”
“The Ayatollah required no reason to eliminate people,” Manda says. “The official accusation was ‘betraying the Islamic regime and warring against God.’”
As arrests and executions continued apace, Manda finally got the message. A high-ranking government official called her to his office and warned: “Now is a good time to take a long vacation.”
Manda grabbed the first flight out of Iran for herself and teenage daughter, Banafsheh. Flying to Frankfort, they got out just in time. Less than 24 hours later, the Ayatollah’s paramilitary force went to Manda’s parents’ home to arrest her.
A few months later, Manda and Banafsheh came to United States as political refugees and became U.S. citizens.
Meanwhile, Manda’s friends back in Iran wrote tearful letters of having not seen the truth in time.

Fight for Women’s Rights
Persia's ancient declaration of human rights, the "Cyrus Cylinder," now sits prominently in the British Museum.
For a Western world that cares so deeply about human rights, Manda is at a loss to explain the general silence about the fate of Iran’s 77 million citizens. “Iranians do not want the regime in power,” she says. “They are suffering and are desperate for moral support from the West.”
Manda’s primary focus these days is women’s rights in Iran. Since 1979, women have been forced to wear veils, and discrimination against women is woven into the fabric of Iranian society through a set of draconian laws:

The value of a woman’s life is half that of a man.
Women cannot work, go to school, or even leave the house without her husband’s permission.
Women do not receive custody of their children: Not only in the event of divorce, but also widowed mothers lose custody to the family of the deceased husband.

The age of criminal responsibility is 15 for boys and 9 for girls.
“The 1979 revolution was supposed to bring more democracy and political freedom to Iran,” says Manda. “But the Ayatollah hijacked our Western-friendly and progressive nation, turning it into a theocracy with zero political freedom. In one fell swoop, my homeland left the 20th century and turned backward to 7th century Arabia.”
What makes this especially painful, Manda says, is Iran’s long tradition of human rights. Going back 2,500 years, Cyrus the Great operated the world’s largest empire, based on a declaration of human rights that predates the Magna Carta by 1,700 years and was adopted by Jefferson and Franklin as a foundation of the U.S. Constitution.
“1979 - women in Tehran protest a new law forcing them to wear a Hijab.The situation in Iran gets worse every day,” Manda says. “Women and girls are treated like pieces of property, forced into marriage at extremely young ages. (The law sanctions marriage of girls under 13.) They suffer from female genital mutilation. Not to mention the honor killings.”

Iranian prisoners – women included - are often tortured and hanged, as depicted in the gruesome 2009 film, “The Stoning of Soraya M.” “This film needs to be seen by everyone turning a blind eye to the barbarism of the Iranian regime,” Manda says.
Today Manda lives in suburban Washington DC where, as founder and president of the Alliance of Iranian Women, she works at the UN and on Capitol Hill fighting for human rights in Iran. In one instance she almost single-handedly garnered support to pass a U.S. Senate Resolution on women’s rights in Iran.
“In this globalized world, how can powerful women remain so indifferent toward Iranian women trying to take back their place among the respected people in the world?” Manda exclaims. “With great hypocrisy, they utter not one word of support.”
Manda recently completed writing, “The Ladies Secret Society,” a book named for the 20th century group that fought for women’s rights in Iran. She hopes the book will inform the Western public – in particular the intellectuals – whom she says “have no idea who the Iranian people are.”
Manda’s fight has never been easy. In April 2014, in an act of gross hypocrisy, Iran won a seat on the United Nations Women’s Rights Commission, the principle global body dedicated to protecting women’s rights. It is a travesty that one commentator compared to “naming the arsonists as firefighters.”

Banafsheh’s Route
Manda’s 1979 escape partner, daughter Banafsheh, has taken up a parallel track to promoting Iranian human rights. "By example, my mom inspired me to be thoughtful and true-blue, independent, creative and focused,” she says.
1950s: Journalist Siamak Pourzand (R) interviews Alfred Hitchcock and Julie Andrews
Twenty-plus years ago, Banafsheh was an aspiring filmmaker, working at HBO's documentary department and doing independent projects. She was working on a documentary on the “Iranian Serial Murders” of writers, intellectuals and political activists who had criticized the Islamic Republic – then were assassinated following the issuing of fatwas against them.

“I was horrified by the viciousness of these murders,” Banafsheh says of the car crashes, stabbings, shootings and lethal injections. Many of the victims were friends of her father, the renowned journalist Siamak Pourzand, whose lofty media perch made him the top promoter of modernization in Iran.
“When the extremists seized power in 1979, my father took it upon himself to stay behind as a guardian of the Iranian identity and as a modernist,” says Banafsheh. “He was anathema to the autocratic mullahs: a progressive and worldly individualist who believed in the spirit of free inquiry. Yet here he was, bravely living in a conformist state theocracy, telling the truth to all who would hear.”
was arrested several times and served long months in prison. Then, after using a primitive cell-phone to live broadcast the slaughter of two Iranian intellectuals in their own home, Pourzand was kidnapped in Tehran.

“It was the fourth time in 22 years that the regime had actively harassed him,” Banafsheh told Aish.com. “I remember the moment so clearly. I was living in New York and got a call from my uncle who broke the news. Right after I hung up, I started calling journalists and Capitol Hill contacts hoping to influence his plight.”
The unfortunate end of the story is that in 2011, Pourzand – under house arrest at his modest apartment in Tehran – was mysteriously thrown from a sixth floor balcony.
“In a way, it was a final stand against an Iranian regime that did everything to break his spirit,” Banafsheh says.
Profoundly, this further ignited Banafsheh’s activist spirit. The torch was passed and she dedicated herself to daring to speak the truth – narrating the 2012 Internet video, “Set the Red Line,” which presented a realistic, nonviolent plan for stopping Iran’s nuclear program.
Banafsheh bemoans the many social ills in Iran, where per capita income is one-quarter of what it was before the revolution. Iran’s middle class is practically destroyed, with people suffering huge social problems that never get reported in the media.

“The condition of the Iranian proletariat is so painful,” Banafsheh says. “Regular housewives turn to prostitution just to feed their families; other parents sell their kidneys. Iran suffers from an HIV-AIDS epidemic, and has the highest number of drug addicts per capita in the world – thanks in large part to lucrative drug-trafficking promulgated by the regime itself.”
Iran, Israel & the Jews
Current diplomatic positions between Israel and Iran are at polar opposites, with the Iranian regime having vowed to “wipe Israel from the map.”
It wasn’t always the case. Banafsheh's childhood memories are of a healthy Jewish community in Iran prior to the revolution. “I have Iranian Jewish friends whom I’ve known since childhood,” she says, recalling as well growing up with the daughter of the Israeli ambassador to Iran. “We would go to their house on Jewish holidays and celebrate together.”

Iranians are angry that resources are used not to build, but to destroy.
Do the majority of Iranians really harbor no animosity toward Israel?
“Young Iranians don’t want anything to do with the fanatics and their nuclear bombs,” Manda says. “Iranians want to live modern lives as part of the international community, and are angry that the country’s resources are being used not to build, but to destroy.”

Possible Solution
World leaders have promised to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Yet given that the use of military force is a last resort, what possible option is available to stop Iran’s march toward nuclearization?
Banafsheh points to the economic sanctions which forced Iran to the negotiating table. "Though the sanctions impose hardship on the Iranian people, they are willing to endure it for the sake of disempowering the regime and bringing Iran back into the community of nations,” she says, adding that should the current 6-month negotiating period fail to produce a final result, harsher sanctions should be immediately applied.
“Whether through diplomatic pressure or regime change, one way or another the Iranian people want this reign of terror to end,” she says.
The Iranian activist spirit awakened in 1999 with the Tehran University student uprising. This seminal event convinced many Iranians – and other human rights’ activists around the world – that the Iranian people could successfully organize and overthrow the Ayatollah’s regime.

“Common sense tells us that the best weapon against the Iranian regime is the Iranian people,” says Banafsheh. “If you want a country to bring freedom to a fascist regime, you must do everything to help see the success of its self-determinant movement.”
In subsequent years, groups of workers, women and journalists have engaged in protests inside Iran. “Unfortunately the international press does not cover these protests,” says Banafsheh.

In the wake of the 2009 “election” of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the various factions united in their common desire to have the Mullahs replaced. Protests crowds estimated at 3 million took to the streets in support of the “Green Movement.” They were met with lethal force; dozens of protesters and bystanders were gunned down.
“Anti-U.S. mural on a building in TehranThe people of Iran gave their blood to shout to the world their demand to be freed from this regime,” Banafsheh explains. “They need to know that the free world is standing behind them. Unfortunately most world leaders have failed to supply proper moral support.”

Banafsheh is at a loss to explain why so many Americans fail to recognize the threat Iran poses as well to the West. In 1979, Iranian supporters of the Ayatollah stormed the US Embassy in Tehran and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. In 1983, the Iranians (through their proxy Hezbollah) killed 231 U.S. Marines in Beirut. In recent years the worst global terror attacks are linked to Iran.
“The Ayatollah associates the values of human rights and liberty with the United States, which he has nicknamed the ‘Great Satan’ to be destroyed. ‘Death to America’ is a common cry at government-supported rallies,” she says.
The issues of human rights and Iran’s nuclear program are closely linked, Banafsheh says, raising her voice in appeal. “Where are the so-called human rights organizations, protesting the brutal oppression of millions of non-radical Muslims in Iran? Don’t they understand that by Iran treating their own people this way, we see how the regime will act toward others – its Mideast neighbors, Europe and the U.S. – only this time with nuclear weapons to back them up?”
Banafsheh’s voice quakes as she implores: “We need to wake up before it’s too late.”

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Post  Admin on Thu 24 Apr 2014, 10:38 am

What to Include in an Ethical Will
What values and lessons do you want to pass on to your children and grandchildren? Here are 40 of mine.
by Bob Diener         
In addition to a legal will, I recently executed an ethical will because I believe that passing on the values and lessons I have learned during my lifetime is much more important that any physical assets I can leave my children. Many of these values and lessons I learned from my parents and grandparents and I am continuing the great tradition of passing these onto the next generation. And I learned many of these items from experience and making mistakes.
I share the following as a guideline for others who may also want to draft an ethical will. We are all unique and learned lessons that we want to pass on in different ways. What is important is to let your children know how you learned these values and why they are important to you.
Treat others well and you will be treated well, you will feel better about yourself, and you will have many more friends. This is true in the business world and in the personal world. Much of my success has come from following this throughout my career.
Put in your best effort in everything you do. There is no excuse for not putting in best efforts. You may not succeed every time, but you will succeed much more often when you give it your best.
Find something you love and become passionate about it. You may not be the best at everything but work hard to be the best at what is important to you.
Success comes with hard work, dedication, being relentless and believing in yourself.. There is no substitute for hard work. When you believe in something it is much more likely to happen.
Be a productive member of society. Find a career that allows you to support a family and that benefits others.
Be thorough. Make decisions based on analyzing all of the facts. Do not guess. Act through knowledge.
Establish goals. Work is much more exciting and achievable when working towards a goal.
Be charitable. The pursuit of capital and wealth for wealth in and of itself has no meaning. The pursuit of wealth to help others makes it worthwhile and meaningful. Spend as much time earning wealth as you do figuring out who and how you are going to use part of that wealth to help those in need. Learn about causes you care about.
Be honest in business dealings. It is much more important to be honest in a transaction that to earn a higher profit. There will always be opportunities for more profits – but once you are not honest in a transaction, this cannot be changed. It will affect future dealings by others having less respect and trust in you.
Take care of each other. Keep a close relationship with your siblings and look out for each other, especially in time of need.
Perform deeds of kindness. The secret to happiness and fulfillment is doing good deeds to others. There is no greater fulfillment than being able to help another person. The secondary benefit is that the person you help will look to help you in return.
Be modest and be careful not to get pulled into being pompous.
Be merciful. Have compassion on others and be forgiving. Holding grudges and being angry at others for long periods of time has no fulfillment.
Develop a close relationship with someone you can always bounce ideas off of and who you can confide in. It is always better to discuss a plan with someone and get feedback before acting alone. Listen to others and let others criticize your work. Do not assume you are always right. Sometimes it is difficult to see the other side of an issue until someone else articulates it.
Always be courteous. Regardless of how disrespectful your opponent is or how upset you are, always keep your decorum and remain respectful. Respect for you will grow greatly when people know you are always respectful.
Treat all human beings with dignity. Regardless of the social status of a person, we are all created in God’s image.
Remember that God can forgive you for sins against God, but you can only be forgiven for a sin against man directly from the person you harmed. If you do something wrong to someone, go back and make it right.
Be persistent when you believe in a cause. I have championed many causes when the majority did not agree with me. When you believe the cause is right and just, do not give up.
Integrity. Your word is everything and more important than a written contract. If you agree to something orally, fulfill your oral commitment.
When you fail to win an argument or negotiation, never end on bad terms.
Never state a fact that you are not 100% sure of. It never hurts to say that you do not know the answer.
No lashon harah – derogatory speech. Never talk about others in a negative way. Either remain silent or talk positively. There is no benefit to speaking badly about a person regardless of the circumstances, unless you are warning someone of imminent harm. If you hear evil talk of others – do not listen to it.
Be upfront with others and speak honestly.
Never allow an injustice to occur.
Be a leader, not a follower. Don’t be tempted by peer pressure.
Develop real relationships and friends. A true friend is someone that deeply cares about you, and you care about them in return. A true friend understands when you say no to something you believe is wrong. Take an interest in other people. When you show that you care, you will develop great friends. Go out of your way to help your friends and the friendships will grow even greater.
When looking for a spouse, look for a good heart. Look for someone that cares about other people, who is empathetic and honest. Look for someone that you can respect and grow together with, for someone that you can always rely on.
Make every day meaningful. Live a holy and spiritual life by striving every day to do a mitzvah - good deed. You will look back later in life and cherish the good deeds you have done. All you have is time. Make it meaningful.
Visit the sick. Attend friends and family celebrations. Visit friends and family in times of sorrow.
Your heart and mouth should be the same. Do not speak one way and think another. Be sincere.
The State of Israel is your inheritance. It is up to you to do everything in your power to keep it strong. Learn about your inheritance and spend time there.
Cherish the Jewish faith and community. This will tremendously enhance your life. Make sure the Jewish community and Jewish institutions remain strong, especially Jewish schools.
Become an active part of a community – this is important as it adds strength to everything you do.
Have a family. One is not fulfilled by being alone. There is a bashert for you; life is so much more meaningful by being able to share it with someone you love.
Make your spouse happy and your spouse will make you happy. Life involves compromise. Be accepting of the other person’s personality and remember that marriage is a long term commitment. Never say anything bad to your spouse regardless of how upset you maybe. Be forgiving and understanding. Do not let minor issues be bothersome. Always be loyal, honest and open.
Be positive about life. My business career was mostly about marketing. By being positive and upbeat and optimistic, others will flock to you or your products.
Be thankful every day. A wealthy person is one who is satisfied with what he has. This is true wealth. Do not take things for granted.
Learn about our people and heritage. The more you learn, the more you will appreciate our heritage. Make Jewish and Israel education available to others. This will insure our long term survival and success.
Keep the traditions. Attend synagogue, and make the Sabbath a special day – this is a great opportunity to renew ourselves, search your soul, take a break from work and spend time with the family.
Your family and friends come first. Remember this when deciding on priorities. Teach and spend quality time with each of your kids. You can never make up lost time with your children. Always stay balanced in your life. Your life will be much more fulfilling when you find the right balance between family, friends, career, community, charity and other things that are important to you.
Although an ethical will is a great way to record and transmit your values to future generations, the best way to teach these values to your children is to practice them yourself during your lifetime. I find that the most effective way to teach my children is by example. Your ethical will is meant to reinforce the values you have lived by and thereby taught your children during your lifetime.
Published: April 21, 2014

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Post  Admin on Thu 24 Apr 2014, 10:34 am

Home   »  Israel   »  Jewish World
Anti-Semitism in AmericaAnti-Semitism in America
The Kansas City JCC murders remind us that virulent anti-Semitism does exists in the United States.
by Yvette Alt Miller          
On a quiet Sunday afternoon, the JCC in Overland Park, Kansas was full of kids. Some were there for a singing and dancing competition. Others were just arriving with their parents for an umpire clinic. Nearby, in Shalom Village, an assisted living facility, residents and staff were getting ready for Passover, which was starting the following night.

The calm of that afternoon of April 13, 2014 was shattered when Frazier Glenn Cross, a 73 year old white supremacist with a history of founding racist, anti-Semitic, paramilitary organizations, strode into both buildings, shooting at adults and children alike. A father who was visiting the JCC that day with his young son described the scene: “All of the sudden we heard a gunshot, a pretty loud gunshot… I turned to look to my right and I can see a man standing outside a car with a shotgun, what to me looked like a shotgun, and there was somebody laying on the ground.”
By the time the rampage was over, three people were dead: William Corporon, a local doctor; his 14-year-old grandson, Reat Underwood, who’d been looking forward to competing in the JCC’s singing competition; and Terri LaManno, who was visiting her elderly mother in Shalom Village.
As it happened, none of Cross’ fatal victims were Jewish, but Cross’ intentions to harm Jews by targeting Jewish institutions was clear. After his arrest, he shouted “Heil Hitler!” to the traumatized crowd around him.
It’s tempting to dismiss Cross as an aberration, one eccentric old man. But he’s hardly alone. In the days after his rampage, the mayor of a town near where Cross lived, Mayor Danny Clevenger of Marionville, Missouri, even praised Cross, echoing his anti-Semitic views, saying Jews are “destroying” the United States.
As the world prepares to mark Yom HaShoah to commemorate and honor the memory of the six million Jews who were killed in the Holocaust 70 years ago, it’s incredible to realize that today in America there are people who will proudly call out “Heil Hitler” as they shoot and murder innocent children – and shocking to realize that there are others who publicly support their odious views.
American Jews are used to hearing of high levels of anti-Semitism and reading of horrific attacks on Jews overseas. In the weeks leading up to Cross’ attack, for instance, the openly neo-Nazi political party Jobbik won 21 percent of the vote in Hungarian national elections and a seat in the government and France’s anti-Jewish National Front made significant gains in French local elections, winning control in several towns. Two weeks after the shooting, Jews in Ukraine were handed leaflets ordering them to register with local authorities. In some European countries today, clear majorities of people polled hold anti-Semitic opinions: 63% in Hungary, for example, and 53% in Spain.

The United States, in contrast, can sometimes feel like a country free of the taint of anti-Semitism. Tragically, the Kansas City JCC murders remind us that virulent anti-Semitism does exists in the US.
According to the FBI, nearly 20% of all hate crimes in the US are directed against people of a particular religion; of those, the vast majority target Jews. Even though Jews make up less than 3% of the population of the United States, more than 63% of religiously-motivated hate crimes in the US were directed against Jews.

The crimes range from ethnic slurs and insults, to vandalism, property damage, even life-threatening attacks. A 2012 survey found nearly a thousand reported anti-Semitic attacks in the US that year, including Molotov cocktails thrown into the house of a rabbi in New Jersey, a Jew punched in the face as he walked home from synagogue, swastikas and threats to Jews written on buildings, cemetery vandalism, and more.
And those are just the reported incidents. For many American Jews, anti-Jewish feelings create a climate of fear, eroding their confidence and comfort. One 2013 poll found that fully 81% of American Jews feel that anti-Semitism is a problem in the United States.
Other studies concur. A 2013 poll by the ADL found that fully 12% of Americans hold anti-Semitic views. And when it comes to specific questions about Jews, the numbers can be far higher.
15% of Americans believe Jews are more likely than other groups to use “shady business practices” to get what they want. 17% of Americans believe Jews “control” Wall Street. 14% of Americans believe Jews have “too much power” in the business world. 13% of Americans believe Jews don’t care about other people; 15% believe Jews have a lot of irritating habits.
The most widespread suspicion of Jews in America seems to focus on the age-old anti-Semitic accusation that Jews aren’t good citizens: fully 30% of Americans believe Jews are more loyal to Israel than to the US.
Given the hatred of Jews in some corners of American society, what can we do? Here are five ways to begin combating anti-Semitism today.

1. Become a teacher.
The ADL survey found that best-educated Americans are the least anti-Semitic: 8% of college-educated Americans admit to anti-Semitic views, for instance, while 19% of Americans with only a high-school education held anti-Jewish views.
Take opportunities to share your Jewish knowledge with others; you might just dispel some myths and change people’s minds when you do.

2. Educate yourself.
I’ll always remember a comparative religions professor I encountered when I was 17. He seemed dismissive of Jews and Judaism, and I felt he looked down on me as a Jewish student. He wasn’t Jewish, but even so, he knew much more about my own religion than I’d ever learned in Hebrew School as a child.
As irritating as he was, that professor did me a huge favor: I decided to take Hebrew classes and begin learning more about Judaism in college, in part to counter his negative statements.
It’s never too late to educate ourselves, and become more effective advocates for ourselves and our wider Jewish community.

3. Find your pride.
Tapping into our Jewish heritage – and immersing ourselves in it – is the best way to combat anti-Semitism. It gives us the strength and tools we need to combat prejudice – and also enriches our lives.
Get Aish.com's Free Email Updates.
Consider taking on a new piece of Jewish observance, attending Jewish classes, or attending synagogue more regularly.
4. Speak out

When you hear anti-Semitic slurs, speak out. When you signal you won’t stand for anti-Semitism, it sends a clear message that this sort of discourse is unacceptable.

5. Connect your wider Jewish community.

You don’t have to combat anti-Jewish slurs alone. Connecting with other Jews and Jewish organizations can help give you the tools – and the courage – to stand up to anti-Semitism.

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[size=16.363636016845703]Why the Left Should Love the Jewish State, Again
By every conceivable standard of liberalism, Israel comes out surprisingly ahead.
by Joshua Muravchik         
This article is adapted from the author’s recently released book, Liberal Oasis: The Truth About Israel
In a 2011 blog post titled “A Few Notes on WHAT IS LEFT (or Toward a Manifesto for Revolutionary Emancipation),” the prominent radical intellectual Richard Falk endeavored to distill “what remains of the historic left” into a program of contemporary relevance. The starting point he proposed? “Support for the Palestinian Solidarity Movement.”
[size=16.363636016845703]This is not surprising, as Falk is the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Palestine and a ferocious supporter of the Palestinian cause. But his views are not unusual. Falk was simply expressing what has been implicit among progressive academic associations, unions, churches, and human rights groups that single out Israel for censure or punishment. Championing the Palestinians and opposing Israel has become a touchstone, perhaps the touchstone, of the contemporary Left.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]This reflects a larger transformation of Leftist concepts from that of the working class versus the bourgeoisie to that of the Third World versus the First World, or “the rest against the West,” an idea that grew out of the struggle against Western colonialism. It places Israeli irredeemably in the wrong and bathes the Palestinian cause in nobility.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]But the Israeli hold on the West Bank and those that live there, oppressive as it can be, ill fits the mold of colonialism. It is an occupation that did not emerge out of greed or the desire for political power, but out of a defensive war, and most Israelis would relinquish it if the Palestinians would make it safe to do so.
Israel’s record with respect to these core values ranks among the best in the world, while that of its principal enemies, the Arab nations, is dismal.
Moreover, when viewed in the light of the core values of the Left – and, indeed, much of the contemporary Right – Israel actually comes off remarkably well; often much better than its most violent critics. These values are summed up by the great slogan of the French Revolution: “liberté, egalité, fraternité,” “liberty, equality, fraternity.” Israel’s record with respect to these core values ranks among the best in the world, while that of its principal enemies, the Arab nations, is dismal. Indeed, Israel’s record is in some cases better even than its European and other Western critics. Because this record is often obscured in the angry polemics against Israeli policies toward the Palestinians, it is worth examining it in depth.
[size=16.363636016845703]“Liberty” is usually understood as meaning freedom and democracy, which remain the most basic measures of a nation’s respect for human dignity. We can compare different countries’ records on this issue through the findings of the NGO [/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]Freedom House, which each year issues a list of “electoral democracies” and scores all countries numerically, with 1 being the best possible score and 7 the worst. Countries that score from 1 to 2.5 are “free,” those from 3 to 5 are “partly free,” and those from 5.5 to 7 are considered “not free.”[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]Freedom House considers Israel an “electoral democracy.” Its freedom rating is 1.5. This qualifies as “free,” but is a notch less perfect than most Western countries. However, it is worth considering the context. Even liberal democracies tend to become less free when their safety or survival is threatened. American civil liberties suffered because of the War on Terror, not to mention earlier, more fraught moments in American history; the right of habeas corpus was suspended during the Civil War, and anti-war dissenters were imprisoned during World War I. During World War II, Japanese-Americans were notoriously interned, while in Britain, Prime Minister Winston Churchill jailed the Fascist leader, Sir Oswald Mosley, without any judicial proceedings. Had Freedom House been around back then, the US and UK would likely have scored worse than Israel’s 1.5.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]For Israel, moreover, it has always been World War II or the equivalent in terms of national security. Because of Israel’s size and isolation, as well as the proximity and often intense hostility of its enemies, few countries live within a narrower margin of safety. Under such circumstances, it is doubtful that even the most liberal states would preserve more essential freedoms than Israel has. At least, there is little evidence that they have done so in the past.
Comparing Israel to its neighbors and enemies, the Jewish state comes off even better. Of the 22 members of the Arab League, the only one ranked as a democracy for several years running has been the Comoros – four African islands with a combined population of 750,000. Lebanon is a democracy of sorts, but the presence of intense sectarian divisions, armed political parties, and – until recently – strong Syrian influence make it a problematic case. In 2013, Freedom House added Tunisia and Libya to the list of democracies. But not a single member of the Arab League ranks as “free”; not even its four democracies (three of them rather tenuous), which all rank as “partly free.” Two other countries do as well, bringing the total of “partly free” countries to six. At the same time, 17 members are considered “not free” at all. Another non-Arab Middle Eastern country, Iran, is listed as neither free nor democratic.
[size=16.363636016845703]Skeptics of democratic universalism say that it is unrealistic to expect democracy to emerge in states where there is no democratic culture or tradition. If this is true, Israel’s achievement seems even more impressive. The immigrants who built the State of Israel overwhelmingly came from places without a democratic culture or tradition. Half came from the Muslim countries, while the rest were predominantly from Eastern Europe. The only political regimes they knew were autocracy or Communism.
Israel is one of the most egalitarian countries on earth.
In terms of equality, so powerful a spur to the French Revolution and various Leftist movements ever since, Israel is one of the most egalitarian countries on earth. In all manner of social organizations, divisions of class and rank are remarkably weak. As Dan Senor and Saul Singer put it in their book Start-up Nation,
An outsider would see chutzpah everywhere in Israel: in the way university students speak with their professors, employees challenge their bosses, sergeants question their generals, and clerks second-guess government ministers. To Israelis, however, this isn’t chutzpah; it’s the normal mode of being.
[size=16.363636016845703]This is largely due to Israel’s citizen army, which is the great equalizer in Israeli society. Indeed, it is not uncommon for the distribution of military ranks within a unit to bear little correspondence, or even an inverse correspondence, to the income and prestige of the soldiers’ civilian occupations.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]In terms of income distribution, Israel is not as egalitarian. Economists measure income disparities with a formula called the Gini coefficient. Israel’s ranks just slightly better than average in terms of economic equality. Perhaps the most important reason that Israel is not as egalitarian as it could be, however, is that it contains large groups of low earners.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]One such group is the large percentage of immigrants in Israeli society. People arriving in a country where they have not been educated, do not speak the language, and are unfamiliar with social customs are at a great disadvantage, to put it mildly, in the job market. Except for tax-havens like Monaco or oil-rich states like Qatar, where a tiny indigenous population is swamped by foreign workers, the proportion of immigrants in Israel is in a class by itself. According to the UN, immigrants make up 1.2 percent of the population of Latin America, 1.4 percent of Asia, 1.9 percent of Africa, and 8.8 percent of Europe, where the problems of assimilation have become a serious political issue. In the U.S., which prides itself on being a “nation of immigrants,” 13 percent are foreign born. But fully 40 percent of Israelis are immigrants. In this context, it is surprising that Israel’s Gini coefficient shows as little inequality as it does.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]Two other population groups further skew Israel’s income distribution: Israeli-Arabs and ultra-Orthodox Jews. The philosophy of the ultra-Orthodox places enormous value on childbearing and religious study; as a result, employment rates suffer, and so does income and wealth. According to the New York Times, “Some 60 percent of ultra-Orthodox men do not work regular jobs, preferring religious study. More than 50 percent live below the poverty line and get state allowances.”
Israel’s Arab citizens, who make up roughly 20 percent of the population, also constitute a pocket of poverty in Israel. But not all Arabs. Research by Israeli social scientist Dan Schueftan shows a stark contrast along religious lines: Christian Arabs are much better off than their Muslim counterparts. Their scores on measures of education, income, and the like, resemble those of Israel’s secular Jews, while those of Muslim Arabs approximate those of ultra-Orthodox Jews. The critical variable, then, seems to be cultural and social values in regard to family size and the role of women. In other words, poverty and income inequality in Israel can be explained to a great extent by lifestyle choices rather than lack of opportunity. Ultra-Orthodox Jews and observant Muslims place faith before materialism. They would rather have a home full of offspring than a big house or two cars. Instead of a second income, they would prefer having a wife at home caring for their children. This is an issue of differing values, and it seems unfair to simply brand them as mistaken.
[size=16.363636016845703]What about equality between ethnic groups? Although there are strong differences among Jews, which I will deal with in the next section, the most difficult aspect of this issue is again the status of the Israeli-Arabs. Although there are substantial socioeconomic differences between Jews and Arabs, in part due to the contrasting values described above, Israel has done better in evening out these discrepancies than most other countries with sharply diverse nationalities.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]First, let us consider health. Life expectancy for Israeli Jews is 82.3 years. For Israeli-Arabs it is lower – 78.8 – but this is still higher than the average American and, according to UN statistics, ten years longer than Arabs living in Arab states. Moreover, it is higher than any individual Arab country except Lebanon. Another primary measure of public health is infant mortality. A report written by Ali Haider, Yaser Awad, and Manar Mahmoud for the Israeli advocacy organization Sikkuy – the Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality – notes “a large gap in the infant mortality between Jews and Arabs: 3.2 vs. 8.0 per thousand live births, respectively.” However, Sikkuy also reports that the figure for Arabs is elevated by conditions in the Bedouin community, and “the main reason for infant mortality among the Negev Bedouin is birth defects and hereditary diseases.” Other data shows that Israeli-Arabs are far less likely than Jews to undergo prenatal testing, and are thus less likely to abort abnormal fetuses, which are at higher risk of infant death. More importantly, whatever explains the disparity between Israeli Jews and Arabs, both are comparatively low numbers. The eight-per-thousand deaths suffered by Israeli-Arab newborns is less than half the global median of around 17 deaths per thousand and not much worse than the US, where the number is between 6 and 7.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]American Jews have roughly 40 percent more education than non-Jews. In Israel, however, Jews have only 14 percent more education than Arabs.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]Education is another area in which Jewish Israelis show statistical advantages over their Arab countrymen. But again the differences are not large. Classroom size is perhaps the greatest and least excusable disparity. The average elementary school class has 24.6 students in Jewish areas, 29 in Arab areas. For high schools, the numbers are 27.6 versus 30.5. There are also disparities in educational achievement. The median number of years of schooling completed is 12.7 for Jews versus 11.1 for Arabs.
          Yet this differential pales in comparison to that between Jews and non-Jews in the United States. According to the 2008 Pew U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, the average American Jew has a college degree and some postgraduate study. Other Americans average 12 years of schooling or a bit less. Thus, American Jews have roughly 40 percent more education than non-Jews. In Israel, however, Jews have only 14 percent more education than Arabs, who themselves average more education than the populace of any Arab country.
[size=16.363636016845703]A half century ago, moreover, Arabs throughout the Middle East had little education. Gains have been recorded everywhere, but those in Israel are especially impressive. According to a report by Yosef Jabareen for the Israel Democracy Institute, “between 1961 and 2007, the average number of years of schooling [for Israeli Arabs] rose from 1.2 to 11.3, which signifies a more than nine fold increase.”[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]It seems, then, that the most remarkable fact about the educational gap between Israeli Jews and Arabs is the astonishing rate at which it has diminished and how narrow it has become as a result.
An Israeli soldier offering emergency instruction to Arab schoolchildren. Photo: Israel Defense ForcesAn Israeli soldier offering emergency instruction to Arab schoolchildren.
Photo: Israel Defense Forces
[size=16.363636016845703]Now let us turn to economic issues. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an Israeli-Arab worker earns, on average, 70 percent of a Jewish worker on an hourly basis and 68 percent monthly. In his book The Israel Test, however, George Gilder observes that “similar gaps [exist] in every free country on earth with significant numbers of Jews. Jews, for example, out-earn other Caucasians in the United States by an even larger margin than they out-earn Arabs in Israel.”[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]It is true that Israeli-Arabs’ per capita income falls considerably below that of Israeli Jews, roughly 40 percent lower. But this is, again, likely because they average more children and fewer earners per family, with only 22 percent of women in the work force, as compared to 68 percent of Jewish women. Nonetheless, Israeli-Arabs’ per capita income is half-again as high as in the Arab states.
An additional useful comparison may be drawn regarding Jews and Arabs outside of Israel. Tom W. Smith’s work Jewish Distinctiveness in America: A Statistical Portrait notes that the largest number of Diaspora Jews resides in the United States, where their per capita income is estimated to be about twice as high as non-Jews. Similar disparities are found in France, Canada, and the UK. Arabs who live in these Western countries, however, are not similarly advantaged. In Europe, for example, quite the opposite is the case. In other words, the income differential between Jews and Arabs in Israel is no greater than the disparity between them in other countries where the two communities live.
[size=16.363636016845703]Finally, let us consider the status of women in Israeli society. There are few countries where women enjoy as much equality as in Israel, with the glaring exception of divorce law – where family law is impacted by religious authorities, meaning Jewish and Muslim men can divorce at will, but the barrier for women to initiate divorce is higher. From the military to political life, from the corporate suites to the Cabinet Room and the Prime Ministers office, women dominate modern Israel society in ways that are in deep contrast with anything else in the Middle East, and much of the rest of the world.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]This begins with military service, which is all the more important because of the central role the army plays in Israel’s social and economic life, as well as the prestige it enjoys. Women have played leading roles in defending the state in the military from before its founding, an equal status decades ahead of our own in America. A second major area is economic. The UN’s Gender-Related Equality Index for 2009 provides data on women and men’s estimated earned income in various countries and regions. The figures for Israel show that women earn 64 percent of what men earn. For the US, the proportion is 62 percent. For the OECD, which is mostly composed of Western European countries, including some of Israel’s harshest critics, it is 57 percent. In the Arab states it is a stunningly low 22 percent.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]Several countries in northern Europe, along with Australia, New Zealand, and Hong Kong, show differentials in earnings somewhat narrower than Israel. But Israel’s record is impressive considering that the leading cause of earning disparities between the sexes is maternity. Israeli women on average bear three children, while Americans and New Zealanders bear two, Europeans and Australians fewer than two, and Hong Kong women less than one. The fertility gap between Israel and these countries is larger than the disparity in income.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]In the 2013 elections, three of the top eight parties in the Knesset were led by women.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]In addition to the military and the workplace, Israeli women have a stronger role in politics than elsewhere. When Golda Meir became Israel’s Prime Minister in 1969, she was only the third woman in modern history to head a government, and the first to do so without being related to a male national hero. In the 2013 elections, three of the top eight parties in the Knesset were led by women. In just the last five years, women have held leadership positions including President of the Supreme Court, Speaker of the Knesset, Foreign Minister, and (twice) Leader of the Opposition.
In terms of “fraternity,” Israel also presents a more admirable model than its critics seem willing to admit. In particular, it has knit together a society composed of a dizzying diversity of Jews, including some of Judaism’s most far-flung and endangered remnants. This is more uncommon than one might think. In countries like Vietnam, Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan, not to mention numerous countries in Africa, experiments in “nation-building” have often failed. Israel, by contrast, is a dramatic success story.
[size=16.363636016845703]It hasn’t been easy, and it still isn’t. The most prominent division in Israeli society is that between Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews. In addition to differences in language and tradition, the two communities lived in sharply contrasting cultures for centuries. The process of forming a modern nation out them was not smooth, but it has been remarkably successful.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]In the past, Ashkenazi Jews tended to have the advantage over their Sephardi counterparts in most areas. Today, not only has the income and education gap between the two communities narrowed, but surveys show similarly high positive responses in their attitude toward being Israeli. Among native-born Israelis who are the children of Sephardi immigrants, 91 percent say they are “proud to be an Israeli,” as do 85 percent of the children of Ashkenazi immigrants. For the immigrants themselves, the numbers are virtually the same. At the same time, 97 percent of Ashkenazim and 94 percent of Sephardim say they are “emotionally connected to Israel.” Asked whether they experienced their Jewish identity in a religious, cultural, ethnic, racial, or other sense, an identical 91 percent of each group said it meant being part of “a people.”
Several other groups have been stirred into the Israeli melting pot. Ethiopian Jews, who believe they are descendants of the lost tribe of Dan, constitute 125,000 people, over two percent of the Jewish population. Within a couple of decades, these immigrants traversed a cultural distance of centuries. As the American scholar Edward Alexander put it in a 1985 article in Commentary, most had “to be taught to wear shoes, to use knives and forks and toilets, to take medicines, and to understand that electrical wires are not worms, that gas can be dangerous, and that you cannot remove food from grocery stores without giving money in exchange.”
[size=16.363636016845703]Another self-defined “lost tribe,” the Bukharan Jews, numbering an estimated 100,000, migrated to Israel from Central Asia – mostly Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. A third lost tribe, the B’nei Menashe or “descendants of Menashe,” have appeared on Israel’s doorstep in recent years. Of Tibeto-Burman descent from India’s northeast border states, their claim is viewed skeptically by experts, but Israel has agreed to admit them on condition that they undergo the ritual of conversion.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]Whatever the difficulties involved, the absorption of these remote Jewish communities appears very different than in other places where two cultures have been thrust together, one of them often more advanced than the other. It is true that the task has been made easier by the fact that all these communities worship (or do not worship) the same God. But a common religion is hardly sufficient to assure peace, much less brotherhood, as we are reminded by the terrible wars within branches of Islam and Christianity.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]What about those who worship a different God? How well does Israel do in terms of extending a spirit of fraternity toward its non-Jewish citizens?[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]Israeli-Arabs are far from being fully integrated with Israeli Jews; but in assessing Israel’s shortcomings in this respect, as with the socioeconomic disparities between the two communities, we must ask: Compared to what? Americans will be misled if they approach this issue by way of analogy to our own country, where there are no nationalities, only “ethnic groups,” and more or less everyone’s ethnicity is transcended by their sense of being simply “American.” Most states, by contrast, have a single national identity. But some have the far more complicated issue of multiple national identities existing in the same country.
Those that have tried to maintain these multiple national identities have not found it easy. Swedes and Norwegians once constituted a single country, but chose to divorce peacefully, as did the Czechs and Slovaks. Some national divorces have been far bloodier, such as that between the Croats, Serbs, and Bosnians, even though all three speak Serbo-Croatian and share the same ethnicity. The same may be said for some national “marriages,” such as the Kurds in Turkey, Chechens in Russia, Uighurs in China, Tutsis and Hutus, Ibos and Yorubas, and so on.
[size=16.363636016845703]Arabic is even an official language of the Knesset, 10 percent of whose members are Arab.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]The place of Arabs within Israeli society is, of course, greatly complicated by Israel’s conflict with its Arab neighbors. Nonetheless, in addition to efforts at closing socioeconomic gaps, and despite Israel’s place in the world as the nation state of Jewish people, Israel affirms, in ways large and small, the place of the Arab minority within the nation. Arabic is an official language. Road signs, food labels, and government announcements appear in Arabic as well as Hebrew. Arabic is even an official language of the Knesset, 10 percent of whose members are Arab. There are Arabic newspapers, an all-Arabic television station and radio channel, and the main networks, while mostly in Hebrew, have hours set aside for broadcasting in Arabic and many Hebrew programs have Arabic subtitles. Just as there is an institute devoted to sustaining the Hebrew language, an analogue to the Académie Française, there is also one for Arabic.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]It is certainly true that many Israeli-Arabs are deeply ambivalent about their country. In a 2006 survey for Israel’s Institute for Policy and Strategy, Uzi Arad and Gal Alon found that 44 percent of Arabs said they were very or somewhat proud to be Israeli, while 57 percent were not very proud or not proud at all. 27 percent said they were probably or definitely willing to fight for the state, while 73 percent said probably or definitely not. Yet there are also many examples of Arab Israelis – men and women – serving proudly in country’s armed forces, and many more would likely serve if the social pressure in their communities was less intense.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]And when asked whether they agreed that “Israel is a better country than most other countries,” the percentage of Israeli-Arabs who agreed or strongly agreed was an overwhelming 77 percent – exceeding that of Israeli Jews. Moreover, this is a higher positive response than in most Western countries. For example, only 62 percent of Norwegians, who live in one of the wealthiest per-capita nations is the West, answer this question in the affirmative. When asked to respond to the proposition, “I would rather be a citizen of my country than of any other,” 82 percent of Israeli-Arabs agreed or strongly agreed.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]Israel certainly has its failings in regard to the treatment of its Arab citizens. But it nonetheless contrasts dramatically with the treatment of Jews in Arab countries. After the founding of Israel, some three-quarters of a million Jews were driven out, with only a few thousand remaining in Morocco and Tunisia. This is only one example of the contrast between Israel and its neighbors’ treatment of religious minorities.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]Another striking example is that of the Baha’i, a faith followed by an estimated seven million people. Israel has allowed the Baha’i to establish its administrative center, a kind of mini-Vatican, in the city of Haifa. In Iran, where the faith was born, its adherents have always faced persecution. This turned deadly with the advent of the Islamic Republic. In Egypt, until a court order was implemented in 2010, Baha’i were not allowed to possess the official identity papers necessary for marriage, work, education, and the like, unless they disguised their faith. Baha’i have also been persecuted or banned at various times in Morocco, Algeria, and Iraq.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]The treatment of Christians in the Arab world is another dramatic case in point. Bombings and other murders and persecutions have driven at least 100,000 Iraqi Christians into exile. The Christian communities of Lebanon, Jordan, and the Palestinian territories are also shrinking due to flight and conversion to Islam. Coptic Christians are fleeing Egypt, where they have long endured a system of legal discrimination. Now, they are also suffering a wave of violence. In Saudi Arabia, home to hundreds of thousands of Christian guest workers, neither churches nor Bibles are permitted.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]In Israel, Christians enjoy freedom of worship and control of their own holy places. Despite low birthrates and Muslim proselytization, their numbers are slowly growing. In addition, small Muslim sects, like the Ahmadis and Sufis, that face persecution in Muslim countries, live unmolested in Israel.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]Israel is one of the few newly-developed countries to widely offer foreign aid.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]In a more international form of fraternity, Israel is one of the few newly-developed countries to widely offer foreign aid, which in recent decades has concentrated on medical aid. For example, the need to treat victims of terrorist attacks has forced Israel’s providers to acquire a rare degree of expertise in burn-care and emergency medicine, which it has shared in response to emergencies around the globe. Medical aid is even extended to enemies. Israel’s civil administration put the number of Palestinians treated in Israeli hospitals during 2011 at 115,000; while more than a hundred Palestinian doctors interned in Israeli hospitals. The one-year-old granddaughter of Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas prime minister of Gaza, was whisked to Petah Tikva in 2013 for treatment of an infection in her digestive tract. The year before, Haniyeh’s brother-in-law was treated for a heart ailment in another Petah Tikva hospital.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]In 2013, Israel set up a field hospital in the Golan Heights to treat casualties of Syria’s civil war, in addition to many who have received care inside Israel. Reuters quoted one insurrectionary who awoke in an Israeli hospital as saying, “I was happy when I found I was here. Most fighters know they will get good care in Israel.”[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]The inherent harshness of occupation is certainly fair game for criticism, as are Israeli settlements and other policies that complicate the peace process with the Palestinians. But critics of Israel rarely stop at this. Instead, they try to portray Israel itself and its entire society as something inherently evil. As we have seen, this is not simply wrong, it is also hypocrisy. Many of Israel’s strongest critics, especially in the Arab world, have proved markedly inferior to Israel on many of the issues they cite in order to attack the Jewish state.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]In particular, the Leftist critique of Israeli society is deeply unjust. In any country, there are things that can and should be criticized. Israel is no different. But a Left of intellectual integrity would acknowledge the good as well as the bad. It would give Israel credit for its achievements, some practical and some moral, in fulfilling the Left’s core ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity. Few other countries have matched Israel’s record in the face of such overwhelming odds.
This article is adapted from the author’s recently released book, Liberal Oasis: The Truth About Israel (Encounter, 2014) and originally appeared in The Tower Magazine.
Published: February 22, 2014

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