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Post  Admin on Thu 10 Dec 2015, 7:42 pm
From Jediism to Judaism: Star Wars as Jewish AllegoryFrom Jediism to Judaism: Star Wars as Jewish Allegory
A look at some of the Jewish elements – coincidental or otherwise – of Star Wars.
by Daniel Perez
A long time ago in a place far, far away...
It is a period of civil war. A new government has declared the practice of the old faith a crime punishable by death, disbanding an ancient order of sages and sending many into exile. Rebel fighters, striking from a hidden base, have won their first major victory against the evil Empire, stirring a spirit of defiance among the populace. Outarmed and vastly outnumbered, the ragtag band of rebels – aided by an all-powerful, all-permeating Force that binds together all life in the universe – remain the only hope for restoring peace and freedom to their people.

It's one of the greatest epics known to mankind. No, not Star Wars. The above synopsis is actually the story of Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish festival that commemorates a miraculous victory of Israelite insurgents against the tyrannical Seleucid Empire roughly 2,200 years ago.

With Star Wars Episode VII set to premiere in just a few short weeks, I got to thinking about how certain aspects of the Star Wars universe are eerily similar to the history, beliefs, and teachings of the Jews. Now George Lucas did not set out to create a fantasy universe full of Jewish references, but the connections are nevertheless there. So let's put the “Han” back in Hanukkah (Harrison Ford, by the way, technically a member of the tribe) and look at some of the Jewish elements – coincidental or otherwise – of Star Wars.

A Galaxy of Hebrew Names

The heroes of the Star Wars series are members of a “rebel alliance,” basically Maccabees in outer space. It's right there in the name: Jedi. The Hebrew letter yud is often anglicized as a “J,” and syllables occasionally get dropped in translation. Hence, a Biblical name like “Yehoshua” makes its way into English as “Joshua.” It's not much of a stretch to see how “Jedi” can be derived the original Hebrew word for Jew, “Yehudi.”
Remember Luke Skywalker's Jedi rebbe, Grand Master Yoda? Is it just me, or is his peculiar syntax reminiscent of someone whose first language is Yiddish (“Yodish”)? More to the point, his name sounds a lot like “yada,” the Hebrew word meaning “to know.”1

And how about those Skywalkers? Luke Skywalker might sound like a gentile name, but that name was clearly chosen to alliterate with his twin sister Leia (Leah). Also keep in mind that their parents were an interfaith couple. The father, Anakin Skywalker, played by the unmistakably un-Jewish Hayden Christensen, tried to convert to Jediism, but as we know he ultimately turned to the Dark Side instead. Their mother was Queen Amidala, portrayed by the beautiful and talented Israeli-born actress Natalie Portman. Suffice it to say their marriage did not end well, and it wasn't until much later in life that their children discovered their Jedi-ish identity.

Learning Academy

When an aspiring Jedi Knight goes to the Academy, he or she must complete what is essentially an apprenticeship with one more learned in Jediism than they are. Similarly, a future rabbi's yeshiva experience will consist largely of chavruta learning (studying with a partner – lit. “friendship”). Fun fact: The name for a young, unmarried yeshiva student, “bochur,” actually means “chosen” (as in “The Chosen People”). The idea of a foretold “Chosen One” who would “restore balance to the Force” was a theme running throughout the Star Wars films, wherein Anakin Skywalker was recognized for his extraordinary potential as a Jedi. As mentioned above, he went “off the derech” and became the villainous Darth Vader. In Return of the Jedi, however, Vader/Skywalker fulfills the “prophecy” when he does teshuvah (our term for repentance, which literally means “return.” Whoa. Return of the Jedi!), thwarting Emperor Palpatine to save his son's life, and ultimately, the galaxy.

Of course, if you tell a young rabbi-in-training that he is the “Chosen One,” it sounds cool and dramatic and is technically true, but then, the same can be said of all of his classmates.
While the Star Wars films don't feature Jedi trainees delving into sacred texts (it doesn't make for the most exciting movie montage), some of the greatest rabbinic books of ethics and Jewish philosophy would be right at home in any Jedi library. “Duties of the Heart,” “The Path of the Just”....tell me these don't sound like the reading list for a hero of the Light Side.

The Force

While Jediism isn't a theistic religion per se, its practitioners do teach of a Force that, in the words of Reb Obi-Wan Kenobi " what gives a Jedi his power. It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together." That almost sounds like some sort of Chasidic teaching – just replace “energy field” with “entity” or “consciousness,” and “created by,” with “that creates,” and what you have starts to come across less like new age hippie talk and more like an introduction to Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism.

One idea that devout Jews of all stripes share, is that God, the creative “Force” that sustains all, is the source of a Jew's power. “Ein od milvado,” there is none besides Him. The Jew expresses his or her connection to the universe by striving for an ever closer relationship with its Creator.

Another aspect of Jedi belief is the notion of balance, the idea that the Light Side and the Dark Side are both aspects of the same Force seeking equilibrium. The religions that branched off from Judaism tend to show the Creator and Satan, or “The Devil,” in an adversarial relationship, almost a sort of de facto dualistic theology with a God and an anti-God, if you will. Judaism maintains that the Satan (lit. “Accuser”) is the angel associated with temptation, and prosecution in the Heavenly Court. He's basically Slugworth to God's Willy Wonka. He's got a dirty job to do, but in the end, we're both serving the same Boss.

Judaism also teaches that the source of Light and Darkness are One and the same, as it says in the prayer book: “Blessed art Thou, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who forms light and creates darkness, Who makes peace and creates all things.” The source for this line of liturgy can be found in the Hebrew Bible, Isaiah 45:7: “Who forms light and creates darkness, Who makes peace and creates evil; I am the Lord, Who makes all these.”

Incidentally, one of the traditional names for God – invoked particularly by the Jewish mystics – is HaMakom, literally “The Place.” The deeper idea conveyed by this name is that the Creator does not exist within the universe; the universe exists within Him. It sounds a lot like The Force. The key conceptual difference between the fictitious all-uniting Force of Star Wars and the Shechinah or “Divine Presence” is that the former is impersonal and passive, the latter is an omnipotent consciousness that actively intervenes in human history, speaking with Prophets and working miracles until this very day.

So if you see the new Star Wars movie, directed by Jeffrey Jacob Abrams (who couldn't sound more Jewish if his name was Saul Cohen or Herschel Rosenblatt), perhaps you'll be able to seek out and appreciate the surprisingly Jewish flavor of the Star Wars universe.
Check out my crowdfunding campaign for a graphic novel based on the true story of the Hasmonean Revolt. Just click here. You can also follow our progress at
Happy Hanukkah, and may the Force be with you!

In the upcoming graphic novel Maccabaeus, Judah and his brother, the Je(hu)di rebels of their generation, do battle with Seleucid Imperial troops.


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Post  Admin on Sun 06 Dec 2015, 11:19 pm

Never Give Up Hope
Why relight the menorah when reason dictated that a day later it would go dark once again?
dark once again?

by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
It is perhaps one of the most overlooked parts of the story. Yet it is an aspect of the miracle of Hanukkah which I believe has the most relevance for us today as we are again confronted with a comparable Maccabean struggle for Jewish survival.
We know that the ancient battle pitted the few against the many, the pure against the profane, the righteous against the wicked. Somehow, an aged priest by the name of Matisyahu together with his five heroic sons were able to overcome a powerful empire and restore the temple from idolatry back to worshiping God.
How was a small family able to lead a nation to such an astonishing triumph? What was their secret? To simply declare Hanukkah as a Divine miracle, an incomprehensible event made possible only through God’s intervention, is to ignore the human component – the difficult struggle as well as the war which preceded the rededication of the house of God and the relighting of the menorah in the sanctuary.
Like Purim, Hanukkah is a holiday commemorating a victory achieved by the joint efforts of God and the Jews, of the Almighty and the Maccabees, similar to the story of Esther and Mordecai. It is pertinent to wonder precisely what it was that help to insure the amazing outcome which defied the odds.
Not knowing there would be a miracle, what made the Maccabees light the menorah?
I believe the answer is hidden in the prelude to the miracle of the oil. They found a small flask of pure oil, enough to last for only one day. Not knowing there would be a miracle, what made the Maccabees light the menorah? Why begin what they could not finish? Why relight the menorah when reason dictated that a day later it would go dark once again, unable to fulfill its purpose?
The Maccabees were not deterred by the seemingly impossible success of their effort. This was the secret of the Maccabees: No matter how bad the situation, no matter how impossible the probability of success, we begin the task – and optimistically have confidence in God to somehow make our efforts prove fruitful.
Jump Into the Sea

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Post  Admin on Thu 26 Nov 2015, 10:37 pm

Jonathan Pollard’s Final Punishment
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
He cannot move to Israel for at least five years. The reason reeks of hypocrisy.
After thirty long years of imprisonment, unprecedented punishment for the crime of spying on behalf of an American ally, Jonathan Pollard is at last a free man.
Pollard’s incarceration in a maximum security prison which he spent in solitary isolation for lengthy periods of time is finally over. Even those appalled by his offense must surely find sufficient compassion in their hearts to be gladdened by his long-awaited release, having more than paid for his unlawful actions many years ago. Today Pollard is a frail and sickly man, far from a threat to American security, anxious only to live out his remaining years with a small measure of comfort and tranquility.

But Pollard’s punishment is not yet over. By the terms of his release, he will be denied the one dream most precious to him, the one hope for which he prayed while fulfilling the terms of his sentence. Jonathan Pollard wants to end his days on earth together with his wife in the land of Israel. And this, the American government has told him, he is not allowed to do for at least five years.
What is the rationale for this cruel ruling? Why add this restriction if Pollard’s release from prison clearly makes the statement that he has paid his dues to his country, to his government and to society? We just learned the answer from Joseph E DiGenova, the former United States attorney who prosecuted Pollard. “If Mr. Pollard were allowed to go to Israel, where his case has been a cause celebre, there would be a parade and events just rubbing it in the United States’ face.”

The United States was afraid to release Pollard earlier and continues to be afraid to let him now emigrate to Israel because there might be some who will publicly express approval for his past actions - and the highest priority must be given to prevent criminals from becoming lionized.

New York Times Whitewashes Palestinian Terror
by Gilead Ini
The paper consistently covers up and excuses Arab terror.
This week began as the last one ended – with more Palestinian stabbing attacks against Israeli Jews, and more dead. And yet, this information might surprise readers of The New York Times.
On Sunday, a 20-year-old Israeli woman was stabbed to death, another Israeli was rammed by a car and attacked with a knife and a third was assaulted by a knife-wielding teen affiliated with the Islamic Jihad terror group.

All three assailants were killed in the course of their attacks.

But the headline to the Times’ story about Sunday’s attacks did away with cause and effect, muddled victim and aggressor: “1 Israeli, 3 Palestinians Killed in Attacks in West Bank.” The online headline was later changed, but the print headline Monday morning was equally obtuse: “West Bank Faces Spate of Assaults That Kill 4.” The “West Bank” faced nothing. It was Israelis who faced assaults.

This was par for the course – and in some ways, even mild – for how the Times has covered the so-called “stabbing intifada,” the recent spate of Arab-on-Jewish murder.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recently called on his people to protect Jerusalem holy sites from the “filthy feet” of Israeli Jews, and terrorists have heeded the call, taking to the streets to thrust knives into any Israeli they encounter – other recent stabbing victims include an 80-year-old woman and a 13-year-old boy on a bike.

But even this incitement, and even this terror, is no match for the creativity of The New York Times. When a Palestinian assailant was caught on film last month wielding a knife and rushing at Israelis, before quickly being neutralized by Israeli security personnel, Times reporters simply avoided telling readers about the video.

Handling the Son of Hamas
by Debra Heller
The riveting recollections of the Shin Bet handler who worked for ten years with Israel’s super-mole, Mosab Hassan Yousef.
by Debra Helle
“Hamas wasn’t just a movement to us. It was the family business. It was our identity. It was the cause for which my father had dedicated his life.”
Mosab Hassan Yousef wasn’t exaggerating when he uttered those words in The Green Prince, the documentary that was recently made about him. Mosab’s father, Sheikh Hassan Yousef, had helped found the Hamas terror organization, was one of the leaders of the Intifada, and was frequently imprisoned by the Israelis. In fact, as recently as October 19, the IDF raided his house in the West Bank village of Beitunia and arrested him yet again, accusing him of inciting the recent violence. That his son, Mosab, risked his life to spy on his father on behalf of Israel, thereby preventing countless terrorist attacks and suicide bombings, and bringing about the arrest of many in the Hamas hierarchy, including his own father, is perhaps one the most fascinating stories in the annals of espionage literature.

Few know Mosab’s story better than Gonen Ben-Yitzchak, his handler inside the Shin Bet, Israel's security service. Gonen, whose code name was "Captain Loai,” joined the Shin Bet a year after Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin was murdered in November 1995, motivated by a desire to help Israel defend itself against violence.

His encounter with Mosab was almost coincidental. It all began when, as a 17-year-old in 1996, Mosab purchased a cache of illegal guns with the intention of murdering as many Israelis as he could.
“I hated Israel and believed we had the right to make the Israelis feel our pain.”
As detailed in his autobiography, Son of Hamas, co-written by journalist Ron Brackin, the youthful Mosab had been imbued with a hatred for Jews. He was jubilant when Saddam Hussein fired 39 Scud missiles at Israel during the 1991 Gulf War, and was disappointed when Israel wasn't destroyed. As set forth in its 1988 mission statement, he sincerely wanted Hamas to “obliterate Israel” and “raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.”

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Post  Admin on Sun 22 Nov 2015, 10:45 pm
The World Stands with France. What about Israel?
Is it too much to ask the world to declare that when Jews are murdered it is as much of an outrage as when terror strikes in Paris?
by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
The tricolore red, white and blue of the French flag hung in the gym of the Chicago school, along with a sign declaring the school “Stands with France”.
The occasion was a basketball game. Girls from my daughter’s Jewish middle school team were squaring off against girls from a French school. When they arrived at the court, my daughter and her teammates handed the French coach a letter, expressing their sorrow at the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris the week before, and professing solidarity with their French peers.

Taking the letter, the French coach postponed the game, first addressing the students directly. Despite belonging to different cultures, he intoned, all of the players were united in grief. This Jewish school has always been a staunch friend, and he warmly thanked my daughter and her teammates for their support.

I was proud of my daughter, gratified that she and her teammates had thought of their rivals’ feelings and grateful to their Jewish school for teaching that we always have a responsibility to reach out and help others. But mingled with my pride that night was exhaustion.

The heartache had kept coming in waves all day. First, news broke that there had been another terrorist stabbing in Tel Aviv on Thursday, November 19, 2015. Then the news that two men were now dead, stabbed in broad daylight on a busy street full of passers-by. Men were gathered inside a Judaica shop to recite the afternoon service when the attacker struck. People inside managed to barricade the shop door, but three men outside were stabbed. Aharon Yesayev, 32 and Reuven Aviram, 51 were killed.

Then another terror attack rocked Israel. An Arab terrorist opened fire with a submachine gun on cars stopped in traffic and then crashed his car into another. Three people were killed and many people were injured. Rabbi Yaakov Don, a 51 year old father of four and beloved teacher was one of the fatalities. “He was my children’s teacher!” a friend posted on Facebook, describing him as a gifted educator and gentle soul. Also killed was Shadi Arafa, 24, an Arab employee of a Palestinian cellphone company.

The fifth fatality of the day was 18-year-old Ezra Schwartz, a student from Sharon, Massachusetts. Like many Jewish American teens, he was spending his post-high school year in Israel studying and volunteering. The day of his murder, he’d been distributing food and candy to soldiers near Jerusalem. “I write through tears,” a friend of mine who knew Ezra wrote. Another recalled getting together with his parents – she could only imagine their heartbreak. When my son came home from school, he looked shaken. Several of his classmates knew the Schwartz family. “He could be my son!” cried a friend of mine, and I knew what she meant. Ezra could have been any of our teens, full of idealism, eager to visit the Jewish state, brimming with plans for the future.

And I wondered if the students at the French school my daughter played against that night would reach out to her and her heart-sick teammates and their families too. While the world rightly rallied around France in their hour of need, where is the call outside of the Jewish community to do the same when Jews and others are murdered in Israel?
Cities around the world don’t light up their national monuments in the blue and white of Israel’s flag after terror attacks in the Jewish state, as they beautifully did after the Paris attacks. Facebook doesn’t offer users the chance to change their profile picture to the colors of Israel’s flag, as they optioned after the mayhem in Paris.
Is it too much to ask the world to declare that when Jews are murdered it is every bit as much of an outrage as when terror strikes in Paris?

I was gratified when I saw photos of Israel’s Knesset and the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City lit up in the French tricolore. I was happy when my daughter and her friends announced they proudly stood with France. Will the world also stand with us in our grief, in our pain as we bury and mourn our best and our brightest?
Will you condemn terror attacks against Israelis as forcefully as you do against others? Will you call attacks against Jews and Israelis for what they are – terror – and not label them a false “cycle of violence”? Will you condemn terror when it strikes in Israel, and not appeal for “calm on all sides”? Will you be as outraged when innocents are mowed down on the streets of Tel Aviv as you were when people were killed in Paris? Will you stand with us?
Please do not let us stand alone.

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Post  Admin on Tue 03 Nov 2015, 10:19 pm

Christians United For Israel
by Judy Gruen
Nearly 2.5 million Christian Americans are defending Israel. They call themselves part of the “goyim underground.”
Kasim Hafeez, a Muslim from Nottingham, England, was on his way to Pakistan to join a jihadist training camp when he saw the book, The Case for Israel, by Alan Dershowitz.
Scoffing at the title, he bought it, eager to disprove all the arguments.
Hafeez grew up in a home where his father told him that Hitler was a great man whose only failing was that he didn’t kill enough Jews. Hearing a steady barrage of anti-Western, anti-Semitic invective growing up, both at home and in mosques, Hafeez said, “Even though I lived a comfortable life, had freedom of religion, and had state-sponsored schooling, I learned to feel like a victim. You look for a way to fight back, and you begin to think that being a terrorist is okay.”
Unwilling to admit he was wrong, he decided to go to Israel to validate his prejudices.
But Hafeez had a problem: he couldn’t disprove the arguments in the Dershowitz book. Unwilling to admit he was wrong, he decided to go to Israel to validate his prejudices. This marked the beginning of his transition from would-be jihadist to a Muslim Zionist. In Israel, Hafeez spoke to Druze, Muslims, Christians, and Jews. He was shocked to see that Israel was a democratic, free country where most people just “got on. It was mind-blowing.”

Creating Security for Children in a Scary World
by Slovie Jungreis-Wolff
How to make a pocket of peace for our families and ourselves.
My daughter, Shaindy, traveled to America last week to visit with my mother. Upon returning to her home in Israel, Shaindy was greeted with a Welcome Home sign pasted onto her front door. Her six-year-old daughter had colored a picture of an El-Al plane, with a bright yellow sun. Behind the windows of the plane, she drew her mommy’s smiling face along with other passengers, and parallel to her mommy were the faces of terrorists, each with a fist raised holding sharp daggers.
Is this how our children see the world?
It’s not only in Israel that we must put ourselves into the shoes of frightened children. I spoke with a bat-mitzvah-aged girl who confided that she often feels scared. Many marriages around her are dissolving and she worries that one day she too will become a child of divorce. She watches friends deal with shaky finances, health issues, sick grandparents or siblings who seem out of control. “And the world is full of wars,” she added.
It can be overwhelming for children to deal with so much chaos, in addition to handling the pressures of school, friends and after school activities.
How can we keep our children grounded and maintain a positive outlook in life?
Many parents themselves are grappling with similar fears. How do we create a pocket of peace in a world gone mad?
Parental Peace

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Post  Admin on Wed 28 Oct 2015, 12:47 pm
The Mufti and the Holocaust
by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
Who was Haj Amin Al Husseini and what role did he play in the Holocaust?
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent comments on the Holocaust have landed him in a lot of hot water.

After asserting that Haj Amin Al Husseini, the wartime Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, gave Hitler the idea of executing Jews, saying the best way to deal with Jews was to “burn them”, Netanyahu was roundly and justly criticized. Many even accused him of giving credence to Holocaust revisionists and deniers.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel castigated the Israeli leader, saying “We know that responsibility for this crime against humanity is German and very much our own." Historians rushed to denounce Netanyahu’s faulty grasp of history. Mobile killing squads were in operation before 1941, they pointed out, already murdering Europe’s Jews.

Netanyahu distanced himself from his statements, explaining “I had no intention to absolve Hitler of responsibility for his diabolical destruction of European Jewry. Hitler was responsible for the final solution to exterminate six million Jews. He made the decision.”
But, Netanyahu, the son of a prominent Israeli historian, pointed out, “It is equally absurd to ignore the role played by the mufti, a war criminal, for encouraging and urging Hitler, Ribbentrop, Himmler and others to exterminate European Jewry.”

Although Netanyahu’s remarks were not accurate, there is little doubt that Haj Amin Al Husseini encouraged genocide during the Holocaust.

During the Nuremberg Trials that followed World War II, Dieter Wisliceny, a deputy of Adolph Eichmann, described the Mufti as one of Eichmann’s closest confidants: “The Mufti was one of the initiators of the systematic extermination of European Jewry...and had been the permanent collaborator and advisor of Eichmann and Himmler in the execution of the plan. According to my opinion, the Grand Mufti, who had been in Berlin since 1941, played a role in the decision of the German government to exterminate the European Jews. He had repeatedly suggested to the various authorities...the extermination of European Jewry. He was one of Eichmann’s best friends and had constantly incited him to accelerate the extermination measures.” When Eichmann was captured and tried in Israel in 1961, Golda Meir called for Al Husseini to be tried, as well.

Although the Mufti was hardly the first to call for killing Europe’s Jews – mobile killing units had already murdered close to a million Jews by the time the Eichmann met the Mufti – Al Husseini was at the very least an enthusiastic supporter, and possibly a collaborator in wiping out Jews.

As a young man, in 1920, Al Husseini gained notoriety by doing just that. The son of a previous Mufti of Jerusalem, in April 1920 Al Husseini used a local pilgrimage ceremony near Jerusalem to whip up anti-Jewish fervor. In the ensuing riots, five Jews were murdered and hundreds were injured.

Convicted of incitement by the British authorities, Al Husseini fled to Damascus – then returned a few months later after being pardoned by a new British High Commissioner. The following year, Al Husseini assumed the role of Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. He was still in his twenties and his religious qualifications lagged behind many of his rivals, but he had a forceful personality and was able to rally many of his fellow-believers around a popular cause: hatred of the region’s Jews.

Under Al Husseini’s leadership, resentment of Jews reached a fever pitch. Accusing Jews of wanting to destroy the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, he sparked a series of pogroms that began in Jerusalem in August 1920 and soon spread to Safed, Hebron, Haifa, Tel Aviv, and elsewhere. Within days, 133 Jews had been butchered and 339 injured.

When the fiery Mufti was caught receiving funds, weapons and military instructions from fascist Germany and Italy a few years later in 1936 – planning a revolt against British rule – the British issued a warrant was issued for his arrest. Al Husseini fled – first to Iraq, and later – at Hitler’s personal invitation – to Germany, arriving in Berlin in 1941.

Al Husseini lived in luxury during the War, splitting his time between Berlin and Rome. He was photographed with Hitler and often dined with Heinrich Himmler. Hitler gave him a staff of sixty to run an Arabic-language radio service from Berlin and foment anti-Jewish sentiment in the Middle East. Jews, the Mufti exhorted on the air, “ parasites among the peoples, suck their blood, steal their property, pervert their morals”. The Mufti also helped raise a dedicated Muslim Division of the Waffen SS in Yugoslavia.

As Barry Rubin & Wolfgang G. Schwanitz write in their book Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East (Yale University Press, 2014), the Mufti also offered Hitler the possibility of wider geopolitical strength. “In exchange for Berlin’s backing, (Al Husseini) pledged to bring the Muslims and Arabs into an alliance with Germany; spread Nazi ideology; promote German trade; and ‘wage terror,’ in his own words, against the British and French…. The Nazis were eager for this partnership. They established special relationships with the Muslim Brotherhood, the Ba’ath Party, the Young Egypt movement, and radical factions in Syria, Iraq, and Palestine. Berlin also hoped to build links with the kings of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. These Arab movements and Nazi Germany had the “warmest sympathy” Hitler explained, “for three reasons. First, we do not pursue any territorial aspirations in Arab lands. Second, we have the same enemies. And third, we both fight against the Jews. I will not rest until the very last of them has left Germany.'”

Inspired by the Holocaust, it seems Al Husseini hoped to emulate the systematic murder of Europe’s Jews in the Middle East. Envisioning huge crematoria for Jews in the Dotan Valley near Nablus, Al Husseini confided his plans to burn the bodies of Jews from the Land of Israel, Iraq, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and North Africa in them. (

The defeat of Nazi Germany put an end to the Mufti’s plans. Arrested by the French after the war, Al Husseini was allowed to escape, and made his way to Egypt, where he remained influential and outspoken in his Jew hatred.

Though his military might was over, he continued to spread his ideas until his death in 1974. Al Husseini influenced the nascent Arab League to put a clause in its charter that its purpose was to destroy the “Zionist entity” and to declare war against the nascent Jewish state. In 1996, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz quoted Yasir Arafat’s younger brother and sister saying that Al Husseini has been a “father figure” to the young Arafat during his childhood in Egypt.

Al Husseini's toxic legacy of virulent Jew-hatred lives on today. In helping shape Arab policy, in influencing a young Yasir Araft, in spreading slanders about Jews that persist to this day, Al Husseini continues to be a force for ill-will and hatred throughout the Middle East and beyond.
Published: October 25, 2015

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Post  Admin on Wed 28 Oct 2015, 12:40 pm
The Rabid Anti-Semite who became a Proud Jew
Co-founder of Hungary’s far-right, anti-Semitic party discovers he’s Jewish, forcing him to rethink his life and reconnect to his roots.
by Moira Schneider
How does one react on discovering at the age of 30 that one is Jewish? And how much more shattering would that revelation be if one is a raving anti-Semite?
For Csanád Szegedi, it was “the most traumatic and probably the worst day of my life.”

The guest speaker at Aish Hatorah South Africa’s gala dinner held in Johannesburg last week, Szegedi related how, as a 20-year-old university student in 2003, he had co-founded the far-right, anti-Semitic Jobbik Party; created concomitantly was a paramilitary organization, Hungarian Guards, which struck terror into the hearts of minorities, making him the embodiment of Hungarian Jewry’s worst fears.

By 2012 Jobbik had grown to be the second largest political party in Hungary. It was at this time that a political rival claimed to have documentary proof that Szegedi was in fact Jewish.
“To clarify the rumour, I sat down with my maternal grandmother to ascertain whether this was true,” he recalled through his colleague and translator Jonathan Megyeri. “My grandmother, who had survived Auschwitz and had a number tattooed on her arm, admitted she was once Jewish, but she had closed that chapter after the Shoah and was not Jewish anymore.

My grandmother who survived Auschwitz and had a number tattooed on her arm admitted she was once Jewish.
“She said my maternal grandfather was also Jewish and had worked in a forced labour camp during World War 11.”
There was no escaping the shocking truth: Csanád Szegedi was a Jew.

His inner turmoil was compounded by the fact that his appearance did not gel with his internalized image of Jews. “I cannot be Jewish,” he thought to himself. “I don’t have a big enough nose, a hunchback and two bags of money under my arms!”
Szegedi, who had never encountered a Jewish individual, decided he had to meet a “real Jew”, specifically from the religious community. “But I did not have many rabbi friends,” he notes in something of an understatement.

So he googled “Budapest rabbi” and found one who worked in outreach. At first the rabbi thought he was joking. “He suspected it was candid camera,” Szegedi remembers.
“He gave me an appointment and I went to see him. I thought he was going to throw me out. Much worse – he told me I should sit down and learn!”

With his wife, Szegedi was invited to synagogue where “I held the book upside down.” The enmity and hatred he encountered there was so great that the rabbi had to call a meeting, where Szegedi faced some aggressive questioning from the community.
“Despite all this, I thought I have no other way to choose but to walk the Jewish way.” He has since become kosher and Sabbath observant.

During his interrogation by the community, an old man had asked him “very softly” when he was going to be circumcised, something he refers to as “not my favourite part of Judaism.” A year later, after the procedure “which I never thought I’d undergo,” Szegedi received his first “aliyah” on Yom Kippur.
“It was the first time I had the opportunity to be called by my Jewish name,” he relates. “The old man came up to me and said: ‘I pardon you now.’”

In the light of these developments, have his mother and grandmother embraced their Judaism? “I have had long conversations with both,” he says, “and I must admit that neither was particularly happy with the outcome of events.

“My grandmother worked so hard for the past 50 years to try to assimilate and it seems she failed in the end. My mother is simply afraid of embracing her Jewish roots.”
While his grandmother passed away a year ago, Szegedi’s mother, who had no knowledge of Judaism, has accompanied him to synagogue on a few occasions and he has taken her on a visit to Israel.

The 33-year-old now says he is “not too proud” of the fact that he was second in command of the proto-Fascist party and for three-and-a-half years has been “extremely busy” attempting to atone for his past.

Amidst much emotional upheaval, the main issue engaging his mind was how to make up for “all the bad deeds” in his previous life. The Av Beth Din in Budapest suggested he go around to schools, college campuses and universities explaining the dangers of anti-Semitism, as well as address Jewish communities, all of which he has been doing for the past 18 months.
But has he done anything to eradicate anti-Semitism amongst the people he used to lead? The question is whether it is worthwhile to engage in conversation with someone who is anti-Semitic, especially where political interests are concerned, he retorts, seemingly sidestepping the issue.

Since Jobbik is the most popular party for those under 30, there is “something wrong with the education system if all the youngsters could be attracted to this type of nonsense.”
He is, however, not shirking his personal responsibility. “I am far from being satisfied that my lecturing does the job,” he concedes. “I try to do everything I can through my story to get my ideals out in public.”
To this end, Szegedi is writing a book and a documentary film is in the pipeline. “My story will get to more people and I could have more influence than I have,” he says.

While he has endured threats from his former party, these are “mainly over. I received many e-mails. Some people in the party are very aggressive, but this never led to any real danger.”
“What makes someone anti-Semitic?” he ponders, voicing the eternal question. “I had never met a Jewish person in my life.”
The only thing to do to fight anti-Semitism is to do more to be Jewish, be proud and definitely do not hide it.
Indeed, how then did he pick up on these ideas? Szegedi attributes this to having grown up amongst young people who were “very nationalistic.” In addition, “anti-Semitic literature became available in the 1990s and I did a lot of reading,” he says, fingering the explosion of the Internet. “You must be careful what young people access,” he warns.
“Anti-Semitism cannot be rational – it stems from frustration and depression. I did not meet the kind of monsters portrayed in anti-Semitic circles,” he says of his integration into the Budapest Jewish community.

“The only thing to do to fight anti-Semitism is to do more to be Jewish, be proud and definitely do not hide it,” he concludes.
While Szegedi’s wife is not Jewish “yet,” she has embraced his change in direction, describing it as a “new path we can only walk together.” Previously, she had been neutral to “a little bit positive” towards Jews, he explains.
“I firmly believe you cannot run a Jewish home without the support of the woman,” he states. “While I had my doubts along the way, she was always supportive and pushed me in the right direction.
“She put magnets on the fridge with the different blessings for food. She’s the one that dresses my kids up for Shabbos,” he says, referring to their two sons aged four and seven years. “We started this path together and I thank her very much.”

As for coping with the Hebrew prayers, Szegedi says although the language is logical, it is “not easy for the European mind. I could probably count on the fingers of one hand, the number of times my rabbi was happy with me!”
Sharing the “main message” of his life, Szegedi states: “Some of you may not consider yourselves observant, but I doubt that any of you went further away from God than I did.

“God has proven to me that he is not particularly looking for vengeance, but he’s also very (quick) to pardon.”

As to his three core reasons it is worthwhile being Jewish, he says: “You are Jewish anyway, so you might as well enjoy it! From a spiritual point of view, we belong to a nation that God watches over personally.

“Most importantly, we’re part of a family that, thanks to organizations like Aish HaTorah, welcomes back every lost member. Thank you, my South African family, for welcoming me.”
Published: October 25, 2015

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Post  Admin on Thu 22 Oct 2015, 6:54 pm

Raising Children to Kill
What does it take to raise a child to stab another child to death?
What does it take to raise a child to stab another child to death? How early in his development would you have to start? What would you have to tell him? How often? Would you need the support of his school and other role models? Do you think you could succeed?
And what if it wasn’t a child who bullied him for years on the playground, but one he never met before?
Last week, a couple Arab boys, age 13 and 15, took a couple knives and went looking for some Jews in Jerusalem to kill. Any Jew. They tried a few. The one they were most successful with was a 13 year old boy who is still fighting for his life. A child leaving a candy store on his bike.
This was just one of hundreds of terror attacks against random Jews in random cities all over Israel in the last few weeks alone, perpetrated by teenagers, women, fathers, university students.

Victims and Terrorists under the Same Roof
Tensions on the street spill into Hadassah Medical Center where Jews and Arabs receive the same care.
by Associated Press and Israel Hayom
As a wave of violence sweeps across Jerusalem, victims and perpetrators are often surprised to be reunited – at each other's bedside in the city's largest emergency ward.
The Hadassah Medical Center prides itself on checking politics at the door and treating Palestinian attackers and Jewish victims alike. But the tensions on the street are increasingly seeping through the hospital's sterile walls, with family members clashing in the hallways and causing the wounded even more trauma.

Hadassah's Ein Kerem campus is considered a rare model of coexistence in deeply divided Jerusalem, with a mixed Jewish-Arab medical team working together to treat the city's wounded and infirm.
Coping with conflict is nothing new. More than 20 members of the hospital staff were either killed or lost close relatives during the last decade's Palestinian uprising. They are accustomed to separating their own feelings from the task at hand and treating those on the other side of the region's decades-old conflict.
Daniel Weiss, the chief resident of Surgery Ward A, said it was "irrelevant" whether he was operating on a victim or a wounded attacker.
"We have patients of all kinds coming in. It doesn't matter who they are. We treat them all," he said. "It's surreal, but that is the way we are. Jews and Arabs mingle and shop at each other's stores and work at each other's businesses and they lie at the hospital together."
It's a sentiment echoed by Ahmed Eid, head of surgery at Hadassah's Mount Scopus Hospital. On Monday, Eid, an Israeli Arab, operated on and saved the life of a 13-year-old Jewish boy who was stabbed in the east Jerusalem area of Pisgat Ze'ev and arrived at the hospital with barely a pulse after losing large quantities of blood.

Too Close to Home
During this slew of stabbings, barbaric person-to-person attacks, I’m waiting to exhale.
by Jennifer Lang
Four yoga students line up on their mats facing me. Behind me, the pool tiles – teal and aquamarine and celestial blues – shimmer in the sunlight. It’s mid-October, and the weather is so mild I hold morning classes in my backyard. Every few minutes, my Israeli neighbor’s phone vibrates and she walks away to check it. At 9:40am, almost an hour into class, I poke fun at her: “Dalia is texting and doing yoga.” She keeps quiet. The others chuckle. I instruct them to stand on their right leg, find a focal point, and bend the left leg as high up to their chests as they can. While they stand and gaze beyond me and the handful of fledgling trees in our yard, I hear a loud hum of a helicopter. It’s low and circling over us.
“What’s that about?” I must have said aloud.
“I didn’t want to say anything, but there was a stabbing in Raanana,” says my neighbor. “My husband texted from Germany to make sure I’m okay.” Everyone releases the pose. We’re quiet – too stunned to speak – as her words sink in. Our beautiful city called Raanana, our quiet paradise in the center of the country, one that many Israelis and immigrants jokingly call a bubble, is no longer immune. We are no longer immune.

The Solution to Israel’s Wave of Terror
by Sara Yoheved Rigler
The Jewish people’s alternative to despair.
As the wave of terror continues throughout Israel, with multiple attacks every day by Arabs using knives, guns, and cars to kill Jews, the Jewish population is protesting, demanding that our government do more to protect its citizens. After a 13-year-old boy on his bicycle and another man was stabbed in Pisgat Ze’ev on October 12, citizens staged a protest.
One protester, Tovi Harari declared: "As you can see, we are in a state of fear, fear to send our children to school. I haven't sent my daughter to school for three days already.
"The situation can't continue like this. There has to be some sort of solution. The prime minister must wake up, and understand we can't continue like this. They stab in the streets, and we have no security. You can't walk around the streets. I don't remember there ever being something like this."

There has never been a situation like this.

When Ms. Harari was asked what solution she proposed, she faltered. “If only I had a solution! The prime minister needs to think about it. To implement a curfew, I don't know...that's what he's prime minister for. …It's simply frightening to leave your home. ...Right now there's the protest, so we all came together, but in general the streets are silent. No one is there."

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Post  Admin on Thu 22 Oct 2015, 6:38 pm
3 Ways the Media Distort Attacks in Israel
And what you can do about it.
by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
When Israelis faced five separate stabbing attacks on Saturday
 Oct. 17, they were luckily able to fight off their attackers and defend themselves.

How did the world’s press report on these attacks? “Four More Palestinians Shot Dead on the Streets”. “Israelis Kill Four Palestinians”. “Palestinians Shot Dead in Alleged Knife Attacks”.

These headlines (from the Irish Independent, USA Today and Sky News respectively) are typical of much reporting when it comes to the Jewish state, portraying Israelis under attack as aggressors and glossing over (or omitting) details of the terrorism that Israelis are facing every day.

Here are three common media distortions we’re seeing in coverage of the current violent attacks in Israel and what you can do about them.

1. Upside-Down Reporting : Terrorists as Victims, Victims as Aggressors
It might seem unbelievable that people who arm themselves with knives, guns and meat cleavers and go out to murder Jews would be called victims but many news reports perversely insist on painting a picture of innocent Palestinian victims and Israelis as cold-blooded killers.
An Oct.17, 2015 headline in the British Telegraph newspaper announcing “Israeli security forces kill four more Palestinians as knife attacks continue” misleadingly make it seem as if an ongoing massacre is going on against Palestinians – not a wave of terror attacks against Israelis. An Oct. 19, USA Today insert carried by papers across the country reported “West Bank Bands Together: from making food to slingshots, Palestinians do what they can to fight Israel” – the take-away impression being that fighting Israelis is a noble pursuit, not the reality of shooting toddlers, stabbing children, and attacking Israelis viciously – targeting them only because they are Jews.

Pointing out the facts of recent terror attacks is one antidote to these upside-down news reports that invert aggressor and victim. That’s what NBC anchor Jose Diaz-Balart did recently during a live report. MSNBC/NBC correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin – reporting from Jerusalem – claimed that a would-be terrorist who’d been shot dead by police earlier was unarmed. Both of his hands were open and both of his hands did not have a knife.” But back in the studio, Mr. Diaz-Balart brought up a picture of the attacker, pointing out to viewers, “We can clearly see the man – with what appears to be, at least in his right hand, a knife.”

We don’t all have the influence of Mr. Diaz-Balart, but we can all learn how to counter bald-faced lies and distortion from him: pointing out the truth about attacks in reader feedback, letters to the editor, in blogs and social media – can take the air out of lies and distortions about Israel.

2. False Equivalence
Another slander that’s gaining traction about the Jewish state is that Israel is somehow culpable for the violence that’s roiling Palestinian society.

That was the assumption behind a recent CNN headline “More Die as Violence and Finger-Pointing Plague Israel, Palestinians.” The Oct. 18, 2015 headline came after the five failed terror attacks, and the day before the massive fatal attack in Beersheva’s Central Bus Station. Where was the violence on the part of the Israelis? Where the finger-pointing? Surely shooting an armed terrorist who is in the act of attacking isn’t the same sort of violence as carrying out the attack in the first place?
An Oct. 19 op-ed in The New York Times described an almost-unrecognizable Jerusalem, one in which mobs of Jews parade through the streets chanting “Death to Arabs”, in which Arabs are fearful of letting their children out of doors lest they be shot by murderous Israelis like “Jerusalem’s gun-wielding mayor.” This is a willful distortion.

This type of false equivalence has real consequences, convincing people that Israelis are some responsible for being stabbed, shot at, run over, attacked and murdered. It creates a climate in which Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking at Harvard on October 13, 2015 – the same day that three Israelis were murdered and twenty wounded in two separate attacks – could say both Israelis and Palestinians shared the blame for the violence. It desensitizes us to the fear and violence Israelis are experiencing. Sir Eric Pickles, Chairman of the Conservative Friends of Israel group in Britain, has called this desire to be balanced “pathological”.
One way to respond is to speak up: don’t be afraid to present a more nuanced, truthful version of events. Arm yourself with facts. Read Israeli news outlets, turn to websites such as and for help.

3. Giving a Platform to Lies and Extremism
One striking feature of much Israel coverage is the extent to which extreme people, organizations and views are given air and print time.
CNN, in an Oct. 18 report, quoted Israeli officials about the five terror attacks the day before – then cast doubt on them, saying “But the official Palestinian version of events doesn’t always match the account given by Israeli authorities”. According to this alternate account, CNN reported, a Palestinian terrorist didn’t attempt to stab an Israeli; instead, the Palestinian was the victim, hunted down and shot in cold blood by an Israeli “settler”.
Who is this alternative source? According to CNN, it’s WAFA, the Palestinian Authority’s official news agency. But does WAFA deserve to be treated as a credible news source?

Based on translations of its Arabic news source, the answer is absolutely not. This is the news outlet that on December 30, 2014, called the two terrorists responsible for murdering five Israelis as they prayed in a Jerusalem synagogue “martyrs...who ascended (to Heaven).” In the current wave of violence, WAFA has consistently referred to terror attacks against Israeli civilians as military operations, praised those killed in attempting to carry out attacks as “martyrs” and misreported the deaths of terrorists killed in self-defense as they carried attacks as cold-blooded executions.
An Associated Press (AP) story on October 15, 2015 story about the roots of Palestinian rage: “East Jerusalem Palestinians at Center of Wave of Unrest” similarly relied on highly biased information sources. Quoting Ir Amim, “an advocacy group that promotes equality in the city”, the AP painted a dystopian vision of Jerusalem in which “Arab neighborhoods have potholed streets, overcrowded classrooms, and suffer from insufficient public services like water, sewage and garbage collection”.
But Ir Amim is hardly an unbiased source. Described by one of its own officials as promoting a political agenda rather than coexistence, the organization – funded by Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands and EU – is extremist in its Israel-bashing and has called for the US to “sever diplomatic ties” with the Jewish State. A 2010 film series they funded was described at the time by the then-editor of the Jerusalem Post as “contain(ing) just about every imaginable one-sided, context-deficient, unbalanced misrepresentation of Israel rolled into one nasty package.”

In this climate we all have to be careful consumers of news. We must make an effort to question where our news sources are getting their information and evaluate whom they’re quoting. When you read extreme-sounding claims about Israel, take a moment to read about the source. Educate yourself about Israel and the news. Don’t be afraid to speak up. We all have a stake in making sure that distortions and lies about the Jewish state don’t go unchallenged.

With thanks to Honest Reporting for highlighting many of these and other examples of media bias against Israel.
Published: October 20, 2015

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Post  Admin on Wed 14 Oct 2015, 7:25 pm

The Spiritual Bystander Effect
The Jewish people needs your prayers.
by Sara Debbie Gutfreund

“Can you believe what’s going on in Israel?” my mother asked me when I called her in the middle of Sukkot. I felt my heart drop, my breath catch. I hadn’t been keeping up with the news at all. My house was full of guests; children running up and down the steps and trays of food going in and out of the sukkah. And I stopped myself from saying: Don’t tell me. I don’t want to know. Because part of me really didn’t want to hear what had happened.

Just at that moment my youngest ran into the room and pulled on my skirt. “Ima, hold me.” He rubbed his eyes as I gathered him into my arms and quickly steered the phone call into a different direction. But after I said Shema with him and tucked him into bed, I forced myself to finally go into my office. I sat down at my desk and as the lively din of my guests echoed towards me from downstairs, I opened up the news. The headlines looked like nightmares, one after the other. A father and mother shot in their car while their children watched helplessly from their seats. A father murdered on his way to pray at the Wall. His wife stabbed. His two-year-old daughter shot in the leg. And the young man who came out of his apartment to help them killed too. I closed my eyes and heard someone calling my name from downstairs.

Do we have any hazelnut coffee left? Ima, where are you?” I looked down at the names of the wounded and I heard my name echoing from the kitchen a second time. A third time.

“Ima!” And then. “Does anyone know where Ima went?” I turned off my computer. I shut my office door. What can I do anyway? I thought to myself. I could pray, but everyone was praying for the victims, for the situation, for the nightmarish headlines that grew worse every day. Why would my prayer make a difference? I walked downstairs into the distracting relief of guests looking for coffee, of children finishing brownies and playing cards in the sukkah, of a life so very far away from the mounting fear that was rising on every street corner in Israel.
But as I searched through the cabinets for hazelnut coffee, my heart ached. For every Jew who had been hurt. For the innocent lives that had been so cruelly cut short. For the children who were now orphans. For the parents and siblings and friends torn apart by grief. For the fear that was weaving its way through our beloved Land.
Over the next few days, there were emails and text messages on my phone – to say Psalms, to gather in prayer for Israel. And the headlines continued to pour in. More stabbing attacks. Tel Aviv. Afula. Jerusalem. Streets I had walked so many times with my children. Places that I had always considered safe now covered in blood. But I can’t do anything, I thought again to myself. I don’t live there. And there is so much to do right now. I can’t think about it now.
But everything that I did felt like it was covered by a gray shadow. The trips we went on. The food that I was cooking. And everything felt so much heavier, so caught beneath a murky unexpressed grief, because I wasn’t even praying. I was relying on someone else to set aside the time. Say the words. Plead for help. And then suddenly, I thought about the bystander effect, when everyone assumes that someone else will help. Someone else will call the fire department. Someone else will get the police. Someone else will help the lost child. And as I was picking up one of my fallen sukkah decorations, which happened to be a mirrored circle with the words: “Save Your nation and bless Your inheritance,” I saw my reflection. And I held that mirror in my hands, watching my tears like raindrops from above. And then I placed it carefully on the table, closed my eyes and began to pray.
That’s when I understood that the bystander effect doesn’t just happen in the physical realm. It happens to us spiritually too. We forget that each one of our prayers count. We forget that each of our tears help. We forget how very much every single Jew, every single one of us, is needed. There is something you can do. You can pray. And there is no prayer that is like your prayer. No tears are like your tears. The Jewish nation desperately needs you now. And no one else’s words or prayers can take your place.
It doesn’t matter where we live. Praying for, defending and supporting Israel is imperative for every Jew. Donate money to help the victims. Speak up against the outrage of Israel portrayed as an aggressor while our people are attacked on every street corner. The headlines keep pouring in. Don’t stand by while another Jew suffers. Speak now. Act now. Pray now. Don’t be a spiritual bystander.
Israel needs every single Jew to help, to pray, to care. “Save Your nation and bless Your inheritance.” Take the mirror and see the person who the Jewish nation cannot live without. It’s you.
Names to Pray For
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Published: October 12, 2015

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Post  Admin on Wed 07 Oct 2015, 9:51 pm
The Murder of a Hero
by Sara Yoheved Rigler
In trying to save a life, Rabbi Nehemia Lavi paid with his life
Rabbi Nehemia Lavi, 41, was celebrating the Third Meal of Shabbat with his wife and seven children in their rooftop sukkah above their Jerusalem Old City apartment. Rabbi Lavi related a teaching of the Vilna Gaon that there are two mitzvot that a man can fulfill with his whole body: Living in the Land of Israel and sitting in a sukkah. (Women, who are commanded to immerse in a mikvah, have three whole-body mitzvot.) He remarked to his family that they are, at that moment, fulfilling both these mitzvot. Suddenly they heard a woman screaming. Rabbi Lavi, an officer in the I.D.F. Reserves, grabbed his gun and ran downstairs to save her. As Israel’s Chief Rabbi would say at Nehemia Lavi’s funeral, he thus was fulfilling a third mitzvah with his whole body.
The Arab terrorist, who had already murdered 22-year-old Aaron Banito Bennet and seriously wounded his young wife Adelle, killed Rabbi Lavi by repeatedly stabbing him in the chest and neck. Then he took the rabbi’s gun and shot the Bennets’ toddler in the leg. Adelle, with a knife in her shoulder, managed to run to an Israeli police outpost fifty meters away before losing consciousness. The police neutralized the terrorist..
Nehemia Lavi was a lover of Jerusalem’s walled Old City. Although he grew up in Beit El, a town 33 kilometers outside Jerusalem, Nehemia moved to the Old City 23 years ago, as a yeshiva student at Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim. He became an educator. He taught young men at the yeshiva and children at the Moriah Talmud Torah in the Jewish Quarter.
He was also a lover of the Land of Israel. He took a tour guide course and became a certified guide, not because he was seeking another vocation, but just because he wanted to learn everything about the Land of Israel.
Rabbi Lavi had zeal to serve. As a combat soldier in the I.D.F. and then the Reserves, he was regularly called up for reserve duty. Disappointed that after turning 40 he would no longer be called up, he took a chaplain's training course so that he could continue to serve in the Reserves as an officer. He finished the course just 2 weeks ago.
In the Muslim Quarter
Some twenty years ago, Nehemia and his wife Netta moved into Beit Witenberg on HaGai Street in the Muslim Quarter. This large complex had been purchased by Rabbi Moshe Witenberg, a wealthy Eastern European Jew, in the 1880s. Rabbi Witenberg used part of the building to construct a magnificent Chabad synagogue with an extensive library, rented out twenty apartments, and used much of the building for his charitable institutions. Rabbi Witenberg died childless in 1899, after insuring with the Turkish authorities that the property would be consecrated as a charitable foundation and remain in Jewish hands. In 1920, Arab rioters attacked the Witenberg complex, burned down the synagogue, including its many Torah scrolls and priceless Chabad manuscripts, and looted and destroyed the apartments.
Although the original residents were afraid to return to Beit Witenberg after it was reconstructed, Jewish immigrants from Hungary moved in. They stayed there until driven out by the Arab riots of 1929, in which 133 Jews in the so-called “Muslim Quarter” were murdered. (An official census conducted by the British Mandate government in 1922 had found that the majority of residents of the “Muslim Quarter” were Jews.) In the wake of the Arab riots of 1929 and 1936, the “Muslim Quarter,” including its many Jewish-owned properties, became Judenrein.
After Israeli forces liberated the Old City from Jordanian rule in the Six Day War of 1967, Jews slowly returned to the Jewish Quarter. Reclaiming Jewish properties in the Muslim Quarter, however, was much harder. It took many years of legal action, much money, and the dedicated efforts of Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim to return scores of properties to Jewish hands. Finally, in 1987, a mezuzah was once again affixed to the entrance of the Witenberg complex.
Despite the danger of living in the Muslim Quarter, Nehemia Lavi and his family moved into Beit Witenberg on Hagai Street twenty years ago. His apartment there was both a home and a statement that Jews would not be intimidated by Arab violence from reclaiming their ancestral homeland or even this one, small, holy part of it.
The Number 18 Bus
Nehemia Lavi understood that courage, like fear, is contagious. The act that best reveals his bravery took place in 1996. At 6:30 in the morning of February 25, Jerusalem’s #18 bus was filled with people on their way to work. A suicide bomber boarded the bus and blew himself up, killing 26 people. Exactly one week later, at the same hour on the same #18 bus route, another suicide bomber blew up the bus, killing 19 people. Exactly one week after that, at the same hour, knowing how scared the driver and passengers would be, 22-year-old Nehemia Lavi, carrying a large Israeli flag, got on the #18 bus at the beginning of its route. With encouraging words and the blue-and-white flag of the Jewish nation, Nehemia instilled courage into the driver and passengers. He rode the bus until its last stop and then back the whole route in the other direction. It was a statement: We Jews will not submit to fear.
Nehemia Lavi understood that courage, like fear, is contagious.
Courage, like fear, is contagious. At Nehemia Lavi’s funeral this past Sunday, they announced that after the conclusion of the Simchat Torah holiday, “Second Hakafot,” dancing with the Torah as on Simchat Torah, but with the rousing accompaniment of a band, would take place on Hagai Street in the Muslim Quarter, at the very place where Nehemia Lavi and Aaron Banito Bennet had been murdered. The square has been renamed, “Nehemia and Aaron Square.”
Hundreds of Jews poured to the site. As the band played, Am Yisrael Chai (“The Jewish Nation Lives”), on the cobblestones recently cleansed of Jewish blood, hundreds of Jews danced with Torah scrolls in their hands and courage in their hearts.
The following day, rabbis started holding Torah classes at Nehemia and Aaron Square. Member of Knesset Mutty Yogez moved his official office to the Square. And the youths whose classmates from the Lavi family are now fatherless are sitting there on Haggai Street learning Torah and singing songs of Jewish faith and fortitude.
All of these are a statement: We Jews will not submit to fear. 

Our brother Nehemia, this is the courage you taught all of us by your brave example. Your courage is contagious.

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Post  Admin on Tue 18 Aug 2015, 8:25 pm
ABC's of Elul
The last month of the Jewish calendar is actually the most important – serving as preparation for the High Holidays.
by Rabbi Shraga Simmons

If you had an important court date scheduled – one that would determine your financial future, or even your very life – you'd be sure to prepare for weeks beforehand.
On Rosh Hashanah, each individual is judged on the merit of his deeds. Whether he will live out the year or not. Whether he will have financial success or ruin. Whether he will be healthy or ill. All of these are determined on Rosh Hashanah.

Elul – the month preceding Rosh Hashanah – begins a period of intensive introspection, of clarifying life's goals, and of coming closer to God. It is a time for realizing purpose in life – rather than perfunctorily going through the motions of living by amassing money and seeking gratification. It is a time when we step back and look at ourselves critically and honestly, as Jews have from time immemorial, with the intention of improving.

The four Hebrew letters of the word Elul (aleph-lamed-vav-lamed) are the first letters of the four words Ani l'dodi v'dodi lee – "I am to my Beloved and my Beloved is to me" (Song of Songs 6:3). These words sum up the relationship between God and His people.
In other words, the month preceding Rosh Hashanah is a time when God reaches out to us, in an effort to create a more spiritually-inspiring atmosphere, one that stimulates teshuva.

Beginning on Saturday night before Rosh Hashanah, we recite "Slichot", a special series of prayers that invoke God's mercy. If Rosh Hashanah falls at the beginning of the week, then "Slichot" begin on the Saturday night of the previous week. (Sefardim begin saying "Slichot" on Rosh Chodesh Elul.)
After the sin of the Golden Calf, Moses asked God to explain His system for relating with the world. God's answer, known as the "13 Attributes of Mercy," forms the essence of the "Slichot" prayers. The "13 Attributes" speak of "God's patience." The same God Who created us with a clean slate and a world of opportunity, gives us another opportunity if we've misused the first one.
"Slichot" should be said with a minyan. If this is not possible, then "Slichot" should still be said alone, omitting the parts in Aramaic and the "13 Attributes of Mercy."

Finally, the most important aspect of Elul is to make a plan for your life. Because when the Big Day comes, and each individual stands before the Almighty to ask for another year, we'll want to know what we're asking for!

Additions to the Services
Beginning the second day of Rosh Chodesh Elul, it is the Ashkenazi custom to blow the shofar every morning after prayers, in order to awaken us for the coming Day of Judgement. The shofar's wailing sound inspires us to use the opportunity of Elul to its fullest.
Also beginning in Elul, we say Psalm 27 in the morning and evening services. (Sefardim say it in the morning and afternoon services.) In this Psalm, King David exclaims: "One thing I ask... is to dwell in the house of God all the days of my life." we focus on the unifying force of God in our lives, and strive to increase our connection to the infinite transcendent dimension.

40-Day Period
Rewind 3,000 years to the Sinai Desert. God has spoken the Ten Commandments, and the Jews have built the Golden Calf. Moses desperately pleads with God to spare the nation.
On the first day of Elul, Moses ascends Mount Sinai, and 40 days later – on the seminal Yom Kippur – he returned to the people, with a new, second set of stone tablets in hand.
For us as well, the month of Elul begins a 40-day period that culminates in the year's holiest day, Yom Kippur.
Why 40? Forty is a number of cleansing and purification. Noah's Flood rains lasted 40 days, and the mikveh – the ritual purification bath – contains 40 measures of water.
Elul is an enormous opportunity. During this time, many people increase their study of Torah and performance of good deeds. And many also do a daily cheshbon – an accounting of spiritual profit and loss.

Events of the Year 2448
Many of the Jewish holidays are based on the events of one crucial year in Jewish history – 2448, or 1312 BCE.
About 3,300 years ago, in the Jewish year 2448, the Jewish people were freed from slavery in Egypt – following the plague of the First Born. The date was the 15th of Nissan, the first Passover celebration.
One week later, with the Egyptian troops in full chase, the Red Sea split – and the Jewish people walked through on dry land. This occurred on the seventh and final day of the Passover holiday.

Ten Commandments and Mount Sinai – Fifty days later, on the holiday of Shavuot, God gave the Ten Commandments to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai. At Sinai, the Jews regained the immortal level of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Moses' First Ascent – Following the revelation, Moses went up Mount Sinai to learn more details of the Torah directly from God. At the end of 40 days, God handed Moses two sapphire tablets of identical shape and size – upon which the Ten Commandments were engraved.

The Golden Calf – On the 16th of Tammuz, when Moses had not yet returned from the mountain, the Jewish people began to panic. They sought a new "leader" and built the Golden Calf. Immediately, the Clouds of Glory – the divine protection of God – departed. The Jews had relinquished their spiritual greatness and become mortal again. On the 17th of Tammuz, Moses came down from the mountain, smashed the Tablets, destroyed the Calf, and punished the transgressors.

Moses' Second Ascent - On the 19th of Tammuz, Moses ascended Mount Sinai again to plead for the lives of the Jewish people. He prayed with great intensity, and after 40 days, God agreed to spare the Jewish people in the merit of their forefathers. On the last day of Av, Moses returned to the people. Their lives were spared, but the sin was not yet forgiven.

Moses' Third and Final Ascent – Moses ascended Mount Sinai on Rosh Chodesh Elul and stayed in the heavenly camp for 40 days (bringing the total number of days spent there to 120). Henceforth, the month of Elul became a special time for drawing close to God. At the end of the 40 days – on the 10th of Tishrei – God agreed to mete out the punishment for the Golden Calf over many generations. He then gave Moses a new, second set of Tablets.

Moses came down from the mountain with good news for the people: The reunification was complete, and the relationship restored. Thereafter, the 10th of Tishrei was designated as a day of forgiveness for all future generations: Yom Kippur, the 

Day of Atonement.
Midrashic Sources: Exodus Rabba 32:7, 51:8; Tanchuma - Ki Tisa 35

Recommended Reading
Rabbeinu Yitchak Abohav writes in "Menoras HaMeor":
Any intelligent person who is scheduled for trial before a mortal king will surely spend sleepless nights and days preparing his case. He will seek the advice of every knowledgeable person he knows who can help him prepare his case. He will go to great lengths to attain a favorable verdict, even if all that is at stake is but a small part of his fortune, and he faces no personal risk.
Should he not do so as well when brought to judgment before the Supreme King of Kings, the Holy Blessed One, when not only he, but his children and his fortune all hang in the balance?
With this in mind, here is some suggested reading for the High Holidays.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur Survival Kit (Shimon Apisdorf, Leviathan Press) – The award-winning guide to getting more meaning out of the High Holidays. With humor and sophistication, this book offers invaluable insight to the significance of the holidays and prayers. User-friendly format.

ArtScroll Machzor – The most complete and well organized prayer book on the market today. Includes full English/Hebrew text of all prayers, plus explanations, laws and customs. Features a masterful essay on the essence of the High Holidays. Separate volumes for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

The Book of Our Heritage (Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov, Feldheim) – A thorough review of the Jewish calendar. Includes month-by-month explanations of all the holidays, laws and customs throughout the Jewish year. A classic.
Published: May 21, 2002

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Post  Admin on Fri 31 Jul 2015, 3:52 pm

Atticus Finch and Fallen Heroes
If we stop believing in heroes there’s no hope for us ever to become like them.
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech         
Atticus Finch is a racist.
That’s what we now learn from Harper Lee’s just released prequel to her Pulitzer prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Already breaking all sales records for a newly released book 54 years after Harper Lee introduced us to Atticus in a classic that became one of the best-selling books ever published, we now are shattered to learn that the hero who captured our hearts never truly deserved our respect and admiration.

Go Set a Watchman reveals that the courageous lawyer portrayed by Gregory Peck in the famous film based on the novel wasn’t really a civil rights champion after all. He too was tainted by the prejudices of his world and the bigotry of his society.
This revelation mirrors a greater contemporary tragedy.

For more than half a century, students in schools across the country read the story of Atticus Finch and his courageous courtroom battle. They were introduced to idealism, to heroism, to fearless bravery in order to uphold a personal sense of ethical morality. And the story served its purpose well. It was inspiring. By personal account, it motivated countless youngsters to identify with pursuing principled values against unjust societal norms. Yes, we taught our children, life has its heroes who challenge us to emulate them.
Fallen heroes have become the supposed new norm.
But today’s youth are confronted with the countless examples of fallen heroes for whom Atticus Finch may well represent a perfect paradigm.
Greek tragedy was predicated on the fall of the truly mighty and powerful. Today’s fallen idols fell from lower platforms of fame and public adoration, but the results are no less devastating.

Who can forget how Bill Cosby parlayed Cliff Huxtable into the ideal father all Americans wished they had – and then turned his ostensible moral code into the widely successful book Fatherhood. Bill Cosby was honored with the Presidential Medal Of Freedom. A generation looked up to him. Today his reputation as a reputed rapist has turned him into a pariah.
Remember how long Lance Armstrong was worshiped for his unequaled athletic prowess until, after years of denial on his part, we learned of his illegal drug use and cheating. Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire broke baseball records, until we found out they could only do it by breaking the law. Heroes all – until they weren’t any longer.
Politicians are discovered to have served their personal desire for wealth far more than their constituents and jailed for corruption. Corporations have knowingly kept dangerous products on the market in order to increase their profits. And alas, even spiritual leaders have been found to be guilty of crimes totally contrary to their supposedly religious beliefs.
Indeed, there have always been fallen angels. What makes today different is the power of the media, the Internet, the blogs and websites to publicize these failings to a degree never known before. And perhaps the greatest tragedy is that fallen heroes have become the supposed new norm. They are no longer seen by today’s generation as aberrations; they are merely illustrations of reality.

We need to remember the world is still filled with heroes in spite of its villains.
Speak to young people and they will tell you that almost everyone is a fraud. Heroes don’t really exist. They are just phonies waiting to be uncovered. Lawyers are liars, businessmen are thieves, politicians are crooks and clergy are bogus.
We have fallen for the idea that there are no heroes. In his first inaugural address, Ronald Reagan put it well when he famously said, “Those who say that we're in a time when there are no heroes, they just don't know where to look.”
We need to desperately replace our fascination with humanity’s flaws with the recognition of everyday acts of human greatness. They appear all around us every moment of every day. They are made clear by the sacrifices of parents, the goodness of friends, the kindness of strangers, the strength of character, the nobility and the courage of so many of those with whom we interact all the days of our lives.
We need to remember the world is still filled with heroes in spite of its villains. Because if we stop believing in heroes there’s no hope for us ever to become like them.
Published: July 27, 2015

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Post  Admin on Tue 21 Jul 2015, 3:37 pm
[INFOGRAPHIC] 7 Dangers to Israel
by Rabbi Shraga Simmons
The State of Israel, founded in 1948, is besieged today more than ever.
7 Dangers to Israel
The State of Israel, founded in 1948, is besieged today more than ever.
by Shraga Simmons

1. Iran
70 years after the Holocaust, little did the Jewish people imagine that nuclear
weapons could be soon in the hands of fanatical tyrants who boast that "the
destruction of Israel is non-negotiable."*
*General Mohammad Reza Naqdi, Iranian Revolutionary Guards, March 2015

2. Hamas
The Arab terror group – sworn to Israel's destruction* – has unleashed a wave
of suicide bombings, kidnappings, cross-border tunnels. In the decade since
Israel's withdrawal from Gaza, Hamas has launched four large-scale rocket
wars, most recently in 2014.
Funding: Qatar* and Iran*
*Hamas Charter; NPR – June 18, 2015; Telegraph (UK) – April 4, 2015

3. Hezbollah
The de facto ruling force in southern Lebanon, Hezbollah vows to destroy Israel
and has built a vast underground network of tunnels and bunkers, equipped
with 100,000 missiles aimed at the length and breadth of Israel.*
Funding: Iran* and Venezuela*
*Wall Street Journal – Jan. 2, 2014; New York Times – April 3, 2015; CNN – June 3, 2013

4. United Nations
Founded to bring unity and peace to the world, the United Nations has
descended into a center of anti-Semitism, where 30% of UN General Assembly
resolutions target the State of Israel. The UN Human Rights Council has
condemned the Jewish State more than the other 192 nations combined.

5. Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions
The BDS (Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions) movement accuses Israel of
apartheid and seeks to turn it into a pariah state. Israeli artists, academics, and
businesses are routinely targets of protest.

6. Disunity
The destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, a cataclysmic event in Jewish
history, was due to infighting among Jews. Despite disagreements, the pursuit
of national destiny requires that we respect and value the Jewish heart that
binds us as one family. 

7. Assimilation
Comprehensive studies of Diaspora Jewry reveal a dilution of Jewish identity,
resulting in apathy and disengagement amongst millions of Jews and
weakening attachment to the Jewish State. Meaningful Jewish education and
experiences are crucial to reversing this trend.

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Post  Admin on Thu 16 Jul 2015, 11:05 am
Omar Sharif died last week.
For those of us old enough to remember, Sharif was a cinema idol, a smolderingly handsome Egyptian leading man of the 1960s embraced by Hollywood and catapulted into international prominence – as well as Oscar contention – for his role in Lawrence of Arabia. Success followed success and his fame became further cemented by his starring role in yet another sweeping historical epic, Dr. Zhivago.

Sharif had more than 100 films to his credit. He won three Golden Globe awards. In his personal life he was married to Egyptian cinema’s reigning screen beauty and together they were acknowledged as the glamour couple of their generation.

Yet in spite of all this the matinee idol almost overnight was transformed from superstar to villain, from celebrity to pariah. His crime was something that could not be forgiven. Because of it his films were banned in his homeland as well as many other Arab countries. His sin? Sharif shared an on-screen romance with Barbra Streisand in the 1968 movie, Funny Girl. And Barbra of course is a Jew.
Sharif’s death brings back to mind a kind of irrational hatred that would seem to be impossible of finding a parallel in our 
more enlightened times. And yet it was but a few months ago that we were exposed to an eerily similar illustration of bigotry which transcends any civilized norms of behavior.

It was a selfie photo by the Israeli contestant in the Miss Universe contest in Florida this year which started it. Miss Israel, Doron Matalon, wanted a souvenir and so she took a picture of herself which included several others standing alongside. One of them unfortunately happened to be Miss Lebanon. On January 11, Matalon posted the picture with the gleeful caption, “good morning from us.” And that’s when the fireworks began.

The Arab world was incensed.

After an avalanche of criticism from within the Arab world, which frowns on contact with Israel, Miss Lebanon, Saly Greige, issued a stunning repudiation of the image and even claimed to have been avoiding Miss Israel throughout the competition.

“The truth behind the photo,” she claimed was that “since the first day of my arrival to participate to Miss Universe, I was very cautious to avoid being in any photo or communication with Miss Israel (that tried several times to have a photo with me) … I was having a photo with Miss Japan, Miss Slovenia and myself; suddenly Miss Israel jumped in, took a selfie, and put it on her social media…this is what happened and I hope to have your full support in the Miss Universe contest.”

Translation: There is no way in the world I would ever have anything to do with a Jew so please don’t ostracize me for committing an unforgivable transgression. I swear I hate Jews just as much as you do. So please support me in achieving my goal in being named the most beautiful woman in the universe.

And this wasn’t the first time that Jew hatred affected the Miss Universe competition. In 2002, Miss Lebanon Christina Sawaya refused to join the competition because Miss Israel Yamit Har-Noy was also competing.
It is sad beyond words that Omar Sharif was boycotted more than half a century ago simply because of his relationship with a Jew. Sadder still is the realization that the unwillingness of much of the Arab world to this day to acknowledge the possibility for human contact and perhaps even friendship across racial and religious divides still defines contemporary reality.
As the world mourns the death of Omar Sharif, perhaps it might take a moment to reflect on the irony that the cause of the boycott directed against him lives on in the continuing efforts of those who similarly seek to isolate present day Israelis and Jews.

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Post  Admin on Fri 19 Jun 2015, 3:36 pm

In Constant MotionMom with a ViewIn Constant Motion
I need to learn how to slow down.
by Emuna Braverman         

Have you ever had one of those days? You know the kind I mean – where you schedule in a million things so you end up being late for all of them, where you are running, running, running, being productive and yet overwhelmed and you forget to eat (actually that part has never happened; I have never in my life forgotten to eat!) and you’re frantic and famished and stretched to the maximum and by the time the end of the day finally arrives you are too tired to even speak?

I had one of those days today. Then I realized something – I have one of those every day! From the moment I wake up and push my “on” button, I keep going, going, going until the battery finally dies. I seem to be on either high or off; I can find my medium mode. Even if I go on vacation, I keep running, guide book in hand. Lying on a beautiful beach? I’m afraid I’d get bored. So I keep going.

But I can’t keep up the pace I once did (yes I recently wrote about my friends turning 60 and I am not far behind) and I’m starting to wonder if I should pull back, if I’m pushing too hard, if it’s healthy to move at this pace or if I would benefit from slowing it down, from coming up for air, for a little breathing space. All this frantic rushing around can’t be good for me – physically, spiritually or emotionally.

It’s so hard to stop, to say no, to move at a more leisurely pace. It threatens my whole sense of self (who am I if I am not in constant motion?) and yet…and yet…I think that is where the next step in growth my life. I always say about my children that I can’t stop the overachievers, I can’t sell them on an A instead of an A++ and I can’t light a fire under the kids who aren’t motivated; I can’t make them care.

But does that mean I can’t change myself? Doesn’t that mean I’m stuck on one speed for the rest of my life (barring illness, God forbid)? It can’t be. A fundamental tenet of Judaism is that change is ALWAYS possible. It is never too late. If we stop changing, we stop growing. If we stop growing, we stop living.

There are different ways of growing – and they certainly don’t all involve doing more, more and then some more. Some of us grow by saying no, by slowing things down, by stopping to look around and savor the beauty in our world and the gifts in our lives.

I can’t change my children, I can’t slow them down or speed them up because they are unique individuals with their own ability to exercise their free will and make choices. I can’t change them but I can change myself. I just have to decide I really want it. I have to decide that life on the merry-go-round is wearing me out and that in the end is counterproductive. It’s a tough choice. It’s a fine line. It’s a matter of subtleties and nuances, of introspection and self-awareness.

But if you’ve ever had one of those days – or, if like me, all days are “one of those days” – there’s no other option. I have to make a change. I have to catch my breath. I’ll begin tomorrow; I have too much to take care of today!
Published: June 13, 2015

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Post  Admin on Fri 19 Jun 2015, 3:26 pm

Marijuana and Jewish Joy
Do Jews like being happy?
by Rabbi Gavriel Horan

The National Geographic’s recent article, “High Science,” about the new science of marijuana, features Israeli scientist, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, who was the first to identify marijuana’s psychedelic properties. He named the neurotransmitter that binds to the same receptor in the brain as THC, Anandamide, after the Sanskrit word for supreme joy, ananda. When asked by National Geographic why he didn’t choose a Hebrew word for joy instead, he replied, “In Hebrew there are not so many words for happiness. Jews don’t like being happy.”

The good doctor could not have been more wrong.

You can learn a lot about a culture by its language. In Eskimo dialect there are numerous words for different types of snow. They are surrounded by snow and understand all the different subtle nuances between the different types of precipitation.

Classical Hebrew actually has over a dozen different words for happiness. The Talmudic sources list ten different Hebrew words for joy – there’s ecstatic joy, songful joy, surprising joy and so on (Avos d’Rebbe Nossan 34). In fact, there are so many different words for joy that it can be said that Judaism is centered around joy, as the Eskimos’ lives are centered on snow. Whether it’s celebrating life events, from births and circumcisions to bar mitzvahs and weddings, to the Sabbath and holidays, to blessings of gratitude on mundane daily activities like eating a piece of fruit or even going to the bathroom, attaining happiness is a priority in Jewish life.

Jewish Joy
he Talmud teaches that the Divine Presence only rests upon someone in a state of joy (Shabbos, 30b). “Serve God with gladness,” the Psalmist enjoins us, "come before Him with joyful song" (Psalms, 100:2). “It is a great mitzvah (commandment) to be in a state of joy always,” Rebbe Nachman of Breslav says (Likkutei Maharan, 2:24).
More recently, Professor Tal Ben-Shahar, one of the leaders in the field of Positive Psychology, author of the book “Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment,” and the instructor of the most popular course in the history of Harvard University, explained that “many of the ideas ‘discovered’ by modern psychologists, had actually been present for thousands of years in traditional Jewish sources.”

Getting High
What about Mechoulam’s naming of the brain’s marijuana-like neurotransmitter after a word for joy in the first place? Does marijuana lead to a state of joy? Does getting high lead to happiness?
Every high eventually goes away and is followed by a low. The low is really just a return to your normal state of consciousness, but in contrast to the high, everyday life suddenly feels like a low. This conundrum can propel the infrequent recreational user to want to get high more often to avoid the lows, creating a vicious cycle that can lead to the need for more drugs to reach the same high, laying the seeds for addictive behavior.

According to Judaism a marijuana high might smell like joy, but there’s nothing genuinely joyful about it.
The most commonly used word for joy in Hebrew is simcha. Simcha shares the same linguistic root as the word tzemach - or growth. In Judaism joy and growth are inextricably intertwined. Joy takes work. It’s the feeling that you get when you work hard at something and succeed. It is the pleasure of having reached the top of an arduous peak. You can look back at the long journey and bask in the pleasure of your accomplishment. That is true joy.

We often think that pleasure and pain are opposites, and therefore seek out all sorts of ways to achieve pleasure without pain. In reality pain is the gateway to pleasure. No pain, no gain. The more effort we exert, the more we can enjoy the fruit of our labor. When we look for all sorts of shortcuts to find pleasure without effort or pain, we end up with empty highs that lack true depth and meaning. They may look like joy, but they fade away as quickly as they came and we end up worse off than when we started.

Natural Highs
Life is full of natural highs. We all have moments of inspiration that give us energy and vision to continue along a certain trajectory in life. Natural highs may include milestone life events such as graduations, weddings, births, as well as experiences like climbing a mountain, travelling to an exotic place, meeting an amazing person or watching an incredible sunset. But life isn’t about running after inspiration. Inspiration is free. It comes and goes easily.

One of my friends recently had a brush with death. He was miraculously saved from a head on collision on a major three lane highway, and he was ecstatic to have another day on earth. 

Suddenly, he experienced joy from every little thing, no matter how small or unpleasant. Seeing his kids fight, taking out the garbage, and watching the wind blow through the trees outside his house made him dance with joy. He was so happy to be alive that everything was amazing. He told me that he hoped his new state of consciousness would last forever.

Unfortunately it didn’t. After a few days, the miracle of life became business as unusual. The only way to hold on to the inspiration is by using it as an impetus to change your life by putting it into an action – no matter how small.

Everyone gets inspired. The key is what you do with the inspiration. If we find ways to integrate the inspiring moments into our very being so that they change us for the better, the high can actually last forever. That’s real growth and leads to true, long-lasting happiness.

My advice: burn off your marijuana high with some hard-earned Jewish joy.
Published: June 13, 2015

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Post  Admin on Tue 16 Jun 2015, 12:34 pm

The Debate over Jewish Achievement
As a non-Jew, I’m fascinated that a people which constitute less than 1% of the world’s population has made such enormous contributions to humanity.
by Steven L. Pease         
Jews have been part of my life in kindergarten, at Harvard Business School, and throughout my professional career. It was from those experiences that I developed the notion that Jews are the world’s most disproportionate high achievers.

A decade ago I began intensive research to test out the hypothesis. Now, after writing The Golden Age of Jewish Achievement, speaking on the subject, being interviewed on radio and TV, and soliciting criticisms and arguments to disprove the statement, I have come to believe it is simply true.

As a non-Jew, I am fascinated by the fact that a people which constitute 2/10ths of 1 percent of the world’s population and 2 percent of the U.S. population, has made such enormous contributions to the betterment of humanity.
To cite some examples: In hi-tech entrepreneurship, Jewish names include: Intel (Grove and Vadasz), Google (Brin and Page), Oracle (Ellison), Microsoft (Balmer), Dell (Dell), Qualcom (Jacobs), Facebook (Zuckerberg and Sandberg).

In finance, the names are legion: Goldman Sachs, Rothschild, Warburg, Kohlberg, Kravis & Roberts, Wells Fargo, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, and many more.

As World Chess champions, Jews have held the title 54% of the time since 1866.
In the 113th United States Congress (2013-2015), Jews were elected to 11 percent of U.S. Senate seats.
Jews account for three of the nine Supreme Court Justices.

More examples:

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Post  Admin on Mon 08 Jun 2015, 10:54 am

Sheryl Sandberg and Shloshim
Bringing the ideas of Jewish mourning into the national spotlight.
by staff         
The unexpected death of tech leader Dave Goldberg – husband of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg – has brought the ideas of Jewish mourning into the national spotlight.
As the 30-day mourning period ("Shloshim") concluded, Sandberg shared her thoughts with millions of people. Publicizing Judaism's sensitive and wise mourning practices constitutes a "Kiddush Hashem" – sanctification of God's Name – that serves as a merit for the dearly departed.

Excerpts from Sandberg's post:
Today is the end of sheloshim for my beloved husband – the first thirty days. Judaism calls for a period of intense mourning known as shiva that lasts seven days after a loved one is buried. After shiva, most normal activities can be resumed, but it is the end of sheloshim that marks the completion of religious mourning for a spouse.

A childhood friend of mine who is now a rabbi recently told me that the most powerful one-line prayer he has ever read is: “Let me not die while I am still alive.” I would have never understood that prayer before losing Dave. Now I do.
I think when tragedy occurs, it presents a choice. You can give in to the void, the emptiness that fills your heart, your lungs, constricts your ability to think or even breathe. Or you can try to find meaning. These past thirty days, I have spent many of my moments lost in that void. And I know that many future moments will be consumed by the vast emptiness as well.

But when I can, I want to choose life and meaning.

And this is why I am writing: to mark the end of sheloshim and to give back some of what others have given to me...

I have learned that I never really knew what to say to others in need. I think I got this all wrong before; I tried to assure people that it would be okay, thinking that hope was the most comforting thing I could offer. A friend of mine with late-stage cancer told me that the worst thing people could say to him was “It is going to be okay.” That voice in his head would scream, How do you know it is going to be okay? Do you not understand that I might die? I learned this past month what he was trying to teach me.

Real empathy is sometimes not insisting that it will be okay but acknowledging that it is not. When people say to me, “You and your children will find happiness again,” my heart tells me, Yes, I believe that, but I know I will never feel pure joy again. Those who have said, “You will find a new normal, but it will never be as good” comfort me more because they know and speak the truth. Even a simple “How are you?” – almost always asked with the best of intentions – is better replaced with “How are you today?” When I am asked “How are you?” I stop myself from shouting, My husband died a month ago, how do you think I am? When I hear “How are you today?” I realize the person knows that the best I can do right now is to get through each day.

I have learned some practical stuff that matters. Although we now know that Dave died immediately, I didn’t know that in the ambulance. The trip to the hospital was unbearably slow. I still hate every car that did not move to the side, every person who cared more about arriving at their destination a few minutes earlier than making room for us to pass. I have noticed this while driving in many countries and cities. Let’s all move out of the way. Someone’s parent or partner or child might depend on it.
I have learned how ephemeral everything can feel – and maybe everything is. That whatever rug you are standing on can be pulled right out from under you with absolutely no warning. In the last thirty days, I have heard from too many women who lost a spouse and then had multiple rugs pulled out from under them. Some lack support networks and struggle alone as they face emotional distress and financial insecurity. It seems so wrong to me that we abandon these women and their families when they are in greatest need.

I have learned to ask for help – and I have learned how much help I need. Until now, I have been the older sister, the COO, the doer and the planner. I did not plan this, and when it happened, I was not capable of doing much of anything. Those closest to me took over. They planned. They arranged. They told me where to sit and reminded me to eat. They are still doing so much to support me and my children...

For me, starting the transition back to work has been a savior, a chance to feel useful and connected. But I quickly discovered that even those connections had changed. Many of my co-workers had a look of fear in their eyes as I approached. I knew why – they wanted to help but weren’t sure how. Should I mention it? Should I not mention it? If I mention it, what the hell do I say? I realized that to restore that closeness with my colleagues that has always been so important to me, I needed to let them in. And that meant being more open and vulnerable than I ever wanted to be. I told those I work with most closely that they could ask me their honest questions and I would answer. I also said it was okay for them to talk about how they felt. One colleague admitted she’d been driving by my house frequently, not sure if she should come in. Another said he was paralyzed when I was around, worried he might say the wrong thing. Speaking openly replaced the fear of doing and saying the wrong thing. One of my favorite cartoons of all time has an elephant in a room answering the phone, saying, “It’s the elephant.” Once I addressed the elephant, we were able to kick him out of the room.

At the same time, there are moments when I can’t let people in. I went to Portfolio Night at school where kids show their parents around the classroom to look at their work hung on the walls. So many of the parents – all of whom have been so kind – tried to make eye contact or say something they thought would be comforting. I looked down the entire time so no one could catch my eye for fear of breaking down. I hope they understood.
Further reading: ABCs of Death & Mourning

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Post  Admin on Fri 05 Jun 2015, 9:52 pm
Studies show that giving kids chores is key to their personal growth.
by Emuna Braverman         
Great news for parents! According to research by Marty Rossmann, professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota, giving children household chores at an early age helps to build a lasting sense of mastery, responsibility and self-reliance. (It seems the boy scouts were on to something.) “Chores also teach children how to be empathetic and responsive to others’ needs,” notes psychologist Richard Weissbourd of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

There’s going to be a lot of housekeepers out of work!

Without getting carried away, this is an important finding – that of course seems obvious. Contributing to the family, giving to others is better for our character than an extra language and other resume-padding activities. It’s time to pull back from the brink.
We want our children to be givers. They won’t learn that at school or in the workplace; we need to teach them. We need to take the focus off of their accomplishments and put it back where it belongs – on the type of person they are. This isn’t easy because it is out of step with society. All their teachers and peers, all of our friends (Facebook and otherwise!) are promoting achievement, grades, Ivy League acceptances, promotions…We can caught up in the illusion. We can think it’s the best thing for our kids.

That’s why this Wall Street Journal (03/14/15) article “The Chore-Filled Path to Success” is essential reading. It takes us back to basics – not reading and mathematics but character development, who we are as human beings. It forces us to reflect on our real goals for our children – what we genuinely want versus what we’ve been co-opted to feel.

If the focus is all on grades and resumes and upwardly mobile careers, it is all too easy to become a taker, to live a life that’s all about me. No parent interviewed would honestly want that for our children yet that is the direction in which we push them. They may be happier, kinder, more fulfilled at a community college – but what will we tell our friends? We live in a world where ambition is all and material success is the mark of the man.

Yet the author of the piece, Jennifer Breheny Wallace, clearly has another definition of success in mind, a definition that aligns itself with Jewish understanding and focuses on being a mensch as opposed to being a Harvard graduate.

“Being slack about chores when they compete with school sends your child the message that grades and achievement are more important than caring about others.” No sane parent conveys this intentionally – but without reflecting on what we really want for our children and how to achieve it, we adopt this as our default position.

Like all lessons for our children, it begins with us. It begins with the choices we make and the actions they see. If we model giving, they are more likely to be givers. If we model taking…you can finish the sentence. If we are clearly more concerned about their skill with a clarinet than their caring for others, they will get the message. We have to internalize it first. We have to believe it first. We have to be committed to creating a mensch – a kind and thoughtful human being who is always there for others and puts them before himself. Even if he graduates at the bottom of his class…
Published: May 30, 2015

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Post  Admin on Tue 02 Jun 2015, 7:05 pm

My Death Scare
A potential cancer diagnosis helped me discover the value of time.
by Marshall Roth         
I started seeing blood in my stool. Undeniable streaks of red.

I passed it off as nothing serious. My brother had bleeding hemorrhoids and I figured it was my turn next.
A search on Google confirmed that, indeed, bleeding hemorrhoids produces the effects I'd been seeing. So I pushed it out of my mind and went on with life.
A few months later, my brother-in-law – recovering from colon cancer – mentioned how it began with seeing blood in his stool.

Colon cancer?!
Doctor Google confirmed: colon cancer matched my symptoms.
My mind raced. I'm dying!
I called the gastroenterologist and described the symptoms.
"We'll schedule a colonoscopy right away," his secretary said cheerily, trying to cover up the urgent gloom.
I hung up and tried to absorb the stark reality: I may have only a few months to live.

Laser Focus
The ensuing days till my colonoscopy were the most harrowing – and most vibrant – of my life.
I tried pushing all negative thoughts from my mind. God is sending me a wake-up call, I reminded myself. This is my opportunity to reevaluate my life.
With the clock ticking fast, I pledged that – whatever the test results – I will try to maximize every moment.
Easier said than done. How does one begin to "maximize every moment"? By what measure determines a "valuable use of time"?
Impelled by the specter of mortality, I discovered a 3-step process:

Step-1 – Destination
Maximizing time starts with a clear destination. Just like a GPS quickly and efficiently determines the best route and mode of transportation, so too the path of life requires a precise destination.
I began by asking core questions:
Who am I, and am I true to myself?
What change do I want to effect in this world, and why?
How much risk and hard work am I willing to invest to get there?
In those frantic few days, these essential questions made me realize: If I don't know where I'm going, I'll never get there.

Step-2 – Hourly Value
I felt the imperative to evaluate the worth of my time. But how?
An article published years ago on, "Curse of the Billable Hour," describes assigning a "dollar value" to time. If I'd be willing to perform some task for $100 an hour, that is its real-world value.
So I started, before undertaking any activity, to ask: Would I pay myself $100 an hour to do this? In other words, is this worth my time?
Before checking Facebook, I'd try remembering to ask: How much is this experience worth? Would I spend $50 for 30 minutes? Ten dollars for 6 minutes? Or is it just a waste of time?

I caught myself before clicking too far into "Internet space-out."
With increased awareness, I was able to catch myself before clicking too far into the time-wasting zone of "Internet space-out."
During my days in rabbinical school, one friend left a successful career on Wall Street to pursue Torah studies. He was exceptionally studious, and I asked how he managed to stay so focused.
"I was earning $400 an hour at the investment firm," he explained. "To justify my time in the study hall, each hour has to provide at least $400 value. So I make it count."

Step-3 – Moments of Choice
In my quest to maximize time, I discovered the importance of constant awareness. To avoid the comfort of spacing out and focus on what I'm doing.
Because only with awareness of each moment, can I hope to make the right choice for that moment. To keep the GPS positioned on target, and to follow its path.
Constant awareness is only possible with a daily time accounting. For as the most finite substance and our most precious commodity, time is the greatest measure of "profit and loss."
It is said that Baron Rothchild paid a servant to remind him every hour that he was one hour closer to death. That's why I love this hourly alarm APP.
Beyond this, I tried focusing on my breathing, and on the built-in mechanism of the heartbeat – an electrical pulse jolting me awake, again and again, prodding the question: Am I serious and focused, using my time most productively?

Priority Goals
Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Sheinberg, a great sage of the past generation, illustrated the profound value of time:
When it comes to precious items – a diamond ring or a Picasso, for example – the precious item is placed at the center, framed by less expensive materials. Yet a wristwatch appears to be the exception: a gold casing often outshines the comparatively simple watch-face.
In truth, Rabbi Sheinberg said, a wristwatch also frames the more valuable item: Time.
Every moment is infused with vast potential.

What will I make of it?
In the end, my colonoscopy showed no sign of cancer, placing me among the select few to actually celebrate a diagnosis of "bleeding hemorrhoids."
What a wonderful wake-up call. 
What a lesson not to rely on Doctor Google.

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Post  Admin on Sun 31 May 2015, 6:58 pm

Educating to Hate
Biased textbooks are mis-educating students to hate Jews and the Jewish state.
by Yvette Alt Miller          
Dutch teenagers taking a mandatory high school history class have been learning some highly suspect “facts” about the Jewish state.
According to the textbook Geschiedeniswerkplaats (“History Workplace”), Israel’s founding was an utter catastrophe, in which “Jewish militias carried out murders in Arab villages” and is depicted as an unprovoked pogrom of crazed Jews against peaceful Arab villagers.
No mention is made that the UN mandated the establishment of a Jewish State. Nor of the crucial historical detail that five Arab armies attacked the nascent Jewish state hours after Israeli independence was proclaimed.
No mention is made of Arab atrocities against Jews in the pre-state period – nor of the nearly one million Jews from Arab lands expelled following Israel’s founding in 1948 who found refugee in Israel.

Israeli leaders are called murderers and terrorists

Instead, Dutch teenagers are presented with a topsy-turvy view of Israel, in which former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin (winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1978 for the peace treaty with Egypt that saw Israel withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula) is called a murderer and terrorist, and Israel’s founders are variously called “radical,” “terrorists,” and described (against historical evidence) as driven by an irrational desire to conquer all the biblical Land of Israel.

The book’s discussion of Israel’s founding in 1948 is illustrated with a modern-day picture of a Palestinian boy throwing a rock at an Israeli tank: the caption describes this as a “small act of resistance.” The book then creates a guilt-inducing feeling of panic and intense moral urgency by saying the boy in the picture was killed nine days after the photo was taken.

Fighting Back
Many Dutch students – and their teachers – read Geschiedeniswerkplaats’ upside-down and horrifying description of Israel without apparent comment – until one Israeli-Dutch 16-year-old, Barak Gorani, was assigned the textbook in his Jewish high school and complained.
Gorani, who describes himself as an “Israeli patriot,” pointed out the book’s many historical errors to his teacher – who agreed whole-heartedly. But, she said, there was nothing she could do: the Netherlands’ Education Ministry required it as a mandatory text.

Outraged, Gorani showed the textbook to his father, who passed it along to the Israeli Embassy. Gorani’s father said he was amazed that no one had formally objected to the textbook which was being used even in a Jewish school! “The Dutch, even the Jews, let it pass in silence.”
Israel’s embassy described the book as “outrageous” and may constitute incitement. The textbook’s publisher, Noordhoff Uitgevers, defended their work, saying: “We believe we carefully handled the facts and in the right context.” But as the story gained notoriety, increasing numbers of complaints poured in from parents and students alike.
As indignation grew, the Dutch Education Ministry began to distance itself from its own textbook, noting the Ministry “does not approve textbooks, they are selected by individual schools."

Deep Dialogue?
Sadly, the case in the Netherlands seems to be unusual only because someone had the courage to stand up and complain. In recent years, schools and education departments in other nations have assigned biased textbooks to impressionable students that denigrate the Jewish state.

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Post  Admin on Fri 29 May 2015, 12:33 pm

The Amoral Revolution in Western Values & its Impact on Israel
by Col. Richard Kemp
Israel's fight is the Western world's fight. The survival of Western civilization depends upon Israel's survival.
The writer was Commander of the British Forces in Afghanistan. The following text is Col. Kemp’s address delivered at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies on May 19, 2015.
As an officer cadet at Sandhurst in 1977, I studied the wars and campaigns of the Israel-Palestine conflict in great depth, 
 learning lessons in leadership, tactics and strategy from the always victorious operations of the IDF.
Years before that, in my school playground, girls always shopped and boys played war. Normally it was British and Germans or cowboys and Indians. For a time in 1967 it became Israelis and Arabs. After a few weeks, however, it reverted to the usual antagonists because nobody seemed to want to play on the Arab side.
I gather a similar recruitment problem exists today in the playgrounds of England with the Taliban side short of troops.
At 8, I was a little young for the serious study of military science beyond the playground, but later, as a 14-year-old schoolboy, I remember one day during the Yom Kippur War, my form master, a young chap just out of teacher training, came into the classroom with an arm full of newspapers.
He said that normal lessons would stop as there was a ‘real war’ starting and that this was really exciting so we should study it. Every day, we followed the events, wrote stories of our own, and learnt the geography. My father was unamused when all of the articles about the war had been cut out before he could get his hands on his breakfast-time paper. We were quite disappointed when it finished quickly and we had to resume normal lessons.
Why am I telling you all this?
It was all about the good fighting the bad and the good were expected to win. It was very simple even to a 14-year-old.
Even as late as 1973, Israel was still widely seen as the good guys and the Arabs were the bad. Sympathy was with Israel because they were being picked on and bullied. There was little consideration of the ‘legitimacy’ of Israel; it was taken for granted.

Eight Words from President Obama
by David A. Harris
"The Palestinians are not the easiest of partners." This is the heart of the issue.
President Barack Obama delivered a compelling and heartfelt speech on May 22 at a Washington synagogue.
He spoke directly to the concerns and aspirations of the Jewish people, identifying himself squarely with Jewish ethical values and the Jewish historical journey as a metaphor for the universal quest for peace and justice.
While not intended as a full-blown policy address, he did touch on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, asserting:
"Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people on their land, as well. Now, I want to emphasize that's not easy. The Palestinians are not the easiest of partners."
For starters, like a clear majority of Israelis, I have long believed that the Palestinians have such a right. It would serve not only Palestinian interests but Israeli interests as well, allowing the Jewish state to end an unsought occupation, dating back to 1967, and also shift significantly the demographic balance within its own borders.
But there is just one problem, and it is contained in eight words the president expressed: "The Palestinians are not the easiest of partners."
The audience's reaction was to laugh right after this sentence. But, of course, it's no laughing matter. Indeed, it's the heart of the issue, and has been for decades.

Why I Tour The U.S. As An Israeli Soldier
by Elad and Lital
We love Israel and know best the moral dilemmas we faced.
Lital and I participated in the 6th "Israeli Soldiers Tour," speaking on campuses, high schools, synagogues and churches throughout the Northeast. This included John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) staged a "die-in" last semester.
Sponsored by StandWithUs, an international Israel education organization, the tour features reserve duty soldiers who recount their personal experiences serving in the IDF and upholding its strict moral code, in the face of an enemy that hides behind its civilians. We talk about our backgrounds and life in Israel, putting a human face to the IDF uniform. Fourteen teams of two are dispatched throughout the United States.
This is my second tour and Lital's fifth. We go because we want to correct the many lies and misrepresentations about the IDF. There is no comparison to actually meeting a soldier and learning from their first-hand experiences. We love Israel and we know best the moral dilemmas we faced.
Lital works for a news site in Israel. Born in Ashdod, she holds a BA in Social Sciences from the Open University and is working towards her Masters in American Jewry at Haifa University.  Proud of her service in the IDF, she considers it an honor to contribute whatever she can to her country, which led Lital to choose service in the border police unit. She served in checkpoints, stations aimed at thwarting terrorist attacks — a position usually held by men.
Lital tells a harrowing tale of a woman in labor, screaming in pain, who arrived in an ambulance at a checkpoint between Israel and the West Bank.  She is 18-years old. What would you do?  In that split second, Lital made the executive decision to check the ambulance to ensure that nothing harmful was being transported into Israel. She found an explosive device hidden under one of the seats.

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Post  Admin on Tue 26 May 2015, 6:44 pm

Jewish Women on a Train
After seeing the whole world bleed and collapse in on itself, this cannot be happening. We must jump.
by Faigy Schonfeld         
The following account happened to my grandmother shortly after being liberated from a concentration camp. It is written in the manner in which she told me.
A wind, a breath – my lungs – at last! I inhale, soothed by the rhythmic clack and cough of rolling train beneath me, tilt my face to the window. It is slightly ajar and the beauty of the Czechoslovakian countryside is draped in midnight cloak. I close my eyes. Just...for a bit. A little peace, closed eyes, breathing, wind on my cheeks.
“Ssh, Zelda, try to sleep a little.” Sheindel wraps her fingers around mine. She is a sweet sister, Sheindel, self-appointed as she is, as my caretaker. She is only five years my senior but it is thanks to her I am alive. I am 15 now, but I was only 12 when I left home for the last time. I turn to offer her a smile.
“Where do you think they're taking us?” she whispers.
I shrug. “I heard Malka talking with some of the officials in the front cabin. We're going to someplace in Germany. From there, maybe, we can go home?” And find Tatte and Mamme. And Yosef Chaim and Ruchel and Ahrele. I don't say this aloud but the words hang heavy and limp between us, waiting.

Banning Israel from World Football
Intifada through diplomacy.
by Yvette Alt Miller          
The Palestinian Authority is seeking to have Israel suspended from FIFA, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, global soccer’s governing body. If the motion passes on May 29, 2015, Israel would become the world’s only nation to be banned from FIFA matches around the world.
“We will never, ever accept any compromise, any agreement or deal,” Palestinian Football Association chief Jibril Rajoub has explained. A former security official in the PLO’s feared security apparatus, Rajoub regards sports as a tool to help the Palestinian Unity Government between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority achieve statehood without taking concrete steps to negotiate with Israel.
Rajoub’s complaint to FIFA has three main components, each of which is strongly refuted by Israel as grounds for their suspension: that Israel restricts the movement of Palestinian players, particularly between Gaza and the West Bank; five of Israel’s soccer teams are located outside of Israel’s 1967 cease-fire lines with Jordan; and that Israel’s Football Association turns a blind eye to racism.

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Post  Admin on Thu 21 May 2015, 8:39 pm

The New Pew Report and the Ten Commandments
Are the Ten Commandments in trouble?
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
As Jews prepare to celebrate the holiday of Shavuot commemorating the giving of the Torah at Sinai, a new report by the Pew Institute makes clear that the millennium old divine code for ethical behavior is today being seriously challenged. At least one of the commandments, the first to be exact, has significantly lost its claim on contemporary acceptance with the incredible growth of a movement that now has its own name.
The “nones” are Americans who choose “none” as response to their affiliation with brand-name religion – and in the words of John Green, director of the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron, they are the new major force in American faith. They are, Green said, “more secular in outlook and more comfortable admitting it" than any previous generation.

The “nones” are Americans who choose “none” as response to their affiliation with brand-name religion – and in the words of John Green, director of the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron, they are the new major force in American faith. They are, Green said, “more secular in outlook and more comfortable admitting it" than any previous generation.
Earlier this month, the 2014 General Social Survey was released. It shows in stark relief that what some are calling the Great Decline of religion in America continues: Since 2012, the U.S. has about 7.5 million more Americans who are no longer active in religion.
The GSS is the gold standard for sociological surveys. Funded by the National Science Foundation, this multimillion-dollar study gives us the most accurate data on American society – including religion.
If this growth continues, in a few years the largest “religion” in the U.S. may be no religion at all
When asked their religious preference, nearly 1 in 4 Americans now says “none.” Up until the 1990s, the percentage that was in this group known as “nones” hovered in the single digits. The 2014 GSS showed that nones are now 21 percent of the population.
How large does that make this group? According to the GSS, there are nearly as many Americans who claim no religion as there are Catholics. If this growth continues, in a few years the largest “religion” in the U.S. may be no religion at all.

The Pew Report, released just last week, shows "Nones," at 22.8% of the U.S., second only to evangelicals and ahead of Catholics in religious market share. Far more disconcerting are the numbers that point to the direction of the future. A high percentage of younger members of the Millennial generation – those who have entered adulthood in just the last several years – are religious “nones” (saying they are atheists or agnostics, or that their religion is “nothing in particular”). At the same time, an increasing share of older Millennials also identify as “nones,” with more members of that group rejecting religious labels in recent years. Overall, 35% of adult Millennials (Americans born between 1981 and 1996) are religiously unaffiliated
America has long been a uniquely blessed country. Our Pledge of Allegiance identifies our claim to special divine providence. Based on the vision of our founding fathers, we have been “one nation, under God.” The founding fathers never failed to emphasize this unique relationship between our country and our creator.

Benjamin Franklin, speaking for almost all of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, expressed it well: "Here is my Creed. I believe in one God, the Creator of the Universe. That He governs it by His Providence. That He ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable service we render to him is in doing good to his other children. That the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental points in all sound religion, and I regard them as you do in whatever sect I meet with them.”

What shall we then say about our present generation? As a contemporary sociologist put it, Americans today will soon need to change “one nation” to “none nation” – and eliminate any mention of the one who introduced himself at Mt. Sinai as “I am the Lord your God who took out of the land of Egypt the house of bondage.”

Rabbinic commentators made a profound observation about the number ten as key to the commandments. Ten as a number is written with a one followed by a zero. Together they make “10”. Remove the number one however and you are left simply with a zero, with nothing. Similarly, remove the first commandment, belief in a God of history with whom we have a personal relationship, and all the other commandments fall by the wayside.

Dostoyevsky was right in his famous words in The Brothers Karamazov: “Without God, all is permissible.” The noble ideals of the Decalogue secure their power from firm belief in an all seeing God to whom we owe unqualified obedience. Without God, greed permits theft, human passions justify adultery, ingenious rationalizations vindicate even the most obscene violence and murder.
A secular society identifying itself as “none” needs to fear far more than the absence of God in its midst. The most profound message of the Ten Commandments is that belief is the necessary prelude to civilized behavior.
The Midrash makes a striking observation about the two times the number ten makes a significant appearance in the book of Exodus. Before the Ten Commandments, ten was the number of the plagues God sent against the Egyptians as punishment for their crimes. Sinai however offered an alternative to the ten of retribution. Ten are also the heavenly prescription for the conduct of a moral and ethical life.

The Ten Commandments speak to us with the same message today as they did to our biblical ancestors. They remind us to choose One instead of None, the sacred over the secular, in order to find divine favor and blessing. And as Jews, entrusted with the mission to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” we must be in the forefront of returning God to his proper throne of ruler over all mankind.

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