Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Israel Remembers Her Fallen

On Highway 4, just outside Bar Ilan University, the people of Israel remember their fallen brothers and sisters.

יהיה זכרם ברוך

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My Own Question to Yariv Oppenheimer

Because I was unable to ask a question during the debate - note: I had my hand raised quietly the whole time, but it was the people calling out and screaming who had their questions heard or managed to get called upon.

It's a 2-part question, but a very simple one.

Part 1:  In 1947, the UN voted to partition Mandatory Palestine into two states for two peoples.  The Jews accepted and the Arabs attacked us.  In 1949, there was no recognition.  In 1967, Moshe Dayan gave back most of Chevron and Har HaBayit.  We ended up being attacked from everywhere over there.  Levi Eshkol offered to return Judea and Samaria for peace, but was rejected.  In 1977, we finally got "peace" with Egypt, but the Arab world laughed that off.  In 1987, we were given the first Intifada.  In 1993, we signed Oslo - and had Camp David in 2000.  Those both led to thousands of Jews dead.  The expulsion from Gaza got us nowhere accept in a worse security situation.  (Same story with the unilateral withdrawal from Southern Lebanon in 2000 which led to the Second Lebanon War in 2006.)  Annapolis?  Bibi's Bar Ilan speech?  Washington talks?  Settlement freeze?  Amman?  We have tried and tried again.  Where has that led us?
Part 2:  Israel has signed peace treaties with two Arab countries - Egypt and Jordan.  Add to that the friendships we've shared with two more Muslim nations - Iran and Turkey.  Where has that led us?  Iran became our bitterest enemy in 1979.  All it took was a new government, and our best friend in the region was out.  Our second best friend in the region?  That's on its way out thanks to a new government, the AKP, from 2002.  They "claim" it's because of Cast Lead.  If so, that's certainly worse.  We try defending ourselves, and we lose a friend over it.  On to Egypt: need I say more?  Our embassy has been attacked twice, the Parliament has voted the Zionist Regime as the "worst enemy of the Egyptian people" and the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist Noor Party are both looking to end all agreements with Israel.  Jordan has fared no better.

With all that background, I ask a simple question: Why should we make peace with the Palestinians?  How are we to ensure that peace will be real?  Peace isn't lack of war.  We aren't looking for a ceasefire or armistice.  We are looking for long-lasting peace.  How is this supposed to happen and BE GUARANTEED, considering everything in the region pointing to the contrary.

Left versus Right: Wrong Person Won

A couple of nights ago, the Likud on Campus group at Bar Ilan University (Ta Lavi) hosted a moderated debate between Yariv Oppenheimer, head of Peace Now, and Ayelet Shaked, head of My Israel.  This was supposed to be a debate and open forum between leaders from the left and right.
Already, I feel they screwed up.  If you're going to bring in such an important person, such as Yariv Oppenheimer, then bring in a big name, such as Moshe Feiglin.  I had never heard of either Shaked or My Israel until I got to the event.  In my opinion, as well as some other people I spoke to, it showed.  She raised some solid points, but she did well because she had virtually the entire crowd hanging on her every word.  She could do no wrong.  She controlled the crowd at her will.  Had the exact same debate/forum taken place in virtually any other university in the country, she would've been eaten alive.

To the actual debate: Forum was supposed to be moderated with a supposedly impartial moderator asking questions to both, challenging each with points with points raised by the other, and finishing off with an equal amount of questions for each.  Very quickly into this, the crowd proved this would be no civilized forum.  It was an absolute debacle.  A shouting match with who can come up with the most annoying time to yell the loudest and be the most obnoxious.  Now I am no fan of Yariv Oppenheimer.  But I came to listen to him.  And I was denied that opportunity.  What did the shouting accomplish?  To get Oppenheimer to know what you're thinking?  Trust me, he knows.  To get him to change his viewpoint?  Mission failed!

Here's the message I just sent to him on Facebook:
I'm writing this in English, and hope that's OK with you.  I'm a student at Bar Ilan and was at the "debate" on Sunday night.I'll start off with I come from the Right.  I'm quite to the Right.  That being said, I wanted to personally thank you for the Mesirat Nefesh you showed simply by coming to Bar Ilan, and by coming to a Ta Lavi event at that.  You impressed me with your courage, and standing strong in the face of the rudest of rude.  I was appalled by members of "my camp" and the way they would listen, or refuse to listen.  The way you were treated is disgusting, and I'm deeply ashamed.  I came because I was genuinely interested in what you had to say, and I feel I was robbed of a unique opportunity.Do I agree with Shalom Achshav?  Absolutely not.  But something we share is the idea of democracy and human rights and freedom, and you weren't granted the most basic modicum of human decency.  For that, I apologize.I apologize for those who called you anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist.  As thick-skinned as this business might make all, I'm sure those aren't easy things to hear.  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is an anti-Zionist, and he's both my enemy and yours.  But to call you anti-Zionist defeats the purpose of inviting you and listening to what you have to say.  No one has a monopoly on Zionism.  We disagree vehemently on what steps Israel must take, and on the rights/roles of the Palestinians.  But we agree on the most basic of principles - Israel is the Jewish homeland.  It's the historical land of our people, and it's the one place in the world that Jews can call "home."I hope you do come back to Bar Ilan at some point so I can hear you speak, and you don't allow people who treat you like an animal to get in the way of that.
It's sad.  And at the end of the day, Oppenheimer won.  Why?  Because he sat and listened to people act like animals, screaming and shouting, and calling him names, but he kept his cool.  He never lost it.  He behaved the way a mensch should behave, and he behaved while unfortunately, my side didn't.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Wake Up Leaders of Israel!

Yet another terror attack.  This time, a soldier was stabbed on the light rail.  And for what?  Simply because she was a Jew, born in Israel, who fulfilled her legal obligation of joining the military for compulsory service.  She did absolutely nothing to warrant being stabbed in the chest (and hand).  She's now hanging on for life.  Meanwhile, rockets continue to pound the south.

For this, I turn to the UN Human Rights Council to hear some encouraging words about the Middle East.  Well, yesterday, they approved a report PRAISING former Libyan dictator, Muammer Qaddafi's human rights record.  Seriously?!  The guy who brutalized his protesting citizens?  The guy who caused another UN council, the Security Council, to authorize military action against him?  The one who France, in effect, declared war on?

So maybe the EU has better words?  Nope, there, Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief simply regrets the actions being taken by both sides.  Yes, there are 2 sides - neither one is right nor wrong.  There's no terrorists.  There are sides, just like in a sports game.  And she doesn't deplore the rocket attacks, she simply regrets them.  (I wonder, does she really regret the rocket attacks, or does she regret that more Jews haven't been killed by them.  But I digress.)

It's time to wake up!  Even J Street, the "pro-Israel" group in America regretted (before pressure) the loss of life on both sides.  Really?  Why, if you are a pro-Israel group, would you regret the loss of life of terrorists bent on Israel's destruction.  That doesn't sound so pro-Israel to me!

When will the J Streets and the Peace Nows of the world recognize that pandering to the insatiable whims of the UN and the EU won't make them like Israel or Jews any more and it certainly won't make Israel any safer. It's time for Bibi to take a stand for Israel's security.  The "peace process" is dead.  Every Israeli leader, be it the Prime Minister, Defense Minister, IDF Chief of Staff, Member of Knesset, etc. must recognize the most important factor to look after is: Israel's security.  For years, leaders have looked for peace.  How can everything fit into peace.  Everything was weighed versus how it would appear to the world, how the Palestinians would take it, how it would affect peace prospects, etc.  It's time to become a normal country.  The Jews are supposed to be different than the rest of the world, and that's perfectly OK.  But remember Herzl who wanted a country like the countries of the world.  In this regard, I think it's fine to try to emulate other countries.  Look out for number one which is security.  The USA isn't nervous about every action they take in regard to how it will be perceived.  They make sure to protect their own national security and their own citizens.  Everything else is secondary.  Israel - it's time to do the same!

Bibi, stand with the people of your party who believe in this, such as Danny Danon, and you will have forever built a legacy of the PM who cared about the citizens of Israel!

Am Israel Chai!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Liberal Jews, J-Street, Violent Criminals, and Twitter

Once again, I've gotten myself into a heated exchange on Twitter, and Twitter, with it's understandable, though sometimes annoying 140 character limit, cannot do it proper justice.  This too can't do it proper justice, but I figure, give it a try anyways.

It started with a video by Jackie Mason, posted on Facebook by David Ha'Ivri:

I shared this video on Twitter, quoting @haivri.  This got me into an argument with @thejewess.  She did not appreciate me referring to Liberal Jews as Israel's worst enemy, which is clearly the title of the video, and not my own title.  I would like to point out also that I constantly retweet many of The Jewess's own tweets, and would never dream of taking credit for those either.  (For those who are interested, I follow numerous points of view on Twitter, including well-known figures in Israeli politics and Zionism on the left and right, and the same with American politics.)
David Ha'Ivri is a resident of the Kfar Tapuach community, located about an hour north of Jerusalem, and a half hour out of Tel Aviv, in the Shomron region.  He is a political activist, and an outspoken leader of the "settler movement."  I know him personally, and find him a charismatic individual.  Yes, he has been to prison for crimes which I do not condone, as any violent crime (or any crime for that matter) is despicable, and deserves the utmost condemnation.  (NOTE: He has anyways expressed remorse for his crimes, so why people should refer to him as a "violent criminal who endangers lives" is beyond me.  He committed crimes, served time for it, expressed remorse; basically everything we would hope the legal and justice system should do, have done.  Why do people still seek to punish though?)  It is for this reason I have posts that unequivocally condemn the price-tag crimes, and was a big supporter throughout Chanuka of the Bright-Tag movement, with leaders of the Settler Movement joining with local regional Palestinian leaders to light Chanuka candles.

Now that the background has been set, I would like to explain my position more clearly on certain matters:
The Jews' worst enemy are the people set on killing us.  That would be Hamas, the PA, PLO, Fatah, Islamic Jihad, PFLP, DFLP, Hizbullah, Bashar Assad, Iran, the Salafis in Egypt...  The list goes on and on and on.  These are clearly the worst enemies.  They openly seek the destruction of the Jewish people and the Jewish State.
However, there are Jewish people who sell us out, so to speak.  The poster-child of this movement is Noam Chomsky.  He is Jewish, but he's no fan of his own Jewish roots.  He's an unabashed anti-Zionist, self-hating Jew, etc.  While not necessarily the leader, he "leads" a small but vocal group of Jewish people who seek to undermine the Jewish people and everything we've done.
I always say jokingly that the miracle of the State of Israel isn't that we have survived the hatred and attacks of our neighbors.  The miracle is that people like Ben-Gurion and Begin, Rabin and Shamir, Herzl and Jabotinsky, Peres and Sharon, Barak and Netanyahu, etc. have all lived in this land (well most, but have all worked for this land,) and the country hasn't imploded. It's these members of the ultra-left who seek to undermine this.  Does that make them enemies of the Jews?  Using every conventional wisdom, absolutely.  Does that make them worse?  Well it depends on how you look at it.  From a purely "who's out to kill me" mentality, certainly not.  But if we take a step back, and look at Jewish history, we see that the Jews have never looked too kindly on these types of Jews.  The Chashmonaim sentenced the Hellenist Jews to a stricter punishment than the Greeks were sentenced to.  The Greeks were threatened with war, though they could always leave, surrender...  The Hellenists were given no such option.  It was death or death.
Throughout history, Jewish tradition and Jewish leaders have viewed vocal, self-hating Jews, as far more dangerous than people openly seeking our destruction.  Why?  Because the people who seek our destruction, we see coming at us, we see their weapons, we see the hatred they have for us.  It's also there for everyone to see.  But when it comes to these self-hating Jews, they are sly about it.  Anything they say or do is always couched in the "I'm a Jew, I can say it."  Too many times, out enemies use the words of these people as fodder for their ways.  "I have the right to blow Jews up.  I'm not an anti-Semite either.  Chomsky or Finkelstein say the same!"
What makes the hard left fundamentally different from the far right is that people on the right do not seek the destruction of the Jews.  While they may espouse views I don't agree with, and even commit actions I find abhorrent, they do so out of quite misguided thoughts that are PREDICATED ON LOVE FOR THE JEWISH PEOPLE.  The same cannot be said about the hard left.

What about "liberal Jews" as Jackie Mason puts it?  I have zero opinion on liberal Jews.  There's a big misconception in Israel that Republican=Good and Democrat=Bad.  Disproof: Ron Paul and Steve Rothman or Rand Paul and Chuck Schumer.  (These are examples of Reps, one of whom is one of Israel's closest friends in Washington (Rothman), the other of whom has espoused views more anti-Israel than Barack Obama ever has (Paul).  We then see Schumer, who may one day become the Democratic leader in the Senate, and Israel couldn't be better off.  Compare him to the Republican, Paul.)  Based on this, I take no position on the idea of liberal versus conservative, or Democrat versus Republican.
However, there are people, such as J-Street, who cannot be discounted.  They are not the hard left, but they are not the mainstream, regardless if they'd like to portray themselves as such.  Are they dangerous?  Certainly not to the extent of Chomsky, but can we call these people dangerous?  I would have to say absolutely.  Jeremy Ben-Ami does not act in the best interests of Israel; he acts in the best interests of himself.  I've said for years: I wouldn't have nearly as much of a problem with J-Street if they lobbied the Israeli government instead of the US government.  They lobby the US government to force Israel to change. Why not cut the middleman and do it yourself!  They claim they're doing Israel a service, because they're removing AIPAC's monopoly.  But this couldn't be further from the truth.  AIPAC's mission is to serve Israel's interests in the US.  If J-Street wanted to represent Israel's interests, then represent Israel's interests. Otherwise, don't claim to do so.  They claim to be pro-Israel, but I find this to be a misnomer.  They certainly aren't against the idea of a Jewish State, but they spend too much time focusing on how they're ALSO pro-Palestine, and not enough time showing them to be pro-Israel.  Instead of billing itself as Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace (as if AIPAC is opposed to peace,) they should bill themselves as Pro-Israel, Pro-Palestine.  At least that would be more honest marketing.
And to me, that's the problem with J-Street.  They have dishonest marketing.  "Tell a lie enough times and it becomes truth."  They use dishonest marketing techniques, and they fail to reflect reality.  Too many times they show why Israel is wrong (more often that not when they're not actually,) but not enough of why Israel is right.  (Yes, they have occasionally, but not nearly enough for an organization billed as pro-Israel.)  This leads to major misconceptions about Israel which are quite damaging.  They claim that Israel is better off now that they're here, and not just AIPAC.
But I disagree.  People who hate Israel will hate it whether or not AIPAC is there.  (Such as John Mearsheimer.)  AIPAC hasn't made anyone hate Israel, or view it in a more negative light.  But J-Street has.  So again, is J-Street an "enemy" of Israel?  Depends on how you define it, but I certainly wouldn't characterize Jeremy Ben-Ami as a "friend' of Israel's.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

"Charedim" Use Holocaust Imagery at Rally

Anyone else find the irony in the use of Holocaust imagery at the recent riots the "Charedim" held against anyone not quite like them?
The pictures were quite jarring.  There were little kids, with long flowing peyot, dressed in striped Auschwitz clothing with a yellow "Jude" star affixed to their shirts.  Their reasoning was they felt that just like with the Nazis, it starts out with incitement but it continues until something like the Holocaust can happen.
Here's the irony: If not for the Jewish State, these people would never have been allowed to have the peyot they had flowing out of their Auschwitz tops.  When the Jews who actually went to Auschwitz donned their prison garb, their peyot (along with the rest of their hair, beards...) were shaved immediately.  Yet these people have the chutzpa to ensure their peyot are flowing, courtesy of the fact the Jewish State does NOT discriminate, as they don Auschwitz clothing, in despicable contempt of the millions who perished during the real Holocaust.

Hashem Yerachem

Friday, December 30, 2011

"Charedi" Rioting Bums

First off, I put Charedi (ultra-Orthodox) in quotes, because the people who are rioting aren't charedi.  The term "charedi" comes from the Hebrew word for fear, because they fear God.  (Charada - fear and trembling in the face of God.)  These people clearly don't fear God, because if they did, they would never have the nerve to spit on Jewish people (or any people for that matter)!  They would never have the chutzpa to to beat women or use clearly inappropriate language, no matter who they were describing.

Getting more to the point, I want to post this important article, 

Welcoming The Charedi Spring, by Yitzchak Adlerstein.

After reading that, see this fantastic comment by David Ram:

To Yitzchok Adlerstein: Well written piece. I believe that your idea of trying to completely undermine the extremist elements as outside the purview of normative orthodox Judaism is a good idea, but extremely difficult.

I want to give you a bit more perspective – of someone that lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh and has interacted directly with some of the most influential chareidi rabbis in Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh.

In halacha, the reason why halachic issues are in fact an issue, since there must be 2 competing values. For example, not doing work on Shabbat and tending to a sick person. Sometimes the law is to keep Shabbat and not provide medication or otherwise to the sick, if the sick is not in danger. And sometimes we must break the Shabbat to deal with the sick. Both values are good, but they clash, and we need to know what to do in each situation. This is in essence the reason for questions and answers in halacha. Essentially, all halachic questions, by definition, are asked since there are 2 competing values at play. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be a question. The same is true with what is happening in Beit Shemesh.

One of the main differences between Galus and Israeli societies is that in the galus – all you have is the 4 cubits of the law. In Israel – hashkafic values often battle even legal issues. The divide between dati leumi (nationalist Orthodox Jews) and Chereidi (ultra-orthodox) in Israel is not halachic. It is not even a divide regarding commitment to torah and torah values. It is philosophical. Largely around the concept of Zionism. That is it. All the rest is a façade. There is no modesty issue that the chareidim are battling in Beit Shemesh. It is Zionism in their midst. They have plenty of modesty challenges in their own ranks. This is about land, control, money and the eradication of Zionists from “their” communities. And in Israel, philosophy is fundamental. The rabbis in Israel place hashkafa very high on the priority list. Therefore, things like kavod habri’os, stealing, destroying property, shaming the name of G-d, etc. can often be viewed as a secondary value to undermining the power of Zionism and strengthening the power of chareidi lifestyle.

There is a common misconception among Jews in the Galus and even Anglo-Saxons living in Israel – that Israel is like chutz la’aretz. And by that I mean – there are 2 general directions (1) modern orthodox and (2) black hat. In chutz la’aretz, black hat communities are viewed as the ones that hold a strong commitment to Judaism, to Torah, to taking the obligations seriously and living Jewish in the fullest sense. And the modern orthodox are the ones that are perceived as only tolerating the religion and finding compromises that allow us to live comfortably despite it. (Sorry for the generalizations.)

In Israel, this is pointedly false. In Israel there are 2 general philosophical tracks from which to choose within Orthodox Judaism. Each track has its strong commitment camp, its more modern camp and even an extremist camp. One track is chareidi – where there are modern chareidi, committed chareidi and extremists. We have the luxury of knowing these 3 camps very well within Ramat Beit Shemesh. The second track is the dati leumi track, with the same 3 camps (modern, committed and extremists). The fundamental difference between dati leumi and charedi is ONLY leumi (nationalist) issues. NOT modesty, strictness in halacha, the shininess of an Esrog…nothing. Only Zionism. In addition, due to the natural pride of building the Jewish homeland, all 3 Zionist camps respect army service, education and work – even though many of the “committed” and “extremist” camps do not always serve the army, get an education and work. (much “frummer” than American black hats).

So this battle is real, and not at all new. And the “extremists” have the backing from serious rabbis and the agreement by many other rabbis to ignore the situation. And we all know, deep down, that the mainstream chareidi rabbis in Israel agree with the radical chareidim. Whether they agree or disagree with the tactics is one thing – but the underlying problem felt by the radical chareidim is agreed upon with virtually all mainstream chareidim. Some like the tactics and some don’t. But the tactics often get the job done…so all look the other way.

So again, this is a battle of values. And in Israel, much more than in the US, philosophy is a more important value than the Ten Commandments.

Couldn't have said it better myself