Why does the State of Israel observe the Jewish national day of mourning called Tisha b’Av every year?

Tisha b’Av is a Jewish fast day which has been commemorated annually on the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av. for the last 2500 years. It commemorates the destruction of the two Jewish temples built in Jerusalem that . The first temple was destroyed in 423 BC by the Babylonians and the second temple was destroyed by the Romans  in 70 Ad. Both events symbolized the end of Jewish sovereignty in those eras and both entailed the exile of the Jewish people exiled from their native land.  Today happens to be Tisha B’Av,  and while normally I commemorate this day outside of the modern State of Israel, this year I am fortunate to be spending it in Jerusalem, Israel. In fact, I can tell you that this is no minor fast, either in the diaspora or in Israel. In addition to a full day of fasting and prayer, many institutions sponsor talks and film screenings relevant to the theme of the destruction of the temple and the exile of the Jewish people in history.  The question for me is why does the State of Israel and the Jewish people all over the world, continue to observe this National Day of Mourning, today, since we now have a sovereign Jewish state in the ancient land of Israel.

One answer from the religious community, the community which regulates these religious rituals, is that although we now have political sovereignty, we have not yet achieved spiritual sovereignty in which all peoples respect each other and work together for the common good. This hope in the potential for a shared future of social goodness and peace – the future messianic times – as we all know, sadly, has not yet arrived. Our history tells us that the destruction and exiles of the Jewish people were caused not so much by the external forces but the internal divisions of the Jews of the time, that prevented a united front against the enemies.

Although the State of Israel can lay claim to many incredible achievements of the last 70 years, our history warns us not to rest on our laurels but to be vigilant and eager to improve our social fabric and unity of the Jewish people under the Divine rules of Justice and Mercy prescribed for us in our Torah.

In Jerusalem, on Tish b’A I participated in a film festival called “The Earth Trembles”: Contemporary Israeli films on contemporary social and political subjects were screened in the presence of the producers and actors.

The strength of the Jewish people is in its capacity to remember, not to forget, and to learn from the past. This is the ongoing task of the study of Torah, our holy books, which are meant to teach us the path how to improve the world we live in, not only for ourselves, but for all mankind.

Education for all, starting at birth, is a very large part of the Jewish endeavor. This is why it is hard to pull the wool over our eyes when others try to interpret our motives.

 

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas’ speech, at the January 14 meeting of the PLO’s Central Council lasted two hours.

Mahmoud Abbas, photo via Office of the President of Russia

Appealing to fashionable legal and moral fads, particularly in Western Europe, Abbas again set forth the supposedly problematic aspects of Zionism. His “historical survey” undoubtedly fails the minimum test of facts, but it is uncritically accepted in many circles.

Israeli Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen parsed his speech and here is his rebuttal. BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 738, February 12, 2018

 

  • “By every historical account, the Zionist revolution – the incredible ingathering of the exiles and the establishment of the flourishing and highly successful state of Israel – is a unique and unprecedented phenomenon. Those who insist on viewing it as yet another immigration wave among the 20th century global population movements fail to grasp the real nature of this revolution. In this respect, Abbas touched the key issue that, in his eyes, made the Palestinians the main victim of Zionism: if the Jews yearn for a safe haven, and the international community wants to provide them with one, why does it have to be in Palestine, at the Palestinians’ expense?
  • Of all the leaders of the Zionist movement, it was Israel’s founding father, David Ben-Gurion, who dealt most extensively with the kinds of claims made by Abbas. Below are several passages from Abbas’s address followed by statements by Ben-Gurion on the same topic.
  • Abbas: “How did the problem in our region begin? They talk about the Balfour Declaration, promulgated a hundred years ago. They criticize us – why do we talk about something that happened a hundred years ago? And we say: ‘We will keep talking about the declaration until Britain apologizes and recognizes a Palestinian state’.”
  • Ben-Gurion: “Our right to the Land of Israel does not stem from the Mandate and the Balfour Declaration. It precedes those. The Bible is our mandate… I can state in the name of the Jewish People: The Bible is our mandate, the Bible that was written by us in our Hebrew language, and in this land itself, is our mandate. Our historical right has existed since our beginnings as the Jewish People, and the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate recognize and confirm that right” (testimony to the Peel Royal Commission, January 1937, Bama’archa, vol. 1, pp. 77-78).
  • “A homeland is not given as a gift and is not acquired by means of political rights and contracts. It is not purchased with gold and is not conquered by force, but is built with sweat. This homeland is a historical creation and a collective endeavor of a people, the fruit of its physical, spiritual, and moral labor down through the generations. … The Land of Israel will be ours not when the Turks, the English, or the next peace conference agrees to it, and it is undersigned in a diplomatic treaty – but when we, the Jews, build it. We will not attain the real, true, and lasting right to the land from others, but from our labor. For the Land of Israel to be ours, we must build it; the mission of our revival movement is the building of the land” (New York, September 1915, Mema’amad Le’am, p. 10).
  • Abbas: “The Egyptian thinker Abd al-Wahab al-Masri described the Zionist entity in this way: ‘The goal of Israel’s creation is to establish a colonial state that has no connection to Judaism’ – that is, it exploits the Jews to its end.”
  • Ben-Gurion: “The Jewish religion is a national religion, and it encapsulates all the historical experiences of the People Israel from its inception to the present; hence it is not easy to distinguish between the national side and the religious side” (Kochavim Ve’afar, p. 128).
  • “Zionism is a faithful striving for the eternity of Israel, and in these years the eternity of Israel is embodied in the state of Israel and in the Book of Books” (Kochavim Ve’afar, p. 155).
  • “Zionism – as the faith of the People Israel down through the generations – determined that the Land of Israel would solve the ‘question of the Jews’ in its entirety. Not a partial solution for a people, and not a solution for part of the people, but a full solution for an entire people. That is, for every Jew who needs and desires to live in the ancestral homeland… The People of Israel never believed in a duality of matter and spirit. Without the physical presence of the people in the land, its spiritual presence will not be built. The spiritual center of the Jewish People can exist only in the worldly center” (Speech to the 20th Zionist Congress, August 1937, Bama’archa, vol. 1, p. 238).
  • “The state of Israel is the fruit of the vision of the Jewish People’s redemption down through the generations… and with the establishment of the state, the redemption vision was not realized. Because the overwhelming majority of the Jewish People are still dispersed among the nations, and the Jewish state is still not the fulfillment of the Jewish redemption, it is only the main tool and means to its redemption” (Kochavim Ve’afar, p. 92).
  • Abbas: “Herzl was an educated person who dealt with theater and poetry and did not have a connection to the Zionist story. He dealt with the issue only because the Jewish question began to arise in Europe. The Jews were desperate because of general problems and a crisis within their communities, not because of their religion.”
  • Ben-Gurion: “From a Jewish standpoint Zionism is not just a flight from persecution and restrictive laws, but primarily love of a homeland and a vision of the rise of a nation-state. Our Zionism is composed of a national ideology, a feeling of love for the land, an aspiration to political independence. And of a desire and a need to settle in the Land of Israel. Take away from Zionism the hundreds-years-long love for the ancestral homeland, take away from Zionism the political aspiration to independence – and Zionism is emptied of its content” (Bama’archa, vol. 2, p. 48).
  • “The definition of Zionism’s ‘ultimate goal’ is nothing but the full and complete redemption of the People Israel in its land, the ingathering of the exiles, national sovereignty” (February 1937, Bama’archa, vol. 1, p. 190).
  • “What happened in the Land of Israel last year, what is happening every day to the Jews of Yemen, casts a cruel light on the chances for the ‘spiritual center’ of a Jewish minority in an Arab environment. But some of the champions of ‘the majority’ and the Jewish state, too, distort the true content of Zionism. A Jewish majority – is that indeed the goal? Let’s assume that there are a million Arabs in the country. Do a million-plus-one Jews constitute a solution for the question of the Jewish People? The realization of Zionism does not depend on the number of non-Jews in the country – but on the number of Jews who have the ability and the desire to settle there. It is not the number of non-Jews that is decisive – it is the desire and the need of the Jewish People and the capability of the country that is decisive, and this capability, too, is not predetermined but depends on the creative energies of the Jewish People” (February 1937, Bama’aracha, vol. 1, p. 158).

I believe that this is why we continue to observe the fast of T’isha b’Av – because we have so much to learn from both the heroes and villains of the past, we cannot afford to discard any part of our multifaceted history as we move forward towards the Messianic era, which we believe depends not just on grace but on the concerted memory and efforts of each and everyone of us.

Author: Abigail Hirsch, MSW, filmmaker, blogger, Hungarian born, Canadian Jew, currently living in Jerusalem, Israel

Quora: public questions and answers where anyone in the world can participate

What is Quora? Their website states: “Quora is a platform to ask questions and connect with people who contribute unique insights and quality answers.” In my own words, anyone can  ask and/or respond to any question and this creates a grassroots conversation on many many subjects which exposes both peoples’ wisdom and their misunderstandings. This is why I love it. Check out these questions and answers and I encourage you to join and add your voice. Its possible to respond, and upvote and or downvote.

The first response and question illustrates exactly why I appreciate Quora

QUESTION:

RESPONSE:
Dani Ishai Behan
Dani Ishai Behan, Middle East historian

Because antisemites can’t mob and bully their way to victory here as they do on other sites (and in real life).
This site’s moderation doesn’t target and censor Israeli voices, nor does it countenance antisemitic harassment or threats. Quite the contrary, those tactics tend to result in an immediate ban.

That is why this site seems more pro-Israel than usual. Jews can actually be HEARD on here, and that’s a good thing. Until Quora, the only other option we had were our own websites, because no one else would have us (see: What the Media Gets Wrong About Israel).

As for myself, I was anti-Israel until I listened to both “narratives” and analyzed them extensively. Before that point, I would just imbibe whatever anti-Israel talking points were fed to me by my “comrades”. The hostile reactions I got simply for asking questions were far more revealing than anything we Jews could offer by ourselves. One who is genuinely on the right side of history should never be afraid of scrutiny. Rather, they should welcome it.

At a certain point, I realized just how important Zionism was to the things I cared about: indigenous rights, environmental health, anti-colonialism, and freedom from oppression. Zionism, far from being a “settler colonial” ideology, is the funeral pyre of colonial hegemony in the Levant and of our exile from our homeland. For this reason, Zionism has become an indispensable part of my identity as a Jew, and as a radical.

And here is another good one:

Michael Davison
Michael Davison, lives in Israel (1969-present)
The Naqba celebrated (or mourns) the failure of the Arab League to exterminate Jews and destroy Israel before it could be built. I don’t think that’s an appropriate thing for any Israeli to celebrate.

On the other hand, what about the Jewish Naqba? As a result of the injury to “Arab Honor” and “Arab pride”, over 850,000 Jews were expelled or forced out of their countries of birth in revenge. Somehow, this almost never gets mentioned.

Jewish refugees from Arab Countries

Educate yourself. The Naqba was a double-sided sword—but the Jews went and made new lives for themselves while the Palestinians were imprisoned in refugee camps for the past 71 years. Even Mahmoud Abbas has condemned the Arab League for their part in it:

“The Arab armies entered Palestine to protect the Palestinians from the Zionist tyranny, but instead they abandoned them, forced them to emigrate and to leave their homeland, imposed upon them a political and ideological blockade and threw them into prisons similar to the ghettos in which the Jews used to live in Eastern Europe.

“The Arab states succeeded in scattering the Palestinian people and in destroying their unity. They did not recognize them as a unified people until the states of the world did so, and this is regrettable.” – The Current President of the Palestinian authority- Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas), from the official journal of the PLO, Falastin el-Thawra (“What We Have Learned and What We Should Do”), Beirut, March 1976, reprinted in the Wall Street Journal, June 5,2003 and in ‘Palestine Betrayed’ By Prof Ephraim Karsh of Kings College, London.

The Naqba did not occur in a vacuum and was not a one-sided event.

Yes I upvoted this.

Why is Quora important to me?
The Jewish Talmud has a discussion that states that even if G-d himself were to intervene with a vote at the rabbinic court, the court must follow the majority on any ruling. And I do believe that the collective wisdom of the world has the potential to overcome antisemitism and other false and libelous doctrines. 

 

Chanukah in Jerusalem, Israel

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Last night was the first night of Chanukah here in Jerusalem and all over the world. This was my first time experiencing Chanukah in Jerusalem in Israel. Here as you can see from the above pictures, the practice is not only to light candles on the menorah – 8 candled candelabra – indoors but also to light outside one’s front door. The candles are placed inside a glass box which protects the flames from the elements on a raised platform outside the dwelling.

The second picture here is outside the door of my dear friend Judy Brodt in Nachlaot, Jerusalem. We lit the candles, recited the blessings, sang the songs and sat outside to appreciate the sight of the candles…By the way there was Judy and myself and Coco, a young woman from Venezuela, who was visiting Israel for the first time. Lots of people, tours, families were walking through the streets. One group of young girls who were actually tour guides to be, stopped and accepted our cookies and came inside. Then a woman, Jean Kidd and her personal tour guide stopped to speak with us. Jean Kidd is a sculptor from Knoxville Tennessee whose sculptures have been commissioned for Mamila Mall. One of her sculptures is called “Guardian” and it brought to mind “The guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps”. (Lo Yanum velo yishan Shomer Yisrael). A particularly appropriate phrase to describe one aspect of this Holiday.

After lighting Judy and I were invited for supper to her friend, Zahava’s home – thats where the second group of candles in the window are from.

She had a huge spread of dairy foods plus traditional latkes and dreidels and children from 1 yr old and up… all playing together. One of the guests asked the question how come we have. Mitzvah of having a seuda/holiday meal on Purim but no such commandment for Chanukah. A good question yes?

Anyhow my teacher, Yhudis golshevsky’s main teaching about Chanukah was the following: What is it about the candles that makes them so important?

Why is one of the first blessings after Shabbat about fire – “borei meorai haaish”?
Blessed iis the Creator of fires?

The era of the Maccabees was a period of Greek domination of the civilized world. Israel was a part of that world and “Hellenization” was very popular even among Jews? What was the domination of the Greeks all about? They were not into destroying the Temple, they simply wanted to insinuate their ideology and in order to do that Antiochus, the wicked King, forbade circumcision, temple sacrifice, and placed their God /Statues all over the country and even in the temple.

The uprising of The Maccabees which started with a family of high priests was illogical and certainly not guaranteed of success at the time against the might of Greece. In brief:
1 The Maccabees were a band of Jewish freedom fighters who freed Judea from the Syrian-Greek occupiers during the Second Temple period. The word Maccabee is an acronym for the Hebrew words that mean “Who is like You among all powers, G‑d.” Led by Judah the Maccabee and his four brothers, they trounced the Greek interlopers and restored the Holy Temple in Jerusalem to the service of G‑d. Their victory is celebrated during the holiday of Chanukah.
• The Background
• More than 2,000 years ago there was a period of time when the Land of Israel was part of the Syrian-Greek Empire, ruled by the dynasty of the Seleucids. In 174 BCE (3586), Antiochus IV ruled the region. He was called Epiphanes, meaning “the gods’ beloved,” but people called him Epimanes (“madman”), a title more suited to the character of this harsh and cruel king…
• The Maccabees Rule Judea
• The Maccabees and their descendants took the throne of Judea for themselves. This was a problem because they were priests, descendants of Aaron. Their job was to serve in the Holy Temple and guide the people in spiritual matters. It was the place of the descendants of King David, from the tribe of Judah, who were supposed to sit on the royal throne. Indeed, it did not take long until the monarchy of Judea was dragged down into a series of unending power grabs and bloody intrigue, with king after king trying to imitate the very same Greeks their ancestors had ousted from the land.
• Yet, for all their shortcomings, the Maccabees leave us with an empowering message that resonates in all times and all places: Never cower in the face of tyranny. Do your part, trust in G‑d, and success is sure to come.

The above is excerpted from: https://www.chabad.org/holidays/chanukah/article_cdo/aid/3857239/jewish/The-Maccabees-The-Jewish-Freedom-Fighters.htm
This message resounds throughout the centuries as the core story of the Jewish people and their place in the world. And even today as the Israeli army announces the beginning of an operation on tis Northern border to eliminate all attack tunnels that Hezbollah has built at the northern border of Israel burrowing into Israel itself.

But what does this have to do with lighting candles? here is how my Teacher, Yehudis Golshevsky explained it this way: Fire can be destructive or constructive. Everyone knows that human civilization as we know it started with the discovery of fire by man. The Greeks attributed this discovery to man and man alone. Jews believe that everything in our physical world comes form G-d including man, the physical world and even the choice between Good and Evil, peace and war. Man was created by G-d to partner with Him to improve and watch over the physical world which he created for us: God created essential fire during the first days of creation: Man discovered fire and has the task to work with it. And mankind was given the free will to choose between good and evil in its use of fire as well as in its use of everything else that exists in the world. Now what does this have to do with Chanukah? Chanukah commemorates two things: one the victory of The Maccabees over the Greeks during the time of King Antiochus and two, the restoration of the Temple practice according to the laws laid done in the Torah. – i.e only using the oil set aside by the Kohanim/Priests of the Temple service. And here is where one of the miracles comes in – the oil that would have been sufficient for one day, burned for eight days until they could make fresh and pure/tahor oil – oil prepared according to Torah instructions. As one pundit put it – Its like finding that your mobile phone battery is at 10% and it lasts for eight days! What is the lesson? G-d can make anything happen! The lights burning on Chanukah for eight days in every family’s home reminds us of the jewish spiritual heritage laid down in the Torah and that we are not alone in this world.

The other part of Chanukah celebrates the unexpected and miraculous victory of the few over the many – the small band of Kohanim let by Mattityahu and his sons against the might Greek armies, at that time, rulers of the entire civilized world. The Chanukah victory celebrates not just the victory over the Greeks but also the jewish victories over the Babylonians, the Persions, the Greeks, and the current one – the Romans: The Roman exile has lasted since the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD and the exile of the Jewish people from the land of Israel to our present day: The Roman is now in the process of being redeemed by the restoration of sovereignty to the Jewish people in their indigenous native land of Israel givento them by the Hand of G-d.  If thats not a miracle I don’t know what is!

The simple four sided Chanukah dreidel that is the source of a game played on Chanukah commemorates these four exiles – 1. Egypt 2. Babylon 3. Greece and 4. Rome . And what binds them together? The axis on which the dreidel spins – the hand of G-d in the affairs of Man which is the core message of the Jewish people as laid down in the Torah.

And why do we not have a mandated feast on Chanukah as we have on Purim – another Jewish holiday that threatened the existance of the Jewish People?  The Greeks were not intent on destroying Jews physically but only spiritually, by imposing their Hellenistic ideology, and way of life on the Jews. And there was only a handful who recognized the inherent danger of this path and understood how the Greek way was diametrically opposed to the Jewish way. Greeks and Jews had much in common: both people revered science and learning about the physical world. But the Greeks held that the order of the world had no spiritual meaning over what can be seen and perceived by Man. Jews believe that the physical world is a manifestation of G-d’s power and that He continues to watch over the World. He chose  and was chosen by the Jewish people to transmit this wisdom to the rest of the world. So on Chanukah we not only celebrate the victory of battle – the victory of Matityahu and his band over the Greeks, but more importantly the spiritual victory which is symbolized by the holy light of the candles, which are there for no functional reason but simply to remind us of the Hand of G-d in our physical human world.

So the difference between Greek ideology and Jewish ideology is that Greeks worship beauty and intellect and do not recognize the Hand of G-d in this world. Jews also love beauty and intellect but in addition, also believe in a G-d that is interested in the affairs of man and looks on lovingly as we, humans succeed and fail in our essential tasks of promoting goodness and care for our world, shared by G-d and man. The candles that we light are not to be used for any functional purpose. They simply allow us a moment to contemplate the whole story of fire, of its destructive and constructive potential, and the hidden Hand of G-d in our world – That is Chanukah!  Zot Chanukah! – (in Hebrew).

Hag Chanukah Sameach! Lets enjoy the victory of light over darkness!

Abigail Hirsch
askabigail@me.com
From Jerusalem Israel 2018
 
 

Finally a Rational Fully Formulated Plan for Peace in the Middle East

This morning i read several posts on the internet which made me believe that Peace really could come to the Middle East ‘Bheref Eyin”  as they say in Hebrew “in the blink of an eye”….

Jews believe that the messianic times will be heralded by univresal peace – ” The lion shall lie down with the lamb”…We are a nationalistic people but we are also a universalist people. We actually espouse both.

We believe in our particularity as the Jewish people:  but we also believe in caring about the universe and espousing universal priniciples of peace and brotherhood between nations.

If you had told me yesterday that peace was on the horizon, I would have laughed at you: But this morning I watched several videos which laid out a real plan for peace between the Palestinians, and Israel and Jordan and Egypt and Saudi Arabia and eventually extending to Iraq, the Kurds, Iran and Turkey….

I have been subscribed to Ted Belman’s blog since he started. Lately I have paid more attention to his daily reports which are an amalgam of  essays form various sources.

Last night I happened to start watching on his website, his video where he explains the “Jordanian Option”. He lays out the whole history of the Israel Palestine situation starting with Balfour and brings us up to the present. i have to say that  I was listening with half an ear last nigtht to all this history (the video is an hour long). But then this morning I listened to the second part of his talk where he lays out the actual plan which is in the process of being implemented with the blessing of the US intelligence services and President Trump and other key players. If you want to be floored, start watching the video at the 46 minute mark. You will be blown away…

I am in Israel now and it is almost the start of the Sukkot holiday. Sukkot i the holiday specifically dedicated to praying for the seventy nations of the world i.e. the whole world.

I am going to enjoy this holiday immensely knowing that this is finally on the verge of happening.

May we all be blessed with peace speedily and in our time..

Abigail Hirsch, filmmaker, blogger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ari Fuld – an Ordinary Extraordinary American-Israeli Jewish Hero

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Yesterday Ari Fuld was knifed in the back at a mall by a snot-nosed teenage Palestinian terrorist.  Ari chased the terrorist and shot him. Both of them lay on the pavement. Ari sadly, father of four and supporter of thousands, succumbed to his wounds and was buried last night at 11pm.

Am Yisrael Chai! The state of Israel lives! in joy and fulfillment because we have many people like Ari Fuld,  – not just the IDF – our teenage citizen army – but ordinary citizens of all ages and everywhere, who continue every day to ensure our safety and to ensure that we all live in security with joy and fulfillment. One snot nosed teenager can’t take that away! I am in Jerusalem and I feel safer here in Jerusalem than in New York or Montreal or anywhere else in the world because here everybody watches out for everybody. Here is Ari Feld speaking about his commitment a few short months ago interviewed by the Jewish Journal in Los Angeles.

 

And Ari Fuld, our ordinary extraordinary hero, will be mourned by all of the State of Israel and by Jews and non-Jews all over the world who appreciate the value of every single life.

And i just saw this post in Breaking Israel News which gives an additional flavour and insight into Ari Fuld. If you read the next part of this post you may begin to understand how the  Torah/our Sacred-Word-of-G-d-Text influences how a Jew Lives his faith every day of his life. I quote:

That Ari Fuld, may his memory be for a blessing, whose name means lion, was a fierce advocate for Israel is well-known.

What might be less well-known is that he took time on Fridays, just before Shabbat, to teach the upcoming week’s Torah portion live on Facebook, often beside his beloved barbeque grill, in his beloved community of Efrat. Fuld taught Torah to thousands of Jews and Christians all over the world, while preparing food for his family’s Shabbat meals.

 

A Torah Tribute To Ari Fuld In His Own Words

 

 

 

Who Are the “Racists” Today?

“Racism”, “colonialism” “apartheid” these are the politically correct demons of our time. Never mind that these were the politically correct pro-social watchwords prior to World War Two and have lost any basis in fact in our own time. Or have they?

The worst thing you can call someone on most campuses of the US and Canada and even England and Europe is to be  “racist/pro-apartheid” or a “colonialist”.  These terms have also become hot buttons in the current American election that pits Donald Trump vs Hilary Clinton. The other hot button issue has become sexual morality but I will deal with that in a separate blog. The biggest trump card that the Hilary camp seems to have is the “Trump is a racist” card: and then there is the sexual mudslinging on both sides.

Here I want to bring your attention to several articles that I  have been reading over this period that address the issue of racism in an intellectually rigorous manner. And then I will ask you who are the true racists?

The first article that I wish to draw your attention to is one posted last month by The Gatestone Institute, International Policy Council:

  • This asymmetrical war, for the first time since the Holocaust and the wholesale slaughter of six million Jews, also recently shattered a German taboo. Apparently, for some Germans, the old bloodlust never went away — it merely slept. The teachers’ union in the city of Oldenburg just published an article in its September magazine calling for “a complete boycott of the Jewish State,” according to the Jerusalem Post, “the first call to boycott Israel or Jews from a German organized labor group since the Holocaust.” To its belated credit, on September 5, the Oldenburg teachers’ union apologized, labeling the boycott “a big mistake” and “anti-Semitic.”

And here is detailed the role of our current academic intelligentsia in all of this. I quote from the same article

  • They are also subjecting Israel’s academia to a “silent” neo-Nazi campaign from unprincipled universities: extend fewer invitations, reject more articles, and use the standards of the Third Reich Nuremberg Laws to exclude participation by Jews. Syracuse University just disinvited from a conference Simon Dotan, a Jewish professor from New York University and award-winning filmmaker, who was born in Romania, raised in Israel and is living in the US. Commentator Caroline Glick noted:
  • “Hamner’s decision had nothing to do with the quality of Dotan’s work. She admitted as much… Dotan was disinvited because he is Israeli and because the title of his film, The Settlers, does not make it immediately apparent whether he reviles the half million Israeli Jews who live in Judea and Samaria sufficiently.”

  • Others in the world of academia who have approved these neo-Nazi measures include the British historian Catherine Hall and, disgracefully, the severely disabled Stephen Hawking, who is able to speak thanks only to an Israeli voice device.
  • This academic boycott campaign began when Oren Yiftachel, a scholar at the Ben Gurion University, had an academic paper rejected by the journal Political Geography. The rejection came with a note informing him that the magazine could not accept a submission from “Israel,” and his paper was returned unopened. The publishing house St. Jerome Manchester, specializing in translations, refused to send academic volumes to the Bar Ilan University in Israel. The British magazine, Dance Europe, refused to publish an article about the Israeli choreographer Sally Anne Friedland; Richard Seaford declined to review a book for the Israeli magazine, Antiquity Scripta Classica Israelica. A professor of pathology at Oxford University, Andrew Wilkie, rejected an application by Amit Duvshani, a doctoral student at Tel Aviv University. Wilkie wrote in his rejection: “no way would I take on somebody who had served in the Israeli army.”

And now lets discuss “colonialism” from the same article”

  • The European Union signed an agreement with Morocco, which has a territorial dispute with Algeria, but nevertheless enshrined its right to exploit the resources of Western Sahara; no campaign was launched to protest it. And we have not heard any protests against Turkey for its occupation of Northern Cyprus or its wholesale imprisonment of dissidents, journalists or academics. No, the boycott policy is solely against the Jewish State, which boasts one of the highest levels of academic freedom, press freedom and equality under the law on the planet. They do this in the “3-D” ways noted by the true advocate of human rights, the Soviet dissident, Natan Sharansky, in his The Case For Democracy:
  • Double standard: targeting only Israel from among the 200 territorial disputes, from Tibet to Ukraine.
  • Demonization: comparing Israel’s actions to Nazis when it is really the people doing the comparing who should be compared to Nazis.
  • Delegitimization: denying the right of Israel to exist.

And on this same topic the article concludes:

  • The pre- or post-1967 lines are only an alibi for these new Nazis. Many consider Israel in its entirety illegal, immoral, or both — even though Jews have lived on that land for 3,000 years — part of it is even called Judea. Their appetite for accusing Jews of having the audacity to “occupy” their own historical, Biblical land only reveals their collusion the darkest lies of Islamic extremists, who are trying to destroy the indigenous Christian Copts in their native land of Egypt, and the indigenous Assyrian Christians whom we see being slaughtered throughout the Middle East. Should the French be accused of “occupying” Gaul? Just look at any map of “Palestine,” which blankets the entire state of Israel: to many Palestinians, all of Israel is a single giant settlement that has to be dismantled.
  • Instead of Israel, they would facilitate the creation of another Arab-Islamic state that will suppress freedom of expression for artists, journalists and writers; that will drive away Christians from their homes; that will stone to death homosexuals; that will torture inmates in prisons, that will put to death innocents simply for wishing to convert to Christianity; that will sentence anyone to flogging, prison or death who is even alleged to have said something someone might have found offensive to Islam; that will oblige women to wear veils and live apart; that will glorify terrorists; that will ban alcohol; that will arrest people for expressing unpopular opinions; that will encourage a new category of Muslim refugees: those who would gladly escape an oppressive and murderous regime.
  • These new Nazis serve up, instead of an argument, untrue and deceptive slogans such as “apartheid state”, “occupation”, “repressive”, “violator of international law” (which Israel meticulously is not). Their goal, like that of the original Nazis, is to manipulate people, and instill in them bias and hate against Israel, and just behind this subterfuge, against the Jews.
  • Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author

     

     

If you want to read more articles on this subject I refer you to these:

I ask you now “Who are the racists”? Are you one of them? Do you side with Obama, one of the first presidents to distance himself from  the American Israeli alliance, and his potential successor Hilary Clinton?

Do you support the the Israel Boycott and Divestment Movement on campuses commonly called “BDS” ?

Do you support Churches that support these anti-Israel policies?

Just wondering…Let me know what you think.

Abigail Hirsch, October 2016

Written from Israel where I am spending the month of Jewish Holidays from Rosh Hashanah through Sukkot. 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Klez Kanada August 2018

I am at Klez Kanada, one week- Jewish arts summer camp in the Laurentian mountains  and am posting videos that I have crated in previous years. Experience the exuberance and joy generated by this amazing gathering. It gets better and better.

 

Everything You Always Wanted to Know about the Shofar but Were Afraid to Ask

At this time of year you are probably getting used to hearing Happy New Year, Shana tova, and the words Rosh Hashanah bandied about and wondering what is this exactly. Rosh Hashana is a combination of penance and joy. It is hard to explain so I will share a short (2 1/2 min.) video I recently discovered that explains this weird holiday, and also contains the blowing of the shofar – the ram’s horn – which I will talk more about after the video.

Now you are probably wondering what is the meaning of the shofar? The shofar is a ram’s horn which is reminiscent of human vocal expression and is supposed to awaken us to do the work of self-evaluation and introspection regarding the world and our place in it during the month prior to Rosh Hashanah, and also integral to the High Holidays (Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur) services. And by the way it’s harder to get a sound out of it than it looks. (Yes I tried and failed). But here are some examples of people who succeeded.

The longest shofar blast.

And a totally new initiative, the shofar flash mob, groups who got together at different places in the world to blow shofar together.

And last but not least, here is an adorable video of my nieces and nephew wishing you all a happy Rosh Hashanah. Shana Tova!

 

 

Thoughts and Reflections on the Eve of Yom Kippur

A few short weeks ago on August 23rd, 2010 I attended and videotaped an amazing conference organized by CIJR (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research) here in Montreal.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Wiesenthal Center gave the lunchtime address. He started by commenting that in the face of intellectual giants who were presenting during the day such as Professor Wistrich of Hebrew University and Professor Small of Yale University, he did not feel compelled to exert himself on the intellectual plane. And so he shared three incidents which resonated powerfully with me, one of which I will share with you today, as it feels particularly apt on the eve of our annual Yom Kippur observation.

Rabbi Cooper shared that he has traveled extensively internationally, meeting with government officials, the Pope, and the public on issues of concern to the Jewish people. For example, he shared that he has traveled to Japan and many other countries to educate about the dissemination of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and to shut down its publication.

After one of these talks to a group of Japanese businessman, the Rabbi respectfully asked, “Are there any questions?” As Japanese audiences are known for their polite reticence, he was very surprised as one CEO stood up and said ‘Yes, Rabbi, I have a question. Rabbi Cooper, we understand now that Jews don’t get together to plot world conspiracies and financial domination in their synagogue, but can you tell us what do Jews do in synagogue? Do Jews pray?” This question stopped him in his tracks, and it stopped me in my tracks as well. I think of it especially now as we Jews begin our twenty-five hour annual stint of fasting and prayer. How do we explain what happened there?

How do you share a five thousand year tradition while standing on one leg?

For now I refer you to the following website of Beliefnet: for a hands-on explanation of the key elements of Yom Kippur as well as a description of the actual service. But on a deeper level, how does one share a five thousand year practice that has evolved with each generation continuing to maintain its loyalty both to the past and the future?

On September 10th, 2009, I participated in a webinar with Rabbi Yitz Greenberg on the prayer service of Yom Kippur. Rabbi Yitz Greenberg and Rabbi Kimmelman share how the ritual of the Yom Kippur prayer service is connected not only to the individual Jew but also to the community and all nations. He shows us how the prayers are carefully crafted to pray for peace not just for the individual but for all nations and all people in the universe, and to be realized under the rule of law, truth, and justice. And these are not mere empty words but also a prescription for achieving it.

The amazing thing about our tradition is that it has been evolving for five thousand years with loyalty to the past, the present, and hopes for the future.

The main refrain on Yom Kippur is “Tshuva, tefillah and tzedaka, maavirin et roah hagzera.” I say this in Hebrew transliteration because each word is multilayered, powerful, and significant and difficult to translate but I will attempt it. Tshuva, (return to our sources) tefillah (prayer) and tzedaka (doing just acts) can have the power to mollify evil outcomes.

To be continued… gmar tov: traditonal greeting at the end of Yom Kippur – May our prayers be fulfilled for good in the next year and within our lifetimes.

May we all pray together this Yom Kippur for the tshuva (improved behaviour) of every Jew, every human being, every government, and all peoples in the Universe. Even a slight improvement in each individual’s awareness and behavior can have a major impact on all of us.

Shana tova oometukah.

Wishing you a good and sweet year during this coming year.

Academics as Theologians: Judith Butler and Stephen Hawking

The internet wages war mainly via words and images. However words and ideologies are indeed important in understanding and in influencing the world. The Jewish Bible claims that G-d’s ideas and words preceded the creation of the world. “In the beginning there was the word” and indeed ideas do precede actions in a thinking world.

Judith Butler, a feminist, a philosopher, a professor of critical thinking who also happens to hold the Hannah Arendt Chair in Philosophy at the European Graduate School in Sass-Fee, Switzerland, – another point of irony for anyone who knows about the controversies that swirl around Hannah Arendt, who was also a Jewish and academically acclaimed, but very controversial  philosopher) is about to receive an honorary degree from McGill University in Montreal.

She has been criticized for supporting the BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions Movement that was seeded at the notoriously anti-semitic first Durban UN Human rights conference,and which has become an international political arm of the Palestinian “electronic and political” intifada against Israel. BDS has become an industry solely focused on Israel and has spawned legal opposition groups. Here is how one of them Shurat Hadin describes the BDS movement:

“The Briefing: Israel, and the Jewish community at large, is beset by a dangerous international campaign utilizing new strategies to delegitimize the Jewish State. Unable to defeat the IDF militarily or weaken the population through persistent terrorism, the extremist groups, Islamic terrorists and their rogue regime allies have embarked upon a global effort to demonize and isolate Israel, casting it as a pariah state.The widespread Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and its utilization of Lawfare, is the main component of the “Durban Strategy” adopted by Israel’s opponents at the U.N.’s Human Rights Conference in 2001. Tactics like the Gaza Flotilla,  the effort overseas to indict IDF officers and elected officials for war crimes, blood libels in the media, the boycotting of Israeli academics, and the persistent debate over whether a Jewish State has a right to exist, are having a perilous impact on Israel’s security and diplomatic capabilities.  As the Anti-Defamation League has stated: “The BDS movement at its very core is anti-Semitic.”

Judith Butler has defended herself in a blog: “Judith Butler Responds to Attack”. Sadly, she exposes her lack of critical thinking in a long and wordy defense focusing on her “Jewish and ethical” background without any appreciation of the political and ideological war that she has been drawn into by her academic leftist convictions. At one point she states:

“…A few words are taken out of context, their meaning distorted, and they then come to label or, indeed, brand an individual. This happens to many people when they offer a critical view of Israel – they are branded as anti-Semites or even as Nazi collaborators; However she uses exactly the same tactic of devaluing the scholars who criticize her by saying: “SPME, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East is not, as The Jerusalem Post has reported, a large group of Jewish scholars in Germany, but an international organization with a base in Australia and California. They are a right-wing organization and so part of an intra-Jewish war.

Having attended one of the SPME conferences in Miami, I can assure her that the members of SPME are scholars of academia just as she is, not all Jewish by the way, and actually from all parts of the world including Germany. They have united to fight the spurious BDS movement which was ignited on campuses all over the world and has been embraced by left-wing academics such as herself.

I have written about anti-semitism, the anti-Jewish rhetoric and ideology, that is propagated by Islam in more than one post:

Jonathan Spyer on Obama’s Foreign Policy and Antisemitism: an unsexy subject.

However, today I read an editorial that reveals the Christian anti-Jewish “replacement theology” bias that I would have thought was by now obsolete in the Christian world.  By “replacement theology” I refer to the Christian doctrine that Judaism is an inferior religion that has no validity since it has been superseded by the birth of Christ and Christianity, the superior religion. We all owe Mordechai Ben Dat a debt of gratitude for reading and analyzing the 10 page treatise published by the Scottish Church (PDF), which few of us would ever read, and exposing its virulent outdated ideology in  Polemics as Theology. He writes, “The document titled ‘The Inheritance of Abraham? A Report on the ‘Promised Land,’ is a brazen attack on the Jewish state as well as on the Jewish religion.” If you have some time you will appreciate his insightful article.

In addition, we have recently witnessed the sad case of the atheist scientist, Stephen Hawking, refusing to attend a scientific conference in Israel, because he too supports  BDS, and boycotting Israel for “human rights abuses”.  As Allan Dershowitz astutely pointed out, Hawking has previously attended conferences in China and Iran without objecting to their human rights abuses. Allan Dershowitz writes:

“Yet Iran is a country that Stephen Hawking visited. He did not boycott that Islamic country. He limited his boycott to the democratic nation state of the Jewish people.
 
Not only did Steven Hawking visit China, he praised it effusively. Although Chinese universities are considerably better than Iran’s, there is no real freedom to criticize the government or the Communist Party. The people who brought us Tiananmen Square still hold positions of authority in China. Dissidents are persecuted. There is no semblance of fair trial. Censorship reigns.
 
Yet Stephen Hawking did not boycott China. He boycotted only Israel — the only country of these three with real academic freedom and the only country where people with disabilities are fully integrated, first-class citizens of society. In China, many disabled children are aborted due to the country’s one-child policy. In Iran many disabled people are kept hidden within families because of prevalent cultural taboos.
 
I am neither an academic or a scientist or a rabbi or a priest. All I can do is to share what I see and rely on the power of words and the internet to shine a light on these issues.
 
Author: Abigail Hirsch, MSW, social worker, filmmaker, blogger, journalist, citizen of the world:
 
Author’s note: This was first published four years ago on May 7, 2014. I am republishing it today because, sadly, this message is just as relevant today as it was then.