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Thursday, January 29, 2004

The Tear-Stained Silver Lining of a Bereaved Parent

I just heard the fathers of Beni Avraham and Adi Avitan say Kaddish over the coffins of their sons - who gave their lives for the people and God of Israel. The tears flowed down my face as these two men who I have met on so many occasions blessed God's name as their sons' bodies lay before them.

Maybe all the externalities of this 'terrorists for Tenenbaum' deal ARE really based on dirty backroom deals - our government infiltrated by foreign interests and smallminded members of the 10 biblical spies who believe we are like grasshoppers in the eyes of the nations....

But to look at it through God's eyes, for a moment, now that its a done deal.

The prayers that the parents of Omar Sowad, Beni Avraham and Adi Avitan uttered to the Master of the World were answered and they were given the bittersweet privilege of saying Kaddish for their children.

In the merit of their tear-laced Kaddish may God wipe away our tears and make certain that the savage murderers roaming the night along both sides of our new illusion-fence do not succeed in their false-prophet's genocidal plan.

As an ex-PLO terrorist I just wrote an article about said last week, "The God of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps."

To those who want practical activism advice: Aliya and Avoda Ivrit (Jewish Labor) are the key right now.

A challenge: You want to support Israel - as a visitor, but especially if you live here already. Try for ONE DAY, a week, a month, to seek out and support the establishments, hotels, restaurants, and supermarkets that rely solely on Jewish labor.
Full post and comments...

More bad news

As 400 terrorists were being bussed by Israel to their respective terrorist enclaves in Hebron, Beit Lechem, Jenin, Tulkarm, and Gaza, another terrorist (a.k.a. "Palestinian policeman") blew himself up in a bus in Jerusalem. Reactions? (from the JPost)

Uri Lupolianski, mayor of Jerusalem: "I'm glad the fence is going up. I only wish it was happening faster because we all know it protects us all." Arur hagever asher yivtach ba'adam. So much for a religious mayor.

Silvan Shalom, foreign minister: "PA must do all it has pledged to do – to fight terror; otherwise there will be no advance in the process." What process? It seems like the process to which the PA is committed, i.e., genocide, is advancing well.

The Council of Europe (?) condemned the deadly suicide bombing as a "mindless and indiscriminate act of violence." It's not mindless and indiscriminate; the bombings are quite well planned out, and targets are carefully chosen.

And as the 400 terrorists got off the busses, they shouted praises for Sheikh Nasrallah and God, and went on their separate ways.
Full post and comments...

Saturday, January 24, 2004


If you are a relatively new Oleh...
You are invited to a Kumah Shabbaton on Tu B'Shvat!

Where: Biblical Beit El, Israel. The 170 Egged bus takes you right there.

When: Feb 7th, Parshat Beshalach. Show up Friday afternoon.

What: This is a Shabbaton for new Olim where we will celebrate the beautiful Land, the seven species, and the fact that were finally here! We plan on holding a Tu B'Shvat Seder Friday night and hiking up to gorgeous vistas during the day. Guest will stay with English speaking families in Beit El.

Availability and Cost: The cost is 50 Shekel per person (a little over $11), not including transportation. Space is somewhat limited in order to keep the Shabbaton intimate.

What to Bring: Bring yourself, maybe a musical instrument, and a bag of cool and unusual fruit.

Ok, now what: If this sounds good to you, please sign up quickly. Email reservations or call me at 050-356-263 with any questions.

We look forward to seeing you on what promises to be a special event.
Full post and comments...

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Belgians advised not to wear Kippot

As reported in yesterdays Jerusalem Post.

Granted, I am not suprised by this, as this is already the case for Jews of France, and I imagine this will spread to Jews residing in other countries in Europe. However, the leader of the jewish community in Belgium gave a very interesting answer as to why it is in fact better for the Jews not to wear kippot which I thought you might appreciate.

Phillip Marcovits, head of the Belgian Jewish organizations steering committee stated that by Jews not wearing kippot, "Jews would demonstrate their civic consciousness and contribute to Belgium's democratic and liberal charachter. It would also set the Jews apart from Muslims, he said, who display their religious affiliation at every opportunity".

In my mind, it is one thing to come out and say that Jews shouldn't wear kippot or other Jewish symbols b/c of anti-Semitism, but to say that in order to be good liberal, democratic citizens of Belgium they shouldn't wear them is ridculous in my mind. Isn't democracy and liberalism about pluralism and tolerance? He attempts to cast the Muslims in a negative light b/c they are proud of their heritage and weren't afraid to show it, yet I beleive that if only more Jews were proud to be indentified and walk around as Jews we would be better off (both in Israel and the Diaspora).
Full post and comments...

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

The French Connection

I was on the A train this morning on the way to work, reading Howard Sachar's A History of Israel: From the Rise of Zionism to Our Time. A guy from France, who looked about my age, noticed the book, and asked me, "What do you think of the Palestinian?" French people often leave off final consonants, so he might have said "Palestinians," but I decided to be annoying and ask, "Which Palestinian?"

The conversation proceded until we both got off at Broadway-Nassau. He shared with me a jumble of concerns about Israel. His first was, why are Jews a nation with a country, when Christians and Muslims are not? It's actually an interesting question. I told him how Jews have always defined themselves as a religion and a nation, connected to the land of Israel, and that throughout our dispersion, we always prayed for our return. As for Christians and Muslims, I don't know why they don't have a land. (Yes, I know there are many Christian and Muslim countries, but the particular countries are not specific to the religion.) I've seen the suggestion that the very idea of a national state, a state with a national purpose, is a Jewish idea. But, we moved on to other things.

He was concerned that Jews moved from Europe to Israel and stole houses from Arabs. I told him that even though there were a few hundred thousand Arabs there, there was still plenty of room for Jews to build new houses - no one was kicked out. Then, he was concerned that you can't criticize Israel without being labeled an anti-Semite. I said I wasn't labeling him anything, and had no idea what he was talking about. He was concerned that Arabs in Israel don't have the right to vote. I told him he was misinformed.

When we were nearing my stop, I said, "What is your central concern?" He said that he understands that Jews were persecuted in the past, but why must they now persecute the Arabs? I told him that there was a war going on, and we are fighting for survival against terrorists. Then, as he got off the train with me and was headed in the same direction, towards the 4/5 trains, I changed the topic. Here's where it gets interesting.

I told him that France also has a problem with Muslim terrorists. I told him that France has more Muslims than Israel does, and that France may someday have more of a problem with terrorists than Israel does. Like a good European, he blamed himself (France) for not making the Muslims in France welcome, thus causing them to have no choice but to blow things up. At least there wasn't a double standard. He went on to say that most of the Muslims came when France was bringing many foreign workers to France, and now France is having trouble integrating them into French society. He agreed that the Muslims may themselves not want to integrate.

I asked him if he thought that someday, France would become a Muslim country. He said it might. I asked him if that would bother him. He was getting off the train then, but said something to the effect of que sera sera. I would have loved to hear more of his thoughts on this one, but I didn't.

To me, the parallels were very clear. Israel can't really integrate a large Muslim population, and neither can France, nor should either country necessarily want to. The goals of those countries are incompatible with the goals of the Muslim populations. Israel wants to be a Jewish country, and France wants to be a secular, Western, liberal democracy. Muslims goals are different. They don't have to be wrong, just different. And that is why God created Muslim countries - for Muslims to pursue their goals through statehood. Likewise, other countries need to pursue their goals, and integrate immigrants who share those goals. Maybe my French subway companion (whose name I never got) will realize this connection. Probably not. But I tried.
Full post and comments...

Where Have You Gone King David - Our Nation Turns Their Lonely Eyes to You

Ironic. There is no better word to describe the events unfolding today in the Land of Israel. "This is very sad, very grave, but this is the reality of Israel in 2004. There's Sopranos on television, and there's Sopranos in Israel." So spoke Senior Labor party legislator and Member of Israel's Knesset, Ofer Pines-Paz, who, in a single sentence, aptly summed up the success and ultimate failure of secular Zionism.

Pines-Paz was referring to what he termed as a "political earthquake", resulting from the alleged bribery scandal involving Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Sharon's son, Gilad, Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and potentially many more high ranking government officials. Sadly, this is not the first time that the names of Sharon and Olmert have arisen in political corruption scandals. In fact, political corruption among Israel's leadership dates back to the period of the Yishuv, and is perhaps the one area where Israel's political leaders, of both the left and the right, are able to walk side by side. At the very same moment, a political earthquake of another sort is raging in the Land of Israel. The Likud, headed by the likes of Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, has undergone a face-lift, where they now very much resemble their long time source of political opposition, the Labor party, headed by Shimon Peres, who is personally responsible for the Oslo accords, and one of the few left in Israel to believe that they are still viable.

Ze'ev Jabotinsky, founder of Revisionist Zionism, of which the Likud party is a direct descendant, must be
turning in his grave. Revisionist Zionism, as well as the Likud's party platform, rejects the very notion of the creation of a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River. To hear Sharon and Olmert speak not only of favoring the creation of a Palestinian state, but that if it can not be achieved through negotiations, they will bring it about through unilateral concessions is mind blowing.

Amram Mitzna, if he weren't too busy trying to foist non-government sanctioned peace deals such as the Geneva Accords down our throats, would be charging Ariel Sharon with highway robbery. After all, it was Mitzna, then head of the Labor party who was routed by Sharon in Israel's last election, who ran on the platform of making unilateral concessions to the Palestinians and of the need to create some type of physical separation between us and them. Lo and behold, the very platform that forced Mitzna to resign his leadership of the Labor party, as he and the party had become the laughingstocks of the country, is now the platform of Ariel Sharon and the Likud.

Sharon has stated time and again that he is willing to make painful concessions. Included in those concessions will no doubt be the uprooting and transfer of Jews from their homes. Should this come to pass, it will not represent the first time in the long history of the Jewish people, where Jews have been expelled from their homes simply because they were Jews, but it will represent the first time this will be done to Jews living in the Land of Israel, our ancestral Homeland, carried out by the hands of fellow Jews. (The lone exception coming in 1982, when Ariel Sharon personally oversaw the destruction of Yamit, a Jewish town in the Sinai, where Israel agreed in the Camp David accords signed with Egypt, to withdraw completely, leaving it Judenrein). Sharon has even more recently demonstrated the seriousness of his intentions with his ordering the destruction of a recently built and dedicated synagogue in the town of Tapuach, within Israel's Shomron region, carried out by the hands of the IDF.

Let us now return to the comments of Knesset member Pines-Paz, "There's Sopranos on television, and there's Sopranos in Israel". The defining goal of secular Zionism was for Israel to become a nation like all other nations, as well as to create a new Jew, one who would bear little resemblance to the traditional Diaspora Jew who because of his numerous Jewish practices and beliefs was shunned by the non-Jews. In this regard, secular Zionism has been an almost complete success.

In Israel, one can find on TV The Sopranos, along with Sex in the City and Friends. Culture in Israel, whether it be TV, movies, literature, education, clothing or music, is based almost entirely on western societal norms and values, predominantly found in Europe and the United States, as opposed to representing Jewish values and beliefs. This ideology, of striving to be a nation like all other nations can also be found in our leaders of today. Can one really look at our leadership today, or even over the past decade, and say that the prime motivation behind their actions was in accordance with Jewish values or rather with trying to win favor and acceptance in the eyes of the nations of the world? Sadly, the same values that allow our leaders to become involved in all manners of political corruption are the very same ones that allow them to call for the destruction of synagogues and for the transfer of Jews from their homes in the Land of Israel.

In the Tanach (the Jewish Bible), one can find what is expected of the leadership of the Jewish people. He is to be one of the highest moral character, as well as being of great spiritual stature. One who can lead the Jewish people in both war and prayer. He is not expected to be perfect, rather one who when confronted with wrongdoing can lead the nation in sincere repentance. He is to be the embodiment of a Jewish nationalist, with a love for the Land of Israel and the people of Israel coursing through his veins.

These are the values - Jewish values - that are so sorely lacking in our leaders of today. The Jewish people and the Jewish state are deserving of and crying out for a leader with the Jewish values necessary to lead the Jewish nation. Only Jews, proud Jews, in heart, mind, body, spirit and soul need apply.
Full post and comments...

Sunday, January 18, 2004

We Are All Settlers

by Evelyn Hayes

I'd love to be a settler and come home to the promised land
No more sojournings from where they want us gone.

I'd love to be a settler with Avraham Aveinu in Beit El.
No more burnings, pogroms, murders on foreign soil.

I'd love to be a settler in Hevron, Zichron Yaakov, Ashkelon.
No more sojournings and runnings on and on.

I'd love to be a settler with Yosef, Menashe and Ephraim.
No more sojournings, no more chasings from here and there.

I'd love to be a settler in Yerushalayim, Schem, Petah Tikvah, Beersheva.
No more sojournings, no more sweeping us away.

I'd love to be a settler in my homeland
together with our sisters and our brothers.
together with The Fathers and The Mothers.
I'd love to settle the land where I belong.

I'd love to be a settler high on the hills of Shiloh, Gamla, Kiryat Arba,
deep in Jewish history at Itamar and Elazar,
together with those who cleared the swamps in Degania and the Galillee.
No more sojournings from where they want us gone.

I'd love to be a settler on the plains of Susiya, Psipora, Herzeliya,
deep in Torah at Tzefat, where our medieval scholars learned
and study their holy books.
No more sojournings, torture, from where they swiped us out.

I'd love to be a settler and follow our true fate,
resettle where invaders ruined, rebuild our ancient streets,
revive what was, create what should have been.

It's time to be a settler, throw away the yellow stars.
It's time to resettle our homeland, continue our ancient path.
It's time to be a settler and wave the Magen David:
affirm our past, reclaim our future.
It's time to be a settler, to be at home in the promised land we adore.
It's time to be a settler and proclaim a promised love.
It's time to resettle Eretz Yisrael
and fulfill the Torah's tale
It's time to be a settler in Eretz Yisrael,
stop sojouning her and there,
erase the centuries of despair.
It's time to be a settler in Eretz Yisrael
and fulfill the Torah's tale.
It's time to be together with our sisters and our brothers
in the land of the Fathers and The Mothers.
It's time. It's time. It's time to be together in our ancient settlement,
our country, sacred state, our own land,
the promised homeland.
It's time. It's time. It's time we are all settlers and come home....
Full post and comments...

Thursday, January 15, 2004

A Golden opportunity for Aliyah activists.

Dear Kumah,

A special speaker is coming to the US to talk Aliyah. Rabbi Shalom Gold is the vice-president of Aloh Naaleh, an organization promoting Aliyah from Israel, and he will be in the NY area from February 12-22. He is looking to speak about Aliyah and he needs our help. I heard a tape of his about Jerusalem and I can attest to the fact that Rabbi Gold is a powerful and knowledgeable speaker.

He is yet not booked for Shabbat of Feb. 14 and the week that follows from
Feb. 15-19.

So if your an Aliyah-activist and you are interested in having a world-class pro-Aliyah speaker come to your campus, shul, or any other venue, the opportunity is here. Please contact me as soon as possible to arrange for Rabbi Gold to come to you.

Yours Always,

Full post and comments...

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Israel and US Jewry betray birthright

From Jerusalem Post

It has been hailed across the political and religious spectrum by rabbis, educators, and statesmen alike.

In just four years, it has brought tens of thousands of Jews to Israel, injected tens of millions of dollars into the Israeli economy, and helped to energize Jewish youth in dozens of communities throughout the Diaspora.

It has made significant inroads in saving young Jews from assimilation and intermarriage, and reaffirmed the centrality of the Jewish state to the future of the Jewish people.

So this year, how exactly has Israel's government decided to reward the birthright israel program - known here as Taglit - for its unprecedented accomplishments?

By slashing its funding.

Launched in the year 2000, thanks to the vision of philanthropists Michael Steinhardt and Charles Bronfman, birthright was as simple as it was ambitious: its aim was to give Diaspora Jewish youth an opportunity to reconnect with their heritage by offering them an all-expenses-paid, 10-day trip to Israel.

The critics and the naysayers wasted little time in attacking the idea. It'll never work, they said, since Jewish kids don't care about coming to Israel. And even if they do, asserted the program's detractors, what good can a whirlwind tour possibly do to ignite their latent Jewish identities?

Needless to say, the critics were wrong on both counts.

Take, for example, the fact that in the 1990s, before birthright was launched, the number of Jewish students visiting Israel annually was said to number just 1,500. In 2003, as a result of the program, the total reached 15,000, or 10 times the 1990s figure. In effect, then, birthright accomplishes in one year what all the other programs combined would take a decade to do.

Indeed, nearly 60,000 young Jews from 35 countries around the world have participated in birthright thus far, including groups from as far afield as Russia, Cuba, the US and Brazil.

But the impact is far greater than merely
quantitative. It also transforms people's lives, reinvigorating their Jewish spirit and forever binding their fate with that of the Jewish people.
Earlier this week, Gideon Mark, birthright's director of marketing, told me story after story of Jewish kids whose lives had been forever changed by their brief yet intense exposure to Israel.

Some decide to seek out a Jewish marriage partner, others become involved in Jewish communal or religious life. A handful have chosen to make aliya.

Even the Israeli army is impressed, noticing the impact the program has had on young Israeli soldiers accompanying the students on their trips around the country. As a result, Mark says, the army has expanded its cooperation with the group because it enables the soldiers to better appreciate their kinship with Diaspora Jewry and instills within them a greater sense of pride regarding Israel's accomplishments.

But despite its track record, birthright is now getting short-changed by both the Israeli government and American Jewish organizations.

IN THE 2004 budget passed by the Knesset last week, the government reneged on its previous promises and cut the program's funding by an astonishing 95 percent, from $9 million in 2003 to just $400,000 in 2004.

And the United Jewish Communities, the fund-raising arm of American Jewry, has also indicated that it will not live up to its original commitment, citing tough economic times, among other reasons.

Consequently, according to Mark, birthright will have to cut back on the number of Jewish students it brings to Israel this year. Instead of 20,000 or even 30,000 new visitors in 2004, as had originally been hoped, just 10,000 may now be able to come.

And so, at a time when Israel is clamoring for more travelers to visit its shores, the government, together with American Jewish organizations, has effectively undercut one of the most successful and meaningful Israel programs in the Jewish world today. The decision is even more puzzling when one considers the economic benefits birthright provides.

Since its inception, the program has received a total of $35 million in grants from successive Israeli governments, yet it is estimated to have generated more than $90 million in return for the economy. Much of these revenues have gone to industries hit especially hard by the Palestinian intifada, such as hotels, tour operators and even El Al. Hence, birthright has the distinction of being not only beneficial for Israel, but profitable too.

As Avi Rosental, the director of the Israel Hotel Association, said last summer: "Tourism is a major branch of the Israeli economy that has suffered a lot because of the geopolitical situation. The increase in birthright israel tourists will perhaps bring us to a turning point where hotels can rehire staff and increase employment all over the country."

It is not too late to repair the situation and save birthright from shrinking in size. Pressure must be brought to bear on both the Israeli government and the Jewish federations in America to give birthright the priority in funding it rightly deserves.

The economy may still be sluggish, and donations may indeed be drying up even as the Jewish community's needs continue to grow. But we are talking about the future of the Jewish people, about saving young Jews from assimilation and reconnecting them with their heritage.

What could possibly be more important than that?

The writer served as deputy director of Communications & Policy Planning in the Prime Minister's Office under former premier Binyamin Netanyahu.

Full post and comments...

Balancing Act

Protocols links to a fascinating interview at Haaretz: Survival of the fittest. Ari Shavit interviews Benny Morris, a leftist historian who wrote a book on the "atrocities" perpetrated by the Jews in the War of Independence. The fascinating part is that he defends it:
Ben-Gurion was a "transferist"?

"Of course. Ben-Gurion was a transferist. He understood that there could be no Jewish state with a large and hostile Arab minority in its midst. There would be no such state. It would not be able to exist."

I don't hear you condemning him.

"Ben-Gurion was right. If he had not done what he did, a state would not have come into being. That has to be clear. It is impossible to evade it. Without the uprooting of the Palestinians, a Jewish state would not have arisen here."

The interview consists of Shavit asking many different forms of the question, "Are you serious, you cold, heartless bastard?" Read the whole thing.

In fact, Morris does come across as shockingly cold. But I think the struggle he seems to have gone through is important for everyone to deal with. We need to all be comfortable answering questions like: Is the establishment of the state of Israel morally justified? If so, why? Were we justified in establishing a Jewish majority in a land with an Arab majority, and instituting laws that gave preference to Jews (such as the Law of Return)? If the only way to establish the state was through questionable fighting during the War of Indepndence, does that mean it is no longer justified? If it was justified, does that mean the Arabs are justified in blowing up buses?

Morris frames the answers in terms of relative badness in a hostile world. We as Jews were (and are) fighting for our survival. Morris is not comfortable saying that our survival is only justified if we can get it for free, without trampling on any lofty ideals like peace and brotherhood among all people of the world. You need to think about ideals on one level, but be prepared to compromise on them in a world that is far from ideal. Whatever you think of his stance, these are questions that everyone needs to be struggling with.
Full post and comments...

Idiotarian of the Year

I'm happy to see that LGF has voted Rachel Corrie the Idiotarian of 2003. Eric Raymond defines idiotarianism as the "species of delusion within the moral community of mankind that gives aid and comfort to terrorists and tyrants operating outside it." Rachel Corrie gave her life so that others may die. She died defending a tunnel for smuggling of terrorists and their weapons into Israel. Anyone who thinks that that is a good moral cause to die for gives a bad name to the word "moral."
Full post and comments...

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Re: Tentative bumper stickers

from the top o my head:

1. Nyu York? Los Anjeloos? Ani maadif yerushalayim
(New York? Los Angeles? I'll Take Jerusalem!)

2. Aliyah m'America Zu HaAtid
(American Aliyah is the Future)

3. Tkumat Aliyah
(Aliyah Revolution)

4. Chibakta Oleh Chadash hayom?
(Have you hugged a new immigrant today?)

5. Shirts: Savlanut b'vakasha, ani oleh chadash(a)
(Patience Please, I'm a new immigrant)

6. Ramallah - Meechaz bilti chuki
(Ramallah is an illegal settlement outpost)

7. Arik! Al tizrok Tzion
(hmm, this one is a racy army pun - lit: Arik, don't throw away Zion)

8. Tnu l'pollard Laalot Artza
(Let Pollard Make Aliyah to Israel!)

9. Lama Hem m'fachadim m'arutz 7?
(Why are they afraid of Arutz 7?)

10. ani mesarev legaresh yehudim.
(I refuse to expel Jews)

That was five minutes worth. This is fun
(feel free to submit suggestions)
Full post and comments...

Picture of Malkah at Tel Aviv rally (courtesy of RotterNet)

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A Government without a People for a People without a Government

The most noteworthy statement to come out of the "The People of Israel Will Not Surrender" rally, that was held at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv on January 12th, 2004, did not come from any of the many Knesset members who graced the podium to speak out against the Prime Minister's and other Likud leaders' latest obsession over unilateral withdrawal. Rather it emanated from the man who was single handedly responsible for the scheduling of the rally in the first place, namely, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

In a statement issued to the media after the rally, the Prime Minister unequivocally stated that, "Israel is a democracy, and decisions are made not by protesters, but by the government - my government." It is ironic that Sharon claims to be the defender of Israel's democracy, when he himself serves as one of the prime obstacles to Israel being able to function in a truly democratic manner.

Demonstrations, like the "The People of Israel Will Not Surrender" rally, are the backbone of a vibrant democracy, falling under the individual's Right to Assemble and Freedom of Speech. Once a government is elected, a citizen has little recourse when displeased by the policy of his elected officials, short of waiting until the next set of elections roll around. One of the few methods that a citizen has at his disposal is through demonstrations.

Prime Minister Sharon, through his comments, effectively disenfranchised an entire segment of the population, comprising hundreds of thousands of individuals. He essentially told them that there are two things that they could do about their disapproval with his policies, nothing and like it. That is not exactly the type of expression that one would expect to hear coming out of the mouth of the Prime Minister of Israel, a country which prides itself on being the only true democracy in the Middle East, but it does put Sharon in the company of every Arab dictator in the Middle East. After all, if Israel is to be just like all the nations....

The problem is further exacerbated. When an individual votes in Israel's national elections, in order to determine who will serve in the Knesset as well as Prime Minister, he is not able to vote for a particular candidate, rather he must vote for a party. The number of votes each party receives determines how many seats each party will receive in the next Knesset. In that sense, each voter is voting not for a particular candidate that one feels is qualified or worthy of leadership, rather for an ideological platform.

This system serves as a threat to Israel's democratic system, as can be seen from the current state of the Likud. The official Likud platform is staunchly against the creation of a Palestinian State west of the Jordan River. Yet, Prime Minister Sharon and the members of his Likud led government are in fact calling for the establishment of that very thing. What is the voter in Israel to do when the only criteria by which he is able to determine who he wishes to elect is by voting for a party's ideological platform, only to find that the elected officials are not bound to adhere to it? Can there be a greater mockery of Israel's democratic system than this?

Consider the following as one of the many possible reforms that could be made the current electoral system in Israel, which would serve to improve its current state of affairs. Short of the ideal reform, where all members of the Knesset would be elected through direct elections, Israel will be divided into 12 electoral districts (consistent with the theme of the twelve tribes of Israel). From each district, ten representatives will be elected to serve in the Knesset, for a total of 120 seats. Each party would then form a list of the ten candidates that would be running for election within a particular district, and who, upon their election, would be directly responsible for and answerable to their specific constituency.

Only when terms such as accountability (for which there is currently no word for in the entire Hebrew lexicon) and constituency become commonplace in Israeli society will the elected leaders be forced to both hear and listen to the will of the citizens of Israel... Only when the citizens of Israel are able to truly elect leaders that will represent them and be held accountable for their actions, and not as the current system has it, where 120 kings are elected to the Knesset, answerable only to themselves. Only then will Israel's citizens truly have a voice through which they can be heard and help shape the future of their country, and that of the Jewish People.
Full post and comments...

Wish I Was There

"MK Molli Polishuk (Shinui) said that she is not at all bothered by the prospect of the dismantling of outposts, "which, in the best case, have 20 fanatics - most of them with American accents..." MK Michael Eitan (Likud) called out, "Don't you have any feeling? You make fun of those who leave a land where they have great material wealth and come here to help us, and you mock them - while at the same time kneeling before the other Americans [the U.S. government] who are still there." Polishuk, somewhat taken aback at Eitan's attack, defended herself, "I do have feeling, and I did not mean to make fun of their accent. I was just saying that they just recently arrived in Israel, and are trying to determine our agenda."
Full post and comments...

Monday, January 12, 2004

Israeli Democracy

Sharon had a pretty surprising reaction to yesterday's rally against withdrawing from settlements:
Sharon reacted to the demonstration by saying that "Israel is a democracy," and that "things are decided not by demonstrators, but by the government." "I believe that to reach peace, Israel will not be able to hold all the Jewish communities," he told a Jerusalem press conference.

I think the point of a democracy is that, in the long term, things are decided by the demonstrators, i.e., the public. The government is supposed to represent the people. Of course, once elected, the only thing preventing the government from going against the will of the public is the next election. Still, it's a pretty chutzpadik dirision of a major public protest. It really just fuels the assumption that I think most Israelis have, which is that they have absolutely no say in the decisions of the government.
Full post and comments...

PM Sharon: Aliyah My Top Priority

From Israel National News
11:39 Jan 12, '04 / 18 Tevet 5764

Answering a question about Russian immigration to Israel at a Sunday press conference, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declared Aliyah (Jewish immigration to Israel) his top priority. "The main target of the government I lead," Sharon told reporters, "is Jewish immigration to Israel. And we believe that the answer to our problems here is first of all immigration. And we put a target that within 12-15 years, we will have to absorb here another million Jews, according to the Law of Return. We believe that the potential immigration from what used to be the Soviet Union is still about one million, according to the Law of Return. But we are making efforts everywhere, in the United States, in Latin America, in Europe - mostly when we see the growing spread of anti-Semitism. We already managed to absorb 1.2 million within 12 years or 13 years in the past, and with all the problems, we don't have any people without roofs over their heads. It was a tremendous effort, but we have done it.

"We see the situation. Of course, it depends upon many things, including a change in the economic situation. In Russia Jews are making efforts to send more children over here to study here, and usually when they come to study here, later they come and serve in the military and become part of sharing the lives of Israeli citizens here."
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Sunday, January 11, 2004


JPost is carrying a timeline of the rise and fall of Yamit, the Jewish community built in Sinai, and destroyed as part of the peace agreements with Egypt. It includes a quote from one Ariel Sharon, justifying the destruction of Yamit:
"The ruins of Yamit will bear eternal proof that we have done over and above human imagination to meet (our obligations) under the peace treaty so that our children will not point an accusing finger at us and tell us we have missed the opportunity. No Arab army has succeeded - and never will succeed - in demolishing an Israeli town. Only we, with our own hands, were forced to destroy Yamit. We were compelled to erase her from the face of the earth to implement the peace agreement on time without spilling Jewish blood."

I think that arguments could be made either way about whether the destruction of Yamit, and the peace treaty in general, were a good idea or a bad idea. But, I have to questions Sharon's claim that the ruins bear witness of how far we went for peace. I really never hear anyone, Jew or non-Jew, saying, "Look how much Israel has done for peace - they even gave up Yamit." Instead, the ruins of Yamit set a precedence for Israel's willingness to destroy what it has built, in return for promises of non-belligerence. The destruction is permanent, and leaves an emotional scar on everyone involved, and many who were only bystanders. The promises of non-belligerence, on the other hand, are far from our utopian visions of peace, and may not even be recognizable years later. Egypt continues to foment anti-Semitism, and does nothing to stop the smuggling of weapons into Gaza. We may still be better off with the peace treaty, but the precedence of the destruction of Jewish towns by the Jewish state will not be easily overcome.

This destruction is the exact opposite of the Zionist goal of building a Jewish state in Eretz Yisrael. If you think that we only have a right to the pre-1967 areas of Israel because Jews form the vast majority of people there, then you need to justify the early Zionist goal of building settlements in the land, when Jews were only a small minority of the population. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the goal was clearly to get hundreds of thousands of Jews to move to a land dominated by Arabs, buy land, build communities, and establish a Jewish majority. This was justifiable because we were returning to our land, not conquering new land. The settlements build in Yesha were merely a logical continuation of this goal. If we state now that Jews have returned to historical Israel to stay, and that we will continue the Zionist mission of bringing more Jews from the Diaspora to settle the land, then we will be able to defend and continue the return to Zion with strength and a sense of purpose. However, if we continually send the message that no community is permanent, and we are ready, willing, or even eager to expel hundreds, thousands, or hundreds of thousands of Jews from their homes that were built as part of the Zionist project, then we call the whole project into question.

Of course, we need to take this into consideration before building the community in the first place. Will this be a community that is sustainable, and is this a location which we want to include in our Zionist project? But once we make that decision, we need to support it with continued funding and encouragement of new development, not by constantly announcing our willingness to destroy the community. The places in which we have built in Yesha and the Golan are sustainable, and could be strengthened if we wouldn't falter in our commitment to them. Now that these communities have been built and are thriving, we need to consider the devastating effect that expelling Jews from them will have. It will encourage the Arab population to continue pressing us to destroy more of our own communities, and it will send the message to the Jews of Israel and the world that the Zionist project is over, and may never have been legitimate.

The outposts that the government is now talking about dismantling are all small, and most of them are very close to existing larger communities. The goal of destroying them is not so much practical as it is emotional. It is meant to send the message to the world that Israel is willing to make "painful concessions,," (didn't Sharon say that Yamit accomplished that?), and it tells Israeli Jews that we have firmly entered the period of post-Zionism, and further Zionist activity will not be tolerated. Maybe you think these are worthwhile goals, but even if they are, the consequences and long-term effects on our own national consciousness needs to be considered.
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Friday, January 09, 2004

Arutz 7 News Ticker

I took the Arutz 7 news ticker off the home page because it seems to make the whole page load very slow. It should load faster now. If anyone knows of any good RSS or text feeds of Israel news headlines, please let me know.
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Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Listen to Yishai on internet radio

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Israel and Man's Quest for a Lavatory

Yet again, dear readers, I have spent a long time without speaking to you. Sorry - life happens very fast these days.

Anyway, recently I've been noticing that human dignity can make life very funny. Over the last couple of weeks, I've found myself more than once searching for a bathroom with urgency. You know, not the casual "I guess I could go now, " but the pressing "5 more minutes and I will never again be able to look in the eyes of the people in my immediate vicinity."

Yishai and I took a family trip with his mom and siblings to Sinai a couple of weeks ago. This, in and of itself, was practically out of body in its level of sheer communion with nature, and spiritual and physical enjoyment (perfect weather, great hiking, simple food, met with endless open sky, pristine air, mountains untouched since Creation), as well as socio-politically enlightening. I developed a great respect for the Bedouin (we were guided by a handful of Bedouin men from the Tarabin family), who are generally kind to their animals and the surrounding environment, as well as friendly, polite, hospitable, and generally non-threatening and fun-loving. I didn't get this same feeling from the Egyptians who are occupying that stretch of the Land of Israel, who I sensed, under their moustached smiles, really hate our guts and couldn't care less about the formerly-virgin beaches they now pollute).

During this trip, we obviously, well, "went" outside, behind boulders or whatever. The scene is so hilarious: imagine these white people in the middle of the desert, their eyes squinty in the sun, searching for a private, well-suited crevice out there in the wilderness, walking and climbing. Eyes scouring the rocks, "Not you, not you, maybe... oh, too sandy, to public, the ground is too angular and unbalanced.... Oh, this is perfect, THANK G-D!!!!!!!" The act of searching for a good bathroom spot is also so wrought with focus and determination - several times over the course of this trip, I found myself laughing at my own seriousness and anguish during these little searches. Also, a word to the wise: baby wipes make a camping trip just that much more civilized.

Back in the Medina (the State of Israel, as opposed to the much bigger Land, which is also found, according to many authorities, where we were in Sinai), one may also notice a certain lack of adequate or accessible "facilities." I recently walked about a mile to the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem just to use the bathroom there. Many restaurants aren't willing to let you use their restrooms unless you buy something, and the others are so confined that your bathroom experience just can't be anonymous enough for my comfort. Finally accessing these rare bathrooms, you feel like you've found a long lost friend. You want to talk to your bathroom, to thank it for being there when you need it.

I know this isn't something ladies (or any such gentlefolk) talk about, but this is all part of the Zionist dream! There are many good bathrooms and sandy surfaces here in the Land, dear friends, come find them.
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Tuesday, January 06, 2004

A7 Link

Looking at the stats, it seems we got a boost from Arutz Sheva yesterday as the Quote of the Week! Looks like they like our postcards.
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Monday, January 05, 2004

Zionism on Campus

The JPost is on a roll today with another great opinion piece: Reframing Zionism on campus. My favorite part, from a listing of problems with the current pro-Israel/anti-Israe focus of campus Israel activity:
The Fan Club Syndrome. I have never heard an Israeli say, "I am pro-Israel." Similarly you will never hear Derek Jeter say, "I root for the Yankees." You need to feel external to the sides of the conflict to be pro or anti – almost like a fan of a team rather than a player.

If our goal is to involve more Jewish students, we must move beyond the fan club mentality and begin focusing on students as team players. A team player mentality is one that calls for responsibility and partnership rather than unconditional support.

He offers a lot of great ideas for better Zionist activities on campus - read the whole thing!
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JPost op-ed on Aliyah

Interesting opinion piece at the JPost: Nurture the Diaspora:
The only country where Jewish birth rates are firmly positive - nearly three times more births than deaths in 2001 - is Israel. It follows that Ariel Sharon's stated goal of bringing here another million immigrants within a decade will prove unrealistic, not because the prospective newcomers don't want to live in the Jewish state, but because they don't want to be Jewish, and are even less inclined to educate, or even give birth to a new generation of potential Jews.

The only thing ignored by the author is the approximately one million religious Jews in the Diaspora. These Jews clearly do want to be Jewish, but living in Israel hasn't been sufficiently presented as part of the package.
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Friday, January 02, 2004

North American Aliyah Up 20%

From Haaretz: North American Aliyah Up 20%. Of course, the 20% is all of 360 people - total North American aliyah this year was only 2400 people. It's great news, but the numbers are still very low.

It seems like the key will be Nefesh B'Nefesh - the difference is just about one planeload. Two summers ago NBN sent one plane, and last summer they sent two. How many will they send this summer?
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