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September 20, 2014 / 25 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘army’

Eighteen…

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

By the time I started this blog, Elie was 19, almost 20 years old and about to enter the army. By the time I really introduced Shmulik, he was close to entering the army as well. Somehow, with the lull between Shmulik leaving and Davidi entering, I have more time to share who Davidi is, long before he will enter the army.

He turned 18 this past week (though his English birthday is actually next week), full of school and wanting to start driving lessons and one other major milestone that will change who he is. He is going to Poland in a few weeks. If you’ve never been there, you can’t imagine the impact standing in a gas chamber will have on you. You just can’t imagine seeing ashes and ashes, ovens that were used to burn the remains, cemetery after cemetery, and so much more. To go as a Jew to Poland is to focus, for a time, not on those who walk the earth today, but those who are buried beneath it (if they were lucky enough to be buried).

Right before Amira was going into her last year of high school, she told me she wanted to go to Poland. Her school has a policy not to take students out of Israel and so they don’t organize a trip to Poland. It was something, this pilgrimage, that was very important to my oldest daughter but she was afraid it would be too much for her and so she asked me to come along, told me she needed me.

What could I do? I went. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done…for many reasons. I left in Israel, tiny Aliza – only 2 and a half years old. Amira’s son is now 2 and a half years old and I think Amira now realizes how hard it was for me. I missed the others terribly, but somehow, my arms ached to hold Aliza most of all. My husband was amazingly supportive. I wish, sometimes, I had gone with him. I felt bad crying in front of Amira and had I gone with Lazer, we would have cried together. But his parents were Holocaust survivors; he has no interest in going back to the places where they lost so much.

I dreaded the trip that would take me out of Israel, away from the others.Once I landed in Poland, I realized that it would be impossible for me not to see, not to feel. I had thought I was going to support Amira and yet, in many ways, she supported me. It was a brutal trip, agonizing in so many ways.

As I sat this week, listening to the itinerary of where Davidi will go, my eyes filled with tears. I know the route they will take, the places they will see, and the agonies he will feel. He is supposed to tell them if we had relatives in one of the cities where they will visit. My great-grandmother lived in Cracow with my grandfather’s two sisters. They will spend Shabbat there; walk on roads my grandfather once walked. I know only the names but not where they lived. My mother has copies of letters that her grandfather wrote to her father. I’ll have to ask her if she has copies of the envelopes…if she has an address. Do I want my Davidi to go there?

When my mother-in-law and father-in-law went back to the small village where my father-in-law had grown up as a child – many years after the war had ended – he was greeted with a knife by the woman who had moved into his father’s home. It seems Lazer’s father, had lent her some money and she thought his son had come to call in the loan. When my father-in-law explained he only wanted to show his wife and daughter the home in which he had grown up, the woman allowed him to enter.

Haredi Establishment Gets Fresh Draft Martyr, Expect Noise

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

On Wednesday, hundreds of yeshiva students demonstrated outside Prison Six in Atlit, south of Haifa, where the IDF has placed Moshe A., 19, a yeshiva student dodging the draft.

On Sunday, Moshe came to his Kiryat Malachi home for a short furlough from his Lithuanian yeshiva Nachlat Asher in Petach Tikva. According to his mother, Miri, who spoke to Ynet, the IDF recruitment department called to make sure he was home, and then, at 2:30 AM Monday, some MPs arrived and arrested Moshe.

“Since then I haven’t heard a thing from him,” his mother said, who’s getting the news about her son only through his yeshiva rebbi.

On Tuesday, Moshe A. was sentenced to 14 days in jail for ignoring an invitation from the army. His mother said Moshe was very much afraid of the draft, after hearing that yeshiva boys are “ruined” in the army. She added that on Sunday he called his father to say tearfully that “people are cursing here, dirtying their mouths, I can’t stand it.”

Just to set the record straight, the IDF Spokesperson’s office made clear that Moshe A. was the only yeshiva student arrested, but not because he’s opposed to the draft—they all are, but because he chose to ignore the draft notice. According to the IDF, everybody else who are classified as a draft candidate whose Torah study is his livelihood did show up, register and received a deferment until the Knesset passes the new draft law.

Moshe A. was following the command of Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, leader of the Jerusalem Lithuanian Haredim, who declared the effort to recruit yeshiva students “gzeirat shmad,” tantamount to the medieval church’s attempts to convert Jews by force.

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An ad published in a Haredi paper associated with Rabbi Auerbach last week cited him as saying that since the current notices being sent out to yeshiva students of age are only for the purpose of screening and placement—and not actual draft notices—students must not report at all.

So Rabbi Auerbach and his merry band of Haredim needed a pawn to serve their political aims, not the least of which is fund raising for the glorious struggle against the Torah hating Zionisrs, and Moshe A. volunteered.

haredim by prison

Just to make things even more complicated, according to his mother, Moshe A. is scheduled to undergo back surgery next week. “They promised me to release him until then,” she said. “But I’m worried. Meanwhile he’s suffering pain over there. I don’t know what his medical condition is, and I’m afraid they’ll harass him and force him to do things which are contrary to his faith…”

Transportation from Kiryat Malachi, in the northern Negev, to the prison up north presents a problem for Miri, who relies on buses to travel. “In my entire life I never took the bus to Haifa,” she said.

Rabbi Auerbach did show up in front of the prison gates Wednesday, with hundreds of followers, to pray for “the removal of the decree.”

The elderly rabbi visited Moshe A. in his prison cell, gave him a religious seifer-book and a bouquet of flowers. He also asked the boy to bless him.

Now that the first yeshiva student has been punished with a short prison sentence, the fight is bound to intensify. The rally by the jail marked the start of a new campaign, in Israel and abroad, in which the name of the state of Israel will be dragged through the mud and the IDF be compared to Stalin and the Communists.

The Warrior’s Tale

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

The warrior’s tale is a simple enough thing. Strong as steel, but fragile as chance. It is the wind in his soul and the wall we build around ourselves to tell us who we are.

Before there were cities or nations, and railways and airports, computers and telephones– the tale was told around campfires. Acted out in pantomime, dressed up in animal furs and cave paintings. But the tale was the same. The people were confronted with a threat and they called upon the best and strongest of their men to go out and fight it. These were their warriors. What they did in the face of that threat is the tale.

The tale has many variations. Sometimes there are many warriors, sometimes only a handful. They march into the village of the enemy in triumph, or they make a last stand on a rocky outcropping, spending the last of their heart’s blood to buy time they will never know. There is the weak man who becomes strong, the strong man who becomes weak, the woman who mourns the man who will never return, and the man who goes off to battle with nothing to lose. These tales have been told countless times in the ages of men, and they will be told again for as long as men endure.

It is not only the warriors who need the tale, or those left behind. Future generations learn who they are from this tale. “We are the people who died for this land,” is the unseen moral of each tale. “We bled for it. Now it is yours to bleed and die for.”

The warrior’s tale tells each generation that they stand on the wall against a hostile world. And that the wall is made not of stones, but of their virtues. Their courage, their integrity and their craft. Theirs is the wall and they are the wall– and if they should fail, then it will fail. And the land and the people will be swept away.

What happens to a people who forget the warrior’s tale and stop telling it around their campfires? Worse , what of a people who are taught to despise the figure of the warrior and what he represents? They will not lose their courage, not all of it. But they will lose the direction of that courage. It will become a sudden unexplained virtue that rises to them out of the depths of danger. And their wall will fail.

It is the warrior’s tale that makes walls. That says this is the land that we have fought for, and we will go on fighting for it. It is sacrifice that makes mere possession sacrosanct. It is blood that turns right to duty. It is the seal that is above law, deeper still to heritage. Anyone can hold a thing, but it is sacrifice that elevates it beyond possessiveness. And it is that tale which elevates a people from possessors of a land, to the people of the land.

Universalism discards the warrior’s tale as abomination. A division in the family of man. Their tale is of an unselfish world where there are no more divisions or distinctions. Where everyone is the same in their own way. But this tale is a myth, a religious idea perverted into totalitarian politics. It is a promise that cannot be kept and a poison disguised with dollops of sugar. It lures the people into tearing down their wall and driving out their warriors. And what follows is what always does when there is no wall. The invaders come, the women scream, the children are taken captive and the men sit with folded hands and drugged smiles dreaming of a better world.

The warrior’s tale explains why we fight in terms of our own history. The Great Swamp Fight. The Shot Heard Round the World. The Battle of New Orleans. Gettysburg, San Juan Hill, Belleau Wood, Pearl Harbor, Heartbreak Ridge, the Tet Offensive, Kandahar, and Fallujah. Generations of sacrifices must be defended. And those who wage war on us must be made to pay.

Universalism demands that war must answer to universal aims and objectives. That there is a universal law higher than war. But this is a children’s story. The laws of men derive from their own interests. Those who can rule by force or coalition make their laws to serve their own ends. This is the way of the world.

Those who pretend to live by universalism will still fall to the law of steel. Rhetoric is no defense against fire and lead, and international codes have no defense against those who will break them. The talk may go on, but it is the warriors who will end it. It is still the warrior’s tale to tell, even if all others have forgotten it.

The warrior’s tale is no happy thing. It is bitter as bile and dark as death. But it is also a grand and glorious thing. For even in its full naked truth, it is the story of perseverance in the face of every agony and betrayal. It is the tale of how we live and why we die.

Even when all others forget their tale, the warriors remember. Even when they are called peacekeepers and turned into an army of clowns for the satisfaction of their political masters. The armies may decay, but warriors still remain in their cracks, on their edges– men who are not wanted, but are needed because they are the only ones who can do the grim work and do it well. They may only be a hundredth of an army, or a thousandth. A fraction of a fraction. But without them there is no army, only empty uniforms.

When the warrior’s tale is forgotten, then they become shadows. Dangerous men despised and feared. Thought of as killers, dismissed as monsters and stared at like beasts in a cage. But the society cannot deny them. It cannot deny that part of them. When the warrior diminishes, the energy is directed elsewhere. Sport becomes an obsession and matches end in bloody violence. Crime increases. Prisons fill up. So do police forces.

As the external war fades, the internal one begins. Barbarians come from without. Buildings burn, mobs rage and there is a savagery in the air.

No law can protect a society that has forgotten the warrior’s tale. It will turn outward, and adopt the warrior tales of outsiders. The samurai will replace the cowboy. The sports star will be an outsider. Its heroes will become foreigners. Men who understand the virtue of violence and will do what their own people have been forbidden. Who have the vital energy that a society without a warrior’s tale lacks.

When a people give up their own warrior’s tale for that of others, they lose the ability to resist them. For each people’s warrior’s tale says that we are people, and they are enemies. We are warriors and they are murderers. When a people have no other warrior’s tale but that of their enemies, they will come to believe that they are monsters. And that their enemies are brave warriors.

The day will come when they are asked who they are, and they will not know. They will point to their possessions and the names of their streets and cities. They will speak of higher ideals and cringe for not living up to them. They will be asked why they fight, and they will say that they do not want to fight. That all they want is peace at any price.

Even the most powerful of civilizations with the mightiest of cities becomes prey when it forgets the warrior’s tale. It takes more than weapons to defend a city, it demands the knowledge of the rightness of their use. It is no use dressing men in uniforms and arming them, if they are not taught the warrior’s tale. And it is nearly as little use, sending them off to watch and keep, if the men above them discard the warrior’s tale as violent and primitive gibberish.

An army of millions is worth little, without the warrior’s tale. Strategy is technique, firepower is capacity, both begin and end with the human mind. “Why do we fight,” is the question that the warrior’s tale answers far better than any politician could. “We fight because this is ours. It is our honor, our duty and our war. We have been fighting for hundreds and thousands of years. This is what makes us who we are.”

We are the people, says the warrior’s tale. But we are every people, says the universalist’s tale. All is one. There is no difference between us and them. And we will prove it by bringing them here. Then the walls fall and it falls to the warriors to make their last stand. To tell another warrior’s tale with their lives.

This is the quiet war between the philosopher merchants who want trade and empire, and the warriors who know that they will be called upon to secure the empire, and then die fighting the enemy at home. It is how the long tale that begins with campfires and ends with burning cities goes. The story that begins with cave paintings and ends with YouTube videos. Whose pen is iron, lead and steel. And whose ink is always blood.

We have been here before. Told and retold the old stories. The forest, the swamp, the hill and the valley. And behind them the lie, the maneuver and the betrayal. The war that becomes unreasoning and the people who forget why they fight. And one by one the warriors slip away. Some to the long sleep in the desert. Others to secluded green places. And still others into the forgetfulness of a people’s memory. The hole in the heart of a people who forget themselves and become nothing.

Who by the Sword, Who by Wild Beasts, Who by Hunger, Who by the Plague

Saturday, October 19th, 2013

In the supplemental prayer of The Jewish New Year and the Day of Atonement, we say these words almost mechanically, theoretically, because this is the text. But in Syria this is reality. The regime’s war against the citizens’ demonstrations, which began two years and seven months ago, has become a dirty, despicable and accursed war, where everyone is fighting everyone else. People from both sides have lost the likeness of man, thrown human values to the winds, lost any semblance of humanity, and have become predatory animals, (“and who by a wild beast”).

Assad’s army has besieged the eastern neighborhoods of Damascus because they serve as a corridor of passage to the capitol for the jihadists who come from Jordan and Iraq. In these neighborhoods in recent weeks, tens of thousands of people have been besieged, cut off from all sources of life: food, water, electricity, and from Asad’s point of view they might as well all die from starvation. These were the neighborhoods that suffered the great attack of chemical weapons on the 21st of August in which approximately 1500 people were killed, men, women and children. As a result of the hunger, a group of Muslim religious arbiters issued a ruling that allows the residents of these neighborhoods to eat cats, dogs and donkeys, in order to survive the siege and the starvation.

There are reports about places like Mu’adhamiyat al-Sham where there have been many cases of death by starvation because of the siege imposed on these places, in addition to cases when injured people have died because they did not receive treatment in time. In addition, there are places where diseases like cholera are rampant, which are caused by spoiled food, contamination of water and the environment, and from pests such as mice, rats, and snakes that multiply alarmingly in ghost towns and ruins of cities like Homs, Hama and Idlib.

Approximately seven million Syrians are destitute refugees in neighboring countries and within Syria. The approaching winter threatens to pose great harm to their health and their lives, as if the misery that people – if it is possible to call them people – have caused them was not bad enough. Because of the distress and poverty, the refugees do anything they can in order to live: the men work for pennies, and many women are forced to do unethical things in order to earn a piece of bread. Families sell their daughters in forced marriages, to get a handful of dinars and reduce the number of mouths that they must feed.

Asad’s army systematically refuses humanitarian aid organizations to operate in the besieged cities, claiming concern that the lives of the volunteers will be endangered by fire from the opposition. But soldiers of the opposition to the regime are not guiltless either: they fight with each other over ideological differences, mainly regarding the future of Syria: will it be a civil state or an Islamic state. In the city of Aleppo “The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” is in control and the city is run by an Islamic court that imposes Islamic Shari’a by force of arm, whip and sword. Lately several tribes that live around Aleppo have announced that they have joined “The Islamic State” organization, in order to shelter in the shadow of the dominant force, and stay out of trouble.

The fact that children are present in the battle areas causes them severe emotional damage because of the terrible sights that they are exposed to. Children join the battle and take an active part in killing anyone who is thought to be an enemy. Asad’s militias, the “Shabiha”, are constantly on the lookout for the families of soldiers and officers who have deserted the army so that they can kill the men and abuse the women. In many cases they document and photograph this abuse to show it to those who are still serving, to discourage them from deserting.

This past month several dozens of jihad organizations operating in Syria came to the conclusion that the disagreements among them harm their fighting cause and strengthen Asad. This conclusion led dozens of organizations to put aside their differences and unify under an organizational umbrella by the name of “Jaysh al-Islam” – “The Army of Islam”. The other large organization – “The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria” – is considering joining the “Army of Islam”, and it may be that “Jabhat al-Nusra”, which blessed the consolidation with “The Army of Islam”, will also join in the future.

51 Dead in as Egyptians Celebrate 40th Anniversary of Yom Kippur War

Monday, October 7th, 2013

Deadly clashes erupted in Cairo on Sunday as pro-Morsi marches protesting the military junta rule headed to Tahrir Square, where thousands were cheering the same junta, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the army’s 1973 “victory” against Israel.

Confrontations there and outside Cairo resulted so far in the death toll rising to 51, according to Al Ahram, with 268 injured.

Egypt’s Interior Ministry said security forces arrested 423 people during clashes in Cairo and Giza.

The National Alliance to Support Legitimacy, a coalition of Islamist forces supporting deposed president Mohamed Morsi, said at least 11 had been killed in clashes with security forces in Ramses Street in central Cairo.

Official news agency MENA also reported that gunshots were heard amidst the clashes on Ramses Street.

Backers of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood have staged thousand-strong marches in several parts of Cairo, Giza and other governorates, Al Ahram reported.

Rallies took a violent turn in central Cairo’s Garden City and Giza’s Dokki district, where police fired rounds of teargas after local residents clashed during pro-Morsi protests heading towards Tahrir, eyewitnesses and Ahram Online reporters said. The sound of heavy gunfire was later reported, as well as army jets and F-16 fighters hovering in formations over Cairo, Alexandria and other cities.

Each year, Egypt’s army traditionally celebrates the state holiday commemorating the October war against Israel—which eventually led to the recovery of the Sinai Peninsula through peace negotiations—with military performances and flyovers.

Egypt has been gripped by prolonged violence since the overthrow of Morsi on 3 July after mass demonstrations against his turbulent year in office.

The ouster of the former elected president, which was part of a roadmap agreed upon by many political groups and the armed forces, has enraged Islamists who have denounced the move as a violation of democratic “legitimacy.”

Hundreds were killed on 14 August when security forces moved to forcibly disperse two protest camps set up by Morsi loyalists in Cairo and Giza, unleashing days of violent turmoil and deepening polarization.

Militants elsewhere have taken up arms against the state. The army has been battling an insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula, adjoining Israel and the Palestinian Gaza Strip, where Islamist terrorists have mounted almost daily attacks on security and army targets, killing dozens.

Egypt Coptic Christian Leadership Condemns Western Media Coverage

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

In the face of an unprecedented wave of violence directed against Coptic Christians amid the turmoil in Egypt that has left hundred’s dead, the church’s leadership issued a statement condemning the Western media’s biased coverage of the events in Egypt.

“We strongly denounce the fallacies broadcasted by the Western media and invite them to review the facts objectively regarding these bloody radical organizations and their affiliates instead of legitimizing them with global support and political protection while they attempt to spread devastation and destruction in our dear land,” reads the statement, according to a Google translation.

“We request that the international and western media adhere to providing a comprehensive account of all events with truth, accuracy, and honesty,” the statement added.

The Coptic Church also reaffirmed its support for the military-backed government, calling on the army and security forces to continue their fight against the “armed violent groups and black terrorism.”

One of the oldest communities in Christianity, Coptic Christians have survived numerous persecutions in the past. But the recent violence is unprecedented. The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), an independent human rights organization, has documented 39 attacks against Coptic Christian churches, schools, monasteries and businesses since late last week, NPR reported.

Coptic Christians constituted a majority of Egypt’s population until the Middle Ages, when Islam, introduced by the Arab invasions in the 7th century, eclipsed their religion. Today, Coptic Christianity comprises nearly 10 percent of Egypt’s 85 million people, making it the largest single Christian community remaining in the Middle East.

Failing in Order to Succeed

Monday, August 19th, 2013

The rabbis teach that we can only truly understand Torah when we allow ourselves to fail at it (Gittin 43a). Unless we push ourselves to reach for deeper understanding, where we inevitably get it wrong before we can get it right, we will not grasp the very essence of the Jewish enterprise. Rashi here seems to think that it’s the public shame of getting it wrong (and the concomitant rebuke) that strengthens one’s intellectual rigor. It is not hard to think about giving constructive feedback (“rebuke”) when it comes to moral matters, but do we care enough about ideas that we (respectfully) challenge others when ideas are misinterpreted or misapplied? How much do we really value the marketplace of ideas and the assurance that we as individuals and as a society get it right?

History is full of examples of leaders who acknowledged that persistence in the face of failure was more important than individual failures. President Abraham Lincoln, whose army suffered many crushing defeats in the early years of the Civil War, said: “I am not concerned that you have fallen — I am concerned that you arise.” A century later, Robert F. Kennedy echoed the optimistic spirit of youth when he said, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” Besides for being tragically assassinated, what these presidents have in common in that their causes lasted, their legacies carried on, and they are remembered as being among the greatest and most successful men to occupy the Oval Office.

Very often, one can be lured by the traps of conformism (just follow others’ ideas or practices) or isolationism (just follow one’s own marginal ideas and practices). Our job as Jews is to break free from these ploys for mediocrity. We must challenge ourselves and the status quo to reach higher by engaging with societal ideas but without blindly accepting them.

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, the great-grandson of the Baal Shem Tov (the founder of the Chassidic movement) and founder and intellectual-spiritual leader in his own right, was anything but a conformist. He not only told his followers to be happy, but he also encouraged them to do silly things, highly unusual for a religious leader. Rebbe Nachman stated that each person had to fall in order to rise, and stressed the universality of this concept:

[E]ach person who fell … thinks that these words weren’t spoken for him, for he imagines that these ideas are only for great people who are always climbing from one level to the next. But truthfully, you should know and believe, that all these words were also said concerning the smallest of the small and the worst of the worst, for Hashem is forever good to all.

However, Rebbe Nachman went further, stating that it is “a great thing for a person to still have an evil inclination.” Even the tendency to evil could serve G-d, as people worked through these passions and eventually overcame them. To Rebbe Nachman, it seems, spiritual stasis is the only unacceptable path.

We must be willing to learn and debate with others. Ideas matter. Inevitably that will lead to some level of shame when we get it wrong, but the promise land afterwards is much greater. It offers a culture of more honest, informed, connected individuals who are willing to be vulnerable for the sake of truth and who are willing to be wrong in order to get it right. Our great rabbinic and presidential leaders wouldn’t have it any other way.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/failing-in-order-to-succeed/2013/08/19/

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