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April 25, 2014 / 25 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Ben Gurion University’

Why I Made Aliyah to Southern Israel

Thursday, June 20th, 2013
Rachel Avraham on BGU campus

UWI Staff writer Rachel Avraham blogs from her own experience about why English-speaking Jews are returning from exile to make Aliyah to Southern Israel.

An increasing number of Jewish immigrants from English speaking countries are deciding to make their homes in Southern Israel, a peripheral region of the country, rather than in the Anglo enclaves in the greater Jerusalem and Tel Aviv areas. While there have always been more adventuresome Anglo Jewish immigrants who have made Aliyah to Southern Israel, this phenomenon is speeding up following a decision by Nefesh B’Nefesh, an organization that assists North American Jewish immigrants, to launch a Go South Program to encourage Anglos to move to Southern Israel. Since the introduction of this program, the number of Anglos moving to Southern Israel has tripled.

I recently made Aliyah too, and I decided to move to Be’ersheva because I wanted to pursue a masters’ degree in Middle Eastern Studies at Ben-Gurion University. I felt that I could improve my Hebrew language skills significantly and learn more about the Middle East region by not living in an Anglo enclave. The gimel and dalet neighborhoods that surround Ben-Gurion University, where I live, have many Mizrahi Jewish inhabitants who immigrated to Israel from Arab states. Speaking daily to people whose ancestors hailed from Arab countries offered me an in depth understanding of Israeli politics, Middle Eastern and Jewish Diaspora history, the Israeli-Arab conflict, and Mizrahi culture, which one merely would not get by living in an Anglo bubble. Residing in Be’ersheva also sped up my immersion into Israeli society in a way that one would not get in places like Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. I also had other Zionist reasons for wanting to move to Israel, which included a desire to find a Jewish spouse, to live in the midst of rich historical sites, and to provide a better Jewish education for my future children.


Ein Geddi

It is critically important for Israel that Jewish immigrants settle in all parts of the country and not just the greater Jerusalem and Tel Aviv areas. Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, believed that the future of Israel lies in the Negev, since it consists of 66 percent of the land within the State of Israel and offers much open space for Jewish communities to be established. The Negev is an integral part of Israel’s past, present, and future, hosting flourishing Jewish historical sites dating back to antiquity. The fortress at Masada was the last Jewish zealot stronghold against the Roman forces, while Ein Gedi boasted a Jewish community dating back to biblical times and Be’ersheva, as the home of the Jewish patriarch Avraham, is the cradle of Jewish monotheism. The Negev is rich in Jewish history and Jewish immigrants from English speaking countries like myself really want to live surrounded by this majestic historical heritage.

BGU campus

Also a strong Jewish population in the Negev counters the Palestinian Authority claim that the Negev is a settlement as some Israeli Bedouin have protested that the Negev should belong to them, not the Jewish people.

Visit United with Israel.

Israel Railroad Evacuating Students

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

Throngs of Israeli student pack the Be’er Sheva train station, due to the closing of Ben Gurion University. To accommodate the masses of students, Israel Rail Road is sending extra long trains to evacuate the students looking to escape northward.

Israeli Innovation Could Make Water Drinkable in Africa

Monday, August 13th, 2012

In a world where freshwater resources are becoming increasingly scarce, Israel–a country that is two-thirds arid–has become a leader in developing the necessary technology for making salt water potable.

The Israeli desalination company, IDE Technologies, which has been in operation for more than 40 years, has made many advances in desalination technology, installing over 400 desalination plants in 40 countries including the Caribbean Islands and United States. IDE Technologies has also won major contracts with Cyprus, India and Australia, and last year with China.

Since 2011, the Israeli-built desalination plant in Tianjin is China’s largest and most environmentally friendly desalination plant to date, running on some of the waste heat produced by a nearby power plant, producing fresh water and salt.

However, desalination plants for the most part are extremely costly for less-developed nations, as they use enormous amounts of electricity and are location-sensitive. But thanks to a recent Israeli discovery, the desalination system may become much more affordable in areas like Africa and the Middle East.

Researchers from the Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research at Ben Gurion University of the Negev and central Arava R&D, have found a way to utilize solar energy at a fraction of the cost which can be custom-engineered for the desalination process, according to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).

The new innovation uses solar energy panels to power the pumps of a desalination unit that generates clean water for crops. More importantly, the technology utilizes unique nanofiltration membranes that enable farmers to decide which minerals should be retained from the water to feed various types of crops, a method which requires much less energy. The new system is currently being tested in the Arava Valley of Israel, south of the Dead Sea, where the basin is very dry. The results thus far show that farmers can use up to 25 percent less water and fertilizer than what has usually been needed in that area.

According to Andrea Ghermandi of the Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research at Ben-Gurion University and one of the system’s creators, the current environment is forcing agricultural systems to become more economical. Ghermandi told the MFA that “the growing global demand for food and competition for resources among economic sectors compel future agricultural systems to be more efficient in the use of natural resources such as land and water.”

Another important researcher in the discovery, Ben Gurion University’s Rami Messalem explained that the” breakthrough here was to make the system more economical and we’ve done this using nanofiltration cleverly. Our system is compatible with electricity but is based on the premise that it can be used in poor countries, in places where you don’t have an electricity source—as a standalone system.”

The MFA website indicated that the new desalination system was made possible thanks to funding from Swiss philanthropist Samuel Josefowitz.

Israeli Innovation: Blood Test to Detect Multiple Cancer Types

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Researchers at Soroka Medical Center and Ben Gurion University in Be’er Sheva are saying they’re past the preliminary stage of developing a unique method that may provide early detection of many types of cancer, using a simple blood test. Clinical tests which were performed recently yielded detection in close to 90 percent of patients.

“The research is still using small-scale clinical tests,” said Prof. Joseph Kapelushnik, head of the center’s children’s meta oncology department. “But our aim is to develop an efficient, cheap and simple method to detect as many types of cancer as possible.”

Early detection, coupled with a rapid assessment and a quick and effective response is viewed as the best and most cost-efficient ways of dealing with cancer. But the process of detection can be cumbersome and costly, and each procedure reveals only a limited number of cancer types.

Prof. Kapelushnik’s team developed a unique method which makes it possible to detect cancer cells through a blood test, using infrared light. A sample of only one cubic centimeter (less than a teaspoon) is placed in an instrument which examines the spectrum and yields results which point out the presence of cancer in the patient’s body.

“We’ve managed to distinguish between different types at a rate of around 90 percent sensitivity,” said Prof. Kapelushnik. “The data is limited for now, and we’ll have to test thousands of patients to determine that the method works, but at the moment we are pleased with the results.”

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and Johnson & Johnson, to name just one team, are among groups of scientists who are in the process of seeking a simple blood test that may be able to identify cancer cells in the blood stream. But Prof. Kapelushnik thinks his research is at a more advanced stage than competing, similar efforts.

“We should be able to detect the cancer before it had a chance to metastasize,” he says. “And this can mean fewer treatments, less suffering and many more lives saved.”

The Soroka University Medical Center is the largest medical center in southern Israel, and the second largest in the country.

Israeli Scientists Grow Sperm Cells in Lab

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

A new technique developed by Ben- Gurion University researchers has resulted in the laboratory creation of mouse sperm cells from testicular germ cells.  Profesosr Mahmoud Huleihel says he hopes the scientific breakthrough will be a major stride in male fertility.

The study was performed in cooperation with Prof. Eitan Lunenfeld at Soroka University Medical Center and Prof. Stefan Schlatt of the University of Münster in Germany.

What Freedom Of Speech?

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

           The latest headliner in the campaign to silence critics of Israel’s radical Left is Prof. Zvi Hacohen, the new rector at Ben Gurion University. A professor in chemistry and “desert research,” Hacohen was cited at length in Haaretz (Sept. 15) denouncing people, especially students of the Zionist Im Tirtzu movement, who dare criticize leftist sedition.
            Hacohen calls all such critics of anti-Israel extremism “McCarthyists.” Leftists denouncing Israel as a Nazi country, a fascist apartheid entity in need of obliteration, are simply exercising their legitimate academic freedom, but anyone who denounces those leftists for what they say and do is guilty of “McCarthyism” and so must be suppressed.
            Radical leftist academics who call for a world boycott of Israel are engaging in legitimate use of academic freedom, they insist, but others who call for boycotts of such boycotters of Israel are fascists and guilty of “incitement.”
            Hacohen denounces students at his own university and others (I assume he means the www.Isracampus.org.il  watchdog group, Israel’s equivalent to Campus Watch in the U.S.) for recording the public lectures of radical anti-Israel faculty members and then making them public. He also is upset when they cite verbatim the seditious public pronouncements of those faculty members. Hacohen insists it’s McCarthyism to protest the anti-Israel indoctrination that is the main (if not the sole) activity of the Department of Politics at Ben Gurion University, and he denounces students from Im Tirtzu for calling on donors to place their contributions to the university into escrow until the university makes needed reforms.
             Hacohen is just one of Israel’s many increasingly hysterical radical leftists inside (and outside) academia who demand that freedom of speech for non-leftists be suppressed.
             Leftists in Israel are free to endorse violence, to call for Israel to be destroyed, and to endorse anti-Semites and terrorists. They are free to promote lawbreaking and violence. They are free to call on the world to boycott Israel and to impose upon Israel by force an outside “resolution” of the conflict along lines the vast majority of Israelis oppose.
             Yes, it may be upsetting to people, say the leftist poseurs, but offensive speech needs to be protected in the name of democracy.
Or does it? A young Jewish woman named Tanya Susskind drew a protest poster of the Prophet Muhammad as a pig. Her drawing was distasteful, but no worse than those Danish cartoons that were judged to be protected speech. She was sentenced to more than two years in prison. Israeli soldiers who recently had their photographs taken alongside handcuffed or blindfolded suspected terrorists have been prosecuted for insensitivity. Why was their behavior not considered protected freedom of expression?
In a similar manner, Israel has criminalized and banned the various Kahanist factions of followers of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane. They are denied freedom of speech under Israel’s silly “anti-racism law,” a law that has never been used to prosecute a single anti-Semite. Their crime? They express political opinions Israeli leftists find repulsive.
            A professor at the University of Haifa was ordered by the Attorney General’s Office to report to the police for interrogation concerning things he was accused of saying about Arabs in class – statements he denies having made. But even if he had said negative things about Arabs, why was that not protected speech? Is protected speech in Israel limited to the rights of anti-Semites and traitors to smear Jews?
Just what happened to the idea that freedom of speech protects unpopular and even offensive opinions? Leftists expressing anti-Semitic or anti-Israel radical ideas are never prosecuted in Israel. The most the government ever did was deny entry into Israel to a few foreign leftist professors who had been maintaining intimate association with terrorist organizations like Hizbullah.
Let us go back to Prof. Hacohen, the rector. We know what upsets him, but what does not upset him? He is not disturbed that entire departments at his own university operate as open anti-Israel indoctrination camps. He is not disturbed that faculty members at Ben Gurion University are leaders in the international campaign to boycott Israel, to “divest” from Israel, to place sanctions against Israel. He is not disturbed about BGU faculty members who associate with Holocaust deniers.
Prof. Hacohen is not concerned about reports of leftist faculty members at BGU harassing and penalizing students there who dare dissent from the anti-Israel ideology poured out in classroom indoctrinations. He is not concerned that anti-Israel radicals are being hired and promoted on the basis of “academic records” consisting of nothing more than anti-Israel hate propaganda. He is not concerned about BGU faculty members who endorse terrorist violence. He is not concerned about Arab and Jewish leftist students marching about his campus giving Heil Hitler salutes.
The only thing he seems worried about is that some Zionist students at BGU wish to express their opinions and criticize treasonous behavior. He demands that they be silenced. He insults the students at his own university, calling them “McCarthyists.” He demands that criticism of treason be silenced in the name of protecting academic freedom.

The academic freedom of which he dreams is the sort to be found in North Korea.




Steven Plaut is a professor at Haifa University. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at steveneplaut@yahoo.com.

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, March 21st, 2007

Dog In The Fight (I)

   Reader Yaakov Fromer writes (letters, March 16): “Whether Turkey did or did not commit genocide nearly a hundred years ago is no concern of ours – we have no dog in that fight.”
   I would respond that as Jews – a people who have suffered tremendously at the brutal hands of our various persecutors while the rest of the world looked on without comment – we ought to hold a unique understanding for the suffering of one people at the hands of another. That Turkey refuses to recognize the terrible crimes of its past should be as morally offensive to us as if the German government of today were to do the same.
   Genocide, past or present, cannot be met with silence. To do so would make a sham out of the phrase “Never Again” – as if it were only a self-interested goal and not an incontrovertible moral principle. The world was silent as we suffered – please, let us not repeat its mistakes.

Daniel Hagler

Bronx, NY


Dog In The Fight (II)

   Mr. Fromer, your insensitivity to the sufferings of the Armenian people is reprehensible, and it terrifies me to think that others who are not Jewish might assume your callousness is shared by other religious Jews. It certainly is not!
   Did you know that the Nazis based their genocide of our people on what Turkey did to the Armenians? In fact, Hitler (may his name and memory be blotted out) used the example of the Armenian massacre to justify why he should be allowed (by his generals) to carry out his insane plans.
   To give just one example: Hitler got his idea for the gas chambers from the Turkish practice of shoving Armenians into caves, covering the entrance with brush and trees, and setting them afire, so the men, women and children inside would die of smoke inhalation.
   Turkey denies it committed genocide against the Armenian people, just as Shoah deniers claim the death camps never existed and six million Jews were not murdered. We Jews know better than anyone what genocide is, and when it happens to others we must be the first to stand up and condemn it, no matter who the guilty party is, even (maybe even especially) if they appear to be our friends.
   You say that we as Jews “have no dog in that fight.” Actually, we do. Anytime any group of people is slaughtered because of what they are or what they believe, we as Jews have a dog in the fight – if we have any kind of decency and humanity at all.
   If you feel that we as Jews should not speak out in defense of the innocent men, women and children ruthlessly tortured and murdered by the government of Turkey, does that mean gentiles do not need to speak out against the genocide that was carried out against our own people from 1939 to 1945 by Germany? Perhaps they, too, should think they “have no dog in that fight.”

Chana Rovinsky

Philadelphia, PA


Storm Warning
   The storm clouds of expulsion and destruction are on the horizon, yet nothing is being done to prepare. Many people talk about getting rid of the evil Olmert government once the Winograd Commission releases its findings. Have we learned nothing from the Sharon debacle?
   Just as Sharon sought to divert attention from his legal problems with the destruction of Jewish life in Gaza, you can bet that Olmert, right before the Winograd report is released, will accept the Saudi plan for the destruction and uprooting of Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. He will, insanely, be viewed as great peacemaker and will thus stay in power. The ultimate destruction (God forbid) will commence.
   The storm is approaching. If we’re not ready, the storm will wash all away. Just ask the former Jewish residents of Gaza.

Ken Abrams

Margate, NJ


Play Ball
   Re the new baseball league in Israel (Baseball Insider column, March 9):
   What is more integral to the American Jewish experience than baseball? Nothing. My own grandfather in the twilight of his life would enjoy a baseball game on television when nothing else even mattered. As a young man and a new hard-working immigrant, baseball was my grandfather’s sole mode of recreation. This type of story is shared by many.

   To think that we will have a league of our own in a place that is so dear to our hearts makes me literally choke up with positive emotion. Personally, I cannot thank enough the people who are pulling this off for the benefit of our two beloveds – Israel and baseball.

   The Middle East will change in a very positive way come June 24.

Jonathan R. Klein

Encino, California


Misappropriated Funds
   I am appalled at the tremendous misappropriation of personal funds that I see in the frum community. To spend thousands and thousands of dollars on weekends and Yomim Tovim – while we are losing so many souls to the public schools – is tragic.
   We are facing such a terrible crisis now with our Jewish children. Please consider all expenditures, large and small, and transfer them instead to the saving of Jewish souls. In this merit may the Geulah soon come.

Rabbi Rick Probstein

(Via E-Mail)



The Politics Of Ben-Gurion University


Illiberal Liberals
      Allyson Rowen Taylor (“BGU President Disses Overseas Donors,” op-ed, March 16) deserves our thanks for providing some of the details of the leftist leanings of Israeli universities, in this case Ben-Gurion University. It is incongruous that those who claim to be ”liberal” would curtail the exposure of students to a broad education and a variety of opinions instead of a system that teaches intolerance for the viewpoints of others.
      Apparently, those who stifle academic freedom fear that their own attitudes and prejudices might be challenged. As a former educator I firmly believe in the saying that “he/she who dares to teach must never cease to learn.”

Chana Givon

(Via E-Mail)


‘Den Of Radicalism’

      I wanted to congratulate you on running Allyson Rowen Taylor‘s piece, which I thought was one of the best recent cases of investigative journalism in the American Jewish media.

      If anything, Taylor did not go far enough. Ben-Gurion University has become a den of radicalism and anti-Israel activism. If that sounds like an exaggeration, just consider the case of Dr. Neve Gordon, a lecturer in political science at BGU whose articles regularly appear on Holocaust denier and neo-Nazi websites.
      Alan Dershowitz, the law professor and author who certainly is no right-winger, wrote in the Jerusalem Post on November 8, 2006: “It is my opinion that Neve Gordon has gotten into bed with neo-Nazis, Holocaust justice deniers, and anti-Semites. He is a despicable example of a self-hating Jew and a self-hating Israeli.

      Professor Carmi, the president of BGU, has dismissed concerns raised by Gordon’s critics, saying that Israeli students are mature enough to cope with Gordon’s views.

Don Levine

Passaic, NJ


‘Diss’ – Short For Distortion
      The outlandish fairytale by Allyson Rowen Taylor is chock full of gross distortion and false innuendo. It is an inflammatory political and personal attack against Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, its faculty and new president, and ultimately Israel itself.
      First, I question Taylor’s motivation and the authenticity of her authorship. The article she references from Academia was published in Hebrew. Taylor doesn’t speak Hebrew. And her phraseology is eerily similar to another BGU slanderer convicted of libel in Israel. Whoever “translated” chose to twist BGU President Rivka Carmi’s words, juxtaposing quotes and commentary to alter situations described in the Hebrew article.
      For example, the original article described Prof. Carmi shaking hands with students demonstrating on behalf of Holocaust survivors, not anti-occupation supporters! Also, Carmi is asked, “If, under the threat of a cancelled donation, can a donor dictate the limits of academic freedom?” Her answer: “Unfortunately, this potential exists.” That simple reply was instead twisted by Taylor into a sensational falsehood and attack on overseas donors, but Carmi made no such remarks.
      Furthermore, Taylor’s reference to Carmi’s support for boycotts of “Israeli” universities “under extreme circumstances” is a gross misrepresentation. The question was, “Would you consider a situation where you would agree with a boycott of any institution?” (The word “Israeli” doesn’t appear.) Prof. Carmi’s thoughtful reply was only in cases when crimes against humanity are committed, citing an incident that occurred in Teheran.
      BGU’s faculty and student body reflect the diverse ethnicity, religious orientation, socio-economic status, and ideology that are representative of Israel. There are faculty from the left and the right and everything in between.
      Taylor’s group, StandWithUs, believes that any criticism of Israel is unacceptable, treasonous and anti-Zionist. It’s very easy to lob criticism from a cozy Los Angeles home while posturing as a holier-than-thou Zionist. How could anyone who chooses to make his home in Israel, raise a family there, and serve with distinction in the IDF call for Israel’s annihilation? It defies logic and is a preposterous, ignorant claim.
      It’s impossible to refute every distortion and misquoted remark in the space that I have been allotted. I hope those who can read Hebrew will read the actual article.
      More than any other university, BGU captures the pioneering Zionist spirit that so exemplified Israel’s founders. Its faculty, staff and students are fulfilling David Ben-Gurion’s vision to develop the Negev and secure Israel’s future.
   Articles like Taylor’s threaten this vision. Her time and mine would be much better spent fighting Israel’s real enemies.

Carol D. Saal


American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev 

Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, July 5th, 2006

Humans Or Beasts?
   Is this nation-in-waiting the world calls Palestine populated by humans or two-legged beasts? They abduct children off the street, as was the case with Eliyahu Asheri, who was summarily murdered. Then a senior citizen is abducted and brought over to the Palestinian side of the border.
   Israel entered Gaza to free a kidnapped 19-year-old soldier whose parents already grieve for the treatment he may be receiving. Israel began this invasion only after Palestinians crossed an internationally recognized border to attack an IDF unit in Israel, killing two and injuring others as they kidnapped the soldier. The attacks on Israel from the Palestinian side of the border have precipitated the events in Gaza.
   The Palestinians cry for international borders. Now they have borders and this is how they use them.

Harry Grunstein

Hampstead, Canada


Questions Levin’s Tactics
   While I agree with his position on the “gay pride” event set to take place in Yerushalayim, Rabbi Yehuda Levin’s methodology in suggesting that Jews and Muslims find common ground in fighting the event “for the sake of the holiness of Jerusalem” is dangerous, if not downright ridiculous (“Fear ‘Pride’ Event In Jerusalem Will Spark World Islamic Furor,” news story, June 23).
   Is Rabbi Levin really proposing that we agree with the Arabs on Jerusalem’s holiness and hope it ends there? Does he believe the Waqf would not twist such an “agreement” to further its destructive aims, once this joint effort ended? He actually “wants the Arab masses to rise up in indignation”? Does anyone believe that such a route can end well for the Jews of Jerusalem? Will the indignant Muslims simply cease and desist when he asks nicely?
   Rabbi Levin defended his position (“Levin: Silence on WorldPride ‘Puzzling and Painful,’” interview, June 30) by posing a hypothetical question as to whether he would engage the services of an ideologically loyal Hamas doctor for a seriously wounded family member, were no other doctor available. The suggestion is that he would.
   Is Rabbi Levin at all familiar with Hamas’s ideology? The Hamas covenant states, “The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.” How, then, can he consider a Hamas doctor to be an option? How can he consider the Arabs of Hebron and Shechem his allies?
   I would rather take my chances with no doctor than with one sworn to end the life I seek to save.

Dov Elias


Judicial Outrage
   I was speechless after reading Allyson Rowen Taylor’s superb article (“Plaut Verdict A Symptom Of Israel’s Sick Judiciary,” op-ed, June 30) about an Arab judge in Israel endorsing Holocaust denial while ruling that treason is protected speech but criticism of treason constitutes “slander.”
   This matter cannot be allowed to stand. I invite all Jewish Press readers to take a few moments to act. First, please write the Israeli minister of justice and demand that this judge be removed at once from the bench. Letters should be sent to Haim Ramon, Minister of Justice, Ministry of Justice, Salah-a-Din 29 P.O.Box 49029 Jerusalem 91490 (Fax: 972-2-6466357)
   And please write the new president of Ben Gurion University, Professor Rivka Carmi, at Ben Gurion University, P.O. Box 653, Beer-Sheva 84105 Israel (e-mail: rcarmi@bgumail.bgu.ac.il.) Tell her that Ben Gurion University will not be receiving a dime in support from us and our communities as long as extremists like Neve Gordon serve as members of the faculty, and that we will be advising parents not to send their children to Ben Gurion University until this outrage is redressed.

Don Levine

Passaic, NJ and Holon, Israel




Evolution: An Exchange Between Readers

And Rabbi Maryles


Sources, Please
      When my copy of the June 23 Jewish Press arrived I eagerly turned to Rabbi Harry Maryles’s “Evolution, the Age of the Universe, and Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan” (op-ed, June 23). I read the article and was left with a deep sense of disappointment. While Rabbi Maryles may well be a Torah scholar, I am not familiar with him. But the name Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan does resonate with most of us – he was a brilliant Torah teacher and writer.
      Rabbi Maryles seems to rely heavily on Rabbi Kaplan for most of the points made but fails to give any sources. I would be most interested in reading the paper Rabbi Kaplan delivered to the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists. What year was this presented? Is there any way to access it? And are there sources for the published works of Rabbi Kaplan on any other aspects of evolution, the mabul, etc?

Amy Wall

New York, NY


Faith Of Evolutionists
      I don’t understand why people are trying so hard to find compatibility between evolution and the Torah, when no one has ever satisfactorily explained how the random, accidental type of evolution proposed by Darwin works in the first place.
      Even Rabbi Maryles says “he believes” and his college professor “believed.” What does all this “belief” have to do with anything? Science needs to be able to be explained in a way that makes sense. Evolutionists thus far have not done that. What one “believes” is not necessarily science, even if one happens to be a scientist.

David Lebow

Brooklyn, New York


No Proof From Fossils
      In referring to claims made by the late Rabbi Kaplan concerning a 15 billion-year-old universe, one should not forget that Rabbi Kaplan’s sources are mystical and allegorical. On that basis Rabbi Maryles erroneously argues in favor of such a theory.
      It should be borne in mind that all claims that the world is so ancient are based on fossil remains. The fossils are made to speak the language of evolution. Yes, if life evolved as imagined by faith-based evolutionary theory, the index fossil method would be reliable. The age of the fossils is assumed to follow an evolutionary sequence, which is an example of circular reasoning. Therefore, there is no reason to go ape about evolutionary theory.
      Actually, upon careful scrutiny, an objective intellectual can easily consider the possiblity that the fossil strata were deposited rapidly. There is no scientific evidence that such phenomena occurred sporadically and slowly, as evolutionary theorists would have us believe.
      In his article Rabbi Maryles writes: “The wonderful thing about science is that it has at its core no underlying belief system. Nothing is sacrosanct in science.” Perhaps inadvertently, Rabbi Maryles reveals a flaw in Modern Orthodox philosophy: an inordinate focus on the absence of sanctity and inappropriate emphasis on materialism. Such a system does not enhance Jewish spirituality – it weakens it. There is surely nothing wonderful about a system devoid of sanctity.
      Analyzed from a different perspective, one can actually say that there is something perversely sacrosanct in scientific philosophy: so-called human reason, which by definition is flawed. How can anyone glorify science in view of the destruction it has clearly unleashed? Thanks to science, man’s arrogance is magnified to the point where man worships himself, paying homage to his achievements. Thanks to science, we now have enough nuclear weapons to destroy the planet numerous times. What is so wonderful about that?
      May the Lord God of Israel have mercy on us.

Chaim Silver

(Via E-Mail)

Evolution And A Torah Worldview
      It is comforting and inspiring for me to know that rabbinical scholars can have such a high level of confidence and faith in the truth of Torah that they are able to incorporate modern scientific theories of evolution and the age of the universe into a Torah worldview.
      Rabbi Maryles acknowledges “problems inherent in attempting to reconcile science and Torah.” I should like to recommend a book that attempts to do just that: The Science of God, by Dr. Gerald Schroeder (Free Press, 1997).
      One does not need to be a scientist to read and appreciate Dr. Schroeder’s book. Some of his ideas, along with other discussions relating science and religion, can be found in my own book, Judaism, Mathematics, and the Hebrew Calendar, published in 2002 by Jason Aronson, and now being sold by Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group.

Hyman Gabai

Encinitas, CA



      Rabbi Maryles Responds: Not surprisingly, many readers responded to my article. Amy Wall complains that I did not mention the specifics of Rabbi Kaplan’s thesis. It wasn’t my intent to argue the specifics of his position, but only to show that a man of his stature and wide acceptance in the Torah world held the view that the universe is ancient.
   I consulted Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer, a premier young talmid chacham from whom I originally learned of Rabbi Kaplan’s approach, and he pointed me to http://www.lulu.com/reuven. There you will find a PDF version of Rabbi Kaplan’s lecture. It was delivered to the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists on February 18, 1979. I urge readers to access it for a full treatment of the issue. I acknowledge that my essay was a bit short on details and I will try to distill Rabbi Kaplan’s salient points.
      Rabbi Kaplan quotes from the Sefer HaTemunah that there are there seven cycles of cosmic Shmitah of 7,000 years duration. The Sefer Livnas HaSapir adds that we are in the final cycle at approximately year 42,000.
      Rabbi Kaplan also mentions a midrash about God creating and destroying many universes. Rabbi Yehudah Chait interprets this as physical. There is also the Gemara in Chagiga that refers to 974 generations that existed before Adam.
      To me, the most important part of Rabbi Kaplan’s lecture is his reference to the Tiferes Yisroel, whose Yachin Boaz commentary on the Mishna is studied the world over. The Tiferes Yisroel says at the end of Seder Nezikin (written well before Darwin) that there were universes and people around well before Adam.
      But just as individuals have banned similar works today, the zealots of yesteryear deleted this portion of his commentary in later publications of his work. Today, many chassidim refuse to learn the Tiferes Yisroel because of these views. The Tiferes Yisroel quotes scientific findings (fossils etc.) to show the universe is ancient as the above Rishonim indicate. Rather than bash science, he uses it to enhance emunah.
      Another Rishon mentioned by Rabbi Kaplan is Rabbi Yitzchak of Acco, a contemporary of the Ramban. He states that one day of God equals 1,000 human years. He further goes on to explain that when the Sefer HaTemunah refers to a universe of 49,000 years’ existence, it is talking about Godly, not human, years. As stated above, the Livnas HaSapir says the world is currently 42,000 years old. If one does the math one will see that 42,000 Godly years equals about 15 billion human years.
      Mr. Lebow asks what I mean when I say I “believe” in evolution. I was imprecise. I meant that I believe that the theory of evolution is compatible with the Torah’s description of Ma’aseh Bereishis. In fact, the Malbim in his commentary to Bereishis 1:20 makes this compatibility explicit. I should have written that I believe it quite possible, even probable, that God’s creation of the universe conforms to the description given by evolutionary science.
      Mr. Silver, who clearly has not yet read Rabbi Kaplan’s essay, assumes that the “old universe” theory is based exclusively on the fossil record. It isn’t. It’s based on radioactive dating methods that have been demonstrated to be remarkably consistent. I cannot accept that Hashem would have placed in Creation such compelling evidence of an old universe for us to then have to deny on the basis of faith.

      Finally, I thank Mr. Gabai for reminding us of the work of Dr. Gerald Schroeder. Highly recommended!


Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/letters-to-the-editor/letters-to-the-editor-144/2006/07/05/

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