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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Brandon Marlon’

The Real Crisis Facing Jewry

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

The recently highlighted “crisis of Zionism” is in fact a quandary afflicting Jewry and no new phenomenon. Rather, it has two sources, each centuries old.

One source is the exile and dispersion of a majority of the Jewish people from their native land of Israel by Emperor Hadrian in the year 135 CE, and the deep-seated and long-lasting consequences on the Jewish psyche over the course of the ensuing 1,813 years; the other source is about 200 years old, a gradual religious erosion which begins with the radical Reform movement of Samuel Holdheim in Germany and David Einhorn in the U.S., continues with Conservative and Reconstructionist Judaism in America, and culminates in mass Jewish assimilation throughout the Western world in contemporary times.

Expelled and wandering over many centuries, Jews evolved from an eastern, Oriental people embedded in its homeland to a nomadic mass settling amid the western vistas of Europe and ultimately the Occident of the Americas. While ties to Israel were never severed, the collective recollection of the failed Bar Kochba revolt and subsequent messianic pretenders caused many even among Jewry’s leadership to believe that the foretold ingathering of exiles required the coming of the true Messiah and nothing less.

Despite the early political Zionism of such farsighted rabbis as Yehudah Alkalai, Zvi Hirsch Kalischer, and Shmuel Mohilever, other rabbinic leaders eschewed political Zionism. Had more Jews been influenced by their leaders to forsake European and Muslim lands for what was then Ottoman Palestine, the number of casualties in the Holocaust and Arab pogroms would have been significantly lower.

Still, an overemphasis has been placed on political Zionism inside and outside of Jewry: the pragmatic manifestation of Zionism is less than 200 years old. The original Zionism – the millennia-old spiritual, psychological, and emotional yearning of Diaspora Jews to return to the land of Israel – is itself only one aspect of Judaism; to dwell on political Zionism, therefore, is to abstract an aspect of an aspect of Judaism as if it equates to Judaism as a whole.

When Jewish and Israeli leaders speak of why the Jewish people belong in Israel, they err when they emphasize political Zionism or the Holocaust rather than our religious, historical, and cultural identity. Whether or not a Herzl or a Hitler had ever lived, the people and land of Israel would still have belonged to one another.

Notably, the two sources of the Judaic crisis – prolonged exile, and secularization of religion – exist in parallel to the dual heritage of Jewry: both the land of Israel and the Torah form the Hebraic inheritance. One was not meant to be fulfilled without the other.

This leads us to the second source of the crisis: the attenuation of religious observance. Modern Jews – especially North American Jews – have a predilection for dispensing with religious components of ideas they find otherwise useful. Most notably, the concept of “tikkun olam” has been co-opted ad infinitum by well-meaning liberal, non-Orthodox Jews for purposes of social justice, yet the notion and the very wording derives from the religious phrase “to emend the world under the sovereignty of God,” the latter part of which is routinely neglected. Similarly, some sentimental non-observant Jews pride themselves on maintaining that they eat “kosher style” if not actually keeping kosher (akin to being “pregnant style” rather than pregnant), and some Jews who do not adhere to the norms of Orthodoxy still claim with satisfaction to be “Modern Orthodox.”

Likewise, when discussing the state of Israel and its declaration of independence, liberal North American Jews underscore the “democratic” element while downplaying the “Jewish” element mentioned therein. For them, the state is Jewish by virtue of its Jewish inhabitants; the state is Jewish the same way they are – automatically. Whether the state’s collective character, morals, ethics, values, and principles are traditionally Jewish is of little interest to them, because it is of little interest to them as individuals who are either irreligious or part of the diluted modern-era movements for which the foundational laws of kashrut and Shabbat are not binding, scripture is creatively reinterpreted in light of secular humanism, the distinctive roles of men and women are overturned, and faith in God obsolete.

Israel At 100: Looking Ahead

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

The Third Jewish Commonwealth has accomplished remarkable growth and productivity in its first six decades, and inspires the world with its resourcefulness. Yet as a young country, Israel has much room for improvement. Here are the Top 12 most pressing issues facing the reborn nation today:

Electoral Reform: Israel’s electoral system of party-list proportional representation, where the entire country acts as a single constituency, has severely hampered the national leadership from acting decisively on behalf of its citizenry. Switching from a PR system to a relative majority or plurality voting system – election of candidates by district using a first-past-the-post/winner takes all mechanism – would increase MK accountability and government stability.

Constitution: Israel has for 64 years relied upon Basic Laws and legislative statutes to govern the country, and preferred an evolving, piecemeal constitution to a single national document. In June 2006, Professor Abraham Diskin of The Institute for Zionist Strategies drafted a proposed constitution that serves as a useful basis for the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee to debate, amend, and adopt such a seminal document.

Parliamentary Immunity: The Israeli legislature is plagued with rogue MKs who routinely undermine national security with virtual impunity. Statutes and/or Knesset by-laws should be enacted to censure acts of treason by those responsible for the wellbeing of the country.

Judea & Samaria: Israel should annex the heartland of the homeland and offer Arab inhabitants the choice of permanent residency – with guaranteed human and civil rights including municipal and regional voting rights – or emigration with compensation. Jordan, which is several times the size of Israel and 3/4 of what was Palestine, has been the de facto Palestinian Arab state since 1921, and the Gaza Strip has been a second Palestinian Arab state since 2005. There is no justification for a third Palestinian Arab state, nor is it reasonable for the sole Jewish state to relinquish the most significant parts of its geographical identity, history, and heritage.

Warfare: Israel has warred regularly since its founding, and in recent memory largely because it fights without the decisiveness and finality required to impose peace. No nation can tolerate quasi-armies perched on its frontiers, hellbent on its destruction, striking at whim. This scenario ensures renewed warfare every few years. Rather, Israel should reject artificial timelines imposed from without, and conduct its defense until terrorist groups are defeated to a man.

Chief Rabbinate: This symbolic office should be replaced by a re-established Great Sanhedrin of 71 sages, a body of Jewish rabbis and scholars serving the Jewish people in Israel and the Diaspora and which devotes itself to practical religious and spiritual issues rather than serving as nominal figureheads of the religious within the distinct political realm.

Jewish Heritage Sites: While Israel has an excellent system of about 70 National Parks and Nature Reserves, several important sites from antiquity have little or no official identification and are not yet visitor-friendly. Such historical sites include: Modi’in, home of the Hasmoneans; the Maccabean battlegrounds of Beth Zur and Beth Zechariah; Yodefat and Gush Chalav, major locales in the First Jewish Revolt; and Betar, the last citadel of Bar Kochba.

Penal Reform: Prisoners – including bloodstained murderers, gangsters, and terrorists – currently receive financial benefits while in durance, in addition to the enormous expenses borne by the state on their behalves resulting from their incarceration. Instead, convicts should be made to pay for their jailing costs to alleviate the public burden and strengthen deterrence.

Road Safety: Israel’s high rate of motor vehicle deaths is reversible with better safety standards. The state should: raise the licensing age from 17 to 18; enact graduated licensing with mandatory in-class and in-car defensive driving training; enforce speed limits rigorously; re-examine drivers every 5 years for roadworthiness; raise safety standards for automakers; broaden stretches in remote or difficult terrain and improve their lighting, road markings, and signage; and impose stiffer penalties for driving with hand-held devices or without seat belts.

Bedouin Relations: Despite recently improved relations with the Negev’s Bedouins, Israel should define its relationship with the nomadic Arab community after consultations with pertinent regional councils and representative sheikhs. Such an agreement would eliminate unseemly house demolitions that occasionally still plague relations, and would determine the nature of sovereignty, partnerships, and mechanisms for conflict resolution.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/israel-at-100-looking-ahead/2012/05/31/

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