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December 6, 2016 / 6 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Bridge’

Emes Ve-Emunah: The Bridge Builder

Monday, August 15th, 2016

(Originally posted to the author’s blogsite, Emes Ve-Emunah}

I know Yechiel Eckstein. We are friends. Yechiel completed Shas together with me and about 20 others doing Daf Yomi in Rabbi Yosef Bechhofer‘s Shiur (10th cycle).

He started doing Daf Yomi in the Chicago Community Kollel (Lakewood) and was expelled when he one day blurted out that he founded the IFCJ and was partnering with Evangelical Christians. The Roshei Kollel asked a Shaila about whether they should allow him back into the Shiur. They were told they could. But the Avreichim at the Kollel boycotted him – walking out of the Shachris Minyan  there which he attended every day after the Shiur. Which caused him tremendous hurt and embarrassment.

He searched for another Daf Yomi Shiur and found us. Rabbi Bechhofer asked R’ Dovid Cohen if he should accept him. He was told that he could. He was a marvelous and quite brilliant participant in that Shiur.

(After completing Shas, Yechiel sent Rabbi Bechhofer a profoundly grateful letter. Which Rabbi Bechhofer read to our Shiur soon after we began the new 11th cycle. It was an amazing expression of Hakoras HaTov!)

To say that Rabbi Eckstein is controversial is an understatement. But I happen to believe that he is getting a bad rap from most of the Orthodox world. And that they are mostly mistaken about him. Although I can surely see why they would be suspect of what he does.

Yechiel is the director of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. In that role he has raised tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars – almost all from Christian sources. While I do believe that he has crossed some lines in doing so (lines similar to those crossed by Open Orthodoxy and its flagship institution, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah) I do not think he is guilty of what he has been accused of: supporting Christian missionary work to the Jewish people.

But his close personal relationship with many Evangelical preachers, his attendance at some of their rallies and some of the things he’s said has made him seem like one of them.  A Jewish rabbi (with Semicha from Yeshiva University no less) who is now an apostate. Who in reality wants to convert us to Christianity.

He is not like that at all. He is a sincere and devout Jew that in my view has made some serious errors. But he has not God forbid secretly converted to Christianity with a mission to convert us. That is the furthest thing from the truth. His complimentary words about Jesus are not much different than Rabbi Shlomo Riskin referring to Jesus as ‘Rabbi Jesus’.

Nonetheless, with this negative image in mind, he has been boycotted by just about the entire rabbinic leadership in America and Israel. They believe that he does in fact does contribute to their missionary work, whether intentional or not. The most respected Charedi rabbinic leader of his time, Rav Yosef Sholom Elyashiv, ZTL, forbade any Orthodox institution from accepting money from the Fellowship. He said that accepting money from the Fellowship was tantamount to supporting missionary work! This was followed by many other religious leaders from a wide cross section of Orthodoxy who jumped on Rav Elyashiv’s bandwagon. All saying the same thing.

This did not stop Yechiel. He has a good heart and does not discriminate. Where he sees poverty, he tries to help. It is no secret that the Charedi world in Israel is among the poorest segments of the Israeli population. He has therefore attempted to give them money. A lot of it. But it was refused because of what I believe was a mistaken belief about him.

I personally think that Christian money that is given without any strings attached should be accepted and put to good purpose. It’s a shame that this community won’t take advantage of it.

It is true that Yechiel has an ego problem. He has actually admitted to that in a recent article in JTA. He wants recognition for what he has done. And he has been refused that recognition.  But I think recognizing him and where that money came from is a small price to pay for the millions of dollars the Torah world would get.

It is a sad commentary on the character of those who would take Fellowship money in spite of the ban as long as they don’t have to publicize where they got it. Here are a few examples, taken from an authorized biography by Zev Chafetz.

Nefesh B’Nefesh the widely touted organization that generously finances Jews of all religious stripes make Aliyah was co-founded by Yechiel. It was financed entirely by the Fellowship in its inaugural year. But in all their publicity about it, they did not mention Yechiel or the Fellowship at all. Despite the fact that it was completely financed by them.

Rabbi Dovid Grossman, of Migdal Ha’Emek happily conducted tours for Christian donors who came to see their money in action. With Yechiel’s help, the institution flourished.  But when he announced he was going to run for Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem he dropped Yechiel’s support and publicly promised to stop taking Fellowship money.

In 2012 when the Sephardi part Shas (founded and led by Rav Ovadia Yosef who denounced Yechiel and his ‘tainted’ money) was excluded  from the governing coalition, Yechiel started receiving messages welcoming him to come visit.

In 2006, Charedi Kenesset member Meir Porush approached Yecheil to help fund a seniors’ home in the Charedi town of Emmanuel. Yecheil agreed to give him $30,000. When that was made public, Rabbi Porush was embarrassed into admitting where he got the money and claimed it was a big mistake, not having realized where Yechiel got his money. He then severed any connection he had to Yechiel.

Three years later, Rabbi Porush asked for another meeting with Yechiel. There he asked him for money for an Ashkeanzi girls school in Emmanuel. Rabbi Porush was reminded of his earlier condemnation of Yechiel and his Fellowship calling them Christian missionaries.  He denied it. Yechiel than sent him a copy of the newspaper article in which he attacked their work in Israel. Needless to say, Rabbi Porush did not get the money.

As  indicated at the start of this post, I do think Yechiel has crossed some lines. But at the same time, I believe his money is Kosher. And so too, must those who approached him privately for funds after attacking him publicly.  They would never have done that if they truly believed they were supporting missionary work. I think the ban should be lifted.

Harry Maryles

Israel On My Mind – Brexits and Bridge Breaking [audio]

Friday, July 1st, 2016

Tune in this week as Jono and Jason explore the awesome news flowing out of Israel! We explore amazing new science, mull over our love and fear of heights, discuss the Brexit and Jason’s opinion as an Englishman in what it ‘really’ means for the UK, Europe and Israel, as well as covering many, MANY more interesting topics.

Don’t forget you can join the conversation at Facebook!

Israel On My Mind 30Jun – PODCAST

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New Film Depicts Arab Queers as Bridge to Peace [video]

Monday, May 30th, 2016

Khader Abu Saif, Faddy Daim and Naim Girayes are three Arab homosexual friends living in Tel Aviv, a city where the last census counted 25% of the population as self declared gay. They’d like nothing more than to enjoy the gay life in the gayest city on the planet, and yet the term “Palestinian homo” conjures in the mind of most people they meet a kind of cartoon image, a stereotypical tag that has very little to do with them as individuals. “Oriented,” by Jewish British filmmaker Jake Wiesenfeld, is a new documentary making the rounds in festivals these days, examining their lives as they reject all these stereotypes, both as Arabs and as Israelis.

Khader Abu Saif is seen in one of the first scenes in the movie giving a lecture about his life as part of “a new Palestinian generation.” He relates an encounter with a British journalist who wanted to tell the world about Khader’s miserable life as a Palestinian homosexual and the daily suffering he must endure because of his two underdog identities. “So I told him, wait a minute, I think you reached the wrong person, because my parents know about me, they’ve accepted me and they totally love and support me. This things [you’re describing] doesn’t exist. So he tells me, ‘can you find me a gay Palestinian who is suffering?'”

His audience laugh, but soon enough Khader gets into a confrontation with a heckler over his identity. What kind of Arab is he, anyway? Does he carry the blue ID card or the orange one?

But the film leaves no doubt about the fact that in a region where gay people are thrown off rooftops, tied to chairs, Israel offers a paradise of equality and personal safety to Arab homosexuals, at least west of the green line and outside the Palestinian Authority and the Gaza Strip. But the film is not political, rather it examines everyday scenes in the lives of the three friends as they meet with family, and travel to a festival in Amman, Jordan, as well as the daily dialogue and existential conflicts they maintain with the Jewish and Arab society around them.

The three friends are far from being identical in their preferences and attitudes, especially when it comes to politics. Faddy Daim, who is depicted as the most anti-Zionist of the trio, refused to attend the gala screening of the film at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, and refused to give interviews to Israeli media. Abu Saif explained that Faddy sees the film as “pink washing,” a term leftwing gays have coined to describe how Israel tries to cover up all its other “crimes” by showing how nice it is to gays, including Arab gays.

In the film, Faddy is tormented by the conflict between his ideology and his libido, when he falls in love with an Israeli man. “I’m feeling weak,” he says, “I’m in love with a Zionist.” He is not joking, he laments: “I’m in love with my enemy. I’m in love with everything against which I fight. I don’t have a problem with the fact that he is Jewish, I have a problem with the fact that he doesn’t think there’s such a thing as an Israeli occupation.”

The film depicts an Arab society which has gone a long way towards tolerating its gay members. It also offers criticism and praise of Israeli society from the Arab point of view. Which is why Khader Abu Saif is convinced both Arabs and Jews will hate the film, because it does not pander to anyone’s ideology. The three Arab characters appreciate the enormous advantages of living in a Western democracy, but are also angry at having to spend so much longer at the passport counter than their Israeli friends.

And because it doesn’t pander, and does not adopt either of the competing national narratives, the film can be the basis for real conversation between the two societies, never mind the politics.

The film “Oriented” will soon be available for downloading via iTunes, GooglePlay, and Amazon.


Bridge & Tunnel

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

Aerial views of the bridge and tunnels between Jerusalem and Gush Etzion.

Gush Etzion Bridge & Tunnel

Gush Etzion Bridge & Tunnel

Photo by Corinna Kern/Flash90

Photo by Corinna Kern/Flash90

Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90

Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90

Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90

Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90

Photo of the Day

Terror On the Roads: 4 Firebombs Thrown at Gush Etzion Checkpoint

Friday, June 21st, 2013

Overnight, terrorists threw four firebombs at the Gush Etzion checkpoint near the tunnel entrance to Jerusalem.

There were no injuries or damage from the attacks.

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/terror-on-the-roads-4-firebombs-thrown-at-gush-etzion-checkpoint/2013/06/21/

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