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September 20, 2014 / 25 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘course’

GOP: Polls and the Hinge Points of History

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

What does it mean that recent polls show 7 in 10 respondents think Republicans are putting their agenda ahead of what’s good for the country, as opposed to the 5 in 10 respondents who think President Obama is doing the same?

The answer probably lies in an analysis of the ancillary question posed in the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll: do respondents agree or not with the statement that the GOP or the president is “demonstrating strong leadership and standing up for what they [he] believe[s] in”?

For Republicans, only 27% of respondents agreed with that statement.  For Obama, 46% of them agreed.

On the face of it, that’s actually a contradictory assessment about the Republicans.  Only 27% of respondents think Republicans are standing up for what they believe in – and yet more than 70% of respondents (the actual figure was 74%) think Republicans are putting their agenda ahead of what’s good for the country?  How can that be?

Here’s how: a meaningful number of the respondents are conservative Republicans (call them the “Tea Party,” for short) who are disappointed with GOP leaders, because the conservative respondents don’t think GOP leaders are standing up for Republican beliefs.  Those respondents add to the number who are predisposed to blame or dislike Republicans for other reasons.  But the “Tea Party” demographic despises GOP leadership because it thinks the party is doing too little to combat current trends in government, rather than too much.

I don’t think it can be disputed that the opinion-poll numbers are bad for Republicans.  But I do think the narrative that reflexively calls this a linear reaction to The Stupidity of Cruz is all wet.  For one thing, that narrative itself falls apart on examination.  The specialized thought process and the poll-respondent demographic just don’t exist to make it descriptive.

Equally important, however, is the key difference between Democrats and Republicans in October 2013, which is that Republicans are profoundly divided.

As long as the Democrats keep their communications reasonably disciplined, they can be sure of getting a unified set of characterizations across to the public without interference.  But the Republicans, who already find every talking point distorted by the media, have the added burden of genuine disagreement among themselves.  There’s no question that Republicans look, at this juncture, like we can’t get our act together.  This is because we can’t get our act together.  We don’t agree on what it should be.

Poll respondents are quite reasonable in recognizing that there would be no government shutdown if everyone in the GOP agreed with the Democrats on what should be done.  That’s really kind of a forehead-slapping “duh!” revelation, and I suspect it’s what the poll numbers are telling us.  Of course it’s the GOP’s fault that there has been a shutdown.  Of course the shutdown has been forced by political differences.

Does it follow that 74% of poll respondents – or of Americans in general, who may or may not be well represented in this poll – think “the” problem is the Tea Party, and that the way to resolve it is for the GOP to crush the “Tea Party wing” and get on with the business of agreeing with the Democrats?

No, it doesn’t – any more than it follows that the GOP should do the converse: rout the GOP “moderates” in a turkey-shoot from the right.  There is no such quantity out there as a 74% majority making it clear that Republican blame for the shutdown should translate into gigging Ted Cruz like a swamp-bottom frog, or into running John McCain out of town on a rail.

What there is instead is a profound dispute within the GOP about who we are and what our way forward is.

There may no longer be a unifying “center” to hold the GOP together.  If the GOP doesn’t encompass the limited-government views of the Tea Party, there is an essential sense in which the party no longer represents an alternative to the Democratic Party.

But there is still a sizable number of Republicans who see a viable future for a Republican Party that makes its name on what George Will has been calling “splittable differences” with the Democrats in Congress.  I admire Will’s broadly positive and genial take on the current impasse between the parties, and between the factions in the GOP.  But ultimately, I’m not convinced that being the party of “splittable differences” would be a big motivator or vote-getter for Republicans.

Sexual Choices

Sunday, August 25th, 2013

Sexual depravity, like violence, was the natural state of the pagan world, with temple prostitution and human sacrifice going hand-in-hand. Even in the Bible, some of the greatest of men allowed their sexual urges to make fools and sinners of them. The Israelites, fresh out of Sinai, were seduced by Moabite purveyors of sex. The Mishna states unequivocally that lust is one of three things that can destroy a person.

In spite of all that, in Judaism sex is regarded as something wonderful, positive, and a gift of God. Provided of course one accepts the limitations and disciplines that the Torah teaches are necessary to fully appreciate its sanctity. Indeed according to the majority opinion in Jewish law nothing is forbidden sexually between consenting and permitted partners.

But we live in a world where sex has become a pervasive, trivial release of human urges, no more significant than a sneeze. Sex has always been misused. But in our world we have reached new lows. Women and children are abused sexually in the most barbaric and inconceivable ways. And I am not talking about those parts of the world still suffering from oppressive male religious hypocrisy. Even in the strictest of religions, the tendency to exploit and sexually abuse women has time and again proved to be more powerful than the strongest of taboos. The availability of pornography at the click of a Google search is a blight on civilization. It is the strongest argument for parental control of the internet.

If someone enjoys sadomasochism that is a private affair, and if consenting adults do whatever they feel like that is also a matter of privacy. Similarly, Christians and Muslims are free to try to convert me, and I am free to tell them to get lost. I know I am constantly being bombarded by adverts, overt and subliminal, all trying to manipulate me to buy something. But if I am mature enough I can withstand such pressures religious or profane.

When society seems to be losing its sense of sexual values, it is natural that some, religious or not, want to hold the line somewhere and preserve a comfort zone. All societies go through cycles of permissiveness, followed by repression, followed by relaxation. Often the way they do this is by falling back on standards that they believe once worked (even if they did not, or the circumstances were entirely different).

Many moderns look at Jewish laws that forbid sex during a woman’s period and give her time to recover as both primitive and unrealistic. But tradition can argue that, on the contrary, a voluntary form of abstinence enhances a relationship. Of course sexuality and how one treats it very subjective and personal, and no system works for everyone. But in my opinion, and as I have experienced it, it respects the right of the woman to decide how her body measures its rhythms. It respects her space. Again I stress that my experience tells me that periodic abstinence helps maintain the excitement of intimacy, which in too many relationships becomes mundane, loses its passion, and withers. There is lot to be said in favor of self-discipline.

I should stress that I have no idea if this is why we have these laws, but I do know I can see the benefits, whether intended or not. We live in an era of self-indulgence. The more spoilt you are the less you appreciate physical pleasure. You take it for granted, and the more addicted you are to instant gratification, the more you run the risk of needing constant stimulation. It’s like any addiction.

Traditional communities struggle to maintain values that they believe enhance life while in the world around them they are accused of being old fashioned. In a liberal society we believe in choices and freedoms. But the same rights must be extended to those who make other choices provided of course they do not interfere with others.

Currently a Conservative synagogue in Los Angeles, with a large Persian membership, is the center of a storm over the issue of gay and lesbian marriage. Most of the community embraces the decision of its rabbi to perform religious marriages for same-sex couples. A traditional minority has balked. It wants to adhere to traditional Jewish attitudes which insist that Kiddushin, the religious sanctification of a union, should conform to traditional requirements. You cannot say “According to Law of Moses and Israel” if it is not.

Denmark Bans Meatballs to Accommodate Muslims

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

One of the largest hospitals in Denmark has admitted to serving only halal beef — meat that is slaughtered in accordance with strict Islamic guidelines — to all of its patients regardless of whether or not they are Muslim.

The revelation that Danes are being forced to eat Islamically slaughtered meat at public institutions has triggered a spirited nationwide debate about how far Denmark should go to accommodate the estimated 250,000 Muslim immigrants now living in the country.

The halal food row erupted in July when the Danish tabloid Ekstra Bladet reported that Hvidovre Hospital near Copenhagen has been secretly serving only halal-slaughtered meat for the sake of its Muslim patients, for the past ten years. The hospital serves more than 40,000 patients annually, many (if not most) of whom presumably are non-Muslim.

Halal — which in Arabic means lawful or legal — is a term designating any object or action that is permissible according to Islamic Sharia law. In the context of food, halal meat is derived from animals slaughtered by hand according to methods stipulated in Islamic religious texts.

One such halal method, called dhabihah, consists of making a swift, deep incision with a sharp knife on the neck that cuts the jugular vein, leaving the animal to bleed to death. Much of the controversy involving halal stems from the fact that Sharia law bans the practice of stunning the animals before they are slaughtered. Pre-slaughter stunning renders the animals unconscious and is said to lessen their pain.

Amid a surge of public outrage over the decision to serve only halal beef, Hvidovre Hospital’s vice president, Torben Mogensen, has been unapologetic. “We have many patients from different ethnic backgrounds, which we must take into account, and it is impossible to have both the one and the other kind of beef,” he says.

“First,” Mogensen adds, “I do not think that a slaughter method as such has anything to do with faith. Second is, of course, that all chickens in Denmark are halal slaughtered, and it has to my knowledge not caused anyone to stop eating chicken.”

Mogensen also says the hospital is not trying to “push the Islamic faith down the throats of non-Muslim patients”

In a press release, Hvidovre Hospital states, “We introduced halal meat both for practical and economic reasons. It would be both more difficult and more expensive to have to make both a halal version and a non-halal version of the dishes. Then we have two production lines. It requires more people, more equipment and more money.”

The hospital advises non-Muslims to take it or leave it: “We always have alternatives to halal meat such as pork, fish or vegetarian dishes. It is a question of attitude.”

According to the Danish Broadcasting Corporation, there is no comprehensive inventory of the number of hospitals in Denmark have halal meat on the menu. But officials at the University Hospital in Aarhus, the second-largest urban area in Denmark after Copenhagen, say the decision by Hvidovre Hospital to serve only halal is an example of political correctness run amok.

In an interview with the newspaper Jyllands-Posten, Ole Hoffmann, the head chef of Aarhus University Hospital says: “We have never had a patient ask for halal meat, and therefore it is an issue that we have never discussed. I think it is a strange decision. If there was a desire to serve halal meat, then we would of course consider it, but we would never completely eliminate non-halal meat.”

 

Originally published at Gatestone Institute.

Don’t Just Stand There, Get Out your Candles!

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

The cards seem to be falling, almost as planned. Our Arab neighbors asked the international anti-Israel organization, otherwise known as the United Nations, for recognition in their efforts to delete Israel from the world map. They approached the number one warrior, General Assembly, who consulted with his Defense cabinet, the Security council, which vetoed the idea, realizing the negative consequences. So the General decided to go it alone. As such, Palestine was created by General Assembly and his friends.

The key word in that last sentence is, of course, “created.” From scratch. Because it never really existed. At least, not as an Arab entity. So, we’re going back to the days of “Creation” when God created the heavens, the earth, and of course, now, palestine. Israel did as expected. The UN’s greatest nemesis declared parts of “Palestine” to actually be part of Israel.

Actually, everyone already knew that the four and a half mile area labeled E1 is as much part of Israel as is Tel Aviv. The land, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, extending to Ma’aleh Adumim, is as Jewish as Rye bread. Well, almost everyone. Jodi Rudoren, in the NY Times, labels the area “contentious.” Others call this “illegal Israeli settlement.”

Then again, what is considered “Israeli settlement” in “conquered” “Palestinian” land? Again, Ms. Rudoren serves as a faithful messenger of world opinion. Writing about “East Jerusalem,” she mentions neighborhoods such as French Hill, Ramot. Also, Har Homa, Givat HaMatos, and Pisgat Zeev.

Not too long ago, when VP Biden visited Israel, the White House flipped over when it was announced that some 1,500 new apartments would be built in Ramat Shlomo, also classified a “settlement.” The plan was quickly scrapped. Until yesterday.

Of course, anyone who has ever visited Jerusalem knows that these are all normal neighborhoods in Israel’s capitol city. Any thought of “withdrawal” from Ramot or French Hill or Ramat Shlomo is about as far-fetched as whatever your head can come with.

The resulting uproar, from Israel’s front and backyard, was expected. After all, who cares that just north of us, a desperate Arab mass murderer is arming chemical weapons for use on “rebels.” If the wind’s blowing in the right direction, maybe some of the gas will float over (God forbid) into “enemy territory.”

But that takes back seat to Jewish imperialism and expansionism. Ambassadors are being recalled. Israeli envoys are being scolded. And Israeli political leftists are decrying Netanyahu’s outrageous move. Ha’aretz newspaper: Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says he was dismayed by Israel’s “offending” response to the “extraordinary courage” shown by President Obama’s Administration in their defense of Israel at the United Nations. “I was utterly surprised,” he said.”

Ok, so what’s next? It seems that the whole world is against us. Again. There are those who suggest that Obama and the Europeans will “use this” against our attempts to end Iran’s nuclear threat.

What should Israel do next? Buckle under to world pressure or tell them all to jump in the lake?

In a few days we begin celebrating Hanukkah, the festival of lights. During the days of the Maccabees, there was tremendous pressure on the Jews to fold to Greek pressure, and assimilate into Hellenistic culture. The Maccabees refused, declaring war on this attempt to spiritually destroy Judaism. Then too, the few fought the many. And they won. As such, we celebrate Hanukkah, marking eight days with candles lit every evening. There were many miracles. A tiny drop of pure olive oil lasted for eight days. And the military victory was no less a Divine phenomenon.

As we approach these festive days of wonder, again finding ourselves being oppressed by the “Greeks” of today, once more, we should show our independence. Every day during Hanukkah, another seed should be planted. For example, the first night, we should be given permits allowing us to move back into Beit HaMachpela in Hebron. The second night, permits should be issued returning the “Shalhevet neighborhood” – the area of the old Arab market, to Hebron’s Jewish community. Etc. Etc.

Not only in Hebron, but throughout Judea and Samaria. And in Jerusalem. Three thousand new apartments should be transformed into 30,000 new apartment buildings. And let’s not forget: Netanyahu should announce plans to rebuild Gush Katif, thereby ending, once and for all, rocket attacks into Israel.

Touching the Opposite Sex

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

I hate the term and have no clue how that term came into being. I don’t think it is even used in Charedi circles at all. Shomer Negiah – meaning guarding against touching the opposite sex – implies that physical contact between the sexes is some sort of Chumra. That according to the strict letter of the law, it is completely permitted.

That is not true. With the exception of parents (and according to many opinions siblings), it is against Halacha for men and women to have any physical contact with each other unless they are married. While there are Halachic opinions about whether platonic contact is permitted, certainly any contact that is sexual in nature is not permitted by anyone.

When young people say they are Shomer Negiah they usually mean that they do not touch members of the opposite sex in the context of dating – where holding hands for example is a lot more than platonic touching. And certainly it applies to things like kissing and more aggressive forms of touching that are completely sexual in nature.

The thing is that being Shomer Negiah really means that one is following Halacha. It is just as Assur to hold hands with your girlfriend as it is having a glass of milk with your roast chicken. And yet there are Orthodox students who will casually say that they are not Shomer Negiah as though they are saying that they are not Machmir on something like Chalav Yisroel.

I think most religious high school students realize that. And yet this is how Shomer Negiah is treated. Like a Chumra that many do not observe.

Bearing all this in mind I found an article in the Forward about being Shomer Negiah on college campuses very intriguing. I was very happy to see that there are many Orthodox Jewish students  who attend secular universities that are very careful about these things. It was also gratifying to see that many non Jews or secular Jews are very understanding and supportive of them.

On the other hand I also found that some students who were Shomer Negiah gave it up as they made their way through the four years of college. And there are also many people who ridicule such strictures in 21st century America. After all non marital sex is about as common and as American as apple pie.

What is interesting for me is that even those who are meticulous about keeping this Halacha, acknowledge the difficulty in doing so in a culture that glorifies ‘hooking up’. That is indeed one of the ‘highlights’ of the campus life in an ‘away from home’ university.

Human nature is what it is. For the majority of mankind the libido (sex drive) is a very powerful force. Temptations to satisfy that drive are often very difficult to overcome. Being in an environment where both sexes interact socially and encourages sexual freedom is no place to be if one wants to guard themselves from temptation.

That said, of course it can be done. And is. Which is to the credit of those who do. Like Chana Lavaddin, a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania. Of course it helps to have a support system like the one at Penn where I am told there are many Orthodox students who for the most part have an on campus Orthodox social structure  complete with a Rabbi, Minyanim and Sedorim for Torah study.

But even with that resisting temptation is not easy when one considers that one will inevitably be involved with others (both teacher and students) who do not understand our religious values and often challenge them. Or even ridicule them. Which means that in some cases Orthodox students go in observant of these Halachos and come out not observant of them.  As was the case with another student, Jordan Katz. She called it evolving. And explained her reasons in the Forward article.

The fact is that the sex drive is hard to control even under the best of circumstances. Even in sex segregated environments like YU and Stern.  Not only that but even the most religious people in the world can succumb to temptation as did one Rosh HaYeshiva that I know about in Israel who ended up having an affair with a married woman.

Even if we go back to the era of the sages – the Gemarah tells us time and again about how certain sages were tempted and how difficult it was for them to overcome those temptations.If I recall correctly there is a Gemarah that says something to the effect that the greater the individual – the greater the temptation and the harder it is to resist.

Which is why the Gemarah also says “Ain Apitropus L’Arayos”. There is no real way to guard against sexual temptation. I think this is why Chazal built so many safeguards into our daily lives. It was to try and minimize temptation as much as possible.

That said, one can go too far with anything and there are certain segments of society that take these laws and extend them way beyond all reason. To the point where it becomes counterproductive.  It’s all about balance. Not extremes.

The concept of Ain Apitropus L’Arayos is real, however, and does not go away just because some people misuse it in the extreme.

Which is why I am opposed to co-ed high schools as a rule. (Although I admit that there is a place for such schools in some circumstances.) And why I support Yeshiva University and Stern as the best way to be balanced about these things. That is not to say that there aren’t problems there too. Every approach has problems attached to it.  The point is that in an ideal world one must neither be isolated from – nor blindly immersed in our sexually permissive culture.

In any case, the Forward article gives us some valuable insight as to what campus life is really like from the perspective of Orthodox students and is well worth reading.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

No IDF Soldier Involved in Killing of Ax Wielding Arab

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

IDF Spokesperson Lt. Ella Barzilai released the following statement:

“In the past couple of hours there have been several claims that IDF soldiers caused the death of an axe-wielding Palestinian. Just to clarify, no IDF soldiers were involved in the incident. For more details, get in touch with the Shin Bet’s spokesman.”

The Jewish Press, which originally reported the killing, has now changed its headline to suggest it was Israeli GSS agents who did the killing.

Better late than never. Unless, of course, the GSS spokesperson is working on a hurried email announcemnet as we speak.

Reality Check: Palestine Will Remain a Non-Existent State

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Almost to the day last Thursday, in 1988, I stood in a large hall in Algeria and saw Yasir Arafat declare the independence of a Palestinian state. And that was forty-one years, almost to the day, after the U.N. offered a Palestinian state in 1947. Twelve years ago Israel and the United States officially offered a Palestinian state as part of a compromise at deal in the Camp David summit of 2000. Arguably, despite all their errors, the Palestinian movement has made progress since those events, though it is not very impressive progress. Yet in real terms there is no real Palestinian state; the movement is more deeply divided than at any time in its history; and the people aren’t doing very well.

Now the U.N. has given Palestine the status of a non-member state. The only thing that will change is to convince people even more that they are following a clever and successful strategy. They aren’t.

Perhaps in 24 or 41 years there will actually be a Palestinian state.

There are two ways to respond to the General Assembly’s likely vote to so designate a state of Palestine. One of them is outrage at the absurdity of how the international system behaves. The other would be to dismiss the gesture as meaningless, even more than that, as something that will even further delay the day that a real, functioning state comes into existence.

Certainly, there are threats and dangers, for example the use by Palestine of the International Court. Or one could look at this as another step on the road to a final, I mean comprehensive, solution to the issue. Yet over all, I’ll go for disgusted and cynical as the most accurate responses.

Let’s start with disgusted. In 1993, the PLO made an agreement whose very basis was that a Palestinian state would only come into existence as a result of a deal made with Israel. Instead, the Palestinian side refused to make such a compromise and broke its commitments repeatedly. The ultimate result was Yasir Arafat’s refusal to accept a Palestinian state with its capital in the eastern part of Jerusalem both at the 2000 Camp David meeting and a few months later when President Bill Clinton made a better, and final, offer.

I have just this minute come from an interview with a very nice journalist who asked me, “But doesn’t Israel want everything and offer nothing in return.” What was most impressive is the fact that he had no personal hostility or any political agenda. (You’d understand if I identified the person and his newspaper but I’m not going to do that.) This conclusion was simply taken as fact. He was astonished to hear that another perspective even existed.

My first response was to point down the street two corners to the place where a bus was blown up in 1995 and right next to it where a suicide bomber had killed about a dozen pedestrians around the same time. This was the result of risks and concessions that Israel had voluntarily undertaken in trying to achieve peace. And, I added, it was possible to supply a long list of other examples.

So despite Israel taking risks and making concessions, the Palestinian Authority rejected peace. Thursday, the same group was recognized by the U.N. as a regime governing a state. Moreover, this is a body that is relentlessly begging Hamas, a group that openly calls for genocide against both Israel and Jews, to join it.

Hamas, of course, ran for office without accepting the Oslo agreement (a violation of it) and then seized power in a coup. Since then it has rained rockets and missiles on Israel. In other words, although it is unlikely to happen, in a few months Hamas might become part of the official government of this non-member state of the U.N.

Yet complaining about the unfairness of international behavior or the treatment of Israel, like complaining about one’s personal fate, doesn’t get you anywhere. It is cathartic to do so but then one must move on to more productive responses.

The second issue is whether it will really matter. Yes it entails symbolism, yes it will convince the Palestinians they are getting something when the course they have followed ensures they get pretty close to nothing. But, to use a Biblical phrase, it availeth them not. On the contrary, to coin a phrase, this move “counter-matters,” that is it is a substitute for productive action that actually detracts from the real goal.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/rubin-reports/un-palestine-is-now-a-non-member-state-reality-palestine-will-continue-to-be-a-non-existent-state/2012/12/02/

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