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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘England’

Olympic Opening Ceremonies and the Death Throes of a Civilization

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

I don’t think I was the only American weirded out on Friday by the bizarre “dancing nurses” segment at the opening ceremony for the 2012 London Olympics.  There were lots of children wriggling in hospital beds, and seemingly hundreds of nurses prancing around dressed in the garments of yesteryear.  It wasn’t clear what the artist was trying to say – and then the letters “NHS” burst out in glittering lights on the field.

Oh.  This is about the National Health Service.

[Pause.]

????????????

That realization was paired in my mind with the International Olympic Committee’s refusal to commemorate the 11 Israeli athletes killed by Yasser Arafat’s terrorists in Munich in 1972.  The IOC’s position is that it doesn’t want to “politicize” the games.

That position doesn’t hold up so well considering that 9/11 was commemorated at the opening ceremony of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.  In 1996, at the Summer Games in Atlanta, the IOC had a moment of silence at the closing ceremony for the victims of the Olympic Park bombing.

In 2010, at the Winter Games in Vancouver, there was a moment of silence during the opening ceremony for Georgian athlete Nodar Kumartashvili, who had died in an accident on a practice run just before the games began.

So in recent years, the Olympic authorities have commemorated the death of an Olympic athlete and the deaths of others in terrorist attacks, with a moment of silence each time in an opening or closing ceremony.  And guess what?  Last night, in the Olympic stadium, the victims of the 7/7 terrorist bombings in the London subway in 2005 were commemorated as part of the opening ceremony.  Granted, it was hard to catch; a photo montage was projected into the stadium during a lull in the prancing and acrobatics, but there was little narration to call it out.  I didn’t even notice it, and had to be told about it afterward by others who had seen it.

It is jarring to think of passing references being made to the victims of terrorism, sort of as part of the entertainment, during an event-palooza dedicated to performance and revelry.  The reason we usually have authorities solemnly asking for a moment of silence, at a carefully separated, showcased point in the proceedings, is that that’s what is appropriate for commemorating tragedy and sorrow.

But it was clearly important to the British planners to mention their dead from the 2005 terror attack in the opening ceremony.  So they did it.  For forty years, including this Olympics, no one has incorporated a commemoration of the 11 murdered Israeli athletes into an official Olympic ceremony.  Yet Olympic authorities have been assiduous about commemorating others.  Their relentless, determined failure to commemorate the Israelis in the same way is a failure to acknowledge the common humanity of Israeli Jews.

The opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympic Games couldn’t have been more stuffed with politics if it had been a bell pepper.  The Republic of Taiwan was required to march as “Chinese Taipei,” although of course that is not what the Taiwanese call their nation.  There is no nation of Palestine, yet athletes walked under a “Palestinian” flag and were announced as “Palestine.”  The “quirky” performance segment of the ceremony involved numerous references to political events in the history of Great Britain, including, of course, the paroxysm of pagan worship, complete with cavorting women, for the National Health Service.  It was a really, really political night; if a commemoration for the murdered Israeli athletes might have been “political,” that would only have guaranteed that it would fit right in.

Watching the ceremony last night, I had a profound sense of sadness for the hollow revelry.  There was no dignified memorializing of the greatness, uniqueness, and courage of Britain’s past.  There was “irreverent, idiosyncratic” entertainment, and a very long segment of writhing self-abasement before the shibboleth of socialized medicine.

We seemed to be looking last night at a moment frozen in time before a great upheaval, like the last days of lingering sunlight before World War I.  A civilization based on entertainment and ritual political worship is headed for a fall.  But then, a civilization that singles out some humans, like Israeli Jews, to show less care for – less solidarity with – is a weak and unsustainable one.  Nothing else will go right with it.

Jewish Groups Sharply Condemn Church of England’s Endorsement of Anti-Israel Program

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

The main representative body of British Jewry lambasted the Church of England’s General Synod for endorsing an “inflammatory and partisan” anti-Israel program “at the expense of its interfaith relations.”

The Synod on Monday overwhelmingly passed a motion to support “the vital work” of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The program brings church volunteers to “the West Bank to experience life under occupation” and “monitor and report human rights abuses” for a period of three to four months. As part of the program, participants are encouraged to lobby on behalf of the Palestinian cause upon their return.

Vivian Wineman, President of The Board of Deputies of British Jews, released a sharply worded statement on Tuesday condemning the Church of England’s move: “Justifying its decision using the views of marginal groups in Israel and the UK, the Synod has ridden rough shod over the very real and legitimate concerns of the UK Jewish community, showing a complete disregard for the importance of Anglican-Jewish relations.

“Unsurprisingly its graduates return with simplistic and radical perspectives, giving talks against Israel which do nothing to promote an understanding of the situation in the Middle East, much less promote a peaceful and viable solution to its problems. Members of Jewish communities across the country have suffered harassment and abuse at EAPPI meetings and yet Synod has completely dismissed their experiences.”

Wineman went on to deride the Church for its sanctimony and expressed concern for the latent anti-Semitism that was exposed in the run-up to the vote, saying: “The Jewish community does not need lessons from the Anglican Church in justice and peace, themes which originated in our tradition. Moreover, to hear the debate at Synod littered with references to ‘powerful lobbies’, the money expended by the Jewish community, ‘Jewish sounding names’ and the actions of the community ‘bringing shame on the memory of victims of the Holocaust’, is deeply offensive and raises serious questions about the motivation of those behind this motion.”

A statement on the website of the Israeli embassy in the UK said: “We are deeply disappointed that General Synod has endorsed the work of a highly partisan organisation. Christians face rising persecution across the region and yet, by supporting this group, the Church of England has chosen to amplify one-sided voices and to single out Israel – the only country where Christian rights are enshrined and the Christian population is growing.

“We share the concerns of all those within the Church of England who opposed this resolution as being misguided and undermining hopes for genuine understanding and reconciliation.”

This is not the Church of England’s first foray into anti-Israel initiatives, with a high-profile vote in February 2006 that resolved to disinvest from companies whose products are used by the Israeli government in Judea and Samaria.

JTA contributed to this report

England Players to Visit Auschwitz, Meet Survivors

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

The players on England’s Euro 2012 soccer squad will visit the Auschwitz death camp when they travel to Poland for the European Championship.

The final tournament of the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship, or Euro 2012, will be hosted by Poland and the Ukraine between June 8 and July 1, 2012.

England’s players will go to Auschwitz before their opening game against France. They will sign the museum’s guest book and light a candle of remembrance on the train tracks at Birkenau.

Other team members will visit Oskar Schindler’s factory in Krakow, where the gentile owner helped save more than a thousand Jewish lives. Some senior players and staff will meet with Holocaust survivor Zigi Shipper and meet weightlifting champion Ben Helfgott, another survivor.

The English Football Association and the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET) have partnered to produce an educational program on the Holocaust for all secondary schools and colleges in England.

“This educational partnership brings together the important work of teaching future generations about the horrors of the Holocaust, using the ability of football to interest and engage young people,” said Football Association chairman David Bernstein.

Europe’s Wrongheaded Austerity Policies

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Austerity — what governments are currently experiencing in Europe – can be a bad thing. It is a well-known basic economic theory that when politicians try to slash the government budget by taxing citizens rather than by cutting government expenditure, they only harm the economy, which results in less tax income and worsens the situation. In the early 1970s, economist Arthur Laffer visualized it by drawing a curve on a napkin, indicating that from a certain point on, higher taxes result in less government income. When taxes are raised even further, the economy begins to contract.

A typical example can currently be seen in the Netherlands. The country’s economy has not grown in the last three quarters. Pressured by the European Union, austerity policies were introduced in 2010. Last April, the government fell when the Freedom Party of Geert Wilders refused to back a new austerity package of €11.5 billion, of which only €4 billion was to come from cutting expenditures and €7.5 billion was expected to come from raising taxes. The new austerity round was nevertheless imposed by the EU, which insisted that the Netherlands trim its budget deficit to 3% of BBP in 2013. Geert Wilders was right to have refused to go along with the latest plans. Not only will the amount of €7.5 billion in new taxes in all likelihood not be reached, but the Dutch economy will be hampered even more.

Last January, Standard & Poor’s warned the Netherlands that its credit rating could be lowered if its growth kept declining. S&P warned that the Dutch austerity policies risked “becoming self-defeating, as domestic demands fall in line with consumers’ rising concerns about job security and disposable incomes, eroding national tax revenues.”

Geert Wilders’ party is expected to do well in next September’s general elections. The electorate agrees with his rejection of the austerity package. Like Mr. Wilders, it blames the EU authorities in Brussels for imposing these policies on the Netherlands.

The same phenomenon can be seen all over Europe, with electorates in revolt against EU-imposed austerity everywhere. The rising unpopularity of governments that are trying to cut back their deficits has worried the IMF. Earlier this month, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said that the IMF is aware that fiscal austerity holds back growth and that the effects are worse in an economic downturn. This is, however, only a half-truth. As no one, not even the state, can indefinitely continue to spend more money than he receives, cutting government expenditure – hence austerity – is badly needed. The problem is that the austerity policies are targeting not the institution which is living beyond its means — namely the government — but the taxpayers. As Europeans are already suffering tax levels that are almost twice as high as those in the U.S., it is only natural that the voters are in revolt.

The irony is that the austerity policies of the past years have been imposed at the behest of the unelected liberal, leftist authorities in Brussels on center-right governments in the EU member states. The electorates are punishing their center-right governments by voting in center-left politicians who promise to end the austerity policies and “tax the rich” — a course that will make matters even worse.

The Dutch are lucky to have Geert Wilders; but the French, who lack an equivalent of Mr. Wilders, quite understandably voted President Nicolas Sarkozy out because they disagreed with his austerity policy. However, they voted the Socialist François Hollande in, who will undoubtedly only heighten the problem.

The same phenomenon can be witnessed in the United Kingdom. Two years ago, the Conservative David Cameron managed to oust Labour. Today, polls predict that if elections were to be held now, Labour would beat the Conservatives with a margin of 10%. David Cameron is fortunate that Labour leader Ed Miliband is unpopular or the margin might be even larger.

What did Cameron do wrong? He, too, made tax payers pay for austerity. One of the first things Mr. Cameron did was to raise Britain’s top tax rate to 50%. The result was that the tax revenue from Britain’s highest income group fell. Another thing Cameron did was to raise sales taxes. VAT – or Value Added Tax – rose from 17.5 to 20%, the highest level ever, as part of Cameron’s effort to bring down the country’s budget deficit.

Lockerbie Bomber Dies in Libya

Monday, May 21st, 2012

A former Libyan intelligence officer sentenced to life in prison for his role in bombing Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, has died in a Libyan prison.  He was 60.

Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, was sentenced to life in prison for the December 21, 1988 bombing of the transatlantic flight from London to New York in which 270 people were killed – 259 on board and 11 people on the ground, including 189 Americans.

Megrahi was the only person convicted of the crime, though he maintained his innocence.  Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, another Libyan intelligence officer charged in the attack, was found not guilty.

Megrahi was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer in 2009 and released home to Libya from Scottish prison on compassionate grounds, leading to international accusations that British and Scottish oil interests led to the release.

Vatican Rep Wants Alliance With Jews, Muslims, to Combat Gay Marriage

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

A Vatican representative has issued a call for the world’s foremost religions to unite to take a stand against gay marriage.

Archbishop Antonio Mennini, the “Apostolic Nuncio” (Vatican representative) to Great Britain has proposed enlisting the help of all Christian denominations, as well as Jews and Muslims, to oppose the proposition of legalizing gay marriage in England.

In an address to Catholic bishops from England and Wales, Mennini warned against political and cultural influences forcing reforms on religion, and suggested an alliance with Jews and Muslims in order to combat the immorality of homosexual marriage.

“It seems to me that, concerning the institution of marriage, and indeed the sanctity of human life, we have much in common with the position of the Jewish community, the Chief Rabbi and many of the more significant representatives of Islam,” the Archbishop said, according to a report in Britains’s Telegraph newspaper.

Local Quakers, Buddhists, and members of the Pagan Federation have already publicly supported the right of religious leaders to decline to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies, although their position supports basic freedom of clergy members to reject or support the marriages.

Mennini’s comments come after a series of high-level discussions between Muslim and Jewish leaders and Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone, who is investigating the possibility of legalizing gay marriage in the UK.

For now, English and Scottish Muslim groups, imams, and councils have opposed the plan to legalize gay marriage, as has the head of the Network of Sikh Organisations.

Liberal and Reform synagogues, on the other hand, have expressed support for same-sex marriages.  Rabbis in the main United Synagogues have come out against the proposal.  Soon-to-be-retired Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks has not come out publicly against the measure, but friend and advisor Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet of Mill Hill United Synagogue in north London called the potential legislation an “assault” on religious values.

Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark told the Telegraph that while no official contact has yet been made between the Catholic Church and Jewish groups, “We will work with anyone who agrees with us that to redefine marriage is not a good thing for society and will lead to more confusion.”  He added that the Church of England is onboard with the Catholic Church’s position.

Ours Is To Question Why…

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

“And Aaron and his sons did all of these things that Hashem commanded through Moshe.” – Vayikra 8:36

After a long and detailed description of the avodah (service) to be done in the Mishkan, the parshah ends with statement that “Aaron and his sons did as they were told.”

Rashi seems to be bothered by the fact that this is obvious. Of course Aaron and his sons did what Hashem told them to do. Why does the Torah see fit to mention it? He answers that it is a statement of praise: they didn’t veer off to the right or to the left.

This Rashi is difficult to understand. It doesn’t seem like he answered his question. Of course Aaron didn’t veer off to the left or the right. This was the avodah in the Mishkan he was performing! The directives came straight from Hashem. Could he possibly think that he knew better than Hashem how to perform them? And if that wasn’t reason enough, the punishment for a kohen deviating in the service is death.

Imagine a man working with high voltage electrical equipment. He has been given clear safety instructions. Make sure the power is off before you switch on the transformer. Make sure you are wearing protective gloves and you are grounded. Wouldn’t we expect him to follow every nuance because of the danger involved?

So what type of praise is it that Aaron followed orders?

The answer to this question can be best understood with an example.

The story is told about an Englishman who visited a farm in Texas in the 1880s. As he approached the ranch, he saw a cowboy herding the cows. He approached and, using an expression common in England then, asked for the man’s boss by saying, “Is your master home?” The cowboy put both hands on his hips and proclaimed, “The son of a gun ain’t been born yet.”

This anecdote is illustrative of a very human trait: we don’t like to be bossed around. In fact, we hate it. I’ll gladly help you, I’ll do anything for you – but ask nicely. Boss me around and forget it. I’m out of here.

This isn’t just a quirk of human nature – it’s a direct outgrowth of man’s inherent greatness.

In the Image of Hashem

Chazal explain that when the Torah tells us Hashem created man in His image, this isn’t merely an expression. Man is both the reason for all of existence and the maintainer of it. Everything physical has a spiritual counterpart sustaining it. Hashem put man into the role of being the one who upholds the spiritual level of the world. His actions, deeds, and thoughts build the upper worlds and sustain the lower worlds. Our eyes may not be attuned to it, but man is the maintainer of physicality. He is more significant than we can ever imagine, more important than anything we can envision. He is a little creator.

While this greatness of soul allows man to reach dizzying heights, it also comes with a liability. It is very difficult for us to follow orders. Even if we know they’re right. Even if we know they’re good for us. Even if those orders are given by the greatest of all greats, by the Creator of the heavens and the earth. We don’t like taking orders. And as strange as it sounds, it is difficult for us to accept commands and directives.

Aaron was one of the greatest men who ever lived, and he had a high and lofty sprit. As such, it should have been very difficult for him to follow orders. For him to “do as he was told” should have been very hard. Nevertheless, it wasn’t. Because he was very humble, he was able to recognize his greatness and act in a bold and innovative manner when called for – yet accept that Hashem was in charge. As great as he was, he was but a servant in front of his Master. He had overcome one of the paramount challenges to man – recognizing his greatness while remaining humble.

Understanding this balance is critical for our growth. The Torah wasn’t given to robotic people who follow blindly without understanding. The Torah was given to us, and we are expected to ask questions. We are expected to delve into the reasoning behind things. We are obligated to strain our minds to understand whatever we can. And yet we are expected to yield to the superior wisdom of our Creator and humbly submit to His directives.

Our is to question why, and yet ours is to do or die.

The new Shmuz book “Stop Surviving and Start Living,” is available in stores, at www.TheShmuz.com, or by calling 866-613-TORAH (8672).

Dr. Pepper Not Kosher – In Israel

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

According to Kipa.co.il, Israel’s Chief Rabbinate instructed kashrut supervisors to remove the popular American drink Dr. Pepper from store shelves, on the grounds that it is not being supervised in Israel nor in London.

The Chief Rabbinate claims that, based on data provided by the Badatz in London, it appears that products made in England and imported to Israel under the name “Dr Pepper” are are not kosher.

“The product has a kosher sticker on it marked Kosher KLBD (Badatz London), but it has not actually received  their approval and therefore presenting it as kosher under their supervision is a serious forgery,” says a special warning issued  by the Chief Rabbinate.

 

UPDATE: While we first heard about this story on Kipa, it was apparently Rafi Goldmeier, the blogger ‘Life in Israel‘ that broke the story. Thanks to Rafi’s father for the shout-out letting us know.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/dr-pepper-not-kosher-in-israel/2012/02/28/

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