Jews of every age and religious denomination across Israel celebrated the holiday of Lag Ba’Omer Wednesday night lighting bonfires and celebrating. The holiday commemorates the end of a plague which decimated thousands in Eretz Israel in the Second Century. The day is also accepted as the yahrzeit of Talmudic sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.
Posts Tagged ‘Eretz Israel’
Throughout history political systems have come to an end when citizens of countries lose faith in them. The state of Israel has not had to face this situation in the extreme, but it has been challenged by so-called “post-Zionism.” Among the themes derogatory towards Israel are that Zionism — the movement of Jewish self-determination which led to the establishment of the state of Israel — is a colonial enterprise; that a Jewish state is by nature undemocratic; that it is basically immoral as it was founded on the domination, or even the ouster — by force and other means — of another people; that the creation of Israel caused a catastrophe for Palestinian Arabs; that Israeli occupation of disputed territory is a violation of human rights; that Israel is an imperialistic power and a threat to world peace.
This criticism is deficient in many respects. It is a quaintly insular view of Israel — a country in a world of globalization and complex interdependence, confronted by continual hatred so that it must always be prepared to defend itself. Its proponents are singularly naïve in their expectations of a perfect social and politically egalitarian, secular society, and are guilty of prejudice against devout religious believers in a way they are not toward followers of other faiths. Moreover, these critics misunderstand Zionism, a word coined by Nathan Birnbaum in 1891, which in fact includes a pluralistic variety of approaches.
What particular aspects of the different views of Zionism are unacceptable to the critics? Do they want to eliminate the state of Israel? Proponents of Zionism saw that Jews in the Diaspora had been excluded from world history, and so believed it was necessary to establish a state for the Jewish people as a national unit. The Israeli Declaration of Independence speaks of “the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate like other nations.” Advocates varied about the solution: “territorialists” wanted any suitable areas including Uganda where persecuted Jews might go; others demanded a state in Palestine or Eretz Israel [the Biblical Land of Israel]; practical Zionists proposed settlements; others urged a solution by political and diplomatic means; socialists disputed with the political right; nationalists disagreed with internationalists, and the religious coexisted with the free-thinkers.
The post-Zionists argue that Zionism is a colonialist concept essentially founded on injustice towards the local Arabs, and that the differences in Israel now in status, income, and rights between Jews and Israeli Arabs means that the state is therefore undemocratic. The logical conclusion for these critics would be that Israel would be more democratic if it were less Jewish. Herzl and many others would have disagreed with this conclusion. He wrote in his diary in1895 that Jewish settlement would bring immediate benefits to the land, and that “we shall respectfully tolerate persons of other faiths and protect their property, their honor, and their freedom with the harshest means of coercion.”
The fundamental external reality — which seems to escape those who challenge the legitimacy of Israel — is that many Arab countries and Palestinians, having warred and engaged in constant hostility, still refuse to recognize Israel’s legitimacy. Necessarily, security is vital; the problem is to what extent should this interfere with Arab claims to the land and rights? The present mainstream view is that a secure Israel is better than a territorially extended one.
Certainly a variety of opinions exist within Israel on the nature of the economy and the free market, on the cultural identities that make up the mosaic of its society, and on the inequalities both within the Jewish community and between Jews and non-Jews. But to conclude that Zionism is a colonialist or racist movement is to go far beyond rational analysis, and to touch on the periphery of antisemitism.
Although attitudes toward the Arabs in the territory differ, there has never been any official policy to expel them from the territory. In spite of this, Israel’s critics persist in the allegation that Zionism has promoted this view. They are mistaken in this belief as they are in their aversion to the exercise of Israeli power to defend itself, while at the same time shirking any realistic alternative proposals.
The main assertions of critics are that Israel is too nationalistic — that it should no longer be a Jewish state but rather a democratic one, implying an incompatibility between the two; and that Israel should end its occupation of captured territory, even as it stands threatened by many countries that have repeatedly announced they would like to displace it. These critics also conveniently ignore the continual Arab rejection of any compromise solution to the conflict and their repeated rejection of all partition proposals and resolutions. Post-Zionism tends to become anti-Zionism — the denial that Israel has a legitimate right to exist but comfortable with the right to exist of other newly-created states, such as Moldova, or Bangladesh.
On Saturday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak mocked two Likud ministers who criticized his plan to proceed with the evacuation and demolition of Ulpana Hill. His office released a statement saying that Ministers “Katz and Ya’alon must have contracted a severe case of ‘Feiglinism,’” adding, “We hope that, for the sake of the public and its elected representatives in the Knesset, it will turn out that this ‘Feiglinism’ isn’t contagious.”
Call the CDC, put the country on lockdown, it appears that at least in the area immediately surrounding the Ulpana Hill neighborhood, everybody has caught a very serious case of the Feiglinism.
One after another, Likud MKs who got up from the podium to speak to the very large crowd of members of the Likud Central Committee who were assembled to show solidarity with the local residents, paid homage to the new term and congratulated Moshe Feiglin, who was sitting right there by the same dais, on his tenacity in upholding the principles of Feiglinism.
JewishPress.com cornered Moshe Feiglin just before the beginning of the meeting and demanded to know his own definition of Feiglinism.
“Loyalty to the Land of Israel,” he answered without flinching. “If someone loyal to Eretz Israel is being accused of Feiglinism, then, thank God, I’ve been blessed with this honor.”
Then we asked what he thought the pragmatic options were for the locals. He became very serious, even grim, instantaneously.
“Look, I’m from the Likud,” he began. “We’re making every effort to forge a united front within the Likud against this insane plan to demolish a settlement in Eretz Israel. Regarding what to local residents will do – you should ask them. I’ve reiterated in several articles that it is prohibited to leave this place.”
We asked if he thought this time around Prime Minister Netanyahu, whom Feiglin had challenged several times for the party leadership, was on the side of the angels.
“I don’t know, I hope very much that he will be,” said Feiglin.
The 3 p.m. deadline for the evacuation of the newly-settled house in Hebron passed without implementation of the order.
No statement has been released by Defense Minister Ehud Barak or the Defense Ministry in the few hours since the ministry reiterated that the deadline was still in effect.
According to reports in major Israeli news outlets, Netanyahu had asked Defense Minister Ehud Barak to delay the eviction “to allow the settlers to pursue action through legal channels.” The request was later subject to much confusion, as the tenants were led to believe that Netanyahu had asked to revoke the order, while the Defense Ministry asserted that the Prime Minister simply requested that the tenants be permitted to prove their case to the authorities before the order is to be implemented.
“The Prime Minister’s request was misinterpreted. The order was not withdrawn,” a Defense Ministry statement said. “The settlers were given until 3 p.m. to prove what they need to prove. If they fail, the law will be enforced.” Still, sources in the Defense Ministry clarified that “additional considerations” are now being examined on how to perform the evacuation and at what time to implement it.
Shlomo Levinger, a resident of and spokesman for the house said that the house was legally acquired and all the documents to prove it have been given to the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria.
Nationalist MKs have offered their support of the Hebron house and its residents. Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz visited the house on Tuesday morning and helped put up a mezuza in the entryway. “If someone was disputing the legality of the purchase, it would be a different situation,” Katz said. “A decision on such a move should be undertaken by the government and not just by one ministry. Barak does not alone decide on evacuations.”
Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely also visited the house and said that the “Defense Minister cannot make political provocations concerning our right to Eretz Israel…The residents will Residents in celebrate the Passover Seder here, as well as many holidays to come.”
Meanwhile, Hebron’s mayor Khaled Osaily told Israel Army Radio that the purchase was a sham. “It’s all fake,” he said, “The person who sold the house to the settlers is not the owner.”
The Kashrut Dept. of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate published a warning on the eve of Tu B’Shvat, cautioning against eating some of the holiday’s traditional fruits. Figs are at the top of the list, because of concern regarding insects and worms which “hide inside the fruit’s flesh and are difficult to detect.”
Carobs are also listed as “highly infected” because of the way they are grown and stored. The Chief Rabbinate recommends washing the fruit well, checking it for holes, and even banging it against the tabletop, to make sure its insides don’t crumble easily – both being telltale signs of the presence of worms.
The holiday of Tu B’Shvat starts tonight, the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat, marking the New Year for Trees. It is celebrated by consuming the fruits which are indigenous to Eretz Israel according to the Torah.
A kabalistic custom calls for holding a Tu B’Shvat seder, in which participants eat ten local fruits and drink four cups of wine, the latter custom reminiscent of the Passover seder.
Until Jews began to return to Eretz Israel in 1948, noone thought of them as farmers. For nearly 2,000 years, we had been dispersed throughout the world, and in many places were not permitted to own land or engage in agriculture. But in ancient Palestine, we were an agricultural people. We treasured the olive tree, the grape vine and the date palm. The Bible encouraged us to plant “all manner of trees” and forbade the destruction of trees of a conquered land. On the first day of the seventh month, Rosh Hashanah we are judged and our fate for the coming year is inscribed in the Book of Life. So we are taught that trees are similarly judged on the New Year of the trees, which occurs on 15th day of Shevat (this year February 13), called Tu b’Shevat, considered the first day of spring in Israel. This semi-holiday has always been associated with tree planting. In ancient times, one planted a tree at the birth of a child
On the first day of the seventh month, Rosh Hashanah we are judged and our fate for the coming year is inscribed in the Book of Life. So we are taught that trees are similarly judged on the New Year of the trees, which occurs on 15th day of Shevat (this year February 13), called Tu b’Shevat, considered the first day of spring in Israel.
This semi-holiday has always been associated with tree planting. In ancient times, one planted a tree at the birth of a childcedar for a boy; cypress for a girl. Special care was given to these trees on Tu b‘Shevat, and when the children married, branches of their own trees were cut for the chupah (wedding canopy).
It is said that on 15th day of Shevat, the sap begins to rise in the fruit trees in Israel. So we partake of the fruits of the Land apples, almonds, carobs, figs, nuts, dates and pomegranates. The pious among us stay up very late on the eve of the holiday reciting passages from the Bible that deal with trees and the fertility of the earth. We read the
story of how trees and plants were created (Gen. 1:11-13); the Divine promise of abundance as a reward for keeping the Commandments (Lev. 26: 3-18; Deut. 8:10-13) and the parable of the spreading vine, which symbolizes the people of Israel (Ezek. 17).
Sephardic Jews have their own special manual entitled “The Fruit of the Goodly Tree.” It was first published in the Judeo-Spanish language, Ladino, in Salonica, composed by Judah Kala’i. Each verse is recited as the relevant fruits are eaten, and some of the verses translate as follows:
“G-d increase our worldly goods,And guard us soon and late,And multiply our bliss like seedsOf the POMEGRANATE.For our Redeemer do we waitAll the long night through,To bring a dawn as roseateAs the APPLE’s hue.Sin, like a stubborn shell and hardIs wrapped around our soul;Lord, break the husk and let the NUTCome out whole.
Each of the fruits has its own symbolic meaning. The rosy apple stands for G-d’s glowing splendor; thenut represents the three kinds of Jews hard, medium and soft. The almond stands for swift divine retribution, for it blossoms more quickly than other trees. The fig means peace and prosperity, and the humble carob stands for humility, a necessary element of penitence.
No religion has closer ties to agriculture and ecology than Judaism. In fact, Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakai once declared: “If you hold a sapling in your hand and hear that the Messiah has arrived, plant the sapling first and only then go and greet the Messiah.”
Dvora Waysman is an Australian-born writer living in Jerusalem. She is the author of nine books, including Woman of Jerusalem; The Pomegranat Pendant and Esther. She can be reached at email@example.com. Her website is: www.dvorawaysman.com