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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Holy Land’

Holy Land of Opportunity: North American Jews Finding Jobs in Israel

Monday, August 13th, 2012

Jews across America, in the privacy of their own computer screens, are scanning the internet for job opportunities which will enable them to make the leap toward life in Israel.

A recent advertisement for Nefesh b’Nefesh sent to Jewish Press readers garnered a whopping 5 times the average number of clicks in the first hour.  The message was clear: finding employment in Israel is a source of great interest for North American Jews.

Though many are stirred by the passions of either ancient or modern Zionism, often bolstered by deep-seated religious understandings about the centrality of Israel in the practice of a full and lustrous Judaism, the noble quest for a more meaningful life is no longer the only reason to make aliyah.

Tough Times in America, Good Going in Israel

The last few years have been hard for the American working man and woman.  Between 2009 and 2010, the US unemployment rate hovered around 10% of the population.  Appeals to Jewish charities and sympathetic money lending groups increased significantly, with rabbis in major American Jewish communities appealing to members to reduce spending on costs such as mishloach manot on Purim, and on weddings.

In late 2011 and early 2012, the unemployment rate in the US dropped to 8.2%.  Despite the signs of economic recovery, many American Jews could not help but notice that job opportunities in Israel were far greater – fluctuating between 5.8% and 7%, where it stands today, down from 10.4% in 2004.

In 2011, Israel was listed with the 57th lowest unemployment rate by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) World Factbook – the US was at 103.  A 2011 report by the Federation of the Israeli Economic Organizations showed that as the world economy sank along with world trade and global credit, the Israeli economy grew by 0.8% in 2009, and leapt up to 4.5% growth in 2010.

But American Jews were not the only ones to take notice of the depressed state of US economics and the contrasting growth and progress in Israel.  Immigration statistics published in April by the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS), a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, showed that the number of Israelis seeking to gain permanent residency in the US was at a record low in 2011 – just 3,826, down from nearly 6,000 in 2006, already in decline since the recession set in in 2008.  Moreover, Ella Saban, director of the department for returning Israelis at the Absorption Ministry, told the Jewish Daily Forward that since 2006 the number of expatriate Israelis returning to Israel has doubled and now stands at around 9,000 a year.

Over 100 foreign companies are invested in the little country via research and development facilities, including Google, Microsoft,  Applied Materials, Intel, British Telecom, Philips Medical, Sony, Fuji, Honda,  IBM, Cisco Systems, GE Healthcare, 3Com, Hewlett Packard, Motorola, Nestle, L’Oreal, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, and Kodak.  Together, as of 2009, they employ an estimated 35,000 Israelis.

With all that success on the part of foreign companies in Israel, Israelis still forge their own path in business.  As of 2011, the less-than 8 million citizens of Israel had 60 companies trading on the NASDAQ, the highest ranking nation on that listing except for China, population 1.3 billion, including Brainstorm Cell Therapeutics, Cimatron Limited, Elbit Medical Imaging, Comverse Technology, NICE Systems, OrganiTECH USA, Retalix, and Silicom (famed Israeli pharmaceutical company, Teva, transferred this year from the NASDAQ to the New York Stock Exchange).

The Three-Step Formula

Yet with such a load of opportunities available, the numbers of olim have not yet skyrocketed.   “People really want to come, but there’s this fear that they want to be certain or reasonably certain that they will be able to put food on the table for themselves and for their families,” Kim Ephrat, Associate Director of Employment at Nefesh B’Nefesh told The Jewish Press. “I think the fact that Israel has weathered the storm really well, and it’s sort of a snowball effect, the more people come, the more people are writing back home how well they’re doing,”

Nefesh B’Nefesh, which has spent the last 10 years helping North American and British olim with the technicalities of making aliyah, has developed what Ephrat calls a “three-step formula” for scoring in the Israeli job market.

First is networking.  “It’s what we all do naturally, it’s what we all do intuitively,” Ephrat said.  Ephrat emphasized the importance of using the internet, and especially recommended networking via LinkedIn (Nefesh B’Nefesh also has a LinkedIn aliyah board where it posts about 200 job listings a day gathered from over 2,000 employers).

Ze’ev Stub, founder of the popular Janglo community website for English-speakers in Israel, agreed that networking is key. His site features a powerful jobs “classifieds” section where employers and interested employees post daily about a wide range of positions across the country.  “The first rule in everything I’ve read or written about job searching is to network. Tell your friends what kind of job you are looking for, and keep your ears open,” Stub told the Jewish Press.

According to Ephrat, the second step is learning Hebrew.  She says, however, that while strong Hebrew skills are important for many jobs, conversational Hebrew is often sufficient.

Much of the work done in science and technology jobs is conducted in English, and “you don’t need especially strong Hebrew skills for it.  You need conversational Hebrew, to get the interview or sit in a staff meeting or converse with colleagues.”

Moreover, jobs in science, medicine, and technology are especially acclaimed in Israel, and expected to continue to increase.   “Israel is known as a high-tech capital of the world, high tech, biotech, clean tech, these are all fields that are cutting-edge in Israel and we are known for many, many cutting edge innovations, and there are many jobs for olim in this field, and it’s practical,” Ephrat said.

Indeed, the percentage of Israelis working in science and technology, and the amount spent on research and development in relation to gross domestic product (GDP), is among the highest in the world, with contributions in the fields of agriculture, genetics, electronics, computer science, optics, solar energy, and engineering.

Science and technology magazine Wired has called Tel Aviv the world’s second largest center for technology start-ups outside Silicon Valley, earning the metropolis the moniker “Silicon Wadi”.

Ephrat also said that the need for doctors and other medical professionals is high, and that anyone interested in converting their degrees for recognition in Israel would likely have an easy time finding a job.

She also noted that low-tech jobs, such as PR and marketing, are also in high demand, and that people who have no interest or skills in the high-tech sector should understand that they have a lot to offer – and gain.

Lastly, says Ephrat, it is important for job seekers to maintain flexibility.  “Flexibility as to realistic expectations what your first job is going to be, flexiblily as to how you’re going to adapt to the market, meaning using your skills in a way which is going to be most suitable to the Israeli market.  And possibility using hobbies and making them into money making ventures.  Using your creativity and using your chutzpah,” she said.

She noted with pride that many immigrants who made aliyah through Nefesh B’Nefesh have become entrepreneurs and returned to the organization to fill job openings.

“That’s exciting on so many different levels,” Ephrat said.   “It shows their integration into Israel, it shows their success – they’re looking to hire, and they’re coming back to us with a sense of loyalty with a sense of comradeship that we’re in this together, and they’re doing the sort of pay it forward – they have succeeded, and they want to help others succeed also.”

Successful Entrepreneurial Olim

Meyer Reich, who made aliyah in 2003, is just such a success story.  When he started a business in 2007 based on a platform to help businesses get their content noticed by search engines – RankAbove – he did not know that his aliyah from New York would earn Israel additional recognition in the field in which it is now becoming famous.

Wired magazine’s September issue features a list of 10 European cities that constitute important centers for high-tech activity, with each city on the list featuring 10 “hot” startups.  At the top of Tel Aviv’s list for 2012 – RankAbove.

“With regards to business/work life I was fortunate to come at a time that was not easy economically in Israel and was forced to improvise and make it work,” Reich told The Jewish Press.  “One thing led to another in terms of professional opportunities and I got to where I am today.”

“The advantage for entrepreneurs in Israel is tremendous since it’s a small country with fantastic welcoming people. Local entrepreneurs support each other and my contribution has been mainly through knowledge of the space that RankAbove has in our industry as well as my contacts in the US as an Oleh.”

In the end, the person who will succeed in Israel “is willing to take on challenges and willing to take on change, [a person] that’s driven by something that’s greater than knowing exactly what’s going to happen to them the next day,” Ephrat said.  “Really willing to take a risk to some extent and changing not only their environment but really changing most aspects of their lives.”

Yet, according to Janglo’s Stub, being an Anglo immigrant comes with advantages.  “Anglos come to the table with the attributes that Israelis are thirsty for – a natural sense for customer service, fairness, hard work, and politeness. In general, Israeli society wants itself to embrace those values more and more, even if it doesn’t always know how to,” Stub said.   “Israeli executives are secretly jealous of our politeness and willingness to work for the team, and respect that a lot.”

“The flipside of that is that nice Anglos can come off as vulnerable and naive to aggressive Israeli executives, and signs of weakness can open you up to abuse,” Stub said. “Like everything in life, you need a proper balance to succeed.”

While Stub touted his site as an excellent place to begin looking for the perfect job in Israel, he recommended taking it slow.  “Don’t go too crazy with your job hunt. Spend a few hours working on your job search every day, pray for divine assistance, and then let go,” Stub said.  “Now is your time to enjoy the treasures of Israel, while you aren’t cooped up behind a desk. If you can do that, not only will you enjoy your time more, but you’ll have a more “Israeli” mentality that will help you for the rest of your life in Israel.”

Despite his success, Reich’s praise of Israel extended far beyond his professional accomplishments.  “Truthfully, aliyah is one of the wisest moves my wife and I ever made,” Reich said.  “We feel that our children are being raised with a fantastic education and being given an opportunity for their future.”

Don’t Confuse Torah with Buddhism, My Friends

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

This blog should be a permanent post on the homepage of The Jewish Press, and people should read it every day to remind themselves who they really are as Jews and what real Judaism is all about.

Don’t try to brush it off by saying, “What does Fishman know – a former screenwriter from Hollywood?”

Get ready to hear the Torah explained by the greatest Torah teacher of them all – Moshe Rabeinu, as we begin his review of the Torah in the Book of Devarim.

As we approach Tisha B’Av, it is indeed a fitting time to take a new/old look at the Torah and at its eternal truths, which are as true for our time as they were in the times of Moshe Rabeinu. That’s one of the basic principles of the Torah – it doesn’t change.

Sometimes people ask me. “Why do you waste your time trying to teach Diaspora Jews, over and over again, that the Torah is meant to be kept in the Land of Israel, rather than in Brooklyn, Boca, or Beverly Hills?”

The answer is because I love them. When you love somebody, you want the best for them. Even if you saw a total stranger about to fall off a cliff, you’d scream out to warn him – all the more so regarding someone you love.

Now, there are those who say, “What do you mean ‘fall off a cliff?’ Jewish life is great here in Brooklyn and Boca!”

It may seem great to them now, but at the end of their wonderful 120 years in Brooklyn and Boca, when they get to the gates of the real Gan Eden, they are going to be surprised to learn that they have to return back to Earth and live life all over again until they finish their tikun. It won’t help them if they’ve learned the whole Talmud ten times over. They’ll have to go back for another reincarnation. Why? Because they, we, the whole Nation of Israel, were thrown into exile because we transgressed the Torah when we lived in the Holy Land long ago. So our rectification, atonement, and tikun is to return to the Land of Israel and keep the Torah, there, in the Land of Israel, the way it was meant to be kept. Souls are reincarnated over and over again until they get things straight. The lucky ones, that is. For those who aren’t giving the chance, when the Resurrection of the Dead comes around, their bodies will have to roll all the painful way through underground tunnels from their Diaspora graveyards to the Holy Land, because, as the Zohar explains, the Resurrection of the Dead only takes place in Israel.

As we mentioned in a previous blog, our Sages inform us that the roots for the Destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem were planted long before the Destruction itself, on the night the Spies in the Wilderness returned from their ill-fated mission and convinced the Jewish People not to journey on to live in the Promised Land. That night was the 9th of Av. Their rejection of the Land of Israel was the rotten foundation which brought about our later National Destruction as an independent Nation in our own Land.

Afterwards, stripped of our own Jewish Land and Israeli Nationhood, we became minorities in foreign lands. Up until the Destruction, the religion of the Jewish People was the Torah, a combination of Divine laws and commandments that covered our individuals lives and the life of the Jewish Nation, laws concerning the king, the Sanhedrin, the army of Israel, the Beit HaMikdash, national sacrifices, and the agricultural laws unique to The Holy Land. But when we were cast out of our Land, the Torah lost its earthy component, and our physical Nationhood ceased. Instead of being the Divine Constitution of our Nation, the Torah was reduced to moral teachings and a handful of individual commandments, like the bones of a large salmon at the end of the Shabbos morning Kiddush. That’s when “Judaism” started. Stripped of our own Land, and Israelite monarchy, our own Jewish Nationhood was lost. Exiled in other peoples’ countries, we were left with the few ritual precepts that we could still perform, like putting on tefillin, keeping kosher, learning Torah, and observing the Sabbath. Instead of being our National Constitution, the Torah was truncated into being just a religion without its many fundamental National, Political, and Geopgraphic obligations and demands.

Israeli Cherries Show up in Iranian Market

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

The sweetness of Israel has seeped into the lives of unsuspecting Iranians, in the form of cherries grown in the Holy Land, according to a report from Ynet.

Iran’s Mehr News Agency reported that the head of the Iranian produce association admitted the succulent berries featured in the Iranian market place were indeed Israeli.  Sold for $2.42 per kilo, they cost less than half of what they can fetch in Israeli grocery stores.

In May 2011, Deputy Iranian Trade Minister Hamid Safdel denied reports that Israeli apples and oranges were being imported by Tehran, stating “any kind of trade with the Zionists is forbidden… Since the inception of the Islamic Republic in 1979 no Zionist goods have been granted an import permit, even if they arrive through a third party.”

The Jewish Press to Serialize Tevye in the Promised Land

Friday, June 15th, 2012

In keeping with The Jewish Press’ long tradition of bringing our readers the finest in Torah and Jewish Literature, along with news of the Jewish world, we are happy to announce the upcoming weekly serialization of Tzvi Fishman’s award-winning novel, Tevye in the Promised Land, which will begin this coming Monday.

“The Jews of Anatevka have three days to clear out of the area.”

Thus begins Tevye’s unforgettable journey to the Promised Land. Tzvi Fishman’s stirring family saga of the continuing adventures of Sholom Aleichem’s beloved character, Tevye the Milkman, immortalized in Fiddler in the Roof, takes up where the original stories left off.

At a crossroads at the outskirts of their Anatevka village, Tevye and his daughters meet up with a troupe of Zionists headed for Palestine. Just then, as if the Almighty is pointing the way, the Anatevka mailman comes running with a letter from Tevye’s long-lost daughter, Hodel. Her communist husband, Perchik, has been exiled from Russia, and they are living in the Holy Land on a non-religious kibbutz!

Clinging to the Torah and the tradition he loves, Tevye has to defend his daughters, not only against the modern lifestyle of the Zionist pioneers, but against malaria-infested swamps, deadly plagues, swarms of locusts, Turkish prisons, and Arab marauders. With steadfast determination and faith, Tevye perseveres through non-stop trials and hardships in rebuilding the Jewish Homeland. While trying to do his best as a father in marrying off his daughters to suitable husbands, Tevye himself finds a new bride to take the place of his deeply-missed Golda. Finally, as World War One threatens to destroy the Jewish settlements in Palestine, Tevye joins the first Jewish fighting brigade since the days of Bar Kochba and Rabbi Akiva. In a daring secret mission, he helps the British rout the Turks.

Now in this sweeping, literary adventure, Sholom Aleichem’s beloved milkman, Tevya from Anatevka, is back as he journeys with his daughters to the Holy Land to become a pioneer settler in the Land of Israel. With Golda, Tzeitl, Hodel, Hava, Ruchel, Bat Sheva, Perchik, and Hevedke Galagan at his side, and characters like Rabbi Kook, the Baron Rothchilds, and Zeev Jabotinsky appearing along the way, Tevye’s trials of faith continues in this dramatic and deeply inspiring saga – a novel your whole family will never forget.

“I thought I knew everything there was to know about Tevye, but reading Tevye in the Promised Land, I kept turning page after page after page….” Haim Topel, star of the movie, “Fiddler on the Roof”

Filled with laughter, heartbreak, and joy, Tevye in the Promised Land is the compelling story of a people’s rebirth, and a triumph of Jewish Faith.

Winner of the Israel Ministry of Education Award for Creativity and Jewish Culture.

What CBS Does Not Want to Hear

Monday, May 28th, 2012

A few weeks ago, veteran CBS News correspondent Bob Simon reported on the plight of Christians of the Holy Land who have been leaving the region for many years. In large part, Simon blamed the Christian exodus on Israel. But had Simon visited the Christian village of Taybeh in the West Bank, he would have heard “the other side to the story.”

This is a village whose population is 100% Christian. It is surrounded by a number of Muslim villages, some of which are extremely hostile.

The number of Christians living in Taybeh is estimated at less than 2,000. Residents say that another 15,000 Taybeh villagers live in the US, Canada and Europe, as well as South America. This is a village whose population is 100% Christian. It is surrounded by a number of Muslim villages, some of which are extremely hostile.

Over the past few years, the Christian residents of Taybeh have been living in constant fear of being attacked by their Muslim neighbors.

Such attacks, residents say, are not uncommon. They are more worried about intimidation and violence by Muslims than by Israel’s security barrier or a checkpoint. And the reason why many of them are leaving is because they no longer feel safe in a village that is surrounded by thousands of hostile Muslims who relate to Christians as infidels and traitors.

Just last week, scores of Muslim men from surrounding villages, some of the men armed with pistols and clubs, attacked Taybeh.

Fortunately, no one was harmed and no damage was caused to property.

Palestinian Authority policemen who rushed to the village had to shoot into the air to drive back the Muslim attackers and prevent a slaughter.

The attack, residents said, came after a Muslim man tried to force his way into a graduation ceremony at a girls’ school in Taybeh.

The man, who had not been invited to the ceremony, complained that Christians had assaulted him. Later that day, he and dozens of other Muslims stormed the village with the purpose of seeking revenge for the “humiliation.”

Were it not for the quick intervention of the Palestinian security forces, the attackers would have set fire to a number of houses and vehicles and probably killed or wounded some Christians.

Palestinian government and police officials later demanded that the Christians dispatch a delegation to the nearby Muslim villages to apologize for “insulting” the Muslim man. To avoid further escalation, the heads of Taybeh complied.

Also at the request of the Palestinian government, residents of the village were requested not to talk to the media about the incident.

Even some of the leaders of the Christian community in the West Bank urged the Taybeh residents not to make a big fuss about the incident.

This was not the first time that Taybeh had come under attack. In September 2005, hundreds of Muslim men went on rampage in the village, torching homes and cars, and destroying a statue of the Virgin Mary, after learning that a Muslim woman had been romantically involved with a Christian businessman from the village.

The 30-year-old woman had been killed by her family.

Western journalists based in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv have refused to report about the most recent attack on Taybeh, most probably because the story does not have an “anti-Israel angle.”

Like Bob Simon, most Western journalists prefer to see only one side of the story. All they want is to find stories that shed a negative light on Israel.

Simon, by the way, has probably never heard of Taybeh.

The next time anyone wants to learn about the true problems facing the Christians of the Holy Land, he or she should head to Taybeh and conduct off the record and private interviews with the villagers.

Originally published by Gatestone Institute http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/

Discovering the Holy Land, Hollywood Style

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Sitting with AnnaLynne McCord at Jerusalem’s Inbal Hotel on Sunday morning, the blond actress comes off as a regular person with some well thought-out opinions, and not as Hollywood ‘celebrity’ one would expect. McCord is currently known for her role as Naomi Clark in CW’s 90210.

While her manager insists that she eat her omelet, McCord is excited to share her experience and perspective of Israel on her first trip to the country with the organization, “America’s Voices in Israel.” McCord explains that she was not afraid to travel to Israel and was excited to meet the people who experience the country every day. “I’ve heard a lot against Israel back home, but I always knew there was a lot more to this country than what I’ve read and seen in the news,” McCord told Tazpit News Agency.

“The first question that I’ve always thought about in regard to the conflict here is how much of it is a holy war?” McCord explains that she knows the Biblical history of the region well, having “grown up with the Bible” and believes that there is “no room for the world to judge Israel or anyone in this conflict.”

“I believe there are always three sides to the story–your side, my side, and the truth,” said McCord. “Until you actually live in someone else’s shoes, you can never judge.”

“With all that negative coverage about Israel, I was amazed by the resilience, human spirit and optimism that people here have facing daily turmoil. You have to come see Israel for yourself to understand this–that people can still have an amazing existence, with love and patriotism, despite all the odds.”

The one characteristic that McCord says she particularly likes about Israelis is that “they don’t care what you think, what the world thinks. As an actress, I definitely relate to that because people write mean and nice things about me all the time. I do what I have to do, no matter what the critics say. Israel does the same.”

McCord and her acting colleagues, among them Omar Epps (House), Zach Roerig (Vampire Diaries) Paget Brewster (Criminal Minds), Mekhi Phifer (8 Mile, ER), Paul Johansson (One Tree Hill), Holt McCallany (Lights Out), Holly Robinson Peete (Hangin’ Out with Mr. Cooper) were particularly impressed with Israel’s state of the art facilities for special needs/disabled children.

Peete tweeted that “this country is so ahead of ours when it comes to caring for children with autism…I’m inspired.”

The itinerary for the trip included visits to Jerusalem’s Meshi, a rehabilitation center and school for 196 children with severe neurological and muscular disabilities who receive the world’s top treatments, and the Na’Alagat Center in Old Jaffa, a theater group made up of deaf and blind people who are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Druze.

For others, the trip reinforced the spiritual dimensions of the Holy Land. Omar Epps, on his second visit to Israel with America’s Voices in Israel, explained that it was the country’s “rich history, culture, people and energies” that drew him back. “For me personally, the spiritual significance of this place hits me to the core. The fact that the world’s three ancient religions meet in one place makes the holiness of this land so unique,” said Epps. “I’m bringing my kids here next time to experience this land together with my wife.”

Even the Dead Sea took on religious significance when Mekhi Phifer tweeted jokingly before the group’s descent to the world’s lowest elevation on land that he “might even get baptized in the Dead Sea.”

Visits and tours to Masada, the Golan Heights, Haifa, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem’s Old City and Christian sites including Mount of Beatitudes, Tabgha, Geinosar and the Church of Holy Sepulcher in the Old City of Jerusalem, also left strong impressions on the stars.

“I would love to come back here to film a movie someday,” said Holt McCallany, Hollywood actor, writer and producer, who starred in Fox’s Lights Out.” It was amazing to be able visualize all these stories and settings.”

At the farewell dinner last night, Mekhi Phifer thanked Rabbi Irwin Katsof, director of America’s Voices in Israel for organizing the week-long trip. “It’s been a privilege to be enveloped in your culture,” Phifer emotionally told Katsof.

Rabbi Irwin Katsof has been involved in bringing missions to Israel for the past 20 years and today directs America’s Voices in Israel founded in 2001 and part of the Conference of Presidents Major American Jewish Organizations. He is a businessman, educator, author and successful entrepreneur, who has brought the likes of Howard Shultz, Starbucks founder, Lady Margaret Thatcher, and others to Israel.

Katsof explains that his missions entail a no-strings attached rule. “The groups are presented with the facts, and have the opportunity to meet with Israelis across the spectrum. They come to their own conclusions about the country.”

May’s trip was a co-operative effort between the Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, Ministries of Tourism and Foreign Affairs, El Al Israel Airlines, and the Jerusalem Inbal Hotel.

For Israelis who caught a glimpse of the stars, excitement ensued as requests for photos and autographs were readily answered by the actors and actresses. The more well-known of the group, AnnaLynne McCord and Zach Roerig, found themselves posing with countless starstruck teenagers at Jerusalem’s Inbal Hotel.

“It’s a bit overwhelming,” said Zach Roerig. ‘I never expected so many fans in this region of the world.”

From Hollywood to the Holy Land

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

I didn’t intend to make this blog a history of how I came to Israel, but since it started off in that direction, it’s a good time to explain how a totally assimilated Jew living in Hollywood got turned on to Torah and ended up trashing fame and fortune in America for a simple life in the Holy Land.

When I was growing up, my family belonged to a Reform Jewish synagogue in New England. We went to temple on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, lit Hanukah candles, had a Christmas tree to be like the neighbors, ate matzah on Seder night and candy eggs on Easter. I remember the reform rabbi telling us in Hebrew School that the splitting of the Red Sea occurred, not through any miracle by G-d, but because a severe drought had dried up the sea, and a freak, sudden rainstorm brought a massive flood that drowned the Egyptians immediately after the Jews had managed to cross on dry land. His explanation sounded so ludicrous to me, I didn’t want to bother having a bar-mitzvah. But my parents insisted. Since, the congregation had outgrown our old temple, and the new one was still under construction, my bar-mitzvah ceremony was held in a Unitarian church. To me, that’s a perfect symbol for being a Jew in America, where you are totally immersed in a foreign, gentile culture. Growing up Jewish in America is like growing up in a great big church. Even if you live in a strictly-kosher ghetto, the World Series, Michael Jackson, Christmas decorations, the Oscars, and the NY Daily News are waiting for you the minute you cross the street.

For high school, I went to a very prestigious and snobby private school in Massachusetts. Out of the 800 students, there were only a handful of Jews. We had to pray on Sundays in the basement of the campus church. Upstairs in this gigantic, impressive cathedral, the rest of the students and the faculty were gathered in prayer, and we were stuck out of sight in the basement, as if we belonged to some third-class religion. That’s how I related to Judaism as well. I didn’t want to have anything to do with it. But it was impossible to escape the reality that I was Jewish. After afternoon sports, everyone had to shower in the same locker room. In those days, the gentiles didn’t have their foreskins removed at birth in the hospital, so once again we Jews were the odd men out. It was a vivid sign for all to see that we were different from the goyim. But I wasn’t proud of it then. I wanted to be like everyone else.

Most of my graduating class was accepted into universities like Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Princeton. I decided to go to NYU Film School where I spent four years in the dark, watching hundreds of movies. The year after I graduated, I wrote a screenplay that became a Hollywood movie, called “Law and Disorder,” starring Caroll O’Conner and Ernest Borgnine. I also sold a novel to a top New York publisher. I was sure that I was on my way to attain my dream of becoming “The Great American Novelist.” Watch out Norman Mailer and Philip Roth! Here comes Fishman!

I tried to play the part by looking as American as Paul Newman. But weird things kept happening, as if God were trying to remind me who I really was. For instance, the summer before my novel hit the bookstores, I decided to make a literary pilgrimage to Europe, in the footsteps of the famous American writers, Henry Miller, Thomas Wolfe, and Ernest Hemingway before me. I crossed the Atlantic by ocean liner and disembarked at the French port of Cherbourg. Remember, in those days I was clean shaven, without a big kippah and giant beard. As I was walking along the dock, a Mercedes Benz drove by and the driver yelled out, “Heil Hitler!” They were the first words I heard in Europe. It was freaky.

When I got back to America, my novel had been published. So I went to the publisher’s publicity department and suggested they send my picture to TV talk shows. After all, I was a good-looking guy. They agreed to try a campaign in the State of Florida. Sure enough, five talk-show producers immediately phoned back to book me on their shows. But when I flew down to Florida, I couldn’t find my book in the bookstores. Furious, I appeared on the talk shows and revealed all the smut I knew about the publishing company. The talk-show hosts loved it, but back in New York, my editor was aghast. He phoned me frantically to apologize and beg me to stop, but I was angry about their screw up. What was the point of my appearing on TV if my novel wasn’t in any of the stores? At that time, success was the most important thing to me in the world. When I got back to New York, the vice-president of the publishing company invited me to a meeting in his plush, skyscraper office.

Prominent Turkish Muslim Leader Sends Passover Blessings to the Jewish Nation

Sunday, April 8th, 2012

Adnan Oktar (also known by his pen name Harun Yahya), a prominent Turkish intellectual and religious leader with a mass following, has communicated and met personally over the past decade with many Orthodox rabbis from Israel and abroad, expressing his friendship to the Jewish nation and his reverence to the Torah.

Oktar has sent via the Jewish Press his blessing to the Jewish nation on the occasion of Passover:

While we remember the Prophet Moses’, peace be upon him, exodus from the oppression of the Pharaoh, and God’s help during this amazing journey, we pray for the blessings of God upon all His servants. May God send His Mashiach soon, and bring the days that we can altogether make Korban (sacrifice) in peace and joy in the Holy Land.

[God said:] And remember, We delivered you from the people of Pharaoh: They set you hard tasks and punishments, slaughtered your sons and let your women-folk live; therein was a tremendous trial from your Lord.

And remember We divided the sea for you and saved you and drowned Pharaoh’s people within your very sight. And remember We appointed forty nights for Moses, and in his absence you took the calf (for worship), and you did grievous wrong. Even then We did forgive you; there was a chance for you to be grateful. And remember We gave Moses the Scripture and the Criterion (Between right and wrong): There was a chance for you to be guided aright. (Quran, 2:49-53)

Back in 2009, I conducted a short interview with Adnan Oktar over the email, which I will bring here. It is important to note that while our relations with official Turkey are at an unprecedented low, there are prominent, religious Muslim voices inside Turkey, which offer friendship and empathy to the Jews and to the Jewish state.

Yanover: First, may I congratulate you on your vision for peace in the Middle East and, indeed, the world, and on your staunch campaign to promote the values of Monotheism. A religious Jew, I am touched when I encounter reason and compassion among the nations, and your life’s work gives me hope for the future of humanity.

How pragmatic is your vision for a united Turkish-Islamic Near-East? Do you see it as coming to pass under the rule of a Divine redeemer, or is it a plan to be accomplished by people in this pre-Messianic reality? If it is the latter, you must be aware of the obstacles in many Muslim states to the development of democratic institutions and efficient, corruption-free state bureaucracies. How would you overcome these difficulties?

Adnan Oktar: Every day, important and positive developments regarding the formation of the Turkish-Islamic Union are taking place, although the real establishment of this union will take place under the leadership of Hazrat Mahdi, peace be upon him (the Muslim version of the Redeemer – YY). According to the information handed down from the Prophet Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, Hazrat Mahdi, peace be upon him, will unite the fragmented Turkic and Islamic states and establish a great and powerful union.

Under his leadership, the Turkish-Islamic Union will be a union of love and friendship. Every state will preserve its own constitutional structure, but there will be full cooperation in defense, trade, science, art, love and brotherhood, as well as the beauty and abundance brought about by that cooperation. Hazrat Mahdi, pbuh, will be instrumental in the Turkish-Islamic world delighting in love, depth, compassion, peacefulness, art and beauty, and in scaling the peaks of modernity and nobility. And the devotion and love felt for Hazrat Mahdi, pbuh, will be instrumental in all disputes being resolved in a matter of minutes. As a requirement of the moral values of the Qur’an, the Turkish-Islamic Union will be one that attaches great importance to democracy, laicism and freedom of ideas, and these values will acquire increasing importance in all the states affiliated to the union.

Things that seem to be obstacles on the path to the establishment of the Turkish-Islamic Union are unimportant. The coming of Hazrat Mahdi (pbuh), the unification of the Turkish-Islamic world, the spread of moral virtues and the glory of Allah being praised everywhere is Allah’s promise. It will certainly be made good. Allah’s promise is true and Allah does not break His promise.

Yanover: Your love for all monotheistic people is clear and admirable. But while Jews are devoid of a directive to convert others to our faith, the very foundation of most Christian denominations is the command to bring others into theirs. Is it possible for God-loving men to live in peace with a large Christian element fomenting such aggressive intentions? Would it not spell constant tension and unrest within the community of God?

Adnan Oktar: It is natural for members of all faiths to think their beliefs are true and to defend them. Jews, Muslims and Christians have a perfect right to defend and tell others of their beliefs. However, it is of course unacceptable to try to force anyone to be a Christian or compel anyone to be a Muslim. Such a thing has no place in Islam. In verse 256 of Surat al-Baqara, Allah reveals, “There is no compulsion where the religion is concerned.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/prominent-turkish-muslim-leader-sends-passover-blessings-to-the-jewish-nation/2012/04/08/

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