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December 18, 2014 / 26 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘Israel Independence Day’

It’s My Opinion: Celebrating Yom HaAtzmaut

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

            Reading through one of our local Jewish newspapers, I was delighted to see a full-page advertisement publicizing a celebration for Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel Independence Day.  The 62nd anniversary of the resurgence of the Jewish State is certainly worthy of a party.  In fact, after 2,000 years of bloodstained exile, it is an incredible, modern-day wonder.

 

A local supper club in Aventura, Florida was organizing the event.  Live music would be provided.  Two Israeli singers were scheduled to perform.  The evening seemed to be planned as a gala affair.

 

My eyes scrolled down the page and then stopped.  I was horrified to see the rest of the agenda for the evening.  A “Hot Bikini Contest” was proudly touted as part of the festive program. And to think the hot debate in many communities is whether or not to say Hallel on this special day.

 

One does not have to be a haredi rabbi to understand that a competition like the one planned to celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut was unsuitable.  A bikini contest is a totally inappropriate way to observe the commemoration of such a miraculous time in Jewish history.  In fact it was bizarre. 

 

This lack of insight to the fundamental order of life is quite disturbing.  What is wrong with people who are so out of sync with the basic concept of appropriate boundaries? Unfortunately, this behavior is endemic to a segment of secular culture.  It is a tragic problem.

 

Certainly, those who organized the Independence Day program meant no harm.  They simply wanted to create a happy and upbeat party atmosphere.    Nonetheless, we are once again reminded of the truth of the adage, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” 

75th Anniversary Reunion

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

Israel Independence Day is a national holiday in Israel. This year it falls on Tuesday, April 20th and is celebrated either publicly or within the family circle. The ceremonies begin eight days earlier with Holocaust Memorial Day. One week later, we commemorate Israel’s fallen soldiers and terror victims on Memorial Day. As the sun sets, the national flag is raised from half-mast, the music begins to play, and the festivities begin in honor of Israel’s 62nd anniversary.

 

In Zionist religious communities, a festive Ma’ariv prayer service begins with special prayers thanking God for the establishment of the State of Israel, and concludes with the Hallel prayer. Groups in many communities gather for programs of nostalgia and Israeli songs. Peace and friendship reign throughout the country.

 

In the morning, after the special Israel Independence Day morning prayers, many families join together for picnics and hikes. Some families travel in search of an open piece of grass on which to set up their grills and beach chairs and sit with friends and family telling stories, playing ball and eating grilled meats.

 

This year, a special event is being planned for the families of the thousands of Bnei Akiva graduates who attended Camp Moshava in the USA and who came on aliyah to Israel. We plan to meet in the Neot Kedumim Nature Preserve near Modiin for a day of friendship, special events and nostalgia.

 

Dozens of American yeshiva students from all over Israel will serve as guides and supervisors. Shiurim are scheduled throughout the day, to be given by well-known rabbis who were former Moshava campers. Ball games, competitions and special children’s activities are planned, as are nature walks and tours in the nature preserve. It should be a very exciting day for former campers, their children, grandchildren and great- grandchildren.

 

The massive Machanot Moshava reunion will be celebrating the following milestones:

 

Litmus Test For Nakba Law Opponents

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

            The Israeli media and the Israeli Left (but I repeat myself) have been hysterical in recent weeks over a proposed bill that would make it illegal to hold anti-Israel “mourning” events on Israel’s Independence Day, events that would declare Israel’s very existence a “nakba” (or catastrophe in Arabic).
 
            Nakba commemorations are in essence events during which Jewish leftists and Arabs call for Israel to be annihilated. The anti-nakba bill would, if passed, ban these, and has triggered hysterical opposition. 
 
            There are two groups of people posturing their outrage at the proposed law. One group consists of free speech absolutists; the other of anti-democratic haters of Israel, many of them people with a neo-fascist disdain for freedom of speech. The first group truly believes in freedom of speech, even for radicals, traitors, and extremists. The second group agrees with Israel’s enemies that the very existence of the Jewish state is a catastrophe.
 
            There is a very easy litmus test to distinguish between these two groups. If the opponent of the law is someone who spoke out clearly in the 1990s against the “anti-incitement” campaign, aimed primarily at the Right, that person is part of the first group, the free speech absolutists. But if the person endorsed that campaign against “incitement” or simply kept quiet and failed to speak up against it, he belongs to the second group.
 
            Immediately after the murder of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in November 1995, the Israeli political establishment launched a broadside assault against freedom of speech in Israel. It repeated endlessly the idea that Rabin had in effect been killed by the exercise of free speech on the part anti-Oslo dissidents. Hundreds of people were investigated and interrogated on suspicion of “incitement.” The “judicial activists” in Israel’s legal system failed to protect the victims of the anti-democratic witch-hunt.
 
            In the anti-democratic hysteria after the assassination, Israelis were carted off by the busload to be interrogated for “incitement.” In some cases the circumstances were comically absurd. A man was arrested for cracking a joke in a bank: when the clerk had asked, “Who’s next in line?” the man responded, “Peres.” A Zionist Federation employee was arrested for “incitement” while drinking at a caf? because an eavesdropper claimed he was “inciting.” Moshe Feiglin was convicted of “sedition” because he dared to hold anti-Oslo protests that blocked a traffic artery.
 
            The notion that Rabin was killed by freedom of speech was repeated endlessly by the political elite and assumed the status of revealed truth. The government approved a decision to make a growing list of organizations on the Israeli Right illegal. Kahanists were criminalized and denied freedom of speech under Israel’s arbitrary “anti-racism laws,” which have never been used to prosecute leftist or Arab anti-Semites.
 
            A series of aggressive measures designed to prosecute those engaging in “incitement and agitation” was instituted. Right-wing protesters of various stripes were arrested and prosecuted for various charges.
 
            In this atmosphere, countless legitimate exercises of freedom of speech were persecuted and suppressed. A faculty member wearing a pro-settlement button at the Weizmann Institute was threatened with expulsion. A Haifa teacher-rabbi was fired by his school for expressing the opinion that Rabin’s political ideology should not be taught as theology in schools. Rabbis writing scholarly articles on rabbinic law were arrested for “racism” and “incitement.” Police were ordered to tear down posters on public billboards placed by anti-Oslo protesters. Israelis wearing shirts with politically incorrect slogans and those with rightist bumper stickers on their cars were harassed and interrogated by the authorities.
 
            The assertion that Rabin was killed by the exercise of freedom of speech was absurd and false. There is no reason to think Yigal Amir would have behaved any differently if opponents of Rabin’s policies had all spoken in gentle, calm tones rather than shouting angrily.
 
            And if “vile speech” causes assassination, Israel would have witnessed an endless slaughter of its political leaders going back to independence (if not beforehand). Israeli political discourse has always been characterized by rhetorical overkill, ad hominem slander and high-decibel shrieking.
 
            Vile speech is not a monopoly of hotheads of the Israeli Right, as the anti-Begin demonstrators in 1982-83 proved during Israel’s Peace in Galilee campaign in Lebanon. Their slogan was “Begin and Sharon are Murderers and War Criminals.” No one was prosecuted for voicing those sentiments.
 
            (Likud is just as capable – and culpable – as Labor when it comes to jumping on the anti-democratic bandwagon. It was Likud that closed down the rightist radio station Arutz 7. And it was Likud Prime Minister Ariel Sharon who told his cabinet on February 13, 2005, “Anyone who speaks or writes against the [Gaza] Disengagement Plan is guilty of incitement.”)
 
            Many of the people now outraged at the idea of an anti-nakba law cheered on the 1990s campaign against the Right. The far-left Israeli daily Haaretz, leading the campaign against the anti-nakba law, led the effort in the 1990s to suppress “incitement” and the exercise of free speech by those opposed to the Left’s political agenda.
 
            So here is the test: You do not like the proposed anti-nakba law? Then prove to us you are opposed to other infringements of freedom of speech in Israel. Show us what you said or wrote against the 1990s campaign against “incitement” and freedom of expression on the Right. Let us know what you have done to fight other measures designed to suppress freedom of speech, including the infamous anti-democratic SLAPP suit filed by the ultra-leftist academic Neve Gordon.
 

            If you can’t, or won’t, do that, your hypocrisy stands exposed in all its stunning ugliness.

 

 

            Steven Plaut, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor at Haifa University. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at steveneplaut@yahoo.com.

Pray For Us

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

      Having recently celebrated Israel Independence Day, I wonder why so many Jews refuse to pray for the State of Israel and for our Jewish sons and daughters who serve in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). There are those who salve their consciences by claiming that there are non-religious Jews leading Israel (as if we may only pray for religious Jews), and there are those who claim that they do not want to pray for the leaders who are selling Israel’s birthright. Others blame our sons and daughters, who serve in the IDF, for the expulsion of Jews from Gaza.


 

      There are several types of Jews, and each type differs in his approach to the Prayer for the State of Israel. There are those who recite the prayer each Shabbat, and say special Psalms and Hallel on Israel Independence Day. There are those (such as certain Orthodox groups and Conservative Jews) who disagree with some aspects of the prayer and make up their own prayers. They seem to believe that despite the tradition of uniformity in prayers desired by the rabbis, their individual prayer, which separates them from the majority of Jews who pray for Israel, is better than the prayer adopted by the former chief rabbis of Israel, Rabbi Yitzchak Herzog, z”l, and Rabbi Bentzion Uziel, z”l. There are, of course, those who say no specific prayer or Psalms because they are irreligious or against the state and care little for Jewish soldiers. The children of many of these will not serve in the IDF nor do National Service, and they may not see a need for the prayers for the safety of our children who do serve.

 

      Since the recent expulsion of Jews from Gaza, some nationalist Jews have been demonstrating their anger at the government by demonstratively remaining seated or walking out of shul during the Prayer for the State of Israel and the Prayer for the Welfare of our Soldiers. They seem to ignore the fact that the prayer is not a compliment to any of Israel’s secular leaders, but rather a prayer asking God to give these leaders of little faith more intelligence and a better understanding of Judaism and Jewish history. Why these nationalists also stopped praying for the welfare of our (and their) sons and daughters who are at war is beyond my understanding. Even if we are not happy with how our children behaved during the expulsion, we still must pray for their health, safety and victory.

 

      We feel that those Jews living outside of Israel, whose children do not serve in the IDF and who are protected from harm, should at least pray for our children who must defend our country. How devastating it is when a child or grandchild falls in battle! The least we can do is say a weekly prayer for the safety of our soldiers. Please use the simple prayers composed by the rabbis of Israel when you pray for us.

 

      Let us look at some aspects of the Prayer for the State of Israel – what it requests and implies. Many Orthodox Jews believe that we are in the throes of the Messianic age and that we are witnessing God’s open hand in the rebirth of a Jewish homeland. The prayer is a religious prayer and mentions the coming of the Messiah. It asks God to send truth and understanding to our leaders and guide them on the correct path. It asks that the hand of the defenders of Israel be strengthened and that we be granted true peace and everlasting joy.

 

      The prayer seeks God’s help in gathering the exiles to Jerusalem, as promised in the Torah. It asks God to unite our hearts to love and revere God, and observe all of the mitzvot in the Torah. It asks that God speedily send the Moshiach of the House of David to redeem us and let the entire world declare that Hashem, the God of Israel, is King and His dominion rules over all. Amen. Selah.

 

      No current political leaders are praised. Rather, we pray that they see the true light and the error of their ways. We desperately need God’s help to influence our weakly educated secular leaders who have abandoned Jewish values and Judaism. Every believing Jew should pray for the spiritual welfare of Israel.

 

      If your gabai refuses to permit the recitation of the prayers for Israel and for our soldiers, there is nothing to prevent you from saying the prayers silently. As I have offered in the past, if your siddur does not have the prayers, send me a stamp-addressed envelope c/o The Jewish Press and I will be happy to send you a copy of the prayers in both English and Hebrew.

 

      Comments may be sent to dov@gilor.com.

The Close Connection

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

         Israel Independence Day is a very special celebration. The streets of most cities are festooned with flags and lights, and special events are planned in almost every community.

 

         It was not an easy task for Israel to reach its 59th birthday, as the still smoldering world anti-Semitism just made it harder. It is a pleasure to realize that many of those living today never knew a time when Israel did not exist and that are unaware of the struggle and the savage pain inflicted upon the Jews before the birth of Israel. In the past, there were many who would not believe that a Jewish state could be established or that a country surrounded by so many millions of sworn enemies and in a world where so much open or subtly camouflaged anti-Semitism existed, could be viable. Fifty-nine years have passed and, B”H, we are still here.

 

         That is why we see such a strong connection between Holocaust Memorial Day, Israel Memorial Day and Israel Independence Day. The Holocaust was a period of absolute horror that was the epitome of the hundreds of years of Jewish suffering and exile. G-d has declared, it would seem, an end to our wandering and may have decreed that we should finish our years of exile in Israel, as we wait for the Moshiach to come. Pain and suffering still exist but the Jews in Israel are no longer sheep waiting for the slaughter. The Holocaust must always be remembered, but must never be allowed to happen again.

 

         We want to shout with joy on our independence day and warn the rest of the world that we will no longer tolerate the oppression of the past. But before we dance with joy, there is one other important day of remembrance that we must commemorate. It was not enough that our families were murdered so brutally by the Germans, Russians, Poles and their allies. After the Holocaust, the sympathy of the non-Jewish world was limited and would only extend so far. It was quickly obvious that if the Jews wanted a home, we would have to fight for it and no European, American, Asian, African or other nation would allow us to peacefully return to our ancient homeland.

 

         The Arabs did not want independent Jews living in their midst, no matter how small and forsaken that piece of homeland was. Our men, women, sons and daughters had to sacrifice their blood so that Israel could be established and continue to exist. Time and time again, over the past 59 years, the Arabs have attacked and have sworn to continue to attack, no matter how flexible or willing to compromise we are. No Jews are wanted here.

 

         Thus, it was our brave soldiers, many of whom gave their limbs or lives, who were and still are the “silver platter” upon which the land was served up to the people of Israel. Before we can dance with joy, we must cry in sorrow for the disability and death forced on so many thousands of our children. Israel Memorial Day remembers those who gave their lives to allow us to live in our homeland.

 

         On Israel Memorial Day, as the sun sinks in the west, a switch is thrown in our souls and our tears of sorrow are suddenly transformed into tears of boundless joy. The flags are raised from half-mast to their highest heights, the fireworks shoot into the air, and the music transforms the day of mourning into a night of celebration.

 

         We realize that Israel’s independence was declared during the counting of the Omer and the mourning period commemorating the death of Rabbi Akiva’s students. We understand that your rabbi may not condone a celebration of the event, even though it impacted the lives of every Jew in the world.

 

         Israel’s rabbis, however, understand the unparalleled extent of G-d’s miracle and have declared this a day of religious celebration with the recitation of the Hallel praise of Hashem and many other Psalms of Joy – before we return to the sadness of the period.

 

         Those of little faith, who deny that G-d had a strong hand in this Jewish miracle, will continue to say Tachanun on Yom HaAtzmaut and will continue to deny G-d’s work in our generation. I feel sorry for them.

 

        Comments may be sent to: dov@gilor.com


 


 




 


 


         Note to Readers: Israel, its leaders and its soldiers are greatly in need of your prayers – maybe even more than in the past. Many of today’s leaders have little faith and we must ask G-d to open their eyes and give them understanding, so that Israel will flourish and remain the Jewish homeland.

 

         If you do not have a copy of the Prayer for the Soldiers and for the State of Israel in your Siddur, send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to me, c/o The Jewish Press, and I will be happy to send you a copy.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/the-close-connection/2007/04/25/

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