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October 28, 2016 / 26 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Jew’

Egypt is Colorful and Full of Love; Meetings of Conciliation between Muslim and Jew, in Egypt: Part II

Sunday, April 24th, 2016

Dr Omer Salem of Yale and AlAzhar Universities envisions a borderless world open to movement and communication between all peoples. A traditionalist Sunni Muslim, he studied Hebrew Bible at Yale and had his PhD dissertation supervised by Al-Azhar University Professors in Cairo. His thesis – acceptance of the People of the Book in Islam, a theme that is pulling in the opposite direction of the less embracing schools of thought in Islam today, schools which have been propped up of late more by politics than religious doctrine.

In this spirit, Salem invited Rabbi Dr. Yaakov Nagen, Fullbright Scholar Dr. Jospeh Ringel, and myself to meet his colleagues in Egypt. Impossible! My smart aleck retort was, “sure I will catch the next train.” But within two weeks we were on Egyptian soil and in earnest dialogue with some of the best minds of Cairo today. Here is a small glimpse of what we dream will be many more encounters.

Al Azhar University was founded by the Fatimids in the tenth century CE and is the oldest university in the world still functioning. Today it is considered the center of Islamic and Arabic scholarship. The university administers about 4000 teaching institutes and a system of schools with about two million students nation-wide.

Enter the campus, humanity’s stunning variety greets you in the beauty of all its rainbow colors – Indonesians, Africans, black, white, some in western dress, some in traditional garb. This richness accompanied us to professor Awad’s office – an enormous room which over the next two and a half hours would host our marathon discussion, with students and faculty entering and exiting, some participating, some just listening. The atmosphere was respectful and congenial throughout, albeit the discussion veering into some very sensitive subjects.

Before our arrival, we debated an essential question – how can the Muslim ummah – nation – accept Jews? Assuming that the hurdles were largely theological, we discussed the approach that Jews can take to Muhammad; a Navi, prophet, has vastly different connotations in Jewish thought than in Islamic thought. Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik’s essay, “Confrontation” presents an illustration of how essential terms cannot be imported and exported across cultures, indeed, meaning is lost in translation. In Judaism, a Navi can be false and even wicked, as in the case of Bilaam (Book of Numbers). So when Muslims ask Jews, “Do you think Muhammad was a prophet?” the connotations differ vastly. What we can say is that prophecy for the nation of Israel ended with the prophet Malachi, but that does not mean that prophecy stopped for all nations. In the spirit of the Rambam, who dwelled in Egypt as physician and Rabbi, we can appreciate that Muhammad spread monotheism globally, and that he could indeed be a prophet for the other nations of the world.

We would see however that the theological hurdle is in fact not the greatest stumbling block to reconciliation.

“Welcome, welcome!” Dr Awad beckoned, along with staff and students flanking him. The men were removing their shoes, should I? Do women remove their shoes as well? They do, but I can remain shod if I choose. Both equality of women and free choice are basic premises in Islam, the professor would make quite clear. But that is not my emphasis just yet, I have something more important for you to hear.

Professor Awad’s thesis was on the Hebrew Bible and New Testament. He emphasized that dialogue is a primary tenet of Islam. “The Qur’an commands us as Muslims to engage in dialogue to reach truth.” He stated.

“The differences between people are G-d given.” And he quoted, “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other. .” Qur’an 49:13. (Arabic: لتعارفوا) Lita’arafu – to know each other. You can respect Islam and the prophet and the Qur’an, without necessarily following the sharia of Islam, and that is your right.”

He added, “There is no coercion in religion,” Qur’an 2:256

“Muslims are commanded to study the teachings of the prophet Moses. For you, learning about Muhammad is merely optional. That is an expression of tolerance inherent in Islam. The Qur’an has provided solutions for so many problems in the world, and it commanded Jews to judge according to their own Torah. This is evidence that the Qur’an is a very neutral, objective book. Jews have a right to study the Qur’an without anyone judging whether they believe in it or not. You are indeed welcome to read it with your good intention.”

Jewish Press contributor, Rebecca Abrahamson in front of Al Azhar University

Jewish Press contributor, Rebecca Abrahamson in front of Al Azhar University

I introduced myself as a Haredi woman, and added that I had traveled with the agreement of my husband and the blessing of my Rabbi. There I had braved it all the way to Egypt, overcoming personal and societal hurdles. I made that statement in order to express a living traditional value and to pave the way for more fundamentalist Muslim and Jewish women to join in social activism. When fundamentalist women act, they move large areas, they bring whole families and societies with them. And we know that we are not docile followers. I love the story from an African-American fundamentalist church in the southern United States, a woman stood up and challenged her preacher, “that’s not written in my Bible!” Fundamentalist women are in dynamic dialogue with their family and leaders. When we act, we actually move large areas of ground.

But I liked the professor’s response:

He looked at me a little sharply, “Women and men are equal. The only difference is she has a right to be provided for.” Then he ticked off her rights on his fingers, “she has freedom of work, dignity, employment, she may divorce, and she does not need her husband’s permission to travel.” I smiled inside.

Then the professor touched upon difficult subjects, and though his tone remained respectful, his passion and concern was evident. Something was irking him, it was clear.

Discovering a Stumbling Block

He wondered at the verse in the Torah that declares Canaan as cursed – where is the justice in that? All have free will, how can anyone be cursed from birth? “Certainly you are accountable for what you do.” (Qur’an 16:93) He wondered why Jews do not proselytize to other nations, is that an uncaring approach? And, with equal passion, Dr Awad questioned how the revelation at Sinai could have been in Hebrew – the Jews had just exited Egypt? This final question was expressed with as much concern as the previous two, though I felt that whatever language was spoken at the time of the Revelation at Sinai was surely less important that wondering if Judaism is discriminatory.

Rabbi Nagen responded – “you have raised the most important questions. My whole life I am searching for answers to these questions. We know that holy books sometimes have verses that seem troubling. For me, the verse that is most important is that all of humanity has one father and is in the image of God. Anything that seems to contradict this puzzles me and we struggle with it. We know that with both Torah, Gospel and Qur’an, people can quote verses to do great good or not good. Our task is to find a way to teach good from the Torah and Qur’an. The question is – what is the rule and what is the exception? What is the context? I read the Qur’an and I know that every sura begins with All-h is Rachman. If I find a verse that seems violent, I know this must be talking about a particular context and it’s not the rule. I have hundreds of students; I interpret the Torah and Talmud. I organized a prayer rally to protest the alleged arson attack in Kfar Dumas. I am part of a group of a thousand Rabbis, we put out a thirty page pamphlet that was read in synagogues that week.”

The professor could not be placated, there was something nagging at him. And then it came out:

“We as Muslims are not asked to judge others; however we cannot accept oppression by one people over another people or making mockery of one over the other.”

So that was it. Agree or disagree, this was the professor’s central concern, and it was echoed in our meetings with Dr Aly El-Samman, former advisor to Anwar Sadat, and with Professor Wagee AlShamy of Dar Oloom College in AlFayoum, a city south of Cairo.

Indeed, Dr Wagee Al-Shamy asked us to proclaim this message – “tell your people: the state of the Palestinian Arabs is of great concern to us. That is the real stumbling block to normalization. Please ease their plight; that will pave the road to better relations between our peoples.”

Agree or disagree, that was the message we heard throughout our trip. So it is not scripture or theology that divides. Negative light is shed upon Judaism when Israel is seen as oppressing its Arab residents. Looking for the cause of the injustice, our scriptures are held up as possibly blameworthy.

But is this not how we feel when presented with injustices wrought by other cultures? Do we not point to the source of an ‘Other’s’ impropriety as based in their basic tenets? As much as what I am saying may sting, and we can certainly feel the call to defend Israel’s need for self defense, or the real meaning of holy writ, we need to consider – if this is what prominent Egyptian Muslims are saying, and even asking us to proclaim this, it does mean that the situation is a lot more hopeful than if stumbling blocks to normalization were scripture and theology.

So what are we to do? Embark on a grand-scale hasbara (explanation) campaign? There are better places we can put our energy; injustices are best addressed, in my husband Ben Abrahamson’s words – by establishing joint Jewish-Islamic religious courts. They existed in Yemen, and they can exist now. This gives both Muslim and Jew a feeling of a common language. Once injustices are addressed in a framework that both sides revere, the view changes. The diamond tossed up to the light reflects various hues, constantly changing as it turns before the sun, yet the diamond remains the same. We do not have to change our very being; we just need to address concerns where all parties are heard in the language they revere the most.

“Show me the fatwa.”

Ben was once speaking to a sheikh who was criticizing Israel. Ben said simply, “show me the fatwa.” Instead of relying on media reporting, Ben challenged the sheikh to find an Islamic court which has investigated an allegation of injustice and issued a fatwa – ruling. Knowing of none, they both relaxed and fruitful discussion followed.

The best hasbara campaign to defend Israel and Judaism will never really be enough; there is not the trust and common language needed for such efforts. The gap can be bridged not via hasbara, which is likely to fall upon deaf ears, but via joint courts. Joint Jewish-Islamic courts will succeed in striving for justice, trust building, and an expanded narrative that finally will include all residents of the Holy Land. It will be a huge relief to us all.

We had been welcomed by the professors at AlAzhar in warmth and parted with love and hopes of future dialogue. Yes, things can get rocky in discussion, but if you believe that the Other is coming from an honest place, then only the late hour and weariness born from a marathon conversation brings it to a close.

And we will work for more such encounters. We must.

(Left) Rabbi Yaakov Nagen with Dr Joseph Ringel,

(Left) Rabbi Yaakov Nagen with Dr Joseph

Rebecca Abrahamson

Polish Man Passes as Orthodox Jew, Bakes Challas, Leads Prayer, Disappears

Sunday, April 24th, 2016

Alicja Kobus, an official of the Poznan, Poland, Jewish community, last Thursday reported that her community had been fooled by a Polish Catholic man who pretended to be an Orthodox Jew, AP reported. The man, who said his name was Ya’akav Ben Nistell, an Israeli from Haifa, wore a beard and sidecurls, and lead the congregation in Hebrew prayers. His real name is Jacek Niszczota, a cook from Ciechanow in north-central Poland.

The hoax was revealed when Niszczota’s neighbors in Ciechanow saw him on television in an ecumenical ceremony of with Catholic, Muslim and Jewish leaders, and told local journalists how their Jacek had become Ya’akav.

The Poznan community has since posted a warning on its website, saying Niszczota “deceived not only the community members but also other people with whom he cooperated on behalf of the Poznan Jewish Community.”

“He won our trust with the good things that he was doing: he baked challahs for Israel Independence Day ceremonies, he helped with maintenance of Jewish cemeteries, he had the right knowledge,” Kobus told AP.

His knowledge was deep enough to lead prayers and give lectures on Jewish tradition that were flawless. And when people addressed him as “rabbi” he did not correct them, Kobus said. She believes Niszczota picked up all that good information, including his Hebrew, by listening to Israeli Radio — which shows you what good-quality radio can do for you if you only pay attention.

Poland’s Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich said he knew Niszczota and found him to be “very sweet and smiley.” The chief rabbi also noted that the entire affair is an indication of the growing clout of things Jewish in Poland, which only 70 year ago helped annihilate millions of its Jews.

“Who 30 years ago in this country would have pretended to be a rabbi, to say nothing of 70 years ago?” Schudrich noted.

It should also be noted that despite the shock expressed by the community leader about the deceit, she, too, had nothing bad to say about Jacek Niszczota, who has disappeared since his outing.


Israeli Jew Convicted of Murdering of Jerusalem Muslim Teen

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

by Michael Bachner/TPS The Jerusalem District Court convicted Yosef Chaim Ben David, 29, on Tuesday morning of the abduction and murder of Jerusalem Arab teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir in July 2014. The teen was on his way to a mosque in his neighborhood, Shuafat, when he was kidnapped. The incident rattled the region and played a key role in escalating the tensions leading up to the summer war in Gaza.

Ben David, from the community of Adam, was the central suspect in the murder, along with two minors. His verdict was delayed by several months to determine his mental state, following claims by his lawyers that he was mentally ill and not responsible for his actions.

The court, however, ruled that Ben David “was not in a psychotic state, fully understood what he was doing, had control over his actions and had the ability to refrain from committing the crime.”

Abu Khdeir was 16 years old when he was abducted and burned alive in Jerusalem by the three Israeli Jews. The murderers claimed they wanted to avenge the kidnapping and murder of three Jewish teens by Hamas terrorists just days earlier. The two atrocities sent tensions soaring between Israelis and Arabs from the Palestinian Authority and Gaza, culminating in the IDF’s 2014 Gaza campaign, Operation Protective Edge.

Ben David’s two nephews, 16 and 17 years old, were convicted in January of committing the murder along with him. One of them received a life sentence. The other was sentenced to 21 years in prison after the court ruled that he played a lesser role in the murder.

Before the verdict, Abu Khdeir’s father Hussein called on the Israeli government to demolish the homes of his son’s murderers, in keeping with Israeli policy of demolishing the homes of Palestinian Authority terrorists. “We need justice from the court,” he said. “These murderers should have their homes demolished. Such people cannot be granted parole. He needs to serve a life sentence.”

Following the conviction, the state prosecution released a statement saying that Ben David committed the murder “out of nationalistic vengeful motives, also dragging his underage relatives with him who participated in the heinous crime and were sentenced to many years behind bars.”

In the Palestinian Authority and in Gaza, people celebrate the murders of Israeli Jews, honking car horns and passing out sweets to strangers in the streets when an attack has taken place.

Public squares, special events and streets are named for especially “successful” terrorists so their deeds will be remembered and glorified for future generations.

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

American Jew Arrested for Murmuring Prayers, 2nd Warned to Close Prayer App

Sunday, April 17th, 2016

An American Jewish man was arrested on the Temple Mount on Sunday morning after it was noticed that he was quietly murmuring a prayer, according to a TPS report. At this time it is unknown if the arrested man is an Israeli citizen or a tourist.

A second Jew was warned by the Israeli police that he would be arrested if he didn’t stop looking at the Siddur app on his cellphone. He was not arrested as he wasn’t yet praying at that point.

Prime Minister Netanyahu can relax, his status quo has been upheld.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Update: Woman Wounded in Second Jerusalem Stabbing, Suspect Captured [photos]

Sunday, November 29th, 2015

A woman was wounded on Shamgar Street in Jerusalem, near the Osher Ad supermarket, in a second terrorist stabbing attack in Jerusalem on Sunday morning, just after 10 AM.

Seeing the attack, a passing bus driver jumped from his bus, pulled the wounded woman onto his #418 bus and drove her away to safety.

The Arab terrorist then fled into a building construction site in the former Tnuva complex, in the Jerusalem Romema neighborhood, and security forces began searching the very large area.

Update: A suspect believed to be the terrorist has been captured in one of the building sites, after an hour long search.

The suspect, a 17.5 year-old-man from the PA territories has connected himself to the attack. Two additional Arabs from the PA were discovered in the building and also arrested.

The wounded woman, a foreign resident in her 30s, is in moderate condition with a knife wound in the back, and has been transported to Shaarei Tzedek hospital.

The suspected terrorist from the Shamgar St. attack - Nov. 29, 2015. Photo by TPS / Hillel Meir

The suspected terrorist from the Shamgar St. attack – Nov. 29, 2015.

Police search for the terrorist in the former Tnuva complex in Romema - Nov. 29, 2015. Photo by TPS / Hillel Meir

Police search for the terrorist in the former Tnuva complex in Romema – Nov. 29, 2015. Photo by TPS / Hillel Meir

Jewish Press News Briefs

Poland Sues U.S. Prof. for Saying Poles Killed Jews than the Germans

Friday, October 16th, 2015

Poland is preparing to sue a Princeton University professor for libel in an article written last month alleging that Poles “in fact did kill more Jews than Germans during the war.”

Professor Jan T, Gross, a Polish-born Jew and historian, also stated that Polish intolerance is behind the country’s agreement to accept only 5,000 Syrian refugees instead of a larger number,

The article was re-published by the German newspaper Die Welt, prompting more than 100 complaints to the office of the Polish prosecutor. The prosecutor’s spokesman Przemyslaw Nowak told Polish television that the country’s criminal code “provides that any person who publicly insults the Polish nation is punishable by up to three years in prison.”

Gross previously has provoked Poland and wrote in a book n 2001 that Poles in the town of Jedwabne massacred several hundred Jews.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Good Jewish Boy from Israel Tries to Join the ISIS

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

A Foreign Ministry statement Tuesday that an Israeli Jew has been returned home after trying to join the Islamic State (ISIS) leaves too many questions unanswered.

The facts that are known are simple: Turkish officials, despite far from loving relations with Israel, helped nab the 21-year-old man and return him home.

The family of the unidentified youth called the Foreign Ministry last week after their son flew to Crete as a stopover before traveling to Syria, where he would have violated Israeli law by setting foot in the territory of a declared enemy state.

That’s it. Happy ending, except perhaps for the youth.

As for Turkey, it is not surprising that it cooperated because it hates the ISIS much more than it hates Israel.

And now for the unanswered questions:

Is this young man a psychiatric case? Or does he simply live in a movie, albeit a horror film?

Did the ISIS have contact with him? Did the man promise to convert to Islam? Or has he? Did the ISIS plan to show him off as a Jew having found Allah?

Did he want to chop off peoples’ heads? Was he looking for sex slaves?

Did the 21-year-old man serve in the IDF? Is he angry at Israel as an “occupier?

Foreign Ministry spokesman told The Jewish Press Tuesday:

There is nothing to add to what we already have stated.

Our heartfelt concern goes out to the youth’s family, and may no other Jewish family know such sorrow.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/good-jewish-boy-from-israel-tries-to-join-the-isis/2015/09/01/

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