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July 5, 2015 / 18 Tammuz, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Jewish History’

Peter Beinart’s Bilaam Moment

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

The great biblical wizard Bilaam was one of the most frustrated men in history. Bilaam tried on three consecutive mornings back in the early 1200s BCE to curse the nation of Israel, only to end up composing such poetic praises that we Jews now say them every day in our morning prayers.

Columnist Peter Beinart, a frequent contributor to Haaretz, The Atlantic and the National Journal, is probably not an enemy of Israel on the scale of his predecessor, but, this week, his criticism of both Israel and the American right have backfired in a similar fashion to Bilaam’s, leaving Beinart’s readers with poetic praises where harsh rebukes were intended.

Beinart writes:

“Today’s conservatives love Israel,” for “the American right, Israel embodies the values that Obama’s U.S. no longer does,” because “they believe the West’s great enemy is ‘radical Islam,’ and the West’s great outpost, on the frontlines against Islamic terror, is Israel. It’s modern; it’s democratic; it’s pro-American. And it’s under attack from the same forces that want to destroy the United States.”

Beinart also attacks Netanyahu, because Netanyahu believes America and Israel are good, and radical Islamists are bad:

“Netanyahu… believes that America and Israel are utterly virtuous while our Islamic enemies are utterly evil.”

Could anyone make a better case for Israel’s triumphant achievements in a mere 67 years or praise Israel’s value system more than what Beinart has unintentionally just done?

Yes, of course, the author probably intended for this entire list to be read out in an ironic tone, while implying a lack of intellectual subtlety on the right with his repeated use of “utterly”, but tone is a tough thing to write, especially from within one’s echo chamber, and an ironistician of Beinart’s stature should know better…

Moreover, according to Beinart, “it’s not just that Israel represents the West. It’s that Israel represents the West at a time when many conservatives feel the United States no longer does.”

That’s the extent of the fun part—because Beinart next delves into fairly ugly racism, suggesting that the shift in the right’s view of the Administration is born by “demographic change,” meaning conservative fear of brown and black people teeming in the streets of America.

That must be it, according to Beinart:

“the United States has become less Christian, less nationalistic and less white. And for many on the right, Barack Obama — a black man with a Muslim father who grew up in Indonesia and supposedly considers American power a bad thing — personifies this shift.”

In other words, in Beinart’s universe, conservatives don’t make up their minds based on the outcome of seven years of presidential policies—it’s because the guy is black.

So much for the piquant note about Beinart, the prophet of Zionist doom, singing an unintentional love song for Israel. Or maybe we’ll just edit out those ugly parts when we canonize his article.

His other point, later on, is actually cogent:

“Conservatives love Israel for the same reason anti-Zionists hate it. Think about the words Israel’s harshest foes use to describe it: colonial, imperial, settler, apartheid. What they all convey is that Israel is a foreign creation, imposed by Europeans, and sustained by the United States, at the native population’s expense. For the American right, being a Western outpost in the Middle East makes Israel heroic. For the anti-Zionist left, it makes Israel illegitimate.”

What an entertaining idea, the right’s Israel-the-shining-outpost is precisely the same as the left’s Israel the blood-dripping-colonial-invader. Obviously, Beinart is enamored with the latter option, but the facts belie that entire argument.

We Jews in Israel are not colonialists but an indigenous, middle-eastern nation whose return to our homeland was followed by an unprecedented flourishing of what had been a desolate desert for two millennia.

Lauder at 70th Bergen-Belsen Liberation Ceremony: ‘Silence Emboldens Tyrants’

Sunday, April 26th, 2015

A ceremony was held today, April 26, in Lohheide, Germany, to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen Nazi death camp which took place on April 15, 1945.

More than fifty thousand people perished in the Bergen-Belsen camp, which was really several connected camps that housed and killed Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals and others considered “undesirable” by the Nazi regime. Anne Frank and her sister Margot were among the tens of thousands who died at Bergen-Belsen.

Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, gave an impassioned speech to the gathered crowd.

Lauder spoke not only of the specifics of the horrors visited upon the world and, in particular, the Jewish people, during World War II, but he also made pointed references to the dangers of similar horrors lurking on the horizons at the present time.

Lauder reminds everyone that it was not only the Nazis, and not only the German people and not only the rest of Europe which were complicit in this horror, but everyone who was silent and failed to act.

Lauder also points out that there was a voice that was silent, but not because they chose to look elsewhere, but because they were silenced: the Jews. And he points out that the Jews need not be silent ever again in the face of threats to their existence, because there is a Jewish homeland whose purpose is to ensure the continuance of the Jewish people.

No doubt he is talking about Iran.

Lauder also speaks at length about the resilience and self-reliance of the Jewish people in the aftermath of the Holocaust. How the Jews left the Displaced Persons camps and never looked back.

“They refused to be victims,” Lauder said. “Jews all over the world helped their fellow Jews get back on their feet. They were never used as political pawns.”

Do you have any doubt to whom he is referring?

The following is Lauder’s speech in its entirety. It is worth your while to read the whole thing.

We come here today to remember. We remember the evil of this terrible place. We also remember that world silence led to this evil.

And we gather with an uncomfortable awareness that anti-Semitism has returned to Europe once again.

Seventy years ago, as Nazi Germany was collapsing, and the greatest war in history was coming to an end. The saddest irony was that Jews, the people who should have been happiest about Hitler’s defeat, were not to be heard.

There were no Jewish victory celebrations like those in New York or Trafalgar Square or Moscow. There was no jubilation. The reason is all around you. For Jews, the awful realization of loss suddenly set in. Mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, grandparents, friends, over one million children – all gone. Half of the world’s Jews murdered.

Right now, we stand on one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in the world. But there are no gravestones. There are no markers. The victims buried here lost not just their lives; the Nazis took their identities as well.

When British troops entered the gates here at Bergen-Belsen they took pictures and, for the first time, the world finally understood the extent of the Nazi horror.

We saw the bulldozers pushing naked bodies into open pits. The walking skeletons. The unbelievable sadness and loss. It has always struck me that battle-hardened soldiers, who saw some of the worst combat in Europe, became emotional years later when they talked about entering Bergen-Belsen.

Seventy years on, we all know about the crime. We know the perpetrators – but they were not just Germans and Austrians. There was complicity in practically every country in Europe. My own country, the United States – the beacon of liberty – shut its doors to Jews desperately trying to leave.

Zionism in Animation

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

A retelling of the history of Zionism was launched on Wednesday with an animated video chronicling the rebirth of Jewish sovereignty in its historic homeland through Israel’s Declaration of Independence.

The project, called ‘Zionism in Animation’, aims to tell the story of Zionism in a series of 100 short animated clips, and is the brainchild of Shlomo Blass, head of Rogatka, a short film-making studio which has released some of the most viral political and hasbara videos in recent years.

“We hope to tell the story of the return of the Jewish people to their homeland in an attention-grabbing way, and inform and educate Jews around the world, especially young audiences,” said Blass. “By doing so we hope to strengthen their sense of belonging to the Jewish people and to the land of Israel.”

“Sadly, many Jews, don’t know enough about one of the most miraculous chapters in world history: the return of the Jewish people to their homeland. We believe that knowing our history is fundamental to strengthening our sense of solidarity and commitment to our people and land.”

The first video ‘How Israel Was Born’ was released to coincide with Israel’s 67th Independence Day and is meant to inform Israelis and people around the world about the story of Israel’s founding. A few years ago, a survey of Israeli students found that 60% of respondents did not know the name of Israel’s first prime minister.

“The digital revolution has dramatically impacted the way most people, especially Millennials, consume content,” Blass continued. “Research shows that we increasingly read less and watch more, and that the most effective way of educating and engaging people is through short-form rich content. This revolution has created a need for relevant materials in the field of Jewish and Zionist education.”

The first video was released in partnership with the Israel Video Network and has already received widespread attention and praise from Jewish and Israel advocacy groups and organizations.

The video is the first of three videos that Rogatka is hoping to make through the Jewcer crowdfunding platform, which he hopes will raise enough to make the next two videos. After that, Blass is inviting organizations and individuals to fund videos of their choice on any Zionism-related issue.

Chloe Valdary at Memphis Friends of Israel (video)

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

Garin Tzabar: Helping Lone Soldiers Feel At Home In Israel

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

These lone soldiers, hailing from countries including the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Turkey and Azerbaijan arrived in Israel without their families to join the Israel Defense Force and help build the Jewish nation.  ’Garin’ means seed in Hebrew but can also refer to a group of people who collectively immigrated to Israel and ‘tzabar’ refers to the ‘sabra’ cactus fruit which is prickly on the outside but soft and sweet on the inside, a euphemism to describe Israelis.

The Garin Tzabar program is in charge of bringing these lone soldiers to a kibbutz or Israeli city, providing them with an adopted family, a Garin community that supports them throughout their army service and Hebrew classes to assist their immersion into the IDF.  Several months from now the new recruits will begin to serve in the Israeli Army.  The Garin Tzabar  ensures lone soldiers receive support and attention on their birthdays, during holidays, Shabbat, and their days off .

The State of Israel officially welcomed this year’s Garin Tzabar participants during a special ceremony held at Tel Aviv University. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu  gave a video greeting praising these young Jewish men and women and  numerous other government officials attended the event.

MK Sofa Landver, who addressed the group, stated, “We are here to receive the immigrants and the soldiers in our country, the most wonderful country in the world. It’s you who have come to serve and defend Israel. You will change the world.” A representative of Nefesh B’Nefesh added, “It’s not just a plane ride, it’s the destination and that’s Israel. Enjoy your new life.”

Netta Gelb, a new Garin Tzabar participant, was born in the Israeli city of Netanya and has spent the past 15 years growing up in Canada. Although she has Israeli relatives,  she is leaving behind her parents and siblings.  Gelb expressed the excitement many Garin members felt when she said, “I have been really looking forward to this for a long time.”

Michael Kosky, another Garin Tzabar participant, added, “We have come here to play our chapter in Jewish history. I am part of this program. Good luck to every one here.”  A lone soldier already serving in the IDF named Ariella, who hails from an Argentine family and grew up in both America and Israel told the audience that she holds dear the “values of loyalty to the state, its people, and the Tzabar members” and said to the new recruits “If you live together, you will learn a lot.”

Eitan Press contributed to this report.

Visit United with Israel.

Google and the Defenders of Kfar Etzion

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

Gush Etzion is an area southeast of Jerusalem, which contains several “settlements.” One of them is Kibbutz Kfar Etzion. Part of the Palestine Mandate from 1917 to 1948, and the Ottoman empire before that, it was purchased from local Arabs and settled by Yemenite Jews in 1927.  They lived there on and off (they were driven out several times by Arab “riots”) until May 1948 when the invading Jordanian army overran it and massacred all but four of its defenders. All of the West Bank and East Jerusalem were made Jew-free by the Jordanians, who illegally occupied the area until 1967, when the kibbutz was reestablished.

The Haganah sent thirty-five men to relieve the besieged kibbutzim of Gush Etzion in January 1948, following an Arab attack. They were wiped out and their bodies mutilated after an Arab shepherd, whom they unwisely set free after encountering him on the way, reported their presence. They are referred to as the lamed hey, “the thirty-five.”

Let me spell it out more clearly: Jews lived there on land they owned. The kibbutzim of Gush Etzion (there were four of them) represented the realization of the promise made by the world to the Jewish people in the Palestine Mandate, that there would be a national home in the land of Israel. Arabs violently resisted their presence, and when Jordan violated the U.N. charter by invading and occupying Judea and Samaria in 1948, Jews were murdered or expelled. Not one Jew was allowed to remain on the Jordanian side of the cease-fire line. Because they were Jews.

But in the eyes of the “international community,” the ethnic cleansing of the area east of the 1949 armistice line and the 19-year Jordanian occupation thereof transformed Gush Etzion into Arab land, land that today “belongs” to the new non-member-state of the U.N., “Palestine.”

Apparently this magical transmutation was recognized by Google, because when Jewish residents of Gush Etzion tried to use Google’s search engine this month, they received a message suggesting that they switch to the appropriate page for their location, Google Palestine (Google.ps), in Arabic, rather than the Hebrew-language Google Israel (Google.il) they had been using. This follows Google’s recent decision to re-title Google.ps “Palestine” instead of “Palestinian territories.”

Some people think this is much ado about nothing, and at a time when nobody knows if Israel will be at war with Hizballah, Syria and Iran tomorrow, they have a point.

But it is indicative of a much bigger problem. In its desire to present itself as a peace-loving member of the “international community,” Israeli governments have not asserted the historic right of the Jewish people, guaranteed in international law, to the land of Israel. They have not challenged the U.N.’s abdication of its responsibility, inherited from the League of Nations, to preserve this right. They have allowed the Arab position, that the Jews are colonialist interlopers occupying Arab land, to become the conventional wisdom.

I am not saying that it isn’t possible for Israel to agree to a negotiated settlement that would transfer some part of the area of the original mandate to Arab sovereignty, assuming that it could be consistent with Israel’s security. But this has to be negotiated from the starting point that the Jewish people have prima facie rights to Judea and Samaria, not the Palestinian Arabs.

This distortion underlies the position of the U.S. that Israel should withdraw to the 1949 armistice lines “with land swaps.” In other words, the U.S. believes that the armistice lines represent the boundaries of “Arab land” and so if Israel annexes any of it, the Arabs must be “compensated.” Why? The land wasn’t theirs to begin with!

Recent Israeli governments have argued for holding onto parts of the territories for security reasons, an argument which makes eminent sense. But they have generally avoided firmly asserting that Israel, on behalf of the Jewish people, holds the legal title to the land and has the right to dispose of it as it sees fit. The Arabs, of course, aren’t shy in saying that it’s all theirs, and that in addition, Jews aren’t allowed to live there.

The Jewish Connection to Israel: Sephardic Aliyot

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

The anti-Israel community often attempts delegitimize the State of Israel by using the rhetorical argument that the Jewish people left Israel following the Bar Kokhba Revolt, were absent from the area for 2000 years, and didn’t return to their ancestral homeland until the rise of the Zionist movement. The reality is that the Jewish people were never absent from the Land of Israel, for Jews continued to live in as well as settle the Land of Israel despite all of the hardships associated with it since ancient times.

For example, 34 synagogues were found in the Golan Heights dating from the late Roman era up until the Arab conquest. There was also a strong Jewish community present in Ein Gedi that continued to flourish up through the sixth century until Byzantine persecutions brought that community to an end. Additionally, a Jewish community found in Baram existed up through the Crusader period and population estimates from the seventh century as well as from 1517 following the Crusades and Black Plague also indicate a Jewish presence in the land of Israel.

The Sephardic Aliyah to Israel

Aside from ancient and medieval Jewish communities that existed within Israel the Jewish Diaspora never lost touch with their ancestral homeland. Hundreds of years prior to the founding of the Zionist movement there were Jewish communities which made Aliyah in the Middle Ages. One of these medieval Aliyot was that of the Sephardic Jewish community which fled Spain following the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisition in order to live under Ottoman rule in the Holy Land. Between 1391 through the fifteenth century, a significant number of Jews immigrated to the Holy Land as a response to the persecution they endured in Spain and Portugal.

According to the scholar Jane Gerber, writing in her book The Jews of Spain:

Entire family groups’ banded together and rented ships to make their way to Palestine since they were barred from Christian vessels. This movement contrasted sharply with the previous migration, which involved primarily the scholarly and the elderly who sought burial in the Holy Land. Soon, the Sephardic settlement in Jerusalem increased noticeably, and by the mid-century the community had become so heterogeneous that Hebrew, the only language shared by all, became its spoken language.

Dona Gracia Nasi

In fact, during the height of the Ottoman Empire, one brave Jewish woman of the Renaissance, Dona Gracia Nasi, sought to set up a semi-autonomous Jewish province in the area of Tiberius, Israel. Despite local Arab and French opposition, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent supported the project. Many modern historians evidently view Dona Gracia Nasi’s attempt to establish a Jewish province in Tiberius as part of a larger attempt to revive Jewish statehood prior to the rise of Zionism.

According to Andree Aelion Brooks’ The Woman Who Defied Kings: the Life and Times of Dona Gracia Nasi:

In Tiberius, the newcomers were soon taking over abandoned structures, renovating deserted houses, restoring gaping roofs, clearing the rubble and quarreling in typical Jewish fashion. By 1564 the revival was sufficiently far along that yet another traveler recalled that the scent from the date palm, orange and pine trees was so overpowering that it was almost suffocating. Yet another talked effusively of a wilderness turned into a Garden of Eden. Almost all of the residents, noted one of these travelers, were former conversos from Spain and Portugal!

Although the Tiberius community went into decline after Dona Gracia Nasi passed away, there are some Jews living in Israel today who can trace their residency in the Holy Land back to this Aliyah, known as the Old Yishuv.

Visit United with Israel.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/united-with-israel/the-jewish-connection-to-israel-sephardic-aliyot/2013/05/23/

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