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September 23, 2014 / 28 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Jewish History’

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.

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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.

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Rachel’s Tomb: A Jewish Holy Site Since Ancient Times

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

Rachel’s Tomb, located in the northern outskirts of Bethlehem, about 400 yards south of Jerusalem, is the third holiest site in Judaism after the Temple Mount and the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron. For the past 1,700 years, the site has been identified as the burial place of the Jewish matriarch, Rachel, and Jews were known to pray at the site for over the past 3,000 years. Rachel, the beloved wife of the patriarch Ya’akov, died during childbirth as the family was traveling to Hebron.

Rachel’s Tomb in the Hebrew Bible

According to Genesis 35:16-21,

They set out from Bayt-El; but when they were still some distance from Efrat; Rachel went into childbirth, and she had hard labor. When her labor was at its hardest, the midwife said to her, “Have no fear, for it’s another boy for you.” But as she breathed her last –as she was dying– she named him Ben-Oni, but his father called him Benyamin. So Rachel died. She was buried on the road to Efrat — now Bethlehem. Over her grave Ya’acov set up a pillar, it is the pillar at Rachel’s grave to this day.

Photo by Rachel Avraham.

Whenever the Jewish people faced sorrows, throughout the generations, they would traditionally pray for Rachel to cry for them at Rachel’s Tomb, believing that her tears to God have special powers. Since she herself was childless for many years, many Jewish women visit her grave in order to pray to have children, although other members of the Jewish community who face troubles also visit her grave. Thus, as the third holiest shrine in Judaism, Jews across the Diaspora maintained a spiritual connection to Rachel’s Tomb over the centuries and paid for the holy sites upkeep.

According to Jewish tradition, the matriarch Rachel has always cried for her people whenever the Jews needed her. Ya’akov reportedly buried Rachel in Bethlehem, instead of in the Tomb of Patriarchs in Hebron, because he foresaw that his descendants would need her prayers en route to exile in Babylonia. Additionally, Yosef, Rachel’s eldest son, was the first Jew to pray by her grave. According to a Midrash, Yosef broke away from his captors temporarily en route to bondage in Egypt and cried out at her grave,

“Mother, my mother who gave birth to me, wake up, arise and see my suffering.” Rachel replied, “Do not fear. Go with them, and God will be with you.”

As Jeremiah 31:15-17 states,

Rachel, weeping for her children, she refuses to be comforted for her children who are gone. Thus said Hashem: “Restrain your voice from weeping, your eyes from shedding tears; for there is reward for your labor” declares Hashem. “They shall return from the enemy’s land and there is hope for the future” declares Hashem: “Your children shall return to their own country.”

Islamic Attitude

Photo by Rachel Avraham.

Historically, the Muslim world considered Rachel’s Tomb a site holy to Jews. According to a report written by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, the sixteenth century Arab historian Mujir Al Din wrote that Rachel’s Tomb was a Jewish holy place. He recorded that Rachel’s Tomb was built with “eleven stones and covered with a cupola which rests on four pillars, and every Jew passing writes his name on the monument.” The same JCPA report states that in 1830, the Ottoman Turkish authorities decreed that Rachel’s Tomb was a Jewish holy site, proclaiming,

The tomb of esteemed Rachel, the mother of our Lord Joseph…they (the Jews) are accustomed to visit it from ancient days; and no one is permitted to prevent them or oppose them (from doing) this.

Another Ottoman decree, dated 1831, orders that all obstacles be removed that were in place that interfered with members of the Jewish community that sought to visit Rachel’s Tomb.

In 1615, Mohammad, Pasha of Jerusalem, had rebuilt Rachel’s Tomb on behalf of the Jewish people. In 1841, Jewish caretakers were given exclusive ownership of the place. And in 1845, the entire Rachel’s Tomb compound was redone with the permission of the Turkish authorities by Moses Montefiore.

Who’s Denying Whose Heritage?

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

I learned from here that:

Prof. Mustafa Kabaha [Kabha], Department of History and Philosophy at the Quds Open University [his Ph.D., Aranne School of History, Tel-Aviv University and that 'Quds Open University' is just the Israeli Open University], said that the Israeli occupation seeks to blur and thieve the Palestinian identity and history…Israeli authorities started renaming the Palestinian towns, cities and streets in order to impose the Israeli ideological, religious, and national control over the Palestinian territories in an attempt to falsify the land’s history…Kabaha revealed that there is an Israeli committee specifically charged with Judaizing and changing the Palestinian Arab names.

P.S.  I have his book -  The Role of the Press and Journalistic Discourse in the Arab Palestinian National Struggle, 1929-1939 – on my shelf, actually.

About that committee – no revelation required.  It is well known.

But as to who is a-thieving, and stealing and expropriating historical identity, first of all, “Palestinianism” is a model of disinventivity nationalism.  Not only do they invent their own narrative but they disinvent Jewish history.

The Tomb of Rachel. Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarchs. The Temple Mount. Jerusalem Denial.  The whole UNESCO campaign.  All, and the entire Land of Israel, have been the subject of incessant Islamic reinvention.

My home town – Shiloh – became Seilun and the Pal. Minister for Archaeology denies its past.

With “intellectuals” and “academics” as he, they aren’t going anywhere fast.

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Was the Holocaust Punishment for Sin?

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

For so many people religion is practiced out of a sense superstition. Like a furry rabbit’s foot, it wards off evil spirits. Fulfilling the word of God keeps you from experiencing bad things. So what happens when you’re religious and those bad things happen anyway? It must be because you sinned.

I continue to be amazed at how many people see God as “the great blackmailer in the sky,” a term I first heard from the atheist Oxford philosopher Jonathan Glover in a debate I moderated between him and my friend Dennis Prager. God threatens us with death and suffering unless we follow His will. Insofar as I have recently published a full length book refuting this idea, both Biblically and logically, I will not here address it, other than to focus on the most insidious permutation thereof. And that is the belief that the Holocaust was punishment for Jewish sin.

No doubt you’ve heard this argument before. It’s straightforward and it goes like this. The Jews of Germany didn’t want to be Jewish any more. They wanted to be more German than the Germans. They changed their names. They assimilated. They married out. The reform movement, which started in Germany in about 1820, expunged all mention of Zion and Jerusalem from its prayer book. Germany and Berlin were the new promised land. In short, the Jews of Germany abandoned God. Worse, they thought they could get away with it. So God decided to teach them a lesson. Just try and forget Me. Here, have a few gas chambers. Let’s see how independent you feel when you’re incarcerated behind barbed wire? Let’s see how much you love Germany when they collectively slaughter your children.

I’ve heard many variations on this theme. One is that it wasn’t assimilation and attachment to Germany that brought the Holocaust, but the exact opposite. The Jews were punished for secular Zionism and an attempt to return to the ancient homeland without divine assistance. Another variation, which I heard just recently and supposedly exists on a tape from one of the great Jewish scholars of the 20th century, was that the only way the Jews would ever give up their deep, emotional attachment to the great Torah centers of Europe, like Lithuania, was to see their neighbors shoot their own parents.

Whatever the variation on this theme of the Holocaust as punishment, let’s be clear. These theories are ignorant, repulsive, and wrong. Ignorant because no human being knows the mind of God. Repulsive because they take six million innocent martyrs – including 1.5 million children – and turn them into culprits responsible for their own deaths. Wrong because they ignore the most basic fact of all, which is this: the majority of German Jews survived Hitler, even though, of course, huge numbers perished.

In 1933 there were 522,000 Jews living in the Reich. By 1939 and the start of the Second World War, 304,000 had emigrated. Beginning in January 1933, when Hitler came to office in a torch lit parade down Unter den Linden, the Jews of Germany knew that they were in the hands of a monster. Almost immediately Jews were beaten in the streets, their businesses boycotted, their Synagogues attacked. By September, 1935 the Nuremberg race laws were enacted. By November 1938 the horrors of Kristallnacht defined the growing Nazi tyranny. And throughout, the Jews of Germany tried to get out. They knew they were otherwise doomed. And while the nations of the world closed so many doors to them, the majority managed to escape.

The people who did not escape were, among so many other millions, the Hassidim and ultra-religious Jews of Poland who had no idea that Hitler had signed a secret pact with Stalin to partition Poland. They had no inkling of Hitler’s plan to invade via blitzkrieg on 1 September, 1939 and that they would be caught in his web.

Are we to believe that these Jews who were devout and pious, with deeply sounding Jewish names, who observed the minutiae of Jewish law pertaining to kosher and the Sabbath and prayed thrice daily for the Jewish return to Zion were punished with extinction while the “sinful” culprits of German Jewry mostly survived? And what of the more than one million children who were gassed and cremated who were utterly innocent of every sin?

History of Israel: Snow in the Summer

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

Has it ever snowed in Israel in the summer?

Two people have reported snow in the month of Sivan (late May-early June), though in both cases, it was hearsay.

The first is Rabbi Moshe Basula (Moses ben Mordecai Bassola), who visited the ancient synagogues in Bar’am in the early 1500s and wrote as follows (translation mine):

On the lintel of the smaller entrance it is inscribed in Hebrew “May G-d give peace to this place and to all the places of Israel.” And I was told that on another stone which had fallen down was written “Don’t be surprised about snow in the month of Nissan, we’ve seen it in Sivan.”

The Hebrew inscription is unusual, as most inscriptions in Byzantine synagogues are in Aramaic. The synagogue was researched in the late 19th century, but by 1907 there was nothing left of its stones. The local Arab villagers had destroyed it completely and ransacked it for building materials. The “snow” inscription was never found. The lintel inscription is on display in the Louvre.

The synagogue entrance, circa 1882
The inscription

 

The second to report snow in the summer was Joseph (Yehoseph) Schwarz, the father of Jewish research of the land of Israel. In his book “Tevu’ot ha-Areẓ” (The Bounty of the Land, published in English as well), he says as follows (translation mine):

In 1844 it snowed a bit on the night and morning of April 11 (22 of Nissan) [... Schwarz then goes on to bring various examples of snowy years...]. In 1754 there was a lot of snow and it was very cold, and so 25 people died in the Galilee in Nazareth of the cold, and I heard from an old man that the snow continued that year until the month of Sivan [late May], and there was barely a minyan that year on Shavuot in the synagogue here in Jerusalem, because that night it snowed so much that barely anybody could go out for morning prayers.

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