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Exacting Vengeance on the Gentiles?

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Once again we are treated to the sight of very religious looking Jews acting like a street gang. A statue of a cross with a figure of Jesus on it was defaced by a group of Breslover Chasidim in Uman. The cross was recently erected opposite the grave of the founder of this Chasidus, Rav Nachman of Breslov – located in the Ukrainian city of Uman. From JTA:

“To exact vengeance on the gentiles,” reads the message, which was scrawled across the torso of a figure of Jesus. A further inscription on Jesus’ leg reads, “Stop desecrating the name of God.”

This kind of thing would not surprise me if it were being done by extremists from a community that embraces an isolationist lifestyle. But although they are hardcore Chasidim who dress and look much the same as Satmar Chasidim – Breslovers do a lot of outreach. I would expect them to know how to behave in a more civilized manner. They must have had a socialization process that taught them that or they could not do outreach. And yet here they have acted in a completely uncivilized way.

So it comes as a bit of a surprise that a Christian symbol near their venerated Rebbe’s grave site was desecrated with graffiti. I guess their socialization process goes just so far. A statue of Jesus so close to their Rebbe’s grave site was too much to handle.

I don’t know why the Ukrainian Government chose that site for its statue. I don’t think it was a wise decision. But at the same time, I don’t think it was necessarily meant to ‘stick it’ to the Breslovers either. It was probably just not a well thought out plan.

I can understand why these Chasidim felt outrage. They consider the Breslover Rebbe’s gravesite to be so holy that make annual pilgrimages to it. Tens of thousands of Jews (mostly Breslover Chasidim) from all over the world visit it during Rosh Hashanah – one of the holiest times of the year. It is almost as though they were making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem’s Holy Temple. Seeing the sight of Jesus on a cross must have made them feel like they were seeing Avodah Zara in the Beis HaMikdash.

The outrage is understandable. But their expression of it is inexcusable. It is the kind of behavior that can bring tragedy upon the Jewish people. Uman is not Jerusalem. R. Nachman’s gravesite is not the Beis HaMikdash. The citizens of Uman are their hosts. Breslovers are guests. And the guests have just defaced the image of the god their hosts worship.

The more responsible Breslover leadership has apologized. Sort of. From JTA:

“We respect other religions, and don’t wish to damage symbols of other religions. But, unfortunately, not all of our coreligionists understand this. They could break or destroy the cross. That would lead to a genuine war between hasidim and Christians. We cannot allow that, so we request that the cross be moved to a different location,” said Shimon Busquila, a representative of the Rabbi Nachman International Fund…

It may have been a legitimate request. But it was made too late. If made at all it should have been made politely before the statue was vandalized. Nonetheless the deputy mayor of Uman agreed with it.

On the other hand the citizens of Uman were so outraged by the vandalism – that they will have no part of moving the statue. They promised retaliation against Rav Nachman’s grave if it is moved. I can’t say that I blame them.

I think the point to be made here is contained in the response made by Shimon Busquila: ‘…not all of our coreligionists understand this’.

That is exactly the problem. Why don’t they understand this? It is not enough for a leader to simply say that some of their co-religionists do not understand the consequences of being uncivilized – thereby damaging the property of their hosts.  Especially their religious symbols. No matter how upsetting it is to them.

The Chasidim who did this are taught to hate non Jewish religious symbols much more than they are taught to behave in civilized ways when encountering them. So when they get upset at the sight of one of those hated symbols, they react in ways that bring ill repute upon – and ill will against – our people. They do so without thinking or perhaps even caring about the consequences.

UN Chemical Weapons Inspectors Arrive in Syria

Monday, August 19th, 2013

UN inspectors tasked with investigating the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria arrived there on Sunday, Xinhu reported.

The 20-member UN delegation, led by Swedish expert Ake Sellstrom, will begin their two-week mission today.

The Syrian government and the opposition have accused each other of using chemical weapons in an attack on Khan al-Asal town on March 19 that killed at least 25 people and injured 130 others, and both sides are denying responsibility.

The UN fact-finding mission, set up in March at the request of the Syrian government, will investigate the use of chemical weapons at the town of Khan al-Asal, outside Aleppo, and in two other sites.

The locations of two other incidents have not been publicized for security reasons. The UN investigation team’s mandate is to report on whether chemical weapons were used, and to specify what kind of chemical weapons was used. But they are not asked to determine the responsible party.

Publicize that Miracle!

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

The first night of Chanukah, in the neighborhood of Nachlaot in the center of Jerusalem, December 8, 2012.

The idea of the Chanukah candles is to announce the miracle, make it as public as possible, kind of the visual equivalent of screaming it from the rooftops: We were stuck with only one little jug of oil and it lasted 1-2-3-4-5-6-7- and 8 days!

In Jerusalem they take these things very seriously, as you can see, literally publicizing the miracle in the streets.

Crossword Puzzle – Got Juice

Friday, December 7th, 2012

 

Across

1. Apple leftover

5. Concert equipment

9. Grad. school tests

14. The ___, counting time

15. Torah mariner

16. Gets promoted

17. Stallion’s mate

18. “Beetle Bailey” dog

19. “Live ___ ___ Legs”, Pearl Jam album

20. Cry by He-Man, or when removing the third word a statement made by the lucky ones last month

23. Preserve, in a way

24. Letters before DVD

25. Dimness

27. Dylan of the Mets

28. Arid

30. Squared cracker?

32. Kind of action figure, or possible title for one providing juice?

36. Sch. with a bear mascot in Little Rock

37. Decorative pitcher

38. Tail action

39. Kind of agreement

40. “Wheel of Fortune” buy

41. Like G-d

45. Seek a seat

46. Make like Eli

47. Poet’s “before”

48. Davidic song

50. Napoleon in literature, e.g.

51. Wetland

54. 1992 Morgan Freeman movie

58. Color of one of the Avengers

60. Wren or hen

61. Country of conflict on the political stage

62. Kind of church

63. Hodgepodge

64. Foul mood

65. Unpopular name at the moment

66. Seals’ meals

67. Belonging to Chaya, e.g.

 

Down

1. Rickles or Regan

2. Poker game

3. Played again

4. Day before

5. One more

6. Cocoon exiters

7. Head

8. Factory

9. An unfriendly dog, e.g.

10. Actor Sal

11. Kind of artificial ground

12. Driver’s helper?

13. Common ID

21. Penultimate fairy tale word

22. Shrek, e.g.

26. Region across from Hong Kong

27. Jewish stranger?

28. Ginger cookies

29. Waffle brand

31. Washington locale, with “the”

32. Orchard item

33. Admit

34. A Miramax founder

35. Cobblers’ tools

39. Bonanza find

41. Very much

42. Light antique?

43. Odd folk

44. As a result

49. Coming up

50. Jeopardy

51. Carried by

52. Broadcasting

53. Fellows

55. Cousin of a bassoon

56. Sly trick

57. Abode for Jonah, once

58. Astronaut Grissom

59. Biochemistry abbr.

 

(Answers, next week)

Why Americans Support Israel

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

As Israeli air strikes and naval shells bombarded Gaza last week, the world asked the question that perennially frustrates, confuses and enrages so many people across the planet: Why aren’t the Americans hating on Israel more?

As in Operation Cast Lead, the last big conflict between Israel and Hamas, and as during the operation against Hizbullah in Lebanon, much of the world screams in outrage while America yawns.

If anything, many of Israel’s military operations are more popular and less controversial in the United States than they are in Israel itself. This time around, President Obama and his administration issued one statement after another in support of Israel’s right to self-defense, and both houses of Congress passed resolutions in support of Jerusalem’s response.

Commentators around the world grasp at straws in seeking to explain what’s going on. Islamophobia and racism, say some. Americans just don’t care about Arab deaths and they are so blinded by their fear of Islam that they can’t see the simple realities of the conflict on the ground.

Others allege that a sinister Jewish lobby controls the media and the political system through the vast power of Jewish money; the poor ignorant Americans are the helpless pawns of clever Jews.

Still others suggest that it is fanatical Christian fundamentalists with their carry-on flight bags packed for the Rapture who are behind American blindness to Israel’s crimes.

America is a big country with a lot of things going on, but the real force driving American support for Israeli actions in Gaza isn’t Islamophobia, Jewish conspiracies or foam-flecked religious nuts. It’s something much simpler: many though not all Americans look at war through a distinctive cultural lens.

Readers of my book Special Providence know I’ve described four schools of American thinking about world affairs; from the perspective of the most widespread of them, the Jacksonians, what Israel is doing in Gaza makes perfect sense. Not only are many Jacksonians completely untroubled by Israel’s response to the rocket attacks in Gaza, many genuinely don’t understand why the rest of the world is so steamed about Israel – and so angry with the United States.

Americans as a people have never much believed in fighting by “the rules.” The Minutemen who fought the British regulars at Lexington and Concord in 1776 thought that there was nothing stupider in the world than to stand in even ranks and brightly colored uniforms waiting to shoot and be shot like gentlemen. They hid behind stone walls and trees, wearing clothes that blended in with their surroundings, and took potshots at the British wherever they could.

George Washington saved the Revolution by a surprise attack on British forces the night before Christmas; far from being ashamed of an attack no European general of the day would have countenanced, Americans turned a painting of the attack (“Washington Crossing the Delaware”) into a patriotic icon. In America, war is not a sport.

Theoreticians of “just war” say that in order for war to be justifiable, two tests must be met. You have to have a legitimate cause for war (self-defense, for example, rather than grabbing land from a weaker neighbor) and you must fight the war in the right way. You must fight fair (that is, fight a just war), and you must fight nice.

One of the criteria for jus in bello (fighting nice as opposed to jus ad bellum, which is about whether it’s just) is proportionality. If the other guy comes at you with a stick, you can’t pull a knife. If he’s got a knife, you can’t pull a gun. If he burned your barn, you can’t nuke his capital. Your use of force must be proportionate to the cause and to the danger.

Israel’s fiercer critics attack it for fighting unjust wars against the Palestinians. For some, Zionism itself is an illegitimate idea, and a state that has no right to exist has no right to defend itself. Anything it does to defend itself is a crime. This is how Hamas and many others think and it is why people in this camp are able to work themselves up into such a froth of indignation and rage when Israel responds to their fire.

The Problem with Haredi Magazines

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Mishpacha and Ami Magazines are competitors. They both seek to serve the same populations. They are virtually identical in Hashkafa – which is decidedly Charedi. How Charedi are they? Well neither of them will show a picture of a woman no matter how Tzanua (modestly dressed) she is. Even if she were wearing a Burka. That’s pretty Charedi.

At the same time they both seek as broad-based an Orthodox readership as they can find. Thus they will feature very positive articles on both the Satmar Rebbe and Rav Hershel Shachter of Yeshiva University.

While I believe they are both absolutely wrong in excluding pictures of Tzanua women – I applaud them for their broad based approach to Orthodoxy. There are many informative articles and weekly columns by talented writers in both magazines. But all is not rosy. I often find things in these magazines which are truly maddening. This week both magazines had articles like that.

In what was an otherwise very positive story in Ami about how the Jewish community’s extraordinary efforts in alleviating the pain of those who have suffered – and are still suffering – the after effects of Superstorm Sandy, there was one little blurb that bothered me. It read as follows: “The Rosh Yeshiva gave us a Psak to help anyone who asked.”

On the surface that sounds wonderful. The Rosh Yeshiva is Rav Reuven Feinstein. He of course said the right thing. Now the Yeshiva students who were working so hard helping their fellow Jews could also help to alleviate the plight of non Jews suffering the same fate.

Really? They had to ask a Shaila? Did they think that if a non Jew desperate for some help – they should tell him, “No”? “Sorry, we can’t help you”? “We can only help Jews”?

That too is a Shaila? What kind of Chinuch do these young Jewish students get that causes them to hesitate in feeding a fellow human being in need? The implication is obvious. Had they not been able to ask a Shaila and a non Jew desperate for food – saw these boys handing ou t food and asked for some himself, they may very well have refused them until they asked a Shaila. Can there be a greater Chilul HaShem than that?

Now I don’t know if they didn’t “shoot first and ask questions later”. Maybe they did feed the needy non Jew and merely wondered if they were doing the right thing. But even that is ridiculous. A fellow human being needs food to survive – you give it to him. Did they think God would punish them for doing so?

There is something terribly wrong with Charedi Jewish education if it does not make obvious the absolute requirement to help your fellow man in these circumstances.

On a completely different subject – this week’s column in Mishpacha by Eitan Kobre really got me upset. In yet another in what seems to be a never ending assault on the President by right wing pundits, Mr. Kobre goes to town on how stupid the black community in Washington DC is for voting for the President.

I am going to stop short of calling Mr. Kobre a racist. I don’t think he is. After all in using economist Thomas Sowell – a black man – to bolster his opinion it is kind of hard to say that he is prejudiced against black people.

But still there does seem to be a subtle prejudice that is hard to prove. He is not castigating all black people. Just those who voted for the President. Which – if I recall correctly – was well over 90%. He attributes this to voting racial pride rather than voting for what’s good for you. As an example of that he points to the fact that Republicans advocate vouchers which – where they have been used – has benefited the black community immensely. I believe that many black people endorse vouchers. And yet they voted for a President that will never implement them and instead will continue funneling money into the black hole of the public school system.

But is it really so surprising that people will vote their racial or ethnic pride – choosing that over someone whose substantive positions have proven to be more beneficial to them? How many Jews vote for the Jewish candidate because he is Jewish? Are Jews stupid too? Besides – are vouchers the only thing to base one’s vote upon?

To be clear, I have no problem with Mr. Kobre’s arch conservative politics. Although I am more of a centrist than a political conservative, I tend to lean a bit more toward the conservative approach. So politically we are not that far apart.

But to bash the President as if he were some sort of socialist “Robin Hood” interested in taking from the rich via taxes and giving it away to the poor via an enormous increase in entitlement programs – is taking the criticism to a new low. Mr. Kobre may not have used those terms in his column. But that is clearly how he thinks of the President. (Not that he’s alone. As I said Thomas Sowell agrees with him. As do many conservative pundits. In fact Rush Limbaugh makes Mr. Kobre look liberal by comparison.)

I do not recall this kind of criticism made against any other Democratic President. Nor even against a democratic candidate for President. Is he the most left leaning President or Presidential candidate in recent history? You would think he was the second coming of Karl Marx if one looks at the sheer venom of some critics. While I wouldn’t go that far with Mr. Kobre’s criticism, there does seem to be an inordinate amount of dislike for the man that goes beyond politics.

Like I said, I do not accuse Mr. Kobre of being a racist. And yet he goes to extraordinary lengths to foment hatred of the man by the Jewish people. Why else did he once again make reference to the Reverend Jeremiah Wright?! What was his point here other than to somehow connect the President to Wright’s rabid anti Israel stance?

And all this in the face of the President’s unqualified support of Israel’s bombing raids in Gaza. I wonder how Reverend Wright characterized it?

Adding insult to injury – that Mr. Kobre wrote this article and that Mishpacha published it before there was a cease fire and while Hamas was still firing rockets at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem make it even more egregious. Especially since it was the Obama administration’s financial investment in the Iron Dome Defense system which prevented the kind of carnage that would surely have ensued had it not been there! If anything Mr. Kobre should be thanking the president profusely instead of calling black people stupid for voting for him.

Come on Eytan. You can do better than that!

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Political Nesting Dolls: Tzipi Livni the Politician Launches Tzipi Livni the Movement

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Politicians are by nature narcissistic creatures, but it is possible that former Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni will come down in history as the narcissist’s narcissist. This afternoon she announced the launching of her new party, to be named: The Movement under the Leadership of Tzipi Livini. And if you figured that it only sounds this bad in English, trust me, it sounds just as bizarre in Hebrew.

Tzipi Livni, chairwoman of the movement led by Tzipi Livni, with her dark blonde Prince Valiant, obviously after a good, pre-run diet to trim that zaftig post-defeat figure, told a room packed with her supporters (a huge no-no in Israeli politics, you don’t bring your fans to a press conference – as one Israeli reporter made sure to protest loudly during the live broadcast) that she had spotted a vacuum at the center of Israel’s political map, a vacuum created largely by the colossal failure of her own party – and that she was determined to go after those low hanging fruits of Israel’s mythical, undecided centrists.

The press conference and the announcement against a backdrop of campaign posters that bore her name, marked a kind of last stand for a leader whose career was always hers to lose. Like Dan Meridor and Benny Begin, Livni is member of the Likud royalty, a princess among princes, daughter of Eitan Livni, the chief of staff of the Irgun, Livni picked up her engraved invitation when she was appointed by Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996 to manage the privatization of government-owned companies. In 1999 she made it, after one failed attempt, into the Knesset, and shortly thereafter was picked up by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to serve in his government. She followed Sharon out of the Likud and into Kadima, all the time serving in a variety of ministerial positions, including a stint as Foreign Minister for Sharon’s successor Ehud Olmert.

Then, in 2009, after Olmert was forced to resign following corruption charges, Livni led theKadima party to victory in the polls. She beat Netanyahu’s Likud party by one vote, 28 to 27. But Tzipi Livni who had made a superb second and third in command for three masters, was unable to apply the lessons she had learned and ended up being outmaneuvered by the wilier and more experienced Netanyahu, earning the dubious record of being the only party leader who won the numeric vote and didn’t get to form the coalition government.

This afternoon, a reporter hammered that point in with the kind of cruelty one expects of the Israeli press: With all due respect, she asked the candidate, the voter has already given you a mandate four years ago, and you dropped the ball. Why should anyone choose you again?

Livni, who had clearly been practicing for just this kind of an in-your-face dig, was nevertheless shaken by it. She answered that she had lost her first chance because she stuck by her values, and preferred to sit out the term on the opposition benches rather than lower her standards.

Ah, well, that’s encouraging.

With the date for submitting the final party lists approaching (next week), Livni received a generous prediction in one of this morning’s polls – 9 seats. But does she even have nine potential seat-worthy candidates, or is she going to follow the example another narcissist, Yair Lapid, and appoint her hairdresser, gardener and trainer?

It was a disheartening press conference of a political hack well past her prime who believes she has any credit left with the voters. From what we’ve seen this week at the Likud primaries, the Israeli voter has no problem dropping his leaders when they’ve disappointed him – and Tzipi Livni is one big, self inflated disappointment.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/political-nesting-dolls-tzipi-livni-the-politician-launches-tzipi-livni-the-movement/2012/11/27/

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