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October 1, 2016 / 28 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘meeting’

Netanyahu Holds Security Meeting Ahead of High Holidays

Monday, September 19th, 2016

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday held a meeting to assess the security situation ahead of the Tishrei holidays—Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot. Netanyahu called for in creased police presence, especially in the Old City and around the Temple Mount, directing “determined action” against any attempt to violate the public order there. In the case of Jews on the Temple Mount, these actions are normally determined by the Waqf agents, who are empowered to assess the level of spiritual engagement exerted by any Jew on the Temple Mount, and to decide whether said Jews have crossed the line and got dangerously close to their Father in Heaven.

Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered Knesset Speaker MK Yuli Edelstein to continue to prevent MKs and cabinet ministers from going up to the Temple Mount during this sensitive period, such sensitive period being defined as “always.”

The Prime Minister also directed that activity be increased against PA Arab incitement on social networks, including Facebook, with the goal of removing inflammatory content. He also instructed that a response team be established to refute disinformation about Israeli policy on the Temple Mount, such as the Jews are plotting to destroy the Al Aqsa mosque.

Netanyahu received an update on IDF operations and the reinforcement of units along the roads and inside Judea and Samaria communities.

Also participating in the meeting were Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Israel Policy Deputy Inspector General Zohar Dvir, Jerusalem District Police Commander Yoram Halevy, the deputy Director of the ISA, an IDF representative and personnel from the National Security Council.

David Israel

Tefillah: A Meeting With Hashem – Are We Atheists In Foxholes?

Friday, September 2nd, 2016

“There are no atheists in foxholes,” goes the saying. When in dire straits, even the greatest non-believer will often admit that until now his life was a farce. He had denied G-d’s existence only because he wanted to live without any constraints – like an animal, without the burden of his conscience. Now, when he feels helpless, as shells explode around him and the angel of death ruthlessly snatches away his comrades, he raises his eyes in prayer to G-d, whom he just rediscovered.

We Torah-observant Jews are definitely light years ahead of that poor fellow. But in a certain way we are similar. Let us think about how we daven Shemoneh Esrei. We all try to concentrate, but it is difficult. Our mind wanders, and we daydream about countless topics. And before we know it, we find ourselves taking three steps back.

But if, chas v’sholom, a person is told by his doctors that he has a severe disease and needs to undergo intense medical treatment, his prayers take on new dimensions. Each word is said with emotion and feeling, because he knows that his life is on the line. And if his business is floundering, he pours his heart out during the blessing of Bareich Aleinu, and begs Hashem for help.

Sure, we are much better than the atheist who only sees the truth when it may be too late to start living a life of faith. But to a certain degree we also forget about Hashem when the sailing is smooth. How can we rectify the problem?

 

Foolish Complacency

This Shabbos is Rosh Chodesh Elul. In just thirty days it will be Rosh Hashanah, when Hashem will decide what will happen to us in the upcoming year – and sometimes the ruling can have an effect that will last for many years to come. Since we are judged based on our past performance, we should be quite terrified. But for some strange reason we are calm and complacent. Indeed, much ink has been spilled regarding this phenomenon: Just several generations ago, even the simple water carrier was terrified when Rosh Chodesh Elul arrived, but in our times, it is very difficult for us to truly be worried about our impending judgment.

One of the explanations given is that in those generations most people did not really know where their income would come from, nor whether there would be food available. And, at any moment, the gentiles could rise against the Jews with terrible pogroms and persecutions. Before the discovery of antibiotics, a simple cold could lead to deadly illnesses. The people living in those times truly understood that they were totally dependent on Hashem’s ongoing protection and kindness. Hence, the Yomim Noraim were truly scary days. But in our modern age, our livelihoods are relatively secure, we have doctors who can cure most ailments, and except for sporadic terrorist attacks, we feel more or less safe. Of course, in our hearts we know that everything we have is truly from Hashem, but those feelings are not enough of a reality in our daily lives. Thus, Rosh Hashanah does not have enough significance to us. What can we do to change our mindset?

 

The Poor “Rich” Man

The Gemara (Rosh Hashanah 16b) states: “Reb Yitzchok says that any year that is poor in the beginning will be rich in the end.” Rashi explains that “poor in the beginning” means that “Klal Yisroel makes themselves poor on Rosh Hashanah to utter supplications and pray, as it says in Mishlei (18:23) ‘A pauper utters supplications.’” On Rosh Hashanah we must turn to Hashem in prayer the same way a poor man asks people for help. Rav Matisyahu Salomon, the famed Mashgiach of Beis Medrash Gavoha in Lakewood, explains this with the following parable:

Everyone thought that Bob was fabulously wealthy. The estate that sprawled over several acres, the fabulous mansion, the numerous luxury cars, the private yacht and airplane – they all bespoke riches. Not to mention his downtown skyscrapers and countrywide chain of stores. But the truth was far from what the eye beheld. For the last three years Bob had suffered tremendous losses on all financial fronts. He desperately tried to bail himself out of the rut he had fallen into, but to no avail. The bank began warning him of seizures and foreclosures, until, one day, it came. “If you do not pay us the money you owe, in exactly three days we will seize all your assets and properties,” the letter from the bank stated. Without waiting a moment, Bob ran to the bank manager and literally went down on his knees. “Please, please, have mercy!” he pleaded. “If you take everything away I am finished! I have new plans which will definitely succeed! Give me a few more months to save myself!”

If a person foolishly feels that he is all set and does not need Hashem for anything, he will not view his life as being on the line. Entering Rosh Hashanah in such a manner is not very smart. We must consider the possibility that we are in exactly the same situation as our friend Bob. Yes, Baruch Hashem, we have health and parnasah, but perhaps it is all on credit! Maybe Hashem in His infinite kindness is giving us a chance to mend our ways – but at any moment He can decide that the time is up. And in truth, that is what happens every Rosh Hashanah. Just as the bank reevaluates its client’s credit ratings from time to time, so too, each year on this day, Hashem evaluates how we have acted until now. And then He decides to extend us credit, or, chas v’sholom, not to.

We must approach Hashem the same way that Bob beseeched the bank manager, and beg Him like a poor man. If we do so, says the Gemara, we will merit a good year. The more we show that we realize that we do not deserve anything, the more we will deserve mercy.

 

The Daily Foxhole

Let us return to our daily Shemoneh Esrei. One of the reasons we have so much trouble concentrating during a regular Shemoneh Esrei is the same reason we do not feel scared about Rosh Hashanah: We simply do not feel that we are in danger. But if we would think about all the people who suddenly lost their parnasah or health, we would change our mindset. All those cases teach us that nothing can be taken for granted. Then, every time we ask Hashem for health, we will do so as one who really needs a medical salvation, because we never really know if our good health is really just on credit.

We are better off than the atheist in the foxhole – his faith in Hashem is buried so deep that it requires a life-threatening situation to bring it to life. We, on the other hand, know the truth – we are just fast asleep. With a little thought, we can awaken ourselves, and show our true colors.

If we use these days of Elul to instill in ourselves the reality that one good year does not tell us anything about the coming year, by the time we reach Rosh Hashanah we will truly be able to pray to Hashem like a poor man does. And then, we will merit, b’ezras Hashem, having a happy sweet New Year.

Rabbi Eliezer M. Niehaus

PA Senior: Israel Refusing Meeting Ahead of Possible Cairo Summit

Sunday, August 21st, 2016

A senior official at the Palestinian Authority told Israel Radio Sunday that Israel has refused an offer for a preparatory meeting with the PA side ahead of a possible summit meeting in Cairo between Prime Minister Netanyahu and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

According to the official, the Cairo meeting is intended to prepare for the international peace conference which is being planned in Paris by the end of the year, possibly with representatives from both France and the US. Apparently, various sources have advised Netanyahu to send an envoy to meet with a PA representative to prepare the Cairo meeting, but Netanyahu refused.

“Netanyahu does not want negotiations for a permanent settlement, and as long as he is at the helm there will not be a Palestinian State,” the PA senior said.

The same official also told Israel Radio that the PA does not demand that Israel freeze settlement construction as a prerequisite to the Paris conference, but rather the freeze should coincide with the start of negotiations. He threatened that “should Netanyahu not arrive at the Paris conference, we expect France and the other participating states to recognize the Palestinian State, open Palestinian embassies in their own capitals and boycott the settlements.”

Regarding Defense Minister Liberman’s plan to bypass Abbas in developing communication channels with key people in the PA society, the senior official said Liberman has yet to learn the lesson of the Village Associations that were set up by the late Ariel Sharon as a bulwark against the PLO in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, which eventually became the Hamas movement.

“[Liberman] is treating the Palestinians as if they were animals: if they follow the rules they’ll get food, if not — a kick in the behind. The Village Associations failed then and will fail today. No one will work with Liberman, people here are not traitors,” the official said, adding, “Israel can’t run the same experiment, change nothing and expect different results.”

JNi.Media

Tefillah: A Meeting With Hashem – Love Our Nation

Friday, August 5th, 2016

A friend of mine related that his brother was on a business trip to Istanbul and went to pray in a local shul. He was quite surprised when one of the congregants waved to him. “I don’t know this man,” he thought. “He must be a really friendly person!” But then he noticed the man was waving to everyone in shul. And he was not the only one – every single person in shul was doing the same thing! After davening, they told him that this custom was based on the words of the Arizal, cited by the Magen Avraham (O.C., beginning of siman 46). He writes: “Before the morning tefillah one should accept upon himself the mitzvah of v’ahavtah le’reiacha kamocha – you shall love your fellow as yourself.” In order to fulfill this mitzvah properly, the custom of this congregation is to wave to each and every fellow Jew in shul.

But what is the Arizal’s reason – why is it so important to fulfill this mitzvah specifically before we start praying?

 

Plural Power

One who examines Shemoneh Esrei will notice something interesting: we speak in the plural form. For example, we ask Hashem to give us rain, to heal us, to forgive us, etc. That is, I come before Hashem as a representative of our nation – not for myself. Once a person has asked for everyone, he may add personal supplications, as long as he fulfills certain conditions (see Shulchan Aruch, O.C. siman 119). One example being at the end of Shemoneh Esrei when we say “Elokai, netzor leshoni mei’ra – My G-d, guard my tongue from evil… etc.” In general, though we use the plural form. In fact, the Gra in Sh’nos Eliyahu (Brachos 5:1) says that not only must we verbally ask in the plural form, we are not even allowed to think only about ourselves when we pray! But why not?

The Gemara (Brachos 30a) states that when a person prays he should always include himself as part of the community. Rashi explains that this will cause his prayer to be accepted. On a simple level, we can explain that one who includes himself with the tzibur will be answered in their merit, because the community usually has more merit than the individual.

However, I believe there is an even deeper reason why including ourselves with the tzibur helps our tefillos be accepted by Hashem. The whole concept of approaching Hashem in prayer is absolutely mind-boggling. How do we have the audacity to approach the Master of the Universe, who is holier and greater than anything we can possibly imagine, and expect that He is interested in hearing us? Only because Hashem tells us so in the Torah. “For who is a great nation that has G-d close to them like Hashem our G-d, whenever we call out to Him?” (Devorim 4:7). Hashem gave our nation the special privilege of turning to Him in prayer, and He has promised to listen to our prayers. And why did we merit this special closeness? Simply because He loves us, as stated throughout Tanach. The prophet Yirmiyahu (31:3) says in the name of Hashem: “I have loved you with an eternal love.” And Yeshaya (54:10) says even more: “For the mountains will depart and the hills will move, but My loving-kindness shall not depart from you, nor will My covenant of peace move away.”

Hashem’s love for our nation is so great that even though we sinned and were sent into exile, He still loves us. Hashem did not choose us because of our good deeds; rather, He has an unconditional love for us (Maharal, Netzach Yisroel, chapter 11). Therefore, even if we sin, He will not forsake us. On the contrary, He will make sure that we repent and perfect our ways, so that we will be worthy of Him dwelling amongst us.

Rabbi Eliezer M. Niehaus

After 9 Years Egypt Foreign Minister Meeting Netanyahu to ‘Promote Peace Process’

Sunday, July 10th, 2016

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry arrives in Israel Sunday to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu, the first visit of an Egyptian FM in nine years. The PM told his cabinet meeting Sunday that he would meet with the visitor twice, once in the afternoon and once in the evening. Shoukry met with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas two weeks ago.

According to Egyptian diplomats speaking to Ma’an, Shoukry’s visit will focus on Egyptian proposals to kickstart the peace process once again, as well as the French peace initiative. The man behind today’s visit, according to Netanyahu, was his special emissary, attorney Yitzhak Molcho, the chief negotiator on behalf of Netanyahu in the Israeli negotiating team.

According to a statement released by Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid, the Shoukry visit is the next step in a process begun by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who a few months ago called on all the parties in Israel to unite around the peace process with the Palestinians and on Arab countries to also enlist to promote the peace.

Since he has managed to expand his ruling coalition from 61 to 67 members, Netanyahu has been speaking freely about his desire for a regional political move, a topic he raised in his meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry two weeks ago, in Rome.

David Israel

Tefillah: A Meeting With Hashem Our Real Best Friend

Friday, July 8th, 2016

“Man’s best friend” is one of those phrases we have gotten so used to that we overlook its absurdity. This phrase, of course, refers to a furry, four-legged creature – namely, the dog. Have we ever contemplated how ridiculous this statement is? How can one say that a human being, the bearer of a soul from the upper spheres, is best friends with a canine mammal of the Order Carnivora? And, if we are discussing a Jew, who has a holy neshama from under Hashem’s Throne of Glory, which gives him the ability to connect to Hashem, it is even more ludicrous.

So who is really “man’s best friend”? The answer is G-O-D … not D-O-G! Yes, they have the same letters, but we have gotten the word totally backwards!

In many places, we refer to Hashem as our friend. For example, “Rei’acha v’rei’ah avicha al ta’azov – Do not forsake your Friend and the Friend of your father” (Mishlei 27:10). Rashi explains that the friend of our father is Hashem, who was a close friend of our forefathers. But He is not just a family friend, He is our own personal friend – “your Friend,” the verse states. We ourselves see that He is our best friend, so Shlomo HaMelech tells us not to forsake Him!

 

So Many Presents!

Last month (6-10) we mentioned that one of the prerequisites to turning to Hashem in prayer is knowing that He loves us and has our best interest in mind. We explained how we can see this love from the fact that Hashem gave our nation His precious Torah, the source of true life. But from the aforementioned verse in Mishlei, we also see that we must be aware that Hashem is our personal friend. One of the best ways to build that awareness is by contemplating all the wonderful gifts that our Friend is constantly bestowing upon us. Let us mention just a few.

If you ask, “How much is that person worth?” most people will answer based on his assets. But the correct answer is that if he has a healthy heart, liver, and kidneys, he is worth several million dollars! Why? Well, the average cost of a heart transplant is $ 1,250,000; for a liver, $750,000; and for a kidney, another $350,000. That brings us to the grand total of $2,350,000 to receive “used” organs. Studies show that approximately half of heart transplant recipients are still alive at 10 years post-transplant. A living donor kidney functions, on average, 12 to 20 years, and a deceased donor kidney from 8 to 12 years. That being the case, how much would a person pay for a brand new heart or kidney, straight from the “Manufacturer”? At least double the price! That means that we, who have “original” organs, are worth millions of dollars! And we take these wonderful presents from Hashem for granted.

But it doesn’t stop there. Do we think about that fact that He is constantly making sure that they function properly? We do not have to attach ourselves to a dialysis machine three times a week for several hours to clean our blood. Our heart pumps smoothly and effortlessly – no pacemaker necessary. Our lungs draw in wonderful oxygen – no need to drag around an oxygen tank. We do not wheeze as we breathe and coughing does not tear our innards apart. We hear just fine without hearing aids. No need to tap with a white cane or be led by a seeing-eye dog. We are able to use the facilities, our food gets digested properly, and we can enjoy the different types of food Hashem gives us. Perambulating with our wonderful legs is a pleasurable experience! Arthritis and muscle pain? Those are things we hope never to meet. Our heads are free of horrible migraines, our skin is generally not dry or chapped and, for the most part, when it is time to go to bed, we place our heads on the pillow and drift off into a peaceful slumber without too much delay.

Rabbi Eliezer M. Niehaus

A Meeting with Magda Haroun, Head of Egypt’s Jewish Community

Sunday, July 3rd, 2016

Hard to believe our trip to Egypt lasted only four days given all the meetings we jammed into it. Dr Omer Salem hosted Rabbi Yaakov Nagen of the Otniel Yeshiva, Fulbright Scholar Dr Joseph Ringel and myself for a tour of Cairo in March 2016, to help develop personal relationships, so needed between our peoples.

We assumed that theology was the real stumbling block between Muslim and Jew, and expected to enter into theological debate. We found, however, that the overriding concern of those we met was the quality of life for their Arab brethren in the Holy Land.

We also learned that misinformation abounds in Egypt concerning the various philosophies that led to the founding of the state of Israel. We frequently heard this phrase, ‘Israel was founded only to be a Jewish state.’ This is inaccurate both from a religious perspective and from that of the founders of modern Zionism. The Torah has an extensive framework for the inclusion of the non-Jewish “ger toshav”, based upon Talmudic tractate Avodah Zarah 64b -65a, and Leviticus 19:33-34: “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not taunt him. The stranger who sojourns with you shall be as a native from among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt, I am the Lord your God.”

Regarding the oft-repeated statement, ‘Israel was founded only to be a Jewish state’ – Dr Joseph Ringel shares: “when I began learning Arabic, I was exposed to this perception in the Arab world.” And he was inspired to educate himself further. “The chief theorists for the Zionist movement, Theodore Herzl and Asher Ginsberg (pen-name: Ahad ha-‘Am) held that Arabs had an important rule to play in Jewish society in the land of Israel and demanded they be treated equally. Aspects of religious Zionism had a strong universal element believing that Zion would become the harbinger of the messianic age and the conduit for divine blessing to flow to the entire world. Socialist Zionists regarded Zion as a place to create an ideal equality between all classes and ethnicities – Arabs included. The fact that less conciliatory voices exist does not mean Zionism as a whole is tainted; indeed, the existence of violent people in any national or religious movement does not mean the entire movement is tainted.”

We thus need to ensure we are educated about the rights of the non-Jewish residents of the land of Israel, as enshrined both in Torah and in modern Zionist thought.

Most importantly, we must ensure these rights are a reality. This closes the loop with the above noted concern expressed to us in Egypt – the condition of their Arab brethren in the Holy Land.

Dr Ringel adds, “the point of dialogue is to face various perceptions, shedding light upon who we are, and learning from each other.”

Here is one example:

Magda Haroun, President of the Egyptian Jewish Community

Magda Haroun deserves credit. The head of what remains of Egypt’s Jewish community, she openly maintains her Jewish identity at self-sacrifice, and reminisces about a cosmopolitan, tolerant Egyptian past, the memory of which she insists must be preserved.

She graciously hosted us at the Shaarei Shamayim synagogue, Adly Street, Cairo. Hesitating a little before this small group of kippa-clad and scarf wearing orthodox Jews, she said, “I have views you probably will not agree with.” Rabbi Yaakov Nagen wisely responded, “we want to hear your views, if we wanted to hear only what we agree with. we could have stayed at home.”

First, some stories of Magda defending her Jewish identity in the face of rejection. When she was a child in school, the teacher denigrated Jews. The entire class turned to look at her, and she walked out. As a young adult, she requested a birth certificate, and the officials demanded her full contact information. When she asked why, they responded – “for security reasons,” as they suspected every Jew of spying for Israel. She refused to furnish the information, and left without a certificate. 1

She told us that upon her divorce, she retained her Jewish identity despite the threat that her husband, as a Muslim divorcing a non-Muslim wife, could take custody of their daughters at any time. She thus did not admit that she could not afford the girls’ expenses when he witheld financial support. She refused to give up her Jewish identity, even to rid herself of the constant threat she would lose her daughters.

Magda Haroun holds onto her dream, and her dream is this: Egyptian society will reclaim its cosmopolitan and tolerant heritage. Dr Ringel shared, “I studied the history of Jews in the Islamic world, and I know Egyptian Jews, some of whom were expelled, some of whom had traumatic experiences but some of whom have very strong memories. What I love about Egypt’s history is that it was such a beautiful culture. Egypt was a refuge for Jews from Yemen and from Russia, from Syria and Iraq. Yiddish was spoken here, both Karaites and Rabbinites lived here, and they all got along.”

Magda nodded enthusiastically, we were on the same page. She added, “Egypt was the land of refuge for people suffering all over the world. Look at Musa Ibn Maimon (Maimonedes), he was on the way to Palestine but he came through here and stayed here and died here.”

And she offers an inspiring humanitarian proposal. One of the Jewish cemeteries is under threat of falling into disrepair and neglect. It is located in the middle of the Bassateen slums. Magda’s dream is to get the Jewish community worldwide involved in renovating the slums, developing its schools and parks. “I cannot just build a wall around the slums. When the area will be developed, the residents of Bassateen will be the first to take care of the Jewish cemetery.” And they will feel positively about Jews as well.

I was in the company of visionaries. A great moment. Then we started getting out of step on two subjects: Magda’s view of the state of Israel, and the future of the remaining Torah scrolls in Egypt. But hang on, getting out of step during efforts at dialogue is to be expected.

Divisions in her School; Seeing her Relatives Emigrate

Regarding her view of the state of Israel, I wish to provide a bit of context first. Magda described what it was like as a child to suddenly have her schoolmates divided along religious lines. She studied in a French school, a lycee, and never knew who was Christian, Jew or Muslim, until they started imposing religion in the schools, after 1956. Then, they were divided up and sent to different classes to learn their own religion. No classes for Judaism, Magda was sent to the detention room.

Magda continues, “It was painful for me to see my relatives leave Egypt. They left for two reasons, the founding of the state of Israel and the rise of pan-Arabism. My father was a humanitarian, he loved humanity, in front of G-d, in front of each other, we are all equal. I never learned to make a difference

between black, white, poor, rich. When we were all divided up along religious lines at school, I said to my father that my Christian friends know what to do to make G-d happy, my Muslim friends know what to do to make G-d happy, what am I supposed to do? He led me to the mirror and said, ‘if when you look at yourself in the mirror, your eyes do not go down in shame, you know you have hurt no one, then you are making G-d happy.’ ”

Loyalty to Your Country – Even When that Country Betrays You

Magda made a statement that I would hear as a sentiment shared by other Egyptian Jews in days past: ”I was born in Egypt, I will live in Egypt and I will die in Egypt.”

That tenacity of identity and loyalty did not prevent the expulsion of the Jewish community from Egypt in the late 1950’s. Dr Ringel elaborates: the expulsions began under Nasser, following the 1956 war. Many Jews who lived in Egypt were not Egyptian citizens, as most of the Jews (with the exception of the indigenous Jewish population) hailed from foreign countries, which included Ottoman lands, Eastern Europe and Italy. Egypt was under de facto British control until after World War ll, despite some local autonomy, so that it made sense for these often multi-lingual families to acquire European passports. In addition, once autonomous Egypt began registering its population for citizenship, there was some discrimination against non-Muslims. In 1956, Nasser nationalized all foreign assets, and the fact that many Jews still only had European passports, despite their having lived in Egypt for a number of generations, made the expulsions easier to implement.

Magda said that a member of the Muslim brotherhood, Mr Essam El Eryan, did express regrets about the expulsions. “I thanked him for opening the Pandora’s box, but it is going to be very difficult for Jews to return, they left and put their roots in other countries already.”

And now there were six. Not six thousand or six hundred, but six Jews left in Egypt. But Magda was holding on, echoing a proud (though not very effective) Egyptian Jewish sentiment, determined to preserve the cosmopolitan ideal.

Haroun’s Demand: Egypt Must Honor its Jewish Heritage

When she became leader of Egypt’s Jewish community in 2013, Magda gave interviews in Egyptian newspapers and on television, with the conviction that Egyptian society be aware of its former thriving Jewish society and that the nation’s remaining Jews should be respected. She told us, “I walk in the streets and people know I am a Jew.” When I asked, “Do you feel safe in Egypt?” she responded adamantly “Of course I do!” She admits her sense of security is not shared by the other Jews who remain. “They are afraid of being suspected as spies for Israel.” So her stance is part reality, part ideological determination.

Magda said, “I have asked for help from Jewish communities around the world to preserve the Bassateen area because it is part of the heritage of this country. They want something in return.” She paused, her tone foreboding, grim, “they want the Torah scrolls.”

Dr Ringel explained, “they are afraid the Torah scrolls will go into disuse” and added that in order to achieve conciliation, the challenge of preserving both the Torah scrolls and the Jewish cemeteries should not be linked. Keep the issues separate. (He emphasizes that he was speaking as a private citizen in reaction to the information presented to him at the time and not representing any side.)

 

Dr Joseph Ringel with the Torah scrolls

Dr Joseph Ringel with the Torah scrolls

Keeping issues separate is probably a good rule of thumb in conciliation work. Right the wrong, improve a situation, without bartering. Deuteronomy 16:20 – “Righteousness, righteousness you shall pursue so that you will live and take possession of the land that Hashem, your G-d, gives you.” The pasuk does not say to pursue justice as long as you get something in return. Psalm 43:15 – “Seek peace and pursue it.” According to the Midrash: “Seek peace, and pursue it means that you should seek it in your own place, and pursue it even to another place as well.” (Leviticus Rabbah 9:9)

Magda Haroun and the State of Israel

Magda does not take money from Israel nor does she use a Rabbi from Israel. Her position against Zionism is part of her conviction in a cosmopolitan, varied society, and that a state in the modern age

should not be based on religion. “Maybe it made sense in the sixth century, but not today.” And she joined in the street protests in Cairo, 2011, against an Islamic government.

Her stance may also be influenced by the fact that, according to physician and author Dr Wakif Moustafa, “There are still laws on the Egyptian statute that criminalize Zionism and, should any Egyptian citizen declare themselves a Zionist, they risk losing their citizenship.”

Her boycott of Israel may well soften. Sure makes me feel bad. Indeed, Egyptian leaders such as Dr. Aly ElSamman call for the softening of the tatbia – boycott – of Israel. “Tatbia is not logical or ethical, we have a peace agreement.” 2

As the tide changes and there are increased calls in Egypt towards warmer relations with Israel, perhaps the relations between Israel’s Jews and the remaining Egyptian Jews can warm up as well.

Magda’s view of the state of Israel was a challenge to me, though it must be understood that it is a nuanced view, and as Rabbi Nagen said, “if we wanted to hear only what we agree with, we could have stayed home.”

And a further challenge waited in the wings – see next article: Hitting a Wall, Building a New Bridge. You Need to Take that Risk.

{This two part article emphasizes the process of conciliation and its challenges, it is not an exhaustive piece on Ms Haroun’s views and personal history.}

For more information on Magda Haroun, see:

http://www.cairoscene.com/BusinessAndPolitics/Partial-Collapse-in-Jewish-Synagogue-in-Alexandria

http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/interview-magda-haroun-head-egypt-s-jewish-community

See also:

Egypt: The Elusive Arab Spring, Dr. Wakif Mustafa, Gilgamesh Publishing 2014

Rights of the Ger Toshav in the Land of Israel: http://www.wikinoah.org/index.php?title=Ger_Toshav

Rebecca Abrahamson

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