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November 27, 2014 / 5 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Moshe Dann’

Title: Mitzvah Man

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

Title: Mitzvah Man

Author: John Clayton

Publisher: Texas Tech University Press

Readers of Clayton’s short stories know that he is not only a master craftsman, but that his stories are inquires into the purpose of life; he is a moral philosopher. Like a composer who takes a simple theme and creates complicated fugues and nuances, Clayton delicately weaves Jewish themes and ideas into a captivating and enticing story. It is precisely because he skillfully balances on the edge of cliché, almost touching the nerve of the commonplace, then introduces a cutting edge of dissonance, that the reader is encouraged to think.

Clayton uses a simple story line – the loss of a beloved spouse – to ask big questions. Carefully drawing his main characters, a bereaved husband and his barely teenage daughter, he moves them through encounters with friends and relatives to elicit universal themes, and ask the question: what is life about? That makes this novel compelling. He is not just telling us about confronting tragedy, but about the search for meaning.

As in life, the novel provides hopeful promise but no tidy ending, leaving the reader both enriched and wanting more. The framework is Jewish, but not parochial or exclusive, though Jews will be more familiar with the concepts.

Ultimately, this simple story is about one man’s need to repair the world – tikun olam. That universal theme motivates millions of people who are concerned about the environment, global warming, and helping others – the altruism upon which our fragile world depends.

The role of the artist and writer is to take what we know, the ordinary, and make it extraordinary, to use what we take for granted and show how it is special. Clayton does that magnificently.

Moshe Dann is a writer and journalist living in Jerusalem.

It’s The Olive Trees, Stupid!

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

In case you didn’t notice, olive trees in Judea and Samaria are under attack. The alleged culprits are Jews living there. UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry called it “terrorism.”

Will this “crime against humanity” be on the agenda of the UN? Will NGOs demand this “Holocaust of the trees” be prevented? Will the EU lavish funds to make up for the poor harvest, a result of intense heat waves and lack of rain? Will the International Court of Injustice condemn this as a “violation of international law”?

By the way, where are these fervent “guardians of the trees” when Jewish fields are torched and Jewish vineyards ripped up by Arabs, assisted by “peace activists”?

At any rate, to whom, precisely, do these endangered trees belong? Well, that depends on whom you ask. Palestinians claim them “for generations,” though there are no deeds, or indications of ownership, and most are recent plantings.

Maps of the disputed areas during the British Mandate show that Arabs have encroached on state land, planting and building; uncontested, they claim legal possession.

In recent decades this encroachment has become widespread, and planting olive trees has become one of the most widely used methods by Arabs to assert legal claims and acquire land rights.

Why olive trees? Olives are in high demand and the trees are easily maintained; they require no irrigation and little care, except for occasional pruning, which helps new growth the following year.

And pruning can, when convenient, look like destruction – perfect for making a case against “settlers” and garnering media attention and compensation.

Arabs also plant olive trees in disputed areas near Jewish communities, often with help from Peace Now and NGOs, to check the growth of settlements and provide cover for terrorists who seek to infiltrate and murder. In the struggle over property rights olive trees serve as signs of ownership, as boundary markers, and are valuable forward positions for asserting strategic advantage.

True, both sides play this game, as Jewish communities expand as well. Only one side, however, gets condemned, and the poor olive trees are caught in the middle. But the questions persist: Who has a right to plant, who has a right to harvest, and to whom do trees (whose lineage and ancestry cannot be traced) belong?

And, of course, who owns the land?

Arabs and much of the international community claim Jews have no right to live in areas conquered by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War. But when the UN in 1947 proposed dividing Palestine (a two-state solution), the idea was rejected by the Arabs. Five Arab armies invaded Israel in 1948; an armistice in 1949 left Israel in control of one part of what had been called Palestine, Jordan in control of Judea and Samaria, and Egypt in control of the Gaza Strip.

No one proposed a separate Palestinian state alongside Israel, nor did Palestinians consider themselves a distinct people.

Egypt never claimed the Gaza Strip, which is now the first Islamist state of Hamas, and Jordan relinquished its claims to the West Bank in 1988. Both countries have signed peace treaties with Israel. Legally, therefore, sovereignty over these areas should revert to their original status – part of “the Jewish National Home,” the State of Israel.

One of the few places in the world whose status is disputed and undetermined, the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) is embroiled in a struggle over political and national rights. It is important, however, not to forget the forest – Israel’s survival – for the trees, olives and others.

Metaphors for conflicting claims and sources of contention, olive trees can also nourish mutuality. Robert Serry’s exaggeration is one more indication of what is wrong with the UN and its hostility toward Israel – and an example of what, by encouraging extremism and misunderstanding, prevents true peace.

Moshe Dann is a writer living in Jerusalem.

Is Islam Itself The Problem?

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Supporters of the planned mosque and Islamic center near Manhattan’s Ground Zero have focused on the issue of religious freedom. But as thousands of mosques have already been built throughout America, this is false – a straw man if ever there was one.

The location of the proposed center is a sensitive matter because of the 9/11 attack by Muslim terrorists. While no one is accusing all Muslims of being guilty for that crime, the project become a rallying cry of pain, a howl of grief every Muslim should hear. It is also an alarm.

Opposition to this project echoes 3,000 silent screams. That outrage needs to focus not only on the memory of lost loved ones, but on why so many Muslims are terrorists or support terrorism. Americans (and others) need to ask some hard questions and it is not “Islamophobic” to raise them.

Is Islam a “religion of peace,” as President Obama and others say? Yes, but it is also a religion of war.

According to experts, suicide bombing (“martyrdom”) and Jihad (“holy war”) are not radical ideas in Islam; they are intrinsic parts of the belief system.

Conventional wisdom says there are radical Muslims and moderate Muslims and that we must distinguish between the two groups and encourage those who don’t want to destroy non-Muslims and their cultures.

No doubt most Muslims don’t want to fly airplanes into buildings or blow up supermarkets and buses. But what do Islamic leaders say, and who is the authority? The problem seems to be that Islam contains both radical and moderate traditions, and both are authentic. Both fanatic jihadists and soft-spoken moderates consider themselves good Muslims, and Muslim religious leaders are at odds.

The leader of the proposed mosque/Islamic center in downtown Manhattan claims he is tolerant, and has suggested that the project may even include space for other religions, as if Christians and Jews would want to pray there. But this seems to be just another PR trick, since it violates strict separation mandated in the Koran and also denies Muslim superiority. It is impossible, therefore, to know what kind of Islam will be taught there, or for how long.

Controversy over the building must move to a critical examination of Islam’s theology, beliefs and practices.

Why are Islamic leaders silent about the suppression of women, about the condoning of slavery, about the murder of homosexuals, and about suicide bombings throughout the world? Where were they when violent Muslim riots engulfed Europe because of a cartoon?

Perhaps a few brave Muslims protested such barbarity, but whom do they represent and what is their authority? The fundamental problem in Islam is its duality; it holds contradictory positions, both of which are valid. Against Jews and Israel, however, there are few, if any differences.

Muslim leaders refuse to condemn the murder of Jews by Muslims – anywhere. Four Israelis (and one unborn child) were slaughtered on the road in Israel two weeks ago and no Muslim leader – not even moderates – protested. Even the secular PA did not condemn the attack as murder. It was against “Palestinian interests,” said PA spokesmen – i.e., only the timing was wrong.

Islam preaches war against “infidels” and violence against those who don’t follow the rules of Islam. That’s not very peaceful. And Muslim leaders around the world encourage anti-Americanism – as well as hostility to Christians and Jews. Not so tolerant.

Despite extensive business dealings between Muslims and non-Muslims, many Muslim religious leaders foment a culture of hatred and violence. The problem is that they quote scripture and verse. And they are supported by a legal system.

Islamic law mandates violent jihad as a religious obligation and extreme punishments for those who insult Islam or violate its precepts. Moreover, since there is no central authority in Islam and there are conflicting factions, it is difficult to determine who makes these laws and how they should be applied.

Where does Islam stand on terrorism, for example? Well, it depends on your definition – if you have one. As they say: “One man’s terrorist ”

Americans need to know what Islam is. The failure to answer these fundamental questions lies behind the distrust of Muslims and opposition to the Ground Zero Mosque as well as other Muslim centers around the country.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/is-islam-itself-the-problem/2010/09/21/

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