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Posts Tagged ‘nation’

The Undivided Past

Friday, October 4th, 2013

There are several words used in the Bible to describe the Jewish people. At one stage we were simply tribal. Then we became an “Am”, a people, a “Goy”, a nation, a “Mamlacha”, a kingdom. Post-Biblically, if the gentiles called us Jews, Judeans, Israelites, Hebrews, Yids, or whatever, we used “Yisrael” as the name of choice, in the main, which meant a people, a culture, a religion, a relationship with God and a land, all of that in varying and amorphous degrees. We knew what it meant, even if others were confused or bemused. It takes one to know one.

Under pagan empires religion was not a factor, just loyalty to an overarching regime or royal family. If you were a serf it was loyalty to your lord and village. Neither the Persian, nor the Greek, nor the Roman Empires cared how you worshipped or behaved, so long as you professed loyalty to the empire. Then Christianity emerged as the religion of the Roman Empire and other religions were marginalized. Ironically the bloodiest battles were within Christianity, between one theological variation and another. The same thing happened under Islam. Ideals soon got perverted by politics and as today, Muslims of different sects killed more Muslims than all their enemies put together and doubled. Freud memorably described this internal divisiveness as “the narcissism of minor differences”.

In the West, most Jews that non-Jews encounter are not particularly committed to being Jewish. For Jews like a Soros or a Zuckerberg, it’s an accident of birth, a minor casual affiliation, like belonging to the Church of England. And this explains why most of those in the West who think about the matter reckon that the Jews are not really too concerned about having a land of their own and that it was only the accidental intervention of imperialist powers that explains the Jewish presence in the Middle East. It was a misjudged adventure. And really the Jews ought to pick up and leave and stop being nasty to the indigenous population.

It takes an objective observer to notice that for millennia Jews have shared a powerful core identity, even if in almost every situation except when they were given a choice, most Jews actually abandoned the community of Jews. But it took a determined minority within a minority to fight hard, relentlessly, and ultimately victoriously for its Jewish identity.

In his book The Undivided Past: Humanity Beyond Our Differences, David Cannadine writes:

“Egypt under the Pharaohs may have resembled a nation…but there was no accompanying sense of public culture or collective identity. As for the ancient Greeks, their limited pan Hellenic aspirations embodied in their shared language, Homeric epics and Olympic games foundered on the disputatious reality of their fiercely independent city-states. Similar objections have been made to claims that the Sumerians, the Persians, the Phoenicians, the Arameans, the Philistines, the Hittites and the Elamites were ancient nations, or that the Sinhalese, the Japanese or the Koreans might be so described during the first millennium of the common era. Only in the case of Israel does it seem plausible to discern a recognizable ancient nation with its precise though disputed territoriality, its ancient myths, its shared historical memories of the Exodus, the Conquest and wars with the Philistines, its strong sense of exceptionalism and providential destiny and its self-definition against a hostile “other” and its common laws and cultures. These were and are the essential themes in the unfinished history of the Jews this example has also furnished ever since a developed model of what it means to be a nation.” (p. 58)

Throughout exile we somehow did preserve a sense of belonging to a people, to a tradition, to a land, a sense of community, Klal Yisrael. This is why the problem of Israel in the Middle East, the Jewish problem, is so intractable. The overwhelming majority of Jews now living in Israel or the West Bank are committed to the notion of a Jewish people. It is not to be compared as ignorant opponents of Israel try, to a few British or white imperialists imposing themselves on a vast majority “other”. Some may try to delegitimize us by overturning a decision of the United Nations, but they cannot delegitimize or wish away the Jewish people.

Farrakhan: Disappointed in Obama

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Originally published at The American Thinker.

Fox Nation’s byline, “Farrakhan rips Obama,” was too good to pass up.

Have we just witnessed a chink in the armor of the Black Liberation Movement?  Did Louis Farrakhan, the Lord of the Nation of Islam finally confess a sin?

Let’s review what Farrakhan’s said:

“Clearly, we are in a dire condition… even though we in 2013 are celebrating a two-term black president — the brother simply has not been able to repair the damage caused by centuries of racism [and] greed, which has now run this nation over a fiscal cliff.”

I’m beginning to wonder about Fox. Farrakhan’s statement wasn’t a rip, it was a pander.

Poor Obama just can’t seem to overcome the mountain of guilt and shame that is needed to remake [his] people into the second coming of the “Great Society.”

Farrakhan’s last sentence was priceless:

“… centuries of racism [and] greed, which has now run this nation over a fiscal cliff.”

Ya gotta love the progressives!  The blame always rests with the enemy — that would be us, the conservatives.

We must digest these hallowed words of Farrakhan again so our noodles can catch up — let me offer a candid response:

Racism is packaged and sold by the progressives much like a commodity is traded on the Futures Market. It is promoted as a scourge on America and often derives its staying power in greed.  The commodity rises in value when the best promoters [like Farrakhan] are at play.  The political hacks that use racism to influence public emotions often see bigger turnouts at their elections.  Therefore, the problem appears to be unstoppable. ‘Racism and greed’ [at least as long as the progressives run the show] will forever be embedded in our fine nation.

Accept the obvious — for the conservatives feeling a sliver of hope that Obama is losing favor with Farrakhan or the black folks, fear not!

“Blacks were the only race or ethnic group to show an increase in voter turnout in November [2012].”

Whenever the the Democrats feel the slightest threat of losing their black voting base, out pops the racism card and a promise to spend more welfare money — then, with renewed vigor, the race hustlers are good to go for another round.

Looking For God In Our Skyscrapers

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

Over the last decade, Tisha B’Av, the day that we traditionally mourn the destruction of our Holy Temple in Jerusalem, has been admitted to the pantheon of Jewish holy days that are not for the observant only: holy days that speak to everyone.

Yom Kippur has always been there. It is the private holy day, special to us all. A solid majority of the Jews in Israel fast on that day. Even those who do not fast feel something special: they respect the day and search for its meaning. Yom Kippur does not just pass us by like the holiday of Shavuot, for example.

Pesach is another holy day that has always been a holiday for all the Jews. It is the family holiday. The Seder night – kosher-for-Passover or not – is celebrated by Jewish families everywhere. It is a holiday that has not been separated from the nation by the walls of religion.

What we still lack is the national dimension, the dimension that retains a void not filled by banging on plastic hammers on Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. Yom Ha’atzmaut always leaves us with a vague sense of emptiness.

The collective subconscious that pulls the young people of Tel Aviv’s trendy Shenkin Street to alternative lamentations on the city rooftops discovers something in Tisha B’Av. It longs for the spiritual national dimension. It searches for meaning and warmth.

Real Israeli culture, the authentic national creation that we are all looking for, the point that affords meaning and validity to our national existence, is there – in our Father’s house, from which we were exiled and to where we will return.

Return to religion enriches the returnee. But usually it is at the expense of the real achievement of the return to Zion, Israel’s rising and return from the dimension of community to the dimension of nation – at the expense of the return to reality and history.

Generally speaking (and yes, there are certainly exceptions), the returnee to religion is no longer interested in the news, politics or the state. He has found his personal happiness and leaves the rest to the Messiah. His God is not so relevant outside his home, study hall or synagogue.

The new generation, however, wants God to be relevant in all dimensions. It doesn’t want to escape into religion. It wants a grand message, rectification of the world; neither to go backward into pre-Zionism nor to be stuck in the place bereft of identity and meaning in which Zionism – which shed all regard for religion – finds itself today.

The new generation wants it all. It wants to go forward into religion, to a Torah that is also a relevant culture and to a God who is with us here, in our modernity. It wants to proceed in our multilevel interchanges, in our skyscrapers, and in our hi-tech. It is looking for a God who is with us in our most private moments, in our most national triumphs, and in our most universal aspirations. The new generation wants warmth, a sense of belonging and meaning. It wants to herald a great message. It wants a home: it’s Father’s home, the home to which we all belong.

It wants the Beit HaMikdash, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

The Merit Of Eretz Yisrael

Friday, November 30th, 2012

“And Yaakov became very frightened, and it caused him much pain, and he split the nation that was with him, as well as the sheep, the cattle and the camels, into two camps.” – Bereishis 32:7

Yaakov Avinu received word that his brother Eisav was coming to greet him. He understood fully well that this was not to be a warm family reunion. Eisav came accompanied by a band of four hundred armed men, bent on revenge. The Torah describes Yaakov as “very frightened,” so he prepared for war.

The Rishonim are bothered by why Yaakov would fear Eisav. After all, Hashem had promised to return him to his father’s house in peace. Throughout the many years, Hashem was right there protecting him, guarding him, keeping the promise. Why should he now fear a mere mortal?

The Dos Zakainim answers that Yaakov was afraid of the “zechus of Eretz Yisrael.” For the previous twenty years, Eisav had been living in Eretz Yisrael while Yaakov had not. Therefore, Yaakov was afraid that if he engaged in mortal combat with Eisav, that merit might win the day for him, and Yaakov might die in battle.

This Dos Zakainim is difficult to understand on a number of levels. First, the reason Yaakov wasn’t in Eretz Yisrael was not that he had abandoned the land, but that he fled from Eisav. He spent the first fourteen years in the yeshiva of Shem, and then he worked for Lavan.

But even more pointedly, what possible merit could Eisav have from living in Eretz Yisrael? He wasn’t practicing Torah and mitzvos. Quite the opposite, he was a rasha. His entire existence was focused against holiness. Eretz Yisrael is a land that has an enormous amount of kedushah and cannot tolerate wickedness; it is highly sensitive to tumah. Eisav’s very presence in the land should have been intolerable. So what type of merit would he have from being in that land? It would seem the opposite. His many years of defiling that holy land should work against him, not for him.

The answer to this question can best be understood with a perspective on capitalism.

If a man owns a successful small business, he might do a million dollars a year in sales. But that is the gross revenue, not the amount he takes home. As a rule in business, 15 percent of revenues is a reasonable profit margin. So if his mark-ups are strong and his expenses are in line, he might bring in a net profit of $150,000. Eighty-five percent of the money he earns goes to expenses. And this illustrates an interesting phenomenon. While his only motivation may have been to earn a living for himself, he is providing a substantial gain to those he does business with. In this scenario, $850,000 of his efforts are going to vendors, suppliers, and employees. And while it may not be his intention, he is making a substantial contribution to the economy as a whole.

In the same sense, Eisav was engaged in the building of Eretz Yisrael. While his interests may have been strictly his own, he maintained sheep, owned fields, hired workmen and built fences. His efforts directly benefited the land. It was cultivated and improved because of him. And this was Eretz Yisrael, the land that Hashem chose as the site for the Jewish people to settle, the home of the eventual Beis HaMikdash. Its very ground is holy. While he may not have been a credit to the land, and may not even have felt an attachment to it, because of him the land was built up – and that is a great merit.

Yaakov did not in any sense think that Eisav had more merit than he did as a person. He was well aware of the different lives they led. But Yaakov understood that Eisav had a tremendous zechus: he was responsible for building the land, and because of this Yaakov was afraid. In times of danger a particular merit can stand up for a person, and that can change the outcome of a confrontation.

We Don’t Belong Here

This concept is very relevant to our lives. While we patiently await imminent coming of Mashiach, one of the concepts that must be in the forefront of our minds is that we are in a foreign country. We don’t belong in chutz l’aaretz. It isn’t our home. While the United States is one of the most benevolent lands that has ever offered us residence, a Jew doesn’t belong in Brooklyn. When we build up this land, whether with palaces or impressive businesses, we are building other people’s land.

From Jerusalem – Not From New York

Friday, November 30th, 2012

Israel has a simple option in response to the UN upgrade of a “nation” bereft of history that is intent on stealing our Land to non-member state status: Immediate withdrawal from the United Nations. If the UN would know in advance that Israel would respond by withdrawal, this preposterous idea would never have gotten off the ground.

The interaction between the United Nations and the State of the Jews has become the central axis of the UN’s activity. Without Israel, the UN loses its raison d’etre. From our tiny little corner of the world, from our grasshopper view of all those giants, this seems patently absurd. But a check of the subjects of the majority of Security Council deliberations and decisions makes it impossible to ignore this logic-defying phenomenon: The entire world is obsessed with a tiny state that conducts itself more honorably, democratically and morally than most of the other UN members – and contributes to the world in a vast array of spheres, more than any other country.

The UN obsession with Israel is not based on Israel’s ethics or actions. It is on an entirely different plane. This is how British intellectuals described their anger at Israel to the dean of the Sapir College, Dr. Ze’ev Tzachor: “We dreamed of a place in which the Book of Books would be written anew in anticipation of the redemption of the world. For you are a treasured nation. The world had great expectations, and look what you have done.” (From a Makor Rishon interview written by Meir Uziel).

The world anticipates the declaration of liberty that will emerge from Zion. When this anticipation comes up empty-handed, it becomes disappointment and is translated into loss of legitimacy for the existence of a Jewish State on the face of the earth. The other side of the coin is traditional anti-Semitism of all sorts. All the anticipation and hopes from the universal humanistic message of Abraham on the one hand, and all the hatred for and opposition to that message on the other, are now directed at the State of Israel. Whether it likes it or not, Israel will always represent the Jewish message in the eyes of the world.

The incessant condemnations, the hypocrisy and the never-ending battles in the various UN committees express more than anything else the dichotomy of the world’s deep need for Israel and its fear of its light. After all, the UN cares about Arab human rights as much as it cares about last year’s snowflakes, as it has demonstrated with the ongoing catastrophe in Syria. When someone shouts at you, he clearly needs you. Without Israel, the UN loses its meaning and returns to the moral Stone Age, the pre-Abraham world.

But Israel is afraid of its own message. So it begs for recognition instead of understanding that if it would proudly bear its message to the world, the nations would vie to be recognized by the Jewish State . Post-Oslo Israel, which with its very own hands gave the keys of connection to the Promised Land to a non-nation, has no case against the world that recognizes this invented entity as a state.

The problem is not the UN. We are the problem. The solution is to immediately nullify the Oslo Accords; to prove our complete loyalty to all parts of the Land of Israel and first and foremost: to restore full and exclusive Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount. We must declare Israeli sovereignty over all parts of the Land of Israel that are in our hands, as stated in the Likud constitution. And then, we must withdraw from the United Nations. Switzerland managed just fine without being a member of the UN and we will also “survive” at least as well – and probably better – without it.

“And many nations will go and say, ‘Let us go up to the mountain of G-d and to the house of the G-d of Jacob, and he will teach us his way and we will go on his paths.’ For from Zion shall the Torah emanate and the word of G-d from Jerusalem.” (Micha 4)

From Jerusalem – not from New York.

I Am a Loser Today

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

First we must admit we lost the war with Hamas.

It will allow us to begin healing from our wounds. For until we make the admission that we are on the losing side in the war and remain in a state of denial about it, no recovery is possible. We are thankful to be alive, of course, there is that to be grateful for – we can write letters like these and feel some satisfaction in the small pleasures of daily life, but we lost the war, yes, we did.

If we all make the admission simultaneously it will be an even stronger spur to our recovery, for we will be able to move on and examine our options. But until we as a nation, say it out loud, we’re trapped in fear, despair and disappointment.

We lost the war with Hamas. Please, don’t be afraid to say it out loudly and clearly. Say it to yourself. Say it to your family and friends. Say it at work and in the streets. Let’s own our defeat and see how it feels before condemning it as defeatist or negative. I think it will do us a world of good, actually. Today, this Thursday morning, this week of Parshat Vayetze, we were defeated by Hamas.

We’re alive, unapologetic and eager to find the positive in the situation, but we are defeated. We lost the war with Hamas this week, you know. It hurts a lot. We were sure it was going to be a resounding win, a victory and a new beginning for Israeli citizens everywhere but especially in the south. Unfortunately, we lost the war with Hamas.

They won, you see, because they have two advantages over us, superior tactics and a superior strategy. I’m not writing an analysis; that’s for the historians and the war-college professors to do. I’m merely stating what needs to be said out loud for our health’s sake, today. We lost the war with Hamas.

I cry for us, for those who survive unscathed and for those who mourn their losses, all our collective losses. Their children are our children, their parents, our parents. We are all living in Sderot, we are all about five seconds from a devastating trauma – we all have the scars this morning from the war with Hamas which we lost.

We are a noble people, for the most part. God knows we seek no one any great harm, and rarely dream, as a nation, of committing genocide, rapine or plunder. But we must, for our health’s sake, admit that we are locked in a deathly embrace with Hamas who have beaten us this week, who have reduced us to the role of the vanquished, to the point where we were forced to sue for peace on their terms, on any terms. We need to internalize the simple fact that Islamists have forced us to settle, not for peace on any terms, but with a lull, a not-even-truce. They have graciously, as the victors, agreed to allow us a short respite, for as long as it takes them to rearm, regroup and reposition for the next battle in the war we have lost.

I am not ashamed to say I am an Israeli Jew, I am a loser today in the war with Hamas.

I’m ashamed of the men and women we voted into political power, whose duty it is to protect us, let us not sully our lips with their names, they know who they are. I will look for more savage politicians to vote into power next time, lesser practitioners of the reasonable arts – with frothier spittle and madder eyes.

I am ashamed for us, I’m crying for us. We seem to have lost our vision and our insight. We are lost in broad daylight, blinded by the truth and crippled by common sense.

Because it’s true, I admit it. We lost the war with Hamas.

Join with me, friends and family. Let us make the admission with contrition in our our hearts and all the earnestness at our command; We lost the war with Hamas.

It’s My Opinion: Time To Talk Turkey

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

It’s that time of year again. Turkey, cranberry sauce and a harsh lesson in the reality of “land for peace” deals.

America will celebrate Thanksgiving on November 22. Tremendous effort has always been focused on portraying this time in a lovely, romanticized light, in which pilgrims and Native Americans worked together in harmony. The reality, however, is quite grim.

The Indians were the original “land for peace” advocates. They believed a nation has to negotiate with its enemies, not with its friends. They wanted to give peace a chance.

The Native Americans gave away their land for worthless peace treaties. They did not want to be viewed as “intransigent.” For the most part, they acquiesced. They thought that two peoples could share one land.

There were some who took the white man’s desire for their land as a declaration of war. These tribes fought fiercely to protect their domain. Perhaps they were viewed as misguided right-wing zealots.

The “peace now” contingent believed it could give the interlopers their own state within America’s borders and they would be satisfied. They thought wrong.

Their “peace partners” wanted it all. Their “road map” was called “Manifest Destiny.” The once proud Indian nation was crushed. They are now an insignificant minority in what once was their exclusive homeland.

The misguided attempt to be compliant ultimately led to the decline of the entire nation. For the most part they live in ghetto-like areas called reservations. The recent acquisition of Indian reservation casinos is a poor exchange for the pride of a viable nation.

We are taught, “Who is wise? He who learns from everyone.” Israel could learn a lesson from the Native Americans, who gave “land for peace” and lived to regret their naivety.

The giveaway of Gaza is a prime example. Israel again acted in the mistaken belief that surrender of land would lead to peace. Instead a terrorist state now looms alongside its border.

Rockets fire down on innocent citizens. The dream turns into a nightmare. Israel now faces the threat of war.

Israel needs to stop the cycle of unilateral concessions and ceding of its land. Doing the same thing in the same way and expecting different results is insanity. It’s time to talk Turkey.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/community/south-florida/its-my-opinion-time-to-talk-turkey/2012/11/21/

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