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April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘patriotism’

The Haredi Civil Right to Not Appreciate Israel

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

I find myself in the awkward position of defending actions that I abhor. According to an article in YWN – the arm of Israel’s education ministry that is responsible for providing funds to Haredi schools is deciding what sanctions these schools should get. They were open on Yom Ha’atzmaut which is in direct violation of the Ministry’s requirement that all schools should be closed on that day.

I find the position of the ministry not to be in consonance with the character of a free society. I suppose that technically they can issue any conditions for funding they choose and implement financial sanctions if those conditions are not met. But I believe it undermines the very nature of a free and democratic society to force people to close their institutions on any given day of the year no matter what its significance.

Sanctions for doing so seem inappropriate and heavy handed. Ministry officials argue that this is a form of lawlessness which can lead to a general disregard for the law in other areas. I don’t think so. This is not hurting anyone. It does not detract from others their right to celebrate that day. All they end up doing is looking like bullies who want to force people to do something they don’t want to do. Haredim may be unpatriotic for refusing to close schools on Yom Ha’atzmaut. But a lack of patriotism is not – in my view a cause for punitive measures. In a free society people should have a right to do as they choose as long as they don’t hurt anyone in the process.

That said, the fact that these schools do not voluntarily close is in itself disgusting. This is not to say that I think Torah study should stop on that day. It shouldn’t. But not in ways which dishonor the day. By treating it as a normal school day – as most of them do – they are sending a message that they have absolutely no Hakoras HaTov (gratitude) for what they have been given since the very founding of the state over 65 years ago. They show that they are takers without saying thank you.

This is indicative of an attitude expressed time and again by some Haredi leaders. I am not talking about the rejectionists of Meah Shearim like Netrurei Karta and Satmar. I am talking about mainstream Haredim who rarely if ever have a good word to say about the State. Mostly what you hear them saying is that Israel is an evil empire out to destroy Judaism.

They continually bring up examples of that evil which they say took place during the formative years of the State. Examples that are of questionable reliability. I am not going to delve into those issues. All I will say is that there are different versions of what happened in every case. There are always at least 2 sides to every story.

Nonetheless they insist on believing the most unflattering versions of those stories. This is what they focus on. Never mind that this is ancient history and the religious climate then was not what it is now. Nor are today’s political leaders anything like those early pioneers. Some Haredi rabbinic leaders still see children being kidnapped from their parents and disabused of their religious beliefs.

More importantly, it is their refusal to recognize all the truly great things that Israel has done for the Jewish people that is so troubling.

It was the declaration of statehood that opened the doors to all Holocaust refugees that were in displacement camps waiting for someone – anyone – to help them get back to a normal life. Nobody wanted them after they were liberated from the death camps, including the British Mandatory government in Palestine. Very few permits were issued to those Jewish refugees. But the day Ben Gurion declared the State of Israel, the flood gates opened.

I cannot image the depth of joy, fulfillment of destiny and sense of promise that must have been in the heart of a refugee when he or she first beheld the shores of the promised land after suffering the worst degradations imaginable to man. That moment must have been cathartic. Every refugee now had the right to come to the land of Israel. The inscription on the Statue of Liberty first uttered by the Jewish Poet Emma Lazarus was never more appropriate than it was in Israel in those early and heady days of the state:

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Wretched refuse. After years of anti-Semitic degradation, deprivation and torture by the Nazis and their willing accomplices of occupied lands – this is how the world saw the Holocaust refugee. It must have been hard for those refuges to think of themselves in any other way before they came to Israel’s shores. With the founding of the State these people had their dignity restored.

How in heaven’s name can any human being, let alone a fellow Jew not recognize that momentous day in Jewish History? I doubt that there is a single rational Holocaust survivor who immigrated who does not recognize it.

My wife had an uncle that was a Ger Hasid, who went through hell during the Holocaust losing his his wife and all of his children. Even though he was very close to the Gerrer Rebbe, on Yom Ha’atzmaut he Davened in a Mizrachi Shul so that he could say Hallel. There are probably hundreds if not thousands of stories like this. Surviving Jews of all stripes recognize the importance of Yom Ha’atzmaut. That’s because they lived through the horrors. But too many rabbinic leaders today refuse see any of this.

But even if there had been no Holocaust, what about the of the land of Israel being returned to the Jewish people after 2000 years? Do they not recognize the miraculous nature of that event?! Satmar refuses to recognize it calling it the work of the devil. But supposedly this is not the mainstream Haredi view. And yet they ignore it.

What about the fact that the state has enabled the development of the greatest Makom Torah in the world? Greater in depth and scope than at any time in history since the time of Hazal? It was Ben Gurion that exempted all Yeshiva students from army service! According to an article in last week’s Mishpacha Magazine, the Chazon Ish himself had said that Ben Gurion would have no idea why he would be given such honor in the next world. It would be due to the few words uttered from his mouth. He declared that he would not be the destroyer of Yavneh and its sages!

And then there is all that money given to Yeshivos and their students. There has probably never been a greater Issachar- Zevulun partnership in history.

And yet, not the slightest bit of hakarat hatov (appreciation of a good deed). All they see is evil. That is the message far too many Haredi mechanchim (educators) impart to their students. Especially now that there is a threat of a draft and reduction of funding.

I’m surprised they don’t tear kriyah (mournful tearing of the clothing) on that day based on the rhetoric I hear from some from some of their leadership these days.

I have absolutely no sympathy for their position on this matter. None! And yet I support their right to be as disgusting about it as they choose. Because that is the way of a free society.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Equating Zionist Pioneers With Arab Terrorists

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

The film is grainy and amateurish, but the image is stirring: one-armed Yosef Trumpeldor, Zionist national hero, plowing a field in the Galilee in 1913.

By coincidence, the 100-year-old film clip of one of the most remarkable figures in Israel’s history was posted on YouTube shortly before Trumpeldor’s name appeared in the news in connection with the controversial study of Israeli and Palestinian textbooks that was released in February.

The study – “Victims of Our Own Narratives?” – was funded by the U.S. State Department and carried out by a Jerusalem-based Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land. Staff researchers examined books used in Israeli and Palestinian schools and concluded that both sides are equally guilty of incitement against the other.

The Israeli Ministry of Education called the study “biased and unprofessional” and three members of the international Scientific Advisory Panel overseeing the study rejected their colleagues’ methodology and conclusions.

One of the most controversial sections of the study dealt with the textbooks’ promotion of “martyrdom-sacrifice through death.” The study found passages in Palestinian books such as: “Every stone is violated, every square cries out in anger, every nerve is abuzz, death before submission, death before submission, forward!” and “With all this, the call to raise the overall performance to the level of shedding one’s blood becomes a sacred national right which it is difficult to relinquish or be lenient on.”

The study then argued that Israeli textbooks likewise promote “the value of martyrdom-sacrifice through death.” As evidence, it cited two books that described Yosef Trumpeldor as a hero and quoted his dying words, “No matter, it is good to die for our country.”

“Trumpeldor’s heroic defense of his home is a very different kind of ‘martyrdom’ from that frequently associated with the Palestinian movement,” notes Prof. Gil Troy of McGill University, author of the book Why I Am a Zionist. “To overlook that point, and implicitly compare Trumpeldor’s death in defense to suicide bombers or any kind of terrorism in offense – which Palestinians frequently call ‘martyrdom operations’ – is like comparing a policeman and an armed robber because both have guns. Trumpeldor died defending his home and country, not slaughtering innocents to advance a political goal.”

As a teenager growing up in Russia in the late 1800s, Trumpeldor was attracted to Zionism as well as the pacifism and communalism of the philosopher Leo Tolstoy.

“He did not have a trace of militarism in his character,” Prof. Anita Shapira, a leading Israeli historian of Zionism, has written. Nonetheless, Trumpeldor served with distinction in the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905, suffering wounds that cost him his left arm. Despite his injuries, he requested and was granted permission to return to the battlefront.

Trumpeldor arrived in the Holy Land in 1912 and, together with a small group of likeminded pioneers, settled at the Migdal farm, a fledgling Jewish settlement in the Galilee, on the site of what had been a Jewish town in biblical times. A harsh environment and primitive living quarters were the norm.

After the Migdal project broke up in 1913 over ideological disagreements and other problems, Trumpeldor traveled to Europe as a Zionist emissary. He served as a delegate to the Eleventh Zionist Congress, in Vienna, and then organized Zionist cells in Russia. Returning to Palestine in 1919, Trumpeldor volunteered to work at an Upper Galilee settlement called Tel Chai.

The small kibbutzim and other Jewish settlements in that region had few residents and fewer weapons, making them easy targets for local Arab terrorists. Attacks ranging from robbery to arson and murder were commonplace.

Some Zionist leaders favored sending aid to the northern border towns. Yitzhak Tabenkin argued, “If we withdraw from Tel Chai, we will retreat all the way to the desert.” But Menachem Ussishkin, chairman of the Zionist Commission, warned that “we would, by sending young men with arms, anger the Arabs unnecessarily.” Ussishkin eventually changed his mind and reinforcements were sent, but they arrived too late.

On March 1, Arab forces entered Tel Chai on the pretext of searching for illegal weapons, and a battle ensued. Six of the Jewish defenders, including Trumpeldor, were killed.

The last stand at Tel Chai, and Trumpeldor’s dying words, became an inspiration to the young Zionist movement. “This was the first time in Jewish history for two thousand years that Jews had preferred to die in battle rather than to retreat,” Prof. Shapira notes.

How Old Movies Show What New Movies Say Are Lies

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Many young people nowadays are indoctrinated to believe that American culture has always been dominated by conservative, racist, and other nasty influences. Understanding of the complex history has not been balanced by this new indoctrination and distortion. It’s merely been made biased in the opposite direction far more systematically than it ever was before.

Racism against African-Americans and many other things in American history are undeniable–and shouldn’t be. Consequently there was plenty of room for improvement. But that same history also shows there is no need for endless self-flagellation.

I’ve often noticed this but it came to my attention again in rewatching the film that brought John Wayne to stardom. What better way to learn about the true and dominant themes of democracy, equality, and real anti-elitism than that classical Western directed by John Ford, “Stagecoach” (1939)?

As a traditional Western, the film depicts the Americans—not whites, Americans—as good guys in a battle with the Apaches. The legitimacy of Americans being in the southwest is not questioned.Aside from this are the following plot points:

–The stagecoach driver is married to a Mexican-American woman. No negative aspersions are cast at all. This is totally accepted. Incidentally, all three of John Wayne’s wives were “Hispanic.”

–The heroes of the film are an outlaw, whose motives for killing a man are portrayed sympathetically, and a prostitute.

–One theme that runs through the film is how the “respectable” people are mean to the prostitute and that’s a terrible thing.

–Although the women are treated by the male characters as delicate, etc., their behavior shows them to be courageous, clear-headed, and as tough as circumstances require.

–The main villains are a banker and an ex-Confederate officer who has turned gambler, shot men in the back, and is a social snob.

–The banker, who is absconding with his bank’s embezzled funds, is a super-patriotic hypocrite. For example, he says, “And remember this — what’s good business for the banks is good for the country” and, “It always gives me great pride in my country when I see such fine young men in the U.S. Army.”

Another line from the banker is, “America for Americans! Don’t let the government meddle with business! Reduce taxes! Our national debt is shocking, over a billion dollars! What the country needs is a businessman for president!”

That’s not in 2012 but 1939. And remember that as he is the bad guy so the audience is expected to groan and think that such a person is horrible and disgusting. When the mass media in 2013 portray a group like the Tea Party as racist–reduce taxes; high national debt–or in 2012 portray Mitch Romney unfavorably–a businessman for president?–the ground was well-prepared. In what film was a community organizer a villain?

Other plot points include:

–The moralistic, deliberately uglified—respectable women of the town are presented as narrow-minded prigs.

–One of the stations the stage coach visits is run by a Mexican-American team, including the manager, who are portrayed sympathetically.

–When one of the passengers makes a racist remark about the Apache wife of the Mexican-American manager, he’s made fun of. And note that the man’s statements are made in the context of fear that she might somehow be a spy for the Apache forces whose imminent attack they fear. And on top of that he’s not from the West and unused to seeing Native Americans. The other man who distrusts her is, of course, the evil banker. While she might actually be helping the Apaches, the banker is wrong when he accuses her of being a thief of his stolen loot, which he soon finds.

–In an early scene, the cavalry scout has reported that the Apaches have gone to war. Asked how do they know he’s telling the truth, an officer replies, “He’s a Cheyenne. They hate Apaches worse than we do.” So all Native Americans are not portrayed as the same; some are allies. Today, the fact that some tribes were aggressive and “imperialistic,” engaging in massacres and tortures of others—motivating the latter to side with the U.S. army–is hidden, since that would distract from the narrative that only whites are racist and aggressive.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/rubin-reports/how-old-movies-show-what-new-movies-say-are-lies/2013/03/03/

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