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July 23, 2016 / 17 Tammuz, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘peace’

Helen Mirren Meets Arab and Jewish Students Seeking Peace through the Performing Arts

Monday, June 27th, 2016

Dame Helen Mirren (Woman in Gold, Trumbo, The Queen, The Madness of King George) last Thursday met with Arab and Jewish theatre students at The Billy Crystal Program for Peace through the Performing Arts, at the Department of Theatre Studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

At the university’s Garage Theatre, Dame Helen heard from Arab and Jewish students in the Department of Theater Studies what it’s like to act in both Arabic and Hebrew. They then gave a live performance in both languages. She also visited the Theatre Archive and Museum, where artist-teacher Emanuella Amichai, an award-winning choreographer and performance director, introduced her work Place-Identity, with Israeli-Arab student Elham Mahamid, which was performed last year as part of the closing event of the Jerusalem Art Festival.

Dame Helen Mirren holds one of the 10,000 reels of film at the Hebrew University’s Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive. Also pictured: Hebrew University President Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson (L) and Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Prof. Dror Wahrman. / Courtesy the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, photo by Dor Kedmi

Dame Helen Mirren holds one of the 10,000 reels of film at the Hebrew University’s Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive. Also pictured: Hebrew University President Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson (L) and Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Prof. Dror Wahrman. / Courtesy the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, photo by Dor Kedmi

At the Hebrew University’s Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive, Dame Helen took a selfie with a picture of her good friend Billy Crystal. At the recent memorial service for Muhammad Ali, Crystal described the origins of The Program for Peace through the Performing Arts:

“[Ali] was an honorary chairman for a dinner in a very important event where I was being honored by the Hebrew University in Jerusalem… The most famous Muslim man in the world, honoring his Jewish friend. And, because he was there, we raised a great deal of money, and I was able to use it to endow the University in Jerusalem with something that I told him about. And it was something that he loved the theory of, and it thrives to this day. It’s called ‘Peace through the Performing Arts.’ It’s a theater group where [Jewish and Arab] actors, writers and directors all work together in peace, creating original works of art. And that doesn’t happen without him.”

The Billy Crystal Program for Peace through the Performing Arts is dedicated to promoting a humanistic society based on dialogic relations and peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs in Israel. Theater artists and students, both Jews and Arabs, participate in a wide range of laboratory classes, workshops, master classes and special projects and performances. This unique program functions as a social and cultural bridge encouraging understanding and identifying with the “other” through collaborative theatre work.

Dame Helen was welcomed at the Hebrew University by its President, Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson; the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Prof. Dror Wahrman; Chair of the Department of Theatre Studies and Director of the Billy Crystal Program, Dr. Jeanette Malkin; Department Advisor, Dr. Olga Levitan; and Artistic Director of the Bilingual Workshop, Dr. Josef Sprinzak.

JNi.Media

The Peace Process Enabled Hate

Friday, June 24th, 2016

{Originally posted to the Commentary Magazine website}

Writing in the Jerusalem Post on Monday, historian Efraim Karsh made a point I’ve made many times before: Contrary to the popular notion that Israel’s “occupation” spurs Palestinian terror, the numbers inarguably prove that terror increases whenever Palestinians gain control of territory and drops whenever Israel reasserts control. In fact, Karsh said, Israel’s average annual death toll from post-Oslo terror (dating to 1993) is roughly triple the level pre-Oslo. But while he correctly cites the absence of Israel’s military as a major reason for this increase, another factor is no less important: By giving the Palestinian Authority control over schools and airwaves, Israel enabled it to launch a campaign of hate education that has significantly boosted the motivation for anti-Israel terror.

Before discussing what this education entails, consider two demonstrations of its efficacy. One is last summer’s Fikra Forum poll comparing the attitudes of East Jerusalem Palestinians, who aren’t under Palestinian civilian control, to those in the West Bank and Gaza, who are. Overwhelmingly, it found, Jerusalem residents were more moderate:

A majority (62 percent) think Israel will still exist, as either a Jewish or a bi-national state, in 30 or 40 years – compared with just 47 percent of West Bankers and 42 percent of Gazans who think so … Thirty percent of East Jerusalem’s Palestinians, as against a mere 18 percent of West Bankers, say that there were Jewish kingdoms and temples in Jerusalem in ancient times…

A stunning 70 percent say they would accept the formula of “two states for two peoples – the Palestinian people and the Jewish people.” In the West Bank, the comparable figure is 56 percent; in Gaza, 44 percent. An equally noteworthy 40 percent in East Jerusalem say that “Jews have some rights to the land along with the Palestinians” – as against just 13 percent in the West Bank or 11 percent in Gaza. And concerning Jerusalem itself, only 23 percent of its Palestinian residents insist on Palestinian sovereignty over the entire city – just half the percentage with that view in either the West Bank or Gaza.

The second is an interview with the Times of Israel earlier this month by former New York Times reporter David Shipler, who recently published a revised version of his Pulitzer Prize-winning book on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Asked what had changed in the 30 years since Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land was originally published, Shipler said the biggest change was the way Palestinian positions and views of Israel have hardened.

“Land for peace seemed like a possible and legitimate idea back then. Most Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza I talked to went back in history to 1967. They wanted to turn the clock back by an Israeli withdrawal from the territories conquered in the Six Day War,” Shipler said.

“But in speaking to people now, I understood that the time frame has become 1948 for the Palestinians. It’s always been about historical grievances and a clash of national narratives, but there are now more severe distortions of history, especially on the Palestinian side. Now Israelis are seen only as colonialists. There is no recognition of Jewish history in the Land of Israel, of the Holocaust, and the real reasons for the creation of Israel,” he continued.

Shipler also noticed that three decades later, there is less—if any—daylight between individual Palestinians’ expressed opinions and the official line of the Palestinian leadership.

“The conversations I had with Palestinians this time were more militant and less nuanced than in the early ’80s,” he said.

The bottom line is that, after more than two decades of PA indoctrination, Palestinians who have been living under Palestinian civilian control are far more anti-Israel and less willing to compromise than they were in 1986, and also than their peers who spent those decades under Israeli civilian control. Nor is that surprising when you examine what the PA teaches its children.

Earlier this month, IMPACT-SE released its latest study of Palestinian schoolbooks. Inter alia, it found, maps generally omit Israel, and even pre-1967 Israel is referred to as land under Israeli “occupation.” Jewish history in the Holy Land isn’t merely ignored, but actively erased: In one egregious example, the Jerusalem Post reported, “Hebrew letters are removed from a trilingual stamp from the British Mandate period.” Some books even actively promote jihad, like this line from an eighth-grade text: “Oh brother, the oppressors have exceeded all bounds and jihad and sacrifice are necessary.”

Last year, Palestinian Media Watch released its own study of Palestinian hate education, which noted that at least 25 schools are named for Palestinian terrorists, whom students are actively encouraged to view as role models. In a film shown on official PA television, for instance, one student at a school named for Dalal Mughrabi–perpetrator of the deadliest terror attack in Israel’s history–said her “life’s ambition is to reach the level that the martyr fighter Dalal Mughrabi reached,” the Jerusalem Post reported.

Another clip from televised news in the PA showed a boy saying he learned in school to “fight the Jews, kill them and defeat them,” and another told children that Jews are “Satan with a tail.”

The report also contains chapters on incitement in Palestinian textbooks, educational materials glorifying Hitler, and the PA policy of blocking joint peace-building activities between Palestinian and Israeli children.

Moreover, what children learn in school is reinforced by nonstop incitement from PA officials and the PA-controlled media. Just this week, for instance, the PA Foreign Ministry accused a nonexistent Israeli rabbi of urging his followers to poison Palestinian wells, a libel PA President Mahmoud Abbas repeated in his speech to the European Parliament on Thursday. Also this week, the official PA television station broadcast a Ramadan program telling viewers that Nazareth, Haifa, Jaffa, and Acre–all cities in pre-1967 Israel–are part of “holy Palestine which is a waqf [Islamic trust]. Therefore it is forbidden to relinquish a single grain of its soil.” Last week, the PA education minister visited a school to “honor” the “martyr” who murdered an Israeli policewoman in February.

And all of the above is from the “moderate” PA. In Hamas-controlled Gaza, the incitement is even worse.

Compounding the problem is that the post-Oslo upsurge in terror created a vicious cycle: To protect itself, Israel curtailed Palestinian access to its territory; consequently, most Palestinians today know less about Israel than they did 30 years ago, when many worked or visited there. They no longer have personal experience to counteract what the PA and Hamas teach them.

By ceding territory to an unrepentant terrorist organization, the Oslo Accords enabled an entire generation to be raised on a steady diet of hatred for Israel. And in so doing, they mortally wounded the very two-state solution they sought to promote.

 

Evelyn Gordon

Netanyahu, Kerry to Meet on Restarting Israel-PA Peace Talks

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is slated to meet in Rome with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry early next week, reportedly to discuss the possibility of resurrecting the moribund ‘final status talks’ with the Palestinian Authority.

International pressure on Israel to resume negotiations with the Ramallah government has been growing since French President Francois Hollande launched his ‘Paris initiative’ earlier this year. Under that plan, France would host the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority for talks later this year.

Negotiations which had been limping for years collapsed in April 2014, at around the same time Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas announced his intention to seek a unity government with the Hamas terrorist organization in Gaza.

Hana Levi Julian

Only Israel Can Live in Peace with Islam

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

The media reports that the FBI is investigating if the Orlando terrorist belonged to ISIS. But they also reported that minutes before the massacre, the American Islamist terrorist called the police station and pledged his allegiance to ISIS. So what exactly is the question? If he was sent by ISIS or not?

Apparently, ISIS did not directly send him. If he had been sent, he would not have felt the need to pledge his allegiance before he perpetrated his murderous attack.

The entire question, however, is meaningless. It once again highlights the weakness of the West in the face of a war that is not nationalist/territorial, but rather, religious/cultural. After all, the entire essence of the American and French revolutions was the removal of G-d from the political plane. The modern nation states arose on the basis of national – not religious – identity. When the Twin Towers fell in the name of Allah, President Bush sought a return address that was a nation state. What was he supposed to do? Destroy all the mosques in the world? And so, the US army conquered Iraq within a week – but lost the war… The US is incapable of going to war against a religion. Even after 9/11, a man named Hussein was enthusiastically elected as President.

So now, they are investigating whether he was sent by ISIS. Or maybe he wasn’t really sent by them? Who exactly is the enemy? Perhaps they can still find an address that is not blatantly religious? And if not, who can they blame? Maybe the person who gave him his weapon? But he was a security guard. And they knew he was a Moslem. So maybe now they should confiscate weapons from all Moslems in the US? Or from all the police? Or from all the security guards?

Paradoxically, only Israel has the ability to subdue Islam and live with it in peace. Israel, of course, has not actualized this potential because it is attempting to adopt the values that are currently defeating the West. But the potential exists.

Islam is involved in almost all the blood conflicts in the world. What is the essence of Islam? “Allah is great”. Islam puts G-d at the focal point and demands total obedience. Allah condemns those who do not follow suit to death. It is all very simple.

The West, on the other hand, was born of Christianity, which separates G-d from man. The West puts man at the focal point. This threatens Islam and provokes war. It is like the Law of Communicating Vessels: On one side is G-d. On the other side – a vacuum. When that is the case, Moslem expansionism and bloodshed are simply inescapable.

Moslem prayer looks like a military roll call. Rows of orderly worshippers who bow down simultaneously when the directive is given. Their prayer demonstrates total submission and obedience. Prayer in a church? Like watching an opera. All are dressed in their Sunday best, almost completely incidental to the ceremony conducted by the priest, who has forgone the pleasures of this world and with his religion in tow, remains aloof to worldly matters.

And what does Jewish prayer in a synagogue look like? Everyone does more or less what he likes. One sways in fervent prayer, another dozes, a third reads the Sabbath newsletters, a fourth prays at ease and many do not even attend…In Judaism, man is not the focal point and neither is G-d. For the Jews, the dialogue between man and G-d is the center of attention (I heard that from Rabbi Uri Cherki).

As such, the State of the Jews is the only state that is capable of living in peace in the two worlds. “With you I will manage,” an Arab MK said to me after I outlined the Biblical borders of the Land of Israel. “But with the ‘blasphemous Zionists? Never.” “It is not a territorial dispute,” he added. “It is a cultural war.”

Western, Christianity-based civilization is rapidly collapsing before our eyes – just like the Twin Towers. Donald Trump will not be able to stop this process, nor will the extreme Right gaining strength in Europe. Only Israel has the keys for dealing with the new world ISISorder. All it needs is to connect to its Jewish identity.

Moshe Feiglin

A Peace We Can Win – A War We Will Surely Lose

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

Once again the holy city of Jerusalem, the “City of Peace,” is gripped in controversy.   Although somewhat quiet over the past few months, painful conflict is again raging regarding the mixed gender prayer section, recently opened at the Kotel HaMa’aravi.

First championed by Natan Sharansky and now embraced by the Netanyahu government, this is an attempt to restore serenity and end the distressing conflict caused by the longstanding monthly prayer services of the so-called “Women of the Wall” (WOW). (Whom I have written about before). Under this initiative, in addition to the existing Ezrat Anashim (Men’s section) and Ezrat Nashim (Women’s section) that  are under the jurisdiction of the Rabbanut,  there is now an “Ezrat Yisrael” at the southern end  of the Kotel with no mechitza; where all are welcome to worship however they see fit, not bound by traditional norms.  The Reform and Conservative (R&C) and the “Orthodox” WOW (led by paid Reform radical Anat Hoffman) claim this as a victory in their long-standing battle for legitimacy by the State of Israel, which up until now regarded only Orthodox as the arbiters of Religious Judaism.

Kotel_proposal

This new section has been functioning for some time.  Until now there was a doorway before the main entrance leading to a long flight of stairs to the designated area.  It is completely separate and far away from the main Kotel plaza; one cannot see or hear anything of the goings-on from one area to the other.

Kotel-Azarat-Yisrael-e1377454808854

Unfortunately not satisfied with this arrangement, non-Orthodox advocates have lobbied hard for an area that is more equivalent to the main Kotel area.  After much discussion, the government on January 31 decided to invest 9 million dollars in providing enhancements to this area including a new entrance way will providing secured access to all three areas, i.e. two separated gender and one mixed gender path, attempting to create an impression of equal dignity to all three areas. Furthermore, the Rav of the Kotel, the Chief Rabbinate, and the Minister of Religion will have no jurisdiction over the new area; rather it will be governed by a council including Reform/Conservative representatives.

Reactions to this decision have come, fast and furious, in two basic flavors.

The reaction of almost all Orthodox spokesmen and writers has been fierce.   Many statements were issued characterizing this as a terrible development, a desecration of our Holiest of all places,  an affront to the myriads of Orthodox Jews who pour out their hearts there 365/24/7, and even to G-d Himself who desires that prayers be offered in a separate gender setting.  Furthermore, it is unacceptable in that the Kotel has, and always has had, the status of an Orthodox Beit Knesset, in which mixed prayer is forbidden.   Worst of all, it is, for the first time, a formal recognition of the legitimacy of the various non-Orthodox  forms of Judaism, and as such a dangerous slippery slope of a precedent towards forced concessions on many future matters.  In fact, the very week that the decision was announced, the Reform movement hailed this decision as a historic breakthrough from the heretofore total rejection of Reform Judaism.  This dovetailed with a Supreme Court decision released the same week ruling that mikvaot (Ritual Baths) built with State funds must allow Reform Rabbis to perform conversions using their facilities, further stoking fears of the continued movement towards full recognition of Reform Judaism, including  validation of their marriages, divorces, and conversions.   These matters, of course, go to the heart of the ultimate divisive “Who Is A Jew” question; one that could potentially divide the Jewish people irreparably.

The reaction in many non-Orthodox circles has, predictably, been the polar opposite.  Trumpeting the values of Equality, Pluralism, Religious Tolerance and abhorrence of Religious Coercion, these developments have been met with joy and renewed vigor to build upon this towards an ever more official status of the Non-Orthodox movements in Israel.

Virtually every Orthodox person I met in Israel, from Chareidi to Religious Zionist, is supportive of efforts to go to war, if necessary, on this issue.  Headlines and posters everywhere scream about the awful decree that has befallen us; the strongest language is being used to vilify the Reform, etc.

While apparently this puts me outside of mainstream Orthodox thinking, it would seem to me that not only is the approach of “going to war” against the R&C on this issue is doomed to fail, it will only further strengthen them. 

But first, I would like to make several observations:

  1. Up until quite recently, Reform and Conservative Judaism has had little traction in Israeli society.  This was not for a lack of trying, nor for a lack of money or effort on their part.  Hundreds of millions of Dollars, if not more, have been spent, endless lobbying with the Israeli government has been attempted, and an enormous political and legal campaign has pursued in this effort.  But at the end of the day, until quite recently, they have just not caught on with mainstream Israelis, as they did (in the past) in the Diaspora.

Chareidi spokesmen typically claim that the main reasons that R&C have been unsuccessful are (a) that the Orthodox have succeeded in stymieing their efforts through political pressure in various forms (mainly coalition agreements and demonstrations), and (b) that it is (or should be) self-evident to most Israelis that R&C are illegitimate, and thus even secular Israelis deep down want that the “Shul that they don’t go to” should be Orthodox.

Truth be told, however, these were far from the main reasons that R&C have been relatively unsuccessful in Israel. In my opinion, the main reason that that they have not been able to replicate in Israel what they have had (till now) in America is a simple one: they were seen by most Israelis as both unnecessary and irrelevant. Permit me to explain.

Over the years, R&C Rabbis, Academics and thinkers have provided a mountain of  scholarship t purportedly justifying their deviance from traditional norms.  They claim that it is this progressive and more enlightened interpretation of Judaism that led so many to leave Orthodoxy behind in years past, and that they are, in fact the authentic version of Judaism for the modern world.

The falsehood in this position is immediately apparent when speaking to and befriending non-Orthodox Jews.  It is decidedly not ideology or theology that moves 95% ─ or more ─ of R&C adherents join those congregations.  Rather, the reason they join is that R&C provide what they are looking for is a social and cultural way to officially be recognized as part of the Jewish community;  G-d, Torah, and Spirituality are not what they are seeking.

“Belonging” to a Congregation bestows official allegiance with the Jewish people and one’s roots.
For many Jews who are steeped in a mostly secular, non-Jewish environment, a need exists to officially identify Jewishly, motivated by factors such as nostalgia, tribal identity, history, social interaction and the desire to stand together in response to Anti-Semitism.  Certainly there are some who are seriously interested in Jewish worship and observance; but they are a small minority.  In particular, I have met very spiritual and sincere women, and their families, who desire a more active participation in the Services than Halacha provides for, and but for that issue would probably identify as Orthodox.  That notwithstanding, most R&C attend for the reasons noted above, and attend only on special occasions, such as a Bar/Bat Mitzvah and other life-cycle events.   It is reassuring to be told by one’s Rabbi that there is no reason to hang on to the superstitions and fundamentalism of one’s observant ancestors and whatever positive one does is to be celebrated, with no guilt needed for lack of observance of those mitzvot that are inconvenient.

Indeed, little Halachic observance, if anything, is demanded to be considered a fully committed R&C Jew; the choices are wide open. For those who want to select any observance they choose, or none at all, Reform’s doctrine of personal autonomy is perfect.  For those who like a somewhat more traditional format, with more Hebrew and familiar tunes, Conservative feels more comfortable.  (It has been often said that the theology most Conservative Jews are seeking, all their denials notwithstanding, is “Not Orthodox, but not so Reform”)  In short, R&C Judaism is primarily a way of identifying Jewishly without the burden of Halachic observance.

It is crucial to understand this in order to comprehend the very plain reason that R&C has never been much of an attraction for Israelis.  An Israeli does not need any external structure in order to feel Jewishly connected.  He/she lives in our ancient homeland, speaks Hebrew, the Jewish holidays are their legal holidays, they serve in the Jewish army defending the Jewish State, and are surrounded by Jewish culture (in some form) everywhere they go . . .  in short, their whole environment is Jewish.   Nothing further is needed for Jewish self-identification.

Those who do become interested in sincerely pursuing G-d, Torah, spirituality and ultimate meaning in life are drawn to the “real thing”; not a paltry version manufactured primarily for those basically uninterested in religion and spirituality.  For those occasions that secular Jews felt the need to interact with Tradition, Orthodoxy was fine, even quaint and nostalgic, as long as it was presented in a pleasant atmosphere.  R&C with its mixed pews, driving on Shabbat, diluted services and female Rabbis and Cantors, seemed strange and inauthentic; decidedly uninteresting and unnecessary for the average Israeli.

           2) Over the past two decades these attitudes have begun to change, due to many factors.   Here are three that I consider very important:

 a) Frustration with the Chief Rabbinate (CR). As a vestige of Turkish Law, all personal status matters in Israel are handled by the Religious Authority of one’s ethnic group.  For Christians it is the Church, for Moslems the Waqf, and for Jews it is the CR.  Thus even completely secular Israelis must go to the CR to effectuate a marriage or divorce.  This law has been a great blessing for ensuring, until now, that fundamental matters of personal status — whether or not a person is Halachically Jewish, properly married or divorced  — were in the hands of a responsible Halachic authority.

Unfortunately, all has not been well at the CR.  Too many stories of corruption and callous treatment by functionaries in their offices have emerged.  For secular Israelis who resent having to come to the Rabbinate in the first place, terribly negative feelings are created when they perceive themselves as having been mistreated.   A new, and awful, low occurred when the previous Chief Rabbi was indicted for corruption, and resigned in disgrace.
Among the Orthodox respect for the CR reached an all-time low as well.  Chareidim have never accepted the authority of the CR; many Religious Zionists are disgusted as well.   Furthermore, advocates of so-called “Open Orthodoxy”, such as Rabbi Avi Weiss, have done their utmost to repeatedly attack and disparage the CR in pursuit of their own unfortunate agenda, doing much harm to the respect, dignity, and authority that the CR needs to function effectively.
Bottom Line – A void has been created in which new alternatives that might have never gotten a hearing in the court of public opinion before, are now gaining strength.

b) The unhelpful reactions by the Chareidi leadership to the excesses of their extremists. For many years now, the WOW have insisted on poking their fingers in the craw of the overwhelmingly Orthodox worshippers at the Kotel.  Wearing Tallis and Tefillin, trying to read from a Seder Torah, singing loudly, occasionally accompanied by instruments, they engaged in behaviors that they knew would enrage the Traditional worshippers, and elicit strong reactions.

In my perfect world, those reactions would have consisted of well thought out responses that would have sought to solve the problem, while maximizing damage control. Responses that would have made every effort possible to warn young hot-heads to not engage directly with the WOW, and to let the police do their job.  It would have been best to encourage people to ignore them, drown out their demonstrations with louder positive davening and music in response to them, as in fact done by the brave Women for the Wall.  Instead, there were ugly fights, reports of chairs and dirty diapers with feces and other miserable objects being hurled at WOW.   All this succeeded in doing was inflaming the WOW and R&C activists, as well as additional proof that the Orthodox are unruly violent bigots in the eye of the secular public.

A good example, one of many, of a an unfortunate response happened this past week, when the Chareidi press was full of accusatory messages  and even calls for violent protests about the “terrible provocation” that occurred when R&C held a protest service in the upper Kotel plaza, going so far as to accuse PM Netanyahu as lacking a Jewish heart because he allowed this to happen due to being bribed by R&C money.  What they gloss over is that this protest was in response to the service that was led by Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Amar last week at the Southern Kotel area, which had been designated as an egalitarian prayer area, decrying “these evil people” who are defiling the holiness of the Kotel, attempting to alter the uneasy new status quo.

As should be fairly obvious, there was no way that R&C, or the government, would allow this to pass without a response.  Perhaps I am wrong, but I cannot imagine that there was anyone whose mind was changed positively by that demonstration; all that it accomplished was an escalation of the political, legal and interpersonal fight between the sides who will be even less likely to find a peaceful solution to this intractable problem.
The truth is that, away from the public spotlight, responsible Chareidi leaders had agreed to the Sharansky proposal, knowing that it was a good, respectful, and sensible way to ease the tensions brought about by WOW and those who fought them, and at a minimum, the lesser of two evils.   But as usual, the extremists will not let sanity prevail, and we have what we have.

c) The Rise of Spiritual seekers among the Secular — space does not permit a full development of this aspect, but it is important to note that a great change has been quietly happening in Israel for a long time now.  That change is that in many ways, the current generation of secular Israelis, for the most part, are not as rabidly anti-religious as their forebears a generation or two ago. There is more and more tolerance and respect, and even interest, in Torah and spirituality, and far less kneejerk opposition, even amongst those who formerly were allergic to any talk of religion.  Tens of Kibbutzim and Moshavim associated with Hashomer Hatzair, who used to hold Tisha B’Av parties and feature pork on their menus now have functioning Batei Knesset and people coming to learn Torah, and the “Lehach’is” excesses of are a thing of the past.  Ayelet HaShachar, a wonderful organization that I am involved with, along with others, have introduced Torah and yiddishkeit in scores of places around the country formerly devoid of any religious observance.

This good news, however, comes with a proviso.  People seeking connection to Torah provided that it comes without religious coercion, condescension, “holier-than-thou” criticism, and certainly ugly and offensive accusations and threats.  To the extent that Orthodoxy is seen as angry, threatening, restricting, and mocking, a golden opportunity is handed to R&C to present themselves as an enlightened, empowering, celebratory and welcoming alternative.  Many of those Israelis who have been attracted to R&C might easily have joined with the Orthodox, if only they had perceived Orthodoxy as a having a welcoming smile rather than angry condescension.  “Going to War” at the Kotel will IMHO lead to far more sympathy for R&C than for the Orthodox, and drive these precious people straight into their hands, rachmana litzlan.

It hurts me that the Orthodox are fighting a battle that they cannot win and surely will succeed only in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
What then is the solution?   The Orthodox world will have to come to terms with the fact that, like it or not, the State of Israel is a pluralistic society, in which Jews (and non-Jews) who hold widely divergent beliefs and levels of traditional observance have to co-exist, for better or worse.   Although many on all sides would like to have us believe that THEY are the only ones who have a legitimate right to be in the land for reasons that need not be discussed here, the truth is that, Baruch Hashem, All Jews are at home in the land.  The words of Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld zt”l, a fierce defender of the Chareidim, when asked in 1920 by the British High Commissioner whether the Yerushalmi community wanted all these secular Jews to come and live in and inevitably change the religious nature of the Yishuv (attempting to justify the British policy of severely limiting Jewish immigration), ought to come to mind.  He unhesitatingly said, “The Land of Israel is our mother: a mother has room for all of her children”.   There must be respect from the Orthodox community that other Israelis have no less of a right to the land than they do, much as they deplore their attitude towards religion.

Furthermore, not everyone sees the Kotel as an Orthodox Beit Knesset.  Of course, that has been its primary function for a long time, and many poskim have stated that it has this status.  But it is not its only function.  It is a national shrine, a vestige of our History, a place to which Jews for millennia have directed their hopes and dreams, and a place where all Jews ought to feel welcome to pour out their hearts to G-d.   The Sharansky compromise, approved by the government, should have been seen as a great win for the Orthodox.  Under this plan, the Kotel as it has existed since 1967, is to be left alone.  Those who wish R&C or egalitarian, or other forms of worship, agreed to go to a completely different area, where they bother no one who does not wish to be disturbed, and can do what they choose subject to a pluralistic oversight commission.  One need only search superficially to see how disappointed the R&C and WOW were by this compromise, as they had been arguing for their right to take over at least part of the main Kotel area.  It hurts me that the Orthodox are fighting a battle that they cannot win and surely will succeed only in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.  If the legal battle continues, there is no question that the same playbook by which progressives have won the battle for recognition of civil liberties, gay marriages, and so much else will be successfully used here, and there is no legal recourse that will withstand this onslaught.

If the Orthodox really want to win the “war” with R&C, it will not be done with violence, power struggles, and public insults.   It will be done by focusing on Ahavat Yisrael and making sure that Orthodox Jewry is seen as open, inviting and encouraging for Jews of all levels of faith and observance.  

It will be by presenting authentic Torah with as much love, ingenuity, and attractiveness as possible.  Any visitor to the Kotel will see what is already evident now; the Orthodox main plaza has hundreds of people davening 365/24/7, while the Southern wall is mostly empty most of the time, due to lack of interest on the part of R&C Jews in actually praying there, rather than making headlines.

It is time that we learn from mistakes in the past, and focus on how we can bring Jews together with messages of respect, acceptance and love, and prove that the Ways of the Torah are those of Pleasantness and Peace.

Rabbi Lenny Oppenheimer

Poll: Saudis, Egyptians, Want Regional Peace, Shun Trump, Palestinian Deal

Monday, June 13th, 2016

Ahead of the 16th annual Herzliya Conference, the Institute for Policy & Strategy (IPS) at IDC Herzliya has released the results of two surveys conducted in Egypt and Saudi Arabia relating to the upcoming US Presidential elections.

The key findings of the polls were as follows:

Q: Should the next US President promote an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement or a regional peace agreement?

Egypt: 25.5% – Israeli-Palestinian Agreement 32.1% – Regional Agreement 42.3% – Should Not Promote Peace with Israel

Saudi Arabia: 18.9% – Israeli-Palestinian Agreement 41.6% – Regional Agreement 39.4% – Should Not Promote Peace with Israel

Q: Will the next US President change relations between the US and the Arab world?

Egypt: 31.7% – Change for the better 19.2% – Change for the worse 49.0% – No change

Saudi Arabia: 27.6% – Change for the better 27.4% – Change for the worse 45.0% – No change

Q: Was President Obama a good president for the Muslim world?

Egypt: 2.5% – Very Good 14.2% – Good 38.1% – Mediocre 24.5% – Bad 20.7% – Very Bad

Saudi Arabia: 2.6% – Very Good 17.5% – Good 36.1% – Mediocre 23.8% – Bad 20.1% – Very Bad

Q: Will the next US President cancel the nuclear agreement with Iran?

Egypt: 19.7% – Will cancel 80.3% – Won’t cancel

Saudi Arabia: 13.6% – Will cancel 86.4% – Won’t cancel

Q: Will the next US President be ready to send ground troops to fight ISIS?

Egypt: 32.3% – Yes 48.3% – No 19.4% – Don’t know

Saudi Arabia: 17.9% – Yes 58.1% – No 24.0% – Don’t know

Q: Which (Presidential) candidate do you prefer?

Egypt: 35.9% – Hillary Clinton 3.8% – Donald Trump 8.5% – Bernie Sanders 10.4% – Ted Cruz 41.4% – None of them

Saudi Arabia: 30.2% – Hillary Clinton 6.0% – Donald Trump 7.3% – Bernie Sanders 6.0% – Ted Cruz 50.3% – None of them

The polls were conducted in Arabic over the past 6 weeks using a random sampling from the regions of each country.

471 respondents in Egypt; margin of error +/- 4.5% 464 respondents in Saudi Arabia; margin of error +/- 4.6%

The 16th annual Herzliya Conference starts tomorrow, June 14 and runs through June 16.

JNi.Media

Israel Blasts Desmond Tutu’s Nomination of Terrorist for Nobel Peace Prize

Friday, June 10th, 2016

Joshua B. Dermer/TPS

Jerusalem (TPS) – Israeli officials expressed outrage on Wednesday over former South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s nomination of Marwan Barghouti, a convicted terrorist, for the Nobel Peace Prize on Monday. Barghouti was convicted in 2004 of ordering the murder of five Israeli citizens and is now serving five life sentences.

Gilad Erdan, Israel’s minister of public security, and Eli Ben-Dahan, the deputy defense minister, blasted Tutu’s nomination of Barghouti in remarks to Tazpit Press Service (TPS) on Wednesday.

“The attempt to make the arch-terrorist Marwan Barghouti a legitimate nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize is ridiculous and poses a moral contradiction for anyone who wants peace,” Erdan told TPS in a statement communicated through his spokesman, Shai Mordov. “Barghouti is an abhorrent terrorist who is responsible for the murder of innocents and belongs in jail for the rest of his life. Presenting him as a candidate for the [Nobel] Prize is an unethical, illegitimate act that will only distance any chance to achieve true peace in our region.”

“Shame on religious figures who support the murderer of women and children as a Nobel Prize candidate,” Ben-Dahan, himself a rabbi, told TPS. “Barghouti is a convicted terrorist, who even today still calls for the murder of Jews. Barghouti’s way leads to the death of innocents.”

“The very mention of his name in the same sentence as the Nobel Peace Prize is a ridiculous insult to the prize,” added Ben-Dahan.

Tutu, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his efforts in ending South African apartheid, wrote a letter on Monday to the Norwegian Nobel Committee nominating Barghouti for the prestigious prize, describing him as “a symbol of the Palestinian people’s struggle for freedom.”

“Marwan is also an active advocate and defender of democracy and human rights, including women’s rights, and of pluralism, both religious and political, in a region and a world that desperately needs such advocates,” Tutu wrote.

Barghouti is currently serving five life sentences in an Israeli prison for his role in leading terrorist activities during the first and second intifadas that included dozens of suicide bombings against Israeli civilians. He is a former leader of the Tanzim, a militant faction of the Fatah party currently headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, that took credit for many of the murders during the bloody Second Initfada in the early 2000’s. In 2014, he called for the launch of a third intifada.

Roger Friedman, Tutu’s spokesman, declined a request by TPS to comment.

Tutu is a frequent critic of Israel and outspoken proponent of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) campaign against Israel. During a visit to Israel in 2009 he argued that Jews should “forgive” the Nazis and that Palestinians are “paying penance for the Holocaust” – remarks that earned censure from Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.

Tutu was affiliated in the past with the Peres Center for Peace, the organization of Israel’s former president and prime minister Shimon Peres – himself a Nobel Peace Prize recipient.

As of Wednesday morning Tutu’s name still appeared on the Peres Center’s website as an honorary board member, TPS discovered, but the page containing his name appears to have since been removed. A spokeswoman for the Peres Center declined to comment on Tutu’s remarks or the website.

Barghouti is regarded by PA Arabs as a political prisoner and potential successor to President Abbas, as he consistently garners widespread support in polls for potential Palestinian Authority elections. Yet to Israel – and to the families of the five victims for whose murders he sits in jail, as well as dozens of others for which Barghouti was acquitted on account of insufficient evidence – he is an arch-terrorist.

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/israel-blasts-desmond-tutus-nomination-of-terrorist-for-nobel-peace-prize/2016/06/10/

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