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September 28, 2016 / 25 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘point’

So Now What?

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

There it is: four more years of Barack Obama. What does it mean for Israel?

The bilateral talks with Iran run by Valerie Jarrett will continue. One can hope for the best, but it is very unlikely that an agreement will be reached that will include the effective dismantling of Iran’s bomb-building capability. It’s not at all comforting to think that Israel’s security will be in the hands of Jarrett, Obama’s Chicago fixer. One can speculate what Romney might have done differently, but that is not an option now.

It’s certain that the Iranian regime will not abandon the goal which will bring it geopolitical primacy in the region and for which it has striven (and its people have suffered) mightily, except if it is forced to do so by a credible threat of force. Will Obama make such a threat? What if the Iranians call his bluff? Will he be prepared to take action that would triple the price of oil, and destroy any chance of success for his domestic agenda? Will he be prepared to risk American lives in what would be called a “war for Israel?”

He will make a deal, a deal that will be satisfactory for the US and for Iran. For the US, it will have to appear as though the Iranian program has been derailed, or at least put on hold for the foreseeable future (a few years, in today’s world). For Iran, it will have to allow the regime to continue to put the pieces together to allow a rapid breakout as a nuclear power. It will naturally include a relaxation of economic pressure on Iran — the only thing more important for the regime than getting nuclear weapons is staying in power.

As far as Israel is concerned, nothing is as important as the Iranian question. It’s unlikely that a US-Iran deal will satisfy Israel, because Israel is not at the table. The question originally posed by Ehud Barak will remain: when will Iran enter the “zone of immunity,” when will it reach the point that no practical Israeli action can prevent the Iranians from obtaining nuclear weapons? The deal may change the point at which this occurs, but it will not change the logic of the situation.

The deal will bring prestige to the Iranian regime — it will be played as though Iran forced the Great Satan to blink — and will improve their economy, thus making regime change less likely. Obama may have succeeded in holding off an Israeli strike against Iran so far, but it is still almost certain to occur.

I doubt that Obama will do much about the Palestinian issue  the short term. He must understand by now that there is simply no overlap between Israeli and Palestinian positions of such things as refugees, Jerusalem and the continued existence of a Jewish state. On the other hand, there is a danger that unfettered by electoral considerations, he and his advisers will give free rein to their undisguised pro-Palestinian ideology, and  move even further in their direction. I think it’s harder to predict what the administration will do in this area, because it is almost entirely determined by ideology, and not perceived interests. The administration does not appear to see the fate of Israel as especially relevant to practical US interests.

I do expect continued pressure for ‘regime change’ in Israel. Obama apparently feels that PM Netanyahu is an obstacle, and will do his best to help the opposition. His poorly-hidden dislike and disrespect for Israel’s Prime Minister is remarkable, especially compared with his attitude toward other foreign leaders, especially Islamists like Turkey’s Erdogan and Egypt’s Morsi — not to mention his remarkable obeisance to the king of Saudi Arabia, one of the countries whose political ideology and human-rights behavior is about as far from American ideals as can be imagined.

In these areas, I think a Romney victory would have made a significant difference. Romney clearly understands the Palestinian lack of interest in coexistence — he explained it eloquently at one point — and apparently has a warm relationship with PM Netanyahu. He does not appear to share the academic leftist view that characterizes the Obama Administration, one in which Israel plays the role of a colonial power, and the main cause of conflict is Palestinian ‘rights’ rather than Arab rejectionism. But again, this is not an option now.

Vic Rosenthal

Things You See from Over Here

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

A mega-popular song by one of Israel’s better female vocalists, Yehudit Ravitz, goes:

You took my hand in your hand and told me / Let’s go down to the garden / You took my hand in your hand and told me / Things you see from over there – you don’t see from over here.

I’ve been preoccupied by that notion since the crazy pictures of Hurricane Sandy started arriving here, in safe and dry Netanya, Israel. My initial reaction was a deep, overwhelming empathy. It’s people I know and love who are facing this monster of a storm, it’s the cityscapes of 37 years of my life which are being washed up and flooded; this is not a story about a tsunami in some anonymous far-eastern country where the images of terror and loss are somehow not completely real, unless the daughter or nephew of someone you know happen to be on a self-discovery journey over there, at which point that faraway tsunami turns very personal instantaneously.

I imagine that my friends in Israel experienced the horrors of 9/11 in a similar fashion. The friends who were most deeply affected were those who had spent quality time in NY City, and so they felt every bit of destruction on a very personal level.

It so happens that our daughter is back in the States, on a long trip to celebrate her 21st birthday, and so, naturally, our level of alertness and anxiety is that much higher. My sister lives in downtown Manhattan, in one of the Grand Street co-ops, close to where my wife and I lived for so many years.

We stare at the images of devastation, both to personal property and to the very shoreline of the Eastern Seaboard, and we are aghast. We receive the emails from all the local sources to which we still subscribe, out of habit, and we read about a life without power and water, with empty store shelves and gas pumps. We experienced something similar in the blackout of the summer of 2003, but the whole thing lasted a mere two days. I recall sitting on the porch on a Friday night and seeing how, neighborhood by neighborhood, the lights came back on. But today we read about whole neighborhoods who’ve gone a week without power and running water. That’s very scary and very personal.

Now we read of a new storm, a “nor’easter,” that’s about to hit the very neighborhoods that have been devastated by Hurricane Sandy. We cringe at the thought of what that would feel like. How can anyone just go on surviving one blow after another from “Mother Nature” – and winter has only just begun.

I don’t care, at this point, to engage in whether these disasters are the result of global warming, global change, or global everything is just the same. There’s no doubt in my mind that, for this and many other reasons, the United States of America is becoming a harsher place in which to reside. I must confess that I’m not seeing very good things happening in the near future in America. And I love America, I even believe in American exceptionalism – but one must be blind, or at least seriously nearsighted, not to see the writing on the wall.

My colleague Tzvi Fishman has been writing here for the past few months about how living in Diaspora is practically a crime against God (I’m stretching it a bit, obviously, but that’s the gist of it). I’m starting to think that living in Diaspora is plain foolish.

It used to be that Diaspora Jews were encouraged to come to Israel because Israel needed them. I don’t believe this is any longer the case. Israel is doing fabulously well at its current state. It has the highest employment record among all the Western democracies, it has one of the highest-growth GDPs, it has one of the best medical care systems, the finest highways, more institutions of higher education per capita than anywhere else in the world, more books published per capita than anywhere else, and fantastic produce. Despite some obvious security difficulties, it is damn close to paradise. Israel is doing fine.

It’s Diaspora Jews who desperately need Israel at this point. It’s a new concept to many. We’ve been used to thinking about Israel as the place where we look for spiritual experiences, where we discover our historic past, where we come to terms with our national feelings. But to view Israel as a much, much better place than the United States in terms of creature comforts – that’s not a widely shared notion. All I can say is, check it out.

Yori Yanover

The Making of a President and the Making of a Gadol

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

I must say that I was a little bit amused by the video featured on Aish.com. In about 3 minutes Mrs. Lori Palatnik proudly explains the difference between how Americans choose their leaders and how Orthodox Jews chose their leaders. Choosing a President in this great country of ours is a democratic process, but it is heavily influenced by money and power; ads and sloganeering; and smearing the opponent. Politics at its worst one might say. Certainly the best man available for the job may not be elected, or even running.

Contrast that with how Jewish leaders in Orthodoxy are chosen. Gedolim are chosen by rabbinic peers she said with pride. Those peers recognize that the greatest man of the generation is one whose Torah knowledge supersedes all others.

The example she gave is Rav Moshe Feinstein. He did not run for anything. He was not elected by the people. Rabbinic peers saw his responsa on Jewish Law and realized that the breadth and depth of his Torah knowledge superseded theirs. Hence he was chosen as the rabbinic leader of the generation – the Gadol HaDor.

I had to smile when I saw that. I’m sure Mrs. Palatnik is a very nice woman – sincere in her pride about how Jewish leadership is chosen. But despite the fact that in theory, the Gadol HaDor is supposedly chosen based on his level of Torah knowledge by people qualified to do so, it doesn’t always work out that way. Nor is Judaism unique in this regard. If I am not mistaken the Pope is chosen by peers qualified to do so too.

And is the process really as objective as Mrs. Palatnik indicates? Hardly. There are very often politics involved. The criteria considered for rabbinic leadership is not universal. A truly great leader whose Torah knowledge may supersede all others might never be considered for that position.

Rav Yoshe Ber Soloveitchik is a case in point. There is almost universal agreement that his Torah knowledge was incomparable. I have been told more than once by Lakewood type Avreichim that if not for his connection with YU (or with Mizrachi; or his dissent on certain public policy issues with Rav Aharon Kotler; or the fact that he had a PhD in Philosophy- pick one!) he would have possibly become the Gadol HaDor. Again – politics!

When most Charedim think about who the Gedolim are, they think about who is on the Agudah Moetzes. That is after all where Rav Moshe Feinstein – the man she uses to illustrate her point – was chosen to belong as a Gadol. Of course R’ Moshe was a Gadol of that stature without the Agudah Moetzes. One could say that he graced the Agudah Moetzes by joining them and allowing them to call him their leader. He obviously supported the ideals and goals of Agudah. They did in fact choose him for the right reasons. But that is certainly not always the case.

How are people chosen by this group to become members? First of all they choose only Charedim. And their choices are not always based on Torah knowledge. Their choices are often based on religio-political affiliation. For example they will ask a rabbinic leader in the Yekke (German-Jewish) community to join because of they want to appeal to that demographic. The same is true for choosing a Sephardi Rav for membership. Or a Chasdic Rebbe. But are these people the greatest, most knowledgeable men of the generation?

Let us indeed look specifically at how a Chasidic Rebbe is chosen among Chasidim. The fact is they are not chosen by peers at all. It is Yichus that gets them there. They inherit their positions from their fathers or their fathers in law. They may be brilliant people, well trained for leadership by their fathers. But are they chosen by peers based on their highest level of Torah knowledge? Hardly.

It may be coincidentally the case that a Chasidic Rebbe who inherited his position is a truly brilliant and Torah knowledgeable person in his generation. That was certainly true of the Lubavitcher Rebbe who inherited his position from his father in law, the previous Rebbe. But the fact is that he was not chosen for his genius. He was chosen because of his relationship to his father in law.

There are people today who are great Torah scholars, geniuses without peer who lead generations of Orthodox Jews and yet would never be chosen as a Gadol on the Agudah Moetzes. Rav Aharon Lichtenstein is a case in point. There is little doubt in my mind about his greatness in Torah.

But he is virtually ignored, if not disparaged by his Charedi rabbinic peers. He has about as much chance of being invited onto the Agudah Moetzes as I do. The same is true about Rav Hershel Shachter. He too is one of the brightest rabbinic minds of the 21st century. And yet he too would never be chosen by his Charedi peers as the Gadol Hador – or a Gadol at any level.

The truth is that even R’ Moshe was not considered by everyone to be the Gadol HaDor. Satmar didn’t. Neither did Lubavitch. Nor did the thousands of students of Rav Solovetchik. Nor did most Israeli Charedim. They all had their own rabbinic leader whom they considered greater. I have been told that in Israel – R’ Moshe’s name was rarely heard. Certainly not in the context of Gadol HaDor.

So the bottom line is that I agree in theory that Torah knowledge is the most important factor in making one a rabbinic leader. And that Torah scholars are best equipped to recognize it and make those decisions. But in reality the best people are not necessarily the ones chosen to lead.

The factors considered by the voting public in choosing a President are not always the important ones. A President can for example be voted into office based almost entirely on his Charisma. I believe that this was very much the case with JFK, for example.

But Orthodox Judaism does not live up to the ideal Mrs. Palatnik says it does either. I’m sorry to say that politics and Yichus (in the case of Chasidic Rebbes and increasingly in the Yeshiva world) may very well be a greater factor in choosing a rabbinic leader than Torah knowledge is.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Harry Maryles

Postcard from Israel: Sussita

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Sussita – or Antiochia-Hippos, to call it by its Greek name – sits on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, towering 350 meters above Kibbutz Ein Gev. Founded around 200 BCE, during Roman times Sussita was one of the Decapolis – the ten cities.

The city was predominantly Christian from the fourth century until its destruction in the massive earthquake of January 749, after which it was never resettled. It boasts many features, including impressive fortifications, several churches and pagan temples, a commercial area, bath houses, a beautiful odeon overlooking the lake and a port on the lake shore below.

In 1951, an IDF outpost was established on the mountain which was until 1967 Israel’s easternmost point, merging with the Golan Heights.

Sussita is still being excavated by Haifa University and, if you happen to be looking for ideas for a summer holiday with a difference, it is possible to apply to join the 2013 season already.

Visit CifWatch.com.

Hadar Sela

Long Island Orthodox Woman a Volunteer Firefighter

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Shoshana Weiner of Long Island, New York, has been a volunteer firefighter for 12 years. In addition to firefighting, Weiner’s day job includes working as a nurse practitioner at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, and as a paramedic instructor at St. John’s University in Queens.

Tazpit News Agency caught up (literally) with Weiner during her vacation in Israel, where she took the time to volunteer with the Petah Tikvah fire department, answering some brush fires and dealing with hazardous material.

“Volunteering as a firefighter in Israel is a little different from Long Island,” Weiner, 39, told Tazpit News Agency. The fire trucks and the equipment are different from what I am used to in Long Island, but that’s all part of the learning experience.”

Weiner was born and raised in New York, where very few Orthodox Jewish women volunteer as firefighters, she says. “I kind of fell into volunteer firefighting by accident,” Weiner explains. “I was looking to volunteer in emergency medical services (EMS) at a local fire station, but in order to get accepted, I also had to train as a firefighter.”

Shabbat evening dinners take on a different routine at Weiner’s home. “Multiple times, I’ve gotten calls right after my husband has said Kiddush, and I’d have to run out and respond to a fire or medical emergency.”

“The perks are probably the barbecues,” Weiner says with a smile. “At least for my husband.”

The difficult point in Weiner’s volunteer firefighting career was September 11. “That was probably the worst day in history for New York firefighters. I was lucky I didn’t go down to the Twin Towers with the firefighters the first night, when the casualties took place. I joined the second night as an EMS responder.”

In Israel, Weiner also had the chance to take part in the Emergency Volunteer Program (EVP), a non-profit international organization that trains volunteers from abroad to assist Israel as emergency first responders.

“It was great to meet other people across the US, from Washington State to Arkansas, who were training to help Israel in an emergency situation,” Weiner said. “Although we come from different states across America, and there are differences in the way things work in Israel, we all share the language of emergency response.”

Weiner explains that one fundamental difference is the manpower at hand. In “Israel, there are generally two firefighters who do everything during a call—including driving to the emergency and putting out the fire, etc. In New York at least, there are five to six people on every fire truck.”

Shoshana believes that the situation in Israel is volatile. “At some point, we all know that Israel will need our help and that’s why we are here training together– to assist in whatever situation that happens in the future.”

Anav Silverman, Tazpit News Agency

Contemplating the Divine Together

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

We live on the first floor of a Netanya apartment building, which means that our living room panorama window overlooking the street below is about 15 feet high.

Our girl cat, Lightening, sits in the window much of the day, basking in our Mediterranean sun. She wasn’t for the move to Israel initially, but by now she’s very happy, grooms regularly and even put on some weight.

When I come home from shul Shabbat morning, around 10:30-11:00, I walk up the paved path from the street and whistle at Lightening and she recognizes me. She stiffens up, shocked at the notion that someone who is usually inside the house is now, by some unexplained miracle of science, on the other side of things.

Then she calls back, arches her back and rushes to the door to greet me. When I open the door, she’s there, demanding a thorough back scratch (and tummy).

She’s a lot like a dog that way.

But while dogs worship their masters, I believe Lightening sees me as an equal, who is sometimes frustrating when he doesn’t get what she’s asking for.

And I believe that this picture, of a cat davening alongside his co-equal, proves my point.

Yori Yanover

Israel ‘Accused’ of Ensuring Gazan’s Had Proper Nutrition

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

The most interesting aspect of the Guardian/AP report on Oct. 17, ‘Israel used calorie count to limit Gaza food during the blockade,’ in addition to the extremely misleading headline, is that there is little if anything in the story which demonstrates that Israel did anything improper whatsoever.

However, as we’ve seen time and again, the mere absence of information pointing to Israeli villainy is often no obstacle for Guardian editors.

Though Israel maintains a legal blockade on Gaza to prevent deadly weapons from entering the strip,  thousands of tons of supplies for Palestinians in Gaza arrive weekly from Israel, aid which includes medical supplies, food, and consumer goods, and there is simply no humanitarian crisis to speak of in the strip.

However, the Guardian, in classic propagandistic style, begins by employing the requisite photo of a Palestinian boy crying,

Yet, the strap line begins to provide a clue that there is, in fact, no real story here:

Unpacking this strap line, it seems to acknowledge that Israel was careful to “avoid” civilian malnutrition in Gaza.

So, what exactly is Israel’s crime?

The report begins, thus.

“The Israeli military made precise calculations of Gaza’s daily calorie needs to avoid malnutrition during a blockade imposed on the Palestinian territory between 2007 and mid-2010..” [emphasis added]

So far, we have a story corroborating Israeli claims that, since the blockade was launched, Israeli officials were careful to allow in enough food to avoid malnutrition.

Again, what is Israel’s crime? 

Here’s where it gets strange:

Israel says it never limited how many calories were available to Gaza, but critics claimed the document was proof the government limited food supplies to put pressure on Hamas.

Major Guy Inbar, an Israeli military spokesman, said the calculation, based on a person’s average requirement of 2,300 calories a day, was meant to identify warning signs to help avoid a humanitarian crisis…” [emphasis added]

The average recommended calorie intake according to the UK National Health System is 2500 for men and 2000 for women, indicating that Israel was making sure they supplied Gaza with enough food for Palestinians to consume the the calories necessary for proper nutrition.

So, what’s Israel’s crime?

Indeed, further in the report, Israel is again vindicated.

“The food calculation, made in January 2008, applied the average daily requirement of 2,279 calories per person, in line with World Health Organisation’s guidelines, according to the document.

“The stability of the humanitarian effort is critical to prevent the development of malnutrition,” the document said.

Further in the report, we learn the following:

“…at no point did observers identify a food crisis developing in the territory, whose residents rely heavily on international food aid.” [emphasis added]

Ok, in summary:

Israel maintained a blockade of deadly weapons sent to the Hamas run territory to protect their citizens from harm, but carefully avoided a humanitarian crisis from developing in the enemy territory by ensuring the availability of the recommended number calories as determined by international health organizations.

Again, I ask, what’s Israel’s crime?

Visit CifWatch.com.

Adam Levick

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/cifwatch/israel-accused-of-ensuring-gazans-had-proper-nutrition/2012/10/23/

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