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October 27, 2016 / 25 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Religious Zionism’

Aliya: What’s it All About?

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

The Hebrew term “Aliya” literally means “elevation.” The term is widely used in the Jewish culture to describe being called up to recite the blessings on the Torah reading in the synagogue, as well as to describe immigration of Jewish people to the land of Israel. Each of these Aliya opportunities is considered to be a great honor.

In Jewish thought, the land of Israel is considered to be higher than the lands of the other nations. The diaspora is considered a punishment – banishment from our homeland, the special land singled out from among all others in the Bible and allocated by God himself for a nation which was also singled out for a special mission: to be a light unto the nations.

Some ponder the reason God Almighty would give this land, of all others, to the people that he loves so much. Could he not have picked one with at least some natural resources? The Arabs got the oil, the Africans precious stones and metals. What does the land of Israel have to offer?

With that in mind, the special connection of the people of Israel with their homeland is a phenomenon which is hard to explain in rational or pragmatic terms. But the fact remains that for 2000 years, the Jewish people retained their devotion to their land in a manner unique throughout all humanity. There is no other people in history that survived an exile for so long, while retaining their national identity and yearning to return to their homeland.

The Jewish people spread our in a diaspora which reached every location in the world. Three times every day, all through that time, we would turn towards the holy capital city, Jerusalem, and pray that God would have mercy on us and allow us to return to our land and rebuild our country and again live as a sovereign nation.

This new blog is about Aliya and living in the land. I will use this platform to share my own experiences and enthusiasm about this wonderful historic opportunity, as well as to discuss the unique challenges in making Aliyah and some practical aspects, in hopes of encouraging other Jews to make the move and return home to Israel.

Please feel free to ask questions.

David Ha'ivri

A Soldier Remembered in His ‘Letters to Talia’

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

Considering the continued uncertainty in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s coalition quest/negotiations, I see this as a good time to post my review of the English translation of the Israeli bestseller,  מכתבים לטליה Michtavim liTalyaLetters to Talia, by Dov IndigHaYa”D.

I remember hearing about the book when it was first published in its original Hebrew, but as usual I let news of Hebrew books fly over my consciousness, since I don’t expect to read them.  It’s not that I don’t read Hebrew at all.  My Hebrew is for labels, ads, my pay slip, letters and notices on the Shiloh email list, our weekly newsletter and the very occasional newspaper or magazine article.

I received Letters to Talia from Gefen Publishing House to review.  I don’t remember if they mailed it to me or it was one of the books I picked up from them at the Jerusalem International Book Fair.  But it really doesn’t matter how I got it, because it’s a great book and I must tell you why.

First of all the translation by Yehuda Burdman is fantastic.  I have no idea how easily the original Hebrew read, but it was a true pleasure reading it in English.  I even carried the book around with me to take advantage of a few minutes’ reading time here and there.  I don’t normally do that.  My bags are always too full and my time too short for such a luxury.  But this book followed me around for the few days it took to complete reading it.

Now, what’s it about?

Dear Dov,You must really be surprised to be receiving a letter from a girl you don’t know… Dov Indig was killed on October 7, 1973, in a holding action on the Golan Heights in Israel during the Yom Kippur War. Letters to Talia, published in his memory by family and friends, contains excerpts from an extensive correspondence Dov maintained with Talia, a girl from an irreligious kibbutz in northern Israel, in 1972 and ’73, the last two years of his life. At the time, Talia was a highschool student, and Dov was a student in the Hesder yeshiva Kerem B’Yavneh, which combines Torah study with military service. It was Talia’s father who suggested that Talia correspond with Dov, and an intense dialogue developed between them on questions of Judaism and Zionism, values and education. Their correspondence continued right up to Dov’s death in the Yom Kippur War.  (Gefen)

While readying the book my mind was full of “ifs.”  The main “if” obviously is: If only Dov Indig hadn’t been killed in the 1973 Yom Kippur War…

Indig’s analysis and predictions as to what would happen if Israel withdrew from our Land liberated in the 1967 Six Days War or what he expected would happen to the kibbutz movement, especially the secular ones, are so on target, that it’s frightening.  We, Israel and the Jewish People, lost a great and brilliant talent.  There is no other way to describe him.  Yes, you must read the book to fully comprehend what a terrible loss it was to all of us as a People and Nation that he isn’t with us today.

So many of the very best were killed in that terrible war in 1973.  My friends and I still mourn our Betar New York friends who were killed.  We get together every year at Mount Herzl to honor them.  From my perspective, having made aliyah with my husband in 1970, I can easily identify with Indig’s friends who felt it vitally necessary to publish this correspondence.

Everything Indig said about the secular kibbutz movement has happened (for instance, “I will risk a prophecy … that in the next generation most of the kibbutzniks will grow tired of the cooperative spirit and all the ideals associated with it” (page 52)).  That makes me even more curious about Talia, not her real name.  All that is revealed in the postscript is that after her National Service and subsequent army service, she returned to her kibbutz where she still lives.  In her letters, we discover that her best friend actually became religious, Talia is too attracted by the idea.  She’s infatuated with Judaism and Dov.  In her last letter, which Dov most probably never read, she tells Dov that she will fast and go to a synagogue on Yom Kippur to pray for his safety.  It’s too easy to imagine her disappointment even anger with God when she discovers that her prayers didn’t protect Dov from death.

Batya Medad

Rabbi Menachem Froman: Not What You Thought

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

First and foremost, Menachem Froman was a community rabbi who dealt with questions of what is permitted and what is forbidden.  Although he seemed to exist beyond time and space, he refused to permit anyone who arrived after sunset to hold Mincha prayers in his synagogue.

The many young people who flocked to Menachem, thinking him a great reformer, ought to take note: you can’t take home only the easy things.

When Menachem participated in Shabbat camping programs, he kept a copy of Keeping Shabbat in hand for reference when dealing with any problems that came up.  He received his ordination from two great luminaries who were exacting regarding things great and small: Rabbi Shlomo Goren and Rabbi Avraham Shapira.  And as Rabbi Moshe Levinger, who went to visit Menachem during his illness, said, Menachem was a skilled halakhic decision maker. During that visit as on many other occasions, the two old friends found themselves in a political argument.  I can imagine that was said: I had often had such arguments with Menachem in the past, ever since he went to the Madrid Conference, calling for a compromise with the Palestinians, while we terror victims took the opposite position, calling against talks with terrorist organizations.  But it was impossible to argue with Menachem for very long.  He put an end to any disagreement with a bear hug.

In Rabbi Levinger’s words, Menachem was not a great politician, but he had a big heart, which is why Rabbi Tvi Yehuda Kook loved him so much.  Because of his good heartedness, he refused to believe that it was impossible to find some good on the Palestinian side.  Menachem thought that through love and planned encounters he could reduce the tension, forgetting that one does not go to the political marketplace with love.

The Palestinians have political aspirations that do not mesh with ours, aspirations that do not allow for Jewish statehood in a place where they and Sha’ariah law hold sway, but only for individual Jews living under protection.

Those on the other side shook his hands and kissed him as is customary in the East, and some truly respected him—but they made no concessions to him.

There also were times when Menachem adopted a more hawkish stance.  He worked against the Schalit Deal with me in my capacity as head of Almagor, both in talks with politicians and with prayers.  When the deal did go through, he took it hard.

So where did his good heartedness and daring make a difference?  Among Jews.  Menachem’s approach brought to Judaism the young, the estranged, people from one end of the ideological spectrum to the other.

At his funeral, Yehuda Etzion, one of the heads of the Jewish Underground and a leader of Gush Emunim, stood side-by-side with Naftali Raz of Peace Now, who was heard to join in the singing of “A Woman of Valor,” which Menachem had instructed be sung at his funeral as a final thank-you to his wife, Hadassa.  At the words “Her children rise up and praise her,” the assembled joined his children in applause for their mother as they shouted “bravo” mid-verse.

At how many funerals have we seen a husband being lowered into his grave leave a final song to his wife, thanking her for all her long, loyal years with him?  For one who knew Menachem, it stands to reason that it was the practice at his home every Friday night to shout “bravo” for his wife: one of many novel customs that he instituted in Tekoa.

Another was to pause prayers in the synagogue for whatever comments, dancing, and hand motions came to his ever-active mind and warm heart in his very personal relationship with God.

Odd, you say?  Strange?  Menachem wouldn’t have cared.  He’d have dismissed you as “meshuga.”  Menachem transcended all that.

And what about some dignity?

That came in the form of a kind of eccentric, theatrical costume that he made out of white robes and a white shtreimel.

Theatrical, you say?  So what?  Who said it’s not appropriate to put on some theater for God and his people?  You want us to be serious all the time?  He is our father, after all.

Menachem made it legitimate for young people to experience both rises and falls in their personal and religious lives.  As one of them said to me, “His brand of religiosity allowed us, the second generation of settlers, to connect.  We became his chassidim and he became our rebbe: the rebbe of Tekoa!” So it was that last Hoshana Rabba eve, the Tekoa basketball court filled with thousands of national-religious and formerly religious Israelis of various stripes and all jumped around energetically along with him and his music stars, roaring, clapping, jumping, as Menachem moved about contentedly on the stage.

Meir Indor

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Twenty-Eight: Waiting for the Baron

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

When word arrived that Baron Edmond Rothschild was coming for a visit, with none other than the famous Dr. Chaim Weizmann, the colony turned into a frantic beehive of activity. Since the death of Theodor Herzl, Weizmann had become one of the driving forces behind the Zionist movement in Europe. The Russian-born chemist had become a leader of the World Zionist Congress, and his diplomatic skill, erudition, per­sonal magnetism, and dedication to the Zionist cause had won the respect of political leaders throughout the world. The rumor of the pending visit was started by the driver of the monthly supply wagon on one of his trips out of Zichron Yaacov. He said that the Baron and Weizmann were due to arrive in Palestine for an inspection of all of the settlements, and that the Morasha region was being considered as the next major development area of both the Keren Keyemet, Jewish National Fund, and the Jew­ish Colony Association. That meant a possible investment of millions and millions of francs to turn the quiet village of Morasha into a bustling agricultural center. The billionaire phi­lanthropist and the charismatic political leader were known to be friends, and if they were impressed by what they saw on their visit, it was almost certain that the Baron would spread money like fertiLazer throughout the hillsides of Morasha.

In the excitement, no one bothered to ask how the driver of the monthly supply wagon was privileged to such exclusive information. As the news spread from settler to settler, the dream of transforming the struggling yishuv into a model metropolis seemed absolutely assured. Someone said that the scientific-minded Weizmann planned to build a university on the crest of the Morasha hillside. Another said the area was slated to be turned into a modern industrial park. It was even rumored that the Baron Rothschild was thinking of Morasha as the site of a new summer mansion.

Hearing these wild fantasies, Tevye scoffed.

A boobe-miseh if I ever heard one,” he said. “And I sup­pose that the Mashiach is on his way too.”

His reference was to the Jewish messiah, whom the Jews had expected for two-thousand years. Faithful to the promises of the Prophets and Sages, the Jews waited for his coming every day. The Hasidim were especially on alert for his arrival. If nightfall came without a sign of his appearance, they took solace that certainly the Mashiach would come the very next day to usher in the awaited age of salvation. It was a dream Tevye had fostered every day of his life. He believed it with all of his soul. If only the Jews would return to their Maker in repentance, surely the scion of King David would come to rescue the downtrodden nation.

Tevye was far more skeptical regarding the coming of Baron

Rothschild.  But when the Company manager, LeClerc, arrived with the very same news, Tevye also caught the fast-spreading fever. His imagination proved as fertile as his neighbors. Not only would Morasha become the Paris of the Middle East, Tevye could very well become one of the wealthiest men in the region. Stranger things had happened in life. Hadn’t Joseph, the simple shepherd boy, become ruler of the mighty land of Egypt? Every schoolboy knew the story. And what was the secret of Joseph’s success? His dreams!

LeClerc assembled the settlers together outside of the barn as the sun sank over the distant ocean. The historic visit, he said, was just three days away. Because of political developments in Europe, the entourage had embarked sooner than planned. After brief stops in Rishon Le Zion and Zichron Yaacov, the Baron and the Doctor of Chemistry were arriving in Morasha to scout the site them­selves to determine if the expansive, virgin region could be transformed into a center of Jewish immigration for the hundreds of thousands of Jews whose lives were being threatened by the worsening persecutions in Russia.

Needless to say, LeClerc continued, it was imperative that the Morasha colony and its settlers put on their finest appear­ance. To this end, a shipment was due to arrive the next day with building supplies, paint, flowers and plants, new clothes for the settlers, and enough food to prepare a banquet for a king.

Tzvi Fishman

Rav Kook’s ‘The Caged Lion’

Monday, February 4th, 2013

In addition to having been a master in all disciplines of Torah, and a great visionary, Rabbi Kook also wrote many powerful and inspiring poems, expressing his passionate yearning for God. Here for your enjoyment is a short fable he penned. Unfortunately, my translation can’t compare to the beauty and depth of the original Hebrew, with its rich imagery and multiple nuances. But its symbolism and message to Diaspora Jews are obvious.

Like the lions in Rabbi Kook’s poem, may we also find the longing for freedom, and the courage to shatter the cage of our long exile, to make our way joyously back to the glorious, tree-filled kingdom from whence we came.

The Caged Lion

THE old lion is broken
Tired from his many hunters
Trapped in a narrow cage
He remembers times from his childhood
Memories of freedom
The valor of the forest.

His cubs were born in captivity
Their souls don’t feel his weariness
Yet their souls haven’t grown.
They haven’t been broken by the enemy
Because they haven’t seen battle
And the valor of the forest they don’t know.

Though the cage is narrow
It doesn’t oppress them so much,
It inhibits the wildness of their youth,
But the cubs don’t moan
Over this small matter,
And the glow in their eyes
Over this doesn’t darken.

The cubs are angry with their father,
Why is he so sunken in his thoughts
To have forgotten about life?
There still is room to frolic a little
Even in this narrow cage.
The children are astounded
When they look upon the aged lion
So stooped over and sighing.

ONCE the old lion awakened
And told his tale to the playful youngsters,
“There is a world filled with light
A place filled with liberty and freedom
A forest of great expanses,
And towering trees
How pleasant are those cedars of G-d!
The scents of the forest restore the soul
A myriad of living creatures dwell within
And everything is enlivened with the pleasures of freedom.

“And when I was your age, children,
It was there that I ruled with pride and strength
All of the forest’s warriors bowed before me.
And if not for my pursuers who shattered my bones,
And if not for this narrow cage
I would still now be ruling in the forest
And you too would be filled with freedom and pride.”

These words came forth from the old one
And the youths ceased to frolic.
Instead of joy in their eyes
A flash of revenge shone in them,
Eyes filled with fire and blood,
And with an embittered spirit and hidden rage
They tried to break
The narrow cage.

THE soul of mighty lions roared inside the cubs
And their eyes also saw
With all the same force
The kingdom of the forest.
The longings in them grew stronger
To reach the open expanses,
To the place where their old father ruled.

They couldn’t keep still in the cage
The scent of the oak trees of the forest
Filled their nostrils and lungs,
The colors of budding flowers
Held their hearts captive

Their spirits didn’t fall
And they didn’t groan
Like the elder
Whose bones had broken,
And the light of his life turned gloomy
Because of the oppression of his captors
Who turned his world upside down.
And with a yearning of spirit
Like billowing flames
Their hearts yearned for the forest.

“IF in sincerity and innocence
The forest is loved,”
The old broken lion once said,
“Then the soul of proud lions
Still beats within you,
And this the narrow cage
Won’t be your home
For you will always belong to the forest kingdom.”

The words of the elder
Strengthened the hearts of the youth,
And with the power and valor of young lions
They began to smash at the cage’s bars
With their claws, their teeth, and their roars
Frightening the captors
From their routine guard.
And with a fierce spirit raging with love for the forest
They broke and shattered the walls of the narrow cage.

SEEING the boldness of the cubs
The old broken lion was filled with courage,
And a spark of the proud lion inside him was kindled anew.
Taking a place in the front of his sons
All of his being filled with valor,
And together with a spirit of freedom
They fled to a place with freedom and light.
Hearing the roar of lions, their captors trembled in fear,
And with a proud spirit the lions went on their way
Until they came to the place of the oaks
To the castle of the lions
As it had been from time immemorial.

It was as if the old lion regained his youth
And his broken insides
Became bonded together in joy.
And he together with his cubs
Spoke victoriously to their enemies at the forest’s edge
And all the lions returned
To raise up the forest kingdom.

Tzvi Fishman

The Complainers are Alive and Well in America

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

In this Shabbat’s Torah portion, we met the complainers. Among the different types of personalities and personality disorders, there are complainers. There are people who complain about everything. Wherever they are, whatever they’re doing, they always have the need to complain. “This is no good, and that’s no good. This should be done that way, and I could have done the same thing better.”

We meet them right after our incredibly miraculous salvation from the armies of Egypt, as the Egyptians are still drowning in the sea, and our spontaneous song of joy is still echoing over the wilderness mountains, the people started complaining. Not all the people. The complainers.

First they complained that there wasn’t any fresh water – as if King of the Universe, who split the sea five minutes ago, couldn’t give them a little fresh water! Then they complained against Moshe and Aharon, finding fault with the greatest leaders in the world! Then they complained about the menu, which ever since has become a very Jewish thing to do. “Waiter, this steak is too rare.” Or, “Waiter, this steak is well done.” Then, once again in the wilderness, they complained about the lack of water, accusing Moshe of trying to kill them! A little later on, they are going to start complaining about having to live in Eretz Yisrael.

I’m sure you are familiar with the type. For instance, there is no shortage of them amongst Jewish bloggers in America. Surely you’ve noticed. Some are always complaining: “This in Israel is no good, and that’s no good, the country is too secular, or the religious have too much power, you can’t make a living there, the Israelis are rude, and on and on and on and on.”

After reading this Shabbat’s Torah portion, I realized that they’re the modern-day complainers. Apparently, it’s something genetic. It’s not their fault. They can’t help it. I suppose a doctor would call it an obsessive compulsion, and a psychiatrist might term it a neurotic disorder. It could be there are medicines that can help the problem, like the drugs that doctors prescribe for just about everything else. Maybe anti-depressants would work. After all, they don’t seem like very happy people, the way they’re complaining all the time.

The only other thing I can think of that might help them is to learn Emunah, which means faith. Rabbi Kook would always say that Emunah must be learned. True faith in God doesn’t grow on trees in Brooklyn. Every Jew has Emunah deep down inside. But it must be developed. Emunah is more than eating bagels and lox and putting on tefillin. True faith in God requires learning. Not just any type of learning, but learning designed to bring a person to a living connection with God, and to put his life in line with what God wants for the Am Yisrael, the Nation of Israel.

Books like the “Kuzari” and the writings of Rabbi Kook are a good place to start. And a true reading of the Torah is the best place of all. Like they very thing that we are reading about now – how God doesn’t want us to live in foreign countries, and how He even turned the world upside down with the greatest miracles ever, to teach us this lesson and bring us to the Land of Israel where He wants us to live. But the complainers didn’t like the way God was handling things.

For example, the Spies were outstanding Torah scholars, but they were the biggest complainers of all. They believed in some things, but they didn’t believe in others. They agreed to keep Shabbat and put on tefillin, but when it came to making aliyah, they didn’t believe in God, as the Torah says, “In this matter, you did not believe in the Lord your God” (Devarim, 1:32). In the matter of going to live in Israel. They wanted to live in Brooklyn, and Chicago, and Texas instead.

Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook taught:

The Gemara talks about types of “Tzaddikim who don’t believe” (Sotah 48B). They choose words of Torah and commandments, saying, “This matter is arranged properly by the Almighty. It’s very nice; it pleases me; it’s easy; I agree to abide. However, this matter is not so good.” This approach to Torah leads to dangerous consequences and heresy. There is a startling saying of our Sages in the Gemara regarding someone who says, “This precept is pleasant, and this one isn’t pleasant; this matter is pleasing to me, and this other matter is not. Everyone who chooses between the mitzvot in the Torah, saying this one he agrees with, this one he doesn’t, loses the richness of Torah” (Eruvin 64A).

Tzvi Fishman

Remembering Ron Nachman, the Lonely Man of Faith

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

After 35 years, Ariel’s visionary, founder and longstanding mayor, Ron Nachman was ready and willing to take anyone to task. After all, what other city of 20,000 residents enjoyed the extensive services that Ariel offers? Even cities with much larger populations couldn’t compare. As Ron was fond of noting, Ra’anana can’t boast anything like the Eshel Hashomron Hotel. Modi’in doesn’t have an institution that even remotely resembles Ariel University. And how many cities in Israel can take pride in two industrial parks with a combined 200 factories?

Ron Nachman was proudly and decidedly secular from the outset. He was determined to build a city in Samaria that would not resemble the Gush Emmunim communities of his religious counterparts. Theirs was a Biblical commitment. His was about security. They spoke of the Tanach. He spoke of Zionism. They rejoiced in their middle-of-the-night outpost maneuvers. He prided himself on government approval every step of the way. He simply would not allow another community of tens to hundreds of families to the east of the Green Line to suffice.

Ron’s family founded the city of Nes Tsiyona in 1883. Almost a century later, Ron had the singular notion of following suit by creating another Israeli city where the Jewish State needed it most.

Instead of gathering the traditional 10 to 20 founding families for his new initiative, Ron got 6,000 people to join him. This initial group was named the “Tel Aviv Nucleus,” with the resolute objective of attaining national legitimacy for their ambitious endeavor.

Two tents and a camel quickly became temporary homes and roads. Semi-detached, cottages, private villas and apartment complexes followed. Highway 5 now connects Tel Aviv to Ariel, servicing tens of thousands of vehicles on a daily basis.

Today, Ariel is the regional hub for Samaria and much of the Jordan Valley. When residents of the surrounding communities need to go to the bank, visit their doctor at any of Israel’s four national health clinics, or do their grocery shopping, they come to Ariel. When the women of Eli want to have a women’s recreation evening, they make use of Ariel’s Sports and Recreation Complex. And when communities and municipalities in Samaria want to host a memorable event, the Ariel Regional Center for the Performing Arts is the natural venue.

LEADERSHIP IS an individual quality, and the top of the mountain can be a lonely place. No one else really seemed to comprehend Ron’s vision, but today Ariel maintains a consensus status within Israel. No sovereign Israeli government has considered compromising Ariel. It has remained part and parcel of the State of Israel within the framework of every proposed negotiation, including those of prime ministers Barak and Olmert who offered up to 99% of Israeli controlled “disputed” lands to the Palestinian Authority.

But what about the other communities in Judea and Samaria? Who would safeguard their future? Ron served in the 13th Knesset from 1992-1996 and fought the Oslo Accords tooth and nail.

Successive U.S. presidents, ambassadors to Israel and U.N. representatives were all well aware of Ariel, but refused to draw near. They preferred to ignore the city and its dynamic mayor in the hope that they just might disappear.

An interviewer once asked him, “how can you [the Israelis] build in Occupied East Jerusalem?” After asking the interviewer to repeat the question as a stall tactic, Ron responded: “I just came from my hotel room, where I searched for proof that this land belongs to the British. I found a Bible there, but it made no mention of London. It didn’t speak of Washington D.C., Paris or Berlin. But do you know how many times the word Jerusalem appeared? And you’re asking me if we have rights to our capital city?”

Perhaps because of his convictions, in the Diaspora, Ron Nachman felt like he fell between the cracks. Reformed and, more often than not, Conservative Jewish communities tended to keep their distance, as in most cases their party lines did not allow them to associate with “settlers.” Orthodox Jewish communities, on the other hand, were too parochial to partner with Ron’s diversified worldview and their conventional sensibilities of what a reborn biblical city should look like.

Although lasting relationships with Jewish groups and individuals in the Diaspora were few and far between, Ron developed a unique, personal connection with the Land of Israel. The land had a way of speaking to him. It awakened within him a sense of history, heritage and promise.

Avi Zimmerman

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/remembering-ron-nachman-the-lonely-man-of-faith/2013/01/27/

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