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November 29, 2015 / 17 Kislev, 5776
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘science’

The New Israel Fund, Jewish Values And Atonement

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

In its September newsletter, the New Israel Fund (NIF) urged Israelis to examine their behavior (“cheshbon nefesh”), declaring “We have been telling you for some time about the upsurge in hatred and incitement in Israel…”

But in Jewish tradition, the processes of introspection and atonement for sins of commission and omission begin at home, including for the NIF.

As the most powerful political and social framework in Israel outside of the government, NIF exerts major influence through its funding, providing millions of dollars every year to dozens of organizations.

The founding donors and officials sought to promote important social objectives in a Zionist framework. But over the years, the Zionist commitment became blurred, and money from pro-Israel donors was channeled to extreme anti-Israel organizations, including key supporters of the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) campaigns.

NIF’s network also played a central role in the discredited Goldstone report, which falsely accused the Israeli military of systematic war crimes. In addition, while claiming to promote liberal, progressive Jewish values, a number of NIF-funded groups push highly intolerant and polarizing agendas, amplifying the impact of radical fringes in Israeli society, at the expense of the democratic consensus.

As a result, NIF is viewed with increasing suspicion by many Israelis and in a number of diaspora communities. In response, in September 2010, the NIF leadership belatedly adopted guidelines to prevent funding for groups that work “to deny the right of the Jewish people to sovereign self-determination within Israel.”

In some important cases, these guidelines have been implemented, and in 2011 the NIF ended funding for three NGOs – Mada al-Carmel, Al-Qaws, and Coalition of Women for Peace (CWP) – that promote demonization of Israel.

Unfortunately, NIF failed to publicly acknowledge the reasons for ending support, or to explain how these extreme groups were funded in the first place. Indeed, NIF remains a highly non-transparent organization, without the checks and balances or democratic processes that are necessary to prevent abuses and highly damaging mistakes in judgment.

While belatedly cutting off those three grantees, NIF continued to fund groups involved in global demonization campaigns such as Adalah, Breaking the Silence, Machsom Watch and Yesh Din.

In 2011, NIF also began funding for three additional divisive NGOs, including +972 Magazine, a blog pushing a radical fringe agenda. A number of +972’s bloggers have invoked the immoral and false “apartheid” analogy, and in a February 2012 interview in The Nation, Noam Sheizaf, +972’s editor-in-chief, referred to Jerusalem as an “apartheid city.”

In May of this year, +972 published a cartoon depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu raping President Barack Obama and eating his limbs. And in September, Sheizaf used his twitter account to refer to critics as “the Jewish KKK” and “fascist” – reinforcing the image of the NIF network as exploiting a “progressive” and “liberal” façade for extreme polarization and hate speech.

In contrast to the actual behavior of the grantees, NIF has justified its funding for +972 as support for a “progressive view of domestic issues and Israel’s foreign relations” and of “broad public discussion and constituencies.” However, this English-only site is unknown to the “broad” Hebrew-speaking Israeli public. Rather, its targeting of an international audience with a message that demonizes Israel and attacks opponents (real and imagined) is entirely inconsistent with NIF’s stated aims and principles.

Another new grantee, Human Rights Defenders Fund (HRDF), also raises many concerns regarding NIF’s decision making. HRDF is administered by Lizi Sagie, who was forced to resign from B’Tselem in April 2010 after she referred to Israel’s Memorial Day as “a pornographic circus” on her personal blog. She then had a short stint as a co-director of ICAHD, a fringe Israeli NGO that supports a “one state” political formula – meaning the end of Jewish national sovereignty.

Michael Sfard is a key part of the HRDF operation, advising the board on “application of Aid Criteria when reviewing aid requests” and monitoring the “performance of attorneys receiving aid.” According to reports, Sfard is the lawyer for a group of defendants involved in a private libel suit and receiving funds through HRDF. These activities appear to contradict the NGO’s mandate, and create at least the appearance of a conflict of interest.

In addition, NIF authorized $162,430 for Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement (SJSM) in 2011. This organization’s main activities revolve around confrontational protests in the Negev, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank. In March 2012, a very crude and offensive poster was posted on the official Facebook page of SJSM, and then removed after harsh criticism from some of its members and women’s rights activists.

What If Israel’s ‘Peace Partners’ Actually Prefer War?

Friday, September 21st, 2012

At this point in Israel’s problematic diplomatic agenda, there is really only one overriding policy question: Can any form of negotiation with the Palestinians, Fatah and/or Hamas, ever prove reasonable and productive?

From the very beginning, even before formal statehood in 1948, Israel has sought courageously and reasonably to negotiate with its many unreasonable enemies. Always, Jerusalem has preferred peace to war. Nonetheless, challenged by relentless and interminable Arab aggressions, diplomacy has usually failed Israel. Even the most visible example of an alleged diplomatic success, the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty of 1979, is apt to fail calamitously sometime in the post-Mubarak era.

It follows that Prime Minister Netanyahu is obligated to ask: What real chance exists that, somehow, this time, and also for the future, diplomacy might be purposeful?

From Oslo to the present Road Map, diplomacy over Israel’s rights and obligations has always been an unambiguously asymmetrical process.

Israel’s principal enemies remain candid. On some things, significantly, they do not lie. On their irremediable intention to annihilate the “Zionist entity,” they are seemingly sworn to truth.

The key disputing Palestinian factions (Fatah or Hamas, it makes little difference) and Iran will never accept anything less than Israel’s removal. This is already obvious to anyone who cares to pay attention to what is said. Moreover, in a clearly corroborating bit of cartography, every PA or Hamas or Iranian map already incorporates all of Israel within “Palestine.”

Toward the end of his tenure, prior Prime Minister Ehud Olmert released several hundred Palestinian terrorists as a “goodwill gesture.” Together with then-President George W. Bush, he had decided to aid Fatah against Hamas with outright transfers of weapons and information. Soon after, those American and Israeli guns were turned against Israel. As for Olmert’s graciously extended “goodwill,” it had only served to elicit the next round of rocket fire. Matters were not helped at all by Washington’s corollary support for a Palestinian state, a thoroughly misconceived support now being extended by President Obama.

The more things change, the more they remain the same. Rooted deeply in jihadist interpretations of Islam, there is an obvious and enduring inequality of objectives between Israel and its principal enemies. For both Palestinian insurgents and Iran’s president, conflict with Israel is always “zero-sum,” routinely an all or nothing proposition. In this starkly polarizing view of incessant strife between “the world of war” and “the world of Islam,” there can never be any proper place for authentic treaties or settlements with the Jewish state, save of course as a temporary tactical expedient.

For Israel, on the other hand, a negotiated peace with its Arab neighbors and/or Iran persists as an elusive but presumably plausible hope. This is true even when any prospect of Islamic reciprocity is evidently preposterous and historically unimaginable.

A fundamental inequality is evident in all expressions of the Middle East Peace Process. On the Palestinian and Iranian side, Oslo and “Road Map” expectations have never been anything more than a cost-effective method of dismantling Israel. On the Israeli side, these expectations have generally been taken, quite differently, as a hopefully indispensable way of averting further war and terror.

The core problem of Israel’s life or death vulnerability lies in the Jewish state’s ongoing assumptions on war and peace. While certain of Israel’s regional enemies, state and nonstate, believe that any power gains for Israel represent a reciprocal power loss for them – that is, that they coexist with Israel in a condition of pure conflict – Israel assumes something else. For Netanyahu’s several immediate predecessors, relations with certain Arab states, the Palestinian Authority/Hamas and Iran were not taken to be pure zero-sum but rather a mutual-dependence connection. In this optimistic view, conflict is always mixed with cooperation.

Incomprehensibly, Israel may still believe that certain of its Arab enemies and Iran reject zero-sum assumptions about the strategy of conflict. Israel’s enemies, however, do not make any such erroneous judgments about conformance with Israeli calculations. Further, these enemies know Israel is wrong in its belief that certain Arab states, Iran, and the Palestinians also reject the zero-sum assumption, but they pretend otherwise. There has remained, therefore, a dramatic and consequential strategic disparity between Israel and certain of its frontline Islamic enemies.

America Needs a New Civil Space Policy

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Other nations are not waiting for the US to decide what kind of space policy it wants.

China is moving ahead with its independent manned space program. On June 18, 2012, a Chinese Shenzhou capsule, with China’s first female Taikonaut aboard, docked with China’s new space station. This Chinese mission is most likely meant to show that China is winning a new space race with the United States.

In January 2013, whatever the new administration, it will almost certainly not consider civil space policy to be one of its top priorities – civil space being the government’s non-military space program. The most important part of that is NASA; other parts include NOAA for civilian weather satellites and the FAA office of commercial space transportation for licensing commercial space launches.

If, in the first few weeks, space questions arise at all, restoring the 22% (or more) cuts made by the current administration to America’s military space programs will take precedence over decisions on the future of NASA. The European Space Agency has, at least for the moment, given up on major new cooperative space exploration programs with NASA. Further, the confused management of the US Space Agency has discouraged most of the world’s space organizations from joining with Americans on any serious new projects.

This situation is the opposite of the goal which the Obama administration set for itself in the June 2010 National Space Policy. The White House policy makers said then that they wanted to “expand international cooperation on mutually beneficial space activities to broaden and extend the benefits of space …”

International partnerships for space exploration are certainly being developed — only without the United States.

It is hard nevertheless to imagine that the question, “What do we do about NASA?” can be long postponed: the US government’s military space and civilian space (which mostly means NASA) are two sides of the same coin. The same firms that support the military’s essential space functions also support NASA’s science and exploration programs. The stress on major civil space programs — caused by a combination of complex requirements, underfunding and poor management — means that in early 2013, several of the most important programs, including the Mars exploration project and the James Webb Space Telescope, will be in even deeper trouble than they already are.

Any new administration will at some point have to face the incredibly incompetent way in which the future of scientific research on the International Space Station (ISS) has been handled. To put it bluntly, the same woman who was in charge of writing the specifications for the body which is to supervise science on the ISS, is now a senior officer in the institution that won the contract. This involves, at the very least, what used to be called “the appearance of impropriety.” Until the new administration and NASA take dramatic action to separate themselves from this mess, investigations and litigation will probably ensure that very little science will be done on the station.

Moreover, to save money for the very costly and behind-schedule Webb Space Telescope — managed by the Goddard Spaceflight Center in Maryland, and the pet project of the powerful and sometimes feared Democratic Senator, Barbara Milkulski — the rest of NASA’s science programs have been gutted. This plunder has been especially true of the planetary science missions: future Mars exploration programs have been canceled, and the planned “Flagship” mission to the outer planets has been postponed to the point where it is doubtful it will fly anytime within the next decade.

The manned space exploration program is a shambles. The commercial space projects are taking baby steps at a time where giant ones are needed. One hopes that the so-called “New Space” companies will find a way to thrive in this environment, but they are, with the exception of SpaceX, nowhere near ready to fly paying passengers into orbit, and will not be ready for some years to come.

In the early morning of May 22, 2012, SpaceX, based in Hawthorn California, finally launched its Dragon ISS resupply capsule on the company’s own Falcon 9 rocket. This was only the third Falcon 9 launch and the first since December of 2010. Three days later, on May 25th, the Dragon capsule was successfully berthed onto the space station. There is nothing unusual about a complex space launch vehicle taking more time than expected to perfect. For a private firm such as SpaceX, however, it has been an expensive process that has, no doubt, hurt its bottom line, at least for the short term.

The SpaceX Dragon’s launch was carried out under the terms of the Bush-era Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. In 2007 and 2008, NASA was planning to extend the COTS contract to cover transporting people, as well as cargo, to the ISS under the so-called COTS-D program. Now, instead of the commercial program being a useful auxiliary to NASA’s main human exploration plans, COTS-D was renamed the Commercial Crew and Cargo Development program (CCDev) and, after that re-renaming, is now named the Commercial Crew Program (CCP). NASA created this program to build vehicles that would take over the entire job of carrying people and cargo from Earth to orbit and back, a task was formerly performed by the Space Shuttle.

Congress rejected that approach; at present a stalemate exists between those who support giving the entire job to the so-called “commercial” industry and those who are pushing for a compromise. The compromise which the Obama administration reluctantly accepted in 2010 was that NASA would continue to develop the Orion capsule for possible missions to the asteroids, the Moon or Mars, and that NASA would begin work on a new rocket called the Space Launch System (SLS), which closely resembled the heavy-lift Ares V, a part of the Bush era Constellation Return-to-the-Moon Program. The SLS, like the Ares V, will, in theory, be able to lift more than 120 tons of payload into the Earth’s orbit — more than any other rocket in history. The current leadership at NASA, however, has been less than enthusiastic about the SLS program and has tried to undermine it every chance they got.

So how, in January 2013, could a new President restore NASA’s place as a world leader in science, technology and exploration? Perhaps by following three relatively-simple-to-understand principles:

Number OneRespect the US Constitution

Congress is a co-equal branch of the government. As such, it may be incredibly frustrating to deal with at times; however, its role as the keeper of the national purse must be acknowledged. The Obama administration’s cancellation of the Constellation program, which aimed to return Americans to the Moon and eventually land US astronauts on Mars, was nothing short of an act of political vandalism. Constellation had been carefully crafted, with considerable input from senior Senators and Representatives from both political parties. Killing Constellation poisoned NASA’s relations with the men and women on Capitol Hill. Until there is new leadership at the space agency and also at the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, the bitterness and anger will endure.

Number Two: Set Clear Goals

People are tired of hearing about President Kennedy’s 1961 instructions to NASA to “within this decade, land a man on the Moon and return him safely to Earth.” The Apollo program was a product of a unique time and place. The US will never again devote more than 2% of GDP to NASA as it did in the mid 1960s. If the country were to spend even 1% of its annual wealth on NASA, it would look like a miracle.

Yet, reduced funding is no excuse for allowing the space agency to disaggregate into a unconnected set of programs which not only cannibalize each other, but which are often canceled after spending billions with nothing to show for them. A Back-to-the-Moon-and-on-to-Mars program is still the most sensible, and doable, long term goal. Humanity needs to explore and settle new worlds, and America needs to be at the forefront of those efforts.

Number Three: Reform the Way NASA Does Business

As with many other Federal agencies and departments, the waste that results from starting and then canceling programs dwarfs any other form of governmental waste. The cancellation of the Constellation program, after more than 9 billion dollars had been spent on it, was merely one example of this practice. Few foreign governments habitually start, and then kill, expensive national programs with the same reckless disregard for the national purse or the national interest as do our leaders in Washington DC.

To carry out these reforms not only does NASA desperately need to fix its management problems, such as the ones which have led to the wild cost overruns in the Webb Space Telescope program, but above all NASA needs new leaders in Washington. Any President should look soon into a top-to-bottom, radical reform and simplification of the gigantic and complex Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR). America’s FAR are rivaled only in their Kafkaesque complexity and lack of rationality by America’s Tax Code.

Done correctly, such reforms would save the government hundreds of billions of dollars over the next ten years, not only at the Defense Department, but also at NASA. FAR reform would free up cash inside the NASA budget for research, science and exploration.

It should be noted that both of NASA’s commercial programs, COTS and the CCP, have been carried out under the “Space Act Agreement” law. This legislation has enabled the COTS and CCP contractors to build their vehicles to fill NASA crew and cargo transportation needs without having to fulfill the costly and time consuming requirements of the Federal Acquisition Regulations. This raises the question: Why doesn’t NASA ask all its contractors to work under the Space Act Agreement rules?

It needs to be clearly understood America’s civil space program is just as much an instrument of national power as the US Navy or the State Department. It is to be hoped that the President and Congress will in the future recognize this fact.

Originally published by the Gatestone Institute.

Mrs. Brown’s Journey

Friday, September 7th, 2012

I must admit to being a little shocked. After reading the Forward article by Judy Brown about her journey away from traditional belief – I really was taken aback.

Judy Brown is the award winning author of the book, Hush – a fictionalized story about the sex abuse of a childhood friend. A friend that experienced it in the Chasidic community in which she was raised. I heard Mrs. Brown speak passionately on this issue last winter here in Chicago. She was dressed quite Tzanua (modestly) according to Orthodox Jewish standards -and she wore a Shaitel. That is a wig. Which is how most married Orthodox women in the western world cover their hair.

I had assumed from this that although she was upset by the way her community treated sex abuse, that she was still very much a believer in the theology of Judaism. A recent article – where she described herself as still wanting to dress modestly even according to Chasidic standards despite the “pull” away from that by society – just corroborated my perception.

As it turns out, she apparently is not a believer. It is not that she abandoned her belief in God. But she seems to have abandoned her belief in the theology she was taught about the Torah… and perhaps has even crossed the path into the world of skeptics and Orthopraxy. As she admits:

“I discovered the agony of praying to God when I knew I was talking to myself.”

She now sees herself as an outsider among the people she grew up with.

I am not here to judge her. I am instead looking at the world in which she was raised. It seems obvious from her account that it is because of what she was taught – and the way she was taught it – that upon discovering the scientific way of looking at the world she appears to have lost her faith.

Interestingly, it was not the internet that lead her astray. It was the book Cosmos by famed astronomer Carl Sagan. I did not read the book. But I’m pretty sure it is based on the wonderfulPBS series of the same name hosted by Professor Sagan. I absolutely gobbled that series up. I actually recorded every episode and have watched some of them many times. I still have the entire collection in VHS.

It was an eye opener for me as well. One of the most educational and entertaining series I have ever seen to date, even though it was produced in the 1980s. Especially the episode on Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity. And yet I did not become a skeptic. Except for one brief remark by Professor Sagan where he argued against the existence of God in one of those episodes, what I saw was entirely compatible with Judaism.

But apparently Mrs. Brown had a different reaction. She had the same kind of reaction as people who are taught that every word in the first chapter in Genesis must be taken literally. That the world was created in 6 days and is less than 6000 years old. Even the most basic knowledge about the sun being a star – and stars being suns was a shock to her.

No matter how much she resisted believing what she read in that book, she eventually succumbed to the fact that there are billions and billions of stars (suns) in the universe and that many of them are millions of light years away, thus crashing her belief system. And now, prayer has become nothing more that talking to herself!

What a sad thing to read just before Rosh Hashanah.

In this era of instant information that can be had any time and any place and read in the palm of your hand, it is beyond foolish to try and ban it… or to even use filters so as to avoid reading the science upon which things like the age of the universe is based.

But it is even more foolish in my view to not teach the science in the first place. Ignorance is our worst enemy. Because the minute one finds a contradiction to the insistence that only the most literal interpretation of the Torah is acceptable, believers can and often will sadly go the way or Mrs. Brown.

Instead of hiding the facts of nature by ignoring the study of science, it ought to be fully taught in every school. There are Shivim Panim LaTorah. The idea of an ancient universe is not Kefira. Had Mrs. Brown been armed with that knowledge she may not have had her ‘epiphany’ about Judaism.

Had she been taught the theory of evolution properly, she would have realized that indeed it is quite compatible with the idea of God’s creation of the world. That He used the method of evolution as the mechanism for his creation. While there are elements of the theory of evolution that seem to contradict some of our beliefs, the overall outline of it is compatible with them.

But for Mrs. Brown (and probably for the vast majority of those whose secular education is so strongly limited) learning about evolution caused her to stop believing in some of the fundamentals of Judaism.

It seems however that instead of increasing the knowledge base of our people, religious leaders are going in the opposite direction. Virtually all Charedim in Israel have no education in science at all. Even in elementary school only basic math is taught. Beyond elementary school it’s Gemarah 24/7.

In the US that was not the case in the not too distant past. Virtually all Charedi high schools taught basic science. But it has increasingly become popular in these schools to either minimize or completely eliminate secular studies. The problem that this causes for Parnassa purposes is obvious and has been discussed here many times.

But what has not been discussed that much is the vulnerability this creates in these students. The slightest exposure to some basic scientific thinking can easily cause them to go completely OTD or become Orthopraxic closet skeptics!

The solution to preventing them from succumbing to this knowledge on the part of Charedi leaders is to completely ban all possible access to the “Kefira” of science. They condemn and want to ban the internet as that is the most readily available source of knowledge available. They even ban books that try and reconcile that science with the Torah – like those written by Rabbi Slifkin – in the strongest possible terms… fearing it will all lead people astray. But banning it all is about as possible as banning air.

Mrs. Brown decided to read a book on the subject after having some spirited discussions with a friend. The book she chose was Cosmos by Carl Sagan. Had she been fully prepared for it by a proper science education, she may have had the same reaction to Cosmos that I did. But instead it led her to reject her religious teachings.

Even without the kind of basic science education that I had – had she read Rabbi Slifkin’s books, she might still be a believer today. But his books were banned. In her mind therefore, what difference was it which ‘forbidden fruit’ she partook of?

Israeli Medical Smartphone Spreading Freedom, Happiness, Around the World

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

Israeli scientific breakthroughs are restoring freedom and ease to the lives of millions of patients throughout the world.

A breakthrough medical smartphone devised by an Israeli company will not only enable patients to consolidate ongoing medical tests and diagnostics in one handy place, but will also provide them the freedom of travel and ease of use lost with conventional medical monitoring.

LifeWatch Technologies , based in Rehovot, has introduced the new LifeWatch V Android-based phone, the first of its kind smartphone device to measure blood glucose levels, oxygen saturation, blood glucose levels, stress levels, heart rate, and body temperature, as well as chart diet, provide reminders to take medications, and even measure daily activity through embedded sensors.  Data and results are provided to the user and to third parties such as healthcare providers or caretakers, via email or text message.  The device wirelessly interacts with a remote cloud-based environment, enabling users to take advantage of related complementary medical and wellness-related services.  And it makes and receives regular phone calls. Medical information will also be sent to one of LifeWatch’s US emergency call centers – one for each time zone – with a center currently in development in Israel.

CEO Dr. Yacov Geva told Israeli science and technology website Israel21c that the device is particularly useful in managing chronic conditions such as diabetes, and said he thinks it is particularly appropriate for children, because it will not only enable parents to monitor health data while permitting children to conduct normal lives at school and elsewhere away from home, but will allow parents to keep an eye on the regularity of testing so they can provide reminders if they see a test is being missed during the day.

The stainless steel-framed phones will be manufactured by TechFaith Wireless Communication Technoogy of China according to Israeli specs and industrial design, and will provide interface options in Hebrew, English, Italian, Russian, Japanese, Spanish, Portuguese, and Chinese.  The device will cost between $500 and $700 a unit, and will likely be on the market next year, pending approval in the EU and the US.

New technology may be developed to assist the speech of those unable to communicate due to paralysis or disability, thanks to a joint study between scientists at Haifa’s Technion and UCLA who have uncovered how brain cells encode the pronunciation of vowels in speech.

Published in the journal Nature Communications, the study showed that different parts of the brain are engaged in the pronunciation of different vowel sounds.

The study was conducted by Professor Shy Shoham and Dr. Ariel Tankus of the biomedical engineering faculty at Haifa’s Technion and Professor Itzhak Fried of Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, in partnership with the neurosurgery department at the University of California at Los Angeles.

The study was based on knowledge about the brain’s predictable responses to bodily movements, and followed 11 American epileptics whose conditions could not be controlled with medication.

Data was gathered when the patients, who suffered from damaged portions of the brain, had electrodes implanted in their brains to measure neuron activity as they spoke.

The team studied how and where the neurons encoded vowel articulation, and learned that the two parts of the brain associated with the saying of vowels respond in different ways and to different vowels.

The scientists lauded the discovery as a potential starting point for developing neuro-prosthetic devices or brain-machine interfaces to decode the brain’s firing pattern for speech.

Providing freedom from severe clinical depression which has not responded to medication or therapy, the doctors at Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem are performing a radical experimental procedure involving a “brain pacemaker”, which will provide Deep Brain Stimulation via electrodes implanted in the patients’ brains.  Four Israeli patients are taking part in the trial, and another six are being recruited.

The treatment  is covered in Israel by medical insurance, with patients being eligible only after failing at least three different drug treatments and electro-convulsive therapy.

The new device will deliver electric currents to areas of cranial overactivity to help regulate the mood.

So far, the treatment has achieved a 70 percent success rate.

Why I Believe…

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

I am not surprised by the level of commitment that skeptics have with respect to their views. In my post Keeping the Faith there are 249 comments as of this writing. Much of it has been a back and forth between Rabbi Bechhofer and those who challenge the traditional beliefs of Judaism: some from atheists; some from skeptics; some who do believe at some level but have decided that the events described in the Torah could not have happened since there is overwhelming evidence that they did not… and instead are allegorical.

I must admit that these issues have troubled me as well. I believe that some of them have simple answers; others have complex answers, and some have no apparent answers at all. But I also believe that the Torah is telling us the truth. How is that possible for a rationalist like myself? First because I do try to find rational explanations where-ever I can. But second is a reason that skeptics will probably not accept.

There is no one reason for me to hang my hat on. There is no definitive and clear proof that I can point to and say: this is it. None of the ‘proofs’ – stated by themselves are convincing. I am just as skeptical as… well frankly… the skeptics! I am by nature a skeptic.

But when one takes the totality of all the evidence and arguments in favor of the truth of Judaism which includes its long history of survival against all odds – my intuition takes over. I believe because my intuition compels me to do so. My rational nature which would normally succumb to all the evidence against Judaism succumbs instead to my intuitive senses.

(I am not going to go into detail about the evidence and the arguments. I have written several posts on that subject in the past. But they are mostly well known and there is no mystery about them. I am not trying to hide them or mislead. They are just not the point of this post and I don’t want to spend any time on those details.)

One may ask why all the evidence against the truth of Judaism doesn’t lead my intuition in the other direction. After all science doesn’t lie. Bible criticism makes a lot of sense. Archaeological finds makes things even more difficult… as does many other clear contradictions to our beliefs.

I believe because in every single case these contradictions have resolutions and questions have answers. Some are clear and some are only possible or even implausible. But in most cases they are at least possible. And in those cases where I can’t even see a possible answer – that doesn’t mean there isn’t one. I am therefore not forced to conclude that because of all the science and bible critics – that Judaism isn’t true. I have a choice to believe and my rationalist mind does not prevent me from using my intuitive mind.

Some might call this Emunah Peshuta – simple belief. Perhaps. But it is not blind belief. I am not a blind believer. However, I can understand why someone would call my belief in the truth of Judaism blind.

I suppose that at some point one does have to take that “leap of faith.” But it is not a blind leap. It is not a giant leap. It is an intuitive belief based on evaluating two conflicting sets of criteria, one that requires a conclusion based on the rational and difficult questions which do not seem to have satisfactory answers. The other is the totality of other perhaps unrelated evidence of Judaism’s truth. That evidence that does not necessarily address all the problems. Questions may remain – and they do for me. But at the same time it is hard to deny all the evidence in favor of Judaism. My own intuition impels me to believe rather than deny.

As I said – I realize that this will probably not satisfy the skeptics. They would probably refute every single piece of evidence that I would posit in favor of belief. But they cannot refute the totality of all that evidence. Nor can they successfully turn me into a skeptic.

Israel Welcomes 300 Int’l Asian Science Prodigies

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Over 300 young science geniuses from across Asia and the Pacific participated in the sixth Asian Science Camp (ASC) in Jerusalem this past week. Originally initiated by a number of Nobel Prize Laureates in the sciences from Eastern Asia, it was Israel’s first time hosting the science camp, which has been held in a different Asian country each year for the past six years.

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which has been marking Israel’s diplomatic relations with Asia this past year, in cooperation with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the ORT educational network, organized the week long science camp for the last week of August. High school and university students arrived from 23 different countries– including nations with which Israel does not have diplomatic relations such as Indonesia.

Shannon Canumara, 16, of Jakarta, Indonesia, described the science camp as fascinating. “The lectures have been fantastic. It’s very different from a high school environment, because we get to learn about science not only from textbooks. We actually get to question the professors and their theories,” Canumara told Tazpit News Agency.

Her Indonesian counterpart, Vinsen, 17, added that “even though our country does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, everyone here was so welcoming to us. I hope that someday Indonesia will agree to establish diplomatic relations with Israel in the future.”

Some of the largest student delegations came from China, India, Korea and Japan, while smaller delegations from Turkmenistan, Turkey, Sri Lanka, and New Zealand also participated.

The Israeli delegates, who were chosen according to a strict criterion of academic excellence in science, consisted of 35 Jewish and Arab students from across the country including periphery cities like Karmiel and Yeruham, as well as east Jerusalem and Umm al-Fahm. The science camp featured lectures from five Nobel Prize Laureates in the Sciences from Israel and abroad, including one of the founders of ASC, Taiwan’s Professor Lee Yuan-Ti, Nobel Prize Laureate for Chemistry, as well as Prof Makoto Kobayashi (physics) from Japan, and Israel’s Professor Aharon Chechanover (medical-chemistry) and Professor Israel Uman (game theory) and US Professor Roger Kornberg (biology).

Liangjin Zhao, a second year university student in Beijing, studying electronic engineering, was very impressed with the organization of the science camp. “Although we’ve had little free time, the best part has been to network and make new friends from all over the world. There is such a great combination of people here” Zhao said. Sitting beside her was Noy Moisa, a student at Hebrew University High School of Jerusalem, who agreed wholeheartedly. “We already started connecting with the students via Facebook and e-mail before the camp even began,” Moisa said.

Rawan Mahajna of Um Al Fahm, 19, who plans to study medicine, said the science camp was an opportunity for “connecting minds together and meeting people who share similar science interests.”

“Everyone here speaks the language of science, which goes beyond skin color, religion, background, and politics. I’m really thankful for this experience,” Mahajna said.

“The whole concept of this science camp was to show that science has no boundaries,” said Reut Inon-Berman, one of the organizers of the Asian Summer Camp. “Together, we can get that much further in this field.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/israel/israel-welcomes-300-intl-asian-science-prodigies/2012/08/30/

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