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September 27, 2016 / 24 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Secular’

New Republic Article on Feminism from Zion Is All About the Stakes

Monday, August 5th, 2013

The new issue of The New Republic cover story (The Feminists of Zion An unlikely alliance between Orthodox and progressive women will save Israel from fundamentalism) is about us. It is about Haredim, modern Orthodox, and women. These are things we discuss regularly online and at our Shabbos tables, and in our coffee rooms. The story is remarkably accurate and balanced, displaying a very deep understanding of the issues in Israel today. I recommend reading the article immediately.

Imagine a spectrum of religious fundamentalism in the orthodox Jewish community. On one end you have extreme Haredi sects and on the other end you have completely secular Israelis. On most things and for most of time the people in the middle, let’s call them modern orthodox, skewed their allegiences toward the Haredi side. Orthodoxy is the great uniter. The assumption is that any two orthodox people will have more common interests than an orthodox and a secular Jew. This is how things were.

In essence, the article argues that while naturally aligned with their fellow orthodox Jews, women from the modern orthodox community in Israel are finding themselves aligned with secular feminist Jews in Israel. The collective pain that is felt due to the oppressiveness toward women in the extreme and not so extreme Haredi world is taking a toll. Women have been attacked physically, verbally, and psychologically for a long time and it is starting to create a negative reaction.

Several times the article mentions signs that tell women how to dress. We have become accustomed to these signs. But the women in the article argue that the signs give license to thugs who want to make a statement to women. To them, the signs mean much more than “Please be sensitive to our religious beliefs.” Part of that is because these standards are entering the public sphere and are no longer just limited to the private insular neighborhoods. But the other part of it is that the signs are somehow justifying the negativity and violence toward women.

What has happened is that women who feel hurt and abused are turning to secular and Reform Jews for salvation. Feminism is a dirty word in many orthodox communities, even in some places within the modern orthodox community. But it’s becoming a necessary evil for modern orthodox women who are not feminists at all to ask for help from feminists. It’s odd when orthodox people are funding they have more in common with secular and very liberal Jews than fellow orthodox Jews. But that is what is happening.

The article also talks about modern orthodox women who sympathize with the Women of the Wall. I wish they would be more vocal but i was heartened to hear it.

Last week I wrote about finding common ground and room for dialogue between modern orthodox and yeshivish Jews in America. (See:
Maybe Rabbi Birnbaum Has a Point: A Solution) I think what we are seeing in the article in TNR is what will happen if we can’t work together. If the people in the middle start to feel like the liberal and secular Jews are more sympathetic to their way of life, the great split that has been predicted for years, will finally happen. Modern orthodox Judaism will become an independent group.

Some might say, what’s so bad about that? Well there are plenty negative consequences to mention. But I will mention the two biggest issues. First, the Haredi institutions will fall without modern orthodox support. Some might say that’s not so bad either. I disagree. Their services are necessary, as is their trap door into engagement with society. On the other side, without a connection the Haredi community, the modern orthodox community will be hard pressed to support its own institutions for lack of qualified teachers and rabbis.

It’s not in our best interests to see a formal split. It might happen in Israel and it might happen in America. I think we should do everything we can to prevent it. The first thing we need to do, is get together and talk.

Visit Fink or Swim.

The Feminists of Zion An unlikely alliance between Orthodox and progressive women will save Israel from fundamentalism

Rabbi Eliyahu Fink

Is Hatred for Haredim Due to Media Bias?

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

I am a huge fan of Rabbi Emanuel Feldman. I rarely disagree with him. The former editor of Tradition Magazine and vice president of the RCA who led a shul in Atlanta, Georgia, is a gifted speaker and is one of the most talented and fair-minded writers on the Orthodox scene I have ever read. His educational history speaks to his broadminded approach to issues of the day. He attended Yeshivas Haim Belrin and Ner Israel where he received smicha (certification as a rabbi) and then went on to get his bachelors and masters degrees from Johns Hopkins and a doctorate in religion from Emory University.

One of his greatest achievements was taking a pulpit in a shul where only two out of 40 families were Shomer Shabbos and which had no mechitza (barrier between men and women for prayer). A couple of years after he became the rabbi there, he managed to install one. His courage in putting his job on the line after the mechitza was removed – insisting that he would not continue as their Rabbi if it were not re-installed has made him a hero of mine…  It should have served as an example to many traditional rabbis who took non-mechitza shuls. While I cannot judge them as a whole, I think more than a few simply did not have the courage to do what Rabbi Feldman did. I have to believe that at least in some cases they could have done so without losing their jobs. But I digress.

Rabbi Feldman (who is the brother of R’ Aharon Feldman, Rosh Hayeshiva of Ner Israel) has written a critical article in last week’s Mishpacha Magazine about media bias against Haredim in Israel. His focus was on their reportage of Haredim ignoring the solemnity of Yom HaShoah – Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Day.

There is hardly a family in Israel that has not lost a relative in the Holocaust. It is a solemn day in Israel. There are no picnics or barbecues on that day. There are instead many events that deal with the pain of loss. One of the things they do on that day is turn on a siren. Most of entire country stops at that moment. People driving their cars stop many get out and stand in silences while the siren sounds as a sign of respect for the dead.

While there is some criticism from the right about the “Jewishness” of this custom, there ought not be nay question about what to do during that time. Nor should there be any question about whether to join in the day’s solemnity by not holding any ‘fun’ parties or picnics.

Rabbi Feldman is very clear in his condemnation of the Haredim who ignore this day in spite! – having picnics and barbecues in the park while the rest of the country mourns. Whatever their complaints about the government or when and how such days are observed, the fact that some Haredim are so callous that they treat it like the fourth of July is like spitting at the survivors and their families.

Rabbi Feldman’s problem is that the same media that rightly objects to the way some Haredim behave on this day, does little to report on the reverse when it happens:

[D]o the ever-vigilant secular watchdogs get into similar high dudgeon when non-religious Israelis display their own brand of insensitivity toward sacred religious days? On Tisha B’Av, the historic day of national Jewish mourning for the sacking o Jerusalem and the Holy Temples, do the media scour the countryside in search of Israelis who carry on normally: shopping, going on outings, attending pork-serving restaurants and pubs? …And on Rosh Hashanah, when millions of Jews are in synagogue returning to God and praying for a good year for everyone, is there editorial indignation at those secular Israelis who spend the day at the beach, or fly off to the garden spots of Europe?

I do not see this as the same thing at all. As a matter of fact, Rabbi Feldman answers his own question?

Granted, such people are a tiny minority who don’t know any better, and the vast majority of Israelis do honor the High Holidays.

But then he hedges:

But then again, the [H]areidi disrespecters of Yom HaShoah were also a tiny minority — which did not prevent bitter condemnation of all [H]areidim.

Harry Maryles

Is the Chief Rabbinate to Blame?

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

I don’t know who Rabbi Gideon D. Sylvester is. Never met him or heard about him until now. A quick search on the internet informs me that he lives in Jerusalem, is a human rights activist, and a member in good standing of Britain’s United Synagogue. That is the umbrella organization of Britain’s non Hassidic Orthodox Jewish establishment that Lord Jonathan Sacks heads. I have no clue what Rabbi Sylvester’s Hashkafos are. But on this subject I am one with him.

Rabbi Sylvester has penned an article in Ha’aretz that I believe highlights one of the biggest reasons why so many secular Jews in Israel reject observant Judaism. He blames the Israeli Chief Rabbinate for it. This may be an over-simplification but I think he is on to something. It is the very same thing I talk about quite often here. The religious right.

By example he tells the story of a secular Jewish Israeli who refused to wear a Kipa under the hupah at his own wedding. When asked why and told that even British Royalty wear a Kipa when entering a synagogue as a sign of respect , his answer was that as a Jew he had a right to practice Judaism as he saw fit. It is one thing for a non Jew to show signs of respect. He saw wearing a Kipa – something he does not believe in – as a form of religious coercion.

That took me aback. In 2013 it is rare to find a Jew so far removed from observant Judaism that he will not don a Kipa in similar circumstances. I recall channel surfing a couple of months ago and stopping on one of those ‘bachelorette’ programs where a man gets to choose from a group of women who he will marry (or vise versa).

Personally I can’t stand this form of entertainment (…and I use the word entertainment loosely). That episode happened to be the season finale and the man and his chosen bride were getting married. I stopped on that program because I noticed that it was a Jewish wedding. How did I know that? Because the bridegroom was wearing a Kipa. There was nothing else on that show that was even remotely Jewish. The women he chose wasn’t even Jewish. The man officiating was not Jewish. The ceremony was civil. And yet the Jewish bridegroom still felt that wearing a Kipa was the right thing to do.

But the above mentioned Israeli would have no part of that. Why? I believe that Rabbi Sylvester quite correctly blames the way the Israeli Chief Rabbinate is perceived. It is perceived as coercive. I would add that the Israeli Rabbinate is but it one cog in that coercive wheel. The way the religious right has been acting lately reinforces the image of ‘Gimee mine and get lost’.

The religious right may believe that God is on their side… that they are fighting for a Torah way of life and that the current government wants to destroy it. I completely disagree with their take, but I can understand why they feel that way. Even if one would concede their point that does not mean they have to behave in such a negative off-putting manner. Doing so is what creates and perpetuates bridegrooms like that Israeli.

The irony – says Rabbi Sylvester is that secular Israelis like him are people that are ready to lay down their lives for their people. All of them including the religious right of both Haredim and extremist Religious Zionists. And yet he is so angered by their religious coercion and behavior that he refuses to have anything at all to do with any symbols of observant Judaism.

The question is – why are many non Jews so much more respectful of Judaism than this fellow is? Rabbi Sylvestor tells us about the relationship Margret Thatcher had with the former Chief Rabbi of England, Lord Immanuel Jakobovitz – and later with current Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. So enamored was she with Lord Jakobovitz that she was the one who had him placed in the House of Lords. He was her “favorite man of God.” Why? Well I can tell you one thing. It was not because of religious coercion. It was because he exemplified the best of Jewish values to the world:

Although she was a believing Christian leading a Christian country, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher held the British chief rabbi, Immanuel Jakobovitz, in the highest regard. She recognized in him a religious integrity which she felt was lacking in her church, so she consulted with him regularly…

Rabbi Jakobovitz, his successor, and other prominent Orthodox rabbis commanded similar respect. Those rabbis understood how to act like a Jew in public They understood Jewish ethics. They understood that acting the way they did was the Jewish way to act. And the result was a Kiddush HaShem. One that can bring justifiable pride in being a Jew even if one is not observant.

In Israel today, how many of our religious leaders instill pride in being Jewish into the secular public? There was a time where one could easily answer that question. Rabbis Haim Shmuelvitz, Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, and Yisroel Zev Gustman come to mind. How many religious leaders act like they did in public? How many expressed the Hakoras HaTov to the army as did R’ Shmulevitz and R’ Gustman? How many expressed sensitivity to a secular Jew as did R’ Auerbach – by not embarrassing a secular woman on a bus because she was immodestly dressed. He got off at the next bus stop much sooner than he had to so she would not think he got up because of her. He walked an extra two blocks so as not to embarrass her.

Compare that to the harsh rhetoric of today. As Rabbi Sylvester clearly points out at the end of his excellent article:

While the Israeli rabbinate is full of excellent scholars and fine individuals, rabbinic voices of decency and integrity are too often drowned out by the shrill, wicked cries of the religious and ultra-nationalist fanatics.

Our Israeli religious leaders must be associated not only with a strong Israel, but also with ethical, caring and compassionate leadership. They must speak out for Israel’s majority, and also for its minorities, for those who are learned in the law and those who are not. Then, I imagine that wearing a kippa under the [h]uppah will be far less of an issue for our many of our fellow Jews.

I could not agree more.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Harry Maryles

How Revolutions Work: Turkey, America and the Arab World

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

A fascinating article on Islamism in Turkey that also reflects on the situation in Arabic-speaking countries was written last month by Soner Cagaptay, director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Turkish research program. I’m a fan of his analysis so nothing in the following article should be taken as criticism but rather as an exploration of his article’s themes.

There’s also a very interesting parallel here with domestic events in the United States. But first, Cagaptay’s theme is as follows:

There are strong limits on how far Islamism can go in Turkey and the Arabic-speaking states are very different from Turkey in lacking a strong secularist (or at least anti-Islamist) sector that is deeply embedded in the country’s culture and history.

I think he is right on both points but let’s look more into the details.

Cagaptay’s article was prompted by a personal experience in Istanbul. In a café he saw a group of Salafists, who had just finished prayers in a near-by mosque, interact politely with a waitress who had tattoos and wore a short-sleeved shirt. He writes that in both words and body language one could see there were no real “tensions between the two opposing visions of Turkey brought into close encounter for me to witness.”

He continues that while “Turkey’s two halves…may not blend, neither will [either one] disappear. Turkey’s Islamization is a fact, but so is secular and Westernized Turkey.” After a decade of Islamist rule—I should note here that few Western experts, journalists, or political leaders acknowledge or understand that the regime ruling Turkey is Islamist in a real sense—there has been, “a rising tide of Islamization in Turkey.” He mentions, for example, a recent law that mandates teaching Islam in public schools and a shift in Turkey’s professed identity from European to being Muslim and Middle Eastern.

But, Cagaptay adds, there are limits in a country “so thoroughly westernized that even the AKP and its Islamist elites cannot escape trappings of their Western mold.” As examples he cites the role of women and Turkey’s membership in NATO. He explains that “Turkey’s Islamization is meeting its match” because, for example, there was a consensus that Turkey deploy NATO Patriot missiles on its territory to defend itself from a possible attack by Syria. “The Turks have lived with NATO too long to think outside of its box.”

Now there is no question that in the broader sense Cagaptay is correct. Turkey is not going to be another Saudi Arabia or Iran. And yet beside that glass is half-full argument is a shocking glass is half-empty counterpart. As Cagaptay notes, Islamist or semi-Islamist parties received 65 percent of the vote in the 2011 elections. That means, he continues:

[Thirty-five] percent of the population, totaling twenty-five million people, did not vote for the [Islamist regime]. These voters stand for secularism, and they will never buy into the religious movement in Turkey. This block will constitute the domestic limitation of Turkey’s Islamization. After ten years in power, and likely to run the country for another term with a humming economy boosting its support, the AKP is making Turkey in its own image. But the new Turkey will have a uniquely distinct flavor: a bit Islamist, a bit secularist, a bit conservative, and a bit Western.

That’s absolutely true. And yet who would have believed twenty years ago that about two-thirds of the people would vote for Islamist candidates, even after a decade of Islamist rule? Will that 35 percent ever be able to get the Islamists out of power and reverse the process? And what about the process itself? Revolutions, even quiet ones, keep on going. Will 35 percent of the nine-year-olds now likely to get Islamic teaching (which may well amount to Islamist indoctrination) vote for secular parties when they grow up? And doesn’t much of Turkish foreign policy on regional issues under the AKP look like Iran or Egypt today? The attitude toward Israel, Iran (despite competition in Syria), the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and Hizballah are all in line with an assessment of it as a radical Islamist policy.

And how real is the current regime’s commitment to democracy? Not that much deeper than that of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Prime Minister Erdogan’s latest remarks have stirred a controversy in Turkey but haven’t even been reported in the West. In a speech in Konya, Erdogan said: “Separation of powers is hindering service to the people. We have to do something about it.” In other words, having now laid the foundation for beginning the Islamizing of the courts, he’s now going to go after parliament.

Barry Rubin

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

Lapid Concedes: Haredim Have Won (Video)

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

If one listens to or reads the transcript of Yair Lapid’s address to Haredi law students at Kiryat Ono College, one can see why he won so big in the last election.

For those who don’t know, Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party won the second largest number of seats in the Israeli Kenesset (19) after Netanyahu’s coalition party of Likud/Yisrael Beitenu (31).


After reading it, I think I may have actually voted for him too, if I lived in Israel. Lapid won because he is apparently a very wise man who recognizes the truth and is unafraid to speak it.

And yet Lapid scares Haredim. So much so that they have united with Shas to try and form a political block with an equal number of seats as an alternative to Lapid in a coalition alliance with Netanyahu . They fear they may lose out and not become a part of the governing coalition – and therefore not have the power they have enjoyed in recent years. And they may be right.

Why does he scare the Haredim? There are probably many reasons for that. For one thing his father “Tommy” Lapid formed an anti-Haredi party whose purpose was to battle Haredi influence in government. Haredim might think, “Like father like son”. After all where does a person mostly learn their attitudes about others if not from the home?

Another thing they see is his uncompromising demand that Haredim be subject to the draft. This they fear with a vengeance. To Haredi rabbinic leadership, supporting the draft of Haredim into the army is tantamount to supporting the destruction of Yiddishkeit. This has been made clear time and again by their public statements on the matter or in one public protest after another. That alone is perhaps enough in their minds to consider him a Rasha.

In fact it wouldn’t even surprise me if they dismissed his speech at Kiryat Ono entirely even if they did hear it, because of his support of drafting of Haredim. Not that any of them would even bother listening to – or reading the transcript of his speech. Their leaders have spoken and he has been dismissed as a Torah hater – or something akin to it. End of discussion!

Which is kind of the problem with Haredi leadership in Israel. If anyone has an all or nothing approach to things it is them. If a secular Jew says one thing in opposition to their views about Judaism, he is evil.

Which is too bad. Because what Lapid says makes eminent sense. In fact if I didn’t know he was a secular Jew I would say that he was very much a part of the Dati Leumi camp. (Although he does refer to himself as secular several times during the course of his speech.) Much of what he says could have been said by me… and probably has been at one time or another.

What is remarkable about this speech is not only that he pushes for the same things I do. But that he recognizes that Haredim have won! He recognizes the error of Israel’s founding fathers in rejecting Talmudic Judaism in favor of biblical Judaism. He recognizes that the complaint by Haredim that seculars too often believe in “Kochi V’Otzem Yodi” is a valid one. That is the view that all of Israel’s successes in war are due solely to their own military prowess. Lapid says that this belief is a mistake and he recognizes that there is a God in the world. And he says that even secular Israel is now more religious than ever. The majority of Israelis even believe in Torah MiSinai!

He fully admits that the founding fathers not recognizing the spiritual component of Israel was a mistake.

Haredim won the battle between the forces of secularism and socialism that guided its founding fathers. They should therefore no longer consider themselves just a small party – one of many – seeking whatever it can for its own constituents regardless of what’s good for the country as a whole. Instead Haredism is increasingly defining the mainstream by virtue of its exploding demographic and perhaps more importantly by the very nature of Judaism itself: its spiritualism.

Without the spiritual component Israel has little if any real attraction for a secular Jews. Who wants to live in a place where all of your neighbors that outnumber you in geometric proportion want to annihilate you? Why would any human being want to live like that? Without the spiritual component that Haredim stand for, no normal person would want to live in such a hostile and dangerous part of the world.

He acknowledges that Israel cannot exist without Haredism but says that Haredism cannot exist without Israel.

The bottom line for Lapid is that he seems to have done some soul searching and discovered some of the eternal truths of Judaism, its history, and the requirements for Israel’s survival. In a very real sense, this secular Jew is a very spiritual person. And a very honest person. Which makes me wonder how he ever became a politician!

But then again, if ever there was a time for an honest politician in Israel, that time is now. I truly believe that this man is a patriot who is both honest and who has a clear vision for the future. A vision that is inclusive of all!

I don’t know what a new governing coalition will look like, whether it will include Lapid or not. But I hope it does. And it would be nice if Haredim gave him a chance to prove himself to them. He is their friend whether they realize it or not.The full video presentation of Lapid’s speech (Hebrew with English subtitles) follows.

Harry Maryles

Meet Egyptian Activist Maikel Nabil: Pro-democracy and Pro-Israel

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

The word “bravery” is pranced around way too frequently these days, but a young Arab, in a country struggling to free itself from the yoke of tyranny – who defiantly promotes the causes of democracy, tolerance and peace between Arabs and Israelis deserves such recognition.

Liberal Egyptian blogger, human rights dissident, and peace advocate Maikel Nabil spent over 302 days in prison for criticizing the Egyptian Military after it took power in early 2011. Before he was released on Jan. 24, 2012 – after a “Free Maikel” Twitter campaign captured the support of millions worldwide, and after his 130-day hunger strike – Nabil was subjected to beatings, torture and other cruel forms of abuse.

I met Nabil, one of the genuine heroes of Tahir Square, briefly today in Jerusalem while he was on a peace tour of the Jewish state – where he’s delivering lectures, meeting with leading public figures and peace activists, and visiting the disputed territories – and it was clear while speaking to him that he’s as passionately patriotic towards Egypt as he is sincere in his benevolence towards both Palestinians and Israelis.

Nabil believes there is a much greater degree of goodwill on behalf of Egyptians towards Israelis than what the media is reporting, and it would be fair to characterize his trip to Israel and the territories (sponsored by UN Watch) as a genuine “peace mission” aimed at dispelling myths about both Egyptians and Israelis – all of which makes the disruption of his speech at Hebrew University yesterday, by “pro-Palestinian activists” almost inexplicable.

Israelis who advocate on behalf of Palestinians – either Arabs or Jews – should, it seems, be heartened by a genuine human rights activist who’s working to bring about a peaceful, democratic Middle East where the rights of all in the region are respected.

However, undeterred by such criticism, Nabil is remarkably optimistic.

Nabil believes that the Muslim Brotherhood-led government is indeed a step backwards for Egyptian democracy (and for Egyptian-Israeli relations), but he expressed confidence that the truly liberal values of the revolution will ultimately prevail.

“It might take 3 or 4 years”, he told me, but a democratic Egypt which respects the human rights of all its citizens, secular and religious, will, he fervently believes, eventually emerge.

In one blog post, written while he was in prison, Nabil reiterated his refusal to engage with the military’s interrogators, and – evoking the courageous resistance of Natan Sharansky during his imprisonment in the Soviet gulags vividly described in ‘Fear No Evil‘ – wrote “I don’t beg for my freedom from a group of killers and homeland-stealers.” He added:

The military council is the one that has to apologize for my imprisonment, my torture, silencing my mouth, spying on my life, my relatives and my friends,” he wrote. “The military council is the one that has to apologize [for] its crimes of killing, torturing and unlawful prosecutions.

Finally, I’d highly recommend reading Nabil’s blog post about Israel, also written while in an Egyptian prison, titled “Why am I pro-Israel“, which provides a fascinating insight into the mind of the truly liberal activist, and should offer a glimmer of hope even to the most cynical among us.

prison

Visit CifWatch.

Adam Levick

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/cifwatch/meet-egyptian-activist-maikel-nabil-pro-democracy-and-pro-israel/2012/12/26/

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