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October 24, 2016 / 22 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘society’

Communist MK at Committee on the Status of Women: ‘Our Society Lives in Fear’

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

“Israeli society lives in fear, and that is awful,” MK Dov Khenin, whose Communist party is part of the Joint Arab List, told the Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality on Monday, adding, “Unfortunately, there are those who build their politics on fear. There are different aspects to the Israeli women’s sense of lack of personal security – physical, sectorial, economic, and social. One of our most important challenges is dealing with this fear and creating a society in which people will feel safer.”

The committee discussed possible courses of action in light of a recent study that showed Israelis in general have a low sense of personal security. The study, conducted by the Knesset’s Research and Information Center, examined various aspects of Israelis’ sense of personal security, ranging from how safe they feel in public spaces to how they rate their employment, health and economic security. The study, commissioned by the Committee on the Status of Women, surveyed a representative sample of 1,028 Israeli adults, more than half of them women.

According to the study, 59% of women and 54% of men said they worried about damaging behavior by state agencies that would negatively affect their personal security. Among Arab women the figure rose to 74%, compared to 59% of Jewish women born in Israel, 51% of ultra-Orthodox women and 49% of female immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

“The national-security discourse allows generals to exclude us from the debate and from many budgets, and only when we realize that cultural and economic security is just as important, the budgets will change accordingly, and the generals will discover that they have a lot to learn,” Committee head MK Touma-Sliman (Joint Arab List) stated.

MK Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin (Zionist Camp-Labor) said that in Israel the family is not perceived as an “anchor of personal security,” and argued that the Knesset does not address the issue sufficiently. “The study found that there are 27 different types of families in Israel, and when we see that the family is the second most influential factor when it comes to personal security, then it is obvious that we have to deal with this issue and see how we can view the Israeli family in a different way.”

MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) addressed Sunday’s assault on an Arab supermarket employee in central Tel Aviv by a group of Border Guard police who refused to identify themselves, and mentioned that the victim’s father is not sure about filing a police complaint. “The study includes data about the fear of turning to the police, which is the body that is supposed to offer solutions to the lack of personal security,” Lavie lamented. “I’m not sure what happened there, but it certainly must be examined, even without a complaint by the father.”

The study indeed showed that, overall, 20% of women and 24% of men said they wouldn’t feel safe calling the police.

MK Merav Ben Ari (Kulanu) said she is very concerned about the fact that more than 20% of Israeli women are afraid to turn to the police. “Last week, the committee chairwoman and I met in Ireland with the local police commissioner, who told us that in the past some 80% of the population did not trust the police, but they managed to turn the situation around. Having 10% of women being afraid is problematic, but let’s start by trying to reach that number and return to examine the situation on a yearly basis.”

Chairwoman Touma-Sliman said the debate was aimed at “trying to figure out how we move forward from here, after being shocked by the study’s findings, which should terrify every man and women who cares about the sense of personal security of all Israeli citizens. This is merely the beginning of the path towards introducing a different discourse to the political arena and towards a conscious change of the concept of security.”


Prerequisites for Muslim-Jewish Reconciliation

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

I appreciate the fact that this Jewish publication was willing to publish my article. I’m not sure how easy it would be for a Jewish pundit to get his or her work published in a Turkish, Egyptian or Iranian magazine. I believe it’s high time someone gave it a try.

History buffs among us know all too well that the best time for Jews over the past two millennia—ever since they were overcome by the force of the Roman empire following two bloody rebellions—was under the rule of the Arab caliphates, both in Spain and in North Africa. So much so, that Jewish sources refer to that time as “The golden age.”

The various Muslim caliphates, which began ruling a very large chunk of the known world in the 7th and 8th centuries, were driven by a single, fundamental, religious mission: to spread Islam. But their agenda for the pagans populating Asia, Africa and Europe was different from their agenda for the “peoples of the book,” followers of Christianity and Judaism. While, most often, the heathens were given no choice about conversion: you became Muslim or you died – Christians and Jews who refused to convert to Islam only had to endure a kind of second class citizenship, with different features in different locales.

It would be helpful to recall that while Jews in Muslim territories at the time were forced to wear articles of clothing that set them apart, and were forbidden to ride horses or use the main public sidewalks—a few miles up north, in Christian Europe, they were being raped, pillaged and burned alive on a steady basis. And while in Christian Europe Jews were blocked from most of the professions, under the caliphates their economic options were much more exciting, hence the term “golden age.”

While Jewish culture in Christian Europe centered almost strictly around the houses of study, with little evidence of a robust culture, in Spain and North Africa the Jews wrote songs and books of philosophy, and excelled as military generals and court politicians—in addition to their flourishing business as traders and bankers.

It is true that Islam had its low point even during that golden age, and every once in a while the mainstream in various provinces—for a variety of geopolitical and social reasons—would take on an ominous spirit of fanaticism and start harassing the “peoples of the books” with fanatical impatience and zeal, threatening their lives unless they converted. But even those waves of fanaticism are dwarfed by the pogroms and expulsions that marked the lives of Jews under Christian rule.

Indeed, the demise of the thriving Jewish culture in Spain came not under Muslim rule, but only after the Christian invasion of the late 1300s, which ended with the expelling of all the Jews of Spain and Portugal in 1492.

What followed was particularly grim for Islam. Just as the original Muslim invasion of the Middle East, North Africa and Southern Europe was enabled by the decline of the Roman Empire, so did was decline of the Caliphate an invitation to a new force, the great Ottoman Empire, to quickly overtake those same areas, and to push far north into Central Europe, only to be blocked, finally, at the gates of Vienna.

But something went wrong in Muslim history at that point. Historians will continue to argue over the precise reasons – the reality is that sometime around the Renaissance period, while Christian Europe began to emerge from its barbarism, to usher in an age of discoveries, inventions and the rise of the human spirit—at a high cost to many indigenous peoples on several continents—Islam began its sad and disheartening decline that set aside Muslims in general and Arabs in particular as the second class citizens of a developing world. Instead of setting the tone in science and scholarship, as it used to do in the middle ages, Islam was relegated to the position of a spectator in a game it could not hope to win.

We have a big problem with cognitive dissonance in most Arab countries, which are trying to be simultaneously Muslim and modern. By “modern” I mean doing all the things a normal Western society takes for granted: publishing books, making movies, starting businesses, dining in restaurants, driving cars, writing laws to serve the community, delivering state services. Every single one of these aspects of your life which you take for granted represent a potential clash with Islam.

Sevda Gözler

Lapid Tells Haredim ‘Go Work’ as Child Subsidy Cuts Go into Effect

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

On Tuesday, the severe cuts in government assistance to large families is going into effect, representing a new peak in Finance Minister Yauir Lapid’s war against the Haredim. What began as an election slogan, touting the need for an equal share in the national burden, is now policy, and as so many things political go, this one is hurting the weakest members of society.

Here’s the list of changes in the amounts paid to families—it is divided into children before and after 2003.

Families with children born before 2003 will receive $39 a month—down from $49—for the first child; $39 a month—down from $74—for the second child; $48 a month—down from $82—for the third child; $94 a month—down from $129—for the fourth child; and $99 a month—down from $109—for the fifth child and on.

The effect on a family of 10, which would be almost certainly religious (or Arab) is a 20% drop, from $988.00 to $814.00.

Israel’s social security administration objected to these cuts, arguing that they expect them to send some 35 thousand new children below the poverty line. In fact, they said the new cuts, sold as part of the “equal burden” package, will actually introduce a huge, new gap between rich and poor, as the percentage of poor children will rise from 4 to 40 percent.

In his Facebook message (today’s politician’s alternative to press conferences, where they might ask you embarrassing questions), Lapid said he was fulfilling one of his key promises to his voters. He also offered the following factoid, possibly something he read in a Maggie Thatcher interview:

“For years upon years it’s been proven that child allowances don’t get people out of poverty, they only make poverty permanent. Only one thing allows families exit the cycle of poverty – and that’s working.”

According to a 2011 report on poverty issued by the Israeli social security administration, 39.3% of Israeli families have been freed from the cycle of poverty due to receiving a variety of subsidies, including child allowances and income tax breaks, and the figure includes 15.1% of the children in Israel. The poverty line before government subsidies are paid out stands at $39.3%, and with the old subsidies dropped to 19.9%, which is still the highest poverty level among developed countries, and highest among all the OECD member countries…

For Haredi families, this severe cut in income comes coupled with a severe curtailing of funding for yeshivas and kolelim—by 30 percent this coming year, and by 60 percent the following year.

Four Haredi families are planning to sue the government in the Supreme Court over the cuts, which they say were made haphazardly and in a manner that does not befit proper legislation. A similar appeal was rejected a month ago by Justice Noam Solberg, on the ground that it was issued too early on in the legislative process. He urged the plaintiffs to come back once the bill becomes a law. Well, today it did.

Minister Lapid received a lot of praise when, during a duel with MKs from the Torah Judaism party, he said from the podium, in response to an accusation that his office was starving children:

“We will not allow any child in the State of Israel to go hungry. It’s our duty to make sure no child in Israel will be hungry, and we will honor it. But I want to remind [you], the institution responsible for caring for children is called their parents. When you bring a child into this world, [you] are the primary person responsible for it. Bringing a child into the world is a heavy responsibility, and so you should bring children into the world not based on the assumption that other people would care for them, but rather based on the assumption that it’s your obligation to take care of your own children.”

But that was many months ago. Today it has become clear that Minister Lapid—continuing his late father’s legacy of Haredi and religious hatred—has declared war on religious Jews in Israel. So far it’s been a three-pronged attack, hitting the issues of draft, child rearing in large families, and the education budget. Granted, in every one of these areas the Haredi public could do a lot to improve its relationship with the state and to create more goodwill between religious and secular in Israel. But to hit them with these three massive jabs all at once is not an act of repair but of destruction.

Yori Yanover

Failing in Order to Succeed

Monday, August 19th, 2013

The rabbis teach that we can only truly understand Torah when we allow ourselves to fail at it (Gittin 43a). Unless we push ourselves to reach for deeper understanding, where we inevitably get it wrong before we can get it right, we will not grasp the very essence of the Jewish enterprise. Rashi here seems to think that it’s the public shame of getting it wrong (and the concomitant rebuke) that strengthens one’s intellectual rigor. It is not hard to think about giving constructive feedback (“rebuke”) when it comes to moral matters, but do we care enough about ideas that we (respectfully) challenge others when ideas are misinterpreted or misapplied? How much do we really value the marketplace of ideas and the assurance that we as individuals and as a society get it right?

History is full of examples of leaders who acknowledged that persistence in the face of failure was more important than individual failures. President Abraham Lincoln, whose army suffered many crushing defeats in the early years of the Civil War, said: “I am not concerned that you have fallen — I am concerned that you arise.” A century later, Robert F. Kennedy echoed the optimistic spirit of youth when he said, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” Besides for being tragically assassinated, what these presidents have in common in that their causes lasted, their legacies carried on, and they are remembered as being among the greatest and most successful men to occupy the Oval Office.

Very often, one can be lured by the traps of conformism (just follow others’ ideas or practices) or isolationism (just follow one’s own marginal ideas and practices). Our job as Jews is to break free from these ploys for mediocrity. We must challenge ourselves and the status quo to reach higher by engaging with societal ideas but without blindly accepting them.

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, the great-grandson of the Baal Shem Tov (the founder of the Chassidic movement) and founder and intellectual-spiritual leader in his own right, was anything but a conformist. He not only told his followers to be happy, but he also encouraged them to do silly things, highly unusual for a religious leader. Rebbe Nachman stated that each person had to fall in order to rise, and stressed the universality of this concept:

[E]ach person who fell … thinks that these words weren’t spoken for him, for he imagines that these ideas are only for great people who are always climbing from one level to the next. But truthfully, you should know and believe, that all these words were also said concerning the smallest of the small and the worst of the worst, for Hashem is forever good to all.

However, Rebbe Nachman went further, stating that it is “a great thing for a person to still have an evil inclination.” Even the tendency to evil could serve G-d, as people worked through these passions and eventually overcame them. To Rebbe Nachman, it seems, spiritual stasis is the only unacceptable path.

We must be willing to learn and debate with others. Ideas matter. Inevitably that will lead to some level of shame when we get it wrong, but the promise land afterwards is much greater. It offers a culture of more honest, informed, connected individuals who are willing to be vulnerable for the sake of truth and who are willing to be wrong in order to get it right. Our great rabbinic and presidential leaders wouldn’t have it any other way.

Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz

Egyptian VP El Baradei Resigns

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Egypt’s interim vice president, Mohamed ElBaradei, resigned today in response to the violent crackdown of security on Islamist protest camps set up in support of deposed president Mohamed Morsi, Reuters reports.

ElBaradei wrote in his resignation letter that “the beneficiaries of what happened today are those who call for violence, terrorism and the most extreme groups.”

“As you know, I saw that there were peaceful ways to end this clash in society, there were proposed and acceptable solutions for beginnings that would take us to national consensus,” he wrote. “It has become difficult for me to continue bearing responsibility for decisions that I do not agree with and whose consequences I fear. I cannot bear the responsibility for one drop of blood.”

Jewish Press News Briefs

Societal Abandonment of the Bible as a Moral Guide

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

Recently, one of the original sponsors of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) – Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio – changed his mind. He now supports same sex marriage. DOMA defines marriage applicable only to a man with a woman. It does not extend marital benefits to same sex marriages. This act was passed and endorsed by President Clinton who has also recently changed his views about it. Many states now have passed legislation that allows same sex couple to get married.

I have long ago stated my views about homosexuality and my opposition to gay marriage. The short version is that homosexuals should be treated like the human beings they are. And that we not focus on who they are attracted to. To the extent that they might engage in behavior that is forbidden by the Torah is not anyone’s concern. Unless they do so proactively with the intent of promoting it as a legitimate alternative lifestyle. That has to be opposed as would promoting any sinful act.

And let me be clear about the sinfulness of the forbidden homosexual act. There are some gay activists that have a certain familiarity with the bible that want to reinterpret it as somehow permissible. The very idea of doing such a thing gives new meaning to the word rationalization. It is the height of absurdity to say that an act is biblically permitted when the bible clearly forbids it. The bible says what it says. You can’t rationalize it away no matter how much you would like to.

My opposition to same sex marriage is based on the fact that by its nature marriage is a religious ceremony celebrating the holy union between a man and a woman. Even though there is such a thing as civil marriages, in my view the source of all marriages is based on a religious idea. I don’t believe that there would necessarily be an institution called marriage without the bible.

Civil unions are an entirely different animal. The argument might be made that all legal rights granted to a male-female union should be extended to a same sex union. But in the phrase ‘marriage ceremony’ the very word ceremony has religious ritual overtones.

But this is not my issue today. What troubles me is the Zeitgeist of ridding the world of the idea that homosexual behavior is forbidden by God. It is becoming increasingly fashionable to view a clear act forbidden by the Torah as completely permissible and even laudable in that it is an expression of love that helps cement a loving relationship.

This is not a problem if one is an atheist. Or even a deist. It is not a problem if one is even generically religious without subscribing to any biblical doctrines. It is entirely libertarian. It is entirely humanistic. And even compassionate. But in my view as a bible believing Jew, it is wrong.

If one accepts the bible’s clear admonition against a forbidden act the way I do, they cannot be comfortable with the direction this country is going. It is one thing to be tolerant. That is a function of ‘live and let live’ – a dictum I subscribe to. It is not my job or right to tell others how to live, whether I approve of it or not. It is another to normalize a sinful act.

The forbidden act of homosexual sex is no different than any other act that is forbidden by God. Normalizing it and treating it as though it is permitted does not, I believe, smell good in the nostrils of God. It would be no different than normalizing biblical level adultery. Adultery is forbidden even if all partners are consensual as would be the case in an open marriage. Just because there is a lot of adultery between consenting adults in this country does not mean we have to turn it into a positive value. The same thing is true about the biblically forbidden act of gay sex.

The increasing pressure to repeal DOMA and encourage legitimizing gay marriage across the land is a move in that direction. It may satisfy humanitarians and libertarians. But is disconcerting to those of us who believe that it is wrong to place even a quasi religious imprimatur via what we want to call marriage to a union between members of the same sex. Because such unions imply that the sexual act that accompanies marriage is just as legitimate as the sexual act between a married heterosexual couple.

Harry Maryles

The Road to Serfdom

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

“I am Hashem your G-d Who took you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage” (Exodus 20:2).

Values always come on a ladder. They have no significance if they are not set out in the proper order of preference; what is more important, what comes first, is the foundation for all the rest.

The first commandment of the Ten Commandments is the starting point and the foundation for the entire structure of values that follows. There is a G-d who redeemed us from slavery. We serve Him and Him only. Throughout history, despots who desired to rule the entire world have found themselves in serious conflict with the Nation of Israel. From Pharaoh to Ahashverosh, from Hitler to Stalin – these despots concluded that they must destroy the Jews simply because the Jews cannot be enslaved: They already have a King, “I am Hashem, your G-d.”

Many values are held aloft in our world: Equality, liberty, liberalism and more. They are all fine and good. But usually, they are not founded on the first of the Ten Commandments. “My Nile River is mine and I created myself,” said Pharaoh according to the Midrash, just one example of a king who thought he was a god. The more that a leader puts himself at the focal point, the more he diminishes G-d and attempts to “replace” Him, the more that slavery takes root until the entire state becomes one large concentration camp: a “house of bondage.”

The danger of enslavement has greatly increased in modern times. The state’s ability to control and revoke its citizen’s liberty is very enticing to a regime that has no G-d. The excuse will always – always – be security. “We must revoke your liberty so that we can protect you.”

Do we really need to be biometrically marked like animals just to counter the plague of forged identity cards? Is there no technological solution better than a simple photograph that can easily be removed and replaced? Of course there is. Smart chips are already in place in all sorts of identity cards, and they are extremely difficult to forge. But the prime motivation for the Orwellian biometric law is the abrogation of liberty; to entice us all into a house of bondage – in the name of security, of course.

Wherever G-d has been completely removed from the picture – in atheist or communist regimes – human life and honor have no value at all. In China they raise people in locked farms so that they can sell their organs for transplants or horror shows, like the one that recently featured in Israel.

So when you hear someone talking about lofty values, be sure to check his entire message. Who is his G-d? Who works for whom? Does he work for G-d, or vice versa?

Moshe Feiglin

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/moshe-feiglin/the-road-to-serfdom/2013/02/06/

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