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November 27, 2015 / 15 Kislev, 5776
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘status quo’

Nursing Jewish Mother Kicked Off Temple Mount

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

(JNi.media) The Temple Institute, an Israeli organization dedicated to establishing the Third Temple, is one of the few Jewish groups dedicating themselves to finding a crack in the status quo on the Temple Mount, which forbids Jewish prayer there, and frequently blocks Jews from entering the compound.

Their most recent case in point: “Until now the ‘status quo’ imposed by the Netanyahu-Kerry-Abdullah triumvirate ‘only’ forbade Jewish prayer, Jewish tears, Jewish laughter, Jewish lip moving, Jewish body swaying, Jewish bowing, Jewish standing motionless, Jewish singing, Jewish blessings, Jewish eating and Jewish drinking,” goes their statement from Monday — “Now it also forbids a Jewish mother from nursing her crying Jewish infant.”

[Editor: Perhaps the baby said the bracha (blessing) out loud?]

The accompanying video shows Israeli police removing a Jewish mother who tried to nurse her baby—using a blanket for modesty—on the Temple mount. The police insisted that nursing babies was strictly off limits there. The scene quickly turned into street theater, with the cops accusing the woman and her friends of acting for the smartphone cameras, and the women accusing the cops of being heartless, deaf to the needs of a hungry baby.

“Shame on all you feckless politicians and self-important pundits, judges, rabbis, human rights activists and feminists, etc., who endorse and support the racist policy of ‘status quo’ on the Temple Mount!” goes the Temple Institute statement. “Are your rights to express your thoughts and opinions more sacred than the right of a Jew to pray on the Temple Mount? Or of a mother to nurse her hungry baby?”

One more open question remains: how would the Arab news websites, which usually describe Jewish visits on Temple Mount as “Settlers assault Al Aqsa with aid of police troops” describe this scene? And, of course, what would be the fate of a policeman who tried to remove an Arab mother and her baby from the same site?

The Epidemic of Arab Terror and its Cure

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

When everyone began trying to understand the waves of Arab violence and terror hitting Israel, all sorts of explanations were proposed.

Personally, I’m sticking with simple bloodlust, as I’ve pointed out before.

Yes, there is the Islamic and Arab cultural baggage that fuels their fervor, but it’s always been bloodlust that sends them over the edge, moving from slogans to concrete actions.

But the other question is, what ignites this Sudden Jihad Syndrome, where repeatedly, a middle-class Arab from Jerusalem or other Israeli cities, wakes up and decides to stab a Jew or run him or her over?

I’m pointing out that the terrorists are middle-class Arabs for a reason.

The Arab scholar Bassam Tawil began looking into the family lives of these terrorists. He visited their homes and discovered that they didn’t live in poverty, they weren’t uneducated people, they weren’t jobless.

In Tawil’s words, they were “leading comfortable lives, with unlimited access to education and work.” They were from normative, middle class Arab homes.

Most were educated, popular, good-looking, had jobs, and their families are stable and financially secure members of their communities.

So what drives a normal, middle-class Arab young man or woman to suddenly wake up, take a knife out of his mother’s kitchen and get in his car to go kill Jews?

Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point” has been on my mind for a while now (I don’t have a copy in front of me, someone borrowed it and didn’t return it). Gladwell talks about “epidemics” and what makes them happen – what is the impetus that “jolts” a stable situation out of equilibrium – in our case, a low level of violence, to almost daily stabbings and vehicular attacks by a particular kind of person, who might otherwise sit next to you on the bus or light rail on the way to work, or serve you in the store or restaurant you frequent.

What triggered my memory is a story Gladwell tells in his book of a suicide epidemic that hit Micronesia, also known as the Werther effect. It is a spike and cluster of suicides in a community that follow a well-publicized suicide.

Wikipedia describe it as:

The Werther effect not only predicts an increase in suicide, but the majority of the suicides will take place in the same or a similar way as the one publicized. The more similar the person in the publicized suicide is to the people exposed to the information about it, the more likely the age group or demographic is to die by suicide. The increase generally happens only in areas where the suicide story was highly publicized. Upon learning of someone else’s suicide, many people decide that action is appropriate for them as well, especially if the publicized suicide was of someone in a similar situation as them.

There’s another similar epidemic, now called the Columbine effect, where the killers idealize the original massacre, try to duplicate it, and more so, try to improve upon it to reach it’s idealized form as they imagine it.

I can’t imagine a more fitting description for what we are facing in Israel.

An Arab runs some Jews over, gets out of the car and then tries to stab the Jews, the Arab terrorist is then shot and killed, or alternatively, an Arab takes his mother’s knife, walks around, stabs a Jew, the terrorist is then shot and killed. The story gets elaborated on, that the Jews planted the knife, or the breaks failed. The video/photo/story is then posted to Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp.

Attack. Kill. Post. Watch. Repeat.

One of the proposed solutions in communities where these suicide epidemics hit, is for the local media to stop reporting the incidents, and that helps end the epidemic. Of course, in the age of social media, that’s damn near impossible, so the situation just feeds on itself, until some other factor changes, and it peters out.

Gladwell discusses three possible areas of change: the Law of the Few, the Stickiness Factor, and the Power of Context.

The Law of the Few: These are the trend-setters that first start an idea and the social connectors who get the idea out to their wider group of friends and followers.

The Stickiness Factor: This is the slogan. A contagious message connected to the act that keeps the act in mind. It could be some minor tweak to a well-worn message that suddenly gives it impact and for some reason turns it into an earworm that won’t get out of your head.

The Power of Context: This is what you see around you. People act and react based on the physical and social environmental cues around them. Our current situation fits this formula (and the previous waves fit similar formulas).

The Arabs see cool, middle-class Arabs suddenly getting up and killing a Jew using one of two easy methods, the youth gets killed, it gets posted on the internet by key social media connectors, and then widely distributed and watched – the Law of the Few.

The Arabs link the attacks to a slogan – in this wave’s case, the Jews are changing the status quo (which every time Netanyahu says that he isn’t, but uses those words, he triggers them even more). A second message has also developed which is “the Jews planted the knife” – The Stickiness Factor.

And finally, the Arab community hears repeatedly from their imams and in their mosques, on social media and at home, how the Jews are executing innocent Arabs and planting knives near their bodies, and they must defend Al Aqsa which the Jews are destroying. The returned bodies get a hero’s funerals. Other terrorists get streets and schools named after them by the PA government, and their jailed terrorists get healthy salaries. Those are the constant environmental cues around them, telling them that Arabs must take action against the Jews, and it’s OK and even heroic to do so – the Power of Context.

These three rules defining what pushes an act over the tipping point, turning it into an epidemic, can perhaps also provide clues on how to end the epidemic.

The Law of the Few: We have four “guilty parties” in this case, the people videoing the events, the people posting the videos to the “right” groups and pages, the social media platforms and the newspapers. You can’t have newspapers not report the latest terrorist attack, but perhaps they could be less gruesome about their reporting. Similarly, the popular social media platforms and video sharing platforms could be told to block and remove the videos. But alternative social-sharing platforms will just pop-up or become popular, if the current ones start restricting usage.

One could go after the people making and posting the videos, but again, it’s a widespread phenomena.

So we may be stuck with limited ability to affect this rule, but it’s worth looking into, nonetheless.

The Stickiness Factor: The message is the message. Proving it false clearly doesn’t work, and in fact even antagonizes them more, perhaps due to the cognitive dissonance it evinces.

We may be stuck with no ability to change their message, and the best move is to not even discuss it, or try to react to it – Netanyahu should not have even talked about the status quo or the Temple Mount.

The Power of Context: The environment is something we actually can change and affect.

If no terrorist bodies are returned, they can’t hold public celebrations.

If imams are inciting hatred and publicly repeating the message then isolate and arrest them.

If the messages are being transferred through social media and video sharing platforms, then identify those audiences most likely to be affected and temporarily shut down access, ranging from WhatsApp, Facebook and YouTube, to internet and cellular access in specific neighborhoods and phones until things calm down.

When Israel put up the temporary wall in Jeruslaem and threatened to revoke residency rights from the terrorists and their families, that changed the environment, and caused those who understood what that meant for their lives to influence and control those family members more susceptible to the terror meme.

Israel disrupted the environment.

Israel non-violently forced the families to change the conversation. They still hate Jews, and they aren’t any less scared of dying, but the conversation now also says there’s too high a price to pay for heroically acting on the terror, and the rest of the family would suffer unacceptably.

A comparable price tag can be found for the Arabs in Judea and Samaria, which would similarly disrupt the conversational environment that provides positive context for the attacks.

We’re facing an epidemic of terror.

But now that we understand it, we have the tools to control it and keep it in check, if we’re prepared to use them.

Foreign Ministry Scorns Muslim ‘Defilers’ on Temple Mount

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

Israel’s Foreign Ministry blasted Arab rioters who have been attacking people on the Temple Mount over the past several weeks, pointing out “it is the rioters themselves who are defiling the Al Aqsa Mosque by transforming it into a base for attacks. They use the mosque’s furniture as barricades and launch fireworks from inside its premises.” The video clip below shows examples of Muslim Arab violence on the Temple Mount over the past several months. (Photo credit: Israel Police Spokesperson’s Unit)

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem, where both the First and Second Temples in Judaism were built, remains the holiest site in Judaism.

Known in Hebrew as “Har HaBayit,” the site is called “Haram al-Sharif” in Arabic (the Noble Sanctuary) by Muslims, and now contains the ‘Dome of the Rock’ as well as the Al Aqsa Mosque,’ which is considered to be the third holiest site in Islam.

The Al Aqsa Mosque is situated at the southern end of the Temple Mount plaza (esplanade), and covers only a relatively small part of its surface. Moreover, there is evidence that places the historical Jewish Temples on a different part of the Temple Mount than that which is occupied by the mosque.

When Jerusalem was reunited in 1967, Israeli officials decided to allow the Islamic Waqf Authority to continue to administer the site, in cooperation with the Jordanian monarchy. Israel also chose to uphold the existing status quo, according to which non-Muslims can visit the Temple Mount at fixed times, but are not permitted to conduct any prayers. Moreover, non-Muslims who visit the Temple Mount cannot enter the Al Aqsa Mosque itself, and are limited to visiting other parts of the site, mainly the large open spaces.

“It is very important to note that the Government of Israel is committed to maintaining the status quo on the Temple Mount and will oppose all proposals to change it,” emphasized the Foreign Ministry in its statement released this week. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu emphasized a similar stance on Sunday prior to the start of the weekly government cabinet meeting.

“In the past few months, Palestinian radicals have been trying to breach the status quo by preventing Christians and Jews from visiting the Temple Mount,” the Foreign Ministry said.

“Palestinian rioters – incited by Hamas and the radical branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel – have attacked visitors as well as police with stones and fireworks, using the Al Aqsa Mosque as their base of operations. The Israeli authorities have sought to contain these attempts by Islamist extremists to escalate the situation on the Temple Mount.

“The ridiculous accusations that Israel plans to harm the Al Aqsa Mosque are utterly baseless. The fact that they are made not only by Islamist extremists but also by the mainstream Palestinian leadership is alarming and dangerous.

“It is the Palestinian rioters themselves who are defiling the Al Aqsa Mosque by transforming it into a base for attacks. They use the mosque’s furniture as barricades and launch fireworks from inside its premises, where carpets and wooden beams could easily catch fire. The rioters are also demonstrating their disrespect for the many Muslim worshippers who simply wish to pray in peace, as well as for the Islamic Waqf that manages the site.”

Israel Police, which is responsible for public order in Jerusalem, exercises extra caution — and some would say far too much care — not to hurt the sensitivities of Muslim worshipers on the Temple Mount.

Officers restrict themselves solely to entering the area specifically in cases “when riots must to be controlled.” Moreover, as a matter of policy, the police never enter the mosque itself, the Foreign Ministry points out.

Although they often find themselves in life-threatening situations, police officers who operate on the Temple Mount are only equipped with non-lethal means for self-protection.

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.

Why I am important

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

On Friday, I signed a contract to buy an apartment in Israel. I will be returning to live here again after 25 years. I am very happy about it for various reasons, including the fact that as an Israeli Jew I will be a member of a tiny minority of huge importance to the rest of the world.

We flew to Israel from Los Angeles. At the gate we were met by several buses which took us to a remote terminal where we boarded the plane. The buses were escorted by two airport police cars and an El Al security car, which also followed the plane as it taxied from the terminal to the runway from which it took off.

As far as I know, no other airline gets this special treatment. In a way, it is flattering to know that I am so important that many people want to kill me.

Israel is special at the UN, too, where the Human Rights Commission and the General Assembly devote so much time, effort and (mostly Western) cash to condemning it and pretending that the ‘Palestinians’ are a nation in any sense other than as a negation of the Jewish nation. They pretend that the Palestinian Arabs are important, but everybody knows that it’s all about us, especially the Palestinians themselves (this is one of the reasons that they are so angry and frustrated all the time).

There is also the special treatment we get from Europe. Did you know that one thousand legal scholars and jurists recently delivered a petition to EU foreign policy head Catherine Ashton explaining that contrary to the EU position, Jewish settlements across the Green Line are legal under international law?  The EU doesn’t boycott, for example, Turkish ‘settlers’ in northern Cyprus, but we are more important, so a special policy is implemented for us.

Then there is the clever US State Department which prefers ‘illegitimate’ to ‘illegal’. Somehow this is supposed to be a meaningful distinction in this context, but all I can think of is that someone’s parents were unmarried. They include Israel’s capital, which has been the seat of its government since the founding of the state in the illegitimate part. No other nation is so honored!

I am even more proud of the fact that the great United States finds it necessary to spit on us by forcing Israel’s government to release more than a hundred terrorists, all of whom were either convicted of murder (sometimes multiple murders) or of crimes related to murders. Some of these murders were remarkably evil and gruesome, and it’s unimaginable that the US would do something similar in its own homeland. But we are really important and special, so we are required to accept this.

I understand also that the US and EU were ‘furious’ that Israel’s Prime Minister recently announced that perhaps a thousand new homes for Jews would be built someday in places that they consider illegal or illegitimate. The argument is that this construction would create facts on the ground that would prejudice a future peace agreement. Of course, not a peep was heard a few months ago when Israel announced that it would build housing for Arabs in the same area. What else does this prove except that Jews are more important than Arabs?

Speaking of Arabs, Israel’s neighbors Egypt and Syria are presently displaying their truly shocking barbarism by engaging in vicious religious/ethnic civil wars, bombing, gassing, shooting and raping each other with abandon. The status quo in Israel is peaceful, and the economy — both of Israel and the Palestinian Authority — is excellent. So you would think that the focus would be elsewhere rather than Israel.

Nope — our importance is illustrated by the fact that the ‘international community’, led by President Obama, thinks it’s worthwhile to destabilize us also!

Visit Fresno Zionism.

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