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June 25, 2016 / 19 Sivan, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Times’

An Odor Of Intolerance At The Times

Monday, June 13th, 2016

In February, The New York Times ran a feature highlighting successful efforts to integrate Muslim immigrants into Canadian society. The thinly-disguised editorial agenda of the piece was to rebuke those Americans who were then raising questions about calls from liberals for the acceptance of large numbers of Syrian refugees despite the government’s stated inability to adequately investigate how many were members of ISIS, as some who have moved to Europe have proved to be.

Leaving aside the politics, the piece was a bright and cheery rhapsody to the virtues of welcoming and accommodating a population whose customs might differ from those of some of their neighbors in Toronto. Among the most memorable images from the piece was its paean to a decision by the municipal pool in the Regent Park neighborhood to set up hours where it would be open only to women, which gave Muslims a chance to enjoy the facility without violating their concerns about modesty.

But flash forward a few months to a different venue closer to home, and it turns out that the Times doesn’t think that accommodating the needs of religious believers with their own ideas about men and women bathing together is such a hot idea.

Last week the Times published a scathing editorial titled “Everybody into the Pool” which blasted the decision of a New York City municipal pool on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn to set aside hours for women-only bathing. The practice, which locals say dates back to sometime in the 1990s, was initiated in order to allow Orthodox Jews, who make up a considerable percentage of those who live in the area, to enjoy the facility.

In a different place involving a different religious group, the Times clearly thought there was nothing wrong with such a practice, but when it comes to Jews in New York the newspaper of record in the city with the largest population in the world considered the accommodation for Orthodox women to represent “a strong odor of religious intrusion into a public space.”

As far as the Times is concerned, if Orthodox Jewish women want to swim without men looking at them, they can just build their own pool.

Let’s concede that if a government-owned institution were to adopt practices that excluded a particular faith or non-believers, that would be troubling. But that is not what happened on Bedford Avenue. Rather, it was a constitutionally protected practice to allow a reasonable accommodation to a not inconsiderable portion of the population. Just as public schools close on some religious holidays if enough students and teachers would be absent (a custom that now affords protections to Muslims in New York as well as to Jews and Christians), letting members of a community use a pool for a few hours a week they might otherwise not be able to enjoy is no hardship to anyone else. Nor does it constitute an illegal establishment of religion.

What then is the problem with the Metropolitan Recreation Center creating an opportunity for women to swim without men being around, especially since the Times doesn’t think segregating swimming in Toronto is so terrible?

The issue here seems to be the “odor” emanating from New York’s Jewish community. The women-only hours at the pool were restored via intervention from a Jewish member of the State Assembly after it had been halted when the city’s Commission Human Rights received an “anonymous complaint.” According to the Times, that intervention wasn’t in the best interests of the “diverse community” of Brooklyn. Which means that when it comes to accommodations for different faiths or communities, some forms of diversity are less equal than others.

The debate over how far the state may go to accommodate diversity, especially when it comes to faith, is increasingly controversial in our time. The rights of gay Americans are not only to be protected, they can also be allowed to supersede the religious freedom of other Americans, even to the point of compelling them to participate in ceremonies that violate their beliefs. In that case as well, diversity is in the eye of the beholder.

That’s an issue over which honest people may differ, but does the Times really expect us to take seriously their argument that men who want to swim during the few hours set aside for women only are having their rights violated?

It also cannot be overlooked that the Times’s choice of language in condemning the desire of Orthodox Jewish women to bathe without men was redolent of anti-Semitic smears. It is impossible to believe their editors would have allowed such a broadside against a different religious minority. Nor is it imaginable that they would have allowed a reference to odor when it came to Muslims or any other minority. Again, the contrast to their praise of accommodating Muslims at a Toronto pool cannot be ignored.

To speak of “the odor” of Jewish influence in New York was at best insensitive by the Times’s own standards of sensitivity when it comes to speaking about minorities. At worst, it was, as liberals like to say, a dog whistle for intolerance against a specific group.

Whatever one may think about where the line should be drawn when it comes to a public accommodation of a minority faith, the idea of “smelly Jews” is one that is a staple of anti-Semitic invective. In an era when, as the State Department has noted that “a rising tide of anti-Semitism” is spreading around the globe, it ill behooves The New York Times use that kind of language when virulently attacking one part of what they normally like to refer to as the rich mosaic of a diverse New York.

Jonathan S. Tobin

The Times Detects A ‘Strong Odor’ In Williamsburg Controversy

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

We find it ironic that the controversy over separate women’s swimming time in a Williamsburg, Brooklyn public pool broke even as Americans are grappling with the issue of transgender rights.

In large part, much of the media insist that gender is a state of mind rather than a function of genitalia – to the point that a transgender person must be allowed to use a bathroom appropriate to the gender he/she identifies with rather than one appropriate to the genitalia he/she was born with.

But some of those same folks – in this case the editorial board of The New York Times – find it off-putting and unconstitutional for a municipal authority to provide a far lesser accommodation to Orthodox Jewish women seeking to observe traditional notions of modesty when swimming.

In a March 25 editorial titled “Transgender Law Makes North Carolina Pioneer in Bigotry,” the Times condemned North Carolina for “passing an appalling, unconstitutional bill that bars transgender people from using public restrooms that match their gender identity….”

A few weeks later, in its April 18 issue, the Times, in an editorial titled “Transgender Bathroom Hysteria, Cont’d.,” described reaction to the North Carolina statute:

 

After the withering backlash against North Carolina for passing a discriminatory law…it would stand to reason that lawmakers and governors in other states would think twice before peddling bills that dictate which restrooms transgender people can use.

And yet, state legislators in Tennessee, Kansas, South Carolina, and Minnesota are pushing similar absurd measures….

Laws to address non-issues [like the need to restrict transgenders] can have serious repercussions. The hastily passed bill in North Carolina, which said people must use public bathrooms based on the gender on their birth certificate and prohibited local governments from passing non-discrimination ordinances, has been roundly condemned by corporate leaders, civil rights groups, and religious leaders….

If lawmakers who might want to follow North Carolina’s example aren’t moved by appeals to equality and human rights, they should ponder this reality: The price of bigotry is becoming quite steep.

 

Fast forward five weeks. In late May the New York City Parks Department announced it was going to end a policy of setting aside several hours a week for “women’s swim” at a public pool in Williamsburg. The sessions were instituted about 20 years ago, without much fanfare or incident, as an accommodation to Orthodox Jewish women who, due to their religious beliefs, would not swim together with men.

But someone apparently filed a complaint with the New York City Commission on Human Rights claiming men were being discriminated against. The commission notified the Parks Department that the swimming arrangement was in violation of anti-discrimination laws and had to be ended. The Parks Department agreed, but after New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind intervened the department withdrew a statement announcing the end of the program and said the future of the women’s swim program would be reviewed.

This, in a June 1 editorial, is what the great advocates of transgender choice on the Times editorial board had to say concerning the Parks Department’s about-face on the Williamsburg pool controversy:

 

Four times a week this summer – Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9:15 to 11 a.m., and Sunday afternoons from 2:45 to 4:45 – a public swimming pool on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn will be temporarily unmoored from the laws of New York City and the Constitution, and commonly held principles of fairness and equal access.

The pool will instead answer to the religious convictions of one neighborhood group…. Orthodox Jewish beliefs demand modesty in dress, and a strict separation of the sexes, and those are the beliefs to which the taxpayer-owned-and-operated Metropolitan Recreation Center will yield…. The city’s human rights law is quite clear that public accommodation like a swimming pool cannot exclude people based on sex. It allows for exemptions “based on bon fide considerations of public policy,” but this case –with its strong odor of religious intrusion into a secular place – does not seem bona fide at all. [Italics added]

 

Tellingly, the Times did not cite a single one legal authority supporting its legal conclusions.

And although no one seems to have protested the women’s swim time for some 20 years, the Times followed up on its offensive allusion – one “redolent of anti-Semitic smears,” as our op-ed contributor Jonathan Tobin puts it on page 8 of this week’s issue – with this dripping bit of angry sarcasm:

 

[T]he summer sun shines equally on the Orthodox and the non-Orthodox, and that plus the New York City humidity make everybody uncomfortable and hot under the collar…. There is no just way to tell a sweaty Brooklynite on a Sunday afternoon that he should be ejected onto Bedford Avenue because one religious group doesn’t want him in the pool…. Let those who cannot abide public, secular rules at a public, secular pool find their own private place to swim when and with whom they see fit.

 

And all of this says nothing about a glaring omission in the Times’s take on the matter: Although there are many examples around the country of Muslim women being provided with the same accommodation in public pools as the Orthodox women of Williamsburg, the Times completely ignored that in its denunciation of the Williamsburg program.

To be sure, the Times in 2008 reported on a controversy at Harvard over its having set separate gym hours for Muslim women. But it did not editorialize about it.

Nor did it editorialize about the city of Toronto’s various accommodations of Muslim women – but it did carry a giddily positive news report about that program, headlined “In Toronto, a Neighborhood in Despair Transforms Into a Model of Inclusion.” Times reporter Dan Levin wrote:

 

Her face framed by a yellow hijab, Idil Hassan watched her young daughter splash with other children at the Regent Park Aquatic Center, an architectural jewel of glass, wood and chlorine in the middle of Canada’s largest housing project.

The center has given Ms. Hassan, a 34-year-old nurse, the ability to do something more than just watch her child: she, too, can join in.

On Saturday evenings, mechanized screens shroud the center’s expansive glass walls to create a session that allows only women and girls to relax in the hot tub, swim laps or careen down the water slide, a rare bit of “me” time treasured by many of the neighborhood’s Muslim residents.

“I wouldn’t come before because my religion doesn’t allow women to be seen uncovered by men,” said Ms. Hassan, a Somali immigrant. “It’s really helpful to have that day to be ourselves. I even learned to swim.”

 

As far as we can tell, only the Orthodox Jewish women of Williamsburg have been targeted by the Times’s editorial writers over this sort of thing.

What is it with the Times and Orthodox Jews?

Editorial Board

NY Times Blows Winds of Putsch for Israel & How President Truman Got Rid of an Insubordinate War Hero General

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

The New York Times has long been the mouthpiece of the US foreign policy Establishment. That the NYT is so hostile to Israel up to the point of crude lies demonstrates the deep rancor towards Israel of that Establishment.

We all know that the US and the other major WW2 allies were of little help to the victimized Jews during the Shoah, that is, during WW2. Whereas US warplanes bombed military targets near Auschwitz (Oswiecim) by 1944 –but not the gas chambers at Auschwitz nor the railroad tracks leading there– the United Kingdom prevented Jews from finding refuge in the internationally designated Jewish National Home, the Land of Israel.

During the 1967 Six Day War, the intelligence ship, USS Liberty, spied electronically on Israeli military moves and sent the information to Jordan and Egypt. A US army signal corps truck-mounted electronic intelligence station did the same on a smaller scale from the Jordanian-controlled “West Bank.” The truck had to pull back across the Jordan River with Jordan’s Arab Legion when Israel took the “West Bank.”

Now, the Establishment mouthpiece, the NYT, fans the flames of putsch, of a possible coup d’etat in Israel, publishing an article praising insubordinate Israeli senior army and intelligence officers for being “pro-peace” and “pro-human rights.” The author, Ronen Bergman, has excellent sources in Israeli intel, according to his own writings, and the NYT describes him as “a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine.” He is not a free-lancer but “a contributing writer.” That is a more permanent arrangement. Here are some putschist samples:

IN most countries, the political class supervises the defense establishment and restrains its leaders from violating human rights or pursuing dangerous, aggressive policies. In Israel, the opposite is happening. Here, politicians blatantly trample the state’s values and laws and seek belligerent solutions, while the chiefs of the Israel Defense Forces and the heads of the intelligence agencies try to calm and restrain them. [NYT 21 May 2016]

Now right here we have what would be seen in the USA as justification for a putsch against the democratically elected government of PM Netanyahu. The politicians violate “human rights.” See that buzz term, human rights? Now to another gem:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s offer last week of the post of defense minister to Avigdor Lieberman, a pugnacious ultranationalist politician, is the latest act in the war between Mr. Netanyahu and the military and intelligence leaders, a conflict that has no end in sight but could further erode the rule of law and human rights, or lead to a dangerous, superfluous military campaign.

Lieberman is a pugnacious ultra-nationalist. Obama is not a pugnacious ultra-nationalist. He only wants to give The Bomb to a pugnacious religiously fanatic regime in Iran that believes that it has the right to The Bomb, despite Iran being a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty. And we are warned of the further erosion of “the rule of law and human rights” as well as being threatened with “superfluous war.” Obama incidentally seems to be moving closer to sending ground troops to Syria on the pretext of fighting ISIL which Obama has tried hard not to interfere with over the past two years. Of course, for Bergman, the generals and intelligence honchos who have made mistake after mistake, especially starting with Oslo, are the good guys, whereas PM Netanyahu and his government are the bad guys.

An I.D.F. general told me that the top brass saw the telephone call [by Netanyahu to the father of a soldier who had violated army rules and was being investigated and charged, which treatment Netanyahu did not cancel] as a gross defiance of the military’s authority. The deputy chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, chose one of the most sensitive dates on the Israeli calendar, Holocaust Memorial Eve, to react: He suggested that Israel today in some ways resembles Germany in the 1930s.

So the army has legitimate authority which the prime minister lacks, indeed its authority is superior to that of the elected leaders. Apparently the military is not supposed to be subordinate to the civilian government. And Israeli supposedly resembles Nazi Germany in some ways. I would say that Israel is more in the position of France in the 1930s pre-Vichyite period when “peace movements” in France and Britain were calling on their governments to make peace with Hitler, giving him what he wanted which also conformed to the principle of “self-determination”, some said, especially Communists.

Caroline Glick is one of the few to have seen this coming:

Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon is openly supporting the growing insubordination of IDF generals. In a speech last night, he urged senior officers to publicly air their opposition to government policies. In so doing, he brought Israeli democracy into an unprecedented crisis.. . .  a regime where civilians are free to act in accordance with their conscience even when doing so places them in opposition to the government is a democracy.
A regime where military commanders are free to act in accordance with their conscience even when doing so places them in opposition of the government is a military dictatorship. [Caroline’s facebook page, 16 May 2016]

Also see her as follows:

For the Obama administration, Israel’s security brass is an alternative government. . . . , for the [US] administration, “Israeli democracy” means the Left is in charge [link here]

In other words, the Obama administration might not be averse to a military coup d’etat taking place in Israel, provided that the ensuing military government will follow Obama’s demands on Israel for concessions to the Nazi-like “Palestinian Authority.” Mahmoud Abbas is obviously, in the NY Times lexicon, not a pugnacious nationalist.
Defense Minister Yaalon’s public statements over the past year have too often been dishonest, if hesitant, attempts to smear Jewish inhabitants of Judea-Samaria and the Jewish public in general for crimes against Arabs, for violations of human rights, and so on. This appears to be a coordinated effort, what with the deputy chief of staff Yair Golan comparing Israel with Germany in the 1930s and other lies, totally overlooking the often Nazi nature of the content of Palestine Authority TV and radio programming, mosque preaching, newspaper articles, and so on. DM Yaalon’s first dishonest and improper transgression was to accuse Jews of firebombing last summer an Arab home in the village of Duma near the Shiloh and `Eli settlements in which three Dawabsha family members died. Certainly, this was a terrible act but it is hardly certain who did it and the evidence for Jewish participation is weak, just some Hebrew grafitti. But Arabs too can write Hebrew and even do Hebrew grafitti. The more likely explanation of the crime is that it was part of a family feud or clan vendetta, a common enough event in Arab society. Indeed, houses were attacked with firebombs in that village both before and after the  one that killed three persons.
Another one of Yaalon’s offenses was to intervene in the case of a soldier who killed an already disabled terrorist in Hebron. This was a violation of army rules for opening fire. However, it should be handled by the military justice system. It would have been one thing for Yaalon to say that such events are regrettable and against orders and the case must be investigated and prosecuted. However, it was wrong of Yaalon to accuse the soldier of murder. There is such a thing as due process, even in the army. 

Deputy Chief of General Staff Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan compared Israeli society  to the Nazis on Holocaust Remembrance Day. This was a direct assault on the government’s policy of fighting, rather than joining, Israel-bashers who deny the right of the Jewish state to exist. And his comrades in the General Staff and in the Left praised him for his appalling behavior. [Caroline Glick, here]

Then there is the late Maj.-Gen. Meir Dagan, the retired director of the Mossad. Last Thursday Channel 2’s investigative news program Uvda broadcast an interview with Dagan, conducted shortly before his death. Dagan told the host Ilana Dayan that in 2010, he committed espionage. Dagan revealed that in 2010, he went behind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s back and informed then-CIA director Leon Panetta that Netanyahu

and then-defense minister Ehud Barak were about to order the security services to attack Iran’s nuclear installations. [Caroline Glick, here]

The US of course does not tolerate insubordination by high ranking officers. We will take up the case of war hero General Douglas MacArthur below. Now back to the NYT’s taste for a putsch in Israel, Ronen Bergman fills out the picture:

In some conversations I’ve had recently with high-ranking officers about Mr. Lieberman’s appointment as defense minister, the possibility of a military coup has been raised — but only with a smile. It remains unlikely.

So Bergman tells the NYT and its readers that the subject of a possible coup has been raised. But it is “unlikely.” It’s cute that the ever so democratic NYT is so interested in hearing about a possible coup in Israel that they publish a piece that transparently and implicitly justifies just that, if not going so far as to advocate a coup. But why is the NYT  pushing a putsch in Israel? The motive is obvious. They want Israel to bend to Washington’s dictates, which under Obama are more blatantly anti-Jewish than under previous presidents. That means Israel surrendering territory to fanatically hate ridden pan-Arabist and Islamist Arabs, obsessed with hatred for the Jews who have stepped out of the humiliated place of the dhimmi as decreed by Islamic law.

The NY Times continues with its buttering up of the army to the detriment of the elected civilian government. A piece by Isabel Kershner [NYT, 29 May 2016] makes ex-Defense Minister Ya`alon look good, democratic, whereas Netanyahu and Lieberman look bigoted and narrow, etc: “the generals . . . have spoken out against manifestations of extremism in the ranks and in broader society,” “shrill segment of the public,” “an aggressive segment of the public.”  The people who are fed up with murder and mass murder efforts are “aggressive,” “shrill,” “extremist,” etc. On the other hand, “Other Israelis want the military to remain a moderating force and a bulwark against extremism.” Are these “Other Israelis” the supposedly good folk who would welcome a military coup against “extremism”?

General Yair Golan, deputy chief of staff, sanctimoniously declaimed on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day:

“if there is one thing that is scary in remembering the Holocaust, it is noticing horrific processes which developed in Europe – particularly in Germany – 70, 80, and 90 years ago, and finding remnants of that here among us in the year 2016.” [here]

This is a Judeophobic accusation. An implicit assertion that the Israeli people are Nazi-like. That is another justification for a coup. After all, he is saying that the people are immoral. Their elected government is perforce immoral. No comment from Golan about the profound Nazi-like hatred of Jews and Israel fostered by the Palestinian Authority, by Hamas, by the press in various Arab countries, and in Western lands where the media habitually misrepresent what happens in Israel as well athe relevant history of Arab-Jewish relations.
The prime minister perceived the threat in Golan’s remarks: “Mr. Netanyahu rebuked General Golan, criticizing his remarks as outrageous, and said, “The I.D.F. is the people’s army and must remain out of political debates.”” [here]
On the other hand:

“While the controversial comments drew fire from many within the nationalist camp, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon defended Golan, arguing that criticism aimed at him was part of a larger “campaign to harm the IDF and its officers politically.”“The responsibilities of an army officer, especially a senior commander, are not limited to leading soldiers out to war, but also include charting out a path and ethical standards with the help of [his] moral compass,” said Yaalon.” [here]

Yaalon is speaking out of what he claims is higher morality. But since Golan’s comparison to Germany in the 1930s was false and ignorant at best, Ya`alon’s defense was also out of place. And the implicit support in his words for insubordination and possibly a putsch was obviously wrong.
Netanyahu properly rebuked Ya`alon:

Netanyahu reportedly called Yaalon, sharply criticizing him for defending Golan’s comments [here]

Looking back to 20th century history, we can see that the USA, both before and after WW2, rather often supported generals who overthrew legitimate governments abroad. In some cases this was justified as opposition to corrupt and tyrannical regimes, as in Egypt in 1952 and Iran/Persia in 1979. The problem is that corrupt and tyrannical regimes have often enough been replaced by regimes that were even worse by every measure. As in Egypt and Iran (Persia). Ask yourself if the present Islamic fanatic Khomeini regime of the ayatollahs in Iran now is any better than the Shah’s regime that it replaced, with the aid of the Carter Administration. Or is it even worse?

In any event, the powers that be in the United States do not like insubordinate generals who dispute the civilian leadership openly.

Douglas MacArthur was a hero in both world wars, I & II. He was the commander of American forces in the Korean War, starting in 1950. His brilliant Inchon landing behind North Korean Communist troops opened the way for American and allied forces to reach the Yalu River between North Korea and China. After China entered the war in late 1950, MacArthur

“wished to bomb Chinese bases in Manchuria and was prepared to risk a full-scale war with communist China. President Truman sought to hold him in check but MacArthur made public his advocacy of carrying the war into China. This defiance of official government policy led the President peremptorily to relieve him of his commands on 11 April 1952.” [Alan Palmer, The Penguin Dictionary of Twentieth Century History (New York: Penguin 1979), p242]

“When President Truman would not agree to his plan for an attack upon  Communist China, MacArthur made his opinions public and Truman responded by relieving the General of his command. . . . his action represented a challenge to civilian authority which the President did not hesitate to meet.” [Walter Laqueur et al., A Dictionary of Politics (rev ed; New York: The Free Press 1974), p307]

So we see that MacArthur openly defied the president of the time and his policy. He was insubordinate and was dismissed. The US government does not tolerate defiance of its policy by its own generals. But somehow such insubordination is OK when practiced against other governments and may even be encouraged by US government mouthpieces like the New York Times.

Eliyahu mTsiyon

Beyond The Matrix – Making It Through Tough Times Through Torah [audio]

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

Rod and Ira examine how to deal with the obstacles and difficulties in your life according to the principles of Torah.

Beyond The Matrix 17May2016 – PODCAST

Israel News Talk Radio

Pesach’s Message for Modern Times

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

It’s the festival we have all grown to know and love. Some say Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur are the pinnacle holidays, but I believe Pesach truly defines us.

Pesach is about the Jews’ plight to freedom from the clutches of Pharaoh and the Egyptians. The story is famous, but not just amongst ourselves. It was that moment in history that we unified as a people and walked towards the acceptance of the Torah and its laws.

Throughout the ages, persecution has been a recurring theme for our religion. Be it expulsion, pogroms, holocausts or mass-murder, new faces have risen to direct hatred toward us. Many have tried to rid the world of each and every one of us, but not once have they managed to succeed.

When I sat down for this year’s seder, surrounded by family, we discussed the story in detail. We spoke about our forefathers; the inhumane work they were forced to do, the murder of newborn babies and the heinous attacks they received. Yet, putting things into a modern-day perspective, we could have been reviewing the events of the past century.

Times may have changed, yet the oppression continues on.

Admittedly, there are some stories through our history that are difficult to envisage. For instance, the flood that destroyed the world besides for Noah and his children; it’s easy to understand the concept, but to imagine it actually taking place is hard. Or the idea that Lott’s wife, after turning around to watch the destruction of their city, changed into a pillar of salt. However, I don’t think anyone can deny how simple it is to comprehend the grief our ancestors had for hundreds of years. It’s relatable because it’s repeated so frequently.

The struggle faced in Egypt became the past. It may have happened millenniums ago but the message of endurance is still applicable. We are not in slavery but symbolically, we are bound together through a different type of chains.

So what should we understand that we can take into our lives in the 21st century?

When the tribes first went down to Egypt, Yosef was an important figure. His father and brothers settled comfortably and started to adapt to their changed surroundings. Food and water were in abundance in contrast to what they had just come from. Easily, their trust grew in this new country and its leader because their means and day-to-day existence became better and more relaxed.

Generation after generation continued to settle there, steadfast in the knowledge that they were welcomed like royalty decades before. Over time, Yosef and his brothers passed away, leaving behind their grandchildren and great-grandchildren in a land that was never going to be their real home.

A new king rose to power, decidedly ignorant to why the Jews deserved any right to be treated well. They became complacent and thought that this is where they belonged. Little did they know what trauma was awaiting them in the future.

This is the original story of our survival. The reason why this tale is so famous is because it shows that G-d is always there, forever in the background, no matter how cloudy it may seem.

If you changed the details to concentration camps, Nazis and Europe, surely the resemblance is more than apparent?

It doesn’t matter what they dress up as or what they’re called, the original Pharaoh and his henchmen are still here. The Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and Nazis have all been defeated, but this story remains the essence of our identity because it serves as a harrowing reminder.

I used to think to myself; why is the constant theme of seder night Leshana Haba’ah Benai Chorin (Next year we hope to be free) or Leshana Haba’ah B’Yerushalyim (Next year we hope to be in Jerusalem). Surely, with our passports and technology, we are finally have our freedom?

I’ve grown to realize that the message of the Pesach story is in actual fact a warning against this feeling. When we start to feel accepted, that is when we should be worried. Our trials and tribulations strengthen our faith and unity. We are our strongest when we are united, and we are never more united than when we feel pain. We are not free, we never will be.

One day, eagle’s wings will approach, and with that, our redemption will at last be final.

Selena Myers

Beginning The Journey

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

A while back, a British newspaper, The Times, interviewed a prominent member of the Jewish community (let’s call him Lord X) on his 92nd birthday. The interviewer said, “Most people, when they reach their 92nd birthday, start thinking about slowing down. You seem to be speeding up. Why is that?”

Lord X replied, “When you get to 92, you start seeing the door begin to close, and I have so much to do before the door closes that the older I get, the harder I have to work.”

Something like that is the impression we get of Abraham in this week’s parshah. Sarah, his constant companion throughout their journeys, has died. He is 137 years old. We see him mourn Sarah’s death, and then he moves into action.

He engages in an elaborate negotiation to buy a plot of land in which to bury her. As the narrative makes clear, this is not a simple task. He confesses to the locals, the Hittites, that he is “an immigrant and a resident among you,” meaning that he knows he has no right to buy land. It will take a special concession on their part for him to do so. The Hittites politely but firmly try to discourage him. He has no need to buy a burial plot. “No one among us will deny you his burial site to bury your dead.” He can bury Sarah in someone else’s graveyard. Equally politely but no less insistently, Abraham makes it clear that he is determined to buy land. In the event, he pays a highly inflated price (400 silver shekels) to do so.

The purchase of the Cave of Machpelah is evidently a highly significant event because it is recorded in great detail and highly legal terminology – not just here but three times subsequently in Genesis, each time with the same formality. For instance, here is Jacob on his deathbed, speaking to his sons:

“Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite, the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre in Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite. There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried, there Isaac and his wife Rebecca were buried, and there I buried Leah. The field and the cave in it were bought from the Hittites” (Genesis 49:29-32).

Something significant is being hinted at here; otherwise why mention, each time, exactly where the field is and from whom Abraham bought it?

Immediately after the story of land purchase, we read, “Abraham was old, well advanced in years, and God had blessed Abraham with everything.” Again this sounds like the end of a life, not a preface to a new course of action, and again our expectation is confounded. Abraham launches into a new initiative, this time to find a suitable wife for his son Isaac, who by now is at least 37 years old. Abraham leaves nothing to chance. He does not speak to Isaac himself but to his most trusted servant, who he instructs to go “to my native land, to my birthplace” to find the appropriate woman. He wants Isaac to have a wife who will share his faith and way of life. Abraham does not specify that she should come from his own family, but this seems to be an assumption hovering in the background.

As with the purchase of the field, so here the course of events is described in more detail than almost anywhere else in the Torah. Every conversational exchange is recorded. The contrast with the story of the binding of Isaac could not be greater. There, almost everything – Abraham’s thoughts, Isaac’s feelings – is left unsaid. Here, everything is said. Again, the literary style calls our attention to the significance of what is happening, without telling us precisely what it is.

The explanation is simple and unexpected. Throughout the story of Abraham and Sarah, God had promised them two things: children and a land. The promise of the land (“Rise, walk in the land throughout its length and breadth, for I will give it to you”) is repeated no less than seven times. The promise of children occurs four times. Abraham’s descendants will be “a great nation,” as many as “the dust of the earth” and “the stars in the sky.” He will be the father not of one nation but of many.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

NYT Upset at Bibi – but They Won’t Say the Real Reason Why

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

The New York Times is not happy with Bibi:

Mr. Netanyahu has legitimate reasons to be wary of any Iranian overtures, as do the United States and the four other major powers involved in negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. But it could be disastrous if Mr. Netanyahu and his supporters in Congress were so blinded by distrust of Iran that they exaggerate the threat, block President Obama from taking advantage of new diplomatic openings and sabotage the best chance to establish a new relationship since the 1979 Iranian revolution sent American-Iranian relations into the deep freeze.

Even though the Times admits that pretty much every fact Netanyahu brought up is accurate!

Mr. Rouhani and the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, have insisted repeatedly that Iran wants only to develop nuclear energy and that obtaining a nuclear weapon would harm the country’s security.

Even so, Iran hid its nuclear program from United Nations inspectors for nearly 20 years, and the country is enriching uranium to a level that would make it possible to produce bomb-grade nuclear material more quickly. It has also pursued other activities, like developing high-voltage detonators and building missiles that experts believe could only have nuclear weapons-related uses.

These facts make it hard not to view the upcoming American-brokered negotiations skeptically. But Mr. Netanyahu has hinted so often of taking military action to keep Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon that he seems eager for a fight.

Actually, the main thrust of Bibi’s speech was to not to start a war, but a warning against loosening sanctions in exchange for smiles and empty promises:

I have argued for many years, including on this podium, that the only way to peacefully prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons is to combine tough sanctions with a credible military threat. And that policy is today bearing fruit. Thanks to the effort of many countries, many represented here, and under the leadership of the United States, tough sanctions have taken a big bite out of Iran’s economy. Oil revenues have fallen. The currency has plummeted. Banks are hard pressed to transfer money. So as a result, the regime is under intense pressure from the Iranian people to get the sanctions removed. That’s why Rouhani got elected in the first place. That’s why he launched his charm offensive. He definitely wants to get the sanctions lifted, I guarantee you that, but he doesn’t want to give up Iran’s nuclear weapons program in return.

Now, here’s the strategy to achieve this:

First, smile a lot. Smiling never hurts. Second, pay lip service to peace, democracy and tolerance. Third, offer meaningless concessions in exchange for lifting sanctions. And fourth, and the most important, ensure that Iran retains sufficient nuclear material and sufficient nuclear infrastructure to race to the bomb at a time that it chooses to do so. You know why Rouhani thinks he can get away with this?…Because he’s gotten away with it before. 

The NYT cannot find any holes in Netanyahu’s logic. It cannot find any concrete concession that Rouhani is offering. Yet, against all known facts, it still insists that Rouhani is the moderate who must be given concessions to, and Bibi is the warmonger.

There is nothing wrong with speaking to and negotiating with Iran, but there is a great deal wrong with loosening sanctions in response to a smile.

So if the Times cannot find anything actually wrong with Bibi’s words, why are they so upset at him? The reason seems to be because he called them out for doing the exact same thing with North Korea:

Like Iran, North Korea also said its nuclear program was for peaceful purposes. Like Iran, North Korea also offered meaningless concessions and empty promises in return for sanctions relief. In 2005, North Korea agreed to a deal that was celebrated the world over by many well-meaning people. Here is what the New York Times editorial had to say about it: “For years now, foreign policy insiders have pointed to North Korea as the ultimate nightmare… a closed, hostile and paranoid dictatorship with an aggressive nuclear weapons program.

Very few could envision a successful outcome.

And yet North Korea agreed in principle this week to dismantle its nuclear weapons program, return to the NPT, abide by the treaty’s safeguards and admit international inspectors….Diplomacy, it seems, does work after all.”

A year later, North Korea exploded its first nuclear weapons device.

That’s the real reason the “Paper of Record” is so miffed – because Bibi mentioned its record of believing dictators on the threshold of nuclear weapons capability.

The truth hurts, so the NYT – instead of admitting its very real role in pressuring Washington to believe North Korea’s empty promises – is lashing out at the person who pointed it out.

This is behavior one would expect from a teenager who was caught in a lie, not from a newspaper whose entire reputation is dependent on accuracy.

The NYT’s choosing to ignore that part of Bibi’s speech explains a great deal about its nonsensical editorial that is at odds with facts.

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Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/elder-of-ziyon/nyt-upset-at-bibi-but-they-wont-say-the-real-reason-why/2013/10/02/

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