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January 28, 2015 / 8 Shevat, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘United Kingdom’

From the US to the UK, the Left Delegitimizes any Criticism

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

How does the political left win so many arguments? More than any other cause, it seems to be that the political right ends up time and again fighting on terrain which has been set out for them to lose on. Take two recent examples, one from the U.S. and one from the U.K.

In the U.S. last week Sandra Fluke addressed the Democratic Party’s convention. Ms. Fluke, it will be remembered, came to fame earlier this year when Rush Limbaugh criticized her congressional testimony. Ms. Fluke had appeared before the hearing to argue over whether she should pay for her birth control – as a student in her thirties – or whether someone else should pay for it. Being criticised by Limbaugh gave her a certain fame; by the time she stood in front of the Democratic party last week she was able to portray her opponents as not merely opposed to her, but opposed to women as a whole. Indeed worse.

The mandatory references to the idiotically wrong remarks about rape made by GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin were used to suggest that the GOP was actually a pro-rape party. Indeed in Fluke’s version it is even worse than that: according to her, the GOP rapes women twice over, seeking to deny them most, if not all, basic rights.

So Fluke’s stand became not over who should pick up the bill for her birth control, but what must be done to keep the Republican party from power. She was cheered to the Democratic party’s rafters for explaining how the Republicans “shut out” and “silence” women, whereas the Democratic party gives them microphones. She had “spoke[n] out,” she said, and suggested that this November “each of us must speak out” by voting for Obama.

It is true that almost any battle between two conflicting political ideologies can be made easier if you can frame the disagreement between you and your opponents as the difference between people who are in favour of rape and those opposed to it. If you do it fulsomely enough, you can even assume the wonderful aura of sanctimony Fluke did as she presented the political divide in this way. But whether originating from left or right, this is the shoddiest way to go about things. The right in America, however, is set on the run by this. So instead of it being the Democratic party which has to answer questions about why anybody but Ms. Fluke should pay for her birth control, or why a serious political party would put her on stage at their convention, the question remains whether Republicans are secretly or not so secretly in favour of rape.

This summer the U.K. saw a similar manoeuvre thanks to one of the most popular victories that the left could hope to achieve. Since the post-war Labour government, one of the main battle-grounds of British politics has been, as with America, the fight between Big State and Small State. For the British left this has been epitomized by not just gratitude for, but a kind of veneration of, the National Health Service (NHS). It doesn’t matter how many times you get bad treatment on the NHS, how many times the service fails you, or how many people you know die from avoidable infections in its hospitals – the British left will continue to tell you that the NHS is “the envy of the world.” It certainly is the envy of the third world, but there are few people from other first world countries who envy the NHS when they experience it. There are many criticisms to be made of the NHS, despite some of the excellent people who work in it. But those criticisms and the necessary corrections can never be performed as long as it is made not into a publicly-funded institution but a religion.

Knowing this, the political left continues to interpret any criticism of the NHS as tantamount to baby-killing: an expression of an obvious desire to see as many people die on the streets as possible. And this summer they got one of their best advertisements for the idea.

In the opening ceremony of the Olympics, directed by the movie director Danny Boyle, the NHS was not simply praised, it was worshipped, albeit in a strange nineteenth century version. Actual nurses played fake nurses in Victorian nursing costumes. There were no slovenly orderlies or people who had never paid into the system pushing their way in the waiting lists past those who had. What there was, instead, were these Mary Poppins-like figures smoothing down the bed-sheets of delighted, happy children.

EU Surge in Aid to PA Despite Economic Crisis

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

Despite a dire economic crisis throughout Europe, the European Parliament (EP) has just decided to increase the budget for aid given to the Palestinian Authority (PA) by €100 million – a 30 percent increase over previous years.

Prior to the budget increase, aid from the EU to the PA stood at about €500 million a year, according to Jordan’s Ma’an News Agency.  The European Union budget for 2012 was set at €129.1 billion.

Just five days later, PA President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal hailed a new Palestinian “partnership” after talks in Cairo to implement reconciliation between the two factions.

“We want to reassure our people and the Arab and Islamic world that we have turned a major new and real page in partnership on all things do to with the Palestinian nation,” Mashaal said.   “There are no more differences between us now,” Abbas added. “We have agreed to work as partnership with shared responsibility.”  A major feud between Hamas and Fatah erupted in 2007, after Hamas violently overthrew the Fatah government in Gaza and established control, sweeping local elections.

The EU is the single largest financer of the PA.  It has formally provided aid to the Palestinians since 1971, when the European Community began funding the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), and organization which was originally established to assist displaced persons “whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948, and 1967 conflicts”.   Between 1994 – the year of the signing of the Oslo Accords – and 2009, the EU has donated €4.26 billion to the Palestinian Authority.

The United Kingdom’s share in the increase in funding to the PA will be just under €150 million over 3 years, according to Ma’an.

New Message To Iran

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

The muted reaction from Tehran to the mysterious explosion at an Iranian missile base over the weekend that killed 17, including a key figure in Iran’s missile program, strongly suggests that Iran’s continuing bellicosity regarding possible Israeli or international military action or sanctions is just so much empty bravado.

If the Iranians were in a position to wreak the sort of havoc they constantly promise in retaliation for an attack on its nuclear facilities, surely they would have made a bigger deal over this explosion. In any event, it would seem we are approaching a flash point with respect to Iran and its nuclear ambitions.

It is hard to know for sure whether the current international drumbeat concerning possible military action against Iran means military action is imminent or that what is in play is an elaborate plan to secure stronger UN sanctions by offering Russia and China  a non-military alternative to thwart Iranian nuclear plans. In any event, it seems clear that ensuring a non-nuclear Iran is high on the international agenda.

The newly released report of the UN’s watchdog nuclear agency, the IAEA, demonstrates that Iran is on the cusp of becoming a nuclear power. Israeli president Shimon Peres has darkly warned that Israel is close to seeking a military solution to the prospect of a nuclear Iran. Prime Minister Netanyahu has told the press that Iran is the greatest security threat to the Jewish state and he has been reportedly seeking authorization from his cabinet for a preemptive strike against Iran. Israeli military spokesmen are quoted as detailing new long-range bombers and enhanced missile capabilities. And there is much more.

Senior U.S. officials are quoted as saying Iran is the greatest threat to American security interests around the world. There are reports that the United Kingdom is gearing up for possible military action against Iran. Reports abound as to how several Arabs states are quietly signaling their support for an Israeli attack against Iran.

And the piece de resistance is the announcement by the Pentagon last week that the U.S. and Israel will soon be conducting the largest-ever joint military maneuvers.

What is clear is that the message to Iran is that at long last most of the world is no longer kidding around and that Israel is not standing alone against the mullahs’ nuclear aspirations.

Singing God’s Praises: An Interview With Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

There are dozens of English-translated siddurim on bookshelves these days. Surely, you may think, we don’t need another one. But before you make up your mind, consider that the new one that has just come out is translated by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of the United Kingdom. Rabbi Sacks, who also wrote a commentary and introduction, has been a consistently brilliant source of insight into Jewish philosophy, Chumash, and other topics.

The new Koren Sacks Siddur features the chief rabbi’s signature style of sharing with the reader a compelling and intelligent perspective – in this case, obviously, on the siddur and the Jewish idea of prayer. For example, most readers (the siddur is geared to a modern Orthodox audience) may already know that prayer and the ancient service in the Beit Hamikdash are strongly linked. However, how many would make the simple but completely original argument that “sacrifice could not be less like prayer” because one was historically quite spontaneous and varied and the other rule-heavy?

One of the main points that Rabbi Sacks emphasizes, in both the translation and the commentary, is the infrequently-mentioned doctrine of prayer as song. Perhaps one of the best examples of this is in the end-of-mussaf prayer “Anim Zemiros,” where Rabbi Sacks translates the rhyming couplets as rhyming couplets in English as well.

The Jewish Press recently sat down with Rabbi Sacks to speak about what his siddur can accomplish, what he hopes to write next, and how his words sing.

The Jewish Press: Why do we need another English-translated siddur?

Rabbi Sacks: One of my beliefs about prayer is that the text should stay the same, but the melodies should change with every generation. Every generation needs language that speaks to it, to have a commentary that inspires it.

This is what we’ve set out to do with the Koren Sacks Siddur: to create a new translation that lets the words breathe a little, lilt a little, cascade a little, sing for this generation. And to add an introduction and commentary that do what no other siddur I have ever found adequately does – address important questions: What is prayer? What is it to pray? What is the journey of prayer? In the Koren Sacks Siddur, we’ve created a new translation to make prayer accessible and meaningful to this generation and the next.

Can one siddur do all this?

Not in and of itself. This Koren Sacks Siddur is part of a larger project including music, video, a website. For the siddur that I worked on in England, we made a CD with new liturgical music. I gave it to people who said it changed the whole way in which they pray. The Koren Sacks Siddur is the core of the project, the foundation.

How long did you work on the siddur?

I worked on the Koren Sacks Siddur for three years. It came about through a bit of serendipity. Koren Publishers’s CEO, Matthew Miller, read the British one, and asked me to work on an American version. (The American nusach is very different from the British: England follows Central European traditions; America follows Eastern European traditions.) I worked with Koren closely and beautifully. It was, and continues to be, a very happy marriage. And it was a pleasure – it’s a lot of fun to work with perfectionists.

The layout is very distinct. The Koren Sacks Siddur is the most beautiful siddur I’ve ever seen. The typography is gorgeous. Sometimes prayer is poetry and sometimes it’s prose. In this siddur, the prose reads like prose, and the poetry reads like poetry. The layout produces the subliminal effect of allowing you to feel the music of prayer. Prayer at its height is song. Prayer is a three-movement symphony.

As opposed to other translated siddurim, the Hebrew in this siddur is on the left-hand rather than the right-hand page.

Yes. You get used to it to right away. And it really works. Having the Hebrew on the left and the English on the right enables you to move seamlessly between the two languages and allows the page, and you, to breathe.

You’ve also added some customs for women.

Way back in history, women didn’t come to shul. The Altneu Shul in Prague, for example, was built without a women’s gallery. But times are different and the siddur needs to reflect this. So we included the feminine form of the prayer Modeh Ani and a Zeved Habas prayer upon the birth of a daughter and other things. It’s amazing that none of this was done before.

Are you planning any more translations of classical works?

Next in line is the Koren Chumash (a companion to the Koren Sacks Siddur), and with long life, Koren Machzorim. Koren also is bringing out a Kinnos Tisha B’Av.

You have many duties, and yet you’ve still published a dozen or so books. Where do you find the time?

I have a wonderful wife and a wonderful office. And I write the books in the summers instead of taking time off. My next book, Future Tense: A Vision for Jews and Judaism in the Global Culture, will be out soon.

Many readers do not necessarily consider rabbis to be graceful prose stylists…

Words sing. God created the material world with words. And we create social worlds with words, and, rachmana litzlan, we can destroy social worlds with words. That’s why Chazal were very careful about lashon hara and insisted on lashon nekiyah.

Nobody has ever made words of song in praise of God like Moshe in Devarim, Dovid in Tehillim, Yeshaya, like the books of Tanach. And Jewish prayer sings – something I hope I’ve brought out in this siddur.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles//2009/06/03/

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