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August 29, 2016 / 25 Av, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘yisrael’

Felix Bonfils’s Photographs Of Eretz Yisrael

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016

Travelogues and other reports written in the second half of the 19th century, most famously Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad, establish the presence of thriving Jewish communities throughout Eretz Yisrael, particularly in Jerusalem. See, for example, my Jewish Press article “Mark Twain, Eretz Yisrael, and the Jews (June 18, 2015) for a full discussion on this subject.

Charles Wilson, the leader of the 1865 Ordnance Survey of Jerusalem, reported that some 9,000 Jews lived in the city and, according to William Seward, who served as secretary of state under President Abraham Lincoln and visited Eretz Yisrael in 1871, Jews made up half of Jerusalem’s population of 16,000.

Starting in the mid-1800s, steamship travel opened up the Middle East to explorers, missionaries, travelers, and – most significantly for our purposes here –photographers.

If a picture is indeed worth a thousand words, these path-breaking photographers produced images that exhibited the breadth of Jewish life in Eretz Yisrael perhaps better than any travelogue or written or oral account could. The photographic subjects included not only ancient Jewish populations in Jerusalem and other biblical cities, but also Jewish pioneers who were, even then, developing the land and building new Jewish settlements in the Galilee and along the Mediterranean coast. They also included photographs of important Jewish religious and historical sites, such as the Kotel Hamaaravi (the Western Wall), Kever Rachel (Rachel’s Tomb), and Migdal David (David’s Tower).

Felix Bonfils (1831-1885) was essentially unknown to the world until October 1971, when a group of students opposed to the war in Vietnam blew up a military research institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which resulted in the exposure of a long-forgotten attic in the adjacent Semitic Museum. Staff found boxes filled with 28,000 photos from the Levant, including more than 800 photos with the signature of “Bonfils.”

Bonfils’s photographs, which constitute important historical records of people, places, and buildings in the Middle East, are considered comparable in beauty and documentary value to the work of archaeologists. He took photographs in Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Greece, and Turkey, but it is his prints of Eretz Yisrael that provide particularly valuable information to us about the land and people there toward the end of the nineteenth century. As he reported to the French Photographic Society in 1871, after his arrival in Beirut (1867), he had produced “15,000 prints and 9,000 stereoscopic views, principally pictures of Jerusalem and various panoramas.”

Bonfils deliberately selected his subjects in order to preserve a vast range of information for geographical, ethnographic, biblical, archeological, architectural, and historical studies. His work was particularly important in that it spanned many decades and encompassed the period when momentous changes were underway that would forever alter Middle Eastern landscapes and ways of life. As a result, he was able to record scenes that had remained unchanged for millennia and provide an important contrast reflecting advances in technology and changes in social values and traditions, and his work formed the most comprehensive visual anthologies of Near Eastern material and culture at the time.

I believe it is essential to point out that notwithstanding the phenomenal scope of this remarkable material, not a single one of Bonfils’s photographs depicted a “Palestinian” from whom Zionists and other Jews are supposed to have taken land pursuant to “occupation.” But I will leave a fuller discussion of that issue for another day.

Exhibited with this column are three of Bonfils’s most famous photographs. All are original vintage albumen prints on a thin sheet of paper with sepia color and slightly glossy surface, signed in the negative by Bonfils. The composition, mood, and lighting all suggest very ancient, historic, and holy landscapes.

Singer-081916-Tree

This is a print of Kever Rachel in which Bonfils has captured the main road between Jerusalem and Bethlehem (the man and donkey are on this road); the domed building that was built over Rachel’s tomb; the old tree that has been at the site for hundreds of years; and, in the background, the village of Beit Jalla.

 

Singer-081916-Outside

This print of Migdal David, which Bonfils titled Forteresse près de la porte de Jaffa à Jérusalem (see inscription at lower right), shows wooden shacks, animals, carts, and general trade outside the Jaffa Gate and the stone wall around Jerusalem.

Singer-081916-Wall

This is among the most famous and well-recognized photographs of the Kotel. Like virtually all the photographs taken by Bonfils and others at the time, they were shot from ground level and therefore do not show the very tiny area within which Jews were permitted to pray at this sole surviving remnant of the Beit HaMikdash.

Bonfils, among the first European photographers to settle in the Middle East, established a studio in Lebanon in 1867. It became one of the most prolific commercial photographic studios of its time. While there were some 200 photographers in the Middle East during this period who shot and marketed photos, some quite good, few could match the breadth and quality of Bonfils’s work. As Gratien Charvet, founder of the Societe Saentifique et Litteraire, wrote in the introduction to Souvenirs d’Orient, Bonfils’ 1878 collection:

“The collection of photographs of the Orient’s principal sites, initiated, executed and completed by Monsieur F. Bonfils with unequaled perseverance, should be regarded as one of the most considerable achievements – picturesque, artistic and scientific – of our epoch.”

Bonfils made his negatives on glass plates, coated with a silver nitrate solution that had to be prepared on the spot – usually in a tent out of the Middle Eastern sun – and they were immediately exposed and developed; the actual prints were usually made later. Only 18 glass negatives are known to have survived; the rest were washed clean to make fresh negatives, or lost in troubled Beirut, or purposely smashed to provide lens makers with fresh “ground glass” during a shortage.

Saul Jay Singer

Redeeming Relevance: Parshat Pinchas: Midian, Moab and Yisrael

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

In light of Midian’s centrality in the Ba’al Peor story and its aftermath in this week’s parsha, it pays to remember the unusual place this nation has in the formative experiences of the Jewish people. The odyssey begins a generation earlier with Moshe’s sojourn in Midian, when he is taken in by Yitro and offered the latter’s daughter in marriage. Marriage to a foreign noblewoman in a foreign land is not unique to Moshe; it parallels Yosef’s experience in Egypt. But neither is it common. In fact, given that the idea of keeping marriage “within the family” is stressed by both Avraham and Yitzchak, marriage with a foreigner is usually far from the ideal.

It is important to stress that Moshe’s marriage was not a generic one. The choice of a specifically Midianite bride should draw our attention even more once we see that God singles out this nation for Israelite enmity (Bemidbar 25:16–18). If Moshe marries into such a nation, it can hardly be accidental.

In trying to better understand Moshe’s connection with Midian, we will need to draw a wider circle and examine Midian’s alliance with the equally reprehensible Moav. It is really much more than an alliance that Midian and Moav share: just as a Midianite woman was the source of both blessing (Tzipporah) and curse (Cozbi) for the Jewish people, the story of Ruth would show the same to be true of Moav (whose women brought on the debacle with Ba’al Peor) as well. Such a link to the Jews is uncommon among most nations. Accordingly, the fact that it was specifically Midianite and Moabite women who were involved with Jewish men shows that an existential bond existed between these nations and Israel. There was an attraction which likely went beyond the physical. The Jews sensed the potential for greatness that both Midianite and Moabite women carried. And that potential was actualized in Tzipporah and Ruth.

We have discussed the positive side of Midian and Moav. But what about the bitter enmity they show the children of Israel? Understanding the former might actually give us insight into the latter. For one, the relationship of the Jewish nation to Midian and Moav shows that these two nations are capable of more greatness than other nations. Yitro and Tzipporah are not just gentiles, they are Midianite gentiles, and Ruth is specifically a Moabitess. The awareness of such potential could frighten and ultimately threaten these two nations. That Ruth can come from Moav, for example, means that – at least theoretically – others like her could come out of that nation as well. Once that is possible, then to fall short is a failure which Moav would prefer not to confront.

Instead of dealing with the potential, these nations may well have preferred to make it irrelevant. Given that the source of the discomfort is ultimately the Jews and what they represent, one way to eliminate that discomfort is to eliminate the Jews. Such has been echoed only too often by those who fault the Jewish nation for holding up mankind to an “unreasonable” standard.

Lest we think this is only a Midianite or a Moabite issue, we need to realize that we all feel threatened by our potential. It is daunting to know how much better we really can be. And who has more potential than the descendants of Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’akov? Hence we must sure to accept our potential even if we are not always prepared to meet it. At the very least, let it serve us a positive reminder of who we actually are. For our potential is our self.

Rabbi Francis Nataf

Rabbi Yisrael Rosen: No More Ethiopian Immigrants

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

Orthodox Israeli Rabbi Yisrael Rosen, founder of and judge in the conversions office of the Chief Rabbinate, director of the Zomet Institute for the interface of halakhah and technology, and the editor-in-chief of the annual halakhic journal Techumin, is calling on government to refuse to bring to Israel yet another group of 9,000 Falash Mura from Ethiopia.

Writing in the website Srugim, Rosen says he’ll never forget the assembly of Beita Israel in a shack that served as synagogue in the middle of a forest in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He was visiting there in the late 1990s, as head of the conversions office, and now recalls that for the rank and file members, prayer constituted only one word: Urshalim (Jerusalem). That, according to Rosen, was an effort to bring home thousands of real Jews, who have since been integrated with varying degrees of success. But those Ethiopian Jews have little in common with the Ethiopians waiting to reach Israel these days.

The reason for the new wave of immigrations has little to do with the plight of Jews, according to Rosen, and much to do with Likud MK Avraham Neguise, an Ethiopian Jew, who, together with his comrade in arms MK David Amsalem, managed to squeeze out of Prime Minister Netanyahu a promise to fly in those 9,000 non-Jewish Falash Mura, in exchange for their voting with the coalition again. Herding 61 cats in his one-vote majority government, Netanyahu has had to do without those Neguise-Amsalem votes, which lost him several key bills during the winter session. Which is why the PM has pursued with such vigor his new coalition partner, Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu).

And each time MK Neguise, or foreign governments, or righteous lobbyists ask for another quota of Ethiopian immigrants who are Christian, not Jewish, they promise this is the last time. As in these 9,000 Falash Mura — it’s the last time.

Except that every time 9,000 Ethiopians board the planes out of Addis Ababa to Israel, 20,000 more take their place in the relocations camps. And Rabbi Rosen believes there are already more non-Jewish than Jewish Ethiopians in Israel. And more will keep coming.

The Falash Mura were unknown until Operation Solomon in 1991, when a number of them attempted to board the Israeli planes and were turned away. The Falash Mura said they were entitled to immigrate because they were Jews by ancestry, but the Israeli officials there saw them as non-Jews, since most had never practiced Judaism and were not considered by the Beta Israel as part of the community. In fact, even today, many in the Israeli Ethiopian community object to MK Neguise’s shenanigans.

Back in the 1990s, the North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry (NACOEJ) provided aid to the Falash Mura in Addis who had been left behind during Operation Solomon. Except that when all this food and medical care became available, more Falash Mura left their villages for Addis Ababa and overwhelmed the NACOEJ. The Joint Distribution Committee agreed to provide additional assistance on a humanitarian basis, without recognizing the Falash Mura as Jews who are entitled to immigrate to Israel.

A committee headed by Absorption Minister Yair Tsaban decided the Falash Mura should not be allowed to enter Israel under the Law of Return, but recommended that those refugees who were already in Addis Ababa would be allowed to come in on humanitarian grounds. But the humanitarian gesture only invited more Falash Mura to arrive with expectations of one-way tickets to the holy land. Israel estimated that fewer than 10,000 Falash Mura would be seeking immigration, but the number ballooned to more than 30,000, conditions in the relocation camps worsened, and Israel was embarrassed into taking many of them in.

JNi.Media

Thank G-d for Medinat Yisrael!

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

People occasionally ask, “Where is it written in the Torah that we have to build a State?” Apparently, they are not familiar with the words of the giant Torah authority, the Ramban, who repeatedly stated that we are commanded that the Land of Israel be in our hands, and not in the hands of any other nation:

“We were commanded to inherit this Land which Hashem, Blessed Be He, gave to our Forefathers, to Avraham, Yitzhak, and Yaacov, and not to abandon it to the hands of other nations, or abandon it to desolation. Hashem said to them, ‘To inherit the Land and dwell there, for to you I have given the Land to possess, and you shall inherit the Land that I swore to your Forefathers’ – behold, we are commanded with its conquest in every generation (Ramban, Supplement to Sefer HaMitzvot of the Rambam, Positive Commandment 4).

The Ramban continues:

“This is what our Sages call ‘Milchemet Mitzvah,’ an obligatory war. This Land is not to be left in the hands of the Seven Nations, or in the hands of any other nation, in any generation whatsoever…this is a positive commandment which applies at every time” (Ramban, ibid).

The Ramban concludes:

“And the proof that this is a Torah commandment is this – they were told in the matter of the Spies, ‘Go up and conquer the Land as Hashem has said to you. Don’t fear, and don’t be discouraged.’ And further it says, ‘And when Hashem sent you from Kadesh Barnea saying, Go up and possess the Land which I gave you, and you rebelled against

Hashem your G-d, and you did not believe in Me, and did not listen to this command’” (Ibid).

All of the early and later Torah authorities, the Rishonim and Achronim, decide the law in this fashion on the basis of the Ramban that the precept of conquering the Land applies in all generations, and all of them agree that it is a commandment of the Torah (Shuchan Oruch, Pitchei T’shuva , Even HaEzer, 75:6).

Sovereignty over a country means having an army, a government, a justice system, an economic system, etc. By commanding us to rule over the Land of Israel, the Torah commands us to establish a State. Rabbi Kook emphasized that whether sovereignty is brought about by a prime minister, a prophet, a judge, or a king, it is valid Jewish sovereignty when it comes on behalf of Clal Yisrael, the encompassing congregation of Israel. (Mishpat Kohen, 337).

Thus, the State of Israel is a commandment of the Torah. Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook emphasized that, “The intrinsic value of the State is not dependent on the number of observant Jews here. Of course, our aspiration is that all of our people will embrace the Torah and the mitzvot. Nonetheless, the Statehood of Israel is holy, whatever religious level it contains.”

“There are religious Jews who express a type of criticism and say, ‘If the State of Israel were run according to our lifestyle and spirit, then we would accept it. Until then, we abstain from it.’ They talk as if the State does not belong to them. But the truth is that the State belongs to all of us.”

Rabbi Kook asserted that anyone who refuses to recognize the State of Israel does not recognize Hashem’s rule over what takes place in the world. If the Master of the Universe decided to bring the Jewish People back to the Land of Israel via the vehicle of the State of Israel, who are we to complain or disagree?

Rabbi Kook said that we had to be patient, that Redemption came slowly in gradual stages, little by little (Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot 1:1), and that it would reach perfection with time.

“In the Talmud, our Sages explain that all of the material used in building the Temple became sanctified only after it was set into place. We build with the profane and sanctify afterward (Meilah 14A and B, see Rashi there). This was enacted because our Sages realized that during the construction, workers would sit in the shade of the building to rest from the sun, and thus improperly derive personal benefit from something which had been exclusively dedicated for the use of the Temple. The Beit HaMikdash was built in this fashion, and this is the way the Redemption of Israel develops, in stages, little by little. Just as the stones used in building the Temple were not sanctified at first, so, too, the building of Eretz Yisrael is accomplished by every segment of the Nation, by the righteous and by the less righteous. We build with the secular, even though this causes complications and problems, and little by little all of the various problems will vanish, and the sanctification of Hashem will appear in more and more light.”

As we say in Israel, “Savlenut,” Patience, my friends. Patience.

Happy Yom HaAtzmaut!

Tzvi Fishman

Aliyah and Keeping Young with Yisrael

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

As an education writer for the nonprofit organization, Kars4Kids, and as someone who made Aliyah from Pittsburgh 34 years ago, I decided to write about the challenges of Aliyah from western countries with school age children. See the previous piece in this series, Fully Absorbed, Coming Through to the Other Side.

As a teen, Randi Lipkin spent three consecutive summers working at HASC, a camp for Jewish children with special needs. Randi’s husband Michael spent his nineteenth summer as a counselor there, and the couple both worked at HASC one summer after they were married, never knowing that someday, they would have a special needs child of their own.

The Lipkin family made Aliyah in August of 2004, with four children from Edison, New Jersey. After they made Aliyah, Randi discovered she was pregnant with Yisrael, who has Down syndrome.

Michael serves as senior editor of financial articles at a local company, Seeking Alpha. Randi is an occupational therapist who works at a “Gan Safa,” a Beit Shemesh nursery school for children with developmental language delays. The Lipkins live in Beit Shemesh.

Proud father Michael Lipkin holds newborn Yisrael Simcha (photo credit: courtesy Michael Lipkin)

Proud father Michael Lipkin holds newborn Yisrael Simcha (photo credit: courtesy Michael Lipkin)

V: Tell me a bit about your children and their adjustment to your Aliyah.

Michael: We had 4 children when made Aliyah. They were 19, 17, 14, and 3 when we moved. Our oldest, one year post-seminary, was our big Zionist and would have moved here even if we hadn’t. Her adjustment was very smooth. She married a year and half later and is now living in our neighborhood with her husband and 3 children.

Our next oldest was borderline interested in moving. As she was entering her senior year in a Flatbush Beit Yaakov the year we made Aliyah, we decided it was best for her to finish high school there while boarding with Randi’s sister who lived nearby. She subsequently came here for seminary, married soon after, and is living in Bet Shemesh with her husband and 3 children.

Our older son had the toughest adjustment. Even though he wanted to move he had a difficult time adjusting to dorm life at Maarava high school. However, he is now our most integrated child having married an Israeli girl and is currently serving his country.

Our youngest at the time adapted very well because of her young age and smarts.

V: How old were you and Randi when Randi became pregnant with Yisrael?

Michael: I was 47 and Randi was 45. We had just had our first grandson and our second daughter was married during Randi’s pregnancy.

V: How did you and Randi feel about the pregnancy? How was the level of obstetric care here compared to the care Randi received in the States during previous pregnancies?

Michael: I was ecstatic, very excited, but nervous for her. Getting pregnant at that age was nervous-making, and of course, we worried about Down syndrome.

Randi: The overall care here was fine, but I found it very weird that you develop a relationship with a doctor and then he has absolutely nothing to do with your delivery. The experience was totally different than in the states. In certain ways the doctors seemed very laidback and in other ways hyper-nervous.

I had gestational diabetes as I’d had before in my previous pregnancies. The doctor transferred my entire case to an obstetrician that handles gestational diabetes and I at one point said to the doctor, “Can we listen to the heartbeat?”

They were too focused on the diabetes. There was far less connection to me as an expectant mother compared to what I had experienced in the States. Of course, I’d had tremendous relationships with my doctors in the States, because I’d known them for 25 years. It’s just not what you have here.

Since I was having an elective, planned C-section, we paid for a private doctor instead of showing up at the hospital and just getting whoever was on duty that day and we felt very comfortable with that decision.

V: I know you gave Yisrael the middle name “Simcha” because you wanted him to always know he brought simcha, joy, into your lives. Was that immediate? Or did it take some adjusting to the idea?

Varda Meyers Epstein

‘You Murder the Children’: Rav Soloveitchik on Abortion

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

When one thinks of Modern Orthodoxy, Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik zt”l soon comes to mind for his leadership thereof. In our time, however, Modern Orthodoxy has become a vague term with problematic tendencies. As Rabbi Steven Pruzansky–who has numerous shiurim on Yeshiva University’s Torah website–recently wrote, “Too often, one finds in the Modern Orthodox world grievances of one sort or another against this or that aspect of Torah, as if Jews get to sit in judgment of God and His Torah.”

No issue might better crystallize the dissonance between Rav Soloveitchik’s Modern Orthodoxy and today’s than abortion. Let us consider the great man’s views.

During a shiur on Parashat Bo in 1975, Rav Soloveitchik stated that “to me it is something vulgar, this clamor of the liberals that abortion be permitted,” adding:

“I consider the society of today as insane…I read from the press that in Eretz Yisrael they permit abortions now! Sapir [probably Pinchas Sapir] comes to the US and asks that 60,000 boys and girls should leave the US and settle in Eretz Yisrael. When a child is born, it’s also immigration to Eretz Yisrael, and yet you murder the children.”

Rav Soloveitchik then predicted:

“And if you kill the fetus, a time will come when even infants will be killed…The mother will get frightened after the baby will be born…and the doctor will say her life depends upon the murder of the baby. And you have a word, mental hygiene, whatever you want you can subsume under mental hygiene…And there is now a tendency for rabbis in the US to march along with society, otherwise they’ll be looked upon as reactionaries.”

Similar remarks appear in Reflections of the Rav:

“If the dominant principle governing the logos [“thinking capacity”] is that abortion is morally permissible because only a mother has a right to decide whether she wishes to be a mother, then infants may similarly have their lives terminated after birth. What if the child interferes with the promising brilliant career of the mother?”

These words might be jarring for those who view Rav Soloveitchik as the mild-mannered author of philosophically oriented books like The Lonely Man of Faith. Equally if not more jarring might be Rav Soloveitchik’s statements on sexual morality, which I discussed a few months ago.

Specific to abortion, one might counter that Rav Soloveitchik permitted an unborn child with Tay-Sachs disease to be aborted through the sixth month, but this proves just the opposite, namely: 1) What does this narrow, tragic case indicate about Rav Soloveitchik’s general view of abortion? 2) What does it indicate about Rav Soloveitchik’s view of abortion after the sixth month even in the case of Tay-Sachs? And vis-à-vis those who claim a woman’s absolute right to “terminate a pregnancy” at any point, I doubt such an attempt to (mis)represent Rav Soloveitchik as a “moderate” on abortion would be received agreeably. In this regard, one of Rav Soloveitchik’s sons-in-law, Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, shlita, has observed in the context of abortion:

“Even if we were to accept that indeed it is the woman’s own body, we totally reject the conception that she then can do with it as she pleases. This is a completely anti-halakhic perception [emphasis added]. It rests on a secular assumption that, as it were, ‘My Nile is my own; I made it for myself’ (Yechezkel 29:3), as if we are the source of our own existence and therefore the masters of our own being. This is assuredly not the case.”

Rav Lichtenstein summarizes the worldview of that anti-halakhic perception as follows:

“The essence of modern secular culture is the notion of human sovereignty; individual man is master over himself, and collective man is master over his collective… From a religious point of view, of course, eilu va-eilu divrei avoda zara—both approaches are idolatrous. Here one establishes individual man as an idol, and the one idolizes, in humanistic terms, humanity as a whole. The basis of any religious perception of human existence is the sense that man is not a master: neither a master over the world around him, nor a master over himself.”

Yes, Rav Soloveitchik earned a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Berlin (as likewise Rav Lichtenstein earned a Ph.D. in English literature from Harvard). Yes, Rav Soloveitchik enjoyed classical music (especially Bach). And first and foremost, Rav Soloveitchik was a Torah Jew for whom Halachah was not some intellectual game or cultural style, rather an all-encompassing conviction with profound social implications. Thus his denunciations of abortion, which derived from the same worldview as these remarks in 1953:

Menachem Ben-Mordechai

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/a-banner-raised-high/you-murder-the-children-rav-soloveitchik-on-abortion/2013/09/23/

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