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October 2, 2014 / 8 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Yom Haatzmaut’

The Haredi Civil Right to Not Appreciate Israel

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

I find myself in the awkward position of defending actions that I abhor. According to an article in YWN – the arm of Israel’s education ministry that is responsible for providing funds to Haredi schools is deciding what sanctions these schools should get. They were open on Yom Ha’atzmaut which is in direct violation of the Ministry’s requirement that all schools should be closed on that day.

I find the position of the ministry not to be in consonance with the character of a free society. I suppose that technically they can issue any conditions for funding they choose and implement financial sanctions if those conditions are not met. But I believe it undermines the very nature of a free and democratic society to force people to close their institutions on any given day of the year no matter what its significance.

Sanctions for doing so seem inappropriate and heavy handed. Ministry officials argue that this is a form of lawlessness which can lead to a general disregard for the law in other areas. I don’t think so. This is not hurting anyone. It does not detract from others their right to celebrate that day. All they end up doing is looking like bullies who want to force people to do something they don’t want to do. Haredim may be unpatriotic for refusing to close schools on Yom Ha’atzmaut. But a lack of patriotism is not – in my view a cause for punitive measures. In a free society people should have a right to do as they choose as long as they don’t hurt anyone in the process.

That said, the fact that these schools do not voluntarily close is in itself disgusting. This is not to say that I think Torah study should stop on that day. It shouldn’t. But not in ways which dishonor the day. By treating it as a normal school day – as most of them do – they are sending a message that they have absolutely no Hakoras HaTov (gratitude) for what they have been given since the very founding of the state over 65 years ago. They show that they are takers without saying thank you.

This is indicative of an attitude expressed time and again by some Haredi leaders. I am not talking about the rejectionists of Meah Shearim like Netrurei Karta and Satmar. I am talking about mainstream Haredim who rarely if ever have a good word to say about the State. Mostly what you hear them saying is that Israel is an evil empire out to destroy Judaism.

They continually bring up examples of that evil which they say took place during the formative years of the State. Examples that are of questionable reliability. I am not going to delve into those issues. All I will say is that there are different versions of what happened in every case. There are always at least 2 sides to every story.

Nonetheless they insist on believing the most unflattering versions of those stories. This is what they focus on. Never mind that this is ancient history and the religious climate then was not what it is now. Nor are today’s political leaders anything like those early pioneers. Some Haredi rabbinic leaders still see children being kidnapped from their parents and disabused of their religious beliefs.

More importantly, it is their refusal to recognize all the truly great things that Israel has done for the Jewish people that is so troubling.

It was the declaration of statehood that opened the doors to all Holocaust refugees that were in displacement camps waiting for someone – anyone – to help them get back to a normal life. Nobody wanted them after they were liberated from the death camps, including the British Mandatory government in Palestine. Very few permits were issued to those Jewish refugees. But the day Ben Gurion declared the State of Israel, the flood gates opened.

I cannot image the depth of joy, fulfillment of destiny and sense of promise that must have been in the heart of a refugee when he or she first beheld the shores of the promised land after suffering the worst degradations imaginable to man. That moment must have been cathartic. Every refugee now had the right to come to the land of Israel. The inscription on the Statue of Liberty first uttered by the Jewish Poet Emma Lazarus was never more appropriate than it was in Israel in those early and heady days of the state:

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Wretched refuse. After years of anti-Semitic degradation, deprivation and torture by the Nazis and their willing accomplices of occupied lands – this is how the world saw the Holocaust refugee. It must have been hard for those refuges to think of themselves in any other way before they came to Israel’s shores. With the founding of the State these people had their dignity restored.

How in heaven’s name can any human being, let alone a fellow Jew not recognize that momentous day in Jewish History? I doubt that there is a single rational Holocaust survivor who immigrated who does not recognize it.

My wife had an uncle that was a Ger Hasid, who went through hell during the Holocaust losing his his wife and all of his children. Even though he was very close to the Gerrer Rebbe, on Yom Ha’atzmaut he Davened in a Mizrachi Shul so that he could say Hallel. There are probably hundreds if not thousands of stories like this. Surviving Jews of all stripes recognize the importance of Yom Ha’atzmaut. That’s because they lived through the horrors. But too many rabbinic leaders today refuse see any of this.

But even if there had been no Holocaust, what about the of the land of Israel being returned to the Jewish people after 2000 years? Do they not recognize the miraculous nature of that event?! Satmar refuses to recognize it calling it the work of the devil. But supposedly this is not the mainstream Haredi view. And yet they ignore it.

What about the fact that the state has enabled the development of the greatest Makom Torah in the world? Greater in depth and scope than at any time in history since the time of Hazal? It was Ben Gurion that exempted all Yeshiva students from army service! According to an article in last week’s Mishpacha Magazine, the Chazon Ish himself had said that Ben Gurion would have no idea why he would be given such honor in the next world. It would be due to the few words uttered from his mouth. He declared that he would not be the destroyer of Yavneh and its sages!

And then there is all that money given to Yeshivos and their students. There has probably never been a greater Issachar- Zevulun partnership in history.

And yet, not the slightest bit of hakarat hatov (appreciation of a good deed). All they see is evil. That is the message far too many Haredi mechanchim (educators) impart to their students. Especially now that there is a threat of a draft and reduction of funding.

I’m surprised they don’t tear kriyah (mournful tearing of the clothing) on that day based on the rhetoric I hear from some from some of their leadership these days.

I have absolutely no sympathy for their position on this matter. None! And yet I support their right to be as disgusting about it as they choose. Because that is the way of a free society.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

The Story of Israel’s Independence

Friday, April 19th, 2013

Scene 1

Enter the shackled. Enter the despondent, wretched souls. Enter the man and woman, boy and girl, deemed “menace to society,” destined to roam endlessly about. Number the stars upon their lapels and the Chai’s upon the chains that grace their necks. Note the fire in their eyes and the resilience in their hearts. See the laws they transcribed from the lips of Hashem, the bulwark of civilization.

Let the backdrop be constructed, the set pieces raised onstage. Livid and malevolent minor characters fill the void, the dark world of apathy and contempt. They seek redemption, to purge themselves from their nightmares and their guilty conscience. They would fly away if they had the means. But instead, they gather scapegoats and project their hate onto the usual suspects. These be our antagonists.

Scene 2

Enter the dreamer, the conceiver of a noble and ambitious project. Distraught over the subjugation of his people, he deems it necessary to act and to will the dream into being. There are no doubts in his mind, no second thoughts. He is sure of the task in front of him and the weight he must carry. The weight of millions alive and yet to be born. He is blessed with a burden, an obligation to freedom. He yearns for the soil, the earth that gave birth to his people.  That old-new land inspires the once and future kings and queens of Zion.

Our protagonists dash. Like lightning, they hurry across the stage. They ascend and journey to that land, that they read of in their Book, that land that they dreamed of in their slumber, that they trembled for, that they dared to desire in Godforsaken places, where evil men attempted to quench their spirit. “Next year,” they whispered. “Next year in Jerusalem.” They come and go in waves. They come by the thousands. But the dream is not yet fully realized.

Scene 3

Let the lights be dimmed and the sea of humanity be tossed and turned about. Let the audience wretch at the putrid stench of the bodies stacked miles high. Feel the flames of the ovens as the sparks hit your flesh. Hear these screams, these shrieks that will remain nameless, faceless. A grandmother here or there. A young boy cursed by his age. A Rabbi made to dig his own grave. A ravine from which they must all jump. Breathe in this air, this foul air. Let it consume your lungs. But avert not your eyes, for you must always remember this, this carnage, this culmination of libels and pogroms. Etch these souls onto your bones. See this and engrave these six million in your heart.

Look how our protagonists now command the world’s attention. See how the globe convulses at its crimes. Of apathy. Of evil. Of genocide. Yet, see how the longing for the land increases, how determination abounds. Let the new Exodus begin, the glorious journey to Zion. Let the ground bring forth its food and the towers be constructed. Let the ancient settlements spring forth anew and the first to Zion rejoice. Let humanity sing, and The City of Peace be painted in gold. For our protagonists have done it. They have triumphed.

Epilogue

This is for you. This is for you, oh man and woman, boy and girl. I can trace the laugh lines of your 65 years across your beautiful terrain. I know your worth and your virtue. They speak of you in paradise. Your spirit is infinite.

So take my hand and walk this land with me. For this is a production of epic proportions. This is Judah’s manifest destiny. This is the uncanny persistence of his youth, the anthem of his old. The memory of his fallen, the battle cry of his founders. The depth of his texts, the blast of his trumpet. This is the no more huddled, no more wretched. This is Judah’s voice, no longer whispered but bellowed. No longer stifled but liberated. So sing it, scream it, shout it until your lungs bursts, not of gas but of joy. Not of sorrow but of delight. Let Judah roar and his enemies quiver in fear and let the song of his people resound throughout the earth. Am Yisrael Chai.

IDF’s Arizona Girl Receives ‘President’s Excellence Award’

Friday, April 19th, 2013

President Shimon Peres last week presented the annual President’s Citation of Excellence to a native of Arizona, 24-year-old lone soldier 2nd Lt. Nira Lee.

She grew up in Tempe, Arizona, in a Zionist household, but she had no intention of making aliyah. Her first trip to Israel was in 2004, when at age 16 she attended a group discovery trip with the B’nei B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO). “At that time, I did not feel a special connection to Israel nor a personal obligation to be here,” 2nd Lt. Lee explained.

On her second trip to Israel, during her first year in university, everything changed. She volunteered on a trip with Hillel to live in Akko and rebuild a school that had been destroyed in the 2006 Second Lebanon War. According to 2nd Lt. Lee, “being in the periphery and not necessarily touring the popular sites of Israel helped show me the different side of Israel. It showed me the people who needed help, and that was the first time I personally felt connected to this country.”

After that experience, 2nd Lt. Lee decided to support Israel from the inside. At the time, she was studying International Relations at AmericanUniversity in WashingtonD.C., and decided to do a test run by studying abroad in Haifa during her third year. “I chose Haifa because I understood it to be a much more authentic environment, one that seems closest to normal life in Israel,” she said.

The test run proved difficult for 2nd Lt. Lee. She knew no Hebrew. She was also overweight and in poor physical health. “I decided that if I wanted to help Israel, I would have to make a few personal changes first,” she said.

In 2008, 2nd Lt. Lee was in Israel when the security situation in Gaza deteriorated and Operation Cast Lead was initiated. The IDF called up reserves, many of whom were friends of 2nd Lt. Lee’s. “Being there during Operation Cast Lead and feeling so futile made me want to enlist in the IDF. Seeing my friends being called up while I remained in the comfort of my dorm room made me want to join them.”

Second Lt. Lee decided there and then that the next time Israel’s citizens would be called to defend the state, she would be among them. Following her year abroad, Nira learned to speak Hebrew fluently and, through personal determination and strength, lost 55 pounds on her path to physical health.

She made aliyah in May 2010 and enlisted as a lone soldier in the IDF five months later. At first, the transition was difficult. “No one knows the difficulties of being a lone soldier,” she said, adding that finding a place to live and setting up her life were great challenges.

Her commanders noticed that she was struggling and made great efforts to help her. “My commanders made it possible for me to have normal soldier concerns, rather than concerns such as where I would sleep that night or if I would have food to put on my plate. Instead of worrying about a place to do my laundry, and ending up washing my clothes in the shower at the base, I was able to focus on the reason I was there: my job in the army,” she said.

She completed the IDF Officers Course in 2011 and became the deputy liaison officer to the international community in the Gaza Strip. She is currently responsible for assisting in foreign access and the transfer of medical supplies into Gaza.

This week, 2nd Lt. Lee will be promoted to the rank of Lieutenant. She has been in the IDF for almost three years and is signed on for another six months. After completing her military service, she plans to earn a master’s degree in security and diplomacy at TelAvivUniversity.

After she received the President’s Citation of Excellence on Israel’s 65th Independence Day, she said, “It’s a huge honor for me to receive this award. Being a new immigrant, there are certainly times you feel you do not fit in, but the army is the epitome of how this country unites people.”

Israeli College Launches Daniel Pearl School of Journalism

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

The Interdisciplinary Center at Herzliya launched the Daniel Pearl International Journalism Institute on Wednesday, named for The Wall Street Journal reporter who was kidnapped and murdered by terrorists in Pakistan 11 years ago.

His murderers posted a video of Pearl, before they beheaded him, in which he stated, “I am Jewish.”

Pearl’s father, Prof. Judea Pearl, said he hoped the institute would be a “towering contribution to Danny’s legacy, his life, his mission and his dreams.”

Prof. Pearl this week lit one of the torches in the annual ceremony at the end of Remembrance Day for Fallen Soldiers and the beginning of Yom Ha’atzmaut.

Rabbi Nadel on the Torah Significance of Yom Haatzmaut

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

(((CLICK BELOW TO HEAR AUDIO)))

Yishai interviews Rabbi Shimshon Nadel on a bustling Jerusalem street to talk about the Torah significance of the Yom Haatzmaut. Listen in as Yishai and Rabbi Nadel talk about celebration of Israel’s independence by both secular and ultra-Orthodox Jews and how there are many, even in the most Haredi communities that are still filled with joy during Independence Day.

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
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Yemenite Chabadnik Paints Gigantic Flag Seen from Jordan (Video)

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

Jordanians across from Eilat have a new view of Israel today, hours before the beginning of Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers, thanks to the work of Yemenite Chabadnik Roni Pilo who has painted a gigantic flag on an Eilat Navy hangar that covers almost an entire acre.

The display of the flag can be seen clearly from the Jordanian shore and cities across from the Gulf.

Pilo worked for three weeks, day and night, to finish the work in time for Memorial Day on Monday night and Tuesday, followed by Yom Ha’atzmaut.

The idea was the brainchild of Eilat Mayor Meir Yitzchak HaLevi, and work was carried out with the help of contributions from the French Jewish community and Tambour Paint Company, which donated 740 gallons of paint.

Pilo used special techniques to utilize light and shade and mixed six different shades of blue and six hues of white to make the flag display appear as if it is 3-D and moving on the hangar at the Israeli Navy base.

Mayor HaLevi said he came up with the idea to improve the aesthetics of the huge hangar.

He said there was no intention to irritate anyone, especially the Arabs across the waters. “We are not here to annoy anyone,” he said in a statement quoted by the Yediot Acharonot newspaper.

“Wherever the flag can be seen, that is all the better,” he added. “We have no reason to apologize for that. Displaying the flag permanently in Eilat, an international tourist and sports city that hosts 3 million people a year from Israel and the entire world, demonstrates our national pride and love for the country.

Navy base commander Ilan Mintz said, “There is nothing more symbolic the day before Remembrance Day for Fallen Soldiers…than a strong and loving embrace.”

The base will be open to visitors on Yom Ha’atzmaut.

American Volunteers to Fire Up BBQ’s for 3000 IDF Soldiers

Friday, April 12th, 2013

A bunch of loving American Jews are planning to make sure that IDF soldiers who have to remain on active duty on their bases do not miss out on Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) celebrations this year, like the hordes of Israelis who head for the national parks, beaches and any empty piece of land to hold their annual BBQ.

In 2012, 400 volunteers affiliated with Standing Together, International Young Israel Movement (IYIM) – Israel Region, and National Council of Young Israel (NCYI), visited 16 of bases, with some 3000 soldiers, and brought them Yom Ha’atzmaut cheer, BBQ grills and an abundance of food.

How much food? 6000 hot dogs, 3000 hamburgers, stockpiles of pita bread, mountains of different salads, whole bottling plants of soft drinks and a lake of humus and ketchup. Or so it seemed.

When the group arrived in Ofer base, near the prison where Arab security inmates often stage their hunger strikes (talk about psychological warfare!), the place looked like a ghost town, report the BBQ organizers in a recent press release. The soldiers were resting up from a night filled with patrols and guard duty, and so the volunteers quietly and efficiently set up the grills, laid out tables, started cooking up a major storm – and the young folks in olive green came to investigate, first one by one and then in droves.

“Every year this program grows as many people here tell their friends what a meaningful experience they had last year,” said Miriam Gottlieb of Standing Together. “So we have repeat volunteers and new volunteers – what doesn’t change is how wide the smiles are on the soldiers faces when they see us!”

“Hey, who deserves the BBQ more then them?” asked Daniel Meyer, Executive-Director of IYIM.

This year, the organizers are expecting 500 volunteers who will be visiting bases throughout Israel, where friendships will be sealed with a good burger.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/american-volunteers-to-fire-up-bbqs-for-3000-idf-soldiers/2013/04/12/

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