Monday, April 30, 2012

Bibi Netanyahu’s father, historian Benzion, passes away at 102

Our deepest Thanks to the Website "Quite Normal" for this stirring Eulogy.

Apr 30 2012
Condolences to the Netanyahu family. The grand patriarch has left behind quite a legacy.
Benzion Netanyahu was no doubt a very proud father. All three sons served in the elite Sayeret Matkal commando forces. The eldest, Yonatan, is a legend in Israel. In fact, the health clinic in my town here was dedicated in his honor. When you pass through the door you are greeted with the iconic photo of Yonatan.
Benjamin followed in his elder brother’s footsteps, and then went on to serve in various capacities of government. Israel’s economic wonder is due in large part to the reform and policies he enacted as Finance Minister between 2003-2006. Youngest son, Ido, also an ex-commando, is a radiologist and writer.
Benzion Netanyahu, a renowned historian who specialized in the history of Jews in Spain, and a professor emeritus at Cornell University, authored an epic history on the Spanish Inquisition and edited several Jewish encyclopedias. Benzion was witness to one of the most incredible centuries in history. Born in 1910 he saw it all – World War I, World War II, the birth of the State of Israel and all the wars fought for Her survival, to the current state of affairs, which will certainly prove every bit as chaotic as previous upheavals.
May he rest in peace, and may your family be comforted and your sons continue to make you proud.
Israel Hayom – Benzion Netanyahu, historian, Zionist activist and influential father of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, died Monday in his Jerusalem home. He was 102.
His son, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, managed to visit him one last time on Sunday night.
The elder Netanyahu was scheduled to be laid to rest at 5 p.m. (Israel time) at the Givat Shaul (Har Hamenuhot) cemetery in Jerusalem in a public ceremony.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with his father Benzion during a memorial ceremony for Yoni Netanyahu at Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem in 2007.
Benzion Netanyahu was born Benzion Mileikowsky on March 25, 1910, in Warsaw, Poland. His father, Nathan, a rabbi, moved the family to Palestine in 1920 and changed its name to Netanyahu.
Professor Netanyahu was among the great historians of the Jewish people. In his research, he focused on the history of the medieval Spanish Jewish community and the history of Zionism. Among his books are a biography of Don Isaac Abravanel, a history of the Spanish Marranos (forced converts to Christianity who secretly continued to practice Judaism) and his major work, “The Origins of the Inquisition in 15th Century Spain,” which received global acclaim. He also authored “The Founding Fathers of Zionism” about the lives of the founders of political Zionism – Leon Pinsker, Theodor Herzl, Max Nordau, Israel Zangwill and Ze’ev Jabotinsky.
Netanyahu was also an expert on anti-Semitism and a great supporter of Revisionist Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky, who advocated Jewish military strength and the establishment of a Jewish state on both sides of the Jordan River. During his decades-long career, Netanyahu also edited the “Encyclopedia Judaica,” “The World History of the Jewish People” and the “Encyclopedia Hebraica.”
During the Second World War, Netanyahu lived in New York, where he served as one of the leaders of the Revisionist Zionist movement in the U.S.
In 1939, Netanyahu traveled to London to persuade Jabotinsky to relocate to the U.S., due to the belief it would be a rising global power and that it would be possible to mobilize support for the Jewish state from there. Jabotinsky died in 1940, shortly after their arrival in the U.S. Netanyahu continued to raise support for the Jewish state throughout the war and afterward.
He met with many U.S. Jewish leaders at the time, as well as with senators, congressmen, authors, poets and other dignitaries, including Dean Acheson and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Upon the establishment of Israel, he returned from the U.S. and moved with his young family to Jerusalem’s Talpiot neighborhood. He dedicated himself to his research, with the help of his wife Tzila, a native of Petach Tikva who was his life partner for more than 50 years. In 1952, the Netanyahu family moved to its home at 4 Haportzim Street in Jerusalem, where he passed away early this morning.
Netanyahu and wife Sara during funeral.
Due to his academic career, Netanyahu’s family frequently moved between the U.S. and Israel. Netanyahu edited right-wing Jewish publications in the U.S. and earned a Ph.D in history from Dropsie College in Philadelphia. Later, he was a professor of Jewish history and Hebrew literature at the University of Denver and Cornell University, where he served as chairman of the department of Semitic languages and literature.
He was best known in academic circles for his research into the Spanish Inquisition against the Jews of Spain. His best known work was “Origins of the Inquisition in 15th Century Spain,” an opus in which he argued that the crackdown on Jews was driven by racial hatred rather than just religious zeal.
Netanyahu also disagreed with scholars who argued that the Marranos secretly kept practicing Judaism after being forced to convert. Instead, he believed those Jews were assimilationists and converted of their own volition, and that the Marrano myth was fostered during the Inquisition as an attempt to prove broader resistance.
Netanyahu and Tzila had three sons: Yonatan, Benjamin and Iddo, all of whom served in the same elite Israeli military commando unit. Yonatan, known as Yoni, commanded the Sayeret Matkal unit and was killed in action during a daring 1976 hostage rescue operation in Entebbe, Uganda.
Following his death, the elder Netanyahu returned to Israel full-time. His middle son Benjamin, nicknamed Bibi, went into politics and was elected prime minister of Israel in 1996 and again in 2009. Iddo, the youngest of the three, is a radiologist and writer.
Netanyahu is believed to have had great influence over his son Benjamin Netanyahu’s politics and openly criticized him when his government made concessions toward the Palestinians.
Several analysts speculated that Benjamin Netanyahu was emotionally unable to sign off on a comprehensive peace deal with Israel’s Arabs neighbors as long as his father was still alive, a notion the prime minister dismissed as “psychobabble.”
In newspaper interviews late in life, Benzion Netanyahu was forceful in his skepticism of Middle East peace.
“The tendency to conflict is in the essence of the Arab. He is an enemy by essence. His personality won’t allow him any compromise or agreement. It doesn’t matter what kind of resistance he will meet, what price he will pay. His existence is one of perpetual war,” he told the Maariv daily in 2009. “The Arab citizens’ goal is to destroy us. They don’t deny that they want to destroy us.”
Peres with Netanyahu family
President Shimon Peres who spoke at a cornerstone laying ceremony at the Air Force’s new technological college in Karmiel on Monday, asked participants to stand for one moment of silence in memory of Netanyahu. “A great historian and great Jew passed away,” Peres said.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin commented on Israel Radio about the influence that Benzion Netanyahu had on his son Benjamin (referring to the latter by his nickname). “Bibi learned the pure Zionism from a man who was so close to Jabotinsky,” he said.
“He was educated in a home where Zionism was a Zionism with no compromise … though Bibi’s realpolitik was much more developed,” Rivlin added.
At a party to celebrate his father’s 100th birthday, the Jewish Chronicle quoted the prime minister as saying, “I learned from you to look into the future.”
In his own speech at the same event, Benzion warned of the dangers Iran posed as it forged ahead with a nuclear program that many in the West believe is aimed at acquiring atomic bombs.
He said Israel should be ready to strike Iran when “there is a reasonable chance of success.”
The Zionist ideology that Netanyahu advocated was based on the belief that Jews had the right to live in all the biblical land of Israel, including Judea and Samaria, east Jerusalem and parts of modern-day Jordan. In 2004, Netanyahu was among the signatories to a petition that called the disengagement from the Gaza Strip a “crime against humanity.”
In 2011, Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar awarded Benzion Netanyahu the Dona Gracia medal in recognition of his work on the subject of Spanish Jews.
From Benjamin Netanyahu’s eulogy:
Benzion Netanyahu, left, with his son, Benjamin, at the official memorial service for the late Zionist leader Ze'ev Jabotinsky in Jerusalem in 2010.
“You father, never hesitated to face the trials that had befallen the Jewish nation and contribute to the nation’s defense. Two years ago, when you turned 100, I had the privilege (…) of telling you, while you were alive, how much I love you, how much I adore you. Dear father, how can I describe all that you have given Yoni, Ido and me?” the prime minister said in his eulogy.
The PM said his father had shown him what commitment was, both to the state and to family, and also contributed to the establishment of the Jewish state. The PM mentioned that his father traveled to London to persuade Jabotinsky to relocate to the United States and from there mobilize support for the Jewish state.
“Jabotinsky died shortly after you arrived in the US, but you did not lose hope and approached dozens of senators, congressman and American leaders such as (Dwight D.) Eisenhower. You told them that the Jewish state would be established and that it would not be defeated by the Arabs,” the PM said.
Prime Minister Netanyahu then addressed his late father, saying: “Years before Herzl’s predictions were realized you understood that he was right. When you were 27 you wrote that Herzl saw the catastrophe and the looming destruction of the nation. You wrote that a few years before the Second World War and the Holocaust.
Not only did you agree with Herzl over the dangers in store, you worked to keep it at bay and contributed to the foundation of the State of Israel.
Benjamin Netanyahu also mentioned the hardships his parents faced after his brother Yoni was killed in Entebbe. “Your foresight led you, 35 years ago, after Yoni was killed, to focus an international intellectual effort against global terror. You said that the thing standing behind terror was policy and then terror could be vanquished.
“Father, those attributes, of foresight, and others, I could not understand as a little boy growing up in the 50s. Slowly, slowly, things became clear to me and to Iddo as we grew older.”
Netanyahu expressed the admiration he had for his parents and the way they lived their lives after his brother’s death. “You carried, both of you, your grief with grace. I don’t know where you found the strength to go on living with your sorrow.”
The prime minister then said: “Father, on this day that I say goodbye to you, I wish to tell you the same words that yoni wrote to you 46 years ago: I have never told you how proud I am that you are the person you are and that I am your son.”

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Reflecting on Israel

04/29/2012 22:28

“Next Year in Jerusalem!” This line reminds all Jews that Jerusalem is the place our collective Jewish heart yearns for.

Man waves Israeli flag in Jerusalem Photo: Marc Israel Sellem
Springtime in Israel brings us Passover, reminding us that once we were slaves in Egypt, and that after overcoming many challenges and wandering in the desert, we learned how to be a free people. Almost immediately afterward, Holocaust Remembrance Day reminds us of our history, Remembrance Day for Fallen Soldiers reminds us of the struggles we have overcome and Independence Day reminds us that we are a free people in our land. This month of commemoration and celebration is a time every year for the people of Israel to reflect about how far we have come and where we should be going.

“Next Year in Jerusalem!” This line from the end of the Passover Haggada reminds all Jews around the world that Jerusalem is the place our collective Jewish heart yearns for.

In May 1948, the dream of a Jewish homeland in this special place was realized and in the midst of war the building of a state had only just begun. One of our greatest challenges is also one of our greatest accomplishments. We have created a Jewish and democratic state. A strictly democratic state with no religious character is not much of a Jewish homeland and rejects the call to the land of Israel, but a state with only a Jewish character is a theocracy. Thus a tension exists – and must exist – in order for these opposing forces to balance one another.

Spending a week in Israel will give any visitor the impression of what it is to live within the rhythm of a Jewish life.

Six days a week there is activity, commerce, the daily hustle and bustle of life.

And on the seventh day, Shabbat, there is a national quietness that separates this day from the rest of the week. The holiday periods are in spring and fall as opposed to, for instance, the US, where the holiday period is between Thanksgiving and the New Year. Individuals connect to Judaism in a variety of ways – religiously, culturally, linguistically and even culinarily – making it nearly impossible to define exactly how the Jewish character of the state should be expressed.

However, Israel is still a country of its citizens. Not all the citizens of Israel are religiously observant and some are not Jewish. Citizens have a right to vote and are represented in the government. It is a democracy, an imperfect one, but a democracy nonetheless.

In a state that has been in existence merely 64 years and has been in conflict with its neighbors for a majority of that time, the standard to which Israel is held is not one of mere democracy, but rather a saintly, benevolent form of democracy. The standard required of Israel by Israel’s critics is that we must allow foreign nationals to come into our country to protest Israeli policies; that anyone who has an opinion must be allowed free and full access to the media regardless of motive or accuracy; that any defensive measure should be considered a violation of human rights; and most of all, that Israel must accept any and all criticism without recourse or explanation. Moreover, any suggestion of hypocrisy against the accuser simply invites more vitriol.

DEMOCRACY DOES not mean that every single person in the country has unlimited freedom to do whatever he wishes. Democracy means that the people elect representatives to the government to serve for the good of the people.

In this we have an unwritten social contract that says all of us need to give up some of our freedom in order to live in an orderly, fair society. The social contract in Israel includes both Jewish and democratic values. Again, the tension exists to balance one against the other.

Thus, shops are closed on Shabbat, but restaurants are not required by law to be kosher. Egged, the national bus line, does not run on Shabbat, but a system of service taxis makes travel possible. Grocery stores will arrange their shelves in accordance with Passover restrictions against leavened foods, but will follow the less restrictive Sephardi tradition.

The rabbinate is a problematic organization for many citizens of Israel, but Israel will recognize civil marriages that took place abroad. The Law of Return recognizes anyone with at least one grandparent as a Jew rather than on the requirement by Jewish law of strictly matrilineal descent.

The Zionist dream is to build a national homeland and the work is not yet complete. The State of Israel exists. It exists with the special tension of holding onto a Jewish character and upholding the values of democracy. But it is far from perfect

Just as Israel stood together during the siren to commemorate the six million who did not live to see Israel arise, we should remember that in their memory, we established a state. As we stand during the two sirens to commemorate the soldiers who fought to protect the Land of Israel, we should remember that in their honor we are striving to improve our state. And when we finally arrive to Independence Day, we should be inspired by the fireworks to look to the possibilities of the future. The state has arisen, but the Zionist dream is not yet fulfilled.

The writer lives and works in Jerusalem and volunteers for Im Tirtzu.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Happy Birthday Israel!

By Avi Bnayahu

Today, the modern State of Israel celebrates her 64th birthday. A nation rich in history beyond its young age – the birthplace of the three modern monotheistic religions and the center of the Jewish people – the small country is a prime example of what can be accomplished with through will.
When the first Zionist Conference took place in 1897, Israel was a marshland. Land could not be sowed and malaria was rampant.
Today, Israel is known as the “Start-up Nation” with R&D facilities of many of the world’s largest technology companies. Scientists in Israel, a country the size of New Jersey, has been awarded with 10 Nobel Prizes in less than 64 years.
Throughout times of conflict, Israel has stayed strong and firm. The Tel Aviv Stock Market stayed strong and stable during the Second Lebanon War. It is because Israelis have confidence in itself. This confidence comes from always looking forward to the future but always remembering its past.
As the State of Israel marks its 64th birthday, it remembers the 6 million lives lost during the Holocaust. The day before fireworks fill the sky of Israel in celebration of its birth, the entire nation of Israel stands in silence in remembrance of the 20,703 men and women that fell in the line of duty, protecting the State of Israel.
Every Israeli wonders what might have been should Israel had been established 70 years ago, rather than only 64. How many lives would have been saved? How would the lives of Israelis be different today.
The modern state of Israel was a land established by a small group of "Sabras" (people born in Israel), Jews who came to the area before WWII, and Holocaust survivors.
The first test of this small, newly established country: a carefully planned attack from all its borders. Israel rose to the challenge and survived. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only challenge the nation faced.
As the people of Israel were building a nation – from causing the dessert to bloom to establishing skyscrapers and businesses – it was also absorbing Jews that came to its border seeking refuge and safety from 70 different countries, speaking 50 different languages. While initially difficult in absorbing such a diverse group of people in such a short period of time, it was this diversity and compassion and our strategic relationship with the United States -- a relationship that has given, and continues to give, Israel political, security, and economic back winds -- that has built Israel to the country that it is today.
For many years I served as an Israeli spokesperson. I stood beside Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres. I stood up for the people of Israel and its army as a Brigadier General serving as the Spokesperson for the IDF.
As both a citizen of the State of Israel and a spokesperson devoting my days defending the country, I can say without hesitation: I am proud to call myself Israeli.
I am proud that Israel brought irrigation systems to remote villages in Africa and introduced tomatoes of all colors to the world.
I am proud that Israel helped pull men, women, and children from the rubble following the earthquakes that hit Haiti and Turkey.
I am proud that Israel has created devices that help the world; whether it is the medical tools that make surgery and procedures less invasive to technology that keeps countries safe from incoming attacks.
And I am proud that I live a country that both protects its citizens with all means possible while, at the same time, its citizens (as well as other members of the government) question the action of the government for this is the exact definition of a democracy.
As the young age of 64, I am proud to say that Israel is on the forefront of knowledge, security, science, communication and technology. All these accomplishments were fulfilled while having to deal with wars, immigrant absorptions and thousands of terror attacks.
Strangers who don't really know Israel are astounded and wonder – how could it be? Where does this country get its emotional strength from?
They are right in the sense that life in Israel is not simple. Israel does not yet have fully defined borders. Most of the countries around us have not yet accepted our existence. In this sense Israel's independence war has not yet ended, but I am sure we will soon reach peace.
When I look at my son Ori, who is an officer in the Israeli Navy, and I look at a boy same his age in Cairo's Tahrir square -- I know there is still hope.
They both wear the same jeans, the same T-shirt with a silly logo. They both hold the same can of Coca-Cola and listen to the same music using the same headset.
Remember what I write here on this Independence Day: The promises the leaders of the world were unable to fulfill will be accomplished by Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social networking sites. 
In the coming years, the Nobel Price for Peace will be given to the efforts and cooperation that will take hold due to these sites. There is just not other way.
Israel, for that I'm sure, will keep pursuing peace. Peace is a clear destination for the people of Israel.
I have no doubt that one day soon the road to peace will be filled with the steps of the next generation, both sides running freely and without worry.
The Middle East as a whole needs time to rearrange, rebalance and stabilize itself. It must be given the time to do this. And once stabilized, I am confident that a new dawn will arise.
As Israel is celebrates 64 years of independence, it looks back with tears for what has been lost, with pride for what has been accomplished, and with hope for what is yet to come.
Will you join us for a toast of independence, of hatikvah (the hope), and of the unknown? A toast for Israel. May you continue to prosper and be a light unto the nations as we continue on the road for peace.
Avi Bnayahu was the Spokesperson for the IDF and the Communications Advisor to Prime Ministers Shimon Peres and the late Yitzhak Rabin

Read more:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Netanyahu at Holocaust Remembrance Day: Jewish people still face existential threat

Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the crowd gathered at Yad Vashem,“Our enemies tried to bury the Jewish future but our future was born again in the land of our forefathers, here we built a base, and a new beginning of freedom, and hope and action.”
Netanyahu went on to say that today’s generation “faces calls to exterminate the Jewish State,” and that lessons of the past must not be forgotten. He focused on Iran, calling it an existential threat to Israel, and to world peace, said "It is the world’s responsibility to stop Iran securing nuclear weapons."
Netanyahu alluded to claims that he has associated the Iran threat with the Holocaust, “I completely reject this attitude,” he said. “To fear telling the truth, which is that there are those today who also seek to destroy millions of Jews, is to disrespect the Holocaust and insult its victims. The Prime Minister of Israel is not only allowed to conjure the memory of a third of our people when speaking of existential threats, it is his duty.”
The ceremony was marred by an accident earlier on Wednesday, when a female Israel Defense Forces officer in her twenties was killed, and at least 5 other officers were injured after a lighting rig collapsed above a stage on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.
Dozens of people were participating in a rehearsal for an Independence Day ceremony, due to take place next week, when the rig collapsed. One person was moderately injured and four others lightly hurt.
During his speech, President Peres said: "My brothers and sisters, tonight, too, our teary eyes will be cast upon those who are no longer with us. And our wide-open eyes will look toward the future that lies ahead."
During Passover," he added, "I traveled all over Israel. Blue skies. Blooming fields. Beautiful children. Hard-working people. I thought about the communities from whence they came, and that are no longer with us. For a moment I replaced Tel Aviv with Vilna, Haifa with Białystock, Degania, Nahalal, Be'er Sheva with Plonsk, Riga, and Odessa."
"A million and a half non-Jews live in Israel," Peres said in his speech. "We are committed that none of them will be discriminated against due to their nationality or religion. That is the essence of the state of Israel. It is a protecting force, a safe haven, and a great spirit."
"We used to be a question mark; today we are a strong country," Peres said. "Humanity has no choice but to learn from the lessons of the Holocaust and stand strong in the face of existential threats, before it is too late."

He added: "Iran is at the center of this threat. It is the center of terror. It constitutes a threat to world peace. There is no room to underestimate Israel's known and hidden capabilities to deal with this threat.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Political Correctness is Incorrect

Political correctness started off as a positive thing.
It began as a movement to cease calling Black people “the 'N' word”.
To stop calling gay people “faggot”.
To refer to indigenous people in America as “Native Americans” which they are, rather than “Indians” which they are not.
This was a good thing.
Unfortunately, it has morphed, i.e., changed, into something harmful.
Today it is considered politically incorrect to discuss radical Islam.
It is considered politically incorrect to refer to Islamic terrorists as Islamic terrorists.
People need to be aware  that a section of Islam, a large section of Islam, believes that they are in a holy war against the civilized world.
Millions of Muslims treat women and girls as chattel, and deny them equality and basic human rights.
People say, “Well, that is their culture.”
Our culture, American culture, used to support slavery, it was wrong in the 1800's, and it is wrong now.
It was wrong for Muslims to treat women as chattel in the 1600's, and it is wrong now, even if for whatever reason, some women willingly submit to this dehumanization and misogyny under the facade of “culture”.

PC has become a screen to hide the truth, worse, a subterfuge to attack decent people while preventing exposure of falsehood.
It is now politically correct to insult the State of Israel, to make vile accusations about Israel, to refer to Israel, a Democratic state, the ONLY Democracy in the middle-east, a country which guarantees basic human rights to ALL citizens, Arab and Jews and Ethiopians, etc, as an Apartheid state, like the former South Africa.
It is now politically correct to slander the Jewish people, as long as one uses the term Israelis, or Zionists.
It is politically incorrect to mention the unceasing brutality of those Muslims who routinely engage in murder and genocide in the middle-East, Africa, and wherever else they have gained power.
If one slanders the Jews, that's alright, nothing wrong with that, “move along people, nothing to see here, we are just slandering the Jews again...oops, I mean the Israelis and the Zionists.”

Here at IsraelAmerica we get lots of hate mail from Arabs and other Muslims and even some far left Americans and Europeans.
If you criticize the horrors of Islam, as it is practiced and supported by millions of Muslims, you are labeled an “Islamophobe”.

This type of political correctness is not only hypocritical (it's ok to criticize the 5 million Jews in Israel, but not the 300 million Arabs who are united in their hostility to the Jewish people) it's dangerous.
Muslims who accept the rules of civilization should be  encouraged.
Muslims who use violence to achieve their goals,  Muslims who terrorize and degrade women and girls, the response to them should be steadfast opposition, open discourse, and the truth.
That does not make you an Islamophobe.
That makes you a speaker of truth.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

From Israel News Daily Alert:

            From Israel News Daily Alert:

  • Middle East Mediators Seek to Revive Israel-Palestine Peace Talks - Arshad Mohammed
    Middle East peace mediators on Wednesday stood behind their September 23, 2011, call for the parties to reach a peace deal by the end of 2012, an objective that seems increasingly remote. (Reuters)
        See also Quartet Calls for Direct Israeli-Palestinian Talks without Preconditions - Herb Keinon
    The Middle East Quartet issued a statement Wednesday in Washington calling for an initial meeting between Israel and the Palestinians within 30 days, leading to the trading of comprehensive proposals on security and territory within three months, direct negotiations and an overall agreement by the end of 2012. The Israeli Prime Minister's Office issued a communique welcoming the Quartet statement "calling for a continuation of direct talks without preconditions."
        The Quartet statement also encouraged Israel and the PA "to cooperate to facilitate the social and economic development of Area C," the part of the West Bank under full Israeli control. Israeli officials said that what was important about the Quartet statement was that it called for development in Area C through Israeli-Palestinian cooperation. The statement also condemned the Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza, without blasting Israel for its retaliatory military actions. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Statement of the Middle East Quartet - April 11, 2012 (U.S. State Department)
        See also Netanyahu, Following International Plea for Progress, Suggests Direct Talks with Abbas - Raphael Ahren (Times of Israel)
        See also Palestinians Spurn Netanyahu's Invitation to Resume Talks (AP-Washington Post)
  • Uneasy Quiet Descends on Syria; New Calls for Protests
    The opposition Syrian National Council Thursday called for demonstrations to test the resolve of the government to abide by a UN-brokered cease-fire, just hours after an uneasy calm appeared to take hold across the country. Council spokesman Fawaz Zakri said: "If the Syrian regime indeed stops the killings and abides by the cease-fire, then we think, we are sure, that the demonstrations will come back more powerfully and will cover very nearly all of Syria." White House spokesman Jay Carney cautioned that President Assad's regime has reneged on promises to stop the violence in the past. (VOA News)
  • Egyptian Court Clears Way for Salafi Presidential Candidate
    An Egyptian court has ruled that the mother of Hazem Abu Ismail, 50, a popular ultraconservative Islamist viewed as one of the strongest contenders for president, is not a U.S. citizen, likely clearing the way for him to run in May elections. Under the country's electoral law, all candidates for the presidency, their parents and their wives must have only Egyptian citizenship.
        Abu Ismail advocates a strict interpretation of Islam similar to the one practiced in Saudi Arabia. The court session was adjourned repeatedly during the day as supporters of the Salafi candidate filled the court room and also demonstrated outside the State Council. (Al Arabiya)
        See also Egyptian Presidential Candidate Abu Ismail: 9/11 Was "Fabricated" to Defame Islam (MEMRI TV)
  • Clinton Overrules Republican Lawmaker's Hold on Palestinian Aid - Sara Sorcher
    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is allowing U.S. funds to flow to the West Bank and Gaza despite a hold by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), in a rare display of executive-branch authority. Administrations generally do not disburse funding over the objections of lawmakers on relevant committees.
        "The U.S. has given $3 billion in aid to the Palestinians in the last five years alone, and what do we have to show for it?" Ros-Lehtinen said on Wednesday. "Now the administration is sending even more. Where is the accountability for U.S. taxpayer dollars?"  (National Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Cairo Reinforces Troops in Sinai as Smuggling Continues - Anshel Pfeffer
    Egyptian army roadblocks are now manned by soldiers using APCs rather than police officers, but many are abandoned at night. Despite the reinforcements, seven battalions beyond the deployment levels specified in the Camp David treaties, the Egyptian army does not dare position isolated soldiers along the main road of northern Sinai out of fear of Bedouin attacks.
        The reinforcements did not prevent the attacks on the natural gas pipeline to Israel, which was recently sabotaged again for the 14th time. The battalions sent to Sinai are filled with inexperienced, raw recruits, and their armored vehicles are almost all old Soviet wrecks. Few officers are visible. In my previous visits to northern Sinai, you couldn't cross the road without running into hundreds of police and Mukhabarat secret police operatives who flooded the region. Now there is no sign of them.
        In Rafah and El-Arish in Sinai, most of the election posters are of the Salafist preacher Hazem Abu-Ismail. His bearded face jumps out from walls in towns where all the women are covered from head to foot - and the image of other candidates is absent. (Ha'aretz)
  • Ayalon: Pollard Still in Jail Due to FBI Error - Gil Hoffman
    Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard remains in an American jail in part because of a mistaken theory in the U.S. Justice Department and FBI that he had an accomplice whom Israel has refused to name, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told the Jerusalem Post Wednesday. "There of course was no partner, and the charge is totally outrageous, yet it is difficult to shake. This unrealistic and stupid suspicion could be one explanation as to why he is still in jail after so many years when others who did much more damage spying for real enemies have gotten out."
        Ayalon said Passover would have been an ideal time for President Obama to commute Pollard's life sentence to the 26.5 years he has already served. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Let Pollard Go! - Editorial
    Pollard is in his 27th year of imprisonment for passing American intelligence (about inimical third countries Iraq, Libya, the then-PLO headquarters in Tunis) to a friendly country (Israel). He should have been freed long ago and not only because his health is now failing.
        His continued incarceration is plainly unjust. Lighter punishment was meted to assorted U.S. spies for greater offenses, including those involving tangible security risks to America. Pollard's life-term is unprecedented for transferring classified material to an ally.
        We cannot escape the impression that the only reason Pollard is still denied his freedom is because he is Jewish and hence his disproportionate punishment. It is certainly high time the torment of the aging Pollard be discontinued. He has more than paid for what he did. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Call for Peres to Refuse Medal If Pollard Not Freed
    Veteran Israel Radio morning news anchor Aryeh Golan called on President Peres Wednesday to consider not accepting the U.S. Medal of Freedom from President Obama if Obama refuses to release Pollard. (IMRA)
        See also Conference of Presidents Leaders Back Peres' Request for Pollard's Release (Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Chag Sameach Pesach!

"A happy and Kosher Passover to all the People of Israel, From the Navy Under Water Tasks Unit".

                    Thinking of you all on Pesach


                                       Chag Sameach Pesach

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Humanistic Passover Celebration

What Is Passover?Passover, which begins on the evening preceding the fifteenth day of the Hebrew month of Nissan, is the great spring celebration of the Jewish people. Passover began as a nature holiday, celebrating new life. In the priestly and rabbinic traditions, it became a commemoration of the biblical exodus and the escape from slavery in ancient Egypt. This familiar tale, contained in the traditional Haggadah, is retold each year at the seder, the Passover celebration.
Humanistic Jews view the biblical Exodus story as one of the most powerful myths of the Jewish people, a tale that relates the courage and determination of a people fleeing slavery for freedom. Secular Humanistic Judaism views Passover as a time to celebrate the modern, as well as the ancient, quest for freedom. A Humanist Haggadah includes both the legendary tale of the exodus from Egypt and the modern Jewish exodus stories, as well as the themes of its origin. Passover is also a celebration of human dignity and of the freedom that makes dignity possible.
A Humanistic Passover CelebrationHumanistic Jews question the traditional explanations of Pesakh. There is no evidence that the Exodus occurred or that the Hebrew people were in Egypt in the numbers described. The traditional Haggadah includes an anthropomorphic, active, ethnocentric God and the passive deliverance by God of the Hebrews. There are few, if any, women in this Haggadah, and there are no daughters while four sons are described. A secular Passover relates a nontheistic tale. Humanistic Jews celebrate the actions people take to improve their own lives. A cultural Passover recognizes gender equality and the value of inclusiveness so that both girls and boys, men and women feel connected to their history
So what is meant by a Humanistic Passover celebration? For one thing, Humanistic Jews continue the tradition of telling the Exodus story, but they accept that it is a story, not history. Humanistic Jews also talk about the possible history behind the story, perhaps a small slave escape that grew in the retelling. A secular Passover celebration emphasizes the themes of human freedom and dignity, the power of human beings to change their destiny, and the power of hope. Humanistic Jews recognize the power and value of many episodes in Jewish history, not only ancient times. Passover thus becomes a celebration of other times and events when people have left their homes for a new life and where human dignity and courage are honored.  Events of the twentieth century record the courage of millions of Jews who left the land of their birth, escape persecution and seek freedom in Palestine and the land of Israel. Passover recognizes the struggles of millions of people to overcome oppression to achieve freedom and equality. The immigration from Eastern Europe to America, perhaps the largest Jewish Exodus ever, is a powerful part of a Humanistic Passover. Even more significant, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising against the Nazis in 1943 began on the first night of Passover; including a commemoration of this struggle provides a meaningful true story of a people fight for dignity, using their own power to control their destinies. The departure of Refuseniks from the former Soviet Union for Israel and America, the successes of the labor, Civil Rights and women’s movements in the twentieth century – all of these find a place in the Humanistic Haggadah. A Humanist Passover celebration is a celebration of human courage and human power, of the quest for human dignity and equality. This is what makes it one of the most meaningful and enduring Jewish holidays today.
The Seder
The celebration of Passover lasts eight days. It begins with the Seder, a gathering of family and friends for a holiday meal, at home or in your community or congregation, during which the Exodus tale is told. Seder literally means “order,” as in the “order of events” at the Passover dinner. Most celebrations reflect the ancient and traditional celebration of the holiday and include new meanings for today. Most Jews who participate in a Seder retell the ancient stories and share the rich symbols of the holiday. Humanistic Jews add modern stories of human struggles and connect these with current issues and concerns. To the listing of the 10 ancient plagues, a cultural Seder might add modern plagues that we are battling today. The ancient tale becomes the non-theistic story of a people’s quest for freedom, providing a symbol for later struggles for freedom. The Humanist Seder becomes a celebration of human effort and to Passover Haggadahs
To the symbols on the traditional Seder plate (haroset, bitter herbs, roasted egg, parsley, lamb shankbone), the Seder plate in Jewish humanism might include:
  • An orange, representing the historical marginalization of lesbians and gay men. It also suggested the fruitfulness for all Jews who contribute to Judaism.
  • A potato, symbolizing the exodus of Ethiopian Jews from oppression to freedom, from famine to plenty, and recognizing the suffering and starvation of those in concentration camps during the Holocaust.
Humanistic Jews add a cup of water for Miriam (who legend says traveled with a well of healing waters throughout the desert journey of the Hebrew people) next to the cup of wine for Elijah, again symbolizing the role of women within the history of the Jewish people.
The retelling of our modern struggles for freedom from oppression contribute to make Passover a more meaningful and powerful community celebration for Humanistic Jews.

Thanks to Society for Humanistic Judaism for this informative article

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