Beyond the Cusp

September 17, 2014

The Future for World Jewry Dependent on Safe, Secure Israel

 

There is a very simple way to look at the future for the Jewish People which can be expressed in a very simple phraseology, “Know Israel to Know Jews; No Israel for No Jews.” Suggesting that the health and future of Jewish communities outside of Israel was threatened to the point of their ceasing to exist in the foreseeable future ten years ago, let alone making that observation to the criticism and relegation of suffering from idiocy in the mid-1960s, such statements were poorly received and brought ridicule and dismissals. Even making such statements now, despite the greater signs of existing and growing threats becoming evident and undeniable, one is opening themselves to accusations of outright paranoia, exaggeration of threats and denial of the obvious vibrancy and rejuvenation of Jewish communities, especially if such commentary is proffered in the United States. Once again, just as was prevalent in the 1920s-40s within European Jewish communities, those quoting evidence of the growing threats to Jewish existence is often met with the very same response, “It cannot happen here, we are accepted, assimilated and fully interwoven and accepted in the society. We are teachers, physicians, lawyers, judges, professors and we serve in the government and are accepted across all walks of life. No, you’re wrong, it cannot happen here.” Those sounding these warnings now realize the opposition and denials which were received by Ze’ev Jabotinsky, one of the early Zionists who attempted to get European Jews to make Aliyah to Israel warning of the coming storm in Europe before World War II as he faced the identical arguments and obstinacy and a refusal to see what he believed was plainly obvious. The protestations have started to lessen in their frequency and volume as across Europe the picture being painted is of threats to Jews which resemble those from a mere two generations back and well within the memories and knowledge base of the majority of Jews. This knowledge does not make acceptance any easier even for those of us who have carried the responsibility for sounding the alarm for decades through humiliating and biting rejections as we never found any joy in carrying a message nobody wished to hear and take no pleasure that some are finally starting to listen and a select few new voices have joined in sounding the alarms. Never the less, the alarm must be sounded so that any willing to listen can be provided a path to safety once they agree to act, and we can only pray that more will awaken to the growing threats and take the necessary steps to save themselves and pass their knowledge to others so more will be awakened.

 

Where those who desire to believe that there is no real danger in their location and are refusing to recognize any increasing anti-Semitism always claiming that such events happen elsewhere and their neighborhood is warm, comfortable and accepting posing no threat. They will always wave their hand when evidence is presented as if waving off any evidence and claiming that the threat is over there, not here, we are safe, but that is an argument which can only blind many until it becomes dangerously close to, or worse, actually too late. Blurring the evidence is the reality that the most evident and irrefutable evidence around the rest of the world almost always coincides with violence or even conflicts in the Middle East where Israel appears to present a more dangerous and threatening situation than their home location, as warfare always presents obvious dangers which are easily depicted in new articles and televised and internet coverage. Despite the recent conflict in Israel between Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the other terrorist forces in Gaza where thousands of rockets were launched indiscriminately into Israel reaching distances placing three-quarters of Israel within the range of the strikes, the increased anti-Semitism which struck across the globe, particularly in Europe, was easily measurable with increases approaching four-hundred-percent in the worst places. There was one miracle within Israel which made presenting the increased anti-Semitism more evident as thanks to the Iron Dome anti-missile systems spread across Israel, the vast number of rockets which were launched were either correctly identifying strike sites as in open areas and intercepting ninety percent of the rest of the rockets which, in combination with the Israeli people heeding the rocket alarms and headed for safe rooms and shelters, which Israeli investment has made numerous and readily available, the number of casualties in Israel was greatly minimized. The lack of lists upon lists of Israeli casualties, the numbers and severity of the anti-Israel, and often anti-Semitic, protest and the actual assaults on Synagogues and Jews across Europe and in the United States were made extremely evident. The areas which got the greatest coverage for the increase in anti-Semitic violence were France, Belgium, and Britain, though Britain gained its notoriety for one particular event when Minister of Parliament George Galloway unilaterally declared the city of Bradford an “Israel-free zone” that rejects all Israeli goods, services, academics and tourists. Britain might owe Minister Galloway a level of gratitude as he stole any coverage which would have reported that Britain carried one of the greatest increases in levels of anti-Semitic acts reaching levels of four-hundred percent. The situation has reached such epidemic proportions in France that for the first time in decades France leads the rest of the nations of the world in numbers of Jews making Aliyah to Israel. This is an important development as France has the third largest population of Jews in the world only exceeded by Israel and the United States.

 

Where many Jews in the United States may discuss the atrocious realities faced by the Jews in France, the Ukraine, Sweden, and mostly throughout Europe, somehow their conversation rarely touches on the anti-Semitism in their own backyards. You will rarely hear any discussion of what is best known as the “Knockout Game” which has often been described as assaults consisting of a single punch attempt to knock down or worse to some unsuspecting person which usually targets a Caucasian by a perpetrator who belongs to a minority. The most rejected and ignored fact is that more often than not the victim was somebody who was wearing clothing or other identifying items showing their Jewishness. There was not much mention of an Orthodox Rabbi who was shot dead in the street in North Miami Beach on August 9, 2014, on his way to Shabbat morning services. Rabbi Joseph Raksin from Crown Heights, New York was visiting North Miami Beach. The North Miami Beach Police Department has thus far refused to label this as a hate crime claiming that it was more likely an attempted robbery gone wrong. This despite witness description telling that the two assailants simply walked up to the sixty-year-old Rabbi, shot him, and fled, one on a bicycle and one on foot while, police say they do not have a good description of the perpetrators. The really troubling additional piece of information is that casts doubt on the refusal to classify the murder of the Rabbi as a hate crime is a previous crime committed against the very Synagogue he was walking towards and was a mere two blocks from when he was murdered had been when it was defiled with swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti. But why should the North Miami Beach Police be any more disturbed than the majority of the United States Jewish community. Apparently the psychological community studies of victims and their reactions to growing endangerment and hostilities by avoiding recognizing the growing problems and their ability to continue to live their lives completely oblivious to the increasing endangerment to their lives and their situation. This is being further put on display by the Jews of the United States and a frightening percentage of the Jewish communities across Europe. Fortunately, there is still time for the Jews of the world to awaken to the heavy threats hanging over their heads. The one item worth mentioning is that the continued health and existence of Israel may be dependent on the influx of the rest of the world Jewry making Aliyah as with the influx of Jews which could even more than double the Jewish population of Israel would also provide the numbers to fully populate and utilize all the lands within Israel including the areas often referred to as the periphery. The only thing to be said is, the sooner the better, for both the Jews facing an increasingly hateful and threatening world and for Israel who can only gain strength from the increase in population and abilities which the new Olim would bring with them adding to the areas of expertise which already exist within Israel. In many ways it is advantageous to both groups. The Jews would find their safety increased within Israel and Israel would gain a larger base of Jewish citizens and gain from their additional skills as well as numbers.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

September 11, 2014

Attack on Israeli Chief Rabbinate or Liberalizing Conversion?

Yesh Atid and Hatnua Parties members of the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, have introduced a bill in conjunction with left-wing social action organizations and Reform and liberal rabbis which would revamp and alter the standing traditions and rules governing conversion to Judaism within Israel. The normal problems with conversions within Judaism has been assuring that any conversion performed outside of Israel would be recognized if and when the convert applied to move to Israel, especially if their return is planned to be as part of the “Right of Return” laws in Israel regarding Jews returning to their ancient homeland. With the introduction for changes to the rules and governing body deciding conversions within Israel a completely new and otherwise unexpected reaction has recently reared up. Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau in a meeting with rabbis in London was informed that should this proposed law be enacted that there would be a definitive split in Judaism as outside Israel any conversion performed under the new directions could see mistrust or even outright rejection outside Israel. This would be a complete reversal of the current situation. One of the originators of this proposal, Minister of Knesset Elazar Stern of the Hatnua Party stated one year ago in November of 2013 in an emergency session of the Knesset People, Religion and State Caucus to address Chief Rabbinate’s policies stated, “We came here today with the belief that Israel is a Jewish-Democratic state, not only Jewish or only democratic, and that sometimes it comes at a price; that sometimes Judaism needs to bow to the rules of a democracy, and sometimes a democracy needs to bow to the rules of Judaism.” This is an interesting statement which is at the core of this argument and also gives a deep insight to the desires of Minister Stern and those backing the call to alter conversion in Israel.

The first necessity to this discussion is to define what the new law would change and what such changes would mean to somebody seeking to convert to Judaism in Israel. The law would place the sanctioning and licensing of Rabbis permitted to perform conversions in the hands of each local government removing this power from the Israeli Chief Rabbinate. The reasoning is that currently only Orthodox Rabbis are permitted to perform conversions and the rules they must adhere to are straight forward and considered to be too demanding by those backing this legislation. The main complaint they have is that the only Rabbis permitted to perform conversions are Orthodox Rabbis and Reform and Conservative Rabbis are not given such license. The backers of the new rules for conversion also believe that the requirements an individual must meet to complete the conversion process are too lengthy and require a rather great amount of study and proof of understanding of the history and commandments in Judaism. They feel that there should be different and varied levels of requirements and length and depth of study necessary for conversion more attuned to the various different schools of Judaism. Their argument is that those born as Jews often do not have as deep an understanding or have ever taken study to the depths and breadth required of converts and that if a convert plans to join a congregation which is other than Orthodox, then their level necessary to meet standards for conversion should reflect the branch of Judaism to which they plan to belong. Those are the stated arguments, but are they the real basis and driving ideology behind those proposing the changes?

Minister of the Knesset Elazar Stern judging by outward appearances would be thought very religious. Judging by his statements and actions one gets an entirely different perception. In acts Minister Stern appears to oppose the hierarchal structure of Orthodox Judaism and wishes to undermine the hold the Chief Rabbinate has over the rules for who is permitted to perform conversions, to officiate Jewish weddings, and to conduct or oversee other rites which currently fall under the Chief Rabbinate. He has been rather outspoken about his distaste for many of the Orthodox and Hasidic rules, practices and especially control over the governing bodies of Judaism, and not only over their control within Israel but the seemingly fairly strict governance of what may be considered to be truly Orthodox Judaism worldwide. Minister Stern would prefer a more liberalized and inclusive form of oversight of that which should be seen as approved practice of Judaism. Where there is a degree of merit to this path of thought, it also leads to some potentially questionable results once this path is first tread.

Once the hierarchy is challenged and altered the question would soon arise as to how far should the new structure depart from the former limits and exactly who now decides who and what is acceptable and what would be considered straying too far from the path of traditional Orthodox Judaism. Who would be trusted with the powers to choose who approves and regulates conversions and would these same authorities also make decisions on weddings and other societal religious licenses. Would it be possible that in certain cities or towns that a secular board might be empowered with these decisions and if so where does that leave those seeking a strict Orthodoxy able to turn to find those who would meet such requirements when the ability to legally act as a certified Rabbi or other officiating religious position is no longer under the control of the Chief Rabbinate. Then there is the most dangerous result where people wishing to enjoy the fruits of being a Jew in Israel but are unwilling to put forth the efforts under Orthodox systems would be able to shop municipalities seeking one with a more lax and relaxed set of standards and be converted without receiving sufficient education in the doctrines and requirements of a truly religious Jew who observes all the commandments. Somebody could receive a conversion from such a locality and then present themselves as being Jewish to a Jew who is actually Orthodox in their practice and should their relationship lead to marriage without the convert’s lack of full knowledge of the commandments being revealed, the consequences of such could be heart wrenching. It would not be that the convert lacking complete knowledge could not be further educated by their spouse, it is that such should never be a possibility as it would place an undue strain on the relationship from the outset and one member of the union might bear resentments even not fully cognizant of those regrets and the animosity they produced. These and other difficulties are in addition to the potential of a lack of credibility in Israeli conversions elsewhere in the world requiring that each convert carry with them the license with the name of the Rabbi who officiated their training and education in the traditions and commandments of Judaism to be checked against a list of acceptable Rabbis within Israel similarly as to how in Israel there is a list of which Rabbis across the globe are considered Kosher to oversee a conversion for it to be recognized in Israel.

The final argument which should be addressed before this legislation is voted on, let alone passed, is that should not Israel be the standard of what it means to be Jewish and thus their conversions, weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, Brit Milah, and any other Jewish sanctification or ceremony performed and considered and sanctioned as truly Jewish in Israel be accepted without question the world over. If the rules are altered and are actually different from one location within Israel to another or even defined by each individual congregation such that even within a community where there exists more than one congregation that there be uncertainty as to the Jewishness of a conversion etc. Furthermore, is it even the place for the Knesset or any other political and secular body to make any final decisions as to who, where and what constitutes true Judaism the opening of Pandora’s Box? The Chief Rabbinate has not taken to attempt to rule on the qualifications for anybody to hold a position in the Knesset or as to who may be considered for the position of Prime Minister, serve on the Israeli Supreme Court or any of the multitudes of political positions within Israel. Could not the Knesset be counted upon to at the very least return this favor? Granted there are those in Israel, even among Israeli Jews, who do not particularly have any great affinity for the Chief Rabbinate, but the Chief Rabbinate concerns themselves almost entirely with the decisions relating to Orthodox Judaism and the rulings and regulating those things religiously bound and independent of the secular government. One might hope that the majority of those for whom Judaism and their being a Jew is of great importance and who grant such a strong measure of control over their lives and actions would also be the individuals who would get to decide if they would prefer some other manner of setting the rules, regulations, standards and official decisions concerning the practicing of Judaism and what and who is considered to be truly Jewish. Has there been a hue and cry from the body of Jewish society for the Knesset to interfere with the current manner where the Chief Rabbinate decides those things Jewish to be challenged and altered or is this the dream of those for whom Judaism is not their guiding light and whose religious observance does not hold as primary a place in their day-to-day decisions and lives such that it would meet the preferred manner of Jewish life as would be recommended by the Chief Rabbis. If secular authorities decide to take legal control over religious decisions then those secular institutions should expect the religious to do all in their power to elect only the most religious into those offices. Minister of the Knesset Stern, are you and your cohorts really interested in kicking the religious community so hard in those things they hold so very dear that they rise up and vote only by their religious beliefs those who hold every government position from top to bottom within Israel wherever they have the votes to do so? You might receive a real surprise should you insist in playing that game. I understand that you are watching Israelis becoming more and more religious with each passing day and this frightens you but it really should not as thus far the religious mostly keep a separation between their religiosity and their duties as a citizen. So, could we please leave religious matters to the religious and secular matters can remain with the secular? Somehow I doubt you will agree as you know so much better than the rest of us who are less enlightened simply because we believe that there are those things that are written in stone. One example is the Ten Commandments which were originally written in stone; twice.

Beyond the Cusp

September 7, 2014

Israel Must Use Cairo Talks to Force Final Offer

Israel has been facing an ever growing pressure from the world with each beginning of negotiations having the European Union, its member individual states, the United States, the Arab League, the United Nations and who know who else demanding that Israel surrender more and more land for the Palestinian state. When the idea for a sound and fair peace was first discussed after the Six Day War the going idea at that time was that Israel would return most, possibly all, of the Sinai Peninsula and would retain the Golan and most, if not all, of the West Bank with Gaza being considered as part of the Sinai. That was in the early 1970s and goes through to the most recent offers and Israel has been pushed and shoved by world opinions back to the original Armistice Lines from 1949 on which the Arabs based their best possible borders from which they could launch attacks to destroy Israel. The present demands even include Israel surrendering half of Jerusalem including the Temple Mount and all of the Old City, the holiest of places in Judaism. That is how far the world has strayed from supporting Israel with defensible borders to demanding Israel assume indefensible borders. That is why Israel must act and place on display the reality that all the Palestinians have ever desired is the destruction of Israel, not a state for themselves and how they use their claim for a state to bring about the destruction of Israel.

 

The upcoming talks in Cairo have been sold as being between Israel and Hamas over the recent conflict currently suspended in an open ended ceasefire. As the Palestinian government is presumed to be a unity government which includes Hamas within the Palestinian Authority and as the Palestinian Authority also has a representative at these talks, Israel should present a final offer, take it or leave it, and set a deadline by which the Palestinian government must answer with all elements signed in agreement or there is no agreement. Israel should set out and delineate borders which address the Israeli necessities for defensible, safe and secure borders, along with retaining the major settlement blocks and any other lands from Area C deemed required for future expansion and settlement or as a buffer to protect Israeli assets from attacks from any Palestinian areas. These borders should include the entire length of the Judean and Samarian hills which overlook the Israeli heartland including but not limited to the Tel Aviv-Netanya areas and Ben Gurion International Airport. The Israeli representatives to Cairo should present this final settlement of borders and set down that any return of Palestinian refugees would be into areas under Palestinian control just as the Jewish refugees were settled in Israel and not in Jordanian or Egyptian controlled areas. After explaining the exact details of the Israeli offer the presenters should remain for any immediate questions which mostly would entail repeating that this is the final Israeli proposal and that if it should be rejected then Israel would unilaterally set whatever borders Israel desired by whatever means required. After the short period to explain that everything Israel is prepared to surrender to permit a Palestinian state is detailed in the presented plan and stands as is, they should simply depart with a final cautionary word that the Israelis expect their answer by the end of the month after which Israel would set forth the final borders they desire which may or may not have any similarity to those offered in the presented agreement leaving the understanding that the offered plan is very probably far more generous than what would ensue should the Palestinians believe they could simply refuse to accept any offer and believe they can pursue their agenda unopposed indefinitely as has been made obvious by their refusals to every fair offer no matter how generous.

 

As the Israeli representatives are presenting the final Israeli proposal for peace and a two state solution, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu with as many other Party Leaders and other high level Israeli officials beside him should present the same plan in a major speech made to the world and especially the Western leadership which has for years whittled at the minute piece of land promised the Jews for their state from after World War I and independent and before the Holocaust thus not due to any persecution but recognized as the right and proper thing to do and that Israel was to take the world to task to stand by their promises and agreements. Then the Prime Minister must tell of the generous offer being given the Palestinian unity government this day in Cairo and that they have granted the Palestinians the rest of the month in which to comply and agree to accept this offer otherwise Israel would act unilaterally and claim lands that were set aside in perpetuity for the Jewish people. The Prime Minister might desire to go further and present a plan for permitting Palestinians who desired to leave rather than live under Jewish rule with a generous stipend making their resettlement more comfortable. The Prime Minister can refer to the large number of similar population transfers which have occurred under similar situations over the years and how this would simply be the finalization of just such a transfer of populations from the early years where the displaced Jews were resettled in Israel while the displaced Arabs were rejected by the Arab world and left in squalor in camps run by their brothers who cared little for them except how they permitted the continuation of the war to destroy Israel. The Prime Minister can expose how the world has shamelessly joined the Arab efforts to destroy Israel by chipping away at the amount of land recognized as being holy and wholly reserved for the Jewish state. The Prime Minister can state that these machinations and deceits end today and Israel will present the Palestinian Arabs this one final offer and if they refuse, then Israel will set what borders she desires and allow for the resettlement of any Arab Palestinians wishing to reside elsewhere. Meanwhile, the known leadership of the Palestinian terror organizations and leaders of the political wings of these anti-Israel and anti-Zionist parties will be requested to leave any lands claimed by Israel, period. After the Prime Minister has addressed the situation, the other party leaders would be permitted to speak and provide their support for the Israeli position presenting a united front capable of forming or retaining the coalition. After this offer has been presented, then all that remains is to quietly ignore the rants which are sure to emanate from all quarters and then act exactly as presented allowing the Palestinians the allotted time and not one second more. If they refuse the offer or refuse to provide an answer, then Israel should simply act unilaterally as presented. The time for permitting the erosion of the state of Israel by those who care little or even feel hatred and are assisting in the eradication by inches of the Jewish state must be brought to its end, period.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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