Beyond the Cusp

April 16, 2014

Israel and America Nations Headed in Opposite Directions

Spend a good amount of time in the malls and midtown shopping outdoor malls in Israel and the United States and simply count the numbers of baby carriages and pregnant women and you will quickly see a glaring difference. In Israel you cannot take more than a half dozen steps without having to sidestep one or the other and in America you can hardly find either in most cities. These are the signs of a healthy society which is growing against a moribund society dependent on immigrations, both legal and illegal, to support the need for workers. Read the newspapers and you will see that in Israel they have built an effective barrier to prevent further illegals coming across the border from Egypt while giving illegal immigrants already in the nation seed money and a plane ticket to get them to voluntarily relocate outside of Israel while the United States political class appears to be earnestly determined to grant as many as twenty-million illegal immigrants an easy path to citizenship making them legal for employment. The United States is willing to take the workers with other illegal immigrants in order to keep population growth positive as without the influx of illegal aliens into the United States the population would be on a slow decline and accelerating. The population in Israel, particularly the Jewish population, is growing at an increasing rate to such an extent that demographics experts are now predicting that even should Israel annex all of Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem and grant the majority of the Arab population citizenship over time the Jewish majority would not be challenged by the so-called demographic Arab bomb.

 

But that is not the full extent of the differences between the United States and Israel. Where religious service attendance and open practice of religion are on the decline in the United States it is rapidly growing in both numbers and percentage of the population in Israel. Religious observance is being attacked by the government in the United States as is evidenced by the current hearings in the Supreme Court over the Affordable Care Act’s demand that employers provide birth control and other reproductive health services without copay including all abortifacient drugs. In Israel there is a growing movement to provide any necessary assistance, medical care, adoptive options, and support for mothers deciding to keep their child after birth providing viable options for those women who are considering turning to abortion believing they have no other real alternative. These efforts have been received and greatly appreciated with some of the mothers who were aided and had their baby saved by the efforts of these private organizations turning around and joining them in seeking out women in distress and giving them alternatives to getting an abortion. There are those in Israel who claim the trending away from abortion as a solution to pregnancies is due to the great love and respect for life that is a central theme in Judaism. They credit the increasing religious observance with being somewhat responsible for the movement away from abortion and the increase in people and organizations providing assistance and alternatives to abortions.

 

There is a general feeling of optimism accompanying the growth in faith and religious observance in Israel which is almost palpable. The Synagogues, Churches, Mosques and Temples are filled for weekly services and a growing number of Torah and Bible classes with some even being offered in languages other than Hebrew as there is a relatively large immigrant population responding to the call growing in Jews worldwide to make Aliyah and return home. There are signs that the numbers of Jews returning home to Israel will continue to increase as the world situation devolves further with growing anti-Semitism throughout the world including the Americas and Europe as well as other regions where such has long been a serious problem. Meanwhile, there has been evidence that the numbers of immigrants crossing the southern border of the United States have decreased over the past decade with some evidence of some of those who had already come into the United States, often illegally, are now returning south of the border as they have been unable to find the employment and better life they had sought. The difference between America and Israel is one is growing and vibrant and the other not so much. Perhaps this may be part of the growing troubles between the two nations who have experienced great relations that recently have turned troublesome. Such an end is sad to see, but perhaps these two friends will find a path to rebuild their relations in the near future.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

January 13, 2014

Synagogue Desecration Draws Little Outrage

Adjacent synagogues in Ezer, a town located between Ashdod and Ashkelon, were broken into and vandalized. The damages included ripping the doors off of the ark which held the Torah Scrolls, tearing of Torah Scrolls, leaving uncovered Torah Scrolls on the floor, damaging other holy books tossing them strewn about on the floor and treating other holy objects in a destructive manner. This desecration comes only a week after a similar desecration of a synagogue in Tel Aviv where Nazi graffiti had been painted on the walls and floors along with “Death” spray painted on the front wall of the building, and a crude drawing of a devil painted on the floor. Other such crimes have occurred within the last year including the desecration of King David’s Tomb during the recent massive snowstorm. Newly donated religious holy books were stamped with the fictitious name “Academy – King David.” In all of these instances the response, if there was even a response, was muted and no official denunciation by high government or religious figures was released to the public or the press.

 

This is exactly the opposite as the reaction to a recent desecration of a Mosque in Israel coming from Prime Minister Netanyahu as well as the both Chief Rabbis all of whom echoed the original charge that the unholy act was perpetrated by Jews as a means to victimize the Muslims residing in the town. The subsequent intensive police investigation into the Mosque desecration revealed that the vandalism was most likely carried out by the Muslim Arabs residing in the same town as the Mosque in order to cast blame on Jews and rouse additional hatred towards the Jewish residents in the neighboring areas. The investigation into the Mosque incident was a full-force effort with nothing spared under the supervision of highly placed officials while the synagogue vandalisms are often not given similar efforts nor do they involve as wide an interest by politicians and high officials. Is this really the image the Israeli authorities wish to convey that Jewish holy sites and items are not as protected or whose desecration is of less importance than are Mosques, Churches and other religious holy sites. One would hope that any such desecration would garner equal importance and investigation and if any should raise more alarm, it should be Jewish holy sites, which is not to claim that Jewish sites are more holy, just that presumably as Israel is the home of the Jews, it would only stand to reason.

 

The problem that is exhibited by not rising to the same level of pique and concern over the desecration against synagogues as officials demonstrate for those other than Jewish holy sites is that Jewish holy sites are less holy and of less value than those of other religions. It reflects that the Jewish leadership of the Jewish State of Israel care more for other religions than they care to give to their own. This has been further reflected in many recent comments from some of the Jewish leadership from within the government including the State Prosecutor’s Office and the Knesset. Recently Finance Minister Yair Lapid came out on Facebook calling for the Chief Rabbis to be dismissed from their jobs. His postings included, “It is insolent and a national scandal, and we will act to have them dismissed, both in the Knesset and in the government and even in the legal sphere if need be.” Further he wrote, “These civil servants who are employed by the State of Israel and receive a very lovely salary are sitting in their comfortable offices with their state-provided vehicles and announce that they do not agree that women should serve in the mud and cold as fighters, in aviation courses, in the Border Police.” Yair Lapid continued, “Does this mean that the female commander of the Eitam combat battalion should resign? And what about Orna Barbivai (the head of the IDF’s Manpower Division)? Or all the female teacher soldiers? And what about the female intelligence soldiers I met two weeks ago in the Northern Command, who prevent the infiltration of terrorists through the fence? Should they also not serve?” He summed his tirade stating, “David Lau and Yitzchak Yosef no longer deserve to serve as Chief Rabbis in Israel.” Like many secular Jews, Minister Lapid honestly believes that Rabbis are supposed to obey the decisions made by the political leadership above and over the teachings and commandments of Torah and related holy works. As a secular Jew, Lapid considers the machinations of men in pursuit of making the secular governmental laws of the land to be superior to Torah and traditions and that in any case of a conflict between the secular and the religious that the Rabbis must bend and satisfy the secular leadership over G0d and Torah and interpreting the commandments as written. He is like so many who hold that science and the presumed maturing of humankind has rendered Torah obsolete. Such a view is also indicative of those who have not studied Torah and the Jewish faith deeply and are unable to possess an appreciation for Torah and its wisdom. As such one would hope that as a secular Jew he would refrain from the pretense of judging the Halachic decisions using secular eyes.

 

Then there are comments made by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni who was quoted claiming, “I want to take another approach, an approach that opens Israel to the rest of the world, cracking the glass ceiling and bringing more opportunities, and economic, scientific, and academic cooperation. I want to see a liberal, Zionist Israel, not a conservative, nationalistic one.” Where her comment did not specifically call for a secularly based Israel over a religiously based Israel, one can easily see in her words and from previous statements and actions that Minister Livni desires that Israel embrace secular pluralism over following Torah and Jewish traditions. Minister Livni has also revealed her disdain for traditionalists and the religious Zionists in Israel through what has been learned through leaks and other news which paint a picture of Livni’s willingness to sacrifice Jerusalem, the Old City, Temple Mount, and Mount of Olives and the Mount of Olives Cemetery along with all of Judea and Samaria and other disregards for the positions of the religious Zionists. Tzipi sees Israel as a “modern” secular pluralistic nation which is based upon scientific facts and those proven truths which are the basics of a secular humanist socialist philosophy that idolized the teachings of Darwin, Freud, and the progressive leaders of the Twentieth Century over the Torah, Talmud and three thousand years of Jewish teachings and history.

 

It is looking at the world through secular filters which disregard faith and in place relies upon scientific postulates and proven theories and the sciences of biology, physics, chemistry, sociology, and psychology and dismissing virtually anything predating the eighteenth century as irrelevant and simply erroneous as it does not pass the visions defined by the secular progressives of the past two millennia that leads to the total reliance on science and basically ignoring the depth of wisdom from the beginnings of recorded human history and their expressions at the wonderment of the human soul and the awe of the world and the mysteries hidden from mere human understandings and the commandments rising from sources beyond scientific definitions. That is not to advise that one ignore the entirety of scientific discovery but a call to supplement the science with a reverence that includes the teachings of Torah and related studies. Wisdom comes from more than the test-tube, calculator, protractor, compass and the provable. Much of what is most precious to a full understanding of the self almost demands that one include the understandings of human nature which, in opposition to modernist views, has not changed very much over the millennia since the beginning of recorded human history. There has even been a relatively new trend within the scientific circles which has found renewed importance and appreciation for faith, wisdom and the beliefs from the Bible and Torah. Perhaps it is through the tempering of both approaches which serves mankind best.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

November 11, 2013

A Look at the Future for the Jews and Christians of Europe

There have been numerous studies and commentaries pertaining to the rising anti-Semitism in much of Europe. There have also been eulogies for the Christian and Catholic Churches in Europe and often mentions of another church or cathedral being put up for sale and often being transformed into Mosques. This transformation mirrors the events in the Middle East, Northern Africa, Spain, Turkey and other locations where Islam spread during their periods of expansion as they conquered these lands and transformed them from Christian nations into Muslim majorities and dwindling Christian presence. Similar such occurrences are currently being witnessed in Egypt with the Coptic Christians, the Christians of Lebanon and the Christians of Bethlehem under Palestinian autonomy. The story is often told about the empty pews of the churches throughout most of Europe and the advance of secular statist humanism where the human is worshiped as the ultimate pinnacle of creation and the State is seen as the end all and arbiter of rights, privileges and petition which is nothing more than another variation of worship. The Christians have yet to face the animus which is being felt by the Jews in Europe.

That is where a recent survey taken of European Jews reveals the extent of the discomfort, one could say persecution, felt by the majority of Jews in Europe. Some of the statistics from the survey found that sixty-six percent of European Jews considered anti-Semitism “a fairly big or very big” problem in their country; seventy-six percent said anti-Semitism had worsened in the past five years, with abuse especially prevalent on the Internet with it particularly present in social media, especially where aliases hide the perpetrator’s real name; France, Belgium and Hungary reported the highest rates of anti-Semitism in the media and political life, as well vandalism and open hostility in public; twenty-one percent of people said they had experienced verbal or physical abuse in the last year for being Jewish; almost half feared experiencing public insults or harassment in the next year, with as close to twenty-three percent saying they purposely avoided Jewish sites or celebrations as they might not be safe; eighty-two percent of people did not report abuse or discrimination they had experienced to the authorities feeling it would be useless as nothing would be fully investigated and it would have no real effect on their situations; large number of European Jews are considering leaving because of the persecution they experience in the countries; the belief was found to be valid that a clear link between the demonization of Israel and attacks on Jews in Europe exists; sixty-eight percent of the Jews reported they have avoided appearing identifiably Jewish in public for fear of attack or harassment; eighty-two percent of those surveyed say they have heard Israelis being likened with Nazis; many of those respondents who had witnessed anti-Semitism saying that it had come from the Left with fifty-seven percent of those in Britain, sixty-two percent of those in Italy and sixty-seven percent of those in France said they had heard anti-Semitism from someone on the Left; racism against Jews from the Muslim community was reported by fifty-one percent of Jews in Sweden, fifty-six percent of Jews in Britain and seventy-three percent of Jews in France; and thirty-one percent of Jews had either considered or attempted emigration specifically as a result of anti-Semitism, while in France the figure is just below half.

Between these numbers and the known high rate of assimilated Jews who no longer practice their religion and the high rate of intermarriage, it is very likely that the end of a Jewish presence beyond some small communities of Orthodox and Hassidic Jews will remain in Europe by the middle of this century and certainly by its end. The truly frightening revelation is that the Jews in the United States are following this very trend, though with far less prevalence of the anti-Semitism, and outside the very religious communities the numbers of practicing and Shabbat Synagogue attending Jews is rapidly dwindling where these communities may soon also disappear. The one thing that might change these trends and force many Jews back to their faith is the rise of anti-Semitism, oddly enough. Should it become systemic and be enacted into law, something which has already begun in Europe with the bans on Kosher slaughter (Shechita) as well as bans on Circumcision, two basic tenets of the Jewish faith, the Jews might, as has occurred numerous times in their history, return to their religion and reestablish close communities living as separate from the mainstreams of society and eventually relocating most likely to Israel. Some might claim that this is exactly what was predicted would occur once the Jewish State was reestablished and that all of this is simply coming to fruition of the ingathering of the Jews to Eretz Yisroel. They would also point to the return by the Ethiopian Jewish community, the Bnei Menashe Jews from India and the Yemeni Jews to Israel in the recent past and still continuing in the present and many expect that more of the lost tribes from the northern kingdom of Israel (also called Samaria) will be found and brought home as well as the rest of the Jews from the southern kingdom of Judah. That is an area where I must depart as such events are beyond the reach or control of mortal humans and as such must simply be hoped for and attempt to assist where and when able but not to the point of believing that our actions can produce such results, that is decided in another dominion.

Beyond the Cusp

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