Beyond the Cusp

April 16, 2015

Anti-Semitism Rising Yet It Can’t Happen Here

 

Any sane person, one might think, would not doubt that anti-Semitism is rising in the four corners of the globe. While that is true, each admission of that carries an additional modifier. That modifier is the exact same modifier used by Jews everywhere from the beginning of Judaism as a major religion, “It can’t happen here.” Now, that modifier always has some accompanying rationalizations such as the following: We Jews are an intricate part of the society; we are accepted in society; we are seen as judges, lawyers, businesspeople, and are even elected to positions in government; we Jews are accepted and assimilated; and my favorite, this isn’t Nazi Germany, this is America. There is one item from the previous which has always puzzled me, how it is such an intelligent people, as Jews presumably are, can misunderstand that their being assimilated does not infer automatically that the population has assimilated them into the whole. There are other qualifiers and whatever one you can dream up is probably used by some Jews somewhere. What is really ridiculous is when there are leaders of Jewish society, the central pillar around which the community seeks wisdom and guidance, the Rabbis who when asked, “Should not the Jews leave here and seek someplace less threatening to live?” They answer, “No, of course not. Why would you suggest that? This has been our home and the homes of our families for generations. We have a lot invested in this community.” And my favorite and usually their final rationalization, “The authorities have promised to help us and keep the peace and guard against any further anti-Semitism.” Do not get me wrong, they honestly feel that these rationalizations are completely valid and hold water. They refuse to see that the actual realities have struck holes in their every argument.

 

Things in Europe are at the worse and mostly beyond the cusp range of realities; so I will stick with the queries and responses we received when we began telling the other members of the congregation with whom we had a familiar friendship. First allow me to point out that those with whom we still converse online and the Rabbi all supported our making Aliyah and gave it their blessings if not their desire that it be they who were going to live in Eretz Yisroel. But the others gave responses such as, “Why would you want to go there? You are leaving the United States? But things are so much more civil here. Aren’t you worried about the terrorism? And our favorite, you will be returning here within a year once you see what it is like in Israel. I’ve been there and I know. Those naysayers were wrong. We’ve been here well over a year and are loving it. I, myself, have never felt more comfortable and accepted as I have here and can only imagine how much more so once we have mastered Hebrew, at least master enough to, through spits and starts, get through an entire thought.

 

That little anecdotal trip down memory lane was to point out we have seen this attitude play itself out in our own experience. Of course, as mentioned, our friends all expressed their longing to make Aliyah and come to Israel and many expected to do so in the near future, but time will tell on that. Getting to make Aliyah as a Jew is no longer you show up and announce that you are Jewish, kiss the ground, and be granted immediate citizenship. The paperwork we filled out made a pile almost rivaling the stuff we brought with us. OK, that was a bit of an exaggeration. Still, the process for us was a little complicated and took over two years to complete and during that time it had its many ups, downs and why would they need to know this questions. Eventually we completed the process and many of the items we were puzzled why they were necessary proved not to be required but was stuff they gathered for statistical reasons. OK, so you were collecting mega-data, why didn’t you just say so, we’ve heard about Edward Snowden, we would have understood, honest.

 

Our making Aliyah had to do with a young nine year old boy promising himself, the worst promise you can make because it requires you to either complete the promise or let yourself down, that when the time came and all things in America were fulfilled he would retire in Israel, something the wiffie really might have preferred knowing about before we got married, but she already knew I was a bit strange, right, quite strange, well, if you insist, beyond the cusp strange! There, I’ve admitted it, happy? Still, it may have been the most advantageous thing we ever did as it changed our lives for the better and really opened up our lives much as a rose stretches out its petal to greet the morning sun and drink up the warmth and the blessed energy G0d has seen in His wisdom to provide for that rose bud so tightly shuttered to awaken stretching out revealing its beauty and spreading its fragrance for all to inhale and exclaim that this is a beautiful day. That is how we awaken here most mornings.

 

Back to the subject which is as horrific and threatening as our returning home to Eretz Yisroel was rewarding and enriching. The news we read about places in Europe such as Malmo, London, Toulouse, and numerous other places are horrific and makes us feel for those Jews residing amongst such hatreds it amazes us that they don’t simply pick up their lives and come to Israel. Surprisingly, even including all the terrorism within the Green Line in Israel, you are still safer in Israel than you are from crime in the United States or Europe, surprising but true. Yet not only do these people continue to live in places where their lives are under threat both day and night, but their Rabbis all tell them it is the Jewish thing to do to remain in defiance to the threats. Where in all that is holy is that written? Looking back over the past year or so in the United States, pulling solely from news stories, I am able to remember we have had some horrific acts of anti-Semitism. There was the Rabbi visiting family in Florida walking to synagogue in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood who was approached by two youths, at least younger adults if not teens, a brief exchange of words, the sound of gunfire and the two youths walked away calmly leaving the Rabbi sprawled out dead on the pavement. The Florida local police listed this as a robbery gone bad, as if the youths had no realization that religious Jews, which the attire of the Rabbi was obvious, do not carry money or items of wealth on the Sabbath. There have been near countless desecration of Jewish cemeteries or the Jewish section of a cemetery yard throughout the United States and ten times worse in Europe. There have been desecration committed against Holocaust memorials often accompanied by writings on such structures of “Jews to the gas,” “Hitler was right,” “Jews get out,” “Holocaust was a myth,” “We are the new Holocaust” amongst numerous other defamations of this ilk. Then there was a stretch of time where a “game” which became known as the “knockout the Jew” game where a member of a group of youths as they passed somebody sporting Jewish identifying clothing would attempt to one-punch the targeted Jew at a minimum knocking them off their feet or knocking them unconscious, scoring howls and celebratory knuckle tapping in recognition of this person’s singular accomplishment. Eventually this happening caught sufficient attention from the authorities, especially after one elderly man died from his wounds from striking his head on a curb after being struck as part of this fun game. There have been defiling of synagogues with such an event just this past week in Gaithersburg, Maryland. which is located in Montgomery County. which is heavily Jewish with a percentage of eighteen and two-tenths. That is actually a very impressive percentage when one figures in the percentage of people in the world who are Jews, a whopping two-one hundredths of one percent, for those who might be having difficulty with realizing how small a percentage that is, allow me to reference it in other ways, 0.02% which mathematically comes out to 0.0002 Jews per unit of population, one would require counting out a section of any random grouping of people from around the world a staggering five-thousand people in order to have relative assurance that there would be a single Jew in the group. Perhaps placing a bit of writing that Mark Twain once wrote about the Jewish people will be far more impressive than anything I could ever imagine up, so the rest is from Mark Twain’s essay “All Things are Mortal but the Jew”* also referred to as “The Eternal Jew.”

 

If statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of stardust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly, the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk.
His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also away out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in this world, in all the ages; and had done it with his hands tied behind him.
He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it.The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed; and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other people have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished.
The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind.
All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?”

 

Beyond the Cusp

 
* “Concerning The Jews,” Harper’s Magazine, 1899
The Complete Essays of Mark Twain, Doubleday [1963] pg. 249

March 13, 2015

Surely it is March Madness

 

Usually for March Madness one fills in their brackets with the sixty-four teams and then predicts the winners of each down to the national championship. It takes skill, knowledge and a fair share of luck. The March Madness I am referring to is society seemingly busting at the seams everywhere one looks. The recent shooting in Ferguson, Missouri where somebody used the cover of the crowd protesting outside the police headquarters building to shoot two police standing outside the building striking one in the shoulder and the other in the face. These police were not part of any investigation, had not shot anyone had not done anything to warrant this shooting other than they were police officers in Ferguson. This was a horrific act of violence which is unfortunately not all that unexpected especially when remembering the shooting of two police officers in New York City who were merely sitting in their squad car and were police and thus deserving of whatever they got. Disrespect for societal norms and authority is once again growing across the world. The protests which have taken place in much of Europe have also had their share of riotous behavior and the breaking of police lines to assault specific targets often with ties to Jews such as Synagogues and Jewish Schools and Yeshivas.

 

On another front the actions of European governments and the European Union have started yet another campaign against Israel by financing and erecting buildings and placing Arab businesses or families into these structures immediately as the finishing touches are being applied. All of these structures have been placed in Area C where Arab building is forbidden by the Oslo Accords. Area C was presumed to remain a part of Israel according to the layout and the assignments of rights to the lands in Areas A, B and C. Area A was presumed to belong to the Arabs while Area C was presumed to remain a part of Israel and Area B was the part to be negotiated as to where the actual border would be placed. Obviously the Europeans have chosen to nullify the Oslo Accords as far as the restrictions upon the Arab side while altering the particulars to make the rules even more stringent and restraining on the Israelis. There may even start once more the idea that all of Jerusalem must remain undivided and as such all of Jerusalem must be rewarded to the Arabs once again and then demand a five, or maybe a ten or even a twenty mile wide thoroughfare complete with an eight lane highway, dual rails for passenger train traffic, a third and fourth rail lines for goods traveling between the two parts of the Arab entity, a special wide two lanes in each direction for busses and another three wide lanes in each direction for trucks and tractor trailers and other commercial traffic, rest areas appropriately set along a scenic path for those who desire to walk between Judea and Samaria to Gaza or the other direction. This causeway and thoroughfare right of way would also become owned by the Arabs completing their state. When Israel demands to know how they are supposed to make transit from north of this zone to south of this zone it would not be surprising for the European Union, United Nations and President Obama to be backing a plan that everything south of the Arab thoroughfare would now belong to the Bedouin Tribes and be formed into the first ever Bedouin State where any claiming to be Bedouins may raise their families and tend their flocks. Israel would then what, be warned any actions against this equitable settlement of every problem that they should take it quietly before the world comes up with further divisions of the lands and reasons every Jew must be removed until every Jew resides in Tel Aviv. Kidding aside, and there are those who will claim that this would be a fair start to an agreement if only it addressed whatever other claim that could be imagined, Israel had faced some rather astounding votes taken to denounce her or to refuse to allow any academic interactions.

 

Such was recently voted upon in the London University where over two-thousand students, professors and other staff voted on whether to boycott all of Israeli academic institutions. The results were revealing as seventy-three percent favored the ban and sixty percent of the professors supported the ban. Fortunately this was simply a nonbinding resolution as the fact that a mere four-hundred-twenty-five people refused to accept and approve this motion is a frightening prospect that the new anti-Semitism, the anti-Israel or often referred to as the anti-Zionist platforms and resolutions are often introduced. It comes complete with the similar refrains such as I am not against Jews, just the Israeli government and the existence of Israel. Talk to these anti-Israel types and they will inevitably prove to be anti-Zionist as well. When asked to list exact things the Israeli government has committed they inevitably list the theft of Arab lands and the Occupation of Gaza and the (West Bank) Judea and Samaria. When asked if they hold similar opposition against China or Turkey you will mostly get the deer in the headlamps stare of complete vapid dumbfounded stare. Then you need to slowly coax these afflicted people back to life or they will stand there until they collapse and are hospitalized for suffering from some unidentified ailment. It has a name and it is unaware or creeping anti-Semitism. You have to explain that China swallowed Tibet around 1951 and has illegally occupied Tibet ever since and that Turkey invaded Cyprus in July 1974 and took half the island before being stopped and there the armistice lines was drawn and Turkey cemented their claim and hold on the northern half of Cyprus by kicking out the Greek citizens residing there and brought in families from Turkey and gave them the vacated houses. Now, if your poor afflicted person appears to have regained their composure you can ask again about if they hold any other nation responsible for their occupations and see if they have internalized the information you provided, the likelihood is nothing will have changed.

 

The good news was the last Liberian has been released from the hospital marking their final Ebola victim to have received treatment. It appears the fears of a worldwide pandemic were a bit premature but they also restricted travel out of the afflicted areas and may have prevented the spread of Ebola further. The heroic acts by many healthcare professionals who volunteered and placed themselves in the midst of the outbreak of this deadly disease should be lauded with high praise. They were likely instrumental in preventing the spread of this epidemic into the world and making it a pandemic. What is a pity is that it takes an emergency before many of us turn our attentions to some of the people who need assistance the most and instead join the protest which only requires one’s attention and time for a Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning spent carrying a sign for those few hours each week. Perhaps if one is truly dedicated to the cause they camp out at the protest site over the weekend and display their dedication and definitely join up if there is planned a stronger statement where specific targets are to be targeted. At the other end of the spectrum, an American aid worker who had volunteered in Ebola infected Africa to aid in battling the epidemic has tested positive for Ebola and will be admitted to the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland to be treated. Our hopes and prayers are with this goodhearted person struck by the very ailment they had sought to relieve and treat in others living with them in Africa.

 

Further, the war against ISIS has taken a few baby-steps in containing and possible taking back the city of Tikrit in Iraq. Meanwhile, the Iraqi military and the militias have shocked their United States trainers and imbedded advisors who have complained to the Iraqi government that these forces have been committing atrocities. The reports claim that some of the atrocities committed by the Iraqi forces border on the same level of violence and disrespect for those captured and in their custody as have been leveled on ISIS. This had disturbed their American trainers and if not rectified could lead to the removal of all United States trainers and other support personnel. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said the images amounted to “disturbing and serious allegations.” Below are a pair of photos the first reveals a captive being either hung while blindfolded and restrained or actually having been flung from what appears to be a guard tower with the second depicting a man who had recently been dragged by a yellow rope tied to his right ankle. Both are examples of treatment of prisoners which is unacceptable from a properly trained military and are acts expected of the likes of al-Qaeda and ISIS, not United States trained troops.

 

captive ISIS suspect hanging from guard tower by Iraqi forces

captive ISIS suspect hanging from guard tower by Iraqi forces

 

Captive ISIS fighter who has just been dragged by his right leg by Iraqi Special Operations Forces from the “Golden Brigades”

Captive ISIS fighter who has just been dragged by his right leg by Iraqi Special Operations Forces from the “Golden Brigades”

 

 

Meanwhile, in Washington D.C. the big news are the lost e-mails from her private internet server of Hilary Clinton. This is simply the latest in a maelstrom of troubles and tribulations which are surrounding Ms. Clinton leading some to question if she would even care to run for President and face an even more thorough investigation of her actions by a seeming hostile media. Of course the media cannot get tired of chasing down every lead or hint of misadventures by Hilary going forward. The real problem is that Hilary lacks in charm as much as her husband simply oozes charm which means every explanation she gives simply gets her deeper into the already deep mire of scandalous accusations. It is still our contention that Elizabeth Warren is the media chosen darling they hope will become the Democrat candidate for the 2016 Presidential elections. There are a number of potential candidates waiting in the wings but the odds of a democrat winning election to the White House is considered edgy as the odds of a candidate, other than the Vice President, of the same party who have held the White House for eight years are historically poor.

 

Also in the news is the continued fighting under the ceasefire in the Ukraine despite assurances from the Russians that they have nothing to do with the fighting. This leaves many to question where the rebel forces obtained their heavy weapons. Did they have howitzers in their basements, tanks and APCs in their garages and heavy machine guns hanging over the mantle atop the fireplace? The fighting in Syria continues with the death toll rising now estimated to be over two-hundred-thousand civilian lives alone and who knows how many fighters have died. In Nigeria media reports have apparently confirmed that elite South African mercenaries have joined with the forces at the front lines in Nigeria’s war against the extremist Islamic terrorists of Boko Haram. There is a fight worth waging but the world has mostly turned a blind eye to the struggles against Boko Haram which is just as necessary as is opposing ISIS. They have become one and the same as Boko Haram has officially tied themselves to ISIS and claim that they are fighting to establish the Caliphate. The same goes for the forces from Libya who have been announcing their intentions of invading Italy and taking control of Rome and with it Vatican City where they plan on making the cathedrals into Mosques and claiming supremacy over all of Christendom in the process. Such an assault would be a test for NATO and one which Putin would carefully watch for developments which might signal the death of NATO leaving additional nations Putin wishes to claim for Russia more readily assaulted if NATO has become ineffective by the witness to lack of concern or action in Italy. What a world we live in and yet, somehow we each and every one of us make it to the market and have milk in the refrigerator and can pop some popcorn and watch sports or other television allowing us the serenity of ignoring the crazy madness all around us.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

December 29, 2011

Their Rush to Judge and Condemn the Innocent

The majority of the Israeli Press being so cosmopolitan, so progressive, and so Tel Aviv centric could not help themselves in their rush to condemn the “Hilltop Youth” for the riot that occurred at the Ephraim Brigade Base in Samaria in response to rumors that the IDF soldiers from the base had orders to destroy community of Ramat Gilad. The riot at the base was committed by teens and there were rumors of another settlement destruction despite ongoing negotiations to avoid such an event thus it had to be those “Settler” teens who build outposts on hilltops which are regularly destroyed by orders from Defense Minister Ehud Barak even against the wishes of many of the ruling coalition. After all, those settlers and their children live off the land, build their own homes without hiring architects or employing reputable contractors, and it shows. Why those people are so unsophisticated and uncultured, not at all like the cultured and civil society of north Tel Aviv and surrounding suburbs where most of the reporters and media reside. They had them convicted and were calling for allowing the IDF to shoot to kill those people if they resisted having their neighborhoods destroyed. Why couldn’t those crazy idealistic Zionists just live within the Green Line like good Jews? Why do they insist on stealing Palestinian lands? Who cares if many of the neighborhoods were originally built with the blessings and often funding of the government, so what? So some of them are building on land they have deeds of ownership that predate the Jordanian occupation. Didn’t the Jordanians revoke all Jewish ownership of those lands and give it to friends of Jordanian King Abdullah? Anyway, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch ruled that all non-State lands in Judea and Samaria are to be considered and treated as Arab owned land all evidence to the contrary be damned. Why can’t these way too Jewish Jews take the hint and leave the whole area where they are not wanted and let the Palestinians have their land back and then we will have peace, finally peace.

Well, I do agree with the Tel Aviv snobs that any riot against the IDF or disruption of the IDF in fulfilling their given orders should be punished to the full extent of the law. Where I differ is I prefer to wait until the investigation finds the actual culprits before jumping off the deep end and frothing hatreds from the mouth like a rabid dog. In some ways, I am even more distressed with who it now appears were the miscreants that attacked the IDF Ephraim Brigade Base in Samaria. It turns out that it was some Nationalist Extremists which is not a complete surprise and they need to be kept within the law with their protests and actions. The sad part was these particular Nationalists were from the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem. The Mercaz Harav Yeshiva had no part in the planning or commission of this crime. This was done completely independent of the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva by a group of students who overreacted to a situation and should and will be held responsible for their crimes. The Mercaz Harav Yeshiva and the leaders and faculties of numerous other Yeshivas have condemned these acts as they should. The perpetrators of these heinous crimes have almost all been identified and will be tried for their crimes. Hopefully, whatever punishment the State decides to mete out will very likely be insignificant than what these Yeshiva students will face when their Rabbi gets his turn with them. They have disgraced their Yeshiva which has shamed their fellow students, their Rabbis, their teachers, the alumni of the Yeshiva, and worst of all committed a great sin before G-d. The punishment from the State will probably pale in comparison to what they have coming from their Yeshiva. They very likely will be expelled, the worst fate possible, and especially since they would have great difficulty being accepted at another Yeshiva after their shameful acts. The only bright light that will come of this disgraceful event is it will be used to assure that such does not ever occur again; at least such will never again be perpetrated by Yeshiva youth.

Fortunately, there also might be a few other turns for the better from this whole affair. First and foremost is that the Settler population has had their names cleared and the hilltop youth have been vindicated as every one of their groups denied having taken part in the riots at the base. With some luck, perhaps a few of those progressive and self-righteous urbanites will be less likely to simply jump to conclusions and falsely accuse and virtually convict those who have chosen to reside in the biblical heartland of Eretz Yisroel. Let us hope they have seen the pitfalls of leaping before all the facts have been made available. Maybe, with hope against hope, some of these Tel Aviv elites might take a trip and meet some of the people who live in Judea and Samaria. They might just lose some of their preconceived conceptions of who lives out on the front lines and who make Tel Aviv all that much safer by doing so. They may be in for some shocking truths. Not every person or community in Judea and Samaria are the knit Kippah crowd, a semi-derogatory reference to the religious Jews. Many are secular and are professionals who actually work in Tel Aviv. They may even find that some of the “settlers” are people from their office who they work with and joke with at the water cooler every day. You never know as the population of Judea and Samaria is probably the most derided and misconceived group in all of Israel. They span every dimension of Israeli society and it might be a real eye-opening experience to take a weekend tour of some of the communities and actually meet the people. They really are not from another planet; they are Israeli Jews just like the media who so often malign them. I realize that the Israelis living in Judea and Samaria tend to be more religious than the Jews living in north Tel Aviv and surrounding suburbs. Who would be surprised by such a finding? Not this writer.

Beyond the Cusp

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