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 2, 2015

Signs in the Streets and on the News

 

Where the obvious signs that make the news come from within Europe, the signs in the streets are visible throughout the world. Probably the most obvious of signs is right there in many Jews’ mailboxes inside a blank and nondescript envelope. Perhaps that since January 15, 2015 the French Army’s “Opération Sentinelle” has protected seven-hundred-twenty-two (722) Jewish schools and synagogues in France might give one pause. The army has reported three-hundred-seventy-two (371) incidents perpetrated against the soldiers standing guard in front of the protected sites. What would have happened to the Jews without the soldiers standing in front of their temples and schools? In addition, in Sweden a radio asked the Israeli Ambassador if Jews are not the cause of anti-Semitism. The magazine used to come in the mail unconcealed with Jewish features displayed vibrantly and proudly on its covers as if to say we are proud Jews who are vital members in our communities. Now it sneaks through the system and into our homes surreptitiously hiding that bright, loud, and proud cover declaring here lives a Jew stuffed within a blank envelope declaring, nothing to see here, move along. Next thing you know Jews will be moving their mezuzahs from the outsides of the front door to inside the front door. We will tell ourselves it is just to be closer to this sign that declared our Jewishness but we will know it is done to avoid it being vandalized or to conceal any identifier that says here lives a Jew. It will be in the little things and a few big things such as wearing a smaller Yarmulke or getting one of those new Yarmulkes which are designed to look like hair made to match your hair color and be almost completely invisible. You tell yourself that it does the same thing as your old Yarmulke because you know it is there dismissing the fact that it used to declare here goes a Jew proud of his heritage who walks unafraid within our communities, but we are no longer unafraid, are we. Then there are the signs that only the initial Jews see and are shocked. The vandalized cemetery, the graffiti on the Synagogue’s walls and main entrance, the anti-Semitic graffiti on the park benches and the bus stop walls which are hurriedly covered over so as not to alarm others, especially those Jewish others as there are more than enough worries these days though to talk of it is forbidden. When we do address these distressing truth we use hushed tones because we fear spreading our trepidations throughout our communities, but it really is still all-pervasive. It is so serious and severe a threat that even the Rabbi speaks about these threats playing them down while stressing how we belong and the government is addressing our safety so there is nothing to fear.

 

The government will see to our safety, spoken like a true progressive liberal leftist. That alone is a sign of the root problem, our total reliance on the government to fix all problems. We need just inform them and they will dispatch the necessary increased security around our synagogues, schools, yeshivas, libraries and kosher stores and our Jewish magazine is coming wrapped in a shroud and we start to sneak when outside the friendly confines of our well-knitted society and virtually or actually gated houses, a sort of voluntary ghetto with gilded gold caged secured entrances and high fence exteriors guarded by mobile patrols; we are most definitely safe, sane and secure. Do we not realize what is there plainly for us to see? We have already placed ourselves in a ghetto even if the cells cost half a million Euros, Dollars, Pounds or other coinage, the government will not even need to round us up. How long before those guard patrols will no longer be guarding us from the outside world but instead it will become them guarding the outside world from us. I know, it could be worse, but is not this the worse we warned about last year and haven’t the signs started coming at us faster and faster? How will we know that it has gone too far and it is too late, how much hatred is too much and changed into a threat from all the society? We need remember that it does not take a majority, just a society threatened and refusing to protect us as the costs have become too great. Is the sign when we are told we need pay an extra tax to cover our protection as the government can no longer afford to guard us unless we pay an extra tax to defray the costs. That is called the Jiyza in Islam and immediately separates us from the mainstream society and a sign that we accept our Dhimmitude and will curtail our behavior and from now on show our deference for our bettors of the society. Will this be the sign that the government has gone over to the other side? Is this a sign of too little to make us leave or that we should have fled months if not years ago.

 

This is our home; our family has lived here for three generations; my work or business is here; I am too old to start my life over; there are a million excuses and only one single argument on the other side, an argument which should beckon us and inspire in us in the same way as the Shofar calls on the high holidays, that is Eretz Yisroel, that is Yerushalayim, it is the call that says that it is time to return home no matter what holds us in place. In Israel we are the government, we are the military, our sign is emblazoned on the national flag and our symbols are everywhere. Is Israel perfect, no, but we are working to make it so. There will be those in Europe tempted to head to the United States which will gain them a few decades before the United States has reached the same level as in Europe, just far more subtle and disguised. The United States has just recently reached the point where crimes against Jews are almost always not considered hate crimes or crimes committed against us because we are Jews, we are simply victims and our Jewishness has nothing to do with it. Europe has passed that point and reached the point where there are those who are claiming that we Jews are the cause of the violence against us. Has there been any progress on the assassination of a Rabbi walking to Synagogue one Saturday Shabbat morning visiting Florida from New Jersey who was gunned down in broad daylight. Have they reclassified that assassination from a robbery gone wrong to the hateful murder it actually was? Of course they haven’t and the investigation, if you were to inquire, has come up against some difficulties but it is still an open investigation and that it will remain until all have stopped inquiring, then it becomes a dead file and gets filed with all the rest of the unsolvable cases. Perhaps that is one of the signs that the time has come?

 

If we still have any doubts, may it be pointed out that the anti-Israel and anti-Zionist rioting and rampaging on our college campuses have becoming anti-Semitic and target the Jewish students regardless their political alignment. Is that an imminent sign that the time has come to return home where you will be accepted for your Jewishness. It is time to return home and you will find something else in Israel awaiting your arrival, the societal ever-so-slow movement towards embracing our faith. I cannot begin to relay how warming returning home has been for me and for my wife as well. Are there any problems or difficulties, of course there are but they are largely due to language difficulties which we expected, but the willingness of the people, our fellow Jews to understand and make us feel welcomed and as if we have support while we make the transition. At our age, which for many people is anything over twenty, learning a completely new language, which we knew the words when singing in synagogue, is a monumental task which often, in our case constantly, seemingly impossible but with the mostly joyous assistance and patience of our new-found friends and neighbors we will get there eventually. To all our people in the Diaspora, time is a-wasting, so what will it take to bring you home? We in Israel fear you may wait until travel is restricted and it is too late to leave. You are making all the same excuses which were prevalent and chanted by the Jewish communities of the Weimar Republic, and that end result was really great for those comfortable, assimilated Jews. They did not request for you to prove what you were; they simply checked your grandparents were and assigned your religion from that. Then they came for the Jews in the middle of the night and later even the light of the sun could not prevent their taking the Jews, the society accepted this. There were French towns which readied their Jews in advance of the horrific depravity to reach their town resplendent in their dress uniforms, the French beat their advance and prepared their Jews without being forced to, they volunteered us. When the curtain opens and the real fearful society is given a choice on which community they must place on stage to be slaughtered, you know who will be offered in sacrifice, it will be as it has always been, us offered as a sacrifice to their new overlords. Then it is way too late. Do not remain because of your comfort for that is a very fragile item which can be extinguished with the slightest breeze of a waving hand over a paper making it so, and that moment approaches and will sweep across the globe. I realize how that will become a threat to Israel. I also know that standing together with the L0rd our G0d that we will prevail over any enemy, no matter how strong they may be, especially if we have faith and love for each other. So, what are you waiting for, an engraved gold-leaf invitation?

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

February 24, 2015

A Fundamental Difference

 

There was an episode of Star Trek titled “The Savage Curtain” where a molten rock creature named “Yarnek” decided to learn what the difference was between the forces of good and evil. It pitted Spock, Kirk, Abraham Lincoln and Surak representing the forces of goodness against Colonel Green, the Klingon Kahless, a tribal savage woman named Zora, and evil incarnate from Earth history, Genghis Khan representing the forces of evil. After good finally triumphs over evil Yarnek argues that it sees no difference between the forces of good and evil. The difference pointed out was what each side fought for, their root cause and not their methods of achieving victory which was defined by a base and simple reality of the contest. Yarnek is satisfied that it understand and returns Spock and Kirk to the Enterprise and returns to standing motionless happy in its new found wisdom and prepares to stand motionless is some prop room until Yarnek gets a new role in some ‘B movie’ in the future.

 

The simple premise depicted in the episode was a basic principle for the studies of history and philosophy which prepares college freshmen to critical thinking on a not so critical basis in 100 level coursework. It also can be utilized to define the root differences and similarities between Islamist Fundamentalism and other driving forces throughout human history, but for simplicity sake we might wish to limit the discussion to what would fit into a single Star Trek episode. We might even simplify the discussion to Yarnek style simplicity and examine what each driving force behind other philosophical movements in the past and present.

 

Let us first look at Fundamentalist Christianity and their desire as it pertains to the goals set for Christianity. The end goal of Fundamental Christianity is to live a life which is beneficial to mankind and to spread the words of G0d as defined in the New Testament and fulfilling the new Covenant defined within. Christianity is a proselytizing religion where they are pressed to spread the world of Christ, the sacrifice which Jesus made in the name of all mankind, and to persuade all people through their actions and the introduction to the teachings of Jesus as defined by the Apostles depiction of the teachings and life of Jesus in the New Testament. Initially the Christians were a passive force spreading their newly found faith by word of mouth and by their actions and ultimately their passivity and refusal to lift up arms against their oppressors. This changed after the Roman army fought under the banner of Christendom under the Constantine. After Constantine had his vision, his revelation, the drive for conquest, which was a Roman concept, was married to the message of Jesus and Christianity. This led to the new definition of what could be called an Imperial Christianity. Christianity carried forth with it now being the accepted religion of the Roman Army and thus its new defining principle to spread Christianity over the world and convert all to Christianity. This continued until the Reformation of Christianity which introduced those forces which introduced competing definitions of Christianity. These new and supposedly more pure forms of Christianity ended up married to governments of Christian nations and then began the attempts of each strand of Christianity to become preeminent. This continued until Christianity was purged from the political attachment it held to governance until then. Once Christianity was stripped from defining governance a remarkable thing happened, no longer were wars fought between Christian nations to impose their particular brand of Christianity on the others; Christianity now allowed for the separate forms of Christianity to exist, though the version practiced by the reigning monarch did tend to receive preference. The wars continued but were now no different in their aims, to conquer the known world and rule all mankind; it just was no longer performed in the accepted name of Christianity. The splitting religion away from the state and thus from earthly politics allowed for the birth in Christianity for freedom of religion which is the present state though the attaining a complete break from imposing Christianity rather than spreading Christianity through example and teaching and a total reliance on persuasion and devoid of the means of force is a concept still being perfected. What can be said is that Christendom has made great strides towards the allowance of freedom of religion and equality of all religions before the governance.

 

If we now investigate Fundamental Judaism, a force that likely only existed for a few short periods; we find the target of this early form of Judaism which spanned from Abraham through to the conquest of the lands which made up the kingdom of the two most heralded rulers of the Jews, King David and his son, King Solomon. The initial period of Jewish Fundamentalism was during the becoming a people through realizing their goals of conquering the lands they believed were granted them by G0d. The period of Jewish History in question stretched from the start of Judaism with Abraham, their Exodus from Egypt and their forty years of purification and change from a mindset of a people under bondage to a people enjoying freedom with Moses and on until they had conquered their “Promised Lands” under the leadership and marshalling of forces initially by Joshua. Once these lands were brought under Jewish rule their designs on the world were completed and the rest of their mission, their desire to live as G0d had intended, was to be a force for good as defined within Torah, and to study Torah and divine from Torah what being a people of goodness actually required from them and by living a life defined by Torah, the Jews were to be a light unto the nations of the world, an example of living a holy and blessed life. There were no designs or desires to rule the world or over any peoples once the Jewish state was established. The second period of Jewish Fundamentalism could be defined as the modern Zionist movement which has defined their purpose is to reestablish Jewish rule and autonomy over those same lands as are defined in Torah as the ancient homelands gifted them by G0d. There is no desire to conquer the world or to convert the world, but only to live in their corner of the world and be as a light unto the nations, a representation of goodness as defined in Torah. As above, there are no designs or desires to rule the world or over any peoples once the Jewish state has been established nor is there any desire to convert anybody. The region under Jewish control will have a religious theme and basis over the governance, or at least is supposed to have such, but is still instructed by Torah to not only allow freedom of worship, but equal treatment under any Torah ruled kingdom thus the concept of freedom of religion is one of the basic ideals of Judaism. There is no driving desire to convert others to Judaism unless a person chooses to seek conversion and even then there are stringent requirements of any convert but they would be welcome within any Jewish society.

 

Islam has a more original belief on the ideals of conversion which will ultimately lead to a world where the survivors are all Muslims as there would be no room for anything else. Islam teaches its adherents that their religion had replaced Judaism and Christianity. This is the concept of supersessionism. Christianity believed they were the replacement under G0d and they had superseded the Jews thus negating the Covenant between G0d and the Jews and Islam believes they have superseded the Christians and through that, also superseded the Jews. The Muslim believes fervently that the revelation by Muhammad to be the final revelation and that no further revelation is possible as Muhammad was actually the restatement of the Covenant between mankind and G0d and that Islam is the true path while Judaism and Christianity had corrupted the words of Allah and thus perverted religion making their versions of worship an abomination and their sole hope for paradise was through Islam. This is an important part of Islam as it is necessary in order for Islam to fulfill their Covenant with Allah. Islam tasks the Muslims to fulfill Jihad which is defined as the Greater and Lesser Jihad. One form of Jihad is the perfection of oneself under the rule of Allah and the complete and utter surrender of the self to Allah producing a perfected person. The second form of Jihad is the conquest of the entirety of the world for Allah in order to bring the perfect religion of Allah before all in the world allowing them the opportunity to realize their sins and to repent and surrender to Allah and thus become a believing Muslim. Each person is to be permitted the offer of joining Islam and surrendering themselves before Allah willingly but should they continue to reject Islam then they are to be presented with one final choice, Islam or death. This is instructed in the Quran where the Muslim is instructed to spread Islam by the sword if that is what is required. The finality defined by Islam is a world where all believe in Islam and Islam rules the world according Sharia. Nothing less than the complete subjugation of the world by Allah can be accepted as Islam is currently defined and since the Quran cannot be altered there is a point of contention which is not capable of reconciliation between Islam defined by the Quran and freedom, only one can survive. Islam defines the perfection of the world as the supremacy of Islam and the sole existence of mankind is to surrender to Allah and obey the Quran as defined under the Sharia and nothing less is acceptable and the end result is you will ultimately have a world that has been conquered by Allah forever with any person expressing even the most innocent free thought not defined as acceptable under the Quran to be defined as an apostate for leaving the true faith of Islam and who must be put to death.

 

Under Judaism the world continues as it desires with the Jews only insisting on ruling their little corner of the world which is a nation not quite the size of the Philadelphia to Boston greater megalopolis, Christianity desires to teach the world the message of Jesus and hope that their actions are of sufficient influence along with the loving words of Jesus to persuade the world to follow their teachings and Islam simplifies everything and boils it down to conquer the world for Islam and convert all to surrender before Allah. Well, at least that definition just might fit into the basis of a Star Trek episode, nice, compact and simplified to the point of absurdity. I could see Spock correct Bones and Kirk who were arguing, explaining, “Simply put for your understanding, Doctor (glance emotionless at Dr. McCoy); Jews are content in telling only those who ask, while Christians burst forth telling the world, as where the Muslims are simply commanded to conquer and purify the world of nonbelievers. (look with slight smirk at Kirk, sharply turns and returns to his station on bridge)”

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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