Beyond the Cusp

May 11, 2016

Israel Remembrance and Independence Day

 

Today is Memorial Day (Yom Hazikaron), and tomorrow is Israeli Independence Day (Yom Haatzmaut). On the Gregorian calendar it will be on Sunday, May 15, but on our Hebrew calendar it is tomorrow. There will be fireworks and celebratory activities all across this small but vital nation and the vitality will definitely be on display for all to see. But that independence came at a price which must be respected and have its day which is why we have Remembrance Day, or Memorial Day, one day before, today. Today we mourn all those lost to anti-Semitic terrorism, anti-Zionist terrorism and anti-Israel terrorism which have a shared root directly related to Independence Day and a more historic foundation, for some possibly remembrance also goes back in their hearts ever further than the official definitions. Officially we are remembering all those lost to terrorist strikes, all our soldiers lost in the battles and wars we have been forced to fight to continue to even have a nation, the six million souls lost in the Holocaust and for me the souls lost to the wars fought as recorded in the Bible and to all the pogroms, cleansings and other atrocities all but impossible to imagine from both sides of the great history of the Jewish People. Most people are familiar with only the modern anti-Semitic history of Europe and Russia and are unfamiliar with the similar history for those Jews who resided amongst the Arab world as well as Spain where when the Muslims were pushed back across Gibraltar and back into Northern Africa that the Jews too were cleansed from Spanish lands despite that the Jews were often victims alongside the Christians when there was persecution in Muslim lands against the non-Muslims. And then there was the particularly troublesome part in the Holy Lands.

 

The conquest of the Holy Lands by Islam, then the Crusaders, then Islam, then more Crusaders and finally Islam, took its toll on the Jews still residing in our homeland but powerless to free it of either curse. Both were a curse as when the Muslims attacked, the Jews were slaughtered right along with the Christians; and when the Crusaders attacked, the Jews were slaughtered right along with the Muslims. The one constant was whoever was trying to conquer the Holy Land and Jerusalem in particular, the Jews were always on the wrong side as far as the attackers were concerned and often we were also seen as part of the enemy to whoever was defending against the attack; so the killing of Jews wholesale was always the outcome. These Jews I also remember because their only sin was to be living in our natural and ancient homeland. We had been thriving in this homeland when these forces of religious intolerance were still sacrificing their own to idols, before the Roman Empire, before Alexander the Great, before Darius and Cyrus and the Persians and before the Babylonians and Phoenicians and were only preceded by the Egyptians of that era, a different group than today’s Egyptians, the Minoans and the Hittites, Moabites and other peoples who existence has disappeared into the dust and only records stand in edifices still baffling modern engineers and archeologists. All the fallen throughout Jewish history should be remembered even if they also have their own holiday as they also were defenders of these lands.

 

 

Sculpture Dedicated to Soldiers Depicting Fallen Soldier

Sculpture Dedicated to Soldiers Depicting Fallen Soldiers

 

 

One might ask why dampen our spirits one day before our celebrating the wondrous miracle of the reestablishment of our ancient land into the modern world? The answer is so that we never forget and Never Again has additional meanings. And not to fret, the greatest transition in a national mood can be witnessed tonight as Jews across Israel go from somber remembrance to unbridled joy in a matter of seconds. We have had a history which has prepared us well for such shifts in our national mood. Remember Haman from the Megillah of Esther where we went from condemned to all be murdered across the Persian Empire in a single day and were instead decreed we would be permitted to defend ourselves without punishment from the King and we triumphed and survived by the thinnest wisp of smoke once again. We had faced similar threats before and would again and again as we are again today as most of the Islamic world has sworn to destroy us starting with our “partners for peace” the Arab Palestinians and Hamas, Hezballah, Islamic State and Iran and those are just for starters. Do not get us going down this road because it is not a road for great worry, we have faced these odds before and we are still here, and I do mean here as in right here in our ancient homelands where we belong no matter what the United Nations or the community of nations and a special shout down to the European Union and all the rest in Europe who support whoever is fighting against Israel despite our posing them no threat. We have survived threats just as severe before and we will very likely face others just as dire in the future. When your peoples have survived for over three-thousand-years you have some history and you have faced threats to end your existence and survived and thus are confidant, rightfully so, that you will continue to do so.

 

There are stories of rulers from France to Russia to the tips of Africa where they asked their wise men and advisors to define or explain such concepts as eternity, the Creator and a whole list of other things which defy definition as they imply that which is limitless and will last throughout the ages even well beyond their empire or other human measure of time and the answer given was always the Jews. Mark Twain once wrote, “The Eternal Jew” which reads:


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, and 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?”

 

His commentary is a good place to leave these thoughts. Today in Synagogue we will all say prayers of remembrance and tomorrow we will quote prayers which are triumphant, one of the rare moments we do so. Then again, after three-thousand-years we have good reason to celebrate the fact we are still here to attend services but first to the memory of all who made our continued existence their worthy sacrifice and to Hashem who has walked with them whether they knew so or not. And perhaps that is the thread that binds the Jew to their heritage and gives them their spark, Hashem and His Torah which has been the glue that binds every Jew to his brothers and sisters no matter their path through the ages. Our thanks to our soldiers, our defenders and a remembrance to those from amongst our midst, the great sacrifices that were made and to our future; and may it serve Hashem well, with pride and humility, another opposing set of ideals we Jews have learned to hold simultaneously, or are at least still mastering.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

July 26, 2015

The Ninth of Av is our Tribute and Remembrance of the Temples and their Destructions

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Please forgive me if I get preachy or seem overly sentimental but that is what even the name Jerusalem means to me. Additionally to the destruction of both Temples, the First Temple by the Babylonians and the Second Temple by the vindictive Romans who did all in their power to render unto the Jews the same dispersions that ended Carthage, and the sin of the spies and all the other calamities tied to the Ninth of Av (Tisha b’Av), I add my sister’s passing exactly a week after the ninth. This year the Ninth of Av is observed has been pushed one day to the Tenth as such sorrows must not be expressed on the Sabbath conditions permitting. The Ninth of Av has become the collection date where some liberties are suspected such that every ill and evil edict or calamity of every sort is claimed to have some reference to the Ninth of Av. Some of the horrors which fell on this fateful day include the expulsions from England on July 18, 1290 CE, expelled from France on July 22, 1306 CE, and from Spain the edict of expulsion was signed on March 31, 1492 CE, and the Jews were given exactly four months to put their affairs in order and leave the country which fell on July 31, 1492 CE, all the Ninth of Av. Then there was the sin of the Golden Calf, August 15, 1096 the start of the Crusades and the killings Jews often suffered succumbing to the blades of the Crusader knights who had not previously killed in order to desensitize them to killing such that they would not hesitate in battle and thus be killed before they served the charge of the Church. Start of World War I was August 1–2, 1914; SS commander Heinrich Himmler formally received approval from the Nazi Party for “The Final Solution” on August 2, 1941; on July 23, 1942 (Av 9, AM 5702), began the mass deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka, all dates coincide with the Ninth of Av. Modern events which land close to the Ninth of Av were AMIA bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, killing 85 and injuring 300 on July 18, 1994 and Israel’s unilateral disengagement plan under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, also known as the “Disengagement plan”, “Gaza expulsion plan”, or Hitnatkut, August 15, 2005 both fell on Tenth of Av. Needless to add that numerous other calamities were rumored or simply had memories re-date events to bring them into line with the Ninth of Av but even without fudging dates there are probably numerous other events throughout Jewish history where lesser horrors fell on the Ninth of Av and as such individual services of these groups would include their individual commiserations.

 

The observance of the Ninth of Av itself is a fast day spent in remembrance of historic calamities, some self-imposed but most disasters thrust upon the Jewish people, some times to all or the majority of all Jews and other times to large enough communities that we all remember and mourn and others only affecting a smaller community which we all remember but the singular community bears a special lament. Any way your congregation or community grieves over the mutual and individual historic injustices, expulsions, transgression and pogroms we must also hold that hope that for all our families will soon spend the next Ninth of Av together living in our own ancient lands rebuilding the Temple for the final time and soon return to lives as Torah spells out and this time can we please remain true remembering every Ninth of Av what has stormed our people when we strayed and were dispersed as punishment for our transgressions. May your fast lay easy upon you.

 

Temple Institute concept for what building the Third Temple in modern day Jerusalem would appear like from a distance with modern buildings of Jerusalem in the background. May their vision and this concept figure become fact and fulfill our desires for unity and a single Temple and House for Hashem in our midst. May this dream be fulfilled before the next Ninth of Av so our lament will be lessened.

Temple Institute concept for what building the Third Temple in modern day Jerusalem would appear like from a distance with modern buildings of Jerusalem in the background. May their vision and this concept figure become fact and fulfill our desires for unity and a single Temple and House for Hashem in our midst. May this dream be fulfilled before the next Ninth of Av so our lament will be lessened.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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

 

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