Beyond the Cusp

April 24, 2018

Religious Zionism is Alive and Flourishing

 

Religious Zionism was claimed to be on its death bed according to Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz. His article is somewhat disingenuous as he makes it sound like he was born and still resides in Eretz Yisroel with his being younger man living in Efrat and having joined his brothers and sisters to create a human chain stretching from Jerusalem to Gaza. It is not until late in the article he mentions that he has left Eretz Yisroel and now is an Open Orthodox Rabbi living in the United States. His claims about the problems with the Religious Zionists in Eretz Yisroel are actually easily understood by any Olim who resided in the United States and because of their intense Zionism came to Eretz Yisroel to live. He has adapted to his new home and this has caused him to have clouded vision. Please allow us to explain using our experiences after having come here to our little nest in Eretz Yisroel. It is a story about having gone in the opposite direction from Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz.

 

The first confession we need to explain is that despite being Zionist, we had little connection to Judaism despite having been born into a Jewish home. This home went from Orthodox to Reform Judaism before we had reached Bar Mitzvah age. Our connection to Judaism was restarted due to a death in the family. Still, our return was to a Conservative Synagogue as that Synagogue’s Rabbi was a better fit from the Reform Synagogue. The odd thing is the Conservative Synagogue services were very similar to the Reform we knew in our teens. It was coming to Eretz Yisroel where we were actually introduced to Orthodox, a Traditional Sephardi Orthodox Synagogue. This Synagogue has a mix of every form of Judaism in the congregants from Ashkenazim to Sephardim to Jews from India and throughout the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and North America with the main numbers from Romania. Needless to say, we found a flourishing and very colorful mix of Judaism and Jews and we are all friends and as a family. We still have much to learn about Judaism and Torah and the other major writings from the Rabbis over the ages. This experience has strengthened our Zionism and we have joined a political party which supports religious Zionism and every form of Zionism is practiced by the party members, again a mixture of every kind of Jew from every corner of the globe. For one of us it feels so much like home as their mother was an Iraqi Jew raised in Bombay, India and father was a British Jew from London, England with Ukrainian and Prussian ancestry. Yes, we have a rich mixture there as well.

 

May the Temple be Rebuilt Speedily in Our Days

May the Temple be Rebuilt Speedily in Our Days

 

Where our making Aliyah was due solely to Zionism, the religious part of our beliefs has truly begun since arriving in Eretz Yisroel. Can we yet claim to be Religious Zionists, well, probably not yet. Are we working in that direction, yes. But Rabbi Yanklowitz makes complaints with which we are very familiar. His complaints are purely leftist American centric complaints. His complaints center around the central tenets of the far left of the Democrat Party. This is to be expected from one who practices Open Orthodoxy which is actually another way of saying Reform Judaism, as their beliefs are very much similar. These Jews follow the socialist wealth redistribution and the minority rights over everybody else’s rights. They believe that borders are not real lines between nations and sacred as they want anybody crossing any border to have full rights in their new nation. This was exemplified by his problem with Israel’s desire to deport the illegal immigrants from Africa who only came to Israel for economic reasons. But as Israel is a wealthy nation, Rabbi Yanklowitz believes that anyone who arrives from a poor nation has an economic right to the better life in the wealthier country no matter the problems and threats to their presumed new nation they may pose. The only thing we would like to tell the good Rabbi is, if you desire the leftist utopia which you envision and likely find the United States currently lacking with President Trump, perhaps you would be best to live in a real socialist utopia like Cuba, Venezuela or North Korea.

 

But you probably are too attached to your wealthy life in the United States where you can criticize Israel of not being that socialist utopia you envision will ultimately save the world. We know the crime Israel has committed is choosing to move from its socialist roots to a capitalist economic model and make it work. Let us set your mind at rest on one subject, the people of Israel give more to the needy than can be measured as most of this assistance is given by one Israeli to another without any need for the government to enact welfare and other forced charity. The charity in Israel is beyond measure because there is no need for the government to take from one Israeli and give to another because the Israelis are perfectly capable of performing this deed on their own. Until you decide to leave your comfortable palaces in the United States, and we realize here in Israel our homes are necessarily smaller and we adapted, and return to Eretz Yisroel, then work to make the United States that perfect land as you have stated that the Diaspora should be the great place for the Jewish People. We disagree and we further promise not to tell the United States how to run their business and you can promise not to attempt to foist your politics upon us. And what we realize from your other writings is that you do not view the Temple as a positive thing while we see the building of the Third Temple as probably the greatest event we have yet to undertake. As our text translates in our morning prayers, “May it be the will before you, Hashem, our G0d and the G0d of our forefathers, that rebuilt shall the Holy Temple be speedily in our days.” We would like to thankyou for your impatience.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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January 16, 2016

Israel and the Jews

 

Allow us to revisit some of the items we have had in articles and draw them together here in one article. This will not be a rehashing of the legal matters, treaties, conventions and other documents and agreements. This is about the Jewish People and the Land of Eretz Yisroel and there are effects which can be observed often only through experiencing and seeing the changes and other effects between the Jewish people and Israel, the land itself. The first thing is that Israel in modern times attracts Jew for any number of reasons. There are two main groups which sometimes cross over and merge for some Jews. There are Jews who feel this strange pull that can only be fulfilled by making Aliyah and return there to their ancestral home which is exactly how many Jews explain there coming to Israel. For some it is the commandment to settle the land which commands the Jewish people to sojourn and commit their only expansive conquest taking the lands promised to Abraham, Izsak and Yaakov in Genesis in the Bible, the Old Testament, the Jewish Bible. Some come to Israel to escape anti-Semitism as Israel is the sole nation which promises to take whatever necessary actions to protect Jews from persecution.

 

Despite the actions of the world to tie Israel’s hands by court threats, protests world-wide, coordinated violence from the Arabs both within Israel and from the areas of Judea and Samaria which have been granted autonomy where their government rewards families whose members attack and murder Jews with higher rewards for more Israelis murdered or mutilated for life. This is what drives the suicide bombers as they know their family will receive a greater salary for life called a pension for a martyr of the cause of freedom, which means literally that they died in the attack, often due to being a walking human bomb, making their family honored and given a pension which is often higher than most Arabs make even those working for their government. This pension, blood money, is an incentive for Arabs who find they are poor and have little hope of providing for the family, often a wife and more than four children that the only way an Arab may decide that a suicide assault on the Jews is their only hope for their family. There have been Arabs from the autonomous region, who have charged at IDF soldiers at a checkpoint with a knife in their hand hoping to be caught and not shot so they can be sent to an Israeli prison as, and some have confessed this, their life would drastically improve where he would have better food and general conditions. Some attacks are carried out by the younger males in a family who know that they will receive next to nothing as an inheritance and for a farming family that is close to a condemnation to poverty and helplessness and they believe their only hope is to kill Israelis so their family will receive a pension should they be martyred and a salary should they be caught and imprisoned.

 

Jews native born to Israel, Sabras (Hebrew: צבר‎), is the name of a cactus Opuntia cactus (pictured below, known in Israel as “tsabar” (צבר) and as the fruit of the Sabra cactus has a hard and thorns outside and its fruit is sweet, soft, juicy and did I mention sweet. That description is really fitting in describing many original Israel born native Jews, some of which are my family. A few native families have resided in Israel since the early and mid-1800s while others have their family’s tree going back beyond and to before the 135CE and earlier 70CE Roman destruction of the Holy Temple and dispersal of the Jews from their land. This was executed in the hope that would destroy the Jewish people as they would no longer be attached to the land. This had worked just as they had done to the remnants of Carthage and possibly numerous other civilizations which we never knew as they did disappear from the face of the Earth. Some have family records which show their families having returned to Eretz Yisroel from the Babylonian Exile when Cyrus the Great of Persia conquered the Babylonian Empire on his way to establishing the Persian Empire, one of the largest and most storied in all history. Cyrus the Great gave the Jews his blessings to return and rebuild the Holy Temple and serve Hashem as directed by Torah. Some Israeli families arrived from Europe after the calamities of the Shoah and World War II. An equal or potentially greater number were expunged and forced from the Arab and Muslim nations of MENA (Middle East and North Africa) as well as Iran through edict, pogroms or legal restrictions making life next to or actually impossible. In most cases all property and wealth was confiscated and in the worst instances, forced out with one suitcase per person and those were inspected and anything of worth was removed.

 

 

Sabra Cactus with Fruit and Flowers

Sabra Cactus with
Fruit and Flowers

 

 

When they claim that the Jews of Israel return to their real homeland they are actually there. When the demand is for the Jews return to the lands where they arrived from, do they include the approximate half of Israelis whose former nation was throughout the Islamic world. Further, look at Europe with the European Union and their labelling of products from parts of Israel and the numbers of Jews literally fleeing European nations such as France, Sweden and others as well as the clincher, the unapologetic denunciations of Israel in every manner such that these are so egregious as they can only be described and blatantly anti-Semitic coming from the Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom. Her inflammatory accusations and denunciation along with her prejudging determinations which would be ruinous for Israel and against every agreement, convention, treaty, Mandate and other legal arrangements and pronouncement or still to be determined through formal negotiations and not the decree of some other nation not involved or even mentioned as a party to the situation are simply over the top. An example of her adamant refusal to take any moderation of her views is easily displayed in this recent debate in the Swedish Parliament where a member demanded of her an explanation of her extremist views shown below.

 

The lands of Israel have been conquered by nearly every empire which showed out of the Middle East, Europe and even from the Mongols from Asia and Egypt from Africa. The only empire to ever get production from the lands of Israel, which did not include simply ruling over and taxing Jews working the lands, were the Egyptians. There are those who claim the lands which today make up the nation of Israel, even if one were to concede Israel all the lands except Gaza from the Jordan River west to the Mediterranean Sea, were originally inhabited by a group of peoples, numerous tribes and city states, known as the Canaanites. This was a valid point in the times of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob but by the time the Israelites left Egypt this was no longer the case as the Egyptians collected taxes and provided protection against the Hittites who resided further north possible within what is today Turkey, and from any other invaders. As the Exodus from Egypt was a revolt against Egypt, there would be a natural series of events that a group who had been originally welcomed and over time and a change in the lineage of the Pharaoh that they had been enslaved as had much of the Egyptian people who revolted with a shove and assist from Hashem who arranged ten incentives to persuade Pharaoh to allow the Israelite nation to leave and have their own homeland. The lands the Israelites took forty years later, give or take a few months, was land which belonged to the Egyptians and it was the tribal chiefs and some Egyptians that were defeated over some time and finally the lands were solidified by King David and King Solomon with a fair bit to spare. This marked the end of Israelite expansive designs. Here are some maps of the areas in question.

 

 

Left side map depicts the division of the Promised Land amongst the tribes and right side map compares the modern promised land from the Jordan west to the Mediterranean Sea compared to the maximum of area during King David’s and King Solomon’s reigns.

 

 

Eventually the land fell to the Babylonians who forced the Israelites into exile working them in Babylon. What is interesting is that the records show next to no Babylonians remaining in the Promised Land more than likely because it refused to produce a decent crop or provide grazing lands. The Persians having some knowledge about the Hebrews and the Promised Land had those Israelite who desired to return to their lands to do so and required only a tax be paid each year. This arrangement worked for a while and the Persian Empire finally fell to the Greeks led by the Macedonian Alexander the Great. The land was again worked by the Israelites but rifts politically had split the lands with the norther ten tribes taking the name of Israelite with them and the southern kingdom was largely made up by the tribe of Judah along with the considerably smaller Benjamin. These were called Judea and had control of Jerusalem and the Temple. The northern tribes were conquered by the Assyrian Greeks and were dispersed throughout their holding and eventually went their separate ways becoming the ten lost tribes of Israel, literally. Judea fell eventually as well but remained in the lands. The Romans replaced the Greeks and from this point forward the life of the lands of Judea and their people who were called Judeans which eventually shortened to Jew.

 

The next part of the lives of the Judean, Jews, was related by a former MK Yaakov Katz in an editorial 407,118: The up to date number of Jews in Judea and Samaria, not counting Jerusalem. In the article he gave a description of what is a Jew which I hope to never forget as it was very relevant to Jewish history, our history. He said that the way to define a Jew is to define us by what others destroyed in order to eradicate the Jewish People, a depravity which has a way too often horrific number of repetitions throughout human history. The Egyptian by restricting us through slavery kept us from our Promised Lands yet we did not simply accept their gods, their idols or leaders who claimed they were gods. The Babylonians destroyed the Holy Temple hoping that would dishearten us and we would assimilate and they would be done with us. Then the Romans dispersed us such that we were scattered with only a few families in any one location which the Romans had done to others to destroy their cohesion and family. This, the Romans hoped would put an end to the Jews. Eventually, after many centuries it was the Catholic and, in turn, other Christians who forced conversion and removed us from our Torah and normal prayers hoping this would end the Jewish problem. Finally we would face the Nazis who decided they would simply annihilate the Jews and finally solve the Jewish Problem. So, if we learned anything, it is that we are defined as Jews by all of our enemies starting with the Egyptians through the Nazis and we find a Jew is the Promised lands of Eretz Yisroel from the covenant made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. A Jew is the Holy Temple, may it be built in our lifetime. We find a Jew is community and one another as then we have a support group with whom we are more able to remember our commandments and perform mitzvahs and observe the Sabbath. The Jew is nothing without Torah and finally the Jew celebrates life. So, what is a Jew? A Jew is the Promised Land as we were made for each other as well as we are enriched by the Holy Temple which allows for certain Commandments to be fulfilled as they require the Holy Temple and we are to complete the Commandments but those remain unfulfilled. Our need for community becomes evident when after the Roman dispersal we quickly gathered where and how we could and made our little communities where we observed our customs which with time were adapted to the world around us. A Jew without Torah is a Jew unstuck and disconnected from the commandments and mitzvoth which was part of the reason that the greatest of the Rabbis wrote commentary and put the oral law into writings. And finally, a Jew is all about the celebration of life and the great gifts that Hashem has shared with us. What is a Jew in the fewest words possible? I will give it a try. A Jew is the land of Israel with the Temple in Jerusalem and community to be a part of with Torah and celebrating life, Torah, Mitzvoth, and Hashem.

 

All the empires, the Babylonian, Egyptian, Persian, Greek, Assyrian, Roman, the various Islamic and Christian conquerors, the Ottomans and the British all could not make the land bloom; but bloom they finally have done. But that works both ways. The Jews make the land and the land completes the Jew.

 

Coming home to Eretz Yisroel was the most wondrous thing in my life and has lifted burdens from me in ways I find impossible to quantify, let alone to define. For the first time I feel accepted to an extent which surpassed even Colorado in the 1970s and I thought that was heaven yet that barely compares with the coming to Israel. I often need to go look out the window to once again impress on me that I truly am home. The people I meet are mostly willing to go out of their way to help and their efforts mostly are beyond belief as they put up with us not having learned to speak Hebrew. We have found a couple of closely defined niches where we can speak freely and not fear being told to never return. As I explain, we have finally found the Jews we had searched for in the United States and they are all mostly here. I have likely been exposed and learned more about being a Jew here in the last couple of years and the rate of learning is only increasing daily. There are so many people making sure I get things correct that my biggest hope is that I remember one third and I will be far wiser than I was upon our arrival. How would I sum up Israel and the Jews in the fewest words possible? Mutual Fulfillment.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

January 4, 2014

Importance of Israel to Jews Today

One might question what importance would a small strip of land 263 miles long – North to South and between 9 and 71 miles wide – East to West nestled along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. There are few valid doubts of the historic and Biblical importance of this land, the home to the Hebrews and particularly to the tribe of Judah who resided in Judea, from where the word Jew is derived. But does the Promised Land, the Land of Milk and Honey have any actual importance or significance to Jews today. The answer to that question depends very heavily on which Jews you ask it of. If you ask the over six million Jews currently living in Israel the answer is obviously “Yes” as one would suspect. The land within which one lives is of extreme importance. If you ask any of the approximately six to seven million Jews of the Diaspora you will likely get answers running the entire gambit of possibilities. Perhaps a more accurate questioning of the importance Israel has for modern Jews would be whether there is a need for Israel as the homeland to the Jewish people or is Israel no longer necessary for the continued survival of the Jewish people who appear to have learned to manage as simply another people amongst the peoples of the world.

 

The first point which needs to be emphasized is that the importance of Israel is independent from the opinions and attitudes that any number, group, community, religious standing or sect believes, even including their positive or negative Zionistic opinions. The full spectra of Jewish attitude on the current state of Israel spans from the most ardent religious Zionist and secular Zionist all the way to the Neturei Karta, a very religiously oriented, Haredi community which believes that the Jews are not to have a homeland until one is established by the Messiah, and the fully secularized and assimilated Jews whose only ties to Judaism or Israel is simply the fact they were born of Jewish parents though their lives are lived completely removed from Jewish society as a whole. Probably the most obvious need for the existence of a Jewish state was revealed with the mass genocide carried out against the European Jews by the Nazis during World War II. I refrain from using the name Holocaust to refer to that horrid part of human history simply because there are so many other similar such events throughout history and including almost every communities of Jews be they in Europe, Africa, Asia or elsewhere. Some of the more notable and documented events of a similar kind include the Spanish Inquisition, the pogroms in Russia and even the dispossessing and banishment of Jews living in the area of Tennessee by the commanding Union General immediately after the Civil War in the United States. That action was ordered, rescinded and terminated within two weeks by President Lincoln, but had done significant damage to the Jews residing within the area already. What these events throughout human history point out is that the Jewish people have always needed their own country if for no other reason than to have a safe haven where they can live without fear for their lives and property and where they are enabled to defend themselves.

 

Israel needs to mean more to the Jews today than simply the place where they can retreat to should their world come crashing down on them as life has for Jews in all too many countries and times. One simple truth is that should the Temple be rebuilt, it would necessarily be located in Israel and most likely in Jerusalem though there are some who claim that it need not be the identical location as the First and Second Temples. Without the existence of the Temple there are numerous commandments and other traditions which cannot be completed which leaves Judaism incomplete. One of the best known duties within Judaism which requires the physical existence of the Holy Temple are the three Pilgrimage Holidays, Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot. The Holy Temple was and will be the central location for all of Judaism and the originator for observances. Granted that the Jewish people are able to observe the vast majority of their personal commandments without the existence of the Holy Temple, but there is still an absence from Jewish life which can only be filled by building the Third, and hopefully final, Temple. Such a structure would fulfill prophesies and complete the reestablishing of Israel as the Jewish homeland. These are the reasons why there is such emphasis by Islamic sources contesting the historic site and even existence of the Holy Jewish Temples and their location being the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The opponents of the Jewish people are fully cognizant that Judaism is incomplete without the Holy Temple and that if the Holy Temple were rebuilt, then the Jews would have an established and concrete claim to Eretz Yisroel which would be uncontestable. As long as there is no Holy Temple the adversaries of the Jews know that they have a better chance of defeating and erasing Jewish existence. The Holy Temple would give the Jewish people a defendable and central place which would also be a unifying force and might even result in bringing many of the Diaspora Jews back home.

 

Still, the most obvious reason in these times that the Jewish people need Israel, whether or not they believe that it is the correct time and was established according to prophesy, is due to the troubling fact that once again anti-Semitism is rising almost everywhere across the globe. Anti-Semitism is even on the rise in places where no Jews reside, which is astonishing and also a bewildering situation. This rise in anti-Semitism already ran much of its course throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds where in many countries there are less than a thousand Jews, many less than a hundred and still others which are completely free of any Jewish presence. This turn of events came about during the first decade after the reestablishment of the country of Israel as numerous Arab and Muslim nations either forced their Jewish populations, most of which had resided within these nations often for close to two thousand years even predating Islam, to leave or face death or had recurring pogroms where their Jewish quarters were put to the torch and many Jews were murdered or viscously assaulted. As a result of these events, and as further proof of the need for a Jewish state, close to one million Jews fled to Israel while numerous and relatively sizeable numbers of the remaining Jews from these hostile nations fled to Europe and the Americas. Now with the onset of slow but steady rise in the numbers and severity of anti-Semitism in Europe and the Americas, there are Jews who are at the leading cusp of what will become waves of Jews fleeing again persecution by their neighbors. Once again many of these Jews are heading to Israel while some of the European Jews are taking refuge in the United States and Canada, a decision which may only provide them with a temporary respite as the anti-Jewish violence in word and deed is on the rise there as well. The United States and Canada are likely about a decade, if that much, behind trailing Europe in anti-Semitic crimes. Israel has recently made Aliyah for French Jews more easily attained as the numbers of Jews leaving France has risen to near epidemic proportions. There are predictions that within a decade the number of Jews whose native language is French in Israel will be second only to the Jews whose native language is Russian and surpassing those Jews whose native tongue is English. This past year saw an event which is as chilling as it is informative as the Mayor of Malmo, Sweden literally informed reporters and petitioners alike that he is unable and has no desire to try to prevent acts of anti-Semitism and the Jews of his city should leave if they had any fears of being victimized. His response was in reference to the desecration of the Jewish cemetery and a report of increasing numbers of physical and verbal attacks and other abuses towards the Jewish community in Malmo. Where reports lay much of the anti-Semitic problems on the growing immigrant community in Malmo, the Mayor and others who take a similar view are native Swedes and not immigrants. As the incidences and severity of anti-Semitic acts continue to rise across the Western world, the need for Israel as a safe haven for Jews will become more and more important. It is really very simple, the world cannot concurrently hold the position that Israel should not be a Jewish state and wish the Jews would leave their individual countries. Yet, this is often the position which the anti-Semites hold, they demand that the Jews be driven from their nation while condemning Israel and calling for its destruction. Expecting rational actions from people who hold irrational positions and accusations about the Jewish people is a waste of time and effort which could be put to better use. Anti-Semitism will not be disappearing any time soon, let us hope that the same will hold true for Israel as the home and place of refuge for the Jews.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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