Beyond the Cusp

May 14, 2019

Israeli Battle for True Democracy

 

A war of a different kind is brewing to come to a head in Israel. It will be billed as the valiant confrontation to save democracy. This is actually a very accurate summation but who is attempting to save democracy and who is simply vying for power over the future of Israel is to be determined. Another angle to decide this battle is one of political views, the old socialists attempt at a last-ditch effort to retain their stranglehold over all decisions of the realm against the Zionist and nationalist struggle to break that stranglehold and return the rule of law to all the people with the elected representatives deciding the nation’s fates. The rumors over the unfolding coalition agreements has made some strong inferences that included within is a rough sketch for judicial reform and an end to the Supreme Court’s ability to override any decision be they made by the Knesset or even military commanders during a conflict. Part and parcel of this conflict is the method by which justices are chosen. Let us start there.

 

Currently a committee is selected to choose new justices for the Supreme Court as well as the lower courts. This committee had an unassailable makeup giving the sitting Supreme Court Justices along with the Attorney General and a member of the Lawyers Guild sufficient votes to block any nominee of which they have political differences. This had continued the leftward leanings of the Supreme Court solidly entrenched. The next Knesset is set to complete the transformation begun under Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked during the past government. The new selection process being proposed would place the Knesset, the elected Israeli legislature, the power for approving judges plus there will be a twelve year term for judges such that the court will never again be stranded in the politics of two or more decades ago and always being refreshed with new judges chosen by the elected representatives. This will allow the courts to more represent the ideals and aspirations of the people and not become an elite which has fallen out of touch with the people and the government. They also are going to attempt to draft laws which will permit the Knesset to overrule any overturning of a law passed by the Knesset by the Supreme Court, something which has prevented advancement of Israel and galled many Knesset Ministers who sat helplessly being unable to get laws which the people demanded past Supreme Court vetoes. Things had reached a point a few years ago where the Supreme Court flexed their assumed control which was never enacted through legislation but was simply a usurpation of power by Chief Justice Aharon Barak, who postulated that all things are adjudicable. Through this expansion of judicial power, the Supreme Court intervened in any area they believed that their desires were not being met. This led to Israel living under a black robed form of tyranny which the justices, with the blessings of the Europeans who sided with these left-leaning justices, claiming that to limit their power or alter their monopoly on choosing their replacements was an attack on democracy. Accordingly, Israel was often beaten into submission when the United States joined the Europeans in their pressuring of Israel to simply sit back and allow their betters to dictate their laws and lives. Now that battle is about to be waged for real.

 

Chief Justice Aharon Barak

Chief Justice Aharon Barak

 

Already we are hearing the screams that Israeli democracy is planning on being assailed and destroyed if the court’s powers are curtailed in any way and the method for choosing Justices has any modification from their beloved system. Where we are confused is how anybody can confuse allowing unelected Supreme Court Justices to override the elected government, counter orders given by military officers and generally dictate to every entity of the government what their marching orders are and stand over even the Prime Minister making the entire elected governance impotent under the overview of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is already smarting from the change made whereby they can no longer decide who gets to reside on lands which are contested without requiring a proof of the claims against the placement of Jewish homes; the court never found claims against Arabs to be founded, only Jews. This was removed from their dockets and placed in the lower courts ending the practice where a largely European funded NGO would come before the Supreme Court claiming their Arab client, who preferred not to appear out of fear of reprisals, once owned an area in which Jewish communities were built, and they often did not produce any deed of ownership and yet the court nearly always evicted the Jews destroying communities. Now with these cases in the lower courts a new procedure is in place whereby such claims will require the Arab making the claim to appear unless the court can be convinced such is impractical with reason, and the producing of a deed or bill of sale which will stand up to review before such decisions are reached. Further alterations allow the courts to order reparations rather than eviction, something the Supreme Court refused to consider as they appeared to have been operating under the concept that the Jews required being removed such that the Two State Solution could be enacted using the pre-Six Day War borders. The Supreme Court appeared loath to move beyond this idea and spent far too much energy in their crusade to make this happen. Now their screams of the death of democracy echo hollow as the people largely see this as the rescue of democracy from judicial tyranny.

 

The coalition will be formed within the ensuing few weeks and a new Knesset will be seated with very much the same breakdown as the last Knesset, sixty-five nationalist-Zionist-religious-economic capitalist or, as the media calls them, right-wing Ministers and fifty-five socialist-Arabist-two state solution supporting liberal or, as the media calls them, centrist or left-wing Ministers. Isn’t it simply amazing that almost anywhere one goes on this globe, those who are even slightly right of true center are called extreme-right-wing-fanatics, and we do not even want to know what they call true right-wing-fanatics, hint, their name is Nazis or fascists, and left of center is often referred to as centrist and far left are left-leaning. There really is only a true leftist in the more conservative news, the minority of the media, while the rest of the media are often far left and see old-style liberals as right-wing fanatics as they are not even left enough to be called centrist. As some have said, often with remorse, I did not leave the left-wing as a liberal, the left-wing left me and went places I do not care to visit. We will hear the caterwauling from the leftist media in Europe and the plethora of leftist politicians all echoing the same mantra that Israel is having the basis of democracy attacked by fascists in the government. We are confused as to how the elected government which can be changed by the people in any election are fascist while unelected Supreme Court Justices ruling by judicial fiat is democracy. If these definitions are correct, then perhaps I do support fascism as at least it comes with elections, but we all know deep down that those definitions are backwards. Even the Supreme Court Justices realize they are selling a bag of rotten to the core goods and stand against democracy. Anyway, who ever said Israel was a democracy? Israel is a Parliamentary Democracy under the rule of law as stated in the Basic Laws.

 

Now, if people would like a few suggestions for making some needed changes, well, who are we to disappoint. First thing is should they decide that the Knesset can overrule the Supreme Court veto, it should be by some form of super-majority, be that sixty-percent which is seventy-two Ministers, or two-thirds which is eighty Ministers or lastly three-fourths which is ninety Ministers. We would also prefer to see that any legislation require a super-majority for establishing a new Basic Law in place of a simply majority and an even higher bar for the repeal of any Basic Law. Another alteration would require that a quorum be required for any legislation to be voted upon thus making sneaking legislation through would become impossible, a tactic seldom utilized but even once would be too many times. And while we are at making modernizations, how about we make the letters of the law regarding electioneering, elections, term lengths, appointment of judges and Supreme Court Justices by defined methods, qualifications for offices, defining the threshold permanently instead of allowing it to be modified by the whims of each government, removal from office for impeachable and other crimes, and the other definitions required to set straight a framework around which the governing bodies are wrapped including a prescribed method for amending said constitution which would then be presented to the people for ratification. Lets make the Constitution an actual representation of a democracy by allowing the people to have the final say such that they can send the drafts back to the government with a note stating, try again, here are a few suggestions, and eventually the process will produce something we can all get used to and learn to live under. The world is screaming for democracy, how about we give them a real example and a real taste of what a modern democracy can produce and how well we know how to be a democratic country. Perhaps some of those crusted old-school Europeans will be able to learn something from the upstart nation which is over four-thousand years old and has seen all the forms of governance the world has ever produced and found that they all often lacked the protection for the weakest amongst us, and often those weaker ones were us Jews. The world oppressed the Jews for thousands of years and now they demand to tell us how to run our own nation which we finally are returning home after those two thousand years of torment and really have had more than enough of the world telling us what it is we can and cannot do and what we are permitted and how we must listen to them for what is right. We had a code for governance while these upstarts were still living in tribal villages and they want to tell us how to rule Israel. Well, we could simply use the Torah but that would really upset the world, so maybe that would not be such a bad idea, if only to hear the howls.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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February 17, 2019

Has the Time Come for Women as Rabbis?

 

We understand that the obvious answer is, ‘No,’ and that there really is nothing to debate, but when has that stopped us. There are the numerous arguments put forth by the Open Orthodoxy or New Orthodoxy, Modern Orthodoxy, Neo-Orthodoxy or the more realistic, Reform Judaism with a few additional Commandments. The crux of the problem is, as almost anybody who has read anything about this tempest in a teapot, the ordination of women as Rabbi. The easy answer is to stand with the nearly unanimous decision by virtually every Poskim, the RCA (Rabbinical Council of America) and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and declare from the rooftops while standing next to a scarecrow of a man playing his violin and scream, “Tradition!” But that is taking the short road to an answer which leaves out all the intricacies and ignores the pressures and times of modernity. Women’s rights will need to be addressed at some point, but that point has not yet arrived. Far too many of those in positions to accept this challenge are mired in the rules and morals of early in the past century. Then women took care of the home and the men took care of the world just as the Bible and Torah instruct are the responsibilities of each gender. The world had gone through a period of rocketing change with gender roles being blurred and the responsibilities often being turned on their heads. But Judaism has not survived by being reckless and rushing to accept every change which has come down the halls of time. Tradition has been the watchful eye which kept the boat upright and it is not about to allow for the boat tipping too far left just as it kept it from tipping too far right as the political pendulum has swung back and forth.

 

 

The best approach might be to take small steps and see how they work and if they place too much of a burden or cause things to become difficult or produce side-effects which are arduous, then the small steps can be retraced and a return to normalcy. It is not as if Judaism has not gone through some tumultuous traumas. When we left Egypt we found that the generation which had been in Egypt were not fully capable of change and this resulted in forty-years of wandering almost aimlessly in the dessert until a new generation could be born and reach age. Then, with a fresh population unencumbered with the ravages of slavery and dependence filled with self-confidence was capable of the task of winning a homeland. Then Joshua, one of the two spies who came back with a report of a land ready to be taken, the other was Caleb. The fight was probably far more difficult than it would have been for the Israelites when they first perched on the borders of what is today Israel. But in time the lands were conquered and became the initial state of Israel (see map below). That was how nations were built and how many an empire would start out, taking a small regions for their own and then embarking on greater conquests often incorporating the conquered people initially into their empire as full citizens. This was the name of the game and the Jews started with no king or queen but lived only with the guidance of Judges and Prophets. Prophets continued into their period with Kings which turned sour all too quickly. Then there came the years of conquest by foreign empires with short stints of self-rule. Eventually the Jews, as they had come to be known as most were Judeans by birth, as they were from the Tribe of Judah, were dispersed throughout the Roman Empire, with some even thrown into slavery in further lands, and there appeared to be no way for this small group surviving such treatment. The Jews remained dispersed throughout the world and only in the past century and a half have really begun to return to the ancient homelands reestablishing the nation of Israel. So, yes, we have seen dire times and persecutions and even the Holocaust, a persecution unparalleled in, at the least, modernity. We survived and remained a people through one factor; we remained steadfastly true to our holy books and based it all on Torah. The Torah became our homeland, portable and able to be applied in any region, setting, situation and so forth. This is partly why the leaders of the Jewish Faith, not necessarily the Jewish Nations but the faith, remain resistant to change, without foresight to see what is over the horizon, one remains reluctant to change, especially change that appears to be drastic, that which has guided and kept your people as one through the harrowing threats of history.

 

Twelve Tribes of Israel and the Original Borders for Israel

Twelve Tribes of Israel and the Original Borders for Israel

 

So, perhaps, in the not too distant future, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel might venture into permitting equal seating for men and women in a section of the main hall, not necessarily the entirety. They could permit those synagogues which were inclined to set aside an area where husband and wife, of course with children, to be seated together but leave sufficient space for those opposed to such a liberal concept to sit where this area is not bothersome. Yes, we know some people will find it bothersome that a synagogue in the next town allows such seating and they will claim it unnerves them. Change is not easy, ask the Vatican, as we Jews have been about traditions and the literal applications of the rules for far longer than the Christians have. Perhaps there might be some other half-step we have not considered, but change will need to come in small doses as we Jews are a stiff-necked and stubborn people, or so our Torah tells us. Still, we have changed and kept pace with the world as when we reestablished our homelands, we did not return to a monarchy as it last was nor did we try to rely on prophets and judges as even earlier times, nope, we went with a parliamentary democracy and one far more convoluted than even the European versions. Even the Jews who returned home making Aliyah often comment on how Israel has made a parliamentary system of government even more contentious than their home countries could have imagined. For further proof, simply start to read and follow the machinations and other finagling which are sure to play out along the way to the April 9, 2019 Israeli elections and see for yourself.

 

We have somehow gone from Exodus Chapter fifteen verse twenty and twenty-one where it says, “Miriam, the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel (tambourine) in her hand, and all the women came out after her with timbrels and with dances. And Miriam called out to them, Sing to the Lord, for very exalted is He; a horse and its rider He cast into the sea.” This was then and today there are numerous groups within Judaism where men are forbidden to see women dance or perform or even hear them sing as it became considered immodest. There is proof that we can change, and not always in a more progressive direction despite the uncomforting fact that many times the Jews were at the forefront of revolutionary change. Too often these very same revolutions turned against the Jews and persecuted them claiming they were the enemies of the state they assisted in forming. Such was the case in the Soviet Union and in other cases before that and since. These such outcomes went quite some distance in imprinting caution in the Jews who survived, escaped or were fortunate enough to read of these events from a distance into a dread for change. We have held to our traditions which for centuries slowly drifted to being more and more conservative as this is the result of persecution. The Jewish People are barely a full generation beyond what was a cataclysmic conflagration to our people who lived on the European continent as the Germans and the Russians took their turns persecuting and executing Jews. This did not endear that generation or the following ones to favor radical change, well, except in the United States where much of the radical changes politically and culturally have manifested. They may have found their start in America or in Europe, but if it did not play in America, it likely did not play for very long.

 

Change in Judaism has mostly run at a slow pace making sure that the ground was solid before taking that next step. Wild and reckless are not exactly words which have described the religious Jewish communities. Insular, reactionary, conservative, traditional, stoic, intractable and other similar adjectives have all been used, even by Jews themselves, in defining the Jewish communities, as there are in the United States and Europe as well. Still today in Israel, there are religious communities which all live in a closed community which one need apply and be interviewed, fact-checked, virtually investigated and their religious credentials checked and rechecked before they are permitted to reside within the community. These are some of the communities where the most influential leaders of the Jewish community reside. Asking these individuals to change something so central to Judaism is something which is simply not going to play well. The fact that there are congregations, mostly, if not solely, in the United States and Canada trying to introduce such changes to the Orthodox community, as it has been initially only in Reform and Reconstructionist and later spread to Conservative, is potentially the initial steps. For Jews, though, simply playing well in America is not sufficient for it to become accepted, it must play in Israel. Were the RCA to accept such a change, an alteration in what has been tens of century’s worth of tradition, then perhaps it might be considered by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, though the RCA does not tend to make such moves without working with the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. The two operate very much in tandem with much and often deep communication and coordination. This is due to their being the two organizations which preside over the two largest Orthodox communities in the world, one all of Europe does not match. The first sign that there might be a crack in the bricks through which changes will eventually pour through would probably be the permitting, even only on special occasions, for married couples to sit together. Currently, the men sit in one area and the women in a separate area simply because having the women sitting with the men is considered a potential distraction. What some Rabbis might notice is having the wives sit separate from their husbands also provides distraction as they may wish to see how the other is doing or even suddenly realize something which urgently need be communicated, but that is what cell phones are for, right? Kidding aside, the experimentation with women being ordained as Rabbis will very likely have to wait until it starts to make cracks into Israeli society, and that might be closer than we think. No matter the number of Open Orthodox (by whatever name they decide to use this week) Synagogues who have women as assistant Rabbis or Rabbinical interns or outright Rabbis, they will remain shunned, rejected and refused continued sanction by the RCA as they remain lockstep and in sync with the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. No matter how many influential American Rabbis join a bandwagon calling for the liberation of Orthodox Judaism, that change will not be leaving the station any time soon. Wait for coed seating to be accepted universally, and then, just maybe there will start to be the inkling of a discussion on going further. First coed seating will need a full period of testing, say about a century or two, then we can talk. Should things go faster than this, it will be a surprise and a sign that the Jews have begun to feel safe and beyond threat in Israel. Currently, we have bigger fish to fry then even coed seating, let alone women as Rabbis.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

July 23, 2018

Secularist False Charge of Education System Teaching Religionization

 

When we first read about this claim coming from the usual sources against the Ministry of Educations, and particularly Minister of Education Naftali Bennett, that they are using the Israeli public education system and regulations which cover all education in Israel to indoctrinate the youth forcing religious teachings upon them, we simply laughed. We should have taken this more seriously as it has become a valid claim and there are signs that it will be echoed by those who wish to dilute religious leanings within Israel from abroad. This accusation of religionization is about as spurious as is possible. The basis of the claim comes to one simple reality; the Israeli education system teaches Jewish history all the way back to just over four-thousand years ago. This claim would be similar if people found out that a history course was covering the Crusades and claiming they were attempting to indoctrinate Christian Religionization. It would be the same as claiming that teaching about the Arab conquest of MENA as being the teaching of Islamic Religionization. The same would be teaching the history of China as Buddhist Religionization or the history of India as Hindu Religionization or lessons on Greek and Roman Empires as Idolatrous Religionization. All history had some religious slant existing in the cloth from which it has been cut but teaching the history does not mean the students are being indoctrinated with religious brainwashing. If the teaching was straight from the Bible and impressing the commandments repeatedly over and over pressing the students to memorize these texts, that would be religionization. Nothing even approaching such is what is taught in the Israeli school system. Is such taught in the Yeshivas? Of course, but these are private schools most often serving a specific community who demand that their children be taught such an education as their society is stridently religious. The new education requirements have inserted STEM course requirements as well as other normative educational requirements to prepare the Yeshiva students in order that they will have the skills to enter the normative society and find adequate employment should they wish to seek such.

 

The reality is that there have been attempts to equalize the education system introducing more Torah history of the Jewish People, as their history is the reason for modern day Israel. These lessons are taught as history with only sufficient religious slant to put everything in contrast. How does one teach about King David and King Solomon and not also include some tracts from Psalms and Proverbs. One cannot teach about Abraham, Izaak, Jacob and Joseph on to Moses and the Exodus without mentioning the start of monotheism for the Israelis who received the Ten Commandments, witnessed the splitting of the Sea and the ten plagues over Egypt. These points are not teaching religion, it is history. Teaching that there was a period where ancient Israel had judges, prophets and eventually kings, that the nation split in two and that the northern kingdom of Israel became the Ten Lost Tribes and that the remaining two tribes were named Judah after the larger tribe and over time Judean was shortened by the Greeks and Romans to simply Jew and that is where the name of Jew originates. Such lessons are not teaching religion, they are our common history. Covering the Crusades and the adverse effects they had on the Jewish population in Europe or the effects of the Caliphate Rule over the Jews under Islam, is not teaching Judaism any more than it is teaching Christianity or Islam. These are the realities but this has nothing to do with their complaints, they have an entirely different target, Naftali Bennett.

 

Education Minister Naftali Bennett with Kippah

Education Minister Naftali Bennett with Kippah

 

Our chosen picture of Education Minister Naftali Bennett was not selected as the best picture we could find but rather to display his wearing of a Kippah. Naftali Bennett is the current leader of the Jewish Home Party which is based originally in religious Zionism. It is considered, obviously, as a right wing party. Honest disclosure is that many here belong to the Jewish Home, or Bayit Yehudi in Hebrew, and are active in party politics. That aside, Naftali Bennett has only returned the teaching of the ancient history of the Jewish People and the Israelites which had been removed over the years by secular left-leaning governments. These governments attempted to remove all traces of Judaism from the society and intended, by their own declarations, to change Israel into a multi-ethnic democracy where Judaism played absolutely no part in the government, educations system, politics and society. They were attempting to mold a new Israel based on the United States except more socialist. Their desires and interpretation of the direction our society should take has been rejected at the polls with successive right-leaning governments being elected. As Jewish Home is likely to be the second or third largest right-leaning party after the next election, those opposed to our politics are getting a running start on their attacks to try and minimize any right wing representation. Another reason they have decided on challenging Jewish Home is because of the growing popularity both within and from outside our party for the number two person who is serving as Justice Minister, Ayelet Shaked (pictured below). Her transformation of the Justice system over her term thus far in the office of Justice Minister has been nothing short of historic. Her appointment of judges who believe that their position entitles them to apply the law as written and not strike down laws they dislike, make up laws they regret that the Knesset does not have their ability of true vision or even countermand orders given to the IDF by the General Staff or other command officers has restrained the judicial system to an equal branch of government and not the unopposed rulers. Ayelet Shaked has turned the dictatorial justice system into a legal adjudicating body which does not rule as a second and superior government of the State of Israel. This too has infuriated the left-leaning efforts to have liberal judges rule the nation after their ideas and striking down the elected government when they actually write legislation demanded by the people, after all, in former times it was that Judges knew better what the people need and the people were just sheep for the shearing.

 

Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked

Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked

 

What we are hearing through multiple attacks is that the left demands that they be permitted to run the affairs of Israel despite what the electorate desires. They demand to be permitted this privilege because of their superior morality which places them on a higher plane than those knuckle-dragging regressives on the right. They have the “real truth” and that should supercede the popularist opinions which the electorate placed in power. This has been behind much of the attacks and investigations of Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. We felt ashamed as we know the people in Europe and especially the United States had to be falling over one another laughing at the charges that the Prime Minister received gifts from people who were invited to dinner at the Prime Minister’s residence, fine cigars and expensive champagne. This was the investigation of the Prime Minister, that multi-millionaires and even multi-billionaires actually brought gifts of fine cigars and expensive champagne for the Prime Minister and not, as we put it once, a Ronco Veg-O-Matic and Pocket Fisherman. That is honestly how silly and insane the mechanisms on the left have become in seeking any reason, even not signaling a lane change, to try and bring down the Prime Minister. When they actually brought charges against Netanyahu for these “bribes” received, as they could not be gifts, they then followed that with demands that he step down and allow new elections. Of course, Netanyahu would be barred from being the head of his party, Likud, as he was under charges and further investigations. This was all an attempt to topple the elected government, bring the leaders of right-leaning parties under investigations as they were also investigating Bennett and demanding he step down and also Shaked, the number two also step aside, just for good measure, and then have an election. Thus, they desired an election where every right-leaning party was required to run as their candidate for Prime Minister somebody who held no ministerial position and thus nobody outside the party power structure had heard anything about while the left-leaning parties could run people whose names were well known. Yea, that’ll work real good, NOT!

 

Those in Europe probably do not fully understand this but Americans are experiencing the most rabid version of this currently. What is interesting is that President Trump actually intentionally feeds the rabid anti-Trump people who are at a constant scream on how Trump must be impeached. The most dire amongst these Americans demand that Trump and Pence both be impeached and Hillary Clinton appointed to replace them with her choosing her own Vice President except for others who demand that Bernie Sanders was the actual and true winner of the Democrat primary elections and should replace Trump and company. President Trump will almost thrice-daily Tweet something that serves as grist for those rabid anti-Trumpers. He definitely performs this service willingly and intentionally. We fear he is addicted to rousing up the opposition and we believe we know why. As long as the anti-Trumpers continue at their shrill and excruciating consistent crescendo of critical complaints, then the Republican base which elected President Trump will remain encouraged to vote in coming elections and this will assist him in accomplishing his agendas. So, the truth is if the anti-Trumpers really desired to get rid of President Trump in the 2020 elections, their best path would be to simply stop their wall-to-wall screeching and allow everyone to be lulled back to sleep. But this is not about to happen because Trump is a fascist, horrible, racist, elitist, misogynist, homophobic, reactionary and mean capitalist who will make America great again. Confused? So are many of the anti-Trump Facebook, Twitter and other social media posters who react to every provocation, of which Trump provides an ample supply.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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