Wednesday, 16 January 2019

As a Jew, I define myself in Hebrew only (Part Two)







About two years ago, I published the following article. Needless to add, I still stand behind every word I wrote in it.
https://wingnsonawildflight.blogspot.com/2016/02/as-jew-i-define-myself-in-hebrew-only.html

Recently, as result of my studies towards earning a PhD in Hebrew/Yiddish Literature starting at the end of 19th century through post WWII, I realized, yet again, the need to stress and share with my fellow Jews why I believe it is important that as Jews, we should define ourselves in Hebrew only.

As many know, the period I mentioned above also includes one of the darkest, if not the darkest chapter in our history, the Shoah (AKA Holocaust). I have resolved that from now on, I will use the Hebrew word Shoah when I refer to that chapter.

Here are some of my reasons.

The etymology of the word “Holocaust” stems from the ancient Greek holocaustun “a thing wholly burnt” and Latin holocaustum origins which later morphed into its Old (12th century) French holocauste “sacrifice by fire, burnt offering,” and the English “holocaust” forms. (https://www.etymonline.com/word/holocaust). According to Morris and Morris, Dictionary and Phrase Origins (1962), in its original form, a holocaust was a sacrificial burnt offering to pagan gods in pre-Christian times.”

Sacrificial burnt offerings, as a means to overcome guilt for failing to live according to one or another moral code, is a practice that many cultures adopted, especially in ancient times. Yes, Torah also requires the sinner to bring sacrifice. The only difference, though, between it and other sources, is that in Hebrew, the language of Torah, we do not call it “burnt offering.” The Hebrew term for that practice is referred to as “Offering Korban” (from the word karov – to come close). In the Hebrew/Jewish tradition, the offering of Korban, or sacrifice, according to Rabbi Steven Heil, “is governed by strict regulations, “so that “we tangibly relate to G-d in a true proper way.” The detailed rituals of sacrifices as outlined in the Torah played an essential role in our ultimate way to serve G-d.  

Is that how the world and some Jews wish to refer to the untimely death of my young cousins and millions of other innocent Jews, young and old, who were killed by the Nazi war machine? Were they a “burnt offering” of some sort, as the term “holocaust” suggests? Were they even a “korban” for any sins committed?

Shoah, which in Hebrew means “catastrophe,” on the other hand, defines that atrocious episode in Jewish history more accurately. That event was aimed at eradicating our People from off the face of this earth altogether. There was no sacrifice involved here, merely some evil force that played god and decided who should live and who should die. Whichever way one looks at it, it is a “catastrophe.”

Are we, Jews, going to let a term that originated in ancient pagan cultures and has nothing to do with our sad experience, define us?

If other nations, or groups wish to use the term “holocaust” to define efforts to annihilate or slaughter them, let them use it. They are already doing it anyway.

For me, as a Jew, however, there is only one word to describe what happened to my parents and their generation. I call it Shoah.

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Prayer








I dedicate this article to Dr. Drori of Bar-Ilan University whose excellent course, “States of Prayer” has provided the inspiration for writing it.

Prayer is one of the most important tenets in Judaism. It is an act, I believe, that many, regardless of faith or creed, have performed, at least once, at some stage in their lives.

Prayer can reveal itself in various ways and different forms. For some, it is a means, a conduit of communication, be it with G-d as the recipient, another addressee or simply with one’s own self. It is an act that can be conducted publicly, privately and almost anywhere and at any time.

For me, prayer mostly belongs to the realm of privacy. It is a time to step back from my busy daily schedule and reflect. I use that very precious and time confined deed to reconnect with G-d, the universe that surrounds me and above all, with my own inner self.

As such, on many occasions, I compose my own plea, depending on the circumstances and its recipients. I may not always utter the words vociferously. Many a times, it is only my lips that are moving. Other times, the words are forming in my head. They take on their own shape, colours and rhythms. It is then that, like the flicker of a candle flame which dances ecstatically as it seems to aspire to free itself from the wick, so does my soul wiggle and shake as if it desires to rise above my corporal body and wander upwards towards some unseen source of strength that can help fulfill my heart’s wishes and desires.

 One of the main ingredients, however, if not the most important one that prayer needs to possess, if it is to be effective, is what we Jews call Kavanah (intent).

Any prayer that lacks Kavanah, the engine that powers it, the steam that fuels and energizes it, is akin to an empty vessel that is used for decoration purposes only. Kavanah brings meaning to the prayer. It is essential for the cleansing of one’s soul. It is extremely vital to what the author of Deuteronomy 10:16 so eloquently describes as the circumcision of the heart.

For me, prayer is the process which provides the catalyst for the ongoing course of the distillation of my essence. It weaves a cloak of purity that wraps and cradles the walls of my being. It is the spring that renews my Jewish fountains of strength as it fills the void created by a world that confines my ancient soul to a state of existence which reduces it to stressing, valuing and almost idolizing the “here” and “now.”

 For I know that there is more to and above our corporal presence on this earth. I have had a glimpse at it. And it is prayer, sincere prayer, that provides me with the compass which leads me along the path to the staircase that will one day get me to that wonderful state where so many aspire to reach yet very few do.

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Interfaith





Recently, we have been reading much about “Interfaith Dialogues,” where members of different faiths discuss/share/debate religious beliefs. I personally got a few invitations to partake in such events.

What exactly is it?

So, despite being very short on a commodity called “time,” I decided to embark on a short journey to try and understand what exactly this “Interfaith Dialogue” entails.

I trust that starting any discussion with the intent of making it a productive one, ensuring that all sides speak the same language and have the same understanding of key terms, a short definition of the term, would be useful.

Here are three sources for the definition of the term “Interfaith.”

The first a basic one from Merriam-Webster defines it as “involving persons of different religious faiths.” For those who consider themselves more educated, here are two more by the Cambridge Dictionary and the Oxford one, successively.
“relating to activities involving members of different religions,” and “Relating to or involving different religions or members of different religions.”

For the innocent bystander, such, an almost identical definition of the term “interfaith,”  as bringing together people of different faiths, is the fulfillment of the vision of the end of days and Biblical prophecies. And indeed, it can hold much potential of improving relationship and repair rifts that are, in many cases, the result of religious differences and conflicts as history has proved to us time and again.

My question, though, is, will debating or discussing religious differences really going to bring about the so well sought “kumbaya?” Might it not cause a deeper rift? What is the likelihood that following such debates or religious encounters anyone may change their beliefs? Has the invention of the term “Judeo-Christian” brought more peace between Jews and Christians? Some say “yes,” some say “no,” others say “maybe.” Is it quantifiable? Has appropriation, or usurpation of Jewish symbols, terms and ideas by some Christians resulting from “Interfaith Dialogue,” coupled with Jews allowing it, helped Jews in any way?

My answer is NO!
In my experience such debates ended in deeper divides and more vain hatred. Why can’t members of any faith adhere to and practice what Lord, Rabbi Sacks calls ”The Dignity of Difference?” Why do some members of some faiths feel a need to use scare techniques (I was once told that if I do not accept Jesus/Yeshua I “will burn in hell”) or promises of a “better Afterlife” to lure and gain followers?

Is religious interfaith indeed the ONLY answer to ensure a better future for all?

Why can’t Jews, Christians, Muslims or members of other faiths enter a fruitful and productive “Interfaith” exchange in areas such as business, culture, sports or art? Why does it always have to be a “religious interfaith?”

As my dear, wonderful and very wise friend, Roger Froikin likes to end his stimulating, well thought of and challenging comments, “think about that!” 

Thursday, 20 December 2018

An Open Letter to FB












Dear Facebook,

I was just released from your 30 days “jail.”

Let me tell you, and I know I speak for others who might be afraid of your response to their attempts to challenge you for similar grievances, about a few newly discovered observations as it is not the first time I am being privileged to be banned from posting.

Privileged? Some may ask. Yes, privileged, I say.

As some of your “judges” may know (after all, you are reading each one of our posts, don’t you?!) I have recently started my studies towards a PhD. Additionally, I am  at the last stage of submitting for publication, my second book, “Waltzing the Waves,” which I am working together with my wonderful editor Dr. Sandra Alfonsi.

Being “jailed” by you has actually freed me for these far more important tasks than engaging in debates that rarely contribute to anything and mostly end with foul-mouthed comments (and in your case with being jailed) for merely trying to warn others against the antics of dishonest people who use every trick in the book to lure innocent and naïve victims into their web of deceit. It has also spared me the need to be witness to your gross injustice against and efforts to silence the few forces of Light while enabling the forces of Evil to continue their spouting of hatred and incitement to violence.

I am also glad that your “Appeals Process,” the one your founder told the Senate about, is practically nonexistent. Again, as you well know, since you seem to miss very little on FB, I have tried a few times to appeal your harsh verdict merely to continuously be ignored. Had you had a proper one, and had I been successful in appealing my “jail” sentence, I would have spent more time fighting it than on my more important and far more rewarding academic goal.

And BTW, I have also noticed that even if I am “Jailed”, you keep sending me messages “reminding” me of previous milestones in my life and suggesting I share them with my friends, or reminding me that people miss me, asking me to write something. Here is one such example that I received recently, one of several while I was “jailed” by you:

Oh really? Of course they have not heard from me for a while. Have you forgotten that you put me in “jail” and banned me from posting? Likewise, offering me your occasional “business” proposal while I cannot respond (not that I will enter any business ventures with you!), is nothing but a mockery to me. What exactly is that supposed to mean? Have you lost all decency, integrity and dignity towards those members who have for years engaged over your pages and helped you, yes, helped YOU get to where you have?

You probably have also noticed (after all, while you are sitting there playing G-d determining who by water and who by fire and missing very little) that I did not even bother to create another profile to evade the “jail” sentence? I have been there. I have done that. NO MORE!

In short, my recent experience of being banned has been nothing but a blessing in disguise.

For that I owe you so much and thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Alternately, I have decided to put YOU at the bottom of my priority list and visit you only WHEN I must  or when I have nothing better to do. It is sad indeed because you could have used this tool, called Face Book to bring people closer and make this world a better, safer and more promising place. Evidently, it is not on your list of “things to do!” After all, since when do Peace and harmony attract and gain spectators and an audience, two groups that you seem to have thrived on from the moment of your inception?

You may choose to remove me forever from here due to this post which you may consider as going against your “Community Standards.” If that is the case, then so be it. I promise you that I will not panic, or get desperate. You have plenty of these here. I do have a life, and it is not ONLY virtual. 

The only ones I will miss are the good people the ones  I learn so much from, the ones who bring so much light into my world and into the world of FB. And that, dear FB, is the worst punishment of them all!

Friday, 7 December 2018

Jewish Rights to Eretz Yisrael, a guide for the perplexed and uneducated






Dear readers,

As some of you might know, I am in the final stages of editing my next novel, with the help of my fantastic editor, Dr. Sandra Alfonsi. The novel, entitled, "Waltzing the Waves," surrounds the sordid affair of the Jewish immigration to Eretz Yisrael during the British Mandate.
Unfortunately, there are still some who claim we have no legal, historical or political rights for Eretz Yisrael. This article is for them! Please share and let us educate the world. Thank you! 



The two most significant events in modern history leading to the creation of the Jewish National Home in Eretz Yisrael:1. The founding of the Zionist Movement by Herzl in 1897 2. The Balfour Declaration of 1917
The Zionist movement which is but part of the noble concept of Zionism, a concept practiced only by Jews for a few millennia was created at the First Zionist Congress in Bazel, Switzerland in 1897. Herzl himself recognized that Judaism is what lies at the core of the Movement when he said:
 “Zionism is the return to Judaism even before the return to the land of the Jews.

Following the victory over the Ottomans in WWI, the area called Eretz Yisrael which the Romans renamed “Palestine” in an effort to disassociate the Jews from their ancient Homeland, representatives of the Zionist movement, headed by Chaim Weitzman, approached the British government in an effort to impress upon them the need to set up a Jewish National Homeland in Eretz Yisrael.

On November 2nd, 1917, Lord Arthur James Balfour, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs issued the following:

“Dear Lord Rothschild,
I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet. “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.” I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.”

The Balfour Declaration served as the basis and shaped the essence of the British “Mandate For Palestine.”

In 2007 Eli Hertz wrote the following:

“The “Mandate for Palestine,” an historical League of Nations document, laid down the Jewish legal right to settle anywhere in western Palestine, a 10,000- square-mile3 area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, an entitlement unaltered in international law and valid to this day. The legally binding document was conferred on April 24, 1920, at the San Remo Conference, and its terms outlined in the Treaty of Sèvres on August 10, 1920. The Mandate’s terms were finalized and unanimously approved on July 24, 1922, by the Council of the League of Nations, which was comprised at that time of 51 countries, and became operational on September 29, 1923.”

In other words, the British were entrusted with the important task of preparing for and setting up of the Jewish Homeland in Eretz Yisrael.

Winston Churchill, the then British Secretary of State for the Colonies, eloquently articulated it in June of 1922 when he said: 

"When it is asked what is meant by the development of the Jewish National Home in Palestine, it may be answered that it is not the imposition of a Jewish nationality upon the inhabitants of Palestine as a whole, but the further development of the existing Jewish community, with the assistance of Jews in other parts of the world, in order that it may become a centre in which the Jewish people as a whole many take, on grounds of religion and race, an interest and a pride. But in order that this community should have the best prospect of free development and provide a full opportunity for the Jewish people to display its capacities, it is essential that it should know that it is in Palestine as of right and not on sufferance. That is the reason why it is necessary that the existence of a Jewish National Home in Palestine should be internationally guaranteed and that it should be formally recognized to rest upon ancient historic connection."

If anyone wishes to rewrite history and remove Jewish rights to Eretz Yisrael in order to replace it with their narrative, a word I have little, if any use for, especially when it comes to the middle east conflict (https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/the-hell-with-the-narrative-2/), I am afraid they will have to remove Lord Balfour, Winston Churchill, the San Remo Accord and other facts altogether from the annals of history.
Because, when it comes to history, it is the facts that matter. And you all can rest assured that I will keep reminding you of that!

Shabbat Shalom
 

Monday, 3 December 2018

The Great Yet Little Applied Lesson of Chanukah







Last week, as we were about to enter the Jewish Holy Day of Chanukah, I wrote an article about miracles. For many, and unfortunately so, I might add, Chanukah begins and ends with the miracle of the can of oil that lasted eight days when it should have sufficed for one day only.

A beautiful and cheerful story indeed which merely tells us why the holiday lasts eight days but not why we celebrate it. The second “why” is one of the most important lessons in our Jewish history, a lesson we seem to have forgotten.

For me, and many others, Chanukah is about the Jews taking over and shaping their own destiny. It is about Jews and ONLY Jews defining who we are and what our tradition, its symbols and concept are all about.

As during the times of the Maccabees, nowadays we also have Hellenizing Jews. Yes, I am talking about those Jews who lack a backbone, appease and cater to those who they believe can save them, little realizing that in many cases, those who claim to love us, are merely doing it in pursuit of their own agenda be it political, religious or economic ones.

Some of us call it, the “Ghetto mentality,” the kind Jews had been forced to adopt while living  under the rule of foreigners for a very long time. In Yiddish, there is a special term for it, the “Sha Shtil,” (be quiet) mentality.

These Jews who possess and practice such a mindset will go out of their way to please those they feel may give them a sense of security or a longer life sentence. They will let them usurp their most treasured symbols, allow them to define them and let them advocate for them wherever threats to Jewish existence lurk - all in the name of gaining and buying safety for one day longer.

Funny, because all around us, we see the opposite is happening. Minorities, be it people of colour, members of indigenous nations or anyone else, are offended and rightfully so, should an outsider engage in efforts to define them or usurp any of their symbols.

However, should a Jew “dare” to stand and speak up against such endeavours by others to do the same to us, they get chastised, blocked, offended and are subject to witch hunts.

I bet those members of our People whose blood has filled the rivers of history are probably turning in their graves witnessing and wondering if Jews have learned any lessons from their untimely death

Is that what was the fabric of our destiny when we entered nationhood? Were we meant to be followers rather than leaders? Was that the purpose of establishing a Jewish state in our ancient Homeland, merely to allow it to be conquered physically and ideologically?

Whatever happened to Jewish pride, the kind that the Maccabees restored, “in those days at this time?” What happened to their defiant Spirit or the Spirit of the heroes of Metzada? How about the vigor of the warriors of the Warsaw Ghetto or the Jewish partisans who fought in the forests of Europe against the Nazis? How about the essence of the members of the underground movements, in the years that preceded the establishment of the Jewish state, to whom we owe our presence here in Eretz Yisrael?

Let us bring it back!

Am Yisrael Chai in Eretz Yisrael, its past, present and future Home 

Friday, 30 November 2018

Miracles





“There are two ways to live. You can live as if nothing is a miracle. You can live as if everything is a miracle.” – Albert Einstein

As we are approaching the Jewish holy day of Chanukah, we prepare to commemorate the story of heroism of the Maccabees. For many, though, that holiday is mostly associated and linked with the term “miracle.” We hear about the miracle of the can of oil that lasted 8 days when it should have sufficed for one day only. We also hear of the miracle of the victory of few over many.

For some, it is unreasonable to believe in miracles. Not for me.
That is why I elected to live my life according to the latter part of Einstein’s quote. In a way, it was my destiny. It is the kind of a reality I was born into, a reality that had been shaped by a world devoid of vision, trust and hope.

Lest some may deem my words a riddle, let me explain.

It is not a secret that I am a daughter of two Shoah survivors. Their survival was, in my view, a miracle. It transpired against all odds. And if some define the term “miracle” as defying all laws of nature, then their survival, without a doubt, was one. I will not tire the readers with episodes from their life while facing the fragility of their existence under the oppression of the Nazi war machine. Their kind of horrific experiences and those of others who went through it have been documented. Those records are publicly available.

Neither am I going to sit here and play the victim. That would be too easy.

Instead, I chose to celebrate my parents’ survival. It was a miracle, just like many other milestones in Jewish history. Miracles are the golden thread that runs through it. The more we, Jews, accept that notion, the greater is our celebration of Life.

Through my parents’ unwavering gift of Life, and by default, I, likewise, consider my presence here, on this earth, a miracle.

And no miracle should be wasted.

Whether one believes that miracles are predestined and are part of a grand scheme of our universe, or disjointed, with each creating their own miracles, in either case, it is futile if gone wasted. Preserving the outcome of a miracle, vesting and upholding it is an art that some are yet to master.

One way to grasp the significance of miracles in both our Jewish, private and national life is to sustain and carry the memory of how bitter and harsh life had been before the miracle occurred. Memory through commemoration is the process in which we tie our past experiences and apply the information to our present and hopefully make it better and safer for all. 

And that, dear readers, is one of the messages of Chanukah.

May we all continue to live our life as a miracle and join in its celebration.

Chag Sameach