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 (, 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


“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

Thursday, 29 November 2018

The Age of Anti-Intellectualism

“People do not like to think. If one thinks, one must reach conclusions. Conclusions are not always pleasant.” 
Helen Keller

What a scary scenario, if you ask me.

As a teacher, it is my task and, above all, my duty, to raise young people to think, foster and support inquisitive minds. It is also my duty to teach them to weigh data and relevant information in an unbiased manner. As hard as it may sound and be, it is a mission (and teaching, in my book, IS a mission) that should be aimed at educating and encouraging them to not let one’s personal beliefs interfere or stand in the way to pursuing the truth based on facts and concrete evidence.

Unfortunately, as the quote by Helen Keller suggests, this does not seem to always be the case in our modern world.

True, we are exposed to an abundant amount of information but are not always given the tools nor the time to address it, analyze it, form our own opinions and reach our own conclusions about it. Many opt for the easier, faster way of internalizing it, through immediate absorption, without bothering to check its accuracy, veracity or separate the essential from the trivial.

I see such dysfunctional approaches in many of the subjects taught at today’s school. It is reflected in the way students perform on tests or projects. I mostly see it, however, during discussions of current events.

I make it a habit to discuss current events every lesson. The areas we cover include culture, sports, historical events that affect our daily lives and of course, politics. The last two realms are where I encounter such trends as described by Keller, most.

Whatever happened to personal, cultural and historical integrity, I keep asking myself as I hear students sharing their news items. In many cases, they parrot what they hear or read in the news outlets without even one bit of effort to cross reference or check the sources, their credibility or even accuracy. As far as many are concerned, if it is on the news or somewhere on the internet, then it is a Gospel.

I fear for their future. To grow up in a world devoid of personal responsibility, honesty yet copiously filled with narratives and semi truths which are planted merely because they suit someone’s agenda, can, in my humble view, only lead to disaster. What I see and what keeps unfolding itself to me is a “herd mentality” at its best.

What is even more scary is the notion that if some pro-intellectualism (as opposed to the titular concept of anti-intellectualism) individuals dare stand up and address such intellectual dishonesty, they are being chastised and isolated.

Permit me, at this point, to quote a well-known Jewish writer, thinker and philosopher, Achad Ha’am. I remember reading him as part of my High School education in Yisrael.
Achad Ha’am distinguished between Archaeological Truth and Historical Truth. They are not necessarily, he claims, one and the same.

Unlike Archaeological Truth, be it in the form of exhibits or other, which can confirm real events in the history of mankind, Historical Truth, unfortunately, is on many occasions, the one that fuels and dictates the life of humanity. According to Achad Ha’am, whoever leave their mark on humanity’s timeline, even if they are the figment of someone’s imagination, that entity becomes a Historical Truth to many. Hardly, the “intellectual” approach to addressing vital issues, if you ask many educators. Sadly, what we see more and more is the encouragement to the avoidance of thinking.

Is that the purpose of education? Is this the goal of imparting knowledge and information? Do we want to create a generation bereft of the ability and the desire to express, not their own personal truth, but facts in the form of hard evidence? Can we, at this stage, afford to relinquish our moral and intellectual compass to truths other than the ones that can be substantiated, valid and at the same time reasonable as well?

Like many of my past articles, I would like to end this one on a positive note. However, the bleak reality that surrounds us does not allow me this luxury.

Shabbat Shalom

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Trump and Nationalism

“Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first.” Charles de Gaulle

The basic definition of the term “Nationalism” provided by Merriam-Webster is "loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially : a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its own culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations.”

Unlike English, Hebrew has a distinction between what de Gaulle defines as “Nationalism” in the sense of Patriotism (Leumi), loyal to one’s People versus "Leumani" which would consist of the second part of his quote “hate for other People.”

The first, Leumi is what I would hope citizens of EVERY country should be, great patriots and loving their Nation first. I know I am one. The second, Leumani, no sovereign country, no Nation should possess.

Why did I suddenly choose to write about and discuss this term, you might ask?

Someone just sent me a clip of a speech by Trump where h declares himself as “a Nationalist.” For me, that amounts to nothing more than saying, “I put America First!” President Trump is merely declaring his loyalty to America, its economy, its citizens and their well-being first.

Who among us would not want their leader to have their interest in mind FIRST before those of others? Should it be an unacceptable trait of anyone’s leader? Should that word be a modern day “Scarlet letter?” Should it constitute a “four letter word?
Not for me, dear readers.

I am a proud “Jewish Nationalist.” I am a proud Zionist which for me is akin to  “Jewish Nationalist.” My People, My Nation comes first. Does that mean that I qualify for the second part of de Gaulle’s quote which means I hate others?

Not at all!

My busy schedule which is considerably less busy than that of President Trump, only allows me to dedicate all my efforts, time, energy, money and other resources for OUR Jewish People first. Yes, I do care about the pain and suffering of others. However, my charity begins at Home, here in Eretz Yisrael. That makes me a Leumi. I have always vowed that if our Jewish People and all Yisraelis live in safety and security and I am free to care and do something about eliminating the pain and suffering of others, I will gladly dedicate my self to helping them. Until then, I am and will forever remain a “leumi" in the de Gaulle sense of “patriotism!”

Likewise, President Trump puts America and Americans first. Putting one’s People first just like myself and many others does not constitute hatred or racism towards others. It simply means he is a Leumi (a patriot) and not, Leumani (a bigot whose “hate of people other than” his “own comes first”).

That is my kind of President. Isn’t it yours?

Friday, 21 September 2018

Moshe's Art of Teaching

This week’s Parasha stresses the importance of listening and memorizing. These two verbs appear in the Tanach many times. The root אזן (listen, harken) appears in close to thirty verses in the Tanach. The root זכר (remember) in its various adaptations appears over 350 times.

Any teacher who is well versed in the art of teaching will tell us that adhering to them will achieve the results of great and effective learning. Hearing is not enough. In order to grasp any lesson, one needs to listen attentively and not only internalize it but also memorize it in order to ensure that the learning process of any subject, any lecture has been mastered.

I was first exposed to importance of reviewing and memorizing when I was in second grade. The teacher taught us a very meaningful saying and asked me to make a poster of it. It read, “Anyone who learns Torah but does not repeat the learning is like a man sowing but never reaping.” I remember toiling over that poster as a young child, etching its message on my brain, committing it to memory and eventually getting into the habit of practicing it.

That is what G-d, through Moshe, is doing in this week’s Parasha, “Ha’azinu,” (harken) in D’varim 32. A quick glance at the format in which this Parasha was written, reveals that it is in the form of poetry rather than prose, unlike most other parashot. Instead of long sentences and full paragraphs, one finds two columns and short words. I venture to say that it reflects the way it was delivered, as poetry.  Moreover, I trust it was done so for a reason.

The message of this week’s Parasha is one of the most important ones delivered to Am Yisrael. It is brought forth as they are about to enter the Promised Land WITHOUT Moshe. They need to be prepared, be coached and provided with the proper and relevant tools. These include remembering the Torah, its Mitzvot and the power of Emunah, belief and faith. 

Moshe is worried about the future of Am Yisrael and rightfully so. Has he not witnessed them for over forty years of wandering in the desert? Have they not complained many a times even when their food and other needs were provided for them? He knows how impatient, weak and unprepared they are. History has taught him that Am Yisrael is not the strongest nor the toughest assembly for coping with the harsh reality and new conditions that face them in Eretz Yisrael.

Moshe, the ever-astute teacher, leader needs to ensure that, after he is gone, the processes of learning and mastering his final lesson, will be affixed in the collective memory of our People forever and be evoked as one of his most significant legacies for Am Yisrael and the future of our people.

Under the circumstances, what a better way to teach it than using poetry, a rather unconventional teaching method, to help ensure that the tenets of that intended lesson will forever be inscribed upon their hearts, brains and souls?

And what a powerful message it is. Moshe turns to the Heaven and Earth, his eternal witnesses, two of G-d’s creations that encapsulate time, space and matter "הַאֲזִינוּ הַשָּׁמַיִם וַאֲדַבֵּרָה; וְתִשְׁמַע הָאָרֶץ אִמְרֵי-פִי" (Listen, you heavens, and I will speak;hear, you earth, the words of my mouth). 

And sometimes, on a very quiet starry night, when the world is asleep, if you harken closely, you can hear Moshe's final words echoing everywhere, reaffirming G-d's promise to Am Yisrael and the Jewish People, the promise that like the Heaven and Earth, we, too, are eternal.

Chag Sameach

Friday, 14 September 2018

A shattered Dream for one, a Blessing for others

Of all the verses of this week’s Parasha, one is branded in my mind more than others. It is Deuteronomy 32;52, where G-d tells Moshe:

Therefore, you will see the land only from a distance; you will not enter the land I am giving to the people of Israel."

Imagine coming very close to your life’s goal yet never fulfilling it. Imagine seeing your long-woven dream close to being realized and watcing it slipping away. How about running that marathon that you have been training to for months merely to find out that as close as you reach the finishing line, you will never get to it?

Must be awfully frustrating.

The above verse captures, in my view, the essence of that feeling, that sentiment. That bittersweet aftertaste is saturated with the emotions of grievance, irritation and desertion.

In 1992, on a trip to Jordan, I was standing where Moshe was when watching his dream fade away. I remember looking into the distance, seeing the Land I so love while feeling every fiber of my nationhood vibrating in me, bursting to break into an elating dance, the kind one experiences when one becomes united with the universe that surrounds us.  So close yet so far away. So attainable yet unreachable. Almost touching it yet more evasive than ever.

I can still feel the tears welling in my eyes soothing the flames of fire that the dry wind and the burning desert sun ignited and fueled. The growing lump in my throat chokes and stifles the soundless shrieks in the face of the injustice committed on that mountain. The deafening silence that surrounds me threatens to devour me.

Unlike Moshe, I walked the Land, I planted trees, worked, tended and helped free it. I am one of his humble servants who swore to guard it, watch over my People and defend it for our posterity. How much luckier can one get?

I, along with many other members of our wonderful People pledge to carry Moshe’s legacy and continue to fulfill the dream he led us to realize.

And “Our journey is just beginning.” May it continue, and may we go from strength to strength as we resume our life’s mission and the fulfillment of his vision along this Holy Land.

Shanah Tova and Gmar Chatima Tovah