Monday, 30 November 2015

Who put the "ism" in "Islamism?"


This article was written jointly with Dr. Mordechai Kedar of Bar-Ilan University

The term “Islamism” which we hear much of nowadays, is not new. Dr. Kedar and I will spare the readers the history of the term except to mention that it first appeared in English as in 1712 and originally denoted the religion of Islam (Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 27 December 2012). After virtually disappearing from the English language, it regained prevalence in the 1970’s. Nowadays the term is widely used. Its contemporary connotations infer “Radical” or “Fundamental” Islam.
As Dr. Kedar rightfully argues, the above distinction is wrong. “There are not two Islams,” he claims, “no moderate one and no radical one, there is just one Qu'ran that includes everything: verses on Jihad and all-out war against unbelievers along with verses that speak of recognizing the "other" and living beside him.”  In other words, everything can be found in the Qu’ran, the good and the bad. Those that choose the tolerant, the benevolent aspects of Islam claim that theirs is the right kind of Islam yet those who adhere to the more violent preaching of Qu’ran assert that theirs is the true Islam.
The claim by many moderate Muslim that their Islam has been hijacked by the “fundamentalists” or “Islamists,” amounts to no more than a struggle born of their wish to enter the mainstream of western societies. This claim, however, moves on a two way street. “Radical” Muslims will, likewise, maintain that the “moderate” ones have hijacked theirs version, interpretation and practice of Islam.

Herein lies the dilemma that many, mostly in the Western world, face. It is a well-known fact that some of Islam’s teachings and practices are not compatible with Western Civilization. With followers numbering more than a billion people, the world needs to reckon with this demographic issue in a manner that will ensure its survival. It knows that most followers of Islam (“radicals” and “moderates” alike) are loyal to their faith. Very few leave Islam to become members of another faith. The Western world is also aware that their numbers are not only growing but that they are also moving in their direction, into their societies, into their universe and their, thus far, protected environment.

This is where language as a tool, a means to achieve the goal of facilitating the compatibility between Islam and the West has become dexterous. Why not just resort to the easy simple solution, add “ism” to Islam in order to distinguish, to separate between “radical “ Muslims and “moderate” ones? The “ism,” many believe, is the panacea that will make Islam “kosher” and harmonious with the West and consequently ready to join its families.

The suffix “Ism,” according to the Cambridge Dictionaries Online, “is a set of beliefs, especially ones that you disapprove of.”  The key word here is “disapprove.” Of course we disapprove of the manner in which “radical” Muslims act. Who, in Western Civilization, would not? Disapproval, however, can be demonstrated in more than one way. It could be passive, it could be voiced more vigorously and when taken to the extreme it can become violent.
The latter is what the West and most Muslims in the West wish to avoid and rightfully so. It is probably what those whom we label as “Islamists” would wish to draw us into. That, of course, leaves us with the former two. Passive resistance through the use of Love as a weapon to overthrow the “ism” in Islam is of course a noble concept. It does not, however, always work.

“Moderate” Muslims need to take a more active role to defend the reputation of the Islam that they choose to practice. They need to publicly speak out, demonstrate, and express outrage and disagreement with the evil among them. Though initially the addition of “ism” to Islam may have somewhat been useful in defending “moderate” Muslims, ultimately it will prove to be falsely reassuring if it fails to push them to act against their “radical” brethren. Hiding behind suffixes, expecting them to save the good name and the positive image of one’s set of beliefs merely boil down to a futile effort initiated and promoted by a world obsessed with PC.

Not until Islam gives rise to its own Martin Luther, its own reformist, will there be redemption for its reputation. Only Muslims can save the reputation of Islam.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Yom Ha'Shoa commemorating Heroism, not only victimhood


“Heroism is endurance for one moment more” – George F. Kennan
Growing up in Israel, in the early days of the nascent state, was heavily overshadowed by the horrors of the Holocaust, more so than it is nowadays. Then, unlike now, those who had lived through it, the Shoa survivors were everywhere.  They lived next door, on the same street or in the same town. Some bore the tattooed numbers on their arms; others had the hollow look and blank expression as if riddled by the reality of their survival.

To some Israelis, many were the lambs that went to the slaughterhouse. To me, they were the victims, the children, the babies and the elderly, those that were helpless and defenseless against the Nazi death machine. They had no choice and we remember each and every one of them always.
Those who did have a choice, however, those that lasted, came out of the abyss, resumed their lives and moved on, were the heroes of my childhood. I listened to their stories of endurance, survival and resistance; I gulped their tales of defeating death and overcoming the impossible. What else can such humans be but heroes?
Here is one such story of heroism and survival.
“On the 10th of May 1942, we found ourselves in The Valley of the Shadow of Death, in the midst of a terrible slaughter, in Volozyn, a slaughter whose survivors could be counted on the fingers of one hand.
The loud knocks on the door, which woke me up from a nightmare, were also the explanation for my dream, as well as an omen of the end of the Ghetto in Volozyn. In fact, already a day earlier we had seen that the Lithuanian militia had encircled the Ghetto. They had also been joined by militants from Latvia. We, however, did not understand the meaning of such activities.
At four a.m., the drunken murderers burst into the Ghetto like a storm, firing in all directions and kicking the Jews out of their houses. They then gathered them into a large building and from there took them in groups to the cemetery, where they shot them. On the streets that led to the cemetery, there already lay the dead bodies of hundreds of men, women and children who, through illness or weakness, had not been able to walk, and so had been killed on the way to the killing fields.
In one of the yards of one of the houses, Jewish families had built a hiding place underneath a pile of firewood.
On the night in question, I slept in that house. When the drunken murderers attacked the inhabitants of the Ghetto that early morning, I ran with a few others to that hiding place. We climbed a ladder to the top of the pile and lowered ourselves into it. We then pulled the ladder inside hoping to hide our place. However, our footprints were visible on the grass, which was wet from the morning dew. These led the hooligans to us. They ordered us to come out. One of them even came down into the hiding place and kicked me out along with two others who did not come out straight away.
When I reached the top of the pile, I suddenly jumped onto a nearby roof and then to the ground, and started to run wildly. The hooligans shot at me and hit me in the shoulder. With the last remnants of my strength, I reached a little hut in one of the yards. The hut served as an outhouse. Without much deliberation, I jumped into the hole and sank up to my shoulders in excrement. The murderers would have never thought to look for me there.
In that state, as I was sitting in this hole full of stinking dirt and suffering from my injured shoulder which still had a bullet in it, I was destined to witness, through the cracks of the door of the hut, one of the most devastating scenes in our history.
Next to the large building in which they housed the Jews, there sat a German. His rank was “Gebis Komisar” (district director). He conducted, in the most organized fashion and with much “expertise”, the selection of the groups to be sent to their deaths in trenches which had already been dug in the cemetery.
From amongst the condemned, the Germans selected a few tradesmen to be spared. They were allowed to take their wives. One of the selected was a bachelor. Two women jumped at him, each claiming to be his wife. One had a baby in her arms. The man was allowed to take the woman without the baby. The Germans then snatched the baby from the arms of his mother, threw him in the air and shot him. He fell lifeless to the ground.
The atrocities which I was forced to witness continued through the morning and afternoon. The hooligans then went on their way. One could still hear shots in the Ghetto. Later, I found out that White Russian policemen had searched the Ghetto, shot the people they caught in hiding places, and looted Jewish homes.
At nightfall, I carefully came out of the outhouse hole. I went to the nearest house and climbed into the attic. Injured, dirty, and hungry like a dog, I lay there until Monday morning when I came out of my hiding place to try and find out what was happening. The noise of the crowds and the local policemen who came to loot the empty houses, however, immediately forced me back to my hiding place.
At nightfall, I regained my courage and went into the houses in order to look for clean clothes, and hopefully find a means to tend my wound, which was beginning to bother me. When I crawled out, I heard two shots and then someone shouting in Russian: “Again we shot two Jews” I ran back to my hiding place.
On Tuesday morning I heard someone climbing the ladder leading to the attic. From behind the open door that concealed me, I heard one hooligan telling his friend (who was waiting downstairs) “There is no-one here”. These were local residents who were happy Nazi collaborators.
In the evening, I went down and entered one of the houses. I found a piece of bread and a few cooked potatoes. I also saw there a discarded Sefer Torah in which the looters, it seemed, had no interest. An atmosphere of great sadness and abandonment cloaked me. It added to my loneliness and my heart’s despair.
The following day, I lost all of my strength, and I lay there half alive. The pain in my shoulder was very strong.
On Thursday, at twilight, I tried to come out of my hiding place, but could not move a limb. I managed to crawl to the attic window. In the street below, I saw a woman I knew. I wanted to call her, but I was too weak and too excited to be able to utter a sound. Later, I saw another acquaintance, a man I knew very well. Again, I was too weak to signal that I was alive.
Suddenly, I fell down and fainted.
I woke up to the sound of Yiddish conversation and strong hammering on the door below. Through the attic window, I could see men nailing up the door leading to the house in which I hid. I began to shout: “There is a Jew in here! Open the door!”
The men took me to the house in which the tradesmen lived. There were a few other Jews there who had also miraculously survived. Amongst them was a doctor. He managed, with a simple kitchen knife, to extract the bullet from my shoulder. In that house I also met a good friend of mine. I asked him how he had survived. He told me that the murderers had kept him alive so that he could bury the dead.
He had buried, with his own hands, his parents, his brothers and his sisters along with their children.
The Christian dwellers of the surrounding neighbourhoods told me later that the ground of the big mass grave was moving up and down for a long time after that dreadful day, as many of those buried there were still alive underneath.
I and a few other Jews who were not residents of Volozyn, decided to go back to our hometown, to Olshan. In normal times, it was a walk of about three to four hours. We walked for two days on side-roads and tracks, gripped by the fear of our enemy, which was lurking everywhere.
When we reached Olshan, the Jews there stared at us as if we had just returned from the dead. They had already heard about the destruction of the Volozyn Ghetto. They did not expect to see us alive.”

This hero was my father and this is but one of his heroic experiences during that horrific chapter in our Jewish history. What a blessing it has been to be his daughter, to bear with great pride his endurance “for one moment more,”  his determination to survive, to defy death and live to pass on his legacy to the world. On this day, as on every other day, his blood flows through my veins reminding me of our unwavering Jewish pledge: “Never Again!”

Saturday, 21 November 2015

The Oldest Love Story


A friend, Ryan Bellerose, a Meti and an active supporter of Israel and Zionism recently described the relationship between Judaism and Zionism as a Love Story, one  that has been playing out on the world stage for at least 2000 years.

I liked that allegory.  I liked it very much.
It brought to mind one of my favourite allegorical love stories of all times, “Song of Solomon”

In it, the writer depicts the harmonious relationship between two lovers who are yearning for each other’s company.  They are dialoguing with each other in intimate terms that only lovers share. The poetic expressions, complimentary, flattering and metaphors that they exchange, are unique to the two of them. They are the substance, the delicate weave, that form fabric of love that only the two of them can understand, one that touches on the most inner cores of their being.

Various interpretations have been given to the nature of the poetry of the Song of Solomon.  However to us, Am Yisrael, of whose rich scriptures and tradition the book is a part, it can mean one relationship only, the one between G-d and His People.

Ryan’s words made me realize that had King Solomon written his words in modern days and not three thousand years ago, they would symbolize for many of us the three thousand years romance and strong connection which Am Yisrael has had with its ancestral homeland in Eretz Yisrael and Zion.
We all know that the connection between Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael started when G-d promised it to Avraham over 4000 years ago in the Book of Genesis.  Many, however, seem to fail to see when the concept of Zionism started.  For their sake here is a brief reminder.

The word “Zion” is first mentioned in 2 Samuel 5:7 which according to modern day scholarship dates back 3000 years.  Initially, it referred to a specific mountain near Jerusalem.  Later, it became a metonym for Solomon’s Temple.  According to 2 Samuel 24:18-25, King David purchased the area of the Temple Mount from a Jebusite by the name of Arvana, the owner of a threshing floor who offered it to him for free.  King David refused and insisted on paying full price in gold for it: "but I will buy them for the full price.  I will not take for the Lord what is yours, nor offer burnt offering that cost me nothing.”  
That exchange constitutes Am Yisrael’s deed to that Holy place for Jews.  
The Temple Mount is also known as Mount Moriah where Avraham was called to sacrifice his son Yitzchak
“Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest, even Isaac, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.”  (Genesis 22, 2)

By following that command, Avraham demonstrated ultimate obedience, trust, dedication and love of G-d.    
Later in in 2 Chronicles 3,1, we are told, 
“Then Solomon began to build the house of the LORD at Jerusalem in mount Moriah, where [the LORD] appeared unto David his father; for which provision had been made in the Place of David, in the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.”  Zion is, therefore, not only the birthplace of the city of Jerusalem it is also the place where the history of the people of Israel was written and where Judaism has its deep roots.

Zion, the place, the symbol, is where the Love Story between Judaism and Zionism, which my friend Ryan mentioned, started. There was one other component in the equation of this Love Story which we should never forget or fail to mention, the most important of them all, G-d.  It is G-d who is the connector between the two.  As long as Am Yisrael lived in Eretz Yisrael, that Love Story was like any other.  It had its ups and downs. The people rebelled against G-d.  He punished them, forgave them and eventually cast them off their Land.

There is an English saying, “Distance makes the heart grow fonder.”  That is indeed what happened when Am Yisrael was distanced from his Land.  The ‘growing fondness­’ of the heart, the Love Story between the People and Eretz Yisrael lasted for two thousand years of separation, as Ryan indicated.­­
No other nation on earth, no other people in history, has ever longed for its ancestral Homeland as Am Yisrael has longed for theirs.  While in exile, it was always Zion that Jews were facing and yearning for in their prayers, liturgy and poetry.  It was Zion that they were remembering and crying for when they were sitting by the rivers of Babylon.  And it was Zion that they pledged to return to every year at the Passover table when they proclaimed and continue to proclaim: “לשנה הבאה בירושלים הבנויה”.  “Next year in Jerusalem.”

The Love Story between Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael is an exclusive and monogamous one, as love stories generally are and should be - between two beings, two entities that share a special bond unique to them, one that no-one else can share, impede, intersperse or even come close to understanding.  That is precisely the essence of the bond between Judaism and Zionism.  Their identities are intertwined, inseparable.  They are the weft and weave threads in a tapestry that span over a few millennia.  None can survive on its own. They nurture and cultivate each other on the Spiritual, Religious, Cultural, Historical and National planes that they both share.  Zionism, therefore, belongs to Jews only.  The fact that some Jews choose not to be loyal to that Love Story does not mean that anyone else who is not part of that Love Story, can or should step in to assume their place.
That, of course, does not preclude others, friends and active supporters of Zionism and the Jewish people’s rights to their ancestral Homeland to continue to support that ongoing Love Affair.  They cannot, however, be part of it, I am afraid.  Like a ‘best friend’ their love and support as  “Pro-Zionists,” “Pro-Jewish” and “Pro –Israeli” would not only keep them in high esteem in the annals of Judaism and Zionism but will also be profoundly appreciated by the many who have kept the flame of that Love Story alight through a long and turbulent history.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Why the World Needs to Support Israel, the Jewish State


Many of you may be familiar with Pastor Niemoller's  famous words, "First they came.." I will not 
tire you with the whole quote. You can easily find it via simple search on the internet. I will only cite those words that matter to me as a Jew as an Israeli and should matter to the West and whatever  else is left of the free world that values liberty and democracy in it various forms.
"Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew; They they came for me – and there was no one left to speak out for me."
I beg to differ with Niemoller. As history, old and recent, teaches us, it is generally the Jews that they target and come for first.
Swedish Christian member of the Swedish parliament, Annelie Enochson, a great friend of Israel, once said: "It always starts with the Jews but it never ends with them." And please believe me, I do not take pride nor draw any joy from her observation. Being an Israeli Jew endows me with many and far better other reasons to be proud of my people, my nation and my Home. We are leaders and great contributors in many fields of World Civilization.
Ms. Enochson's words, however, amplify what I hope many will incorporate. Those who wish to see a safe future for themselves and their children, in particular, and the world, in general, need to understand that one way to achieve it is by keeping Israel strong.
A bird's eye view of recent world history shows that Israel was the first to experience what the rest of the world ended up facing and what awaits it in the coming years. It is Israeli planes that were hijacked first. It was their Jewish and Israeli passengers that were taken hostage to faraway lands and threatened with death by ruthless terrorists first. It is Israeli pizzerias and buses where our innocent young and old civilians were blown to pieces that were targeted first by modern day barbarians who celebrate the culture of Death. And it is Israeli communities along a hostile border that are shelled incessantly by those who refuse to learn to build, develop and grow.
Israel and its people had already learned to live with such calamities when many of the readers of these words were still in their cradles. We, Israelis and Jews, have not only learned our lessons. We have also shared with others our knowledge and gained expertise as a result of such learning.
"Israel is the Canary in the Coal Mine," Geert Wilders, another dear friend if Israel and the Jewish people once defined us. Like the Canary bird whose help was enlisted by early coal miners to detect any dangerous gas build-ups, so is Israeli always in the frontline of any danger that is likely to face the world. As long as the Canaries continued to sing, the miners were safe. Unlike the actual Canary, however, which had little control over its fate, Israel was able to shape its destiny, become stronger and through its strength help a lost world shape its own. Since its inception in 1948, Israel has been and continues to be a bastion defending Western Civilization. It has been the bullet proof vest to a world that more than often refuses to wear it.
The Jews and Israel are a symbol of resilience. A once defenseless nation who in the words of Dimitri Shostakovich embodied all of "man's defenselessness" rose from the ashes merely seventy years ago to fulfill its historical role in the chronicles of mankind. Like a pillar of smoke, it is here to guide the world and serve as its compass.

Whatever one, Jew or non-Jew, chooses to define Israel, the Jewish Homeland, as, there is one truth that remains unchallenged. Regardless of how imperfect Israel may be at times, the world needs a strong Israel. In the words of Niemoller, the world needs to speak out for Israel now if it wants someone to be there to speak out for it when "they" come for it. Because if there is one fact I am certain of, it is that one day, "they" who come for Israel will also come for the world!

Monday, 9 November 2015

I am "Chutzpah"


Recently, I have been writing much about and expressing my views on the subject of Judaism and Zionism.

I have been claiming that in my view and the view of others, who I value immensely, only Jews can be Zionists. We based it on sources, Jewish ones, old and modern.  Furthermore, we proposed that as much as we appreciate and are grateful for the love and support of the Zionist cause by non-Jews, that the latter respect the term “Zionist” as Jewish and reserved to Jews only and, therefore, call themselves “Pro-Zionists,” “Pro-Israeli” or “Pro-Jewish.” Yes, it was our view which in a democratic society, as long as it does not call for the hatred and killing of others, should be perfectly acceptable.

For some odd reason, very odd reason, might I add, our views were perceived as threatening by some. These insist on being called nothing short of “Zionists” (not Pro-Zionist, not Pro-Israeli or Pro-Jewish!) or else, they will no longer support the Zionist cause.

Moreover, many of our own Jewish people attacked us, reproved us and called us names (some of which I will spare the readers). I will, though, share one with you. I was told, by some, that for me to express such views is “Chutzpah.” I was especially offended because it came from people I highly respect.

But as they say, “every storm has a silver lining.” The silver lining, in this instance, was highlighted to me by my brilliant and very dear close friend Roger Froikin, who shares my views on the subject. He wrote to me asking,

And what is wrong with ‘Chutzpah?’ Without it, our people would have died out 2000 years ago.”

Roger’s words were balm to my heart. They made me realize that I have actually been accused of the "crime" of wanting my people to survive at least another two thousand years!

I could live with a "Crime" like that!

What a Blessing! What an Honour and what a Bliss!

Happy Tuesday,
"פעמיים כי טוב"  every one!

The Lonely Yardstick



This article was written jointly with Dr. Mordechai Kedar of Bar-Ilan University

“There are three yardsticks by which the nations of the world are measured,” someone once said, “One for Dictatorships, one for Democracies and one for Israel.”

The last one is not only the loneliest yardstick, it also seems to be the busiest.
Why is Israel judged in a category all of its own by so many both from within and from without the country? Moreover, why is it judged so harshly, and on issues to which most Dictatorships and some Democracies do not devotedly adhere themselves, as Israel is expected to do?

I doubt there is anyone who would claim that Israel is a dictatorship and would be able to bring forth proof of that. There is plenty of evidence that it is not.
On the other hand, I doubt that there is anyone who would be able to provide evidence that Israel was not founded on the principles and pillars of Democracy, and operates according to them on a daily basis. Perhaps it is not the ideal of democracies but it unquestionably aspires to reach it. It certainly is expected to be the ideal based on the harsh manner in which the world responds to its efforts to survive as a sovereign nation.
What is it that makes Israel so different in the eyes of the world? Why is it that the world feels a greater and more pressing need to put Israel under the most gigantically magnifying microscope, and monitor each and every one of its moves?

The answer, in my opinion, rests on its very rare and unique Jewish Democratic essence.

Israel is a strange breed in the eyes of the world. It is a kind of an experiment on the timeline of history, a close to seventy – years - old experiment.

In the eyes of many, especially those in the Muslim world, and it is the Arab/Muslim “narrative” which the world seems to follow, and unfortunately believe nowadays, Jews were never a Nation.  According to Dr. Mordechai Kedar, the foremost expert on the Arab and Muslim world, they were, for almost two millennia, no more than mere “communities” conducted and controlled in a similar mode to the tribal system and mentality that still run the Arab/Muslim world. “Suddenly,” writes Kedar, “Jewish communities declare that they are one people, sharing the same ethnic background, as if all the Jews in the world look alike, speak the same language, share customs and cuisine, and dress in similar fashion! This is the "great lie" of the Zionist movement, according to Islamists: Creating a Jewish People out of nothing, and trying to convince the world at large that a Jewish People does indeed exist. Even worse, these Jewish communities have decided to migrate to Palestine, to "displace" the “original” inhabitants and to establish a State whose name has no connection to the Jewish people, but to the mythological
Sons of Israel. So, from the Islamic perspective, how can one recognize this state as the ‘State of the Jewish People’ – an ethnic group that does not really exist?” (

Arabism and the Western World which seems to be intoxicated by its venom, seem to be sitting there watching and following very closely the experiment called “Israel, the Jewish State.” Not only does it seem to examine each and every one of its actions, responses and maneuvers, but Dr. Kadar and I honestly believe that it is probably hoping and praying that this experiment fails. Moreover, they seem to do all they can to ensure that it will never succeed.


We both believe that the world is jealous. It is envious of the Jews and the Jewish State on a few planes.  It is perplexed by the sight of the rebirth of a sovereign state that was able, in a relatively short period, and after an ensanguined history of its people, to overcome and cope with, thrive and flourish in a reality very few other nations were ever faced with, let alone overcame. It is baffled, lost and mystified by the face of a nation that has defied all odds and all efforts by the many people who toiled hard to erase its traces, remove it from the family of nations and turn it into a mere page, or at the most, a chapter in the history of mankind. Israel is the mirror that reflects the failure of the world, a constant reminder of its own inadequacies.  And who wants to be reminded of their shortcomings?

As matters look from where we stand, it seems that the lonely yardstick will remain the loneliest and the busiest for a long time. We, the Jews, do not intend to give up, so the world it seems will have to contend with the experiment called “Israel” for many years to come.  

Sunday, 1 November 2015

“I Love Israel because it is My Home”


Mohammad Ka’abiya is an Israeli Arab, more precisely a Bedouin. He was born and raised in the Bedouin village of Ka’abiya, in the northern part of Israel.
“How do you define yourself, your identity as an Arab living in the Jewish state?” I asked him when we met last week. The question had been begging to be asked in light of the recent events in Israel.

“I am a proud Israeli,” Mohammad told me with a big smile and sparkling brown eyes. “What is most important to me is the guardianship of the State of Israel, my birth place and the birthplace of my family. For that, I am ready and willing to give it all, from the smallest part of me to my whole body and soul.”

Like many eligible young Israeli citizens, Mohammad joined the IDF. He served as a member of an Operational Squadron in the IAF. Its duties included providing support and rescue as well as other responsibilities which cannot be disclosed.
“I didn’t join the IDF because I am a ‘Muslim Zionist’ because I am not. I joined because I am an Israeli citizen. I was born here and it is my duty, privilege and honor to defend my Home.
“In fact,” Mohammad continued, his expressive eyes full of pride, passion and determination. “I know little about the composite concept of Zionism and I still do not fully understand it. I do know, however, that it belongs strictly to you Jews and that this is the reason you are here. And yes, I do believe that the Jews have a right to their own sovereign State as long as it provides and protects the civil and religious rights of its other minorities. Isn’t it the core of the foundation of the Jewish state as expressed in Israel’s Declaration of Independence?”

To my question as to whether Israel should change or modify the libretti of Hatikvah, its National Anthem, Mohammad rushed to answer, “No! I believe it should remain as is.  As I said, Israel, my birthplace, is a sovereign Jewish state. There is no reason I should not accept its anthem, its emblem or its flag, the identifying symbols and markers of any sovereign nation.

“Having said that,” Mohammad hastened to add, “I personally never sing it. It is a Jewish anthem. I do, however, respect it immensely. I stand when I hear it and when I was wearing my IAF, I saluted and felt great pride filling my essence.”
“When will we see a greater number of Israeli Arabs expressing pride towards Israel, the place of their birth?” I asked him.
“Change will occur,” Mohammad ventured to offer, “when Jews cease to get excited each time Israeli Arabs wrap themselves in an Israeli flag. “You see,” Mohammad hurried to explain as he noticed my surprised expression, “Arabs living in the Jewish state enjoy great freedoms, liberties and privileges. Therefore, there should be absolutely nothing unusual for an Israeli Arab to be proud of their Home. It should be the norm rather than the exception.”

In his current role as a guide preparing young Bedouins for their service in the IDF, Mohammad trains them in military tactics, educates them about their Muslim history, the history of Eretz Yisrael and the Jewish people. Part of his desire and intention is to instill in them pride in who and what they are.

To my last question pertaining to where he envisions the Bedouin sector of Israeli society in a few years, Mohammad said, "The Bedouins have been contributing to the Jewish state since its inception. Many of its members serve in the security forces. One hundred and ninety one of it sons lost their lives while fighting in defense of Israel.
  They have been some of the bravest soldiers in the IDF and constitute part of its spearhead. Each day and night, the extremely skilled Bedouin trackers open and close the Israeli borders.

“Due to its unique nature, this sector has special needs that should be addressed by the Israeli authorities. It is towards that end that I am willing and ready to channel my efforts” he continues in his resolute tone. “I am willing and prepared to start at the Knesset all the way down to the Arab streets.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Painting a Dream Called Peace


I dream my painting and I paint my dream.” – Vincent Van Gogh

Very few of us, if any, are a Van Gogh. Many of us, though, are dreamers.
As we enter 2015, we experience yet again and again the recurring dream of Peace; Peace within family, Peace with friends. Many even dare dream big, they dream of world Peace.

In Israel, however, we dream modestly. We want to start Peace first with our neighbors.
Since my early childhood in Israel, I remember singing songs of Peace, praying for Peace, wishing for Peace and reaching out to our neighbors offering Peace. Already in 1948, Israel’s Declaration of Independence states in a clear, forwardly manner:
“WE EXTEND our hand to all neighbouring states and their people in an offer of peace and good neighbourliness and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.”
Leaders from the Right and Left of the Israeli political spectrum, likewise, echoed this yearning for Peace.
In 1977, Prime Minister Menachem Begin said:
“Therefore, allow me today to define the meaning of peace as we understand it. We seek a true, full peace, with absolute reconciliation between the Jewish People and the Arab People. We must not permit memories of the past to stand in our way. There have been wars; blood has been shed; our wonderful sons have fallen in battle on both sides. We shall always cherish the memory of our heroes who gave their lives so that this day, yea even this day might come. We respect the valour of an adversary, and we pay tribute to all members of the young generation of the Arab Nation who have fallen as well.”
In 1993, after sealing the Accord with Arafat on the White House lawn, Rabin announced,

“We say to you today, in a loud and a clear voice; enough of blood and tears. Enough! We have no desire for revenge. We harbor no hatred towards you. We, like you, are people – people who want to build a home. To plant a tree. To love – live side by side with you. In dignity. In empathy. As human beings. As free men. We are today giving peace a chance – and saying to you and saying again to you: enough!”

Ariel Sharon resonated the same sentiments in 2001:

“Israel wants to give the Palestinians what no one else gave them – a state. Not the Turks, the British, the Egyptians, or the Jordanians gave them this possibility. All Israel asks is that Arafat commit himself to stopping the terror, to live in Peace.”
In 2009, President Peres declared:

“Israel stands with her arms outstretched, her arms hands held open to peace with all nations, with all Arab states, with all Arab states, with all Arab people. To those holding a clenched fist, I have just one word to say: enough! Enough war, enough destruction, enough hatred.”
At the same time, this is the inveterate denunciatory message that Israel has received from some of its neighbors’ leaders:
“As long as Hezbollah exists, it will never recognize Israel.” (Nassrallah, leader of Hezbollah)
Or this one from Ismail Haniyeh, Head of Hamas who is part of the “Palestinian” unity government:

“We will never recognize the usurper Zionist government and will continue our Jihad-like movement until the liberation of Jerusalem.”
And this one from Saeb Erekat, one of the chief “Peace negotiators” of the “Palestinian” Authority:

“The Palestinians will never acknowledge Israel’s Jewish identity.”
It seems that even great artists like Van Gogh would fail at the task of painting Peace in the Middle East. Unlike Van Gogh’s universe, in this region both sides have to dream, sometime, the impossible dream, of Peace to create the reality that he was able to put on canvas.

Until that time, all we have to do is keep dreaming. 

History is not a Dress Rehearsal


“You cannot step twice into the same river; for other waters are continually flowing in” – Heraclitus
Time and again, we hear the rising call to establish another Arab state, one that is called “Palestine.”
I, personally, have no issue with the name they chose for it. If one wishes to name oneself after ancient invaders, which is what the name “Palestine” is derived from, in order to establish legitimacy, then so be it.
I do, however, have a problem with anyone, whoever they may be, who tries to hijack history, replay it, re-write it, or in the words of Seinfeld “do-over.”. And this is precisely what those who call themselves “Palestinians” wish to do.
Let me briefly recap history for the sake of those who have been swept up by the wave of sympathy for the eternal cry babies of this world, the only group that has been granted “eternal refugees’ status,” the “Palestinians,” or rather its leadership.
On November 29th, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly voted on Resolution 181. Section 3 of it states:

“Independent Arab and Jewish States and the Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem, set forth in Part III of this pan, shall come into existence in Palestine two months after the evacuation of the armed forces of the mandatory Power has been completed but in any case not later than 1 October 1948. The boundaries of the Arab State, the Jewish State, and the City of Jerusalem shall be as described in Parts II and III below.”
The Jews accepted this Resolution immediately and declared the naissance of the Jewish state following the evacuation of the British mandatory power, on May 14th, 1948.
It is important to note here that the Jewish essence of the new state of Israel, as stated in the language of Resolution 181, was decreed by the non Jewish world, not by the Jews It was defined long before this Resolution was passed.
The first mention of forming a Jewish state in the land/area called Eretz Yisrael (AKA “Palestine”) can be found in the Balfour declaration of November 2nd 1917.
“ His Majesty’s Government,” it reads, “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.” [Emphasis added]
Later on, the world further reinforced the Jewish core of what was to become the state of Israel. It happened in San Remo 1920. Part of what was decreed there was:
“Whereas recognition has thereby been given to the historical connexion of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country;”
Article 2 of that Accord states:
“The Mandatory shall be responsible for placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home, as laid down in the preamble, and the development of self-governing institutions, and also for safeguarding the civil and religious rights of all inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race and religion.” [Emphasis added]

Those are all decisions made and voted for by the same world that gave the “Palestinian” Arabs then what they refused at the time and have the audacity to ask more from it now. Can one replay history? Are they not aware that certain realities of the world have changed and that new waters are continually flowing into a river called the Middle East?

Debunking some more chapters of the Mideast “narrative”


There comes a time in people’s lives when they believe that they have heard it all only to discover some more proof of how far some twisted minds are willing and ready to stretch their half-baked truths, embellished version of historical events coupled with their fertile Levantine imagination in order to advance their own agenda. What is most troublesome though is that many innocent, yet intelligent minds fall prey to it and keep spreading these “narratives,” as I call them, all in the name of what is “right” “fair” and “accurate.”
It was precisely in the name of “fairness” “accuracy” and “factual history” that one of my students told me, one day, last week that the term “anti-Semitism” applied to all semites and not just to Jews. It was during a heated debate following a presentation, part of an English class assignment, by another student on the rock group “Pink Floyd.”  The name Roger Waters, naturally, came up and his anti-semitic/anti-Zionist ploys were discussed
True, Jews are not the only Semites and please believe me, the term “anti-Semitism” is not one I covet when it comes to the hatred that some bear towards Jews. And yes, I have heard others, mainly Arabs composing a carefully manipulative narrative in which they claim joint-ownership and rights for the term. Sorry to confuse you with facts, dear Arabs, my fellow semitic members of the human race. Anti-Semitism refers to the Jews and the Jews only!
Here is why.

When the German agitator, Wilhelm Marr coined the term in 1879, it was for the sole purpose to “designate the anti-Jewish campaign underway in central Europe at that time.” (
The Arab world in itself, however, would not have been able to manufacture any “narratives,” spread them widely and successfully had it not received support and a welcoming audience from a world that feels guilty and is therefore driven by Political correctness.
The recent exaggerated worldwide response to PM Netanyahu’s description of the Jerusalem Mufti’s WWII role of advising Hitler for the best and most effective means to rid the world of Jews is a perfect example of that worldwide support.
Benjamin Netanyahu, himself the son of a very credible historian dared to refute one such “narrative,” the one diminishing the great part Arabs had in the extermination of European Jewry. True, the Jerusalem Mufti and the Arab/Muslim world may not have written “Mein Kampf” and did not actively engage in pouring the Zyklon B into the showerheads of the extermination camps but to exempt the Mufti and those he represented from any responsibility for what my parents’ generation endured is a most outrageous denial of a historical fact. This fact is recorded in the form of the transcript of the conversation between the Mufti and Hitler which Netanyahu clearly related to all and which establishes the strong alliance between Nazism and Arabism beyond any shadow of doubt.
Furthermore, Germany’s rush to claim total responsibility for the Shoah without recognizing the contributions of the Arab world for their complicity merely aids the Arabs/Muslim “narrative” and absolves Arabism from its shared goals with Nazism. What’s next, may I ask, enshrining the Mufti with the honorary title of a “Righteous Gentile?”
Another “narrative” is being woven by the Arab/ Muslim world as we speak. This one relates to the Jewish ownership of the Temple Mount. Yes, it is Jewish! And yes, it belongs to Am Yisrael as is evident by none other than the Wakf’s own admission.
The Official 1925 Supreme Moslem Council (Wakf) Guide Book to the Temple Mount proudly proclaims, on page four, paragraph two  “ the Temple Mount’s inexorable connection to the Holy Temple built by King Solomon on land purchased by King David, complete with reference to II Samuel 24:25.” (

Unfortunately, in this case, we, Am Yisrael, have immensely contributed to the authorship and the spread of this “narrative.” After the 1967 Six Day War in which Israel recaptured that portion of Jerusalem which was illegally occupied by Jordan since 1948, we proceeded in an ill-judged gesture of goodwill to hand over to those who wish to destroy us the keys to the holiest place of our people. Now, before anyone jumps at me, let me state I do not belong to those who call for the destruction of Al Aqsa so that we can rebuild our Temple. That is the Modus Operandi of the enemies of Israel and world civilization, not Israel’s.
Regrettably, “narratives,” Jewish ones, ones that aid, improve and even perfect the circulation of the ones created by the Arab/Muslim world are also being written by our own Jewish leaders and their blind devotees.
A few months ago, an Arab family was appallingly attacked by some terrorists. The arson attack which took place in the town of Duma in Judea and Samaria resulted in the painful death of a baby, his mother and father. The essayist of this Jewish “narrative” hastened to blame “Jewish terrorism” for the act. They declared it without any shred of solid evidence. Their “narrative,” I suspect, may have partly helped fan the flames of hatred that are currently burning Jewish lives.
As long as any side of the Middle East conflict refuses to adhere to facts only, as long as a “narrative” version of events is what dictates their policies, the chances for a long awaited Peaceful Existence in our troubled region are get slimmer and slimmer.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Silence is, sometimes, Golden



Last night I was invited to celebrate the Holiday of Sukkot in the company of some dear friends. We had dinner at their Sukkah. I also learned a great lesson, the lesson of the impact of silence

Through their invitation and my acceptance of it, we all engaged in the honorable duty to perform a Mitzvah. The Mitzvah is a twofold one. As prescribed in Deuteronomy 16:14, “You shall rejoice in your festival—you, your son, your daughter, your manservant, your maidservant, the Levite, the stranger, the orphan and the widow who are within your cities.” I fulfilled the duty of sitting in the Sukkah. My hosts - in welcoming me and others.
In addition to inviting earthly guests to the Sukkah, Am Yisrael, according to tradition, also earns the privilege to host seven transcendent guests. They are the seven founding fathers of Am Israel, Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Moshe Aharon, Yosef and David, the seven Ushpizin (Aramaic for “guests”).  Each of these founding fathers visits us during one of the seven nights and days of Sukkot.
And so we come to the titular lesson of this article.
As each of these Ushpizin graces our sukkah each night and day of Sukkot, he sanctions and empowers us with the particular quality that defines him. Together, they nourish our spiritual essence with their gifts. Avraham feeds us benevolence; Yitzchak, restraint; Yaakov bestows upon us harmony and truth; and so on.
On the fifth Day of Sukkot, the presence of Aharon, the brother of Moshe graces our Sukkah with his heavenly sanctification. Aharon’s quality according to tradition is defined as humility.
Aharon was Moshe’s older brother, the first born who, in Biblical times, had special rights. In his great modesty, Aharon did not argue with G-d when He selected Moshe, the younger, the stutterer to lead Am Yisrael out of Egypt.  Instead, humble Aharon was there next to Moshe and served him loyally.
It was, however, the unfortunate tragedy that befell Aharon which yielded us the great lesson of the importance of silence. The Book of Leviticus chapters 9-11 recounts the events that led to the death of his two sons during the last stages of celebrating the dedication of the Mishkan, the holy Tabernacle. Moshe tried to console Aharon. But as the Torah tells us "וידום אהרן "  (and Aharon became silent, Leviticus 10:3).
The gift of upholding silence during certain moments in Life and History is very powerful and rather rare. Language and the spoken word are a great tool in communication, understanding and sharing with each other. Silence, on the other hand, is our means to connect with G-d and the universe that surrounds us. Silence and its unspoken message can sometimes be more prevailing, potent and expressive than any words we utter. We were witness to it a few days ago when our Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at the U.N.

I will not address the content of his speech. Others have brilliantly engaged at dissecting and analyzing it. I prefer to dwell on the forty five seconds of his silence. During those long moments, he said more than during the lengthy speech that he gave. The deafening stillness of his pause cut like a sharp knife through the thick blinding fog that has been shrouding the U.N. for many years. It seemed to have paralyzed those present. More importantly, it sent a strong message to the world, a double message.

The first is that Am Yisrael will not stand silently as the world did and continues to do in the face of ongoing threats to annihilate us. We will speak up, we will protest, we will make our voice heard and do whatever it takes to defend ourselves. The second is that we will also practice the gift of the power of silence to get our message through and across, as did Netanyahu in his U.N. speech last week
The day Benjamin Netanyahu delivered this powerful lesson to the world coincided with the fifth Day of Sukkot, the day Jews are blessed with the spiritual gracious visit of our forefather Aharon.
How refreshing it was to learn that Aharon’s eternal gift of Silence was not wasted.

Chag Sameach

Sunday, 27 September 2015



Yizkor is the Hebrew word associated with the command to remember (זכור).
Am Yisrael has a long memory. Am Yisrael needs its long memory for memory is synonymous with its history. It is one of the pillars of its foundation.
Last week Jews were commemorating the holy day of Yom Kippur. Part of its services include the  “Yizkor” prayer which is dedicated to the memory of all who have passed away in the history of Am Yisrael. During that prayer we remember our parents, relatives and friends who are no longer with us. We remember all Jews who died through history, those who died in fire, those who expired during torture for remaining loyal to their heritage, and those who died during efforts to forcefully convert them. We also remember those who perished in the Shoa, all the women, the children and all the innocent victims. We remember our brave soldiers, all of the Israeli soldiers who died in the defense of our Jewish Homeland.

The decree to remember not only laces through the Yiskor prayer. Yom Kippur services are sodden with the recurring reminder of our forefathers, Avraham Yitzchak and Yaakov and foremothers, Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah. The machzor (High Holiday Prayer book) repeatedly refers to our duty to fulfill our obligations in their, and through them, our, unbreakable covenant with G-d.

Yom Kippur, however, is not the only time during the Jewish year in which we are commanded to remember.  During Passover, we are told not only to remember but also to remind others, to educate others about our history. “You should tell your Son (והגדת לבנך),” the Passover Hagaddah directs us. We are commanded to share the story of the Exodus from Egypt.
Likewise, we are commanded to circumcise our sons so that they bear on their flesh the constant reminder of the Eternal Covenant G-d made with Avraham. In the Ten Commandments, we are commanded to remember the Shabbat and keep it Holy. Shabbat is the sign and reminder of the Covenant G-d made with Am Yisrael at Mount Sinai. 

It is not only the good, though, that Am Yisrael, is instructed to remember. "זכור את אשר עשה לך עמלק בדרך בצאתכם ממצרים"  (“Remember what Amalek did to you when you came out of Egypt.”) Deuteronomy 25;17 is an important tenet in the history of Am Yisrael, a principle of which we are reminded a few times in our Tanach. We remember the destruction of our Temples, of our cities and of our Land. We remember our various exiles, the pain we incurred, the suffering and the pledge to return to our Homeland. We remember our saddest moments as a nation at the peak of our joy, and continue to pledge our loyalty to our Jewish collective memory as we unanimously and solidly repeat, “Never Again!”
Last but not least, Am Yisrael will never forget those who have been kind to it throughout history. We remember those who saved us and truly and sincerely advocated for us. Remember the story of the spies that Moses sent to tour the Land before conquering it? We only remember the names of two of them, Calev Ben Yefuneh and Yehoshua Bin Nun. Why? Because these were the only two spies who spoke favorably about the Land. They are the ones who entered the annals of history because of their advocacy for Eretz Yisrael.
We also auspiciously remember those who were kind to the Jews during some of our hardest and most horrific periods. All one has to do is go to Yad Vashem and see the Avenue of the Righteous to realize that.
Yizkor, the act, the practice, is the key to ensuring that past mistakes are not repeated, provided that the proper lessons are learned and internalized. Let us hope that in the coming year Am Yisrasel in particular, and the world in general, will re-read its memory book and save our children  from the need to relive some of the sad episodes of our joint past eras.
Shana Tova and Chag Sameach