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.” (http://www.britannica.com/topic/anti-Semitism)
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.” (https://www.templeinstitute.org/wakf-1925-guidebook.htm)

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