Wednesday, 29 June 2016

That Precious Moment


Have you ever experienced a moment towards which you are looking forward, that moment in which you are being cloaked by that very unique feeling over and over again? It is the moment where you sense the wave of adrenaline welling in you, refusing to subside no matter how much you try to control it.  I am talking about a moment that you never tire of, one that you have lived and relived many a times, one that reunites you with that which is central to your life, to who you are and what you are.

Yesterday, Moshe and I relived such a moment. We both had another reminder, not that we ever forgot, of the centrality of Yerushalayim in our beautiful Jewish tradition.

Moshe and I attended a Jewish wedding here in Oslo. Our hearts were fluttering with joy as we were witnessing another Jewish couple entering the marriage covenant according to the “religion of Moshe and Yisrael….” Our Hope is still alive, we both thought, and it’s a few millennia old core is still throbbing!

The wedding took place in an Orthodox synagogue. Naturally, we had to sit apart from each other. Separated physically, yes, but not spiritually, historically and culturally from that which unites us so solidly with a tradition that has brought us thus far.

As the rabbi was going through the various steps of the ceremony, the blessings and reading the Ketubah (Marriage certificate written in Aramaic), we were both, independently of each other waiting patiently for that approaching moment.  We were looking forward to that one moment, one moment that bears great significance to us and should, in our view, likewise be of great meaning to all Jews wherever they are.

That moment did not linger. Unaware of each other’s moves, we both got up from our seats and started to make our way towards the Bimah where the Chuppah was slowly but surely peaking towards that which we had been waiting for, that which our ancient Jewish Zionist essence seeks to reassure and re-affirm over and over again.

I stood there very close to the Bimah as my Jewish soul was cleansing itself in anticipation and preparation to bear witness to the oath, to the pledge which has kept our People’s Spirit alive and invigorated.

Suddenly, I raised my head and glanced over the isle to the men’s section. There stood Moshe waiting, like me, for that precious moment. “Now read this please,” the rabbi instructed the groom. I could feel my eyes welling, the lump in my throat growing as Moshe’s eyes were locked with mine and our lips joined the groom’s as we vowed in unison,
אם-אשכחך ירושלים--    תשכח ימיני.  תדבק-לשוני, לחיכי--    אם-לא אזכרכי:
אם-לא אעלה, את-ירושלים--    על, ראש שמחתי.
 ( If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
    let my right hand forget its skill!
Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth,
    if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
    above my highest joy!)

As long as one pair of lips utters these words and renews this vow, this oath to Yerushalayim, our Hope is not lost. Am Yisrael Chai!

Thursday, 23 June 2016

The fragility of the gift of Life


Unlike Hebrew, English has two words to express the idea “providence” ( (גורל They are “fate” and “destiny.” One of my English students once asked me if there is a difference between the two. I suppose there is.
Fate, I believe, is controlled by forces that reside outside of us. These powerful dynamisms lay beyond our control and determine when we enter this world and when we leave it. They also govern certain events in our life. Destiny, on the other hand, is the powerful force that rests within us, one which allows us control our choices, regulate and shape them and our life’s trials as optimally as we can. It is the valve that can help us achieve the most out of the gift our lives.

And Life is a gift,
not to be taken for granted. It is a gift to be valued and to be enjoyed. Even our wonderful Jewish tradition teaches us to be grateful for that. It is for that reason that a Jew is commanded to repeat daily the following blessing upon waking up in the morning: “מודה אני לפניך מלך חי וקיים, שהחזרת בי נשמתי בחמלה, רבה אמונתך.” (Modeh Ani Lefanecha Melech Chai Vekayom Shehechezarta Bi Nishmati
Bechemla Raba Emunatecha
I offer thanks to You,living and eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great.)

Every day, we are retold of the need to be thankful for it. Every day, we collect indications that tomorrow is never guaranteed, never promised. A few days ago, we commemorated the untimely death of Channah Sharvit of blessed memory, Moshe’s late wife. Stories of unfortunate deaths which cross our life’s path are a constant reminder of the need to celebrate life and highlight those beautiful moments that no money can buy.

Last night, Moshe and I had, yet, another aide-memoire of this very essential calling. This one came in the form of a movie entitled, “Me Before You.” It was a loud wake - up call about the uncertainties that are strewn around every corner of our life’s journey. And there are so many of those.
The movie recounts the life of a young man whose existence has changed overnight following a serious accident that befell him. From a vivacious, talented and successful fellow, he became wheelchair bound and dependent on others. He lost his joi de vivre and any hope for a fulfilling future. A beautiful young care giver walks into his life and toils hard to fill it with exciting and rewarding experiences. Although the young man regains some of his joys of life, he eventually chooses to end his life but not before he bequeaths upon his caregiver the legacy which he himself was deprived of. His tragedy became her learning curve and the fulfillment of his wish for her and others.

That movie brought to mind another movie which I had seen years ago. It is called “The Eighth Day.” The story is about a workaholic businessman who spent hours over hours in the office. He neglected his wife and two beautiful daughters only to see his family falling apart. After separating from his wife, the man met a young man with down syndrome by the name of George. George was a simple man but he had the most important slices of life. He had love, he had joy and he had hope. He taught his friend these values. Eventually, the man was reunited with his family and lived happily ever after. In time, George passed away. As the angels were carrying his soul to heaven, a voice read the first chapter of Breesheet (Genesis), the story of creation. There was one extra verse added to it, though. It said, “And on the seventh Day G-d rested. He looked at His creation and asked Himself, ‘What is missing in my world?’”

“So, on the Eighth Day,” the voice continues, “He created George.”

G-d created a George for each and every one of us. Let us internalize his lesson. Let us take our destiny in our own hands and enjoy the gift we are each given by Fate. Let us celebrate it and bask in its glory. One day, Fate will take it back.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

When it comes to Jews and Yisrael, “Open Season” is always there

Borrowed from the hunting domain where the term “Open Season” means  “a period when it is legal to kill or catch game or fish protected at other times by law,” it has also come to suggest a time when someone or something is openly attacked or criticized by many and often for no reason.

Yes, I know, some here will go up in arms and cry, “here they come again waving the ‘victim card,’ the Jews are at it again, Yisraelis are at it again!”

Well, dear readers, if you look closer, or at least try to look closer, you will see that it is not a “victim card” we are waving at you, rather, it is the “reality card!” Nowadays, when it comes to Yisrael, it has become indeed an “Open Season,” mostly by those who wish to bring an end to it and, sometimes, even by those who claim to be sympathizers and friends.

I am appalled anew each time that I see, read and witness clichés being thrown, used, abused and misused when it comes to Yisrael. Let us take for example the term “Apartheid” How many parrot the term irresponsibly when they barely know what it really means and what it stands for?

In anticipation of such ignorance, I always supply myself with a very basic definition of the term. I have used it numerous times to educate those who are in dire need for it. The definition of “Apartheid” that I carry around with me is very basic. It is derived from states that “Apartheid” is "(In South Africa) a policy or system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race"
I challenge our listeners to find one but one such policy or law in the Yisraeli system, one that separates Jewish Yisraelis from other Yisraelis. I urge them to point at any decree that discriminates against anyone based on color, creed, religion or race.
They all remain speechless!

Does it stop them?

I could go on and name other examples of unjustified and baseless attacks against the Jewish state. The venomous kool-aide that many innocent and ignorant victims have been drinking is very potent. Seems that the antidote for it has yet to be invented.

It is not only foes, however, that Yisrael and Yisraelis seem to be open to criticism and attacks to. There are those well-wishers who, out of belief that they only mean well, criticize us, attack us and drag our name through the mud.

Let me indulge you with some illustrations.

Two weeks ago, there was a terror attack in the heart of Tel Aviv. A Christian friend who claims to be a dear friend of Yisrael and the Jewish people, suggested that it was a form of punishment for Tel Aviv holding a gay pride parade a few days earlier. Oh really?  To that we can only say, "we will be damned if we do and damned if we don't."

And then, of course, there are friends who love us so dearly that they feel they can define us, tell us who we are and what we should be. They use terminology coined by Hellenistic heathens who had forced their lexicon upon us, dictated to us what to do, how we should do it and when. Yes, these friends only mean well, we are certain, but should we try to defy their efforts, take our destiny into our own hands and shape it, that is when their true colors come out.

Christian missionaries are a perfect example for that. Of course they will claim they do not attack us. Of course they will claim that they only want to help us. Of course they feel that if they trespass our boundaries and put deceitful leaflets into our mailboxes, they only mean well. After all, their sole wish is to turn us into "complete Jews."

Time to close the season, dear foes and friends. If there is a law protecting animals against hunting, there should be one defending Jews in Eretz Yisrael and the world over. The time when Jews were treated as merely another species in the Animal Kingdom is over. The Ghetto Jew is dead. Yisrael, should create laws to protect its Jewish citizens. Everyone else here seems to be already protected!

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Did you say "occupation?" Which occupation?

The Yisraeli “occupation” of Judea and Samaria has, unfortunately, become a household mantra which is used to excuse and explain many problems that befall our world.

Each time terror strikes, we wait with bated breath for the same chant to be heard. And, in many cases, it is indeed what happens, especially more and more among prominent figures, Yisraelis and others, who are, in many instances, public opinion shapers. We have recently heard it from the current mayor of  Tel Aviv, following the last terror attack that killed four and wounded others in his city. Even the US Democratic party, so we learned today, considers explicit condemnation of Yisraeli “occupation” as part of its 2016 elections platform.

The definition of the term “occupation” is very simple and straightforward. Here is a basic one from
a. Invasion, conquest, and control of a nation or territory by foreign armed forces.

So, if we follow the logic that this definition unfolds to us, in order for there to be an “occupation,” there has to be an invasion first.

Our question pertains to what the definition does not address, though. We ask, what about territory that was gained as a result of a war forced upon a nation when that nation never sought to invade, occupy and control?

Isn’t that what happened in 1967 when Arab nations bordering with Yisrael, in their unrelenting efforts to rid the middle east of Jews, lodged a war against the sovereign Jewish state? Was the Jewish nation which had already incurred huge losses through history when it was subject to the mercy of others, supposed to just sit there and let others do as they wish, especially when their explicit wish was to complete what Hitler never finished? Can you call a desire to defend oneself against attackers “an invasion?” 

Moreover, can one accuse Yisrael of being “an occupier” when the so called “occupation” was imposed on her through wars and ended with the liberation of lands which according to historical facts and legal documents were rightfully hers to begin with? The Arabs can only blame themselves for the creation of such a reality.

Having said that, we are always surprised that the real occupation which has transpired in plain view is ignored time and again. Yes, we are referring to the Arab occupation of Jewish lands. We are not talking about lands given to us by G-d, as much as we believe in it, because we feel that religious arguments should be kept out of the equation when it comes to the middle east conflict.

The Lands of Judea and Samaria are the true Eretz Tzion V’yirushalayim that our National Anthem, “Hatikvah” speaks about. They are the heartland of Eretz Yisrael, the land where Jews have been dwelling for over three millennia, the land that, as The Declaration of Independence of Yisrael states, “was the birthplace of the Jewish people…” where “their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped…” where “they attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave the world the eternal Book of Books.”
Those that call themselves “Palestinians” are relatively newcomers into this same region where Jews and other members of Am Yisrael have established a deep connection with the Land.  In an effort to build their case and try and establish some credibility to their false claim to the Land, to build their case and false claims to the lands, they have adopted the derogatory name “Palestinians” given to the Jews by the Romans. “Palestine”פלשתינה  is the name the Romans gave to Eretz Yisrael in order to add an insult to injury and sever any relationship between the Jews and their Home.. The only problem with the name “Palestine” is that its origin lies in the term “Pleshet” פלשת.  This is a name appearing frequently in the Bible which in English started to be known as “Philistine” The world root of “Plesheth” lies in the word “palash”,פלש a term which means “to invade” and refers to the Philistine’s conquest of the coast of the Mediterranean. Now you, dear reader, tell us who the invader is, and who once they invade according to the above definition eventually become the occupier? Isn’t invasion part of the definition of “occupation?”

Furthermore, has anyone even mentioned Muslim six hundred years old occupation of parts of Yerushalayim and Jewish religious sites such as Temple Mount?

It is not, however, only Jewish lands and holy places that the “Palestinians” occupy. What concerns us even more is the widespread “Conceptual 'occupation.'” 

The Arab/Muslim world has invaded and planted itself very effectively in the creases of the intangible corners of the minds of the world. It has occupied it and has been feeding it a version of history, perverse terminology and concepts and a twisted narrative which even some of the most imaginative Hollywood script writers could never produce. Unfortunately, it is not only the minds of the gullible world that they have occupied, they have been able to successfully invade and take possession over the minds of many Jews and Yisraelis, especially those with the Ghetto mentality, a mentality that continues to function as fertile ground for such an occupation.

We hate  to sound like prophets of wrath but we both feel a need to warn a slumbering humanity that it is this form of “occupation” it should address and fight lest their children will end up growing in a world deprived of any hope or a promising future.This article was written jointly with Moshe Dagan.