Wednesday, December 28, 2005

No New Revelation

How can a revelation replace another if the revelation (is claimed) to be reiterating, not replacing, another (not previous) revelation? This would be like replacing something with another version of the same thing. With respect to Islam, this is the true backbone of the religion, its replacement of the Judaism and Christianity that came before it; this claim deserves some attention.

First of all, we must contend with the notion that a revelation replaces another in the first place. For example, Islam's central belief is the replacement of Judaism and its tenets; why? The answer that Islam gives is that the Jews, the supposed followers of Judaism, went off the path and strayed from the message of the Torah and the reiterations of the prophets. Not to mention, they also deliberately altered the text for their own purposes, i.e., to advocate a lie that they were the only chosen people.

However, why must one group's revelation be intended for another? For example, G-d gave the Torah to the Jews when there were no other people in the world that were ready to accept and embrace a notion of pure monotheism, and it is necessary to mention that there were no Muslims alive at this point in human history. If the Muslims had been alive then, then they could have accepted the monotheistic point of view. Thousands of years later, when the Arabs, through their figure Muhammad, had their own monotheistic revelation, it did not suffice them to live with it on their own, they felt that they had to spread their particular monotheistic viewpoint to the Jews. The question is "why" and the answer is that they viewed (and had to) Divine Revelation as a continuing process. In this they are right save for one minor mistake; the Jews also believe in continual Divine Revelation, but in the sense that G-d reveals Himself from one group to another until the whole world is united under Him. To contrast, Islam believes in continual Divine Revelation in the sense that one Revelation has to replace another; it is not sufficient that different groups of people exist in the same world with different understandings of pure monotheism. This attitude is what gave the Jews the ability to accept the theology and existence of Islam, while the opposite of this attitude is what made Judaism intolerable Muslims.

We must also wonder what more there is to be learned by a new revelation; if G-d gave the eternal Torah to the Jews, there is nothing new for Islam to teach to Jews, which would also mean that Jews can remain Jews and be honest to G-d's will. This makes Islam irrelevant for Jews, which is one reason why Muhammad had such a violent reaction to Jews when they rejected him.

But it doesn't make Islam irrelevant for Muslims; they were not around when the Torah was given to the Jews, and it's quite possible (and wise) to consider Islam "Torah for Muslims," the problems begin when Muslims want Jews to become like Muslims. For instance, Muslim tradition explains that the prophets of the Torah, which describes them as "Muslims," castigated the Jews for straying from G-d's message, which would have returned them to G-d, to submission, or Islam. When we consider that the prophets were Jews telling Jews to return to the Torah, it makes sense, but when Muslim tradition defines those who followed G-d as Muslims and those who didn't as non-believers (who just happened to be Jews), then we get a formula for confusion. Indeed, we can say that Jews are still supposed to live with the Torah, while Muslims are supposed to live with Islam. It is inaccurate to say that Islam replaces Judaism, but rather that Islam replaces polytheism for Arabs in the same way that Judaism did for the Hebrews. Having said that, there is nothing for the Jews in Islam; all that they need and indeed, all that G-d asks of them is required in the Torah. Islam is not a "final revelation" in the sense that they replace one another, it is "the only revelation," for Arabs. Islam should be careful not to turn the final revelation into the final solution.

Furthermore, let's be honest, the Jews have been around longer than the Muslims, which has given them the opportunity to shift with the times and adapt their own monotheistic tradition in concordance with the Torah's Law on their own; there is nothing that Islam, the Q'uran, or Muslim jurisprudence can contribute to this process. In fact, all it can do is the opposite, it can fight the Jews and try to force change on them in ways that they do not approve, which, unfortunately, it has done repeatedly and continuously through history; this can largely be attributed to its necessity of viewing itself as the final and only revelation that everyone must conform, confirm, and convert to. Jews have had their own struggles with the surrounding world when it came to the exposure of monotheistic ideals to the pagan and polytheistic world and have caused struggles and even rifts in the Jewish religious sphere, not to mention, another religion (Christianity). Islam should worry about its own internal realities and less about Judaism's life, which, not to mention, would be an adviseable political strategy for Arabs when it comes to Israel; there is a clear connection between these two Muslim attitudes towards things external. Islam's aggression is also attributed to the power (that it once had), which meant that it reached harmony with its neighbors in ways other than letting them practice their own religions, but through power.

But the struggle to bring the knowledge of monotheism to the world cannot end, although it will have to change in form without taking away from its core truths, and violent force is not the proper, nor the effective means. Islam cannot be blamed for attempting to unify people under a monotheistic vision, for this too is the Messianic vision of Judaism and the Torah; the only thing that can be called into question is the method, and even more than this, Islam's urge to replace Judaism as part of this process of bringing knowledge of monotheism to the world. If monotheism is truly what Islam wants (which is what the Jews want), then it will have to relinquish its belief that it has the monopoly over G-d and see Judaism and Jews for what they are, the original and perpetual bringers of this type of knowledge to the world, not as corrupted sinners. Notice that Judaism does not call for, or try, to replace Islam with Judaism, for considering Islam's numbers and purported belief, it is clear that it has a high potential for goodness; we are all waiting for it to be unlocked and released. Afterall, Jewish tradition says that Ishmael did t'shuva (a loose translation of 'repented') and was a "tzaddik," a righteous person.
Channukah 2005

Larry Domnitch, THE JERUSALEM POST  Dec. 26, 2005


What induced Antiochus Epiphanes to attempt to eradicate Judaism? Some speculate that he had his own political motives. However, he initially had good relations with the Jews who had helped him take Jerusalem from his rival, the Egyptian Ptolemy. The chronicler of that era, Josephus Flavius mentions that Antiochus initially granted Jews the right to keep their laws. (Josephus Flavius, Antiquities, Book XII, chapter 3:3) He had also decreed that the Temple of Jerusalem continue to be respected by all as a Jewish institution under Jewish auspices. Furthermore, the attempt to eradicate an existing nation by outlawing their religious practices was unprecedented.

One might presume that all of Antiochus's predecessors who had ruled over the Land of Israel for over 150 years since the conquest of
Alexander the Great, had themselves, imagined forcing Hellenism and idolatry, the universal creeds of the time, upon the Jews. All other
nations readily accepted Hellenism, so naturally the question arose, what about the Jews?

The Jews for the most part were left alone to practice their faith and live their way of life. The Greeks initially on favorable terms with the Jews, had also understood that they were steadfast in their beliefs, and there was a futility of attempting to force them to accept other creeds and practices.

However, as Antiochus Epiphanes ruled, the numbers of Jews who had embraced Hellenism were increasing. Those Jews known as, mityavnim sought to popularize Hellenism among the Jews. The Book of Maccabees quotes the Hellenists who proclaimed, "let us go out and make a covenant with the heathen around us." (Maccabees 1:11)

As two brothers, both mityavnim, and heirs to the position of the High Priesthood feuded for that position, one of the brothers, Menelaus, went to the emperor and told him that the mityavnim were "desirous to leave the laws of their country, and the Jewish way of living according to them, to follow the king's laws, and the Grecian way of living" (Antiquities, book 12, Chapter 5:1). He then proposed the construction of a Greek style stadium in Jerusalem, to which the emperor consented.

When Antiochus eventually issued his infamous decrees outlawing Jewish practices, the Jewish Hellenists readily consented. "They (the mityavnim) profaned the Sabbath and sacrificed to heathen altars" (Maccabees 1:43).

IT IS plausible that Antiochus was influenced by the existence of the mityavnim from whom he might have perceived that the Jews'
tenacity and resolve could actually be broken. If some Jews could accept Hellenism, maybe they all could. However, the Jews proved him

There have been similar situations facing the Jews in their history. Following the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Soviet regime banned
Jewish observances and closed Jewish houses of worship. Similar to Antiochus, their intent was to eliminate Judaism by destroying its
spiritual sources. Jewish assimilation in the Soviet Union was on the increase. Furthermore, there was a comparatively small but vocal
Jewish wing of the Communist Party, which in 1918 passed a resolution that called for "suspending the operations of Jewish institutions" within Jewish communities. A section of the Jewish communists, known as the Yevsektzia, also zealously aided efforts against Judaism in Russia. They helped the regime close religious institutions, and informed on those Jews who continued Jewish observances clandestinely. The Soviet authorities were also no doubt influenced by their modern day mityavnim.

However, during the difficult years of Soviet rule, courageous efforts among Jews who acted as modern-day Maccabees, persevering to
preserve their heritage, bore outstanding results. Today there are multitudes of dedicated and observant Jews from the Russian republics in Israel, and other communities worldwide.

PRESENTLY, THE world watches the nation of Israel. As nations line up to pressure and demand more Israeli concessions, what if the people of Israel held their ground? What if they categorically said no to a Palestinian state and to the pressure? What if they proclaimed that they have but one country while the Arabs have virtually unlimited territory? What if they stated that no nation can be compelled to facilitate the creation of an entity that would continue to oppose and act against its very existence? If the Jews were unmovable, world reaction might be different.

Instead, President George W. Bush, Secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, the EU, and various other world leaders speak of visions of
Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace, although there is no tangible sign that these visions have any value.

But when many in the Israeli media and Knesset, along with American Jewish leaders utter the same lines, and espouse the same positions,
what reaction from world leaders should one expect?

The pressure we face may not be so much about George Bush, Condoleezza Rice, the EU and the UN, as about an internal Jewish issue of self image; of how Jews perceive themselves within the global community.

Will events of the modern times compel Jews to seek to merge with the international community at the cost of imperiling the well-being of the Jewish state? Now is the time for modern Maccabees to stand up.

The writer is the author of The Cantonists: The Jewish Children's Army of the Tsar recently released by Devora Publishing.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Munich Review --

Note - If you haven't seen "Munich" yet, perhaps you should wait to see it before reading this since I give away some parts of the movie.

I watched Munich a few days ago after reading a few reviews saying that it equated the Palestinian murder of the Israeli Olympics team in 1972 with the Israeli retaliative assassinations of the terrorists. Dennis Ross, on the other hand, said that it did no such thing, so I decided to watch it and see for myself; these are my perceptions.

If I could speak about the movie in the terms of an essay, I would say that its final conclusion is that revenge, ultimately, destroys, even if the intent of the revenge was justified. However, the movie didn't arrive me at that conclusion immediately, Speilberg navigated through a series of perceptions and gradually tried to get the viewer to see that point of view.

Example; the movie starts off with the Palestinian terrorists hopping the fence to the Olympic games, entering the hotel where the Israeli team was staying, breaking in, and beginning their hostage situation/rampage. During these few minutes of film, there were not many available emotions to feel towards them other than anger and resentment.

However, the table soon turns; when the Israeli assassination team targets their first terrorist by planting a bomb in his telephone, the same exact angles and shots are used to show the Israeli's entering his house as it did when showing the Palestinian terrorists entering the hotel. It's a subtle usage of footage, but the intent is to draw a parallel between the morality of the actions by making one scene remind you of another. In a movie, the producer is G-d and creates the necessary world to get the desired points across.

Again, the movie doesn't break the thesis to the audience immediately, it has them simmer in it before gradually slipping it to them. The plot of the first assassination was to call the house of the terrorist when he answered the phone and then to detonate the bomb. However, to the audience's horror, his young daughter answers the phone, only to show the assassination team abort the mission at the last second. They try again and succeed with their mission the second time around after the daughter leaves. Perhaps this was the movie's intent or perhaps it wasn't, but this made a clear delineation between the Israeli assassination team's effort to avoid killing innocents and non-combatitants, in contrast to the Palestinian terrorists' specific goal of the exact opposite.

What interested me is that as the movie unfolded, one saw that its primary emphasis was the moral question of retaliation to terrorism in the form of assassination (and the equation of the two), and not the moral question, or the way in which a culture of terrorism/hijacking develops, of terrorism itself. Clearly it would take a more complicated and perhaps expensive movie to explain the mentality of Palestinian terrorism within the context of the Israeli-Arab conflict; it is relatively easier to make a movie exploring the moral issues of retaliatory measures to such terrorism. Plus, for some, it is easier to point the finger at themselves than to accuse others.

All in all, the movie portrays the Israeli assassination team with the noble and justified goal of eliminating the terrorists. In order to do this, the lead assassin, a former Mossad agent (the actor does a less than good imitation of an Israeli) has to bargain with scum-of-the-earth international hitmen, who describe themselves to him as "ideologically permiscuous." After some double- and triple-crossing and general manipulation, it becomes apparent that the Mossad, with its righteous agenda, becomes likened to the hitmen it mingles with by way of association. In other words, it is as if to say, "Don't become what you hate." More patronizing would be to say, "Don't become what you hate, even if you have the right to hate it because it wants to kill you."

This message is clearly strewn throughout the movie, especially when the assassins become thirsty for revenge and go out of their way to target terrorists not on their list, basically, just for the heck of it. More shocking is when they go out of their way to kill a women agent that murdered their friend, and the way in which they killed her is particularly gruesome; firing darts at her naked body that cause her to choke on her own blood. They stand there watching it gush out of the holes in her chest, and when one of them covers her naked blood-covered body, another quickly opens her robe back up to add humiliation to her death. At this point in time it is hard not to see them as terrorists, but again, the producer calls the shots.

An interesting scene is when one of the assassins, the bomb-maker, a genuinely nice fellow, leaves the group when they go on their revenge rampage. His moral criticism is that of revenge and that Jews should take the moral high road, which is absolutely true, and wonders if the Israeli government should capture the terrorists and try them in Israel as was done with the Nazi's in the Nuremburg Trials rather than assassinate them. This morning, as I was waiting for my waffles to heat up before going to work, I thought of this; would it have actually been better to capture the terrorists and to bring them to Israel for trial? Would it have been better to travel to whatever country the terrorists were in, and one-by-one, infiltrate them and bring them to Israel? Would it have been better to cause a potential blood-bath by attempting to capture people that don't mind dying and killing innocents, putting them on a plane with the approval of their country's of residence government, and flying them to Israel, of all places? Had this succeeded, the entire Arab world would now see a group of Palestinians being tried and probably put to death by the Israeli government, and they would join the ranks of martyrs. Would it have been better to assassinate them and to end the story there? Either method produces martyrs, but one is out in the open and the other is covert. Furthermore, the German government held a trial to convict those guilty of war crimes, with America's supervision and in front of the whole world; there was no way for them to retaliate. The capturing of and bringing in of the terrorists of Black September would have not been as clean and much bloodier than the assassinations.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Palestine and the Racist Minute Men--

** This is a response paper that I had to write for a class after watching a presentation about the Minute Men.**

I had mixed thoughts and emotions as I was paying attention to the Minute Man presentation on Wednesday. For the most part, I feel empathy for the suffering of other people, in this case, the Mexicans who try to find economic comfort in the United States. For the most part, I am also in disagreement with the attitudes of neo-Nazi-type groups, although I think that it is very easy for (otherwise normal) people, perhaps many, to be sucked into hate politics, especially when they feel that they’re cause is justifiable. It is not always easy to pinpoint hate when you see it, which is many times elusive.

However, despite my strong disagreements with neo-Nazi type attitudes, I do not feel that the speakers present at the presentation made a particularly strong argument for their rejection of the United States’ border policies, except for perhaps the first woman that spoke. I think that a lot of race-, nation-, and economic-based resentment are the primary culprits behind this conflict, but the speakers appealed to the emotions more than they did to the speakers’ intellect, and particularly to their emotions, which left me unconvinced on many of their points. In all honesty, I expected to be presented with more of a usage of fact, statistics, and evidence, but was not. I feel that they presented the audience with only a slice of the information needed to get a fuller picture of this scenario, and that, by using certain types of rhetoric, expected to pull the audience along. Regardless of this, I nevertheless feel that their cause is justified because clearly there are issues that need to be dealt with, but it seems that they felt that they were “preaching to the choir,” and did not take into account that there would be people in the audience who did not already have their minds made up on the entire issue. (I saw some of the people around me nodding their head in agreement and heard some calling ‘the invterviewees’ names).

For example, the video made by the gentleman did a good job of showing the audience how things looked in some of the areas on the Mexican side of the border, and really tried to get us to feel what he felt. Having said that, I can empathize with his emotions, but it did not go much farther than that. To relate this to one of my own experiences (which is actually not really mine), my grandmother used to tell me about her negative experiences in Libya before she moved to Israel in 1948. She would tell me about the Libyan that murdered her father by running over him and then backing over him again to make sure that he was dead (this was never confirmed), and about the British-freed concentration camps that she found herself in, and my grandfather and her brother reinforced these horror stories when they told me that their shops were closed down and synagogues were burned. I have no doubt in my mind that these events occurred, partially because I trust their memory and partially because I have read of these types of incidents. However, these memories, as trustable as they are, represent a slice of the bigger picture of what was going on in Libya between Jews and Muslims prior to and during the establishment of the State of Israel; there were most-likely times in Libya when Jews lived under tolerable circumstances, as they did in many of the other Arab countries at other times.

But none of this justifies the type of hate that the Minute Men have towards immigrants; it can be said that it is representative of a longer-standing issue that we have here in the United States, a view that white is the norm, and these types of things are very difficult to squeeze out of a society when they have already found shelter within it. It can be said that their resentment is justifiable on certain counts, but even the most despicable of opinions can be backed by certain truths and understandable emotion.

If we view the way that America came into existence, generally speaking, there was a hierarchy of European ethnicities, with Protestants being on top, then Catholics; English above the Irish, Italians, Poles, etc, and Jews were one of the lowest (although not all Jews are European). Then “people of color” came into play, and they “naturally” had a harder time fitting into this society. This social trend continued to play itself out, and it has been improved much in the last two-hundred and thirty years after America received its independence, although there is still room for improvement. The view that the Minute Men hold can be attributed to this view of white superiority, which comes with the notion that to be American is to be white.

However, there were small kernels of truth in some of the things that the Minute Men were saying, but to their misfortune, whatever small amounts of logic they had were obstructed by their racist ideals. Furthermore, the gentleman who made the video did not bother to recognize their perspectives and then logically discuss why there wrong, but rather portrayed them solely as caricatures with comical and dangerous points of view, totally dismissing any kernel of truth that they might have had, and if the audience had thought more critically, he might have drawn away from his own argument.

So if I were to filter out the racist garble advanced by the Minute Men interviewed in the video and tried to unearth some of logical motives behind their flawed perspectives (which should have been the job of the video-maker), I would say that they feel threatened. Why do they feel threatened? They feel threatened because people look out their window and judge reality by what they see and not by what happened before their lifetime. In reality, it would be good if people did that, but they don’t always. Even the dispossessed, versus the dispossessor, eventually need to grasp reality in light of the present and not of the past, only if for their own mental well-being. These Minute Men feel as if they are being encroached upon, and although this land was not originally theirs, it has become their land by proxy of living on it.

To make a relevant political analogy, Israel, the land of the Jews, has become considered “Arab land” simply because Arabs conquered and settled there after the 7th century, during the one-thousand eight-hundred and seventy eight year-long (70-1948) “hiatus” that was initiated by a Roman invasion. Christians and Muslims, amongst other peoples, subsequently invaded and fought over it on their own terms during this timeframe. Yet today, the international community believes that the establishment of an Arab Palestinian state on Israeli soil is thought of as being the only way for there to be peace in the region. The analogy would be like establishing an American “state,” more like an enclave really – “Minutemanistan,” where Minute Men (and Women) can live in peace. In a starkly similar way that Mexicans are considered illegal if found in America without identification, Jews are confined to “Israel Proper,” (that is, minus Gaza and the West Bank) and are considered obtrusive and illegal settlers, yet their presence clearly had high potential for improving the economy of the surrounding Palestinians. They have already been pulled out of these areas due to overwhelming international pressure, as well as American pressure, yet we have yet to see a policy that will force Mexicans to leave America. Israeli's have to conclude that this pullout was in their best interest, and considering all of their options, it was the best (and the only realistic) one.

American history and the sense of American patriotism was based on the settlement of land, and we cannot expect people to annihilate their sense of self-worth by denying their history, but we can expect them to allow others to succeed in that particular area of land. I would have liked if the speakers had spent more time talking about what the State of Mexico is able to do for its people rather than it having to be brought up by people in the audience in order to be addressed.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

To My Friend Avi, Regarding the Previous Post --

Avi, this is an article I got in an e-mail, thought you'd like to
read it.

Here's my thought on it (not like you asked for it, or anything). This guy seems right on, and do we really need Christians (who care about us) telling us how to be Jews?

It seems that Zionism, as an ideology, has finally revealed that it has some holes in it. Maybe this "revelation" is not so sudden for some people (all of whom I don't agree with), but it is more-or-less, more sudden for me. The major hole that I'm referring to is that Zionism ceases to make Israeli's proud of their absolute right to the land of Israel anymore. In other words, if Zionism is defiend solely as a cultural and social movement designed to allow Jews to live in their own nation as a free people, then the key point of Zionism is nationalism, and nations, especially diplomatic nations like Israel, give land for peace. I'm not criticizing it because it's true and sometimes has been necessary, but isn't this what we are supposed to tell people when they criticize Israel for being a pariah? Aren't we supposed to tell them that Israel has given land for peace?

The point is this, and you probably disagree, but Zionism, other than being fully agreeable on the essential principles that it brings up, is lacking when we realize that it doesn't motivate Jews (Israeli's) to stick to their land anymore The Jews that established Israel were awesome Zionists that weren't willing to give much up, but what's become of that ideology? It's no longer feasible because Israel doesn't give it much credibility as a policy (nor does the world). This means one of two things; either there are no longer anymore true Zionists, or something entirely different, that Zionism has run its course as being useful. I mean, essentially almost every citizen of Israel today is a descendant of people who were ardent Zionists, even the jerks at University of Haifa (such as Ilan Poopy) who rewrite history until I feel I want to puke.

This doesn't go to say that Zionism is completely incompatible with Judaism, for it is absolutely compatible with Judaism. Living in Israel is a Jewish thing to do, keeping the mitzvah's is a Jewish thing to do; these are well-known and don't even have to be discussed. However, what does need to be discussed is the opinion that Israel is "anti-Jewish" (in the religious sense) because it is not a theocracy, i.e., found the balance between life and religion, all of which will occur in the time of the Meshiach. When people (Jews) criticize Israel based only on religious criteria and completely ignore the national sentiments on the ground, they are essentially making the same mistake, and they are thinking in a way that is incompatible with life in Israel. Much of the time, although not always, these people have not really experienced Israel, and this is part of the reason behind their resistance to it. They would like to re-create Israel in their image as they see fit; if the people aren't ready for it, even though it is clearly their birthright, their Torah, and their commandments by Hashem, if they aren't ready for it, it's akin to an invasion of sorts, a cultural or even a religious invasion, and it can't be done, and won't work. Jews have to embrace Judaism.

Other times, they have experienced Israel as it is today, and sometimes this leads people to an informed decision based on the empirical evidence of life they've found there. In the end, however, it doesn't make sense to have a "Jewish boycott" of sorts on Israel, the country, because it is not (yet) Eretz Israel. It doesn't make sense to want to live in Israel but to boycott Judaism either.

Basically, everybody wants to make Israel what they want to make it without much regards to the other population, which makes this a Jewish problem.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

A Christian laments: So, Jews, you'll let the goyim win after all?

By Stan Goodenough -- November 29, 2005

According to the newspapers here in Israel, Jews are rejoicing because the International Federation of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent Societies (IFRCRC) has finally agreed to open its doors to the Red Shield (or Star) of David (Magen David Adom), the Israeli organization that offers services equivalent to the Red Cross and Red Crescent.

Ok, so there's a small catch: The Israelis cannot actually use their Red Star of David in this new arrangement, but must agree to a new symbol, a Red Crystal, inside which, for advertising purposes alone, they may now and then insert a small Star of David.

But hey, what's the big deal? I mean, the Israeli organization has been fighting for decades, almost pleading, to be recognized in the same way the Muslim world's Red Crescent Society been. And now, at last, it will be.

The fact that the Jews have to drop the symbol that represents their nation, their people, their history and their land, because the Red Cross and Red Crescent so demand it, well, that's really a small price to pay.

There's not much point in quibbling over a symbol, after all.

And what difference will it make if injured people are taken to hospital in an ambulance with a Red Crystal instead of a Magen David Adom emblazoned on its side?

Watching it speeding by, the Jews can be proud of the fact that once more they fulfilled their calling to be "a light to the nations" by giving in to those nations' demands and not insisting on what is justly, and rightfully, theirs.

Also, these days, the papers here in Israel are full of reports about Jews rejoicing for other, not dissimilar reasons. The majority of Israelis are apparently thrilled at the political revolution that is taking place before their eyes.

Finally they have a new party, a new leader, a new way to vote for. Hope is in the air, a strong leader is soon going to disengage them from the Palestinian Arabs, draw Israel's final borders and so, at long last, win for Israel a place of recognition and acceptance, and perhaps even some praise, in the world.

Ok, so again there's a small catch: To achieve this peace, this acceptance, the Jews cannot actually have the most important and cherished parts of their homeland. They have to let go the cradle of their nationhood, the burial places of their national patriarchs and heroes --Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Rachel, David -- they have to relinquish, for all time, their claims to Hebron and Shechem and Bethel and Bethlehem; the mountains of Samaria, the Judean hills and half of Jerusalem, "the eternal capital of the Jewish people."

But hey, for the sake of peace, this is surely a small price to pay. After all, Hebron, Shechem, the eastern part of Jerusalem -- all these places have many more Arabs than Jews living in them. Most the Jewish population of Israel actually already lives in the coastal plain between Jaffa and Haifa. Most of Israel's industries are located there too.

Surely, for the sake of peace, and in order that the Jews may enjoy the warm embrace of the Gentiles, severing those ancient roots and laying down those ancient claims is a really small price to pay?

And every time the Jews stop to gaze across the new border into Palestine, and remember with fondness, and perhaps even a few tears, the land to which they returned 39 years ago, with such delight and ecstasy after 20 centuries of longing and praying to be back, they will be able to console themselves that, once again, they fulfilled their calling to be or legoyim (a light to the gentiles) by appeasing their enemies and making unprecedented sacrifices to prove to all the world that they are -- and always have been -- serious about making peace.

But do you know what, Jews of Israel -- and those Jews still in exile who so fervently support this way? You may think that in so acquiescing, you are setting a glowing example to the nations of the world.

But as far as these nations are concerned, the last thing they will want to do is emulate you. All you are doing is proving them right in their long-held belief that you are illegitimate, land grabbing, not-to-be-trusted Yids.And, as far as the Muslim world is concerned, your actions only confirm their view of you as a dhimmi nation, fit only to be ruled over by, and subdued under, Islam.

Thus, with the creation of that new Arab state, the Muslims will have tightened the noose around Israel's then scrawny throat at Netanya, between Haifa and Tel Aviv. And, in their openly proclaimed and publicly published declaration of intent, this Muslim world spells out that this Palestinian state will be the most effective weapon and channel the Arabs have ever had to ensure the destruction of Israel.

If you, Jewish people, are so determined to race towards the precipice, ignoring, belittling, even shouting down the warning cries from those few who see the peril and -- with all the history of Jewish-Gentile relations to fuel our fears -- care enough to plead with you to halt this headlong dash towards your destruction, there is very little that we can do but cry out to your God to intervene as drastically as He may need to, to open your eyes and so save you.
Beauty Not in the Eye of the Beholder?

This maxim is a popular one, embraced by most well-to-do people who just want to live and let live. But, I have a problem with it, so I'm going to pick it apart until I can express what that problem is to the best of my ability.

Firstly, we have to understand that the underlying message of this quip is that there can be no label on beauty; nobody can say or decide for others what is beautiful and what is not. For the most part, this is true, because clearly the wide variety of human beings in this planet have different notions of what beauty is, in various countries and even within one country, heck, within families, within one individual!

But that's besides the point. Despite all of the variation within humanity as to the concept of beauty, we find that we are amazingly similar in many respects, perhaps more than the lover of the philosophy that is questioned in the title of this post would like to concede.

Take for example that the overwhelming majority of humanity finds beauty in somebody that loves them. Humans have a deep-seated need, expressed as a powerful desire, to connect with someone and to enjoin their lives together. Now, you can say that some people do not have this need, or seem not to have it, but nevertheless they still engage in forming relationships, usually relationships that last. You can love your parents, your family, your friends, etc, but there is a certain type of love that is only reserved for one type of person, the person who will know you more accurately than any other person in your life, and that person is your spouse; your wife or husband. Putting aside the many social problems that are leading marriage to become a more and more obsolete institution, in this country at least but in others as well, this deeply grounded human urge to connect in such a manner with one individual for the rest of their life, day in and day out, is hard to condition out of us.

This post is not particularly about marriage, but rather, I'm trying to show that beauty is not so much a relative concept as our modernized society tends to portray that it is. Beauty is not just relative, but definitely has an absolute aspect to it.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Ephron ben Zohar -- Ephron son of Zohar

About three thousand years ago, a Hittite man sold a cave in Israel to man named Abraham, which Abraham wanted to own in order to bury his recently-passed wife, Sarah, the matriarch and model for behavior of the Jewish people. The name of the Hittite that sold the cave to Avraham is "Ephron ben Zohar," and he wanted to give it to him for free, but Avraham insisted on paying for it, so Ephron sold it to him for 400 silver shekels. The reason for his insistence on paying for it was so that the people living around him would not contest that it didn't pass into his hands fair and square; Avraham was a known man in his time and place, and he was also quite wealthy. I remember standing in Israel a few years ago in an area, in a Jewish area, in contrast to a "Palestinian area," overlooking the area containing the Cave of Machpela (the previously mentioned cave)and imagined what the Cave actually looked like. Tourists can visit the Cave today in the Palestinian-run area of Chevron (or Hevron).

The patriarch of the Jewish people, Abraham, is also revered as a patriarch by the Muslim people, who value his sincerity and belief in (the One) G-d just as much as Jews do. Palestinians, and perhaps Muslims in general, who emphasize the importance of having total access to sites holy to them (and that nobody else, unless submitting to Muslim rule), see the town of Chevron as a Muslim, but particularly as a Palestinian town. This in part, is due to the fact that the religion of Islam defines all of the patriarchs and matriarchs, and prophets, in the Tanakh ("Old Testament," or "Jewish Bible") as "Muslims." This definition makes partial sense only because the Arabic language defines the word "Muslim" as a "submitter," one that completely submits his or her life to G-d. This submission, or totally putting yourself under G-d's rule, is as well a revered character trait in Judaism as well; the only difference is that Jews are aware that submitting to G-d does not make one a Muslim, otherwise, all the great Jews that I know, rabbi's and their wives and good people in general, are Muslims.

It would be interesting to trace the ideological transition of the site of Machpela from a place of religious significance for Jews to being considered an extremist Jewish outpost in the area of the future Palestinian state. Without doing alot of research on this, or writing a doctorate, I will attempt to trace this transition in very general and brief terms.

Israel itself, during the rule of King Saul, David, and subsequent kings, went through several border changes. In the 7th century Before Common Era, the Assyrians (to the north) invaded the Southern Kingdom. During the 5th century Before Common Era, the Babylonians invaded, and let's just say that the "demographics" of Israel changed; many of the Jews went into exile in Babylon, which geographically, is modern-day Iraq. The monarchy split into the Northern and Southern monarchies and became ruled by different sets of Jewish kings. The North was called "Judah" and the South was called "Israel," respectively named so after the tribes of Israel residing within those areas. The period of the monarchies of Israel was the last time that the Jews had a measure of autonomy in their own land, which is Israel.

As a quick aside, in the cultural sense, why do Jews even believe that Israel is their land? Are there not Jews that live in other countries? The answer is "yes," there are. However, neither Christianity or Islam, for example, believe in a land of origin, and the land is not essentially tied into the focal point of the religion. In other words, both Christianity and Islam revere certain sites, Nazareth and Bethlehem and Mecca and Medina respectively, but Christians do not see Israel as their homeland, and Muslims do not see Saudi Arabia as such. This is related to the fact that both Christianity and Islam believe that the world should adopt those respective religions, which means that its concentration to one place goes against the precepts of those religions. With Judaism, however, the belief is not that all the world needs to accept Judaism, but only a belief in the One G-d, which has certain necessary doctrines, such as His Oneness, but can be adopted and adapted to individual peoples' in their own ways. The focal point of Judaism is the return to Jewish autonomy in their land, where the Temple can be built and Jews' religious duties can be fulfilled. Christianity's doctrines especially, and not Islam's, seem to be rooted in the very destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, which is why Christianity acts as an opposing force to the religion of Judaism, trying to negate nearly every central concept about it. It's as if, in Islam's mind, Christianity was the hammer that broke the covenant between the Jews and G-d, and Islam stepped into to takes its place.

Lots of things happened in the next 656 years or so (586 BCE - 70 CE, Roman invasion), and Israel fell under foreign rule once again. Again, lots of land-changing happened under Roman Christian rule as well, with several political forces attempting to gain and regain control of the land. During the 7th century of the Common Era (about 1,300 years ago), some 700 years later, Islam formed as a religion, gained power, and removed the Byzantines (who themselves replaced the Romans). By now, the land and its various sites took on significance for Christians as well, partially who took over sites that were previously Jewish. When the Muslims got there, they had the pleasure of taking over sites that were once Jewish and then became Christian, which in their own minds, these conquests completed the status of these areas and coverted them to Muslim sites. This had deep religious signficance for the Muslims because they viewed their religion as the completed form of both Judaism and Christianity. If we criticize the Iraq war for having ill designs, we are not free from criticizing Islam's political behaviors during that specific time. Sure, it was a long time ago, but history is a continuing continuum, and the fact that it was a long time ago does not detach us from those events. In other words, the very events themselves are locked in time, but their effects are not, and we feel them today; Iraq wasn't Muslim before the spread of Islam, and Jews lived in modern-day Iraq nearly 1,300 years before both Christianity and Islam existed. So if time is of the essence, as it is in Arab culture, or in other words, that time can bound people to a land, Babylon/Iraq is Jewish.

Just an aside; people who hold the anti-war opinion sometimes say that to attack Iraq is to attack the place where civilization began, but for some strange reason it seems that they attach "dawn of civilization" with Islam. One our problems as Americas is that we associate "exotic" with "ancient" and "ancient" with "truth," and while "ancient" and "truth" have a certain correlation, something's exotic status does not make it ancient, and therefore exotic things are not necessarily representative of truth. Just because Muslim culture is older than ours does not make it the dawn of civilization and it does not make it truth. Jewish culture, for one, is far older than Muslim culture (and the basis of it), yet many of the same people that oppose the war believe that Israel should make room for the Palestinians to create their own state; isn't this an example of an older culture having to make room for a newer culture? How is this consistent? It is morally and logically wrong to venerate the exotic and strange just because it is exotic and strange. If Iraq is the dawn of civilization, it's because Abraham, the first Jew, was born in the city of Ur, in Iraq, and he brought monotheism to the world, and monotheism is the dawn of civilization as far as the West is concerned.

In 1948 of the Common Era, Israel was established as a state in the Middle East, some 1,200 years after Muslims arrived on the scene. The Muslims are grounded in a strong tradition of revering their patriarchs and matriarchs, which they have in common with Jews, but as I stated before, they are also grounded in a strong tradition of defining Jewish history as Muslim history, and therefore, the religion of Judaism was essentially doesn't exist, indicating in the Muslim mentality that all lands "previously" belonging to Jews and Judaism were no longer Jewish. They declared that this was the very will of G-d Himself. I will add more later, but Israeli, and then Palestinian nationalism, is essentially how the Cave of Machpela became considered to be a Palestinian site that restricts Jews from visiting or living in. Basically, Machpela, in Chevron, is treated the same way that Muslims treat all areas under their rule in Muslim and Arab countries; outsiders are not really welcome.

The patronizing factoid here is that Islam, as a religious force, places a high importance on its religious sites and demands total freedom in having access to them; anything less is an affront and direct insult to their religious, social, and political sensibilities. This however, especially in the last century or so, and arguably at other times, is not granted to Jews (or Christians), primarily in respects to Palestinian nationalism. In the "Palestinian territories," where bastions of almost complete lack of political order makes room for terrorism that kills Israeli's, Palestinians and poisons everyone involved, where many religious Jewish sites are located, these sites are seen as Muslim sites. This is made possible because the Muslim religion claims a monopoly on Biblical Jewish history, defining every figure in the Jewish narrative as "Muslim" and therefore allowing them to define Jewish holy sites as Muslim holy sites. For this reason, the Cave of Machpela, where Abraham, the first Jew, buried his wife Sarah and then was buried himself by his sons Isaac and Ishmael, is considered a Muslim holy site. Nazareth and Bethlehem, aside from being Jewish sites, are also Christian, but since Jesus was supposedly a Muslim, those sites are considered Muslim and are part of the Umma, which is the worldwide Muslim population.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

G-d and Evolution

When most people, at least in America, think about the G-d and evolution debate, if that's what you wanna call it, their mind automatically conjures up this image of a particular religious institution, in America's case, the (Catholic) Church going up against the scientific theories of the theory of evolution. And just like two pit bulls going at each other in a cage, people like to sit back and watch the fight, every once in a while throwing in a wager or a shout. The truth is, however, because it doesn't just involve the Church versus the institution of science. The Church vs. Evolution match doesn't really explain what's going on here, but in reality, humanity is at another one of those junctures in civilization, and the divergent paths are represented by theism (belief in G-d) and atheism.

The November 28th, 2005 issue of Newsweek featured an interesting article about Darwin and "his private views on science and G-d;" it turns out that before delving into the science of biology on his famous trip to the Galapagos Islands, Darwin "planned to enter the ministry."

In this post, I just wanted to point out some interesting things and to share my thoughts on them. The first thing I want to point out is that Darwin, who to some people serves as a guru of sorts, was not the ardent atheist that some point out him out to be. In fact, he went on his expeditions with a Bible at his side, and according to the article, "His own life exemplifies the painful journey from moral certainty to existential doubt that is the defining experience of modernity." The point that I'm trying to make is that the people that see Darwin as an ideologue and enemy of religion miss the fact that his works and research were in large part the works of a man who transitioned from belief in G-d to disbelief, and not that he received some sort of atheistic revelation upon his birth that opened his eyes to the truth. In a similar way, Karl Marx is revered by his modern-day "disciples" as being the sworn enemy of classist power conflict and capitalism, but at the same time ignore that his ideologies were shaped by his being a Jew in Europe, subject to mistreatment and sporadic poverty, and as well as being influenced by the very ideals of Judaism, which desire to see a world where the poor are taken care of by society. Those two are a poignant combination in the creation of Marx's ideology, and it is incredibly ironic that those who claim to know him most have no idea as to his origins or context, and interestingly enough, as a side note, dislike Jews. We must see historical figures in context.

"To a society accustomed to searching for the truth in the pages of the Bible, Darwin introduced the notion of evolution: that the lineages of living things change, diverge and go extinct over time, rather than appear suddenly in immutable form, as Genesis would have it," the article summarizes. Yet Darwin himself is quoted as saying, "One might really fancy that from an original paucity of birds in this archipelago, one species had been taken and modified for different ends." Here Darwin is giving plausibility to the notion that the abundance of slightly varied species that exist in our world today might have come from "one species" of bird, meaning that birds as such were created and from them came a widely varied form of birds. When referring to the different species of tortoises found on the Galapagos Archipelago, which would indicate that their differences could be explained by their adaptations to the varied environments, the article poses the question, "Did G-d, the supreme intelligence, deign to design distinctive shell patterns for the tortoises of each island?" The answer would be a resounding "yes."

And of course, we can't really get past the notion that although Darwin was eventually dissuaded from belief in G-d, that evolution itself posits the existence of a force of creation, be it morally neutral and disinterested. Could it be that Darwin's theory of evolution was a part and parcel of the struggle of a formerly religious man finding himself with a belief in G-d, yet unable to get a tight grasp on why suffering is so prevalent in this world? Could it be that the theory of evolution, as Darwin explains it, is the "disinterested G-d?" The article says, "To a world taught to see the hand of G-d in every part of Nature, Darwin suggested a different creative force altogether."

"William Howarth, an environmental historian who teaches a course at Princeton called 'Darwin in Our Time,' dates Darwin's doubts about Christianity to his encounters with slave-owning Christians - some of them no doubt citing Scripture as justification - which deeply offended Darwin, an ardent abolitionist." I would add, on my own, that not only would he have been offended as an "ardent abolitionist," but very likely due to his belief in that Scripture, much like a Muslim who ardently opposes the suicide bomber's claim that the Q'uran allows the killing of political opponents.

For instance, "Darwin was troubled by theodicy, the problem of evil; how could a benevolent and omnipotent G-d permit so much suffering in the world h(H)e created?" The truth is that many believers are troubled by the same issue. We are free beings, and if a morally neutral, yet creative, force makes more sense to us in a world of pain, suffering, and strife than a G-d who knows and cares, then we are free to invent one. While not undermining Darwin's pain, much of which was caused by his ten-year old daughter, Annie, who died from tuberculosis in 1851, we can create that god.

Interestingly, "In mainstream Christian seminaries the dominant view according to Holmes Rolston III, a philosopher at Colorado State University and author of 'Genes, Genesis, and G-d,' is that the Biblical creation story is a poetic version of the scientific account, with vegetation and creatures of the sea and land emerging in the same basic order. In this interpretation, G-d gives h(H)is creation a degree of autonomy to develop on its own." Rolston points to Genesis 1:11, where G-d, after creating the heavens and the Earth, says, 'Let the Earth put forth vegetation..." "[But] the account describes a G-d who opens up possibilities in which creatures are generated in an Earth that has these rich capacities."

Furthermore, the writer of the article, Jerry Adler, submits the opinion that human perception of G-d could be a by-product related to a certain point in the development
of the human brain, which biologically speaking, was only made possible at that certain point. If we think about this a bit further, we can come to the empirical standpoint that simpler organisms, such as bacteria, do not have a concept of self, and can say that as an organism becomes more developed and intricate, it eventually forms this perception of self. Once that occurs, the creature can then try to focus on this state of existence, which then allows it to focus on its relationship with beings external to it, those who surround it. Finally, it is able to perceive a pervasive existence that lingers externally to both it and to the other beings; this is G-d.

We know that before Judaism became a religion, people practiced various forms of polytheism. The Talmud (Jewish Oral Law) derives that before this, however, that these people actually perceived and believed in one Being that was defined by complete oneness, but eventually "broke It down" into several. For example, the first generation believed that the One existed, the second believed that they could honor It by honoring its creations, and the third believed that they could cease to direct honor towards It, and began to worship Its creations. Thinking about this, we can conclude that this is precisely the way in which the belief in several deities began; each deity marked and represented a variant force of nature, be it fire, fertility, or death. The traditionally-used analogy is that of light, which appears to the human eye as white light, and when broken by water, for example, appears a wide array of colors, which are pleasing to the eye. Continuing the analogy, each varying color then, is a deity, and the white light, of course, is G-d. This is why deities are so "colorful" and animated, interesting, and alluring; they are more pleasing to the eye than a mere white. Their downfall, however, is that they are a mere representation of the truth, a figment.

The point is that, once humanity was able to perceive this externality, it understood its oneness, but eventually, due to the overwhelming varying nature of nature itself, made the honest mistake of believing that there was an abundance of spiritual existences (or deities) paralleling the abundant existences of nature. Judaism, to compare and contrast, believes that all of the Earth's elements are not separate entities, but invisibly connected, ultimately indicating the oneness of spiritual existence; the One G-d. All, then, is a by-product of this Oneness; Heaven and Earth, and all humanity. Some of these people even believed that there was a father or mother deity whom created all the rest, which is consistent with the belief of the perception of One. According to this view, our biological development itself led to our belief in G-d, and if the theory of evolution that a species survives or dies out according to the usefulness or uselessness of characteristics that it possesses is correct, then the human ablility to perceive G-d is a sign of our evolved state.

*** There is an excellent book about this very topic written by a Jew named "Gerard Schroeder," and it is titled "The Science of G-d." Don't take my word for it, but it is amazing and incredibly rich in acclaimed scientific discoveries and traditional Jewish texts, such as Genesis and the Sage, Nachman(ides), or the "Ramban."

Thursday, November 17, 2005

"Yes" to Noah, "No" to Jesus... --

Today I visted my old place of work to buy some food to put into my digestive tract. There I ran into my old manager, a devout Christian, while she was loading some ice cream into the fridge in the aisle nearest the wall in the back. I said "howdy" she said "hi." As usual, the conversation led to religion, I'm not exactly sure how this time. She told me that the Gentiles were grafted into the Covenant and that it wasn't just us anymore. If I wasn't polite, and if she would listen, I would have said that the Gentiles weren't grafted into the Covenant, but rather that they smacked the living daylights out of us with the backside of a shovel and yanked it from us, hehe! All they had to do was ask, I mean, maybe we would have said, "yes." Afterall, the Jews spoke about G-d for thousands of years sending "golden invitations" before some Gentiles finally decided to get themselves some G-d. And seriously, there's enough of Him to go around!

The truth is that Christians don't need Jesus anymore than they need Christina Aguilera; who they really need is Noah.

If you don't already know, long before the television show "Survivor," G-d chose Noah and his family to be the only survivors on Earth after the flood; and from them, the entire world was repopulated. This was a Covenant that G-d established with Noah and his family, who guess what, are the forefathers and foremothers of every single nation in the world. This includes, guess who, Jews and Gentiles alike.

Now Noah, the modest and righteous fellow that he was, despite some short-comings, had three pretty good sons; Shem, Ham, and Yafet. As it turns out, from Shem descended Abraham, with whom G-d also made a Covenant. But before this Covenant was made, G-d made a Covenant with every single nation of the world and with every single individual from those nations; only later was the Covenant with honest Abe made. Putting this into context, Jesus is also a descendant of Abraham, and therefore of Shem, making himself a recipient of that Covenant that G-d made with the Jews at Mt. Sinai. Christians like to say that they were grafted into the Covenant of the Jews through Jesus (I think that Paul coined this notion, not even Jesus), but in reality, they were "grafted" into the Covenant before it was even made with the Jews; chew on that one! If we wanted to, we might even be able to say that it was the Jews who were grafted onto the original covenant that G-d made with Noah; chew on that one a bit too! Maybe we are the branch and the Gentiles are the trunk? Hmmm, keep chewing and you'll eventually blow a bubble. Wait, does that actually make sense? Yes, it does.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Sent to me by my Cousin Adam, Hahaha... --
Contact author at

Left-wing Judeo-Christians, also known more commonly as messianic-Jews, or recently dubbed, Yids for Yashka, have taken monumental steps in their authentic piety. Straight from the heart of the bible-belt, in the capital of Oklahoma, a group of kippah donning, mezuzah kissing, Hebrew hollering Christians have written a new book of dietary laws. Of their interesting revelations, they argue that if a kosher animal such as a cow, could be made unkosher when butchered or later in the process of elaboration, that an unkosher animal, such as a pig, could surely be made kosher.

The logic behind this seemingly superficial argument lies at the depths of another current scientific debate; genetically modified organisms. Scientists in the Netherlands, some of which participated in the creation of the infamous Dolly, have stated that they could create a swine that indeed "Chews its Cud."

These Midwest fanatics, who are outcasts of both Judaism and Christianity, interpret passages from the Torah (The Old Testament), in a way that would not prohibit the ingestion of this hybrid marvel of modern science, due to its possession of split hooves and its knack for cud grubbing.

Despite what sounds like a happy ending for Hasidim who can now chow down on bacon-covered latkes this year at Hanukkah, one small obstacle has smashed all their hopes for the time being. Although this wacky sect of Christians, acting like Jews, spend countless hours learning Hebrew, studying Halacha (Jewish law), and observing daily rituals, they have failed to produce a qualified kosher butcher.

The following ad was sent to Chabad headquarters in Brooklyn, NY: Observant Jews in Oklahoma City searching for shochet. (yada yada yada)
Contact Information: Yehuda Christiansen
Spiritual Leader of Meshichistic community

Needless to say, no self-respecting Rabbi would preform the bloody sin of slaughtering a pig, leaving the Yids for Yashka swineless and mindless. As a plea to all the readers out there: If you or anyone you know is a certified Shochet, either by a recognized Jewish institution or by the Vatican, please help these hungry souls find some real pork lovin'.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Abuse of Nature

Oh marijuana, 'tis so stupid, sayeth it with me.

I was watching the news the other day and saw that a guy and his father here in Tucson were busted for basically turning their house in a marijuana factory. Seriously, they showed a diagram from a bird's eye view of the house and it was like watching a Cheech and Chong movie and I began to chuckle as I watched it.

As I saw the picture of the man and his father on the screen, I realized that marijuana, like many other chemical substances, appeals to the basest primal urge in man, to alter his state of consciousness through chemical intervention.
The appeal is broad, obvious, and universal; there is a strong human desire to escape this world, even if just for a short while -- enter marijuana. When I saw their pictures on the screen, I got an image in my mind of two erratic homo-erecti jumping around and screaming while under the influence of a chemical that they extracted from a plant, which could have been used for a series of other things, or perhaps was not intended to be used for anything. The only is that these two monkeys were human beings; let THEM serve as a testament to our true nature as animals, I won't take any part in it. Does it occur to anyone that the influence that a drug has on the mind is a result of the nervous systems losing control, freaking out, and trying to get a grasp on what just happened? If you introduced an electrical equivalent of a drug into a computer, it would shut down temporarily; hardly an indication of enhancement.

The point is this; pot, for some odd reason, has become a pillar of the pseudo-free- thinkers association, the people that advocate for marijuana.

I just don't get it, what can be so positive about marijuana that it needs a fan base?

Some people say that marijuana is good for cataracts, but unless you are eighthy years old and are living the last years of your life, doctors won't be rolling prescription doobies (spelling?) for you while listening to Bob Marley. So scratch that one.

Then there's the brilliant argument that since the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp, somehow smoking marijuana is an inherent part of being a free American. There is no connection. News to you chaps, had the framers of the Constitution been alive today, they probably would have differed with you on many points considering marijuana. I don't care what Phish says, you can't get high smoking hemp. Scratch that one.

Peter Tosh in "Legalize It" mentions that birds eat it. I guess this somehow implies that smoking marijuana is natural; the only problem is that birds eat it, they eat it as part of their diet to survive. If you were stuck on an island that only had marijuana plants, then yes, I would advocate eating it. Isn't it funny, you'd get the munchies and what would you eat? MORE MARIJUANA! Oh, that Peter Tosh has made a pot-head out of me! Scratch that one.

He also mentions that doctors and lawyers smoke it. I recall my mom asking me when I was younger if all my friends jumped off a cliff, would I? Listen to Mom, unless she tells you smoke pot. Scratch that one (thanks Mom).

It also reminds me of the ethics professor that was caught having an affair with a student. When asked how he could do such a thing, being an ethics professor, he responded, "I only teach it, I don't need to practice it." This is just a paraphrase. Some doctors and lawyers also cheat on their wives or husbands or get busted for child-porn, so we should do that too? Scratch that one, I don't care what doctors or lawyers do, unless they provide me with needed organs or defend my a55.

Then you have the Bob Marley argument, which comes with the reggae culture. In reality, the reggae culture is pretty socially conscious, but the Marley afficionados who get all kinds of high on the ganja while relaxing to "Rastaman Vibration" can't be socially conscious because they aren't even conscious half the time! I myself am a real Marley fan, especially in high school, but was never into the pot. Try getting into what Bob Marley was saying without filling your lungs with cannabis particles. Do you get all wigged out on heroin because the lead-singer of Stone Temple Pilots did?

The argument that makes alot of sense, and I am shocked by this one because it actaully relates to justice, is that in the early 1900's, the American government outlawed marijuana on the basis that it was associated as being a Mexican trade. This led to a culture of "marijuana demonization," which was really racially motivated, and led to movies such as "Reefer Madness" and other media explaining the overt dangers of the drug. Clearly, it was wrong on the count of racism, but those that bring it up think that somehow their desire for social consciousness for Mexican-Americans in the early 1900's will justify their desire to get high. If you wanna get high, get high, just admit that it makes you feel good, and don't beat around the bush (or the plant). How many Mexican-Americans oppose the usage of marijuana and its legalization?

And hey, I'm an Orthodox Jew, so I can't leave out the G-d argument. This is actually an argument against it. A human can exist in a state closer to G-d by keeping their mind pure. In reality, mind-altering drugs are just one form of obstruction, or "klippah," which means "shell." Of course, it's not limited to drugs; some other obstructions are anger and violence, over-indulgence, misuse of sexual intimacy, disorder, and any form of addiction.

The spiritual argument FOR marijuana, and yes, there is one, is quite unfounded; it states that the Cohanim (the Priestly caste of the Levites) burned marijuana in the Holy of Holies to increase their spiritual communion with G-d. This however, is a bizarre notion because the Torah, with its separation between pure and impure things, is the source of this truth. Furthermore, the Talmud identifies the types of spices that were burned during this ceremony, which were present for a good smell (one of them was honey). So scratch that one.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Tohu va'Vohu

This blog is dedicated to a comical depiction of the silly forms of manipulation that are a part of the realm of conversion tactics.

OK, the first ones that I need to talk about are about those missionaries and "Jews for Jesus" that try to get Jews to come over to the "light side." In the past couple of years, maybe even the last decade, Christian missionaries have adopted Jewish terminology, some religious, some cultural, to pull Jews over into the vortex of Christianity, like sheep to the water. However, it turns out like sheep to the slaughter, but in the spiritual sense - because the water is Torah.

One of the main tactics is to try to make alienated Jews, and those with limited Jewish educational backgrounds, feel comfortable in the realm of Christianity by using Jewish and Hebrew words, such as “Brit Chadasha,” (New Covenant) and the Hebrew versions of the names of the Gospels; “Matityahu” for "Matthew" and “Yochanan” for "John," for example, and my personal favorite, “Yeshua” for “Jesus.” I wonder when they will start using my inventions; “Aveirah Rishonah” (Original Sin), “Nolad be'Teshuva” (Born Again), the "Lo-Meshiach" (anti-Christ) and “Esh Tamid” (Eternal Hell).

One that I find particularly funny is the use of “Yiddishisms,” Judaic slang usually associated with Hebraic culture, such as the notorious bagels and lox, which will accompany one well in a place where the soul will have an eternal fire by which to bake them; time to stock up on kosher marshmallows. The Israelites that eat Islamic foods are safe from these missionaries because they don't understand Yiddishisms. Therefore, I propose that a group of Christian Arabs disband into the Levant armed with Britot Chadashot in Judeo-Arabic and Judeo-Arabicisms, the Islamic version of Yiddishisms.

And who says that only those who believe in the Triune god be limited to missionari'ism? After the "New Israelites" put down the cross and carried the sword, they eventually put down the sword and picked up the pen, and I believe that our Mohammedan friends are ripe for the picking as well.

For example, I want to introduce some new terms into the conversion lexicon. For example, Muslims can try to convince Christians as to the truth of Islam by presenting themselves as “Christians for Muhammad,” or “Infidels for Islam,” which can apply to Jews, Sabians, polytheists, and other kuffar, or infidels. Christians can use some of these ideas for new terms, such as “Kuffar for Christ,” a Christian counter-missionary group targeting Muslim missionaries to see the truth of Christian missionary work, and in turn, counter-counter missionary Muslim groups operating under the name “Kuffar for Christ, the Muslim,” which will try to get Muslims that were originally trying to get converts, became Christian missionaries, and to re-accept the yoke of Islam. Their work can be found in the pamphlet, “Jesus, the Hebrew Christian Israelite Jew Messiah who believed in the Final Prophet, Muhammad,” and entails, with fiery conviction as to the truth of Islam, their journeys.

I must say that my personally favorite group is "Goyim for G-d," ironically started by a Noachide named Noach in Newport Beach, California.

There are also the Eastern movements, with groups such as "Hindu's for Hashem," and "Buddhists for 'Baruch Ata'."

I personally have stopped calling myself an Orthodox Jew and have joined the Jewish missionary group that I consider to be the term that defines me the best, “Muslimun ila Musa,” (Muslims for Moses) which was started by Yussuf al-Qutb, the Chassidic Jew that converted to Islam, denounced Israel, supported Chamas, and then one day saw a Passover Seder held by “Jews for Jesus” and was inspired by the truth of Judaism, causing him to return to a Torah-observant lifestyle.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

"Go and Show the Zionists..." --


Iranian state television has broadcast a cartoon that glorifies suicide bombings against Israelis, depicting a young boy blowing himself up after being told, "go and show the Zionists how brave and heroic are the children of Palestine," the London-based Telegraph reported.

According to the report, the cartoon, one of a series shown by the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting on "Jerusalem Day" nine days ago, presents the actions of a boy who commits suicide to strike back against Israelis as a noble example for children to follow.

The Telegraph says the cartoon appears to be professionally produced and more graphic than previous Iranian propaganda aimed at children, adding that the cartoon appears to be part of a campaign led by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to elevate the issue of Israel's annihilation.

At the start of the 10-minute animated film, translated into English by the Middle East Media Research Institute (Memri), Abd al-Rahman, a Palestinian youth, watches as Israeli soldiers murder his family.

They are depicted laughing as they strike his mother in the face with a rifle and then shoot his father, whose blood splashes the oranges on the trees he cultivated.

Abd consoles his sister and weeps, declaring: "Oh God, I must take revenge upon these bloodthirsty aggressors, who murdered my father, mother and brother." His cousin Karim introduces him to a neighbor's son, Jassem, who is a member of a "resistance group."

Jassem instructs the boys to take part in an attack against Israeli
soldiers, applauding their "deep faith" and telling them that they "may become martyrs".

Abd's aunt bids the boys a tearful farewell. "God willing, you'll be
successful," she says. "Go, my children. Go and show the Zionists how brave and heroic are the children of Palestine."

As he lies in wait, Abd ties a string of grenades around his waist.
The convoy approaches and the cartoon shows satanic-faced Israeli soldiers sitting in a lorry around an ammunition box decorated with a Star of David.

Abd shouts, "I place my trust in God. Allah Akbar," pulls the
grenade pins and leaps onto the lorry. When the smoke clears, the
bodies of Abd, the Israeli troops and the attackers are strewn
around the road.

A young Palestinian boy then walks over to Abd's body, takes his
bloodstained keffiyeh head-dress, drapes it over his own shoulders
and walks off into the sunset.

'Gory stuff'

The Telegraph quoted Dan Shaham, a spokesman for the Israeli embassy
in London, as saying "the phenomenon of inciting children to commit suicide attacks is revolting. It corrupts young minds and makes sure conflict continues. President Ahmadinejad is not only dangerous in the here-and-now but the Iranian extremist ideology is affecting future generations. Something needs to be done today."

Ali Ansari, an Iranian analyst at St Andrew's University, told the
Telegraph that the cartoon was "gory stuff" and different from previous anti-Israeli propaganda.

"It's interesting they've gone to these lengths to develop a cartoon like this that is obviously directed towards kids.

"Anti-Zionism is one of the ideological pillars of the Islamic
republic. But Ahmadinejad's comments went beyond the standard ideological diet, because by implication they applauded suicide bombers and condemned anyone who makes peace with Israel."

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Wonders of Tzitzit

If you're going to read this, don't expect anything from on par with Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's short essay on tzitzit, although I do recommend that you read anything by him, specifically his anthologies. Instead, I intend to list the many wonders of tzitzit and why it is absolutely magnificient to wear them.

1) You can always bust out in an impression of Tevya in Fiddler on the Roof, and if your impression is less than good, at least you are wearing tzitzit.

2) They look good.

3) My friend Danny said that I look like the reincarnation of Matisyahu, which is funny because he's alive.

4) They remind you of your obligation to G-d.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Fallacies --

Let’s talk about fallacies, a word that I learned in a logic class that I took a while back. The class was very good, we learned how to think. Fallacies are statements that are logically sound but not necessarily true. For example, I can say that “The 6-Day War is the cause of Palestinian suffering.” If one were to hear this statement and then be shown pictures of places where Palestinians live, they might come to the conclusion that this is true without a doubt. This statement is a good example of a fallacy because it can be shown that Palestinian suffering occurred due to the 6-Day War, i.e., the War occurred and then suffering occurred. However, it can also be shown that Jordan, Egypt, and Syria started the War, and when they did, they did not have the fate of the Palestinians in mind and therefore they are also implicated in the suffering of the Palestinians. In other words, the 6-Day War led to Palestinian suffering, but the Arab attack on Israel led to the 6-Day War. The original statement cannot be said to be false, but it can be said to be omitting an important piece of information, which is just one type of fallacy out of many.

The fallacies that I want to discuss in this post are those that I have noticed in my life pertaining to Christian attitudes towards Judaism. I wouldn’t say much about them if it wasn’t for the fact that many of these attitudes completely contradict what I know to be true about Judaism through my experience living as one. As we can see from the original example, fallacies can be very damaging because they shape perceptions into the desired form, and much of the time, people whose perceptions are already (mis)shaped advance those same fallacies. Many of them are made and advanced not because they are necessarily true, but because many of them, if they were true, would necessitate and justify Christianity, and since Christianity stands on many of the fallacies that it has produced about Judaism, it must treat them as the G-d – given truth.

Before I go on, it must be said that one type of fallacy is stating a statement as if it were purely true and not stopping to consider or attempt to demonstrate if that statement truly is true. For example, I said that “Christianity stands on many of the fallacies that it has produced about Judaism,” which is a fallacy itself. Of course, this doesn’t mean that it’s not true. It’s a fallacy because I’m assuming that those specific pillars of Christianity are misrepresentative of Judaism, but it might be that some of them are accurate depictions. To show that it’s not a fallacy, I’ll have to show that those statements are not entirely true.

My friend Arielle has a text book for one of her religion classes, in which I found several fallacies about Judaism. The title of the book, authored by Gustavo Gutierrez, is “On Job; G-d – talk and the Suffering of the Innocent.” The introduction, to put it kindly, is chock full of fallacies; none new, but persistent. In the introduction, with the subtitle “Revelation and Theological Method,” Gutierrez writes, “The point I have just made leads me to discuss two connections as I begin these pages on talk about G-d. 1) The first is the relationship between revelation and gratuitousness. Christ reveals that the Father who sent him on a universal mission of G-d is love.” This statement is saying two things. The word “gratuitousness” also means “grace,” which is the primary Divine characteristic that Christianity, accredited to their belief in Jesus’ teachings, attribute to G-d. The first thing, therefore, is that “revelation and gratuitousness” refers to Jesus’ revelation of
G-d’s grace, of course, which he revealed through himself. In a matter of speaking, it was G-d then that revealed grace. This is the way it can be viewed portraying the relationship of revelation and grace within the scope of Christianity.

The relationship that Gutierrez speaks about can also be as having another meaning, and that is that “revelation” refers to G-d’s revelation of His instruction, the Torah, in what Christian’s call “Old Testament,” and “gratuitousness” referring to His grace, takes the place of revelation; and this is the New Testament. The “relationship” that he refers to, and not so very subtly, is of replacement, also known as “supersessionism,” in which one religion replaces another. “The revelation assigns a privileged place to the simple and the despised, as Jesus made clear; ‘I thank thee, Father, L-rd of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will’ (Matt. 11:25-26).” (Gutierrez) The fallacy exists due to the belief that G-d possesses unconditional love for all humanity, which Christianity goes to great lengths to prove by contrasting Judaism’s supposed belief that G-d only loves and cares about the Jews. Therefore, if G-d is a kind and unconditionally loving G-d and chooses all, then Gutierrez’s statement that “The revelation assigns a privileged place to the simple and the despised, as Jesus made clear…” goes against the very nature that Christians try to emphasize about Christianity, the teaching that they attribute to Jesus himself, which was G-d’s “gracious will.”

Monday, October 31, 2005

The United Nations Works Relief Association is Not Associated with Relief and does not Work --

Arlene Kushner, THE JERUSALEM POST Oct. 27, 2005

As the United Nations celebrated its 60th anniversary this fall with a dramatic World Summit, supposedly sweeping reform proposals sought to remove the cloud of corruption and mismanagement surrounding the organization. Unfortunately, the proposed reforms do not really address the UN's most egregious fault: placing politics before humanitarian goals.

Nowhere is this more visible than in the case of UNRWA, the UN agency dedicated solely to caring for Palestinian Arab refugees. Palestinian refugees - singularly among all refugee groups - enjoy the support of their very own UN agency: The United Nations Relief and Works Agency. All other refugee groups receive assistance from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

Since 1951, UNHCR has worked within the regulations of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees to find long-term, "durable" solutions to refugee crises. Through legal
protection and emergency relief, UNHCR has successfully helped more than 25 million people restart their lives.

For Palestinian refugees, however, no durable solution has been found in the 50-plus years since their problems began. Originally numbering between 500,000 and 750,000, Palestinian refugees now number more than 4 million, most of whom live in or near one of 59 camps in five countries. Their plight's implications extend far: The Palestinian refugee problem stands squarely in the way of achieving peace in the Middle

Understanding the unique phenomenon of Palestinian refugees, however, requires first understanding just how anomalous the institution designed to assist them is.

UNRWA WAS established by General Assembly Resolution 302 in December 1949. From the outset, the agency had an extraordinary degree of autonomy, largely due to pressure from the UN's Arab bloc. It was thus free to set its own definitions and guidelines - which were markedly different from those of UNHCR.

For example, UNRWA defines Palestinian refugees as "persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948, who lost both their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict."

By contrast, the UNHCR definition - recognized as the international norm - describes a refugee as someone who "is outside his/her country of nationality or habitual residence; has well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion; and is unable or unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country, or to return there, for fear of persecution."

By emphasizing "country of nationality or habitual residence," UNHCR clearly intends to exclude the transients embraced by UNRWA's definition - people who had only recently arrived in Palestine from neighboring Arab countries in search of work. Moreover, while UNHCR seeks to prevent expansion of its definition in ways that would encourage its improper use for political ends, UNRWA has done just the opposite: Not only has it declined to remove the status of refugee from people who no longer fit the original description, such as the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians granted full citizenship by Jordan, but it indefinitely confers refugee status on refugees' descendants.

By expanding its already problematic refugee definition, UNRWA guarantees that the problem will remain ever-growing, and thus ever-worsening. For some Arab leaders this may be precisely the aim: So long as the Palestinian refugee problem is visible and acute, Israel remains a convenient scapegoat on which the region's ills can be blamed.

Such differing definitions, unsurprisingly, lead to divergent policies. Indeed, by refusing to consider any resolution other than that demanded by the Arab world - the "right of return" to Israel - UNRWA has effectively denied Palestinian refugees an end to their unwanted status, the very goal UNHCR takes as its raison d'etre with regard to the refugees that fall within its mandate.

OUTSIDE THE Arab world, it is widely accepted among the international community that an influx of over four million Palestinian refugees into Israel is neither a realistic nor an acceptable goal. Given this, it is remarkable that Palestinian Arab refugees have never been offered a means of resettlement.

With the notable exception of Jordan, the Arab world has denied citizenship to Palestinian refugees and their descendants, many of whom have been born and raised in these countries. UNRWA itself has never promoted resettlement, nor pressured Arab countries into meeting their responsibilities toward these refugees.

Instead, UNRWA has followed a policy of reinforcing refugees' collective attachments to their places of origin. A flagrant example of this policy is the manner in which UNRWA has thwarted offers to Palestinian refugees of permanent housing outside refugee camps.

In 1985, for example, Israel attempted to move refugees into 1,300 permanent housing units near Nablus - without demanding that they relinquish the "right of return." Yet the UN intervened, asserting that "measures to resettle Palestine refugees in the West Bank away from the homes and property from which they were displaced constitute a violation of their inalienable right of return."

OF ALL UNRWA's problems, however, the most serious is links to Palestinian terror. According to a 2003 report by the US General Accounting Office, for example, UNRWA employees were arrested and convicted by Israeli military courts of throwing firebombs at an Israeli public bus, possessing bomb-making materials, and transferring chemicals to assist in bomb-making.Former Israeli Ambassador to the UN Dore Gold saw shahid (martyr) posters in the homes of UNRWA workers during a visit to Jenin in April 2002.

"It was clear," he said in a December 2003 interview, "that UNRWA workers were doubling as Hamas operatives."

This should hardly have come as a surprise. As PA Minister of Labor Ghassan Khatib remarked in February 2002, every young man in UNRWA's Balata refugee camp had his own personal weapon because the local steering committee - an official UNRWA body - voted that charitable donations would be used for guns rather than food or other relief.

Whether UNRWA is afraid to interfere with terrorist activity in its camps, or whether it has become so entrenched in the terrorist infrastructure as to be effectively indistinguishable from it, the evidence is clear that an agency mandated to serve a humanitarian purpose has been drafted to further a militant political agenda.

The UN Refugee Convention established international standards with respect to refugees. In its deviation from these it is clear that UNRWA is not only unhelpful to the Palestinian refugee issue, but actually detrimental. Those nations interested in finding a genuine, viable solution to the Palestinian refugee problem, a sine qua non for peace in the Middle East, should be encouraged to work toward the termination of UNRWA's mandate and, in its stead, the application of UNHCR policies to the Palestinian refugee issue.

The writer, a Jerusalem-based journalist, has written four reports on UNRWA for the Center for Near East Policy Research. A longer version of this essay appears in the current issue of Azure (

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Why do they Expect us to be Sensitive? --

No fanfare here, I just wanna jot down some thoughts. After 9/11, and perhaps before, the American Jewish population revealed itself as having both leftist and rightist components -- I personally leaned a tad to the right, which is I want to comment on.

OK... I'm going to my best to expose a mental fallacy on the part of society, American in this case, since I live in America. The latest talk in the last few years is that the Bush Administration has waged a war against Muslims, and some people have gone so far as to say that it's "Nazi styled" in the way that Hitler went after Jews. Personally, I think that these people are as guilty of banging the war drum as they say George Bush Jr. is, except that their beat sucks.

Here's my (kosher and halal) beef with this whole thing; some people, it seemed, expected all Jews to herd over to the left side of the political spectrum, maybe because Jews are traditionally liberal or something like that, or because we were the prime target in the Holocaust. Most ironically, those people only confirmed that just in time to pose the question as to why Jews were not speaking out against this more loudly, not to mention, religious Jews. It didn't happen, many left-leaning Jews left streaks of fire over to the right side, and many Jewish former liberal super-heroes, such as David Horowitz, saw the forest through the trees, and when they saw that liberals were burning them down, their "compatriots," they ditched that party.

The Jews that became right-leaning did so for many reasons, but my particular reason was because, "Hey, where all the liberals when Muslims, particularly Palestinian homicide bombers, were bombing the B'Isa out of civilian Israeli's as a part of their murderous and imperialistic designs on the land of Israel?" The chicken soup had been bubbling for some years now, with liberal voices, being led by the more extremists of the spectrum, producing more poison than was imaginable (at the time) from a supposedly sensitive and compassionate world view. Israel, per Arafat's propaganda, became the Devil in disguise, and the Palestinians became Jews.

Then 9/11 happened and many opinions became crystallized, while many others fell into confusion. The liberal anti-Israelism/anti-Semitism of the past few years, having metastasized, now being met with 9/11 and the opinions, fact-finding, and revelations that occured afterwards, caused many a Jew to explore their conservative roots. It's not that Jews hate Muslims, in fact, the amount of liberal Jews who spoke out (and speak out) for Muslims rights in America probably hasn't dwindled much since 9/11; it's just that Israel-loving Jews, having become fed up with Palestinian behavior towards Israel and the general Muslim and Arab silence (sometimes outspoken support) towards it were in agreement with many of Bush's policies.

But many Jews felt betrayed by liberalism, and liberals felt betrayed that those Jews were defending Israel. Liberals didn't raise a finger when innocent Israeli Jews were being murdered by Palestinians, but they screamed bloody murder when we attacked Iraq and when the Bush Administration instituted racial profiling for Arabs in the United States. They condemned Israel to an anarchist-atheist version of Dante's seventh ring of Hell for setting up road-blocks to keep two-legged post-adolescent Palestinian bombs from walking into Israel Proper, but they also condemned America for a similar fate for doing something much more moderate - racial profiling. This was the straw that broke the wowsers out of the camel's back; if racial profiling was a cardinal sin, then holy garbanzo beans, conservative (in the political sense) Jews had better start accepting N.C., Noam Chomsky, as their personal savior!

The real question is, "Why should Jews have been sensitive," that is, towards "what the Bush Administration was doing?"

Friday, October 28, 2005

G-d's Little Quirks

I was driving down to the UofA, a little down, randomly tuned my radio to 92.1, which came in with a bit of static, and a familiar song was just beginning; Matisyahu's "King Without a Crown," and in the words of Danny Brandis, he was "Yiggy yiggy yo'ing" all over the stage. This lifted my spirits.

When I got to the UofA parking lot, I was looking for a place to park, but the place was pretty full. Finally, quite far from where I normally park, I saw a girl walking and I asked her if she was leaving, and she said "Yes" as she got into her car. However, the person behind me, who was perfectly lined up with her car, was going to take her spot when she left. Seeing no point in getting a confusing attempt at telepathy with the driver behind me, I avoided this and drove forward and around to the right to find another spot, not looking back at all.

Just then, I thought I saw a person get into a car, although I wasn't completely sure. Just then, I heard a car start, looked to my left, and I was perfectly lined up with a car that was backing out. I backed up a bit to give him space, he pulled out, I parked, and now I'm here writing this blog.

What other proof do we need of the existence of G-d?

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Speaker in my Class

I just came back from one of my classes, where he had two speakers, former prostitutes, come talk to us about their experiences and their thoughts of matters of this nature.

The first woman, in my opinion, had a lot of good things to say.

The second woman was a bit more disagreeable. She wasn't actually a prostitute in her past, but worked at a "massage parlor" that served as a front for sexual acts, although rarely passing the line of actual intercourse. The jist of her talk was that she did not necessarily see a problem with sex work, and she is an advocate of the betrayal of negative viewpoints towards sex workers.

She started off the discussion by asking us (the students) to identify the most-commonly considered downsides to sex work. In no particular order, they were as follows:

1) Damage to the family
2) Damage to the worker
3) Enables sex addiction
4) Spreads disease
5) Immoral

The speaker addressed each point one by one. Her response to the first one, immorality, which she made quite assertively and emphatically, was that the government in America does not legislate morality. I tend to agree with that premise, at least to some degree, but my question to her was that if the government of the United States, not its citizens, was using prostitution as a business by which to make money, would we as citizens not consider that immoral and probably fight against it? Would we not hold up our government to proper morality? I didn't really agree with her response, but it nevertheless was consistent; she got this thoughtful look on her face and asked me, "Then again, who's morality?" I said, "Well, ours." Then she moved on to the next question.

Basically, I'm not going to go through each of her response step by step, more because I don't really remember them in detail, but the jist of many her responses was that, at least for "damages the family" and "damages the worker" were that there are many things that can damage the family and damage the worker, so why stereotype prostitution? Had I raised my hand in class, my response would have been something to the effect of, "Conceding that there are many other damaging elements in society does not justify one or the other. In fact, if we are dedicated to improving society and the human condition, then we have to concede that prostitution is just one of the damaging factors, albeit tied in with others."

As far as "spreading disease" goes, she was trying to tell us (and by this point, I wasn't buying much of it) that, according to a study, prostitution's spread of disease is "negligible" compared to disease spread by students in high school and college who are having sex.

Regarding the enablement of sex addiction, she said that if people are addicted to sex, they don't need to pay for it, that they can get it for free, and therefore it doesn't really enable sex addiction. Then she pondered the question for a while and basically conceded that yes, it can enable sex addiction, it is only one of the many venues for a person to express their sexual addiction, many of which are free. The pattern in her logic was a consistent avoidance of the view that prostitution was directly responsible for certain societal ailments (which relates to both the sex worker and the person paying for the sex) and attempted to take some of the weight off of it.

Generally, I would say that prostitution is sometimes a cause and sometimes it is an actually an effect of other things, and those things can be identified and those cases can be made, but she wasn't making them. Therefore, she ended up with quite an empty argument. It's interesting to note that, when a girl in the class asked her if she would be willing to let her (now 18 year-old) daughter become a sex worker, she became reflective and said that it wouldn't be her first choice, but it definitely wouldn't be her last, in the event that her daughter really wanted to do it. I couldn't believe my ears, and I have a feeling that many of the other students felt the same; the speaker was actually considering condoning her daughter's choice to become a sex worker if it was something that she really wanted to do.

Just a note, I saw a program on Cable Access where this speaker, a few years ago, gave a talk on freedom of speech in the media and things of that sort. I am not attributing this to her at all, but I got a real liberal political sense from her, and I can just imagine that, in the same way she is trying to whitewash prostitution, that she probably tries to whitewash terrorism, specifically Palestinian terrorism. It's just a part of the liberal political agenda that I've gotten really used to.