Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Anti-Israel People

Hello all. A couple of days ago, I and some Israel-lovin' friends attended a talk by a man named, well, we'll just call him "J," who is a known socialist anti-Israel type. In this post, I'm going to talk about a few (or many) of the essential errors that he makes in his discussions (I've listened to him speak about 4 times in the past couple of years).

In no particular order, one of the points that he tries to reiterate is that he is not anti-Israel. By making it seem like he is simply generally anti-nationalist, he hopes that the audience will believe that his rejection of Israel's existence is just a by-product of his rejection of states in general. However, we know that this is not true because he doesn't go around giving talks about the invalidity of every other state in the world, not to mention, any other state in the world. He actually advocates a Palestinian state, so I wonder where his anti-nationalist attitude disappears to in that instance.

My friend Danny brought up an excellent point after J's talk. J has a problem with Jewish sovereignty, and Danny, who is an Israeli, explained that he likes living in Israel where people speak Hebrew (a language circa 3,000 years old), living in a state with a Jewish culture (the only one) and being in a place that is predominantly Jewish. Throughout the talk, J was explaining that he doesn't dislike Jews, and he "proved" it by saying that he has absolutely no problem with Jews living in America, and that America should have opened its doors to Jews in the years leading up to Israeli Independence so that they could just immigrate here instead. Sounds good doesn't it? However, this is just a clever euphemism for saying that Jews didn't have the right to a sovereign state, while he makes it sound like he is driven by some sort of love for Jews.

Quite the contrary, as Danny pointed out; having all the Jews come to America is not an act of love (in this case), but rather a negation of Jewish sovereignty, because although living in America might have been a good life for them, they would have been a population living in a host population. For some reason, in J's mind, the Jews' rightful place in society is to live as a minority population within a host society. This is somewhat like a secular socialist white version of "dhimmitude," a variant of the Muslim classist ideal that Jews can only exist as intact populations in Muslim countries, as long as they submit to the particular Muslim state in which they live. By the way, this is the major reason why the Arabs were in utter rejection of the Jewish state, because it was a rejection, by Jews, of the "naturally occuring" dhimmi status.

J also speaks out against world imperialism, colonialism, and expansionism in all forms and that it is a passing phenomenon. However, and I asked him this during the talk, why is it that the only type of expansionism that he failed to refer to was Muslim expansionism? During the 7th century, when Muhammad collected his forces and began to spread Islam, in about one hundred years total (which also took place after his death), Islam covered the entire Middle East and spread to India, many parts of Europe (east and west), and almost all of Africa. Keeping in mind that this occurred in the 7th century (when technology was far more primitive than today's military abilities), taking over that amount of land is, by all means, a lot of land! By our standards today, it is probably more than half of the world; that's not expansionism? The Iranians didn't originally write in Arabic letters, neither did the Turks, nor was Islam their religion before this.

Related to this, Islam also took over Israel, a land that they knew was central to the Jews in the same way that Mecca was central to the Muslims. No matter though, taking over the heart of Judaism was instrumental. Israel is the only land that matters to the Jews; Judaism has no designs or beliefs in having more land than Israel (although there is a notion of "Greater Israel," which also includes land on the east side of the Jordan River, but that is another topic), while Islam's paradigm of "Muslim lands" is all the land taken by Islam during those one hundred years, and by other standpoints, the entire world, although that most-likely belongs to more extremist points of view hopefully not shared by all Muslims. The point is that rooted in Arab Muslim and other Muslim rejection of the State of Israel is that its establishment involved Jews setting up a sovereign Jewish entity in what Muslims considered "Muslim lands," not to mention, which had lasted for some 1,226 years (722-1948). The "break in the system" enfuriated Arabs and they vehemently rejected such a reversal of dhimmitude, and to this day are still having an incredibly hard time getting over largely primitive attitudes of Arab Muslim dominance over the Middle East, especially when the group at hand are "the Jews."

Interestingly enough, when the Romans wanted to take control over all of its empire, which Israel was a province of, they obsessively proceeded in their efforts in trying to destroy the resistant Jews of Matzada (Masada). The Jews of Masada were a small group of Jews living in the Negev Desert in southern Israel who held out against the Roman invaders for an amazing several years. The Romans were enfuriated and spent huge amounts of military effort in trying to "unite" their hold on their empire by quelling this small revolution so that there would be no "break" in "Roman land," and eventually succeeded in what is known as "the last stand at Masada." When the Jews were finally cornered, they drew lots and rather than becoming mistreated Roman subjects, they ended their lives (the fathers killing their families, and the men killing each other), a concept of Jewish law known as "Kiddush Hashem," the sanctification of G-d's Name by beind commanded with choosing death in the face of being forced to break His commandments. The Arab world, in the same way, has its version of the Roman Empire, the Arab (Muslim) Empire, known as the "Umma," a term used to define the world-wide collection of Muslim communities, or otherwise, Muslim lands. It's important to realize that Israel is in the Umma.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

I've already written my two sh'qalim (sheqels) on the pullout and the continued violence of the Palestinians, and for the next while, whenever I find a good article that I agree with about a certain element of the continued Palestinian violence after the pullout, I'll post it. These professional writers are exploring the issue more than I am, and are useful.

Big News Tuesday 20th September, 2005 (UPI)

Jordan's Islamists Tuesday denounced encounters between Arabs and
Israelis taking place on the sidelines of U.N. meetings in New York.

A statement by the Islamic Action Front said, The party condemns the
meetings that took place between Arab and Muslim leaders with
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his Foreign Minister Sylvan
Shalom on the sidelines of the U.N. summit.

Such exercises of normalization of relations with Israel constitute
unlimited support for the racist policies adopted by Sharon, the
statement said.

Normalizing relations with the Zionist enemy is a blunt violation of
Arab principles which ban making concessions on Arab and Islamic
lands, the statement added.

Sharon and Shalom met several Arab leaders in New York including
Jordan's King Abdullah and the foreign ministers of Qatar and

Monday, September 19, 2005

Racism of Israel?

This is all old stuff because the anti-Israel arguments have already been shot down, at least in my mind, but this is my personal cache of the best ones, perhaps reiterated for my own clarity, and for anyone that might have missed them.

Israel is a Racist Country

The first question I ask people that make this claim is if they have been to Israel. It's kind of hard to say that Israel is a racist country when it is full of people of different races. The majority of Israel's variant racial groups are Jews, meaning that there are Arab, Ethiopian, and various European Jews in Israel.

What they are really trying to say is that Israel is racism towards Arabs that are Muslim, but their cognitive abilities do not allow them to make such complicated arguments. Even then do Arab Muslims have state-protected rights in Israel, and there are several Supreme Court decisions concerning those rights. There are instances of discrimination, which necessitate Supreme Court decisions of that nature, but the ideology of the critics is that Israel is a racist country, in the same sense that apartheid South Africa was. Discrimination and racism are two entirely different things, and every country suffers from some degree of discrimination.

Taking it a step further, in case people don't know, there is a conflict between Arabs and Jews in that Arabs would like to see Israel dismantled. Having said that, Israel treats its Arab population extraordinarly well, granting them the rights of other citizens, such as voting, whereas if the situation were reversed, the Arab population would grant almost no civil rights to its Jewish population and probably persecute it.

If we go back to before the creation of the State of Israel, we can actually see this policy in action towards the Jews of Arab countries. For the nearly 1,400 years since Islam took sway in the Middle East, Jews (and Christians) were given the status of "dhimmi," protected peoples, which amounted to their having almost no civil rights. The Muslim state cannot be charged with being non-pluralistic, for that it definitely was, but it restricted non-Muslims severely, while the Jewish state, such as the first one under King David, did not, such as allowing non-Jews (polytheists) to sacrifice in the Temple (in Jerusalem).

And if racism is our concern, it should be noted that almost all of the Arab countries have a Jewish population of zero, with many of them, such as Saudi Arabia, barring both Jews and Christians from living there and Jews from even entering. I have seen the picture; there are two street signs on a street (perhaps on the way to the airport or to Mecca)with one saying "Muslims" and the other saying "non-Muslims." Kinda sounds like "white fountains" and "negro fountains." Those who charge Israel as being a racist state could find real racism by looking into the Arab countries that they ignore, and therefore whitewash.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

An excellent article written by Natan Sharansky and originally posted in the Jerusalem Post and posted on the Aish ha-Torah website (sent to me by my cousin Adam studying in Mexico)

The looming civil war, which Prime Minister Ariel Sharon prophesied from the pages of The New York Times, did not materialize.

It did not because a civil war requires two opposing camps fighting each other, hating each other, and most importantly, convinced that their survival depends on the annihilation of each other.

Over the past two months, I spent a great deal of time in Gush Katif, both with families in the last minutes of their lives there, as well as with the soldiers and officers. What I saw, even at the most trying and tragic moments, was not a division into two camps of evacuating soldiers and evacuees.

The settlers and the army were of the same camp -- Israeli citizens placed in a difficult, and often impossibly grueling, situation. Two warring camps simply did not exist.

During the demanding days of the so-called disengagement, there were many dramatic televised scenes of resistance and human tragedy. But many other, no less telling, scenes were not caught by the media.

The cameras missed the joint mincha prayers and the shared volleyball games on opposite sides of the ostensibly dividing Kfar Maimon fence. They missed soldiers being the first to offer their condolences to a family sitting shiva, even ritually tearing their clothes, mourning three generations of life in Gush Katif and the imminent disappearance of a unique world of Torah and modern agriculture built on the barren sands of the Gaza strip.

They did not see the final Torah lesson led by the head of a family for his children, joined, first hesitantly and sheepishly, and then actively and vigorously, by the evacuating soldiers; they overlooked the tear-swollen eyes of the soldiers and settlers alike, discussing what our forefathers, Abraham and Isaac, must have felt when the wells that they had excavated were sealed. They did not cover a senior officer, going door-to-door to the homes of his own soldiers all over Gush Katif, apologizing personally for the pain that the army and state was inflicting upon these families.

They also missed the last Shabbat prayers in the beautiful synagogues of Gush Katif, when the prayer for the well-being of the state was tearfully chanted. In it, Israel is called "the beginning of our spiritual redemption," and God is asked to bless the heads, ministers and advisers -- the same government that had sent the army to destroy the world the people of Gush Katif built with their labor, dreams and blood.

Perhaps the most telling were the dialogues between pairs of Israeli journalists on all three major TV stations. One would be stationed in Gush Katif; the other in the studio. As time went by, the two professionals, who had worked together for many years, started speaking different languages.

The reporter in the studio would still be using the cliches about the dangerous settlers running rampant in the Gush; the reporter who had spent two weeks in the field came to see in the residents of the Gush fellow human beings facing a personal tragedy of unimaginable proportions.

Disengagement was widely portrayed as a battle between the powers of democracy and lawless settler fanatics. For sure, violent acts and protests were committed on the fringes. But the leaders of the Yesha Council, no less than the army and police officers, did all in their power to ensure that, despite all the pain, this would be a "battle" with one side: that both those who implemented the government's decisions and those who protested them would play on the side of democracy.

And yet, the disengagement did cause other fronts to surface. An invisible but very tangible border arose; not between soldiers and settlers, but between those who shared the pain of disengagement and those who did not. The latter could not relate to the disappearing world of Gush Katif as part of their own world.

The excruciatingly painful battle between these two camps was waged on the pages of some of our newspapers, in the often base attacks from the Knesset podium, and in the heartless comments of "they deserve it!" or "I have more in common with the Palestinians than with the crazy settlers," heard often enough in the streets.

Our sages tell us that a two-headed baby was once brought before King Solomon, who was asked to rule if this infant was one child or two. The king ordered hot water sprinkled on one of the heads, to see if the other head would respond in tears. If it did, the child would be considered one human being; if not, two disparate ones. According to the wise king, empathy is the ultimate sign of oneness.

Still, like any high tragedy, the struggle for Gush Katif showed not only anguished weakness, but also great hope. Within the depths of this struggle, the Panim el Panim (Face-to-Face) movement was born. Thousands of settlers and their friends knocked on the doors of more than 100,000 homes in Kiryat Shmona, Netanya, Tel Aviv, Beersheba and Haifa. Half of the houses opened their doors. In many homes, the knock was the beginning of an important dialogue and the establishment of vital connections.

Paradoxically, the disengagement itself became a massive and unprecedented face-to-face event, of an intense and often heart-wrenching intra-Jewish dialogue. Yet, we cannot and should not wait for tragedies on such a scale to initiate a dialogue among ourselves.

From its inception, the Gush Emunim movement believed that it should constantly move ahead, build and expand, never looking back. The rest of the nation, they believed, would surely catch up later. Yet, the nation, as the leaders saw all too late, did not catch up. Instead, bridges of dialogue have to be built between the camps.

But for this, the face-to-face process must be encouraged and even become the nexus of our Zionist activity. The civil war that wasn't teaches us that we are all in the same camp - except perhaps those indifferent to their fellow citizens' suffering. We must continue knocking on each other's doors. Breaking down the walls of ignorance and indifference is critical not just to our strength against external enemies, but our ability to address the many societal challenges facing us in the days ahead.

This article originally appeared in the Jerusalem Post.

This article can also be read at:

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

This is an article that I recieved in an e-mail. As I read through it, it struck me that every reason that the critics of the pull-out gave, every probable "set back" after its completion that they said would occur, is indeed happening. Why do we have to constantly have to demonstrate to our critics that these things are highly probable, almost inevitable? Why can't they just be content that perhaps we know what will happen because it's happened before? Maybe, just maybe, it's possible that we don't simply have hate for the Palestinians, but just that the overwhelming evidence points to their continued attacks.


Israeli military sources said Palestinian insurgents have managed to fire mortars from the Eastern and northern Gaza Strip into Israel. So far, there have not been injuries in Israel.

"The fire represents the success of Palestinians to reach the edge of the Gaza Strip," a military source said. "It will provide the terrorists with a much greater edge."

Palestinian insurgency groups have developed several models of mortars. They include those of 60 mm, 81 mm and 120 mm mortars as well as launching tubes.
NOTE: The above is not the full item. This service contains only a small portion of the information produced daily by Middle East Newsline. For a subscription to the full service, please contact Middle East Newsline at: for further details.
* This is a very good article by a writer named Paula R. Stern

The Face of Islamic Religious Intolerance
By Paula R. Stern September 12, 2005

Today, as I knew they would, crazed Palestinian mobs are desecrating 25 synagogues in Gaza, setting them on fire and destroying what it took years to build. I have visited almost all of these synagogues, prayed in many of them. I cannot even begin to put into words the pain I feel today, the anger, and the sadness.

The world, as I expected, is silent. The UN's Kofi Annan was asked to protect the remaining synagogues, but we hear nothing. Empty buildings, they will protest quietly, and what did you expect? Unspoken is the silent message that while the Christian world and the Jewish world would respect places of worship, the Moslem world cannot be held to the same level of accountability. Did you expect any different? No, I did not, though it would be a mistake to assume that knowing they would destroy these holy places in any way lessens the pain.

We can't say that we expected no better, of course, because that would be deemed racist and wrong. It would be insulting to the honorable religion of Islam, even though it is the truth. It would imply that their values are different than ours, even though they are. It would suggest that their culture is one that lacks respect for other religions, one deeply embedded in violence and one that cannot tolerate and respect the beliefs of others. We can't say all that, and so the lie will live on, the destruction go unpunished, the truth left unsaid.

The world will quietly offer Israel their condolences and throughout the world, in places like Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and even in Poland, Romania, Hungary and the Ukraine, people will wonder if maybe they could destroy a nearby synagogue too. Why should the land on which these buildings sit continue to be "wasted" when there are no Jews around? Could there be a way to rid Europe and Arab countries of these buildings in which Jews once prayed? The first step, of course, is to deny.

Palestinian President Abu Mazen has become a rabbi, apparently. He can now determine the holiness of a synagogue and has issued his rabbinic doctrine that these buildings are no longer synagogues, no longer holy. If you take the wooden pews, the musical instruments, the Bibles, hymnals, altar furnishings and vestments out of a church, is it then permissible to burn it down? Does it lose its sanctity because the inner contents has been removed?

Perhaps others are wondering if they too could use the Palestinian excuse that a building stripped and desecrated is no longer holy and can be destroyed. How many Jewish cemeteries are there in Europe? Are Jews ever likely to return to Iraq? Must Tunisia protect the remaining synagogues? What of Morocco?

Luckily, our holy places will be saved by the most unlikely source. Abu Mazen has one problem in making his claim believable. His own people reject his words. Watch the pictures of them dancing on the rooftops of these buildings, see how they set fire to these holy places.

In his mad rush for the border, Sharon gave the Palestinians millions of dollars in infrastructure, public buildings, lighting, roads and more. And yet the pictures in the media are all the same. The Palestinian mobs are frantic and out of control in their bloodthirsty quest to destroy the synagogues because they recognize that these places are holy to the Jews.

What interest would they have in simply destroying a building? They will scavenge around and take what they can ... but the synagogues are being destroyed. Why burn and damage them if not for the intense hate-filled desire to destroy something that represents Judaism, a non-Moslem place of worship?

But it is not only the pictures from Gaza that cause me great pain today, not just the hatred and destruction that we all knew was inevitable. Add in a debate going on now in England, civilized England. At first glance it seems like it is a different topic entirely, and yet, it its own way, it is the same debate, albeit in a more civilized environment. Perhaps commemorating Holocaust Day is too Jewish, say a team of advisors to Prime Minister Tony Blair. Perhaps it would be more politically correct to call it Genocide Day so as to avoid insulting England's growing Moslem population.

How appropriate that this debate would be raised on days when synagogues are again being burned and destroyed. Would England deny the unique place the Holocaust has in world history? Are the Holocaust and the few days we commemorate it not sacred? There have been many attempts at genocide throughout the centuries, but none were as systematic, as civilized and endorsed as the Holocaust.

Nowhere, never, was the machine of a government focused so totally on obliterating all traces of a religion or people in such an efficient and barbaric way while being accompanied by the silence of nations who could have, should have done something.

Not since Nazi Germany have so many synagogues been destroyed. Moslem intolerance is well known and yet the world continues to be silent. Why was the world silent when 2000 Hindi temples were destroyed by Moslems in India? When will the world finally react to Islamic religious intolerance? Would the world remain silent if 25 churches were burned in one day? Where is the Vatican's voice of outrage as the synagogues in Gaza burn? I can only imagine what fury there would be if Israel were to now demolish 25 mosques on Israeli soil.

Just three days ago, I stood in the Yamit Yeshiva in Neve Dekalim last week, the famous synagogue in the shape of a Jewish star. Abu Mazen has promised that this building will be destroyed. Apparently its continued existence would be an insult to the Palestinians who do not believe in the sanctity of any religion but their own.

As I walked around, there was a swirl of action. Soldiers moved quickly back and forth removing whatever could be taken. The books had been removed, the holy Torah scrolls long since taken away so they would not see the shame of what would come. The High Court had not yet ruled whether Israel should destroy the buildings in anticipation of the desecration Abu Mazen and his government was promising. But the soldiers knew destruction was coming soon.

In the end, the Israeli government made the correct choice. We will not destroy synagogues. We will not send a signal to the world that it is acceptable to wantonly destroy the holy places of our religion or another, and so today, as yesterday and tomorrow, mosques will be safe in Israel while synagogues burn elsewhere.

Jews do not destroy places of worship even if the alternative in the end is the desecration of these Houses of God at the hands of rioting mobs who worship terror, incite violence and care not for any buildings or any people, not even their own. The world will not admit it, it can't be said or written, but Jews honor churches, mosques and synagogues throughout our country and in our communities. Since the Holocaust, the Jewish synagogues in Europe have largely been protected and public outcries have often resulted when desecrations have occurred.

Israelis even protect Arab holy sites when they are built on top of our holy places, as they are on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Joseph's Tomb, Samuel's Tomb and the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron.

The face of the future state of Palestine can be seen in the actions of Palestinians today. There is an impossible divide between our culture and theirs, our dreams and the nightmares they would force upon us.

Jews made their stand yesterday by not destroying their synagogues. Palestinians made their stand today by burning and desecrating them. The remaining question now is what the Christian world will do. Will you express outrage at Islamic intolerance or continue in silence?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Big Christianity

Christianity makes up 23% of the world population and is America's religion. The popular catch phrase is that America is a "Judeo-Christian" country, but many people misunderstand this term to mean that the country is both a Jewish and a Christian country, although it is not exactly clear how they define that. The Jewish population in America is 2-4%, not exactly what one would expect from a Jewish country.

Most people don't even consider the meaning of the term "Judeo-Christian," and generally just take it to mean that America is both a Jewish and a Christian country, referring to American religious tradition. But because Christianity itself is a religion "based" on Jewish values, the term "Judeo-Christian" really refers to the Christian religious tradition of America. In the same exact way, Islam is a religion based on Jewish and Christian values, but we cannot say that Muslim countries are "Judeo-Christian-Islamo" countries. For example, the first Americans set up churches, not synagogues.

In fact, the term "Judeo-Christian" doesn't even mean that America is a Christian country, for America is a secular country deeply influenced by Christian values and morals, which are deeply influenced by Jewish values and morals, which is why America is a "Judeo-Christian country." Therefore, a "Judeo-Christian" tradition absorbs and filters Jewish traditions, and the remnant is given the title at hand. If Jews and Christians both adhere to the Judeo-Christian tradition, then can it be said that there is no difference between Judaism and Christianity? Jews adhere to the Judeo tradition and Christians adhere to the Judeo-Christian tradition.

In terms of sheer numbers, America is a Christian country, and to appease the Christians who state that those who do not accept Jesus are not really Christians, America is a country of Christendom, for Rome and countless countries in Europe were also Christian countries, even if not everybody there went to Church every Sunday. Syria is a Muslim country and Israel is a Jewish country.

Furthermore, Christianity makes up America's consciousness. For many Americans of all walks of life, Christian theological concepts such as the Trinity and Jesus' death for sin, are inextracably associated with G-d. When your average unaffiliated Christian American talks about G-d, you better believe that the name "Jesus" will come out of their mouth soon enough. This makes me cringe because I don't believe that "G-d" and "Jesus" belong in the same sentence. Jewishly uneducated secular Jews will also speak about religion in terms of Christianity, and interestingly enough, their rejection of Christianity is made apparent by their disgust of the Judaism that they are talking about, Judaism through a Christian lens. Even atheists reject religion and agnostics are skeptical about it on Christian terms, they use Christianity as a negative symbol by which to express their beliefs in opposition to, although they are a bit more "pluralistic" in their viewpoints.

This is "Big Christianity."
Racists Unite

Racists have a strange way of uniting, but you won't find members of the KKK listening to Jose Feliciano with members of the Black Panthers. But when in comes to Israel, which is a country that has Jews in it, both groups actually share similar sentiments - "I friggin' hate you."

Why am I saying this, you might ask, and what is my basis? I was looking at a magazine of Israel just a while ago and I saw a picture of two cute little Israeli Ethiopian girls. When I used to be involved in Israel advocacy on my university campus, I remember attending anti-Israel tyrades by an interesting hybrid of professors, one of which was a tenured Africana Studies professor, and it's true, he was a black anti-Semite.

The professor, it's also true, has seen his share of real nasty white on black racism in South Africa (I think so at least), but even if he hasn't, he stands at the ideological forefront of symbolizing black rights and plights, which is made evident by the fact that he speaks in pure poetic rhetoric and wears a colorful dashiki. Part of his rhetoric is the absolute racist government of the apartheid country, Israel.

Why did the cute little Israeli Ethiopian girls remind me of this monster? Because his attack on Israel's racism always seemed to steer around the presence of Ethiopian Jews in Israel (regardless of the social problems that they face, like all other immigrants). In short, I was getting the feeling that he did not take into account their presence in Israel, which put some holes in his theory.

And then I realized it, racists (black people who hate white people, for example, are also racists) have a tendency to hate Jews, and hatred has many forms. Nevermind that they go out of their way to perceive "whiteness" in (European) Jews and refuse to see them on their own terms, as Jews. Furthermore, these types of people almost completely ignore Middle Eastern Jews ("brown Jews") when criticizing Israel, as if they are some unnamed population. When they talk about Israel, they mention the supposed Israeli oppression of Arabs, "brown people," but completely ignore that there is such thing as racism based on religion, such as the racism that the Arab Muslims enacted towards the Arab Jews. Is this not "brown on brown" racism? What about the tribal violence that occurs in Africa? Is that not black on black violence?

One way to express hatred towards Israel, the validity of its plight, and therefore the rights of Jews, is to hurl words such as "Nazi" and "apartheid" at Israel. But that's just an obvious one. A less obvious idiocy has an adverse relationship with the good that comes out of Israel; no surrounding Arab country (Muslim or Christian), has afforded even the notion of equality to its black population, while Israel, despite problems, has managed to bring Ethiopian Jews into the mainstream. Israel-haters will use the sophisticated argument that the integration of the Ethiopian Jews has misplaced Arabs, but is it only me that realizes that these haters are missing the section in their brain that is capable of perceiving the good of Israel? Perhaps Africans have been used as political pawns before in the history of nations, but these African Jew-haters are more than eager to categorize Israel in this same category.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Palestinians Vent Their Anger

Now that Israel has left the Gaza Strip, more and more freedom is opening up for the Palestinians to set up their long-awaited country. In fact, there is evidence that the Palestinians are slowly and steadily moving towards their goal, such as the burning down of remaining synagogues in the Gaza Strip. Clearly Jews do not pray there anymore, but if the Palestinians were smart, or were able to subdue their so-easily ignitable (Arab) anger, then they would turn those synagogues into houses, or at least into Hamas or Jihad strategical centers.

But the Palestinians (Arabs) hate Jews, which we can determine from their burning down the synagogues. When you burn down a church, it means that you hate Christians, if you destroy a mosque, it means that you hate Muslims, but if you burn down a synagogue, you hate Israeli's, right? In this case, the hate even supercedes logic, for the space that the syangogues took up could have been used for logistical purposes, something more beneficial than a burned pile of rubble. But Jew-hatred has long been the motivating force behind Palestinian independence, so what makes the situation any different when all the Jews have left?

According to an article from the Jerusalem Post, a man named Abu Ahmed said, "They [Israelis] destroyed our homes and our mosques, today it is our turn to destroy theirs." Revenge? Arabs? Islam? No way!

But for Arabs, hate is symbolic; by destroying the synagogues post-pullout, it is as if the Palestinians are making a statement, emphasis on the words "as if." The only statement that the Palestinians are making is that even the pullout did not stop the hatred that they had for the Israeli's beforehand. There were those that said, before the pullout, that pulling out will stop the Palestinian hatred of Israeli's. But the key in understanding what's going on right now is that the phrase "will stop the Palestinian hatred of Israeli's" is an oxymoron, for Palestinians cannot stop hating Israeli's because, in their mentality, Israel should not exist. As long as Israeli's are Israeli's, the Palestinian hatred of them cannot stop.

The Fragile Arab Mind - Handle with Care

The Arab mind is like that of a child, when it does not get what it wants, even if (and especially) its wish is a destructive one, it snaps, and when speaking in terms that refer to children, it's a temper tantrum. The only difference is that these children are equipped with nail-laden bombs and mentally-obstructed-laden political goals.

The End of Violence

A few weeks ago, we all know that Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip, and is now beginning pullouts of the West Bank (not forgetting that half of Jerusalem is in the West Bank). Now the critics are happy, but some critics, namely Palestinian ones, are still not happy; should this come as a shock to anyone?

A couple of years ago, when Israel began pulling troops and settlers out of the West Bank in order to create breathing room for a Palestinian state, the Palestinian terrorist reaction was attacks on Jews and more suicide bombings. Why in the world would a rational person do such a thing? The answer is that the people that did this were not rational people, at least not rational in regards to what the West considers rational.

The answer lies within the culture of the Palestinians, but it doesn't lie. Put simply, the Palestinians did not want the Israeli's to come off as if they were peacemakers, for that would end their logical reasons for the attacks, so they actually detonated themselves in order to force Israel back into the occupation; Israel's prime reason for continued occupation is terror attacks. Once that would happen (which it didn't), then they would continue the attacks with the hope that they would push Israel out. The key here: the Palestinians want to oust "their oppressors" from their land rather than "their oppressors" to make a gesture of peace. The irony becomes most apparent here, because no matter how dedicated a peoples are, it is impossible to remove an oppressor from one own's back. Consider the Jews under Roman occupation -- no amount of (sometimes violent) resistance to the Roman occupation of Israel ever caused the Romans to leave Israel. It wasn't until the Byzantines took over that Rome fell, a few hundred years into its existence.

Technically, if the Palestinians ousted their oppressor Israel, it would make them the most unique peoples of all history, the first to actually remove their oppressor from their land, to cause them to leave. Let the Palestinians believe that if they want to while they run around firing guns into the air, but the Israeli's left because they could not afford the occupation; not the exact behavior of an occupying force. Had the Romans in the 1st century, for example, been faced with a resistance on par with the Intifada, they would have not been concerned with such notions as "not being able to afford an occupation;" for the Israeli's do not want to pay the price of being an occupier, for the Romans would have simply commenced in carrying out a full-scale slaughter of Jews (which they did). They would not had to worry about such things as international opinion and a general assembly, because there was no United Nations in the 1st century. The world's squeamishness for bloodshed was not publically manifest in the 1st century, which allowed Rome to get away with a degree of genocide. No matter how badly the Palestinians want to believe that Israel is an occupier, it does not, and is not allowed to, fit into that category. Either way, how often have we, in human history, heard "an occupier" voice concern over the well-being and moral cost of dominating a population for the simple point of ethics?

Some of you might be saying right now, "Yaniv, that's a load of crap, you are just projecting your negative biases on the Palestinians and your positive biases on Israel."

If that's true, then why did the Palestinian terrorists continue the terrorist attacks on Jews as they were pulling out of the West Bank, something that the Palestinians have "been dreaming" about for a long time? If I am projecting negative biases, then we lack a reason for their actions.

However, this time around, the same thing happened, there were terrorist attacks on Jews as they were leaving the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian critics had the real answers as to why the Palestinian terrorists were taking such actions. One of them said that the Israeli government didn't bother negotiating with the Palestinian government before sending troops to remove settlers, which caused civil unrest among the terrorists, and they reacted with shootings and suicide, excuse me, homicide bombings. Shimon Peres, the dove that pooped on Israel, said himself that the Israeli government and Palestinian Anarchy -- I mean "Authority -- had plenty of talks.

What we see here is that the Arabs are an incredibly xenophobic people that display a type of "allergy" to anything non-Muslim, especially to things Jewish. About fifty years ago we could have said that their civilization and society was at a low point for explainable reasons, but almost half a century later they have made little or no progress. At a point in time, everybody needs to show a little responsibility for their problems. Instead we have, "End the occupation! End the occupation! What? You are ending the occupation? Resume the occupation so that we can kill you and drive you out of our land, you filthy infidel oppressors!"

To quote from an article written on August 30th, 2005 by Justin Dyer, "In an interview with the Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat, senior Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar said Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza was simply the fruit of persistent Palestinian violence: 'We feel now that the sacrifices we made were not in vain.'"

The sacrifices, of course, refer to Palestinian deaths by way of suicide bombing and shooting attacks (not Jewish deaths).

"Regarding a possible two-state 'solution,' al-Zahar said, 'We do not and will not recognize a state called Israel… This land is the property of all Muslims in all parts of the world… Let Israel die.'"

In the words of Mohammad Daif, Hamas fugitive bombmaker, "Today you are leaving hell. But tomorrow we promise you that all Palestine will be hell for you," and then invoked the name of G-d.

But I have to be fair now, this isn't just limited to the Palestinians. For anybody that knows anything about Muslim history in relations to other peoples and land ownership, it is a known fact that one thing that you simply just do not do is to be anything other than a Muslim and to take over "Muslim lands," especially if you are Jew. This act is the taboo of taboo's, and if you do it, you are likely to feel the swift vengenance of Islam upon you. Jews happen not to be Muslim and to be taking over Muslim lands, so they are prime candidates for this swift vengenance.

Yet through the Palestinians we don't see the Islam; we assume that since the supposed nationalism and welfare of the Palestinians is at stake, that Islam, and it's drive to conquer, is not a primary factor in effect here. Is it just my overactive political imagination, or are the Palestinians really Muslim conquerers in disguise (even if they don't know it)? Remember, the "Palestinian struggle for independence" was brought into existence after the 6 Day War of 1967 after Israel seized the West Bank (Jordan's land) and Jordanian Arabs fell under Israeli rule. Yasser Arafat (Rahman al-Qudwa), who had been resisting Israel since its inception (and employing homicide bombings since 1964), jumped on the opportunity and began constructing the Palestinian independence myth. In 2005, these Palestinians are on the way to getting their own country.

It's hard for many people to recognize that the present is history; just like the people living in the 7th century didn't believe that the 7th century would one day be viewed as "past," it's very easy for us to get caught up in seeing the present day as "now," and "now" being divorced from "back then." "Yeah sure, that kind of stuff happened back then, but we live in the 21st century and it doesn't work that way anymore."

Apparentally it does.

Don't forget that Israel is only fifty six years old, and nothing that Israel could have done differently would have abated the Muslim pattern of trying to crush anybody non-Muslim trying to rule in Muslim lands. The Muslims could have pulled together and dealt with the growing number of Jews in a tenable way, but instead, they defaulted to their "oust mode." Just read about the history of the dhimmi's, who were non-Muslims that lived under Muslim rule in Muslim countries. Their "natural place" was to be a dhimmi, a people of protected status under Islam, albeit lacking in civil rights, and when dhimmi's didn't agree that they were dhimmi's, Islam went into "smack you up mode," and if that didn't work, it went into "oust mode." The (European) Jews were "invaders" because they didn't rise up from under Islam, they came in from the outside. However, the Jews of the Arab countries, the Mizrachi Jews really did get the smack up, because they were dhimmi's that acted up. The overwhelming majority of them ended up leaving and going to Israel; they ousted themselves.

Equally ironic, and a tad funny, half of the Israeli population is made up of Jews that came there from Arab countries; by expelling almost 100% of their Jewish populations, the Arab countries left those Jews homeless, and where else did those Jews go other than Israel? If the Muslims had acted smartly, they would have let the Jews stay in their homes, possibly delivering a powerful kick to the future of the State of Israel. Instead, they helped to populate it.

What does this have to do with today? Everything. What makes anybody think that Islam has shown any signs of resigning the position that Jews are not free to, well, be free? Keep watching the developments of the Middle East with regards to developments in the Gaza Strip and West Bank and you will notice that history is upon us today.

** An interesting factoid. In 1956 there was a war with Egypt that Israel won and in which it seized the Gaza Strip during infighting. Israel was pressured to pull out of the Sinai and it gave the Gaza Strip back as well. In the 6 Day War of 1967, Israel recaptured the Gaza Strip as well as the entire Sinai Peninsula (which doubled Israel's size). In 1977, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin (a right-winger) met for talks, in which Israel gave back the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip. This was the second time that Israel gave Gaza back and we have just witnessed the third (under Ariel Sharon, also a right-winger). It's not hard to imagine that there will be a war sometime in the next decade or so with the Palestinians, although G-d willing, there won't have to be.

Friday, September 09, 2005

An Eighteen-Part G-d

Christianity believes in a three-part G-d, which is known as the "Trinity." The conjecture of the Trinity is that G-d exists singularly in three distinct forms, which is possible because the three forms are each a separate aspect of G-d, but on their own are also each G-d. Therefore, according to Christian belief, this theological understanding of G-d is not even comparable to polytheism because the summation of the three parts of G-d, each of which are not one third of G-d, but G-d Himself, necessarily equals one. It is not "one plus one plus one equals one," for that equation equals three, but rather, it is "one divided by one divided by one," which equals one.

However, G-d is not a three-part G-d, but rather He is an eighteen-part G-d. We can derive from the Torah that G-d is a Father, Mother, Creator, Husband, Landlord, Instructor, Presence, Gaurdian, Warrior, King, Redeemer, Savior, Rock, Friend, Sender of the Meshiach, Giver of life, Killer, and Resurrector of the dead; all in all, this would make G-d an eighteen-part G-d. Who said that we had to stop at three? There are countless more attributes of G-d in the Torah and Kabbalah that I cannot even begin to mention due to lack of knowledge.

**Just to reiterate, I do not really believe that G-d is an eighteen-part G-d, but rather, He is an infinite G-d with infinite parts that transcend our finite understanding of separation. This makes Him One.**

The Rebuttal

It is possible to say that the Father is the Father and that the Presence (Shekhina) is the "Holy Spirit;" but where is the Son? The "son" has no foundation in Jewish belief. Some Christians say that "son" is a term given to Jesus to express his manifestly unique relationship with G-d, not that he is the literal son of G-d. In the Torah, there are many figures who had unique relationships with G-d; Noah, Moses, Abraham, the Prophets, etc... However, none of them were labeled "son of G-d." In reality, Jesus being labeled the "son of G-d" does have to do with his "genetic association" with G-d," for the belief states that he was born from a virgin mother. If you can imagine a virgin woman suddenly becoming pregnant; what was "the sperm" that made her have a child? According to this belief, Jesus is the son of G-d in the literal sense, that he shared divine genetic material, and that he was therefore part G-d (not part god) and part human.

This is patently bizarre; a human child shares the genetic material of both his mother and his father, yet he is not the same being as his mother or his father. If Jesus was G-d, he was also Mary, for I am both my mother and my father.

*Note -- Every human seed and human egg is divine genetic material.
Please Let Not Piety be Pity

About a month ago, I went to a social gathering with a friend. At the gathering, I started to talk to a few people, and since I wear a kippah (and most of the people were there from a church group), the conversation steered to the direction of Israel (because all those who wear kippah's are from Israel).

One of the women, a particularly gentle soul, asked me what I thought about the situation in Israel. Such a general question is difficult to answer. To paraphrase, she asked me, "Isn't it sad that they are so desperate that they are being driven to commit suicide?"

Here I am going to set the record straight; "suicide" is when you kill yourself, "homicide" is when you strap a bomb to your body and kill a plethora of other people, not to mention, innocent other people. If Palestinian terrorists are suicide victims, then so is anybody that shoots up a crowd of people and then gets shot to death by authorities, for they caused their own life to be taken. Yet these people are called "murderers." When people commit suicide, at least here in the West, they usually prefer the method of swallowing pills, slitting their wrists, a gunshot, or sometimes even hanging, yet I can't remember that a tortured soul just couldn't take it anymore and decided to end his or her life by strapping on explosives and walking into a crowded bank. Plus, suicide victims are not identified by an ideologically hate-filled political act.

The problem with many people's understanding of the Middle East is that they don't have one. Muslim extremism (which has yet to be clearly distinguished from the Muslim religion itself) is in perpetual conquer mode. When a Muslim whack-job straps a bomb to him, or herself, and strolls into a crowded building invoking the name of the One G-d right before detonating that bomb, they are not motivated by depression or feelings of self-worthlessness, because there are Palestinians that commit suicide in the "traditonal" way as well, but rather, they are motivated by the desire to murder. By killing those people, they are expressing the Muslim goal of political rebellion against an invader, and rather than being sad about their lives ending, they express joy, and feel as if they are completing a sacred mission. The gentle soul who asked me this question might have a hard time understanding this cultural reality, because her ancestors were more adept at killing others to get them into Heaven rather than killing themselves. Ironically, they both killed the same people.

The sensitive eyes of some people Western, some of which are Christian, have a fixed image of suicide as a plea for help, for that is the American construct. However, it's quite different "over there," and if someone doesn't understand something, until they have some facts down, they should just shut their damn mouths. Some people turn the other cheek and some people turn themselves into flaming objects of death and destruction. If Palestinians want to play make-believe that they are guided missiles that just happen to have eyes, there is plenty of room in the "Palestinian territories" to play that game. I beg of people not to mistake piety for pity.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A Tale of Two Daddies

In a city there was a neighborhood, and in the neighborhood there was a complex, and there were two families that lived next door to each other. The fathers of the families each had a slightly different way of looking at the world. One father incredibly loved his children, and his philosophy on raising them was that the very first time that they cried out to him, he would bail them out of their problem, for he was a loving father and could not stand to see his children simmer in any kind of agony. So when his first child was a few days old and cried out from the crib, he immediately grabbed it in his hands and rocked it to sleep. Eventually, this became a process for the father, who treated his child with grace and love. The father made a promise to his child that it would never have to worry about being harmed by the world if it only allowed him to be at his side throughout the entirety of the day.

As the child grew older, the father did not waiver in his dedication to his child; every time the child scraped its knee, he applied the bandage, every time it argued with someone, he was there to comfort it, and every time it failed at something, he was there to offer emotional support. In short, this process continued on for the child's entire life, and when it grew up and was an adult, its reliance on the father was unwavering as well. The father promised his child that it would never have to worry about being harmed if it only allowed him to be at his side throughout the entirety of the day, and the child lovingly agreed, and whenever it would cry, he rushed in immediately.

When the child was an adult, the father would take care of its errands, tasks, and problems, for his love for his child was so great that he did not want his child to be exposed to any of the bitter elements of the world. He removed his child from the discomforts of that world by seating it in his presence, and in doing so, saved the child from these horrible things. Now that the child could comprehend, the father told it that one day it would enter the real world, and on that day, if it did not believe that the father was at its side to take care of all its problems, then he would truly leave his child alone forever in that world. And the father loved his child unconditionally.

The next door neighbor had a different philosophy of raising his children. When his child was just a few days old and cried from the crib, the father ran over and rocked the child in his arms until he fell asleep. But during the next few weeks, the father would gradually rock his child to sleep less and less often, sometimes allowing it to cry for a while before comforting it. Eventually, the child grew comfortable with its father's presence and learned to cry less and was able to fall asleep peacefully on its own. All the while, the father made sure child could see him plainly through the bars of the crib, which comforted the child.

And later, when the father removed himself from his child's line of sight, the child knew that he was in the house. The father would watch his child on the baby monitor all day long, and kept his eye and ear bent towards the child the entire time. When the child's crying became pained, the father rushed in immediately.

As the child grew older, it too experienced the travails of growing up. When the child would scrape its knee, the father handed the child a bandage and taught it how to apply it. When the child had an argument with someone, the father let the child fend for itself, and then only later did he inform the child how to deal with such people. When the child failed, the father would tell it that either it needed to try harder, or to rethink its goals.

By now, it had a level of confidence that would help it get through the day, yet nevertheless, it would visit the father, or at least call him periodically throughout the day to ask for advice, or just to spill its guts. Every once in a while, when the child, who was now an adult, experienced something especially traumatic, it would visit the father sometime during the day and cry on his shoulder. After some recuperation and graceful downtime, the father would send the child back on its way, and by now, the child was accustomed to the father's loving and gentle, yet forceful character traits, and it faced the world with a renewed confidence.

As a result, the child grew to be strong and independent, yet still reliant on the father for love and advice. The father would send his child to complete his errands and tasks and explained it how to take care of its problems, for he could only remove the discomforts from the child's life if it was responsible in its duties. One day, he explained, the child would enter the real world, and if it did not learn how to deal with its problems here, then it would have to face them there. Nevertheless, even in the event that such a thing occurred, the father would make sure that the child was treated fairly. Once the toughest times were over, the child would be allowed to retire.


This story is a parable about Judaism and Christianity. The first father is the "Christian G-d," that upon realizing the vast array of insurmountable obstacles (sin) in the world bailed them out of those problems so that they would not have to face them. In this tradition, G-d decided that the world was too overwhelming for His children (the world that He brought them into) and that they were not able of fighting sin, so as an act of amazing grace, He bailed them out (never mind how).

The "real world" is an analogy for the World to Come, or the Afterlife, which in the case that the child (a human) did not agree to have the father cover all of its problems for it (atonement through Jesus), it would be forced to live its life out away from the father forever (Hell).

*Just a thought. In the parable, if G-d is the father and humanity is the child, who would Jesus be? If Jesus had an analagous character in this parable, it would have to be a character other than a son, for the child (humanity) filled that role. Furthermore, the son figure would have to be a separate figure than the father, even though Christianity holds that the son (Jesus) was the Father (G-d). If we look at this relationship through a parable, we see that the father and son are clearly two different beings that cannot be viewed as being one singular being. Even if they were one singular being (by some oxymoronic miracle), they are represented by two separate and distinct consciouses, and how can one singular being have two (or three) separate consciouses and still be one singular being?

If one plus one plus one plus one equals one, then why do we need to stop at three? Could Christianity only come up with three essential forms of G-d? G-d is a Father, Mother, Creator, Husband, Landlord, Instructor, Presence, Gaurdian, Warrior, King, Redeemer, Savior, Rock, Friend, Sender of the Meshiach, Giver of life,Killer, and Ressurector of the dead; an eighteen-part G-d. There are many other attributes of G-d that I do not have the qualifications to list.

The second father is the "Jewish G-d," that does not save them from their sin, but gives them the knowledge that will make them learn how to avoid sin, and in the process of learning, they become more and more confident in G-d's instruction (the Torah) and in themselves. As they become more confident, they fear traveling out into the world less, and make use of G-d's instruction. As a result, they witness many great things, but many horrible things as well, and at these points in time, they turn back to Him for help.

The "real world" is also an analogy for the World to Come, but we notice that the person's experience in this place determines its experience in that place, which is never beyond its ability to tolerate. Once the process of Judgment is complete, the individual enters the World to Come.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jewry

I was in one of my classes today, and a realization eventually bubbled in my mind, a realization that I already had but forgot.

My teacher's last name is "Hernandez," and she comes from a Mexican Catholic family. However, on the second day of class, she told us that her maternal grandmother is Jewish, which means, guess what? That's right, my Mexican Catholic teacher is a Jew, specifically, a Sephardic Jew.

A Jewish friend of mine told me yesterday that any Spanish name ending with "ez," Hernandez, Gomez, Rodriguez, etc, are actually Jewish names, that those people are Jews. The suffix "ez" was used to notate "son of," so Hernandez is "son of Herman," for example. I'm going to check out that theory. Also, in Spain today, there are about twenty surnames that are categorized as specificaly Jewish names that nobody else has.

When I was in Israel a few years ago, my sister was telling our cousins about the guy she went to prom with, David Gutierrez. When she told them his name, they immediately asked, "Oh, you went to prom with a Jewish guy?" To them, Gutierrez was a Jewish last name, a name that we don't usually associate with Jewish at all. I thought to myself, "Haha, silly Israeli's, we live in Tucson, Arizona, where there are many Mexicans, and Gutierrez is a Catholic name!" After doing a little bit of research, I realized that they could be right and that I could be wrong, which is a good thing!

As you know, many Jews left Spain during the Spanish Inquisition and settled elsewhere, many in Mexico. Before that, many of these Jews "converted" to Catholicism in order to fit into society, but ended up creating a class of people called "Marranos," (which actually means 'swine') who became known as "hidden Jews." They went to Mass and participated to a degree in Catholic life, but were suspected of being Jews. The "New Christians" were the Jews that converted openly to Catholicism. Today in Mexico, where many of those people ended up settling, there are many "Catholics" that light candles on Friday and light candleabras (menorah's) during the winter, some in a hidden fashion, in a little podium with an inlet for the candles. It is very likely that they are Jews. There are many also in Portugal.

In Africa you also have several groups, the "African version" of that. One of those groups is the "Igbo," a Nigerian tribe that believe that they are Jews (I have spoken to one). Linguistically, "J" becomes "Y," or "I," "K" can become "G," and "V" can become "B." The result, Igbo is Jkv(o), or Jacob, Ya'akov. If you were a group of Jews fearing losing your identity, but also feared persecution, it would be a smart thing to name yourself a derivative of the name "Jacob," the patriarch from who all of the tribes of Israel came from.

You'll also find Africans, like an Eritrean family that I know, whose last name resembles that of one of the twelve tribes of Jacob, or Israel. Their last name is "Menashe," which is exactly the way his name is pronounced in Hebrew. "Menashe" is "Mannasseh," one of the tribes. Her family is actually Greek Orthodox, but are they really? I have also read that the Tutsi's are of Jewish heritage-- if it's true, it kinda adds a whole new element to the ethnic conflict between them, an element of religion, but specifically, Judaism. Not much attention has been given to this, so it exists as a theory right now. You can read more about it on this website.

In India you have a group of known and practicing Jews who call themselves "B'nei Menashe," "Sons of Menashe," and trace their lineage very far back.

These are just the main groups, there are also smaller and more fragmented and less known groups in other parts of the world. The common theme that they all have is their association with a name of one of the tribes of Jacob, or with Jacob himself, and a hidden sort of status in the place they live.

If their lineage is valid, it turns out that the population of Jews in the world is (much) higher than we currently think, and that their status or condition drove them underground. If we consider that the world population of Christians is about 33% and the world population of Muslims is about 23%, the fact that the (recorded) world Jewish population is .002% (two thousandths of one percent) is almost impossible! According to this statistic, and if my calculations are correct, for every 1 Jew there are about 16,500 Christians and about 11,500 Muslims. The key here is that the recorded Jewish population is .002%, which is a number that leaves out Jews that have ceased to identify themselves as Jews due to generations of assimilation, have converted to any number of religions (including Christianity or Islam) and of course, Jews that don't even know that they are Jewish. If it's possible for groups of people to have collective memory, they can also have collective amnesia, especially if that amnesia helped them to survive.

It's stressful in a way, but also exciting to see these people right in front of your eyes who are Jews just like you, but are so far removed in practice and are adhering to other religions, even if in a superficial way, and whose "Jewishness" is a faint image somewhere far in the distance of their consciousness. You want to run up to them and say, "Hey Jewish sister or brother, how are you?! Would you like to celebrate Shabbat (the Sabbath) with me?," all the while disregarding the statue of the Virgin Mary that they have on their mantle. It gives a whole new meaning to the "protective powers" of the Virgin Mary, not from evil spirits, but from marauding Catholic Spaniards. It's painful to see people so unaware of their identity, especially when that identity is such a special one as being a Jew and when they are your family.

You never know, Carlos with the big blinging cross hanging from his neck could be a Levite. In fact, you or someone you know might be living an historical charade, unaware of an entire family and communal history, and therefore individual history. Right now, wherever you are sitting, look at the person next to you who you would never in your wildest imagination think was a Jew, because they just might be.

There is a book written about this topic by a man named Dan Ross titled "Acts of Faith." Here is a blurb about the book written by Chaim Raphael.

Everyone knows the story of the pigtailed Chinese Jew who greets his Litvak visitor in total disbelief: "You Jewish? You don't look Jewish." But though this is funny when first heard, it might seem foolhardy to write a book consisting largely, as Acts of Faith does, of variations on this one theme.

There is a great documentary about this called "Quest for the Lost Tribes," which is an Arts & Entertainment production. You can read a blurb about it here.

You can order it here.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Day of Atonement

Leviticus 16:29-31 reads, "This shall remain for you an eternal decree: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict yourselves and you shall not do any work, neither the native nor the proselyte who dwells among you. For on this day he shall provide atonement for you to cleanse you; from all your sins before Hashem shall you be cleansed."

The (written) Torah has six hundred and thirteen commandments, and when you take into account all of the details listed in the Oral Law, the Talmud, you get into the thousands. A Christian friend of mine, who happens to be a pastor, once told me that to worship G-d by keeping some thousand commandments would be overwhelming and that he was glad that G-d sent Jesus to die for his sins. He was glad that G-d is a G-d of grace and love, and not law; too bad he's only two-thirds right.

The Day of Atonement is the most somber day of the Jewish year for it is the day in which G-d peers into each person's "book," into his or her very deeds (and thoughts) and decides whether or not that person is written into the Book of Life. During that day, the person beckons with G-d to pardon his sins. The ten days before this are just as important, for in those ten days, a Jew must right all wrongs with the people that he knows or that he has harmed, and must ask forgiveness. After asking forgiveness from other people, he then asks G-d for forgiveness during the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur.

This process makes a world of sense. At the end of a person's life, G-d opens up the individual's own personal book and peers into it. At this point, an elaborate process begins, a process that I am not qualified to expound upon, the process of judgment. In this vein, it would make sense that at the end of all of the Days of Atonement, at the end of life, G-d looks at the composition, the sum of the parts. If a person goes through a heart-felt and genuine atonement each year during Yom Kippur, and if one was able to make a spiritual flow chart of that person's committment to his t'shuva (repentance) each year, you would see a steadily growing improvement in the character of that person. The result of this would be less and less sin, and at the end of his physical life, G-d would be able to measure his steadily growing level of good deeds. Throw in G-d's mercy and you have a pretty good deal.

The Torah has a "no nonsense" approach to sin; you FEEL the effect of your sins, so you must stop DOING them, and with dedication and effort, supported by G-d's help, ANYBODY can succeed.

Moment of Atonement

When a person goes though the very spiritual and impactful ceremony of accepting that Jesus died for one's own salvation, he goes away feeling purified of his sin. He feels that his sin; past, present, and future, has been eternally nullified. As the days, weeks, months, and years go by, he begins to repeat some of the actions in which he was partaking before he made his acceptance, and after a while, he realizes that he has aqcuired more sin, and that it has again amassed. This realization forces him to re-committ and to correct the path that he previously began to walk down. He has already accepted Jesus, so can he now accept Jesus again? How is this different from the Jew's path? If the Christian has already accepted Jesus, must he accept him again for his new sins? If Jesus died once for all sins, then a Christian who has accepted him never needs to repent.

He has accepted that Jesus literally died for his sins, but in reality, and due to his finite mind, he cannot stop trying to avoid sin and still live a spiritually, ethically, and morally healthy life; he must set up a visible boundary between him and it. Perhaps I am in error when I say this, but it seems that a person who has just been "saved," feels that to be a renewal, as erasing his sins up to that point in his life. The fact that he continues to try to avoid sin is strong evidence that he somehow believes that if he commits more sins, they too will add up like the ones of old (and he is right). Right after being saved, he feels free, but as his experience moves from the subconscious mind to the conscious mind, his feeling of liberation becomes gradually replaced with obligation -- an obligation to avoid sin. This is healthy, because the crux of the nature of any relationship between humanity and G-d MUST be obligation, not freedom. This obligation is freedom.

It would be fallacious of me to say that, since a Christian believes that Jesus' erased all of his sins, that he now feels like he can do whatever he wants. Clearly a "saved Christian" feels bound to proper behavior and to avoidance of sin. Yet, if the atonement provided for Jesus' death was eternal and perpetual, the Christian would, in reality, be freed from the worry of sinning. This highlights a very pertinent point; even a saved person understands the effect of sin on his soul, which is a negative and plainly visible. Even a saved Christian understands that sinning directly harms him. If all of his sins were already atoned for, in reality, every sin, as it was being committed, would be erased from his book simultaneously, yet no Christian truly believes that. The lingering of a sin's effect after it has been committed is identified by the negative feelings that reside on the soul in the aftermath; yet, Christians would agree that a saved Christian has this feeling even after being freed from sin. If a Christian feels the negative effect of a sin after committing it, has he really been freed from that sin? Was the freeing from sin effective upon acceptance of Jesus, or does the sin take time to dissipate after it has been committed? If a Christian has already accepted Jesus, does he have to repent?

Symbolically, Jesus' death frees him from the bondage of his sin, but due to the person's finite mind, he must go through a process that allows him to exterpate himself from that sin on his own; he must feel that he is succeeding in defeating his inclincation to sin. Psychology attests to this when it says that a person, for example, suffering from an addiction, must "go through with the motions," and those motions distance a person from a thing. If G-d hardwired us to be able to percieve Him, then He also hardwired our brains with an internal psychologically-based method of atoning for our sins. In this vein, an animal sacrifice (in the Temple) makes sense. Avoidance of sin is a clear indication that a human being feels a deep need to see the ending of his sin. Since he can SEE sin's effect, he must SEE its destruction, yet he cannot SEE Jesus' atonement for he cannot really imagine it. When a person takes repentance into his own hands, as he is supposed to, he does not need to imagine it taking place because he is seeing it take place before his very eyes, through his actions. This puts him in direct contact with his own repentance and into direct contact with G-d's plan, and with G-d Himself. This is why the need to atone for ourselves is eternal, and in this way, we become responsible servants.

"This shall remain for you an eternal decree: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict yourselves and you shall not do any work, neither the native nor the proselyte who dwells among you. For on this day he shall provide atonement for you to cleanse you; from all your sins before Hashem shall you be cleansed."

May you be written in the Book of Life, my friends, and may the Temple be rebuilt speedily and in our days!