Jerusalem

Four Reasons Why Tisha B’Av Is Relevant Today

Temple Burning Tisha B’av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, is a fast day commemorating  the destruction of both the First and Second Temples located on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and the subsequent exile of Jews from their country. This year it begins at sundown July 31 and ends at nightfall on August 1st. 

A number of other calamities also befell the Jewish people on that day including: the crushing of Bar Kochba’s revolt against Roman rule and the death of 580,00 Jews in Israel as a result of it; the official start of the First Crusade which killed 10,000 Jews in France and Germany during the first month alone; the expulsion of the Jews from England, France and Spain; the beginning of the mass deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto; and Himmler’s receipt of approval from the Nazi party for the “Final Solution,” which resulted in the death of six million Jews.

While  these seasons are more than sufficient to warrant a day of fasting, many Jews  wonder if the fast is still relevant today since the main reasons for the fast – the destruction of the two Temples and the city of Jerusalem and the expulsion of its citizens- is not as relevant today.  Jerusalem has been rebuilt and united and Jews have returned to Jerusalem and to Israel. However, as we will see, Tisha B’Av is extremely relevant to us today.

  1. The Temple- Although the Temple has not been rebuilt, Israel is in possession of the site on which the first two Temples were erected- the Temple Mount. However, as evidenced by recent events, the Temple Mount is far from being”in our hands.” The unfortunate decision to leave the Waqf, an Islamic trust controlled by Jordan, in administrative charge of the Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, has resulted in the belief by Palestinians and most other Muslims that the Temple Mount belongs to them. Furthermore, despite historical and archeological evidence to the contrary, Muslims have proclaimed that Jews have no connection to the site and to East Jerusalem. This July, the World Heritage committee of UNESCO passed a resolution disavowing Israeli sovereignty of the Old City Of Jerusalem, which includes the Western wall and the Temple Mount. How Christian countries which believe in the Bible and New Testament can agree to such nullification of their own history is beyond belief. The decision by Israel to remove all security devices from the gates leading to the Mount has reinforced the Arab belief in their sovereignty over the site. Clearly, the Temple Mount is not “in our hands.”
  2. Anti Semitism- Anti Zionism is the new Anti Semitism. Anti Semitism is alive and well and is ever increasing its hold on the populations of the world. In Arab countries, it’s in their mother milk. Although some Arab leaders may secretly want to cooperate with Israel, the incitement and hatred promulgated through the years has created an Arab population whose pores ooze anti semitism. The European populace, bolstered by the large influx of muslim refugees, is not Jew friendly. America is seeing a rise in anti semitism that is likely to continue.
  3. The Diaspora- Only half the World’s Jews live in Israel. That means that the other half live in the Diaspora. While life in the Diaspora can be good, Israel is intended to be the homeland of the Jews. For two thousand years Jews prayed for their return to Jerusalem. Now that this is possible, Jews should put their money where their mouth is and come to live in Israel.
  4. Lack of Respect- The Rabbis say that one of the main reasons the second Temple was destroyed was because of the lack of respect Jews paid to each other. Today, this lack of respect has become endemic. Different Jewish sectors totally disparage each other- religious and secular, Haredim and other Jews, Orthodox and Conservative and Reform, and factions within these groups. If we don’t respect each other, how can we expect others to respect us? Only when there is a national crisis, do most groups pull together and briefly behave as one people.

So what can we do to try to better the situation and turn Tisha B’Av from a day of fasting into a day of rejoicing? To begin with, we need to vociferously denounce all attempts at denying the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount and Jerusalem. We must make it clear to everyone that Israel is the Jewish state both historically and legally and all attempts to deny this are false. In addition, Jews must visit Jerusalem and the Western Wall in large numbers to make it clear to all that Jerusalem and Israel belongs to the Jews.

The solution to Diaspora Jewry is clear. They should come to Israel now, of their own volition, before they are forced to leave. Those who are afraid of religious coercion need not worry. Israel is a democracy and all forms of Jewish worship are welcome. There is an egalitarian section of the Wall and it will be expanded and made even more aesthetically pleasing. Those looking to find meaning in their lives can reconnect with Judaism in a Jewish country in which one need not strive to hide one’s Jewishness to be accepted. Institutions of Jewish learning abound and are very welcoming.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for anti semitism. It will continue to gain new adherents. As the world becomes an ever more dangerous place, the Jews as scapegoat, aka Israel, will continue to grow in popularity, as expressions of sympathy with Israel will be forbidden. The recent lesbian marches are prime examples. However, all efforts should be made to counter this anti semitism in every way possible.

Finally, Jews need to begin treating each other with greater respect. There is no reason for name calling, or shaming Jews with whom one disagrees. One need not agree with a fellow Jew, but should not make the disagreement a basis for the denigration of the other. Multiple viewpoints can and should exist and the merits of each debated respectfully. We must remember that all Jews are family and we must try to act accordingly.

May everyone’s fast be easy and meaningful. May our next Tisha B’Av will be one of rejoicing, not mourning.

Categories: Anti Semitism, Israel, Jerusalem, Jewish, Jewish Blog, Politics, Temple Mount, Tisha B"av, UNESCO, Western Wall Kotel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Kotel and Conversion Controversy- A Tempest In A Teapot?

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As I sat in my living room yesterday on an overcast fast day marking the beginning of the three week mourning period for the two destroyed Temples in Jerusalem, I could not help but reflect on the current Kotel and Conversion controversy which threatens to weaken the ties between Israel and its brothers and sisters in the Diaspora. One of the main reasons the Rabbis give for the destruction of the Second Temple, is Sinas Chinom, the baseless hatred of one Jew to another. This, I fear, is what this controversy may lead to.

Does Israel really not care for Diaspora Jews and is it indifferent to their feelings and religious beliefs? Is Israel a country a country controlled by the Haredim, or (Ultra Orthodox), whose every whim is honored? Do secular, Reform and Conservative Jews really not have a place where they can pray as they wish in the Kotel complex?

Nothing could be further from the truth. Israel values and appreciates Diaspora Jews of all types. The country is not controlled by Haredim. In fact, 44% of Israeli Jews self identify as secular, while only 9% identify as Haredim. There is a pretty area near the Kotel set up for egalitarian prayer. Unlike the separate areas for men and women at the Kotel, which are often crowded and under the direct sun, the egalitarian area is shaded and often empty.

So why the uproar? It’s mainly about the Compromise bill on the Kotel, the Western Wall, which was approved by Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and Haredi ministers, but frozen at the last minute at the behest of the Haredi party in the government. Yes, since the Haredim initially approved the compromise, they should have gone along with it. if the compromise was not acceptable to them, they should never have approved it. If later they were not happy with it, they should have discussed their objections with the other parties to the compromise. The freezing of the compromise bill and the lack of notice and consultation with parties to the agreement, greatly angered those affected, especially, the Reform and Conservative movements. The bill would have given the power to oversee the egalitarian space to a committee that would have included representatives of Conservative and Reform Judaism. The freezing of the bill means that the egalitarian area will continue to be overseen only by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation. This loss of power over a segment of Judaism’s holiest site was a big blow to the non Orthodox movements and they reacted accordingly.

However, their reactions made it seem as if the Israel government had denied the right of non Orthodox people to pray in an egalitarian area at the Wall. That’s fake news. The egalitarian area is alive and well and this bill does not change that. In fact, the government said that the area will be enlarged and made even more  aesthetically pleasing. However, through this bill, Conservative and Reform Judaism hoped to gain official recognition as alternate forms of Judaism in Israel. Both the Reform and Conservative movements are very weak in Israel, as Israelis who are religious are generally traditional, Orthodox or Haredi, and those who are secular usually do not belong to any movement. So this was the opportunity the  two movements were waiting for to become official alternate forms of Judaism, and it failed.

While their disappointment and anger is justified, making it seem that the Israeli government is ignoring the needs of Diaspora Jews is just not true. There is an egalitarian area for prayer and no one is taking that away. The potential loss of power of the Conservative and Reform movements of the egalitarian prayer space is inconsequential to all but the movements’ leaders. Members of these movements will not be affected in any way by the freezing of the Compromise bill.

The Conversion bill which would have given sole authority for conversions in Israel to the Chief Rabbinate also would not change the status of Reform and Conservative Jews. All conversions in Israel are currently done under Orthodox auspices. The bill would only have prevented private Orthodox courts, a desirable alternative for many, from granting conversions in Israel. The conversion bill would not have changed anything under the Law of Return.

The Kotel is a religious area. Religious Jews have been praying there and preserving its holiness for millennia. They pray daily for the restoration of the Temple and fast a few times a year to commemorate events which negatively affected the Temples’ existence. The Kotel is open to all, as is the egalitarian area. The failure of the Compromise bill to pass has not affected the rights of secular Jews to pray there in any way. All Jews, no matter how they were converted in the Diaspora, are still Israeli citizens under the Law of Return.

So let’s put this incident in perspective. Leaders of the Reform and Conservative movement suffered a loss of power, but their members were not negatively affected in any way. So let’s stop insinuating that the Israeli government took away the rights of secular Jews to pray, or failed to appreciate their invaluable contributions to Israel.

In these trying times, when anti semitism is rebounding, let’s remember that we are all Jews, regardless of our way of showing it. Let’s unite behind Israel, which is the only Jewish state in the world and the only country which can guarantee that Jews will not be discriminated against because they are Jewish. Israel needs the Diaspora Jews and the Diaspora Jews need Israel.

Show your support by coming to Israel and praying at the Kotel or its egalitarian area. You’ll be glad you did.

Categories: Israel, Jerusalem, Jewish, Jewish Blog, Judaism, religion, religious freedom, Western Wall Kotel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Jerusalem Day Is Important For Jews

                  

Last night and today Israelis celebrated Jerusalem Day, or Yom Yerushalayim, as its called in Hebrew. This year marks the 50th anniversary of this momentous day.

Just why are they celebrating and why should Jews everywhere celebrate the day? This day marks the high point of the Six Day War, in 1967, when Israeli soldiers liberated eastern Jerusalem and the Old City and were finally able to see, touch and pray at the Western Wall, the Kotel.

Why is this important? Tuesday of this week Trump paid respects to the holiest site in Jerusalem by praying there. Prior to this, during the illegal Jordanian occupation  of the eastern half of Jerusalem (from 1948-1967). Jews were expelled from the area and were barred from praying at the Wall. Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs were also off limits. Jerusalem was a divided city, divided in half by a concrete wall topped by barbed wire. Jordanian snippers regularly fired into Western Jerusalem. As a result of the Six Day War, Israel regained control of all of Jerusalem. It reunified the city and extended Israeli law to all its parts. It also guaranteed freedom of worship and protection of the holy sites of all religions.

Is this the only reason the Six Day war is important? Not all all. As a result of the war, Israel more than tripled the size of the area under its jurisdiction, from 8,000 to 26,000 square miles, about the size of New Jersey. Israel captured the SInai (which it later returned to Egypt), the Golan Heights (from Syria), the Gaza Strip (which was controlled by Egypt) and from which Israel withdrew its forces and expelled its citizens in 2005, and the West Bank.

It was a momentous miraculous victory. Three armies- Egypt, Jordan and Syria were massed to attack Israel. Frenzied mobs called for its destruction. The United Nations peacekeeping force assigned to Sinai to keep peace between Egypt and Israel was forced to leave by the Egyptians. Israel stood alone against three armies. A victory by those forces would have, Heaven forbid, resulted in the elimination of the Jewish State. This was one war Israel had to win. And win it did, but the victory came at a high cost. Israel lost twice as many men in proportion to its population as the United States lost in its eight year war in Vietnam.

And what if Israel had won, but had not captured any territory. Well, the Golan Heights would have remained under Syrian control. That means that Israel would have been infested with Hezbollah and ISIS fighters. Jerusalem would have remained a divided city, with the Old City of Jerusalem remaining under Jordanian control. Jews would have been barred from the Wall and from living in East Jerusalem. Israel would, in fact, have been hard pressed to remain stable and safe. Without ’67, Israel’s enemies would be demanding their rights to Tel Avi, Haifa and of course the western part of Jerusalem. The ’67 war turned Israel into a viable nation.

Why is a united Jerusalem important to all Jews? Jerusalem is the capital city of Israel, the land of the Jews. It was Israel’s capital thousands of years ago and has never been the capital of any other country. It is the heart and soul of Israel. Jerusalem cannot be divided. Asking Israel to do so, is not only against Israel’s interests, but also against the world’s interests. Israel safeguards all holy places and allows freedom of access to all. In contrast, the Jordanians who control the Temple Mount refuse to let Jews even mumble a prayer on the Mount, but they let their children play sports on the plaza. So much for its holiness. Control of the holy places by the Palestinians, or even international forces which can be expelled by the host country, will not ensure freedom of access to all. Rachel’s Tomb, which is in Bethlehem, is now covered by concrete and barred wire to ensure the safety of its visitors. The Tomb of Joseph in Nablus is not safe for Jews to visit. The Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron requires an armed Israeli presence to protect worshippers. In short, only Israel guarantees the safety of Holy Places under its rule. Furthermore, it would not take long for Hamas to take control of any area ceded to the Palestinians  by Israel. Those would be dangerous times for Israel and its neighbors.

But there’s more. In order for Israel to remain viable, it needs to have defensible borders. It’s neighbors have waged war against it and while Israel has signed peace treaties with some, others are waiting to pounce on it. And Israel must remain strong, very strong. Israel is the last place of refuge for Jews. As anti semitism and terror raise their ugly heads in all parts of the world, Jews now have place of refuge, a place where they can live openly and freely as Jews and where all can pray at the holiest of all synagogues. Those are real reasons to celebrate.

Categories: Anti Semitism, Hamas, Israel, Jerusalem, Jerusalem Day, Middle East, Politics, Pro Israel Post, religious freedom, Terrorism, Yom Yerushalayim | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Freedom Is Not Free- Remembering The Fallen Heroes

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Israel will be 69 years old on  the night of May 1, 2017.

Those 69 years have been filled with both joy and sorrow. Israel has fought in 8 wars and military operations since its founding in 1948. Over 23,000 soldiers have been killed as a result of these operations and over 3,000 civilians have lost their lives due to terrorist attacks.

In a country as small as Israel (the most recent survey showed that Israel has about 8.7 million people), almost everyone has either had a family member killed or injured, or knows someone who was so affected.  

Therefore, unlike most Americans today, Israel takes Memorial Day very seriously.  

In 1968, The United States Congress changed the date of Memorial Day, which was originally May 30, to the last Monday in May to create a three day weekend. This has diluted the purpose of the day. On Memorial Day in the United States, the U.S. flag is lowered to half staff until noon. Americans who have lost family members or friends in the various wars and conflicts in which the United States has been engaged visit cemeteries to pay tribute to the fallen. Many attend Memorial Day parades which feature veterans and members of the various Armed Forces. There is also a National Memorial Day Concert which takes place on the lawn of the United States Capitol.

However, for most Americans the Memorial Day weekend means the unofficial start of the summer season, the Indy 500, NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600, The Memorial Tournament golf event, the final of the NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse Championship, and, of course, Memorial Day Sales and barbecues.

In 2000, perhaps in response to the dilution of the meaning of the day, Congress passed the National Moment of Remembrance Act, asking people to stop and remember the fallen at 3:00 P.M on Memorial Day Monday. To mark the Moment, Major League Baseball games halt, Amtrak train whistles sound across the country, and other organisations do what they can to remind Americans to observe the Moment.

For Israel, the pain of the loss of the fallen is very fresh. This year another 97 people were added to that roster of heroes. There are over 9,000 bereaved parents in Israel, almost 5,000 widows and close to 2,000 orphans under the age of 30, all of whom lost a family member fighting for Israel’s right to exist. This number does not include the relatives and friends of the over 3,000 civilians killed by terrorists.

Israel understands all too well the debt of gratitude it owes to its soldiers and its heroes who sacrificed their lives so that Israel could exist and be free. Therefore, Israel’s Memorial Day, Yom Hazikaron, is taken very seriously.

It officially begins with a one minute siren, heard throughout the country, at 8 P.M., during which the entire nation stands still for one minute. Even traffic is halted. This is followed by an official State Ceremony at the Western Wall (the Kotel) in Jerusalem and other gatherings and services throughout the country. (Israelis take this moment so seriously that yesterday, Sunday,  a group of Israelis on a flight from Marrakesh to Munich stood silently for one minute  at 8 P.M.)

For the next 24 hours, all theatres, cinemas, nightclubs, bars, etc. are closed. Radio and television station broadcast programs portraying the lives and heroic deeds of fallen soldiers and play melancholy music which conveys the mood of the day.

A second memorial siren, this one lasting for two minutes, is sounded at 11 A.M. the next morning, marking the beginning of the public recitation of prayers in the military cemeteries throughout the country. The official service is held at Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem. Flags are lowered to half staff, special memorial prayers are recited, government officials speak, and a wreath is laid. The ceremony usually concludes with a military gun salute.

At 1PM another national service takes place at Mt. Herzl, this one honoring the memories of those felled by terrorist acts.

This year over 1.5 million Israelis are expected to pay their respects at the graves of those killed in Israel’s struggles.

Schools are open, but almost every high school in Israel has a “memorial corner” with the pictures of the school’s graduates who were killed defending the State. Some high schools organize their own Yom Hazikaron ceremonies and invite the families of the fallen graduates to participate.

Students wear white shirts and blue pants, or skirts, to school that day and soldiers wear their uniforms to the military cemeteries.

A few minutes after sundown, when Memorial day ends, the official switch from Yom Hazikaron to Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, takes place. In a ceremony on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, the flag is raised from half staff to the top of the pole. The president of Israel then delivers a speech of congratulations, and soldiers representing the Army, Navy, and Air Force parade with their flags. This is followed by a torch lighting ceremony, marking the country’s achievements, Many municipalities have their own flag ceremony in which students march with the Israeli flag.

Israelis celebrate Independence Day in a number of ways. Many cities have nighttime activities, fireworks and free concerts. Many spend the night singing Israeli songs and dancing Israeli folk dances. During the day, many families go on hikes and picnics. Others barbeque at home or with family and friends.  Army camps are open to the public and many museums and cultural institutions offer free admission and programs. The day concludes with the granting of the Israeli Prize to individuals who have made unique contributions to Israel’s culture, science, arts and humanities.

The juxtaposition of these two very disparate days and moods is both very moving and meaningful. It helps us realise that freedom is not free. There is a high price to pay and we should be eternally grateful to those who pay it.

Let us  hope that no additional names will be added to the list of the fallen and that we will finally be able to live together in peace.

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Categories: Israel, Israel Independence Day, Israel Memorial Day Yom Hazikaron, It Happened In Israel, Jerusalem, Jewish, Jewish Blog, Jewish Holidays, Yom Haatzmaut, Yom Hazikaron | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tisha B’Av Blues: Anti Israel Attitudes and Anti Semitism Are Growing

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Shalom Y”All:

As some of you may know, this Saturday night and Sunday religious Jews will be engaged in a 25 hour fast commemorating the many tragic events which occurred on Tisha B’av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av. These include: the destruction of both Temples on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem – the First by the Babylonians, the Second by the Romans- and a number of other calamities including: the exile of over one million Jews to the Roman Empire and the loss of Jewish statehood and independence; the crushing of the Betar Revolt to restore independence to Israel and the death of over 100,000 Jews; the beginning of the First Crusade which resulted in the death of over 10,000 Jews in the first month alone; the Spanish Inquisition, the bombing of the Jewish Center in Argentina which killed 86 people and many others.

On the evening of Tisha B’Av we recite the Eichah- the Book Of Lamentations written by the Prophet Jeremiah which describes the suffering of the Jewish people at the time of the destruction of the Temple. During the day -up until about midday- we recite other lamentations concerning the many evils inflicted on the Jews and the suffering which the Jews underwent during their long exile.

In case you think that it’s fine to recount our history of suffering, but in fact, it’s different today since Jews are once again in control of the Holy Land and not in danger,think again. There are many powerful forces arrayed against us trying to separate Jews from their land and cause harm to Jews everywhere.

The ADL estimates that over one billion people in the world harbor anti semitic attitudes. Of that number, 19% are in the Americas, 24% Western Europe, 34% Eastern Europe, 22% in Asia, 23% in Sub-Saharan Africa, 14% in Australia and New Zealand, and 74% in the Middle East and North Africa. 9% of Americans and 14% of Canadians share these hateful attitudes.

The number of violent anti-Semitic assaults taking place in the United States rose dramatically last year. According to ADL’s annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents,  there were 56 assaults last year, compared to 36 the year before. 941 incidents were reported in the U.S. in 2015, a 3 percent increase from the 912 incidents recorded in 2014. The number of anti semitic incidents on college campuses nearly doubled from the year before- 90 incidents on 60 college campuses, compared to 47 incidents on 43 campuses the year earlier. This means that on average there is one anti-Semitic assault in the United States every week, and at least two anti-Jewish incidents on average every single day. These numbers, of course, do not include all the anti semitic and online harassment on social media.

While there are more than 200 territorial disputes in the world, Europe does not label products as made in Chinese-occupied Tibet or Turkish-occupied Cyprus. The European Union only labels goods made in the West Bank and Golan Heights. 40% of European Jewish leaders view Anti Semitism as the most dangerous threat facing their communities. The large number of Muslim immigrants streaming into Europe who have Anti Semitic views has led to open hatred of Jews in countries with small communities of Jews such as Holland and Sweden. 63% of Poles believe in a Jewish conspiracy to run the world. French Jews are emigrating to Israel in record numbers. Hamas and Hezbollah are constant threats. And finally, Palestinians who kill Jews are honored by the Palestinian authority.

And then there is Iran, whose leaders vow to eradicate Israel. And as for Palestinians, who are our supposed peace partners, in a 2015 poll conducted by David Pollock, 72% of Palestinians stated that they believe that Jews do not have historical ties to Jerusalem and  83% of Palestinians believe that the area from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea is Palestinian land to which Jews have no right. Only 12% agreed that both Jews and Palestinians have rights to the land.

These views are not surprising coming from Palestinians who have been suckled on the milk of Anti Semitism since birth. But for UNESCO’s Executive Board to adopt in April in Paris a resolution ignoring Jewish ties to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall area of  Jerusalem is quite another thing. When Jesus in the New Testament rails against the abuses in the selling of animals for sacrifices in the Temple, is that a mistake? Did he mean Mosque? And was Jesus a Moslem? Of course, since Mohammed would not be born for another 600 years, and Jesus brought Christianity, not Islam, to the world, this is ludicrous. This historical revisionism also raised its ugly head in the attempted rewriting of history by UNESCO in its declaration in October of 2015 that the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb are Muslim holy sites. Was Jacob a Muslim? Was Rachel, his wife, a believer in Islam? Where was Mohammed? UNESCO will vote on the Temple Mount ownership issue in October.

So, in summary, Jewish persecution and suffering are very much with us today. And when we chant the lamentations, let’s remember that Anti Semitism and the desire to eliminate Israel are not behind us, but very much in front of us. And let’s do all we can to expose it and not pretend it doesn’t pertain to us, or that it’s just a passing phase. It concerns all Jews everywhere.  The fight to protect Jews and the State of Israel is ongoing. This is one battle that must be won.

 

 

 

 

 


 

Categories: Anti Semitism, Islamic Terrorism, Israel, Jerusalem, Jewish, UNESCO | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Israel At 68

Shalom Y”all:

Beginning last night and ending nightfall this evening, Israelis celebrate Yom YaZicharon- the Day of Remembrance. This is Israel’s Memorial Day, the day on which Israel commemorates and pays tribute to Israelis who sacrificed their lives for their country or were killed by terrorists. Unlike America’s Memorial Day which marks the unofficial start of summer and is celebrated by going to the beach and barbecuing, Remembrance Day in Israel is a solemn affair. Sirens sound, the media tells stories of the fallen, and people visit graves of soldiers killed in the line of duty and people felled by terrorist attacks. It may be that the reason Israelis take this day so seriously is because since most Israelis serve in the military or have relatives who do so, death through conflict is not as remote a possibility. Furthermore,  since Israel is such a small country, many many Israelis know someone who paid the ultimate sacrifice, or was injured in conflict, or through a terrorist attack.

As night falls over Israel, the celebration shifts from one of solemnity to one of jubilation- Israel Independence Day has begun. The juxtaposition of the two days reminds all that freedom is not free; it is achieved only through the sacrifice of others.

Although the current State of Israel is only 68 years young, about 3,000 years ago King David defeated the Jebusites and established the capitol of  the first independent Jewish kingdom in Jerusalem. Jews ruled Jerusalem for over five hundred years. They lost their independence when the Romans conquered the city in the year 66 (over five hundred years before the birth of Mohammed) and did not regain it until 1948.

What’s happened to Israel during the last 68 years? Israel has been involved in 13 military conflicts, eight of them  wars. These repeated military actions have resulted in the deaths of  23, 447 Israelis. This past year alone there were 68 Israeli casualties of terrorism. Israel today has 9,000 families who have lost a loved one to war or terrorism, including close to 5,000 war widows. Israel is currently threatened by Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS, Iran and the Palestinians.

In efforts to make peace, Israel uprooted 2,500 people from the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula (Yamit) as part of the peace treaty with Egypt. As a peace offering to the Palestinians, about 9,000 Israeli citizens were expelled from their homes in Gaza and in four towns on the West Bank,

How has the world reacted to Israeli’s presence in the family of nations?  For the most part by trying to: isolate Israel, delegitimize it and ultimately end its existence. It has even resorted to rewriting history. For example, UNESCO’s executive board recently adopted a resolution ignoring the Jewish ties to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall and pronouncing these and two other biblical Jewish sites,  Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs, to be Islamic holy sites. It referred to Hebron and Bethlehem as, “Palestinian sites.” 33 countries voted for this resolution, while only six countries- Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States-  voted against the resolution. Among the countries supporting the resolution were such Christian countries as France, Spain and Sweden. How they could do so when they know that the New Testament speaks of the  Jewish Temple in Jerusalem  and that  Jesus the Jew preached in Jewish Jerusalem hundreds of years before Mohammed was born, speaks to the lack of concern for truth and the power of Islamic constituencies within these countries.

Israel is also plagued by countless NGOS within its borders whose sole purpose is to harm Israel. For an in depth look at what these NGOS and some countries are doing to besmirch Israel, read Catch the Jew, by Tuvia Tenenbom.

Why the wish for Israel’s demise? The existence of the State of Israel is an anathema to those who hate Jews. Instead of Jews being totally subject to the whims of the governments in the countries in which they reside, 43% of the Jews in the world now reside in Israel, a country which is economically stable and has its own defense forces. So to try to bring about the downfall of Israel, the Jew haters criticize virtually every Israeli action. In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted 20 resolutions against Israel, but only 3 resolutions against all the other countries in the world- one against the Syrian regime, which has already murdered 200,000 of its people, one against Iran and one on North Korea. No resolution was adopted against human rights abuses in China, Cuba, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, etc.

The BDS movement is alive and well and continues to gain new supporters. Since  criticizing Israel is accepted, it’s not very far from there to anti semitic rants against Jews everywhere. One has only to see the signs carried by protestors in Seattle during anti Israel demonstrations during the Gaza war to see how this has translated to raw anti-semitism. http://www.ruthfullyyours.com/2014/07/16/shocking-anti-semitic-hatefest-in-seattle-appalling-must-see-pictures/

Anti-semitism is now espoused by many groups on the left, including Britain’s Labor Party. Anti Semitism is also on the rise in Europe and Islamic terrorists now routinely target Jews in places such as France. Therefore, among the 36, 000 people who immigrated to Israel last year, about 8,000 were from France. This number is expected to rise.

The Palestinians continue in their efforts to get Israel to make dangerous concessions by using the power of public relations to tell tales that aren’t  true, which most of the world is all too ready to accept.  France and others will soon try to force Israel to make dangerous, one sided, concessions at the Paris “Peace Conference” which, if adopted,  will result in strengthening Hamas and creating additional threats to Israel and the moderate Middle Eastern countries.

So on this 68th birthday, why should Israel celebrate? All this misery, loss of life and hatred are depressing at best. How has Israel reacted? By adopting an attitude of life must go on and let’s live life to the fullest. Israel has become the  “Start Up Nation ” and has invented many of the world’s most innovative products and services such as: amniocentesis, drip irrigation, desalination, drones, baby monitors, office printers, instant messaging, Pillcam, flash drives, Centrino computer ships, Waze,  and Get Taxi. Israel’s concern for others has led it to participate in many humanitarian efforts including being the first on the scene to give relief after Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, and among the first to send aid to Japan after its 2011 earthquake. Almost daily, Israel rescues wounded Syrians from the war in Syria and treats them is Israeli hospitals. These Syrians are probably enemies of Israel and many may be members of Al Quaida affiliated groups. Since 2013, more than 2,000 Syrians  have been saved. This despite the fact that Syria has no diplomatic relations with Israel and has fought against it.

Israel’s military is among the strongest and most moral armies in the world, even notifying civilians in targeted areas (“roof knocking”) of upcoming attacks. ( The United States forces have now begun to do this in Iraq). Ultra Orthodox Jews and Arabs within Israel, especially Christian Arabs, are beginning to volunteer for the Israeli Army. (Like Jews, Druze Arabs are conscripted into the army and are truly loyal Israeli citizens.) Israel’s economy is robust. And, of course, unlike most Arab countries who refused to accept Palestinian refugees and now Syrian refugees, Israel absorbed millions of Jewish refugees, many from underdeveloped countries. Finally, polls indicate that Israel is one of the happiest countries in the world.

So let’s celebrate Israel’s miraculous existence and wish it a true peace with all its neighbors.

Categories: Israel, Jerusalem, Jewish, Jewish Blog, Jewish Holidays, Middle East, Politics, Pro Israel Post, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Chanukah Hanukkah Is Almost Here

Shalom Y’All:

It’s been almost four months since we made aliyah, but it seems like years.

During this time In Israel we bought a new car, a new stovetop,  a new TV, and various small appliances which we should have bought in the States.

We’ve prayed in  a number of different synagogues, seen an excellent play in English, been invited to a Shabbat meal with two couples we did not know before, attended an Israeli wedding, and celebrated  the High Holidays, Sukkot and Simchat Torah here.

Despite the fact that the neighborhood we live in has both religious and secular residents, there were few cars on the street on Rosh Hashanah and no cars at all on Yom Kippur. In fact, on Yom Kippur, many kids ride their bikes on the streets throughout Israel since the streets are free of vehicles. On Sukkot, many food establishments have their own succahs and it is very interesting to see multiple sukkot on streets with restaurants. Jerusalem and many other cities have large public sukkot featuring free entertainment. There is a festive holiday atmosphere in Israel throughout Sukkot and Simchat Torah.

We’ve also spent loads of time filing out forms, including those required to: open a bank account and a checking account,  buy a car, obtain an Israeli Driver’s license-which requires multiple completed forms, an eye test , at least one driving lesson and a driving test, even though we have American licenses – obtain temporary Israeli passports issued after being in Israel for at least three months, but less than a year.

I also attend an Ulpan (one run by the City of Jerusalem) three days a week from 8:30 AM (everything begins early in Israel) to 1 PM. The Ulpan is a school for learning the Hebrew language. The government pays for the first 500 hours of instruction, which, at three days a week, is about ten months. The school administrator tests every student before she assigns them to a class. Those with no knowledge of Hebrew are assigned to a class which meets five days a week, while those with fairly good Hebrew skills attend only twice a week. The rest are three day a weekers. While instruction is in Hebrew, there is, in my humble opinion, too much of an emphasis on grammar. Too little time is spent on conversation. This may be because the classes are too large to engage in meaningful conversation.

The classes composition is like a mini UN. My class has a number of French speaking students from France, a Spanish and Portuguese speaking student from Brazil, English speakers from the United States, a Danish student, an Australian, a Canadian and other students whose origins I do not know since they are new.

It’s getting cool in Jerusalem, although it’s still much warmer in the southern part of the country.  Somehow, I neglected to take everyday turtlenecks with me and I have yet to find a store that sells them. Shipping them from America is very expensive, as the cost of shipping often exceeds the cost of the purchase. The only thing to do is to wait until someone I know visits Israel and is willing to bring a few items with them for me. It seems Israelis do not wear turtlenecks, although I’m not sure why. Correction: I have been told of a store that sells turtlenecks in Geula, a religious neighborhood in Jerusalem.

On a more serious note, there is a slight undercurrent of anxiety in the country due to the  Arab violence. While the threat is real, statistically the probability of any particular person getting hurt is much much less than the chances of getting hurt in an auto accident. Still, it’s unnerving and people at bus stops, for example, try to sit or stand with their backs to the wall. It’s most unfortunate that the incitement by the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Isis has created a situation where young Arabs are led to believe that stabbing and killing a Jew is somehow defending Jerusalem for Islam and a desirable act. Building additional barriers around Jerusalem and increased intelligence have helped curb the violence here and the majority of the incidents are now taking place in the territories.  But, hopefully, this too shall pass. In the meantime, Jews are just a tad more careful and those licensed to carry firearms are increasingly doing so.

On a brighter note, Chanukah Hanukkah begins in three weeks. Here are some unique Chanukah shirts and gifts:

Make Latkes Chanukah T-Shirt

Funny Latkes Chanukah t Shirt

Hanukkah Lights Hooded Sweatshirt

Funny Hanukkah Lites Hoodie

Real Men Make Latkes Chanukah Tank Top

It takes a Real Man to Make a Perfect Hanukkah Latke

Oy To The World Funny Jewish Zip Hoodie

Funny Hanukkah Hoodie and Oh So True.

These shirts and hoodies come in many sizes, styles and colors. Buy one for yourself or give them as Chanukah gifts. See the entire collection at JewTee’s Chanukah Hanukkah Shirts and Gifts.

Categories: Aliya, aliyah, Israel, It Happened In Israel, Jerusalem, Jewish, Jewish Blog, Jewish T Shirts and Gifts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Another “It Happened In Israel” Moment- The Makuya

Strolling down Ben Yehuda, a pedestrian mall in Jerusalem, we heard music and saw a crowd gathered. Ever curious, we walked closer and noticed a big banner that said, “The 63rd Makuyka Pilgrimage to Israel.” Of course, we had no idea who the Makuya were. We saw a group of people with Japanese features waving Japanese and Israeli flags and singing a Hebrew song. We approached a young woman who spoke a little English, who informed us they are a group of Japanese Christians who are very supportive of the State of Israel. Here are a few photos:

Welcome Friends

Shalom Chaverim!

Shalom Friends

Welcome Friends

The Makuyas sang several Hebrew songs and danced with Israelis who were gathered around.

After we got back to our computers, we, of course, did a Wikipedia search on Makuya.  We discovered that Makuya   is a religious movement in Japan which started in 1948. Mayuka is the Japanese equivalent of  “Holy Tabernacle,”  the portable structure carried by the Israelites which served as the focus of the Lord’s interaction with the Jews.    The Mayukas believe in living according to the Bible and the original gospel of the early Hebraic Christians. They stress the importance of the Divine Presence in everyday life. They are concerned not just with individual salvation, but with the spiritual restoration of each nation and group. They do not proselytize, and believe in religious tolerance and coexistence.  They consider themselves an  inclusive movement,  rather than a sect.

Unlike other Christians, the Makuya’s symbol is not a cross, but a seven branch menorah, which they say emphasizes hope rather than suffering. They believe that the establishment of the State of Israel and the reunification of Jerusalem were fulfillments of Biblical prophesies and so are fervent supporters of Israel and the Jewish people. The Makuyas send their youth to Kibbutzim and make pilgrimages to Jerusalem. They have held pro Israel demonstrations in Japan and have argued Israel’s case at the United Nations.

The Makuyas have about 100 branches throughout the world, and while the exact number of their followers is unknown, their monthly magazine has about 300, 000 subscribers.

Who knew?

Categories: Israel, It Happened In Israel, Jerusalem, Jewish, Makuya | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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