Posts Tagged With: 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.

Advertisements
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?

jerusalem-1328645_1280

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

Israel Pilot Trip Part 2

Shalom Y’All:

The next Friday night we decided to visit yet another synagogue. That’s one of the advantages of being in Jerusalem, synagogues galore. This synagogue turned out to have an English speaking Rabbi, not such a big deal since many of the synagogue rabbis in Jerusalem speak English. But this Rabbi even gave his weekly sermon in English, something that is not easy to find, even in Jerusalem.

Since clearly everyone in this congregation was an English speaker, we thought we had hit pay dirt. After services, we looked around and tried to find a friendly face. We saw a gentlemen speaking what sounded like British English conversing with someone. He seemed pleasant. We waited until he finished his conversation and then approached him. He was friendly, engaging and soon introduced us to his wife. (In Israel it is very common for women to attend Friday night services.)

We spoke for a while and wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, they invited us to join them for a meal in their home the following Friday night. Despite our many trips to Israel, we have rarely been invited, by other than a family member,  to a meal in someone’s home. We’ve been told that a reason for this is that since Israelis work on Sunday, Shabbat- Friday night and Saturday- is the only time they are able to spend time with their families. We were, therefore, thrilled to receive the invitation.

Our visit to another synagogue on Shabbat day, Saturday, did not result in any new contacts. Furthermore, a repeat visit to the English sermon synagogue did not produce any new acquaintances.

It turns out our “British” friends were Australians who had made aliya only two years earlier.  Our dinner with them was delightful and we were even invited to their daughter’s engagement party and wedding. They are truly a lovely couple and we hope we will become good friends.

We continued visiting other synagogues and very finally told about one which was very close by. This synagogue was composed of about half Israelis and half Anglos. The Anglos were very friendly and we made a friend here also.

To sum up our experience: If you want to make friends with the Anglos in Israel, you have to approach them first and engage them in conversation. My guess is that since there are so many tourists in Israel, Anglo Israelis do not bother introducing themselves to every new face they see in the synagogue. Furthermore, even if you do speak with these Anglos, don’t expect an invitation to dine with them, since quality time with their families is limited and thus greatly  valued.

We subsequently learned of more synagogues that have a large percentage of Anglos attending, but did not have the opportunity to visit them since our time in Jerusalem was limited.

 

Categories: Aliya, Israel | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Massacre in Jerusalem Synagogue

Shalom Y’All:

It is with a heavy heart that I again have to report on the senseless killing of Jews. The car assaults at Jerusalem’s light rail stations were bad enough. But killing worshippers in the middle of prayer and in such a depraved manner was appalling! Attacking praying people with meat cleavers in a synagogue- how low can you go!

Predictably, Abbas publicly condemned the act while people in Gaza rejoiced. Men handed out sweets and those receiving them praised the dead murderers. MEMRI.org has a short video showing the festive mood in Gaza following the synagogue slayings.

The media coverage of this event varied, with some providing good coverage, while others like CNN first reporting that the carnage took place in a mosque and displaying a headline that reported four Israelis and two Palestinians killed. They later apologized for the headline.

Interestingly, few media outlets reported that the Israeli policeman who was killed trying to help the worshippers was, in fact, a Druze Arab. Apparently, reporting that some Arabs are actually loyal to Israel, and serve in the armed forces and police force is not consistent with their view of Israel.

These Arab assassins were not from Gaza or the West Bank, but from eastern Jerusalem, a part of Jerusalem captured by Jordan in 1967 and annexed to Israel. While the people who live there are permanent residents, not Israeli citizens, they get all the rights of Israeli citizens, except the right to vote in National elections.  They can vote in municipal elections and can apply for Israeli citizenship, which most refuse to do since they don’t want to recognize Israel’s sovereignty.  They don’t have Israeli passports, but Jordanian ones which enable them to visit Arab countries.

There is no separation between East Jerusalem and West Jerusalem. People from one side are free to go to the other. But while many East Jerusalem Arabs shop in West Jerusalem, most Israelis limit their visits to East Jerusalem to the Western Wall, Jewish quarter and City of David.

While there is a large and ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives, located in East Jerusalem, Arabs regularly harass Jews coming to pay respects to the holy men and loved ones buried there. The Arabs also desecrate the graves and have even stabbed visitors to the site.

While most of the residents of East Jerusalem are Arabs, a few Jews have started to move into a part of East Jerusalem called the Silwan. Formerly a thriving Yemenite village, it was destroyed during the Arab riots in the 1920s and 30s.

Netanyahu has ordered the demolition of the murderers’ houses, but this tactic, while strongly disliked by the Arab residents of East Jerusalem, does not seem to deter those intent on harming Jews. Perhaps, the Israel government should forbid amy future Arab housing at that location and declare it government land.

Since Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1967, and if it intends to truly unite both East and West Jerusalem and make it one city, it should start treating it as part of the country and encourage Jewish residence there. Of course, the world and the Arabs will scream.

Arabs living in East Jerusalem should be encouraged to apply for Israeli citizenship and those who do not wish to do so, should be encouraged to move to the West Bank, Gaza or other Arab country. It’s time for Israel to assert its authority over East Jerusalem and dispel all Palestinian hopes that East Jerusalem will be the capital of their state.

Categories: Israel, Middle East | 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

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.