All that you have is your soul (Tracy Chapman).
Friday, 30 January 2009
In the hurly burly of political conflict, abuse is common. Friends fall out and identities are tested. Boundaries of loyalty are stretched and sometimes broken. The current situation in the Middle East is a perfect example of a crisis that tests the strongest of bonds. No Jew of any morality or sensitivity likes to see casualties, innocent or otherwise. Our religion demands that we recognize the suffering even of our enemies. We search around desperately for solutions, for different ways of doing things. We feel helpless bystanders, not always knowing the full story or what other options there are. We are disturbed by seeing hatred, hearing illogical and prejudiced opinions. Propaganda, political posturing, and preconceived positions are the enemy of reasoned debate or possible solutions.
We Jews are divided into a number of camps. At two extremes of the spectrum are Jews who are unreservedly and unquestioningly supporters of whatever Israel does, and those who are implacably opposed to Israel's existence. The middle includes those who are committed to Israel but question its military tactics and policies, those who are committed to Israel's right to self-defence and believe that deterrence is the only option under present circumstances, and all points on the spectrum in between those four positions.
Included in all these positions are religious Jews of every shade and secular Jews of every degree. Both extremes detest each other, yet will admit to being part of the same people, the same culture, and the same ethnos, if not the same religion.
It is an amazing feature of us Jews that from the moment Moses took us out of Egypt, it seems we have not all agreed on anything religious or political. Yet somehow, against the odds, we have survived and kept on coming back from the brink. We have clashed with every major civilization we have encountered. We have conflicted with every major power block at one time or another. I honestly believe our survival is a miracle. I do not believe in proofs of the existence of God (I think that is an oxymoron by definition--how can anything not physical in any way be proved using material methods?), but if ever there were proof, the survival of the Jewish people, a few million facing billions of enemies, must be it!
So what is it that keeps us together and what is it that defines us all? Wherever we are we are the archetypal outsiders. We are there, but we are not completely there. Christianity thought it had replaced us and we were condemned to be the wandering outcast Jew, and we were for a long time. There was no good reason for Judaism to survive, they thought, now that Christianity had replaced the Old Israel with the easier more convenient New. If we did survive it was a reproach, 'stubborn Jewry'. Changing times and ideas forced the Christian world to tolerate us, sometimes even love us, but not really accept us.
Islam, too, thought it had replaced Judaism and by rights we ought not to continue. Mohammad, like Luther after him, initially welcomed us as allies and possible converts but turned against us when we refused the invitation. There were odd dynasties who embraced us, but only so long as we knew our place. Similarly, new nation-states, in their struggle to establish national identities, found no place for Jews, and so 'modern' anti-Semitism added a layer to the old. We just did not belong; even if we were given citizenship, it was with reluctance, either because we were useful or because of external pressure. Even conversion did not help. The Inquisition hunted Marranos, Jews who had converted, more aggressively than Jews who stayed Jewish. The English Prime Minister Disraeli was excoriated as a scheming Jew till the end of his days. The composer Mendelssohn was accused of spreading of corrupt Semitic music. Both men were converts to Christianity.
We were a Marxist danger to Capitalists, Capitalists to Marxists, Westerners to Easterners, and Orientals to Occidentals. And all this, simply because we survived, and we did indeed include all of these within our ranks. Our behavioural religion helped us adapt and we managed to put roots down regardless of the host society's religion or politics. We were indeed the universal scapegoat, the universal oddball, the universal outsider. And that helped us survive, too--the fact that we could take a step back and have a different perspective, the fact that we were always being moved on and had to prove ourselves. The fact that we always had challenges to overcome has made us struggle all the harder. If there is any genetic bonus to being Jewish, it was because we had to survive and Darwin was right. The fittest survive! We have fought consistently above our weight. We have had our share of crooks and saints, of Nobel prize-winners and Ponzi schemers.
In the end there is a common thread, a common unifying factor; it is this sense of belonging to an unwanted and suspect people. With it you are a complex bundle of contradictions always trying to reconcile different values and cultural strengths, but at least if you have a positive religious component this compensates. It gives one a sense of pride and spiritual direction. Those whom we call self-hating Jews are those with nothing to make them feel good about their Jewish identity.
We are hurting at the moment because we feel our alienation for different and conflicting reasons. But it appears that God thinks that sometimes we have to! If one wants to find a common denominator it is that Jews do not entirely fit in anywhere, even amongst Jews. We are archetypal outsiders, even when we think we belong. Most of the world is against us. Some Jews think deservedly so, others do not. But those who hate Jews make no distinction. That is what being a Jew is like.
Thursday, 29 January 2009
The book was remarkable in a number of ways. Firstly, each level of fitness was carefully prescribed (as one would expect from the military). It showed a criminally fit man, who had probably been the genetic result of numerous sperm and eggs experiments using fittest athletes on the 1948 Russian Olympic team (the book was published in 1963, so it's possible, he looks about 14) practising the various moves. More importantly, it detailed exactly what exercise you had to do and how long It should take.
My interest having been piqued, I decided to buy the book and see if I could look like Boris (the Russian criminal). I vividly remember getting up each morning for quite a while, working my way through the levels and charts. I have to say that although I didn't get close to changing my name (to B), I did become fitter than I'd been, before or since.
I don't remember why I gave the daily routine up. Maybe it was after getting sick, having to rest and gradually losing the habit. Whatever happened, Boris stayed fit (although he's probably dead by now, having had a heart attack whilst trying to reach level A+ on Chart 5, even though he'd been advised to stay at C- on Chart 3 as he was getting on a bit and they needed his sperm for the next model in a revised version of the book to be published twenty years hence.
I've tried various fitness routines over the years. Everything from looking at the trampoline sitting sadly in the garden whilst munching through a beautifully decorated pizza, to glancing willfully at a gym I used to drive past on the way to school and promising myself I'd join if I ever met Boris. Nothing though has ever tempted me like the 5BX.
You might recall that last year I told you about a trip to the doctor where I found out that both my blood pressure and cholesterol levels were a wee too high. I made the move from the pizza to the trampoline - for a day - and then made my way back to the pizza.
I decided to see if I could buy another copy of the book online. I still have my copy in the attic somewhere, but if I tried to look for it, I'd probably get either a heart attack or hernia trying to move the boxes that don't block the minuscule amount of light trying to peek through the clutter - which somewhat defeats the purpose.
Sadly the book is out of print although I could probably get a new copy...until I found that some cheeky fellow (probably Boris himself) had created a PDF of the entire tome and posted it on some website. I know I really shouldn't have done this, but I downloaded it and to my delight (and I have to admit, a touch of horror), found my old friend starting at me brazenly on my screen.
I decided to print Level 1 out again, keeping in mind that this was a copy of a book I'd already bought and although this wouldn't save me in the Court of Law, the survival of my heart, lungs, muscles and blood pressure were more important to me than worrying about whether or not the Canadian Air Force would sue me (then again.....)
Well, two days in and I'm a combination of pain pain pain and just a little pride. Boris, damn him, doesn't look a day older but although I have aged, I can still do the exercises without needing an hour to calm my pulse. Did I mention that Boris is probably dead?
With my nemesis safely out of the way, the only thing that's scaring me right now is whether I will ever be able to progress from the starting level "D-"...
Tuesday, 27 January 2009
I can't say that I ever felt comfortable going into a church or for that matter, being in an assembly where prayers were recited. I knew that for me personally, Jesus wasn't my saviour and he hadn't died so that I could live. However, the school were employing me (through the Local Authority) and paying for the house I came home to as well as countless other things and therefore, out of respect, I was very careful to keep my opinions of Church related issues to myself.
Over the two years of working at the school, I kept shtum about the hypocrisy of the Church of England preaching peace and at the same time showing a very partisan and one-sided approach to the State of Israel. I didn't say a thing about the new Pope, even though I could see that he wasn't a patch on his predecessor.
I said nothing.
If anything, I tried to instill in the kids the common beliefs that all three monotheistic religions hold so dear to their not too dissimilar hearts.
Two years on and I no longer have to keep my voice still as my current school has a very different philosophy. I look at the current Pope and have no hesitation in stating this man is an imbecile of the highest proportions. It takes an imbecile to destroy in a few years all the work that was achieved over the last four decades. Then again, is the Church just reverting to what it has always been?
You might have read that a few days ago, the Pope decided to re-instate a number of bishops, who had been ex-communicated from the Church thirty or so years ago. One of these is Richard Williamson, a vile excuse for a human being who denies the Holocaust took place, enjoys spouting traditional anti-Semitic crap and holds some very interesting ideas about 9/11 - all of which aren't worth the breath he bothers to expend on them.
Williamson, aged 68 (i.e. he should know better) gave an interview to a Swedish TV (STV) last year snorting:
"I believe there were no gas chambers... I think that 200,000 to 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps but none of them by gas chambers,"
"There was not one Jew killed by the gas chambers. It was all lies, lies, lies!"
Ladies and gentleman, this is the man your Pope thinks needs to brought back in the collective of the Church. A man who will get up and preach the word of G-d in the name of the Catholic Church. A man whom certain people will gladly invite over to their houses, because if "he's good enough for the Pope...."
This decision, just like the imbecile who occupies the Vatican at the present moment is disgraceful. Let's not forget his previous contribution to Judeo-Christian understanding, the Catholic Good Friday prayer for the Jews where the Vatican announced that Pope Benedict had revised the so-called “Good Friday Prayer for the Jews” which forms part of the Tridentine Mass and contains the cosy and warming:
“Let us also pray for the Jews: That our God and Lord may illuminate their hearts, that they acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Savior of all men.”
Yeah, well, to us he ain't no saviour thank you very much.
It took a while for the leopard to show his thinly veiled spots and now that I'm also free to express my mind, I'll gladly exhibit mine too. The difference between us is that whereas I show respect to my fellow human beings, irrespective of their religion, the imbecile is incapable of doing so - as witnessed by his latest pronouncements, which we, the unsaved Jews won't forget, whether or not he withdraws his wish to bring lowlifes like Williamson "back into the fold".
Will you blame us for the death of Christ?
Today is Holocaust Memorial Day.
What a fitting decision, Mr Ratzinger.
Sunday, 25 January 2009
For as long as I can remember, I've made sure that everyone knows I am a Jew. I do this by wearing my Kippah (skullcap), wherever I go (unless I know that doing so would put me in harm's way) irrespective of the kind of comments I am likely to receive from others.
When I started teaching, I made a point of showing off my Hebraic allegiances in a school that was about 70% Muslim - and not an inconsiderable number of students had a real problem with my brethren. I reasoned that if they could go around wearing their religious garb, why the hell should I be precluded from doing so. In showing my affiliation in such a manner, I did get some stick from a number of prejudiced students, which included spitting as I walked past them and hearing the delightful "kill the Jew" comment, but I preserved, precisely because I knew that showing these kids who I was and what nation belonged to, was an important way of demonstrating that I was not going to cower away, just because they had a problem with me, or rather, with my religion.
I think that my attitude comes probably as a result of being the child of a someone who survived the Holocaust. Whereas my mother had to hide her religion, to save her life, I was going to do exactly the opposite and do my bit to redress the shame that some of my ancestors would have felt as they walked the streets, glared at by some of their Gentile neighbours.
To this day, I still get the comments and slights from people who have an issue with Jews and/or Israel. I take it in my stride because I know that I, a Jew, absolutely refuse to be ashamed of either who I am, or of the country about whom I care about more than myself. If people have a problem with me, it is their issue, not mine.
I write all of this on the back of having just seen "Defiance", the film that recalls the exploits (albeit in a Hollywoodized fashion and probably somewhat exaggerated) of the Bielski brothers who fought the Nazis, Russians and just about anyone who was going around trying to exterminate their/our people.
These guys were amazing and I would like to believe that had I been around in 1941, I would have wanted to join them. For once, I saw Jews who refused to accept the decree cast upon them by the Nazis and fought back - knowing full well that they were outnumbered by superior forces who could easily have added their tally to the lists of the dead in Auschwitz, Treblinka and Babi Yar.
They fought back.
In 2008, Israel, having endured thousands of rockets from the spiritual descendants of these savages, also fought back, albeit this time with superior firepower.
In my own humble way, I would like to be remembered as one of the Jews who although he hadn't fired a single shot at anyone, did his own bit to "fight" for his Jews brethren and his beliefs - if only by wearing a Kippah in public and saying, in the parlance of another persecuted nation - "I'm Jewish and I'm proud - anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are your deficiencies and hangups - not mine".
Yeah, folks, I'm a helluva kick-ass Jew.
Friday, 23 January 2009
On the one occasion that I happened to see the BBC news headlines, when the presenter casually mentioned that "x" number of Palestinians had been killed whilst "x" number of Israelis has also died (as a result of being hit by a Kassam - because people blown by rockets obviously don't get killed, they only die), I knew why I had taken this course of action. That said, CNN wasn't much better, but at least they pretended to care what the Israelis were thinking.
I very stupidly let my defenses slip last night whilst watching Channel 4's particularly mendacious programme named "Unseen Gaza". This vicious documentary was basically an excuse for journalists who had been kept out of Gaza during the war, to get their own back on Israel, by showing the precise reasons for Israel's decision to keep them out in the first place.
What was presented was a one-sided view of the conflict, with not even a nod to providing balance. Whilst watching it (I turned off three quarters of the way through as I'd just about had enough), I wondered if Jon Snow and his trusted interviewee the BBC's Jeremy Bowen (which pretty much gives you an idea of the kind of balance you could expect) had been recruited by Hamas to produce this piece of propaganda, in order to inflate their not too thin wallets.
I knew what was going on, because I'm savvy enough to see the British broadcasting media at its cynical excellence, using every cheap emotional trick to bash Israel. What however bothered me was that most British people watching this would only use it as an excuse to continue harbouring negative thoughts towards both Israel and the Jews.
With anti-Semitism at its peak in the UK, this programme did nothing to address the serious concern that people are using the media as a tool to get their information - and as a result, let rip at the beleaguered Jewish community.
I know because I see the results of programmes such as this in my school. I see the kids walking with Kefiyahs wrapped defiantly around their shoulders, as if to say "look, today I am a poor Palestinian" - totally oblivious to why the whole conflict happened in the first place.
Channel 4 as a so called "responsible" purveyor of information has a duty to remind itself that people hang on to its every word as form their ideas a result of what they see. The next time a fellow Jew is attacked in the street for "what is going on Gaza", I hope that Jon Snow and his ilk are rushed over to the emergency room to see how their "professionalism" is impacting on people like me.
I am emotionally raw at the moment. The chorus of hatred I see, read, and feel throughout Europe directed at a state struggling, however bluntly, to defend its citizens just reeks of irrational hatred. Yes, there have been tragic errors, failed opportunities, oppressive occupation. And I completely approve of criticism and free speech, even when it hurts. It is the irrational hatred, the use of terms like 'genocide', that convince me beyond doubt that we are not dealing with honesty or logic but deep visceral hatred that has festered for hundreds of years. It constantly finds differing excuses to emerge from its filthy subterranean recesses to inflame and ultimately try to destroy, before burning itself out and returning to hide underground.
Genocide takes a plan, design, and system. Even if, as Hannah Arendt claimed, many of the perpetrators of the Holocaust were simply banal, nevertheless the design and the plan grew with public support. Criticism and opposition was systematically beaten and suppressed, voices silenced, and a state machinery devoted to the prosecution of the evil goal unremittingly, even to the point of harming its own war effort. None of this remotely applies to Israel.
This is the season of the Globes and the Oscars, and, each time, the Holocaust figures prominently amongst the nominations. Why? Is it because the Holocaust is the one universally accepted touchstone of inhumanity and Oscar voters wanting to be seen as more than trivial feel the need to nod in the direction of a moral issue? Is it because so many in Hollywood are Jewish? Is it because it remains in the minds of some in the free world as a unique evil? Or is that the range of Hollywood emotions is so limited that only an iconic moral cataclysm can evoke any serious response? I even dare to suggest that such movies are produced as a calculated tilt at what is likely to win an award. (The same goes for books and the ongoing and recent rash of fabrications.) But each time there are new examples of the trivialization of primordial evil.
This year has been true to form. A film about innocent children living on either side of the concentration camp fence striking up a friendship belies the extent of indoctrination German children drank in with their mothers' milk and smelt in their fathers' smoke about the corrupt, verminous dangers of Jewish infants. The film, 'The Reader' (albeit an excellently acted piece of theatre) about a female concentration camp operative who was unable or unwilling to comprehend the evil she committed, masks, dilutes, and distracts. A film about the Von Stauffenberg plot to assassinate Hitler ignores the fact that the plotters were happy to go along with Hitler for years, so long as he and Germany were winning. It was only when they were losing that they decided to act, and certainly not out of a sudden attack of moral conscience.
Frankly, with Israel being described on the streets of Europe as a Nazi state the last thing I want to see is a film about 'good' Nazis (not I hasten to add that there might not have been one or two good ones undercover). And whether to give up a good page of Gemara for that drivel is simply, as the Yanks like to say, a no-brainer.
'Defiance', the story of the Bielski brothers fighting as and with partisans in the Polish Russian forests, is a well acted and painful film. It is not a simplistic glory story, but contains nuance, moral ambiguity, and the very struggles of power and conscience that should have been taking place in Germany, itself, but were played out amongst the desperate fleeing Jews. As Daniel Craig put it memorably, 'They may hunt us as animals, but that does not mean that we should act as animals.' That's a film I would recommend to you all at any time. It is not the glory of violence that some might think, nor is it a propaganda piece for the hoary old lie about religious passivity; it tackles, head-on and fairly, the impossible situation of Jewish communal leadership under inhuman conditions (one of Hannah Arendt's blind spots).
But this issue of the Holocaust is so pervasive that it has become relative. Avrum Burg is a typical second generation post-independence Zionist, propelled by his politically savvy and successful father into prominence. He rose to head of the World Zionist Organization and, briefly, became Speaker of the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament. I have always considered him likeable, honest, and talented. A few years ago he went through a crisis of confidence in his received ideals, turned his back on politics, left Israel, and went into business.
A recent book of his is now coming out in the United States under the title, 'The Holocaust Is Over; We Must Rise From its Ashes'. I actually agree with a lot that he says. It was his language that I find infelicitous. His book was originally called 'Hitler Won'. Sensibly, he modified it to appear in Israel as 'Defeating Hitler'. He argues that Israel had reneged on the ideals of its founders. His point was that Israel was fixated on the negativity of the German Final Solution and the Holocaust. It defined its enemies as little Hitlers. Israel, Zionism, he claimed, had failed to find a new moral voice and justification for its existence. Zionism was dead and Israel had not yet found an alternative or a universal ideal.
Like him, I have grave reservations about lots of issues in Jewish and Israeli society today. But to want to survive, to stop attacks on one's civil population, does not require the Holocaust as justification! I find the negative language of Burg to be disturbing, as well as the distorted coupling, if only by implication, of Israel and Nazi Germany. I cannot avoid the thought that, like Hollywood, he uses the Holocaust to sell his wares. It will be misused, and the emotive issue of the Holocaust will simply be misapplied by those who want to obliterate us.
As the Ethics of the Fathers (1.9) says, 'Wise men, be careful of your words lest others learn to lie from them.' And if we ourselves are not careful with our use of emotive words, then we can hardly complain when others are not either.
Thursday, 22 January 2009
I was a little sorry to see him fly off in his helicopter, it was as though I was saying goodbye to an old friend. I also know I won't be the only one who will miss his constant supply of quotable quips, some of which will no doubt go down in history, albeit for the wrong reasons.
As a way of saying farewell, I'd therefore like to list my favourite quotes. You will no doubt note that I have chosen to do this after he left office as a matter of respect to the 43rd President of the United States of America.
This one's for you, Dubbya.
Here is a top ten list of my favourite malapropisms (in the Daily Show format, with apologies to Jon Stewart):
Our enemies are innovative and resourceful and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.
Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream.
It’s in our country’s interests to find those who would do harm to us and get them out of harm's way.
[The Taliban] have no disregard for human life.
I think we agree, the past is over.
I believe that the human being and the fish can coexist peacefully.
They misunderestimated me.
Here's an old saying in Tennessee—I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee—that says: fool me once, shame on ... (long pause) shame on you? (long pause) Fool me - you can't get fooled again."
Border relations between Canada and Mexico have never been better.
Rarely is the question asked, is our children learning?
and my all time favourite:
The problem with the French is that they don’t have a word for entrepreneur.
Goodbye Dubbya. I miss you already.
Tuesday, 20 January 2009
Watching the results coming in, it became abundantly clear that America was heading in a very interesting direction and that the the impossible had indeed become reality. Where to go to from there? What could I do to salvage the minuscule crumbs of dignity that I held in my being?
I decided to move on and face the facts. I decided to look at the man and give him a chance. Maybe, just a teeny little maybe, he might not be as dreadful an advocate for Israel that I had prejudged him to be.
That is where I am today. I acknowledge that he has made some interesting choices, Rahm Emanuel being particularly surprising. Whether or not Hilary Clinton will be any good (in terms of Israel) also remains to be seen. But notwithstanding any of the above, this is indeed a great day for the Nation of America.
This is Obama's moment to shine. A new voice, the figurehead of a nation who, let's face it, have had a pretty rough deal over the centuries. Barack Obama may not present himself as being America's first black president, but everyone else in the world sees him in that light. He has a heavy cross to bear at the same time as a coruscating flame to protect and although I don't envy him one bit, I do feel the sense of the moment - the historical shard that is bookending this very violent decade. If we started it with the horror of September 11th, let's at least finish it on a high note.
Today, my dear friends, is that note.
Wednesday, 14 January 2009
You might have come to the erroneous conclusion that this blog was being run by an auto bot who decided to get lazy and just sign over his rights to YouTube for the foreseeable future. I'm afraid the reality is a tad more conventional than that!
It's quite simple. I am absolutely disgusted with the image of what is happening in Gaza, as presented by the likes of the BBC, CNN, The Guardian, New York Times.....need I go on?
So I've decided to do my little bit to jolly along that old boring thing called "the truth", or least something akin to it. Veteran site watchers no doubt know where I stand when it comes to Israel. I am no way an apologist for everything the country does (they've still got Olmert as PM, despite the fact that the man is undoubtedly not up to the job - he should have been kicked out years ago), but I do feel that it comes for some very unfair criticism.
Hence the need to redress the balance by showing "the other side". The one which doesn't whitewash the evil nature of the Hamas regime in both subjugating the Palestinian people whilst at the same time warmongering against the Israelis.
A case in point can be divined from some of the videos you will have witnessed here. Who in their right mind would set up bombs in a zoo? To compound this, they then set up a direct link from the zoo to a nearby school, so that, if tripped, the bombs will cause untold destruction to both animal and human (the fact that children are concerned is even more disturbing).
I'm not making this up and the IDF certainly did NOT stage the disturbing find - as opposed to some Palestinians who have become Oscar-worthy in their acting abilities when it comes to staging so called "Israeli attacks" which have never taken place.
Who in their right mind would use a place of worship to store armaments?
I want you to look at those videos and see the other side of the story. The part that Hamas will not admit to. The tragic abuse of the Palestinians as Human Shields in order to score brownie points in the world's media, irrespective of the loss of human life.
Where are the Hamas leaders now? Are they also living in the rat holes, sorry tunnels, they've made to either kidnap Israeli soldiers or ferry arms through? Where are they? Where is Hamas when its people needs it?
I'll tell you where.
They are busy ferrying people to booby-trapped schools and mosques. Houses and squares, waiting to see if Israel - legitimately defending the incessant bombing of its people by sophisticated weaponry such as Iranian Grad missiles - come looking for them, only to tragically fall into a trap and kill innocents.
A video can say more than I will ever manage in these heartfelt utterances. I ask you to look, yes, question what you see - but wonder as to the depth these "people" will go to, in order to further their nefarious ambitions.
Remember that Israel left Gaza many months ago and then ask yourself why on earth - why on earth - they would want to be back?
Happy viewing everybody.
Tuesday, 13 January 2009
Monday, 12 January 2009
Sunday, 11 January 2009
Thursday, 8 January 2009
Dvir ben Laya - seriously injured;
Noam ben Aliza - one leg amputated; doctors fighting to save the other;
Li'el Hoshea ben Miriam - serious head injury;
Neriya ben Rivka - serious head injury;
Yitzchak ben Navah - moderate shoulder injury;
Netanel ben Navah - moderate shrapnel wounds to a lower extremity;
Maxim ben Olga - light lower extremity injury;
Yisrael ben Ilana - light shrapnel injury to an ear;
Yo'ad Ido ben Frieda Rivka - light shrapnel injuries;
Idan ben Liora - light shrapnel injuries;
Nadav ben Miriam - light shrapnel injuries;
We also pray for Gilad ben Aviva (Gilad Shalit)
A prayer from the Orthodox Union in America:
He Who blessed our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob -- may He bless the fighters of the Israel Defense Forces, who stand guard over our land and the cities of our God, from the border of the Lebanon to the desert of Egypt, and from the Great Sea unto the approach of the Aravah, on the land, in the air, and on the sea.
May the Almighty cause the enemies who rise up against us to be struck down before them. May the Holy One, Blessed is He, preserve and rescue our fighters from every trouble and distress and from every plague and illness, and may He send blessing and success in their every endeavor.
May He lead our enemies under our soldiers' sway and may He grant them salvation and crown them with victory. And may there be fulfilled for them the verse: For it is the Lord your God, Who goes with you to battle your enemies for you to save you.
Now let us respond: Amen.
Wednesday, 7 January 2009
They reasoned (understandably) that as I am not Israeli, there's no reason why I should feel so strongly about representing Israel's view. As they saw it, I needed to be much more level-headed and unbiased about what was going on.
One teacher felt that if Avi Shlaim an Israeli who was writing in the Guardian was being critical about Israel, why couldn't I also be as scathing about Israel's "disppropriate" use of force against the Palestinians. Although I tried to explain that if Avi Shlaim, the author of "Zionism today is a real enemy of the Jews" was writing an article, he could hardly be considered as a friend of Israel, irrespective of his nationality. But he would have none of it and failed to get what I was saying.
It's a toughie. How do you get across the point of "Kol Yisrael arevim ze be'ze" or "All the people of Israel (sic Jews) care about one another"? How do you explain the notion of each IDF soldier being like a close member of my family, irrespective of whether or not I know him or her? When Israel goes to battle, we are there, willing the boys on and praying that they come home safely. How can you convey the emotion you get when you hear that a boy has fallen in battle?
I'm afraid that I'm going to admit to failing on this occasion.
Both members of staff just couldn't understand what it was I trying to get across. They didn't get it. They didn't want to accept the idea that the to us, every Jew counts. Granted, not every Jew feels that way, but enough to want to go out there in the cold evening air and protest for Israel outside the Israeli embassy in the heart of Kensington.
Enough want to go to Trafalgar Square this coming Sunday and say "we are Jews and we want the world to know that the Israelis who are suffering are our Israelis. The soldiers who are fighting are our soldiers and irrespective of where we live, this war is our war.
How do I explain the pride we feel when one of our people gets a Nobel Prize or even the old pastime of working out which actors, singers, dancers, pole vaulters is one of us?
This is the kind of brotherly love that we feel about the other members of our tribe and if these Gentiles don't understand it, I guess we can't be that surprised. At the end of the day, will they ever look to the Israel as being a friend of foe of the West?
As Jews, unfortunately, we are blessed with the sixth sense and we know that unless groups like Hamas are dealt with severely, both Jew and Gentile will pay a bitter price in the years to come from ignoring the threats they pose to the quality of life my erstwhile colleagues value so highly.
Right now, there is no other country I would rather be spending time in than in Israel, irrespective of what the world thinks of either me or my people.
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH
The Hamas government has placed dozens of Fatah members under house arrest out of fear that they might exploit the current IDF operation to regain control of the Gaza Strip.
The move came amid reports that the Fatah leadership Bank has instructed its followers to be ready to assume power over the Gaza Strip when and if Israel's military operation results in the removal of Hamas rule.
Fatah officials in Ramallah told that Hamas militiamen had been assaulting many Fatah activists since the beginning of the operation last Saturday. They said at least 75 activists were shot in the legs while others had their hands broken.
Wisam Abu Jalhoum, a Fatah activist from the Jabalya refugee camp, was shot in the legs by Hamas militiamen for allegedly expressing joy over the IDF air strikes on Hamas targets.
"Hamas is very nervous, because they feel that their end is nearing," a senior Fatah official said. "They have been waging a brutal campaign against Fatah members in the Gaza Strip."
Meanwhile, sources close to Hamas revealed over the weekend that the movement had "executed" more than 35 Palestinians who were suspected of collaborating with Israel and were being held in various Hamas security installations.The sources quoted Hamas officials as saying that the decision to kill the suspected collaborators was taken out of fear that Israel might try to rescue them during a ground offensive. The officials claimed that at least half of the victims were killed by relatives of Palestinian militiamen who were killed as a result of information passed on to Israel by the "collaborators."
Justifying the latest crackdown on Fatah, a Hamas official in Gaza City said that his government had received information according to which Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had instructed his loyalists in the Strip to start moving toward undermining Hamas.
"We will kill them all if they try to help Israel bring down our government," the official said. "We will hang Mahmoud Abbas and [former Fatah security chief] Muhammad Dahlan in the public square if they try to enter the Gaza Strip aboard Israeli tanks."
The Hamas official said that his security forces had launched a massive "preemptive" campaign aimed at thwarting Fatah's attempts to "spread anarchy and ." He confirmed that many Fatah operatives had been shot in the legs over the past few days by Hamas "to make sure that they don't help Israel."
Fahmi Za'arir, a Fatah spokesman in the West Bank, accused Hamas of "executing" a number of Fatah detainees. He said the Fatah leadership knew of at least two Fatah men who were shot dead by Hamas after being released from prison. He named them as Nasser Muhana and Saher al-Silawi.
Za'arir said that several Fatah members who attended funerals of victims of the IAF strikes were severely beaten by Hamas militiamen who accused them of collaboration with Israel.
It was "shameful" that Hamas was directing its weapons and energies against its own people instead of fighting against Israel, the spokesman said.
The decision to place Fatah operatives under house arrest was issued by the much-feared "Internal Security Apparatus," which reports to the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry in Gaza.
The order, which was delivered to the Fatah activists on Thursday, reads: "You are forbidden from leaving your home for 48 hours unless you want to attend Friday prayers. Anyone who violates the order will be punished."
Tuesday, 6 January 2009
If you fire missiles at our people,
If you use innocent Palestinians as human shields,
If you cynically hide bombs in schools, houses, gardens, hospitals and mosques...
We will hit you back.
We will kill your leaders.
We will find you.
We will take you and your families out.
We will crush you.
We will use whatever force we have at our disposal to get the message across.
And the message?
Don't screw with the Jews.
We beat Hitler.
We outlived the Soviets
We overcame the millennia of persecution.
If the Third Reich, the Crusaders the Roman and Greek Empires couldn't vanquish us, you don't stand a chance.
The world can criticise us as much as it wants. The UN can pass as many declarations as it wants. It won't make a difference, because although we may stop for now, we will never go away.
Do you get the message?
Let me repeat it.
DON'T SCREW WITH THE JEWS.
Monday, 5 January 2009
Sunday, 4 January 2009
This is what differentiates the IDF from any other army in the world. They are truly representitive of the the Jewish people.
These are OUR boys.
In today's broadband universe, it is amazing what one can get from the Internet if you know where to look. Aside from getting virtually all my news from Israeli websites, which report what is really going on as opposed to the BBC's fabrication, I have also been watching Israel Channel 10, a news channel that is independent of the Israeli Government.
What struck me about the reportage was the emphasis the presenter placed on this whole story being more than just Israel bombing Hamas.
After speaking to a reporter in Sderot, the anchor said a simple phrase "tishmor al atzmecha", which translates as "take care of yourself". The anchor actually told the reporter to be safe! I can't ever remember a single BBC or CNN or Sky anchor ever showing such concern to a front line reporter. They seem more intent on getting the latest updates from their colleague than demonstrating that simple human touch. Care.
What was next on the agenda? A discussion on how the children who were in the shelters were being psychologically affected by everything that was going on. The anchor seemed genuinely concerned about their welfare and futures.
Now you may think that I'm going soppy in my old age, but you would be missing the point of this blog. What differentiates us, the Jews, from the Arabs is the way we view human life. Israel is going out of its way to avoid hurting civilians. Its job would be made so much easier if Hamas didn't insist on hiding like cowards inside civilian centres and firing their rockets from schools, mosques and within the sanctity of private homes.
We care about our people and we care about others. You wouldn't know that from the demonisation that is currently going on in the world's media or indeed amongst so called "caring" people who didn't come out and demonstrate in their thousands when Israel's citizens were being bombarded by thousands of Kassams. Suddenly, when its the Palestinians, everyone is "bothered".
I can't fight armies of virulent anti Semites (because their claim of being "Anti Zionists but not Anti Semites" doesn't wash with me at all) but what I can do is try to redress the balance on this website.
I also know that when I return to school tomorrow, I will have to face a barrage of hostility from both students and fellow teachers who buy into the lies being peddled by the BBC and suchlike. My answer to them will be clear - in my opinion, I do not have a single problem in what Israel is doing now. In fact, the IDF has my absolute support in doing what it can to protect the countries' civilians at the same time as making it clear that to us - Israel and me - "take care of yourself" is what underscores our entire faith.
Friday, 2 January 2009
The incursion into Gaza is painful to witness. No human being of any degree of sensitivity can be unmoved in the face of human suffering, even when it is self-inflicted. No I do not approve of much of Israeli policy, but I simply cannot understand why, given its vulnerability, Gaza's masters insist on provoking Israel into retaliation. I can only assume that, to fanatics, human life is so dispensable that they simply put a public relations campaign above suffering. Similarly, I do not understand why Israel claims such incursions stop the rockets, or think they might, when they don't, any more than concessions do.
There might have been a time when you could have argued that dissident groups bent on undermining Hamas were firing rockets into Israel. But everyone now knows the Hamas controls the Gaza strip, so that argument cannot wash. Even Abbas, even Egypt asked Hamas to stop firing them.
Let us assume that it is entirely Israel's fault that the Gaza strip is in the state it is. Let us ignore the fact that Israel offered to rebuild Gaza after 1968, but was warned not to because the Arab world wanted to keep it as a festering sore and bargaining chip. Let us ignore the fact that Israel voluntarily withdrew its armed forces. Let us ignore the constant raining down of rockets and the repeated threats from Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, and almost everyone else in the Arab and Muslim world, as if threats were always just empty words. What is it in a culture's mentality that sacrifices children and adults by inviting, provoking retaliation, knowing full well that retaliation is a blunt weapon and innocents will be caught up in it? What is it that justifies putting bomb factories and rocket launchers in residential areas?
This apparent primitive desire to show that one refuses to make any concessions to peace, simply speaks of blind, irrational hatred that can never be appeased. One sees it on both sides. The blind Cyclops staggering around, determined to inflict damage regardless. The mentality of token opposition is nowhere better illustrated than in the Iraqi chappie who threw his shoe at George Bush.
The shoe has a long, long history in the Middle East of association with shame. Just look up the Book of Ruth, Chapter 4, where taking off a shoe is associated with relinquishing responsibility. Even today in Jewish law, when a man refuses to perform the Yibum ceremony of marrying the childless widow of his brother, a ceremonial shoe is removed and thrown to the ground as part of the Halitzah ritual. But ceremony is one thing. Actually throwing to hurt is another matter.
In the world most of us live in, symbols are reminders of much more important issues and ideas. But in a primitive world, where other methods of resolving conflicts have failed, the gesture, the words, even the acts of defiance, like throwing stones, are even more important. They are reminiscent of a child blindly returning to the attack against a bigger more brutal bully who is simply stronger. Instead of thinking of other ways to tackle the problem, the child simply hurls himself again and again at the tormentor until he is either too bloodied or tired to continue. Edward Said, the Palestinian academic said that throwing a stone over the Lebanon border at Israel was remarkably therapeutic. Therapy is one thing. Causing your own side immeasurable suffering is simply inhuman. But that is what Hezbollah and Hamas do in principle, as a strategy.
The man who threw his shoe has become a hero in the Arab world, where stone throwing is the only act of opposition most people can aspire to. A Saudi businessman is prepared to pay $10 million for the shoe that made an American president duck. We in more civilized countries laugh at the event. But it does illustrate this Middle Eastern passion for launching missiles where the gesture means more than the results.
Hamas makes a point by showing it can emulate Hezbollah and fire rockets into Israel at civilian targets. Yet equally frustrating is the certain knowledge that no matter what Israel does the fanatics will continue. Hamas and Hezbollah have so far rejected any peace deal. Saudi Arabia might be in favour it, but they cannot stop the rockets! I hope this current campaign will solve the problem but I'm not confident. On the other hand the excessive Israeli retaliation against Hezbollah, widely proclaimed a failure, has so far led to a quiet Northern front.
Public opinion in much of the world's media, for various ideological reasons, chooses to deny Israel the right to protect its citizens in ways that any other sovereign state, anywhere else in the world would consider the least of its responses. Indeed, in Israel itself Left-Wing protesters demonstrate against Israel protecting itself.
I am proud that Israel is such a free society in which such views can be openly expressed. I happen to side ideologically with those who believe Israel should give up land for peace. But only if there will be peace. For as long as its primary enemies now, Hamas and Hezbollah, do not even consider peace, so long as they fire rockets at Israeli civilians, for the life of me I cannot see what alternative Israel has. If someone throws a shoe at me today, he might fire a gun tomorrow. I'd certainly retaliate to protect my family. I'd be crazy not to.
I have always believed that only an American presence on the ground can ensure peace. Most other powers have shown themselves biased against Israel's interests and the UN cannot be taken seriously. If Obama really wants to be a different president, then the troops he wants to send to Afghanistan should be in Gaza, to deter both Hamas and Israel equally. Otherwise this pointless agony will continue.
Thursday, 1 January 2009
It's very much in the Boys Own mould and not to everyone's taste but if you feel like watching the Israelis beating the crap out of the Hamas Terrorists, aim your mouse towards Youtube.
At midnight, we saw the jaw-dropping fireworks from the London Eye on TV and then our host treated us to a beautiful display of indoor fireworks. This followed a very scrumptious and appetising three course meal!
It was a fabulous way to bring the new year in.
Happy 2009 everyone!!