60 bloggers – a moving tribute to Israel from around the world

The breadth and width of bloggers at 60bloggers is impressive anywhere in the blogosphere —here is a quick peek of some of the recent posts. Go ahead, take a peek.

What I Was Taught about Israel, by Lee Meyerhoff Hendler, a writer, speaker and philanthropist.
Sometime near the turn of the 20th century I almost became a sabra. My great grandfather, Oscar Meyerhoff, traveled with three male relatives to what was then Palestine from his tiny village near Kiev. He hoped to become a settler, then send for the rest of the family….

Los Angeles and Israel: A Story of Friendship and Common Dreams by the Honorable, Antonio Villaraigosa is Mayor of Los Angeles.
Los Angeles, where I was born and raised, has a special relationship with the State of Israel. Despite the thousands of miles between us, we share so much – connections of culture and commerce, and ties of blood and family.

Choosing Hope by Rabbi Menachem Creditor, the spiritual leader of Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley, CA.
We choose our destinies. Exilic wandering, for the modern Jew, is a choice. As Reb Chaim of Volozhin teaches in his magisterial Nefesh HaChayiim (1824), “And this is the Torah of being a person…One should never say in their heart, God forbid, ‘For what am I and what is my power to enact anything through my insignificant and and deeds? Understand, know, and set in your heart that every detail of every deed, word, and thought is not lost. Every one of them ascends to its own Source to cause an effect in the highest Heavens. (NH 1:4)” No act is neutral, and we can have a cosmic impact by simply thinking differently.

Eating My Way Through Israel by Leah Koenig, Editor of The Jew & The Carrot: Hazon’s blog on Jews, food, and sustainability. She’s also a freelance writer and a serious foodie.
I’ve only ever been to Israel once and that was last year at the age of 25. I’m not exactly sure what took me so long, though it was probably some combination of not being particularly involved in mainstream Jewish activities as a teenager, my parents’ fear of the “situation” in the Middle East, and my own complicated emotions around and relationship to he holy land.

My relationship with Israel by John Leonard author of Nun Bet.
My relationship with Israel began in a wooden church pew in a small North Carolina town. As a boy growing up in a conservative Baptist family, I was at church at least three times a week: twice Sunday and once on Wednesday night. My black, faux leather-bound, zip-up childhood Bible had pictures and maps of the Holy Land. Bored in the church services, I would flip through these images and imagine what that foreign land must be like. Little did I know that about twenty years later I would be able to see these place in person.

Post Cards to Israel by Leah Jones, a writer, ROI’nik, former stand-up comic, and occasional talker based in Chicago where she pens the blog Accidentally Jewish.

rch 11, 2004: I’m working in London where I manage an international student residence. We have 24 hour security and the guys who work nights and weekends are all Israeli. The weekend after the bombings in Madrid, I walk with my Spanish students through the streets of London to the consulate. There we light candles, leave notes and walk back with the Spanish flag between. “Todos somos Madrilenos.”

One of my Israeli guys says to me, “Leah, if we stopped working every time a bomb went off in Israel, we wouldn’t get things done. This is life.”

Our aborignial Jewish homeland

Leave it to Canada’s most brilliant MOT, Irwin Cotler, to lay out this legal and moral imperative justifying Israel’s existence. Yes to justify the existence of Israel. That is really what the current international debate is hinging on and the debate on college campuses (thankfully not in Congress). Putting Israel’s legitimacy and right to self-determination in line with other First Nation claims is brilliant spiritually, nationally, and politically.

The gathering storm, and beyond

The incendiary hate language emanating from Ahmadinejad’s Iran – in which Israel is referred to as “filthy bacteria” and a “cancerous tumor” and Jews are characterized as “a bunch of bloodthirsty barbarians” – is only the head wind of the gathering storm confronting Israel on its 60th anniversary.

Indeed, we are witnessing, and have been for some time, a series of mega-events, political earthquakes that have been impacting not only upon Israel and world Jewry but upon the human condition as a whole.

These include:

• state-sanctioned incitement to genocide in Ahmadinejad’s Iran (and I use that term to distinguish it from the many publics and peoples in Iran who are themselves the object of massive state repression) dramatized by the parading of a Shihab-3 missile in the streets of Teheran draped with the emblem “Wipe Israel off the map”;

• symmetrical terrorist militias confronting Israel, in particular Hamas in the south and Hizbullah in the north. These are not simply – though that would be threatening enough – terrorist in their instrumentality, but genocidal in their purpose as they openly and avowedly seek the destruction of Israel and anti-Jewish in their ideology. Both, by their own acknowledgement, demonize Judaism and Jews, not just Israel and the Israeli, as “the sons of monkeys and pigs” and “defilers of Islam”;

• the globalization of a totalitarian, radical Islam that threatens not only Jews and Israel but international peace and security, while warning Muslims who seek peace with Israel that they will “burn in the Umma of Islam”;

• the fragility, even erosion, of the Lebanon-Hizbullah divides, aided and abetted by the Iranian-Syrian pincer movements and further exacerbated in the present Lebanese-Hizbullah warfare;

• the phenomenon of radicalized home-grown extremism, fuelled by Internet incitement, threatening the security of Jewish communities in the Diaspora;

• exploding energy prices, with oil at $120 a barrel – six times what it was just six years ago – with the windfall billions of petrodollars encouraging and financing rogue states like Iran. Every $1 increase in the price of a barrel of oil represents millions more in the coffers of Iran;

• the ugly canard of double loyalty, where the Jewish and Israeli lobbies are accused of acting in a matter inimical to the American and European national interest, as if it is somehow “un-American” or “un-European” to petition government for redress of grievances, an Orwellian politics of intimidation that chills free speech and public advocacy;

• the trahison des clercs – betrayal of the elites – of which the UK is a case study, exemplified in the calls for academic, trade union, journalist, medical and intellectual boycotts of Israeli and Jewish nationals;

• the singling out of Israel for differential and discriminatory treatment in the international arena, as when the UN Human Rights Council,, the repository for human rights standards-setting, adopted 10 resolutions of condemnation against one member state of the international community, Israel, in its first year of operation alone; while the major human rights violators – Iran, Sudan, China – enjoyed exculpatory immunity; and

• the emergence of a new, escalating, global, virulent and even lethal anti-Semitism.

WITH ISRAEL’S 60th anniversary, these mega-events have not only intensified but congealed into what might be called a “gathering storm,” finding expression in the two theses that underpin this article.

First, that this gathering storm appears to be without parallel or precedent since 1938, suggesting thereby that 2008 is reflective and reminiscent of 1938. The second thesis, which reflects my own position and is not inconsistent with the previous notion, is that whatever 2008 may be, it is not 1938.

Simply put, there is a Jewish state today that is an antidote to the vulnerabilities of 1938. There is a Jewish people with untold moral, intellectual, economic and political resources. There are non-Jews prepared to join the Jewish people in common cause, seeing the cause of Israel not simply as a Jewish cause, but – with all its imperfections – as a just cause.

Nor is Israel is isolated or alone. It has important friends and allies: for example, the United States, Canada, Germany and France, to name a few; and it has diplomatic relations with the two emerging superpowers, China and India. There are peace treaties, however imperfect, with Egypt and Jordan.

In a word, if one looks at Israel at 60 in this global configuration, 2008 is, even with an admittedly gathering storm not unlike 1938, nonetheless very different from the Thirties.

It is important, therefore, that Israel not be viewed as an Andy Warhol of the international media, or what passes as virtual reality on the Internet of the day. Israel is not simply a snapshot at age 60, nor a fragment frozen in time; nor is it anchored only in 60 years of Israeli statehood, or 120 years of Zionism.

For Israel, rooted in the Jewish people, as an Abrahamic people, is a prototypical First Nation or aboriginal people, just as the Jewish religion is a prototypical aboriginal religion, the first of the Abrahamic religions.

IN A WORD, the Jewish people is the only people that still inhabits the same land, embraces the same religion, studies the same Torah, hearkens to the same prophets, speaks the same aboriginal language – Hebrew – and bears the same aboriginal name, Israel, as it did 3,500 years ago.

Israel, then, is the aboriginal homeland of the Jewish people across space and time. It is not just a homeland for the Jewish people, a place of refuge, asylum and protection. It is the homeland of the Jewish people, wherever and whenever it may be; and its birth certificate originates in its inception as a First Nation, and not simply, however important, in its United Nations international birth certificate.

The State of Israel, then, as a political and juridical entity, overlaps with the “aboriginal Jewish homeland”; it is, in international legal terms, a successor state to the biblical, or aboriginal, Jewish kingdoms. But that aboriginal homeland is also claimed by another people, the Palestinian/Arab people, who see it as their place and patrimony.

THE EXISTENCE of a parallel claim does not vitiate that of the Jewish people or cause it to resonate any less as memory and memoir of homeland – where homeland represents history, roots, religion, language, culture, literature, law, custom, family, myth and values. Rather, the equities of the claim mandate the logic of Israeli-Palestinian partition – a logic which in moral and juridical terms requires that a just solution be organized around the “principle of least injustice,” and that includes mutual recognition of the legitimacy of two states for two peoples.

Nor should the internal divides besetting Israel mask the existential raison d’etre, and moral imperative, of Israel itself. Nazism, and the gathering storm of the Thirties, almost succeeded not only because of its pathology of hate and industry of death, but because of the powerlessness of the stateless Jew and the vulnerability of the powerless without a state. Israel, then, is an antidote to Jewish vulnerability, the raison d’etre in the most profound existential sense for Jewish self-determination.

It is not the case, as it sometimes said, that if there had been no Holocaust, there would not have been a State of Israel, as if a state could somehow even compensate for the murder of six million Jews. It is the other way around: If there had been an Israel, there would not have been a Holocaust, or others horrors of Jewish history.

In the end, we come back to the beginning: that whatever the gathering storm from without may be, whatever the internal grievances, the Kulturkampf of the Jews’ despair in 2008 would not only be a betrayal of the Jewish aboriginal past, but a denial of the next 60 years and beyond.

The writer is the member of parliament for Mount Royal and the former minister of justice and attorney general of Canada. He is a professor of law (on leave) at McGill University and has written extensively on human rights and Middle-East issues.

Mitzvah Against Oppressing a Jew with words

Sefer HaChinuch
Parsha Behar Bechukosai
35th Day of the Omer 5764
Rabbi Yonah Bookstein

The Torah prohibits us from verbal oppression of another Jew.

Rashi: And if a person will say “who will know if I meant this for harm?”
The Torah follows this by saying “V’yorayso may’elohecho” and you shall fear G-d, G-d who knows all thoughts.

You cannot remind people of their embarrassing past, or ancestry, or give advice you know to be bad.

It is worse to hurt someone personally than financially, b/c money can be replaced…

–On fools: book of Proverbs (26:4,5): “Do not answer the fool according to his foolishness, lest you become equal to him. Answer the fool according to his foolishness, lest he be wise in his own eyes.” This seems like a contradiction: Should we answer the fool or not?

The answer is that there are two types of fools. One type of fool already ‘knows’ everything. For him, discussion is merely an opportunity to show off his ‘superior’ knowledge. There is no point in answering him, because he will never admit a fault. On the contrary, our attempts to educate him will meet with ridicule. As he rejects our insights one after another, the fruitlessness of our efforts makes us appear foolish.

But there is another type of fool: One aware of his limitations. His views are wrong and foolish, but he’s not completely closed to instruction. If we open the lines of communication we can have an impact on him. If we don’t reach out to him, he’ll eventually start to think: “I’ve held these views for so long, and no one has ever contradicted me – so, I must be right!”

There is a profound message here for our times. We are all confronted with people who scoff at the Torah. We often have to decide if and how to respond. The book of Proverbs teaches us that our primary responsibility is to improve the critic by our response. If that is impossible, then responding is a waste of time. But if it is possible, then we must not wait for his initiation. We must reach out to him and start the dialogs.

— On the last Pasuk:

Alshich : may the wicked be punished on this world, and the good be rewarded on this world (where the sun rises) fir this will reinforce belief in Divine judgment.

Chasam Sofer: This does not say that the wicked should perish, and those that love him should ARISE like the sun. Rather when the wicked perish, His beloved will remain, clear and mighty, no longer clouded and obscured.

Das Sofrim:  may Israel enlighten the world (as the sun) in the way of life.

Rabbainu Bechaye writes: Why did the torah write this after the discussion on shmitah?  If one does not observe the smhittah, G-d will send poverty upon him, and he will be forced to sell his utensils, and clothing. If he repents, good. But if not, He will have to sell his fields.  If still no teshuva, he will be forced to beg for bread.

Tzena Urena tells us: We cant drive another to tears.  From the time the bais ha mikdash was destroyed, the Gates of Prayer were shut, but the gates of Tears remained open.  G-d accepted prayers offered with tears.  If a person breaks someones heart and drives them to tears, G-d will punish them and listen to the tears of the victim.

Rabbi Simcho Bunim of Pszysucha used to say: The Torah forbids us to fool another.  Now a chasid has to do more that the law requires. He must not fool himself either, by deluding himself into considering his virtues greater than they actually are.


“Holocaust in Palestine” photos from UCI

The first of a few posts on this year’s anti-Israel activities at the University of California – Irvine. Jewish students put up these signs to warn passersby. They were only up one day because of the strong winds. The winds also knocked down some of the MSU displays.

hate speech zone caution sign