Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Protest 29 June 2005

Again the frustrated citizens of Israel expressed their opposition to their government's policies in the only fashion that seems to get the authorities attention -blocking roads from Haifa to Beer Sheva! Here is the story of one such demonstration in the center of Israel.

Israeli vs Jew

I thought I'd mention the first time I ever heard of this dichotomy between Jew and Israeli!

Way back in the early 70's my wife and I lived in Maalot.  There was some twenty five years ago a wave of immigrants from the then Soviet Union.  The Ministry of Absorption put a group of some fifty families up in a new sub-division originally built as apartments for sale to general public, near our home.  Naturally my wife and I made an effort to great these people and extend our assistance to them in whatever way possible, as did many others in Maalot in general, and the Maalot Yeshiva community in particular.

At some point the "authorities" decided that [religious] interference was not a positive influence on these raw immigrants, and forbade us from entering the temporary absorption center.  Very abruptly our day-to-day connection with our newly form friends was severed.

When the immigrants finally figured out what was going on, they discussed it amongst themselves and appointed a committee to re-establish contact with us and encourage us to persevere.  At one point our contact amongst them, a young woman called 'Yana' called us to invite herself over! 

The actual meeting was almost surrealistic.  The Russian Jews all arrived wearing their 'Sunday Best', clothes which might have been fashionable in the West in the early fifties, but outside of some vintage film I had never seen the likes of!  Their demeanor was very stiff, straight backed and ever-so formal, unlike the relaxed laughing people we had visited in their apartments.  Yana was evidently the spokesperson, and she opened the encounter with a very clear and succinct description of the problem:
"We have", she explained, "met very many Israeli's who are Israeli and a few Israeli's who are Jewish.  We want to meet more Israeli's who are Jewish."
And so we did!  We couldn't visit them, but no one could stop them from visiting us!  Yana and her husband Boris and people from the yeshiva community organized Eruv Shabbat meals for anyone who was interested.  Eventually many of the new immigrants under went Brit Mila with big public parties celebrating their fulfillment of this pivotal act of Jewishness.  Older men in their sixties, younger men and youth all asked for this, and we complied.

One last aside:  I remember Shimeon Peres being interviewed after having lost [yet another] election.  The question was: "How do you sum it [these elections] up?"  His answer was very insightful!  Shimeon spoke without hesitation nor obviously forethought: "The Jews won, the Israelis lost!"

Best Thing That Ever Happened To Us ...

I'd like to join in the chorus on this one. Since my arrival on the shores of this beautiful but troubled country over thirty years ago, the awareness that Israeli society was raw, immature and unstable was one of my first and lasting impressions. I remember writing to my father about the last elections won by the Labour Party after the Yom Kipur War: "The walls [of this society] are all cracked, but they keep plastering over the cracks in the hope that no one will pay attention..."

The tension between those who wanted a Jewish country (not necessarily a 'religious' one) and those that paid lip service to Israeli's "Jewishness" to reap support, money and perhaps immigrants, was basically not a partnership, but a competition. The Jews were always winning. Demographically, morally and ultimately in the most important terms - in power. It is only a matter of time before people who believe in the Jewish People and their G-d given role in the world will lead the IDF. It is only a matter of time before Jews who are proud of their Jewishness will rise to positions of influence.

In the meantime the "forces of secularism" are fighting a fierce rear-guard action. In many ways a case can be built to demonstrate that Oslo as well as the present "Disengagement" are more about attempting to break the morale and belief of the Jews who live in the Land of Israel than about security, foreign policy or any other aspect of these failed ideas.

In that sense, the "Disengagement" initiative is perhaps the best thing that has happened to this country since its establishment. The pro-secular movement has removed the ‘mask’ of pretend-Jewishness. Their true values and aspirations are apparent to all who read the newspapers. The quiet, cooperative, law abiding believer in law and order is finally faced with the clear moral choice: to remain true to our three thousand year tradition of values and ethics, or to acquiesce to the forces of modern secular Hellenism.

The prognosis? It can go either way. If the forces of sanity and reason prevail, the synthesis of dialog and cooperation will build a stronger nation with a clearer vision of our collective purpose and role as a people. If the reactionary forces of ideological secularism prevail, and continue to delegitimize the very forces that currently provide vibrancy and hope for Israel, the result will still be the same, simply the process will be uglier.

Evolution or revolution? These are the choices the current leadership of this nation face today. Marginalize the religious and the faithful! Cast them out of the army, deny them access to government institutions, employment and opportunities to contribute ... you will both cripple yourself and create an opposition to your existence that believes ... something you no longer do! When it comes down to a contest between "believers" and "non-believers", my bet will always be on the believer.

I encourage you to read Yehudit Tayar's article as well as that of Shmuel Sacket. These thoughts and feelings have been "in the air" a long time, but now more and more people are aware of them and act upon them. The greater the "non-believers" attempt to destroy them, the greater will these people feel the righteousness of opposing them, and the more people who will join them.

Yoel Ben-Avraham
Shilo, Benyamin

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Stop A Moment Protest

A collection of photographs of the June 27, 2005 Roiad Side anti-Disengagement Protest.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

New Beginning

Yes I know, I'm impulsive and prone to let me emotions carry me away! Despite my [gradually] growing maturity (I am already 54 years old), and my conscience effort to balance my emotions with my reason, those who now me know it isn't always so easy.

Maybe it's because I care so much? More likely because I never learned how to "manage" my emotions until very late in life, and hence the "tools" others learned in their youth and adolescence I'm still in the arduous process of acquiring. Whatever the reason, I reached last Friday, Eruv Shabbat S'Lach Lecha 5765 a watershed. The combination of confusion and conflict on almost every level of my existence became overwhelming:

  • The "world" sees nothing really wrong with the blind hatred of the Islamic world towards everything Israeli and be extension Israeli. Those who know me realize that the "pragmatists" who turn a blind eye to the aiding and abetting of terror in their midst while loudly clucking about "how dreadful" are more despicable in my eyes than those insane individuals who actually blow themselves up
  • The "inner world" of 'Left' and 'Right', of 'post Zionist' versus 'traditional Zionist' of 'Religious' versus 'Secular' is reaching a breaking point. True tremendous efforts are being made by the 'believing' side to reach out and make themselves understood, but ultimately in every relationship it takes two sides to come to a workable solution
  • Finally my 'existential reality' of a 54 year old 'has-been' that apparently is no longer in demand (or even employable) added the "straw that broke the camel's [read my] back"

Realizing that I could no longer carry all these various emotional burdens and still retain my sanity, or continue without damaging my heart and who knows what other organs, I made a decision to "disengage".

Within three hours I "unplugged" (it goes off line July 1st), (ditto),, as well as my autobiographical blog and my assorted essays etc. Similarly I'll closed all my email accounts except (I've been trying to close for six months without success. Microsoft simply will not let go of me! )

Now that my in-box is no longer filled with tens of submissions to the various blogs I moderated or published and my mind is freed to try and think through the major issue of "What now?" - "How do I make a living now?" Hopefully I'll have the emotional and intellectual resources to rise up and meet this very important very basic challenge.

After all this I can't not publish.... so I setup "Second Thoughts" to permit me to publish ideas, thoughts and opinions that I feel the need to contribute to "public scrutiny". If only my children read these musings (thanks Batya for a lovely word), I will feel justified. If friends or even strangers find my mosaic of eclectic posts of interest or even possibly 'enriching', all the better.

Yoel Ben-Avraham
Shilo, Benyamin
20 Sivan 5765