Friday, December 15, 2006

The Danger of Reform Conversions

Dearest Chaviva,

I normally shun these public Internet discussions as more often than not someone ends up being offend or hurt by the opinions expressed, to witness your comment:
To say, in sum, that I am part of a religion that is in no way Judaism.
That I am
living in a religion that is, in essence, one big fat sin.
Out of respect for your willingness to exchange understandings I ‘ll respond to your request for clarification. I prefer to approach the issue indirectly, and not on a personal level. Your personal choices in life are just that. I respect them even if I might personally think you are making a mistake. The real issue is not on the personal level, but the Klal Israel (Collective of the Jewish People) level.

If conversions that do not adhere to the standards and criteria that have been the norm for the Jewish People these past two millennium were to be recognized by the State of Israel, the very fabric of our society here in Israel would disintegrate.

Think about it Chaviva. Up until today the “status quo” in effect in Israel is that we all agree to respect the individual’s choice in their private lives, but in the public life we seek the highest common denominator that will permit everyone to be full members of the Jewish collective. That means all Jews can intermarry. That means that all Jews can serve together side-by-side in the Israeli Defense Forces, eat the same food, observe the same basic standards of public observance, Shabbat, Pesach etc. More importantly tens of thousands of idealistic men are willing to place their lives on the line day-after-day to protect their fellow Jews who are threatened only because they want to live Jewish lives in the Land of Israel.

Introducing America’s pluralistic recognition of everybody’s interpretation of what it means to be a Jew would fragment Israeli society. It would create a situation where Reform Judaism and Torah Observant Judaism would be as valid a ‘definition’ of Judaism as those perversions of Judaism like the ‘Messianic Jews’ or ‘Jewish Jehovah Witnesses’. You have to understand that my children could not marry your children. More over I foresee a day where many idealistic Jews will think twice before they are willing to place their lives on the line to defend the ‘civil rights’ of non-Jews who stand for values and norms antithetical to everything that traditional Judaism stands for. Why bother. These same ‘civil rights’ can be enjoyed elsewhere in the world without having to place your life and the lives of your sons at risk.

As for the remark you made:
To say, in sum, that I am part of a religion that is in no way Judaism.
That I am
living in a religion that is, in essence, one big fat sin.
If anything, you should direct your anger to those people who convinced you that by ‘converting’ according to their conventions and standards you would become a ‘Jew’ instead of a member of a breakaway schismatic sect that calls itself Judaism. Believe me, I truly identify with your feelings for I too was there once. I originally converted according to the Reform movement and only gradually over years, and much book learning, came to realize that it did not reflect in anyway, except empty form, the concept of Judaism as embodied in two millennium of recorded Jewish learning.

If Judaism originates from some form of divine revelation, then it is a package deal. Succoth with its quaint booths and four-kinds is as integral a part as the prohibition against marrying a mamzar, the fruit of an adulterous union, even though the child did not sin. It isn’t some sort of ala Carte menu of what feels good and makes sense but what doesn’t feel good or is incomprehensible is rejected. Does a cancer patient truly understand the intricacies of treatments developed by hundreds of doctors and scientists over decades of research? Of course not, but at some point he makes a decision to undergo the treatment based upon a faith that they collectively know what they are doing.

Can’t you see the arrogance of deciding whether to lay tefillin each morning or avoid eating milk after meat. Yet the intricacies involved in defining these ‘practices’ if divinely inspired, are far beyond the ability of the human intellect to understand.

Chaviva, please accept my sincerest wishes that you find what you are looking for. It was my never my intention to offend or hurt anyone individually although there was no doubt that my opinion of Reform Judaism would never be desirable to those who travel that path. That is why I tried to help you rise above the individual and see what this direction means to the future of the Jewish People as a collective.

If you (or others) would like to continue this discussion, please direct your comments to This will be my last public post here, and probably anywhere on this issue. It simply does not seem to be a productive exchange. One should be able to express oneself openly without being perceived as 'attacking' others. You should be able to 'attack' ideas without being misrepresented as attacking the individuals who currently espouse those ideas.

Wishing all of you a Chanukah full of Light, the true light of Torah.

Yoel Ben-Avraham
Shilo, Benyamin, Israel

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Peversions of Nationalism

“Every nationalist is haunted by the belief that the past can be altered,” George Orwell wrote in his landmark 1945 essay Notes on Nationalism. “He spends part of his time in a fantasy world in which things happen as they should. It is difficult to feel that the people responsible are merely lying. More probably they feel that their own version was what happened in the sight of God, and that one is justified in rearranging the records accordingly.”
A powerful and insightful description of people and movements that want to rewrite history to meet their own aspirations, instead of facing the reality of the present to create a better world.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

From the mouth of babes

See this short video interview by Arutz 7 TV, of Hanan, Yaakov's younger son. Hanan died in a qasam attack earlier this week.

The interview is in Hebrew but even those who do not speak the language should view it.

For a short summary of the interview:
Hanan (who seems to be around 11 years old), says he did not imagine such a thing would happen. "Without Abba (my father) I have no life" , he says.

Then Hanan is asked whether he wants to continue to live in Sderot. His answer is categorical: "Yes! If I and my family would leave Sderot, this would be the end of the country. I love the State of Israel very much and if Sderot would be dismantled, this would be the end of the country. If the Hamas would see that they succeeded in Sderot, they will do it in the entire country...
Ashkelon, Ashdod...everywhere

. All the Jews will be dispersed; where will they go? Everywhere Jews are hated....

Then the interviewer asks Hanan what he would tell the Prime Minister if he would come to his house: "I don't want to talk to him nor see him. I would kick him out of my house. I would throw stones at him."

"The same about Amir Peretz. If he really cared about Sderot, he would know what to do, but he doesn't."

The camera then turns to show how some roofs of some schools in Sderot are being covered by steel to try and protect the children, while the interviewer points out that this is obviously not what needs to be done to protect Sderot.

Then we see Hanan again who passionately turns to Olmert and Peretz and urges them to declare they cannot deal with the situation and therfore must resign. "Resign and let Bibi Netanyahu and Lieberman take your place. Resign, resign... I Hanan, son of Yaakov, TURN to you and urge you: RESIGN!! FAST!

In one word- this videoclip is a must see.
A little boy, who says it better than any adult.

Monday, October 16, 2006

End of Palestinian Refugee Problem

Adwan wondered how Jordan was able to contain 600,000 Iraqis but refuse to allow 280 Palestinians from staying on its territories.
The People's Daily Newspaper out of Beijing in the People's Republic of China, reports that the Palestinian leadership is very upset with the Arab country of Jordan. The telling fact in the short excerpt (click the post title to read the entire article) is that Jordan had no qualms about accepting 600,000 Iraqian Arabs. Under normal circumstances you'd think that is you've already accepted more than half a million refugees, whats another 280! Right?

Wrong! Not when they are Palestinians! No Arab government interested in stability and calm would accept Palestinians. Maybe the best answer is exactly what Abbas is evidently concerned about!
He appealed to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to intervene and ask Jordan not to displace the Palestinian refugees for fears that this step could be the beginning of ending the Palestinian refugees issue by transferring them to some countries and canceling their right of return to Palestine.

Whenever someone starts up the Palestinian Transfer Fund let me know, I'll make the first donation!

Yet another contributor to my thesis, Imad Saladin, writer and researcher Solidarity International Foundation for Human Rights as published in Palestine News Oct 17th, 2006 (in translation via Google):

We have warned and others in more than one location and [other] article[s] about the dangers of dissipating the Palestinian refugee diaspora, since this will negatively impact on the fabric of their unity ... It is not evidenced by the clear position of all the levels and orientations of the Palestinian people when they all insisted, in coordination with the Lebanese government ... the need for the Palestinian refugees to accept a reduction of their civil, social [rights], and we have made clear to the Lebanese government at the time that the enjoyment of those rights to those relating to resettlement, that the abridgement of the rights of refugees and civil service[s], and those who were already suffering from it although less frequently today after the agreement with the Lebanese government. These will lead to migration to other European countries and therefore as a result of this disruption to the bloc refugees in Lebanon and the resulting in the end of the negative impact on their right to their homes and property.
Yes Imad , people who have real lives aren't interested in rotting their lives away dreaming about something that hasn't existed for sixty years (if it ever existed even then!)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Unacceptable Conversions

There is an ongoing debate in Israel over the various programs to convert the tens of thousands of non-Jews who moved to Israel over the past decade. The following are some of my thoughts on the issue:

Jerusalem Talmud, Tractate of Kedushim
Chapter 4, Halacha 1

He who converts for love, whether it be a man for a woman or a woman for a man; also converts of the kings table(1) and converts of the lions(2); also the converts of Mordechai and Esther(3): we do not accept them [any of the above]. Rav says, "they are converts and we do not reject them like we reject non-Jews who ask to convert(4), instead we accept them and they need a welcoming face [cause] maybe they converted for the right reasons".

  1. This appears to be the kind of utilitarian conversion we see today on the basketball or soccer court.
  2. Traditionally these were the non-Jews settled in the Land of Israel in place of the ten tribes. The tradition says that due to fear of the lions of the land these peoples adopted Jewish custom and practice.
  3. When the Jews of Persia destroyed their enemies and gained ascendance in the royal court, many people wanted to join "the winners".
  4. When a non-Jew approaches a Rabbinic Court and asks to be accepted as a convert, the court does everything to convince the candidate that it really is not advantageous to convert. Traditionally twice the candidate is turned away empty handed, and only if they persist and return a third time are their motives and understandings evaluated and the merits of their request judged.

The problem of accepting converts is whether they want to convert for "the sake of heaven" or for some utilitarian purposes. Chazal seem to be aware that at different times, for different reasons, people could see the adoptation of a "Jewish" lifestyle as an improvement over their original circumstances, either as individuals or as collectives - and not because they see "entering the convenant" as a way of "cleaving to HaShem".

In my mind the issue is similar to the questions of "love". Chazal are willing to accept a convert who is motivated by "love of HaShem". HaShem is something constant, immutable. The love of woman (or man) is not.

Mishna, Order of Nezekim
Tractate of Avot, Chapter 5, Mishna 15

Every love which is dependent upon something, [if] that something ceases to be, the loves ceases to be. Which is a love which is dependent upon something - for instances the love of Amnon and Tamar. [A love] which is independent of something, for instance the love of David and Yohonatan.

A love which is conditional upon some outside or material circumstance is a love which, as demonstrated in Amnon's instance (Shmuel II, Chapter 13), can turn to hate when the circumstances change.

On one hand, how can we accept candidates for conversion who obviously have "ulterior motives" for wanting to convert? But on the other, how can men decide what are the motivations of another man?

Deeds Speak!

In this sense it looks like Rav's very liberal approach accepts the fact that someone who has already undergone a "conversion" process is different than someone who has yet to publicly accepted upon themselves to live as a Jew. Once they have made a commitment we should look upon them as sincere and worthy converts [regardless of why they converted], providing them the acceptance, warmth and support they need to complete the transition of "becoming Jews".

I question whether those non-Jews who have moved to Israel and have made the commitment to live with this People Israel in the Land of Israel aren't any different than the "converts" Rav suggests we accept. Some where in my heart and mind, the decision to serve in the Israeli army, to place their lives on-the-line to protect the People of Israel who live in the Land of Israel, is as firm a commitment to Judaism, if not more, than the full-time scholar "cleaving to HaShem" through his learning of Torah. The former is expressing his decision in a "misirat nefesh" (willingness to self-sacrifice) that places their entire material existence at stake. What greater proof of dedication could be asked of a potential convert?

As a result I think the young men who participate in the conversion process during or after their military service should be viewed as worthy candidates for whom their decision to convert has been "proven" by their willingness to serve.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Strengthened Jewish Unity?
Pass GO and Collect $100,000

Nominations for the 2007 Charles Bronfman Prize can be completed and submitted betweenAugust 1, 2006 and October 31, 2006

Click Here To Connect to the Nomination Process & Nomination Forms

The Charles Bronfman Prize is an humanitarian award created and funded by his children -- Ellen Bronfman Hauptman and Andrew Hauptman together with Stephen Bronfman and Claudine Blondin Bronfman -- in honor of their father’s 70th birthday.Charles Bronfman has spent a lifetime developing, implementing and supporting initiatives that help to strengthen the unity of the Jewish people; investing in young people to strengthen their knowledge and appreciation of their history, heritage and cultural identity; and impacting on the direction of Jewish life and community.

The Charles Bronfman Prize awards the recipient(s) $100,000. It celebrates the vision and talent of an individual or team -- under 50 years of age -- whose humanitarian work has contributed significantly to the betterment of the world. The achievements of Prize recipients exemplify the Jewish values and regard for humanity that provide inspiration to the next generations. An internationally recognized panel of judges, each of whom represents the highest human and Jewish values, selects the Prize winner .

Monday, September 18, 2006

Why The Pope was Wrong

A lot of people seem to have a problem understanding why Muslims think the Pope was wrong for publicly saying what he did. Maybe the following story-in-a-story will help them understand.

I once lived in Kiryat Araba - Hebron. Several times a week I would walk down to the center of the Arab city where the central bus station was located and took an Arab taxi (Sherut) to Jerusalem. As I frequently traveled the same time day after day I often traveled with the same drivers, some of which I "befriended" to the extent that we had ongoing conversations of Jews & Arabs and the relations between the two.

One day I mentioned some item in the news expressing my lack of understanding of the motivations of the individuals involved. My driver that day, Achmed, laughed at my lack of understanding and explained that if I understood the Arab mind I would not find it difficult. My Arab mentor then proceeded to tell me this Arab "fable" to help me appreciate the Arab mind:

Youssef was hot and tired and decided to take a mid-day nap in the shade of his back porch. Just as he got comfortable the local kids charged into the yard to play some game. Their noise and confusion were not conducive to the rest he desired and he tried yelling at them to go somewhere else. Nothing he could do convinced them to leave. After a moment of reflection he decided that threatening them wasn't working, he'd try a different approach.

Calling the kids to him, he asked with all the sincerity he could muster why they were playing here in the yard, and why were they not down at the marketplace. When they asked him, why would they want to be at the marketplace he explained that right at that moment the vendors were giving away fresh dates to people for free! After a moment or two of reflection, with nothing to lose and everything to gain, the kids en mass rushed out of the yard on their way to the marketplace. Youssef laid back to enjoy his newly found peace and quiet to start his mid-day nap.

Not a few minutes went by and Youssef could be seen getting up and hurriedly rushing out of the yard on his way to the marketplace. How could he just lie around when the vendors were giving away dates for free.
I'm not certain what my "mentor" intended me to understand from this story. I know that it described to me an individual, Youssef, for whom the distinction between objective reality and subjective imagination were blurred if not totally confused.

You see, it doesn't matter what the Pope actually said, all that matters is what the Arab/Muslim imagines the Pope said

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Inherent Contradictions

"Anyone who describes Islam as a religion as intolerant encourages violence," [Pakistani] Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said.
And what exactly did the man say?

The Pope began this speech at Regensburg University with what he conceded were "brusque"” words about Islam: He quoted a 14th Century Byzantine emperor as saying,

    “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”
The self-evident contradiction between the condemnation of the use of violence as a "tool" in the sphere of religion, and the threat of violence if a full apology is not forth coming is too obvious to be ignored.

The world is in the throes of a conflict, if not of cultures, then ideologies, no less portentous than the conflict between the free world and Nazism or the free world and Communism. The question is how long will it take the Western democracries to wake up and appreciate the conflict for what it is ... an all-out winner-takes-all struggle.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The New Amelek

In the Torah there are two kinds of "enemies" the People of Israel must deal with in order to settle the Land of Israel and establish themselves as a nation. The first are the indigenous nations, in particular the "seven people" who live in the land before the arrival of the Jewish People. The Torah actually commands the complete eradication of these people, but only if they refuse to pick up and leave. The Torah is very explicit. The reason these people cannot be permitted to remain in the land is the negative influence they might have on the Israeli Nation. The issue is totally one of practicality. If a member of the seven nations left the Land of Israel they were not to be harmed.

The second type of "enemy" is that of Amelek. The issue there is not territorial conquest or negative influence. The struggle between the People of Israel and Amelek is strictly "ideological". The People of Israel aspire to live within a covenant between the people and a creator who dictates absolute rights and wrongs. Amelek aspire to subjugate all who cross their paths. The only "right" for Amelek is the "right of might" and the only wrong is to be defeated. The very fact that Israel aspires to live a life based upon some universal absolute values in a very real but subtle way challenges the very foundations of Amelek's existence. As long as Amelek continues to exist (as Amelek) the G-d of Israel commands the Jewish People to eradicate every last man, woman, child unto even the animals they own. The very "name" of Amelek is commanded to be erased.

Difficult to understand? Think about our attitude to Nazism. True we didn't (perhaps unfortunately?) eradicate every participating Nazi, but the world did seem to want to erase and forbid any expression of support for this very hated filled racial ideology.

It has occurred to me these past few weeks that "the more things change, the more they stay the same". It is quite possible that the only way the western world will survive the insidious systematic prolonged attack by Islam is by declaring every adherent of Islam equivalent to a member of Amelek. Only if/when a Muslim adopts the values of tolerance and co-existence do they in essence remove themselves from the camp of Islam which knows no tolerance and recognizes no co-existence except subservience. If the western world refuses to destroy these people, for obvious reasons, they must at least de-legitimize them.

If during the Second World War Britain and the United States forcibly removed "foreign aliens that originated from hostile lands" from the general population, their unwillingness to do so now will ultimately bring about the internal destruction of these countries. What Natzism and communism failed to do, this insidious cancer masquerading as a religion called Islam will accomplish.

Looks like I'm not the only one drawing this conclusion:
Some would argue that it is a crime and a betrayal of our own values to argue for excluding Muslims from our countries or even expelling some of the ones who are already here. I disagree. The relatively small number of Muslims we have in the West now has already caused enormous damage to our economy, to our culture and not the least to our freedoms. The real crime, and the real betrayal, would be to sacrifice centuries of advances in human freedom as well as the future of our children and grandchildren to appease Muslims who contribute virtually nothing to our societies and are hostile to their very foundations.
from Why We Cannot Rely on Moderate Muslims by Baron Bodissey

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Judaism versus Democracry

I tend to be pragmatic. As a result when the question of how an "authentic" Jewish state should govern itself, I tend to seek "what will work" rather than possible unatainable "ideals". Whenever the question of how to get large number of individuals with dissimilar ideas and beliefs to cooperate, I tend to seek the common denominator and workable compromises. My purpose for this preamble is to state that as much as I want to live in a Jewish state, I also thouroughly believe that some form of democratic process if prefered over any other, and that there is no contradiction between democracry and Judaism.

It was of great interest to me to read an article by Rav Ezriel Ariel of the community of Ateret in last week's "B'Ahava uB'Emunah" published by Macon Meir. He explores the commandment, embodied in Parshat Shoftim, to choose a king to rule over the People of Israel. The following are some roughly translated excerpts from his article. phrases in [ ] are additions to help make the terse Hebrew sentences more understandable.

"Israel were commanded three commandments upon their entrance to the land: to appoint a king eradicate the seed of Amelek .... to built the Temple ..." thusly lists the Rambam at the beginning of the Laws of Kings.

The Torah, on the other hand, apparentrly expresses a very different meaning: "When you come into the land ... and you will say, let me appoint a king like all the other nations around me; Set above a king that HaShem your G-d has chosen ..." (Deuteronomy 17:4-5) The simple understanding of these verse is that the Jewish People are not obligated to appint a king, unless they want a king like all the other nations. In that case they must appoint a king that HaShem desires.

In the same vein writes Rav Avadiyah Sephorno that the appointing of a king is not an obligation but optional. It is clear to him (from Numbers 27:17) that HaShem wants Israel to have a leader, but a leader could be either a "Shofet" or judge but not necessarily a "melek" king. ...

The Rambam disagrees, and concludes from the gemara in the tractate of Sanhedrin that it is a commandment to appoint a king over Israel. If so the question remains unanswered, how can it be both a commandment and still require the will of the people? ...

To understand this we need the words of the Natziv of Volozin, that in his time knew the differences between a democratic state and a state governed by a king. [He explains that] ... The source of authority for the establishment of a kingdom is the people. If you force upon a people a form of government which they do not desire that country will not survive for long even if the type of government enforced is that determined by halacha. in order to appoint a king you require the concensus of the people.

Our author, Rav Ariel, points out that the Ramam agrees with the Natziv that the gemara in Sanhedrin does not obligate the appointing of a king until the people desire/agree to it. He demonstrates this from Ramam's Laws of Gezila (Chapter 5) and concludes that "a kingship draws its authority from the people. He concludes with a facinating quote from Rab Kook (Mishpat Cohen pg 337):

It appears that when there is no king ... these legal rights are returned to the national collective ... and the issues of the Laws of Kingship, that pertain/relate to the governing of all, certainly also judges (appointed by) concensus and general presidents stand in the place of a king".

My personal matra is: the governing must be accountable to the governed; those who judge must reflect the values and (social) aspirations of the judged; and the authorities which enforce Law and Order are not above the law, but every aspect of their public and private behavioue embodies the law.

As I feel there is a greater likelihood we can convince a plurality of israel's to modify the existing democratic system to reflect these values than we will convince them to adopt a sanhedrin and kingship model of government, I am always looking for opinions that explore this question: can democracry be consistent with Jewish tradition and aspirations. On at least a "default" basis, Rav Ariel's article appears to indicate that it can.

What's your opinion?

[I just noticed an interesting article by Paul Eidelberg comparing and contrasting American Democracy with the Israeli system.]

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Commission of Inquiry Mandate

I read an very interesting article in last weeks' (Parshat Shoftim 2nd of Elul 5766) 'B'Ahava uB'Emunah' published in Hebrew by Macon Meir. the writer was Rav Menachem Man, formerly of Gush Katif, and he explored the necessity of widdening the mandate of any National Committee of Inquiry that might be formed (once Olmart & co. are deposed). Whether or not the suggestions in the article are very likely to happen is moot, but the ideas expressed were, IMHO, right on the mark. Here are a few roughly translated excerpts from the article titled "Vaadat Chakirah Shorshit" (Commission of Inquiry for Root Causes):

One of the key questions is what should the Commission of Inquiry that is expected to be set up investigate. A commission that will investigate only the Military and Foreign Policy of the past few years can only touch the tip of the iceberg. This is of necessity important, but will not bring about long lasting changes. Even if the commission should investigate the assumptions upon which the decision makers relied, assumptions about the Middle East conflict and how to resolve it - from this will not come the redemption.

It is difficult to disconnect the decisions of the upper eschelons of the military and government from the cultural foundations that are deeply rooted in the Israeli society. Some examples: A cultural in which quick and immediate gratification of needs and wants is central, causes those that are involved in creating policy to seek quick and immediate solutions to security issues. ... It is [therefore] important to widden the subject investigated to include the culture that influenced the way of thought that led to the mistakes [we are suffering from].

The central question in the topic of "culture" is "what is the objective?" What do we want here in the State of Israel? ... The central question [could be phrased], "Is the purpose of Israel to provide a 'safe haven' for the Jewish People, or a country the purpose of which is to make it possible to live a way of life where Torah and the Mikdash are central?"

A 'safe haven' implies that the purpose of the state is to protect the physical existence of each individual and the people. This purpose places the individual in the center. Making the life of the individual of primary importance causes the needs and wants of the individual to become of over riding importance. From here the road is very short to many of the short comings of our society. This same world-view caused the Supreme Court to place the rights of the individual above all others and in the name of this belief, to make decisions that endanger the entire country.

Placing Torah in the center of our lives creates an entirely different culture. Placing the "vision [of Torah values]" in the center, engenders life of truth seeking, of idealism and a willingness to sacrifice [for the common good]."

What interested me was the similarity of Rav Man's ideas with an insight I had when I first discovered Judaism and emersed myself in Jewish thought and values.

It became very clear to me that Western Society as I knew it from North America was a "Vertical" society which places the individual and their "pursuit of happiness (success)" as society's highest value. The result, in my eyes, was a society where individual clamoured over the backs of others in order to "get ahead (above)".

As I experienced Jewish community life and learned traditional sources it became apparent to me that Jewish society's highest value was the collective! A sort of "Horizontal" society. The expression and preservation collective ideals and values was a traditional Jewish society's raison d'etre. As such, individuals were more willing to sacrifice their own advancement, wealth or self interest to contribute to the preservation and enhancement of the collective.

I haven't thought of this insight for decades until I read this article last week. Your thoughts?

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A Revolution in Values

Protest in the Rose Garden
By Ari Shavit
What do we need to do these days? Not much. To prevent the renewal of war in Lebanon and to win the war should it begin anew. To avoid the outbreak of war with Syria and to win a war against it should one break out. To prevent Iran from developing its nuclear capability and to deter the country should it become a nuclear power. To build the Israel Defense Forces from the foundations up, as fast as possible. To rehabilitate the political system immediately. To come up with a leadership from thin air. To formulate, overnight, a national strategy. To carry out a regime change. To initiate a revolution in values. To reestablish the Israeli republic.
. . . . .

However, renewal of Israel's power cannot take place without ethics and without truth. Without modesty and without substance. Without restoring faith and a sense of responsibility. Therefore, the Prime Minister and Chief of Staff of Arrogance must both go. Not only because they have been wrong all the way. Not only because they have been wrong, have been deceptive and have cooked up a disaster. But because getting rid of both will distance us from the distorted values that both of them represent. Separation from both of them will detach us from the evil spirit that tricked us for years.

Dear Mr. Shavit;

Your conclusion, that the answer to Israel's long term survival is dependent upon a "revolution of values", is one that is long awaited. In truth the values have always been with us, and a majority of Israelis have remained true to them over the years.

The vast majority of Jews who live in our country came here because they wanted to live as Jews in a Jewish country. The vast majority of Jews still have some form of positive affinity to Jewish values and traditions, despite 60 years of systematic delegitimization by the Israeli establishment, government and private. The vast majority of Jews who live in Israel believe that democracy is the preferred form of government, even if they harbor suspicions that the current Israeli form of democracy is not working. Without a doubt every Jew in Israel wants to live in a society where law & order reign, but a law and order judicated by courts which reflect their values and enforced by agencies dedicated to protecting the citizens not the regime.

In truth Mr. Shavit, the values in question are the same values the tens of thousands of young adults who were crowded into Kefar Maimond believe they are fighting for. The "Orange Revolution" challenged the Israeli society to reform its political process to one where politicians are accountable to the electorate not the party hacks or money-men; where judges are chosen by the people by from some closed self-selecting elite; where police officers embody law and order, not that they are above the law.

True, the "Orange Public" believe that all the above should, where possible, draw its inspiration from the rich sources of Jewish tradition, but the core values are common to the vast majority of Israelis, religious or secular in their life style. They believe that the Jewish People have a reason for existing. They adhere to the idea that the nation of Israel has an intrinsic connection to the Land of Israel from Kiryat Shmoneh to Ashkelon, from Rosh Hanikra to Eilat. But I've met non-observant Jews from Haifa, Beersheva or Nahallal who agreed with all the above as well!

The events of the past year, and especially of recent weeks have opened the eyes, minds and hearts of many people too long closed to new ideas. People, like you, who see where the self-destructive short-sighted mimicking of other societies is leading us. Perhaps never before in the history of the renewed Jewish presence in the Land of Israel is there a greater likelihood that Jews of all walks of life, from all corners of this land are likely to join together to formulate a new convenant as a nation!

All that is needed now is the spark ... a call to action!

All that is needed is a vehicle ... one that transcends partisan politics!

Who amongst us is willing to rise to the challenge and initiate the revitalization of Jewish life in the Jewish state of Israel?

Are you?

Thanks for the heads-up from IRIS Blog

Saturday, August 26, 2006

We Won't Forgive Nor Forget

A photo essay with background music commemorating the destruction of twenty five communities of Gush Katif and The Northern Shamron last August by the post-Zionist forces of the government of the State of Israel.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A September 11th Memorial Initiative

9/11 Bloggers MemorialOn September 11, 2006, 2,996 volunteer bloggers will join together for a tribute to the victims of 9/11.

Each person will pay tribute to a single victim.
We will honor them by remembering their lives, and not by remembering their murderers.

For more information visit 2,996

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Israel Security Fence

It looks like I'm in the minority, but I personally do not mind living "beyond" the Security Fence. As uncomfortable as it might become, I sincerely believe that the fence is a very valuable tactical and strategic tool which will not only save Jewish lives (and indirectly the lives of others) but also contribute toward a significant decline in the non-Jewish population of Judea & Samaria. Let me explain:

Tactically: The Security Fence does make it more difficult to perpetrate the horrific suicide bombings that plagued Israel these past few years. It doesn't make it impossible, but in the same way that the electronic fence along our border with Jordan made it much easier to prevent infiltration of terrorists from that country, so too the Security Fence contributes to the ability to thwart attacks in Israel proper from the Palestinian Authority controlled areas.

Strategically: I buy into the premise that the Arab population which live on the West Bank of the Jordan River are here because of the economic opportunities the Jewish settlements created over the past hundred fifty years. Just read Mark Twain's description of his visit to "Palestine" in "Innocents Abroad" to understand what existed before Jewish settlement reclaimed this land. (See Joan Peter's "From Time Immemorial" for over whelming detailed support for this thesis.)

Depriving the residents of the Palestinian Authority the opportunity to work illegally in Israel, of the ability to smuggle contraband into Israel for sale and the opportunity to smuggle stolen goods from Israel to the PA for export to the Arab world ... in short, depriving them of the ability to leech off Israel's economy, will force them to create their own economy. Based upon the results the Palestinians have had from "inheriting" the hot houses of the Jews of Gush Katif, I'd say that without Israel there will be a gradual exodus of hungry people looking for a livelihood (and a 'life' away from the violent control of terror).

Without the "Security Fence" neither of these objectives are obtainable.

If saving Jewish lives and empowering future Jewish governments to minimize the Palestinian Authority's ability to leech an existence off the very entity they despise and aspire to destroy, means that I have to travel through a "Check Point" to enter the State of Israel - so be it. It is a minor price to pay.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Strength of Israel

In Safed, a poverty-stricken city in the best of times, one of the most impressive corps of young volunteers swooping down on the city came from an organization called "Lev Echad," One Heart. The organization formed last year to comfort the families from Gaza displaced by the unilateral withdrawal-and consisted mostly of the "orange," national religious anti-disengagement youth. Now, the organization mobilized more than one thousand young people of all political and religious stripes to deliver food, entertain children in bomb shelters, and care for the elderly, whose caretakers had fled the rockets. Watching two busloads of volunteers arrive in Safed with the high spirits of the cavalry coming to rescue their comrades, it was clear that Hamas and Hezbollah had stumbled into giving Israel a gift no Israeli politician was otherwise capable of delivering.
"Israel, United - Hezbollah's terror tactics have only strengthened Israeli resolve"
by By Gil Troy, National Review Online

It never ceases to amaze me ... "and out of the bitter came forth sweetness" (Judges 14:14)

gushkatif-girush-s.jpgThe spirit, the idealism of the youth. Having experienced Kefar Maimon last summer, and walked through the Negev heat to penetrate Gush Katif to attempt to forestall the eventual expulsion, having listened to my children describe their experirences as they volunteered before and after the tragedy ... the one thing that overwhelms me again and again is their spirit, their unflagging belief in the future of the Jewish People and our obligation as Jews to help one another. Every time "fate" (Divine Providence?) gives us a bitter pill to swallow, the innate strength of the Jewish people, its youth, rises to the occasion and demonstrates why despite the fatigue of our secular leadership, Israel's future is as bright and optimistic as ever.

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Orange Revolution : Accountability

Demanding accountability from incompetent political and military leaders who led us into defeat against an enemy we could and should have beaten is not opening a civil war. It is the proper response from a responsible public that understands our leaders are incapable of defending the country.
Our World: Emanuel Morano's Legacy,
by Caroline Glick, Jerusalem Post Aug. 22, 2006
That wonderful word has raised its head several times in the past ten days! The key to the "revolution" in Israeli political life that has a chance of saving this country from moral decay and returning it to a vibrant thriving democracry is "accountability". Only when the elected are accountable to the electorate will government reflect the values and aspirations of the people!

I'm not afraid of the "people". True they are not "religious", but in general, even after two generations of systematic allienation from their traditions and culture, they still have a firm rooting in the values and beliefs of their forefathers. It only requires a little watering, a little care-taking and gradually they will again thrive and grow strong.

The others, the elites (18 families control 75% of Israeli's national wealth!) are welcome to return to their roots, or if frustrated in their attempts to retain control to their little fiefdoms, are welcome to find homes elsewhere where their secular anti-Jewish values are the norm.

The important thing, the people are talking - demanding accountability, demanding a judical system that reflects their values, demanding police agencies dedicated to protecting the citizens and the rule of law and order rather than acting as "enforcers" of unpopular government policy who act above the rule of law, absolved of all misconduct before they even begin to act.

The "Orange Revolution" is coming.

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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Obsession: What The War on Terror Is Really About

Finally the people who produced the award winning film on the Arab-Israel Crisis turn their attention to the threat of global Radical Islam. A must see for anyone who wants to see Islamic propoganda in perspective!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Historic Refusal to Shake Hands

לאחר פרעות תרפ"ט, נזדמנן המרן הראי"ה קוק זצ"ל להיפגש עם המושל האנגלי לוק, שהיה האחראי מטעם השלטון האנגלי בארץ בימי הפרעות, כממלא מקום הנציב העליון. סירב הרב ללחוץ את ידו, כי אין ידיו נקיות מדם, ואמר לו בלשוןחריפה כי עליו להסתלק מתפקידו.
"שיחת אבות", על מסכת אבות

After the riots of 1929, Rav Kook was invited to meet with the HighCommissioner Harry Luke, who was the representative of the British HighCommander at the time of the riots. Rav Kook refused to shake his hand,because his hands were not free of blood, and told him in the strongestpossible language that he should resign his post.
From "Sichat Avot", gathered commentary on Sayings of the Fathers, by Rav Kook
Thanks to Ncoom from Shilo for the tip!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Cruel Canadian Immigration Policy

The Israeli Supreme Court decided Israel has the right to refuse to permit Palestinian spouses of Israeli citizens from automaticly being able to move and live in Israel.
Justice Minister Haim Ramon of the centrist Kadima Party defended the ruling. "No place in the world is required to admit citizens from a country or authority with which it is in a state of conflict," he said. "We have to remember that this law was legislated during the Palestinian uprising, when several people who received citizenship through family unification carried out attacks."
I have news for Mr. Ramon.

Back when my wife and I returned to Canada to help an educational program there, in order to work, my non-Canadian wife had to apply for "Landed Immigrant Status". As incredulous as it seemed at the time, the Canadian authorities insisted that my wife had to live outside the country while her six month application process winded its way through the Canadian Immigration bureaucracy. No one guaranteed that she would receive the visa, despite the fact that her husband and all her children were Canadian citizens!

To read the world press you'd think Israel was such a "cruel" country! You'll never hear any Canadian Minister of Immigration publicly defending their country's policy, or justifying itself as being at war etc etc.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Ongoing War

I received the following from fellow Israeli Blogger Yaakov Ben-Yehuda:

Dear Fellow Bloggers, Journalists, & Activists,

I received the following blog recommendation from David Frankfurfer, and would like to pass it onto you:

Kern Malki's Blog of "Daily Events Under-reported, Unreported, and Simply Misunderstood" is both a memorial to their daughter Malki HY"D and an important effort to publicize what Jews and non-Jews don't know or don't want to know, but MUST know about terrorism and what's taking place in Israel on a daily basis.

I hope to link their blog to mine soon. You may want to consider doing the same.

Shabbath Shalom,
Ya'aqov Ben-Yehudah
K'far Tapu'ah, Shomron

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Virtuous Handshake

The following is a translation of a talk-back to an article in Maariv Online concerning the expulsion from IDF active service, of the soldier who felt incapable of shaking the Chief of Staff's hand at a cermony in the Presidential Mansion. The soldier was to receive a Presidential Award of Excellence:
"From An Old Solider : What the army doesn't seem to understand is something very simple; the same virtues that made Chananel Dayan worthy of receiving an award for excellence as a soldier are the very same virtues that made it so difficult for him to shake the Chief of Staff's hand."

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Indicators of Healthy Countries

You've got to read it to believe it. A serious article in the Foreign Policy Review magazine describes what contributes to "healthy" countries, and what looks good (free elections?) but doesn't necessary mean anything. What does work?
There are few quick fixes on the path to stability. Elections might give voice to the disenfranchised, but they don’t necessarily translate into effect1ive governance. High oil or commodity prices may fill government coffers, but they don’t build strong institutions. By contrast, steps that capture few headlines—the appointment of independent judges, the development of a competent civil service, and the implementation of anti-corruption campaigns—are often the key to improving a country’s foundations.
The three things I dream about when I think of a "healthy" Israeli democracy is
  1. Am independent judges (instead of a Friend brings a Friend elitest club)
  2. A government civil-service there to serve the needs of the citizens (instead of being served by them)
  3. Anti-corruption campaigns to eliminate the mafia-like elite that has developed a strangle hold on the politics and law enforcement of Israel

Condi's Cultural Short Circuit?

Ahmadinejad's 18-page letter to President Bush touched only indirectly on the hottest dispute between the two countries - Iran's nuclear program. Instead, it focuses on a long list of grievances against the United States and seeks to build on a shared faith in God to resolve them.
Rice told The Associated Press the letter "isn't addressing the issues that we're dealing with in a concrete way."

If this is for real, there may never have been such a missed opportunity to truly communicate because of the US State Department's "tunnel vission" and the United States "cultural myopia" in modern history. I admit the entire idea of sending such a letter is probably just a good public relations move on the Iranian's side! But like Churchill is quoted as saying, its better to "Jaw, jaw than war, war".

What someone in the State Department (or higher) seems to miss, is that business isn't done the same way in Iran (or the Middle East) the way it is done in Foggy Bottom. Here there is an entire "courtship ritual" of smoke and mirrors, pretenses and platitudes which are obligatory before anything of consequence can be discussed - and even then more likely in the most oblique fashion, to avoid either side from loosing face if a concensus can't be reached.

I'm the last one to be a fan of Ahmadinejad, but Condoleezza blew it this time.

Daled Amos: "They Will Always Hate You"

Daled Amos: "They Will Always Hate You"

When the self-confessed murderers of several Jews, when tried in Israel, can expect to spend a few months or at best years in jail before Israel eventually releases them in some self-deluding attempt at "confidence building initiatives" - how do you expect Arabs to relate to us!

It is clear to me that those who have "blood on their hands" should expect the death penalty. Even if it does not act a deterrent, at least we won't experience additional loss when these released terrorists return to their profession of killing more Jews.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Quota's for National Religious?

According to Middle East Newsline, a news service that specializes in coverage of the IDF, Stern recently revised theIDF's guidelines for recruitment. In light of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's intention to expel tens of thousands of Israelis from theirhomes in Judea and Samaria, the IDF no longer believes that soldiers from the national religious camp are trustworthy. So, according to an officer in the Manpower Division quoted in the report, the IDF willnow limit the recruitment of religious soldiers. The shortfall will bemade up by juvenile delinquents who are currently barred from servingin combat units.

I can't find the quote mentioned in the article by Caroline Glick in the Jerusalem Post "Our World: The IDF's Suicide Attempt:, but if true, what would they do, place quota's on the drafting of National Religious?

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Where have all the [American] Jews gone ...

I've read somewhere that today there are more Jews in Israel than any other country in the world. So where have all the American Jews gone? They certainly haven't all made Aliyah! The American Jewish Committee undertook a study of the 1.5 million younger Jews, ages 18 to 39, who comprise 29 percent of the U.S. Jewish population. The study came to some interesting conclusions.
" ... Orthodox Jews are more likely to be married by age 30, more than 50 percent of all American Jews under the age of 40 are not yet married, and this has implications for fertility and population growth. Further, approximately 50 percent of Jewish women are childless until the ages of 35-39.
“These patterns suggest that with a static population a higher percentage of future Jewish communal leaders are likely to be Orthodox, Jewish day school attendance among the Orthodox will continue to grow and the community as a whole could be more politically conservative,” said AJC Report.
If you add into the equation that the majority of North American Jews who make Aliyah are observant, the net long term results of the "birth-dirth" are pretty clear.

[Note how affect of the political leanings of the resulting Jewish population are of primary concern to the writer of this synopsis. Interesting?]

Thanks for the tip by JewSchool

Monday, April 17, 2006

One faceless story ....

"Philip Balhasan's relatives said he traveled to Tel Aviv with his two children, Linor and Uri, after promising to buy them CDs and computer games for Passover. The son, Uri, recounted the moment of horror: "When we heard the blast, dad wrapped his arms around me and Linor and hugged us tightly. Then he said 'grab the phone, call mom and tell her about the attack.'" Shortly thereafter, Balhasan collapsed, but police officers who led him to an ambulance were able to talk to him and heard him say he was hurt by shrapnel and by the force of the blast. It appears some of the shrapnel hit Balhasan's heart and he died on the way to the hospital."

As a father to six children who has spent seemingly endless Chol HaMoed taking his various offspring to "the big city" and other attractions, I can't but identify with Philip Balhasan. I looked for a photograph of the man, something to help turn the "statistic" to a real person, but I couldn't find one! Philip is like all of us, a simple faceless individual who lives his life, raises his family and hopes for a better tomorrow ...

[BTW the quote came from the "Sultan Knish" blog. Well worth visiting if you are interested in the "stories" behind the sound bytes and dry statistics of the conventional media!]

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Friday, March 17, 2006

Israel, you have failed!

In reference to an article by Aluf Benn in Haaretz "Settlers, you have failed"

Mr Benn decided to do a little soul searching on behalf of the "settlers", totalling up all the ways in which the "settlers" have failed. Mr. Benn's first conclusion is:
"The first failure was in achieving the ultimate goal. The settlers did not succeed in attracting enough Jews to the hilltops of Samaria and cliffs of Judea to establish irreversible facts on the ground and prevent return of the territories."
By your own criteria Mr. Benn in its first 60 years as a state has failed miserably in achieving any of its vaunted aspirations!
Israel's first failure was its inability to bring enough Jews to Israel to settle the land! Vast tracks on the Negev, the Galil and even the coastal plain are unsettled by Jews, and as nature abhors a vacuum, gradually taken over by Bedouin and Arabs with or more often without proven ownership. Instead of attracting Jews to Israel, Israel seems to be a net exporter of dissolutioned Jews seeking safer greener pastures abroad.
"The second failure was in the settlers' disengagement from the public, through their sense of superiority over the hedonists from the center of the country. Even during the days of the British Mandate, which the settlers like to recall with longing, only a few people joined the "wall and stockade" settlements (which were established overnight in the country's peripheral areas), and the majority remained in Tel Aviv."
The second failure was Israel's failure to educate their youth and inculcate in them a sense of national mission and an appreciation of what it means to live as a Jew in the Land of Israel. Instead of imbuing in their youth a sense of wonder over their opportunity to realize the aspirations of generations of Jews who dreamt of living Jewish lives in the Land of Israel, they created a pale imitation of Western Materialism where representatives of this country abroad embarrass the Jews who live there with their total ignorance of Jewish tradition and practice.
"The third failure was security related. The settlements did not bring quiet, and when the war broke out, they proved to be irrelevant. "
The third failure was Israel's utter failure to provide a safe place for Jews to live - our "place under the sun". Instead of a growing rapprochement between the State of Israel and its non-Jewish neighbor's, there is every indication of a growing radicalization in the open hatred and animosity, not to mention concrete threat to our safety and existence. Israel is a place where Arabs walk without fear (in the same streets where Jews are regular blown to bits by suicide bombers), yet sane Jews would never walk through many an Arab village, sometimes even villages within the sacrosanct "Green Line".

So Mr. Benn, I think you should read your article again. As I read it, by your own criteria, the State of Israel is an abysmal failure at everything its founders set out to accomplish. Maybe you should draw some conclusions as well.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

View from the Eye of the Storm

If you have time to read only one serious in-depth article analysing current International events, this is my recommendation. "A View From the Eye of the Storm" by Haim Harari is a powerful insightful analysis of what is going on in the world as seen by a man with 200 years of family history in the Middle East.

Mr. Harari is Chair of the Davidson Institute of Science Education and Past President of the Weizmann Institute of Science Talk. These "off-the-cuff" remarks were made at a meeting of the International Advisory Board of a large multi-national corporation in April, 2004.

Published in on March 15, 2006

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Electoral Alternatives

As you all know, I personally believe that the future of the Jewish State of Israel is dependent upon a radical change of political process. The first step of which is making elected officals accountable to their electorate. Benyamin Natanyahu recently decided to ride this hobby horse, hopefully rightfully believing that a broad spectrum of people are interested in a significant change.

He has espoused the possibility of a two tiered house (similar to the Palestinians!) where a certain percentage of the members are elected as representatives of specifics riding while the balance are still elected by their political affiliation (i.e. party).

Just to broaded the perspectives I thought it might be valuable to explore other alternatives. I bring here some ideas from an article by Prfessor Paul Eidelberg, "Making Votes Count - They Don’t in Israel"

Voting for Candidates and/or Party Lists

As indicated above, the voters of different countries, and even of the same country, have different ways to vote. In a single-ballot system the voters vote just once. In multiballot systems two or more rounds of voting may be entailed. (In many countries a run-off election is required when no candidate receives a majority of votes cast in the initial ballot.)

Sometimes citizens vote for candidates only, sometimes for party lists only, and sometimes they have the option to do either or both. The number of candidate votes (i.e., votes cast for individual candidates) each voter possesses can range from one to the total number of candidates competing. The same holds for the number of list votes each voter possesses.

An exclusive candidate vote is one that benefits only the candidate for whom it is cast, and never transfers to any other vote total that is used for seat allocation. Single exclusive votes are cast in Anglo-American single-member districts as well as in Antigua and India.

A nonexclusive candidate vote, in addition to appearing in the vote total for the candidate for whom it is cast, also affects other vote totals used in the allocation of legislative seats. There are three main types of nonexclusive vote in current use: (1) the transferable vote, which transfers to the vote total of another candidate; (2) the pooling vote, which transfers to the vote total of the party list to which the candidate originally voted for belongs; and (3) the fused vote, which simultaneously affects the vote totals of candidates running for two or more different offices.

Preferential Vote

(1) The transferable vote system, also called the “Preferential Vote,” is used in Australia, Ireland, Malta, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and elsewhere. Here is how it works for Australia’s House of Representatives: As in single-member plurality elections used in the United States and Great Britain, elections are held in single-member districts, but the voter is required to rank ALL candidates seeking election, from first to last. “The returning officer first sorts the ballot papers according to which candidate is ranked first. If at this stage any one candidate has a majority of the votes, he or she is declared elected. Otherwise, the candidate with the fewest first-place preferences is declared defeated. The returning office then transfers the votes of the defeated candidate’s supporters to whichever of the remaining candidates they have marked as their next preference, again checking to see if any candidate has achieved a majority of all the votes. This process continues until some candidate does attain a majority, whereupon he or she is declared elected.”

Of relevance to Israel, the Preferential Vote system “allows small parties to document their contribution to a large party’s success. It is thus possible, even for parties that virtually never win seats on their own, to play a significant role.” In fact, by issuing “how to vote cards,” urging its supporters to adopt a particular ranking of candidates below first, a minor party can be instrumental in deciding which major party shall head the government!

In a real way, Israel was locked into its current system as a way of transferring the political process (read Zionist Congress) from overseas to Israel. In the pre-state reality of a Jewish community which resembled more a checker board than a continguous entity, no other "democractic" framework was really viable. It also offered the niche populations like the kibbutz movement (3% to 5% of the population) and the various religious "movements" to have representation in the Israeli parliament.

Whether this is necessary today, or even constructive is perhaps the question of the hour. I contend that Israel has outgrown the current system and needs to reevamp the electoral system to meet the challenges of an existing state with divergent populations and regional needs, something a "centralized" system cannot hope to adequately meet.

Pooling System

(2) The pooling vote system, used in Finland and Poland, may also be relevant to Israel. Here is how it works in Finland: Voters cast their votes for individual candidates. Once cast, however, these votes are “pooled,” since candidates join together in party lists. Parliamentary seats are allocated to lists before they are allocated to candidates, on the basis of list vote totals arrived at by summing the votes of all candidates within the list. Notice, however, that in Finland, unlike in Israel, party lists are not fixed, since the voters vote for individual candidates. But whether a particular candidate will be elected depends on the vote totals of his party’s list as well as on the vote totals of other candidates on that list.

If I believed in non-representational elections, which I do not as I feel the major lack in today's system is "accountability", something obtainable (if at all) only if a specific member of parliament knows which boby of people he requires to be reelected, this would be my choice. A kind of primary-election-in-one (although I would hope the party choose its list according to interal (primaries) vote).

Fused Vote

(3) By a fused vote, used in Uruguay, Bolivia, and Honduras, voters cast a single vote for a slate that includes candidates for the presidency as well as candidates for the Senate and the lower house. Split-ticket voting — supporting one party’s presidential candidate while voting for another’s congressional candidates (as in the U.S.) — is thus not possible.lit-ticket voting was made possible in Israel in 1996 when, for the first time, the prime minister was directly elected by the people. Citizens could then vote for one party’s candidate for prime minister while voting for another party’s candidates for the Knesset. This is precisely why the religious parties won 23 seats in that election, seven more than in the previous 1992 Knesset election. (Hitherto, many voters, who identified with Shas or Mafdal, cast their votes for the Likud because they did not want Labor to win, either because of its secular orientation or land-for-peace policy.) What is astonishing, and what attests to the poor quality of higher education in Israel, is that Labor MK Yossi Beilin, a political scientist, advocated popular election of the Prime Minister in the belief that it would diminish the power of the religious parties!

Yes Batya, there is no perfect system of governing large modern states.
There are, of course, many problems attending district elections (which do not deter the 74 countries that have them). Space permits only a brief summary. One problem usually associated with district elections is gerrymandering. The Single Transfer Vote System (STV) used for electing Australia’s Senate precludes this problem.[3] To digress for a moment, STV may be ideal for Israel since it involves preferential voting and proportional representation (PR) in multi-member districts. Of course PR requires an electoral threshold. Contrast Israel’s 1.5% threshold with that of other countries. In Argentina, only parties whose votes exceed 3% of the number of registered electorate are eligible to receive seats. In Greece, only lists that get at least 3% of the national vote are eligible to receive seats in districts having more than two representatives. In Sweden a party must either exceed 4% of the national vote or its list in the constituency must exceed 12% of the constituency vote. Germany’s 5% threshold is exceeded by little Liechtenstein’s threshold of 8%. Finally, in some countries, such as the Czech Republic and Slovakia, joint lists face higher threshold requirements than single-party lists.

So what are the advantages of representative elections?

Needless to say, district elections generate local parties. How these would relate to national parties in Israel is problematic. Since a winner-take-all election for the premiership tends to generate a national two-party system, over the years a two-party system on the national level may diminish the number of parties on the local level. Much will depend on campaign financing laws, distinctive sectional interests, civic education and the felt sense of national priorities.

District elections obviously entail decentralization of power. Also, district elections, especially with residency requirements, strengthens the “representational bond” between parliamentarians and voters. Although this would make a Knesset Member (MK) more dependent on his constituents, it would also enable him to establish a local power base that would render him more independent of the national party. He could then resist government policies he deems unwise or pernicious without committing political suicide — the lot of MKs today. What this means is that a legislator, in deciding how to vote on a particular issue, will be able to make a balanced judgment between the views of his constituents, the position of his party, and what he himself deems right or expedient.

Moreover, the independence Knesset Members gain from district elections will enable that body to exercise the vital function of administrative oversight. Precisely because fixed party lists transform would-be legislators into apparatchiks, MKs lack the wherewithal to scrutinize the bureaucracy headed by their party bosses, the ministers of the cabinet. This is why the annual State Comptroller Reports are replete with evidence of official corruption and of violations of the law, only to be swept under the rug by the Knesset. But this means that ordinary citizens have no outlet or effective spokesman for the redress of their grievances. It means that dishonesty and injustice persist without remedy. But this makes Israeli democracy a sham. Without some form of district elections, representative democracy is virtually impossible.[4]

If you have any thoughts on this subjectr, please feel free to share them with me. I intend to launch a site to explore the vision of a better Israel, one truer to its original intent - a homeland for the Jewish People.

Please view also an article by Zeev, "Israeli Perspectives" on the "Value of Democracry in a Jewish State".

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Back To The Future

It was only a matter of time until someone figured out how to warp through the time barrier, I mean with all this cyberspace business! The result is the The site is a news site from 2036.

Well, really its a great farce! A kind of promotion for a new book. The best part, the thesis of the book which the site reinforces, is the conversion of most of Europe and America to Islam. You've got to see it to really appreciate it. A great way to experience the consequences of our current moral turpitude.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Human Beings -A New Definition

I couldn't help but read the blog post "Treat Us Like Jews" by Israel Perspectives . Here is an excerpt:
"...the essence of being a human being is the belief that nothing is sacred, nothing is worth fighting for, nothing is worth sacrificing for and nothing is worth dying for. Everybody has a price. Faith, ideology, and a life lived based on belief and ideals are all admirable, but at the end of the day, those are also for sale - even if it requires paying a hefty sum..."
Well worth reading the entire post (and comments).

Calling A Spade, A Spade!

Natan Sharansky in an interview with the MEQ interview:
"We saw the Soviet Union as a rotten, weak society, liable to fall apart quickly, if only the West stopped supporting it. The first step in the Soviet Union's demise would be the West's enunciation of the true nature of the [Soviet] state. When Ronald Reagan, the leader of the free world, called a spade a spade and defined the roots of the struggle, the Soviet Union was doomed. And that's what happened. The same thing applies today. We are speaking about a struggle between the world in which human life is the highest priority and those societies that treat human life with disdain and hold their citizens hostage in an attempt to blackmail civilization."

How come Israeli's "ruling elite" is so ignorant, when the people with answers are right in front of them!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

if you wish it, it is!

Am I going to be criticised for this .... but if it had not been an Arab that told me this story, I would never have repeated here (or elsewhere).

Many years ago I lived in Kiryat Arba. Several times a week, at the same time each day, I would walk downtown to the Arab Taxi stand and catch a 'Sherut' to Jerusalem. Over several weeks and months I came to know several drivers quite well. We would discuss in Hebrew (and occassionally English) current events, and I would use these conversations as an opportunity to learn about the mind-set and culture of my Arab neighbours.

One day, I really don't remember in reference to what, my favorite "teacher" of Arab culture stopped me in the middle of a question and cried out: "But you don't understand!" When I pressed him, what don't I understand, he explained to me in English, but only after lowering his voice so everyone else in the cab wouldn't hear!. "When I was a boy my grandafther told me a story ..."

Abdul was lying on his hammock trying to take an afternoon siesta when the neighbours children ran into his yard with their games and noisily thwarted his plan. Gruff commands to exile them back to the street where they came from came to nought. Finally Abdul came up with a plan!
"Why are you wating your time playing here when they are giving away dates in the marketplace?" he asked the children?
After a few exchanges of disbelief that grew into acceptance with Abdul's continued insistence, the children raced out of the yard towards the village marketplace.
Leaning back into his hammock to take advantage of the newly acquired quiet, Abdul rests for a moment or two ... till suddenly he jumps out of the hammock, in the direction of the market.
"What an idiot I am, to miss out on free dates ..." he's heard muttering to himself.

My teacher, the driver, clarified the issue as I looked at him, trying to guess the "message" the story was supposed to communicate. "With Arabs, if you wish it, it is!" explains my teacher!

It does not make a difference who destroyed the twin towers in New York or who destroyed the "shrine" in Iraq. If enough muslims agree with Ahmadinejad that the Zionists and the Americans did it, then for them - that is reality!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Modern Golden Calf

I'm certain there are going to be those of you who read this who will scratch their heads: "What took him so long!" None-the-less I feel it is important to go on record that just today, the 23rd of Sh'vat 5766 (02/21/2006) did I finally figure out what the Jewish-Israel argument is all about.

All these thirty five years that I live here in the State of Israel, it was totally understood (by me) that "the State" is a vehicle for the realization of the aspirations of the Jewish People. Somehow it was clear to me that Jews who came here, came because they wanted to live Jewishly in a cultural milieu that was "Jewish" in the Land that was the cradle of Jewish consciousness. Yes I realized there were many differing views of what "Jewish" meant to different people, but somehow I naively believed that there was enough common denominator to provide a basis for all us "Jews" to work together and find a workable modus vivendi.

What apparently has happened is a divergence between those of us who see the State of Israel as a "means" to something greater, and those who have turned the existing reality into an "end-in-itself". Simplistic? Yeah but it works!

The "Israeli"s are very threatened by the idea that we "Jews" are not satisfied with the existing State of Israel, it's institutions (Parliament, Justice System, Law Enforcement Agencies). To the degree that they perceive our growing dissatifaction as a threat, they entrench themselves into positions of defending an obviously deficient if not corrupt system. More over, they actively seek ways of fossilizing the existing system in the hope that this will guarantee its preservation in the face of the demographic threat of the Jews.

On the other hand, as "holy" as the State of Israel may be to the National Religious, they still only see it as a "keli" or instrument. The "holiness" stems not from the instrument itself, but its purpose or ultimate objective. From 'day-one' the religious establishment has seen the existing organisms of the State of Israel as a temporary compromise, with the hope that improvements could be made as things developed. There are no "holy cows" when it comes to the secular institutions of the state!

Ironically it is the Israelis who have 'fossilized' the State and its frameworks into some sort of "Golden Calf" for whom any thought of change, especially democratization and increasing accountability to the electorate and the public is deemed sacrilegious.

It never ceases to amaze me how the imagery and metaphors of Jewish history are often as relevant today as they were millennium ago!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Sign Up for Heaven

At the start of the current war of terror I sketched out several fictional scenarios as to how such a war could be waged. One idea was that of multiple suicide bombers blowing themselves at multiple locations disrupting life simultaneously in different locations, and ultimately bringing the civil and military response and health systems to a state of collapse. To accomplish such a feat would require hundreds of suicide bombers, an idea so alien and foreign to me that I totally refused to pursue it. Someone just brought the following old news item to my attention. All of a sudden my wild fictional idea begins looking more and more like a possible nightmarish reality.

Tehran, Iran, Nov. 17 Fifty thousand Iranians have signed up for martyrdom-seeking operations and 1,000 of them have already beeen organizeded into operational units, Mohammad-Ali Samadi, the spokesman for a government-orchestrated campaign to recruit suicide bombers told an Iranian news agency.

Samadi was speaking a day after a rally on Tuesday in the city of Shahroud, north-east Iran, where 1,000 volunteers signed up for suicide attacks against the West and Israel. A video film of the full speech by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on October 26, in which he called for Israel to be "wiped off the map" and threatened the leaders of other Muslim countries, was shown to the audience.
My thanks to AbbaGav for the tip.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

How Could I Marry You?

I just read a post by a young Ger Tzdek in the New York area that reminded of a story a friend told me when I was in-the-process or shortly afterward.

A young man (non-Jewish) and a young woman (Conservadox) went to public high school together in Windsor in the forties/fifties. As her parents were not pleased they kept their friendship both on a low key and very private. After high school they both, coincidentally, ended up attending Wayne State University across the river. Not surprisingly they car-pooled back and forth for four years and their romance blossomed.

The young girls parents, probably seeing the inevitable, eventually accepted the young man, perhaps initially trying to use their contact to dissuade him, but eventually communicating the message that "if he converted" they'd bless the relationship.

So the young man attended a very unique adult evening school where teachers from all streams of Jewish thought and practice teach. One particular course on Chassidic Thought captured the young man's imagination, and when the teacher offered to sponsor his participation in a summer camp dedicated to intensive learning, the young man jumped at the chance.

Although it upset the plans the young couple had made to spend the summer planning their wedding and future lives, the young woman agreed recognizing that both her parents were pleased at the young man's seriousness in exploring Judaism, and that the issue of conversion would be less problematic with so many teachers providing their support and approbation.

The problems started when, upon returning from the summer camp, which the young man had extended by staying for the second session, he surprising announced that they had to post pone the marriage as he was going to New York to do some further studying before his conversion and their marriage. That fall, the young woman received a heart rendering letter informing her that her childhood sweetheart had decided they shouldn't marry. No return address, no contact information, just a long empty pain filled silence during the winter and spring months.

The following summer, the young woman heard a rumor that her former beau was in town visiting his parents. With a fury and passion that only a woman scorned could muster, the young woman stormed over to the young man's parent's home and confronted him.

"How could you do this to me?" she accused. "Don't I at least deserve an explanation after all those years we went together?" she demanded to know!

Slowly, with every effort to try and answer her challenges without causing further pain or exacerbating the situation, the young man explained: "How could you expect me to marry a girl who was willing to marry a non-Jew?"

Years later I actually met the man in the story, he went on to become a director of Jewish Community Centers in the Detroit area and later elsewhere in the states. That final 'punch line' is one I personally never forgot!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

They had it coming!

In the post-Osama bin Laden and suicide-belt world of our own, we shudder at these fanatical riots, convincing ourselves that perhaps the Salman Rushdies, Theo Van Goghs, and Danish cartoonists of the world had it coming.
I couldn't help myself! As I read these lines from a long article by Victor Davis Hanson titled "Losing Civilization" I had a sense of deja vu. Doesn't this sound eerily similar to "voices" heard in the Jewish community during the rise of Nazism in Europe during the 1930's?

Monday, February 13, 2006

Deeds Speak

From the York Regional Police, Toronto, Canada web site:
"Our motto, "DEEDS SPEAK", is interpreted to mean "Actions Speak Louder Than Words" and serves as an appropriate bridge between a proud past and a bright future. The motto was coined during the War of 1812 by the 3rd York Militia Regiment, in which many of the Home District Constables served. The Home District included today's York Region, and as such, these Constables were the forerunners of our modern day police. "DEEDS SPEAK" serves as the foundation to all our endeavors."

Growing up in Canada, from the youngest age I was taught that whenever I was in distress, lost or threatened, that I should run, not walk, to the nearest Police Officer.

Starting with my very public beating by Ravivo & Chavivion just outside the offices of the Prime Minister of Israel over eleven years ago; and ending with the violent pogrom perpetrated by the current government at Amona on February 1st, 2006 - my Israeli education has taken a different track. With the current case of my thirteen year old son being deliberately framed by a blue uniformed 'Policeman', my family now shuns police the way street-wise New Yorkers probably avoid street-thugs or drug dealers.

Just today I witnessed two violent episodes of Border Police "roughing up" a Jewish youth and later an Arab youth who did not behave to their expectations. When I went over to inquire what seemed to be the problem, the "in-charge" belligerently told me to mind my own business. When I suggested it was the business of every concerned citizen to identify and report unjustified use of violence by the state's police, one of the "policemen" actually raised the butt of his rife as if to threaten me. All this on a very public street corner with hundreds of vehicles passing by, many of them slowing down to gawk, but no one interfered.

Yes Mr. Olmert. Deeds do speak louder than words. A society where the enforcers of "law and order" become a force "above the law", is a society where the only law that really applies is the some sort of Darwinian "Right of the most violent and most cruel and immoral". Welcome to Justice as it is practiced in Israel in the year 2006 / 5766.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Someone Else Who Gets It

There is a powerful short little post on "Solomonia" titled "A Jewish State, or Just a State?" in which Avraham Shmuel Lewin quotes Aaron Klein on being a yarmulke-wearing Jew in Israel.
Asked to explain the institutionalized anti-religious practices he's encountered, Aaron replies, "It's the new nature of the cultural war in Israel. The great divide used to be the so-called right wing versus the so-called left wing. Essentially, whether or not to give up land to the Palestinians. Now the mask is coming off and the real battle is starting to be waged openly – religious nationalism versus anti-religious post-Zionism.

"More simply, is Israel supposed to be a Jewish state based on religious ideals or will it be a state like all others that just happens to be comprised mostly of Jews? At its core, it is what all the land withdrawals and proposed land withdrawals are about, and it's what my 'yarmulke problems' are about. That is the fight I am witnessing here. The victor will determine the future of Israel and the Jewish people."...
Well worth reading in its entirety!

Sunday, February 05, 2006


Someone once said that you know a good idea when a lot of other people (independently) arrive at the same conclusion at the same time! Check out the following site to see how other people are responding to the events at Amona on February 1st 2006, the 3rd of Shevat 5766.

If you agree that "something" must be done to respond, subscribe to this site's notifications and contribute your thoughts. Together we can hopefully influence all concerned and encourage positive outcomes rather than further escalation.

Jewish Response

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The One Man in Amona Who Did Not Lift a Single Stone

This is a man who served night and days for years on Israel's borders, dealing with the enemies of Israel in order that the thugs that did this to him could grow up in safety & security. Why does he look like this?

And if he looks like this, it means that there are many others with head and body wounds who did nothing to deserve the beatings they received from Israel's "finest".

For those who do not recognize him,
the photo is of Efi (Fine) Eitam,
former commander of Israel's Givati Regiment.

[Thanks to Nitzan Or on for the idea]

The Ultimate Protest

As I read the various articles and the many comments it is becoming clear. The ultimate protest against a society or a system that refuses to permit real representation in the political process is initially violence, and eventually total and "disengagement".

People ask me: "Are you for real? Israel, the shining example of 'Democracy in the Middle East' does not permit 'real representation' in the poltical process?" Yes! Please check out in the section 'Orange:Politics'. The members of the political parties sitting in Israel's parliament do not represent the people who voted for them, but the 'Central Committee' members who selected them. Israel's parliamentarians are not accountable to any constituency of citizens, but to power brokers and money men who run Israel's political parties. This is not represntative democracy, but the illusion of democracry.

The poltical process has become more and more openly alientated from the values the State of Israel was established to realize. The courts and security agencies have become more and more instruments of anti-Jewish values determined to destroy the religious sector before they numerically become the dominate the public life of the state. Where else can idealists turn if not to the barricades?

But what happens when even the most determined protest is met by implacable forces bent on not only meeting but breaking their opponents. What happens when the 'opponent' has almost total control of not only the decision making process, the courts but also the public arena where only they can broadcast and publish? What then? It appears that the "court of last appeal" is simply to "dissengage". Here are two responses to the traumatic events of yesterday:

[Comment to article in Jerusalem Post] Perhaps Olmert will succeed in pulling in votes, but in the end this behaviour will result in the much bigger tradgedy. I am not even talking about Jew killing a Jew in the next evacuation or rise of the anti government armed resistance movement. Trdgedy is in the decline in Jewish immigration to Israel. It was my family's dream for the past 6 years to move to Israel. We both have degrees, my children are 2,4 and 6. We are not ultraorthodox, but religious. Intefadah did not scare us, bombs, arabs, terror did not scare us. The latest barbaric acts of Israeli government scared us. Government elected by MAJORITY of Israelis! Why should we go? To be told that settlements is our future one day and to be beaten and kicked out the next day? To pay taxes for the PA bombs? To be humiliated by fellow Jews? Out of some 25 families that were planning to move only 2 went.

[Except of article in Arutz 7] Erin Sternberg, formerly the spokesperson for Gush Katif, calls for a moratorium on serving in the IDF. Only drastic actions like this will deliver the necessary message without violence, a message worth a thousand roof-top protests.

At this moment in time, still trying to cope with the trauma my children and I are experiencing I tend to agree with the above sentiments.

  • If every potential immigrant to Israel, [who probably is thinking of living in Israel because they want to live full Jewish lives in the Land of Israel, not because they are looking for a "progressive Western democracy"] was to communicate their decision to put their plans on hold until the State of Israel changed it anti-Jewish policies ...
  • If every potential donor to an agency encouraged by the State of Israel was to communicate their decision to withold future donations until they see a serious effort to embrace true dialog and seek rapproachment between the growing polarized segments of Israeli society ...
  • If every potential tourist was to communicate their decision to postpone future visits to Israel as long as the Israeli Police proactively use violence to resolve political dissagreements ...

I truly believe that the only thing the Israeli elite respects is to be found outside the borders of our tiny country. Be it public opinion, financial support or political support. The citizens of their country were never respected. Every time the Left lost an election you would hear Yossi Sarid, Shulamit Aloni or Shimeon Peres bemoaning how the [stupid] people don't know what is good for them. In every forum you can hear the head of Isael's Supreme Court explain how the court has to defend [it's interpetation of] democracry from the people of Israel, who Ahron Barak explains, came from countries with no democratic tradition and hence don't understand democracry.

It is pretty clear what my options are. What are you going to do about what is going on here in Israel?

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing
Edmund Burke (1729 - 1797)

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