Thursday, November 03, 2016


From a Facebook comment, 2 Nov 2016, by Shmuel Galor:
From the beginning of 20th century, large waves of Arabs invaded the Land of Israel as work immigrants who came to what has become prosperous Palestine thanks to Jewish ingenuity and hard work that made the desert blossom. These Arabs didn't have and don't have any common national identity, no common history, essentially nothing national, they had to invent themselves a national identity, and so, in 1964, at KGB's advise, they invented themselves as "Palestinians". It's important to mention that some of these Muslim Arab work immigrants behaved in their new hosting country the same as our days Muslim work immigrants behave today in other hosting countries, in Europe, in the US, etc: some of them engaged in slaughtering 'non believers', and so, there were slaughters and pogroms in Hebron and Jaffa in 1929, in Hebron in 1935, in Jaffa in 1936, etc. We must not forget that their leader, Mufti Hajj Amin al-Husseini was Hitler's ally, and recruited whole divisions of fanatics to fight and kill in the name of Muslim extremism. "Hitler’s Mufti" had a direct hand in some of the darkest moments of the Holocaust, the slaughter of tens of thousands of Jews and Christians, and the formation of some of the most hate-filled generations of modern history. Al-Husseini is a testament to the way that evil finds evil. 
Despite all this, the Arabs living in Israel (about 1.6 million people, have the Israeli citizenship, and are, rightfully, equal citizens) and those in the 'territories' are not pushed to leave, and nobody calls the thousands of these  Arabs surnamed Al-Masri (Egyptian) to return to Egypt where they came from, the thousands surnamed "Hijazi" to return to Saudi Arabia where they came from, the thousands surnamed "Trabelsi" (from Tripoli) to return to Lebanon, the thousands surnamed "Halabi" (from Haleb, Aleppo) to return to Syria, the thousand surnamed Mugrabi (Moroccan) to return to Morocco etc., etc., etc.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

UNESCO farce has led to improvedIsrael-Vatican relations

From Jerusalem Online, 30 Oct 2016, by Rachel Avraham:

Israel’s Deputy Minister for Regional Cooperation Ayoob Kara stressed that the recent UNESCO decision led to improved relations between Israel and the Vatican for such a resolution harms both Judaism and Christianity as the two religions cannot be disconnected from one another.

Deputy Minister Ayoob Kara meets with the Pope 
Photo Credit: Israel's Ministery for Regional Cooperation

According to Israel’s Deputy Minister for Regional Cooperation Ayoob Kara, the recent UNESCO decision led to an improvement in Vatican-Israeli relations. Kara recently returned to Israel after visiting with Pope Francis and Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin in an effort to improve diplomatic relations between the Jewish state and the Vatican as well as to recruit their support in UNESCO, which led to a Vatican pledge to remain neutral on the UNESCO issue. In the meeting, Pope Francis noted the right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel. Kara also succeeded to convince Cardinal Parolin that the UNESCO decision harms the position of the Catholic Church with the understanding that harming Judaism is like hurting Christianity for the two religions cannot be disconnected from one another.

In the background of all of this, a Vatican delegation will arrive in Israel in early November of this year for a meeting in Israel in order to end the divisions regarding the implementation of an agreement signed between the two countries in 1994 that regulates the status of the Vatican and the Christian holy sites in Israel. The Israeli side wishes to end these divisions by the end of this year. 

Significant progress was also registered for Israel subsidizing Christian schools in Israel with $15 million as a gesture of goodwill and due to their great academic achievements. They also discussed promoting Coptic tourism in Israel, curbing religious extremism in the Middle East, and supporting peace in the region.

In addition, Israel’s Deputy Minister for Regional Cooperation received the support of the Vatican and of American groups for the establishment of a fund to assist in the rescue of Christians and other minority groups from the Middle East. According to Kara,
“I am happy again to reveal warm relations and the Vatican’s sympathy for Israel and for me personally. I stressed to the Cardinal that Israel is the most important country for Christianity in the Middle East and where there is no Israeli sovereignty, the existence of Christianity and other religions is not possible due to religious extremism. We are in the midst of an important process between the two countries.”

Monday, October 31, 2016

Shavit should have been discredited long ago, for his lies and Israel bashing

From Israel Hayom, 31 Oct 2016, by Ruthie Blum, managing editor of The Algemeiner:

It is an astounding commentary on our times that Israeli journalist Ari Shavit has been shamed publicly -- to the point of losing his livelihood -- for making unwanted passes at two women, when the best-selling author of "My Promised Land" should have been ousted two years ago for the book's lies about the Jewish state.

Though the book was, and should have been, cause for Shavit to be discredited professionally, nobody blinked an eye at that travesty, detailed so beautifully by Middle East expert Martin Kramer in Mosaic Magazine in 2014.

On the contrary, Shavit suffered no consequences when Kramer exposed his false narrative. The one that kept the awards, lecture-circuit gigs and accompanying cash flowing like a brook on a spring day.
As Kramer put it, "Beyond Shavit's powerful writing style and engaging personal manner," what he really achieved was an "artfully mixed effect" of "confessing Israel's sins in order to demonstrate the tragic profundity of his love."
Kramer went on to dissect the 30-page chapter titled "Lydda, 1948" about "an alleged massacre of Palestinian Arabs that preceded an act of forcible expulsion," refuting its errors and highlighting the questionable research behind it.

This did not put a dent in Shavit's busy schedule as a columnist and editorial board member at Haaretz; a regular panelist on Israel's Channel 10; and a perpetual traveler to conferences abroad, where he was given standing ovations and hosted by prominent and wealthy Jews, thrilled to be provided with the excuse to bash Israel while professing to be on its side.

...Shavit clearly as clueless about seducing women he is disingenuous about his politics. His disgrace for the latter was long in coming. Too bad nobody will remember that part of his downfall.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Resurging Jewish tradition in Tel Aviv

From Israel Hayom, 28 October 2016, by Yehuda Shlezinger:

Tel Aviv, the city that never sleeps and is so strongly identified with its nightlife and party scene, has been seeing a “renewed interest” in Jewish tradition...

Photo credit: Ruth Gvili

Friday, June 13, 2014, three and a half months ago, was a significant day. That morning, rumors about the three kidnapped boys from Gush Etzion began to circulate. Tel Aviv was divided in two: Dozens of people gathered for a celebration of sexual liberation at the Gay Pride march near Charles Clore Park, while the final preparations were underway at Hangar 11 in the Tel Aviv Port for the largest Sabbath meal on earth, which would make the Guinness Book of World Records.

Tel Aviv, the city that never sleeps and is so strongly identified with its nightlife and party scene, has been expressing an interest in [traditional] Judaism for some time. This is no mass movement toward becoming religiously observant... The people who live in the midst of it describe it as "renewed interest" in Jewish tradition... 

It is also fueled by a thriving social scene, where groups of people meet for prayer services, classes on various topics and meals that might feature the classic Ashkenazi dish cholent or the classic Mizrachi dish jachnun.

* * *

A major part of this interesting scene is Tel Aviv's synagogues, which are filling up with secular people once again. For example, the influx of newly interested young people has revived three large synagogues in a 300-meter radius of each other on Ben Yehuda Street that were on the verge of closing their doors.

One of these synagogues is the North Central Synagogue. "Until four years ago, this synagogue hardly got 10 people in the evening and 10 elderly people on Saturday morning. A group of young people started coming here recently. They've brought more people with them, held events, meals and kiddushes after services, and now 250 people come here every Saturday morning," says Rabbi Yitzhak Bar-Ze'ev. "All kinds of people go there -- religious and secular. One person even comes straight from the beach."

Bar-Ze'ev, 26, married and the father of two, is just starting out as a rabbi. He studied at an ultra-Orthodox yeshiva high school and then at the prestigious Hebron Yeshiva. Although he serves as rabbi of Tel Aviv's largest synagogue, he spends most of his time at the North Central Synagogue.

Bar-Ze'ev says that because of the recent increase in the number of young people in Tel Aviv and the desire to set a good example, he decided to enlist in the army. "All the young people around me did army service and it's not dignified that their rabbi did not. Along with my rabbinical duties in Tel Aviv, I serve in the Air Force's rabbinate every day from nine in the morning to four in the afternoon."

To the question of how he explains the renewed interest in Judaism, he replies, "Traditional people are searching for a taste of the Sabbath atmosphere -- secular people with warm hearts who want the spiritual atmosphere, and religious people alike. Another reason is the fact that the young people adapted the synagogue for people in their own age group, and they hold kiddushes there and the number of participants just goes up. There's a very special feeling. Young men and women meet one another -- all of that creates the experience. It's very similar to what happens abroad. Everyone belongs to the community in the end."

A cantorial concert on the Sabbath

Another synagogue that closed for lack of worshippers -- and reopened -- is Tel Aviv's Great Synagogue, a magnificent old building that seats 1,500 people.
"The worshippers left it slowly, over many years," says Bar-Ze'ev. "That also happened to the rest of the synagogues on Allenby Street, which became mostly a commercial area. It reached a point where it had almost no worshippers; only 25 people in such a big place."
Four months ago the chairman of the board, who was more than 80 years old, was replaced, and the cantor of the Israel Police was appointed. The cantor appointed Bar-Ze'ev as the synagogue's rabbi in the hope that a young rabbi would attract young people, and so it was.
"A revolution is under way here, too, like in the other synagogues. On weekdays the synagogue is full because of all the people who work in the area, and young men and women come here on Saturdays. We have had some nice events, such as a mass prayer service and meal on Shabbat for 350 young people. After years of counting for nothing, the Great Synagogue is suddenly making a local splash."
Bar-Ze'ev describes that Shabbat meal. "We sang 'Shalom Aleichem' and then we had a cantorial concert. The biggest accomplishment is that since then, on Friday evenings there are several dozen young people after 15 years during which the synagogue was closed because of a lack of worshippers. We should remember that this is the city's Great Synagogue, which has existed for 85 years -- Ben-Gurion and Bialik prayed here, and Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau was formally invested here as the chief rabbi of Tel Aviv."

The Ichud Shivat Zion Synagogue, also on Ben Yehuda Street, is one of the largest synagogues in Tel Aviv, particularly after new immigrants from Australia, Great Britain and the United States started attending. Another synagogue that attracts young people is Beit El on Frishman Street, where Rabbi Ariel Konstantyn of the Tzohar rabbinic organization presides. "There are enough young people to go around. The graph is in an constant increase," Bar-Ze'ev says.

One of the young people taking part in the reawakening of interest in Judaism is Natan Bashevkin, a participant in the reality television show "Survivor" who attends the North Central Synagogue. "At first I went to the nearby synagogue until an older man told me that they needed help bringing people in for the minyan [basic quorum of 10]. He told me that people might attend because I was well-known. We were seven people at first, and every time they would send me outside to 'hunt' for people to make the minyan."

Bashevkin does not define himself as religious or secular. "I maintain tradition -- that's the definition I came up with for myself," he says. "I maintain the tradition of the Jewish people and try to pass the values of Judaism on. I do not observe the Sabbath but I put on tefillin, make kiddush on the Sabbath and keep meat and dairy separate." He adds, "The synagogue is open to anyone who wants to come. Nobody bothers anyone, and the prayer services aren't abridged or drawn out. Everything is done with love and free will."

Bashevkin also attributes the Jewish awakening in Tel Aviv to Operation Protective Edge. "There's more awareness of Jewishness," he says. "After the military operation, people realize that it's impossible to live without a drop of faith or a path. Those who have no path and no goal get lost. Recently, it has seemed to me that people are starting to become stronger in their faith. It is not about keeping the Sabbath or becoming really religious, but about introducing the Torah to someone. People are realizing that last summer was a kind of miracle: Dozens of rockets fell and almost no one was killed. That cannot be denied."

Bar-Ze'ev is also not in a hurry to turn Tel Aviv into a city of religious people. "Because of the openness that exists in Tel Aviv and because everybody is pleased and there are people of all kinds, it is easier for secular young people to go with what they feel because they do not feel like they are different. After all, this is not coming out of coercion, but because they are free. They come because of the atmosphere of freedom. Many people want to taste the tradition that existed in their parents' homes."

Social networks have found their way into the synagogue, as well. "Every synagogue has its own Facebook page," Bar-Ze'ev says. "The North Central Synagogue's page has more than 2,000 members, the Great Synagogue's has more than 700 after just four months of operation, and Frishman has 2,000 also."

These Facebook pages show what "Tel Aviv-style Judaism" looks like. For example, the North Central Synagogue invited worshippers to the installation of a new Torah scroll and a street party. One can find posts by members who are subletting apartments in the city alongside posts giving the starting and ending times for Shabbat and invitations to kiddush get-togethers.

Stamping out the stigmas

Liat Gorsetman, 36, of Tel Aviv, a "secular person with a connection to tradition," as she describes herself, says that she, too, has experienced the religious blossoming in the city. "I have known Tel Aviv for many years, and it was not what it is today in terms of its relationship to Judaism. Someone in the religious establishment realized that in order to avoid going extinct, they needed to open their doors to non-observant people who were on the seam -- neither religious nor secular. There are several organizations in Tel Aviv that do it right."

One such group, she says, is Aish Tel Aviv. "It is an organization that asks secular people to come and get to know Judaism in a non-coercive manner, not like Jewish revival groups. They have coordinators and people meet there to celebrate festivals, have Friday night meals and listen to talks that are easy to connect with, such as the Jewish perspective on how people should treat one another, practical things that any person can connect to. There are lots of people like me; if it were not for this, many of us would have no connection to Jewish tradition."

She says that the media contains anti-religious incitement, and as a result of that, secular young people flinch from Judaism.
"It is hard to tell exactly what happened, but spirituality and Judaism became 'cool.' Many people are interested in spiritual things. We live in a Jewish state; one cannot pass religion by and ignore it. It's a part of us."
Rabbi Shlomo Chayen of Aish Tel Aviv says, "We no longer call it kiruv [the term usually used for teaching non-observant Jews about Judaism]. To call it that is to say that I have all the answers, so come and be like me. I don't want them to be like me. The Torah and the Creator don't belong to one person. No one owns them. It is true that there are rabbis and people who make decisions of religious law. I do not deny that. But we are talking about Judaism as Jewish wisdom -- wisdom that has accompanied us for three thousand or four thousand years, and each person connects to it and takes it to his own place. It is wisdom for life. Each person can find authentic things in it that are right for him -- core values that preserved this family known as the Jewish people all these years."

Chayen says that Judaism places a great deal of importance on debate. "We have arguments that are fun. There's a dialogue that does not come from a place of who is better. I do not like the definitions of religious, secular, traditional or haredi. We need to take them out of the lexicon. Even when there are controversial subjects such as whether to have public transportation on Shabbat or keep grocery stores open then, they need to be discussed. If we say that there is no status quo and therefore the rabbinate has nothing to say in the matter, everything is open on Shabbat and we have civil marriage, then what defines us as Jews? I don't say what does that. Many times we remain with no answer, and that is fine. The idea is just to make us think about it."

Lau, the chief rabbi of Tel Aviv, is familiar with the renewed interest in Judaism and Jewish tradition in his city, and has an explanation. "The wave of immigration from France can explain it," he says. "Five communities of French immigrants were established here thanks to that wave of immigration, made up of Jews who may not define themselves as religious or haredi but are so traditional that they cannot allow themselves to go a week without walking into a synagogue. There is even a prayer group of Italian immigrants, and Ichud Shivat Zion is true to its name: More than 200 young people from all over the world meet there every Shabbat for a large prayer service and social activities. That did not exist before."

Lau says that Judaism and Jewish tradition played a major role in Tel Aviv at first, but their influence later declined. "The city of Bnei Brak was built on the ruin of Tel Aviv," he said. "Masses of Hassidim who lived in the Florentin neighborhood of south Tel Aviv moved to Bnei Brak. Later on, the national-religious community migrated to Raanana, Petach Tikva, Kfar Saba and Givat Shmuel." 

Those who are still responsible for Judaism's resurgence in Tel Aviv are the small groups of strongly observant people. "There are a few such groups -- groups of religious people who came to live in the city, from Ramat Aviv Gimmel to Jaffa. They established yeshivas and schools for their population."

Lau admits that besides them, he does not see any mass movement of young secular people toward their Jewish roots. "There are a few secular people in each synagogue in the city who join the prayer services and attend, but they are a very few. But the phenomenon is positive and exciting."

Still, Tel Aviv's synagogues are more numerous than can be described. "When I ask people how many synagogues they think are in Tel Aviv, they answer: five or 10. The most they say is 30. People don't believe it when I tell them that there are 547 active synagogues in Tel Aviv."

Lessons of UNESCO's vote

From Israel Hayyom, 28 Oct 2016, by Maj. Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror:

The U.N. heritage body's absurd resolutions denying Jewish links to Jerusalem show that Russia and China are still burdened by outdated political traditions that favor the U.N.'s Muslim bloc 

Their decisions are made out of weakness, not anti-Semitism 

[The USA is still Israel's natural ally in global affairs]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping 
[Archive] | Photo credit: Reuters

The recent resolutions by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization denying the Jewish link to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall in Jerusalem are so absurd and detached from reality that it is hard to believe they were passed by what is supposed to be one of the world's most respected international bodies.

These resolutions, however, must be used to make the world face the clearest of realities, namely the fact that Arab claims are devoid of logic, and that the international community so readily capitulates to Palestinian whims because of its own cowardice.

The Arab-Muslim bloc was prominent among the countries that voted in favor of the resolution, unfortunately proving, yet again, the "no partner" assertion by Israelis who are wary of negotiations with the Palestinians. After all, if this is what the Palestinians and Arabs believe, what point is there to negotiations?

If Israel and the Jewish people have no historic or religious link to the Temple Mount and Jerusalem, the Palestinians could move to debunk Israel's claim to its historic homeland, making any negotiations an act of deceit meant to eliminate the Jewish state. If the Palestinians can secure international achievements such as the UNESCO resolution, they have no need for peace talks and that, in turn, only increases Israel's apprehension.

Of the nations that voted in favor of the resolution, China's and Russia's voting patterns stand out. China is a rising global economic power that is trying to rival the United States, while Russia is trying to extricate itself from the international corner it has been painted into following the collapse of the Soviet Union's communist empire.

They each pursue a dynamic foreign policy, pushing the U.S. at various junctures. China does it in the South China Sea, and Russia does it in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

Still, while their vote was opposite to that of the U.S., this time it was a sign of weakness, not strength.

Many Israelis view the UNESCO vote in terms of anti-Semitism, but this does not seem to be the case.

While Russia has a longstanding tradition of anti-Semitism, once cannot level such an accusation at President Vladimir Putin. Neither would it be correct to say as much of China's motives.

Conversing with Chinese experts on the Middle East, I once asked them about the reasons for the gap between China's desire to improve relations with Israel and the realpolitik practices it pursues. After all, judging by China's votes in the international arena -- it automatically sides with the Arabs -- one would think nothing has changed in Jerusalem-Beijing relations in the past 40 years.

In this case, China was practically shooting itself in the foot: Its claims to the South China Sea are based on a map of questionable historical accuracy, which many refuse to accept as authentic. China's vote on an issue rooted far deeper in history and tradition potentially opened the door to similar U.N. resolutions in the future, undercutting its historic right to the South China Sea, and perhaps even Tibet.

Reeling from the comparison between the Palestinians and Tibet, my interlocutors claimed it was "not the same thing," and offered two possible explanations: one political and one sociological.

From a political standpoint, China is a weak country, I was told. It has to climb to the top of the global sphere despite fierce opposition, and it needs all the support it can get on the international stage. The Islamic bloc, comprising 57 of the U.N.'s 193 members, is therefore crucial, and China cannot afford to lose it, even if the Chinese believe Israel is in the right on a specific issue.

China has nothing against Israel and would like to improve relations in all areas, but it cannot ignore the power the Muslim bloc wields at the U.N., which is why it cannot change its voting patterns. This has nothing to do with the actual diplomatic ties between Israel and China. 

From a sociological standpoint, there is a gap between the sympathy young Chinese feel for Israel and the older generation, still entangled in outdated perceptions and irrelevant historical obligations. Once the generation of Chinese leaders changes, I was told, Israel's position in terms of Chinese policy will improve as well.

The political explanation coincides with the decision-making process in Russia. There, too, the only thing that matters is the number comprising the Muslim bloc versus the number making up the bloc of countries that support Israel.

China and Russia share concerns over Islamic extremists, and it is important for them not to burden their relations with Muslim countries.

Neither seems to be able to rise above tradition, outdated as it may be. This is not a sign of strength but of weakness: Like Beijing's claim to the South China Sea, Russia's claim to Crimea is not as historically solid as Israel's claim to the Temple Mount. For this reason, Russia is also taking a chance by supporting the Palestinian move in UNESCO.

Israelis who cultivate pipe dream of substituting Israel's long-time bond with the U.S. for an alliance with China and Russia should take a long, hard look at UNESCO's resolutions. Moscow's and Beijing's policies lack the ethical basis that is so significant in U.S. policy, and the chances of forging a similar long-term bond with either are slim.

Israel, which will forever be small and lacking sister-states in the international arena, is more naturally inclined to foster deep and binding ties with the U.S. than with countries like Russia and China, which are still held captive by outdated traditions, at least with regard to their conduct on the global stage.

Senators call on USA to sever ties with UNESCO

From Israel Hayom, 28 Oct 2016, by Yoni Hersch, Erez Linn and Israel Hayom Staff:

Senators make written appeal after U.N. cultural organization passes second resolution denying Jewish ties to Jerusalem 
"It is imperative that the U.S. stands with Israel, our closest ally and the sole democracy in the region," they say.
A group of Republican senators sent a letter to President Barack Obama Wednesday in which they called for the U.S. to suspend ties with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Senators Marco Rubio, Johnny Isakson, Mark Kirk and David Perdue made the appeal after UNESCO passed a second resolution denying a Jewish link to Jerusalem.

"At a time when the Middle East is in turmoil and historical heritage sites are being destroyed by groups such as Islamic State, it is imperative that the U.S. stands with Israel, our closest ally and the sole democracy in the region," they wrote.
"Recent UNESCO resolutions that deny Jewish and Christian ties to holy sites in Jerusalem not only reinforce the necessity of withholding American funding from this counterproductive U.N. organization, but also call into question future U.S. membership in UNESCO.
"Given that U.S. law already forbids American taxpayer money going to UNESCO, we urge your administration to join Israel in suspending ties to UNESCO.
"In 1984, the U.S. severed ties with UNESCO due to disparities between American foreign policy goals and UNESCO's agenda. Because UNESCO continues to deviate from its founding mission and adopt one-sided, anti-Israel resolutions, it is time for the U.S. to stand with Israel and suspend our ties with UNESCO," the senators wrote.
Meanwhile, in Paris, the local Jewish community protested France's decision to abstain from the first vote on Jerusalem, held on Oct. 13.