Monday, August 29, 2005

How Sharon can stay as PM

This is how the Israelis voted at the last election. There are currently more than the required 61 Knesset members who support Sharon. Yet he is likely to be out of a job in a couple of months. How is that when Israel finally has a very popular PM, his party will most likley get rid of him in favour of Bibi? Gideon Levy has a great idea of how he could stay PM.
A party without a leader seeks a leader without a party. This is the current political reality, and there is only one correct answer: Labor, a party without a leader, will merge with Sharon, a leader without a party. This is the best proposal in the depressing political reality.

According to a survey published in Maariv on Thursday, this is also the most advantageous. No less that 54 percent of those surveyed preferred a new party that would unite Labor, Sharon and Shinui. This party would not ensure a truly new future, but it is the best of the current possibilities.

Labor today is nothing less than a skeletal structure: a system of rotten branches, remnants of renown from the distant past, and a feeble and defeated leadership. Sharon is today a leader with one proven success. Shinui would bring additional voters. It's so simple. In the business world, this would happen rapidly: the takeover of a skeletal corporation by a talented man, transforming it into a profitable company.

So, if it can happen in the business world, why not the political realm. I applaud this creative idea.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The remaining 99.5 percent

Amira Hass has written a scathing article entitled "The remaining 99.5 percent" about the treatment of the majority of Gaza residents. It is highly critical of the Israeli policy of the past 35 years, which has placed Jewish settlers in the heart of large Palestinian populations. I thought this paragraph was especially harsh on Israel.
What talent it takes to live for 35 years in a flourishing park and splendid villas just 20 meters from overcrowded, suffocated refugee camps. What talent it takes to turn on the sprinklers on the lawns, while just across the way, 20,000 other people are dependent on the distribution of drinking water in tankers; to know that you deserve it, that your government will pave magnificent roads for you and neglect (prior to Oslo, before 1994) to the point of destruction the Palestinian infrastructure. What skill it takes to step out of your well-cared-for greenhouse and walk unmoved past 60-year-old fruit-bearing date trees that are uprooted for you, roads that are blocked for you, homes that are demolished for you, the children who are shelled from helicopters and tanks and buried alongside you, for the sake of the safety of your children and the preservation of your super-rights.

Here is a response to the article from Zev:
Amira Hass will not be let the facts change her love of the Palestinians and her hate for the Israelis.
Yes the Palestinians have lived in tragedy. But this tragedy has been forced on them by their own leaders. That does not make it any less of a tragedy but to put the entire blame on Israel is what I expect from the propaganda of Amira Hass and Haaretz.
Who kept them in the conditions they live in? Where have the billions of dollars gone that were supposed to relieve their situation? Were they in better conditions before the settlements were established on empty sand dunes or did they get better? Why did they remain in those conditions? When did they get electricity and running water? Did their condition get better or worse after Arafat came and the Oslo war started. Will their condition get better now? (I hope so) Did anyone ask them what they really want and were they able to answer without being afraid of being shot? According to the statistics brought in the article, how many Palestinians were killed by other Palestinians.
These are just a few of the questions that I would never expect an honest answer from the likes of Amira Hass.

My view is that Amira has a point, in that many Jews do not feel the pain of the Palestinians in Gaza as they have felt the pain of the 8000 Israelis forced to leave their homes last week. I think that for the peace process to proceed, the Palestinians leadership must take more responsibility for ensuring the best distribution of funds, especially in the coming months as the PA takes control of the entire strip. The Israeli occupation of Gaza is over. The monies received by the PA from the international community must be used to increase the living standard for all Palestinians. Lets all hope they are up to the task. Thank you Amira, for providing food for thought that is difficult to swallow.
Palestinian workers who were not allowed to enter Israel, crowd the barred barrier in the Palestinian area at the Erez Crossing, northern Gaza Strip, Jan. 18, 2004(

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Disengagement Dilemmas

There is a Gemara in Pesachim which says "Bechol dor vador, chayav adam..., "In every generation, a person is required to view himself as if he went out of Egypt."

The past week has raised many dilemmas for the average Israeli. Below is a list of some of the many extraordinary situations our fellow Jews have been in. How would you have dealt with these scenarios?

If I were a settler asked to leave my home last week, I would have…

If I were and IDF soldier or policeman, faced with the task of removing settlers from their homes, I would have approached the task by….

If I were a Rabbi over a hesder Yeshiva and had to give instructions to soldiers who disagreed with disengament, I would tell them that….

Being passionatly against the disengament, I would have protested by………

If I were Ariel Sharon, I would have ensured the disengament proceeded smoothly by saying that…..

If I were a holocaust survivor, I would have viewed the use of Nazi parallels by some settlers as….

If I were a Christian Zionist in Australia/USA, watching the disenagment would have made me feel…..

If I were Shimon Peres(Labour) during the disengagement I would have held a rally calling for…….

If I were a Christian Zionist in Australia/USA, watching the disenagment would have made me feel…..

If I was an enviromentalist, hearing that some of the settlers would make the sandunes of Nitzan their new homes would make me feel…

Both Bibi Netanyahu and Natan Sharansky(Likud) were against disengagement. Natan resigned his post six months ago, Bibi resigned two weeks ago. If I were a member of the Likud party, I would have….

Monday, August 22, 2005

Bumper Stickers

Something that struck me whilst watching the removal of hundreds of settlers from the synagogue at Shirat Hayam last week, was their chant. “Yehudi lo megaresh yehudi” Very moving, yet sad.

Here is a slogan made in response.

And, from the land of bumper stickers, two that echo my sentiments.

"Not all Kippot are orange. We are withdrawing from Gaza and thus securing our home."

"...And thy children shall return to their own border. (Jeremiah, 31, xvii).
We are withdrawing from Gaza and thus securing our home."

To view all stickers, go here. Which do you agree with?

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Dispossessed

Disengement from Gaza is almost over. Sa Nur and Homesh are up for evacuation next week.

After a long standoff with young settlers in the synagogue of Gush Katif on August 18, Israeli soldiers kissed the ark where the torah is kept.

Elie Wiesel, a professor of humanities at Boston University who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 asks us to imagine:
Let's imagine it, if you will. Let's imagine that, faced with the tears and suffering of the evacuees, the Palestinians had chosen to silence their joy and their pride, rather than to organize military parades with masked fighters, machine guns in hand, shooting in the air as though celebrating a great battlefield victory. Yes, imagine that President Mahmoud Abbas and his colleagues, in advising their followers, extolled moderation, restraint, respect and a little understanding for the Jews who felt themselves struck by an unhappy fate. They would have won general admiration.

I will perhaps be told that when the Palestinians cried at the loss of their homes, few Israelis were moved. That's possible. But how many Israelis rejoiced?

And now, where are we? A lull is imperative. The tears must be allowed to dry and the wounds to heal. Haste, in this delicate moment, is dangerous.

There it is. There it is. Weisel is saying that it is how we emotionally respond to the disengagement that will determine whether it is successful in leading to peace. How did you respond watching the news this week? Do we need a national week of shiva? Ari Shavit:
Gush Katif was a world of its own - a world of work and faith, of patriotic innocence and communal warmth; a world that touches the heart, that was established in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now, as this world is being buried in the sand, Israel must sit shiva for it. For if the entire public does not know how to mourn the death of Gush Katif, its death will poison our lives.

Finally, well done to all the Policeman and Soldiers , particularly IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz and Police Commissioner Moshe Karadi, who carried out the disengagement with such restraint and derech eretz.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Reasons for Disengagement according to Ariel

At this most difficult juncture in the disengament, I think it is important to be reminded of why Isreal is doing this. Below are the reasons for Disengament according to Isreali PM Ariel Sharon. The bold is my words, the quotes are from a Television address to the nation on Monday night 15/8/05.

1) It will reduce daily friction between Palestinainas and Israelis
"We are reducing the daily friction between the victims of both sides"

2)It Will allow Israel to fight terrorism with full force
"The IDF will redeploy in defense lines behind the security fence. Those who continue to fight us will be met by the IDF and the security forces in their full force."

3) It may lead to peace
"The world is waiting for the Palestinian response -- a hand stretched out to peace or the fire of terror." "To an outstretched hand we will respond with an olive branch."

4) It was a mistake to place Jewish settlers in Gaza after the 6-Day-war.
“It is no secret that I, like many others, believed and hoped that we could forever hold on to Netzarim and Kfar Darom. However, the changing reality in this country, in this region, and in the world, required another reassessment and changing of positions.”

5)A Jewish presence in Gaza in unjust to the Palestinains
Gaza cannot be held onto forever. Over one million Palestinians live there, and they double their numbers with every generation. They live in incredibly cramped refugee camps, in poverty and squalor, in hotbeds of ever-increasing hatred, with no hope whatsoever on the horizon.

6)Leaving Gaza unilaterally strengthens Israel
It is out of strength and not weakness that we are taking this step. We tried to reach agreements with the Palestinians which would move the two peoples towards the path of peace. These were crushed against a wall of hatred and fanaticism. The unilateral Disengagement Plan, which I announced approximately two years ago, is the Israeli answer to this reality. This Plan is good for Israel in any future scenario. We are reducing the day-to-day friction and its victims on both sides.

7)It allows Israel to divert its resources and money to more pressing needs
The Disengagement will allow us to look inward. Our national agenda will change. In our economic policy we will be free to turn to closing the social gaps and engaging in a genuine struggle against poverty. We will advance education and increase the personal security of every citizen in the country.

“This act is essential for Israel.
Believe me, the pain I feel with this act
is the full realisation that we must do it"

If I were a soldier...

If I were an IDF soldier, I would be like this one who played guitar with a protester at the Kissufim crossing this week.
When faced with having to remove a settler from their house, I would sing a sad song with them, reminisce about the times they have spent in the house, and gently escort them to their new homes in Israel.

Evacuation from the Heart

These IDF soldiers carrying out the disengagement deserve medals. They have shown such compassion, under immense emotional pressure from the settlers to disobey orders. This account from the ABC was indicitave of their high level of morality and love towards the settlers.

MARK WILLACY: Yes, we did actually see a couple of soldiers yesterday who were in tears, they did find it very stressful and very difficult to even talk to the settlers about removing them from their homes.

So there definitely are soldiers within the Israeli army who are very uncomfortable with what they're being told to do.

And I suppose we also saw that the soldiers have taken a very softly-softly approach to the settlers in this settlement of Morag in particular.

When the soldiers were finally allowed to walk through the barricades at the front of the settlement, they walked up to the first house, they knocked on the door, they moved in, they were invited in for tea and coffee and some food, and it took over two hours for these soldiers to issue their first eviction order, because they had to talk to the first resident here; there was a lot of discussion.

So that's how long it took inside the first house, and they're still going here today, and it's not a very big settlement. So it is a process that will take time, and the soldiers are treading very softly indeed.

Amazing. I wish there were more stories describing Tzahal this way. Here is another from the IDF site.
For many years, 'Or' evacuating battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Roni Sari, met with Yaakov Lev every morning. As the commander of the building centre at the Tel Nof IAF base, he never dreamed that one day he would be in charge of evacuating Lev, a citizen who still works for the IDF as a commander in the central economic branch, from his house in Eley Sinai. This week Sari insisted on delivering the evacuation notice personally.

"I will remain here until your good people come to take me out of here" said Lev from his living room in Eley Sinai, to Sari and Major Chai, the Commander of Company 'Gimmel' of the Battalion. "We are here to help you," explained the Company Commander. "I love you," responded Lev with tears. "We came to Eley Sinai with nothing, and it looks like we will be leaving here with nothing." Sari recounted to Lev that: "When they told me I was going to have to evacuate Eley Sinai, I saw your family in my eyes."

Am Yisreal Chai

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Colonel Erez Tzukerman

In the last post you may have noticed an orange and blue ribbon, tied together, reading “we must maintain the connection” in Hebrew.Here is an example of this from the Jerusalem Post:

In an emotional standoff, Colonel Erez Tzukerman, head of the Golani Brigade, hugged and cried together with the settlers of Morag Monday morning in an effort to persuade them to evacuate voluntarily before Wednesday, when the forced evacuation was slated to begin.

“We didn’t come here to clash with you, but to offer assistance and to help you, the people we once protected and worked hand in hand with,” a teary-eyed Tzukerman called out to a crowd of several hundred anti-disengagement activists gathered at the entrance to the southern settlement.

A young man suddenly emerged from the crowd with tears streaming down his face and called out to the senior officer, “I was an officer under your command, you taught me what it was to be an officer and protect the Israeli people. We are not your enemy but you have turned us into your enemy. Just six months ago, I was wearing an army uniform and serving side by side with you.”

Tzukerman then wrapped his arms, in a tight bear hug, around the former subordinate, evoking cries of anguish and sadness from the crowd.

Tzukerman told the crowd that he loved them and that he felt that the settlers of Morag were a part of this nation and always would be. “All of the officers are here and we are together on this day in a display of our love and affection to offer you help and assist you during this difficult time.”

The crowd then broke out singing Hatikva and together with the soldiers sang the national anthem.

I hope the disengagement happens in a way that the whole world can see the strengths of Israel, rather than its weaknesses. To quote Jewlicious
"Let tears be the ultimate protest here."

Lets not disengage

Lets’s not disengage from one another. Whether you are for or against disengagement, invite someone from the other side for shabbos this week, and share your pain.

If they can unite in Israel, why not in Melbourne. Watch this video. It may just be more effective that tying colored ribbons to your car.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Not All Kippot Are Orange

Rabbi Michael Melchior of the Meimad party offers an interesting analysis of the change in Israel’s political landscape over the past years.

While the intifada has led many Israelis to turn toward the right, the right has by far and large (Roni Milo, Dan Meridor, Tzipi Livni, Ehud Olmert and now ever Ariel Sharon) accepted the view of the center-left in understanding that only a political settlement and division of territoriy can give Israel the hope and perspective of peace and becoming a thriving Jewish state, which will have a serious Arab minority. Which of course has to be given equal rights and equal opportunities inside the realm of the Jewish state.

On the matter of whether returning land is halachically permissible, he answers:
I seriously believe that the State of Israel needs borders, The Jewish state has not had borders for more than 2000 years. Borders are an essence of Zionism and even though we might be connected to part of Gaza or southern Lebanon and for sure connected to Judea and Samaria, when we weigh the pros and cons my pro comes up as a wish to disengage, create a border which will give Israel a possibility to be both a Jewish and a democratic state.

For those who have asked how this fits into the halakhic terminology, first I would like to quote Rabbi Solovecic (of Blessed Memory) who already in the months after the Six-Day War very clearly stated that anybody who goes to rabbis to ask on the question of giving up land, is doing what he called "a ridiculous thing." This question has to be decided according to the overall concerns - saving life, the economy, society, the well-being and security of the Jewish state, and I have no doubt that 7,000 settlers in Gaza amongst a population of nearly 1.5 million Palestinians that has no future, no perspective, no hope in it. And therefore painfully - painfully because of our care for the people who live there - we have to return them home into the State of Israel.

I believe that the pain is going to be great because to uproot people from their homes, their schools, synagogues, is in many ways a cruel inhuman act but it is necessary for Israel's future and if we just continue now developing the settlements, we would have to do so the same in the future, just with many more people.

A little pain now, for a lot less pain in the future.

Bloggeres for Disengagement

Orthodox Anarchist writes:
How many Jewish children must fight and die to protect illegal settlements? Regardless of whether or not the Israeli government sanctioned the creation of these settlements, they no longer serve to secure Eretz or Am Yisrael. Rather they are a liability which cost more lives and dollars than they can possibly be worth. They also force us into the position of oppressor which goes against all which we should have learned from both Torah and our own history. Yeshayahu Leibowitz warned in 1967 that the occpuation would corrupt us, our morals, and our existence. He was, regretably, spot on. This is why I'm in favor of the withdrawl from Gaza. Not because I think the people there are kooks who have no valid claim or right to live there, but rather because I believe the conditions for them to live there currently require amoral behavior and its justification which is too often based on misleading interpretations of Torah. This abuse of Torah is a chilul hashem which drives people away from yiddishkeit. "If being in favor of another people's oppression is what Torah's all about, then count me out!" No conscientious Jew should allow Torah to be coopted in such a way.

Whilst Rabbi Simchah Roth makes some excellent suggestions for what the Rabbis who placed their Ad in last weeks AJN can do with their power:
The ideology of "Eretz Israel hashlemah" , i.e. the total entity of the land of Israel, based on religious motives, "Torat Israel, 'Am Israel and Eretz Israel" or like the saying "Ein devar tov lamut be'ad artzeinu", which was said by Josef Trumpeldor(1880-1920), seem to me very close to simple idolatry! Nothing seem to be more important than "only Eretz Israel" Where is the zeal of those rabbis in dealing with poverty, injustice, people getting underpaid or not paid at all, sexual abuse or violence in families, Agunot i.e. women who cannot remarry as their husbands have disappeared, the rights of minorities, Palestinians, foreign workers and other "sojourners in our midst", etc.?

The Halachic Position on Disengagement

More than 30 Orthodox rabbis in Melbourne have signed a petition declaring Israel’s disengagement from Gaza is “suicidal surrender” which is forbidden under any circumstances.” The list is comprised almost entirely of Chabad Rabbis.

They claim “experience has taught that even mere negotiation of handing over settlement increases Israel’s enemies brazen desire to intensify their attacks against us.” Not much room for optimism there.

Two things bothered me about the article. The first being that almost all the signatories were Chabad Rabbi’s. Whilst not a chabadnik myself, I have much respect for the movement and their efforts in Jewish outreach. I feel that their involvement in political matters is to the detriment of the vital Kiruv work they do in the Jewish community and turns many people off their message.

The second, was the heading of the advertisement, “A DEFINITIVE” Halachic ruling forbidding the surrender of any part of the Holy Land.”
How can the ruling be definitive if Rabbis such as Rabbi Genende and and Rabbi Steven link did not agree? Is something definitive just when Chabad Rabbi’s agree? And what about the Rabbis from Israel, such as Rav Moshe Lichtenstein of Yeshivat HaGush who writes that it is halakhically permissible, if not favourable, to withdraw in order to improve your position and your ability to secure the safe-being of the people of Israel. From Jewschool you can read:

Rabbi Moshe Lichtenstein is the son of the Gush yeshiva's esteemed rosh yeshiva, R' Aharon Lichtenstein, and grandson of the arguable father of modern orthodoxy, Rav Yosef Soloveitchik. Rabbi Lichtenstein presented a shiur on the subject of disengagement from Gaza, and offered a halakhically sound argument in favor of the withdrawal. He also made it known to us that, if his West Bank residency stood in the way of peace with Palestine, it would be with a heavy heart, but he would in fact move.

The halachic logic being used by Chabad Rabbi’s is one of yimei HaMashiach. They forget, Israel is a modern democratic state, where none of the biblical laws are in application as the temple is not standing.

Given that thee are Rabbi’s on both sides of the debate, and I am no rabbi myself, perhaps the solution must be to follow the advice of the EXPERTS. You see, when a person is sick, and they want to find out whether or not they should eat on Yom Kippur, they ask a doctor before a Rabbi, as to what the effects of fasting will be on their health. Because the doctor is the EXPERT on health.

In matters of national security, the experts are members of the IDF and members of the Government that is democratically elected to reflect the will of the people. The experts on national security are also divided, but there are a majority of people in the Knesset and in Sharon’s own cabinet, who have voted on numerous occasions in favour of the disengagement. When Israel is run according to Jewish law, we must follow the rulings of the Rabbi’s. Until then, we should follow the next best thing. It’s called democracy.