Monthly Archives: March 2015

Netanyahu: Lunacy or Selfish Lunacy?—by Michael Aronson

Yesterday, seeking nationalist right-wing support to clinch re-election in Israel’s March 17, 2015 elections, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel will say no to a Palestinian state if Likud is re-elected. In essence, a Likud win means that a two-state solution, where a Jewish state coexists with a Palestinian state, is dead.

On one level, this tells us nothing new. Netanyahu’s refusal to heed international pressure to cease construction and settlement activities clearly meant to obstruct the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank is clear enough evidence that this was his intention all along. But Netanyahu’s announcement puts other forces into play, forces whose potency was limited so long as a one-state agenda remained hearsay and not policy, forces whose legitimacy is now tied to the outcome of elections now bootstrapped to a public referendum. read more

Combatants for Peace on the Eve of the Israeli Elections—by David Langerman**

My car with a poster of Combatants for Peace '73 Bibli, you failed. Go Home.
My car with a poster of Combatants for Peace ’73
Bibli, you failed. Go Home.

I am a citizen with no public microphone but I believe in civic responsibility and I try to do what I can to bring a peaceful message to the streets of my town. I carry in my car a large poster of Combatants for Peace ’73 that says: “Bibi You Failed, Go Home.” I park my car for several hours in different places around town. The most remarkable and encouraging sign that I take from my action is that no one has vandalized my car. In the last elections if I had done it, some right-wing zealots would have smashed my windows and destroyed my car. The fact that my car is intact is a promising sign of the time, that the violence of the right has lost some of its legitimacy and appeal. It is no longer so cool. There are more voices for change and peace that have gained ground in the public domain and that is very encouraging. read more

At the Negev–by Kathleen Wilkinson

In the Negev
In the Negev

The Jewish Federation of Rochester sponsored an Israeli trip in February 2015. We had 67 people, half of us being first-timers. The following is my attempt to begin to understand.

It rained all but one day of the trip. Not steady, but enough to keep things damp. From Tel Aviv to Bahad Echad, where IDF officers are trained, then early evening spent in a Bedouin camp, minus camel rides (thank goodness) but yet again eating piles of delicious food. Well after dark, in the pouring rain, we arrived at the hotel at Mitzpe Ramon. We saw nothing but the hotel room that night. read more

The Tribe of Benjamin in the Wilderness: Who is Going to Win the Election?—by Peter Eisenstadt

I can’t quite find a prooftext in this week’s parasha, Va-Yakhel, to make the point that I want to make, but I guess this will have to do: “Thus the Israelites, all the men and women whose hearts moved them to bring anything for the work of the LORD [the building of the mishkan], through Moses, had commanded to be done, brought it as a freewill offering to the LORD. (Exodus 35:29) I suppose this is as close to an election that the Israelites had under Moses, a voluntary but crucial participation in building their communal institutions, unusually (and perhaps uniquely) both by men and women. read more

In A Detention Center in Dilley Texas On International Women’s Week– by Ahavya Deutsch*

Poster held by a child at a detention center Photo by Lawyer Teo Siguenza
Poster held by a child at a detention center
Photo by Lawyer Teo Siguenza

Just wanted to write to let you know how things are here in South Texas Family Residential Center, Dilley Texas. In a word: depressing. There are about 300 mothers here, all with young children. The mothers range from late teens to early twenties, and are from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Some of them speak indigenous languages, and only marginal Spanish, and all of them have suffered terribly. Many of them are fleeing terrible domestic violence, and report that the police in their home countries will not protect them, and even collude with their batterers. Many of them report that gangs threatened them or their children, including forcing them to pay large sums of money to prevent their children being kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery, and being threatened with their children’s murder if they fail to pay enough money. read more

Israel Wants Change—by Ayala Emmett and David Langerman*

Israel Wants Change Rally Saturday March 7 2015 Rabin Square Tel Aviv
Israel Wants Change Rally
Saturday March 7 2015
Rabin Square Tel Aviv

Under the banner “Israel Wants Change,” tens of thousands (estimates run from 40,00-80,000) Israelis came out last Saturday to Rabin Square in Tel Aviv to register their opposition to Netanyahu’s policies. Coming into the square was a group of some forty retired soldiers and commanders of all ranks of the Armored Brigade that was the first to cross the Suez Canal in 1973. These veterans’ message was to engage in a peace agreement with Palestinians. As the veterans approached from behind the large crowd they wondered how they would make their way to the stage. According to Michal Herzog who was there, she said, as a citizen for change, the veterans presence electrified the rally and turned it into the most moving moment: as people saw them carrying their 1973 Veterans’ posters, the crowd parted to make way for the veterans, cheering and applauding as they walked to the stage. read more

I Am Charlie. I Am Not Charlie—by Michael Aronson

I recently decided to go back in internet time and read some articles criticizing Je Suis Charlie. I did not do this to raise a dead issue, but because the argument always seemed incomprehensible to me, yet somehow important.

Two themes jumped out at me: that Charle Hebdo is a vile publication, and free speech. The arguments run that Charlie Hebdo’s offensive rhetoric neither sanctions the slaughter of its editors, nor justifies the worship-like attention to Charlie Hebdo or Je Suis Charlie as slogans of free speech. Citing free speech as a reason to offend people is not heroic, and championing this activity in the name of free speech skews what the right to free speech actually means. read more

Why Pray?–by Michael Aronson

One of the principle divides between so-called orthodox and non-orthodox Jewry is whether or not one prays regularly. In Judaism, prayer means something very specific. We recognize spontaneous prayers – Talmud and Midrash are full of prayers by the masters, and many of these have been incorporated into the Siddur – but when rabbinic literature refers to prayer, tefillah, it refers to the Shemonei Esrei, otherwise known as the Amidah.

Why is the Shemonei Esrei important? I can rattle off historical facts. Shemonei Esrei is one of the oldest Jewish texts. Shemonei Esrei is the central prayer of the individual and community Jewish service. Shemonei Esrei is the prayer of all religious Jews of all lands, responsible for protecting a core Jewish identity in diverse times and places. All of these things deserve deeper comment. But I believe these kinds of didactic statements obscure one of the most fundamental aspects of the Shemonei Esrei: Shemonei Esrei articulates the central Jewish value system that informs daily life. read more

Whose People Is It?- by Matia Kam

Ki Tisah (Exodus 30-34)

The Adoration of the Golden Calf - Nicolas Poussin
The Adoration of the Golden Calf –
Nicolas Poussin

“Hurry down,” are God words to Moses right after the Israelites’ drunken dance around the Golden Calf right there at the Mountain of God. Moses is still on the Mountain and has no idea of what the Israelites are up to. In God’s words to Moses as well as in Moses’ response, the word people, in Hebrew am, is repeated time and again: “Your people,” “This people,” “his people,” and the phrase, “ a stiffnecked people” which is mentioned here for first time. read more

Benjamin Netanyahu and Abraham Lincoln—by Peter Eisenstadt

Today Benjamin Netanyahu, as you probably have heard, will address a joint session of Congress. Whatever he says, the speech will probably be in the running for one of the worst speeches ever given in Washington. There is a lot of competition. But tomorrow, March 4th is the 150th anniversary of what was probably the greatest speech ever given in the city, President Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. It is a speech that all heads of government, perhaps especially Israeli prime ministers, ought to study carefully. read more