Sunday, October 5, 2014

Reflections on Bicycles, Yom Kippur, and Religious Coercion

One of the uniquely Israeli aspects of Yom Kippur is the association of bicycles with Yom Kippur.
While in other parts of the world, Jews associate Yom Kippur with prayer, fasting, long prayer services, and maybe repentance and atonement, in Israel many Israelis associate the day with bicycles.
(If you don't know what I'm talking about, go to YouTube and search for "bicycles Yom kippur").
There are several religious practices observed by almost all Jewish Israelis, for example, I would estimate that over 90% of Jewish Israelis do the following:
  • Place a Mezuza on their front door
  • Give their sons a Brit Mila
  • Attend some type of Passover Seder
  • Refrain from driving on Yom Kippur
There are probably rituals with almost universal observance in Israel, but the above sprung to mind. If you can think of others, please leave a comment.
Interesting that if you made a similar list of ritual practiced by Jews outside Israel, the first 3 items would probably be in the list, but not the last
One of the interesting things about these observances is that none of them are required by law - there is no law in Israel that you must place a mezuza on your door, or circumcise you son, or not drive on Yom Kippur - yet almost all Israelis do this for cultural, historic, or religious reasons.
In spite of regular complaints about "religious coercion", there is very little ritual that is mandated by law in Israel, the only examples I could think of are:
  • No public transport on Shabbat
  • Forbidden to display Chametz for sale during Pessach
  • All Jewish weddings must be conducted through the Rabbanut
(Again, if you can think of areas where religious observance is mandated by law, leave a comment).
What is interesting is that the legally-mandated ritual is less widely observed than the first list above. There are more Jewish Israelis that get married outside the Rabbanut than there are who drive on Yom Kippur.
To me, this is evidence that you cannot legislate religion. Israel is a Jewish country, and all Jewish Israelis will observe mitzvot that are meaningful or culturally significant to them; but you cannot force people to keep mitzvot. In fact, I would imagine that if the Knesset passed a law making it illegal to drive on Yom Kippur, the following year a number of people would make a point of driving, just to show that knesset has no business telling them how to be Jewish - and they would be right, miztva observance is between you and your Maker, not between you and your legislator.

G'mar Chatima Tova and Chag Sameach to all my readers

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

י-ה רבון עלם - G-d, Master of the World...

Suggestion for this Shabbat (I know it's only Wednesday)...

As our soldiers have returned to Gaza, where they will spend Shabbat in the most miserable of conditions, in honour of one of Gaza's most famous residents, maybe people should include "Kah Ribon" in their Friday Night Zmirot, even people (like my family), that don't always sing Zmirot on Shabbat.

Kah Ribon was written by Rabbi Israel b. Moses Najara, who lived in Gaza city in the 16th Century. At that time, Gaza hosted a vibrant Jewish Community, and Rabbi Najara wrote poetry there, and was buried there after his death in 1625. I don't know whether anything remains of the Jewish Cemetery of Gaza, but until recently there were remains of the ancient synagogues of Gaza (I don't know what remains since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip 9 years ago).

The first letter of the 5 verses in Kah Ribon spell the word ישראל - ISRAEL, which was Rabbi Najara's given name, but is also the name of our nation and our land.

The song is in Aramaic, a language they say is so holy, that even the angels don't understand it - a language which we use to communicate directly with the Master of all Worlds.

As the song says:

אֱלָ-הָא דִי לֵיהּ,     יְקַר וּרְבוּתָא
פְּרוֹק יַת עָנָךְ,    מִפּוּם אַרְיְוָתָא
וְאַפֵּיק יַת עַמֵּךְ,     מִגּוֹ גָּלוּתָא
עַמֵּךְ דִי בְחַרְתְּ,     מִכָּל אֻמַּיָּא

O God to whom belongs glory and power,
Save your sheep from the mouth of lions,
Take your people from the nation of their exile,
The people that you chose from all the nations.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Failing to Condemn Evil

Earlier today a New Zealand organization that represents Jews, Christians, and Muslim leaders came out with the following media release calling for peace:
MEDIA RELEASE

NZ Jews, Christians, and Muslims United in Call for Peace
Wellington, 23 July 2014

Jewish, Christian, and Muslim leaders in Wellington issued a joint statement today regarding the current conflict in Gaza and Israel:

“We call upon all of the parties involved in the current conflict in Gaza and Israel to cease hostilities, and sit down at the negotiating table and do the hard work necessary to obtain a just and lasting peace. We urge all New Zealand Jews, Christians, and Muslims to pray for peace.”

Dave Moskovitz, Jewish Co-Chair, Wellington Council of Christians and Jews
Jenny Chalmers, Christian Co-Chair, Wellington Council of Christians and Jews
Sultan Eusoff, CEO, Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand 
On the surface, this media release sounds like a wonderful thing, what could be better than Jews, Christians, and Muslims calling for peace.

The first problem is that it is totally meaningless. It does not suggest any realistic solutions to the problem, Hamas have made it clear that they have no desire to sit and negotiate over a "just and lasting peace", and even if they did - there would be no reason for Israel to trust or believe them as Hamas has stated repeatedly that they intend to keep fighting until every Jew is Dead.

But besides being a meaningless statement, there is a bigger problem, a council of religious representatives organizations, who should be moral examples for their adherents, seem unable or unwilling to recognize evil when it is staring them in the face.

Hamas is an evil organization. It is founded on hatred, preaches hatred, rejoices when children are killed, and does everything in its power to kill as many people as possible. And proudly states that. This is pure evil.
To make this evil even worse, they do it in their name of their religion.
You don't hav eto take my word for the fact that Hamas is evil. It is clearly visible in statements and videos released by Hamas and their supporters, and is stated explicitly in the Hamas charter.

When religious leaders, such as the council of Christians, Muslims, and Jews are confronted with evil in the name of religion, they should be the first ones to stand up and say that this evil is a perversion of their religious teachings and they totally condemn it.

When Jews do horrible things, such as the savages that murdered an Arab teenager 2 weeks ago, the entire Jewish world, right wing, left wing, religious, and secular expressed revulsion. They made it clear that these individuals in no way represented Judaism, or Jewish teaching, and should be condemned in the strongest possible terms. The Israeli authorities quickly apprehended them, and they will be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

Now we have an organization that is firing rockets from schools, hospitals, and heavily populated civilian buildings. The stated purpose of these rocket attacks is to kill as many people as possible, and the celebrate when anyone is killed. And they claim that this is what their religion teaches.

I would have expected the Muslim representatives in the council of Christians, Muslims, and Jews to be the first to stand up and say - this is not Islam! Islam is a religion of Peace that totally rejects killing innocent people.

If they are unable to stand up and say that, if they are unable to tell the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, then general statements about how we should all pray for peace are not only meaningless, they show a moral vacuum.

And before anyone starts leaving comments about how the Israelis have killed civilians, gunned down children playing, kill children for pleasure then use their blood for Matza, crucified Jesus, and are plotting to take over the world, and are responsible for Global warming, please show me an example of when Israel deliberately killed innocent civilians, or rejoiced at the death of civilians. If you can find me such an example, from and Israeli source, I will be the first to condemn it, as should all Jews, including the Jewish representatives on the interfaith body.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Daddy Come Home

This is not a new video, however it seems to be relevant far too often, including right now.



I have several neighbors who have been called up in the past few days, and left their kids and wife to hope and pray that their Daddy will come home soon...







May the Holy One guard and protect all our soldiers and bring them home safely to their families, once they have successfully freed Israel and the Palestinians of the thugs who currently control Gaza.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Don't uproot what has been planted

As our soldiers are heading back into the Gaza Strip, now is a good time to remember the Jewish Communities of Gush Katif and the Northern Gaza Strip.

In 2005, when Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip, we left behind the infrastructure of 21 beautiful communities.
Although the people were evicted from their homes, and their houses were bulldozed, the roads and some infrastructure was left intact, including the wonderful horticulture business which produced vegetables and flowers which were exported all over Europe.

We handed over a man-made Paradise to the people of Gaza. What did they do with these beautiful communities? Using the Satellite View in Google Maps, you can see what is left of these communities - take a look at the links below to see the desolate wasteland dotted with roads and empty greenhouses in what was once some of the most beautiful communities in Israel.

Bedolah
Bnei Atzmon 
Gadid 
Gan Or
Ganei Tal
Katif
Kerem Atzmona
Kfar Darom 
Kfar Yam
Morag 
Netzer Hazani 
Neve Dekalim 
Pe'at Sadeh
Rafiah Yam
Shirat HaYam
Slav 
Tel Katifa
Dugit 
Elei Sinai 
Nisanit 
Netzarim






Sunday, July 20, 2014

Baruch Dayan Haemet

ברוך דיין האמת

More soldiers died today defending our land.

When the land offensive started, we knew that there was a high chance that some of our precious sons (and daughters) would not come home, but at least they know that they died in a just cause - if there ever was a just, ethical war - this is it.

May G-d grant our army strength to continue in their mission and guard and protect them from all further harm. And may He grant the wisdom and courage in our leaders to continue to do what's right, and to finish this operation so that the citizens of Israel are no longer under threat of a murderous terrorist regime.

We should keep our thoughts and prayers with our soldiers.

There is a new web site that tells you how many days, hours and minutes Israel has been "Rocket Free"

As of this writing, Israel has been "Rocket Free" for just over half an hour. I hope that by the end of this operation, we will measure the time that Israel has been rocket free in years, not minutes.

There were many times in History when Jewish Blood ran freely, and no one lifted a finger to help us - that period of history is over.

Friday, July 18, 2014

How do you say "Chutzpa" in British?

This has got to be one of the most disgusting videos I have ever seen (waning, may cause nausea or vomiting)



For people unaware, Britain has been involved in the wars in Afghanistan (about 20,000 Civilian deaths) and Iraq (only about 5000 civilian deaths) yet neither Afghanistan nor Iraq has fired a single rocket at London, not even a tiny Gad B at Leeds. The citizens of Manchester, Newcastle, Liverpool, and all other British towns and cities have not experienced a single rocket (well not since WWII), they don't have air raid sirens, bomb shelters, or traumatized children anywhere in the UK - yet Britain has been involved in many military campaigns throughout the world.

The British army has never called the enemy to say exactly where they will bomb, doesn't drop warning leaflets or put its soldiers at risk to protect enemy civilians.

Yet members of the British Parliament have the Chutzpa to stand up and lecture Israel about international Law and Human Rights.
Is it only a breach of International Law if Israel is involved? Why have these parliamentarians singles out the Jewish State for criticism? Do they think that Jews have less right to defend themselves than other people?

Well guess what - Jews have thousands of years experience being the target of hostile enemies who say openly that they want us dead. For 2000 years we have sat quietly while we were massacred across Europe, including several times in England. We got tired of being the world's punching bag. If someone attacks us, they can now expect us to stand up an defend ourselves. And if that is offensive to members of Her Majesty's Government, well personally - I couldn't care less.

And by the way - one of the honorable MPs described Gaza as the "World's Biggest Prison" I just checked a map - the British Isles seem like a much bigger Prison (By "prison" I assume you mean "Independent territory surrounded by sea or a border") , the Government in Westminster may not be as ruthless as the Hamas Government is Gaza, and although they both seem to lack moral clarity, Hamas are still much worse - however I am prepared to bet that the food is better in the Gazan prison, and they get free health care from Israel which is surely better than the British health system, so I guess all is not lost.

(BTW - while writing this post, the radio announced a least 10 "Code Red" alerts, I'll post a video of the British parliament condemning that as soon as it is available -but don't hold your breath)