Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Happy Birthday Mr President

The media is full of stories in honour of President Peres' 90th Birthday.

Shimon Peres is truly a great statesman. An old-school Labour Zionist who played a big part in the establishment of the state, and has been involved in almost all key events in the history of our country. From his youth in Poland (where he allegedly met the Chafetz Chaim), to the Britsih mandate, through the wars of 48, 56, 67, and 73 and most of all, to the Oslo accords, Shimon Peres has been a part of history.

This morning on the radio, one of the speakers talked about how Shimon Peres can teach us all about Emuna (Belief). For decades, Mr Peres has believed in a vision, and his belief has remain steadfast no matter how popular the current political trends were for or against his vision. Nothing has been able to shake Shimon Peres' faith in a better future.

So in honour of his birthday, and 20 years since the signing of the Oslo Accords which was possibly Shimon Peres' most significant contribution to the state, here is the song "אנחנו הילדים של אוסלו" - "We are the children of Oslo", written in honour of the children born in 1993 together with the Oslo Accords. (Lyrics and my translation below)


We are children of Oslo, [born in] the year ‘93

You sold us on the [White House] lawn in exchange for promises.
You were tired men who wanted a Nobel Peace Prize.
You were young women and that wanted to mix realty with a dream.
So we got a lot of complements and you made an half thought-out deal,
What is it possible to do with us – no problem, follow us to the flood.

You promised a dove and olive branch.
We got a Kassam rocket on our house.
You promised peace and happiness, we got exile and explosions.
You promised a dove….

We are the children of Oslo, the year ’93.
We grew up now with the army and weapons, and helmet on our head.
We’re from Kfar Saba, Haifa, Gush Katif – I’m from Sderot/
Look after your Nobel Prize, that it doesn’t get dirty from shrapnel or blood and tears.
You never asked us, what each of us think.
For a long time ago we learned that promises don’t have to be kept.
To shatter the dream, Ashkelon, Itamar, and from our heart we wanted to whisper,
We are the children of Oslo, that you had in mind.
You promised a dove, olive branch, we got a Kassam rocket on our house.

Only 2 people killed each day is a great deal for peace.
Keep singing about our heritage.
We got a [call up] order over the network and don’t have time to talk.
That’s OK, we don’t need an apology…
You promised us a dove and olive branch…..

אנחנו הילדים של אוסלו שנת 93

מכרתם אותנו בדשא תמורת הבטחות.
הייתם גברים עייפים שרצו פרס נובל לשלום.
הייתם נשים צעירות שרצו לערבב מציאות בחלום.
אז קיבלתם המון מחמאות ועשיתם הסכם חצי תעלול,
שאפשר לעשות עלינו- לא נורא אחריכם המבול.

הבטחתם יונה עלה של זית.
קיבלנו קאסם על הבית.
הבטחתם שלווה ושמחות , קיבלנו רק גרוש והפצצות.
הבטחתם יונה ...........

אנחנו הילדים של אוסלו שנת 93.
גדלנו עכשיו בצבא עם הנשק- כסדה על הראש.
אני מכפר-סבא, חיפה, גוש קטיף, אני משדרות.
שימרו על הנובל, שלא יתלכלך מרסיסים או מדם ודמעות .
עליכם לא נלחץ לא נשאל כל אחד מה עוד הוא זומם.
כי מזמן למדנו הבטחות לא צריך לקיים.
לבטל החולים, אשקלון , איתמר ובקרב- רק רצינו ללחוש ,
אנחנו הילדים של האוסלו ההוא מה עבר לכם בראש .
הבטחתם יונה , עלה של זית , קיבלנו קאסם על הבית .

רק שני הרוגים בכול יום זה אכלה דיל עבור השלום.
תמשיכו לשיר על מורשת.
קיבלנו פקודה ברשת ואין לנו זמן לשיחה.
זה בסדר מוותרים על סליחה.
הבטחתם יונה עלה של זית ......

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A reminder why we need to look after ourselves

Proponents of the "Two State Solution" often poo-poo Israel's security concerns claiming that once we have peace, security won't be an issue (after all, we have "Peace"), and in any case, we could have a UN controlled peace-keeping force keeping the peace, in the unlikely event that anything would go wrong.

Given the instability of all the states surrounding Israel (with the possible exception of Jordan), the first argument is silly - just because we signed a Peace Pact with the current Palestinian Administration, there is no guarantee that they would keep it, and it is unlikely that they would stay in power (see Gaza where Hamas ousted the Palestinian Authority within months of Israeli disengagement).

Ah-ha - peace proponents say, that's why would get security guarantees from a third party like the UN or the US. These proponents have obviously never  heard of the 1956, 1967, or 1973 wars when UN peace keepers left as soon as there was a serious threat of war.
"But surely that is ancient history" I hear you say; things have changed now ... except that today Austria announced that they are removing their peacekeepers from the Golan Heights - after all, it could get dangerous there. I guess relying on peace keepers in the region only makes sense if we knew that there would never be the threat of was (in which case, why do we need the peace keepers?).

Bottom line is, if we ever sign a peace agreement, it must include the ability for Israel to defend itself without relying on the partner signing the agreement or a third party.

Am I against the concept of a Palestinian State? Not at all, the concept sounds like a fair just solution. I'm against the reality of a Palestinian State.
Right now, I cannot conceive of an independent Palestinian State that would not lead to missiles being fired at my home.

My vision of peace does not include missiles being fired at me and my children. If not wanting missiles fired at my home makes me ant-peace, so be it.
If someone can suggest a Peace Plan that would not lead to missiles being fired at my home (or the homes of other Israelis), I'm in favour. I just haven't heard of such a proposal yet.

And if you're wondering what I think we should be doing to encourage peace, I am a big believer in interaction between Jews and Arabs; the more that we interact with each other on a personal level, the more likely that our children will be able to live together in harmony. (I wrote about it a few years ago).
The concept of a Palestinian State is exactly the opposite - it discourages personal interaction between Israelis and Palestinians, in fact it often makes it illegal (it is currently against the law for Israelis to enter many Palestinian territories).

Given that right now, there is no serious realistic peace plan on the table, and no serious partner on the other side, I guess Secretary of State Kerry got it right -
People in Israel aren’t waking up every day and wondering if tomorrow there will be peace because there is a sense of security and a sense of accomplishment and of prosperity.”

Makes good sense to me. Lets hope that our sense of security, accomplishment, and prosperity continue to increase - and people pushing for a diplomatic process that directly puts my life in danger will continue to be ignored.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

How to make a Chilul HaShem, and then compound it

While I was on shlichut for Bnei Akiva, I often had to travel to events with large groups of teenagers. We were always very aware of how our group was perceived by outsiders. What would bus drivers or event operators who watched a group of 30 or more visibly religious Jewish teenagers think of us.

I was always proud of the way the group behaved, and several times I received comments like "I have never had such a well behaved group on my boat before, I hope that my kids grow up to be like them". This good behaviour was in spite of, or maybe because of the fact that there was little or no adult supervision. I was the only person over the age of 22, and I wasn't present on every bus or at every event.

Hearing praise of the way the kids behaved reminded me of the Yerushalmi (Bava Mezia 2:5):
“The elder Rabbis bought one measure of Barley from the Roman soldiers. They found in it a bundle of money. Now you have to understand that in these times Jews and Roman soldiers were not on exactly good terms with each other. But they gave it back to the Roman soldiers and they said “Blessed is the God of the Jews”.
(Source: Talmud Yerushalmi Institute)

Unfortunately not all Jewish groups act in a way that inspires others to emulate us.
Media outlets are reporting that a group of 100 students from the Yeshiva of Flatbush were removed from a flight for not listening to the flight crew's safety instructions.
The response of the school principal was as follows:
Rabbi Seth Linfield, executive director at Yeshiva of Flatbush, said that administrators are continuing to look into the matter, but that so far he believed adults on the trip who said the students weren't behaving that badly.

At least one of the students reported to the media that he thought that they were thrown off because of anti-Semitism.

I wasn't there, and I have no idea whether the kids were behaving "that badly". I am reasonably certain that it was no more than a small minority of the kids that were disruptive.
I also have no way to judge whether the airline was justified in throwing the passengers off the plane, or whether they could have taken a less drastic action like removing only the students who were the most disruptive, or getting the adults accompanying the group to discipline the kids.

HOWEVER, I am certain that a US airline crew were not acting based on anti-Semitism, and I am sure that throwing more than 100 passengers off a flight of 137 passengers is a decision that costs the airline time and money, and they would not take such a decision without a good reason.
According to all reports, the kids were given several warning, including from the pilot himself.

This is the essence of Chilul Hashem. I am sure that there are people watching the report who say "If that's what Orthodox Judaism is all about - I'm glad I'm not Jewish (or not Orthodox)"

The fact that the reports include accusations of mistreatment from the students and school staff, but no word of apology, even to the other passengers who were inconvenienced, does not make them look any better.

I just checked the website of the school, and didn't see a response. I sincerely hope that the Yeshiva publicly apologizes to those inconvenienced by the incident, and make a clear statement that the behaviour of some of the students was not in any way justifiable and is not typical of Jewish behaviours, and disciplinary measures have been taken against those responsible.

This should also be a reminder to all of us who are visibly Jewish that whether we like it or not, we represent certain values, and every person that we meet will base his opinion of the Jewish people based partially on how we behave.