Originally posted on TIME:
The Obama administration said Monday it would nominate Rabbi David Saperstein as the next Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, as the state department issued its annual analysis of the state of religious freedom across the globe.
President Obama said he would nominate Saperstein to a position that has been vacant since October, when Rev. Suzan Johnson Cook resigned. The current director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism would, if confirmed, be the first non-Christian to hold the job.
One of Saperstein’s projects as head of the State Department’s Office for International Religious Freedom would be to help compile the International Religious Freedom Report — the 2013 edition of which was also published on Monday.
The diagnosis from this year’s report, which analyzes religious freedom across the globe, is weighty: “In 2013, the world witnessed the largest displacement of religious communities in recent memory.”
The report goes country by…
View original 301 more words
One who is full of himself fills all the space around him. There is no room left for anyone else. Therefore, he despises another person by virtue of the space that other person consumes. He may give reasons for his disdain, but the reasons are secondary.
This is called wanton hatred. It is the reason given for our exile. It is the core of all evil.
Its only cure is wanton acts of kindness and caring for the other guy beyond reason.
Originally posted on National Post | Full Comment:
Here is one of the more astonishing facts of an already fairly astonishing war: The tunnels that Hamas has dug under Gaza’s border with Israel — tunnels designed not for commerce, but for kidnapping — reportedly contain tranquilizers and handcuffs, seemingly meant to be used by Hamas terrorists to gain physical control over Israelis they’ve seized.
Our troops in Gaza continue to find attack tunnels like this one, located by special forces from the Golani Brigade http://t.co/gwmR04liWG—
IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) July 24, 2014
I sometimes find it tiring to listen to Israeli spokesmen ask the same question over and over again: What would you want your leaders to do if your country’s enemies were firing rockets at your home?
The answer these spokesmen seek doesn’t come entirely easily these days. This is in part because much of the world suffers from a kind of Hamas-specific amnesia, in which the group’s past deeds (hundreds of murdered Israelis) and extreme goals are forgotten as soon as they are learned. But it’s also in part because the success of the…
View original 1,001 more words
Anne Frank’s Diary Read Today
For a while, I’ve felt troubled by the angry comments pro-Israel folks make:
“What would America do if Mexico started shooting rockets into Texas?!”
“How come we don’t hear about all the civilians dying in Syria?!”
I see the kernel of truth in these points. But at the same time, the situations are different. Mexico doesn’t have a blockade against it. Syria’s leader is a sick bastard and no one expects better from him. It’s always smacked of the same reactionary calls of “antisemitism” after every anti-Israel statement.
But something changed recently.
It happened as I read the Diary of Anne Frank a few days into this conflict.
Toward the end of book, Anne describes how the people of Holland (where she is hiding) have started to become more antisemitic, even as they are all hoping to be liberated from the Nazis. She writes:
To our great sorrow and dismay, we’ve heard that many people have changed their attitude toward us Jews. We’ve been told that anti-Semitism has cropped up in circles where once it would have been unthinkable. This fact has affected us all very, very deeply. The reason for the hatred is understandable, maybe even human, but that doesn’t make it right. According to the Christians, the Jews are blabbing their secrets to the Germans, denouncing their helpers and causing them to suffer the dreadful fate and punishments that have already been meted out to so many. All of this is true.
But it was the next part that struck me as particularly prescient during these confusing times:
But as with everything, they should look at the matter from both sides: would Christians act any differently if they were in our place? Could anyone, regardless of whether they’re Jews or Christians, remain silent in the face of German pressure? Everyone knows it’s practically impossible, so why do they ask the impossible of the Jews?
Echoes of all that I have been hearing over the last few weeks, the exact lines I had heard from Jews defending Israel hit me like a hurricane.
“Would you act any differently?”
That constant, nonstop refrain.
And then it hit me: the world doesn’t expect us just to act better than Syria. they expect us to act better than America. Than everyone.
America has had the equivalent of rockets being shot from Mexico. It’s had a few men board planes and fly them into two towers and killed thousands of our people.
America chose in that moment to go to war. Not just to go to war, but to go to war decisively. First we went into Afghanistan. Then we went into Iraq.
For years these wars were fought. About a decade if you include the time we “occupied” before finally leaving.
20,000 civilians were killed in Afghanistan since 2001. 100,000 civilians were killed over the course of the war in Iraq. America is considered to have been a huge contributor to these numbers.
Whatever we think of these wars, most of the world understands that the fight against terrorism has been an essential one, even if it has been flawed. One that is still not won; one that will inevitably cause massive civilian casualties.
And yet, Israel’s war against not just an enemy but an enemy who is a neighbor who is devoted to destroying it as a state as well as killing all its people, is expected to last not years, not months, not weeks, but days. We are called on by the world to enact an “unconditional cease fire”.
This goes for the Gaza blockade as well which is used to justify Hamas’s rockets into our nation.
But before the Gaza wall was built, before the blockade enforced, Hamas sent suicide bombers, into Israel’s cafes, into bar mitzvahs, into buses… and killed us… children, women, elderly, Arabs; it made no difference.
Anne’s words echo again: “…would Christians [or anyone else] act any differently if they were in our place?
The Nature Of Antisemitism
The most common complaint against Israel you hear these days is that it has made Jews infinitely more powerful than they were during World War II, or any other time. Not just Israel, but the “Israel lobby”. AIPAC, the ADL, etc.
This is hard to argue with, I think. We are certainly more powerful than we used to be.
But Anne helped me understand this as well.
Why did the “Christians” Anne describes expects the impossible from the Jews of her time? Why, in fact, have most cultures had such an irrational fear of Jews?
It is because we are continually seen as having an outsized amount of power for the amount of people in our population. We are seen as more powerful than our numbers indicate.
From the time before we became slaves in Egypt (when the Pharaoh worried that we were becoming too powerful) to our time in Germany to the creation and success of Israel as a nation, people have not seen us as weak or pitiful: they have seen us as incredibly powerful. Oppressive. A small nation dominating the masses.
Even in Anne’s world, as Jews were being deported to concentration camps, killed in droves, and hiding in attics for years to avoid being killed, the people in her country expected the Jews to somehow do more than they would expect from themselves.
And part of this is based on objective truth: Jews, as a people, have truly been more successful than one would expect from such a small group. Israel has historically been much more powerful than you would expect from such a small country.
But we’ve only become more powerful for one specific reason: we never would have survived otherwise. Why did we succeed in our professions even in countries that oppressed us? Because we recognized that we needed money if we were ever going to “make it” in those places.
It is because of our size that we have made ourselves powerful. It is because the world is so much bigger than us that we have had to succeed, to accomplish so much as a people, a religion, a nation.
Israel’s strength is simply an extension of that.
Why has Israel built an unparalleled army? Because without such an army, it would have been wiped out. Why do AIPAC and such organizations have such influence? Because there is a much bigger lobby, the lobby of historic antisemitism, that has existed for ages, and that needs to be fought with a small but powerful army of lobbyists. Because the US is the only filter in the UN that stops a gang of nations who want to see Israel destroyed.
But the problem is that the world has then taken that success and expected not just more from us, but the supernatural, the infinite, “the impossible”.
And so the world doesn’t compare us to Syria. They don’t even compare us to America. They compare us to the vision they have of Jews: beyond nature, able to do the “impossible” (as Anne put it), able to be completely selfless and passive.
Just as in Anne’s Holland (where every single Jew was expected to supernaturally keep their lips sealed) Jews in Israel are expected to somehow deal supernaturally with people who are determined to exterminate them.
We are expected to fight wars, urban wars, without killing civilians. Our wars are expected to last days. In order to have peace with our neighbors, we are expected to cut the capital of our country in half and hand it over. Expected to take down the wall that protects us from murderous assassins who want to kill us all.
And so I think what is happening today, though, is not strictly antisemitism, as many of these people are good, honest, folks that are riding the wave of historical thinking that has lasted for thousands of years. Rather, we are living in an age of unknowingly embracing the echoes of antisemitism past. People who do not necessarily see Jews as evil, but expect the impossible from us.
I do not want to see the world as evil. I want to believe that this is just echoes, not true hate, like Anne, “I can’t understand how the Dutch, a nation of good, honest, upright people, can sit in judgment on us the way they do.”
Replace the word “Dutch” with “the world” and this is how I feel. The world is good. But history is powerful, and it is our job as Jews, I think, not to jump in anger, but to see the good in it and clearly show the morality of our actions.
A few weeks before Anne was arrested and sent to a concentration camp she declared, “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.”
I believe that her words were not in vain, despite how we might believe she was proven wrong. I hope that the good people of the world will see that what they want of us is impossible. I hope that a higher dialogue will result from this. I hope that history will finally be proven wrong.
- See more at: http://popchassid.com/ask-impossible-jews/
And it later came to pass that there were three boys who were going home from school, and there arose evil men who did take them prisoner and slew them. And the Nation of Israel arose in unity and did create a big hullabaloo, and they did search mightily and arrest many individuals who had committed crimes against them in the past. For they were of the tribe of Hamas, and their brothers in Gaza did shoot missiles all the time, but when they heard of their brothers’ imprisonment, they were angered and they did shoot more missiles than usual. And finally, they did find the corpses of the holy boys and the whole House of Israel did cry out in unity. Yet there were some subversives, of unsound mind, and they did not walk in the ways of the Lord and they did find and Arab boy and seized and burnt him alive. And the whole House of Israel did revile this act and felt ashamed.
All the while, missiles continued to be shot from Gaza, and the Children of Israel did ask politely for them to stop doing so, yet they continued. Many times did they entreat their neighbours to refrain from trying to slaughter them, yet their neighbours did not heed their calls. The People of Israel did cry out to their leaders, “Kindly stop the bombardments, for our shelters are cramped and stuffy.”
And the Leader was known as Bibi, and he did send forth the airforce to drop ordnance on those who would shoot missiles at the Jewish Nation. The number of missiles grew larger, for the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad were emboldened, and continued to shoot at them without respite.
And much ordnance did fall, but the Nation of Israel had gained no rest, and the tribe of Hamas did not cease for ceasefires, and they did place their own civilians in harm’s way, but the tribe of Hamas had constructed many tunnels and did think themselves safe. And their leaders had got themselves to Doha, and did stay in luxurious hotel suites, and did think themselves even safer.
The Nation of Israel realised that they would gain little from attacking the tribe of Hamas from the air, so they did send in their sons and daughters, and did discover many caves. And plots were discovered to slaughter the Nation of Israel through these caves.
Now at this time the minister, who served the Great Orator did feel that he needed to intervene, for he did declare that the ordnance fell too heavily. And he did gat himself to the Holy Land, and his chin did precede him on the way in, and many looked at his bouffant of hair and were struck with awe.
But he did not go and see the leaders of the Nation of Israel or the tribe of Hamas. He did not even go to see the leader of the Arabs of the West Bank, who were taking no part in the fighting. Instead, he did travel to the Land of the Pharaohs, to its capital. For the Leader of the Egyptian Nation hankered greatly after the destruction of the tribe of Hamas, for they had pained his country sorely. And he did propose an Egyptian initiative. For the new Pharaoh in Egypt had tried also to give peace to the people, but the tribe of Hamas had refused. And the minister did declare “Surely it is better that we return to the way things were before, but let the Nation of Israel be kinder to the tribe of Hamas, and let them have access to materials that they may use to slaughter the Nation of Israel.”to which the Tribe of Hamas did refuse to countenance, “How will we continue to resist without the ability to attack and restock our weapons. And behold, have we not trade agreements with Iran, Syria and North Korea to honour?”
And the man of Massachusetts did travel to the Land of Israel, although his country had banned its planes from travelling to the Holy Land, and did meet with Bibi and the leader of the Arabs of the West Bank, who were taking no part in the fighting. And the people were perplexed, and though they had been distracted by the immensity of the chin, they began to wonder if the minister quite knew what he was doing. Soon, the minister proposed terms of peace for the Nation of Israel and the tribe of Hamas, and the people were expectant, and hopeful.
But no success came of these plans, and the man from Massachusetts did retire to Paris, and he did meet other likeminded ministers from the European Continent. And behold, he did converse with the leader of the Turks and the Sheikh from the Kingdom of Qatar, and they did tunnel under the Egyptian initiative and propose an agreement much to the liking of the Tribe in Hamas, who did have the number of the Sheikh on speed-dial.
And the people were perplexed, and though they had been distracted by the immensity of the chin, they began to wonder if the minister quite knew what he was doing. Soon, the minister proposed terms of peace for the Nation of Israel and the tribe of Hamas, and the people were expectant, and hopeful.
And the leaders of the Nation of Israel were perplexed, and did immediately reject the proposal. But on this occasion, the Pharaoh in Egypt, and King Saud of Arabia, the leader of the West Bank Arabs, Father of Mazen and even, let it be said, the Turks in the North and the King across the Jordan and even the optometrist in Damascus and the Emperor and his viceroy in Persia were perplexed too, for they had all believed that the minister was in favour of the Nation of Israel’s survival. And they did laugh at him, saying, “Even we, who would destroy the nation of Israel would have offered them a better deal than this minister has done. Verily, there appears to be little grey matter between bouffant and chin.”
And the minister was ashamed, for he had abjectly failed, and he did slink away. Though he had succeeded in doing something which no other Secretary of State had ever done: uniting much of the Middle East against him and his nation, both Bibi and the Pharaoh, Mahmoud, Father of Mazen and the Jordanian King and even the House of Saud and many other sheikhs, a feat never achieved before and perhaps never again. And his chin did quiver as it preceded him out of the country.
Read more: The Book of Gaza: Chapter 3 | David Gross | Ops & Blogs | The Times of Israel http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/the-book-of-gaza-chapter-3/#ixzz38mf8yC8Z
Follow us: @timesofisrael on Twitter | timesofisrael on Facebook
What Black, Yellow, Rockets and Days of Mourning Have in Common
Yellow. What mood does it evoke in you? Sunshine. Brightness. Happiness.
How about black? Darkness. Mourning. Despair. Constriction.
Do you have a favorite painting or portrait? Examine it closely. What do you like about it? Is it colorful? Vibrant? Realistic? Does it make you happy?
Look carefully at its colors. While it may have many hues, no doubt it has a good amount of black. The black is evident in its outline, in its shadows, in the blending of the colors and in making the brighter parts really stand out. It’s not only that the black serves as a backdrop for the lighter tones, but that, ironically, black illuminates and enhances the effects of all the other colors.
Unfortunately, life is like that too. We have sunny days where we feel at peace with our inner selves and aligned with our mission in this world. And then we have cloudy, gloomy and dark days in which we are out of sync. These are the times in our lives that are painful, full of unused potential, when we feel disconnected from our spiritual selves and our Maker.
Yet, often it is precisely in the blackness and difficulties of our lives that our fortitude, faith and strength as human beings emerge. Those circumstances highlight the beautiful hidden vibrancy of our inner souls and bring out their luminosity.
Just as anxiety is meant to agitate us into action, darkness too must be used as a springboard for further growth, to acquire a deeper sensitivity. There is a chassidic saying that nothing is as whole as a broken heart—as long as our grief is constructive, creating turmoil that brings us to action.
We are currently in the darkest period of the Jewish calendar, culminating with the 9th of Av, which marks the destruction of the first and second Temples.
But Jewish history is anything but tragic. It is a tale of hope, faith and optimism, of strength, morality and light triumphing despite the harshest circumstances. Centuries of exile have wrenched the Jewish soul through the most miserable darkness, but through it all we have triumphed in still being here, still searching for goodness and G‑dliness, still holding on to our deepest convictions and still striving to reach our highest potentials.
Over the last many weeks we have witnessed collective tragedy. The kidnapping of our boys united us all in sorrow and grief, as did the rockets that rain down upon our cities. But the emerging messages of each of these horrors demonstrate once again the amazing fortitude of the Jewish soul.
Moshiach is born on the ninth of Av. Together let us all beseech our Maker that the living “portrait” of our people has been painted with enough blackness to bring out our inherent beauty. It is now time to experience the sunny brightness of the other, happier hues.
It is time for us to experience “G‑d will wipe away the tears from every eye.” Forever.