LETTER FROM JERUSALEM
Shas minister blames quakes on gays
JERUSALEM—We have some relief from the Iranian president calling us a filthy germ that must be destroyed, the continued fall of rockets on Sderot, residents' demonstrations in behalf of greater protection, and mounting pressure for an operation in Gaza.
A Member of Knesset turned our attention to earthquakes. Recent quakes have been minor. But we are on the edge of the Syrian-African rift, and there is a history of major quakes.
Shlomo Benizri's explanation of earthquakes is homosexuality. He urged the Knesset to debate how to end sexual relations between men, and thereby prevent earthquakes.
Benizri has been minister of health and minister of labor and welfare, and is prominent among the 12 member delegation in the Knesset of the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox party SHAS.
This is not his first time in the religious spotlight. While attending an international meeting of health ministers, he avoided meetings devoted to public health and medicine until he was convinced that the hotel would be serving him kosher food.
The parliamentary head of the SHAS delegation attacked a recent decision by the attorney general to allow adoptions by homosexual and lesbian couples. According to this Knesset member, the attorney general's decision will lead to the corruption and destruction described for Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18, 19).
Yet another SHAS MK compared single sex relationships to bird flu.
The organizations of homosexuals and lesbians are protesting. Media commentators plus some secular politicians are sharpening their ridicule. Politicians who need SHAS votes now, or are likely to need them in the future, are quieter and hoping this will pass.
Religious activists have no trouble finding Biblical condemnations of homosexuality.
"If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them."(Leviticus. 20:13)
Yet David is one of Judaism's most revered figures. What he said when he heard about his friend Jonathan's death is widely quoted. Those wanting to preserve David's purity and the ban on homosexuality can find ambiguity in the statement. It does not describe lovers in a bathhouse. Nevertheless:
I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women. (II Samuel 1:26).
SHAS is a member of the governing coalition. If the issue heats up to the point of the party leaving the government, Prime Minister Olmert would lose his parliamentary majority.
It probably will no go that far. Israel has learned to live with otherworldly expressions. The spiritual leader of SHAS, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, said that African Americans suffered greatly from Hurrican Katrina because they do not study Torah; and that IDF soldiers died in Lebanon because they did not pray correctly. Another SHAS rabbi explained a road accident that killed numerous school children by reference to flawed mezzuzzot in their home town. Other ultra-Orthodox rabbis have said that the Holocaust was God's punishment for the development of Reform Judaism in Germany.
Americans may actually be more affected by the consequences of religious doctrine than Israelis. The rights of homosexuals and lesbians in Israel to create families, to enjoy the economic benefits available to spouses, and to adopt children continue to expand despite apocalyptic denunciations. We suffer nothing like public schools required to teach creationism, one effort after another to limit the possibilities of abortion, or government coupling of campaigns against AIDS with the mantra of abstinence.
SHAS politicians may be more concerned about the laws of God than the laws of Israel. The attorney general has charged Benizri with accepting bribes, fraud, and breach of trust. According to the indictment, a manpower contractor paid Benizri, as minister of labor and welfare, for allowing him to import foreign workers. A former minister of interior and head of the parliamentary delegation, plus a SHAS back bencher both ended their political careers with terms in prison. Party supporters claimed that their were innocent, or involved in activities considered conventional for politicians who were not religious or Sephardi.
David remains a national hero.
Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University
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THE VIEW FROM JINSA
Satellite shot proves Reagan's wisdom
By Shoshana Bryen
WASHINGTON, D.C.—We weren't really worried about being hit by debris from an American satellite launched in 2006 and falling back to earth this month - though concerns both about hazardous fuel landing in a populated area and the potential compromise of spy technology if it landed in the territory of an adversary might have been realistic.
The interesting thing is what the government did with the problem - or challenge or opportunity if you are an optimist - and how few Americans appear to understand just how extraordinary it was. We quote Rikki Ellison, President of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, on the process:
A Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) was fired... off the USS Lake Erie (CG-70) using information fed by the ship's on board Aegis radar tracking and discrimination sensor to guide the missile close to the falling satellite where the missile engaged its heat seeking sensor thereby enabling a direct perpendicular hit on the 5,000 lb satellite with a kinetic energy impact of 22,000 mph... The majority of the small pieces of the satellite will burn up in the atmosphere upon reentry whereby the bigger pieces will fall harmlessly into the Pacific Ocean in the first 48 hours, and the remaining pieces will re-enter the atmosphere over the next month.
The Sea Based X band radar was deployed in the area to support independently the discrimination and tracking of the destroyed Satellite. Other U.S. military sensors and satellites were deployed in the area and were also used for evaluation of the intercept. The Aegis Destroyer USS Decatur (DDG-73) accompanied the USS Lake Erie in this mission as a redundant back up with a capable SM-3 missile of its own as well as a duplicate Aegis sensor and radar.
Are we the only ones awed by the technological capability demonstrated Wednesday?
JINSA has backed the development of ballistic missile defenses from the beginning and pushed for the American withdrawal from the ABM Treaty to permit development and deployment of systems that would one day protect us from missiles launched from enemy territory. Sea-based defense, in particular, is important because as this event shows, the ability to put the defender missiles where you want them as the threat changes gives the United States powerful options.
So it wasn't a missile from enemy territory. So it was a failed American satellite. So what?
Deterrence is the art of making one's adversaries conclude that the price of attacking is unacceptably high. An American bullet-to-bullet hit on a missile-equivalent 150 miles above the Pacific Ocean certainly caught the attention of the North Koreans, the Iranians, the Russians and the Chinese.
Almost 25 years to the day from President Reagan's "Star Wars" speech in 1983 (and hamstrung until 2001 by the ABM Treaty), America's missile defense community has done what the "experts" said couldn't be done, and we are markedly safer for their skill and dedication to the proposition that defense is both moral and achievable.
THE WRITER'S GROTTO
Free at last, free at last ... to write a column
SAN DIEGO—“Don, I’m a free agent.” And with that precise description of my new found freedom, I asked editor Don Harrison of San Diego Jewish World if I could have my own column. This is something that I’ve wanted to do for quite awhile, but when you work for an elected official, you have to either reflect that person’s opinion or expect to be fired. It makes it even tougher when you are a Democrat working for a Republican (albeit a moderate Republican.)
I have just spent two years as the Deputy Chief of Staff (COS) for County Supervisor Ron Roberts. It was a very nice title which didn’t tell people very much. Basically, I was his policy director.
“You must be great at cocktail parties,” was a statement I heard on more than one occasion as I described the breadth of my policy duties. I don’t know how entertaining I was in such social settings, but I hope to fulfill that level of expectation here in cyberspace.
So what can you expect to find in this space? I will focus on politics and the Jewish community. Sometimes, the entries will lean more towards pure politics and sometimes they will be devoid of politics and focus on the community. Sometimes my thoughts will be reflected in more of a column format (like this one) and sometimes they will be in a short blogging format with an active link to an interesting article.
In short, my goal is for the readers of San Diego Jewish World to walk away thinking, “hmmm, that’s something I didn’t know.”
To give you a flavor of what’s in the works, these are some entries that I am working on as I write this introduction:
- In the run up to the Ohio Primary, where does the Jewish community stand?
- Why I think that Scott Peter’s experiences as a child in New Jersey make him a great candidate for San Diego City Attorney. (See, you didn’t know that Scott is from New Jersey!)
- Despite the fact that all five members of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors are Republicans, their viewpoints are not as homogeneous as you might think.
Oh, and I can promise you that you will not receive those annoying emails saying, “ Hey look at me! I’ve uploaded another blog entry!” You’ll just have to set a reminder in your blackberry to check out San Diego Jewish World every other day and see if I’ve added a new post.
Rotto is a long-time Jewish and political activist in San Diego
TORAH ON ONE FOOT
Why Moses was angered by Golden Calf
AMAZING STORIES OF JUDAISM
A scream in the dark, a knock on the door
SAN DIEGO—Moshe urged Hashem (G-d), "Let me know Your ways... (Ex.33-13). The ways of Hashem are indeed puzzling to us - particularly how Hashem runs the world. Things seem to make
no sense. This is because we only see part of the puzzle at a time. Trying to look at the world today and understand why things happen as they do, is like picking up a thousand page novel, turning to page 463, and trying to understand what is going on. Still, every so often, we are privileged to see how the pieces fit together as the following true story illustrates:
Rabbi Henry and Rebbetzin Esther Soille were in their apartment in Paris when they heard a scream. They recognized it as neighbor of theirs - a non-Jewish woman. Feeling the terror in the woman's voice, Mrs. Soille said "Lets get dressed and go help her." Rabbi Soille agreed and added, "If we wait that long she may be dead by then." So, they immediately ran outside, dressed only in their pajamas to help.
When they got outside they saw a Nazi car coming toward their building so they dashed out of sight. From their hiding place they could see that the Gestapos were going to none other than their own apartment. Had they not responded with sensitivity and courage to the anguished cries of their neighbor, they would have still been in their apartment for the Nazis to find them and drag them off. Because they engaged in a chesed (act of kindness), their own lives had now been spared.
Why was the woman screaming? They later learned that the woman neighbor was screaming because the Nazis had come to seize her husband for smuggling. She told them to spare her husband and take the Rabbi next door instead. Her intention was to trade the Rabbi's life for her husband's life. It didn't even help her because they still took her husband. In attempting to betray the Rabbi, she actually saved him... (The foregoing true story was authenticated by Avraham Dov Dimenstein)
Dedicated by Baruch & Miriam Stehley in honor of their children Aaron, Elie & Talya.
Cousin Barry—Another Shimmering Soul
SAN DIEGO—In the Feb. 22, 2008 edition of San Diego Jewish World, editor Don Harrison wrote of a short story he read in which the author relates that when we remember or speak about someone who has died, their soul shimmers. As I read this I found myself very much in agreement. Even someone who has been gone a long time, when the name is mentioned in word or thought for that moment the soul is once again alive. I believe I have experienced the result of that soul “shimmering.”
Barry was only eight years old when he was killed. Outgoing, intelligent and mischievous, he had blonde hair and snapping brown eyes; a good looking little boy full of charm and wit. He was my cousin, a first cousin. I was six when it happened. It was 1947. My parents had just gotten a television and were watching it one evening when the local news in Philadelphia broadcast the details - with pictures. Horrified, they turned off the TV, abruptly sent me to stay with a neighbor and left to go to my uncle’s house, my mother’s brother. Apparently, my aunt and uncle were in such utter shock - they hadn’t gotten to the point of communicating the horror to the rest of the family.
It was explained to me later what had happened. Barry had been walking to school with a group of children and had stopped before the crossing street. The children were still on the sidewalk when a car ran through a stop sign and was hit by a truck. The car flew through the air and landed on my little cousin. He was the only one hurt. He was killed instantly. At six years old I realized something terrible had happened but of course had no understanding of the utter finality and depth of the tragedy of such a young death. I saw the adults all around me in mourning and despair.
We were closely related and our families visited often. As the younger child and a girl, I had often been the object of my cousin’s mischievous boyish pranks. Like the time he wanted to try out his new bow and arrows. He carefully lined me up against a wall, stepped back and took aim. Each time I tried to run away he brought me back. Finally my loud wails brought out his mother who promptly rescued me and confiscated the toy weapons. That was probably the last time I saw him. My parents attended the funeral and went to sit shiva every night at my uncle’s house but did not take me. However, the mirrors in our house were draped, my parents sat on hard wooden stools, a pair of Barry’s shoes was torn up, and there was no laughter in our house for a long time.
Since that time I have thought of Barry. I know that I have been fortunate to have lived so many years and to have fulfilled so many of my dreams. As an adult and as a mother I came to a full sense of the enormity of that long-ago tragedy. As a child I had no such realization and so it was not until forty-five years later that the grief finally found expression. Apparently it was always there, deep inside of me.
It was only after I gave expression to that grief that he came to me in a dream. I was walking up a gentle grassy slope. Along the top was a low white picket fence that split the hill in half. As I walked up I saw coming toward me a young man in his twenties. He was handsome with blonde hair and wore a dark suit. I stayed on my side of the fence and he stayed on his, but he reached out his arms and hugged me. I knew it was Barry. We talked quietly for a time. He assured me he was well. We held hands and then he said he had to go and began walking away. I watched him leave and then I, too, turned away. I knew that I could not follow him. There was no doubt in my mind then, nor today, that this is the way he chose to communicate with me.
I awoke from my dream, sat up in bed and at last after forty-five years cried for my little cousin, Barry Pogreb. And I cry as I write this - I hope my memory makes his soul shimmer. He is still remembered and missed.
SAN DIEGO JEWISH WORLD THE WEEK IN REVIEW
Carol Davis in San Diego: S.D. Opera scores with Maria Stuarda
Donald H. Harrison in San Diego: We can make those souls shimmer longer
Dov Burt Levy in Salem, Massachusetts: In Israel, the egg roll wars heat up
Fred Reiss in Winchester, California: A Jewish path to self improvement
Peter Garas in Canberra, Australia: When bunnies and children urge murder
Charly Jaffe in San Diego: Anita Diamant takes women beyond usual feminist mantras ... to the the mikvah
Sheila Orysiek in San Diego: Sharing the Dessert: The Last Grand Jeté
Natasha Josefowitz in La Jolla, California: Grandparents, beware a call like this
Candye Kane in San Diego: Singer lauds Nimoy for photography book giving 'full-bodied' women kind exposure
Ira Sharkansky in Jerusalem: The more Palestinians and Israelis talk,
the more a real peace agreement recedes
Judy Lash Balint in Jerusalem: The separation fence—two views
Natasha Josefowitz in La Jolla, California: Feeling stressed? Write it down!
Peter Garas in Canberra, Australia: Entertainer of Nazis still keeps warbling
Donald H. Harrison in San Diego: That annoying guy in the German trench
Sheila Orysiek in San Diego: Happy Birthday, Mr. President - Your day should be more than a day off from work
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