LETTER FROM JERUSALEM
Palestinian-Israeli friction points range from cell phones to the right of return
JERUSALEM--It seems that Israeli media never gets things quite right when they report about the Palestinian economy.
Two sons of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas are suing Israel Broadcasting for a news report they claim is faulty: that they are the owners of a Palestinian cell phone company.
Another indication that cell phones can be profitable, and that Israeli media is misleading, concerns a story about a ranking official of the Fatah faction, also associated with Abbas. He was apprehended this week trying to smuggle 3,000 cell phones over the border from Jordan. He says that it was his driver who was smuggling the phones.
On the political front, there are complaints about Israeli actions, and an awesome threat.
The Palestinian who is responsible for negotiating with Israel is up in arms about more apartments being built in neighborhoods of Jerusalem, and a town near Jerusalem. He rejects the addition of even one Israeli room on land that he claims as Palestinian. The construction is a violation of Israel's obligations with respect to the Road Map to Peace, accepted by Palestinians and Israelis, under the patronage of George W. Bush.
The issue of the Road Map is more complicated than he claims. Israel accepted it with reservations. Arguably, those provide room for the construction at issue. The reservations also insist on Palestinian efforts to work against violence and incitement. On these, the Palestinian negotiator is silent.
Another senior Palestinian, the Deputy Minister for Prisoners' Affairs, has announced the implementation of the right of return in the next six weeks. Overseas Palestinians will descend on Israel at the time of its 60th anniversary celebration. They will come by plane and boat, waving United Nations flags, armed with their refugee documents and foreign passports, and claiming that they wish to live in peace alongside Israelis.
The Deputy Minister's responsibility for prisoners' affairs is itself a weighty job, insofar as some 12,000 Palestinians are in Israeli custody. Perhaps because there is not much the Deputy Minister has been able to do for them, he is promoting a scheme that could bring who knows how many of the millions claiming Palestinians refugee status.
The anchor he relies on is United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194, initially passed in 1948, which calls on the resettling of refugees. Insofar as the Resolution came from the General Assembly and not the Security Council, it lacks whatever legitimacy might be claimed under the heading of "international law."
But that does not bother the Deputy Minister or other Palestinians who trumpet Resolution 194 whenever they are in a mood to make demands.
Israel knows how to protect its borders against unwanted visitors, even if they come equipped with the passports of the United States or other countries whose travelers do not require visas to enter the country. The result of all of this, if it produces anything, may be nothing more than additional prisoners, who the Deputy Minister will also be hard pressed to assist.
One doubts that many unwanted guests will descend upon our border guards. Six weeks is not much time to produce an operation of this magnitude. Flights may already be fully booked, insofar as Jewish organizations and other friends of the country are also planning to participate in the celebrations. But one should never say never. The Palestinian Deputy Minister for Prisoners' Affairs may impress us with his administrative skills.
FROM THE SIDELINES
John McCain: A true friend of Israel
JERUSALEM—John McCain said many things Israelis wanted to hear during his visit to the Jewish state this week:
- He linked Iran’s evil machinations to Hamas and Hezbollah;
- He visited Sderot, the town under attack from Qassam rockets, and expressed solidarity with its residents as well as support for what Israel is doing in Gaza;
- He accepted Jerusalem as Israel’s capital;
- He went to the Western Wall and placed a prayer between the stones;
- He paid tribute to the victims of the Holocaust at Yad Vashem, the memorial to the six million Jewish victims of Nazism;
- He didn’t even bother to see the President of the Palestinian Authority.
All that was genuine, for Senator McCain is said to have a long record of warm friendship with the State of Israel. Yet it was obvious that his main agenda was domestic. The purpose of this visit wasn’t to just to reiterate his support for the Jewish state but to persuade Jews in the United States that he’s their candidate for President.
American Jews have always voted overwhelmingly Democrat, even when the Republican candidate was much better disposed to Israel than his rival. In the light of what many Jews perceive as Barak Obama’s mixed messages and remembering when Hillary Clinton kissed Yasser Arafat’s wife, will that change now?
The presence of Senator Joe Lieberman, the observant Jew and life-long Democrat turned Independent who supports McCain, was obviously intended to stimulate the prospect of such change. Some Israelis even repeated the speculation that Lieberman might be McCain’s running mate as Vice President.
A second, no less important, domestic purpose of the visit was to reach out to American evangelicals, many of whom, as we know, are staunch supporters of Israel. The endorsement by the Reverend John Hagee, the vociferous evangelical Zionist, is significant. It’s also very problematic. For, as American friends tell me, the kind of Protestantism that Hagee advocates may not sit well with many voters.
It should definitely not sit well with Jews. For, as I once heard the distinguished Israeli historian Yehuda Bauer put it: “Evangelicals may love Jews but they hate Judaism.” Many of them link their support of Israel to their belief that the Jews should be helped to return to their homeland so that they can finally see the light, accept Jesus as their savior, and thus make the Second Coming possible.
Nevertheless, many Jews in Israel and elsewhere ignore the theology and celebrate the politics. Israeli right-wingers tend to court evangelicals by rationalizing that what Israel needs is tangible support now, never mind the eschatology.
Beni Elon, a member of a right-wing party in the Knesset served as Minister of Tourism a few years ago. In view of the many evangelicals who visit the Holy Land, he had cause to have close contacts with them. Sensing their hostility to Islam, he’s said to have encouraged them to pursue their missionary zeal - of course, not toward Jews but toward Muslims.
Though it’s difficult not to judge people by the company they keep, we owe it to Senator McCain to give him the benefit of our doubts and hail him as a true friend.
McCain's foreign policies score with Jews
CHERRY HILL, New Jersey—"
We need to strengthen our transatlantic alliance as the core of a new global compact - a League of Democracies." So says Senator John McCain
Because we all face the same challenges: "radical religious fanatics who uses terror as their weapon of choice . . . turn to autocracy . . . climate change and degradation of our planet." All these challenges are related to the "dependency on "oil and gas exporting autocracies." Focus on democracy, McCain correctly argues "is not idealism. It is the truest form of realism." Diplomatically, he does not mention the disappointment that is the UN. Instead, he seeks to organize an alternative to it.
Just such hard headed realism is evident in his response to the Israeli conundrum. McCain does not argue that the US has a moral obligation to support Israel. He argues that it is in its self interest to do so because Israel represents, as it always has, an vital American partner:
"I really think that we should understand that the US and Israel are partners," he said. "Israel is not a client of the United States. . . . If Hamas/Hizbullah succeeds here, they are going to succeed everywhere, not only in the Middle East, but everywhere. Israel isn't the only enemy . . . .They are dedicated to the extinction of everything that the US, Israel and the West believe and stand for. So America does have an interest in what happens here, far above and beyond our alliance with the State of Israel.
The same is true about Iran:
"I think Iran is a threat to the region," McCain said. "(Iranians are) obviously pursuing nuclear weapons . . .. they were also arming and training extremists to send into Iraq, supporting Hizbullah and influencing Syria.
At the end of the day, we can still not afford to have Iran with nuclear weapons.We know they have ambitions that are not just aimed at the State of Israel. . . . (These ambitions include) destabilization of the entire region upon which the United States' national security interests rests."
This is not something he says in Israel for "domestic political" reasons. He says it in his strategic FT article directed at Europe:
"Leadership today means something different than it did in the years after the second world war, when Europe and the other democracies were recovering from the devastation of war and the US was the only democratic superpower. Today, there is the powerful collective voice of the EU, India, Japan, Australia, Brazil, South Korea, South Africa, Turkey and Israel, to name just a few of the leading democracies."
Hence, Israel's success is of vital interest to the US. Israel's demise would be a devastating blow to America. McCain understands that and it informs his view of Israeli war strategy and tactics. He wants Israeli survival and while he promised the Jordanians to do "whatever is necessary to assist that process so that we can bring about a peaceful settlement," he does not advocate a strategy which would endangering it:
If you are partners, then you don't dictate what you think the terms of the survival of a nation should be. . . . Someone is going to have to answer me the question of how you are going to negotiate with an organization that is dedicated to your extinction."
McCain also understands that democracies are answerable to their citizens: "I can't give you a good answer as to how you respond to these rocket attacks," he said. "I can tell you that I believe that if rocket attacks came across the border of the United States of America, that the American people would probably demand pretty vigorous actions in response. I think I know my constituency in the state of Arizona, and they would be pretty exercised if rockets came across our southern border."
From Israel McCain is proceeding to France which is not only in the process of full reintegration into NATO where he has a like minded partner in Sarkozy and, indeed, in Merkel who also visited Jerusalem and declared that "any threat to Israel will be a threat to Germany" and talked about the "disastrous consequences" of a nuclear Iran.
The bottom line is that the rise of Russian autocracy and Islamist terror has reinforced European understanding that the Atlantic Alliance has yet to outlive its usefulness. Indeed, a recent poll reveals that large majorities of both Americans and Europeans favor TransAtlantic ties. Similarly, the rise of China strengthened democratic solidarity in Asia. Democracies must stand together or they will fall one by one.
John McCain gets it. Barack Obama, I am afraid, is too emotionally attached to post Colonial ideology espoused by Black Nationalists, to do the same. That is the reason the first thing McCain wants to organize a summit of world democracies while Obama looks forward to talking with Ahmadinejad and company.
The Four Big Questions; One Great Answer
SAN DIEGO—Who created all this?
Why was it created?
Why am I here?
What am I supposed to do while here?
Few of us have reached the age of supposed maturity without at least once or twice tentatively asking ourselves one, two, or all four of these questions. Some of us quickly continue on with the chores of the day, but others will contemplate the possibilities - while doing the chores. For some, whatever conclusions are reached they will always be tentativepossibilities. For others, the answers are far more concrete, grounded in full acceptance of scripture, partial acceptance of scripture or denial of scripture.
But a sure answer – an undoubted answer, one that is not questionable - is rare.
For me, as a Jew, the answer to the first question is easy – G-D created all this. The answer to the second question only G-D can say and I don’t presume to interrogate the Creator.
The fourth question is answered in scripture by telling me that I should be a source for good, a force for good when need be, and I should endeavor to leave my space in the world better than I found it. But that is scripture and some people question how much was written or inspired by G-D and how much was written to forward a human agenda.
It’s the third question that is a bit trickier. Surely G-D’s creation would do just as well, some would say better, had it not included human beings. So, it is the third question that has always tickled my mind. Why would G-D bother to put together human beings with all our frailties, failures, complaints, arrogance, penchant for trouble and assorted other problems?
Unlikely though it may seem, this brings me to AMTRAK. If one wants to travel from San Diego to New Orleans by train one needs to take the commuter train to Los Angeles, board the huge super chief sleeper in that city at around 9 p.m. Then, settle into a cabin, take a shower without falling over the toilet, (or conversely use the toilet without accidentally pressing the shower button) lower the upper bunk without getting a brain concussion and lie down to the tune of train wheels and tooting whistles.
Fairly quickly the train speeds through the metropolis and heads out to the open desert. I found myself lying down in a comfortable lower bunk with a large window by my side. Soft inhalations from above told me my husband had quickly embraced the sandman. The steady beat of the wheels lulled me to sleep only to awaken when the whistle sounded its warning at every crossing. After several such awakenings I gave up hope of seamless sleep and sat cross legged on the bunk looking through the window.
Somewhere out in the desert of the American Southwest the train sped through the night. When we paralleled Interstate 10 there was an occasional car and assuming the vehicle was traveling at the legal speed limit of 70 MPH, the train easily passed it. Other than those rare pinpricks of automobile headlights the dark of the night was endless. As a child of the city I had forgotten how black the night can be and how brilliant the stars. It had been years since I had last seen such a stellar display – and that was in Alaska when they were swimming amidst the aurora borealis as we sailed through the spectacular Wrangell Narrows; wolves howling onshore, orcas playing in the phosphorescent water.
Awake and alone with my thoughts, as the train hummed along, I was overwhelmed with the immensity of the desert before me, the eternality of the universe above, and my own trivial existence. Why was I here? Why had the Creator Who had set His hand to create all this also set His hand to create me?
Then I saw a tiny cone of light – a solitary street lamp at a desolate cross road. I stifled my laughter as I was struck by the arrogant attempt of man to light the night. We stand under a street lamp and feel grateful for its light, but also feel vindicated in our superiority because we have lit the night. What presumption! Seen against the expanse of both desert and cosmos, the true human arrogance of our attempt is glaringly clear. How trivial we are! So, once again, I ask: why am I, why are we here?
A voice. A true voice. A voice of clarity such as I had never experienced spoke. Not in my heart, or ears – but in my head. I heard it. No doubt. A voice like no other. The still clear Voice. It didn’t frighten me, didn’t even startle me, but certainly got my attention. It spoke the answer to my question.
“I want you to see what I made.”
Simple. Short. Precise. No long explanation or philosophical/theocratic discourse. Just eight words. I sat still, very still. When I realized what had happened, I didn’t break out into a sweat, or even feel my pulse accelerate. It just seemed like the most natural thing in the world – to hear “the” Voice.
Laugh - doubt - if you will - I did not - and I still do not. One could not hear that Voice and either laugh or doubt.
But what does it mean? What does “I want you to see what I made” mean? Examining that seemingly simplistic phrase has taken me years and I came to the conclusion that those eight words contained all I needed to know. The Voice said “I” – “I” is the Maker. However, initial creation wasn’t quite enough or the sum totality of what He wanted to do. Creating heavens, stars, planets, and all of nature, while glorious, wasn’t quite enough. The Book of Genesis says as much.
A creator needs to have a sentient being to enjoy that creation. When I write I need readers, when I taught I needed students, when I danced I needed to know that I had moved another being’s heart. Otherwise, creation is rather empty. We each experience this while watching a beautiful sunset – we yearn to share that experience with someone we love. It completes our enjoyment.
When creation was complete, there were beautiful animals to inhabit it, but did they enjoy it? A deer enjoying the food provided is not the same as enjoying the intangible wonder of a sunset, understanding the enormity and the complexity of creation. For that one needs a being capable of “wonder.”
Implicit within those eight words spoken by the Voice is that we can enjoy it but we had better also take care of it – it’s not ours – its “Mine.” David knew this in his Psalm 24.
In addition, the word “see” told me that my time to enjoy it and share it and take care of it is limited. I was to “see” it - not own it. Since we are finite we shouldn't wait for tomorrow, but enjoy the creation around us today. And, finally it told me that G-D did indeed make all of us – to share the creation, to be part of it and to pass on the wonder of it. We are the beings of “wonder.” And a special day, the Sabbath, was set aside for just that purpose.
Those eight words answer all four questions.
TORAH ON ONE FOOT
Purim riddle: Did Bible predict baseball?
SAN DIEGO--One of the critiques of Judaism is that it is antiquated and has no bearing on modern life. Our tradition holds, however, that everything one could ever wish to know can be found in our sacred texts and traditions. As the Talmud puts it: "Even a question a student asks her teacher is foretold."
If one examines the Bible carefully one can find an impressive treasure trove of intellectual and popular riches. Within Jewish sacred writ one can discover information about matters as diverse as cosmology, eschatology, pyschotometry, and kerontology.
There is nothing extant today that is beyond Jewish Biblical hermeneutics. For example, baseball is a game that was ostensibly developed in the United States in the 1800's from earlier pagan antecedents. However, clear evidence can be brought from the Bible that, even in the patriarchal period, hints can be found of what supposedly is an American invention.
I would like to share with you some of the proof texts brought by Hyman Baras of the Israeli Baseball League ( www.israelbaseballleague.com ):
• And Abner said to Joab, "Let the young men…arise and play before us" -- Samuel II 2:14
• And they said unto Jephtha, "Come and be our Captain" -- Judges 11:6
• ...and he set the bases… -- Kings I 7:39
• Behold, Rebecca came forth with her pitcher… -- Genesis 24:45
• ...Seek out a man who is a skillful player… -- Samuel I 16:16
• ...out at the base… -- Leviticus 4:18
• And Miriam was shut out… -- Numbers 12:15
• ...for it was an error… -- Numbers 15:25
• Who can stand before the Giants? -- Deuteronomy 9:2
• Noah walked… -- Genesis 6:9
• And, of course, Gen. 1:1: "In the Beg-inning."
As we celebrate today and remember the deliverance of the Jews of Persia from their oppressors, let us also remember the San Diego Avot* and pray that they may be delivered from their opponents as well, such that our entire community may break forth in jubilation when they wave their league’s degel** when we approach Sukkot.
* fathers ** flag
Purim Sameach and Shabbat Shalom
AMAZING STORIES OF JUDAISM
Harry S Truman: The American Cyrus
SAN DIEGO—The Purim story is laden with irony. We see over and over how, behind the scenes, Hashem lays the groundwork for our future salvation. We find this theme repeated over and
over again in our history as the following true story illustrates:
Shlomo Lorenz (an MK from Agudah) once met President of the United States, Harry Truman. President Truman confided to him the real reason why he recognized the state of Israel.
It is well known that Truman was, at least culturally, an anti-Semite. Not that he actively pursued policies harmful to Jews, but he was raised with anti-Semitic prejudices.
He told Lorenz that recognizing the state of Israel went against all his political and philosophical instincts. It went against all his training and the conventions of his upbringing. Why did he do it?
The popular story is that he was urged to do so by his Jewish former business-partner Eddie Jacobson from Missouri. While the Jacobson visit did not hurt the cause, it was in fact not the main reason.
Here is the real story told by Harry S Truman to MK Shlomo Lorenz:
Truman was raised with a very traditional Christian background. They took Bible studies quite seriously. He had a figure from the Bible who was his hero: Cyrus (the predecessor of King Achashverosh of the Purim story).
We do not know exactly what he saw in Cyrus that aroused his youthful admiration. He read that his hero Cyrus let the Jews go back to build the Bais Hamikdosh. The Bais Hamikdosh was eventually rebuilt by Darius, the son of Achashverosh and Esther. He told himself that if he were ever in a position of power, that he would emulate his hero Cyrus!
Fifty years before Hitler YMS, the Ribbono-Shel-Olom was preparing a yeshua (salvation) by placing some fanciful ideas in the mind of a small boy growing up in Missouri! President Truman indeed emulated his hero Cyrus in that he gave the support and political clout to enable the Children of Israel to return to their holy land.
The foregoing true story submitted by Rabbi Eliyahu Katz, was researched and authenticated by Rabbi Yessocher Frand.
Dedicated by Mrs. Edith Wiseman.
SAN DIEGO JEWISH WORLD THE WEEK IN REVIEW
Carol Davis in San Diego: Music, dance numbers overcome tedious plot lines in Globe's Dancing in the DarGarry Fabian in Melbourne: Australia's role in Israel's creation recalled