Israel has been and continues to be called an apartheid state by its detractors. Zionists and supporters of Israel of all shapes and sizes and religions shout, “foul!” Apartheid is a term that was coined in South Africa and originally referred to racial segregation and discrimination policies that existed in South Africa from 1948 to 1993. Literally translated from Afrikaans, it means, “the status of being apart” (thank you, Wikipedia). In South Africa, the majority population, which also happened to have been the native population were subjected to laws which impinged on their rights and freedoms while giving the minority population rule. It in
cluded segregated residential areas, sometimes enforced by forced removal, eventually the majority population were given no political representation and their citizenship was removed. Members of the majority population who protested the injustice were imprisoned.
The use of the term Apartheid to apply to the situation in Israel is a heinous crime against the people of South Africa and the injustices they endured. But the truth is that the term more closely fits the unjust political situation that exists in Israel than many realize. The only problem is that most of the people who use the term have got it backwards.
First of all, the majority population in Israel consists of the Jews. Additionally, it must be understood that the native population is also Jewish. The only people group to live in the area known as Israel before the Jews were the Caananites, who no longer exist (no, there are no Arabs who are even remotely related to the ancient Caananites) and, despite being thrown out by many occupying powers over the past 2,000 years, there has always been a Jewish population within the land – we never abandoned our homeland.
Arabs who lived in Israel before it became Israel never identified themselves as “Palestinian” even though the Romans re-named it Palestine 2000 years ago. They always identified themselves as Egyptian, Arabian, Turkish or Heshemite, etc. And on top of that, a very large percentage of Arabs who now identify themselves as Palestinian have moved here since 1948 – they cannot in any way be considered indigenous. And yet, these “Palestinians” who are not the native people of the land and are not the majority enjoy more freedoms and rights than the majority, Jewish population.
Arabs are free to enter any city or store within all of Israel. Israelis on the other hand, are forbidden from entering certain places within the country. These areas are labeled, “Area A” and have signs posted at their entrances forbidding Israeli citizens from entering the city. Can you imagine the international uproar if Israel were to place similar signs forbidding Palestinian citizens from entering cities or towns in Israel?
What happens if an Arab accidentally finds himself in a Jewish town? Nothing. What happens if a Jew accidentally finds himself in an Arab town? Most of the time, he is killed, cut into pieces and paraded through the streets.
What happens if an Arab living in Israel or Area A decides to burn an Israeli flag in protest? Nothing. What happens if an Israeli decides to burn a Palestinian flag in protest? At the very least it is removed from him, and often, as happened today to MKs Eldad and Ben Ari, they are forcibly and violently removed from the area and their freedom of expression is rescinded.
Israelis pay a huge amount of taxes in order to fund the military, universal health care, and oh yeah – free electricity to Gazans who not only pay no taxes or electric bills, but enjoy the freedom to burn Israeli flags, get treated at Israeli hospitals and shop in Israeli stores.
Yes, friend, there is terrible discrimination in Israel, but it’s against the Jews and not the Arabs. Somebody has gotten things terribly upside down.
Waiting for the bus this morning I met a woman who asked me something very quickly in Hebrew. I only identified one word in the whole sentence, so I just looked at her and nodded. “Mah?” she asked. (what?)
Well, my cover was blown. Most olim are familiar with this scene. Someone asks you something in Hebrew that you don’t understand so you just nod and smile hoping that is the appropriate response for whatever they just said. Most of the time it isn’t and you end up looking more stupid than if you had just told them that you don’t understand.
So, I just responded by telling her that my Hebrew isn’t very good to start with and I just returned from a trip abroad and so I’ve forgotten a lot of my Hebrew.
I wish I could say that her response was unique, but I have gotten similar responses during conversations with Israelis when we’ve gotten into conversations about why I made aliyah from America. She asked, “Why did you come back from abroad during a war?”
How do you answer such a question?
I told her that there is no more important time to return to your home than in the middle of a war, that this is my home, and that my family lives here. I told her that I have two sons in the Israeli army, and I can’t imagine thinking I would be safer abroad than here, in Israel, where I belong.
Today has been an interesting day – there was a terrorist bus bombing in Tel Aviv, rockets landed near Beit Shemesh, and I am constantly listening in case a siren should go off.
But where better to be than the place that G-d told the Jewish people they were supposed to live? And besides, there’s no such thing as safety, anyway.
Safety is an illusion.
People die in “safe” America everyday – in assaults, in car accidents, and quite a lot of unique and creative ways. Ask any police officer if it is possible to completely burglar-proof your home. It’s not. If they are determined they will break in and if someone is determined to take your life, they will find a way.
So if there is no such thing as safety and everyone is vulnerable all the time, how do people live?
There are two concepts that come into play when humans have to deal with adversity. The first one is compartmentalization, that is, we recognize that there is an element of danger, we evaluate its relevancy and then we file it away in a part of our brain earmarked for that category. And the second one is resilience or our ability to deal with, learn from and bounce back from trauma. One of the biggest factors in resilience is faith.
Faith, or emunah in Hebrew, is the biggest factor in a person’s ability to handle and bounce back from adversity. Emunah, is more than just a belief in G-d, it’s a trust that this G-d who created the Universe, has a plan, has access to more information than we do and that He only gives us that which we need to make us healthy and whole human beings.
But faith in Judaism isn’t blind faith, it’s based on past experience. When I come up to a chair and sit down in it, I am expressing my faith that the chair will hold me, that’s why I put all my weight into the chair…thousands of times throughout my life I have sat in a chair and it has supported my weight. So, I come up to a chair and put all my faith, in this case my weight, in the chair because I have past experiences that tell me that a chair will hold my weight.
So, when we look at all that G-d has done for us as the Jewish people, we can put all our faith, all our weight as it were, in the fact that He will continue to protect the Jewish people as a whole, and us as individuals.
Right now I am in the US about to return to Israel from a speaking tour. War has just broken out, my youngest son begins active duty in Israeli Army in a few hours, and I am surfing the web desperately trying to find out what on earth is going on back home.
Meanwhile, on my desktop I see the following headline in the newsfeed: ”Erdogen: Israel Making Fuss Its 3 Dead”
Besides the fact that the current operation in Gaza is about far more than 3 dead Israelis – its about thousands of rockets and missiles being shot into Israel every day from Gaza. Its about the amount that it is costing Israel to protect its people from the rockets and missiles which are occasionally shot with enough accuracy to actually pose a danger to someone. Its about the constant barrage which disrupts the daily life and sleep of thousands of Israelis who live within undisputed Israeli borders and just want to live normal lives, 3 dead Israelis is exactly what its about.
One of the differences between Israel and the Palestinian authority (besides the fact that the PA isn’t a state and the Palestinians aren’t a people) is the fact that we (the Jewish people) value human life and they value power no matter how many lives it costs to procure it. When we go into a Palestinian area we risk our own sons’ lives to take extra precautions that we harm as few civilians as possible, while they purposely position themselves so as to use those same civilians as human shields. We watch in horror as Palestinian mothers proudly display their children on TV wearing explosive belts, and we wonder what kind of a mother could do such a thing?
The Jewish people also watched in horror as we traded a thousand Arab terrorists for one Israeli soldier who had been taken hostage, without most people realizing the greater significance of the act – that we hold one single human life at such high value that the Arabs don’t even value one thousand lives to such a level.
So, yes, Prime Minister Erdogen, we are making a fuss about only 3 dead, because those 3 people are precious to us, because life is a Jewish value.
“We can forgive you for killing our sons, but we will never forgive you for making us kill yours.” – Gold Meir
In the bottom of the building where my office is, there are two small cafés…the one on the left serves meat and the one on the right serves dairy. The other day, my friend Aliza stopped by for a visit and we went down to the meat café to grab a bite to eat and just “catch up”.
Since I was just going downstairs, I grabbed my wallet and my cell phone from the office and went down to the café. After lunch Aliza joined me upstairs until it was time to pack up and go home.
As I was packing up, I suddenly realized that I didn’t have my wallet. It wasn’t on my desk and it wasn’t in my bag…
…oh no! I don’t think I brought it up with me after lunch. I think I left it on the table in the café…
<<<snipping scenes of Penina on the brink of hysteria>>>
As I began to officially “freak out”, Aliza tried to reassure me. “This is Israel,” Aliza said calmly.
Yes, and people’s wallets get stolen in Israel, too, you know…
“Yes, but in Israel its much more likely that you’ll get it back than it would be in America.” Aliza said calmly. She encouraged me to delay my hysteria until we went downstiars and asked…
Okay, I calmed down a little and held back the official freaking out until I had at least inquired at the café. If my wallet was gone, this would be the third time in three years. The first time it was left in a taxi cab, the second time it was stolen from my house, this time…I really don’t want to go back to the DMV to replace my Driver’s license again!
Aliza and I packed up and went downstairs. While we were walking, I was trying to figure out how to say, “I think I left my wallet here” in Hebrew. But no need…as soon as I walked in, the manager (or owner?) had this huge smile on his face and reached down to get my wallet. I told him that I had forgotten it and like the typical Jewish mother that I hear tell resides in all Israelis regardless of gender or age, he began to tell me that I shouldn’t leave my wallet like that (duh!) and that he had tried to call after me when I left but that I didn’t hear him.
Baruch Hashem. My wallet was intact and returned by one of the nicest guys in Israel. So, if you are ever in Har Hotzvim and need a bite to eat…be sure to stop in at the little meat café in the bottom of Hartum 9! Botey avon!
Every year I ponder it over and over again -
We are told to “dwell” in the sukkah – L’shev b’sukkah. It literally means to reside or “live” in it. We all take that to mean that we should eat all our meals in the sukkah, and many of us sleep in the sukkah.
But each year the question arises – should we also play in the
sukkah? Would a game of spades or mah jongg destroy the holiness of the sukkah? Or, is playing a part of living?
This year the question moved into the 21st century – what about playing on the laptop computer?
Some would say that this is desecrating the holy nature of the sukkah, and others, like my sons and son-in-law, would say, “but it says to live in it!”
And after all, what is living if it doesn’t involve the computer?
I just don’t understand it. Call me naïve, call me an optimist, but I believe that all Jews are supposed to be on the “same team”. Sure, we’re all different. Some of us are more religious, some of us have all but a very tenuous connection to our Judaism, but we are all Jews. Among the religious, this feeling of “achdut” or brotherhood should be even stronger. Yes, some of us are Chassidic, some litvish, some yeshivish, some dati, but we are all G-d fearing Jews.
We are all supposed to be working towards the same goal – to bring holiness down to this world, preparing a place for the ultimate redemption – the coming of mashiach, meanwhile working on our own holiness and relationship with Hashem. A tall order to be sure, and we all approach the process in different ways, but we shouldn’t be sabotaging each other in the process.
This past week I became aware of an Orthodox Jewish woman who is also a “blogger”. I had never heard of her before but in my inbox, under “google alerts” was an alert about messianic Judaism that I decided to follow. There, for the entire world to see, on a Hebrew Christian website was a quote of this Orthodox Jewish blogger who was writing some very negative things about me. I suppose that the most confusing thing was that this woman doesn’t even know me.
Jewish law has a lot to say about “loshon hara” (literally, evil speech – gossip) and the consequences of engaging in such activities are grave, indeed. But one of the things about loshon hara is that it must be true. Many people think that loshon hara is telling lies about another person, but it’s not. That’s called “motzei shem ra” – this also has dire consequences, but is a different thing. While it could be said that loshon hara is a more serious sin, motzei shem ra has far more devastating consequences. How?
It is said that the reason that the second beit hamikdash (temple) was destroyed was for “sinat chinam” or baseless hatred. At the time, there was so much infighting and sinat chinam among the Jewish people, that our behavior towards each other resulted in the destruction of our holiest site and the worst exile in our 4000 year history. It is said that if we have not merited to see the temple rebuilt in our generation, then we are as guilty of its destruction as those who lived to see it happen.
When a person speaks loshon hara, they speak true words, even though they are negative. It could be said, then, that there is a “basis” for such speech, albeit still forbidden. However, when someone speaks motzei shem ra, they do not speak the truth and there is no basis for such negative speech – baseless hatred. Perpetuating negative speech which is untrue is a major contributor to our continued exile and why we must continue to pray for the coming of mashiach.
May this be the year that we overcome the temptation to speak of our fellow Jews negatively, that we learn the true meaning of “teamwork” and that we merit to see the coming of mashiach and the end of our exile!
Kativa v’chatima tova l’kulam – may we all be written and sealed for a good year!
I miss my sister. As I sit here thinking about my sister more nearly 6000 miles away, my heart breaking for her difficult life circumstances, I am reminded of a conversation I had nearly 2 years ago with a bus driver in Jerusalem.
I had an appointment in Har Hahotzfim, the Hi-tech “industrial” area of Jerusalem. I had never been there before and I had to ask the bus driver to tell me when to get off the bus. Fortunately, I had already been forewarned that it was one of the last stops. About 5 minutes from where I had to get off, I noticed that I was the only one left on the bus, so I moved up to the seat behind the driver.
Looking at me through the rear-view mirror, the driver says something in that rapid Hebrew that sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie. I respond to him in my VERY poor Hebrew that I am sorry, but I don’t understand much Hebrew.
Picking up on the obviously American accent, the driver changes over to English. He asks me where I am from, how long I’ve been here, where I live now, etc. – standard fare for conversations with taxi and bus drivers. I answer all his questions and then he says, “so you made aliyah?”
“Yes,” I respond with a huge grin.
“Why?” He asks with confusion written all over his face.
“Because this is Israel, Eretz HaKodesh, the Jewish homeland,” I reply.
“But it’s terrible here, America is so much better, so much easier. Why would you give that up to come here?”
Totally caught off-guard, I simply reply, “It’s the right thing to do, it’s where all Jews belong.” And then after a short pause, I add, “sometimes it’s more important to do what’s right than to do what’s easy.”
Sometimes its more important to do what’s right than to do what’s easy…
Its not easy to sit here knowing that my sister, nearly 6000 miles away needs me. That she needs my hug, my big sister advice, a shoulder to lean on, my ear, my heart.
And I need her, too.
But sometimes its more important to do what’s right than to do what’s easy.
Just a few days ago, I received an email indicating that Nefesh B’Nefesh is sponsoring a contest, the winner of which will be on board the charter flight to Israel on September 7th. This winning blogger will also be attending NBN’s 2nd International Jewish Blogger’s conference.
When I received the email, indicating that people should be nominated for the contest, only one person came to my mind. This person is Dr. Rivkah Lambert Adler, secretly known as the Aliyah angel.
Rivkah’s love of Israel is contagious, her love of all Jews regardless of what color kippah they wear (or don’t) or how long their sleeves are, etc., is inspiring and her “joie de vivre” is what makes Rivkah a person you just can’t forget.
Rivkah, and her husband Rabbi Elan Adler, are the primary reason, along with Nefesh b’Nefesh, that we were able to make aliyah. Because of life circumstances beyond their control, the Adlers cannot make aliyah yet, even though it is the one thing that occupies most of their life and consumes most of their energy.
Instead of allowing the disappointment of her delayed aliyah plans to rule her life, Rivkah has channeled that energy into a drive that she uses to help others fulfill their dream of aliyah, and as I said before, my family has been on the receiving end of this beautiful gift that Rivkah has given to the Jewish world.
How hafuch it is that the two people who most want to live in Israel cannot? And yet, how very right it is that they have turned their hope deferred into a blessing for the rest of us.
I look forward to welcoming Rivkah’s daughter on the September 7th aliyah flight, and I hope that she will be on it too. But most of all, I look forward to the day I meet the NBN flight that finally brings Elan and Rivkah to the one place on earth they most want to be – home!
In January, Israel agreed to a ceasefire after “Operation Cast Lead” where we went into Gaza to try to put a stop to the constant rocket fire coming from there.
So what exactly is a ceasefire? Well, apparently it means we CEASE and they Fire!
According to Israel National News, at least 234 rockets and mortars have hit Israel since the end of Operation Cast Lead last January. That’s an average of one rocket or mortar every day for 8 months. That may not seem like much, but I ask again, what is the definition of a ceasefire?
Why does the world seem to think that if we just compromise “enough” we will see peace? The Arabs do not want peace. Don’t believe me? Here are some quotes from my favorite website, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/myths2/cover.html
“Al-Qassam warriors, rain rockets on the settlers! Don’t let any Jew sleep!
The Al-Aqsa Brigades will make you tremble in Haifa and Tel Aviv; they will strike you in Safed and Acre.
Because we do not distinguish between [Jewish] Palestine and [Arab] Palestine.
For [as] Jaffa is the same as Gaza, Tel-al-Zuhour [Tel Aviv] is the same as Rafah, and the Galilee is the same as Hebron.
We make no distinction between the parts of the earth of the homeland.”
— Song broadcast on Hamas radio station Sawt Al-Aqsa
August 16, 2005
“We will continue our martyrdom operations inside Israel until all our lands are liberated, by God’s will….We won’t lay down our weapons as long as Jerusalem and the West Bank are under occupation.’
— Muhamemd Hijazi, commander of a Fatah- affiliated militias in the Gaza Strip
Jerusalem Post, September 12, 2005
“We will not rest and will not abandon the path of Jihad and martyrdom as long as one inch of our land remained in the hands of the Jews.”
— Raed Saed, a senior Hamas leader
Ynet News, September 19, 2005
Israel National News reported today that a small group of Jews touring the Temple mount managed to get in a short prayer before being escorted from the site. According to the report, the Arab League “reacted with fury” stating that such an act was a “violation of international law” and “a serious blow to the holiness of the site”. Amr Moussa, the Secretary-General of the Arab League claimed that Jews should not be allowed to pray at the site at any time.
Last I checked, the Temple Mount is called the Temple Mount because that is where the JEWISH Holy Temple stood, long before there was any such thing as Muslims. The very thing that makes the site holy is that Jews prayed there.
Solomon’s Temple, or the first Temple was built nearly 1600 years before there were any Muslim buildings on this site, and the Dome of the Rock wasn’t erected until 620 years AFTER the SECOND Temple was destroyed in 70 CE.
Would someone please explain to me why it is that our prayers defile the holiness of the place and theirs don’t? Would someone please explain to me how the world determines who has the right to claim a holy site?
We were there first, but apparently that doesn’t count. One might assume then, that if being the first doesn’t count, being the last does. But wait a minute, we were the last, too…having liberated the “Old City” in 1967 and reclaimed what was rightfully ours. Clearly someone has changed the rules in mid-game.
And while we are at it, while the Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism, it is only the third holiest site in Islam – they’ve got two others, why can’t they leave our alone?