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Friday, February 05, 2010

Neo-Zionism at Work - "Free Loan Group Surpasses $100 Million in Interest Free Loans"

(From Israel National News) The Israel Free Loan Association (IFLA) reported that it reached a major milestone in 2009, surpassing $100 million in interest free loans granted since its founding. These loans have been provided to over 50,000 Israeli families from all backgrounds.

IFLA loans help Ethiopian immigrants move out of mobile homes and buy apartments, enable university students to obtain academic degrees, and allow ailing Israelis to undergo operations. The loans also assist families with handicapped children to purchase medical equipment, help struggling Israelis get back on their financial feet and enable Israelis to start a business or expand existing ones thereby supporting both themselves...

The non-profit IFLA started as a private initiative of Hebrew University Professor of Social Work Emeritus, Eliezer Jaffe. He came up with the idea after a visit to an immigrant absorption center in 1988. "Busloads of Ethiopians, straight off the airplane, had just arrived at the center, and I told myself we were witnessing history in the making - the ingathering of the exiles." Soon afterwards, a flood of Russians added nearly a million new immigrants to the population.

"After I came home, I thought to myself – you have to get involved. Some friends and I put our heads together and we remembered what the sage Maimonides had said about charity – the highest level being when you give a loan or a job too a person so they can get onto their feet and keep their self-respect.

“It has worked out well because after their first year in the country, immigrants receive little help from the Jewish Agency that helped bring them to this country. They don't have family networks, they don't have the language mastered yet, and they find it hard to get a job or learn a profession."

Although originally established for new immigrants, the IFLA has branched out to offer help Israelis of all backgrounds. “In 1990 we started with a donation of only $20,000 dollars,” says Jaffe. “In 2009 we succeeded in surpassing the $100 million mark in interest free loans granted. Who would have believed we could have come so far in so short a time?”

The Israel Free Loan Association is the largest free loan organization in the world. It lends out $15 million every year to Israelis of all backgrounds. Unlike conventional charity where money is depleted, the source funds for free loans are preserved and more loans are recycled to provide funds to others.

Click here for more information.


Yishai says: Notice one thing - this way of banking is exactly the way the Torah prescribes lending in the Land of Israel. Neo-Zionism is about a renewal of our ancient ways in our modern life. It is about giving life to the Torah and engendering a society, that will be a light unto the nations because it will bring down the amazing guidelines of G-d into this corporeal world!

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Friday, January 01, 2010

Intel and the Hareidim

In today's Jerusalem Post Magazine you can read my new article called "Balancing Modernity and Sanity". Below is the longer original version:

Regress standing against progress. That is the gut-conclusion we reach when shown the images of black-clad ultra-Orthodox Jews standing as a monolithic angry mob out to protest at the shiny Jerusalem offices of the mega-successful microchip maker Intel.

At issue is Intel's Jerusalem factory and its continuing work hours on Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath - a day Biblically set aside for rest.

Intel represents progress for the world: running with the slogan "Intel Inside" or the newer and bolder ad campaign: "Intel - sponsors of tomorrow", this cutting-edge international company powers global computing as 80% of the world computers run Intel chips.

Intel also means progress for Israel: Intel creates much-needed, well-paying jobs for people in Israel and helps boost the whole country's economy. In 2008 Intel directly employed 6500 Israelis, with a few thousand more working as subcontractors. Last year, Intel was Israel's leading exporter - sending out products worth more than $1.3 billion. This year that figure will double.

And if that is not good enough, Intel took it one step further and has built research and development offices and a chip factory in Jerusalem. The capital of Israel needs both economic and political support and Intel provides it. In economic terms, Jerusalem is one of Israel's poorest cities and the new mayor, Nir Barkat, himself a high-tech mogul, is trying hard to attract big business and job opportunities to Jerusalem. Success with Intel will pave the way for others to come. Politically, Israel's enemies try to isolate and divide Jerusalem and they loathe the fact that a major international high-tech company helps Israeli Jerusalem flourish.

All this leads to one simple conclusion: Intel is good for Israel. So why are Hareidi Jews so against it? Why are they attacking a great Jerusalem institution, forcing it to consider leaving the capital in favor of calmer pastures?

Some observers claim that it's all political, that the Hareidim want a show of power to counteract the new non-observant mayor, and that they are afraid of a secular trend taking root in Jerusalem. Others claim that it's all about the money, with the ultra-Orthodox wanting kickbacks from Intel. Yet others believe that the protesters are simply against progress. Evidenced by their out-of-date appearance and their ascetic (non-internet) lifestyle, maybe these protesters are fighting modernity itself.

To understand the side of the Hareidim, we need to step back and analyze this dispassionately. What did the protesters demand? Did they call to get Intel out of Jerusalem? Did they hold signs railing against globalization? Did the Hareidim call for a boycott against Intel or rail against the general ethos of the communications revolution? No. It was one simple message: Do it, push the envelope six days a week, but please, just not on Shabbat.

If the Hareidim did not look the way they do, this could have been perceived as a liberal protest: workers demanding more free time from their employers, or city citizens calling on a company to give the environment a break for one day. However, because Shabbat is religiously mandated, it never seems to fit liberal criteria, though the message may be liberal indeed. The overt religious look of the protesters, coupled with the branding that we have been taught to associate with them, automatically locks out any debate as to whether the ultra-Orthodox position may fit perfectly with progressive sensibilities.

In a new acclaimed book entitled "The Tyranny of Email: The Four-Thousand-Year Journey to Your Inbox", author John Freeman describes the modern information-saturated lifestyle and the implications of our linked-in lives. Freeman reports that new surveys, like AOL's 2008 Email Addiction Poll, show an email-crazed world. 60% of respondents report checking their email on the toilet, 62% respond to email on vacation, and 67% answered that they check their email in bed in their pajamas.

What about cell phone usage? We live with the obnoxious ring, the "I'm in a meeting right now" short answer, the constant focus-shattering distraction. In December 2008, the US's 270 million cell phone users wrote more than 110 billion text messages, an average of 407 text messages per user a month, double the number in the same month of 2007. U.S. teens (ages 13 to 17) had much higher levels of text messaging in 2008, sending and receiving an average of 1,742 text messages monthly. There are now about 4.1 billion cell phones in use world wide. The numbers just keep going up.

What about television consumption? According to Nielsen ratings for 2008, the average American older than 2 watched television for 151 hours per month - that's over 5 hours a day! Scientists tell us that when watching TV, our minds are less active then when we sleep, yet we imbibe hours of violent, oversexed, and plain dumb junk daily. And now with YouTube and free video on the iPhone, these trends are sure to grow.

We are living in an age of addiction, where the devices that were supposed to set us free are actually enslaving us. The more free from wires they become, the more tethered to them we are. This is not to say that the internet-empowered multimedia cellphone isn't great - it is - its just that we have a hard time turning it off. Modernity is beautiful, but we have not reached a healthy harmony with technology, and right now the machine seems to have the upper hand.

The modern world needs a powerful counterweight to correct the disharmony that has arrived along with the technological revolution. Envision our fast-paced society humming along with cars honking, cell phones ringing, wireless routers blinking, inboxes flooding, news media ticking along, and all the rest. Now imagine that we do that for six days a week, but on the seventh day we voluntarily rest. We turn off our cell phone, we unplug the TV (so that even that standby light goes out), we power down the computer so that it too can rest.

Imagine if we, as a society, took this seventh day concept a step further: all of us decide voluntarily to walk instead of drive for a day. Oooo, smell that fresh air! Cars are great, but one day without them makes us appreciate the sites that we usually zoom past, we take a break from road rage, and suddenly there is a quiet that has not been around for a hundred years. Smokers too could use Shabbat as an excuse to give their lungs a break, maybe even as a first step towards quitting. If branded right Shabbat could be seen as a day of environmental consciousness.

Jerusalem is the natural choice for the world's first city-wide Shabbat experiment. Visualize walking in the streets toward the Old City, no honking, no smog, no tension, a true serenity over the city of Shalom, peace. People the world over will flock to Jerusalem to take part in the unique cultural phenomenon of Shabbat and they will turn off their cell phones gladly.

But while in Jerusalem Shabbat is natural, in Tel Aviv Shabbat would be a revolution! Tel Aviv needs a break from its break-neck pace and would relish a day of back-to-basics. Tel-Avivians need some form of Shabbat more desperately then do Jerusalemites, an excuse for the exhaust-exhausted to sit in the park, to read a book, to commune with the spirit.

In the end hi-tech Intel and the old-school Hareidim must reach a compromise. Intel's Jerusalem factory has technical reasons why it cannot stop the production line even for one day, but Intel is savvy enough to come up with a technical fix. Similarly, the Hareidi rabbis, though stringent, know that Jewish law has built-in flexibilities which allow for creative solutions like those utilized in farms where cows need to be milked on Shabbat.

And just as Intel and the Hareidim should find a middle ground, so too our society needs to find a healthy balance between modernity and sanity. Never before have we been so inundated with information, so enticed by entertainment, and so constantly on the go. Indeed, we need Shabbat today more urgently then ever before.

To be sure, the Hareidi protests at Intel's Jerusalem plant have not conjured the attractive images of a beautiful world taking a day off from the grind. However, the Hareidim are not big into PR - they want to win a limited war for themselves, for their neighborhoods, and for Jerusalem - and they are playing protest politics which they see as effective. Neither does the press try to present the demands of the Hareidim in any positive light. However, we need not fall into the trap of externalities by throwing away an important idea just because it comes dressed in alien garb. Maybe it is we, the internet-crazed, the blue-tooth enabled, the ceaseless searchers for wi-fi, that need the Shabbat more than the Talmud-crazed, the sidelocks enabled, the ceaseless searchers for G-d.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

G-d Said Yes

By Rivkah Lambert Adler:
You turned my mourning to dancing. You removed my sackcloth and clothed me in joy. (Tehillim 30:12)

This is the post I've been waiting eight years to write. What seemed utterly impossible just a short time ago suddenly, and I mean suddenly, became absolutely possible. In the end, the whole story is one giant Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of G'd's Name).

G'd, through His great goodness, finally said, "Yes. Yes, Rivkah, you can now make plans to come and live in my Land, live among My people. Come soon and grow yet closer to Me."

I can hardly believe it.

Every single boulder that was in our way on the road between Baltimore and Ma'ale Adumim is gone. It's as if G'd said, "Oh, is that in your way? No problem. Here, let Me get rid of that pesky boulder for you." And He did. With such elegance, with such ease, that it could only be G'd's handiwork.

There have been miracles in this process of getting to yes. Outright miracles. Jaw-dropping miracles. Out of respect for the privacy of others, I can't share everything that happened in a public blog, but I can recount this.

On the day I left Ariella in her new life in Israel, I stood on our mirpeset, facing Jerusalem, and prayed an inchoate, "Please Hashem. Please. Please." I wept quietly on the sherut from Ma'ale Adumim, all the way through picking up nine more passengers in various neighborhoods in Jerusalem and I didn't stop until Modi'in, 15 minutes before reaching the airport. Although I sat all the way in the dark back corner and tried to be discreet, the sherut driver twice tried to comfort me in Hebrew, "Yihyeh b'seder, Giveret. It will be okay."

Despite the fact that this was the most difficult parting to date, I eventually dried my tears and made my way back to Baltimore. Once back at the house, I started to unpack. I was alone in the house when something I can't quite define sent me into my daughter's room. The room that she left behind when she made aliyah. The room that held an essence of her, a memory of her, but will no longer ever be hers.

I sat on the bed and I had a meltdown. I don't know how else to define it. The grief that I held quietly on the sherut surfaced in that empty house and I yowled and keened, a wailing lament, as if for the dead.

In my head, I reminded myself that my situation was far from grievous. No one I love had died. No one I love was even sick. I was not Gilad Shalit's mother. My children were healthy and well and I knew where they were.

But I simply could not stop crying.

Years ago, my husband made me promise that when I couldn't take it anymore, I had to let him know. He recognized, before I did, that we were now at that point.

And suddenly, in the exact place where there had been three absolutely impenetrable obstacles, there were five really potent reasons why we should make aliyah. Why we must go soon.

My husband agreed. The words came out of his mouth, but I knew it was Hashem talking. And just like that, the agony over being displaced was over.

To me, it was no less a miracle than the splitting of the Red Sea. Whether I finally cried enough, or accumulated enough merit or, more likely, the combined strength of the prayers of others reached its fulfillment, something shifted in the universe and Hashem said yes.

But then it was Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, and, in a rabbinic household, there was no time to talk about or act on what we had just agreed to.

We told our families that, with G'd's help, we will be coming Home in Tammuz 5770. Some of these conversations were very painful and full of tears of another kind. But, in the end, we were blessed, even by family members who wish we weren't going.

With the chagim coming soon, it was a priority to tell our family members. Beyond that, we only had enough time to tell a few close friends. So many people clearly demonstrated that they appreciated how precious this news was. Some sang in response. Some shouted praises to Hashem. Some cried with joy for us. That was monumentally affecting, that our news brought others to tears.

A particularly memorable reaction came from someone I have known for 20 years, an old friend who plans to remain in America. "Of course," he said, "I will miss being in your physical presence. But it has been so hard for me to watch you in pain, to watch you feeling profoundly displaced all these years. I am so happy for you."

To have friends who love us and who truly, selflessly, wish us joy in this decision is a blessing beyond measure.

Hodu lashem, ki tov. Ki l'olam chasdo. Give thanks to Hashem, because He is Good. His kindness lasts forever.

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Monday, September 07, 2009

The Jerusalem Gap

Well, it had to happen. For better or for worse Jerusalem now boasts her very own GAP store. (And Baby GAP too!) Now the pros and cons of this development can be easily debated and I’m sure they will be (comment away). But there is one thing people should be careful not to say: “Jerusalem now has everything.”

Indeed there is a “gap” between those that believe bringing this large American cooperation is the pinnacle of Zionism and those that pray for a renewed Zionist spirit, which through the same sort of effort used to produce this accomplishment can bring the third Beit Hamikdash to Jerusalem as well.

In the meantime, happy shopping! It’ll be good for the economy.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

My New Piece About "Israeli" Vs. "Jewish"

"The irony of it all is that in today's Israel, the 'Jew' is the new 'Israeli'. Israel was supposed to be the breeding ground for a strong new Hebrew who does not cower. Yet in today's Israel, it is the secular-post-Zionist-left which is the cowering Jew being led to the slaughter. The religious settler is now the emancipated Israeli, bedecked with side locks and tzitzit, and armed with the classic fundamentals of Zionist ideology; that is, to ingather, to build, and to settle the land of Israel."
Click HERE to read the full article.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Getting Israelis To Make Aliyah

One of the saddest phenomenons I have witnessed since making Aliyah is the apparent apathy so many Jews living here show for the Land. Don’t get me wrong. There are so many Jews living here that are a true inspiration to the “Keep Making Aliyah” spirit. But there are far too many I meet (indeed even one is too many) that simply don’t feel anything special about this land.

When Jews living in America are apathetic toward living in Eretz Yisrael at least we could blame it on them being blinded by the “good life” of the “golden medina.” But when Jews who grew up drinking the water and breathing the air of Eretz Yisrael, and are still apathetic to the idea of living here and even warm to the idea of making Yerida – what excuse can we invent to explain this?

Actually that’s not really the question we should be asking. There are many answers we could give – ranging from government frustration to pure desensitization due to familiarity with the Land. Whatever the case may be here is the challenge I present to the reader and to my fellow Kumah bloggers.

What could we do to encourage all Jews – even though born and raised and still living in Eretz Yisrael – to keep making Aliyah?

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Video Blog: Witness NeoZionism - 43 New Members of Israel and the IDF

At Kumah we call it NeoZionism. It's that spirit of giving it all to rebuild our Homeland. Witness it yourself in this video. 43 young adults (age 20, plus or minus - usually minus - 3 years) gave up the "good life" in America to join the IDF. The ingathering of the exiles is well in progress as our Nation is infused with this new energy, this new passion, for returning home and contributing to the growth of the Jewish Nation.

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Is This Cool or is This Cool?

To vote "cool" please say "cool" in the comments.

To vote "cool" please do the same thing but say "cool".

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Needed: Shimshon ha-Gibor

Yishai, Shalom,

Welcome back.
I enjoyed listening to your "Yishai in America" series.
I would be interested in hearing more about attitudes to Aliyah among the people you met in the states.

Is a free El-Al flight not enough for them? Do they want to be "beamed up" to Israel when the Beit ha-Mikdash drops out of the sky in pre-fab fire construction.

Or are they waiting for us in Israel to build the Beit ha-Mikdash like in "Field of Dreams" -- if you build it, they will come?

I saw a really nice article by Rav Shmuel Eliyahu in the parsha sheets this weekend.
Here's my own take on what he said:

Needed: Shimshon ha-Gibor to "shake things up."

He said that his son asked who killed the terrorist this time. It was another settler who fired the 1st shot. Will the police chief investigate all these border guards who stood by and watched in the recent attacks. No, because the judicial system would then go after him.

Just like the rulers of Judah were made uncomfortable by Shimon's daring attacks on the Philistines, because they preferred their comfortable existence as a vassal state to Philistia, so too our rulers try to suppress any bit of Jewish activism.

I myself never understood what was the point of Shimshon's career as a judge. What did he accomplish. But from the Rav's article, it all began to make sense. Shimshon woke up the people of Judah from their complacency, from their slave mentality.

What? You want to settler the land of Israel? You can't, this is an illegal outpost. Settling the land of Israel violates "international law" (what is that? something the nations made up to prevent us from returning to our land)

You want to protect yourself against terrorists, even by only firing in the air. We'll find an Arab to lie and say that he was hit by a bullet from your gun and throw you in jail.

But when we try to argue and say that actually, according to the San Remo agreement, this is actually part of the Jewish homeland, they just laugh at us.

But when 13 year-old girls call their bluff and refuse to recognize the authority of their kangaroo courts, then they get nervous. They are nervous because others might see "the man behind the curtain" pretending to be a wizard.

kol tuv,

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Seeing The Edge

Here is my new article:

I have just returned from a five week trip to the US. While there I dedicated half of my time to family and the rest of the time to lecturing about Israel and Aliyah and meeting with American Jews who want to take part in building the Jewish State -- the most important project of the Jewish people in two thousand years...

While my speeches hit their mark and the meetings went well, I had to contend with a constantly recurring question: "What's going to be with Israel's government? Are the people of Israel going to allow themselves to be led off the edge of a cliff, like lemmings?" This question came at me from every corridor and only then did I realize how hard it is for an American Jew to break out of the American Galut. From America, Israel seems like a crazy place of endemic instability, full of enemies from within and without. Add to that sentiment the amazing attraction of America, its convenience, its wide roads, its philo-Semitic tolerance, and its wealth and you end up with one thought: "There is no way in heck I'm leaving America for Israel."

I assured the people who asked me this question that as a Jew living in Israel and taking part in the building of our country daily, I am even more concerned by the policies of my government and am embarrassed by them. I told these questioners that it will take people like them and people like me to change our reality for the better and that we have no right to abdicate our responsibility to Israel in these hard times. I told them that we did not wait two thousand years to watch a reborn Israel go down the tubes, G-d forbid.

But there was another point that I had to make: I explained to American Jews that they are locked in a media loop in which their only information about our beloved homeland comes from reading the papers or watching the news. The media is notoriously negative, not just against Israel, but in general. I asked American audiences to relate the last time they saw something positive about America in the press? They could not recall the last time.

I continued: I, too, see and hear the painful dark headlines in Israel. However, when I walk past the Jewish kindergartens in Israel I see them full of kids, when I drive into Jerusalem I marvel at its grandeur, when I walk into the general store I see it packed with Israeli products and fresh food! My image of Israel is fundamentally different because I am not enslaved by the media's negative proclivities, nor do I think that my government's suicidal policies are the end all/be all of what Israel is really all about. I can see the bigger picture and I will not allow the media and others to minimize and trivialise our efforts.

When Balak king of Moab wanted to fight the Jews he called in the evil prophet Bilaam to curse the Jews and thereby weaken them. We read in Numbers 23:13

"Then Balak said to him [Bilaam], 'Please come with me to another place from where you may see them, only their edge you will see and you will not see the whole of them; and curse them for me from there.'"

What is going on here? If I were to curse a nation I would want to see the whole bunch of them splayed out in front of me and then let 'em all have it! Why does Balak offer Bilaam a tiny glimpse of the nation in an attempt to help the evil prophet issue forth a diabolical curse? Shouldn't it be the opposite?

The evil ones on this Earth have a well developed sense of cunning and these two bad guys were no exception. They knew the secret of the Jewish people: the united totality of the Jewish people is unbeatable and the big picture of Jewish history is the revelation of G-d's providence and kindness. However, if you focus in at the small picture you may find some dirt, some criminality, some all-too-human weakness that will darken the image. That is why Balak offered Bilaam to see only the edge of the Jews -- if Bilaam could only zoom in on some negative aspect of the Jews and disregard the big picture, maybe then he could muster the venom needed to curse G-d's people.

That type of zoom-in to the darker side of today's Israel is exactly what our enemies want. They want us demoralized, they want us to turn away from Israel. However, we, lovers of Israel, cannot allow ourselves to be minimalist observers who become dissuaded when we hear that our country is going "off the derech" -- off the right path. On the whole, the Jewish project of rebuilding our homeland is moving forward at lightning speed. Israel is soon going to be the home for the majority of the world's Jews, and is already far and away the cultural center of Judaism. All of our enemies and even our sick government cannot derail the forward momentum of this project -- unless we let them!

So let us not fall victim to our enemies' dark desires to see the edge of the Jewish people with a focus on negativity. Instead, let us see the grand vision of Israel and the nearer-then-ever horizon of destiny. Once we get our vision in order we will have a renewed burst of energy to help Israel get through this tumultuous time. And that will be our great merit.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Good Surprises...

The NY Post has an awesome Israel at 60 section - one which all Jewish organizations can be proud of and learn from. Click here to see it.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Understanding and Action

The following wonderful article from the OU's Jewish Action Magazine is entitled: "A Love Story in Anticipation of a Happy Ending" and was written by my friend and colleague Rabbi Hillel Fendel and I think it sums it all up pretty well:

“Skittering over the hilltops, jumping between the mountains” (Song of Songs 2:8). In sight for a moment, out of view for two, and once again back into range. How aptly the relationship depicted in Song of Songs between God and Israel describes that between the Jewish people of today—so clearly longing for Redemption and for Israel’s material and spiritual success—and the modern State of Israel.

We see so much good and beauty in Israel as it skitters before us over the hilltops—and then we recall its many shortcomings and problems as its glory falls out of view behind the mountains. True, we know it will soon come into view again—and maybe this time even forever! But when we look at the horizon and see nothing but the fleeting image of what could be, it is hard to remain encouraged. Perhaps all that’s missing is to view the mountainside from the proper angle?

Some decades ago, when I first arrived in Bayit Vegan, a neighborhood in Jerusalem, for high school, it seemed as if all was right with the country. A sense of confidence prevailed: The Kotel was ours, and work was underway to build a plaza in front of it. The War of Attrition was behind us, and whatever terror attacks there were—and there were—were faced with unity and a sense of justice in our national cause. The ba’al teshuvah movement was going strong, and new yeshivot seemed to be opening everywhere (though at a snail’s pace compared to the current frenzied rate). The ingathering of the exiles was proceeding apace, and the economy was growing. While it was difficult to get a phone line for a private apartment, the number of months one needed to wait seemed to be gradually dropping to single digits.

And now, several months before Israel’s sixtieth birthday, has everything turned upside down? Must we feel, as the introduction to this series of articles implies, that all of our accomplishments amount to nil? Must we feel that then we had a sense of unity, but today we don’t, that then we had confidence and direction, but today we don’t? Yes, we all know the many terrific problems we currently face, but must we assume that our national history has gone into reverse?

Am Yisrael is always advancing along the road toward Redemption, and especially so during the past 120 years. For more than 1,800 years we had been waiting patiently for the Divine call “Return, My children, to your borders!” It came finally, unmistakably, in the late 1800s, when Jews not only began arriving in the Land of Israel in large numbers, but were also self-supporting!

As the great visionary Rabbi Shmuel Mohilever wrote in 1890 after a visit to the Land:

Can anyone not see the finger of God in all that has befallen us? .... It has been now six years that towns and villages and wells and flocks have arisen from the dust; the fields are full of grain, and grapes and vines cover the hills. Fourteen colonies have been founded during this period, and 3,000 of our brothers are working there. Before, the holy ways were filled with thorns and thistles, and people could barely walk here and traveled only by covered wagon—but now, we travel from Yaffo to Jerusalem, Hebron, Petach Tikvah, Rishon LeTzion, Mikveh Yisrael, Zichron Yaakov—and all on a straight path, the “king’s way,” in a carriage drawn by three horses. And Jerusalem, so desolate before, is now as fresh as in its youth; outside the walls of old Jerusalem, we see straight and beautiful streets lined by hundreds of houses, soon to be thousands; and all the European countries are trying to buy a portion of the Holy Land and Jerusalem. Is all this not a sign and wonder that Hashem has remembered His people and His Land, and that all that He wrought was for our good, to bring us up to the heights of Mt. Zion?

Over a century later, can there be any doubt that the process of Redemption has only intensified? When commemorating sixty years of statehood, we must not look myopically at the past few years, but rather at the entire picture—beginning with the Exile, and extending through the centuries of darkness, wandering and persecutions to the gradual return of the Jewish people to their home—exactly as was predicted by our prophets and sages.

Though for many years it was hard to see how this process was developing, in our generation we are fully confident that our ascent towards complete national Redemption has started—and that we ourselves are playing an active role in moving the process along. As Rabbi Eli Sadan, the head of the first mechinah (pre-army yeshivah program) in Israel, wrote in a recent pamphlet:

The front line of great rabbis of the past generations—Rabbi Yosef Karo, the Gaon of Vilna, Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook and many others—told us: “Holy flock, the time of your redemption has arrived!” They marked the way for us—yet astonishingly, it was very hard for the Jewish people to accept the ruling [that the period of forced exile was ending and the time to return to the Land of Israel had come]. This was chiefly because it was truly a hard thing to do—to adopt a national lifestyle of politics, army, economy, and the like, and all in the old/new garb of the traditional sanctity and purity of Israel. How difficult! But “kol dodi dofek, my beloved is calling,” and “et l'chenenah ki va moed, the time has come to favor the Land”; the nation, in the depths of its soul, began to awaken; the Master of the Universe dropped the walls and opened before us the gates of Eretz Yisrael.…The time had come.

Even if the religious public hesitated, Rabbi Sadan continued, the non-religious Jews were unable to wait any longer. Creating facts on the ground, they burst forward. Tradition states that the coming of the Mashiach will take place in a similar manner—Mashiach “Ben Partzi” is destined to come from Peretz, the one who paratz, burst forth, into the world before his twin brother.

Ever since those early years of modern Zionism, Israel has continued to be on the ascendancy, with more Torah, more religiosity, more hi-tech and scientific inventions, more production of agriculture, more development of cities and towns—and more growth in the Jewish population.

Everyone is familiar with the fantastic rate of growth and construction in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. But what about the rest of the country? Take, for example, sleepy old Afula. When I lived there some twenty years ago, I would take my bicycle for weekly rounds around the outskirts of the city to check that the eruv was functional. Today, given Afula’s tremendous growth, the former “outskirts” are in the middle of town, while the current outskirts are blocks and blocks away in each direction.

Could any Jew who experienced the Holocaust sixty-five years ago have dared to entertain such a scenario? When commemorating sixty years of statehood, we must not look myopically at the past few years, but rather at the entire picture.Never in the last 1,930 years have the Jewish people, on a national scale, had it so good!

But, of course, there is the other side of the coin. If everything is so great, why does everything feel so bad? The problems in Israel are many and great. With a total lack of confidence in the necessity of listing them at all, here they are: Corruption in the government, poor quality of education, discord about our national goals, a growing non-Jewish population, growing socio-economic gaps, increased estrangement from Judaism and the Land of Israel, lack of inspired leadership, apathy regarding the fate of Jerusalem and uncertainty regarding the nation’s future and violent crime.

So what do we do? Give up? Throw in the towel? Say it was a good try but better luck next time, see you again in a couple of centuries? The very fact that we can entertain this question is an absurdity. Can you imagine the French or the Brazilians ever “giving up” and leaving their country? Is there any nation that would actually consider the option of calling for a “do-over”?

Moreover, it’s an incredible chutzpah when Jews living chutz la’Aretz criticize Israelis and their political leaders and assert that because of their mistakes, they will be staying in the Diaspora. Such sentiments are often found in talkbacks to Internet news reports on Israel.

History has decreed that our prophets’ Divine messages are coming true before our eyes; we can either jump on the bandwagon or get left behind. But to claim membership in a nation that has taken the path of revival while at the same time choosing to remain exiled is untenable in the long run.

This, then, is both the challenge and the solution: aliyah. It’s not just for those who live outside Israel (immigration) but also for those who already live here. The word aliyah comes from the root word aleh, which either means to “go up” or to “raise up.” Those who live here should be continually trying to raise the quality of Israeli life on all planes. Aliyah to Eretz Yisrael is necessary, for the sake of both the individual and the nation. We need Jews here, and they need to be here. The Jewish nation suffers when her children are not home, and the children suffer when they are cut off from their source.

At the risk of stating the obvious, the more people move to Israel in order to help solve our collective problems, the faster those problems will be solved. Decades ago, some religious leaders did not encourage aliyah for fear that the State would not be religious. Ironically, this almost guaranteed that the State would be irreligious.

There are those today who mock the religious leaders of previous decades for taking this road, yet they themselves take a similar approach today. However, there’s a difference. Back then, it was “spiritual” problems that kept some Jews away. Today, it is “political” problems. “First get rid of your government,” they say, or “your bureaucracy or [fill in the blank] and then I’ll consider coming.” (Insert small dose of healthy skepticism here).

Let us not make the same errors again. No more “I-told-you-so’s” after the fact. Instead of once again finding the perfect excuse to remain in the Diaspora, let us jump into the fray with real-time fixes. Let us be a part of the solution, not the problem.

And those who live here in Israel must also make aliyah. We must be constantly on the lookout, as more and more people already are, for ways to alleviate the problems that are closest to our hearts. We must be constantly on the alert to radiate to others that life in Israel, in the long-range, is not only good but is getting better.

And more: As we increasingly hear our rabbis—and our children—say, let us grab the chance to establish a society predicated on Torah values. Let us forge ahead to become a strong presence and influence in the army, in the courts, in the media. Let us combine purity and on-the-ground action to build our national home in Eretz Yisrael. Let us raise a generation imbued with dedication and even sacrifice. Let us be like the early pioneers, but with the added great ambition to live a life of sanctity in accordance with the Torah of Israel.

Let us not be fooled by what appears to be thriving Jewish life in the United States. The center and the heart of Jewish life is here in Israel. Taking active part in the enterprise that is Israel is the challenge of our times and is an opportunity that no one must miss. After sixty years, it’s way past time to come home.


Rabbi Fendel has been the senior news editor of Arutz Sheva Israel National News since 1995. He studied in Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav for five years and started Yeshivat Mevaseret Zion for international students. He is the author of One Thing I Ask (Jerusalem, 1995) and has lived in Beit El with his wife Bina and their eight children since 1992.

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

An Awakening!

It's about 6 p.m. on May 14, 1948, and a friend and I are leaving a UNESCO conference here to catch the train back to Berkeley.

From the corner of our eyes we catch the newspaper headlines: “U.S. RECOGNIZES ISRAEL” screams the Examiner, in type usually reserved for the latest axe murder or Hollywood divorce.

Israel. We slowly formulate the name on our tongue, roll it around, test its flavor for the first time.

We buy up every paper on the newsstand -- the San Francisco Chronicle, the News, the Examiner and the Oakland Tribune -- an expenditure that would become a daily habit...

Each paper carries the identical releases from the wire services, but there is the hope that an editor or commentator might add a few more words about Israel, fill in background or analyze the situation.

We forget about catching the train and slowly walk down Market Street.

The all-night Newsreel Theatre flashes its attractions: LATEST PICTURES FROM PALESTINE -- SEE WHY THE JEWS ARE FIGHTING FOR THEIR COUNTRY.

The newsreels are quite old, something about the first Jewish settlements in the Negev. We applaud enthusiastically.

In the theater lobby, a teletype machine spews out the latest news flashes, “In a simple ceremony, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion …”

During the next weeks we become restless. We can’t concentrate on our work, are useless for our studies. When we aren’t squatting beside the radio, we are scanning the latest newspapers. When we aren’t writing letters to the editor, we are cabling our congressman to demand an immediate lifting of the U.S. arms embargo on Israel.

Slowly, at first unconsciously, our attitudes as Jews change.

We have never been ashamed of our Jewishness, but many of us were indifferent to it. Few of us belonged to a Zionist organization. Of course, we applauded the accomplishments of those in Palestine and perhaps gave a little money to help them.

But now we gradually begin to speak of this as our fight, our defense and -- perhaps -- our future.

I meet the shop foreman from an old summer job. What does he think of the Jews’ fight in Israel? A lifelong anti-Semite, he scratches his head, hesitates and admits reluctantly, “Christ, I wouldn’t have believed it.”

A friend, Jewish and anti-Zionist, assesses the new situation.

“Our people in Palestine have done more to eliminate anti-Semitism in the last six months of fighting than we were able to do in the previous 2,000 years of producing the greatest doctors, the greatest scientists and the greatest philosophers,” he says.

We sadly shake our heads at the immaturity of the human race and tune in to the next radio broadcast. “Forces of the Israeli army have taken enemy positions …”

We walk out of the room, our bodies a little straighter, our chins a few inches higher than before.

(This article was written in late May 1948, when Tom Tugend, then 22, was a student at the University of California, Berkeley. It was first printed in November 1948 in the Soldiers Bulletin, published in Israel for English-speaking volunteers in the War of Independence.) From JTA

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Kosher-Style 3

Sunday, February 24, 2008

When Passaic Is Jerusalem, Rav Leff's "Where is the Religious Aliya from the West"

The following essay by Rav Zev Leff, Shilta, entitled "Where is the Religious Aliya from the West?" appears as the introduction to "To Dwell in the Palace" by Tzivia Erlich-Klein (1991, Feldheim - a MUST read - order it today!).

Though I always wanted to post this here, I'm posting it now as a response the post "Passaic is Better than Israel."

Where is the Religious Aliyah from the West?
from “To Dwell in the Palace - Perspectives on Eretz Yisrael”

DRIVING HOME THROUGH the largely-uninhabited hills of Judea, or walking down the streets of an Israeli city still lacking the imprint of Torah, I hear the question echoing: “Where is the religious aliya from the Torah communities of the West?”

The question is not of recent vintage, nor was it posed by a representative of the Aliya Department of the Jewish Agency. It was Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld who addressed these words, some sixty years ago, to Rav Yitzchok Breuer. The rav of Yerushalayim further told the Agudah leader, “Now I understand the words of musaf for yom tov: `Because of our sins were we exiled from our country’ - by HaShem; `and we were distanced from our Land’ - this we have done voluntarily.” (Moriah, p. 191)

Another quote from Rav Sonnenfeld is perhaps even more pointed: “Many times have I directed that the religious Jews in the diaspora be instructed that anyone who has the ability to come to Eretz Yisroel and doesn’t, will have to account for his failure in the future world.” (Ha’ish Al Hachoma, vol. II, p. 149)

A generation or so later, a yeshiva student from the diaspora who had been learning in an Israeli yeshiva came to bid farewell to the Chazon Ish before returning to his home. “Is one permitted to leave Eretz Yisroel?” the gadol asked him. The student stammered and replied, “I understood that if one came to Eretz Yisroel with the intention of returning eventually, he is permitted to leave.” The Chazon Ish spoke in a tone of disappointment: “We are trying to devise methods to get bnei Torah to settle here and you are involved in finding ways to be able to leave?!” (Peer Hador, vol. II, p. 42)

Baruch HaShem, Torah is flourishing in Eretz Yisroel to an extent scarcely even dreamed of by these great sages. But their questions still loom. Indeed, the extent to which the Torah community, otherwise scrupulously careful with mitzvos, is “involved in finding ways” out of the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisroel needs to be examined.

Factors Cited

The economic situation in Israel is often mentioned. Indeed, the Pischei Teshuva (Even Haezer 75, no. 6) rules that since living under conditions of economic privation can endanger, or at least compromise, one’s spiritual life, one is exempt from settling in Israel if he will be forced to live under conditions of dachkus (hardship). Now what constitutes the “dachkus” to which the Pischei Teshuva refers? The inability to afford $25 per pound gourmet chocolates? Not being able to acquire an elegant, very large wardrobe of `from” designer clothing? Is the definition of dachkus being too destitute to afford a $500,000 home that one would not think of inhabiting until it was gutted and elegantly redone? Or is dachkus a dearth of elegant glatt restaurants of various nationalities, pizza shops with all the trimmings, and frozen glatt kosher convenience foods and snacks?

Not to belabor the point, in essence the ruling of the Pischei Teshuva refers specifically to one who will be forced to live from tzedaka in Israel as opposed to being able to earn a living in chutz laAretz. By comparing employment possibilities in Eretz Yisroel today with those available either in the time of Rav Sonnenfeld or that of the Chazon Ish, we are soon forced to eliminate the exemption of the Pischei Teshuva for most cases. B’ezras HaShem one can earn a livelihood in Israel that would have been considered luxurious by most of prewar European Jewry. Even more significant, however, is this point: the more modest lifestyle typical in Israel today not only does no harm to one’s spiritual life, but it is likely to do much good.

The Torah sages of all generations warned against extravagant lifestyles, flaunting our wealth in the eyes of the nations, and becoming too comfortable in golus. The Maharsha (Shabbos 119) makes the following observation: “Most of the sins of this generation… can be attributed to the fact that… everyone wishes to conduct himself in an extravagant fashion in regard to clothing, houses, and all other matters; and this leads to theft.”

More recently, the Chafetz Chaim, in the Biur Halachic (siman 529), rebukes openly: “Many people err in this area and do not take to heart how to conduct themselves properly concerning their household expenses, to distance themselves from luxuries. Many have been damaged by this kind of conduct which ultimately brings one to theft and dishonesty and to shame and disgrace….” In Sfas Tamim (chapter V) the Chafetz Chaim blames the suffering, trials and tribulations of his times on the dishonesty promoted by overspending on luxuries, especially costly clothing; by overextending oneself through buying on credit; and by lavish weddings with unreasonable demands made on parents for dowries.

Another facet of the economic argument, one cited as a reason to delay aliya indefinitely, is financial “security.” (”How can we face the future without a sizable sum put safely away?”) The gemara (Sota 48) says: “One who has bread in his basket and worries what he will eat tomorrow is one of little faith.” The Kotzker Rebbe explains that the “little faith” is not evidenced by the uncertainty of tomorrow, but rather by this man’s certainty of today. By worrying only about to morrow, he shows that he puts his trust in the presence of bread in his basket, and not in HaShem. A believing Jew, by definition, does not hang his security on large bank accounts; he certainly would not compromise his Torah life in their pursuit.

All this considered, there do remain legitimate economic factors to weigh when planning aliya. The laws of tzedaka demand that we provide for one who falls on hard times not merely at subsistence level, but at the standard to which he was accustomed. This is because a drastic change in lifestyle can be very painful. In light of this insight gleaned from the halacha itself, an individual may and should consider very carefully his family’s present standard of living, the prospects for their situation in Eretz Yisroel, and the ability of the family to modify or adapt accordingly. Of course, a Jew who has been properly educated to the importance of aliya, and one who takes the admonition of the Chafetz Chaim cited above seriously, will be cautious from the start lest his family grow accustomed to exaggerated standards.

The second factor that could qualify as a reason for postponing aliya under the guidelines of the Pischei Teshuva concerns the individual’s predilection for a specific occupation. Chazal tell us that it is part of a man’s nature to find satisfaction in doing that for which he is best suited. We all know that there are many people who retrain in the middle of one career for an entirely new one, for any number of reasons. Nevertheless, one who finds satisfaction in his occupation should plan to pursue the same one in Eretz Yisroel. Where this would be impossible, one should weigh the available options for suitability and for the prospects of success and satisfaction inherent in each one. Failure to deliberate this issue could result in a potentially frustrating or unsuccessful aliya. Here too, however, if one teaches oneself to strive always towards aliya, then, at every crossroads in his training, he will have Eretz Yisroel in mind. Such a person will consider possible occupations in light of their transferability to Eretz Yisroel from the beginning.

And then there’s the matter of physical security. After all, the halacha does not permit us to put ourselves in danger.

Visiting New York, I have been asked: “Aren’t you afraid to live in the Shomron?” I find it amusing if not ironic when the question is asked while the host secures both his locks and activates his alarm system.

In the years I’ve lived on Moshav Mattityahu, there have been no incidents, no crime. My children can go out to play at any hour, and we do not bother to lock our doors even at night. How safe are the streets of any city in America that it should be recommended as a place of safety while Israel is rejected as dangerous?

On the streets of Eretz Yisroel, the only men carrying guns are the soldiers protecting us. At least here in Eretz Yisroel the security measures taken have an excellent record of effectiveness. And added to those security measures (which the halacha requires of us) the observable fact is that in Eretz Yisroel we merit an extra, supernatural, measure directly from the Ribbono shel olam. No, the safety factor does not really seem to be an issue.

Some claim to fear the problems that they would encounter trying to live a life of Torah under a secular Israeli government. Isn’t the negative attitude to Torah values and Torah observers exhibited by certain segments of Israeli society a significant detriment, they ask.

One wonders, however, if non-Jewish Western society, or for that matter the secular Jewish community elsewhere, is really a better environment for Torah ideals. Is the attitude there towards Torah values less hostile? Does kindly tolerance of observant Jews demonstrated by secularized brethren create a better atmosphere for growth?

Before the reader rushes to answer these complex questions, the following should be considered: When the Israeli government passed the law of conscription for women, an individual approached the Chazon Ish with a challenge: “Does the Rav still feel that Jews are obligated to come and settle here [i.e.., when there is a government that drafts laws such as this, subjecting our daughters to military service, which the gedolim forbid (they have even ruled that one must surrender her life if that is the only alternative to compliance)]?” After a brief, pained silence, the Chazon Ish answered in the affirmative with forceful resolve and clarity. (Peer Hador, vol. II, p. 43)

Today, although conscription of women has yet to be annulled completely, any woman claiming to be religious is exempt. It would therefore appear, by kal vachomer from the psak of the Chazon Ish, that the objection posed above does not affect our obligation.

Those in positions of communal responsibility cite additional grounds for remaining in chutz laAretz. Clearly, consideration must be given to the effect their aliya will have on those for whom they bear responsibility. There are indeed many community rabbanim, roshei yeshiva, klei kodesh, and community heads who are crucial to the growth and stability of their respective institutions both spiritually and physically. It would, however, be absurd and somewhat haughty for every rabbi or communal leader to assume that the fate of his community rests on his shoulders alone.

In many cases the aliya of the leader would be an incentive and inspiration for those he leads to follow, for the benefit of all concerned. And there are leaders who would be even more effective and successful in Eretz Yisroel.

Rav Sonnenfeld directed his impoverished grandson to decline the offer of a prestigious rabbinical position in chutz laAretz and to remain in Eretz Yisroel. “I maintain that it is better to be a plain working man in Israel than a rabbi in chutz laAretz,” Rav Sonnenfeld told him. (This is not to be taken as a blanket principle for all cases. The comment is important, however, in that it challenges our preconception that the reverse is the rule.)

It must be emphasized that each situation is unique. When doubts exist, the advice of a Torah authority should be sought. I myself know of a number of cases where important rabbis and leaders were advised by a posek to go ahead and make aliya.

Another factor that sometimes discourages prospective olim is reports of problems encountered in chinuch of children, particularly those of high school age. This may seem surprising, since there is an abundance of excellent institutions of learning to be found in Eretz Yisroel on all levels. Nevertheless, the inadequacy of Hebrew language skills acquired in many US. yeshivos, coupled with cultural differences which are due to the infusion of foreign values, can create difficulties for the young oleh. Discrepancies of style between available options here and those one was accustomed to in the United States can cause considerable pain for children and parents alike. With proper planning and guidance, however, many of these problems can be reduced or avoided entirely. Furthermore, additional aliya from the US. will, inevitably, lead to the establishment of more schools tailored to these olim. (Indeed, recent years have witnessed the development of “American-style” yeshivishe education in Israel with a unique flavor all its own.)

There is also a great deal of discussion of halachic factors excusing today’s Jew from this mitzva. There are, after all, opinions that it is only a mitzva kiyumis (voluntary mitzva). This was the opinion of the late gaon Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, and some others. Well, tzitzis is also “only” a mitzva kiyumis. It might be worth contemplating the way we regard one who neglects the mitzva of tzitzis, or even one who does not wear an arba kanfos that conforms to the strictest shiur with tzitzis the most mehudarim. In a time of Divine anger, one is held accountable for a mitzva kiyumis as well.

And there are some who maintain that the mitzva is not binding at all today. This was the opinion of the late Satmar Rebbe zt”l and some others. Even if we ascribe great weight to this minority opinion, however, we must ask ourselves how we conduct ourselves regarding other mitzvos that are binding only according to “some” opinions. Do we not go to great lengths to be yotsai all the shitos? In the case of yishuv Eretz Yisroel, the preponderance of opinion in favor of the binding nature of the commandment includes the Pischei Teshuva, the Avnei Nezer, the Chafetz Chaim, the Gerrer Rebbe, the Chazon Ish….

The purpose of this article is not to enter into a halachic debate, nor to be so presumptuous as to rush in where giants have trodden before me. Yes, there are reliable halachic opinions which would mitigate the obligatory nature of yishuv Eretz Yisroel in our times; but the list of opinions in support of the imperative of fulfilling this mitzva today - only fractionally mentioned in the above paragraph - is a formidable one.

There is one point on which all Torah authorities are in agreement. That is that living in Eretz Yisroel affords one a unique opportunity for spiritual development and growth. While it is true that this opportunity must be considered in conjunction with many other factors that affect the spirit, one cannot simply ignore or disregard the special qualities of Eretz Yisroel and of the mitzva of yishuv haAretz.

Strangely, consideration of settling in Eretz Yisroel is overlooked by many in the Torah community. This most certainly is not the Torah view. The move to Eretz Yisroel must at least be considered, discussed, and investigated. As a musmach of the Telshe Yeshiva in Cleveland, who learned in kollel there for many years, then went on to serve the community I grew up in as rav of the North Miami Beach kehilla for nine years, and then, with the advice and encouragement of gedolim, was oleh to Eretz Yisroel several years ago, assuming the position of rav of Moshav Mattityahu - I feel that my experience may be instructive to the Torah world. I believe I can provide some insights gained on both sides of the ocean which will clarify the case for settling in Eretz Yisroel, and bring the topic to the forefront for personal deliberation. Perhaps others like me, neither exceptionally brave nor wealthy, may benefit from my perspective.

If living in Eretz Yisroel is viewed as “just a mitzva” (as I once heard someone say with a shrug), then all the considerations discussed above could be deterrents. But this is a mitzva which is “equal to all the rest,” it is fulfilled every moment with every part of one’s body, and it carries with it a host of other mitzvos which one can fulfill only by residing in Eretz Yisroel. Clearly, there is something more encompassing at issue than any single mitzva. Let us therefore suspend our analysis of practical questions while we address the larger picture. What is this particular Land, and living in it, all about?

The Role of the Jewish Nation

Some of what follows is basic and surely known to the reader. Nevertheless, as the Mesillas Yesharim warns, that which is basic and self-understood is often overlooked, ignored or forgotten.

Am Yisroel was selected by HaShem to be a sanctified nation whose raison d’etre would be to represent HaShem to the world in all areas - a “mamleches kohanim vegoy kadosh.” The Torah was given to us to guide us - individually and collectively - in conforming with this lofty mission.

To achieve our goal, HaShem exhorted us to separate ourselves from the other nations. We are to be a nation apart, distinct in our holy purpose. As the Torah instructs, “Va’avdil eschem min ha’amim lihiyos li” (I separated you from the nations to be Mine). (Vayikra 20) The Sifrei comments on this verse: “If you are separated then you are Mine, but if not, you belong to Nevuchadnetzar and his cohorts.” The simple meaning seems to be that if we separate ourselves, we will merit Divine protection, and if not, HaShem will deliver us into the hands of our enemies. The literal wording of the Sifrei, however, does not bear this explanation out. I would like to suggest an alternative one:

A non Jew is required to observe only seven mitzvos. His lifestyle can be secular, devoid of holiness. As long as he maintains harmony with the basic ethical code dictated by HaShem for civilization, he will merit a share in the world-to-come. One might conclude that a Jew living the same type of lifestyle, although remiss in the observance of 606 mitzvos, has a positive basis for his life - no worse than a non Jew. The Sifrei informs us otherwise. The Jew exists for an entirely different purpose: to create a mikdash - a place of holiness and sanctity where HaShem’s presence will be found, and felt. This mikdash finds expression in the person of every Jew. Thus, any Jew who fails to sanctify himself, to lead a life of exceptional holiness as defined by the Torah’s commandments, is in fact destroying his personal mikdash. He has joined the ranks of Nevuchadnetzar and his cohorts, destroyers of the Mikdash.

To promote our being a “nation that dwells apart,” HaShem “measured every land and found no land more suitable to the Jewish people than Eretz Yisroel, and no people better suited to Eretz Yisroel than am Yisroel.” (Vayikra Rabba 13) Eretz Yisroel is a holy Land, the Land that HaShem personally supervises at all times, the Land that HaShem calls His own. Am Yisroel is the nation that is a holy nation - the nation that merits direct Divine providence, the nation that HaShem calls His own. Hence Eretz Yisroel and am Yisroel complement each other perfectly.

Eretz Yisroel provides the setting where we can develop our potential to be a sanctified nation unlike any other. (This, it should be noted, is the very antithesis of secular Zionist ideology, which envi sions Eretz Yisroel as the setting for us to develop at long last into a nation like all other nations, with all their vices and weaknesses.)

The idea of Eretz Yisroel as the home of a uniquely holy people is implied at the very beginning of the Torah. “The Torah should have commenced with hachodesh hazeh lachem, the first mitzva the Jewish people were commanded. Why then does it open with Bereishis…?” (Rashi on Bereishis 1, 1) The answer quoted by Rashi is the following: Lest the nations of the world claim that we are thieves who stole the land of seven nations, HaShem informs us that He created the world and it is therefore His to take away from whomever He chooses and to give to whomever He chooses.

This answer is not for the nations; obviously, they do not accept it. Rather it is we who are supposed to see clearly that Eretz Yisroel is legitimately ours, given to us by HaShem. But there is a deeper lesson here. Why was it ordained that we should have to conquer Eretz Yisroel from seven nations who inhabited it for hundreds of years? Why was it arranged that we should have to kill the men, women, and children of those nations? Why did Eretz Yisroel have to become ours in a manner so open to question that the whole Torah would have to start from Bereishis just to provide an answer?

It seems that HaShem sought to teach us a lesson so significant that it is the foundation of the entire Torah. It is the preface necessary before we can approach even the first mitzva. This lesson is that the basis of our ethics and morals, standards and values is one sole source - HaShem Yisbarach. If He says to conquer and kill, that is what is “ethical’ and “moral.” Where HaShem mandates mercy and peace, they are “ethical” in that case. Our value system can have no other basis than the written and oral Torah. By mandating the conquest of Eretz Yisroel in an apparently disputable manner, the Creator forced us to focus our attention on the only basis we have for our actions. He is the Creator of all that exists; only He can dictate proper conduct among the peoples and lands He created. Only on the basis of this reasoning are we not thieves nor murderers. The Torah, at the very outset, is laying the foundation for our frame of reference to mitzvos, and to the world.

It is not incidental that this lesson is taught through Eretz Yisroel. Our sources emphasize that only in the Land of Israel can a Torah society not influenced by foreign values and standards be created - a society based on the ethics and morals of Torah alone, a society apart, rooted in and enhanced by the special qualities of the Land.

This is something we neglect to study in the day-to-day pursuit of our lives as individuals. But since the ideal Torah society is something we yearn and pray for, it would be edifying to delve into the structure that it is meant to have.

The Brisker Rav, zt”l, explains (on parshas Chayei Sara) that klal Yisroel is comprised of two complementary factions. The first is made up of choice individuals whom the Rambam refers to as an extended “shevet Levi” - those devoted exclusively to Torah study and avodas HaShem. This is the elite corps of HaShem’s army, toiling in the yeshivos and kollelim, the spiritual leaders of the Jewish people. They create the spiritual energy source necessary for the survival of klal Yisroel and are therefore supported by the klal as were the Kohanim and Leviim. This group is the minority.

The other sector, comprising the majority of klal Yisroel, are those who follow the dictum of Rebbe Yishmael (Brachos 35) and combine Torah with a worldly occupation. Torah is, of course, the focal point of their lives, their worldly occupation secondary and peripheral. Nevertheless, Torah is not their exclusive pursuit.

I believe this thesis of the Brisker Rav has an analogous application to the Land. It too is to be divided into two sections. Yerushalayim is the primary domain of Kohanim and Leviim with the Beis HaMikdash at its center. The remainder of Eretz Yisroel is predominantly the territory of the other tribes.

The gemara (Pesachim 8) questions why the choice fruits of the Galil were not found growing in Yerushalayim instead, and why the hot springs of Teverya were not situated in Yerushalayim. The answer it gives is that when the Jewish people ascended to the Beis HaMikdash three times a year to fulfill the mitzva of aliya laregel, HaShem wanted them to perform the mitzva entirely “leshem shamayim.” He did not want them to have the possible ulterior incentive of delicious fruit or hot springs.

And yet, delicious fruits do grow in the Galil, and hot springs are found in Teverya, which are also part of Eretz Hakodesh. This fact points to an important insight into the total picture of Eretz Yisroel. Although Yerushalayim is reserved for the spiritual, the entire Land is holy. Yerushalayim it hakodesh is representative of shevet Levi and the unique role of that minority. The rest of this holy Land corresponds to the rest of our people and the majority role, which is the synthesis of spiritual and material.

The Chasam Sofer (in his commentary on Sukkah 36) explains that any occupation, undertaken in Eretz Yisroel, is included in the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisroel, and it is in Eretz Yisroel that Rebbe Yishmael’s ruling (that one should take on a worldly occupation) applies! Agriculture or commerce, industry or social work, medicine or engineering… whatever helps settle the people in the Land, as this-wordly as it may seem, is, by definition, a mitzva in Eretz Yisroel. Consequently, the physical and material aspects of the Land are also objects of holiness, vehicles of service to HaShem.

This idea is further borne out by the Gra’s version of the bracha acharona. The Gra omits the phrase “and let us eat from its (Eretz Yisroel’s) fruit and be satiated from its goodness.” His source is the gemara in Sota (14). Of Moshe Rabbeinu’s desire to enter Eretz Yisroel the question is asked: “Was it to eat from its fruit that he wished to enter the Land?! Rather his desire was to fulfill the mitzvos of the Land.” The implication is that eating from the fruit is not a commendable reason for desiring Eretz Yisroel and the Gra therefore omits it from the bracha.

How then can we understand the Gra’s version of the beginning of this bracha, which contains the following phrase: “… and for the desirable, good, and spacious Land that You desired and bequeathed to our forefathers to eat from its fruit and be satiated from its goodness….”

The discrepancy is explained when we apply the above-mentioned concept of a division of the Land of Israel. The opening part of the blessing refers to Eretz Yisroel as a whole. We mention the fruit since it is precisely through the fruit that we reach our goal of Divine service in greater Eretz Hakodesh. The conclusion of the bracha, however, refers specifically to the building of Yerushalayim, where reference to the fruits and material goodness is out of place.

The gemara in Sota pertains to Moshe Rabbeinu, a Levi whose place would have been in Yerushalayim. Hence the negative connotation of desiring to enter for the fruits.

The midrash (Bereishis Rabba 38, 8) relates that Avraham avinu traveled from land to land seeking the best place for his children to live. In Aram he observed people eating and drinking and partying, and he hoped that his descendants would not reside there. In contrast he observed the inhabitants of Eretz Yisroel weeding and plowing and planting and hoped that this would be the dwelling-place of his offspring.

This midrash is surprising in that it points to qualities inherent in the atmosphere of a certain land. (The inhabitants of both these countries were, after all, idol-worshippers.)

The very air of chutz laAretz is conducive to materialism, to the utilization of the physical aspects of the world for immediate gratification and sensual stimulation - an olam hazeh approach. Eretz Yisroel, on the other hand, is conducive to toiling for future gratification, for future fruits - even in the material sense. This is an olam habba orientation. Avraham avinu recognized that in this setting his descendants would be able to realize their full potential, whatever their occupation.

It is true that the environment, whether of Eretz Yisroel or of chutz laAretz, can be overcome to a great extent. A Jew living outside the Land can resolve not to succumb to materialism. Even in Eretz Yisroel one who is determined to do so can lead a life of indulgence; after all, Sodom was in Eretz Yisroel. However, for one sincerely seeking to give HaShem the best service, Eretz Yisroel is the only place in the world providing a fertile, favorable environment. Not only in the past and in the future, but also in the present.

We are reminded daily of this truth. Every time we eat a meal, after satisfying our physical appetite, we are required by the Torah to recite birkas hamazon. It consists of three brachos of Torah origin and a fourth that is rabbinic. The first of the three Torah blessings acknowledges that HaShem is the source of all sustenance. The second thanks HaShem for the food and for Eretz Yisroel. It is in this bracha that we also mention HaShem’s covenant with us and the Torah. The third bracha is a prayer for the rebuilding of Yerushalayim and the restoration of the Beis HaMikdash and the Davidic dynasty.

Reciting all of this after each addition of a few ounces to our physical constitution, no matter where we live, may not seem particularly relevant. But it is. A Jew must focus his attention on the ultimate purpose of the creation of the material. Any thank-you for food must include mention of Eretz Yisroel and Yerushalayim, for only through the Land of Israel are the world’s material components put to use in the most sublime and ideal fashion.

And yet we may imagine that we can daily acknowledge the ideal while continuing to live our own lives among the nations in a lessthan-ideal fashion. Dwelling apart would be nice, we may say, but as for me, blending in with my host country will suffice. The Torah tells us otherwise. If we dwell apart, then “Israel will dwell apart in security.” (Devarim 33) If, however, we choose not to do so willingly, then solitude of a different, nature will be forced upon us. “How does she dwell apart in solitude?” is, we will recall, the opening verse of Lamentations.

How often have we tried to assimilate! Yet we, like the oil which can never blend with other liquids, are doomed to remain separate. Rav Chaim Volozhiner put it succinctly: “If the Jew does not make kiddush then the goy makes havdala.” Either we separate and sanctify ourselves, or the matter will be taken care of for us in much more painful ways.

The ultimate “cure” for all the woes of the Jew among the nations can only be a return to our own Land, there to live a life absolutely unique in its sanctification.

Consider the verse: “No man will covet your Land when you ascend to greet the Presence of HaShem thrice yearly.” (Shemos 34) Would it not have been sufficient if no one took the Land? Why was it necessary to promise that no one would “covet” the Land?

In light of our discussion regarding the purpose of Eretz Yisroel, we can explain this verse in the following manner:

The Ibn Ezra explains that the prohibition of Lo sachmod - do not covet - demands that a person recognize that all possessions are Divinely ordained for their owners. One does not covet that which is totally removed from his sphere (e.g., the peasant does not desire the king’s daughter, whom he merely admires from afar).

With this in mind, the verse quoted above takes on new meaning. The Jewish people are to renew and revitalize their relationship to HaShem three times each year by immersion in the holiness of Yerushalayim. They then go home to live their everyday lives in Eretz Yisroel proper - a sanctified people in a sanctified society, observing numerous agricultural commandments with the produce of a sanctified Land. The nations of the world will recognize that Eretz Yisroel is something outside their orbit. Perceiving how ill-suited it is to their olam hazeh ways and goals, they will lose interest in it. It is only when we dwell in Eretz Yisroel in a secular manner comparable to theirs that the nations imagine it has relevance to them also - and that is when they covet the Land.

This is a general picture of the way things are meant to be for the people of Israel living in the Land of Israel. Although every person must act in accordance with his unique circumstances, the Jew must maintain an awareness of the task of klal Yisroel in Creation. While an individual Jew may reach a relatively high level anywhere, there is no possibility of fulfilling our national destiny except in Eretz Yisroel.

An important point for the ben Torah to consider is this: only those who accept the full implications of the Torah’s starting from Bereishis, as explained above, are in a position to bring HaShem’s plan to fruition.

It thus behooves us to readdress the question: Where is the aliya from the Torah communities of the West? Having dismissed so many excuses, I would now like to focus on what I believe are root causes.

Underlying Factors

One factor which should not be underestimated is Zionism. The secular Zionist movement sought to replace the Torah, which it rejected, with nationalism - the Land of Israel, the Hebrew language, and “culture” - as the sole foundation of Jewish identity.

This had a variety of consequences. One which is rarely discussed, but which is especially relevant and particularly tragic, is the effect on the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisroel. Somehow, G-d’s commandment seems to have become tainted by the Zionist idea. Interestingly enough, there is a precedent for de-emphasizing a mitzva when it is thus “cut off from the tree of life” by some. When the minim (early Christians) discarded the 613 mitzvos for the “Ten Commandments” exclusively, the Rabbis removed the recitation of these aseres hadibros from the tefilla. They feared that mentioning only these might mislead the masses into following the minim. They did not, however, stop observing the aseres hadibros! It is interesting to note that the need to cease publicly emphasizing the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisroel, based on the above reasoning, was suggested ninety years ago by none other than Harav Avraham Yitzchak Kook, zt”l. (Hapeles, 5661, issues 1 - 4, quoted in Le’or Hanetzach pp. 121 - 122) Indeed, this could be one reason why gedolei Yisroel to this day do not publicly emphasize the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisroel.

For the Torah community, however, to fall into the trap of equating Zion with Zionism, and avoid the tremendous mitzva involved because it appears blemished, is a great tragedy.

Ben Gurion once said that if the Knesset voted for Shabbos observance, he would observe it as the law of the land. Would there then be justification for us to cease observing Shabbos because the Zionists were observing it for the wrong reason and in a distorted fashion?!

The Sadducees distorted the Yom Kippur service, the counting of the omer, the celebration of Shavuos, and countless other mitzvos. Did chazal then react by neglecting or ignoring these mitzvos? Rather they emphasized proper observance in defiance of the falsifiers, even in times when the Sadducees were in power and had the upper hand.

Therefore, the subtle negative effects of Zionism must be brought to the surface of our thinking, so that each of us can attack them in a rational fashion, without negating the importance of the Land or the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisroel.

The final element which must be confronted is a formidable one. It is the difficulty involved in aliya. The mitzva of tzitzis, after all - including all shitos and hiddurim - is one thing. Leaving one’s birthplace, family and friends, and all that is comfortable and familiar, is quite another. Nevertheless, the ability to do so, says Rav Chaim Volozhiner, exists potentially in the very fiber of every Jew. It is our legacy from our forefather Avraham, programmed into our spiritual genetic makeup ever since he heeded the command of “tech lecha” on that very first aliya laAretz. (Ruach Chaim on Pirkei Avos 5, 4)

The difficulties of yishuv Eretz Yisroel do not end when one arrives, just as one’s aliya does not stop at Lod Airport. Rather, it is an ongoing process of realizing ever higher goals. The hurdles are testified to by chazal as a permanent component of the mitzva and should not be considered a new result of modern bureaucracy. What chazal say about this is deserving of our consideration. “HaKadosh Baruch Hu gave Israel three precious gifts, and all were given only through suffering. They are: Torah, Eretz Yisroel, and the world-to-come.” (Brachos 5) These words of our sages underscore something every Torah Jew knows: In serving HaShem we do not neglect a mitzva because it is difficult. That which comes hardest is often the most valuable, hence, the most precious gift.

Another category of “difficulty” must be mentioned. The learned and G-d fearing individual knows that Eretz Yisroel is the “palace of the King.” A higher, more exacting standard of behavior is demanded here. One might reason that he should not introduce himself into a situation that may demand more of him spiritually than he can deliver. He may therefore opt to remain in chutz laAretz rather than to abuse the sanctity of the Land. (Such logic might have validity for a Jew absolutely uninterested in Torah and mitzvos. In chutz laAretz, his transgressions would be less devastating. On the other hand, for such a person, settling in Eretz Yisroel might be the very thing that would provide a positive influence and move him to teshuva.)

By the above line of reasoning, all Torah study should cease. The more one learns, after all, the more is demanded of him. The higher his level, the more strictly is he judged. Should he not therefore opt to learn as little as possible so as not to magnify his failings and avoid abusing the sanctity of the Torah? The fallacy here is that we are required by the Torah constantly to elevate ourselves, to accept added responsibility. The Torah we possess will aid us in accommodating ourselves to our raised level. Likewise the merit and kedusha of Eretz Yisroel will elevate us, actually aiding us to live properly in the King’s palace. Furthermore, if we are in danger of transgressing despite Torah learning and Eretz Yisroel, how much lower would we fall without their saving powers. (See Michtav MeEliyahu, vol. II, pp. 54 - 55)

In Conclusion

No, Eretz Yisroel is not “just another mitzva.” For ben Torah or baal bayis it represents an elevation to higher levels of sanctity in every aspect of life, availability of mitzvos which cannot be fulfilled anywhere else, and the potential - however remote it may appear for the moment - of a consummate Torah society.

To our great dismay, the geula has not yet come. According to our gedolim we are living in ikvesa dimeshicha, the last stage of golus. Ours is a time of paradoxes and great tests. On the one hand we have witnessed many miraculous and marvelous events. We have been zocheh that a large portion of Eretz Yisroel has been returned to Jewish hands and is thriving and flourishing. Aliya is now within the relatively easy grasp of millions of Jews. HaShem in His kindness has granted us access once again to our mekomos kedoshim (the Kosel Hamaaravi, Me’aras Hamachpela, Kever Rochel…).

At the same time, however, a secular government with a secular system of law reigns in Israel today, a government that can be hostile to Torah values and Torah-observant Jews. The media may, on occasion, spew forth such hatred for Torah that one can only be astounded and deeply ashamed that the language of such blasphemy is Hebrew. Missionaries peddle their wares, apparently unchecked. We must demonstrate against public chillul Shabbos and other types of desecration. The confusion over “Who is a Jew” and the introduction of the deviationist Conservativism and Reform even in this holy Land add to our heartache. All of these shadows loom over Eretz Yisroel.

And yet, there is so much light. Yeshivos and other mekomos Torah are proliferating at an unbelievable pace and are bursting at the seams. Thousands of previously estranged Jews are returning to our Torah heritage. Torah cities thrive and new ones are being built, Torah neighborhoods with all their accoutrements flourish in all the major cities, and even Torah moshavim and kibbutzim dot the map of the Land.

Chazal have instructed us that it is better to dwell in Eretz Yisroel in a city that is predominantly non-Jewish than to dwell in chutz laAretz, even in a city predominantly Jewish. (Kesubos 110) This does not mean that living in the band of Israel per se is more important than living in a Torah environment. But rather, I recently heard the idea that in Eretz Yisroel, the potential for positive change is inherent. The trend is for more and more Jews to come and transform the previously non-Jewish city into a Jewish one. Chutz laAretz, on the other hand, is doomed to negative change for the Jew. Permanence is, by definition, impossible there. Neighborhoods are destined to flourish temporarily, wane, and ultimately fall into non-Jewish hands. (Who has not seen this?)

So, if the dark patches described above trouble you, think in terms of potential for change. Imagine the impact of an influx of hundreds of thousands, or even thousands, of Torah-observant Jews, rabbanim, mechanchim, bnei Torah, and balebatim - men, women and children - on society in Israel and on the very character of the “Jewish State.”

Lest the reader think that mere numbers are not the issue, let me cite an exchange reported to have taken place between the Chazon Ish and Ben Gurion. The prime minister had asked the gaon’s prediction of who would ultimately be victorious in shaping Israeli society - the secularist camp or the Torah camp. The answer of the Chazon Ish was: “I am not a prophet, but I am certain that we will win out in the end. Our birthrate exceeds yours by far and one day we will be the majority!”

And if you are concerned that Israel may be unable to accommodate a vast influx, socially and economically, take this into consideration: I have heard secular Israeli leaders say that they would welcome and be able to handle tremendous numbers of immigrants. If they, presumably relying and depending on their “own” resources and means, feel so sure, how much more should we, who trust in the Ribbono shel olam? Eretz Yisroel is referred to as “Eretz Tzvi” (the Land like a deer). Just as a deer’s skin constantly expands to accommodate its growth, so too Eretz Yisroel can always accommodate additional Jews. As Rav Sonnenfeld put it, “When children return to their mother’s home there is no question of space. They squeeze together to sit but the mother never complains of lack of room.” (Ha’ish Al Hachoma, vol. II, p. 153)

HaShem Yisbarach has blessed us with wonderful gifts in our generation. It stands to reason that He is watching to see if we appreciate all that He has done. Do we consider it sufficient to admire from afar, and maybe visit once in a while? Or are we grateful enough to sacrifice some physical and material comforts in order to benefit from these spiritual luxuries? Perhaps an exhibition of genuine appreciation of His gifts will earn us the final crowning of a hastened geula!

With all of this, however, it would be overstated to advocate unconditionally that every religious Jew pick up and leave the diaspora tomorrow. Each individual situation must be studied carefully, and all of the legitimate factors considered.

This means asking a posek. During my years of experience as a community rav, I was impressed by the number of balebatim who, for example, would not break their fast on Taanis Esther despite a serious headache, without a psak halacha. Is such conscientiousness nothing more than a big show on a small matter? I prefer to believe it is the expression of a genuine desire to fulfill HaShem’s will. If it is, it would not allow the Jew to exempt himself from a mitzva as important, as all-encompassing, as yishuv Eretz Yisroel, before asking a shaila. One should not interpret the absence of public exhortations from gedolim on this or any other issue to be an indication of a negative attitude or even of indifference. There are a great many factors which may mandate public silence on some matter, even one viewed favorably, even one of great importance, even a question of mitzva and aveira.

If in the final analysis your particular circumstances dictate that you yourself remain in chutz laAretz, be ever sensitive to the fact that you are missing something. Recognize that no Jewish community in chutz laAretz - Y rum” and established though it may be - can ever replace Eretz Yisroel. If this is an important awareness for the lay individual, it is crucial for the teacher or community leader. In striving to raise the level of Torah and mitzva observance of those under your influence, you should stress the inevitable incompleteness of Jewish life outside the Land of Israel.

If you do not merit settling in Eretz Yisroel presently, aspire and fervently pray for the day when your circumstances will change, so that you will be able to fulfill this mitzva and reap the spiritual benefits of living in our holy Land. It would also be advantageous to visit Eretz Yisroel from time to time if your finances permit, to keep the fires of your dreams and aspirations glowing. The Chazon Ish (Kovets Igros, vol. 1, no. 176) supports this recommendation.

It is not sufficient to admire and appreciate the advantages and benefits of Eretz Yisroel in theory. In part this was the sin of the spies who, while extolling the beauty and goodness of the Land, lacked the bitachon to take advantage of those merits and concretize their personal connection to the Land. Rav Yaakov Emden, in his Siddur, emphasizes this point. “The mere hint of facing towards Yerushalayim when we pray is only sufficient when more than that is impossible. But, if we are not prevented by circumstance from physically being in Eretz Yisroel, then just facing in its direction will not suffice. Therefore, every Jew must resolve in his heart to settle in Eretz Yisroel as soon as he has the means to finance his move and to be able to eke out a meager livelihood by means of a trade or business…. Don’t think to become entrenched in chutz laAretz for this was the sin of our forefathers who `despised the desirable Land.’ This sin has caused all the calamities in our golus. We have been like one totally forgotten because we have completely forgotten the mitzva to dwell in Eretz Yisroel.”

Other Torah sages too have warned of becoming too settled in chutz laAretz. Some even went so far as to prohibit the erection of permanent stone dwellings outside of Eretz Yisroel. The Keli Yakar at the beginning of parshas Vayechi explains why the date of the arrival of Mashiach was hidden from us: to prevent us from becoming too settled in foreign lands, and losing the sense of anticipation of his arrival and of our imminent return to Eretz Yisroel. He goes on to bemoan the lack of success of even this measure, noting that so many Jews feel so settled in the lands of their dispersion that they build luxurious, permanent homes, and ignore even the possibility (let alone the fervent desire) that Mashiach may come at any moment and bring us all back to the Land of Israel.

We must refrain from feeling settled and fulfilled as long as we are outside the Land. This attitude need not lead to melancholy but should instead actually enhance one’s spiritual life. It affords direction in aspiring towards the proper values and lifestyle. Interestingly, it may also provide physical protection for the community in which one resides now, as illustrated by the following account from the Shearis Yisroel, in the name of Rav Yehoshua Falk, the author of the SMA.

The city of Worms was devastated twice during the Crusades. Why did a city blessed with pious Torah scholars merit such a fate? When Ezra hasofer returned to Eretz Yisroel to begin his work on the second Beis HaMikdash, he sent letters to all the major kehillos of the time inviting them to return with him. The kehilla of Worms, which had been established since the destruction of the first Temple, responded: “Peace unto you, Ezra hasofer! May you be successful in establishing the grand Beis HaMikdash in the grand Yerushalayim. We, however, will remain here in our `small Yerushalayim’ and with our mikdash meat, our small Temple.” This attitude, tragically common even in our own day, spiritually blemished the city to such an extent that it was especially vulnerable to the attacks of the Crusaders many years later.

And if in fact your personal circumstances do not exempt you from fulfilling this magnificent mitzva, then do not delay. If you keep in mind the benefits which will accrue to you personally, as well as the tremendous advantage to the klal, you will surely act with alacrity. Preparations need not be elaborate. The most important preparation that one can make is learning and teaching his family the importance of Eretz Yisroel in the total picture of avodas HaShem - for each Jew, and for the Jewish nation.

The sefarim relate the minhag of leaving the doors to one’s home unlocked all through the night of Pesach. This was in keeping with the tradition that an opportune time for our future geula will be the anniversary of our first one (geulas Mitzrayim). Eager for the advent of Eliyahu hanavi to herald the geula, we do not wish to delay the process even the few seconds it would take to unlock the door.

We are all anxiously awaiting the geula daily. To come and await Mashiach in Eretz Yisroel will avoid much needless delay when he arrives.

May HaShem Yisbarach grant us the ability to hear the echoes of Rav Sonnenfeld’s call: “Where is the religious aliya from the Torah communities of the West?” May we be blessed with the perceptiveness to respond, “We are investigating, we are preparing, we are on our way!”

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Bibliography: Aliyah and Geula

From Rivkah Lambert Adler:

A few weeks ago, I was looking for books about the connection between aliyah and geula. I went into a few local Jewish bookstores with some specific titles in mind and was disappointed to find that, for the most part, they didn't stock what I was looking for. So now my vision is to encourage the local Jewish bookstores to arrange a special section with a selection of titles about aliyah, Eretz Yisrael, Moshiach and geula. Can you imagine what an impact it could have on our community if these kinds of books were prominently displayed in our local Jewish bookstores?

In order to move this vision forward, I put together a bibliography. I prepared a version, with pictures of the covers, in Word. I'm only too happy to send it to you by request, but it's a large file so I didn't want to attach it here. You've certainly heard of some of these titles and probably already own a few. Please let me know if there are others I've missed.

Now I'm asking those of you who still live in Baltimore to go into the local Jewish bookstores and ask for (and buy! and read!) some of these titles. (Those of you who read my blog will surely recognize that this effort is part of my shlichut ;-)

Inspiration for Aliyah, Eretz Yisrael and Geula: An Annotated Bibliography
Prepared by Rivkah Lambert Adler, Coordinator, Baltimore Chug Aliyah
February 2008

Aliyah Stories

Moving Up: An Aliyah Journal
by Laura Ben-David
Mazo Publishers
Moving Up is an easy-to-read, daily account of a family's first year in Israel, from the packing up of their American house to the birth of their first child in Israel a year later.

To Dwell In The Palace: Perspectives on Eretz Yisroel
by Tzvia Ehrlich-Klein
Feldheim Publishers
A thought-provoking collection of articles, addressed to religious Jews in the West concerning the mitzvah of aliyah. I first read To Dwell in the Palace when it was published in 1991 and I was still firmly enmeshed in my Diaspora Judaism. I've reread it many times since then, and it retains its power to move the soul. Do not miss the section called, "Things My Shaliach Never Told Me."

Aliya: Three Generations of American-Jewish Immigration to Israel
by Liel Leibovitz
St. Martin's Griffin
The 2,000 year-old yearning to live in Israel, as expressed in the social history of one Jewish family.

Home to Stay: One American Family's Chronicle of Miracles and Struggles in Contemporary Israel
by Daniel Gordis
Three Rivers Press
The paperback version of If a Place Can Make You Cry, the story of Daniel Gordis and his family's decision to make aliyah after a sabbatical year spent in Jerusalem.

Aliyah and Eretz Yisrael

Eretz Yisrael in the Parashah: The Centrality of the Land of Israel in the Torah
by Moshe D. Lichtman
Devora Publishing
Why do so many Jews still choose to live in the Diaspora? To answer this question, the author analyzes every reference to Eretz Yisrael in the 54 Torah portions, demonstrates the overriding importance of Eretz Yisrael and encourages Diaspora Jews to at least consider making aliyah.

Talking About Eretz Yisrael: The Profound And Essential Meaning Of Making Aliyah
by Rabbi Pinchas Winston
ShaarNun Productions
This book is a forthright argument meant to encourage Torah-observant Jews to urgently consider making aliyah today.

Torat Eretz Yisrael: The Teachings of HaRav Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook (Lights on OROT)
by Rabbi David Samson and Tzvi Fishman
Torat Eretz Yisrael Publications
The rabbinic name most associated with Religious Zionism is HaRav Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook, better known as Rav Kook, who lived and taught in pre-State Palestine. This book is an accessible English commentary on Rav Kook's teachings about Eretz Yisrael.

Eim Habanim Semeichah: On Eretz Yisrael, Redemption, and Unity
by Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal
Urim Publications
Rabbi Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal was an Eastern European scholar living during the Holocaust. While hiding from the Nazis in Budapest in 1943, he wrote this lengthy argument on behalf of the establishment of Jewish dominion over Israel, a position that he had previously opposed.

A Question of Redemption: Can the Modern State of Israel be the Beginning of Redemption? Questions and Answers in Halachah
by Rabbi Ya'akov Moshe Bergman
Kol Mevaser
Can the State of Israel really be "The First Flowering of our Redemption"? This book presents the Religious Zionist viewpoint of the State of Israel and the ultimate redemption.

Moshiach and Geula

The Ishmaelite Exile
by Yechiel Weitzman
Jerusalem Publications/ Feldheim
This book focuses on Jewish prophecies as they relate to the difficult events facing Israel and the Jewish people in the days closest to geula. The author argues that everything that is playing out in today's headlines about the conflict in the Middle East was predicted by Jewish texts long ago.

Talking About The End of Days: View of Our Times Based on Revealed and Inner Teachings of Torah
by Rabbi Pinchas Winston
ShaarNun Productions
A guide to better understanding the stage of Jewish history in which we find ourselves.

Redemption Unfolding: The Last Exile of Israel, Chevlei Mashiach, the War of Gog & Magog and the Final Redemption
Feldheim Publications
This book will help you understand current world events in their larger, Torah context.

Secrets of the Redemption
Feldheim Publications
by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzatto
A translation and commentary on the Ramchal's (Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto) sefer Ma'amar HaGeula. For advanced students of Jewish texts.

As A New Day Breaks: A Contemporary View Of Mashiach And Israel's Redemption
by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger
Sichos in English/E.M.E.T

Sound the Great Shofar: Essays on the Imminence of the Redemption
by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger
Sichos in English
Based on the public addresses given by Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, this book offers answers to many of today's most frequently asked questions on the subject of geula.

Living With Moshiach: An Anthology of Brief Homilies and Insights on the Weekly Torah Readings and the Festivals (Paperback)
by Jacob Immanuel Schochet
Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch
Observations on the redemption by parsha.

On Eagle's Wings: Moshiach, Redemption, And The World To Come
by Rabbi Herschel Brand
Feldheim Publishers
Awaiting the Moshiach is one of the underpinnings of Jewish belief, one of

Maimonides's Thirteen Principles of Faith. The author gathers together the teachings of the Sages on this subject in an illuminating and thought-provoking question-and-answer format.

Mashiach:The Principle of Mashiach and the Messianic Era in Jewish Law and Tradition
by Jacob I Schochet
Sichos in English

Mashiach: Who? What? Why? How? Where? and When?
by Chaim Kramer
Based on teachings about Mashiach in the Bible, Talmud, Midrash and Kabbalah, together with insights from the writings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov.

Rivkah Lambert Adler

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Only Israeli Judaism is Authentic!

So said Israeli author A.B. Yehoshua in May 2006, at the American Jewish Committee's (AJC) Centennial Symposium.

He reiterated similar sentiments in the clip below.

Unsurprisingly, many both in Israel and the world Jewish community disagreed.

In response, the AJC complied a booklet of responses, both for and against what A.B. Yehoshua said, entitled: The A. B.Yehoshua Controversy: An Israel-Diaspora Dialogue on Jewishness, Israeliness, and Identity

It makes for a good read.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Tour of the Temple Mount - Video

Have you ever thought about visiting the Temple Mount, but, for whatever reason, have yet to do so?

Well, here's your chance to take a virtual tour (until you're ready for the real thing, of course).

Below is a video preview (8+ minutes) of a tour of the Temple Mount led by Rabbi Chaim Richman of the Temple Institute. The tour was led in August, 2005.

For the complete 90 minute tour, visit here.

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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Kumah Kall 1 - In the Snow

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Get Behind Me Satan!

(Must see video above) I am always trying to bring across to people the concept that Amalek wants to stop the Jews from coming home. The Baal HaTurim on the beginning of Parshat Ki Tavo explains that there is a reason why Ki Tavo, the Torah portion dealing with entering the land and tithing to Hashem there, is directly preceded by Parshat Zachor, the Torah section dealing with the commandment to blot out Amalek's name. Why? Because we are only commanded to get rid of Amalek when we are in the Land of Israel:

"Therefore it shall come about when the LORD your God has given you rest from all your surrounding enemies, in the land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you must not forget."

Only when we are united in the land do we have the power to fight this dark force. When we are in the Diaspora, we are not in our natural element, and we are divided. This is the source of Amalek's strength against us. Here is the Amelekite creed:

"Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, "There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from those of all other people and they do not observe the king's laws, so it is not in the king's interest to let them remain."

The Baal HaTurim further explains that Amalek will do everything in his power to stop the Jewish people from coming home. It was Amalek who told Laban that Jacob had fled Haran and was en route to Israel: "It was told to Laban on the third day that Jacob had fled." It was Amalek who told Pharoah the Jews had fled: "The king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his servants had a change of heart toward the people, and they said, 'What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?'"

Why did he tell them this? Because he wanted to stop the Jewish from reaching home. Finally, when Amalek saw that he could not use puppets to do his dirty work, he went after the Jews himself: "Then Amalek came and fought against Israel at Rephidim."

Amalek is alive and well today. He is out there. Call him the Serpent, Satan, or Darth Vader, whatever. The point is that the dark force of this world will stop at nothing to keep us away from home. All the wars against us are instigated by this energy. More importantly, all the wars within us are supported by this power. Division within our ranks is a classic tool of Amalek who always attacks those who are weakest, who are holding on least tight: "Remember what Amalek did to you along the way when you came out from Egypt, how he met you along the way and attacked among you all the stragglers at your rear when you were faint and weary; and he did not fear God."

Once you are attuned to this you can begin to hear the shrieking cry of Amalak as the the Jewish people continue to ingather. It is certain death for him. The death of cynicism and doubt, the death of division and darkness. This is why I love the video I posted above. The gospel singers knew that on the way to Canaan Land, Satan is going to do all he can to stop you. "Get behind me Amalek!" is what they are singing.

KNOW THIS: if you are being attacked by doubt and cynicism about making Aliyah and making your life here, you are probably very dangerous to Amalek. You are probably a great asset to the Jews and to Israel and the dark energies want to keep you down and darken your eye. Don't let 'em. Keep coming and keep singing "I'm on my way...."

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Did Gaza break my faith?

Did Gaza break my faith?

I don’t know. I have thought about this before. Often in fact. Losing one’s faith in God is no small thing. And I not only lost mine, it has died and been buried.

I literally had a dream as I was becoming secular where I was walking through the Judean Hills, a stream was within earshot, and I went to look for it. As I approached the stream, with a waterfall sounding the background I noticed a cemetery near the creek. I saw mourners, and as I approached they came to comfort me. Who had died? What was I mourning? Why was I being comforted? And then I saw it, a sefer torah was being buried, and it was my loved one, my sefer torah, that had died. I suddenly realized what was taking place, this funeral was for my loved one, these mourners were there to comfort me! Next to the sefer torah I saw the tombstones of my grandparents. My god! I cried. I said goodbye. I buried torah.

Please understand. I am not looking for theological reasons to come back to religion. It can’t happen. I have buried her. I loved her. Once. She was a major influence on my life, much like my grandparents. Will remain so. But she is gone now, dead. I am sad at this loss, but I can no more resurrect torah in my life than I can resurrect my dead grandfathers.

I woke up from that dream shaken. That was the moment when I stopped pretending that I could maintain my religious lifestyle. It was a lie, and I am not a hypocrite. From someone who dreamed of being a rav to a secular Jew. It was unforeseen. I believed so strongly, so completely. I never thought it could die. But it did.


I don’t know.

I know that it happened the same time as the Gaza expulsion. I do know that Gaza still haunts me. Did Gaza cause it? Not entirely, but it certainly played a part. It must have. I wake up in the middle of the night usually once a week, deeply upset and hurt. I’m waking… what happened? What was I dreaming? Right… Yehuda was being expelled from the home he built in Shirat HaYam. My friends were being dragged from their homes. I am being dragged away from the beach house. By Jews. Because we are Jews. The orange flag flies against the orange sun on the horizon. The greenhouses spring over with their bounty.


No more. Houses torn apart, bulldozed. Greenhouses ripped asunder, crops turning brown without the water and love they were given by their caregivers.

I know that my friend’s children still wet their pants at the site of police officers. Imagine. Don’t just read the sentence. Imagine what that means. Take a minute, it takes a minute to imagine something so horrible after all. Jewish policemen, in a Jewish State, scaring children so badly for the crimes their colleagues committed that they wet themselves in fear. That their memory and understanding of a Jewish Army and Jewish police force is identical to the memory of someone grabbing them from their parents and dragging them from their homes.

I know that my belief in the power of what I assume to be a destiny to triumph over evil is not a given. That when good people do nothing evil prevails. That those who came and chanted near the gates of Gaza about how terrible this was but dared not enter Gaza chanted with empty voices. The song of canaries. It may have sounded right and beautiful, but it lacked any meaning.

I know that no one seemed to take it seriously. That at best it caused my fellow countrymen to lament how sad it was that Jews had expelled Jews, lacking any real empathy or understanding for the pain those Jews must be in. That Israel must be in. That the Jewish Nation should be in.

I know that I lost faith that I would be able to continue living where I was without facing the same fate. I would dream, no, I would nightmare, every night about the screaming and fighting and crying that would greet me, my wife, our future children, our loved ones, our neighbors, when our turn came. I suddenly feared that it would indeed come.

I know that my grandmother, a kind woman of over 90 years, a doctor, a healer, a liberal, a former German, a current American, a democrat, told me bluntly, that this was the first time Jews were being expelled from somewhere simply because they were Jews and she didn’t understand how or why Jews could do this. This, from a survivor of the Shoah. How it pained me. She never thought she would live to see it again. How empty the chant of ‘Never Again’. How empty.

I know that the beaches in Tel Aviv were full when Gaza was emptied of her Jews.

I know that we speak of Gaza and act (forget?) as if the four yishuvim expelled of their Jewish residents in Samaria are just an after thought.

I know that I still wake up with shivers, sweating, nightmaring of the expulsion of my people. I bleed orange. I love my people and my land and my heritage. I wish we had the courage to be what I know we could be.

I know we have learned nothing. Nothing. Our government is now ready to do to the Jews of Judea and Samaria, of the Jordan Valley, of my home, of the suburbs of Jerusalem, of our holy Temple Mount, of the Old City, of our most ancient graveyard, what she did to Gaza and North Samaria. Palestine must be Jew free. But Israel can have Israeli-Arabs. Why no Jewish Palestinians? If this is an issue of a majority people ruling their land? There is no logic here. No peace. Just hate. This I know. And what do we do? What do I do? Nothing.

When will this nightmare die? When will a new hope arise? Is the awakening of American Jews to the reality of Israel, to her realness, is the Arising of American Jewry as she returns Home the glimpse of this new hope amid the nightmare? Can we be our people’s savior? Certainly we have waited long enough for our turn to fight for our people (shame on us!). Are we ready for the challenge? I don’t know.

I know that when I am casually looking up fun Israeli music on the internet I can’t help but have search strings that return sites about the expulsion from Aza. And I know that I still break down and cry when I see those pictures. Those horrible pictures.

When one has buried God, has seen Torah buried, it becomes exceedingly difficult to find comfort in the words of our prophets, for all of their comforts rest on knowing that God loves us and will comfort us, will lead us out of darkness. I know that I can no longer believe that.

Man, excuse me, humanity, we make our fate. We make our destiny. We decide. And right now, we seem to be deciding to appease evil, to stand by evil, to ignore the plight of others, to pretend they deserved it, or that it is all part of a Divine Plan, and all will be alright, as if the damage has not already been done when children wet themselves at the site of Jewish police, or suicide rates among evacuees is through the roof, or divorces occur because of the trauma, or even, dare I be so self centered, a 27 year old man cries himself to bed when reminded about this trauma because he was foolish enough to think he could look up Israeli music without accidentally coming into contact with his nightmare.

I want to wake up.

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Say Hello To The New Olim!!!

Words Can't Add Anything To These Photos!

20 Photos From Thursday's NBN Winter 2007 Aliyah Flight

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Jerusalem Event - Screening of Movie on Jews of Uganda

Screening of SABC (South African Broadcasting Corp) documentary entitled


Produced by Marion Segal and Directed by Guy Lieberman
who will be in attendance to present the documentary while he is visiting Israel.


Thursday 27th December, 7 pm
(Doors open at 6.45 pm, all those non-reserved will be first come, first served. Limited seating)



3rd Ear Screening Room
8 Emek Refaim
German Colony, Jerusalem



This film documents a unique community of Jews living in a remote corner of Uganda, close to the border with Kenya. Called Abayudaya, which means "Jews" in the local language, these peasant farmers practice a home-grown form of Judaism which harks back to biblical times. Claiming no ancestral or genetic connection to Judaism, Chief Kakangulu and his followers chose to adopt the Jewish faith about 90 years ago, despite opposition and even persecution.

Produced by Marion Segal, the story of the Abayudaya is told through the eyes of South African director, Guy Lieberman. Journeying to an area known as the Pearl of Africa, Guy's encounter with the Abayudaya raises questions of faith, identity, devotion and belonging amongst a peoples living in isolation from the rest of the Jewish world.

"It is a remarkable story of hardship and profound faith, prayer and the promise of deliverance, told with humour and joy."

- excerpt from the South African Jewish Report article, attached.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Abayudaya - Jewish Zionists in Rural Uganda!

You heard right!

This is one of the most inspiring stories of our time. It is a story that takes place in rural Uganda, in Putti village, where 160 people have been practicing Judaism for nearly four generations.

The organizations, Putti Village Assistance Organization as well as The Committee To Save Ugandan Jewry are working to gain them an Orthodox giur (if needed) and economic self sufficiency. Their ultimate goal? To resettle in the Land of Israel and join the Jewish People.

You have to check out this amazing story: The Jews Of Uganda

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Be Very Afraid

Dear Mr. Fleisher,

Greetings! Quite often when I listen to Israel National Radio, I hear you, among many of the other personalities, recommend that Jewish listeners should seriously consider making "aliyah."

I wonder if that is such a good idea. G-d in His great wisdom sent the Jews into exile. Was this possibly a way of Him making you not quite such an easy target? I am thinking of the old adage, "Don't put all of your eggs in one basket," or perhaps a more modern variation such as, "Don't put all of your United States Marines in one barracks in Beirut."

Or as I roared to one platoon many years ago when I served, "Spread out you ******** (expletive deleted)!"

I agree totally that the Jews were handed a raw deal for no reason whatsoever in many countries. However, "strength in numbers" is no longer all that accurate a statement considering the modern weapons of warfare and the devastation which they wreak.

Thank you. Keep safe and well.

Yours, ever faithfully,


Hello Yishai,

Why do you want all the Jews in America to go back to Israel? - It seems a strategic disaster to have them all in one place for their enemy to find.

Thanks, Becky


Subject: reverse aliya


I haven't read the news yet. I am scared! What happens now to all of you living in Israel, and not just the Shtuchim?

Will Israel be around long enough to make aliya to?

David from Brooklyn

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Analysis: Left Is Running Out Of Time

(Photo: AP)

Last week a very important, but easily overlooked story was reported in the Israeli media. Arutz Sheva reported it as well. I am pasting it below. I have written about this in the past. In a nutshell, the powers that be on the political and religious left realize they will not remain in power much longer as their population dwindles.

In March 2005 the Jewish Observer quoted a CBS Machon Yerushalyim study that found 50% of the Charadi population to be below the age of 8. The Dati Leumi population was likewise as young and growing just as fast. Simply put that means in 10-18 years, the voting power of these two demographics will double. Actually the hard number of legal voters in this population will double but the voting power may triple or even quadruple when you combine that fact with the statistic that shows non-religious couples were have a birth rate of only 1.2 per couple. A significant power shift in the next generation is obvious.

Fast-forward three and half years. What we see today is the geometric change is in fact occurring. This means not only will the change happen but the rate of the change will increase dramatically as each year passes. Today the latest statistics show just about half the population considers themselves traditional, a third religious, and only one in five call themselves secular - just half of what it was 35 years ago. It is no stretch by any means to say in another 35 years the secular population will consist of less that 10% of Israel, while the religious population will make up well over 50% of the country.

These statistics, nor their clear predictions, are a secret. And so this is why we are finding the left trying to inflict as much "damage" as they can while they can. For they know if their ideological goals are not realized now, today, they most likely will never be - ever!

The Arutz-7 article follows:

Israel Becoming Less Secular
15 Kislev 5768, 25 November 07 02:44
by Hillel Fendel

( An Israel Democratic Institute (IDI) demographic survey finds religious growth and secular decline - but most significant is that the proportion of religious in the public is highest among the youth.

The percentage of Jews describing themselves as secular has dropped sharply over the past 30 years, while the religious and traditional proportions have risen. The annual survey finds that the secular public comprises only 20% of the Israeli population - compared to 41%, more than twice as much, in 1974.

Nearly half the population, 47%, describes itself as traditional, while the hareidi-religious and religious-Zionist together comprise 33% of the public.

The numbers were compiled based on a survey of representative sampling of 1,016 Israelis Jews.

Tradition Reigns
Over the past seven years, according to IDI statistics, the proportion of secular Jews has dropped sharply from 32% to 20% today. The "traditionalists" have traditionally had the lead in polls of this nature - except for one year in 1974, when they trailed the seculars, 41% to 38%.

Other findings show that the Sephardic population is much more traditional and religious than the Ashkenazic sector. Ashkenazic Jews are those originating from European (Christian) countries, whereas Sephardic Jews lived in the Iberian Peninsula (now Spain and Portugal), African and Middle Eastern (Moslem) countries. Only 7% of the Sephardim describe themselves as secular, compared to 36% of the Ashkenazim. At the same time, 56% of the Sephardim are religious or hareidi, compared to only 17% of the Ashkenazim.

39% of those under age 40 are religious - more than those in their 40's and 50's (32%), and much more than those aged 60 and over (20%).

It can be inferred from the numbers that Israel is a traditional society, and that it will become even more so as the years go by.

Country is Right-Wing; the Religious - Even More So
Politically, the religious are more right-wing, but so are the others. Among the religious, many more identify with the right than with the left, by a 71-8 margin; among the traditional, it's 49-21, and among the secular, it's 43-27. In total, 55% of the population view themselves as right-wing, and only 18% are to the left.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Return Again

Thursday, October 25, 2007

These Guys Have It Going On

A group of former Brandeis students are starting a 10-day exploratory trip for college grads interested in making Aliyah. Check out their site.


To enable Aliyah-minded students become agents of positive change in Israeli society, the global Jewish community, and the world using Israel as a platform.

The Vision Defined:

Agents of Positive Change

For most North American Jews, there is a financial opportunity cost involved in moving to Israel, and ideology is what pushes them to make the move across the Atlantic. Ideological motives do not end as soon as an oleh steps off the plane—to the contrary, the change in location is just the beginning of the impact that these individuals can potentially make. ImpactAliyah will harness this energy to help these individuals make a positive impact.

Israel as a platform

In computer lingo, a platform is a user interface that helps users achieve their goals. ImpactAliyah advocates the view that Israel is a platform from which inspired individuals can change the world. Tomorrow’s greatest achievers should appreciate the value of making their impact on the world with Israel as their base. ImpactAliyah advocates Aliyah as an opportunity to actively improve Israeli society, to carry out Tikkun Olam (improving the world), and to strengthen the global Jewish Community.


-To establish a social network of young entrepreneurs, social activists and leaders who will support each other through the process of making positive change in and from Israel.
-To empower participants with the skills they will need to succeed in the global marketplace, including the contacts necessary to thrive in Israel.
-To impart an appreciation of the challenges that Israel and the Jewish people face, coupled with the understanding that challenges are opportunities for change.
-To provide value to Israeli companies by connecting them with top students from the United States.
-To provide a model for roving recruitment and networking in a foreign country, to pave the way for groups of American students to relocate to Israel and establish themselves with a sound foundation, enabling them to effect change.


ImpactAliyah will model a roving recruitment journey that matches participants with companies and organizations that fit both their personal interests and goals as well as enabling them to begin making an impact in Israel from the day they get off the plane. To this end, ImpactAliyah is running a ten day pilot journey in January 2008 for 30 students in the Boston area who are interested in Aliyah and making a difference. Participants will study opportunities and challenges that face Israel and the Jewish people, focusing on how American olim and native Israelis work to mitigate these challenges and leverage opportunities. This model will allow students to learn about their fields of interest in Israel, as well as connect companies and organizations in Israel with students who they may eventually hire. Programming in Boston in preparation and in response to the trip will facilitate continued education and support the contacts developed in Israel. The shared experience will create a cohort of like-minded individuals who will support each other in their leadership endeavors in the Jewish State.

· A pre-trip shabbaton, as well as gatherings at several of Boston’s top universities will work towards raising awareness of ImpactAliyah’s vision and build a participant base.

· Over the course of the ten-day trip, participants will engage with movers and shakers in Israel’s cultural and economic centers, including Haifa, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Be’er Sheva.

· The trip will enable students to envision leaving the beaten path of these main centers to struggle with the challenges of life in Israel’s outlying and low-income areas with visits to these locations and with discussions with residents from these areas.

· ImpactAliyah will create and nurture a realistic vision of life in Israel and help students with the initiative to develop their network in Israel over the course of their college career through a mentorship program with new olim and those in more advanced stages of preparation.

· Post-trip programming will enable us to crystallize the ImpactAliyah community, and build towards future initiatives as a group. This programming will include a post-shabbaton, member updates through an internet based newsletter, as well as future networking opportunities.

Project Development

1. Foundational Phase

We are currently building a network of partners including Nefesh B’Nefesh, Hillel at Brandeis, Hillel Council of New England, and the Israel Experience Ltd. We are developing a participant base from top universities in the greater Boston area, including but not limited to Tufts, Brandeis, MIT, Harvard, and Boston University. We have completed the first stage of our market research, which included an e-mail response as well as a survey, jointly receiving almost fifty unique responses from the Boston area.

2. Platform Engagement

Over the course of a ten-day trip to Israel, students will engage Israel as a platform for making positive change. We are currently in the process of finalizing our itinerary and have put together a list of American olim and Israelis who have made an impact on Israeli society and the globalized Jewish people. The Israel Experience Ltd has booked all of our accommodations and meals. We are currently reviewing our options for plane reservations which we will finalize once the application process begins in mid-September. Among other opportunities, Nefesh B’Nefesh will arrange informational interviews between students and olim working in participants’ areas of interest. We have set up home hospitality for all participants during our shabbat in Jerusalem

3. Continued Impact

Following the trip, ImpactAliyah will conduct a number of events to maintain the network built in the platform engagement phase and further our goals. Here are some of the endeavors we are planning thus far:

-A post-trip Shabbaton on the Brandeis campus
-An alumni and friends network of participants and olim which will hold events and gatherings in Israel and the US
-An internet based newsletter, which we will broadcast from our website and from our facebook group

Future Development

ImpactAliyah’sBoston trip will serve as a model for future trips, which will depart from multiple cities as the project gows. The geographically centered trips will create communities of students in various large cities across the United States who will support each other, and serve as leaders on their campuses.

We also envision future trips that will prepare students for a two year commitment to working in Israel after graduation from an American university. In this stage, ImpactAliyah will serve as a package of services, which in addition to a preparatory trip, will include Ulpan, job placement, and financial assistance to help students pay off their academic loans. The preparatory trip in addition to support services during the two year program will allow students to bring their talents to Israel for a short term period following graduation from an American university, and create a lower threshold form of Aliyah. We will focus on placing students in jobs that will make an impact on Israeli society, the world Jewish community and Tikkun Olam, so that the two year program will double as a period of national service to the Jewish people. ImpactAliyah will assist students in the process of integrating into Israeli society so that when students reach Israel’s shores, they will be ready to hit the ground running and make an impact.


Our team consists of two parts—a steering committee of committed students and an advisory board made up of leaders in the organized Jewish world and movers and shakers in Israeli society.

Steering committee: Avi Bass (Brandeis ’08), Jason Lustig (Brandeis ’08), Sam Packer (Brandeis ’08), Adam Ross (Brandeis ’08), Esti Schloss (Brandeis ’09).

Advisory Board: Larry Sternberg (Executive Director of Brandeis Hillel), Dyonna Ginsburg (Former International Director, Yavneh Olami), Aharon Horwitz (CEO, MavenHaven), Ariel Beery (social entrepreneur).

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Neo (Natal) Zionism

Baby Fleisher says: "Homebirth your kids - have them in Israel!"

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Revenge of the Oleh

Revenge of the Oleh.

Share your stories of oleh justice in the comments section.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Avoda Ivrit Roundup

* Haaretz reports that the Supreme Court is actually making Avoda Ivrit more desirable by closing the loopholes allowing Jews in Judea and Samaria to exploit their Hamas-voting neighbors, outsourcing their tax evasion and taking advantage of their proximity to a mafia-run third world empire (my words, not theirs).

* Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, who reportedly did not stop at telling his students they did not HAVE to refuse orders, but told them they HAVE to obey, says Avoda Ivrit is Nazism. Brought to you by Jpost and the racists at RamFM, the clueless, yet entertaining South African-run station broadcasting in English out of Ramallah.

* There is once again an Avoda Ivrit web site! The New Israel Fund, through its proxy, Mossawa closed down the old Israel-based Avoda Ivrit directory, with its webmaster replacing the site with an apology. The new site could use some reader participation.

* Hey, even professional settler-hater Jeffrey Goldberg says he once dabbled in Avoda Ivrit (not in 'Nam, of course): "In the late nineteen-eighties, I worked for a time on a kibbutz in the Jezreel Valley, southeast of Haifa. I was a great believer in the philosophy known as avoda ivrit—the idea that Jews will redeem their land and themselves by hard physical labor."

* - an art studio in Tel Aviv. Nice.

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Monday, October 01, 2007

If You Are Visiting Israel For Sukkot - Think About This:

"Goodbye Wall" by Rabbi Meir Kahane
4 Tishri 5738 - September 16, 1977

They come in all sizes and shapes, complexions and complexes, in fusion and confusion, from East and West and North and South. They are Jews; they are tourists; they come to see it. The Wall. They come with beards and kaftan - direct from Williamsburg; they come with Rabbinical Council mustaches, from Flatbush and Kew Garden Hills; they come with black yarmulkas to signify Agudah and knitted ones to shout their support and empathy with Zvulun Hammer; they come with no yarmulkas and are given them by their local American Jewish Congress tour guide; they come with no yarmulkas and wear the cardboard type that the keepers of the Wall dispense; they come with whatever they come with. To see It. The Wall.

They come with familiarity (some having been to Israel seven, eight, ten times), having reached the rank of resident tourist. Usually these are Orthodox Jews who come up to the Wall with confident strides as if to shake the hand of a familiar acquaintance. Others are not sure just what they have to do, how they are required to act, and they stand uncomfortably and nervously, glancing about to see what the others are doing. Still others stand, just stand before the Wall - thinking, meditating, praying, talking, whispering, weeping. And then they leave. They have been to the Land, been to Zion, been to Jerusalem, the Holy City, and been to see it. And then they leave. They leave behind their money, their tour guides, their little notes they wrapped into a small ball or wad and left in the crevices of the Wall. They leave the Land and Zion and Jerusalem, the Holy City, and The Wall. They go back to Great Neck and Boston and Los Angeles and Miami and, of course, Washington Heights and Monsey and Williamsburg and Boro Park. They leave Old Jerusalem for newer ones and the Wall for Wall Street because they must. To see Israel is to enjoy an experience beyond comparison. To see Jerusalem, the Holy City, is to gather a treasury of memories beyond price. To see the Wall is to experience a thrill that is indescribable. But everything has its time and its place and all good tours must come to an end. Israel is the finest of all places to visit but it is not for them to live there. And so they leave. The beards and the beardless, the Orthodox (ultra and modern), Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, Humanist, agnostic, atheist ... They leave. For "home." And I often wonder: When they came, they ran to say hello to the Wall. When they leave, do they make a point to say goodbye? And, indeed, how does one say goodbye to the Wall? What does one say to It? Does one stand there and daven Mincha, pray the Afternoon service that says: "And may our eyes behold Thy return to Zion ... " and then say to It: "Well, I suppose I have to go now. The business can't shut down for more than three weeks. Take care of yourself and let's hope that He returns soon ...?" Does one shake the Wall's vegetation in lieu of a hand and does one kiss it - kiss it Goodbye? If one knows that the Shechina, the Divine Presence, never left the Wall, how does one say goodbye to Him? What does one, who is leaving Israel for the Exile that we are told finds him with no G-d and worshipping idolatry in "purity" - say to the Divine Presence at the Wall?

I suppose that it is all this that finds most people leaving Israel without saying goodbye to It. I suppose that especially the ones whose heart and conscience are not as stone, cannot say to the Wall whose stones are as hearts: Goodbye, I am violating a basic tenet of Judaism; I betray my land; I go back to the fleshpots and materialism of the Exile and thus forsake you.

But I also wonder what the Wall says and thinks as It watches the Jews who come to visit as casually as if they were taking a trip (as so many more do lately) to Puerto Rico and Spain and Aruba and Rome. I wonder what It thinks as It looks at the hordes of tourists who come to touch It, fondle It, kiss It, stare at It, memorialize It in their film (still and motion) - and then go back to the lands that they consider their real homes. I wonder what It thinks as It watches the Jews pray and sway and bay at it. I wonder what It thinks as It watches the ritual and idol worship that has been built about It by the American Jewish Congress, the Ministry of Tourism and the UJA. I wonder what It thinks as It watches the Orthodox Jews from New Frankfort on the Heights and the majesty of Crown Heights and sees all the "religious Jews" on their three-week vacation before going back to idolatry. Surely, this last remnant of the Temple, in which preached the Prophets who inveighed against hypocrisy, remembers their words and repeats them to their descendants. Surely it repeats the words: "When ye come to appear before Me, who hath required this at your hand to trample my courts? Bring no more vain oblations, it is an offering of abomination unto Me; New Moon and Sabbath, the holding of convocations - I cannot endure iniquity along with the solemn assembly ... " (Isaiah 1: 12)

The Wall looks at those who come to honor It and at that very moment plan to betray the Land and abominate it by leaving for an Exile they call "home" - and repeats: "Behold to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams" (Samuel 1, 15:22). They leave the Wall for "home." They refuse to dwell in the Land of this Wall. It knows that that which they plan - peace and security in the Galut - will never be. It knows that if they reject the Wall of the Almighty, that there will be other walls for them: walls of fire and walls of prisons and camps. The Galut is one huge wall for the Jew - though he refuses to see it.If one comes to the Wall late, very late at night and listens carefully, very carefully, he can hear the Wall. It weeps softly to itself and says: "Woe unto my people for their humiliation of the Land..." And it seems to me that the Wall would prefer that those who say goodbye to it, would not bid it hello.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A 'Fringe' Response to Anonymous

Anonymous comments on this post:
"The Kumah mascots and the Kumatrix disagree. "What Kumah won't do to make their brand of fringe politics hip."..."Got home?"

It's just that some of you guys spew so much vitriol. And at the same time you do the things you criticize. I think it's important for someone to show you your hypocrisy. And I don't even get into the depths of it- the superficial is revealing enough.

There is good in these pages- the shmittah discussion, for example. And the basic aliyah message. But that's gotten lost in your larger fringe ideology. To really get into this website you have to believe that Jews and only Jews belong in Israel and the territories. You demonize the "enemy"- be it Palestinians, Olmert, Livni, the US, conservative Judaism.... This polarization is isolating- you can't have a real dialogue with anyone because we are all the enemy. So what do you accomplish? You become more and more convinced of your own agenda and more removed from the mainstream. And I don't care what you do in a vacuum, but your words and work have impact. I think it's important that someone point out your hypocrisies and let visitors to this site know that your views are far from universal.

My response after the jump

Dear Anon,

While I don't really understand the repeated allegation of hypocrisy, the decision to widen the scope of Kumah's Neo-Zionist message beyond promoting mass Aliyah was not taken lightly. I certainly understand the danger of all the strongly-held positions and sniping providing ear-plug fodder for anyone who is looking for it. But the point of the blog is to provide an honest, authentic voice of a real movement that can't be made to disappear by repeating "fringe" as a mantra.

In this day of media saturation, the only blogs I find worth reading are those with passionate arguments based on strongly held values. There is a huge swamp of timid journalism and self-congratulatory moderate extremists (extreme in their belief in the merit of an idea purely based on its being devoid of ideological bone structure).

I truly believe that there a Neo-Zionists on the left and would be completely open to having them join the blog as readers, commenters and bloggers - but I do not regret widening the scope of the blog's message to include politics though I myself am also sometimes annoyed by individual bloggers' posts picking fights with entire denominations over little things dug up by the amateurs at Ynet (i.e. The Great Mezuza Controversy). Not because these aren't discussions that should be had, but because the Ynet-based route to dialog is paved with ill intentions.

Lastly, your point about the lack of real dialog when opponents are considered the enemy is a blogosphere-wide issue. When someone who is but a bunch of pixels to you attacks your entire worldview, it takes a very secure an confident individual to respond in a loving, yet honest way. Sometimes a good thrashing is truly in order. Often it is not and reflects poorly on a blogger or the blog he/she writes for.

Post-lastly; you wrote: "I think it's important that someone point out your hypocrisies and let visitors to this site know that your views are far from universal."

I do not state or believe that our views are universal. I believe it rubs you the wrong way to see Jews, with and without kippot, unapologetically saying the things we say. That alone threatens your thought-stopping mechanism of being able to label something "fringe" and dismiss it without letting it roam free in your consciousness alongside other ideas, allowing for the survival of the fittest.

Thank you for reading. Please keep it up. You are welcome to choose a moniker that gives you just as much anonymity as "anonymous" but allows us to know it is you when you comment and respond. The Kumah community is universal in its openness to dialog - and I bless our bloggers on this eve of Rosh HaShanah to always type with love and think twice before ripping entire communities of Jews or gerei toshav.

Shana Tova,
Ezra HaLevi
Neo-Zionist Blogmaster

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Temple Mount Trip

In light of recent news events, and the High Holiday's approaching, we decided to go to the holiest place on Earth, the interface between G-d and this world.
Enjoy the pictures...

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Natan Gesher always told me NEVER to post copy-content, but there are exceptions and this is it. Tzvi Fishman has written an article that is surprisingly similar to my Kosher-Style article and therefore I thought it was fitting for our blog. This one is a must read for American Jewry before this Rosh HaShanna:

"Conservadoxy" by Tzvi Fishman

The concept of t'shuva means to return to one's source. Suppose a man is expelled from his house by thieves. The wrongdoing will only be corrected when the owner returns to repossess his house. This is true for the Jewish People on both a national and individual level. To achieve a state of true t'shuva and reunion with G-d, we have to return to our home in the Land of Israel. A Jew who becomes a baal t'shuva in Chicago has only returned a part of the way home.

The return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel is a necessary stage in the t'shuva of the nation and each and every Jew. This is the Redemption that we pray for. For instance, a Jew who becomes a baal t'shuva in Chicago has only returned a part of the way home. While his personal character and behavior have been sanctified by aligning his life on the pathway of Torah, he has traveled only half of the journey home. The "t'shuva train" is continuing on to Israel. The final stop is Jerusalem. Every Jew needs to bring his little light home to the Holy Land where it can join the great flame. He has to uplift his private, egotistical life, to the higher life of Clal Yisrael, and to merge his personal goals with the goals of the rebuilding of the nation. To rectify the blemish caused by the galut, he has to abandon the exile and join the ingathered to Israel. He has to actualize the words of his prayers, "And gather us together from the four corners of the earth." Otherwise, he is just like a parrot who mouths words without acting out their meaning (Kuzari, 2:24).

Here's another example. Let's say a non-religious Jew decides to return to G-d and make a commitment to Torah. He learns all about Judaism and embraces the mitzvot with the great joy and fervor characteristic of the newly religious. Except he decides that he doesn't want to put on tefillin. For whatever reason, whether because he feels it's a silly piece of mumbo jumbo, or because the little box looks strange on his head, or because tefillin are expensive, he decides that it isn't for him. Obviously his return to the Torah is incomplete. One could not even call this person an Orthodox Jew.

The same thing is true with the mitzvah of living in Israel. Jewish Law states: "A Jew should always live in the Land of Israel, even in a city where the majority of residents are idol worshippers, and not live outside of the Land, even in a city where the majority are Jews" (Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer, 75:1:3). Our baal t'shuva from Chicago may do all of the other commandments with joy, but by not coming to live in Eretz Yisrael, he is showing that his belief in the Torah and in the G-d of Israel is incomplete.

Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaCohen Kook would stress to his students that an Orthodox Jew does not pick and choice mitzvahs, saying "This commandment is pleasing to me, I will do it, but this commandment is too difficult, I will pass." This is the way of Conservative Jewry. If Shabbat is too much of a burden, they don’t observe it. If wearing tzitzit is too embarrassing, or uncomfortable, or old-fashion, then it isn't for them.

"Rejecting the commandment of living in Israel is a rejection of Hashem," Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda emphasized. "It is a rebellion against G-d, as it is written in the Torah concerning the Jews who refused to continue on to Eretz Yisrael after the exodus from Egypt. Hashem declares to them: 'You rebelled against the L-rd your G-d, and you did not believe in Me, and did not listen to my proclamation'" (Devarim, 9:23).

Not coming to live in Israel expresses a lack of faith of G-d. It is a denial of G-d's will for the Jewish People that the commandments be observed in the Land of Israel. Living in Israel is not a matter of personal preference. It is one of the commandments of the Torah required of each and every Jew, a mitzvah that our Sages declare is equal in weight to all of the commandments of the Torah (Sifre, Reah,80). It is such a great mitzvah because living in Israel is the cornerstone of our nation, and the foundation of all of the Torah.

"Being a Jew today comes with the basic requirement to be in Eretz Yisrael," Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda taught. "Every Jew who comes to Israel brings back to Zion an aspect of the Shechinah from the exile. Every additional Jew who comes to Israel, and every additional tree which is planted in the soil of Eretz Yisrael is another stage and step of the Redemption, in the same way that every additional piece of Torah which is learned, and every yeshiva which is built in Israel, is another stage in the returning of G-d's Presence to Zion" (see the book, "Torat Eretz Yisrael," Chapters 5-9, for an in-depth study of the mitzvah of living in Israel).

Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda's father, Rabbi Avraham Yitchak HaCohen Kook, also stressed that the true t'shuva of the Jewish People is in our return to Eretz Yisrael. Again and again, in his letters and speeches, he called the Jewish people to return home to Zion. One public proclamation, sent out all over the Diaspora, years before the Holocaust, was entitled, "The Great Call."

"To the Land of Israel, Gentlemen, To the Land of Israel! Let us utter this appeal in one voice, in a great and never-ending cry. Come to the Land of Israel, dear brothers, come to the Land of Israel. Save your souls, the soul of your generation, the soul of the entire nation; save her from desolation and destruction, save her from decay and degradation, save her from defilement and all evil ­ from all of the suffering and oppression that threatens to come upon her in all the lands of the world without exception or distinction....

"Escape with your lives and come to Israel; G-d's voice beckons us; His hand is outstretched to us; His spirit within our hearts unites us, encourages us and obliges us all to cry in a great, powerful, and awesome voice: Brothers! Children of Israel, beloved and dear brethren, come to the Land of Israel, do not tarry with arrangements and official matters; rescue yourselves, gather together, come to the Land of Israel....

"From the time we were exiled from our Land, the Torah has accompanied Israel into exile, wandering from Babylon to France, Spain, Germany, Eastern and Central Europe, Poland, Russia, and elsewhere. And now, how happy we would be if we were able to say that she has returned to her first place, to the Land of Israel, together with the people of Israel, who continue to multiply in the Holy Land.

"And now, who is so blind that he does not see the L-rd's hand guiding us in this, and does not feel obligated to work along with G-d? A heavenly voice in the future will cry aloud on top of the mountains and say, 'Whoever has worked together with G-d, let him come and receive his reward.' Who can exempt himself from doing his part in bringing additional blessing and swifter salvation; from awakening many hearts to return to the Holy Land, to the L-rd's legacy, that they may become a part of it, to settle it with enterprises and buildings, to purchase property, to plant and sow, to do everything necessary for the foundation of life of a stable and organized settlement...."

My friends, the fact of the matter is that if you want to be a real baal t'shuva, you have to return to the place you came from, to the place you belong. And if you want to serve G-d as the Torah intended, you have to perform the mitzvot in Eretz Yisrael. If you are not already here, or not on the way, chances are that you are either lacking in faith, or your understanding of Judaism is mistaken. As the Day of Judgment approaches, find a few quiet moments and ask yourselves, "Am I really doing the best that I can to serve G-d by living here in Chicago, or Monsey, or Beverly Hills? Is my living in Chicago what G-d really wants?" If you truly believe so, then when you come to the following verses in the Rosh Hashana liturgy, you should either cough loudly to drown out the words, or quietly sneak out of the shul:

"Our G-d and G-d of our fathers, sound the great shofar for our freedom, and raise up a banner to gather together our exiles, and return our scattered from amongst the nations, and assemble our outcasts from the corners of the earth, and bring us to Zion, your city, with happy singing, and to Jerusalem, the home of your Sanctuary, with everlasting joy."

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

A Return to the Pre-67 Borders

How about it? 67. As in the year 67 CE. When Israel looked something like this:

Why aren't we demanding that Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, not to mention the "Palestinians," return what's rightfully ours?

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Two Years Have Passed...

Wednesday, 8 Elul 5767 / August 22 marks two years since the completion of the destruction of Gush Katif. Rabbanim have called for a day of fasting, Teshuva and prayer, to remember the uprooted communities and families, and mourn the destruction of the shuls and Batei Midrash destroyed on this day.

Please continue reading for more details:

Wednesday will be marked by a special Mincha service at the Kotel, w/ Selichot & reading of "VaYichal Moshe" @ 6pm. Those joining the fast (which is considered a "Ta'anit Yachid") should indicate their intended participation during Tuesday's mincha (at the end of the Amidah).

For more details, please see: or call 02-9974424

Never Forget!
A list of videos, articles and media resources about Gush Katif HERE

Ynet: 8 Days in August

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Exile Sweet Exile

Dear Yishai,

The answer is simple ==> JEWS DON'T CARE!!

This is my reaction to your article "A State Of Exile" on YNET

There are more religious Jews in Brooklyn than anywhere in the world (per square inch).

And they are betting their eye teeth on their future IN BROOKLYN not ISRAEL.

Maybe if you folks (at A7) would come here and take a look at the BILLIONS being invested in homes, businesses and community institutions ... MAYBE you would learn something.

The ONLY thing that will get these folks to leave is a DISASTER ... simply because YOU FOLKS DON'T WANT TO UPSET THE APPLECART !!! Which is the same reason that the religious community in Israel REFUSES to oppose the government. And you folks REFUSE to oppose the religious community.


It's exasperating to watch ... I like to call it SERIAL SELF-DELUSION ... Deal with it or live with the ugly consequences.

May I suggest again a political party aimed at these recalcitrant Jews.

Read This:

Emigration from Israel exceeds immigration, report 04/20/2007

Tel Aviv (dpa) - In Israel, the number of emigrants exceeded the number of immigrants for the first time in 20 years, the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot reported Friday.

Many emigrants were recent arrivals who wanted to leave Israel again, the report said. In 2007, 14,400 immigrants are expected in Israel while 20,000 people are expected to leave the country, according to the report based on figures for the first months of 2007.

The last time emigration exceeded immigration was in the aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War and in 1983 and 1984 when inflation was high.

Meanwhile the Maariv newspaper reported that approximately a quarter of the Israeli population was considering emigration.

Almost half of the country's young people were thinking of leaving the country, the report said. Their reasons included dissatisfaction with the government, the education system, a lack of confidence in the political ruling class and concern over the security situation.



Dear Frank,

1. Frank, baby, listen to me! There has always been Yerida, but it has always been dwarfed by Aliyah because there were many Olim coming in from Russia, Africa, Europe etc. Today the last great bastion of potential Aliyah is America, and they are behind the Golden Curtain and it's very hard to break. Immigration has slowed and that is why emigration seems to be beating out immigration.

2. We have a friend who was the 3 millionth Jewish citizen in Israel in the early 70's. Today there are almost 6 million. Does that seem like a retrograde motion to you?

3. "Leave the country" - a very small percentage of that is real Yerida - MOST go out for a few months to a few years and return. In fact there is a rise in Israelis returning as many of them find Judaism in America. Also, many Yordim are actually goyyim who don't like it much in Israel and go back their goyyish lands to eat goyyish food. We like to say "shalom" to them when they leave.

Don't fall for the hype Frank - Israel's Jewish population is growing.... and we haven't even talked about the high birthrate here.

"Meanwhile the Maariv newspaper reported that approximately a quarter of the Israeli population was considering emigration." - Also I have a bridge to sell you, in Minneapolis.

All the best,


Hello Yishai ...

My point is about American Olim ... most leaving Israel come to the U.S. ... and most coming to Israel are not from the U.S. ... making the U.S. a net drain population-wise) on Israel. All of the Israelis that are now my neighbors are observant Jews.

I see billions of Jewish and Israeli dollars being invested in Brooklyn NOT Israel. Recently a Jewish (former Israeli) truck driver that delivers weekly to a restaurant (owned by former Israeli Jews) asked my opinion about a piece of real estate. I told him that buying any U.S. real estate was foolish, and that he should buy in Israel. By the way, that Israeli restaurant has expanded 3 time since opening less than 2 years ago. (And the barbers that cut my hair are also Former Israeli Jews.)

The trends are obvious ... few American Jews prefer to live in Israel ... many Israeli Jews prefer to live in the U.S. ... and I haven't even mentioned the number of former Israelis living in Boca Raton, Florida, where there is a huge colony. In 1979 when my parents moved to Boca Raton former Israeli's were invisible ... today you can't miss them.

While you folks do a great PR job (which by the way barely reaches beyond the Arutz Sheva audience) most American Jews have never heard of you. They appear to be insulated by the small religious communities in which they are organized.

It looks like a losing battle to me ... at least by the numbers. Life is just too good here, however short-lived that may prove to be.

Take Care,

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Neo-Zionist Vidyas - Anarchists, Confirmed Kills and London, Oh My!

Three things for Kumite viewing:

(And you have to click "Full Post n' Comments" to see the third - way better than our old "continue" - Thanks Pinchas!)

Click here for an added bonus!

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Tu B'Av Aliyah

Jonny and Pinchas took a whole lot of photos at today's NBN Aliyah, but I got lucky, and I think I had a few good shots today.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

'The Good Olim of Our Times'

In my lifetime, I have seen the passing of several notable Gedolim, or greatest scholars-leaders of our time: The Baba Sali, Rav Soloveitchik, The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rav Kadouri, just to name a few.

It remains to be seen whether our generation can replace these beacons of Torah and leadership with Rabbis and leaders of equal status. This is a great loss for our nation, in our generation. It is hard to pinpoint now exactly who are the Gedolim of our times.

But when leaders are no longer present, that doesn't mean that leadership ceases. Someone or someones need to take the bull by the horns, and lead the Jewish people forward. Today, Israel and the Jewish people were blessed with the arrival of 200 plus Jewish immigrants, or Olim, adding onto the 3,000 or so that have been arriving from North America each year.

I think we should praise these good olim. They (heck, myself included) have made bold steps to lead the Jewish people against all modern conventional wisdom, to return to our biblical heritage. This cannot be overlooked. These courageous leaders can definitely be considered the Good Olim of our times.

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Literally Everybody is Making Aliyah. (Google's AliyRSS-Feed)

As an Aliyah enthusiast I have devised a Google RSS feed that links me, up to the second, to any Aliyah (or Aliya) news (in addition to any articles written by or about anyone named 'Aliyah' - a much more popular name than I ever knew, as can be attested to by this I-Phone story by Aliyah Shahid). Copy and paste this link into your RSS reader to share the excitement.

The excitement? Yeah, lately I would call it that. On a daily basis local papers around the US are publishing human interest stories about the local Jews coming home. Here are a selection:
* Danbury, CT's
American-born Giliah Ruth Librach, who was conceived in Israel and grew up always feeling it was her home, is pulling up her roots this month and going there for good.
The Feed also brought to my attention to this story, though I have reserve duty with her daughter (a mashakit chilutz) in the near future:
* JPost: Woman rabbi flies to US to preach aliya [Jpost hates capitalization -ed.]:
Shiryon's trip to the US to encourage Reform Jews to perform the ultimate Zionist act and make aliya marks a break with the official Reform stance, which could be best described as "lukewarm." Now the Reform Movement is actively encouraging its members to consider immigration to Israel.

"It has nothing to do with fears of intermarriage," said Shiryon. "The Reform Movement is very open to welcoming mixed couples. It has to do with living a full Jewish life."

* The Toledo Blade: Rabbi Heading For His Spiritual Home: Israel:
Looking back at his three years at B'nai Israel, a Conservative congregation in Sylvania, he said the life cycle numbers are not very positive.

"I've officiated at 51 funerals, 27 b'nei mitzvah, and only two weddings, and one of those weddings was for an out-of-town member," he said.

"It reflects the demographic changes in the community. The congregation is shrinking," Rabbi Leff said.
"The state of Israel is the most exciting thing to happen to the Jewish people in 2,000 years," Rabbi Leff said. "The fact that we can live in a Jewish country is truly miraculous."

* Haaretz has even took a break from getting anonymous Jewish Agency sourpusses to badmouth Nefesh b'Nefesh to note the 33-year record Aliyah from North America.

* And in case you doubt the value of an Aliyah/Aliya RSS feed, you now know that the President of Kazakhstan named his daughter Aliyah.

There really is an Aliyah revolution afoot.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

How to Answer Back

Some one liners to answer back...

~ Have a good Shabbat!!! ~ Shulamit

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Neozionist Role Model: Stanley Fischer

Fischer said he intends on completing his five-year term, but hasn't decided what to do after that. He said he has a "strong attachment" to the U.S., but now considers Israel his home.

"Social life here is very warm, very friendly. It has an intimacy and a warmth that is possibly much greater than that in the United States," he said. "Despite the fact that public life is very tough in Israel, I would say I'm enjoying it."

Read the full article here..

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Friday, June 08, 2007

Just in time for Parshat Shelach

Hi Yishai,

My wife and I have been discussing Aliyah for a while now, and I think we are beginning to get serious about making a plan. We do have some serious questions, though, that we need to address. I am hoping that you and Malkah can give us some good pointers as you did for the listeners on Thursday's Aliyah Revolution radio show. Here are some of our more significant circumstances. I am a recent convert and my wife is a recent Ba'al Teshuvah. We have a son who is almost 15 and a daughter who is 12. While we are among the most observant in our tiny community, we are very conscious of how much we have to learn in living an Orthodox life. We are quite stringent in kashrus and we are shomer Shabbos. We have been learning from two Chabad rabbis (and the rebbetzins, of course), so our thinking tends to the Chareidi part of the spectrum. Other parts of our observance have been slow to develop, though. We have concerns about being accepted in a Chareidi community and/or a Chareidi shul.

Another factor is that we are struggling financially. It will be difficult for us to come on a pilot trip, but we are trying to save money to that end. Because our resources are limited so we think it would be best to live in a city where we do not need a car and would have easy access to areas for potential employment. I have been employed as a home automation and audio video system programmer (not traditional computer programming) for the last six years and my wife has been trying (with limited success) to start a home based kosher baking business. I am very willing and able to learn new skills for employment and I have diverse kinds of experience and education on my resume (including a BA in English and experience as a nuclear power plant electrician in the US Navy).

A final factor that I will bring up is that we have mixed levels of motivation in our family. My daughter is very excited about the idea of making Aliyah (as only a pre-teen girl can be) and my wife is motivated, but cautious. My son is hesitant about making Aliyah, though. His hesitance probably derives from all the instability we have experience over the last five years (we left an evangelical xian church, spent about a year in a messianic group, rejected JC as messiah and/or deity, and became orthodox Jews). We all lost a lot of so-called friends in the transition. I think my son is feeling more than a little burnt by the whole experience. What I'm looking for here is suggestions on how I can encourage my son's interest in Israel, and allay the concerns he has about making another big change.


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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Europe Synagogue Set Ablaze

Eventually, Hashem will widen our borders and grant us rest from all our enemies who surround us like bees and sting us mercilessly (may HaShem take vengeance on them on our behalf). When this happends, all of us will join together and become involved in the building effort (with G-d's help). For Nachum's prophecy - The gates of your Land have been opened wide (3:13) - has been fulfilled through us (thank G-d). We will disregard our newfound freedom here in exile and make sure not to use it to remain here as before (G-d forbid). For if we remain here, the nations will oppress us once again, as the prophet says: who rejoice over nothingness, who say "Indeed, with our strength we have taken horns for ourselves." For behold. I will raise up a nation against you, O House of Israel, says the Lord..., and they will oppress you (Amos 6:13-14). Thus, the nations oppressed us only because we rejoiced over our lot here in exile. We felt that we were strong, [as if] we had horns with which to gore eastward, northward, southward, and westward. But HaShem showed us that we rejoiced over nothing and that our greatness here was like a fleeting dream.

Therefore, let us learn from the past and use our newfound freedom to establish great movements to encourage all segments of our nation to ascend to Zion with happy song and eternal joy. Then HaShem will fulfill His promise to us: The Lord will be zealous for His Land and have pity on His people (Yoal 2:18). Amen, so may it be G-d's will.

- Harav Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal,

Arson Suspected in Synagogue Blaze
The Associated Press

GENEVA - Fire heavily damaged a synagogue Thursday, and police said they suspect arson.

The blaze struck on the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, which celebrates Moses' receiving of the Torah from God.

Police did not give a motive, but there have been incidents of anti-Semitism in Geneva recently, including graffiti scrawled on another Jewish house of worship.

The blaze broke out at 5 a.m. in the Hekhal Haness Synagogue in Geneva's Malagnou neighborhood. About 40 firefighters responded and had the fire under control an hour later, police spokesman Philippe Cosandey said. No one was hurt.

Cosandey said investigators suspect arson because there appeared to be several sources for the flames.

"It's not clear whether the fire originated inside or outside the building," he said.

The main entrance was completely burnt out, with windows blown out and walls blackened by smoke. Police were removing wood and rubble from the entrance. A heavy smell of smoke hung in the air.

Still, a group of worshippers prayed in an inner courtyard to celebrate the holiday. They used the Torah scroll, which apparently survived the fire.

The first-floor library was destroyed, said Jose de Matos who works as a keeper at the synagogue. The main prayer room was not damaged, according to an Associated Press reporter who was given access to the building.

(Photo:AP Photo/Keystone, Martial Trezzini)

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Confessions of a Shavuot Hater - by Benyamin

The following is an essay called "Confessions of a Shavuot Hater" by Benyamin, the same mysterious semi-anonymous contributor who won Kumah a silver metal for Best Humor Post for his "Becoming a Real Israeli" confessional.

Thoughts on Shavuot
by Baruch Ben-Galut

My earliest memories of Shavuot are of my Consecration ceremony. Although I was very young, I was nevertheless aware that Consecration was not cool. No matter how satisfying or memorable your synagogue experience was, you can probably find something disturbing. My large suburban conservative American synagogue had many. Although I appreciate the religious basis I received, there was a healthy dose of synagogue experiences that turned me off to being Jewish as well. One of these was Consecration.

Somehow I knew even back then that this was some kind of a set-up. Some kind of trick to get me to go to Sunday School or Hebrew School or both every week so I could get a quality Jewish education. Not too Jewish, because, heaven forbid, I could end up making aliyah and then I would not grow up to be a dues-paying synagogue member with a doctorate and 2.5 kids.

Consecration involved the graduating class of 1st grade Sunday School marching around the synagogue with little miniature Torah's. The thought alone of standing in front of that many people was traumatic. On top of this terror, I was convinced there was something worse.

The word Consecration did not sit well with me. It sounded way too much like the word circumcision and I was still trying to figure out what that one meant and if it made me any less of a man then my classmates in public school. Further more, the word Consecration sounded suspiciously Christian to me. It definitely didn't sound Hebrew. And I wasn't going to be tricked into being Christian. I heard some of the students in public school talking about some kind of consecration at their church. I didn't know much about being Jewish, but I knew that we Jewish folks didn't go to church and that we had some kind of unspoken obligation to think of church with aversion.

My Jewish consciousness was strong at a young age. That is until I ruined it by abandoning my people by moving to a strange Middle Eastern country on the shores of the Mediterranean where they barely had any conservative or reform synagogues let alone a Sunday School.

Being Jewish to me meant being a Grinch. I was compelled to flip the TV channel whenever a Christmas movie came on. We received presents on Hanukah, not that other holiday. That's what made me special. But the word 'special' doesn't always have positive connotations.

This brings us up to the holiday of Shavuot, the most forgotten holiday of them all and yet perhaps one of the most important. I get presents on Hanukah. I eat apples and honey on Rusha Shonah. On Passover my whole family comes over and I get to eat a big meal. On Yom Kipper, I don't eat anything, that is, if I�m hardcore enough and punk rock enough to go through with fasting an entire day.

Every holiday seems to have something. Shavuot has nothing. Nothing that is, except Consecration. I eventually went through with the ceremony but it was but a precursor to my Bar Mitzvah. I failed in finding a good way out of that as well. I also failed in my elaborately planned protest against the degradation of Hebrew School Graduation. But I tricked them all by moving to Israel and thus sparing my children from the same experiences.

Shavuot. The day we received the Torah. One of the three pilgrimage festivals. This is a big one. Surely there should be some kind of ritual to celebrate it. But there isn't. Maybe that's the point. The concepts expressed on Shavuot should be taken on their own merit without any extras.

Eventually I discovered that there more to being Jewish then the fact that I get presents on a different day then the people on TV do. I also found that my Jewishness does not end at my bar mitzvah in a 13 year old mentality. That doesn't mean that my thoughts at age 13 are not legitimate. They are. But I'm not 13 any more and my Jewishness has to grow along with me. Because you can't be proud of who you are if you're walking around apologizing for what you are.

My synagogue experience didn't make me feel particular proud of my roots, but I discovered something that did. It had something to do about fighting for a cause and protesting against injustice. I learned all about a movement to create an independent nation in the face of great adversity. It went by a name that begins with the letter Z but I also learned that we're not supposed to use that word anymore. In college it had negative connotations.

By the time I got to college I felt strongly enough that I refused to go to school on Shavuot. Instead I went to shul. Finals happened to be on the same day as Shavuot, the second day, that is. I asked the professor if I could take the test a day later. A fellow Jewish student overheard the conversation. "That's right! Shavuot IS next week, isn't it." He too asked the professor if he could take finals a day later. The professor, smiling, refused on the grounds that he knew I would go to synagogue while my classmate just wanted an extra day to study. The student admitted the professor was right. I took the test a day later and passed.

It wasn't always that easy. Once in high school, I got in trouble and had to get a note from the principal's office. The next day was Shavuot. I thought I could get away with not bothering to go to the principal's office at all. But I didn't get away that easy. At home it was insisted upon that I get the note either before or after synagogue.

And thus came the great dilemma. What would the others students say when they saw me waltzing into school with a button-down white shirt and black slacks? Should I wear the clothes I usually wore to school? But then what would the rabbi in synagogue say? Should I leave my kippah on or not? What would the other students say when they saw me in a kippah? Would I get a nasty comment? Did it make any sense for me to walk in school with a button-down white shirt and black slacks and no kippah? Would that be even more awkward?

That day, I cut school, went to shul, then went to school, got the note and then went home. The next day in school the only comments were the fact that I had cut school. In my school, it was just as likely that I was dressed up because I had to appear in court. Most of my friends just assumed that I cut for fun. My Jewishness wasn't questioned in the least. By the next school year I was wearing a kippah every day, both in school and in the street.

Although my non-Jewish acquaintances were understanding, the yom tov dilemma always cropped up. I dreaded holidays because it meant asking off from work and explaining why I couldn't use electricity. But worse then that was trying to explain why the holiday was celebrated two days in America when it seemed to be that technically it was really only one day. Shavuot was the worst, since, as discussed earlier, it is the least known and least celebrated of the holidays. Even Jewish people didn't exactly understand. In Conservative and Reform Judaism, of course Shavuot is only one day.

Two-day yomtovs are great when it means Passover with two seders and all my favorite foods two days in a row. But on a holiday like Shavuot, especially when it comes on a Shabbos, it means up to three days without showering. It was a happy occasion if The Jewish Press arrived before sunset so I could devour the screaming blue headlines that predicted utter catastrophe for Israel at any minute. And I dreamed of that far off country with blue skies and palm trees where I could fight for the struggle and watch TV on the second day of yomtov.

But those concerns are now worlds away. This year, Shavuot will take on a new meaning. We learned in Sunday School that Shavuot was a day when the entire Jewish people made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Then we were taught of the importance of not chewing gum during synagogue services. I doubt any of the students in 1st grade Sunday School believed that Jewish people in modern times actually make pilgrimages to Jerusalem for Shavuot. Growing up, travelling to Shavuot services required either the Volvo or the Honda. Today I can walk to the site of the Holy Temple where Shavuot has been celebrated for generations.

In Israel, I've barely thought for a second what the reaction would be if I wore a kippah in public or how I'm going to explain to my boss why I need off for yet another Jewish holiday. I'm still afraid, however, to use the Z word in certain circles, let alone neo-Z.

Moving to Israel did not magically transform my life for the better. It's a challenge which I've taken up. The new challenges that are far preferable to the once I grew up with. My identity issues have been transformed for the better.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007


The following booklet was published in 1977. I have taken the time to OCR-scan it, and then paste the whole book into the Kumah blog. It is my privilege to act as a techno-scribe, with the help of Hillel Fendel in whose archives it was found, to bring this important book to you. May it serve to awaken an "Exodus - movement of ja people!"

[ALSO - please check out Rabbi Dr. Barry Leff's drasha on the Mitzva of Aliyah]



I am grateful to the "Mishmeret-Tzeira of the Mizrachi and Hapoel Hamizrachi Movement" and Rabbi Yohanan Fried for having assembled, in pamphlet form, statements by Torah luminaries on the duty of Aliyah to Israel. I am equally grateful to that eminent scholar and rabbi, Dr. S. M. Lehrman, who graciously devoted himself to translating these statements into English - by no means an easy task, considering the legalistic nature of Aliyah material.

Aliyah from the free world has been on the climb in the years following the Six Day War and reached a heartening peak in 1971. Since the Yom Kippur War, Aliyah from the free world has unfortunately been on the decline. Various reasons bordering on practical considerations have been given for the decline. But Torah-motivation for Aliyah and the duty of Torah-Jews to "rise and go up" to Israel in our days and in our time where there are no barriers interfering and no government prohibiting Aliyah - on the contrary, a great and glorious State of Israel is for Jews to come and settle in the Land of the Jews - Aliyah replains a serious challenge for every Jew who believes in Torah and its commandments.

Surely this pamphlet containing the glowing exponents of Torah in our era should move our brothers in spirit throughout the Diaspora to make their "cheshbon ha-nefesh" as Torah Jews and resolve to join those of us who have already made their personal Aliyah to the enrichment of their souls and their way of life.
May it be their will, even as it is the will of He who has chosen Zion as His habitation.

Mordechai Kirshblum, Co-Chairman,
Department of Aliyah and Klita Jewish Agency


The Call of Rabbi A.I. Kook, of blessed memory

"Come to Eretz Israel, dear brethren, and save your own souls, as well as those of your generations .and of our entire nation. Deliver our Homeland from waste and desolation, degradation and rot. Save it from every kind of defilement and corruption, sorrow and distress, which threaten them in all their far-flung communities, without any exception. So do come to Eretz Israel, beloved brethren, and do all in your power to blazen a trek for the return of those of our people who are hated and baited, tainted and hunted. Lead those who return, showing by your example that the road has now been concluded. It is idle to seek other paths, for there is only one way on which we must tread-that is to Eretz Israel. "

Rabbi Avraham Izhak Hacohen Kook


The Reply of Rabbi Shlomo Goren
Chief Rabbi of Israel

It pleased me greatly to learn that you are about to publish a booklet, the aim of which will be to explain the importance of the religious imperative of every Jew to take up residence in Israel. One of the basic commands of the Torah is "And you shall possess the land and dwell therein"; a command repeated in the Prophets "And ye shall dwell in the land which I have given unto your ancestors; and ye shall be My people and I will be unto you for a G-d." This assurance receives a three-fold confirmation in the Hagiographia (Ketubim): "For G-d will deliver Zion, and the cities of Judah will be rebuilt, wherein they will dwell and inherit it (the land)."

This precept though not unique nor listed among the 613 Mitzvot catalogued by Maimonides, nevertheless, takes pride of place among all the rest and is the apotheosis of their aim. All the Torah commandments are conditioned by it and it, in turn, depends on them. This fact is gleaned, forceful though it appears at first blush, from the Sifre of the School of Rav (Parshat Re'eh, Piska 80) where it is recorded: "The story is told of R. Judah b. Beter, R. Matya b. Haresh, R. Hanina b. Ahi, R. Joshua and R. Yonatan who were on their way to a place without the boundaries of Eretz Israel. When they arrived at Paltum and they remembered Eretz Israel, they raised their eyes, which were flooded with tears, heavenwards. Rending their garments, they recited the biblical verse: "And ye shall possess it (the land) and dwell therein, and observe to do (the commandments)." They, thereupon, returned to their homes and taught that: "Dwelling in Eretz Israel is equated in all the Torah precepts put together."

This opinion is echoed by the compilers of the Tosefta: "One should opt to dwell in Eretz Israel, even in a place the majority of whose residents are non-Jews rather than elsewhere, despite the fact that he will there be surrounded by a majority consisting of Jews." Does not this tend to prove that residing in Eretz Israel is tantamount to a fulfillment of all Torah precepts?"

The most eminent of our legal interpreters, ancient, medieval and modern, have proved, beyond all doubt, that this supreme, religious imperative operates even in our own times, as the Ramban clearly indicates in his Addenda to the Sefer Ha'Mitzvot (Mitzvah 4) of Maimonides, which posits the affirmation that "we have been commanded to inherit the Land and dwell therein." The Ramban concludes: "Since this Mitzvah (of Aliyah) operates timelessly, each Jew - even the one who has made the Golah his home must, at all times, strive to make this imperative a tangible reality in his own life." This is borne out in statements dotted all over the Talmud. The story, quoted above from the Sifre, which relates how the Rabbis wept when they remembered Israel when far away therefrom and forthwith decided to return to their ancestral moorings and national anchorage, is proof positive that the injunction to dwell in the Holy Land is equivalent to the observance of all the religious imperatives in the Torah. A cautionary note should here be sounded - though it is equated in significance to all the 613 Mitzvot put together, it does not abrogate any of them, nor does its fulfillment exempt the Jew from performing all, or any, of the others. On the contrary, it obligates us with the necessity to fulfill all the other commandments, in that it provides a background for their implementation. Only when all the commandments are performed, can the Torah be said to be complete and claim to be possessed of one spirit.

Our Talmudic sages indulged so much in hyperbole and exaggeration when extolling the meritoriousness of residing in Israel, that they gave the impression that all the other religious imperatives revolve pivot-like around its axis. As an illustration, one may quote the words of the celebrated Ramban who, in his Commentary in the Torah (at the end of Aharei Mot), stipulates: "that the fundamental aim of all the Torah precepts is to see the whole of Israel dwelling in the Land." Being G-d's own chosen people over all other nations carries with it the responsibility of "being affiliated to His name; it was for this reason that He gave them the Land, as it is said: "And I said unto you: "You will possess their land which I will give you as an inheritance. For I am the L-rd, your G-d, who hath singled you out from all other nations!"

There are two aspects to this Mitzvah, the offshoots of which, though aimed in the same direction, nevertheless, run their separate though parallel courses. Whereas one aspect is directed towards the community, the other constitutes a challenge to the individual. That which is directed at the community has, as its aim, the possession of the land. This receives confirmation from the Rabbinic interpretation of the verse in Joshua: "about 40,000 armed men joined in the battle before the L-rd." The passage continues: "And we will conquer the land before the L-rd and before His people." The question posed by our Sages is: "Do you really think that Israel can conquer the Land before the L-rd?" Certainly not; what the verse wishes to stress is this: "As long as they live in the land, it is tantamount to having been conquered by them, but if they are not settled in it, then it is not in a state of having been conquered by them."

To emphasize the importance of each Jew to make his home in Eretz Israel, the Sages gave this interpretation of the verse in I Samuel (26.19): "For they have driven me out this day that I should not cleave unto the inheritance of the L-rd, saying: "Go, serve other G-ds." Can you, really, imagine that King David will serve idols: Of course not. What David meant to imply was that "he who leaves Eretz Israel in times of peace and goes to reside outside it, is equaled to an idolater; as it is written: "And I have planted them in truth, in this land, with all my heart and soul." In other words, as long as they reside in the land, they are planted before me in truth, and with all my heart and soul; the reverse is the case when they abandon the land.

The sanctity of the land and its spiritual superiority is deathless; for this holiness did not begin when the Israelites conquered it. It was called "G-d's inheritance" and is linked with His name throughout the endless generations. It is ever under direct divine Providence and it exerts a sacrosanct inspiration over all the face of the earth. Is it not written: "The eyes of G-d are ever upon it?" G-d is called "The G-d of Israel," as it is written: "for they knew not the judgment of the G-d of the land." (See Ramban's Commentary on the Torah).

All expressions of alienation from settling in Israel; all slanderous expressions levelled against its inhabitants, constitute an inpardonable sin. Our Sages, of blessed memory, opined that "the decree of distinction issued against our wandering ancestors in the wilderness was solely due to the fact that they spoke evil reports of the Land. Just as the fulfillment of living in Israel is equated to all the other precepts put together, so must the sin of its non-observance be considered tantamount to the sin of commission against all Mitzvot together."

With the establishment of Medinat Israel and the "Law of Return," all must admit that this Mitzvah of Aliyah is imperative in each and every Israelite. This is clearly evident in the Responsa of the Hatam Sofer (XIV 234), as well as from the Responsa of the author of "Avnei Nezer' (No. 454) on the Gaon of Sochotchov, the Kuzari ( 23-24).

Verily, residing in Israel is not only meritorious, but also imposes duties and responsibilities, such as those of preserving its holy characteristics and supreme sanctity and spiritual inviolability. This holiness can only be attained at the price of the fulfillment of all the Torah precepts, both positive and negative, and as a reward of guarding any infringment of the many meticulous precautions issued by the Rabbis not to break down the fence. Is it not written: "Do not contaminate yourselves with all these things; for it is by these things that the nations whom I will drive out from before you have allowed themselves to be contaminated?"

The Tanna R. Meir long ago maintained that "He who makes his permanent home in Israel, and who eats his ordinary food (Hullin) in purity and who speaks Hebrew and recites the Shema twice daily, in the morning hours and after night has fallen, is assured of the life to come." This is the eternal, threefold cord which sanctifies and unifies Israel: "Israel's Torah, the Jewish nation, and Eretz Israel."


The Rishon L'Zion Rabbi Ovadiah Yoseph Chief Rabbi of Israel

"The Mitzvah of Aliyah in our Day and Age" (A Synopsis)

Nahmanides comments thus on Numbers (33.53): "And ye shall drive out the inhabitants of the land, and dwell therein; for unto you have I given the land to possess it." "In my considered opinion, this is a positive command; for since He gave it to us, it would be a transgression not to obey the precept to dwell therein. This being so, it should not be considered as hyperbolic on the part of the talmudic sages to have gone out of their way to emphasize the importance of dwelling in Eretz Israel and the sinfulness implied in departing from it to take up abode elsewhere."

According to him (the Ramban), Maimonides erred in not including this positive command in his "SEPHER HA'MITZVOT." Moreover, to acquire possession of our ancestral Homeland was considered by the Talmud (Sotah 44b) as a "war in which it was necessary (MILHEMET MITZVAH) even for a bridegroom to leave his chamber and a bride her bridal canopy". In addition, the Rabbis in the Talmud (KETUBOT 112a) went so far as to say that "he who departs from Eretz Israel to live elsewhere, is equated to one serving idols". Exaggerated though the praises of living in Eretz Israel may appear at first blush, they are all triggered-off from the fact that it is one of the positive commandments of the Torah. Moreover, it is equated to a fulfillment of all the other precepts. Rabbi Ovadia Yoseph quotes Rabbi Issac de-Leon in his book "MEGILLAT ESTHER", that the Mitzvah of dwelling in Eretz Israel only operated during the periods of Moses, Joshua and David and as long as Israel had not been banished from their own land. After the destruction of our Temple and the exile of our ancestors from the Holy Land, this command is held in abeyance until the dawn of the Messianic Age. It was for this reason that Maimonides did not include the Mitzvah of Aliyah in his enumeration of the Taryag (613) precepts.

With this view, the RISHON L'ZION does not concur for two reasons: One: because the Ramban does not include many Mitzvot which did not operate for all times, such as the rebuilding of the temple - a task left for the Messiah. This being so, then why should the precept of Aliyah be omitted since the Messianic Age will also witness the resettlement of Israel in its ancestral Homeland?

Second: from the words of Maimonides (Hilchot Ishut XIII), it is evident that he concurs with the view of the Ramban that even in our times, it is a positive precept to dwell in Eretz Israel. For, writes Maimonides: "Should the husband be willing but the wife not so inclined to make Eretz Israel their domicile, then she may be divorced and even forfeit her Ketubah (marriage document which insures her in the case of divorce or widowhood)".

Many rabbinical authorities were up-in-arms at this decision, on the plea that it would provide an excuse for the unscrupulous husband to divorce his wife minus the Ketubah, on the argument that she refused to accompany him to dwell in Eretz Israel. To this, however, the answer was simple:, it was up to the Beth Din, who were asked to grant the divorce to ascertain if this was really a bona-fide case. From this discussion, it is clear that in making the decision quoted above, Maimonides concurs with the view that dwelling in Eretz Israel was a Mitzvah independent of time, operating in our day and age, just as it was in force when Israel lived in its Homeland and the Temple stood in all its pristine glory on Mt. Moriah.

The main reason, however, for it being obligatory to dwell in Israel at all times is because it is only there that the Jew is enabled to observe these precepts and of these, there is a majority that can only be fulfilled on its soil being conditioned by life in Israel (Mitzvot Ha'tluyot Ba 'aretz). To enforce this opinion, the statement of Rabbi Simlai (Sotah 14a) is quoted: "Why was Moses so desirous of entering the Promised Land? Was it because he was desirous of enjoying its luscious fruits? Of course not. His sole reason was: "Since G-d commanded many precepts, most of which depend on their implementation if one dwells in Eretz Israel, it is only natural that I wish to live there in order to be able to fulfill them." Hearing this plea, the Divine assurance came: "Since it is your desire to obtain reward for the fulfillment of these Mitzvot, then I will wed your desire to the deed." Basing himself on this statement of Rabbi Simlai, Nahmanides and those who decided the
Halacha according to his views, maintained that the primary reason for Aliyah was because it was only there that the Taryag Mitzvot could be fulfilled. Other eminent authorities, however, maintained that dwelling in Eretz Israel was a mitzvah per se, entirely independent of the fact that many of the precepts on account of being dependent on the soil of the land and for other cognate reasons, could not be observed elsewhere.

Other proofs are also cited from the Talmud and posttalmudic sources to support the view that Aliyah is binding at all times. Thus from Gittin 8b, we learn that many things forbidden on the Shabbat by the rabbis because operating them would be an infringement of the complete Shabbat rest enjoined in the Torah, are permitted if their intention be to acquire property in Israel. Another talmudic decision deserves quoting: "When one has a house in the Diaspora, he is exempt from affixing a Mezzuzah to its doors for the first thirty days only; but in the case of a house in Israel, a Mezzuzah must be affixed immediately!" For this, the main reason is that when one buys a house in Israel, it should be considered immediately as a permanent home (keva) and not a temporary asylum (Dirat Arai) (Menahot 44a).

The only instance given in the Talmud for permission to leave Eretz Israel is in order to imbibe Jewish learning from the famous academies in the Diaspora, some of which were even more renowned than those which thrived in the Holy Land (vide Erubin 47a). Outstanding examples of those who took advantage of this concession, were Hillel (Pesahim 66a), R. Hiyya (Sukkah 20a), whose main purpose was to see that the "lamp of Jewish studies" be not extinguished in Babylon. It would seem, however, that not all the Rabbis of old took this view; for eminent talmudic authorities like R. Zera and others went from Babylon to Israel and Amoraim, like R. Ami and R. Assi, commuted from Babylon to Eretz Israel and vice versa, in order to discuss the views expressed in the Babylonian and Palestinian academies. The majority of authoritative opinion, it is clear, subscribed to the view forcibly expressed by Nahmanides who listed Aliyah among the Taryag that are binding at all times, on every observant Jew. As we have seen above, the compiler of the Sifre (the Midrashim, Numbers and Deuteronomy) went so far as to assert that the "Mitzvah of dwelling in Eretz Israel is equated to all other precepts in the Torah and that even Maimonides agrees with this; albeit with the reservation that this precept, though a positive one, has only the enforcement of a rabbinical kind. But even if this be so, the Talmud rules that everything which has been prescribed by the Rabbis has the imprimatur (the stamp) of the Torah.

From the cornucoepia of Responsa quoted by the Rishon L'zion on this subject that the concencus of opinion is: "that all those who are deeply concerned with the fulfillment of the Word of G-d and His commandments should make every effort to make their home in Israel, especially in these days when assimilation raises its ugly head in the Diaspora and when there are all the means of obtaining a decent livelihood. Now, it is a paramount duty to make the "land of our fathers" the "land of our descendants". To enforce this obligation the Rabbis (with their love for exaggeration in the interests of emphasis) ruled that "one is forbidden to leave Eretz Israel and to take up domicile elsewhere, even going so far as to say that a "wife is considered as 'rebellious' (moredet) if she does not agree with her husband who is willing to erect a home in Israel!"

One need only cite a few random examples in order to be convinced of the paramount position occupied by Aliyah in our Halacha. Thus: "He who dwells outside the land of Israel is equated to one who is an atheist." (Ketubot 110b); Zohar (Yithro 79b). To live in Israel and then decide to leave it for good, is considered an infringement of the first Two Commandments of the Decalogue in that not only is he considered godless, but also as if he had set up idols of his own outside his ancestral heritage.

To sum up our discussion, for only a digest of the learned Responsa of the Rishon L'Zion would be of interest to the average English reader. Since one was allowed to emigrate from Israel to the Diaspora only because the State of talmudic studies was preponderant in the latter place, the converse now obtains. For since, sad to relate, the great seats of learning in Central Europe have been destroyed in the Nazi Holocaust and Yeshivot flourish in Medinat Israel, it is a positive mitzvah to leave the Diaspora and settle in Israel in order to bask not only in the physical sunshine but also in the "Light of the Torah".

Commenting on the words "and the gold of that land is good", our sages said: "There is no Torah comparable to that which is taught in Eretz Israel;" and that: "the Holy One said 'A small room in Israel is more beloved in my eyes than the great Sanhedrin in the Diaspora', (Yerushalmi VI 8) Happy are those who come to settle in Israel and help in its upbuilding! They will be "born again" both in the physical and spiritual sense; for say our talmudic sages: "The atmosphere of Eretz Israel makes one wise, as well as healthy", giving him peace of mind and vigour of body.....


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Some reflections on a strengthened Aliyah movement By the late Chief Rabbi Emeritus of Israel Rabbi I.J. Unterman

The Talmud (Yoma 9b) records a brief but instinctive conversation between Resh Lakish, one of the celebrated Amoraim in Eretz Israel, and Rabba bar bar-Hanna, an Amora who came to Eretz Israel from Babylon, whither he returned later to teach the Torah in Pumbeditha. One day, as Resh Lakish was swimming in the Jordan, Rabba bar bar-Hanna held out his hand in greeting. Imagine his surprise, to hear Resh Lakish exclaim:

"G-d, I hate you [Babylonians]!" (It is well-known that there was but little love lost between him and the Babylonians). Explaining his rude outburst, Resh Lakish quoted the verse in "Song of Songs" (8.9): "If she be a wall, we will build upon her a turret of silver, and if she be a door, we will enclose her with boards of cedar."

It would thus seem that his interpretation of this verse was the following: "Had our ancestors in the time of Ezra obeyed the call to leave Babylon and go up to Eretz Israel in serried columns (like a fortress-wall), that is in a strong, winding procession, with hearts beating as one out of their sheer love to rebuild and repopulate the wastes of the Holy Land, they would have resembled silver which defies rust. Since, however, their return was but luke-warm and undertaken only by a few of the faithful ones, they were equated to the cedar which is prone to rot and the withering of root and branch.

A further comment on this verse will prove worthwhile and significant. So famous among his generation was Resh Lakish, that it was said of him that "when Resh Lakish taught in his academy, it appeared as if he were uprooting mountains and ground them to dirt against each other" (Sanhedrin 24). His influence was so great that it was decided abroad that that man, with whom he conversed in the open gaze of the public, was considered to be of so trustworthy a character that none had any scruples to do business with him, even in cases where witnesses to the transaction were lacking.

Hence did Resh Lakish feel justified in displaying his contempt of those who lived in Babylon, when he was greeted by Rabba bar bar-Hanna. For were they not culpable of a wilful sin of commission by not responding to the call of Ezra to go up to Eretz Israel as a "solid wall", instead of a mere trickle? The result of their negligence was that the House of Israel was likened to "cedar boards", prone to rot away, on account of the trials and tribulations they had to experience at the hands of a hostile world.

A similar rebuke is to be found in the "Song of Deborah" (Judges 5.16): "Why sattest them among the sheepfolds, to hear the pipings for the flocks?" At the divisions of Reuben, there were great searchings of heart, this being the stern rebuke levelled against the tribe of Reuben for being indisposed to participate in the battle against the army of Sesera, despite the fact that the other tribes who did join forces against the enemy snatched the palm of victory from overwhelming odds. Resh Lakish complained bitterly of all those who preferred to remain in Babylon, not exempting women and children. He was convinced that had they all, without exception, responded to the call to return with alacrity, they would have definitely prevented the destruction of the Temple and the Homeland. This appears to be the interpretation given by Rashi to the passage in Yoma 9b, quoted above. It was because of their retrograde reaction, that they blocked the dwelling of the Shechinah in the second Temple.

It is also significant to note the comments of the Maharsha (R. Samuel Eliezer Edels, 1555-1631). In his principle work "Chiddushe Halachot Ye' Agadot" wherein he endeavors to clarify in a rational manner, apparent contradictions and difficulties, he makes the following comment on the passage under discussion: "In the days of Ezra, the vital and urgent need was to return in a solid phalanx, as impregnable against the enemy as a fortress. Had they done so, the Shechinah would have once again dwelt in Israel. The bitter fact, however, was that only scant numbers obeyed the call to return and these had to protect the entrances to the city. Any wonder that the result led to the removal of prophecy from Israel, with its ultimate sequel of total destruction?"

It was this thought that brooded in the heart of Resh Lakish. It was blasphemous to complain against divine Providence for not protecting those who had setteled in Eretz Israel during the period of the Second Temple against the armed bands of the Romans, when the entire fault could be laid at the door of our ancestors in Babylon who remained imperious to the call of Zerubabel and Joshua b. Jehozadek, as well as to Ezra the Scribe, and remained, like limpets, glued to their seats. For had they all responded enthusiastically as solid as a wall, the Shechinah would have defended them against all enemies, regardless of the source from which they came. Accordingly, It was out of the bitterness of an aching heart, that Resh Lakish burst out in pained anger, when Rabba bar bar-Hanna greeted him while he was bathing in the Jordan.

Thoughts of this nature occupy the minds of many of our own day and age, when they consider the momentous times in which we now live. On the one hand, they rejoice at the Aliyah of so many of their co-religionists from the world over, thus filling them with the hope that the L-rd has once again, remembered His people, enabling them to return (0 Zion, thus to rebuild our Homeland on the solid foundations of Torah and Jewish, ethical teachings; but on the other hand, they behold cataclysmic catastrophes gathering momentum in the world at large and looming threateningly over their heads. Should these clouds, Heaven forbid, not .be dispersed, those who seek to destroy our nation, root and branch will be encouraged to wipe us off, as they threaten, in and out of season, from the face of the earth.

One cannot help ruminating on the words of Resh Lakish, cited above: "Had you only returned to Eretz Israel, when Ezra so called you to do, like a solid fortress wall, the position would have been radically different." May I slightly alter the text thus: "Had you all returned in solid array at the re-establishment of our State (on Iyar 5th, 5708), you might have succeeded in rehabilitating the Shechinah in our midst, as in the days of yore?" (This is in conformance with the interpretation of Rashi in the passage in Yona 9b). We would then have been fully protected against the various forces banded against us and bent on our annihilation.

It is still yet possible, even at this eleventh hour, to organize a massive Aliyah movement to embrace all our brethren whithersoever they be and to be imbued with faith in divine protection and the presence of the Shechinah in all the work of our hands. Great is the lesson that we can pluck from the episode which took place in the Second Temple period, and it is one which we can only neglect to our own cost. Each Jew, wherever he finds himself at present, must make every endeavor to settle in Israel, thereby fortifying the faithful who are already dwelling there and, at the same time, strengthening the foundations of our State. Moreover, his act will prove of a miraculous nature in spurring members of his family and others to follow his example. The words of rebuke uttered by Resh Lakish should ever resound in our ears, for the conditions are Mutatis Mutandis, almost similar / now as they were then. Let us, accordingly, exhort our brethren in the Diaspora to pack their suitcases and join us here in the thrilling adventure of rolling away the desert and convert it into smiling landscapes. A massive aliyah will cause the Shechinah to return to our midst and protect us from all dangers, material and spiritual alike. May it be Heaven's Will to help us re-establish the House of Israel on solid foundations of traditional Judaism so that we all may speedily rejoice in the witnessing the perfect and complete solution. Amen.


An Appeal from the Former Rishon L'Zion Rabbi Yitzhak Nissim Chief Rabbi Emeritus of Israel

So well known is the Mitzvah of residing in Eretz Israel that it is totally unnecessary to elaborate thereon. Even when the country was still wrapped in desolation surrounded by marauding bands and bad roads did our ancestors display much self-sacrifice in order to fulfiill this religious imperative.

Though there is a dispute among our codists as to whether this Mitzvah, after the destruction of the Second Temple is to be regarded as a Torah ordinance, or just a rabinical injunction not laden with the same authority as those enjoyed by the former, yet there is none who gainsays that this Mitzvah still operates in our own day. Even the Tosafist R. Hayim Ha'Cohen agrees that this Mitzvah is only brushed aside in the case of danger lurking on the journey, a view also shared by the Rimat who adds that this exemption is also operative in cases when harsh and cruel rules hold sway over Eretz Israel and life there is in jeopardy.

Despite this fact, our ancestors throughout the generations did their utmost to fulfill this religious commandment, for more that 200 years ago, the' Rishon L'Zion, R. Meyuhas Bechar Shmuel, described in his book "Pri Ha'Adamah" how our co-religionists in Morocco jeopardized their lives in order to immigrate to Jerusalem even when the ruling powers thereof did their work to stop any increase of Jews in the Holy City.

Now that we have merited to witness G-d's return to Zion in mercy and to behold the unification of Jerusalem, as well as to possess Eretz Israel in our hands as a result of the miraculous events which have brought about the defeat of our enemies, this must surely be the time when it is His Will to implement the promises which He made to our ancestors by the mouth of His prophets.

Not only has Medinat Israel opened its gates wide to every Jew who wishes to return, but is generously ready to help every would-be immigrant with every means available in its power, both materially as well as spiritually. This being so, each Jew that is stiU in the Diaspora should search his conscience with the challenge savouring of the nature of a minore, a forbore argument (Kal Va'homer), thus: "Seeing that
our ancestors were so keen on settling in Israel even when wicked and cruel men held sway over it, how much more keen should they be in doing so today when the Land is not only in our possession, but its governmental departments even go out of their way to be of practical help to all those who wish to settle therein as permanent residents? Does it not stand to reason that all those who wish to remain steadfast to their faith, to be closely linked with their national antecedents, should pack their bags and make their home in Medinat Israel - and all this, without too many questions and problems?

Let us be logical in this matter as, indeed, in all others. When one is about to fulfill any other of the 613 biblical commandments, is he prone to inflict upon himself a searching, self-examination as to whether he can implement them, lulling his conscience with the sop that there are far too many obstacles impeding their fulfillment? Does he postpone making the deed cousin to the wish by postponing the realization of his intentions to a later stage in his life? Since he does not act so in other cases, then why single out the Mitzvah of Aliyah for procrastination? Since our Talmudic sages ruled that "one must not delay the fulfillment of any Mitzvah that is awaiting the realization thereof, how much more binding is this so in the case of Aliyah - a commandment equated in importance to all tile other religious precepts put together?

Naturally, it is not easy for one to be uprooted from his native country and transplant himself to "fresh fields and pastures new", but all the most important moves in life are sparked-off after much spiritual preparation and are cradled in strenuous, physical effort. Did not our sages, of long ago, warn us that: "Eretz Israel can only become ours after much physical discomforts and spiritual vicissitudes?" This truth has been vindicated throughout the winding, colorful cavalcade of the generations and is especially applicable in our own day and age. The only difference now applying is that the obstacles barring the immediate realization of Aliyah have assumed a different pattern. For these are, to a large extent, mainly difficulties attached to uprootal and absorption which, actually, pale into insignificance when compared to the obstacles which impeded our ancestors from realizing their dream of beginning once again where our ancestors left off after the destruction of the Second Temple.

When these thoughts and facts are taken into full consideration, the difficulties hedging around Aliyah at present should be accepted in a spirit of love and pleasure. Far be it from any member of the House of Israel to groan and grumble at the difficulties attending settling in Israel, instead let him be blissfully confident that he who succeeds in the realization of his dreams is assured of a reward to come, both in this world and in the life to come.


The Mitzvah of Aliyah to Eretz Israel (an abridged translation)

By Rabbi H.D. Ha-Levi Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv-Jaffo

After quoting Numbers 33.53, the Ramban cites two precepts which are sparked off from this verse. The first is the Mitzvah of conquering the land from its possession by strangers. This is not a Mitzvah of a temporary nature, applicable only to the generation that witnessed the Egyptian Exodus, but is operative throughout the generations.

Not to reside in Eretz Israel is to worship idols, says the Ramban, basing himself on the verses quoted in the previous articles of this booklet.

In his Torah commentary, the Ramban adds, that a husband or wife that is unwilling to join the other partner in immigrating to Israel is to be treated as a renegade. Moreover, one who has the means to go on Aliyah, but does not do so, transgresses a positive, biblical precept each day he stays in the Diaspora. The only exceptions are where dangers are involved in the journey, such as obtained in former days, but which, happily, do not obtain today.

Another case, also dealt with in other articles in this booklet, is where a parent's objections are based on the fear lest his child in Israel will fall on evil ways. Happily, this fear, too, is almost groundless these days; for despite the "permissiveness" which is slowly seeping into the air of Israel, the fact is that nowhere else in the wide world is it more easy to lead the full Jewish life than in Medinat Israel. Moreover, slowly, but surely, the Yeshivot in Israel are replacing those which were destroyed in Central Europe during the beastly Nazi holocaust.

Another stumbling block which once stood in the way of Aliyah, has also now been removed; that is, that it was so hard to earn a livelihood in Eretz Israel in the days gone by. This was the position when the land resembled a parched malaria ridden wilderness, whose inhabitants .eked out a poor livelihood from the charitable contributions made by their co-religionists abroad. Now that the position has been radically changed, where the State is actually short of labourers and skilled workmen and professionals, where nobody need starve owing to the Welfare Ministry and charitable organizations whose number is legion, such objections fall to the ground and cannot block the way before a massive Aliyah.

The opposition of parents to their children's aliyah has already been dealt with by others in this booklet and need not be recapitulated here. All agree that the Mitzvah of Aliyah takes precedence over the Fifth Commandment, except in isolated cases specified above, as are detailed in Rabbi S. Israeli in his book "Amud Ha'Yemini" (XXII).

Those parents who, at first, cannot bear the parting of their children soon find that the latter have paved the way' for their own coming to Israel, eventually. Is it not, therefore, better to undergo a little travail for the sake of giving birth to eventual years of happiness? Moreover, by the time the parents reach pensionable age, their children will be rooted in the land and the former will be able to enjoy their pension while living in close proximity to their children - a thought worth pondering. A post-script: Life in the Golah is becoming increasingly harder for the Jew - one of the signs of the approaching Messianic Age. For the greater the hatred towards the Jew in the world, the surer are the steps of salvation. Hence Aliyah today is laying the foundations of Redemption. Happy are those who are now actively participating in it.


The Fifth Commandment and Aliyah

(an abridged translation) By Rabbi NZ. Freedman (Bnei Brak)

So great is the Fifth Commandment that it embraces, in its importance, all the other 613 Torah precepts, so much so, that when surveying all the divine, categorical imperatives, our Talmudic Sages equate respect for one's parents to that of reverence for G-d Himself (Sanhedrin 50b).

The question now arises: this being so, what should the child do when ordered by his parents to transgress a Torah precept? The answer to this query is supplied by the Torah itself (Lev. 19.3): "Each man should revere his mother and father, but you must all observe My Sabbaths, for I am the L-rd your G-d." The Shabbat, as well as any other religious observance, cannot be brushed aside on this account, for parents, as well as children, are in duty bound to respect the injunctions, of the Divine, as expressed in His Torah. This is formulated in Koros Shulhan Arukh (Yoreh Deah, 240), as well as in the work of the Gaon of Wilna (Tana D'be Eliyahu Rabba XXVII). This applies not only in the case where the child is asked to desecrate the Shabbat, but in every other instance as well.

As an illustration, let us quote Maimonides (Hilchot Mamrim, VI): "Should his father ask him to violate any religious command, be it based on Torah, or only on rabbinic Drdinance, he is not to obey him" (for the reasons specified above). According to the Ramban, even rabbinic decrees have the validity of Torah authority (see Deut. XIX 9-11). No matter what the religious command is, its fulfillment takes priority over the Fifth Commandment where the two are in conflict, for the simple reason that both parent and child must obey G-d's will. Hence in the case of Aliyah, which according to Maimonides (Hilchot Melachim V) is equated to the fulfillment of the entire Torah and its non-fulfillment ranked with idolatry; moreover, because of the rabbinic teaching that "he who paces even only four cubits in Israel deserves the life to come, it only stands to reason that where the implementation of this most important precept is opposed by the parents, the Fifth Commandment is eclipsed by the Mitzvah of Aliyah."

A cautionary note should here, too, be sounded. In cases where one of the contributory reasons for the child wishing to go on Aliyah is due to the desire of shaking off the reponsibility of looking after the material needs of his parents and has little, if anything to do with his desire of fulfilling the Mitzvah of Aliyah, but is triggered off mainly by the opposition of two wills - that of the child and that of the parents, in this case, the will of the child must give way to the Fifth Commandment, whose implementation is regarded as tantamount to reverence for G-d Himself.

There is another stipulation, should the objection of the parent against the Aliyah of the child be based on the fear lest the latter's ways become corrupt by evil companions and harmful influences in Eretz Israel - as has been the case in several instances lately, sad to relate - then it is the duty of the child to obey the parent, whose primary duty it is to innoculate his offspring with "the way of the Torah" (see Pesakim 50b). Does not the Book of Proverbs tell us: "Harken my son to the instruction of thy father and do not abandon the law of thy mother?"

To sum up: 1) Aliyah comes before the Fifth Commandment. 2) The exception is in the case where the intention of the Aliyah is born of the desire to rid himself of the duties he owes to parents. 3) Another exception is the one expressed above; namely, the fear of the parent lest the child go astray.


The Mitzvah of Living in Eretz Israel

By Rabbi Zvi Yehudah Ha'Cohen Kook

According to the Yoreh De'ah (240.15), one should not harken unto his father when asked to transgress a commandment, though it be only of rabbinical ordination. The Mitzvah of living in Eretz Israel is one of Torah authority and is operative in every age and clime, even in the Diaspora (Ramban in his "Sefer Ha'Mitzvot"). Accordingly, it is a categorical imperative to emigrate from the Golah in order to take up residence in Eretz Israel, even when the exchange is made from a most luxurious home in the Diaspora to one that is largely inferior in Israel. This even applies in a case where the exchange involves leaving a country in which the majority of its inhabitants are Jewish to take up abode in a vicinity in Israel wherein the bulk of residents are not of the Jewish faith (Eben Ha'ezer, 75). Moreover, even in a place in Israel of which the bulk of its residents is composed of those who are apostates. (See the "Dvar Halacha" of R. Eliyahu Klatzkin).

This is the ruling of practically all the halachic authorities, both of former and present generations (see "Pithei Tshuvah" of Eben Ha' ezer 75). Though Jerusalem, in our own day, is not deserving of preferential treatment above any other place in Israel, Eretz Israel, nevertheless, takes pride of place over any other place in the Diaspora at all times. This not so much because of the numerous, religious Mitzvot - the implementation of which can only be effected while dwelling on Israeli territory (Mitzvot Hatluyot Ba'Aretz), but because of the eternal sanctity attached to Eretz Israel, a sanctity which encroaches upon time and exhausts Eternity (see Hatam Sofer, Yoreh De'ah, 234).

How much greater is the Mitzvah when the desire for Aliyah has been triggered off by the urge to study Torah. Have not our Sages assured us that "there is no Torah that can equal, let alone excell that obtained in Eretz Israel? The study of Torah exceeds in religious importance even that of the Fifth Commandment, which exhorts us to "Honour your Father and Mother." (See Eben Ha'ezer ad locum).

This eternal and inviolable sanctity of Eretz Israel, which is at the very root and foundation of the Mitzvah of living in an ancestral Homeland, so important as to deserve ultra-vires determination, is operable also in the case of women who are, otherwise, exempt from the performance of such precepts the implementation of which is conditioned by time and circumstance. Residence in Israel enables men and women alike to fulfill meticulously the traditional observance of Judaism.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Zionist Revolution

Check out this powerful speech given at the Israel Day Parade concert by Yehuda HaKohen of the Zionist Freedom Alliance.

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Exclusive Photos: Dozens of Leading Rabbis Make Aliyah to the Temple Mount

Thursday, May 10, 2007

A Neo-Zionist Challenge: Shmittah & The Living Torah

Next year is going to a be a Shmittah year - the one year in every seven, where the Land of Israel must be left to lie fallow.

Since the destruction of the 1st Holy Temple in Jerusalem, until present times - over 2,500 years later - Shmittah has been only Rabbinically mandated. However, within the next 25 years, when the majority of the Jewish People will be living in the Land of Israel, Shmittah (along with all of the other Mitzvot HaTeluyot Ba'aretz - Land of Israel dependent commandments) will return to Biblically mandated status.

Below are two article presenting differing perspectives as to how modern Israeli society should be relating to Shmittah - each with their own set of pros and cons:

1) Chief Rabbinate to Reduce Use of Special 7th-Year Dispensation

2) The ground beneath our feet

Equally important as the solution that will ultimately be agreed upon and implemented is the discussion in itself.

For 2,000+ years, this discussion did not take place - could not take place - in a manner that had any practical relevance. With the re-establishment of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel the Torah of Israel has returned to life.

Rabbi Yotav Eliach puts it best:
The Torah sets up a constitutional blueprint for the running of a Jewish society which is anchored in a Jewish state. Parashat Mishpatim, most of Vayikra and Bemidbar, and all of Sefer Devarim, make this point very clear. Judaism is not merely interested in the ritualistic aspects of our lives. It is rather a framework for running a Jewish republic, one complete with a court system, government, army, welfare and tax system. Finally, this constitutional blueprint is not meant for implementation in any piece of territory in which the Jewish nation may happen to be the majority, but primarily in the one country whose boundaries are clearly outlined geographically in the Torah: The Land of Israel.

One of the striking ways to reinforce these points is by showing that there are four basic areas of mitzvot in the Torah that are dependent upon the Land of Israel in one way or another:

a) All mitzvot connected to the Beit Hamikdash in any shape or form;
b) All mitzvot connected to having a Sanhedrin court system functioning;
c) All mitzvot connected to the soil of Israel;
d) All mitzvot connected to the running of the government, army, and taxes.

Taken together, these four areas make up approximately 50% of the 613 mitzvot. Another graphic way to make the point of Israel's centrality to Jewish life is by looking at the Shas. Two of the six sedarim of Shas, Kodashim and Taharot, are totally dependent upon the Land of Israel, as is Seder Zera'im (with the exception of Masekhet Berakhot).

The fourth, Seder Mo'ed, is also very dependent upon the Land of Israel. All the special sacrifices associated with each holiday are dependent upon the Beit Hamikdash in Israel, as is aliyah la'regel, bikkurim, and the bringing of the omer. The fifth, Seder Nezikin, is also connected, to a large extent, to the concept of a functioning Jewish legal system existing in the land of Israel, headed by the Sanhedrin. Only the sixth seder - Nashim - can be kept almost in its entirety (the exception being Sotah) outside the boundaries of Israel.
Thank G-d for the challenges that go along with living in the Land of Israel!

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

From Temple Consciousness to Temple Consensus?

Ever since the liberation of the Temple Mount 40 years ago, those who have been pushing for the Jewish People to assume a greater connection with the Mount, as well as promoting Temple consciousness have been in the minority.

Until now, that is...

Increasing number of rabbis are allowing Jews to enter Temple Mount

An increasing number of religious Zionist rabbis are allowing their followers to enter the Temple Mount, contrary to the religious consensus on the matter.

This weekend, the rabbis Haim Druckman and Avraham Zukerman, of the Bnei Akiva youth movement, and Tzafania Drori, chief rabbi of Kiryat Shmona, are set to join this growing group with an ad in the Orthodox media. The rabbis, who are major figures in the religious Zionist movement, will call on Jews wishing to enter the Temple Mount "in purity, to ascend at this time to the to the places permitted for Jews to enter."

The three rabbis are known for their principle support for letting Jews on to the Temple Mount. But they had not yet expressed their stand formally, because of the religious sensitivity of the issue. Now, in honor of the 40th anniversary of Jerusalem's unification, with many right-wing movements placing the Temple Mount on their agenda, the rabbis have decided to call publicly on Jews to go to the Mount.

In publishing the ad, they will be joining dozens of other rabbis of the religious Zionist stream, among them rabbis in West Bank settlements, who in recent years have allowed Jews to go to the Temple Mount within the bounds of Jewish law.
It's taken forty years, but perhaps the relationship of the Jewish People to the Temple Mount is beginning to change for the better.

Additionally, let's not overlook the moral to this story.

For many years, there have been a handful of dedicated individuals and organizations who have devoted themselves to promoting Temple Consciousness. At first they were viewed as radicals or a fringe element, but over time, as can be seen from the above story, their efforts have begun to produce results, and their messages and ideology are slowly but surely working there way into the consensus.

Temple consciousness... Neo-Zionism... The Aliyah Revolution...

It's all just a matter of time.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Every Jew is responsible for one another? (Kol Yisrael areivim zeh la'zeh?)

Drivers ignore dying man on road

(Click here if video doesn't download.)




These are just a few of the words that come to mind.

Can it be that Israeli society has become so cold, unforgiving and apathetic (as Avi Dichter, Israel's Internal Security minister, asserts)?

Before casting blame and making sweeping judgements, it's important to place this tragic event in the proper context.

On the morning of March 13th, 1964, 29 year old Kitty Genovese was brutally murdered just outside her New York apartment.

For over 30 minutes, 40 of Ms. Genovese's neighbors watched the brutal attack, doing absolutely nothing. Only 35 minutes after the attack had begun did someone finally call the police.

In order to determine if New Yorkers were in fact cold and heartless, or, if perhaps there was another explanation as to why no one responded to Ms. Genovese's cries for help, a series of experiments were conducted.
The researchers consistently found that as the number of bystanders increased, the likelihood that any one of them would help decreased.
This phenomenon is known as the "bystander effect".
If we are by ourselves when an emergency occurs, we perceive ourselves to be 100% responsible for taking action. However, when there are 10 bystanders, we each perceive ourselves to have only a tenth of the responsibility. The higher the number of bystanders, the less obligated each individual is likely to feel to intervene.
Another explanation given is...
If we are unsure of our own perceptions and interpretations, or if the situation is ambiguous, we look to others for help in defining what is going on. If others appear calm, we may decide that whatever is happening doesn't require our assistance.
When these findings are applied to Israel society, I believe that we can better understand why this tragic event occurred, and how similar occurrences can be prevented in the future..

Frankly, over the last two decades, as corruption and deceit infected many of the seats of power within Israeli society - particularly the government - average Israelis came to feel that they were no longer able to make a difference. Israeli society was now ruled by the law of the jungle - everyone for themselves and the survival of the fittest - and whoever didn't play by those rules would come to be viewed as friers / (suckers) - the absolute worst thing you can call an Israeli.

It is not a matter of Israeli society being populated by cold and heartless individuals, quite to the contrary. However, the foreign values that have consciously been imported from abroad (courtesy of Israel's ruling elites), such as individualism and materialism have come to replace the authentic Jewish values of self-sacrifice and of caring for the needs of the community.

We are taught in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of our Fathers, 5:22):
Whoever possesses these three qualities belongs to the disciples of Abraham our father: a generous eye, a humble spirit, and a meek soul.

But he who possesses the three opposite qualities--an evil eye, a proud spirit, and a haughty soul--is of the disciples of Bilam the wicked.
So, what is the solution?

I believe that each and every one of us needs to take upon themselves a sense of personal responsibility for making the Jewish State of Israel the best it can possibly be.

True, there are many challenges within Israeli society, and we can't possibly overcome all of them with our limited abilities and resources, but, returning once again to Pirkei Avot, 2:21:
It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task. Yet, you are not free to desist from it.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Never Forget!

Today marks 60 years since the murder of Dov Gruner, Yehiel Dresner, Eliezer Kashani & Mordechai Alkahi HY"D by the British, at the Acco gallows.

"For you should know this: there is no power in the world which can sever the tie between the Jewish people and their one and only land. Whosoever tries to sever it - his hand will be cut off and the curse of God will rest on him for ever...In blood and fire Judea fell, in blood and fire Judea will rise again..."

The full story on the official ETZEL website

In honor of the yahrtzeit, check out A Simple Jew's Photo Essay

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

A Really Bad Beer Ad

Meet Kevin Peraino. I'm fairly certain (though not completely) that Kevin is not Jewish. Hey, nobody's perfect. Mr. Peraino is also a journalist for Newsweek - their Jerusalem Bureau Chief actually. And this Newsweek reporter understands Israel's purpose better than many, many, many Jews do.

Flashback: The early Zionist dreamed of building a nation where "Jewish criminals are arrested by Jewish police officers, tried before Jewish judges and incarcerated in a Jewish prison." When that occurred, they declared, we will have become a "nation like any other."

But the Zionist dream of being "a nation like any other" is perhaps the most destructive idea a Jew can come up with. Indeed it is this very thought process that led to the post-Zionist movement. It is this thought process that leads Jews to uproot Jewish families and Jewish communities from holy Jewish soil all in the name of being accepted on the world stage. Being accepted as "a nation like any other."

The Jews are not a nation like any other. We are, in fact, a nation unlike any other. We are a light to the nations. Israel's purpose is to promote G-d to the world. Simply that and nothing more. Even if we Jews don't know it - the rest of the world sure does.

Take David Saranga, the Israeli consular official based in New York. Did you hear his latest ploy to help tourism, particularly for the 18-35 male demographic? "...what's relevant to men under 35? Good-looking women," he says. Yep. That's what Israel should highlight about itself.

Benny Elon rightly calls that a waste of money. "It's the only state where you can take the Bible as your tourism guide." Think, Saranga, think!

And though he doesn't agree with Elon, even Alan Dershowitz admits it's "completely not the way to go. I can see models anywhere." One commenter on Newsweek's site wrote that it looks like a really bad beer ad.

And that is exactly the point. Once Israel becomes "a nation like any other" we are thrust onto a world scale we have no right being on. On that scale, Israel appears to be a pretty crummy nation with nothing special at all. Hence the post-Zionists. But if we stay on the scale we are supposed to stay on, the "light-to-the-nations" scale we are untouchable! When we promote G-d, no nation anywhere can come close in terms of history, culture, food, family life, beauty, and spirituality. Indeed we have something no other nation has.

Kevin Peraino ended his article with this sentence: "The reality of Israel is often having to choose: go with the girl, or go with God."

I'm pasting the Newsweek article below in case it "disappears" from their site.

Girls: Israel's racy new PR strategy
Israel flirts with a racy new public-relations strategy.
By Kevin Peraino

April 9, 2007 issue - Jim Malucci has two tattoos, one on each bulging bicep. On the left one, the photographer for Maxim magazine has etched an image of a seductively dressed pinup; on the right, he has stenciled the words GO WITH GOD in Portuguese. He leans on his left arm and points his camera at a model in a bikini on the Tel Aviv beachfront. "That's hot, that's wicked," says Malucci, as the model shifts her hips and parts her lips. "I wanna see the curves. That's it, honey. On your knees, legs apart. Nice arch in your back-boom!" The flash flickers as the sun drops toward the Mediterranean. A Hassidic man in a black hat accidentally steps into the frame. "Love the guy with the hat!" Malucci says, chortling.

Taking in the scene, David Saranga can't help but grin. The Israeli consular official based in New York approached Maxim six months ago. His proposal: the government and other pro-Israeli groups would fly a camera crew across the Atlantic in an effort to remake the Jewish state's public image. Israel's reputation had suffered after last summer's war with Lebanon; in a recent BBC poll taken in 27 countries, 56 percent of respondents considered Israel a "negative influence" in the world, higher than both Iran and the United States. But Israel's real PR problem, according to Saranga, is that Americans-particularly men aged 18 to 35-either associate the country with war or holy relics, or don't think of it at all. "We have to find the right hook," he says. "And what's relevant to men under 35? Good-looking women."

Saranga's effort is the latest volley in a long-running battle over how to sell Israel to the world. Tourism is a nearly $2 billion-a-year industry in Israel, and the art of public relations is something of a national obsession. In Hebrew it's called hasbarah, which means "explaining." For a country that's always craved international acceptance, hasbarah was "the first growth industry of Israel," the American author Richard Ben Cramer wrote. "We almost have a psychological disorder when it comes to public image," adds Eytan Schwartz, the first winner of Israel's top-rated reality TV show, "The Ambassador." Schwartz's prize is proof of that: the winner of "The Ambassador" gets to become a public-relations flack.

Still, by definition, hasbarah is open to interpretation. One of the central dilemmas is which aspects of Israel's wildly diverse society to emphasize. Israelis disagree about which is more likely to appeal to Americans-Tel Aviv's freewheeling, secular charms, or Jerusalem's holy sites. Settler leader Benny Elon, a former tourism minister, says he considers ads touting Israel's beaches a waste of money. For Elon, it isn't only a cultural issue; it's also bad business. Tourists in search of sunshine will always favor the French Riviera or the Caribbean. Israel's "unique selling proposition" is its religious heritage, says Elon. "It's the only state where you can take the Bible as your tourism guide." A recent study by the consulting firm Ernst & Young recommends that the Jewish state target American evangelical Christian tourists-one of Elon's pet projects.

Yet trying too hard to lure Christian tourists could end up alienating secular liberals. "Benny Elon is just dead wrong," says Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz, author of "The Case for Israel." "It puts Israel in the camp of arch-conservative people." Already, a recent study by the New York marketing firm Wunderman has concluded that Israel's "brand" is perceived similarly to those of Philip Morris and the NRA. Ultimately evangelicals' support for Israeli tourism will evaporate, says Dershowitz; Christians will eventually become "disappointed" with the Jewish state as their interests diverge. But even Dershowitz thinks the idea of paying to fly a magazine crew across the Atlantic is a little over the top: "Completely not the way to go. I can see models anywhere."

Saranga insists his campaign is just smart niche marketing. "You have to match the message to the audience," the diplomat says. And his supporters argue that the Jewish state's diversity is one of its strongest selling points. Ultimately, says Dershowitz, "Israel is both countries ... a country where models pose at great holy sites." The tattoos on shooter Jim Malucci's biceps make the balance look easy to find. But marketing budgets are finite, and cultural rifts aren't so easily bridged. The reality of Israel is often having to choose: go with the girl, or go with God.


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Friday, April 06, 2007

Aharit HaYamim: Redemption Rock, Indigenous Jewsic

Aharit HaYamim is true redemption rock. The members of this musical movement have come on Aliyah from across the globe to bring new songs to the nation of Israel, who will collectively sing them to the harmony of the entire world.

I have written about the band and the annual music festival they put on ever since hearing them play in a Jerusalem cave and running into lead singer Yehuda around Musrara between gigs. Here are some video clips I just found of them:

And here is their web site and MySpace page (where a bunch of their songs can be heard/downloaded)

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Ariel Zilbers Sings of Homesh, Kumah and Returning Home

Israeli pop icon turned radical Land of Israel activist Ariel Zilber nailed the emotion surrounding the return to Homesh with his latest anthem (includes a Kumah shout-out)

Click here to check it out.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

On Being an Extremist: Revisited

About a year-and-a-half ago, in response to feedback I had received to a number of articles I had written, I decided to layout many of my core beliefs as they related to Israel and the Jewish People, under the heading: On Being an Extremist, leaving it up to my readers to decide, if my beliefs, were, in fact, extreme.

Well, Bradley Burston of Ha'aretz, whose lone claim to fame is his now defunct "Talkback Policy" of forbidding the use of the phrase: "There are no Palestinians," has decided to pen a list of his own, which he entitles: Far-right and wrong, or how to ruin Judaism.

Burston lists 13 principles, to my 10, of which, 5 +/- made Burston's list. I am ashamed to note that #'s 12 & 13 on Burston's list, which relate to the Jewish People's yearning for the Temple Mount and the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, do not appear on my list, as I have only begun to fully appreciate the notion of "Temple Consciousness" over the last year+, and which I would include on my list today, in one variation or another.

Lastly, before re-revealing my list of beliefs, I found it rather ironic that when it comes to opposing Jews ascending to the Temple Mount (#12), Burston becomes an ardent follower of Rav Kook - who, in regards to many of the other points listed, would likely be viewed as an extremist by Burston and his ilk.

Without further ado...

The Top 10 Reasons... as to why people believe I am an extremist: (Nov. 30, 2005)
1) I believe that the borders of the Jewish State of Israel should encompass the entire area west of the Jordan River (I am not relinquishing the right of the Jewish People to other parts of its Homeland, namely: Jordan, Syria, Lebanon & the Sinai - I just do not believe that we should press our claim to them right now - so long as our neighbors behave).

2) I am against the creation of a "Palestinian State" anywhere west of the Jordan River, as I do not believe that anyone aside from the Jewish People has any right to sovereignty in the Land of Israel.

3) I am opposed to the "Peace Process" (as it is understood today - although I am very much in favor of peace), as I recognize that peace will not come through releasing terrorists from prison, arming these very terrorists, and making other "goodwill gestures" that all lead to the murder of innocent Jews.

4) I believe that Israel must come to the (painful) recognition that she is at war with the Arab world, and she must be committed to taking the required steps necessary to win that war (and not to suffice with defensive half-measures like the security fence and shelling open fields).

5) I believe that all Jews should live in the Land of Israel , as this is the only place that the Jew, both on an individual and national level, can live a complete Jewish life and it is the only place where the destiny and mission of the Jewish People can be actualized.

6) I believe that the State of Israel should be a Jewish State and not a State of the Jews (simply having a Jewish majority). I believe that the State of Israel should not strive to "fit-in" with the nations of the world and be a nation like all others, but should act to create a society that will be strongly rooted in Jewish tradition, history, identity and culture.

7) I believe that every Jewish child in Israel (and in the world) should receive a intensive Jewish education that will instill within them a sense of pride in their knowing what it means to be a Jew, where they have come from and where they are going, the reason for having a Jewish State in the Land of Israel, and a commitment to taking an active role in helping to fulfill the collective destiny of the Jewish People.

8) I believe that the ultimate values in the Jewish State of Israel should not be liberalism, pluralism and democracy (although each may have it's place within the Jewish State, under certain situations / conditions), rather values that are consistent with authentic Jewish tradition and beliefs should be given primacy above all others.

9) I believe that the Jewish State of Israel can create an exemplary society, one that is moral and just in all areas of private and public life, all while staying true to Jewish teachings and tradition, and not selling our birthright for a bowl of western, secular values.

10) I believe that if the Jewish State of Israel does all of the above, then Israel and her neighbors will be blessed with true and lasting peace, and the Jewish People and the Jewish State of Israel will earn the respect and admiration of the nations of the world, by serving as a true "Light unto the Nations" and on that day the world will recognize the Oneness of the G-d of Israel and His dominion over all.
So, you tell me... Does all that make me an extremist?

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

NYT: Choosing Israel, Not the Hamptons

The following excellent piece appeared in yesterday's The New York Times. (You won't see me typing a sentance like that often!) It appears online here and a slideshow is posted here.

Now because articles on the NYT website have the habit of disappearing after a few days we cut and pasted the whole thing here.

The nutshell version is that American Jews are starting to opt to buy their second homes in Israel instead of traditional US vacation spots. And, it gets better, many of those Jews eventually move here for good!

Full text follows...

March 9, 2007
Choosing Israel, Not the Hamptons

AS an associate professor of clinical surgery and chief of high risk programs at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Dr. Freya Schnabel is an unlikely international real estate pioneer. But as one of the first buyers in Eden Hills - a planned community 15 minutes southwest of Jerusalem - Dr. Schnabel, who is 49, is emblematic of a new breed of visitor to Israel: the foreign vacation-home buyer.

Indeed, from downtown Tel Aviv to the heart of Jerusalem, foreigners - especially Americans - searching for second homes are redefining Israel's high-end real estate market. Part of Tel Aviv is, in fact, in the midst of a mini-Manhattan makeover with the recent arrival of New York-style residential projects designed by the likes of Philippe Starck and Richard Meier. Even Donald Trump has entered the Tel Aviv marketplace with plans for a 70-story residential and commercial tower - Israel's highest - in the suburb of Ramat Gan.

Real estate analysts estimate that while foreigners made up less than 5 percent of total home buyers in Israel last year, they snapped up a third of the luxury properties - roughly defined as those priced above $500 a square foot. Taking advantage of a decrease in terrorism and property prices still far below Western levels, foreigners bought over $1.2 billion in Israeli real estate in 2006, according to the Israel Central Bank, more than double the $445 million in sales just three years earlier.

While deals like the $13 million purchase of a Tel Aviv triplex by Shari Arison, the Carnival Cruise Lines heiress, illustrate the upper end of the market, most foreign buyers are far more modest. But their desire for larger properties appears to be growing.

"The Americans have shifted from buying one- to two-bedroom to four- to five-bedroom apartments over the past half decade," said Werner M. Loval, managing director of the Jerusalem office of Anglo-Saxon Real Estate in Jerusalem, one of Israel's largest real estate agencies. "But they're still usually spending from about $400,000 to $1 million."

Davyd Tal, the Welsh-born owner of the real estate agency Jerusalem Homes, said that about 65 percent of all foreign buyers are Americans, most of whom are in their 40s and 50s. In Jerusalem, a quarter of all homes sold in 2006 went to foreigners.

Such statistics are credited with helping to boost average per-room prices throughout the capital by 27 percent last year - to just over $88,000 - even though the majority of foreigners remain concentrated in several city-center neighborhoods. These include Rehavia, the German Colony, old Katmon, Kiryat Shmuel, Mamilla and Talibeh, areas where roughly half of last year's home sales were to foreigners.

These areas are mostly within walking distance of major religious sites - the Old City, the Western Wall and the Great Synagogue - fulfilling the needs of the mostly religious Americans who are increasingly calling the neighborhoods home for at least part of the year.

"They want to be here because Jerusalem is the holy city and they are prepared to pay for this privilege," said Yaron Tzuberi, marketing and sales director for Africa Israel, one of Israel's top residential real estate developers.

Mr. Tzuberi notes that almost none of his American buyers live in Jerusalem full time, visiting instead during major Jewish holidays like Passover and Sukkot and perhaps for a few weeks each summer. Such buyers may eventually retire in Israel, but for now, he adds, "the apartments are just empty the rest of the time."

Nonetheless, along with their personal reinforced-concrete bomb shelters, Mr. Tzuberi's clients demand amenities like parking and central air-conditioning and heating - still premium services in much of Israel.

Some buyers are even opting for American-style gated communities - like the 600-unit Eden Hills - to further cushion their landing in the Levant.

"I hate sounding like an ugly American," said Dr. Allen Josephs, a 56-year-old New Jersey neurologist and future Eden Hills resident. "But I want my creature comforts while still being in Israel."

American buyers also covet the sights and sounds of Jerusalem itself. "Views of the Old City and of the Dome of the Rock are a must," Mr. Tzuberi said, "even though they can add hundreds of thousands of dollars to the cost of a home."

Properties within the walls of the Old City itself, meanwhile, are so rare that they regularly come with multimillion-dollar price tags, including one historic gem near the Western Wall that real estate agents said was shown to Madonna in 2004, though she did not buy it.

IT'S a simple case of supply and demand," says Mr. Tal of Jerusalem Homes. "When homes enter this market, they move fast."

Mr. Tal cited a $650,000 property in the Old City that sold within weeks. Another there was recently resold after just a year, with a markup of $450,000, to $1.45 million.

Views of the Mediterranean - rather than of historic sites - are among the key selling points in Tel Aviv, Israel's second-strongest market for foreign sales. Barely 90 years old, Tel Aviv's skyline is dotted with boxy, 1950s-era apartment blocks, along with an increasing number of sleek new luxury residential towers. They're a far cry from Jerusalem's low-rise, stone-clad houses.

"While Jewish, Tel Aviv buyers are almost never religious, and tend to visit far more often than their Jerusalem counterparts," said Mr. Tzuberi, adding that second-home buyers there are mostly American, British, Russian, French and ex-patriate Israelis looking for a part-time residence back home.

Spas, swimming pools, doormen and heavy security are standard offerings in Tel Aviv's newest developments, which include Mr. Starck's Yoo Tel Aviv - twin 40-floor cylinders opening later this year - and Mr. Meier's 30-story residential tower on posh Rothschild Avenue, which will open in 2010.

Such perks are expensive, however. Prime homes have risen roughly 30 percent over the last year to at least $650 a square foot at benchmark projects like the Akirov Towers - also called the Treetop Towers - in northern Tel Aviv; the 168-unit Rova Lev Ha'ir complex in the city center; and the beachfront Opera Tower. They go up to $1,000 a square foot by the sea.

Ms. Arison's $13 million downtown triplex is in Project G, a 31-floor tower still on the drawing boards.

"We were surprised by these prices, but we actually just purchased a second, larger apartment in the same building," said Margaret Amouyal, who bought into Rova Lev Ha'ir three years ago and visits Tel Aviv six times a year from Brussels.

For many foreigners in Tel Aviv, such standards increasingly include elements of the city's Bauhaus past. Known as the White City and declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 2003, Tel Aviv's historic core includes 4,000 Bauhaus buildings - the largest single concentration in the world - many now the target of design-minded American and European second-home seekers. Designated for conservation, Bauhaus apartments usually cover entire floors and offer the feel of a private home in a city that conspicuously lacks detached housing.

As a recent $26 million deal for five historic Tel Aviv Bauhaus buildings suggests, buying into this unique architectural heritage is not for the meek. Landmarked buildings command at least 30-percent premiums over conventional structures from the same era, according to Itzik Ben-Shoam, chief executive of White City Buildings, a real estate agency specializing in Bauhaus residences.

Whether purchasing along Israel's coast or in its spiritual heartland, one thing has been common among almost all foreign home buyers in Israel. They are generally not investment purchases.

"They're intended to be true second homes and not sold or rented for a quick profit," said the developer Alfred Akirov, whose eponymous trio of towers helped start Tel Aviv's luxury skyscraper boom in the late 1990s.

WHILE foreign sales are providing a much-needed boost to Israel's overall economy - battered earlier this decade by almost five years of bomb attacks on civilians - Israelis themselves have not necessarily been so welcoming.

Secular, middle-class Jerusalemites who can no longer afford to live in many areas of their city have been the most vocal in their anti-outsider sentiment. What's more, with foreign buyers often absent for months on end, some areas of the city can seem like luxury ghost towns.

In response, developers have broadened their marketing strategies to include local buyers, as well as voluntarily capping foreign ownership, as in a 30 percent limit at a new seafront tower in the resort city Netanya. While government-mandated restrictions remain unlikely, urban development organizations like the Futura Institute have suggested supplemental property taxes for non-Israeli owners or incentives for developers to include affordable housing aimed at local residents in luxury projects.

One firm, Nam5, is constructing a 120-unit residence offering free housing to recently discharged soldiers in a Tel Aviv suburb, as well as a new luxury tower in Tel Aviv.

For buyers like Dr. Schnabel and Dr. Josephs - who expect to move to Eden Hills by 2009 - rising prices and edged-out locals seem a world away from their still-pristine slice of ancient Judea. With homes ranging from $400,000 to well over a million, Eden Hills is priced to appeal to buyers accustomed to living among the parks, tennis courts, artificial lakes, bike trails and tree-lined pedestrian malls typical of high-end American subdivisions. Such attributes, along with numerous synagogues, are designed to lure Eden Hills's wealthy, Orthodox American target audience - and keep them there.

Dr. Schnabel is already practicing for her new, part-time life in Israel with monthlong stays in Jerusalem apartments to gain a sense of the country off the typical tourist track. And Dr. Josephs is so bullish on Israel that he has bought four separate Eden Hills lots for himself and his children.

"I am actually thinking of Eden Hills as my primary residence," Dr. Josephs said, adding that, eventually, "I will live in Israel, and then visit my second home - in New Jersey."

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Media Round-Up - The Jewish Suicidal Urge (Take 2)

"Then the Devil Said"

- Natan Alterman, Jewish / Israeli Poet (1910 - 1970)

"Satan then said:
How do I overcome
This besieged one?
He has courage
And talent,
And implements of war
And resourcefulness.
Only this I shall do,
I'll dull his mind
And cause him to forget
The justice of his cause.

Simply put, we have lost our way; lost sight of what it is that we are doing here, in the Land of Israel, and if we are not able to restore our belief in the justice of our cause, the Jewish people will not have a future here, in the State of Israel.

Consider the following recent news stories from the Israeli press:

Israeli Arabs to get greater school funding, settlements less
"The new budget formula will change the political-education map from A to Z," a senior ministry officials said, "and transfer money to the most disadvantaged communities, most of which are Arab... At the end of the process, a lot of money will be directed toward schools... mainly in the Arab sector."
In short, Israel's Supreme Court, then headed by Aharon Barak, ruled a year ago, that the current criteria used by the Ministry of Education used to determine the allocation of resources was racist and discriminatory, as it gave preference (higher allocations) to Jewish communities (some in Judea and Samaria) over their Arab counterparts.

Abolish Law of Return - Yaron London - Yediot Achronot
In my opinion the State should first and foremost act for the benefit of Israeli society and this involves accepting immigrants who wish to and are able to successfully become integrated. Their Jewishness – be what it may – is only one of the variables assuring their integration, and it is not necessarily the most important one.
Sadly, this is the natural conclusion that one must come to once they no longer believe in the right of the Jewish People to a Jewish State in the Land of Israel. Without that fundamental belief, simply put, the Law of Return is an anachronism, and seemingly racist.

Left-Wing Activists, Arabs Plan to Build Unauthorized Outposts
Israeli left-wing activists, together with foreign PLO supporters, plan to build outpost settlements and plant trees on behalf of Arab residents in Judea and Samaria... One of the latest projects of several left-wing organizations, led by Rabbis for Human Rights, is to rebuild demolished illegal homes for Arabs on state-owned lands in the southern Hevron Hills... As part of their ongoing campaign, left-wing activists have encouraged local Arabs to bring claims against Jewish or state ownership to selected lands before Israeli courts.
One of the principles that Jews have always cherished is social justice. It is natural, once a Jew no longer believes in the right of the Jewish People to a Jewish State in the Land of Israel, to fight for the rights of those who the land does belong to...

Arab students will no longer be tested on Zionism
As for the Zionism section, the official said: "The concepts that were selected aren't suited for the needs of Arab students. Not only did the Arab students not learn about their own heritage, but the section on Zionism generated a great deal of criticism. It was therefore decided to reinforce the shared basis - that is, the section on democracy - and cut down on what separates the sectors."
Why teach Arabs students in Israel about Zionism, which is all about the struggle of the Jewish People to re-establish a Jewish State in their ancestral homeland - something that will naturally lead to a sense of inequality amongst the Arabs - particularly when one no longer believes that the State of Israel should exist as a Jewish State?

It is my hope and belief that it is not too late; that this post can have a happy ending; that we can once again restore a sense of the justice of our cause to our brothers and sisters, through Israel, and the world, but we have our work cut out for us.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Last Boy Scout

Leading up to the Purim Holiday, there was much to be done at the last moment. Two days before the holiday, there was work to be done, a lecture to give, an important dinner take-out order to fill, and costumes to get for the little ones.

As I got to Jerusalem to lecture a bunch of (what's a nice word for spoiled?) Yeshiva kids on the ins and outs of Israel advocacy, from the neo-Zionist perspective, I passed by a bunch of hooligan-looking Israelis dressed in what looked to me like boy scout uniforms.

In Israel, you'll see these types of uniforms on teenagers of the various youth movements--each movement occupying their own special niche within the vast religious-political culture which of course must also include innocent and non-innocent young children.

Let's just say these boy scouts didn't look like the helpful kind. Want a smoke?

Following the lecture which I thought was inspirational, and I am sure that some of the yawns were also out of appreciation for my time and energy, I went to go take care of some of those other last minute errands.

(By the way, I know that I give a great lecture).

I got to Pisgat Ze'ev, the largest community in what is now Jerusalem, although used to be the """"West Bank"""". It is a lovely part of the city built by the Prime Minister who could both build and take away, Ariel Sharon. It is really a beautiful large neighborhood.

We like it, because it is on the way home to Bet El from Jerusalem, and has some of the infrastructure missing from a smaller yishuv, like a shopping mall, and of course Burger's Bar.

The Burger's Bar is located at this intersection at the end of Rechov Moshe Dayan. I'm not sure what that tall red thing is supposed to be.

This is a good opportunity to talk about traffic safety in Israel.

When you are coming from Jerusalem, the best thing to do is park across the intersection in one of 8 or so parking spots facing in the direction you need to drive later. Now the road you need to cross on foot has 2 lanes in each direction--a 4 lane road in total. Not so big. But here in Israel, that means that the road takes about 5 minutes to cross, stopping on 2 seperate half-meter-wide islands in between green lights.

Now I was born in NY, so I am no fool. I look both ways and cross against the light if the coast is clear. For some reason, Israelis who will break just about every rule on the road, don't really jaywalk.

I got across the road pretty fast, when all of a sudden, I hear a 35-40 year-old blind lady holding a cane and 3 young kids in Purim costumes shouting, "Selicha, Selicha."

Now she didn't know it, but she was apparently talking to me.

She told me that it was unsafe to cross such a difficult intersection, and needed some help. She was right. Whichever engineer designed the traffic pattern here, they did not have this type of scenario in mind.

Of course, I helped her and her cute, decked-out kids back across the street.

After finishing my good deed for the day, I went back across that street, to get my take-out. The owner of the Burger's Bar, who knows me quite well from my wife's 9 months of pregnancy cravings that made me a regular at this establishment, invited our family to his child's upcoming birthday party at the restaurant. What a real, yet surreal night.

And how good it all made me feel. It was at that moment that I realized, it is simple good deeds like these that make this country what it is, and what it is supposed to be.

You don't have to be dressed like a boy scout to behave like one. But if you are dressed like a boy scout in Israel, it certainly wouldn't hurt to try.

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

David Melech Yisrael Chai Vikayam! --or--
Dudu for President

We all know by now that Israel's government is corrupt and devoid of high moral standing, both in the eyes of Israelis and the world at large. I don't intend to go into all the sordid details now. That we can save for several upcoming posts.

But the situation is in desperate need of repair, and many argue that we need to start at the top of the political ladder and work down to solve our leadership crisis.

The President of Israel is considered Israel's highest public servant. He certainly is the highest paid. The current term of President Moshe Katzav officially ends in June, if he is not tossed out of office beforehand for sexual misconduct, possibly rape.

The Israeli populace agrees that we need to restore dignity to this position with a man or woman of exemplary character, that can well represent what the modern nation of Israel is all about.

I nominate Dudu.

When I think about all the characteristics that are necessary to make a good president in Israel, one man stands out miles above the rest.

David (Dudu) Fisher has been a model Israeli for decades, and may even be a true Jewish hero. Fisher is a performer par excellance, his star quality shines through all his endeavors.

Fisher has embraced Jewish culture. He served as the Cantor of the Great Synagogue in Tel Aviv, meaning scores of non-religious "Middle Israelis" have probably heard him belt out Kol Nidrei when they wanted their semi-yearly dose of Judaism. Dudu can sing with the best of them, reawakening the oft hibernating souls of the Jewish people.

Dudu won't buckle under pressure. He has performed on the world's biggest stage. I personally saw him play Jean Valjean in Les Miserables on Broadway. That's the biggest stage I can think of. You can be certain he won't lose his composure standing before the evil glare of the Israeli media's cameras.

And did I mention that Dudu is religious. He never performs on Friday nights or Saturdays. I can't offhand think of any other Valjean's or prominent Israeli politicians with that to their credit.

Dudu is one of Israel's top diplomats meeting with world leaders across the globe.

Fisher understands the diaspora quite well. In addition to his broadway stint, Fisher served as High Holidays Cantor at Kutshers Hotel in the Catskills for over 20 years. It doesn't get any more galut than that. Really.

And let's face it. There is no name that screams, "I'm an Israeli and proud of it," more than "Dudu."

But most of all, Dudu cares about the future of Israel. This is why he has devoted so much of his time and energy to educating our youth with his powerful and funloving DVD series that is a staple in just about every Israeli household.

Dudu has the respect of practically every child in the country. There are Israeli children who will utter the word "Dudu" before they learn to say Abba and Ima. Ask an Israeli youth who Ben Gurion was. I'm not sure they'll know. Ask about Dudu, now that's simple. Dudu is an institution, a revolutionary, a teacher and a leader.

Corrupt? I don't think so. I think all Israelis will agree. Dudu Fisher is an exemplary individual who knows how to represent Israel and Judaism throughout the entire world.

I hereby nominate David (Dudu) Fisher for President of Israel--and for that matter, Prime Minister, or Monarch.

David Melech Yisrael Chai Vikayam!!

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Enjoying the View Mr. Defense Minister?

The government needs changing - not just this government but the model in general. The way it's set up today every minister is also a member of Knesset. Did anybody stop for a second to think just how ridiculous that is!?

Let's compare this with the American government. The President's cabinet (which is the equivalent of all the ministry positions) is made up of exactly zero members of Congress. And why do you suppose that is?

Maybe it's because America wants someone knowledgeable about finance and economics heading up its Treasury Department, someone skilled in diplomacy heading up its State Department, and someone experienced in war heading up its Department of Defense. And it's an undisputed fact that politicians are no good at anything but getting people to vote for them.

So what happens when you put such individuals in positions they are woefully unqualified for is you get your Minister of Defense on the cover of papers all over the world looking through binoculars with the lens cap on! And the politician is too full of pride to bother asking someone why his binoculars aren't working. Someone more concerned about his ego than his soldiers is not someone I want anywhere near my country's defense forces.

The Knesset needs to pass a law that sitting MKs can not serve ministry posts. That's the only way to ensure a slight chance they may be filled by qualified individuals. And yes, I know the Prime Minister is a ministry post too.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Baseball in Israel and in the Bible (Wow!)

So it looks like it's really happening! Baseball in Israel. A year and a half ago I posted a Michael Freund Op/Ed piece from the a Jerusalem Post entitled "Why Israel needs baseball." At the time I really didn't think it would ever happen and certainly not so quickly.

Yet, recent headlines are being made (yes, even on ESPN) about the Israel Baseball League which has opening day scheduled for just a few months away - June 24! They even signed some former major league (as in MLB) players to Manage. (See that ESPN link above.) And no games will be played on Shabbat!

Six teams will be in the IBL its opening year. (None in Jerusalem where I am! Shucks!). They are:

The Tel Aviv Lightning
The Petach Tikva Pioneers
The Ra'anana Express
The Netanya Tigers
The Modi'in Miracle
The Bet Shemesh Blue Sox

Play Ball!

The official IBL website (in honor of Purim?) posted this humorous article:

Scholars find possible references to baseball in the Bible

Compiled by Hyman S. Baras

While baseball is generally considered a "modern" sport, there are references in the Bible that could lead one to deduce that, in fact, baseball dates back thousands of years. Along the same line of thinking as The Da Vinci Code, note the pattern of the following passages, which clearly illustrate that there were Giants in those days as well.

And Abner said to Joab, "Let the young men...arise and play before us" -- Samuel II 2:14

...and all the people rose up... -- Exodus 33:8

And Juhoshaphat the son of Ahilud was the recorder; and Sheva was the scribe..." -- Samuel II 20:24

And they said unto Jephtha, "Come and be our Captain" -- Judges 11:6

...and he measured two lines... -- Samuel II 8:2

...and he set the bases... -- Kings I 7:39

And they stood every man in his place round about the camp -- Judges 7:21

Behold, Rebecca came forth with her pitcher... -- Genesis 24:45

Ehud, the Benjamite, a man left-handed... -- Judges 3:15

The children of Israel asked,..."Who shall go up for us first against the Canaanites? -- Judges 3:15

...Seek out a man who is a skillful player... -- Samuel I 16:16

...Judah shall go up first... -- Judges 20:18

And Judah took... -- Judges 1:18

Three times... -- Exodus 23:14

...and it was good... -- Genesis 1:4

And Abram went down... -- Genesis 12:10

...out at the base... -- Leviticus 4:18

And Moses ...smote... -- Exodus 7:20

...and (it)...was foul... -- Exodus 7:21

And Moses went out... -- Numbers 11:24

...and none came in... -- Joshua 6:1

...and there was not a man left... -- Joshua 8:17

And Miriam was shut out... -- Numbers 12:15

And the children of Benjamin went out... -- Judges 20:31

...and went into the field... -- Numbers 22:23

...and Aaron waved... -- Leviticus 9:21

And he looked this way and that way... -- Exodus 2:12

...and he delivered up... -- Numbers 21:3

...and they ran as soon as he had stretched his hand... And they fell on their faces to the ground... -- Judges 13:20

Get thee up; wherefore liest thou upon thy face? -- Judges 7:10

...for it was an error... -- Numbers 15:25

...second and third... -- Genesis 6:16

And Joseph spoke... -- Genesis 45:3

...concerning the error which he had committed... -- Leviticus 5:18

...make an atonement for thyself... -- Leviticus 9:17

Thou shalt fan them... -- Isaiah 41:16

Then Joseph commanded to fill...the...sacks... -- Genesis 42:25

...and all the people saw this and they shouted... -- Leviticus 9:24

Who can stand before the Giants? -- Deuteronomy 9:2

...and Aaron waved... -- Leviticus 9:21

...and pitched on the other side... -- Numbers 21:13

And suffered not a man to pass... -- Judges 3:28

...but...the seventh... -- Exodus 31:15

Gideon... smote... -- Judges 8:21 first... -- Joshua 8:33

And Noah went in... -- Genesis 7:7

And the young man ran... -- Numbers 11:27

...he turned and went back... -- Judges 18:26

...unto the base... -- Numbers 8:4

Noah walked... -- Genesis 6:9

Let us go and sacrifice... -- Exodus 5:8

And Moses lifted up his hand and with his rod he smote... --Numbers 20:11

...the hide... -- Leviticus 9:11

...a long blast... -- Joshua 6:5

...outside the camp... -- Judges 7:17

...for an 'omer... -- Exodus 16:36

And the men of Israel and of Judah arose, and shouted... -- Samuel I 17:52

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Nothing beats oleh art. I call it Olart.

("Dude, I just Olarted!")

Anyway, check out the story and the exhibit itself.

Speaking of art, here is some Tel Aviv installation art using fruit and a phonograph stumbled upon by Reb Ezra (the other Ezra - the head of the Lamed Vavnikim in the Old City and the soon-to-be opened Jerusalem Soul Center):

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Even Though We Ain't Got Money, I'm so in Love With Milk and Honey

I was looking through the search terms that bring people to or and saw one continuously appearing, month after month.

It was "Even though we ain't got money, I'm so in love with you honey."

So I plugged that into Google. Lo and behold, we were number (drumroll...) 81.

81? Why would people searching for that song lyric click on the 81st link that came up? I still don't have the answer to that (maybe it was number 3 until recently) but I can tell you what post came up that used the lyrics. It was not even a Kumah blogger, but Laya, a member of the Jewlicious blog, whose post was reprinted here by Yishai.

Now Jewlicious has traditionally gotten a bit hysterical when it comes to Kumah, though Michael actually composed a Weird-Al style song for us at one point. Laya's post, however, is a Neo-Zionist ode to Aliyah that is one of the most sincere I have ever seen. It made my Shabbat to read it:

Some of the reasons I love living in Israel

Why did I come to Israel? I get asked this a lot. By Israelis who live here with me, and Americans who don't. Both, I suspect hoping for a glimmer of inspiration in my answer. Why would I leave everything I had going for me in The Land of Plenty and move to a perceived war zone?

Initially I came at the height of the intifada, with a newfound Zionism, grand ideas and dreamer's visions. I came to be with my people in their time of sorrow, with lofty ambitions of heroism. Since that time, all I can say is I've been humbled and I've grown-up.

But why do I stay?

It's as simple as this - because Love makes you do crazy things.

Sometimes I walk down the streets of Jerusalem singing love songs to it (even though we aint got money, I'm so in love with you honey?). Being in Love with Israel is like being in Love with a person; it defies all reason and logic. At some point the initial Zionistic honeymoon ends, times get tough and you go broke. Sometimes you might turn cynical and forget what you came here for. In terrifying, fleeting moments I have even considered going back to the land of hard wood floors, bank statements in English, and drip coffee.

Click here for the rest

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Feiglin on the Misguided Arrow Missile

Moshe Feiglin, who led mass civil disobedience in Israel following Oslo and coordinated the road-blockings pre-Disengagement via proxy (not to mention inching ever closer to taking the helm of the Likud), weaves a tale that sums up the progression from Camp David to Oslo to the Wall to the Arrow Missile.

(Normally I would not reprint a whole article - but this isn't anywhere else online yet - when it is I'll link):

Happiness is a Magic Gun
By Moshe Feiglin
13 Shvat, 5767

The peaceful townspeople hoped that the new sheriff would succeed; all his predecessors had failed. Time and again, bands of robbers would attack the town, shoot in every direction, murder, rob and get away unharmed. All the people responsible for the town's security had promised to make peace with the robbers. This made it impossible to defeat them.

It was like a collective mental illness. The townspeople, after all, had built the town in an attempt to create a new, normal identity for themselves. They wanted to be just an ordinary town and live in peace with their neighbors. But the neighbors didn't like the townspeople's new identity. They fought them constantly.

And so, the town couldn't triumph. Triumph would mean that there was no peace. Without peace, the town could not be an ordinary place. So the townspeople decided that it was "impossible to defeat terror," and tried to solve the problem with protective walls, separation fences and roadblocks. No doubt about it; it was a type of mental illness.

The situation went from bad to worse. So the townspeople blamed the residents of the isolated houses at the edge of the town. "They upset the robbers," the sheriffs explained to the townspeople. "It's their fault that we don't have peace with the robbers. Why should we die for them, anyway?"

So instead of fighting the robbers, every new sheriff would fight the townspeople who lived at the edge of town. The last sheriff went one step farther. He even demolished all the isolated houses at the edge of town and threw all the poor townspeople who lived there to the dogs. The regular townspeople were very impressed with the brave sheriff's glorious victory and elected him for an additional term in office by a large majority.

But then the brave sheriff had a stroke. A new sheriff replaced him. He had already learned how to be popular in the peaceful town. "My predecessor bravely disengaged from a few isolated houses," he said. "But I will be much braver than him. I will have the entire town converge into the Town Square!"

The robbers got the idea and vigorously attacked all the remaining houses in town. This time they did more than rob and plunder; they also abducted some of the townspeople before getting away. The new sheriff tried to prove to the townspeople that he could protect them from the borders of the Town Square. He tried to fight the robbers according to accepted town practice -- from the plasma screen in his office.

The robbers laughed and laughed. They went to live at the edge of town, where the isolated townspeople used to live. From there, they would shoot at the frightened townspeople whenever they pleased. The new sheriff even shot back. After a month, though, the new sheriff understood that he could simply not win. So he announced that he won and stopped shooting. The robbers also stopped shooting. What did they care? The hostages were still in their hands, and they needed to rest and re-supply, anyway.

The Magic Gun
The new sheriff had a serious problem. The townspeople no longer had faith in him. He had become the laughingstock of the town. His loyal aides explained that he must present some sort of solution. If not, they warned, the fate of his career would be sealed.

"Do not fear," said the sheriff to the weary and frightened townspeople. "We are working on the perfect solution. We have an unbeatable plan to protect you."

While the townspeople gazed on in astonishment, the sheriff demonstrated his new Magic Gun solution. "The Magic Gun will allow us to make peace with the robbers -- even if they don't stop shooting. When the next robber comes," the sheriff enthusiastically explained, "we will do nothing to endanger peace. When the robber will provoke the townspeople, I won't even have to leave my office. That could endanger the normalization of our relations with them, you understand."

"When the robber waves his gun, I will explain that it is nothing more than a water gun. That will prevent unnecessary friction. And when the robber will point his gun straight at the heart of a little towns-girl, I will be able to continue my daily nap. And when the robber pulls the trigger, I will just turn over in my bed."

"But," the sheriff excitedly added, "when the bullet leaves the gun, everything will change. The Magic Gun will rapidly identify the flying bullet. It will jump from my belt, even while I'm still sleeping, home-in on the robber's gun, shoot a magic bullet at the robber's bullet and destroy it in mid-air. The robber will not be harmed at all, and that way we will be able to continue with our peaceful neighborly relations."

The townspeople were very excited. Finally, somebody had found the way to make true peace. Finally, they could be an ordinary town, like everyone else. There was one Nuisance there who tried to ask what would happen if the robbers would shoot more than one bullet at a time. He even reminded the townspeople that recently, the sheriff had given the robbers automatic guns. "Furthermore," the Nuisance added, "every magic bullet costs one trillion dollars. Even if the magic works, after one round of robbers' bullets, we will have to leave our town to find food for our children!"

The townspeople got very angry at the Nuisance. On their television, they repeatedly displayed the amazing new technology that was behind the Magic Gun. They were in no mood to let a few warmongering Nuisances ruin their dream of being ordinary townspeople. They let out their anger on some of the Nuisances' settlements and gave the good and pragmatic robbers more money and automatic weapons so that they could fight the bad, religious robbers.

And so, the perfect solution was finally found to restore peace and quiet to the town. Finally, the townspeople could blend in normally with their surroundings. The robbers robbed and murdered, the sheriff ruled in his sleep, the Nuisances were gotten rid of, the townspeople paid for the Magic Gun and all the damages incurred-- and everyone lived happily ever after.

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Where has the Israeli gone?

You know when I was younger I remember hearing all these amazing stories about the Israeli people. You know the ones that lived in Israel and worked to get the land what it is today. They were the ones I would look up to.

Always so smart and cunning. Figuring out ways to conveniently get around the problems that they were faced with. Being the best at everything and anything just because they could. I saw them as the smartest and most efficient Jews. They had the smallest army but were able to infiltrate anything and anyone that would come in their way. They had pride, they knew they were small and that enhanced their desire to be the best and do it with style. They would do such amazing covert operations that those Israelis would train the US Seals.
Where are those people? Does anyone else remember them?

I remember my parents telling me that when my brothers were younger they would try to sniff out the "secret" army personal on the El Al flights and go over to them and let them know that their disguise was crashed. I mean, this was the Israelis personality and mentality. They were the most creative and the best at getting what they wanted done with the least amount of effort and casualties.

Where are those people? Does anyone else remember them?

When I was in Israel during the Gush Katif "situation" I asked one of my friends who was in Hebrew University, how can the Israelis live with the fact that they are letting themselves lose? His response, as if computer generated was "don't worry, we don't know the half of it, I am sure Sharon has something up his sleeve, I mean look at what he has done in the past."

I feel like the Israelis are forgetting who they are and what they are capable of doing. When I read what Olmert and the Israeli "leader (wanna bes)" are up to, I think that those Israeli mentalities that I was raised looking up to were just a dream.

Did they really exist?
Were we that cunning to do all those successful operations?
Was it all luck?

I keep thinking to myself, that the IDF is planning an operation right now to go into Gaza and get back Gilad. I mean they practically know where all the "terrorist heads" live. I am sure they have internal secret information regarding our captive brothers whereabouts. I know they are just waiting for the opportune time and they will get him back. Right?

Am I right?

Is the IDF figuring out this operation? Or are they figuring out how to handle the protests that will be coming when they try to evacuate more settlements?
Where are our leaders that would listen to their commanders, most of the time and not all the time?
Where are the Israelis that know they can take anyone down... with one hand behind their backs... blindfolded... with nothing but a rubber band?

This is the Israeli I was raised hearing about. The fearless and invincible IDF, the Lion of Israel. Has the Lion turned into a little kitten? Because that's what it looks like when I read the news.

I feel like now that we have "made it" into the upscale world, now that huge companies like Google and Intel have voted Israel as a viable asset, we no longer feel small or the need to work to be something. Is this the price we pay for "making it" into the big world by losing our real world? By losing our reputation as being invincible and indivisible? Is it worth it? Can we go back? Can we become who we were/are? The Israeli that as a child I wanted to be like. My sister has her little children watch the "Victory of Entebbe", and I see it in their eyes, that same awe and admiration for those Israelis. Should I tell them that they don't exist anymore? Or do they?

Well I think they do, and they just need a little WAKE UP CALL. Remind them what they have been and still are capable of. Have them read the Exodus. Watch some old movies that will refresh their memories, or just look in the mirror.

If we believe, you know we can overcome.

We are Jews and have overcome everything thrown in our paths. We have faith in a promise that goes back thousands of generations and we hold the key to its fulfillment. The land is ours, now we have to keep it that way, and know that we have the ability to make it stay that way forever.

According, to reality we Jews realistically should have disappeared ages ago, but there is something reality doesn't know... it's that we are not held down by their reality. We believe in the Real G-d and that's all the reality for us. We don't abide by the rules of this material world. Some Israelis think that if the UN and even the US say something then that is REAL. Well, if we just take some time to think and remind ourselves how our existence in the Holy land of Israel is not according to their reality, then we will remember what is-real to us, and stop being held back by the real "fake" world, and take back our place in our nations mind as the invincible, cunning, creative, and awesome Israelis that we are. This way I can tell my little nephews that they can grow up to be like those Israelis they watch in the movies, and with G-d's help, they WILL.

That was a long one, but I had to, we really need to wake up!!! But its late here in NY so I'm off to bed,
TTFN ~ DFTSS ~ Shulamit

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Sorry, no one is here to take your call right now...

When Peekvid went down recently, I began searching for other websites where I could watch the latest episodes of Prison Break and 24.

I came across one site that looked promising, and I began reading some of the "About Us" and "Disclaimer" information. I then noticed, at the very bottom of the page, the following:


This site is not run by anybody. You should therfore not try to get in touch with someone.
Kind of like the Government of Israel...

Fellow Neo-Zionists, we have our work cut out for us here, so let's get cracking... just let me finish watching 24 first.

(P.S. Peekvid is now back on-line.)

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Dating Laws (or Who Would Rav Kook Date?)

These are the laws that you must set before [the Israelites] (Exodus 21:1)

This week's parsha contains many laws which Hashem gives Moshe on Sinai. As is well known some of these laws are better kept by our generation than others. Included among these well kept laws are the Halachot of dating.

Oh, where to begin! For the sake of sanity I will focus on one small law bearing in mind it is just a teaspoon in an ocean's worth of lunacy.

Did you know it is forbidden for a woman to date a guy that has a different kind of kippa from the kippa community she was born into? The reason for this is explained in a famous medrash.

G-d tells Moshe:
Moshe, I am not giving the Torah to one Jewish nation, but to many, many, small nations of different kinds of Jewish people - and under no circumstances are any two Jews from different "factions" ever to date one another or heaven forefend to marry each other - this is strictly forbidden!

At this point Moshe speaks up:
But Master of The World, surely there are some other factors that people could use when dating is concerned, like common interests, commitment to Torah, goals in life, that sort of thing?

Moshe, Moshe, answer me this: What will their friends think if they marry someone who is a different kind of Jew?

They will think that all of the Jewish people are part of the same nation!
was Moshe's reply.

Indeed! So now do you understand why we can't allow that to happen?

So baroch Hashem I find myself relieved and inspired in my quest for my bashert. Relieved that our generation has not faltered in keeping the kippa communities divided and inspired by the many examples I have personally witnessed time after time.

Now blogging about my past dates is not something I (nor I imagine any guy would) look forward to doing. But I'll swallow this bitter pill if it helps address this issue even a tiny bit.

So there we are sitting in the Coffee Shop on Emek. This was a young lady that had only dated in hotel lobbies as per another important dating halacha. The only reason she agreed to come to Emek Rafaim is because she never heard of it. See, first I suggested meeting in a cafe in the center of town but she declined since that would violate another dating halacha: she might be seen on the date! Perhaps it was do to my cynical attitude toward this halacha, but I then suggested if the center of town was too busy how about Emek Refaim? To my surprise she had never heard of it and graciously accepted.

Still I find it truly ironic (if that's the word to use, perhaps pathetic is better suited) that a religious Jew in New York City will eagerly go into a Starbucks and pick up a grande latte because, after all, "all coffees are kosher" but not order coffee in the Hillel Cafe or Coffee Shop because... well, the hashgacha is only rabbanut! What will people think?

So no, she didn't order the coffee. She ordered a Coke and looked upset when they brought her a glass with a lemon in it. She promptly removed the lemon. It was at this point that I realized she was probably not delighted about me failing to show up in a suit, tie and black hat. My blue shirt labeled me an outcast to her community.

Ahh, worried about trumos and masser? I asked. That's why you took out the lemon?

She nodded.

The date itself actually went incredibly well but after asking her out again via the shaddchin, (I couldn't ask her directly as that would violate another dating halacha!) the reply was (and I've heard this before) "she needs someone more Israeli-Charadi." In other words someone that would wear only white shirts and only date in hotel lobbies and only for an hour at a time. I broke too many rules. What would her friends think?

Then there was another fine woman I had the privilege to date. I was thoroughly impressed the moment I met her. She was enthusiastic about Israel and Aliyah like myself. She was passionate about Rav Kook. It was at this point that I realized perhaps I sinned by showing up in a suit and hat? And perhaps I sinned even greater by taking her to a hotel lobby? Regardless the date went remarkably well. The discussions were very intense. We enjoyed loads of common interests, and shared views on everything we discussed from the most mundane topics to the section of gemarah she was learning.

Rav Kook ZT"L came up several times. I shared a story I read online. I quote it here already in progress:
...Suddenly a small group of hotheaded [Jewish] extremists fell up the rabbi, showering him with waste water. The Chief Rabbi was completely drenched by the filthy water. Emotions soared and tempers flared.

By the time Rav Kook had arrived home, news of the attack had spread throughout the city. Prominent citizens arrived to express their repugnance at the shameful incident. One of the visitors was the legal counsel of British Mandate. He advised Rav Kook to press charges against the hooligans, and promised that they would be promptly deported from the country.

The legal counsel, however, was astounded by Rav Kook's response. "I have no interest in court cases. Despite what they did to me, I love them. I am ready to kiss them, so great is my love! I burn with love for every Jew."

Such was Rav Kook's attitude, shortly after the humiliating act.

And so when the time came and I asked her out again (in this case without going via the Shaddchin since I knew she wasn't machmir with that halacha) she said that she thought about it a lot "and was really impressed, and really enjoyed our discussions, but you are just not the way I pictured my husband."

Oh, I understand. You pictured your husband wearing a kippa sruga, possible sporting a beard, wearing an untucked button down shirt, jeans, and sandals. In other words, someone from your 'clan.' I understand.

I understand. What would your friends think if you married a guy who honored Shabbos (yes, not 'Shabbat') by wearing a black hat? They would think you went off the deep end! I understand.

I understand. What would Rav Kook think?

Rav Kook would be proud.

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Ehud Olmert is Logan and Avi Bieber is Jack

So if you watch 24 and know there is more to Israeli politics than meets the eye, you probably already know that:

1. Ehud Olmert is President Logan.

(Olmert photo source)

A nobody in a suit who takes his order from big-money men with their hands and hearts in all the wrong places.

2. Avi Bieber is Jack Bauer.

Bieber, whose famous words, Zeh lo Nachon, Zeh lo Tzedek, basically summed up the whole Kadimanizatzia of Israel, realized that what makes Jack so heroic is not his skilled use of weaponry, but his willingness to put his own job and self on the line for the higher purpose that job and role was created to serve in the first place. Avi refused orders under the toughest of conditions - Jack usually just hangs up his cell phone and does as he needs.

It is no coincidence that 24 is aired in Israel on Channel 10, the only channel somewhat independent of government control. Its message of refusing immoral or misguided orders is not lost on its millions of Israeli fans.

3. Graem, or Bluetooth (as we have known him until recently) is who?

I know Ami Ayalon looks a bit like him. I even think I spotted Ami using a blue-tooth headset at the Knesset the other day. But no. In Israel there are enough Graem crackers to make a whole meal out of S'mores (most of them receive their money from the EU or US Defense contractors).

4. Luckily,Israel has within it many Yaakov Bauers ("And your name shall no longer be Jack, but Yisrael"). Jack Bauer's sole extraordinary trait that makes him the noble hero he is is that same trait that led Abraham to smash the idols and Mordechai the Jew to refuse orders to bow down (most of the rabbis and certainly the Jewish leaders of his time screamed that not only was he not obligated to refuse orders, but if he did he was endangering everything the Jews had worked so hard to attain).

That trait is alive and well in the Promised Land. You see it more every day and tomorrow you yourself may be in a position where you are forced to choose between the orders of misguided men and those of the Most High.

Whether you are a company commander, a general, a simple torai (private) or a private citizen in a position to choose between good and bad. Ask yourself, "What would Yisrael Bauer do?"

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The Imbalance of Balance

The problem with the current balance of power in the Middle East is that it is too balanced. you all know how hard it is to balance a scale, or a see-saw, so one side doesn't hit the ground and the other one doesn't go up in the air. It's precarious: the slightest movement creates instability.

The same holds true for the Middle East. The sides are too balanced, too similar in strength, for peace and stability to be achieved. On one side - Israel. Technologically super-bright. A nation of geek geniuses. A country that has brought the world wonderful advances in agriculture and science, despite its small size. The place that invented the kibbutz and now, its heir, the "yishuv kehilati." Home to wonderful communities where religious Jews work and pray and live a moral, healthy life. A leader in medicine and emergency rescue. Abode of the Merkava and the best air force pilots in the world. But tiny. Tiny.

On the other - the Arab-Muslim Middle East. A lugubrious mammoth with relatively low abilities in the field of science and invention, other than the buzzing prayer rug of course. An ocean of poverty, spicy souks, misogyny and terrible driving. But also - a humungous population with great oil wealth and a fierce sense of pride, mortally injured by the Yid's presence and our ability to knock them to the ground in 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973 and 1982. Tens of millions of men in mustaches want us dead, and they are growing crazier and more religious by the minute.

This is a balance: a small, talented, high-tech, reasonable Jew versus 20 big low-tech, religiously zealous Arabs. And that is why the Middle East is so unstable.

Can a less balanced Middle East emerge? Can there be a decisive victory over the Arab Muslim Middle East?

Take a look at the map attached, folks. Imagine a blitz campaign in which Israel takes all the territory marked in orange, with the help of allies like India, and perhaps some sub-Saharan African countries which we train and advise. Is it possible? I guess not. But was the Six Day War possible? The Entebbe raid? 1948? Imagine us with those borders, with oil wealth and Jewish genius. And imagine the Arab Muslims back in Arabia, with little territory to the north of Mecca and Medina. That would be stable! Maybe not possible, but worth dreaming about.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Re: "Goverment of Losers, Go Home"

As a response to Yechiel (Jonny)'s post (I know that's so grammatically incorrect, and I still live in America... so unacceptable, sorry) "Government of Losers go home" I would like to share who I feel would be the government of "ultra cool", or once again, grammatically incorrect "unlosers."

I can write a whole post about this, which I WILL, and that is a threat, but for now, I will allow the reader to check this
out and See for yourself. It's like empowering the reader, or something like that...

Enjoy ~ Shulamit ~
P.S. I am doing this while I'm at work... GASP!!!

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

From Gush Katif to American Idol

With the sixth American Idol season kicking off, I decided to share my experience trying out for American Idol last year (pictured, on right) a few days after protesting in Gush Katif.

I didn't know how to fight the IDF. There was no way to fight the IDF. They were my brothers and sisters.

So sitting on the lawn outside of the Neve Dekalim synagogue as an infiltrator into Gush Katif, fighting to stop the Disengagement, I found my best weapon: my voice.

As the IDF stood around the perimeter of the synagogue lawn, they looked tired, listless, and bored, yet ready for the job at hand the minute they would receive the order. Their commanders had them march around at random, calculating the right time to charge.

Thousands of Israelis and I tried to stave them off as long as we could. Some lovingly talked with them, some prayed in front of them. I plopped myself down on the grass and sang a cappella to rows of soldiers, each clad in claps and vests mercilessly imprinted with the Star of David.

I sang every loving, cheesy Jewish ballad I could remember from my Jewish day school days.

"Our brothers, the entire house of Israel, cast into sorrow and captivity, standing between sea and land…"

"God created within me a pure soul…"

Realizing they were probably not into the Jewish stuff, otherwise the popular slogan, "Jew does not expel Jew" might have made an impression, I sang "There Can Be Miracles When You Believe" from the Prince of Egypt. Some cried; some sang along; most remained stoic.

Yet, I knew that I softened them as I sang. I knew that maybe I touched a chord as I sang the chords - maybe not enough to make them refuse orders, but enough to make them really think about their actions.

But it didn't work as well as I had hoped. Eventually, they hauled me out of the synagogue, where I had continued to sing prayers with thousands of earnest, idealistic, loving teenage women.

Their songs didn't work either, and as two female soldiers dragged me out of the synagogue, I yelled to the soldiers forming human gates on each side of me, "Way to go IDF! I'm going back to America!"

And I knew I would go back to America, not forever, but at least for a well-deserved vacation.

I returned to my apartment in Tel Aviv and everything was different - or at least I was; every one else was too much the same. Most of my friends hardly cared that thousands of Jews were being torn from their home with no where to go. They hardly cared that Gush Katif would turn into a free terrorist trade network. They had bills and boyfriend problems to worry about.

The only remedy to my frustration and depression, I thought, was to join the ranks of shallowness and apathy: I booked a trip to the US in time to tryout for American Idol.

Yes, perhaps if my voice couldn't stop the State of Israel and the Jewish people from the brink of destruction, then maybe it could get me a spot in my favorite American talent contest. If I wasn't cut out to be an Israeli heroine, then maybe I was cut out to be an American Idol…

I arrived to the Gillette stadium in Boston with a friend from New York. After registering a day earlier for an audition wristband, 7,000 American Idol hopefuls and I took our seats. They would call us row by row to sing our song of choice a cappella in front of producers: first come, first sing. Those who graduated this audition would move on to sing for Simon, Paula, and Randy.

The audition was rainy, cloudy, and annoying. The producers had us all sing "Singing in the Rain" with an umbrella dance as if that was fun, while I was still debating which song to sing. "There Can Be Miracles When You Believe"? Nah, I couldn't pull it off. "Eternal Flame" by the Bangles. Maybe. Then it hit me: "I Need a Hero" by Bonnie Tyler.

Maybe the producers would feel my emotion, for I really needed a hero. I left Israel lacking hope, faith, and inspiration.

Finally, after watching hordes of Kelly, Ruben, Fantasia, and Carrie wannabes get sent home and only a handful follow the path to victory, my row was called. We would split into groups of four and line up in front of two producers divided among 14 booths. As I reached my booth, a bitter looking woman wearing sunglasses told me to go first.


I reminded myself that I sang impromptu in front of the IDF, so singing in front of strangers should be a piece of cake, right? I mustered up my courage, looked into the judges' eyes, and sang my call:

"Where have all the good men gone, and where are all the gods…"

The lady stopped me as I reached the chorus. "Thank you," she said.

Then the others took their turn to be met with the same response.

"You all have good voices, but not of the American Idol caliber," she concluded.

It became clear from talking to people that they either chose the vocalists who were phenomenally good, humorously bad, or just plain freaky. That's what gets the ratings.

I had no gimmick. All I had was the memory of Gush Katif and the faces of those soldiers egging me on. And all I had was that memory to make me realize that I wasn't an American Idol.

My heroes were not the thousands vying to become an idol. My heroes were the thousands of Gush Katif infiltrators who fought for what they believed was right. My heroes were the young women I sang with in the synagogue. My heroes were the people who justly defended their homes. My heroes were the few soldiers who refused orders.

In America there are idols in training. But in Israel there are heroes in training. And I'm privileged to remain a contestant in one of the most real, meaningful, and historic contests for heroes of the Jewish people.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

New Study: 7.4 Million U.S. "Jews" (Yes, I Used Quotes)

When a study claims there are 7.4 million Jews in America Neo-Zionists get scared. Why? Simple. Because previous studies have suggested two conclusions:

1. Only Orthodox Judaism is growing. All other factions are either intermarrying into oblivion or identifying less and less with the Jewish people and

2. Overall the Jewish population in America is shrinking and has no future. (Remember Zeev Bielski and A.B. Yehoshua?)

Other studies have suggested that due to many factors the Jewish population in Israel is growing. This would mean in a few years the majority of those who are halachiclly considered Jewish will reside inside Israel and therefore many halachot will become Torah obligations, not just Rabbinic ones, and that the ingathering of the exiles can be considered complete.

Yet a study just came out that makes this remarkable "7.4 million Jews" claim. Here's how the NY Post reports it:


February 8, 2007 -- America's Jewish population is far larger than previous estimates, a new survey shows.

There are as many as 7.4 million Jews in the United States, researchers at Brandeis University said yesterday.

They said the last authoritative survey was taken in 2000-01 and erroneously put the figure then at 5.2 million Jews. It counted practicing Jews; people who said they had no religion but thought of themselves ethnically as Jewish; and anyone with even one Jewish parent.

The Brandeis survey used the same categories and came up with 6 million to 6.4 million, a figure higher than would be expected by normal birth rate. But the researchers said their figure could shoot up to between 7 million and 7.4 million by adding an additional 1 million people who "might be considered Jewish" based on their backgrounds as kids of intermarried parents.

The Brandeis researchers said the earlier survey grossly undercounted non-Orthodox families, did not include "substantial numbers of young and middle-aged individuals" and was wrong to say the Jewish-American population had been in a state of decline since 1990.

"Our analyses tell us that the Jewish community is larger and more diverse than most had thought," said Brandeis Professor Len Saxe.

On the surface this new study seems to declare that:
1. Non-Orthodox Jews are doing great too, and
2. Orthodox Jews are overrated, and
3. The Jewish population in America is growing!

For those of us that follow halacha however this study does not disprove the previous conclusions, (that the ingathering of the exiles will soon be halachically complete) and may even strengthen them.

First let's get something out of the way. What is a Jew according to this study?

The same thing that was a Jew according to the NJPS.

And I quote from that study:

"For purposes of this report, a Jew is defined as a person:
-Whose religion is Jewish, OR
-Whose religion is Jewish and something else, OR
-Who has no religion and has at least one Jewish parent or a Jewish upbringing, OR
-Who has a non-monotheistic religion, and has at least one Jewish parent or a Jewish upbringing."(page 13)

The halachic definition of a Jew is one whose mother is Jewish or one who halachically converted.

The study (which you could download and read for yourself here) relies heavily on unproven assumptions. Previous studies, they claim, underestimated non-Orthodox Jews because they must be harder to reach. That's solid logic if I ever heard it. Got a lower representation than you wanted? Just say, "oh, well, obviously there are more. We just can't reach them."

Look forward to this headline: "Pinchas proves extraterrestrial life exists." See I did a study. I called beings and asked them if they are extraterrestrial life forms but since AT&T doesn't provide long distance service to other planets they are a bit harder to reach. Not wanting to underestimate them I included them in my results.

Here's how they concocted this argument. Are you ready for this?

1. "Families with several school age children, typical of many Orthodox families, have more people available to answer the telephone and may be more likely to be at home. This makes them easier to reach." (page 19)

2. "This fits with our earlier conclusion that non-Orthodox Jews may be more difficult to reach than non-Jews (particularly for telephone surveys) because of their socio-economic distinctiveness." (page 29)

Okay, okay. I know. Purim came early this year! Now after you've stopped laughing and caught your breath it gets better. These researchers are clearly disconnected from the Orthodox Jewish reality, namely that we have a life too and don't sit at home all day waiting by the phone for that survey researcher to call us.

The researchers claim that prior studies "systematically undercounted certain groups..." Namley, "...young adults (18-29 year olds). Young adults are particularly difficult for telephone surveys to reach. An increasingly serious research problem is that these individuals are the most likely to use cellular telephones as their exclusive personal telephone." (page 20)

And we all know that non-Orthodox 18-29 year old Jews use cell phones far more than their Orthodox counterparts. After all, we Orthodox Jews all have black beards and live in Lanchester, Pennsylvania and build barns and plant corn.

What this study shows is that all new studies will begin including more and more people as Jews when they are halachiclly not Jewish at all. And that in fact the halachiclly Jewish percentage of these results will continue to shrink.

Consider this:

"There is increasing evidence, for example, that more intermarried families are choosing to raise children Jewishly. If that trend continues, it portends an increase in the Jewish population." (page 31).

To me it portends an increase in the non-halachic "Jewish" population.

The paper concludes:

"Acknowledging the controversial nature of the present findings, we hope that this report will provoke productive discourse. The larger, more diverse, character of the population suggests that debate about the future of the Jewish community in America needs to encompass multiple viewpoints that address the concerns of the different groups making up the overall community. It suggests, as well, a broadened set of discussions with other Jewish communities around the world, in particular, Israel." (page 34)

In English: Israel should become (or remain) less connected to G-d because so many American "Jews" are.

"Just as Jewish identity is regarded as fluid, and may change in intensity over the lifespan, the character of the population, too, may shift as norms about marriage, child-rearing and religious practice evolve." (ibid.)

In English: Israel should accept, if not encourage, intermarriage, having less kids, and not believing in G-d.

They are the ones that are scared. They need to keep telling themselves it's safe to be a non-religious Jew in America today. They keep telling themselves their future is bright. They should know better. They do know better.

Neo-Zionism is winning. Torah Judaism is winning.

Keep the Torah! Make Aliyah!

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Capitalism: Good for the Jews

Yes, like Yechiel and Alex I too watched the Superbowl. And I must say during it, E-Trade aired an absolutely brilliant ad about Bank Leumi. Okay, they didn't say it was Bank Leumi but we all know that's where the thirty second spot took place - or perhaps it was at some other bank in Israel.

"On one leg," the gist of the ad (which you could view here or above) is people get robbed by their own bank in broad daylight. And that's exactly what has been going on in Israel for too long! It's like this: you could either put your money in a checking account and watch it melt, or put it in a savings account and watch it freeze.

Put it in a checking account and watch all the creative fees the banks come up with, essentially excuses not to give you your hard earned money back! Whoever heard of having to pay a bank for the privilege of withdrawing money from the ATM of the very bank and even of the very branch your account is held in?

And if you put it in a savings account, as any Israeli banker will tell you, "to offset the fees," you can kiss that money goodbye for at least 18 months, and if you are lucky with the minimal interest you earn you might just actually offset those checking account fees - maybe... Hey, it could happen.

Ahh yes, Neo-Zionism. It's not just ranting about what's wrong with the country but proposing real working solutions for improving the future of our Jewish State.

Probably the single greatest accomplishment of Bibi Netanyahu was appointing Stanley Fischer as head of the Bank of Israel. Last week the Bank Governor made headlines yet again: "Bank of Israel looks to decrease fees" declared the Jerusalem Post. "Association of Banks director: The fees issue does not justify legislative intervention," elaborated Globes.

Short term thinking has dominated, nay, plagued this State for way too long. Arutz-7 reported that several weeks ago "major banks announced they would raise fees up to 100 percent in a move that would net them additional profits amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars." But this bank-get-rich-quick-scheme ultimately would harm our economy. Not only that but according to Fischer the current fees are already harming the socialist inclined country.

"In Western countries that exhibit high levels of banking competition, a simple fee system is the norm - one that doesn't entail excessive numbers of charges and often allows clients to avoid charges on ordinary checking accounts," the Bank of Israel said.

The former Citigroup International President knows that while the Socialist model of "give me more money today" might work well to jump start a nation, one that has matured and desires long term growth needs healthy western capitalistic thinking that encourages free market competition and customer service while we're at it.

If Fischer gets his way, and it looks like he just might, you can expect your bank to finally start treating you like a mensch. And you know what? If my bank starts showing me some respect I might just show them respect back and lend them more of my money. And maybe - just maybe - they will actually get more customers and ultimately make more money this way. Everyone will have more money to spend and the economy will flourish. It's called long term thinking.

Am Yisrael Chai! Capitalism Chai!

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Get Your Oomph On!!!

So, this is my second post ever UHHH, woo hoo. Everyone has written such amazing articles... sweet!!!

I just started my new job, and I don't have that much time to read the news, which I think is a good thing, considering the news that is going on right about now. I think the stomach and heart burn companies are going to sky rocket, we should invest in them!!! The really sad part is that people reading those pathetic articles (I don't think I need to give examples, just go to cnn or jpost) really believe what they are reading, its like BEYOND pathetic. I guess that's why its good there is a revolution and a kumah website :-)

So reading some good news and trying to re-do the bad news is pretty cool, but sometimes you need a little more oomph then just passive reading... ever get that way... well if you do, then I have some suggestions on how to get your oomph on!!!

1) This is an easy one which most people do already, but just in case...WRITE COMMENTS. The power of the pen... no joke. When those anti-Zionist articles are being thrown at your face, well shove it back, by writing how you really feel. Even if its just a quick "I think your article is bias" because you never know who is looking at the responses, and if they see enough opposition to the article, they might be less inclined to believe in it, like it's the holy grail (oops wrong religion)

After doing that you do feel a little invigorated, knowing that you put your thought, little or not, out there, for the internet surfers to read... so that's a little oomph ish. But remember every LITTLE bit counts, so if your not into oomphing, then start slow, and work yourself up (if you need any encouragement, listen to this)

2) Do the polls. Such as, this one and this one. I know you think they mean nothing, and they probably do, but still, it's the power of you being "one human that can make the difference" approach. Aside for the fact, that its fun to look back and see your name, and how many people signed up after you (that's only if your really bored)

But really, to see yourself getting counted and the pollster say they are going to show the numbers to someone important, can definitely get an oomph going. Like "there take that, I am the 1737th person to sign the petition" and then you go and make all your friends sign too, so its like a contagious oomph, and it's a great way to see who your true friends are... jk.

3) And yes I do save the best for last, I don't know why... But ya, I think this one is the best, and of course since it is the best Arutz Sheva got to it already, Shocker :-) But really, I think it's the best oomph drug there is. I mean, you call 1-202-456-1414 (the White House, USA)and a nice person asks you which state you're calling from, and then wham... you give it to them, you can say whatever you like, just let it all out, and the cool part is, legally they have to keep a record of what topic and what views each caller is addressing. So its like, you get some nice little American to sit and listen to your rant about... well anything, pick a topic... they will listen and record what your views are. I doubt they write up everything, but the gist definitely gets documented.

So when you feel like a whole container of Tums wont do the trick, and you did suggestion 1 and 2... then hit the white house. You never know Mr. Bush might pick up the wrong line, and you get to oomph him... Anyhow, it's a great way to get out your frustration with the stupidity of the world around us, and you might make a difference while you're at it... which is the ultimate OOMPH.

But just remember, every person can be the one to change the future (not to sound sappy or anything) But really, at an era of the neo-Zionist revolution, we don't have time to think if we are big enough or worth it enough... Because we TOTALLY ARE!!!Which reminds me of something whinny the pooh said (I'm obsessed with cartoons) "your stronger then you seem, smarter then you think, and braver then you believe" So fellow neozites... go get your OOMPH on... and make a difference!!!

As always, comments are accepted and greatly appreciated ;-)

TTFN, DFTSS ~ Shulamit

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Propaganda - My Fave

First of all, how incredibly cool is this new blog? I love the smell of Neo-Zionism in the morning. Smells like victory.

Amidst numerous calls we'll be making for a better Israel on this blog, we'll be adamantly calling for real Jewish control over the Temple Mount and the ultimate rebuilding of the Third Temple (hey - it's good for everybody).

Just in case you weren't aware, this is actually what this "second Intifada" is about - control of the Temple Mount (which is code for spiritual control over the Holy Land).

I am no fancy political analyst, but I predict major violence throughout Israel in the next 2 weeks, and onward, because of (or rather, on the pretext of) construction by Israel at the Mugrabi gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. Some of you may recall a certain destructive earthquake 3 years ago which destroyed this path to the Temple Mount, revealing an ancient arch, and significantly reducing the size of the women's section at the Western Wall. Israel built a rather ugly wooden ramp on to the Mount as a temporary fix, but is now embarking on an 8 month project to revitalize the ramp and extend it (foreboding good times of massive Jewish ascent to that area, I hope).

In response, the local Arabs are swinging from the trees. Both Fatah and Hamas have issued raging, testosterony vows of havoc and terror if Israel touches any of their mosques (remember: this is about rebuilding a bridge outside the Temple Mount, in the Jewish Quarter), creating a rare moment of Jew-hate-inspired unity between warring Arab factions.

Israel National News, JPost, Haaretz, Ynet, and all the others have articles up on this story. However, I found the real gem at a website that we Jews don't often visit: Hamas'.

I dare say that such boldly delicious propaganda is rarely found in languages you or I could read, so I invite you to the capital of Flavor Country:

Israel starts demolishing parts of Aqsa Mosque amidst world silence
Feb 6, 2007, 11:25

Occupied Jerusalem - The Israeli occupation authority (IOA) started on Tuesday destroying two rooms and a bridge leading to the Maghareba gate, one of the entrances to the Aqsa Mosque.

Two Israeli bulldozers were involved in destroying the Muslim landmarks in the early hours of Tuesday morning amidst reports revealing that Israeli settlers were actively involved in the demolition...

Israel alleged that it was constructing a permanent pathway connecting the Western Wall adjacent to the Aqsa Mosque in place of an old way, which was destroyed by snowfall.

Palestinians, for their part, belied the Israeli allegations, and accused the Israeli occupation government of conspiring to finally destroy the Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest Muslim shrine world-wide, and to install the alleged Third Temple on its ruins.

They also refuted Israeli claims that the old pathway was destroyed by snowfall, affirming that the road’s foundations were weakened by the persistent IOA excavations under it over the past years.

Palestinian Chief Justice Tayseer Al-Tamimi affirmed that the IOF troops sealed off all roads leading to the occupied city of Jerusalem and beefed up security measures in an attempt to prevent angry Palestinian masses from blocking the IOA plans.

He also noted that the Israeli occupation government exploited the recent unfortunate inter-Palestinian fighting in Gaza Strip and the West Bank to execute their plans.

"The Aqsa Mosque is in real danger and needs Muslim support to defend and spare it the rancorous Israeli conspiracies", Tamimi asserted as he urged Palestinian masses to organize massive demonstrations against the IOA procedures.

... The PA Awkaf (endowment) ministry hailed efforts of the Islamic Movement in unveiling Israeli connivances against the Mosque, adding that the Movement was the only party blocking the IOA atrocities against the Aqsa Mosque amidst unexplainable silence on the part of Arab and Muslim leaders and peoples.

... In the past, Israeli fanatic groups, which are secretly sanctioned by the IOA, attempted to storm and demolish the Aqsa Mosque, including the 1969 attempt to burn it at the hands of a Jewish settler of Australian origin, and the desecration attempt that former Israeli premier Ariel Sharon carried out in the Mosque in the year 2000, which triggered the Aqsa intifada, among other attempts.

That was cute.

Now, I want to share with you some related information, about excavations in the City of David, and the incredible finds (and the incredible lies of our enemies). Listen to this great interview with Doron Spielman, Director of Development at Ir David.

Press "Play" below to listen the interview with Doron Spielman

He speaks about the recent discovery of an ancient stairway from the Shiloach pool all the way to the Temple.

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Bitter Waters: Kriyat Yam Suf & Post-Zionism

Having experiencing the open miracles at the Exodus from Egypt and the Splitting of the Sea:
"They came to Marah, but could not drink the waters of Marah because they were bitter..." (Ex. 15:23)

Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Kotzk (Yahrtzeit is this Shabbat) explained that the waters only tasted bitter because "they"- the Jews themselves- were bitter. As a result of their lack of faith in God, and the fact that they were still stuck in their slave ("Galus") mentality, the Jews themselves became filled with doubt, negativity and pessimism.

If Jews were able to make such a mistake then, it should come as no surprise to us now-- not sixty years since the Return of Jewish Sovereignty to Eretz Yisrael, and less than four decades since the Open Miracles and Divine Revelation of The Six Day War-- that so many of our People are filled with such sadness and negativity, pessimism, bitterness and confusion regarding The State of Israel.
As a tzibur- we have fallen out of touch with the basic fact that the Land of Israel is our physical and spiritual Home, and that our right to its entirety is existential and unalienable.

The bitter poison of Post-Zionism has blinded so many of our brethren: "they have eyes but do not see" the open miracles and blessings that Am Yisrael have merited in this generation.

At Marah, after complaining to Moshe and crying out to God, Hashem provided us with a tree that sweetened the bitter waters, so that the Jews could survive.

Let us learn a lesson from this week's Parsha, and the episode at Marah: The only way to sweeten the bitter attitude and perspective of Post Zionism is to strengthen our Jewish Identity through a return to our Roots; a Neo-Zionist Revolution built on the solid foundation of Biblical Imperative, Jewish history, and respect for Jewish tradition and symbols.

"Its ways are ways of Pleasantness and all its paths are Peace; It is a Tree of Life for all those who grasp onto it..." (Prov.3:17-18)

Many are already tuned in; worldwide, more Jews are studying Torah than ever before. But learning Torah is not enough! What is needed are new and creative ways to infuse Torah and authentic Jewish Values into the social, educational, political and cultural life of The Jewish State: David Hazony envisions developing "a new concept...of Jewish Humanities" for Israeli University students, whose curriculum would combine "the riches of Western civilization...with those of the Jewish tradition". A great idea, and one we can only hope will be actualized.

If only there were a way to start earlier, to save the next generation of Jews from bitterness and visual impairment...

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Neo-Zionism "R" Us

Hi, my name is Yishai and I'm a Neo-Zionist Uberblogger.

To see this blog up and running is very exciting to me. I remember when Kumah first went up and how excited I was when we only had a banner up with no content - I knew then that we were beginning something big.

For many years our focus was just physical Aliyah from the Exile. Now our goal is to share ourselves more fully - to talk about Aliyah in the broader sense. Our vision of Zion is a holistic one, which sees our 'local' redemption as having grand implications to the world at large.

We are living in very exciting times, times when the majority of Jews live in Israel after 2000 years of exile. (Unreal! Why have we merited this?) We are also living in a semi-dark era when half the Jews choose to remain exiled, and even those who have been born to redemption, reject their spiritual inheritance.

Many commentators specialize in diagnosing the problem without offering much of a solution. I hope to use this forum positively - to focus on ideas and on the 'art of the possible.'

My incredible job at Israel National Radio allows me to interview some of the finest minds and souls dealing with the issues I care about, and I plan to use this forum to share with you some of those interviews.

It happens to be that today I interviewed Rabbi David Bar Chaim - a Neo-Zionist revolutionary with ideas as to how the Jewish people can fullfull the Torah more fully, more redemptivally. Recently he railed:

One of our greatest strengths as a people has been our adherence to tradition. Throughout the Galuth (Exile) our forefathers gave their all to ensure that we, their descendants, would continue to live in accordance with the Torah. To this end a strategy was developed, a central feature of which was an extremely rigid conformance to minhag (customary practice) and a sanctification of the present state of Jewish affairs. It is fair to say that in the fullness of time this came to be the essential yardstick and paramount concern of Judaism; the status quo became a mitzvah.

Present-day Orthodoxy, born in the crucible of Galuth, has no room for 'new Mitzvoth - even if they are very old. The essential article of faith of the 'frum' world - 'That which is new is forbidden' (first introduced 200 years ago as Orthodoxy's battle cry in its war with the German Reform movement) does not allow for innovation and originality, even when the Torah demands it. When faced with the task of implementing the Torah, in all its aspects and manifestations from Techeleth to trade and industry the rabbinical Establishment is, sadly, completely out of its depth. And when rabbis are unable to deal with Torah and make it work in the real world we, the Jewish people, are in a state of profound crisis.

Press "Play" below to listen my interview with Rabbi David Bar Chaim

So to sign off my first post of Kumah Reloaded I thought it fitting to quote Tank, Neo's operator in the original Matrix:

Goddamn, I got to tell you I'm fairly excited to see what you are capable of. I mean if Morpheus is right and all. We're not supposed to talk about any of that, but if you are, well then this is an exciting time. We got a lot to do so let's get to it.

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