Wednesday, July 10, 2013

"Those Jews" and "It's just their problem"

First they came for the communists, and I didn't speak out -
Because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the socialists, and I didn't speak out -
Because I wasn't a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak out -
Because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out -
Because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak out -
Because I wasn't a Catholic.

Then they came for me -
And there was no one left to speak for me.

Martin Niemöller

First they kicked everyone out of Gush Katif, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a "Tzioyni"

Then they kicked the Charedim out of the yeshivas, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a "Parasite"

Then they came to kick everyone out of Israel, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not "Israeli"

Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak for me...

... nor a land to embrace me.

Shachar Mosby

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Just Spit it Out Already!

Above is a recent episode of Al Jazeera's "Head to Head" featuring Dani Dayan as the guest. While he does make several good points, I found the majority of his statements to be twisted logic that leaves one scratching their head, dodging questions, and trying to change the subject. Even if your rooting for him it's a little difficult to wave the pom-poms on this one. Indeed even Sam Westrop, the guy whom they have apparently brought in to support him only seems to dispute the claims of those arguing against Dani, but he doesn't go so far as to say that Dani himself is right (his repeated argument seems to be your previous point X is wrong because of fact Y, therefore let's just let the diplomats at negotiating table decide who is right).

Though I know from a factual, moral, and certainly Torah point of view Dr. Karmi is not correct. However if I had happened to be an outside observer with no background in the matter I would probably believe her just by virtue of how confident she is in her position. She makes her accusations with full certainty and no shame while Mr. Dayan barely even calls her out on her fallacies instead opting to re-frame the argument in terms of terrorism and security (when he can catch a breath in between hemming and hawing).

Though I didn't thoroughly follow the past American elections, and basically paid no attention to the Republican primaries, I recently found this clip from the Republican debates which underscores the problem:

While Newt definitely is more correct from a historical and factual point of view (and I personally think he wiped the floor with Romney), Romney hits the nail on the head as to the unfortunate reality of why simple truth doesn't prevail at about the 3:36 minute marker when he states that if Bibi really thinks this is our land, let him say it himself. Newt Gingrich, and those like him, can make all the eloquent and factually accurate statements in the world as to the land of Israel belonging exclusively to the people of Israel but if we (and especially our so called "leadership") don't do it ourselves then why should the world even pay attention to their great points?

Recently Arab MK's were suggesting to change the hatikva anthem citing it is Jewish bias and lack of Arab references. Rav Meir Kahane הי״ד often spoke of the absurdity of expecting an Arab citizen of Israel to loyally and dutifully sing a national anthem that speaks of a Jewish soul and a Jewish home while at the same time celebrating the defeat of his own people. When I was in university, my campus Hillel had an off the derech leftist serving as a shaliach from Israel. During one of the many debates I had with her she asked me how I thought it felt for an Arab to have to sing a national anthem with the above mentioned problems. To her wide eyed shock I told her that the Rav (whom she completely reviled) almost precisely word for word posed the same exact question she just had. I said his solution was to conclude that the land of Israel belongs exclusively to the Jewish people and therefore our first and foremost concern should be with actualizing that reality instead of worrying about how Arab feelings might be hurt by it. I then asked her what her conclusion was. It was something that we should instead look into writing a new anthem.

And unfortunately we are doomed to keep going around and around on this merry-go-round of ridiculousness and violence until we finally grow the fortitude to say it like it is. This land is our land... period. Why? Because regardless of what the United Nations, US State Department, Arab world, or whoever else says, G-d said otherwise. And there is nothing to be ashamed of in that. By claiming this land we are simply fulfilling a mission bestowed upon us by the Creator of the universe. Is it offensive that we believe our religion grants us the right (and even obligation) to a national destiny on a specific plot of real estate at the expense of other people from different religions? Yes... quite so in fact. But what are we to do? If G-d says to do it we must follow through no matter how offensive it might be. One need not dig deep to find a myriad of items in any religion that would offend those of other faiths. That's the way it goes. But as the famous Bill Cosby quote goes, "I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone." Bill need only reverse that mantra to find the key to success... instead of trying to please everyone, try to please "The One." Or as, l'havdil, Chazal tell us, "Make His will your will so that your will will be His will."

It is most definitely His will that this land be ours. Can't somebody PLEASE stop the shenanigans and just call it like it is already?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Paradigm Shift - Generation of the Flood 2013

  Kermit Gosnell

There are many reasons I don't envy those who grew up in previous generations. Growing up in post Cold War America during the advent of the internet, CD's, text and instant messaging, and xbox was truly a blast. However there is a phenomenon which truly aggravates me and instills a feeling of jealousy for the generations of my parents and grandparents. That is the long lost ability to speak honestly about the issue of homosexuality and gay marriage. In their generation it was still fairly accepted by normal society that homosexuality was not only not a normal (or healthy) lifestyle, but even one that one should be kept hush hush lest one's professional and social reputation be flushed down a toilet of shame. In my parents' generation people were "in the closet". In my generation the big thing was "coming out of the closet." I sometimes ponder if my own children will grow up in a generation where they won't know what those who speak about the "closet" are even taking about.

It doesn't even bother me so much if somebody themselves is gay, or that there are people like that in the world. It's one of those things that has been around since the beginning of the human race and I don't see it going away anytime soon short of Mashiach coming, please G-d. Indeed, in my personal dealings with people, I tend to act according to the philosophy that whatever you do behind closed doors is strictly between you, the other person, and G-d.

So what really irks me about this whole topic? The complete and utter loss of the ability to call a spade a spade. In previous generations nobody would bat an eyelash were one to suggest that homosexuality is abnormal (or even immoral). Yet today everything is so topsy turvy that not only has it not polite to forward such a premise, but suddenly you are the one who is not normal for even thinking such a thing. If you call into question the morality of a deviant lifestyle, not only is your query assumed to be baseless but your own morals must now investigated. Indeed, the majority opinion of the recent Supreme Court ruling essentially claimed opponents of gay marriage to be enemies of the human race. So much for everyone having the right to hold their own opinion, eh?

Yet it's not just me that is bothered by the current conventional wisdom of society and law - G-d is bothered too. In fact, it seems according to the Torah that He is bothered much more by public acceptance of flagrant violations of His will than He is by the committing of the acts themselves. While things like homosexuality and abortion are a constant in civilization, it is usually only when they become commonplace and wholly accepted by society at large that G-d so-to-speak "intervenes." Chazal say that though the generation of the flood were steeped in wickedness, G-d only carried out the flood once men started writing official ketubot for other men (and animals). In speaking about the generation of the flood the Me'am Loez brings a midrash from Berishit Rabbah that men would be with each other and animals publicly as it if was a normal wedding and without the slightest embarrassment. Additionally, it mentions that when the passuk states "הנפלים היו בארץ בימים ההם" (commanly translated as "The giants were on the earth in those days") that the word nephilim is missing an extra yud and should have been written הנפילים. Instead you can re-read it as nephalim or miscarriages. This is because it was so common for women to have illegitimate children and to subsequently get an abortion to cover up their adulterous behavior that literally "הנפלים היו בארץ" - the earth was filled with the buried aborted fetuses.

Sound familiar? Though not all of the media chose to cover it, the last few months featured headlines about the Philidelphia "House of Horrors" run by abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell. Gosnell was charged with eight counts of murder, only seven of which involved children (the 8th being an adult female patient who died from being given an overdose of anesthesia and painkillers). Of those he was convicted of 3 counts. Yet even if he had been convicted of all seven counts of child murder, it still leaves him free of accusation for the 16,000 other abortions he committed during his career. Basically the legal system was sending a message that while he should be held culpable for children he killed past their 24th week of life and those whom showed signs of life after coming out of the womb, the murder of 16,000 other children who were killed at least one week before that time were considered perfectly legal acts. Yet abortion is another one of those "protected rights" which one dare not call into question lest they be outed for the hate monger (or in this case misogynist) they really are. How dare one criticize a woman's right... to murder her unborn child?

But while these phenomenon are already firmly entrenched in the West and are now more often then not being codified into law, we too are not spared here in Israel. According to official estimates there are roughly 20,000 abortions performed every year in Israel, though sources like Efrat say that when you factor in illegal abortions the number is more like 50,000 annually (read it out loud and see how it sounds in your ears- fifty thousand). But let's take the stat of the legal 20k just for argument's sake. And for additional argument's sake let's be conservative and say that 90% of those are the result of rape or they present a health risk to the mother or child (as other reasons such as pregnancy outside of marriage or a mother under 17 are considered sufficient to justify terminating the pregnancy). The remaining 10% leaves us with 2,000 abortions a year - a little over one and a half times the amount of people killed in both Intifadas combined. Again, this is not factoring in the additional estimated 30,000 which are not done legally (and much fewer of which I imagine are based on factors like rape or health risks).

Several years ago a family friend of ours contracted CMV while pregnant and due to her being religious and living in Jerusalem the doctor didn't push abortion though he did tell her that had she lived in Tel Aviv he would have flat out told her to abort. Thank G-d she and her husband chose to follow through with the pregnancy and today have a beautiful little girl who, other than a few periodic tests, is a perfectly healthy child no different than any other one. Granted, the potential risks to the child from a disease such as this one is not simple and G-d forbid it could have ended very differently. However, while decisions like this must always be a delicate balance of consultation between qualified doctors and Rabbanim (as well as prayer), when an attitude is prevalent that a fetus holds little value and is not viewed as an individual life it's much easier to throw that life away, regardless of the chance that it might end in a fully viable and healthy child.

And while Russia passed a law banning gay parades in Moscow for the next century, the police in Israel bring extra officers from all over the country to protect the annual one in our own capital. Additionally in Tel Aviv several Israeli cabinet members attended gay pride week - which last year featured a parade that ended with a mock chuppah where several gay couples exchanged the updated vows proclaiming, "If I forget thee Oh Tel Aviv, then let me forget my right hand."

But the good news is that while you may not have to ability to speak freely about these issues, you do have the ability to build a boat. A really big boat. And with continued feakish weather occurrences in America and record rainfall this past year in Israel it might not even be that bad an idea. You can even try to bring a few pairs of different species of animals on board- though you might want to do it before it's legal to start marrying them... or find a convenient clinic to help you out when things don't go according to family planning for that matter. After all - who are you to tell Rover or Fido what to do with their bodies?