The Jewish Holy Land

Roughly 3300 years ago, the Jews received the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai.  Those commandments were designed for all Jews to follow at all times, whether the positive commandments like respecting one’s parents, or the negative commandments like not murdering.

One of the positive commandments included a reason for the order: keeping the Sabbath:

8Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9“Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. 11For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy. “

Exodus 20:8-11

God told the Children of Israel to not work on the seventh day of the week, just as God rested on the seventh day when He created the entire world.  By doing so, He made that seventh day holy, and commanded the Jews to make it holy as well.

The other nine commandments did not have explanations; the commandments were simply stated such as “You shall not steal.”  The second commandment of not taking the name of the Lord in vain “For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children…” reveals more about the ramifications of ignoring the commandment, when no such threat was made in the text for the Sabbath.

Jews were told to actively remember the Sabbath, so, in turn, they can actively remember God’s creations and His decision to stop, rest and make the seventh day holy. The reason is not so much of an explanation, as it was meant to focus what should be remembered.

Shmita

God gave the Jews other commandments beyond the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.

The Jewish tradition is that the Torah contains 613 commandments, all of which were given at Mount Sinai.  The sages conclude this from Leviticus 25, where God commands Jews to observe shmita on Mount Sinai. The biblical commentator Rashi (1040-1105) stated that clearly mentioning that such law was given on Mount Sinai was to show that all of the commandments were given there as well.

1The Lord said to Moses at Mount Sinai, 2“Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the Lord. 3For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. 4But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. 5Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest. 6Whatever the land yields during the sabbath year will be food for you—for yourself, your male and female servants, and the hired worker and temporary resident who live among you, 7as well as for your livestock and the wild animals in your land. Whatever the land produces may be eaten.”

Leviticus 25:1-7

The commandment of shmita resembled the commandment of keeping the seventh day a day of rest.  In this case, the people may work the land for six years, but must not work the land on the seventh year, as the land must be given rest.  However, unlike the commandment for remembering the Sabbath day, the underlying reason for giving the land rest was not given.

Further, this commandment was localized to the Holy Land.  Only “when you enter the land I am going to give you,” when the Jews crossed the Jordan River, was the commandment relevant.

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Field in Israel declaring its observance of shmita in 2008
(photo: First.One.Through)

Nachmanides, or the Ramban (1194-1270), noted that there was a similarity of the Sabbath day and shmita when he wrote that shmita is about remembering this world and the world to come.  He derived that from Avos 5:9 which described that Jews would be punished with exile if they did not keep shmita. Ramban added  “whoever repudiates [shmita] shows that he does not acknowledge the truth of Creation and the World to Come.”

However, during his long explanation, the Ramban did not delve into the local nature of shmita.

Was the intention of the command’s preface to just let the Jews know that shmita was not necessary during the time from standing at Mount Sinai until they arrived in the Holy Land?  Or was there a message behind the land itself?

The Holy Land for the Jewish Nation

The commandment to observe Sabbath day became effective immediately when it was received on Mount Sinai.  Throughout the wanderings of the desert before they entered Israel, Jews kept the seventh day holy.  They did so, because they continued to live and benefit from God’s creations – even the desert itself.  Jews continue to observe Sabbath when they are not in the Holy Land for the same reason: the commandment’s underlying reason was to remember God’s creation of the entire world.

Was the commandment of shmita about memory too? Was it about remembering the “World to Come” as Ramban suggested?  If so, why did the commandment need to only be kept in Israel and needed to be delayed until they arrived in the Holy Land?

Perhaps the parallel of memory in the Sabbath day and shmita was not about “the truth of Creation and the World to Come,” but about God’s gift of the land of Israel to the Jewish people.

God included the reason of keeping the Sabbath day as a remembrance of the world’s creation within the command itself.  Keeping the Sabbath included remembering the story of creation.

In the commandment of shmita, maybe there was also an explanation inside the text: “the land that I am going to give you.”  It was not just an explanation of when to begin observing the law, but the reason of observing the law: the land was God’s gift to the children of Israel.

דַּבֵּר אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם כִּי תָבֹאוּ אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי נֹתֵן לָכֶם וְשָׁבְתָה הָאָרֶץ שַׁבָּת לַיהֹוָה:

The Hebrew biblical text is different than God’s other promises of the promised land in the Torah.

  • When God promised the land to Abraham, it was described as “the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1), not give you.
  • In Exodus chapter 3, God described leading the Israelites to a land flowing with milk and honey that is occupied by many other nations.
  • In Exodus chapter 33, God told the Jews to go to the land that He promised their forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Only in Leviticus did God change the language as giving the land to the Children of Israel themselves (Leviticus 20:24).  It was a gift for them, not just a promise made to forefathers.

That is why the commandment is localized in the Holy Land.  The commandment is not to just let the land lie fallow every seven years, but like the Sabbath, it is to remember that the land is God’s gift to the Jewish people.  It would be an insult to that special present of Israel for Jews outside of land to celebrate shmita.

God’s gift of Israel to the Jewish people is not limited by time, but an eternal present.  That is why even on the seventh year, when Jews cannot work the land, they can still enjoy the fruits of the land.  The gift never stops, even while Jews pause to remember the gift itself.

Whatever the land yields during the sabbath year will be food for you—for yourself, your male and female servants, and the hired worker and temporary resident who live among you, as well as for your livestock and the wild animals in your land. Whatever the land produces may be eaten.”

Like the Sabbath day that is commanded to Jews, but to be respected among non-Jews that live with Jews, so is God’s gift to the Jews of the land of Israel.  The fruits of such gift may be shared broadly among those living in the land together with the Jews.

Enjoy and actively remember the gift of the Holy Land every day.  Try not to wait every seven years.


Related First.One.Through articles:

Today’s Inverted Chanukah: The Holiday of Rights in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria

The Nation of Israel Prevails

The Journeys of Abraham and Ownership of the Holy Land

“Flowing with Milk and Honey”

From Promised Land to Promised Home

Wearing Our Beliefs

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Thomas Friedman Thinks Palestinians are Crazy in the Margins, While Israel is Crazy in the Mainstream

He should learn some math.

 

Thomas Friedman is an acclaimed columnist for the New York Times. He won three Pulitzer Prizes for his writing on the Hama, Syria massacre in 1982, the First Palestinian Intifada against Israel, and for his writings about terrorism after 9/11.

One would think he had a pretty good command of the facts about the players in the Middle East. However, a review of Friedman’s op-ed pieces since the Gaza War against Israel in 2014 would reveal disturbing lies.

Thomas Friedman
Author and journalist Thomas Friedman

On May 25, 2016, Friedman wrote an article called “Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel-Palestine.” The article denounced the addition of Yisrael Beytenu into the ruling coalition government headed by Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu. Friedman wrote that Israel had become “controlled by Jewish extremists.”

Lie 1, “controlled by Jewish extremists. Israel is a thriving democracy with liberal values in the heart of the volatile, illiberal Middle East ruled by monarchs, military strongmen and dictators.  In the 2015 Israeli election, the Likud Party won the most seats in the Israeli parliament (30) and formed a coalition government. That coalition had a slim majority with only 61 of the 120 total seats, making it vulnerable to any single party’s whims to take down the government. To relieve such pressure and instability, Netanyahu sought to add to the coalition, first negotiating with the opposition party, Zionist Union (24 seats), before settling on the nationalist party, Yisrael Beytenu (6 seats).

Yisrael Beytenu, the most right-wing of the parties in the coalition, does not “control” the government. It was added to an existing ruling coalition to provide a broader base of stability.

Lie 2, “controlled by Jewish extremists. The term “Jewish extremists” is used often by Friedman (as it is at the United Nations). The latter uses the term freely, even as it denounces using the term “extremism” for any other religion.

As detailed in “Palestinian Authority Perfects Hypocrisy,” the political party Yisrael Beytenu, is indeed a nationalistic party, but it is a far cry from Hamas (which Friedman labeled as a group with “an apocalyptic jihadist agenda” in his August 6, 2014 op-ed). It is also much less radical that the Palestinian Authority which Freidman called “moderate” in the same piece. That “moderate” Palestinian Authority calls for all Jews to be banned from the West Bank. It prohibits Jews from stepping foot on college campuses. It calls for the death penalty for any Arab that sells land to Jews.

That’s moderate according to Friedman?

Maybe the PA is moderate relative to Hamas, but Yisrael Beytenu is certainly more moderate than the PA.

Lie 3, “Netanyahu’s steady elimination of any possibility that Israel will separate itself from the Palestinians in the West Bank.” Friedman never mentions that it was Netanyahu that pulled Israel out of half of the Holy Basin of Jerusalem-Bethlehem in 1996 during his first premiership. Friedman also never mentions the various peace talks Netanyahu has engaged in and his freeze on settlements.

Friedman prefers to state that Israel wants to forever “occupy” Palestinian Arabs, as he wrote in February 10, 2016 “Israel [is] determined to permanently occupy all of the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, including where 2.5 million West Bank Palestinians live.” Why deliberately not mention Israel’s unilateral move out of Gaza in 2005? Because in exchange for that action, Israel was rewarded with over 10,000 rockets from Gaza in to Israel?

Why not mention the Separation Barrier, built by Israel during the Second “Intifada.” If Israel was intent on keeping all of Judea and Samaria, why did it build a separation wall?

Lie 4, Israel as a country is nationalistic and racist, while the Palestinians are moderate and seeking peace.  Friedman does not state this outright, but his various articles repeatedly describe a rightward shift in Israel and refers to any Palestinian Arab that is not Hamas, as a moderate.

At the end of Hamas’s 2014 War from Gaza, Friedman wroteEither Arab and Israeli moderates collaborate and fight together, or the zealots really are going to take over this neighborhood.”  Where are these moderates on each side?

Israelis voted in 2015, and gave its most right-wing party 5% of the seats in parliament.  It gave the extreme anti-nationalist Arab Joint List 13 seats, or over 11% of the parliament. That’s twice as many people that wanted to see the country lose its Jewish character, rather than strengthen it.  It also meant that 84% of the country did NOT vote on extreme nationalistic lines.  Compare that to the millions in the United States voting in 2016 for Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Americans have voted on the polar extremes much more than Israel, even while Israel faces existential threats from Iran, and has ISIS, Hezbollah and Hamas at its borders.

On the Palestinians side, the Arabs last voted in 2006, and gave the virulent anti-Semitic jihadist terrorist group Hamas 58% of the seats in parliament. The Palestinians have not been able to hold any elections since that time.

Yet Thomas Friedman continues to write that it is Israel that is controlled by extremists, while the Palestinians are governed by a moderate government.

The leader of that moderate government, acting-President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, is simply inept, not extreme, as Friedman wrote The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, sacked the only effective Palestinian prime minister ever, Salam Fayyad, who was dedicated to fighting corruption and proving that Palestinians deserved a state by focusing on building institutions, not U.N. resolutions.”

For Friedman, Abbas doesn’t do anything extreme. He is a moderate, but simply a poor administrator.

As to the Palestinian people, a poll published by the Anti Defamation League in April 2014 found that almost every single Palestinian Arab- 93% – harbor anti-Semitic views.  Friedman never wrote about that poll’s findings.


When people are led to believe that the Palestinians are moderate and are led by a moderate leader, and the only Arab extremists are a few lunatics on the fringe (Hamas), it becomes easy to blame Israel for the stalemate in peace negotiations.

So Friedman leaves his readers with the following summations in his editorials:

“Israel is a really powerful country. It’s not a disarmed Costa Rica. No one expects it to give up everything. But fewer and fewer can understand why it puts so much energy into explaining why it can’t do anything, why the Palestinians are irredeemably awful and why nothing Israel could do would affect their behavior. I truly worry that Israel is slowly committing suicide, with all the best arguments.”

October 28, 2015

This is not your grandfather’s Israel anymore”

February 10, 2016

“For those of us who care about Israel’s future, this is a dark hour.”

May 25, 2016

The winner of the Pulitzer Prize continues to paint Israel as the extremists “slowly committing suicide.” Perhaps those that care about the country should react strongly and force it to take corrective actions (sound like a J Street call out to US President Obama to side against Israel at the United Nations Security Council?)  This is the clarion call for liberals: we condemn Israel because we care, not because we hate it.

There is certainly no call to moderate the “moderate” Palestinians, as pretending they are moderate is core to the belief system of pinning the responsibilities on Israel.  It also allows the progressives to align themselves with these moderate, peace-seeking people.

Such is the liberal war against Israel.


Related First.One.Through articles:

What do you Recognize in the Palestinians?

Palestinians are “Desperate” for…

Abbas Knows Racism

Extreme and Mainstream. Germany 1933; West Bank & Gaza Today

The Left-Wing’s Two State Solution: 1.5 States for Arabs, 0.5 for Jews

The Palestinians aren’t “Resorting to Violence”; They are Murdering and Waging War

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Bernie Sanders Supports America’s Targeted Killings While Banning Israel’s

On May 22, 2016, the leader of the Taliban, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, was killed in a U.S. strike.  The assassination was announced by President Barack Obama:

We have removed the leader of an organisation that has continued to plot against and unleash attacks on American and Coalition forces, to wage war with the Afghan people, and align itself with extremist groups like al-Qaeda.”

The logic for the assassination seemed logical, and consistent with past statements by Obama to target individuals who posed a threat to the security of Americans.

Democratic Presidential hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders had a slightly different take on American drone strikes.  He preferred a more limited use of the drones, as he said I think we have to use drones very, very selectively and effectively. That has not always been the case.”

sanders 2

However, Sanders had a completely different attitude when it came to Israel defending itself.  Israel, he said, had NO right to use targeted killings:

the Israelis must end their policy of targeted killings.

Bernie Sanders claimed to condemn “the terrorist actions of Hamas, including their practice of firing rockets into houses and urban centers.”  Then why does Sanders feel that Israel should be precluded from using a tool to protect civilian lives that the US uses?

It is fair to assume that Sanders’ foreign policy will resemble the United Nations’ hypocrisy regarding Israel.


Related First.One.Through articles:

Sanders Accuses Israel of Deliberately Killing Palestinians

Bernie Sanders is the Worst U.S. Presidential Candidate for Israel Ever

An Open Letter to Non-Anti-Semitic Sanders Supporters

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If Palestinians are Scared, it Must be Real

On May 21, 2016, the New York Times ran a front page story “New Tunnels Instill Fear on Gazan Side Too.”  The front page story continued onto page A6 with two black-and-white pictures of attack tunnels dug from Gaza into Israel.

20160522_12124720160522_121312
New York Times front page and page A6, May 21, 2016.
The pictures include a tunnel and a destroyed Gazan home. No photos of the kibbutz in Israel where Hamas gunmen appeared,
or of Gilad Shalit who was abducted via a tunnel.

The story spoke of the fear of Palestinian Arabs living in Gaza because Israel might seek to destroy the Hamas tunnels. The article described the “parallel anxiety” of Palestinian Arabs and Israelis stemming from the tunnels.

The Times article failed to mention that Hamas was democratically elected to a majority of parliament by these same Palestinian Arabs, based on a public platform that called for destroying Israel. For their part, the Israelis had no role in bringing Hamas to power.

The article correctly pointed out that “the tunnels were the prime rationale Israel gave for its ground invasion of Gaza during the 2014 battle with Hamas.”  However, back in 2014, the New York Times did not think much about those attack tunnels.

As detailed in “The New York Times’ Buried Pictures,” it took three weeks into the 2014 war for the Times to produce any pictures of the Hamas tunnels, even though multiple news sources had already been publishing pictures of them.  When the Times finally decided to write about it in an article called “Tunnels Lead Right to Heart of Israeli Fear,” it published the story underneath a picture of Palestinian Arabs mourning.

July 29 coverJuly 29. A6
July 29, 2014 New York Times cover with large color picture with caption:
“Overcome with Grief: At a morgue in Gaza City, Palestinians mourned the arrival of children killed in the Gaza conflict.”  The follow-up to the article contains a large black-and-white of Palestinians mourning, and only beneath that, was there a smaller black-and-white picture of a soldier in an attack tunnel.
(photos: First.One.Through)

The Times author, Jodi Roduren, made light of Israelis fear of the tunnels.  She repeatedly used language to make Israelis fear seem completely overblown.  Consider her remarks:

  • Tunnels have lurked in the dark places of Israeli imagination at least since 2006,”
  • In cafes and playgrounds, on social media sites and in the privacy of pillow talk, Israelis exchange nightmare scenarios that are the stuff of action movies.”
  • “As part of the propaganda push, the military has also invited a few journalists underground for a tour.”

One would think that the Israelis were completely paranoid for no reason and dreamed of scenarios that could not take place in the real world.  Roduren seemed to suggest that the Israelis then used the tunnels to advance a “propaganda push” to validate their invasion.


For the New York Times, the war is felt in Gaza and the Palestinian Arabs’ fears are real.  However, for Israelis, fears are overblown in imagined nightmarish scenarios, which the army then uses as a propaganda to conceal their over-reactions.

Even when the left-wing paper can admit that both sides have real fears, it cannot lay blame for the situation on the Palestinians that elected -and continue to support – this terrorist party.


Related First.One.Through articles:

The New York Times Wrote About Computer Hackers Charged by the US and Israel. Differently.

New York Times Lies about the Gentleness of Zionism

New York Times’ Tales of Israeli Messianic War-Mongering

The New York Times Refuses to Label Hamas a Terrorist Group

Educating the New York Times: Hamas is the Muslim Brotherhood 

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Palestinian Authority Perfects Hypocrisy

On May 19, 2016, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he was considering adding a right-wing party, Yisrael Beytenu, to his coalition. The Palestinian Authority’s reaction to this rumor was quick.

The Israeli government sent a message to the world that Israel prefers extremism, dedication to the occupation and settlements over peace.”

In a region which has perfected finger-pointing, the Palestinian Arabs have once again shown their mastery of hypocrisy.

liberman netanyahu
Yisrael Beytenu’s Avigdor Liberman with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
(photo: Reuters)

On June 2, 2014, the Palestinian Authority (PA) welcomed the terrorist group Hamas into a unity government. That move abruptly ended the many months of peace negotiations going on between Israelis and the PA which was shepherded by US Secretary of State John Kerry.  Within two weeks of forming the unity government, Hamas loyalists kidnapped and murdered three teenage Israelis and launched a war against Israel that killed thousands.

That’s a message of preferring “extremism” to peace.

Care to do a simple comparison of Yisrael Beytenu and Hamas?

Position Yisrael Beytenu Hamas
Land Extending full governmental control east of the Green Line (EGL), above current military control Complete destruction of all of Israel
Death penalty For terrorists convicted of killing Israelis For all Jews
Compromise Yes. “in the debate over unity of the land or the unity of the people, the unity of the people must take precedence, because over the unity of the people there can be no compromise and a deep fracture will not be overcome None. “Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement
Minority Rights in country All minorities welcome, as long as loyal to the government Only “under the wing of Islam” can non-Moslems live in the land.
Legal System Full separation of powers, such as in the United States Shariah, Islamic Law
Racism No negative stereotypes Jews referred to as Nazis (Art. 20) and schemers and plotters (Art. 22)

Sources: Yisrael Beytenu positions; Hamas Charter

Hamas is considered a terrorist group by many countries,

  • but the Palestinian Arabs decided to vote them into a majority of Parliament anyway;
  • but the acting Prime Minister of the PA, Mahmoud Abbas, decided to create a coalition government with them anyway;
  • and the Palestinians actively killed the peace process that US Secretary Kerry had worked on for months anyway;
  • and they launched a war that killed thousands anyway.

So should anyone be surprised by the audacity and hypocrisy of the PA condemning Netanyahu for bringing Yisrael Beytenu into his coalition?  Which party has aligned itself with racists and murderers, and shown a complete unwillingness to compromise and make peace time-and-again, Netanyahu or Abbas?

Palestinian-Unity-Government-AP1-620x330
Palestinian Unity Government June 2, 2014
(photo: AP/Majdi Mohammed)


Related First.One.Through articles:

“Mainstream” and Abbas’ Jihad

Abbas Knows Racism

The Undemocratic Nature of Fire and Water in the Middle East

“Peace” According to Palestinian “Moderates”

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The UN is Watering the Seeds of Anti-Jewish Hate Speech for Future Massacres

One of the key warning signs of genocide is the spread of hate speech in public discourse and the media…. And every day, the seeds of future massacres and genocides are being planted.

The only way to prevent genocide and other egregious violations of human rights is to acknowledge shared responsibility and commit to shared action to protect those at risk.

It is essential that Governments, the judiciary and civil society stand firm against hate speech and those who incite division and violence.”

UN Secretary General (UNSC) Ban Ki Moon April 11, 2016

Ban Ki Moon
UNSC Ban Ki Moon

The powerful words of the current UN Secretary General clearly denounced hate speech and recognized their role in sowing massacres and genocides.

However, the UNSG never reflects on his own theory when he considers the Palestinian Arabs and their attacks on Jews and Israel. Consider:

  • The Hamas party is the most anti-Semitic ruling governmental entity in the world that specifically calls for killing Jews and destroying Israel, yet the UNSC called for Hamas to be integrated into the Fatah party in a reconciliation government.
  • The acting Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority and head of the Fatah party Mahmoud Abbas continually denies Jewish history in the Holy Land and calls for a Jew-free state, but the UN endorses these efforts, including a UNESCO resolution denying any Jewish history on the Temple Mount and the UNSC backing Abbas’s Jew-free state.
  • The Palestinian Authority routinely celebrates murderers of Jews by naming schools, squares, streets and tournaments after them. The UNSC absolves their words and actions by stating that Palestinians are simply “resorting to violence“, because a peaceful solution has not yielded the results they seek.
  • Mahmoud Abbas, who wrote his doctoral thesis on a theory that Israel actively supported the Holocaust, routinely uses Nazi Germany imagery about Israel, but the UN remains silent.

The world must unite against Hamas and state clearly that the United Nations is wrong about including Hamas in a unity government.

The world must categorically reject the notion that Jews should be barred from living in any country, and recall the words of Article 15 of the 1922 British Mandate Article which specifically stated that “no person shall be excluded from Palestine on the sole ground of his religious belief.

Countries should consider their own laws which ban Holocaust denial as a form of hate speech, while they stand and applaud Abbas at the United Nations.

Countries should withhold financial aid to the Palestinian Authority, every time they promote another murderer onto the walls of their institutions.


Israel’s Mission to the United Nations will host 1500 students and organizations on May 31, 2016 to combat the toxic narrative around Israel which is part of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) of Israel initiative, as part of Israel’s “Ambassadors Against BDS“.  It is an effort that is unfortunately needed because of the United Nations endorsement of Palestinian Arab hate speech.

If only Ban Ki Moon would listen to his own words that “It is essential that Governments, the judiciary and civil society stand firm against hate speech and those who incite division and violence.”


Related First.One.Through articles:

The Palestinians aren’t “Resorting to Violence”; They are Murdering and Waging War

Names and Narrative: Genocide / Intifada

What do you Recognize in the Palestinians?

The United Nations’ Adoption of Palestinians, Enables It to Only Find Fault With Israel

UN Breakthrough? “Hamas continues to directly threaten the security of Israel”

UNRWA’s Ongoing War against Israel and Jews

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New Group, ZOFLAT, Takes on Shift in Modern Orthodoxy

A Satire

Several leading rabbis and lay leaders in the Modern Orthodox community have started a new group called, ZOFLAT, Zionist Orthodoxy For Living in America Today. The group is advocating for more American Jews to remain in the United States and not move to Israel.

“There has been a dramatic shift eastward,” noted staunch American leader Madison Lipshitz. “When I grew up, no one made aliyah (moved to Israel).  Today, almost all of my old friends live in Israel.  Those that have remained are almost exclusively not religious.”

The movement of American Jews to Israel is made predominantly by the Orthodox community according to recent surveys.  Very few Jews with Reform backgrounds make aliyah.

Queens College professor Lawrence Cohen noted that the trend of Orthodox aliyah gained momentum over the past 30 years, when American high school graduates from Modern Orthodox yeshivas began to spend their “gap” year before college in Israel.  Many of those students ultimately moved to Israel as adults.  “We’re losing kids, and it’s our own fault,” he noted.

The impact is being felt throughout the NY/NJ/CT tri-state area. Many families have left their homes and followed their children to Israel.  They can now be found in “Anglo” communities including Ra’anana, Beit Shemesh and Jerusalem.  “We needed to do something to combat this trend,” explained Lipshitz.

IMG_2052
Young and old Americans at the Kotel
(photo: First.One.Through)

About a year ago, a group of Modern Orthodox rabbis, community leaders and educators formed the core of the new organization. The mission of the group was to show how religious Jews could live within the secular culture in America. “American Orthodox Jews are being silenced by the rise of Orthodox Jews living in Israel.  We needed to show that we are committed to the American way of life,” said founding Rabbi Freedom Lover, of Beautiful Beach Synagogue.  ZOFLAT’s stated goal is to flatline aliyah in Modern Orthodox America.

The first programs for ZOFLAT are being held in Manhattan near Washington Square Park this weekend.  American flags will be affixed to everyone’s nametag. Various prominent Jewish politicians will be speaking about Jews in American society.  Food will include hot dogs and baked beans and will specifically not feature shwarma and hummus.  An afternoon game of baseball is planned, depending on weather.  “We couldn’t wait for Memorial Day,” said Rabbi Lover, “the issue is now.”

“Too many people have been coerced into making aliyah or believing that living in Israel is the only way to live a meaningful life.  This group is dedicated towards showing that people should not be shamed or pushed aside because they don’t want to live in Israel,” added Rabbi Lover.

“I’m excited to come to ZOFLAT,” said Amy Schlessinger, a teacher in New York City, toting a Tony Burch bag.  “We need an organization that validates my lifestyle. America is the greatest country in the world, and just because of the Zionist shift of today’s youth, I shouldn’t be made to feel bad about my life choices.”

Rabbi Kenny Silverson, a principal of a local yeshiva, described the tension within the Modern Orthodox communities today. “The Judaism that is being lived today in Israel would be unrecognizable to my grandparents.  My own son moved to Israel and changed his last name. Our family name!” Rabbi Silverson, visibly upset, continued “still, we will try to be open-minded and have an open tent to those Orthodox Jews that move to Israel, but our raison d’être is to proudly defend those people that wish to remain in America and live the exact same lives that their parents and grandparents did.”

Rabbi Lover noted that he thought about developing this group after listening to various members of the Israeli Knesset describe there being no future for Jews living outside of Israel, which he found offensive.  Those comments by the Israeli leaders were made after terrorist attacks in Europe and the rise of anti-Semitism.

In 2008, Israel surpassed the United States as the largest Jewish community in the world.

“Modern Orthodoxy is facing a serious challenge,” Lover said. “The boundaries of the community cannot be dictated geographically.  We want to have flourishing communities throughout America without any guilt.  Having an organization with a great acronym should allay any feelings of self-doubt, ideally, cemented with a small donation and dues to our events.”

Hand-in-Pocket is co-sponsoring the ZOFLAT event. “HIP” considers itself the “anti- Nefesh b’Nefesh” and helps people dealing with American bureaucracy such as passport renewals, traffic tickets and the like.

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Netanyahu’s Doctoral Thesis on the Nakba

Palestinian Job Fair for Peace

Snack-Pack Inspections

The Joys of Iranian Pistachios and Caviar

ObamaCar to Address Garage Inequality

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