The Shrapnel of Intent

“The diameter of the bomb was thirty centimeters
and the diameter of its effective range about seven meters,
with four dead and eleven wounded.
And around these, in a larger circle
of pain and time, two hospitals are scattered
and one graveyard. But the young woman
who was buried in the city she came from,
at a distance of more than a hundred kilometers,
enlarges the circle considerably,
and the solitary man mourning her death
at the distant shores of a country far across the sea
includes the entire world in the circle.
And I won’t even mention the howl of orphans
that reaches up to the throne of God and
beyond, making
a circle with no end and no God.”

“The Diameter of a Bomb”
Yehuda Amichai (1924 – 2000)

 

Yehuda Amichai moved to Palestine from Germany in 1936, as the Nazi war against the Jews was emerging in Europe, and the Arab war against the Zionists was gathering steam in Palestine. He would fight together with the British army in World War II and with the Jewish Defense Forces in Israel’s War of Independence in 1948-9. He would later become one of Israel’s most treasured poets, winning the Israel Prize for poetry in 1982 for his collection of works he penned in Hebrew. He died at the age of 76, at the start of the Second Intifada in September 2000.

Like all living things, Amichai’s life had a beginning and end. However, his works touched upon deeper truths which surpassed both time and geography. In a life framed by antisemitism and rejection, his words brought the Jewish people a mixture of bitterness, longing, anger and comfort about the hatred and violence they all endured.

The poem above is such an example regarding how the diameter of a bomb doesn’t begin to explain the sphere of its impact. While the scars are physical, the trauma is mental; the explosion may be ephemeral, but the shock is eternal.

Amichai’s words resonated deeply for the small global Jewish community which suffered from constant attacks both in Israel and in the diaspora. In Europe and Russia during the 20th century, millions of Jews were slaughtered while the Jews in Arab countries were expelled. The physical pain experienced by one Jew touched their cousins around the world. The grief was shared.

But the pain experienced by the Jews in Israel from multiple Arab wars and countless terrorist attacks carried an extra burden for world Jewry. While the emotional trauma of fellow Jews slaughtered and maimed reinforced the constant haunting echo of antisemitism, the attacks on the Jews in Zion also compromised the Promised Land. A place of holiness became a house of mourning. The collective Jewish inheritance bestowed by God was being ravaged in an unholy assault.

Since the beginning of the rebirth of the Jewish State in the early 1900’s, Jews and pro-Israel people around the world have been emotionally connected to the terrorism and wars inflicted upon Israeli Jews. Amichai’s poem noted that local Israeli tragedies encircled the world in grief. The bombs severed limbs and cut lives short, yet they connected everyone.

But something changed drastically over the past dozen years. The tragedies befalling Israeli Jews are now perceived through different lenses for both Israeli Jews and the Zionist community around the world.

The Changed Israeli Perspective: The Bombers

The beginning of the altered Israeli perspective began as the Second Intifada was born at the failure of the Oslo Accords.

The September 1995 Oslo II Accords were scheduled to reach a conclusive peace agreement in five years, in September 2000. However, when the Palestinian Arab leadership under Yasser Arafat was not able to secure 100% of his desired goals, he launched waves of attacks against Jewish civilians, killing hundreds of people over several years.

The ramification of the Second Intifada was not only the hundreds of murdered Israelis, but the penetrating shock waves that rippled through Israeli society which left permanent scars. Israelis internalized that the conflict was not about land as they had hoped, or about Palestinian “refugees” as they had been told. Israelis concluded that people who would intentionally slaughter children because they did not get a 100% of their demands, would never allow the Jewish State to exist on even 1% of the land. The Second Intifada scorched the psyche of Israelis that the Palestinians rejected the basic presence of Jews and the existence of the Jewish State. No enduring peace could ever be achieved with such Arab sentiment.

The shrapnel of intent of the bombers of the Second Intifada entered the minds of Israelis altering their views of the Palestinian Arabs, while the heat of the blasts incinerated the Israeli doves. The dream of peace with such murderers was reckoned a fantasy too dangerous to pursue and impossible to achieve.

In light of their new perspectives, the Israelis altered direction in dealing with the Palestinian Arabs. They erected a security barrier between the Arabs in the West Bank and Israel, and have elected a series of right-of-center governments. All to the chagrin of the liberals in the diaspora.

The Changed Diaspora Perspective: Untouched

Yossi Klein Halevi, an American-Israeli author who works at the left-of-center Shalom Hartman Institute recently wrote a book called  “Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor,” which captures some of the divide between the American left-wing and Israelis. In describing the book, he talked about the anguish of his dream of peace with Palestinian Arabs being destroyed by the Second Intifada.

“The Second Intifada brought the right back to power and nearly destroyed the Israeli left, something the international community still hasn’t internalized.”

For Israelis, the Second Intifada was different than the wars and terrorism before 2000. The Israelis felt that they had stretched far to achieve peace and were rewarded with the massacre of innocents. Even after the Second Intifada, when the Palestinians got to hold open elections for their parliament for the first time in 2006, they elected the terrorist group Hamas to a 58% majority. When Israel left Gaza in 2005, it was rewarded with wars in 2008, 2012 and 2014. And regarding people living and working side-by-side, the coexistence was paid for with stabbings and car rammings – literally funded by the Palestinian Authority.

Unlike Yehuda Amichai’s poem, liberals outside of Israel were not deeply touched by the Second Intifada. The Jewish diaspora didn’t see the pizza store and bus bombings of the 2000’s as markedly different than Palestinians shooting up schools or hijacking planes in the 1970’s: the Palestinian Arabs were still seeking 100% of their demands and the Israelis were not compromising nearly enough. The Israelis concluded that the counter-party was forever false, while the international community was occupied counting refugees and square kilometers of land.

While Israelis became convinced that the Palestinians rejected any enduring peace with the Jewish State, the left-wing diaspora was certain that the Israelis were never going to give the Arabs everything they demanded without external pressure. The viewpoints were different; the near term objectives were different; and one party was going to force the other to adhere to its terms.


Amichai’s poem concluded with a bond of empathy that surpassed boundaries: deeper truths surpass raw figures. While Israelis gained clarity of their relationship with the Palestinians in witnessing their pathological reaction to minuscule gaps in an agreement, the international community and liberal diaspora Jews were tracing the invisible 1949 Armistice Lines.

The difference in reactions opened a wide divide in the relationship.

Since the Second Intifada, the diameter of Palestinian bombs no longer encircles and binds Israeli Jews and liberal diaspora Jews. Until the shrapnel of intent penetrates the minds of the international community, the chasm in the relationship is only likely to widen.


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Pray for a Lack of “Proportionately” in Numbers. There will never be an Equivalence of Intent.

The Cancer in the Arab-Israeli Conflict

The Non-Orthodox Jewish Denominations Fight Israel

Israel’s Peers and Neighbors

The Proud Fathers of Palestinian Terrorists

For Liberals, It’s Israelis, Palestinians, and Indifference

The Impossible Liberal Standard

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Brooklyn’s Holiday Donuts

Okay, so my family has a bit of an obsession about food. It’s a statement that’s always true, and it gets worse on holidays.

On Chanukah, we make an annual pilgrimage to different areas of Brooklyn, NY to sample the great donuts. Well, not really “sample” as much as devour. Here are the highlights so you can participate in the fun.

Sesame. 1540 Coney Island Ave.

The store is located on the diagonal corner from the large Pomegranate kosher food store. The donuts are simply delicious. The shelves are often wiped clean and people must wait for the fresh donuts to be brought in from the oven around the corner.

Ever eat a lemon jelly donut fresh from the oven? It’s out of this world. The hazelnut? Amazing. The Lotus and regular jelly donuts were also terrific.


Selection of jelly donuts from Sesame

Grab a cardboard box for six when you enter the store. It’s easier to handle than the large box for a dozen as you try to grab some fresh donuts as the store workers bring in the next batch. (We had two six-packs and another plastic container for two more).

Bagels N Greens. 1379 Coney Island Ave.

This store is for people looking for elaborate donuts with multiple and complex toppings. Excellent flavor at a steeper price. They also have a nice lunch menu and chairs to sit – unique among the bakeries listed here. I suggest factoring in some healthy food somewhere in the donut crawl so your kids don’t think you’re totally insane.

Ostrovitsky’s. 1124 Avenue J

Nice, clean and well lit, the holiday donuts are just one of many great things to sample here (also try the chocolate horn – yum). The Rosemarie chocolate donut was marvelous. The place is often busy, with an organized line, but definitely worth the wait.


Line at Ostrovitsky’s worth the wait

Gombos Heimishe Bakery. 328 Kingston Ave

Gombos is in Crown Heights. Over the holiday, it is ALL about the donuts; there is nothing else really going on here. Prices are the cheapest and the selection and taste is quite good. They have a good mix of dairy and pareve donuts. The place is a bit of a balagan (crazy disorder) but a required stop if you have kids and/or buying dozens of donuts.


Some of the donuts at Gombos


Those are the top four bakeries if you’re looking for exceptional donuts and a great holiday experience. Here are some others that were sampled and worth visiting:

Weiss Bakery. 5011 13th Ave

Excellent bakery. Try the rugelach or chocolate horns. The donuts are okay, not required eating during the holiday.

Taam Eden Bakery. 4603 13th Ave

Right down the block from Weiss Bakery is Taam Eden. Very nice selection of donuts at good prices.

Schreiber’s Homestyle Bakery. 3008 Avenue M

Quite close to Sesame, is a small (not as clean as one would like) but definitely delicious bakery called Schreiber’s. In addition to the pretty good and very tasty selection of donuts, are lace cookies which among the best in Brooklyn.

Mansoura Bakery. 515 Kings Highway

Mansoura is a Syrian bakery and does NOT carry donuts. They do carry some amazing baklava and other Sefaradi dishes. Note that it’s not so close to the other bakeries.


Baklava at Mansoura

Enjoy the holiday AND the food!


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Ben & Jerry’s New Flavor: Milano Zio

A satire.

Ben & Jerry’s unveiled its latest ice cream called “Pecan Resist,” a flavor that pays homage to the anti-Trump movement. The company’s founders announced that proceeds from sales of Pecan Resist will go to benefit four progressive groups including the Women’s March. The cover of the ice cream packaging includes illustrations of the organizers of the Women’s March, including those whom are fiercely anti-Zionist and proudly associate with antisemites including Louis Farrakhan.

Being progressive capitalists at heart, Ben & Jerry’s has opted to sell yet another flavor trying to appeal to progressives who aren’t antisemites. It is called “Milano Zio,” named after Alyssa Milano who refuses to be associated with the Women’s March until its promoters Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory condemn Farrakhan.

While Pecan Resist was mostly dark with chocolate ice cream and included an assortment of nuts, Milano Zio will be made of vanilla ice cream with pieces of Milano cookies to add a drop of color and crunch. A small sliced carrot will sit atop the ice cream, as a shout out to gefilte fish.

Asked by reporters why they decided to launch a new flavor trying to appeal to Jews and Zionists, the ice cream makers directed them to look at the message on the container. It reads:

“Together we can build a more just and equitable tomorrow. Just as Pecan Resist can foster a future that values inclusivity, equality, and justice for people of color, women, the LGBTQ community, refugees, and immigrants, we believe that there is a place in the world for Jews and a Jewish State. However, as progressives, we dare not include these people with our general message of inclusivity.”

Asked for clarification on what the statement meant, the Ben & Jerry’s spokesman said: “The Black Lives Matter and Women’s March were completely against the Jews and Zionists being included in our peaceful message so we needed to handle them separately.

Like the small number of Jews and tiny State of Israel, the Milano Zio flavor will only be sold in a new quarter pint size.

Proceeds from the sale of Milano Zio will go to Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Hospital’s new center for lactose intolerance.


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The Hidden Side of the Moon

The weekly Torah reading of the first chapter of Genesis, Bereishit, always occurs during the week of a new moon. The coupling seems to contain a hidden message.

On the fourth creation day, God made the sun, moon and stars (Genesis 1:14-18)

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֗ים יְהִ֤י מְאֹרֹת֙ בִּרְקִ֣יעַ הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם לְהַבְדִּ֕יל בֵּ֥ין הַיּ֖וֹם וּבֵ֣ין הַלָּ֑יְלָה וְהָי֤וּ לְאֹתֹת֙ וּלְמ֣וֹעֲדִ֔ים וּלְיָמִ֖ים וְשָׁנִֽים׃

God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate day from night; they shall serve as signs for the set times—the days and the years;

וְהָי֤וּ לִמְאוֹרֹת֙ בִּרְקִ֣יעַ הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם לְהָאִ֖יר עַל־הָאָ֑רֶץ וַֽיְהִי־כֵֽן׃

and they serve as lights in the expanse of the sky to shine upon the earth.” And it was so.

וַיַּ֣עַשׂ אֱלֹהִ֔ים אֶת־שְׁנֵ֥י הַמְּאֹרֹ֖ת הַגְּדֹלִ֑ים אֶת־הַמָּא֤וֹר הַגָּדֹל֙ לְמֶמְשֶׁ֣לֶת הַיּ֔וֹם וְאֶת־הַמָּא֤וֹר הַקָּטֹן֙ לְמֶמְשֶׁ֣לֶת הַלַּ֔יְלָה וְאֵ֖ת הַכּוֹכָבִֽים׃

God made the two great lights, the greater light to dominate the day and the lesser light to dominate the night, and the stars.

וַיִּתֵּ֥ן אֹתָ֛ם אֱלֹהִ֖ים בִּרְקִ֣יעַ הַשָּׁמָ֑יִם לְהָאִ֖יר עַל־הָאָֽרֶץ׃

And God set them in the expanse of the sky to shine upon the earth,

וְלִמְשֹׁל֙ בַּיּ֣וֹם וּבַלַּ֔יְלָה וּֽלֲהַבְדִּ֔יל בֵּ֥ין הָא֖וֹר וּבֵ֣ין הַחֹ֑שֶׁךְ וַיַּ֥רְא אֱלֹהִ֖ים כִּי־טֽוֹב׃

to dominate the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that this was good.”

The “two great lights” refer to the Sun and the Moon that dominate Earth’s sky during the day and night. Each serves as a source of light to “shine upon the earth,” and as a way of separating “light from darkness” which had been mixed together earlier in creation. While the Sun remains a fixed source of light always dominating the daytime, the Moon’s light comes and goes over the course of a month, generating – or more accurately “reflecting” – light during the night. The Moon’s dominance ebbs and flows.

The changing nature of the Moon’s light is directly related to its position in the sky relative to the Earth and Sun. When the Earth is between the Sun and Moon, the full light of the Sun reflects back on the Earth displaying itself as a “Full Moon.” However, when the Moon is between the Sun and Earth, no light reflects off the Moon’s surface that is visible to Earth. From the perspective of Earth, the moon is completely dark, known as the “New Moon.”

The Moon itself does not spin. It has one side that always faces Earth known as the “near side” and the other side known as the “far side.” Some people call the far side the “dark side,” but this is inaccurate. As described above, the Moon’s light and dark sides change throughout the month. A more appropriate definition for the far side would be the “hidden side.”

So while God created the “greater light” as a fixed item to always dominate the daytime sky which people could see every day and from all sides throughout the year, He created a lesser light that would have a varying amount of light during the night, and a hidden side that could never be seen from Earth.

Man’s Moon for Signs and Holidays

The Sun was established for “the days and years,” permanent and marked regardless of the introduction of man at the sixth day of creation. The Earth’s vegetation and animals need the Sun as much as Man; the Sun was a gift to everything on Earth. But the Moon was different. The Moon was for לְאֹתֹת֙ וּלְמ֣וֹעֲדִ֔ים, for “signs and holidays.” It was specially designed for mankind.

In Exodus 12:1-2, God gave a commandment to the Jewish people:

וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוָה֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֣ה וְאֶֽל־אַהֲרֹ֔ן בְּאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרַ֖יִם לֵאמֹֽר׃

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt:

הַחֹ֧דֶשׁ הַזֶּ֛ה לָכֶ֖ם רֹ֣אשׁ חֳדָשִׁ֑ים רִאשׁ֥וֹן הוּא֙ לָכֶ֔ם לְחָדְשֵׁ֖י הַשָּׁנָֽה׃

This month shall mark for you the beginning of the months; it shall be the first of the months of the year for you.

Rabbis learned from the superfluous words of “for you” that it was for the leaders of the Jewish people to declare when a new month actually began. People set the beginning of the month and consequently, when all Jewish holidays would fall out, such as Passover and Sukkot. The Bible foreshadowed in Genesis 1 that the Jews would use the lunar calendar for their months and holidays. To this day, Jews around the world do not only enjoy the light of the moon, but also track and celebrate the darkening phase to mark each month and set the calendar.

Are there other messages to be learned about the Moon?

Total Solar Eclipse
(photo by Ari Mendelow, August 21, 2017)

Man’s Role with the Near and Hidden

The Bible does not discuss the nature of the Moon having a single Earth-facing side and another hidden side. It strictly relates to the Moon’s qualities regarding light. God encourages man to use the changing night sky of the Moon and stars to chart holidays and perhaps navigation. The changing nature of the light sources were meant to serve as useful tools.

Yet there are items that are unseen by Man in the night, such as the far side of the Moon. Did God want these hidden items to be discovered and used as well? Were the hidden mysteries of space something for mankind to discover?

Some rabbis have opined that the answer is no. They note that King David sang in Psalms 115:16

הַשָּׁמַ֣יִם שָׁ֭מַיִם לַיהוָ֑ה וְ֝הָאָ֗רֶץ נָתַ֥ן לִבְנֵי־אָדָֽם׃

The heavens belong to the LORD, but the earth He gave over to man.

Some rabbis have condemned space travel on this basis. They note that Jews have been punished for space travel, including Judith Resnik, the first Jewish American in space who died in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, and Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli in space who died in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.

But many others feel differently. God is clear when things are forbidden to man.

God set clear boundaries once He set Adam in the Garden of Eden. He made two trees in the garden which were declared off-limits for Man. If God did not want Mankind to explore and discover the hidden items in his creation, He would have spelled it out.

Chapter 1 of Genesis laid out the days of creation of the world and provided a foreshadowing of Man before his creation in noting the importance of the Moon.

First Man and The Hidden

While Genesis recorded the world’s first person, the new movie First Man describes the first man on the Moon. The movie captures the excitement of discovery of a new world, seen but untouched.

There is another part of the story as it relates to astronaut Michael Collins who navigated the Columbia command module while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were on the Moon. As the pair were on the near side of the Moon for 22 hours, Collins orbited the Moon, navigating the module around the far side of the Moon. He was there for roughly 47 minutes all alone – without his fellow astronauts beside him in the module, and without the ability to communicate with mission control on Earth while on the far side. His only companion was the mysterious side of the Moon, while he was hidden from mankind.


God created the world, giving a special role for mankind to play regarding the Moon, even as He placed the first man in a protected corner of Earth. It would take thousands of years for another man to be first on that special celestial body.

Discovering God’s creations is often noted for the thrilling moments of engagement like walking on the Moon, but it can also be found in quiet moments, such as seeing God’s hidden mysteries. Hopefully the great explorations will continue.


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Abu Mazen Balls

Recipes

 

There are a number of dishes that are recognized as Jewish food such as gefilte fish and matzah ball soup. A personal favorite is related to the Jewish holiday of Purim.

Roughly 2,500 years ago in Persia, an evil politician named Haman tried to kill all of the Jews, but failed in his attempt. The holiday of Purim celebrates the day that Haman had chosen to kill the Jews but instead became the day of his downfall.

To celebrate the day, Jews made a sweet dessert called Hamataschen. The cookie has three corners designed to resemble Haman’s three cornered-hat. The middle of the cookie is filled with something sweet such as apricot or prune jam. While people may eat the delicious dessert all year, the day of Purim when Jews celebrate the inversion of their fate, is when they are mostly consumed.

Today, there are additional sweets to enjoy named after other evil people who wanted to harm the Jewish people.

On August 18, 1988, the terrorist group Hamas published its charter. The vile charter was replete with anti-Semitic invective. It called for the destruction of the Jewish State of Israel by all Arabs and Muslims around the world and invited more people to participate. It was a manifesto for jihad and terrorism which fueled the murder of thousands of people.

Unfortunately, Hamas did not disappear on that August day. It won parliamentary elections in 2006, securing 58% of the seats. It evicted the rival Fatah group from the Gaza Strip in 2007 and launched three wars against Israel from there in 2008, 2012 and 2014. In 2018, it has chosen to use arson balloons to destroy Israeli fields and terrorize Israelis.

But perhaps it is time to negate the hate.

Israel has effectively blocked Hamas from implementing its charter of genocide. In the 30 years since the screed was published, Israel has become an economic and military powerhouse, while the territory Hamas controls has become a dreary backwater. The Israeli army has eliminated thousands of Hamas terrorists, thereby saving many thousands of Israeli lives.

It is time to celebrate the reversal of Hamas’s calls for the death to Israel, to a celebration of the Nation-State of the Jewish People.

Introducing two new Jewish treats: Abu Mazen Balls and Te’ay’nog.

Abu Mazen Balls

Abu Mazen is the nom de guerre of the ineffectual acting-President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. Abu Mazen began his four-year term as President of the Palestinian Authority on January 10, 2005, but he has refused to hold elections again. His PA government has celebrated the murder of Israeli Jews, called for the death penalty for any Arab that sells land to Jews, demanded a new country of Palestine be free of any Israeli Jews, and blamed Jews for their own Holocaust. He refuses to recognize the history and rights to Jews in their homeland and threatens them on the global stage.

But the Jewish people are thriving while he disappears from history.

Abu Mazen Balls are the tasty treat named for him.

Directions:

Take three pounds of almonds (or hazelnuts if preferred) and place them in a bag. Pound the nuts with a mallet until they are fine. Place into a bowl.

Add three tablespoons of silan, a date honey (one of Judaism’s special seven species). Add a 1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg and ¼ teaspoon of vanilla. Mix thoroughly.

Take a small amount of the mixture and roll into a small ball. Abu Mazen Balls are very small – roughly four equals a full regular full sized meatball.

Bake in an oven for 35 minutes at 325 degrees. Once cool, pour a significant amount of confectioners sugar to bury the balls like Abu Mazen’s grey mane.

The recommended serving size is four balls, but no one ever pays heed to anything regarding Abu Mazen.

Te’ay’nog

Te’AyNog comes from the Hebrew word Te’ayna, which means date. The sweet dessert if a mix of dates and cream cheese which serves as a filling in filo dough. The sweet dish is baked briefly before being flambed in brandy. The fiery finish is meant to recall the Hamas arson attacks which ultimately resulted in more Hamas deaths than Israeli injuries.

Directions:

Combine three pounds of pitted dates and 8 ounces of cream cheese and mix thoroughly in a bowl together with ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon.

Place the mixture onto buttered filo dough and roll the contents. Heat for 10 minutes at 375 degrees. Flambe in brandy before serving.

Date of Celebration

There is a debate about when to celebrate and eat these treats. Some people argue that it should be on November 29 to mark the date that the United Nations General Assembly voted on Resolution 181 in favor of a Jewish State, and which continues to be marked by Palestinian Arabs as the Nakba. Others suggest May 15 when five Arab armies came to destroy Israel in 1948 but failed. Or June 4, when the armies of Syria, Egypt and Jordan attacked Israel to destroy it in 1967, but instead lost even more territory.

Others have picked August 18, to mark the vileness of Hamas’s publication of the most anti-Semitic and war-obsessed charter ever written by any government. And yet another group has chosen July 19, when the Israeli government finally declared itself the Nation-State of the Jewish People in 2018.

Whichever day you choose to celebrate the inversion of the stated history of anti-Semites with the survival and success of the Jewish State, enjoy the desserts and savor the modern miracle that blooms beautifully despite being surrounded by dark fields of hate.


Related First.One.Through articles:

Abbas’s Speech and the Window into Antisemitism and Anti-Zionism

What do you Recognize in the Palestinians?

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

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

The Undemocratic Nature of Fire and Water in the Middle East

The “Unclean” Jew in the Crosshairs

Palestinians are “Desperate” for…

“Mainstream” and Abbas’ Jihad

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We Should Not Pay for Your First Amendment Rights

This past Sunday witnessed various protests during National Football League games with players refusing to stand for the playing of the national anthem. This article does not address whether the protests have merit or do not. The players actions miss a basic point: people shouldn’t have to pay for your first amendment rights.

Americans have various rights under the first amendment, including to free speech. That right enables individuals who want to stand on a street corner and yell about how much they hate America the freedom to do so.

But the football stadium is not a public street.

People pay hundreds of dollars to enter the stadium to watch a football game, not to watch players express their political opinions. Fans at home also spend lots of money for cable and satellite TV to watch their favorite teams. More specifically – to watch their teams play football.

The only way that a player should have a right to express his feelings about politics is with the approval of the team’s owner and the NFL. Should those governing bodies deem it appropriate to sanction certain behavior, then it becomes part of the game like a black bandage on a jersey in memory of a player.


NFL players take a knee during the national anthem
(photo: Michael Dwyer/AP)

If the NFL and team owners approve the actions of the players expressing their political opinions during the game, then the audience can decide whether they want to spend their time and money watching such activity. But until the league and owners approve the players’ actions, it should be banned or fined.

Thomas Jefferson once said:

“To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is both sinful and tyrannical.”

Even if you agree with the sentiments of the protesters, it is “both sinful and tyrannical” to be forced to pay to propagate such expressions.


Related First.One.Through articles:

New York Times Confusion on Free Speech

Selective Speech

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Active and Reactive Provocations: Charlie Hebdo and the Temple Mount

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Your Father’s Anti-Semitism

Over the past eight years, we became convinced that anti-Semitism no longer existed, and are now astounded at its re-emergence. Why?

What We Were Led to Believe

The Obama administration informed Americans that anti-Semitism in the United States was no longer a major issue under his watch. The real hatred that the country needed to confront was the targeting of Muslims and immigrants, not Jews.

The American media reported that anti-Semitism in Europe was barely perceptible. The real issue there was the persecution of refugees.

Jewish leaders and Israeli officials explained that the Jewish State of Israel assumed the role of the World Jew, and attacks on Israel were the new socially-accepted form of anti-Semitism. So when the political left educated everyone that criticizing Israel on the world stage was something that friends do – not anti-Semites – it was obviously a tremendous relief.

There was clearly no more anti-Semitism remaining in the world.

But suddenly, as the sun set on the Obama ride, the old hatred suddenly appeared again. Not surprisingly, the left-wing told us it was all related to the rise of Donald Trump.

Anti-Semitic incidents jumped in the days after the election, mostly from vandalism. The most vocal and visible display of Jew-hatred will happen next week, as the small town of Whitefish, Montana hosts a march by armed white supremists on January 15.  The organizer is a vocal supporter of Trump, cementing the pairing that Trump and his supporters are anti-Semites (or “deplorables” according to Hillary Clinton).

And so we are led to believe that the anti-Semitism which was supposedly vanquished under the Obama years, is rearing its vile head as Trump assumes the presidency.

Reality

That narrative is not reality. Anti-semitism has always been present in the US and Europe, but simply ignored. Some of the hatred now being seen in America is simply more public and overt. It’s your father’s anti-Semitism. Old School Jew-hatred.

Over the eight years of Obama’s presidency, an average Jew in the USA was statistically twice as likely to face a hate crime as an average black or Muslim person. Obama just chose to not discuss it, and the media sought to distract attention away from it.

In Europe, the year 2014 saw waves of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel riots and actions, even as Israel tried to broker a peace deal with the Palestinian Arabs. However, the media tried to downplay the Jew-hatred. Obama refused to even acknowledge it.

As for the Nazi marches, they are not new in America. They marched in Obama’s home state of Illinois in 1977, when Democrat Jimmy Carter was president. And Bill Clinton was president when anti-Semitism came through Montana in December 1993.

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Frederic Brenner’s photograph of protestors in Billings, Montana
January 1994

During Chanuka 1993 in Billings, Montana, someone threw a brick through the window of a Jewish home that had placed a menorah in the window. The people of the town responded to the vandalism by cutting out paper menorahs which thousands of people pasted in the windows of their homes and stores as a common call to combat hate. The hatred did not go away, and more windows displaying menorahs were broken by rocks and bullets. But the silent protest continued. The photographer Frederic Brenner took the iconic photograph above of the townspeople of Billings hoisting menorahs, as featured in his incredible work, Diaspora.

Message

Obama focused his presidency on repairing America’s relationship with the Arab and Muslim world and deliberately chose to not focus on the more common anti-Semitism that has always pervaded society.  The liberal press followed his lead and lulled people into a false sense that anti-Semitism didn’t live here anymore. Believing themselves beyond anti-Semitism, the liberal art scene celebrated Arab terrorists that killed an elderly handicapped Jew as “a masterpiece.” In the smug shroud of self-righteousness, liberals couldn’t conceive that such actions and statements were the embodiment of anti-Semitism.

It is against this backdrop that people consider the “alt-right” and Nazi marches. Something completely alien and faraway.

It is false perspective.

Frederic Brenner’s “Diaspora: homelands in exile,” included a second book called “voices” which included commentary of many writers, historians and philosophers about Brenner’s photographs. Here are condensed reflections from two people on the Billing, MT photo:

“There, at the crossroads in the barren landscape of Montana, the citizens of Billings are brought together…. The menorah is a mark of Jewish difference. By everyone adopting a menorah on this occasion, this difference no longer distinguishes Jews from others…. We cannot hear the music, but “America the Beautiful” blares from the loudspeakers that the photographer brought to the shoot…. In this photograph, which has been shot through a glass pierced by a bullet, the citizens of Billings mass to a vanishing point marked by the bull’s-eye of violence.”

-Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett

“Never forget; never forget to see that through which you see, the apparently diaphanous element of visibility. Here that element is broken. The photograph is taken through the broken glass of a window. There is always the risk of not seeing the medium through which a view is taken. Here the medium that risks passing unnoticed, being simply omitted from the description, is the signature or the wound, not to say the scar, of an event: the breaking of glass…. The menorahs they are holding high, the seven- or eightbrached candelabrum (and not the star of David) recalls a particular event, a local violence: the brick thrown from the street through a window, December 2, 1993, against a symbol of Jewish faith. Is not the photo taken from the point of view of this window, through the broken glass itself? From the place of violation?”

-Jacques Derrida

These writers observe the protesters of Montana, calling for unity in the face of anti-Semitism. But they note the importance of the photograph itself, that it is taken through the broken glass that was the violence. It placed the viewer squarely in “the place of violation,” not as a casual observer.

And we have lost that.

In the effort to reach out to Muslims, America sanitized its anti-Semitism. Americans have now been trained to only recognize the most outrageous Jew-hatred – something foreign and obscene – as if from a different place and generation. In doing so, Americans watch the violence as voyeurs, not as engaged participants. Protests come in mumbles, not in screams. The expressions lack empathy.

Jacques Derrida continued about the photograph of the protest against Jew-hatred a generation ago: “in the background, one can see the American flag. The large star-spangled banner recalls at once the vocation of the witness (multiethnic, multicultural, etc.) of a nation that, despite the racisms and anti-Semitism that have continued to disfigure its history, takes over from the chosen people and inscribes freedom of religion and opinion in its Constitution.” America’s promise for religious freedom is actualized by Americans that take the responsibility upon themselves. And they do it the face of – and in the place of – the violence itself.

Can America truly protest in common cause with Jews when it doesn’t recognize the violence and anti-Semitism prevelant in society? After the last eight years of willful deceit, it is more likely that people will protest the president-elect and his supporters, than the anti-Semitism that they themselves have chosen to ignore.


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Stopping the Purveyors of Hateful Propaganda

Leading Gay Activists Hate Religious Children

“Jews as a Class”

Obama’s Select Religious Compassion

Ramifications of Ignoring American Antisemitism

The “Unclean” Jew in the Crosshairs

New York Times Finds Racism When it Wants

The End of Together

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The Right Stuff, Then and Now

On December 8, 2016, the world said farewell to the last surviving Mercury astronaut, John Glenn, at age 95.

The story of the first American astronauts was told beautifully in a book by Tom Wolfe, The Right Stuff, which was later turned into a remarkable movie of the same name. Wolfe relayed the incredible bravery of those men, who possessed “the right stuff” to handle the rigors of space travel.  The story explored the various tests that they endured, ranging from handling G-forces to being able to stay calm while enclosed in a small space for long periods of time to handling the press and their wives.

The bravery of the men and the space program itself were not without controversy. Many people thought the cost of the program was prohibitive and those funds could be put to better use at home. The bravery of the men was ridiculed, as some considered that these pilots were nothing more than “spam in a can,” performing feats that a monkey could do just as easily.

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Astronaut John Glenn and his wife at New York ticker-tape parade, March 1962

Yet America applauded the bravery of the astronauts and celebrated the collective accomplishments of the entire space agency for the successful launches and returns of the astronauts. Ticker-tape parades greeted those celebrities from the sky, as the nation was uplifted by the courage and accomplishments of the entire space agency. The country took its first steps into the great beyond.

The “Right Stuff” Today

America doesn’t celebrate courageous Americans the same way anymore. New York ticker-tape parades are reserved for local sports teams that win national championships like the New York Yankees in baseball or the New York Giants in football.  On occasion, the city celebrates a national sports team like the woman’s national soccer team.

Instead, cable television and the Internet hoist their own heroes, and broadcast them on the screen for willing viewers.

In 2015, the sports media company ESPN awarded its Arthur Ashe Courage Award to a famous athlete that was undergoing a gender transformation, Caitlyn Jenner. The public reaction was mixed, with many in the liberal media celebrating Jenner’s courage for undergoing the surgery and coming out publicly with the story, while more conservative commentators thought that a courage award should be given to those athletes that do amazing things like scaling El Capitan with fingertips or soldiers that lost limbs in the service of the country.

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Caitlyn Jenner receiving the ESPN Courage Award

CNN attacked the Hollywood director, Peter Berg, who made unflattering comments about Jenner.  The media called Berg “hateful” and “transphobic” for his comparison of Jenner to a soldier that lost his limbs. The CNN attack on Berg moved past his comments to Berg himself, saying that he was a “coward hiding in the darkness spreading hate.”  It demonized Berg, as it considered that Berg demonized Jenner.

The Loss

Civilized Debate. Fifty years ago, people ridiculed the astronauts as being nothing more than chimpanzees sitting on a rocket. They went on to criticize the entire space program as wasteful.  However, the accusations didn’t break down into name calling and hate, but a discussion on the importance of the space program and the role of the astronauts.

Today, the accusations are more personal.

The Internet lets public comments linger forever, and enables the whole world – not just a few media outlets – to comment freely.  Today, every person has immediate access to news from around the world and their own handheld broadcast terminal.  The major media companies, left without a unique role, have pivoted to no longer simply telling the news, but to broadcasting their opinions.  As part of that effort, they decide who is courageous, not the municipality of New York. They vilify those that counter their worldview, rather than engage in a thoughtful review of “gender fluidity.”

Science for All. America once celebrated universally recognized engineering accomplishments and the people who performed feats that we could never do ourselves, even as we debated those very activities. Today our society clashes on media’s choices of heroes who perform actions that we would never do to ourselves.

Unfortunately, in that debate, we have forgotten a key message: why does our society constantly prefer to put athletes on platforms, but not scientists? Why have Veterans Day and Memorial Day simply become days for shopping and barbeques rather than days to honor people who put society above themselves?

We have debased courage. We have trivialized accomplishments. We have elevated self-interest and self-gratification over societal needs. And in that maelstrom, we have personalized attacks rather than debate concepts and actions.

As we remember John Glenn on his passing, let’s also consider the incredible teams of engineers and scientists that made his journey possible, and the courage and dedication of people who put their lives on the line for our common good. Maybe we can use that energy to advance our collective society, and debate openly without vilifying each other.


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Israel Has Returned Excellent Wine Making Back to the Middle East

There is one country in the Middle East that has reintroduced the art of wine making to international acclaim, after centuries of barely producing any wine at all: Israel.

Ancient History of Wine in the Holy Land

The Old Testament is full of stories of the use of wine in the Holy Land, and Judaism features wine prominently in many of its commandments.

Ancient synagogues in Israel are replete with vines and grapes adorning mosaics and columns in the Galilee, Golan Heights and Judea and Samaria. The architecture and art of the Romans who ruled in the region 2000 years ago also feature grapes and wine prominently.

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Ancient Synagogue in the Golan Heights featuring vines and grapes
along the portals to the Torah Ark (photo: First.One.Through)

The prevalence of vineyards and wine in the Holy Land came to a stop when Arabs invaded en masse in the 7th century, bringing Islam’s ban of alcohol to the region.  Further, an earthquake in 749CE led to a destruction of most of the synagogues and buildings that featured grapes and wine in the region.

For the next 1100 years, whether ruled by Arabs or non-Arab Muslims (the Ottomans), the land barely produced any wine at all.

Jews Bringing Wine back to the Holy Land

Some of the earliest records of wineries reopening in the Holy Land include Rabbi Yitzchak Shor in 1848, and Rabbi Avram Teperberg, who opened a winery in the Old City of Jerusalem in 1870.  The modern record of the longest continually operating wineries goes to the efforts of Baron Edmund de Rothschild, who established vineyards in Palestine and shortly thereafter the winery, Carmel, with a location in Rishon Le Zion (1890) and another in Zichron Yaakov (1892).

Winemaking spread further after the Six Day War in 1967, after Israel took control of Judea and Samaria which had been illegally annexed by Jordan in 1950. Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria in that war as well, as Syria had used that high plateau to bombard Israel’s Galilee region below it.  Israel turned both of those areas into thriving wine making regions, as they had been historically.

While there were 14 wineries in the Holy Land when the Jewish State was reestablished in 1948, there are over 200 wineries in the country today, with some estimates that include the very small wineries to being over 350 wineries.

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Entrance to Psagot Winery in the Binyamin section
of Judea and Samaria/ the West Bank

(photo: FirstOneThrough)

Wine Production in the Middle East

Today, Israel stands apart from the rest of the Middle East regarding wine production. The only neighbor that approaches the Jewish State’s fondness for wine is Lebanon, which not coincidentally, has a large Christian population.

Israel produced 31 million liters of wine in 2014. Lebanon placed second with just half Israel’s volume, 15.4 million liters. Egypt only produced 3m liters, while Syria, Jordan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the other regional countries did not rank at all.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese drink much more wine than they produce locally, 21.3m liters. In contrast, Israel consumes a small portion of the wine it produces, only 7.8m liters, and exports the rest around the world.

While the Muslim-dominated countries in the region do not produce wine, they do consume negligible amounts: Jordan consumes 373,000 liters, Egypt 225,000, KSA 114,000, and Syria just 15,000, a combined total that is less than 10% of Israel’s consumption, even while their population dwarfs Israel by over 17 times.

Medals, Awards and Notables

The Israelis have not just begun producing wine in the region again, they have perfected the art form.

Over the past several years, the Israeli wineries have produced excellent wines and have entered various competitions, including those held in Europe.  Wineries like Carmel (2010) and Golan Heights Winery (2011) even started winning top prizes at those events.

golanheights
Golan Heights Winery in Katzrin (photo: First.One.Through)

The Vineyards in Disputed Territories

Many of the award-winning wines are derived from grapes grown and wineries located in the disputed territories.

The Golan Heights was allocated to Syria under the Sykes-Picot Agreement after World War I.  Syria ruled the area until 1967, when Israel took the region from Syria to protect the Galilee region from persistent Syrian shelling.  Today, even in the midst of a bloody civil war that has claimed nearly half a million people, Syria continues to demand that the lands be returned.

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Some Israeli vineyards in the Golan Heights
(photo: FirstOneThrough)

The land east of the 1949 Armistice “Green” Line, (east of the Green Line, EGL, or the west bank of the Jordan River) was allocated to be part of the reestablished Jewish homeland in international law in 1920 and 1922 in the San Remo Agreement and the Mandate for Palestine, respectively. However, in 1947, the United Nations sought to divide the mandate into distinct Jewish and Arab states (which the Arabs rejected). The Arabs attacked Israel in 1948, took hold of EGL in 1949, and in 1950 the Jordanians annexed the area and renamed it the “West Bank.”  The Arabs want this land for a new country to be called Palestine.

Due to the disputed nature of the Golan Heights and the EGL/West Bank, there are international efforts underway to use distinct labels for the products from these regions.  Some governments contend that labeling the products as “Made in Israel,” is inaccurate, even though countries around the world use labels in such fashion for territories regularly.  Some stores have gone further, and boycott wines and other products produced in these contested areas.  The various products made in the Israeli territories account for about $250 million in exports, or about 1% of Israel’s export economy.

It is interesting that some of the countries that lead this boycott effort are the largest consumer of wine in the world.  They include: France (#2); Italy (#3); Germany (#4); the UK (#6); and Spain (#7). One would imagine that those countries would be thrilled that Israel has brought back award-winning wine production to the region that Islam had obliterated for centuries.  The Israelis not only share their values, but export items they adore.


Israel produces a wide variety of great wines today.  The wines run from the ancient – yes ancient, as Israelis are using science to bring back old wine recipes extracted from sediment found in ancient pottery, to brand new wines like Jezreel, a new winery established by an American family that made aliyah.

For lovers of wine around the world who are thrilled to see the Jewish State bring back the holy land’s great history of producing wine which was destroyed for a thousand years, don’t just buy the wine, insist that your local store stock the shelves with Israeli wines as well.


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Purim 5776/ 2016 Poem

Over the past few decades, there has been a growing trend in many Jewish communities to enhance the tradition of shaloch manot, sending gifts to their friends and neighbors on Purim.  The enhancement comes in the form of creating a “theme” for the gifts of food and candy, and including a poem.

This year, 5776 in the Jewish calendar and 2016 in the secular calendar, had various people using themes that included the US presidential race; recent movies; and popular singers.  Here is mine, that celebrated the infrequent occurrence of enjoying a leap year in both calendars.

How often is there a combined leap year
In both solar and lunar calendars?
One would need to look far and near
Measuring time with phased calipers.

Well, the year 2016 in the Gregorian tally
And 5776, in Jewish computation
Have aligned as natural allies,
And generated a special kind of elation.

You see, most of the world just adds a day
To that rump of a month in the frost.
While Jews go the all of the way-
Bringing a month to the front, embossed.

Jews have doubled the month of Adar
A month known as singularly happy.
Where sadness cannot otherwise mar
A people that is oftentimes sappy.

I yelled “Hooray! Two Adars is great!
Can we now celebrate Purim twice?”
But my rabbi set me straight-
“No, but that would have been nice.”

He suggested we double down on gifts-
Particularly, if serving alcohol.
But this shaloch manot has no fifths,
Yet the sentiment is the same, overall.

Happy Purim, Happy Purim!
Is our double exclamation!
Fill your own cup to the brim-
(Since Friday is anyway a vacation.)

Double Bubble, “Two”tsie rolls and Twix,
Are our way of highlighting the double.
Other great candy pairs are in the mix
As two foods get us out of trouble.

A bit more time to partake of the goodies,
In this year with added month and day.
But the shift will be quick for you foodies,
Since Pesach is still just a month away.

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