Created: Thursday, 01 October 2015 10:14
Written by Rabbi Glazier
For the Love of Israel
Erev Yom Kippur
I’ve never known a time when Israel wasn’t a part of my life. In the annals of Jewish history I am a very privileged person. For millennium our people have prayed for the reestablishment of our ancient homeland without having lived long enough to see the fulfillment of their hopes and dreams.
The time I came to understand Israel’s existence was when I was a youngster attending Religious School. I was probably about eight or nine years of age. I was in my Hebrew class and the Rabbi walked in, my Rabbi of blessed memory. That the Rabbi walked into my class was reason enough for excitement and fear. He was there to make an announcement, an announcement that was a bit lost on an eight or nine year old. He told us that no longer was the Hebrew school going to teach us Ashkenazic pronunciation of Hebrew. There would be no more Tov and Sov only Tov, no more Kamatz pronounced as “ahw,” now the Kamatz would be sounded as Oh or Ah. Why this sudden change? Israel now exists and we will learn the Hebrew pronunciation of Israel, not Europe or the United States. He went on to tell us that eventually everyone will speak Hebrew like Israelis so that’s the pronunciation we will now learn and use.
The second instance of Israel impacting my life in a very personal way is when my sister went to Israel to attend high school. When I was twelve, my sister decided to spend a part of her junior year in Israel. She enrolled in the Reform E.I.E, Eisendrath International Experience, and attended the Leo Baeck High School in Haifa. From her I learned so much about this far away land through her photographs, letters and postcards. She lived with the Friedman family and attend high school with Irit Friedman her Israeli sister. As I’m speaking my sister is in Israel having attended the wedding of Irit’s daughter in Haifa.
My first direct relationship with Israel occurred when I entered my first year of rabbinical school. The Hebrew Union College required all entering students to spend one year in Israel for language training and acculturation. I attended Hebrew classes five days a week for five hours a day. I volunteered on a k’votzav, a communal farm, for two weeks picking Granny Smith apples. I taught English as a second language to Israeli kids. I toured the entire country and while in Israel the Friedmans in Haifa took me in when I longed for the feeling of home.
Over the years I’ve returned to Israel nearly twenty times sometimes with family, sometimes with colleagues and sometimes alone. Like our own respective families Israelis can be warm and embracing and they can be prickly, antagonizing and combative. But they are family!
And like family I have every right to criticize any member of the family for something I perceive to be inappropriate. However if someone outside the family says something about any of my family members I will take umbrage with that person.
In recent years Israel has received more than an appropriate amount of criticism. No country is above reproach. All nations fail to meet certain standards of ethical and moral behavior. However the singling out of Israel for severe reprimand is without parallel. Say the word Israel in the midst of some people or certain groups and the response is visceral, Apartheid State, Colonists, Warmongers….the list goes on and on.
As I stated on Rosh Hashanah, Israel was established as a safe haven for all Jews. Israel for Jews represents a national aspiration, a homeland, and a return to our ancestral home. We are not unique in this hope. Kurds in Turkey, Iraq and Syria also wish to establish a national homeland. Tibetans wish to re-establish their national homeland that was stolen by the Chinese. Northern Ireland wishes to separate from the British. The Ukrainians who were officially separated from the Russia are again being threatened by Putin and Russia. The list goes on and on. For many and rightfully so these national aspirations are all legitimate. Only when it comes to Israel and its hope to have and safeguard its national homeland is it called illegitimate.
I want to address three contemporary issues that Israel contends with each and every day: BDS, claims of Palestinian genocide and peace with the Palestinians.
BDS is an acronym for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. The BDS movement seeks to stigmatize, isolate and delegitimize the state of Israel. Founded in 2005, BDS espouses a “moral” position of economic and political pressure on behalf of its cause. Some European countries employ BDS activities to unilaterally pressure Israel to change its policies that effect Palestinians. In the United States, the BDS movement manifests in anti-Israel academic, cultural and economic activities. Many in the BDS movement willingly admit that the movement exists to remove any Israeli presence from “Palestine” and, in doing so, makes the realization of a two state solution far more difficult.
In June, 2015, President Obama signed into law a “fast-track” Trade Promotion Authority that includes a provision to push back against actions by foreign governments to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel. The law directs that one of the principal American objectives in upcoming trade negotiations with the E.U. will be to discourage trading partners from taking actions that would limit US-Israel commerce. It also urges the U.S. Trade Representative to seek the elimination of politically motivated economic attacks on Israel by America’s free trade partners.
Also fortunate is that the BDS movement has not succeeded on America’s college campus. At the University of Michigan, the University of Texas, Princeton University and the University of California, Santa Barbara resolutions calling for the boycott, divestment and sanctioning of Israel were defeated by an assortment of pro-Israel groups on campus such as Hillel, Jewish fraternities, sororities, student members of AIPAC and pro-Israel Christian student organizations.
The truth is the BDS movement is doing more harm to Palestinians than Israelis. Soda Stream, known for producing at home soda machines, was located in an industrial zone next to the Jerusalem settlement of Ma-a-lei A-du-meem which is the West Bank. The Soda Stream plant employed approximately 800 West Bank Palestinians. Their wages were twice as high as wages in the West Bank. Benefits were also extremely generous: full health-care (in Israeli clinics and hospitals), retirement pensions and paid vacations. Because of an international effort by BDS to boycott Soda Stream the company chose to relocate from the industrial zone next to Ma-a-lei A-du-meem to within “Green Line” Israel. The new location was significantly far from where they had previous been. An overwhelming number of Palestinian workers lost their jobs. Those brave enough to speak out because of possible Palestinian leadership backlash were extremely upset. Their main concern was the lack of good paying jobs in the West Bank.
So who really suffers? The Palestinians do. Even with the BDS Israel’s economy thrives. Israel is only second to the United States in the number of companies listed on NASDAQ. Israeli innovation and research is unsurpassed. From the cellphone in your pocket to the newest medical innovations in our hospitals all herald from Israeli ingenuity. The world in so many ways could not do without what Israel imagines and creates every single day. If the BDS movement was sincere in its commitment to destroy the economy of Israel then I say throw away your cell phones, your generic drugs, your agricultural technology, your flash drives and thumb drives, your voice mail technology, your cherry tomatoes and your water purification systems.
Gaon Holdings that controls Ahava, the Dead Sea cosmetics company, informed Tel Aviv Stock Exchange that China’s investment giant Fosan has acquired the company for $77 million. China has acquired the company and seeking to expand the products into China’s enormous and rapidly expanding cosmetics market, Ahava may not need to relocate. Back in 2007, Ahava had already signed an exclusive distribution agreement with a Chinese company to build up the brand name in China.
The economic well-being of Israel is not threatened by BDS.
There is no Palestinian genocide taking place in Israel. Just from a statistical point of view this is nothing more than vitriolic diatribe. In Israel proper today 20% of the population is Arab which constitutes about 1.7 million people. 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank today. In 1967, about 500,000 to 600,000 were living in the West Bank. There has been almost a five fold increase in the number of Palestinians in the West Bank.
The claim of Palestinian genocide is absolutely true, however, not with respect to Israel. It is true with respect to Arab states.
After the First Gulf War Kuwait's lack of support for Palestinians was a response to the alignment of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the PLO with Saddam Hussein, who had earlier invaded Kuwait. On March 14, 1991, 200,000 Palestinians were still residing in Kuwait, out of initial 400,000. Palestinians began leaving Kuwait during one week in March 1991, following Kuwait's liberation from Iraqi occupation. During a single week in March, the Palestinian population of Kuwait had almost entirely fled the country. According to the New York Times, Kuwaitis said the anger against Palestinians was such that there was little chance that those who had left during the seven-month occupation could ever return and relatively few of those remaining will be able to stay.
As many as 2,663 Palestinian have been killed in Syria since the beginning of the civil war. At least 27,933 Palestinian refugees fled Syria and arrived in Europe in the past four years of the war while 80,000 Palestinian refugees fled to neighboring countries including Jordan which received 10,687 refugees, Lebanon which received 51,300 refugees and Egypt which received 6,000 refugees, according to UNRWA statistics.
An estimated 240,000 Palestinians are living in Saudi Arabia. They are not allowed to hold or even apply for Saudi citizenship, because of Arab League instructions barring the Arab states from granting them citizenship; the only other alternative for them is to marry a Saudi national. Palestinians are the sole foreign group that cannot benefit from a 2004 law passed by Saudi Arabia's Council of Ministers, which entitles expatriates of all nationalities who have resided in the kingdom for ten years to apply for citizenship.
Palestinians have fared far better living in Israel and the West Bank than in most Arab countries. There is no Palestinian genocide taking place in Israel.
Lastly, I pray for the peace of Israel and hope that there can be a two state solution as soon as possible. However I’m also pessimistic about the possibility as well. And with each successive year my pessimism grows. The Palestinian leadership is not interested in a two state solution if it were it would have come to fruition years ago when three comprehensive peace agreements were offered by the State of Israel. Arafat couldn’t do it nor can Abbas. The narrative for the Palestinians has essentially stayed the same since the time of Arafat. There should be one state and that state should be Palestinian. This is what has been promised to the Palestinian people and their leadership has neither the will nor the inclination to change that narrative.
To be fair there is a growing segment of the Israeli population that also agrees with a one state solution. However instead of being a Palestinian one state it will be an Israeli one state. The settler movement grows every single day in Israel and unless the Palestinians move toward the peace table I believe a two state solution will be an idea whose time has passed.
Just two weeks ago Netanyahu asked Abbas to resume the peace talks through face to face negotiations. Abbas refused just as Palestinian leadership have done for decades.
Before the vote on the Iranian Deal a few weeks ago members of the Jewish community met with Representative Peter Welch. There were about eight of us at the meeting, three local rabbis and about five members of the Jewish community. We were with Representative Welch to discuss the upcoming vote. Our comments to the congressman were at his request and for which I’m extremely grateful. What the congressman had to say was extremely telling.
Representative Welch since the time he entered his office in Washington believed that the crux of Middle East turmoil was the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. He shared that he no longer believes that narrative any longer. What causes the rage in the Middle East goes far beyond that particular disagreement. Sunni vs Shia, Arab vs Persian, various tribal animosities, the lack of pluralism, women’s rights and religious freedom all contribute to what’s happening. He also shared that he has lost faith in the current Palestinian leadership, claiming them to be utterly corrupt and completely disinterested in the well-being of its own people. Hurray for our Congressman for seeing the situation for what it truly is.
Right now Israelis are in Greece handing out care packages to the fleeing Moslems from Syria, Libya and Iraq. Israelis are working in field hospitals on the border with Syria caring for the wounded of that nation. Israelis were the first responders to Haiti and Nepal. They were in those two countries helping the injured, homeless and hungry before any other nation on the face of this earth.
Lata Chand, 19, of Nepal was heavily pregnant when the magnitude-7.8 earthquake struck April 25. She and her husband ran out of their house in panic. Their home was undamaged, but the hospital where she was to give birth was forced to close.
On Friday, they went instead to a field hospital set up by the Israeli military, where the baby was born.
The beaming midwife, Dganit Gery, said she hoped the birth would show all Nepalese women that there is hope for the future.
Lata's husband, Hariender Chand, said they were terrified the quake would cause her to miscarry.
"When the quake struck, I was thinking, 'Will we survive?' because most of the pregnant women miscarried their babies," he said. "I was scared it would happen to us. Now we're safe, it's good."
This is the Israel I love! Happy New Year!
Created: Thursday, 24 September 2015 11:00
Written by Rabbi Glazier
Being an Exceptional People
Erev Rosh Hashanah
Happy New Year! I spent my junior year of college in Madrid, Spain. In the program I participated in foreign students were assigned to live with local families. Given my concern about living with a Catholic family in what was a very Catholic country I wrote Madrid’s only rabbi, an Orthodox rabbi, to see if he could find a Jewish family with whom I would be able to live. He succeeded and found me the Ben Chimol Family. The Ben Chimol’s were originally from Morocco and consisted of a Mom, Dad and three sons, one of which was my age.They had fled Morocco around the time of the Sinai/Suez War of 1956 as did many Jews throughout North Africa and the Middle East. Arab states unable to directly engage in war against Israel chose instead to make their resident Jews existence intolerable. Fortunately for the Ben Chimols they heralded from Spanish Morocco making them Spanish citizens and therefore holding Spanish passports. In 1947 850,000 Jews lived in North Africa and in Arab Middle East states; today only 8,000 remain, 5,700 of which live in Morocco.
I lived with the family for almost entire year. Simi, the mother, treated me like her own son, her fourth son. I learned a lot about Sephardic Judaism that year. Simi kept a completely kosher home. The family attended worship every Friday night, save the mother who would remain at home preparing the Sabbath Meal, and on Saturday mornings and on all the festivals with me always in tail. I can’t say that I still recall many of the Sephardic melodies from North Africa but I do remember so many of the traditions. One of those traditions we do here at Temple Sinai when Torah is read. When a parent comes forward to make an aliyah we ask the children of that parent to rise in honor of their parent. That is a Sephardic tradition I learned in Spain!
Spain in the 1970’s wasn’t a particularly hospitable country to Jews. I think it would be fair to say they were somewhat tolerated but nowhere near being embraced. Men, who chose to cover their heads in public, would don a hat never a kippah. Jews would hire fellow Jews knowing that a Spaniard might never offer them a job. The father, Jaime, worked for the synagogue as dues collector. The synagogue was protected 24/7 by Madrid’s police force. And you would rarely if ever share publically your religious status. Centuries of anti-Jewish teachings of the Church was well embedded in the Spanish psyche.
The truth be told not has changed dramatically in forty years. Recent polls show that 85% of European Jewry are afraid to publically share its Jewish identity.
On Friday nights after we returned from Kabbalat Shabbat worship we gathered around the dinner table for a traditional Moroccan Sabbath meal which consisted of: spiced fish, boiled chickpeas, eggs and beef, Moroccan couscous, roasted eggplant salad, roasted red peppers, wine and bread. The bread was not challah. My Moroccan family knew nothing of the European tradition of challah. For them it was always French bread. It was a feast. I’m salivating just thinking about it. The candles were blessed by the mother. Then the wine was blessed by the father. And here is where it got interesting.
Beyond the fact that the Sephardic melody for the Kiddush is dramatically different from our Ashkenazi melody there was something he did in the middle of the Kiddush. When he got to the verse, “Ki vanu vacharta, v’otanu kidashta mee-kol ha-a-meem,” meaning: “You chose us and sanctified us from all the peoples,” he would raise the Kiddush cup even higher in his hand. Well known is the tradition of raising the Kiddush cup throughout the entire blessing. But I had never known anyone to raise the cup even higher when arriving at this particular verse.
You know for many years the Reform Movement never would say, “mee-kol ha-a-meem,””From all the people.” Yes we would say, “Ki vanu vacharta, v’otanu kidasahta,”“You chose us and sanctified us,” but no “from all the peoples.” In Union Prayer Book Volume I for the Sabbath those four words never appeared save only in the Union Prayer II for the High Holidays. However they eventually would appear in the publication of the Gates of Prayer in the early 1970’s.
It wasn’t until then as Reform Jews that we came to understand ourselves as not only “chosen and sanctified” but even more importantly distinct “from all the peoples.” We went from being chosen to being chosen unlike any other people on the face of the earth.
What caused this shift? What made us more cognizant of our special status? More than anything it was the Holocaust. Prior to the Holocaust an overwhelming number of liberal, progressive Jews believed Western society would always be a warm and welcoming home for enlightened and liberal Jews. It had been right up to and even during the early days of Holocaust that these liberal Jews believed in the notion of social Darwinism. Shoulder to shoulder, we along with the well-meaning of all societies and nations would build a better future of all humankind. After the Holocaust the idea of working with all of humankind to build a better tomorrow seemed, at least from a Jewish perspective, a lot less likely. Reformers came to the very bitter realization that too many were more interested in killing us than working with us.
As the world came to see us as the “other,” even the “evil ones” we came to see ourselves as unique, uniquely chosen by God and uniquely different than those about us.
We see this also in the Aleinu prayer. “Let us now praise the Sovereign of the Universe and proclaim the greatness of the Creator who has set us apart from the other families of the earth, giving us a destiny unique among the nations.” Following the Holocaust Jews, even Reform Jews, were coming to see the world with different eyes. Yes there are some who share our vision. However there are those who not only vehemently disagree with our vision but wish to do us harm.
We are a distinct people and endowed with a unique destiny. We gather this evening to remind ourselves of this eternal truth. Sad that so many have forgotten and others are unaware because they were never taught of this important lesson.
As the dangers of the world abound and the value of human life diminishes more than ever we should be that unique voice that unique people ever reminding humankind of the eternal truths our ancestors taught.
David Harris, President of the American Jewish Committee, shared his views as to the importance of a Jewish identity. What does being Jewish mean?
- It means embracing the deep symbolic meaning the rabbis gave to the story of Adam and Eve. Since all humanity descend from the “” couple, each of us, whatever our race, religion or ethnicity, shares the same family tree. No one can claim superiority over anyone else. In keeping with this teaching Talmud reminds us, “Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.” Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:9. As Jews we are lovers and preservers of life, all life.
- It means entering into a partnership with the Divine for the “Repair of the World-Tikun Olam.” This is a sacred task not to be turned over to a higher authority, or to fate but that it’s our responsibility. We should pray as if everything depended upon God. We should act as if everything depended upon us. The mystics reminds us that the world is filled with broken fragments, illness, war, hunger, homelessness, loneliness and pain. As Jews it is our sacred task to bring wholeness again, to take the fragments and repair, rebuild our broken world.
- It means that we are persistently living lives based on Torah and Halacha, laws and statues which establish a moral code. We are tasked to pursue justice, to treat our neighbors as we would wish to be treated, to welcome the stranger, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless, to protect our environment, to care for the elderly. It was through us that God made known The Ten Commandments, the eternal, universal and ethical code of conduct.
- And here I quote David Harris word for word, “And finally, as Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel once said, it means not necessarily seeking to make the world more Jewish, but rather more human. That is the goal animating our people, through good times and bad, from the beginning of this extraordinary historical journey to the present day.
These are just some of meanings of our Jewishness. There so many more: Israel, our Jewish sense of connectedness with Jews from all over the world, our commitment to learning and teaching, our commitment to philanthropy and our commitment to social justice.
We have much of which to be proud, not in a boastful way but in a way that makes us feel as if our lives have purpose and importance. We have taken what our Creator has bestowed upon us and have dedicated our brains, our talents, our energies to help create a better world for all of God’s creatures.
More than ever this world needs our help. More than ever we need the will and commitment of the entire Jewish community. Hear the sound of the shofar and please, please answer the call.