Tag Archives: Faith

Compulsory Conscription For Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox

 

 

Israel’s Plesner Report recommended 80% of the ultra-Orthodox should serve in Israel’s military  or face criminal sanctions if they don’t. The report would reduce the length of service to 24 months where regular citizens now serve for three years. The aim of this report is to replace the old so-called Tal Law.

When the country began, David Ben-Gurion exempted the haredi at the urging of an advisor. The reasoning was based on religious grounds and had to do with the group’s study of the Bible. It has existed as a source of tension within Israel ever since.

Of course, the Haredi politicians reacted with outrage, calling the document evil and malicious. However, representatives of the Plesner group noted that national service was a religious concept and a Torah commandment. Torah does not oppose military service if a religious lifestyle is accommodated. However, the debate is far from ended, but definitely moving in the direction of compulsory conscription for the haredi.

 

Several years ago, I was walking through the Jewish sector of the Old City. A disturbance had erupted on the Temple Mount caused by Moslem boys throwing rocks at tourists. As I passed by an archeological sight, I saw at least a hundred girls in military uniforms with rifles sitting in the enclosure. Aged 18 to 20, the young women were ready to charge the Temple Mount if the disruption continued. Seeing women armed and ready to shoot stops one in their tracks. Of course, women have always served in Israel, but not without tensions.

Shani Boianjiu wrote in The New York Time about her experience in the military when the secular Jewish world encounters the ultra-Orthodox. She described an incident where she made the mistake of “touching” a soldier during a training exercise. Her job was to teach combat soldiers how to use their personal weapons. During the boot camp exercise, Shani’s task was to make sure that soldiers didn’t fall off balance. The squadding position could be awkward unless the soldiers were positioned correctly. Recognizing an error, she lightly kicked a soldier to expose how unbalanced he was. The man didn’t move. From behind, she put her hands on his shoulders. The man suddenly began screaming, “I observe touch.” Even though Shani was the man’s superior officer and trainer, she had violated a religious rule the military observed.

In her article, Shani Boianjiu, who is secular, described the tension in the military that ancient religious rules often create. One of these statues is that a women cannot touch a weapon in a man’s presence. Once while trying to demonstrate a grenade launcher, as soon as she actually put a finger on the weapon, her trainees disappeared. Their was no problem in being instructed by a women or having her point at the weapon. However, once she picked it up, the ultra-Orthodox soldiers cleared out. Why? While she never could get the point, it had to do with an ancient saying about women and instruments of war not mixing.

One of the major reasons these religious Jews feel they should be exempted from military serve is because of women working as military personnel. Currently, women compose about 30% of the IDF. Another one of these strange rules is that ultra-religious men are not allowed to hear women sing. Shani concluded that the tolerance of Israel’s leaders for religious needs at the expense of others is deeply unfair.

The struggle goes on and must soon come to some resolute as the old Tal Law has now run out. Prime Minister Netanyahu must make a major decision. Soon.

 

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TALKING OUT OF BOTH SIDES OF OUR MOUTH U.S. CONCERNS AND THE MIDDLE EAST

TALKING OUT OF BOTH SIDES OF OUR MOUTH

U.S. CONCERNS AND THE MIDDLE EAST

 

WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?

            Pictures of the Syrian Army’s air fleet always feature Russian Mi-25 Hinds. Russia has been supplying helicopters to Syria for years and continues to do so. Back in June, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed concern to the Russians that they were shipping gun ships to the Assad regime in Syria.

Did her complain stop them?  No.

Herein is a strange little story and a big contradiction.

The United States continues to develop and maintain lucrative contracts with Rosoboronexport, a Russian arms firm that has the main role in supplying the Assad government with the arms to repress the rebels fighting the central government. What make this story particularly interesting is that Rosoboronexport is not a private business. Far from it, the company is a state corporation.  Since 2007, the organization has been the single state intermediary agency for arms shipments. The records of arms shipments made it clear that the port of Oktyabrsk in Southern Ukraine has been sending ship loads of armaments straight to Syria.

Get ready for an amazing and straight little twist in this tale. The US government is currently committed to a $375 million deal with Rosoboronexport for the purchase of 21 Mi-17 helicopters to be used by the Afghan Air Force. The latest transactions with the Russian company were made on November 3, 2011.

This particular contract didn’t go unnoticed. A letter from both Republican and democrat senators to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta demanded a cancellation of the contracts. Pentagon Under-Secretary James Miller rejected the senator’s letter, saying the helicopter acquisition was critical for the Afghan’s security.

Huh?

Doing business with the country propping up Syria is critical?  With millions of Americans out of work, we can’t built a comparable helicopter in America? Even if it is easier to train pilots on a Russian system, can this investment of American dollars be justified in today’s economy while we scream about Syrian atrocities created by this exact helicopter? Something’s definitely wrong with this picture.

By the way Rosoboronexport still sells weapons to Iran.

Back in 1982, Jack Lemon and Sissy Spacek made a movie entitled Missing, based on a true story. A conservative business man goes to South America looking for his missing son, a left-wing journalist. The America ambassador expresses concern but the country has been in a revolution and no one is sure about what is happening. The punch line is that the CIA pulled off the revolution and killed Lemon’s movie son. The boy had been in a morgue while the American government lied to Lemon. Costa-Gravas (the director) left the audience wrung out as they realize the duplicity of the American system.

Sound familiar?

Are we getting the flim-flam treatment from government leaders? Afraid so. And we wonder why Israel doesn’t trust America’s dealings with Iran? Straight talk doesn’t often come for Washington because the conversation has traveled such a convoluted path under the table.

Why don’t we have more leverage with Russia? Might hurt business.

Question: This blog surprise you? What are you going to do about the problem?

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EGYPT: FIRING THE FIRST SHOT

EGYPT: FIRING THE FIRST SHOT

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi enters office.
His first act? Challenge the military.
Sorry. That’s not the way to kick-off the football game!
The new Egyptian President appears to be dead set on a confrontation with the military. Even thought the Supreme Court had ruled to the contrary, Morsi reconvened the parliament that had been dissolved by the generals. His actions were a direct confrontation with the military establishment which in fact rules the country. So, what is going on in Egypt?
The military has the tanks, guns, ammo, and equipment. The truth is that they control the country and aren’t about to relinquish that role. Morsi only won the election by the slightest margin, but knows that he has the complete backing of the more radical Moslem Brotherhood. The Brotherhood has the ability to fill the streets with protestors screaming and carrying signs. They can pack out Tahrir Square in the snap of a finger. Who do you think is going to win that confrontation? Not Morsi.
Possibly, Mohammed Morsi has chosen a confrontational road in hopes of forcing the military to back down and make way for the rise of an Islamic state. At first blush, it would appear Morsi envisons a state something like Iran. Islamic law rules and everyone is on their knees with their faces on the ground. Will that fly with the military? Obviously not.
There are a number of varieties of Islamic faith. What we hear most about these days is the more extreme right-wing variety. Leaders like Anwar Sadat were not of this stripe, and remained wary of such extreme expressions. Since the Iranian revolution, what has emerged in recent years in that country is an aggressive expression of belief like what the West experienced with Osama Ben Laden. Morsi seems to be heading in this direction of such a fundamentalist government. The recent close vote suggests that at least half of the country are not sympathetic with this confrontational expression of their Moslem faith. However, fundamentalist don’t have a history of paying attention to such factions. Because they believe they are absolutely right, they plow ahead regardless of the struggle and assume their ideas will prevail no matter how formidable the enemy. Some of history’s most tragic battles have resulted from this form of reasoning.
Is Mohammed Morsi going down this rocky road? Let’s hope not. Possibly, he is only trying a political ploy to draw the military out and see if adjustments can be made. On the other hand, with the Moslem Brotherhood’s record, he probably isn’t. If he prevails, get ready for another Iran to emerge. If he fails, the headlines will tell another sad story. Not a good scene no matter which way you throw the dice.

Question: Can the West trust Mohammed Morse? Your opinion.

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The Smoking Gun in Syria

The Smoking Gun in Syria

 

Everyone morning when I turn on the television, I get a new episode of the Syrian story, relating more data on how many the government has killed of its own people. The survivors call for international help, but relief doesn’t come. The United Nations failed to stop the war. (Thanks to Russian and Chinese vetos) The lack of response only affirmed Israel’s belief that the UN cannot be counted on to prevent war and make peace. So, putting my newspaper aside, I ask myself, “Who owns the smoking gun in Syria?”

Surprise ! Surprise! It’s the Russians!

Like a chapter straight out of the old Cold War days, the Russians are once again standing behind the curtains, trying to act anonymous but not able to pull it off. The spot light is on Moscow.

Here’s the bottom line.

The Russians have been providing arms to Syria for years. Soviet-designed truck-mounted rocket launchers, rifles, self-propelled howtizers, etc. come in the front door everyday from Russia. During the attack on Homs, the American state department released statellite images of Soviet-era tanks and rocket launchers aiming at the city. Sure enough, Ivan the Terrible was at work again.

The fact is now clear that without Russia’s backing, including food, medical supplies, and equipment, the Assad regime would essentially be finished. Russian armaments are prolonging the war. Deputy Defense Secretary Anatoly Antonov insisted no Russian weapons were used against the resurgents  in Syria, but of course he offered no proof. Another old Cold War tactic.

What do the Russians get out of the struggle?  Rosoboronexport, a Russian state-owned weapons trading company, has been shipping to Syria while raking in a hefty income for Russia. Whether you call it rubles, dollars, or whatever, it’s big income for Russia.  A veteran security specialist at the Congressional Research Service noted that the value of Russian Arms more than doubled from 2007-2010 returning of $4.7 billion to Russia. No small potatoes there! More than two million Russians are employees in the arms production business. Can’t afford to offend that huge section of the electorate either!

We might note in passing that the only remaining military installation outside of the former Soviet territory is a naval station at Tartus in Northern Syria. Interesting.

Why have the Russians so forcefully resisted an arms embargo against Syria? That one’s not hard to figure out! Ivan doesn’t want anyone toying with his bank account. What raises the ante is that the Russians lost billions of dollars of arms business because of the sanctions against Iran and the fall of Libya. However, after the fall of Qaddafi, Syria increased purchases including buying Yak-130 light attack planes for $550 million.

What do we have here? That old smoke-filled backroom where the good old boys make deals is alive and well. Unfortunately, for Russia and Syria the world is fundamentally united against them. Even the Arab League opposes Assad’s actions. What’s next? I’m certainly not sure and I know of no one who is. However, you can bet the Russians will keep cranking the cash register.

The Soviet Union is gone, but the Russians remain the Russians. Smoking-gun and all.

Question:

Should the United States intervene and begin arming the rebels? If Russia continues to back the Syrian government, can we allow this balance of power to continue?

 

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ISRAEL CAN’T WIN REGARDLESS

ISRAEL CAN’T WIN REGARDLESS

Jews know what it feels like to have the press and public opinion against them. They’ve been faced with the problem forever.

France’s Dreyfus Case in the 1890’s sent Jewish Captain Alfred Dreyfus to Devil’s Island to live under hellish conditions. As the evidence demonstrated, Dreyfus was not guilty although convicted . In 1896, a French solider was discovered to be the real culprit. The anti-Semitism and injustice convinced Theodor Herzel that it was time to start a Jewish state and 50 years later Israel came into being.

Nothing new for Jews. Being blamed for something they didn’t do was an old story.

I’ve been following how events are reported internationally for over 40 years. After reading stories in the American press, I would turn to the Jerusalem Post (which I read religiously every week) and find a different view. I’m not promoting an attack on the press and I remain suspicious of people who react negatively every time a story comes out that they don’t like. However, I am pointing out that there has been a consistent misrepresentation of much that has happened in Israel. Often, it turns out that some journalist needed a story for headquarters and blews an anthill into a Himalayan mountain. I’ve been in Jerusalem and observed minor demonstrations in the Temple Mount area that were later reported as if they have been catastrophic warfare. My eyes told me a different story. Often a half-truth can be more destructive than an outright lie.

Recently, Jordan’s King Abdullah II blamed Israel for the deadlocked Mideast peace process. King Abdullah said the problem was Israel’s “unilateral policies.” He forgot to mention that Yassar Arafat had walked out of talks held by President Bill Clinton because Israel had offered him more than anyone expected, but Arafat knew the war would be over and he didn’t want to stop fighting Israel. Israelis left the Gaza Strip they had taken in battle and walked away. What did this offer get them? Rockets fired daily into Israelis cities. The PLO pulled out of peace talks this Fall and went to the United Nations in an end-around attempt to gain recognition as a nation. Israel didn’t pull out of the peace talks; the Palestinians did!

Our present problem is facing up to the current critical situation as Iran continues to pursue building a nuclear arsenal. Regardless of the American government talk about pressing sanctions, Israel knows that the Obama administration will not order US forces to take military action to stop Iran’s journey down a path that will lead to catastrophe. Israel must face up to the situation alone and without American support.

Nothing new – but it is distressing to say the least.

My point? Will Rogers may only have known what he read in a newspaper, but we can’t settle for that today. I’m suggesting that you take a broader view. Look at many newspapers, including the foreign press. Turn off the politicians running for national office as they’ll say anything to get a few votes. Build up a back log of data to inform you on what is the truth. The world has come to our doorstep. We need to be ready to decipher the issues!

Question:

Is the media possibly prejudiced? How can Israel get a fair deal with the press? Do you believe everything you read in the newspapers of see on television?

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FIGURING WHY RELIGIOUS PARTICIPANTS LIKE TO KILL Part 2

FIGURING WHY RELIGIOUS PARTICIPANTS

LIKE TO KILL

Part Two

            A number of years ago, I was on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem standing near the Al-Aqsa Mosque when I was approached by a Muslim. The man’s eyes flashed with anger and he demanded that I leave the area. In turn, I told him I had as much right to be there as he did. As I watched his fists clench, I realized I was about to be seriously assaulted and backed off. In his opinion, I was an infidel. Could resistance have gotten me killed? On the spot!

In Part One, I insisted this blog isn’t about Muslim bashing. Rather, it is about clarifying why in recent years similar hostilities have become rampant. And they have!

The issue is not “Islamophobia” and misunderstanding Muslims assaults. Christians in many Muslim dominated nations live in constant fear. For example in Nigeria, Christians have been severely persecuted for a long time. A group called Boko Haram vowed to kill all Christians in Nigeria. Over 350 churches were destroyed. The government of Sudan tormented Christians for decades. Leaders in The Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches had to flee Kenya with their families because of Muslim attacks. When Egyptian Coptic Christians, making up 11 percent of the population, marched in Cairo, Egyptian Security Forces drove their trucks into the crowd killing 24 people and injuring over 300. As Islamist prepared to take control in Egypt, over 200,000 Copts fled the country. Christian minorities had lost the protection of their societies.

Anti-Christian violence is a serious, growing, and under reported situation.

In America, the government owes protection to Muslim minorities. Everyone has the right to worship in anyway they choose. The problem is that ideal is not understood around the world. The February 13, 2012 special edition of Newsweek suggested the USA has leverage through the amount of aid and trade we have with these persecuting countries. With the billions of dollars we invest in these offending nations, the American government can pressure countries to no longer tolerate the “Christophobia” being practiced in their streets. Newsweek reported action is long overdue.

When I read these accounts and stories, they remind me of the fact that there is nothing new in these battles. It sounds like a return to the Crusades when Christian warriors on July 15, 1099 marched on Jerusalem and took the city after a bloody struggle with Muslims. Eventually Saladin the Magnificent recaptured the city in October 1187. Distrust, hate, and suspicion have not dampened over the centuries. In our time, we are experiencing another recurrence of these ancient battles.

How can we respond? Jews and Christians need to react according to their faiths and call for understanding and tolerance. We must not return an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Jesus taught that we should love our enemies. I don’t know of a better solution to this ancient crisis?

Question

Is attempting to return love for hate too naive and unrealistic in these tense situations in the Middle East? What can we do to pressure the government to recognize and respond to the persecution of Christians by using economic and political pressure?

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ROSA PARKS A JEW?

ROSA PARKS A JEW?

 

Was Rosa Parks Jewish? Let’s get real. Of course not.

 

But her heroic refusal to give up a seat on a Birmingham, Alabama bus and her rejection of white segregationists still rings out in Israel. You’d think the ultra-Orthodox boys on the back streets of Jerusalem would have heard the music.

They didn’t.

In December, the boys with curls hanging down to their chins tried to force a secular young Jewish woman coming home from work on a Jerusalem public bus to sit in the back. She told them to hang it on their noses. The war was on.

More properly called the haredim, the ultra-orthodox Jewish men thumb their nose at equal rights for all. These most “religious of the religious” believe women exist in a perpetual “come-on” state of being. Never mind, that these holy Joes have missed the fact that the problem of temptation is “in the eye of the beholder.”

Here’s an example.

In Beit Shemesh, a blonde 2nd grade girl’s regular school appearance didn’t reach the proper measuring stick length. The boys in black and white descended on the child spitting and calling her a prostitute. Does it strike you that calling a 2nd grader a prostitute might be a tad extreme? And spitting? It doesn’t take a psychiatrist to figure out which label you paste on these holy Joes.

Jews in America have already gone around this barn way too many times. In early January, the congregation of Beth El in northern New Jersey got another trip when a fire bomb was hurled through the Rabbi Nosson Schuman’s window, sending him and the family into the street. Up the road in Paramus, New Jersey, Congregation K’Hai Adath got the same bonfire treatment. The fire burned itself out; the worry didn’t.

What gives?

Periodically, I walk through Mea Shearim, the ultra-Orthodox quarter of Jerusalem. With my yarmulka firmly planted on my head, I remember that men walking with women is forbidden here. Oh pooh! Even walking with my elderly grandmother might get me in trouble. (Or her!)  Some of these folk would have carried Rosa Parks bodily to the back of the bus.

Women are considered perpetually seductive … oh yes, and inferior. Barbara Friedman will find that interesting. So, we find two different problems that are strangely similar. Prejudicial fire bombs in New Jersey; Prejudicial treatment of women and girls in Israel.

You ask again, what gives?

Though different in kind from the Haredi, far-right wing extremist made attacks in mid-December near Ramat Gilad. They slaughtered a holy cow in a most unkosher manner. (Holy cow, indeed!). Hit by a thrown rock, a Lt. Colonel felt the worst insult was being called a Nazi only a month after his grandmother died who had survived the Shoah. (Holocaust)

What gives is that gentiles must not let the nonsense reflect on Israel’s character. A small number of extremists don’t color the nation’s character anymore than nut cases playing with matches represent New Jersey. And here’s a sad footnote. Prof. Menachem Friedman, an expert on Jewish cults explains that the extremists are a reaction to the Shoah. Because they missed it, they feel they must take some public and extreme action to validate their Jewishness. Okay. But how about leaving 2nd grade children and hard working woman alone.

The vast majority of Israelis agree. They are now shouting, “Stop the nonsense!” Sounds good to me. That’s Israel at its best.

Can we allow people with divergent beliefs to force their opinions down our throat? Should Israel throw open its doors to the practices of the ultra-Orthodox even when they cause some people to stumble?

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Love imparts Life…

One of my observations is that love imparts life.
Strange as it might seen, when we give love we are adding a divine and holy energy into people’s lives. It’s amazing to watch people who are struggling with illness perk up when they know we truly care for them. The better we become at loving people, the more we strengthen the weak and encourage the struggling.

Can you think of a better way to spend your time?

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Friendship that’s a Cancer….

Yesterday I interviewed a man who is dying with Ewing’s Cancer. It is a rare disease in which cancer cells are found in the boneor in soft tissue. The most common areas in which it occurs are the pelvis, the femur, the humerus, the ribs and clavicle.. He’d been a Marine in Iraq before being hit by the dreadful disease. He was in the care of his wife and most likely, won’t live more than a few weeks at most. Probably less. During our time together I asked him what he’d learned from his painful struggle.
He told me that he’d been deeply disappointed in how few friends had stuck with him. Most didn’t know what to do with a friend dying.  He realized that some just were interested in what he could do for them. Those friends drifted away. He also told me that his painful journey had helped him come to know what a true friend was.
Reflecting after the interview, I thought how important it is to stay close to our friends or anyone struggling with pain. We do have the capacity to impart love through our caring. Could there be a better gift?

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