Tag Archives: new political realities


BLOG 321 October 10, 2016

The past is always an important part of the present in Israel. The precedents set 2,000 years ago continue to effect what occurs in religious and political decisions today. Archeologists keep looking for pieces in the ever-growing puzzle. A fascinating part of this quest just turned up.

A gold coin struck somewhere around 56 AD (CE) with the image of the emperor Nero was found during an excavation on Mount Zion, just outside Jerusalem’s old city. An emperor for 14 years, Nero is remembered for killing his mother, executing Apostles Peter and Paul, and burning Rome. And now—Bingo! The countenance of his head surrounded by NERO CAESAR AVG IMP (implying Roman Imperial coinage) turns up in as pile of rubble from a first century Jewish villa. Amazing!

Within current Judaism, changes continue. In late March, the government made the decision to allow women and non-Orthodox Jews to have space to pray at the Western Wall. The High Court of Justice also made the decision that ordered the state to recognize conversions to Judaism that occurred beyond the purview of the Chief Rabbinate, meaning all converts could claim Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return.

The consequence of these rulings is that conversions within all Jewish communities are now valid in Israel. Whether it be Reformed, Conservative, or Orthodox groups, all are accepted within the state of Israel.

The monopoly that the Orthodox held over the state of Israel has been broken. When Israel was constituted a nation on May 16, 1948, the Orthodox grabbed the positions of authority and situated themselves in control of religious life and activities. Their subsequent involvement in Israeli politics kept them in place. Over the years the Reformed, Conservative, as well as women’s group protested this exclusivity. The Orthodox control has now been ended.

A group of women rabbis now called Women of the Wall also protested that they wanted a place at the Western Wall to pray and read the Torah scroll. They will now be able to do at the southern end of the wall.

A golden coin from the world of Nero and the contemporary world’s ever expanding inclusion of all positions and sexes reminds us that change continues in an on-going march.

However, Nero worked for exclusion; our world works for inclusion.

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Filed under Israel, Judaism, middle east


Blog 292 March 1, 2016

Every few centuries the Middle East explodes. The cards are reshuffled and a new hand is dealt. The so-called “Arab Spring” signaled such a change. Egypt threw President Mubarak out. Syria plunged into civil war. Iraq fell apart. Out of the mess, ISIS emerged. “Spring” turned into “winter.”

Consequently, the entire future milieu of the Middle East must be reassessed if we are to make sense out of the ever-widening chaos. Old perspectives on “the way we were” now must be re-evaluated around “the way it is.” Clearly, a different world is evolving

Israel is deadlocked with the Palestinians. The Palestinian Authority is weaker than ever. They have no traction with their many appeals to international groups (like the United Nations) with Prime Minister Netanyahu twiddles his thumbs and does nothing.

Various voices inside Israel now content there can be no two-state solution. This has not proved helpful to either side. Many believe there will be no breakthrough until both Abbas and Netanyahu leave office.

On the other hand, Jordan is currently threatened by ISIS and massive waves of refugees. Egypt has its own struggles with ISIS hopefuls in Sinai while el-Sisi struggles with economic problems and instability in Cairo. At the same time, there are serious strains in the Sunni axis led by Saudi Arabia and Egypt while the Turks can’t reconnect with Israel. These options don’t allow Israelis to sleep any better at night.

Turkey remains a wild card. While they worry about the Kurds and their possible drive for independence, the Turks are trying to establish their own influence in northern Iraq. Can they? Stay tuned.

Israel’s earlier fears of an Arab army threat are now replaced with the realization of a greater danger from singular terrorists with frightening technology that might pop up anywhere. Maj. General Nitzal Alon recently stated that Israeli intelligence must start way beyond their borders through cooperation with countries like Jordan and Egypt. The general said they can no longer focus just on the Golan Heights, Gaza, or Sinai.

At the same time, new waves of Jewish settlers are moving in and settling well beyond the 1967 boundaries and want to annex more of the ancient biblical lands that are actually in the West Band area. They fear leadership like Ariel Sharon that gave back Gaza and suspect Netanyahu is cut out of the same cloth. Religious Zionism is not interested in democracy because they reach toward a theocracy.

These changes mean the region is going to be reshaped in a fashion no one can currently foresee. Once the blood letting stops, probably new political realities will emerge based far more on ethnic, tribal, and religious affiliations. It may be well be the case that the old historic agendas will no longer apply. Such a reversal could be the start of a new day (lasting maybe for a couple of centuries) At this point, such possibilities lay far off in the blurry future, but they are part of the mix.

Is there any place more interesting than the Middle East? Screaming American politicians acting like 6th grade school children is always good for a few laughs, but the re-arrangement of the entire Middle East makes for far more lasting , stimulating, and fascinating attention.

Let’s watch it unfold.

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Filed under Arabs, Israel, middle east