A Dilemma and a Constructive
Approach ... for a change
There are aspects of this issue that yet to surface in public attention, and very few people work to foster new ideas that will mend fences among Jews at this time.
The Reform and Conservative movements in Israel themselves do not recognize the aberrations of the new standards of American Reform, that now includes some Rabbis who perform interfaith marriages, the majority who recognize people as Jews even if only their fathers are Jewish, and some who allow for same-sex marriages.
These are not the traditional standards that my grandfather taught me when he was an active Reform Jew. And only because Reform has changed my grandfather's standards, Israel now protects itself by not extending general recognition to all conversions and all standards of Jewish identity.
Secular Israeli society fears that if Reform and Conservative were allowed free reign in Israel, then they would do the same thing that they have done in the US, namely, to abandon principle in favor of "pluralism".
Imagine what a situation we would face if we would see ads in the Israeli papers here for a "same-sex" wedding at the King David Hotel, an interfaith wedding ceremony at the LaRomme Hotel, and to then to get an invitation to a wedding at the Carelton Hotel to a couple who have no pretensions about being Jewish because only their fathers are Jews.
Reform and Conservative Jews are more than welcome to come to Israel to help Judaize a country that now copes with a strong internal Israeli antisemitic fervor, that was expressed in the previous government, when retired Israel Minister of Education Shulamit Baloney virtually eliminated Jewish instruction from the public education school system, as a result of which we have a new generation of Israeli children who are growing up without any sense of Jewish or Zionist history, let alone exposure to Bible, Talmud or other Jewish sources, even from a secularist point of view.
Tragically, instead of the small Reform and Conservative movements joining with the Orthodox to find ways to reach out to the majority of the Israeli Jewish population who see themselves as "traditional", if not Orthodox Jews, both the Conservative and Reform movements have joined a coaltion known as HEMDAT, which is currently conducting a vigiorous campaign to force an observant Jew to open the shopping center that he owns on Shabbat. HEMDAT is also working to stop the government from protecting the rights of Jews so that they will not have to work on Shabbat. The previous Israeli government worked to allow new firms in Israel to open their industries also on Shabbat, making it difficult for even traditional Jews who would rather rest one day a week to get a job.
I will close with a practical, positive and constructive suggestion, and that is to weave the best of Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Jews into informal educational facilities throughout the state of Israel. They would be more than welcome, by Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike.
To relate a short personal and professional account: more than twenty years ago, I ran educational summer camping day programs for junior high school students from religious schools in Israeli development towns. The idea was to enthuse these kids to stay in school and to stay with their Jewish identity. I hired fifteen counselors with experience at Camp Ramah and UAHC, and they worked for two summers in the art of applying the best of their know-how from where they came from. Having children wake up in the morning to debbie friedman songs of prayer and having children write their own poems to God were powerful lessons that these kids never forgot. At the end of the first summer, I was called in by an elderly Yemenite superintendent of religious education at the main office of the Israel Ministry of Education in Jerusalem. I did not know why he wanted to see me. I remember to this day how I opened the door to his office, and how HE greeted me with a warm handshake, asking me if I could get some more counselors like this who worked from their hearts in education. He could have cared less that none of the counselors were Orthodox in practice.
The message is very clear. The non-Orthodox Jewish world can make a deep and serious contribution to Israel. They will be loved, appreciated and not patronized if they do so. That is what KLAL YISRAEL - the people of Israel- should be like.
The first revelations were reported on the evening of April 10, 1997. The partially decomposed body of Staff Sgt. Sharon Edri was unearthed in the Arab village of Tzurif by the IDF. Sharon Edri, a twenty year-old Jewish soldier who went missing September 9, 1996, was finally found, dead. Although denials of less the than admirable behavior of the Israeli police concerning the Edri case rang throughout the media, the police could not hide from their claims all along that Edri had disappeared for his own reasons and went into hiding due to personal difficulties with army life. The police even suggested that Edri had committed suicide. Regardless of family cries that Sharon was not that kind of young man, the police insisted that they knew otherwise. Now the blue of the Israeli police is red from embarrassment and shame. Why? Two reasons account for the stunningly inadequate conduct of the police, security agents and most government officials (Minister of Defense Yitzhak Mordechai is one exception). The first reason may be expected due to the nature of the Israeli socialist beast, that is to say, the government and its bureaucrats knew the soldier better than his family. However, the second reason (upon which the first reason is primarily based) is totally incomprehensible and key individuals must be held accountable for the supposition that because there was no intelligence reports about terrorist activities, Sharon Edri could not have been a victim of this sort of foul- play. In other words, the absence of any hard data on terrorist activities clearly indicated to these bureaucrats that none existed.
Israeli officials were unwilling or unable to believe that organized terror was thriving under their noses as the hear no evil, see no evil, do no evil, Palestinian security forces looked the other way. There were no intelligence reports of terrorist activities because there was no intelligence. Israel, as a gesture of good-will and trust removed it agents from Palestinian controlled areas leaving those Arabs who cooperated with Israel as canon fodder for the PA "preventive" security forces. Countless Arab informants were massacred at the hands of Arafat's minions. Israel's vast web of informational resources came to an abrupt end as Palestinian death squads targeted Arabs cooperating with Israel's security agents. Israeli pompous certainty that if something was going on, they would know about it, led to their inability to accept the reality that terrorist activity of this kind had not ceased.
The authorities finally learned of Sharon Edri's tragic fate through what can only be described as a sequence of mishaps on the part of the terrorists. The book on a number of terror attacks remained open with no intelligence information pointing in a particular direction. Israeli security agents were unable to string the pieces together until the Apropo cafe terrorist bombing in Tel Aviv on March 21, 1997 gave the first clue. The bomber, who now appears was not supposed to die in the explosion, was from the infamous Arab village of Tzurif in Judea just outside of Hebron.
Tzurif is infamous because the Arab residents of the village were responsible for the mass slaughter of thirty-five Palmach fighters in the 1948 War of Independence. The result of Tzurif's butchery in 1948 was the loss of the Gush Etzion settlement from Israeli control. The "Lamed Hay Battalion" (thirty-five), was to bring supplies to Jews under siege by troops of the Jordanian Legion, they never made it and all was lost.
Although Tzurif still remains under Israeli military administration, it took Israeli investigators until April 10th to uncover a fully functioning Hamas cell operating out of the Arab village. The reason the terrorist cell was so difficult to expose was not because of Israeli ineptitude, but because of its blindness. The terrorists were able to move in and out of Palestinian controlled Hebron and Halhoul, well protected by their neighbors and the Palestinian security forces. Israel's dismantling of its intelligence infrastructure in Judea and Samaria prevented information relating to terrorist activities from reaching Israeli security agents. Oslo was supposed to ensure that Palestinian security forces do the job that Israeli security forces once did. The lack of adequate preventative security measures by the Palestinian para-military police should come as no surprise and the blame is squarely upon the shoulders of Israel for entrusting a sworn enemy with the job of protecting the Jewish people. The Tel Aviv bomber, it ends up, was part of a cell of tens of terrorists responsible for at least eleven Jewish murders and numerous attempted murders going back to November of 1995.
This terror unit kidnapped and brutally murdered Sharon Edri; shot dead Major Dr. Oz Tivon, Sgt. Yaniv Shimmel, Efrat Unger, Yaron Unger, Uri Munk, Rachel Munk, Ze'ev Munk; blew up Anat Rosen Winter, Dr. Michal Meidan, Yael Gilad and injured 49 others as Israel, with its Oslo preoccupation, sat idly by. All this while the "peace process" was in full-swing and Nobel Peace Prizes were still being fondled by their recipients. Wishing for peace is not enough in the Middle East, in fact, it is criminal when it means the death of Israelis at the hands of their "peace partners".
Had not Israel unilaterally withdrew its intelligence apparatus from Judea and Samaria, such a horror might not have occurred. Peres, Beilin and company need run to a city of refuge lest the family and friends of Staff Sgt. Sharon Edri hunt them down for the murder of this young man. Television pictures of Edri's family, still hoping their son and brother would return for Passover, can never be expressed in words as they received the news of their loved one's murder at the hands of ruthless terrorists.
A commission to prosecute the crime of genocide need be convened against those responsible for what in years past would have been terrorist atrocities quickly halted by bullets of undercover Israeli security agents. How many of the known Jews murdered by the Hamas cell could have been saved? Jewish blood covers the hands of all those involved, both the Arab murderers and the Jewish collaborators. While Israel found a pact with the devil, satan's agents were busy sacrificing Jews upon the alter of their aspirations to wipe out the entire Jewish nation.
Every Jew must be sickened by the revelation that as Israel let down its guard, terrorist utilized the opportunity to kill. The Arab/Islamic plan is no less than genocidal and the Israeli lackeys that allowed this heinous force to exercise its will are guilty of the worst form of collaboration. The vile nature of this crime is unspeakable. The righteous indignation of the Israeli "peace" proponents only compound their collective guilt, making their behavior beyond words. Not only must Oslo and the "spirit of Oslo" be immediately abandoned, but all those responsible should be forced to account for their actions.
A call of sanity, of normalcy, of self-preservation necessarily must be sounded from every corner of the Jewish world. Not one moment longer can the Jewish people allow the obscenity of the "process" to continue. The "new chances" and "rare opportunities" for peace that rock the Israeli/Jewish body politic every few weeks as part of the "process" are nothing more than ruses in the continuing battle to destroy the Jewish nation in the Land of Israel. Nothing has changed in Tzurif just has nothing changed in the Arab desire to rid the Land of Israel of the Jews. There exists a hatred that runs deeper than peace and economic prosperity. This is the lesson of the infamous Arab village of Tzurif and Israel must now learn it.
Dr. HaKohen is the head of B'tzedek
Beit Tzurif: Candidate
for "Collective Punishment"?
Two weeks ago, there was a discussion about the morality of collective punishment in the context of the latest wave of terror attacks in Israel.
The town of Beit Tzurif, located next to Cfar Etzion, just south of Bethlehem, on the road to Tel Aviv, has given full and complete support to the murders of Israeli citizens that have been performed by at least 18 of its residents.
Every journalist who has visited the town is amazed by the sight - children, old people, women, men, you name it - support the killings.
And this is a well-to-do village, not a refugee camp, posesses lands under its ownership and productive fields of fruit trees, while a high percentage of the town works in academia, services and government.
Indeed, the man arrested for masterminding the murders of 11 Israelis and wounding 49 Palestinians is none other than the director of the main hospital in Hebron and a resident of Beit Tzurif.
This town is the same village that "took credit" for massacring the 35 Haganah reinforcements to Cfar Etzion in January 1948 and massacring Cfar Etzion AFTER their surrender in May 1948. This is also the home village of Faisel Husseini.
In 1967, Israel Minister of education Yigal Allon, who commanded the Palmach in 1948, suggested hat the IDF raze the village of Beit Tzurif, an idea that Israel Minister of Defence Moshe Dayan rejected.
As things stand now, Beit Tzurif is about to join the Palestine Authority, with the IDF transforming it into another "legally" armed camp of the Palestine Liberation Army, in striking distance of Tel Aviv.
Most people in Israel do not know where Beit Tzurif is - the Israeli media reports that it is in the "Hebron district", which means "somewhere over the rainbow" to most people.
It is no comfort to note that most residents of the Jewish communities of the Etzion region have no idea where Beit Tzurif is located.
How should Israel cope with a village that is committed to killing Jews?
Back in 1970, when I was a visiting student at the Hebrew University. thanks to the initiative of Hebrew University educator Mike Rosenak, Prof Nechama Leibowitz was the first teacher whom I met in Israel.
She gave her model Bible lesson, and gave us the ground rules: bring a full Bible to every class, do not chew gum, ask lots of questions, and "call me Nechama", she would often say, with her perennial smile, beret, and good humor.
"Nechama", as she indeed preferred to be called, gave lessons in the Great Book to anyone and everyone, always ready to receive invitations to speak, at schools, youth clubs, or in your very home.
Nechama synthesized two worlds as a teacher.
Nechama relied on all the traditional sources - Abarbanel, Ramban, Rashi, and more, yet she made the Bible story come alive with a potpourri of modern analogies, always to make her point.
Who will ever forget Nechama's unique way of introducing the "Joseph Story" - "Now what was that 'Jew-boy' doing in the palace of a king and how did he get there?"
As she did with Joseph, Nechama made each significant figure of each character in the Bible. Often, I would watch her sip tea in the Hebrew University and seek out students to talk with and teach. It didnít matter who the student was or where the student was from. And outside the University, Nechama made herself wecome in kibbutzim, in Mea Shearim, and in every walk of Israeli life.
Something refreshing at a time of increasing internal Israeli religious strife.
Two experiences with Nechama tell something about her.
Many years ago, when I went to work at a Jewish summer camp in the US, I asked Nechama for advice about preparing the Bible curriculum at the camp. She asked me to meet her right away. I thought that a busy lecturer and author like this would not have the time for such things. Nechama spent the better part of four hours helping me create a curriculum that transformed what might have been a bunch of boring lectures into what we today would become an interactive Torah theatre for children, and the kids loved it.
The other experience that I had was much more personal. I had long ago made a quiet prayer that if I were ever to have a daughter, that they would be able to understand and teach the Torah with the love and the vigor of Nechama.
So, when we had our first girl, eleven months after our first boy, I called Nechama and asked her if she would come and give a shiur in honor of our baby Rivka, on the subject that I had heard her speak during my first week in Israel: Rivka and the attribute of hesed.
At the same time, I asked Nechama if she had any objections to us adding a name in her honor, so that she would be Rivka Nechama. I knew that Nechama did not have any children. Nechama did not hesitate to give her agreement to the gesture, and she also agreed to come to Tzfat for Shabbat.
After word spread in Tzfat that Nechama was coming, more than three hundred people showed up on the lawn of the Wolfson community center, carrying Bibles - at Nechama's request.
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