Tag Archives: Israel Defense Forces

The IDF’s Wonderful Project ‘Great in Uniform’ welcomes special needs individuals into the service

Female soldiers at the Kotel (Western Wall) . Photo: Courtesy of Tova Lipson

I’ve written about the IDF before – when my daughter handed a chayal (soldier) a flower and in a post highlighting our chayalim bodidim (lone soldiers). Yesterday a friend shared a video (on Facebook, of course) about another type of chayal and I was so taken by it that I have to share with you, too. I was aware that the IDF integrated disabled young teens and adults into the army but was not aware of the scope of this project until I watched the video.

Whether or not one is actually serving in the IDF, it still plays a major part in the life of most of us living here in Israel just because of the ubiquitous presence of soldiers in uniform, many traveling with  a giant backpack and a gun slung over their shoulder. In the U.S. a soldier in uniform is a rare sighting; here it is an everyday occurrence. It is so much part and parcel of life in Israel, and a right of passage for many, that until recently young adults with developmental and/or physical disabilities felt very left out not being able to serve alongside their peers. In 2001 Maj. Col. (res.) Ariel Almog changed the reality for the disabled when he initiated the ‘Great in Uniform’ project enabling them to serve their country.  They are part of the Israeli Defense Forces  for three years providing valuable service. At the same time they gain important skills and receive needed support and guidance so that they can lead independent lives in Israel after they are discharged. Almog, who was seriously wounded preventing a suicide bomber from perpetrating an attack as well as taking out his accomplice, spent two and a half months in the hospital. While there he saw many disabled young adults and it occurred to him that they deserve an opportunity to serve their country just like everyone else. When he returned to duty he initiated project ‘Great in Uniform’.

The association Lend a Hand to a Special Child (Yad La’Yeled HaMeyuchad in Hebrew)  has recently teemed up with the  ‘Great in Uniform’ project to help ramp up and increase the scale of participation in the defense forces for special needs teens and young adults. Lend a Hand was started in 2005 by parents of disabled children. Israel National News’ article, of May 8, 2014, Special Needs Soldiers Are ‘Great in Uniform’ discusses the motivation behind Lend a Hand’s collaboration with the ‘Great in Uniform’ project and how important it is for the individuals who volunteer their service:

Rabbi Mendi Belinitzki, CEO of Lend a Hand to a Special Child, explained that the project “starts in the army but doesn’t end there. We can clearly see how afterwards it leads to a better integration into the society, the community and the workforce.” Belinitzki added that his organization “will expand the project so that G-d willing, thousands more teenagers throughout the country will be able to join the project.”

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The Jewish Press, in their article of May 9, 2014, Project ‘Great in Uniform’: Integrating Those with Special Needs says of Almog and the program:

Lt. Col. Almog’s spirit, passion and ongoing care are an inspiration to everyone involved with the organization. A man whose incredible bravery on the field of battle is well known, and who’s bravery off the field of battle in taking on this important mission is just as impressive. The project enables young Israelis with disabilities to perform significant supportive and productive tasks as part of IDF service.

Today we are proud of the IDF not only for its military achievements at home and humanitarian accomplishments around the world, but also because it provides a shining example of what a little bit of caring can do to improve the lives of  our developmentally and/or physically disabled brothers and sisters. Donations can be made by clicking here.

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How to be proud of Israel

Flag of Israel with the Mediterranean...Within the course of several days I read three interesting articles regarding Israel that I thought merited sharing. One of them bothered me very much;  I thought it deserved comment because it was rather unfortunate that an orthodox Jewish college student is taking up the mantra of left-wing anti-Semites; the other two, because they show Israel for what it is – a state built upon Jewish ethics and caring, and a land which has been waiting for Israel, it’s rightful owners, to return.

The “unfortunate” article appeared this past Sunday in the Jerusalem Post. It was an opinion piece by Atara Siegel  explaining “Why Israel is losing support from Jewish students on US college campuses“. (I still can’t figure out the Jerusalem Post’s weird choice of accompanying picture of a female student at Barnard College’s graduation ceremony who looks like an animal  about to pounce.) I expected this to either be enlightening or an article coming from a left-leaning anti-Israel student in one of the many liberal/secular colleges across the country.  Atara Siegel is, surprisingly, a student at Yeshiva University who felt the need  to explain to the world that although she loves Israel, studied here for a year, plans on working here in the summer, and making sure her education would be transferable to Israel she refuses to lobby Congress on behalf of Israel. Why? Because no matter how much good Israel does in the world it’s not enough since Israel is not a “perfect country” and the Israeli people are not perfect people. She writes:

… I wish I could ignore painful articles about price tag attacks and settlers shooting Palestinians, and simply write to American politicians and newspapers about Israel’s commitment to the security of its citizens, its medical and technological advances and aid to third world countries. But I can’t.

… Of course no country is perfect…

… But even one racist slur is a problem, even one unprovoked price tag attack damages Israel’s claim to have the moral high ground in its relations with Palestinians.

And when it is not just one racist slur, but many, not just marginal extremists involved in the melee, but Knesset ministers, it becomes harder, even for someone with a deep love for Israel, to advocate for Israel as the most democratic country and most stable American ally in the Middle East.

As someone who loves Israel deeply, this trend is extremely saddening. In addition to coming to visit, working in and studying in Israel, I want to be proud of Israel, too.

The next article  in Mishpacha Magazine’s January 9, 2013  issue, titled “Open Hearts in the War Zone” presents the perfect juxtaposition to Atara Siegel’s piece. It shows the true nature of the Jewish State and the Jewish people – and makes me really proud of Israel and her wonderful people!

Taking cover as Iron Dome swings into action.

The author, Rachel Ginsberg, relates the experiences of a team of American Hatzaloh volunteers who were called to Israel to assist during the recent Operation Amud Anan – Pillar of Defense. They had  previously trained in Israel so that they could come here and pitch-in during emergency situations. These fine people who came to help out their brothers, rather than castigate them,  exclaim about how amazing Israel really is:

[Mordechai] Soroka [of Brooklyn] says one of the most surprising things he witnessed was the similar care administered to Arab patients, in spite of the hostilities on the ground. …’We provided ventilation and medication and high-level care for over an hour,’ [Eliyahu] Feldman [of Miami] reported. ‘It’s impossible to convey our mixed feelings, except to say what the well-spoken IDF commander answered when asked why we render care to Palestinians: ‘Because we’re not them.’

And the next day…

it happened again.

The third article, Israel’s miraculous climate changepresents a rather interesting (and seldom heard) long view of history  by Joseph Farah, a pro-Israel Arab-American. It’s a great read and I hope you enjoy and appreciate it as much as I did:

JERUSALEM – Here I am in Israel, and what am I
thinking about?

Climate change.

Why climate change?

For 1,800 years it seemed unlikely that Israel would ever be reborn.

No nation in history had ever been regathered after such a lengthy period. Even the Hebrew language was lost in that time.

Meanwhile, the Promised Land became a barren wasteland – a desert no man could master.

Have you ever wondered why the Holy Land became a wasteland during the 1,800-year dispersion of the Jews that lasted until they returned in significant numbers beginning in the early 20th century?

1750 Homann Heirs Map of Israel - Palestine - ...

1750 Homann Heirs Map of Israel – Palestine – Holy Land (12 Tribes) – Geographicus – Palestina-homannheirs-1750 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Have you ever wondered why Mark Twain was so disappointed at what he found in his travels through the area in the 19th century?

Have you ever wondered why, during that period of nearly two millennia, no other people successfully and permanently settled this land that is so much in dispute today?

It was all a fulfillment of prophecy. Little did Mark Twain know when he wrote about his trip to the Holy Land that he was fulfilling prophecy, but he was.

1 Kings 9:6-8 explains it all:

“But if ye shall at all turn from following me, ye or your children, and will not keep my commandments and my statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods, and worship them: Then will I cut off Israel out of the land which I have given them; and this house, which I have hallowed for my name, will I cast out of my sight; and Israel shall be a proverb and a byword among all people: And at this house, which is high, every one that passeth by it shall be astonished, and shall hiss; and they shall say, Why hath the Lord done thus unto this land, and to this house?”

It wasn’t just the children of Israel who suffered as a result of their disobedience and apostasy. So did the land itself.

In his book, “Prophecies for the Era of Muslim Terror,” Rabbi Menachem Kohen points out the land suffered an unprecedented, severe and inexplicable (by anything other than supernatural explanations) drought that lasted from the first century until the 20th – a period of 1,800 years coinciding with the forced dispersion of the Jews.

Kohen sees this as a miraculous fulfillment of prophecy found in the book of Deuteronomy – especially chapter 28:23-24:

“And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron.

“The LORD shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed.”

The climate in Israel dramatically changed during this 1,800-period – way before Al Gore discovered “global warming.”

Before the Jews entered Canaan, it was described in the Bible as a land flowing with milk and honey. If you read what Israel’s climate and natural landscape was like from the time Joshua crossed the Jordan right up until the time of Jesus, it sounds like a heavily forested land. There were amazing crops raised by the people who inhabited the land when the Jews arrived.

Once I wondered what happened to Israel to turn it into the dusty, arid land it was when the Jews came back in the 20th century. Until I read that prophecy in Deuteronomy, brought to my attention by Rabbi Kohen, I had no clue.

For 1,800 years, it hardly ever rained in Israel. This was the barren land discovered by Mark Twain. So-called “Palestine” was a wasteland – nobody lived there. There was no indigenous Arab population to speak of. It only came after the Jews came back.

Beginning in A.D. 70 and lasting until the early 1900s – about 660,000 days – no rain.

I decided to check this out as best I could and examined the rainfall data for 150 years in Israel beginning in the early 1800s and leading up to the 1960s. What I found was astonishing – increasing rainfall almost every single year – with the heaviest rainfall coming in and around 1948 and 1967. Is this just a coincidence?

I’ll be quite honest with you: I don’t think so.

Nor do I think Israel can continue today to make bad stewardship decisions regarding the land bequeathed to the Jews by God without consequences – serious consequences.

And that’s exactly what Israel is doing today – yielding to global pressure to trade “land for peace.” It won’t work. In fact, the prophet Daniel (Daniel 11:39) warns that this will eventually happen in the last days – and bring about the final conflagration known as “Armageddon.”

That’s why I believe in climate change. But it’s not the imaginary kind caused by carbon dioxide. It’s caused by the Creator of carbon dioxide – and everything else.

He’s still got a plan for this land of Israel. And He is absolutely intolerant of anyone or anything that interferes with it.

And considering the tremendous amount of rainfall we had here in Israel just this past week, I would say that G-d is still on our side (even if Atara isn’t).

I would just like to remind Atara of two things: (1) even our patriarchs, matriarchs, and greatest leaders like Moshe Rabeinu (Moses) and Dovid Hamelech (King David)  were not perfect and (2) of the sin of the spies’ (Numbers ch. 13-14) derogatory report about the land of Israel and the aftermath.

As for me,  I’m a proud Jew, proud of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel, and honored to be living in our land.

This is MY TERRITORY

When one talks about being American, Canadian, Israeli, British, Ethiopian, Russian, etc., it’s very often a cultural identification, rather than a geographic one. The longer one has lived in their country of origin, the more ingrained the cultural references, habits, ways of thinking and relating to people and the world become.  So, when one finds oneself smack dab in the middle of Israel, by their own volition, is one obliged to become Israeli? Is one automatically required to shed their frames of reference and take on Israeli outlooks and mannerisms for everything from what’s considered polite and acceptable behavior to the Israeli way of washing floors? Or does being Israeli (as that’s how the government recognizes olim) simply mean having an allegiance to the country, adapting and slowly adopting as much as possible and necessary while retaining your core essence? In a very humorous website, How to be Israeli , blogger Maya, who made aliyah from the U.S.  in early 2008, gives her take on the idiosyncrasies of Israeli life and culture as viewed by an American on everything from the Israeli version of a mop to the correct pronunciation of the name of a major Israeli supermarket chain to the difference between what is considered rude and polite in Israel vs. the States.

How hard or easy one’s acculturation process is probably depends upon one’s like/dislike for their country of origin as well as their personal attitude towards change. I would also venture that the more one is “moving to Israel,” rather than away from their home country, also plays a great part in their willingness and ease of adaptation.  A very interesting article entitled “A local girl in the IDF”  includes a letter from former Fresno, California resident Darrow Pierce, whose (progressive) opinions of Israel changed as a result of making aliyah and joining the IDF. She concludes:

I once heard that moving to Israel is like a marriage — you give, take, fight, love, disagree, compromise, and work on your relationship with the country and the people. For some it doesn’t work out, and others are happy for the rest of their lives. I don’t know what’ll happen after I discharge from the army, but for now, my marriage is going great.

If I was to compare making aliyah to marriage, I would say that a great determining factor as to whether or not you succeed is your level of commitment. Going  into a marriage – do you expect it to work and to work it – do you believe that you are marrying your bashert (destined) or do you tell yourself that if things don’t work out there’s  always the option of divorce? Or in terms of aliyah, did you come to Israel because this is the place you want to be, where Hashem (G-d) has prepared a place for you, or do you expect that if things don’t work out, you can always return to your home country? The better you are prepared emotionally, the more realistic your expectations, and the more willing you are to weather  and work through the tough times, the greater chance of success  you give your marriage/aliyah.  If the option of divorce/return is on the table before you’ve entered the relationship/made aliyah, IMHO, this mode of thinking makes one less likely to stick with it and overcome the challenges; you’ve most likely undermined the success of the venture before you’ve even started out.

Maya, in her post “Aliyah after the honeymoon,” uses the marriage analogy as well:

The aliyah-as-marriage analogy works in many other ways, too: you must get to know each other first, you must be committed, you must discuss money and how to raise the kids and where to live. (I bet that the percentage of people who “divorce” aliyah over financial concerns is at least as high as the percentage of marriages that dissolve over money.) I once heard someone say that the best indication of how happy you will be in a marriage is how happy you are out of it. In other words, if you are miserable, don’t expect marriage (or aliyah) to transform you. We are responsible for our own happiness. As I waited for aliyah, I reminded myself to practice enjoying life then so that I would be able to enjoy life in Israel.

Reflecting on my previous relocation from New York to New Jersey, I realized that after having lived in New York for many years, I didn’t feel like a New Jersey-ite all of a sudden.  My body may have crossed state lines, but I considered myself a New Yorker for quite a while afterward. I was more interested to learn what Mayor Bloomberg was doing to/for New York City than about anything that was going on in New Jersey. Truthfully, I had no frame of reference or understanding about local and state politics at that point and I wasn’t sure I cared. Over time, however, that slowly changed. I don’t know when it happened, but at some point I stopped thinking of myself as a New Yorker.  I could no longer vote in New York State and my interest and connection dwindled; New Jersey became my home.

I was therefore quite pleasantly surprised not long ago, to realize the degree of ownership I feel here already. When listening to Binyamin Netanyahu (I’ve not gotten to the familiar “Bibi” stage yet) address Congress recently, I took umbrage when he magnanimously offered major land concessions in return for “piece” – the little piece we would keep.  What right does he have to offer so much of Yehuda and Shomron (Judea and Samaria), I said to myself – it’s my land and I don’t approve!

Most wonderful, however, was hearing my daughter, Tova, express similar sentiments to her friend who was visiting from the States. Trying to arrange a meeting place in Yerushalayim  over the phone, her friend was anxious about traveling in the area – it wasn’t her territory. Tova, trying to give directions, responded – “well, it’s my territory.” And, the other day, a friend, still stateside, asked Tova if she was bored. “Bored!” she exclaimed. “It’s a different culture!” I’m so glad she’s embracing and enjoying the differences.

As much as making aliyah involves learning a different language and different way of life, it is also just the opposite – it’s living in a country where everybody speaks the same language and runs on the same calendar as you do. It’s the most comfortable place to be Jewish.  For the first time we truly feel that we’re in the place where we belong.  With time the rest will come, but we’ve already got the most important part.

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Still exiled?



Toward the end of a phone conversation with a dear friend of mine in the States about making aliyah (moving to Israel), about our having made aliyah, she opined that even though we are now living in Israel we are still living in galut (exile). Her comment bothered me. I never thought about it before. Is it true that we are still exiled even while living in Israel? I wondered, and, if yes, does it diminish our (and every other oleh‘s) aliyah and commitment to living in Israel? Was she implying that it is unnecessary, maybe even pointless?

The implication rankled me but didn’t affect my conviction. After we made the easy/hard decision to pack up and leave the United States, the North American continent, place of our birth (Andy is Canadian), and our friends and family to move halfway across the globe, I started reading  about the mitzvah, the imperative,  to live today in Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel. Previously unopened books  as well as various pamphlets that I found while sorting out my father’s, z”l,  library exhorting diaspora Jews to make aliyah, suddenly became not only interesting but  personally relevant.  Often quoted were the writings of Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of Israel, (whose grandnephew, Rabbi Simcha HaCohen Kook, is the Chief Rabbi of Rehovot (where we live) and now the rabbi of the recently rebuilt Churva synagogue in the Old City in Jerusalem). Mind you, there was never a question in my mind of the propriety, even necessity, of settling and living in Israel, but I was heartened by the confirmation nonetheless.  Throughout the ages, in fact, many great sages have settled in Israel or spent numerous years repeatedly trying to make their way to the Promised Land — they would have jumped at the opportunity we now have.

As far as the definition of exile is concerned, I think most of us consider galut as living in the diaspora (rather than Israel) until the time of Mashiach (Messiah), until the ingathering of the exiles, kibbutz galuyot, (which is what I believe is slowly happening now), and the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple). But the question remained: are we still considered to be exiled even when  living in Israel during this period, and does it matter? Googling the question, I came upon a couple of threads by the members of the Avodah/Areivim forum of the AishDas website, made up of scholars and knowledgeable lay people, who have discussed this topic at various times and, although it’s rather difficult to come up with a definitive answer,  I would like to give you a sampling of their thoughts.

Michael Makovi suggested:

Galut means exile, lack of eretz yisrael [sic], lack of statehood. Obviously, we lack a Temple and the like, so there is still an element of galut. But all the same, there is an element of geula [redemption – C.L.]. To say that we are in galut without a “but”, is just as wrong as to say we are in geula without a “but”.

From Micha Berger:

Galus is defined first and foremost as the absence of the Shechinah [G-d’s presence – C.L.], not the absence of Jews from Israel.

Rabbi Eliyahu Teitz of the Jewish Educational Center in Elizabeth, NJ weighed in with his thoughts:

While we now control, to some extent, Eretz Yisrael, I would argue that so long as the Bais HaMikdash is not built, and we do not have a monarchy with Mashiach as the first king in the line, we are ALL in galut.  Those in Israel might not be in the GOLAH [lands of exile – C.L.], but we are all [in] GALUT.  I see galut as an existential state of being, not a physical state of residence.  I offer this without any proofs, it is MHO.

I would also postulate that from a practical/spiritual standpoint it doesn’t matter what the answer is to the question of whether or not one is living in exile even as a resident of Israel today. It’s immaterial if you believe, like many rabbis do, that for those who are able, there is always a mitzvah to live in the land, and there are certainly those mitzvot hat’luyot ba’aretz, mitzvahs that are dependent upon living in the land of Israel,  which we observe in Israel today but were not relevant to us while living in New Jersey. There is also a qualitative difference between living in Israel and living in the United States (or any other country).

In a March 2010 article entitled “The New Olim: North American Rabbis”,  Y. Reiss writes at www.wherewhatwhen.com about the new(!) phenomenon of congregational rabbis who are now making aliyah. Traditionally, it has predominantly been the synagogue members who pick themselves up and move to Israel. [Rabbi Riskin, who many years ago established the city of Efrat with some of his congregants is one notable exception. – C.L.] Now it seems that more congregational rabbis, with Nefesh B’Nefesh assistance, are beginning to lead the way. Reiss interviewed some of these new olim about their decision to make  aliyah and on the benefits of living in Israel even without Mashiach:

Rabbi Yitzchak Breitowitz, Rav of the Woodside community in Silver Spring … “The world feels more dangerous,” he said, “and the securities, both physical and financial, that American Jewry have relied on in galus no longer seem to be a foregone conclusion. In addition, although no one can accurately say what point of the geula we are currently in, there is a feeling that we are approaching the time of geula and it is time to come back to Israel.”

Rabbi Shandalov, formerly of Congregation Kehilath Jacob Beth Samuel in Chicago, and currently living in Maalei Adumim… simply said that being in Israel is “like being at home,… as part of a majority.” He specifically appreciated that December 25th was just another workday. Rabbi [Elan] Adler [of Baltimore’s Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah Hebrew Congregation]  pointed out that even the chagim are richer in Eretz Yisrael: “In chutz la’aretz, you observe Sukkot, in Eretz Yisrael, it is Sukkot.”… He stresses that inspiration can be found everywhere in Israel, even among secular cab drivers, who might give a 20 minute shmooze on how Hakadosh Baruch Hu [the Holy One Blessed Be He -C.L.] runs the world…”

In a related article entitled “Aliyah in Halacha” [Aliyah in Jewish Law], Y. Reiss discusses the writings of  Rabbi Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal, Hy”d, who wrote “Eim Habanim Semeicha” from his hiding place during the Holocaust.  “

…based on extensive scholarship [Rabbi Teichtel] concluded that human action ought to be the vehicle for bringing the Jewish people back to Israel as a precursor to the geula (Redemption)!…

Rabbi Teichtal’s main premise is that faith without action is ineffective. At the Red Sea, with Egyptians quickly overtaking Bnai Yisrael, Moshe Rabeinu stopped to daven. Hashem harshly responded, “Why do you cry out to me?” exhorting Moshe to instead “speak to the Children of Israel that they should travel.” In other words, it was time for Bnai Yisrael to put their faith into action by crossing the sea, even before Hashem had begun to split it. Similarly, says Rabbi Teichtal, it is not enough for Jews to simply believe that Mashiach will come to redeem the Jews. Instead, they must act like Bnai Yisrael at the Red Sea, and demonstrate their faith that Mashiach is coming by ascending to Eretz Yisrael.

I asked a friend of ours who made aliyah from the U.K. over thirty years ago if she felt like she was in galut. Her answer was an unequivocal “no.” Despite the fact that only about 30–40% of the country is observant, she said, the entire country revolves around Judaism and the Jewish calendar… the holidays are Jewish holidays, and because her children were all born here the feeling is intensified.

Of course we don’t have the Beit Hamikdash, but that feeling of “otherness” doesn’t exist here. The Israeli government is not perfect, it’s not always properly predisposed to Jewish law, but it is still runs on basic Jewish precepts. Israeli citizens may be arguing about whether or not the state/courts have a right to determine which school or yeshiva to send one’s children as in the recent case in the city of Emanuel, or the validity of IDF and other conversions (which is affecting the rabbinical courts in the United States as well) but we are not battling moves to outlaw circumcision in Israel as has surfaced most recently in California, nor about shechita — ritual slaughter — which is “brought up for review” occasionally (most notably by PETA) in the U.S. and has actually been outlawed in several countries.

Additionally, there are some who don’t believe that a Jewish government should exist in Israel until the advent of Moshiach, but  this is not deterring them from living and building in the Holy Land. Our local daily newspaper, HaMivaser, just featured the visit of the Squerer Rebbe to Beit Shemesh to lay the cornerstone for another one of their buildings.

Perhaps one of the most interesting comments I’ve seen and which corresponds with an analogy of mine, is from Areivim member Danny Schoemann of Jerusalem. He says:

Picture this: Moshiach comes this afternoon – you get on a booking to Israel no problem (as you are now a privileged person who does not need a valid passport to travel – one gain of no shibud malchios). Then you become practical: by the time you’ve thought about it, all the houses on your block are already for sale – how will you pay for the trip, the moving, the new business? So, do you opt for arriving as a pauper to greet Moshiach or to stay in chutz lo’oretz as the president of the shul?

Food for thought…

The analogy that occurred to me is that of a king and his palace:  if the palace were to burn down and the king’s children flee, wouldn’t he want them to come back and settle in the city awaiting the rebuilding and even assisting in it? Even if he had originally chased them away, even if it was difficult, if it took a long time, their commitment to him and belief in his rebuilding would endear them to him. And the children who resettled elsewhere? He would still love them, after all they’re still his kids, but the ones who stayed close or came back will be at a special advantage when the building is completed because of their proximity. I think that analogy would work for G-d and the Jewish people, especially now that He’s made it so much easier for us to return.

While there are legitimate reasons why someone may not be able to make aliyah now: family obligations, illness, work-related issues… the contention (fact?) that we are yet in exile, awaiting redemption, even while living in Israel shouldn’t be one of them.

P.S. –  You can be instrumental in an Olah’s success!! I am currently providing writing, rewriting, editing, and publishing services locally (in Israel) and remotely via internet and fax. If I can help you or anyone else you know, including businesses, schools, and organizations, please email me at cml613@hotmail.com, or message me on Facebook or LinkedIn.

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Anti-Semitism in the United States?

Is there anti-semitism in the United States? The assumed answer is no, but one should never rely on assumptions. Paying attention to the trends around the world and to what’s transpiring in the U.S.,  I see the writing on the wall.

The topic of anti-semitism in the United States came up in a  conversation I had yesterday with Noa, a secular Israeli. At the conclusion of our meeting to discuss the possible assistance her organization can provide for the business I am developing ( check out my new blog Business Confab) she asked me why we made aliyah. She could understand the toshav chozer – the Israeli ex-patriate who moves back to Israel, and she could understand people who move to Israel from countries where there is anti-semitism or lack of freedom, but from the United States?

The topic of anti-semitism has been on my radar since well before we made aliyah, as I saw it rearing its ugly head again in Europe. In March of 2009, I watched a video which has been posted on many sites, including Israel Matzav under the heading “Where are the police?” ( click here  to view). The video shows people ransacking a French supermarket, wearing green t-shirts with the words Boycott Israel on them, removing all Israeli goods from the shelves. Not one person — not the store managers, not the other shoppers, no one — dared to stop them.  People just stood and watched. Perhaps they thought there were too many of them to fight… but, apparently, no one thought to call the police, either.

Naomi Ragen’s recent email newsletter where she copied an article by David J. Rusin of www.islamist-watch.org entitled The Slow-Motion Exodus of European Jews  also highlights the terrible situation which is again rising in Europe. Rusin starts off with the opinion of Dutch politician and former EU commissioner Frits Bolkestein regarding Orthodox Jews in his country [can the same situation for non-religious Jews be far behind? – c.l.] who believes that

there is no future for this group in the Netherlands because of the “anti-Semitism among Dutchmen of Moroccan descent, whose numbers keep growing.”

The author then goes on to describe the situations in  a number of other European countries from which Jews are exiting and/or encountering anti-semitism on a regular basis. Among them are  Sweden, France, UK, Norway, Denmark, Germany and Austria.

Echoing this same sentiment about Dutch Jews is Guilio Meotti in his January 17, 2011, opinion piece on Israel National News entitled Jews Must Flee Holland in 2011. He cites the failure of  Dutch multi-culturalism for the rising tide of anti-semitism. Perhaps the scariest part is in his second paragraph :

…to highlight the complaint of a Dutch journalist, Paul Andersson Toussaint: “Antisemitism in Holland is again salonfähig”. This word means socially acceptable. 

 Post-Holocaust Europe is no more; the anti-semitism that we thought had disappeared was really simmering below. The argument generally made is that it’s really the large Muslim population dominating many European countries that is responsible for the situation. But a country and people that allows this to happen is responsible just the same.

So why did we make aliyah? Noa thought that perhaps it’s the U.S. economy which is motivation for many to leave… Mostly, however, we didn’t leave the U.S. per se – we made aliyah so that we could  live in our land and fulfill our Jewish destiny as I discussed in my first blog post A Jew in Context.

But, despite the fact that most Americans probably are not anti-semitic and  would be revolted by it, there have been increasing anti-semitic incidents in the United States (and in Canada) as well as rising anti-semitism on college campuses; Jews have generally been afraid to “make waves” even in the U.S. so as not to engender anti-semitism. So what about anti-semitism in “the land of the free and the home of the brave”, in this medina shel chesed – this nation of kindness –  as Orthodox Jews in the U.S. often refer to it? I referred her to Caroline Glick’s website and her most recent column, which was originally published in the Jerusalem Post, Israel as the banana republic. She discusses two documents which she says “…  indicate that in certain quarters of the American government Israel is viewed as at best a banana republic and at worst an enemy of the US. ”  The first, published last Wednesday in The Washington Times,  is the 2004 FBI  27-page search warrant affidavit used to target then-senior AIPAC lobbyist Steve Rosen. The second, from Wikileaks, is a 2008 cable signed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, under the Bush administration, directing US officials to spy on Israel. The FBI affidavit, you might be surprised to discover, makes it clear that they had no reason to suspect Steve Rosen of any wrongdoing, yet they followed him for five years and indicted him, destroying his career, his reputation and that of his collegue Keith Weissman, the reputation of AIPAC, the State of Israel, and its American Jewish supporters. Of the Wikileaks document Caroline says:

Just days before the 2008 presidential elections, the secretary of state instructed US diplomats in Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia as well as the Defense Intelligence Agency and the CIA to conduct a massive espionage operation against Israel.

Anti-semitism in the United States?  Take an honest  look before you decide.



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