Tag Archives: Jew

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.


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.


An Epiphany about Pesach

Since epiphany also relates to a non-Jewish holiday or ideology, I thought I should define it first, so here it is from Wikipedia:

An epiphany (from the ancient Greek ἐπιφάνεια, epiphaneia, “manifestation, striking appearance”) is the sudden realization or comprehension of the (larger) essence or meaning of something. The term is used in either a philosophical or literal sense to signify that the claimant has “found the last piece of the puzzle and now sees the whole picture,” or has new information or experience, often insignificant by itself, that illuminates a deeper or numinous foundational frame of reference.

Now my story:

About 2 weeks after we moved into our apartment in Rehovot, we were expecting our son, who did not make aliyah with us, “home” for the following Shabbat from his yeshiva in Yerushalyaim and he was bringing two friends with him.  As the bedroom they would be sleeping in was full of boxes which we either had to unpack or move around and we did not want them to have to sleep standing up, we devoted several days to doing what needed to be done. Among other things, this involved shuffling some furniture between rooms, cleaning out the ceiling crawl space in the back (and only) hall in the apartment in order to get some extra suitcases up there and out of the way, and general cleaning. Needless to say, the apartment was in a bit more disarray than before (as we had just moved most of a house into an apartment) and we also got a bit grungy in the process.

Still, we were happy to devote the time and energy to do this; we wanted everything to be ready for him so that he would feel comfortable. Having last seen him mid- September (was it only a  month ago?) when he joined us at my sister’s home for the first days of Sukkot, we were eagerly anticipating his arrival.

Somewhere in the middle of this process, when I thought about how anxious we were to see him and how happy we were to do all the moving and cleaning and straightening and getting grungy in anticipation, I had my great Epiphany: wouldn’t it be great if I could feel this  excited and anxious to be ready in anticipation of  Pesach (Passover). We greet the holiday but once a year, welcoming G-d into our homes, with the ability for the unique spiritual growth and nourishment available to us at this time. And what do we do? We squander the opportunity by complaining about all the work, the expense, how hard it is, and how we are too tired to enjoy the Seder.  And this is often all before we’ve even started! To be sure, Pesach does involve a bit more work and time than was necessary for us to prepare for our son’s arrival, but it was really our attitude that made all the difference.

Some things are easier epiphanized* than done, but I’m hoping I can maintain this perspective in March when I start my Pesach cleaning.

*Epiphanized – realized in a striking manner as through an epiphany (from Caryn’s dictionary of verbs that should be but aren’t).



My sister has a friend near her home in Ma’aleh Adumim who told me, sometime in September, that she was considering a move north to Tzefat and was looking for a job there. When I met  her, coincidentally, a few days  later in Jerusalem waiting for the bus back to my sister’s house (we stayed there for the first month following our aliyah) she told me that she had just come from the north.  She found and accepted a job not in Tzefat, but in a small town called Nov and was going to look for an apartment there.

Okay. Nov – small, out of the way place with a weird name. I wonder how they got it.

A couple of days later something dislodged from the far recesses of my mind and it hit me – Nov, ir ha’Kohanim, the city of Kohanim. Wow! I thought. Apparently Nov is in the Tanach (Bible). The name doesn’t seem so funny anymore. And I’m flabbergasted  (still am) that I remembered this. Well, I figured, there was some value to my yeshiva education after all.  I  did, however, have to Google in order to find out more about Nov.

In short: The were several cities in ancient Israel where Kohanim lived and Nov was one of them. When David was running from King Shaul he came to the city of Nov and was unwittingly given food and a sword by the Kohen Gadol, the high priest. Shaul discovered this, accused the Kohanim of treason, and had them killed. 85 Kohanim died. (Samuel I 21:2-9)

Nov is located in the Galil, east of the Kineret (Sea of Galilee), near the Syrian border.

How awesome it is to live in The Land of the Bible.

A Jew in context

I’m starting my blog with this post because to me it represents a lot of why we made aliyah and puts life here into perspective for me.

Shabbat Parshat Lech-Lecha.  We spend Shabbat with friends in Ginot Shomron. Friday afternoon our host takes us out to his backyard overlooking beautiful lush green hills and shows us a brown path, a wadi,  between two  of the hills — the border between the land belonging to the tribes of Ephraim and Menashe. Wow! Just like in the Tanach.  This is real.

Shabbat morning I sit in shul and listen to the ba’al koreh read the parsha – “Vayera Hashem el Avram vayomer, l’zaracha etayn et ha’aretz hazot.” – “Hashem appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” (trans. – Artscroll Stone edition.) Well, I said to myself, I’m Avram’s offspring and this land that I’m now living in is the land that Hashem bequeathed to me through Avram.

I’ve lived all my life with the Torah and with the knowledge that Eretz Yisrael is ours. But a lot of it’s been kind of esoteric – you know it exists, but it’s kind of not totally relevant to your life. Well, here it is.

Here I am living in the place that Hashem gave us, where most of the events of the Tanach have taken place, where all of the mitzvot are (or will again become) relevant. This is the place that Hashem handpicked for us and I’m privileged to be living here.

(This reminds me of one of the Megama Duo’s songs (for those of us who remember them) which included the words “it’s coming alive from the Bible…”)

To be sure, it’s sometimes hard to remember this on a day-to-day basis when I have to go about establishing our physical lives here and built-up cities are hard to relate to in terms of the Torah, but it is something that I am trying to keep with me as much as I can, because, after all, Eretz Yisrael is the context for my life as a Jew.