Rabbi Yehuda Glick / Tumblr
The first time I met Rabbi Yehuda Glick, I thought he seemed completely normal. I never would have thought to call him a right-wing extremist, as many reports are doing nowadays. And I certainly never would have dreamed that a few years later he would be the target of an assassination attempt as a result of his efforts to win Jews access to the Temple Mount.
I was a teenager visiting the Temple Institute in Israel for the first time. Since I had just learned about the Institute in my Modern Orthodox day school in South Florida, I suggested to my family that we go visit it. On that chilly Jerusalem morning I remember feeling the tension between being interested in the subject matter and simultaneously having to act “cool” — for whom I’m still not sure. Though my appearance during the tour was perhaps aloof and disinterested, on the inside I was plotzing.
At that point, I didn’t know about the controversy surrounding the Temple Mount. I did not know, for example, that even calling it the Temple Mount and not Haram al-Sharif was politically charged. I did not know that there would one day be a member of the Israeli Knesset, Moshe Feiglin, advocating for Israel to “expel the Moslem wakf from the Temple Mount.” I just wanted to see the actual Temple vessels that I had learned about in my Bible class.
An Israeli soldier walks past a bus on which suspected Jewish vandals painted graffiti reading ‘Gentiles in the land are enemies’ / Getty Images
Young Israelis don’t want separate bus lines for Palestinians — and they’re asking American Jews to ensure segregation never becomes a reality.
That’s the nutshelled version of a letter sent today by Young Israeli Labor, the official youth branch of the Labor Party, to the leaders of major American Jewish organizations including Abe Foxman (Anti-Defamation League), Malcolm Hoenlein (Conference of Presidents), Jeremy Ben-Ami (J Street), Eric Fingerhut (Hillel International) and Rabbi Rick Jacobs (Union for Reform Judaism).
The striking thing about this is not just the willingness of Israeli youth to speak out against segregated buses, but the fact that they’re turning to American Jewish leaders to appeal, on their behalf, to Israeli leaders — specifically, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ya’alon. The subtext seems to be that they don’t feel they can make themselves heard (or heard successfully) in their own country without a powerful intermediary. We can chalk this up partly to their perception that “Ya’alon is caving in to a well-organized campaign of the extreme right, who hold powerful positions inside the Likud party.” Here’s the rest of their letter:
This unfortunate decision is a disastrous one in any respect. Apart from being a severely miserable decision in every moral aspect, it also adds a very powerful weapon to the arsenal of those seeking to undermine Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
Side by side with you, we, the Young Israeli Labor, the official young branch of the Labor Party, lead an uncompromising struggle on Israel’s international standing. Exactly because of our love for Israel, we must at present do whatever it takes to stop this poor decision from realization.
I call upon you to turn to Israel’s Prime Minister, MK Netanyahu, and demand that he interferes in this matter and prevents Defense Minister Ya’alon from surrendering to the extremist right-wing in Israel, which is jeopardizing our continuing existence as a Jewish and democratic state.
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confronted quite a challenge when the Atlantic’s Jeff Goldberg quoted Obama administration officials calling him a “chickenshit.”
Israeli reporters, in turn, faced their own challenge: How to translate “chickenshit” into Hebrew.
Modern Hebrew is rich with phrases alluding to the Bible and rabbinic literature. Swear words, not so much. A 2004 song by Israeli hip-hop group Hadag Nachash says “Here, everyone speaks Hebrew/And curses in Russian, English and Arabic.”
So Israeli papers, reporting the anonymous comments Wednesday morning, had to settle on something less evocative than “chickenshit.” The consensus translation that emerged among major news sources was “pachdan,” or coward. Haaretz did a little better, using “pachdan aluv,” or “lowly coward.”
As any poultry farmer can attest, none of these are chickenshit. “Coward” lacks the crude, sandlot insult quality that “chickenshit” conveys. “Coward” is what you’d call someone before a duel. “Chickenshit” is what you’d call someone before a bar fight.
To compensate, Israeli news articles put the word, in English, in their articles, such that “chickenshit” is clearly visible in the opening paragraph, running counter to the Hebrew text.
A friend of mine suggested that Israeli reporters could have avoided all this by translating the phrase to Hebrew literally: “Hara shel tarnegolim.” Of course, that’s also not quite Hebrew: “Hara” is a swear word in Arabic.
As of next month, Israel will operate separate buses for Palestinian residents of the West Bank returning from jobs as day laborers in Israel, thanks to political pressure from West Bank settlers who donʼt want to ride on the same buses as “Arabs.” The question is: Should we care?
Settler leaders claim that the move was due to aggressive and uncouth behavior by Palestinian passengers, coupled with an overall concern for Jewish passengersʼ security. According to a report in Haaretz, one settler told a meeting of a Subcommittee on Judea and Samaria, convened by MK Motti Yogev of the Jewish Home party, about having been sexually assaulted by a Palestinian rider. Another complained that his pregnant wife was not given a seat by Arab passengers. Others were worried that Palestinians on buses could lead to hijackings, or worse. But IDF officials insisted they did not see the Palestinian presence on board these buses as a security threat.
In a democracy, of course, an official report of sexual assault should result in an investigation and possibly individual charges being laid. An informal report — as this one was — might lead a municipality to intensify its safety and surveillance measures. But to collectively deny an entire ethnic group the right to travel on some buses would be collective punishment, rightly considered prejudicial.
Israelʼs rule in the West Bank, however, is far from democratic. Palestinian residents of the West Bank arenʼt Israeli citizens, which means that the normal democratic channels arenʼt open to them from the get-go.
Jay Michaelson has it wrong. AIPAC is not, as he argues, anti-Israel.
Most of what the lobby does is focused on strengthening the bond between the United States and Israel — various aspects of this relationship, including the U.S.-Israel security cooperation — which is undisputedly pro-Israel.
But not only AIPAC. All American Jewish organizations that focus on Israel, including the ones on the extreme right, are pro-Israel. They support Israel, and they do so wholeheartedly. They care deeply about Israel, and they are deeply concerned about its future.
The deep disagreement between such groups and organizations such as ours (Americans for Peace Now) is not over who is more pro-Israel, who loves it more or who cares more about its future. The dispute — a deep and thorough dispute — is about Israel’s future. It is about the kind of Israel that we want to see. It is about what kind of Israel we are “pro.” Or, more precisely, what vision for Israel we support.
MTKL’s Israeli Army Women Calendar
Just a couple of months after the Gaza war, Israel has found a new way “to show the world the beauty of Israel and its people” — via the power of a pin-up calendar featuring real IDF soldiers.
Or, as the creators of the MTKL Israeli Army Women Calendar like to call them, “the chosen amongst the chosen people.”
These chosen women, brought together by two former (male) soldiers who “scoured the ranks of the powerful Israeli army,” would like you to donate $25 to their Indiegogo campaign so that they can not only ship you this calendar, but also create a whole line of clothing and accessories that will blend “the best of military and street into must-have urban fashion.”
Their goal is to make $30,000 off the calendars, enabling them to bring their clothing line to production in early 2015. So far they’ve raised about $3700 — which means that a bunch of people are already walking around wearing jewelry “fashioned after the official IDF Dog Tag.”
I say that because, if you ask me, this fashion line — and the pin-up calendar being used to showcase it — is pretty much the most unsexy thing I can imagine.
It’s not just that this product is the work of two men using a bunch of women’s bodies to make a quick buck. Leave aside for a minute the obvious feminist objections to pin-up calendars writ large — and hone in on this calendar in particular. It doesn’t take long to see that we’re being sold more than your average “male gaze” sexual fantasy. What we’re being sold is an ideology that equates sexiness with militarism, and Israel with both.
Palestinian mourners carry Orwa Hammad to a prayer session at a Silwad school / Naomi Zeveloff
On Sunday afternoon, the main street in Silwad, a village north of Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, was lined with parked cars for as far as the eye could see. Palestinians from all over the area had come to pay their respects to Orwa Abd al-Wahhab Hammad, the 14-year-old killed in clashes on October 24 with the Israeli military. Posters with Hammad’s photo — a serious-looking teen with his black hair combed forward — were plastered on bumpers, windshields and on fences throughout the town, each one bearing the imprint of Hamas, Fatah or the People’s Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
According to news reports, the Israeli Defense Forces said it opened fire on Hammad after he was getting ready to hurl a lit firebomb toward Route 60, an account which Palestinian officials dispute. A family member said that Hammad was with a group of boys throwing rocks when he was killed.
Hammad was raised in Silwad, a village of around 6,000 people marked by a stone Arabic sign and a marquee advertising a USAID-sponsored road project. But Hammad was also a United States citizen, the second one claimed by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the past week. On Thursday, an East Jerusalem Palestinian named Abdel-Rahman Shaloudi plowed a car into the Ammunition Hill light rail station, injuring seven people and killing three-month-old Chaya Zissel Braun, an American citizen whose family had taken her to the Western Wall for the first time that day. Shaloudi was killed by Israeli police as he fled the scene. On Sunday, an Ecuadorian woman injured in the attack died from her wounds.
Nine workers at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport lost their jobs yesterday because they refused to interact with passengers who arrived from Ethiopia.
The workers, contractor employees of the Israel Airports Authority, were asked to hand out Ebola information pamphlets to the Ethiopian Airlines passengers and to direct them to an area where they could have their temperatures checked. The workers were reluctant to do so out of fear that they would contract Ebola. They argued that they weren’t properly protected.
These nine workers weren’t the only ones afraid to come into contact with the passengers. They told Ynet that they were asked to perform the task only after the airport’s permanent employees refused to do it. The contract workers were threatened, and when they still insisted they would not perform the procedure, they were fired on the spot.
Eventually, cops stationed at the airport were the ones who agreed to undertake the procedure.
This incident follows a new directive that was issued three days ago. According to the latest decision, passengers coming to Israel from any country in Africa have to fill out a questionnaire and have their body temperature checked. This new protocol is an expansion of a procedure that included only passengers from countries with incidences of Ebola: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leon.
As part of the new protocol, even passengers coming from Cairo ¬— only about an hour flight from Tel Aviv — are getting tested, as they come from “Africa.”
Hossam al-Dabbus makes art out of remnants from the Gaza war / Getty Images
As donors pledge billions to rebuild Gaza in the wake of Hamas’s war with Israel, one Gazan is engaged in another type of construction: turning remnants of the war into works of art.
Hossam al-Dabbus, a 33-year-old who works in Gaza’s honey industry, has collected shells, rockets and missiles from the war that killed around 2,2000 Gazans and more than 70 Israelis — and turned these objects into flower vases.
Dabbus, who lives in Gaza’s Jabaliya refugee camp, first found his materials by combing through the Gaza wreckage. As orders poured in for his art, he asked Hamas police for more defunct projectiles from the war.
“When my children grow up I’ll be able to show them these and tell them — here are remains of the 2014 war that left over 2,000 people dead, and this is how I transformed an instrument of death into a vessel of life, making these bombs into flower vases,” Dabbus told Agence France-Presse.
Demonstrators call on the British parliament to recognize ‘Palestine’
The British Parliament’s decision to back a motion to “recognize the state of Palestine,” by a margin of 274 to 12 votes, means nothing — and everything.
Nothing, because the passage of this motion was a purely symbolic matter, close to but not really a true indication of parliamentary feeling on the matter, since not all MPs were allowed a free vote and fewer than half of them even bothered: 90% of Conservative MPs didn’t show up. At worst, the whole thing can be viewed as a stunt, promoted by a cadre of anti-Israel MPs on the backbenches, seized upon by Labour leader Ed Miliband to undermine the authority of the government and score political points, less than a year out from the general election.
The fact of the matter is that, even prior to the vote, the government was clear that its position on Palestinian statehood would not alter. While critical of settlement policy and human rights violations, the Conservative Party is the most pro-Israel party of the three main parties in Britain. The Conservative Friends of Israel continues to have a great deal of influence within the parliamentary party itself. One vote will not overturn that dynamic, nor will it make a state for the Palestinian people any more of a reality. Only the Israelis and Palestinians together, not the British, can make that happen.
So, no need for Israel to drag the British ambassador in for a lecture, as recently happened to Sweden’s envoy. But that doesn’t mean that Jerusalem should ignore events in Parliament entirely. While the vote might mean nothing today, it means everything insofar as it shows something is shifting in Britain and Europe more broadly, where the increasing criticism of Israel heard on the street is being reflected at a higher political level.
Rebecca Vilkomerson speaking at the Open Hillel conference / Gili Getz
“I bought my ticket right after my rabbi’s Rosh Hashanah sermon. I knew I needed this community,” a student participant at the Open Hillel conference told me today.
The student went on to thank Open Hillel for providing a long overdue space for young Jews to come together and question the institutions, frameworks and viewpoints we have been taught. The message rang out loud and clear today at the inaugural Open Hillel conference: My generation is not content to be spoon-fed talking points, courted by free trips to Israel, or talked down to from patriarchal institutions that advocate policies at odds with our values. We want to proactively grapple with the hard questions that define the political and moral choices facing our community today.
Hillel International’s Standards of Partnership construct a political litmus test that prohibits the ability of students to engage with these questions. For Hillel, openness is an only-if-you-agree-with-our-funders kind of deal. The line is drawn at support for nonviolent resistance to occupation through boycott, divestment and sanctions — beyond that you become a “demonizer’” or “delegitimizer.” These are the rules of the conversation as dictated by Hillel, but the students are not content to stop there.
It was clear today, after hours of packed workshops, panels, speeches, and conversations in the hallways, at lunch and in the elevator, that the Open Hillel conference had struck a nerve. The floodgates have been opened and they aren’t shutting anytime soon. Over 350 people participated in this weekend’s conference — a far cry from the “small group of activists” Hillel International president Eric Fingerhut dismissed in his recent op-ed.
Judith Butler speaks at the inaugural Open Hillel conference in Boston/Photo by Gili Getz/Open Hillel
(JTA) — Four rabbis are engaged in an animated debate about Jewish law. Three of them agree, but the dissenter is adamant that he’s got it right. He cries out: “A sign, God, I beg You, a sign!”
It begins to rain, but the three in the majority are not swayed. “Another sign, please God!”
The rain picks up and lightning strikes near the rabbis, but still the three refuse to budge. After another plea from the one rabbi, a voice thunders from Heaven: “Heeeee’s Riiiiight!” The three rabbis look at each other, not sure how to react. Finally, one responds: “Well, all right. So it’s three against two.”
This lighthearted parable — an adapted version of the Talmud’s “Oven of Akhnai” story — highlights one of the foundational truths of Judaism: We do not always agree on our foundational truths.
Our disagreements are not a hindrance to communal existence but rather the source of an intellectual diversity. No matter the subject, it is precisely in and through these disagreements that Judaism finds its richest expression.
Open Hillel — a student-led campaign to change a Hillel International rule that, among other things, precludes it from partnering with groups that seek to change Israeli policies through nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) efforts — is hosting our first conference this week at Harvard. We are gathering because we believe that the principle of intellectual diversity ought to apply to our politics as well as our theology.
Hillel President Eric Fingerhut chats with a student / Flickr: Hillel News and Views
Once again the love affair between the Jewish people and higher education is back in full bloom. The start of a new school year, and the Jewish New Year, marked the beginning of robust programming for Jewish college students across the globe.
As students dig into their studies, the events in Israel and Gaza this past summer are a hot topic on many campuses. In response, Hillel International, the largest Jewish student organization in the world — its growing network now serves some 550 campuses in North and South America, Europe, Central Asia, Australia and Israel — is drawing on its expertise in promoting deep and thoughtful discussion. Hillel is sponsoring a broad range of programs to help students understand the issues and how they will affect Israel and its neighbors in the future.
Hillel professionals have heard presentations from both the Israeli ambassador to the United States and the leader of the opposition in the Knesset. Hillel student leaders have organized interfaith gatherings and intercultural dialogues. Hillel educators have offered seminars and discussions for students to learn about contemporary Israeli society and culture, to reflect on their own relationships with Israel and to develop skills as dialogue facilitators.
Hillel students have also modeled what respectful discourse looks like: At Cooper Union Hillel in New York City, students countered an effort to boycott a speech by the leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and encouraged Jewish students to attend and listen respectfully, which they did. And, of course, the tens of thousands of students who attended High Holiday services at Hillel joined Jews all over the world in praying for a year of peace for all people.
What all these activities have in common is they welcome and include students of all backgrounds, all political positions and who have an exceptionally wide array of relationships with their Jewish identities and with Israel. They do so within an environment that is intellectually rigorous, respectful of difference and committed to honest conversation. Hillel is among the most religiously, intellectually, culturally and politically pluralistic organizations in the Jewish world — a testament to both the diversity of Jewish experience and of the college campuses we serve.
Inclusivity and broad-mindedness are part of our core values. All students are always welcome at Hillel. And these values guide all of our work. That work includes listening to all student voices, including those of the activists behind the “Open Hillel” campaign and other campus groups.
“There is no asylum seeker problem in Israel.”
So said Netanyahu when, following his recent address to members of the Jewish Federations of North America in New York, one of the attendees raised the issue of African asylum-seekers.
“They are illegal job immigrants,” the Israeli prime minister said, adding: “Asylum seekers can come in like those from Syria — but not job seekers from Africa.”
There are a few problems with this.
First of all, while all of Syria’s other neighbors have welcomed thousands of Syrian refugees (Turkey and Lebanon each host over one million Syrian refugees), Israel has accepted none. Israel does welcome Syrians who’ve been injured in the ongoing civil war in the country and offer them top-notch medical treatment free of charge. Most patients are interested in returning, but even in cases when they are not, they are deported back to a country engulfed in war. Thus, the State opposed the petition filed to the High Court by a 17-year-old Syrian girl who was treated in Israel and wished to remain here. She was deported to Syria in early 2014.
But, more than that, there’s the fact that about 48,000 African migrants reside in Israel. The government insists that they are “illegal work infiltrators.” Is that true — or are they refugees who would face persecution if returned to their homelands?
In her recent New York Times op-ed, Mairav Zonszein describes incidents in which left-leaning Israelis were intimidated and even attacked by right-wing thugs. She concludes that, to quote the title of her piece, “Israel Silences Dissent.” By using this phrase, she suggests that Israel displays a state-based system of intimidation against those who do not accept its core principles, which increasingly privilege Jewish ethnicity and religion.
While Zonszein points out some alarming signs in the social reality of Israel, we would argue that depicting Israel as a country that persecutes dissenters is a gross exaggeration. Israel’s freedom of speech is still widely exercised, even in moments when Israel is under attack and masses of Israelis are mobilized to serve the country’s basic security needs.
What’s more, by leveling these kinds of accusations, Zonszein does nothing so much as play into Israel’s dysfunctional culture of debate — exactly the culture she aims to expose.
(Haaretz) — It was fairly predictable. The Israeli government, after all, has been doing its best lately to send the message out that we’re all on the same side when it comes to opposing the monstrosity that is the Islamic State.
But that message upsets those who don’t want the world to forget that there’s no entity on earth that could possibly be as incorrigibly evil and destructive as the state of Israel. We’re talking about those folks for whom this summer’s events in Gaza were clearly a premeditated genocidal operation designed to kill Palestinians - and Hamas rockets were just a convenient excuse.
The Islamic State poses a quandary for these activists - who see the Middle East in black and white, in which the black hat belongs to Israel. Even those who prefer to see the warm and fuzzy side of organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah have trouble justifying the barbaric behavior of the Islamic State group - otherwise known as ISIS or ISIL - in any way.
So if they can’t say that ISIL is WORSE than the Jewish state, they’ve decided that the best way to vilify Israel these days is to make clear that the nation’s behavior is surely the equivalent of bloodthirsty beheaders.
And thus, in a catchy way to equate the two, the hashtag #JSIL was born on Twitter, presumably standing for Jewish State in the Levant.
When it comes to Israeli-Palestinian relations, there’s much to be cynical about lately. The 50-day long carnage resulting from Operation Protective Edge this summer, the frozen peace process, the dueling speeches by Netanyahu and Abbas at the U.N. — and then there’s the festering issue of Israel’s minorities.
This week, Israel’s new president has come out with a touching video demanding that Israeli society replace racism, intolerance and thuggery with unity, tolerance and empathy. According to the president’s Facebook page, President Reuven (Ruby) Rivlin approached 11-year old George Amira after seeing a video the boy had created from his own experience at the hands of schoolyard bullies. The president invited the young Jaffa resident to his office and suggested they collaborate on a similar video with a country-wide message of hope.
“Speaking up against violence is everyone’s responsibility,” the president’s Facebook posting said. “We can see it intensifying in our society, and we must stop it,” he continued.
I could be cynical while watching President Rivlin’s video. But I’m not.
Benjamin Netanyahu, left; anti-ISIS fighter, right / Getty Images
Speaking at the General Assembly this week, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu repeated a refrain he has sounded for three decades (since his days as Israeli ambassador to the U.N.) — that all forms of terrorism are different sides of the same coin and have civilization as their target:
So when it comes to their ultimate goals, Hamas is ISIS and ISIS is Hamas. And what they share in common all militant Islamists share in common. Boko Haram in Nigeria, Al-Shabab in Somalia, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Al-Nusra in Syria, the Mahdi army in Iraq, and the Al-Qaida branches in Yemen, Libya, the Philippines, India and elsewhere.
The startling assortment of groups; the lumping of a Shiite movement (Hezbollah) with those that can treat Shi‘a as apostates; the linking of Israel’s enemies with those now targeted by the United States — all this is politically convenient. But is it accurate?
In Haaretz, Moshe Arens has accused the Israeli left of not accepting, first, that Israeli democracy is working fine, and second, the specific “verdict of the electorate.”
Arens’ framing of Israeli democracy is flawed because he leaves several important points out of his description. To begin with, the Israeli left doesn’t wonder why the system isn’t functioning; they know perfectly well that it is. It’s the incentives they’ve identified driving the vote that they want to change, not the system itself.
They’re worried about the apathy that characterizes recent Israeli voting patterns. In addition to a declining voter turnout rate — from between 70% and 90% from 1949 to 2003 to under 70% since then (though it has risen slightly since 2009) — the default pattern has for some time been the right-wing parties, particularly as the economy has been doing well. Israeli leftists understand that the voting public needs to be made aware of the price of maintaining that pattern — mostly occupation and settlement expansion and the moral, political, financial and security costs associated with them. They also know they need a stronger message than the right’s playing on general security threats and efforts to instill fear of those with different political ideologies and backgrounds.
Arens is right that the electorate has held the left accountable for Oslo, the withdrawal from Lebanon and even the withdrawal from Gaza. He might have added that the left-wing parties themselves haven’t been able to get beyond the old slogans that “ending the occupation” and “negotiated withdrawals” would make everything immediately better. But he might also have added that the right-wing parties haven’t gotten past their own outdated ideas.
Israelis hide in a concrete pipe used as a shelter during a Palestinian rocket attack / Getty Images
This summer, I heard the word “we” over and over as Jews around the world (appropriately) condemned the horrific murder of Palestinian youth Mohammed Abu Khdeir. “We Jews don’t do this,” they claimed, even as empirical evidence to the contrary mounted. Some Jews do do this. But they are clearly the exception. Jews know what it’s like to be persecuted. That means we don’t hate Arabs because of who they are, but we hate how some Arabs behave. We are most certainly not racists. Okay. If you say so.
Until recently I felt proud of the manner in which my whole community handled questions regarding race. Then last month, I found myself becoming one. A racist, that is.
As sirens blared, we experienced the physical stress that comes with even the few runs to the bomb shelter that we had in Jerusalem. The rush of adrenaline that washes over you every time you hear a siren.