The sweet desserts of Berlin – aliya, yerida, and Zionism

October 27, 2014 by

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Here is the thing about the Berlin Balagan and the Milky Moan. They have nothing to do with the city of Berlin or the Milky dessert.

The controversy has been simmering for some time. Young Israelis have been working to attain European passports so as to more easily leave Israel. Berlin is their most attractive and symbolically incendiary European destination. The thought that an Israeli could actively seek to live in the Land of the Holocaust sends shivers down Zionist spines.

The rhetorical stakes are high. To Full Post

4 points about doing politics on North American campuses

October 26, 2014 by

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Cross-posted with ejewishphilanthropy.com

Image by Shay Charka
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I have recently returned from an 8 city, 11 flight, 2 weeks’ tour of campuses in North America – with 4 questions.

I was one of the Jewish Agency’s Makom team running full-day workshops on “Gaza, Israel, and the Jews” for the staff of thirty Hillels. Our aim was to empower Hillel and campus leaders to frame constructive conversations about the Gaza Conflict by identifying pertinent questions (rather than institutional answers), and by defining a successful conversation as one that leads to a second conversation…

Apart from learning that DC taxi drivers are the most interesting in the world, and that United Airlines are not always to be trusted with your luggage, I have been left with a few thoughts to ponder: To Full Post

Gaza conflict – three thoughts about the fighting

August 10, 2014 by

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1. Good Guys, Bad tactics?

There was something of a meme that went around, asking the two key questions of Just War theory: Are we fighting the bad guys? and Are we fighting like good guys? I think I’ve realized that the first question is almost irrelevant, and often unhelpful.

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It’s irrelevant because while I may be sure that Hamas are the bad guys, so Hamas thinks it is Israel who are the bad guys. It is unhelpful because since we both reckon we’re fighting the bad guys, we both tend to take the second question less seriously.  To Full Post

Three thoughts on proportionality

July 28, 2014 by

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Disproportionate attention

There is the feeling that the media and public response to the Gaza war is disproportionate to their response to every other conflict in the world. As thousands are slaughtered in Syria, all rage is directed to Gaza.

Part of me is surprised at the surprise. There is an antisemitism at the heart of Europe. There is an antisemitism at the heart of the Islamic world. Big whup. These facts don’t dispel for me the deep agony I feel when a defender of Israel wishes us to be compared to a murderous dictator such as Assad. Even if the comparison is relatively favourable. That is not the kind of company we should be keeping.

It must not be a rhetorical question

This video of Israeli philosopher and consultant to the IDF Moshe Halbertal lays out all the key questions. Halbertal points out that “proportionality” is not about the death of combatants. It is about the death of civilians. As he puts it from 17:10 onwards: “Is the expected collateral killing proportional to the military advantage to be gained?”

So it’s a really good question. It accepts that civilians might die in urban warfare. And it asks how many civilians is it “worth” killing in order to win the military advantage? It is the correct moral and philosophical question to be asked.

Halbertal’s question must not be solely rhetorical. I believe we Israelis have been remiss at going ahead and trying to find an answer. 

Are we really okay with the rationale: “We fired on the hospital/school because they fired at us from there: It is their fault that we fired back.”? Well it certainly paints Hamas black, but it doesn’t answer Halbertal’s question.

What military advantage did we gain by firing back? Was that advantage worth the risk that we might slaughter some kids along the way?

It seems we are too easily appeased by Hamas’ guilt to assess our own. It tortures me.

Desired disproportionality

If we want Palestinians to appreciate that violence against us does not pay, I believe we must also work behaviouristically to show that non-violence does pay.

If we are, as I am beginning to fear, responding disproportionately to Hamas violence, I believe we should be equally disproportionate in resopnding to all Palestinian non-violence. Any Palestinian who denounces violence, even in a mealy-mouthed way, should be ridiculously disproportionately rewarded. Abu Mazen, and his former Prime Minister and non-violent State-builder, Salam Fayyad, should have been treated as kings by our government. Every bona fide business established by the PA should receive outrageously generous subsidies from the Israeli government. Sweets should be thrown at every Palestinian kid who smiles at an Israeli.

At the same time I think we should be disproportionately generous to our amazingly non-violent Palestinian Israeli citizens. Forget trying to bring the education budget for Arab schools up to parity – it should be twice the size as the budget for Jewish schools. Don’t fight for Arab Israelis to have the same house-buying subsidies as Jews – fight for them to have even bigger subsidies.

If we are okay with severely punishing Palestinians for the violence of their leaders, we should also be willing to seriously reward them for the opposite.

Mayonnaise with that? Israeli TV drama takes Lenny Bruce further

June 27, 2014 by

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Lenny Bruce would be giggling in his grave. He was the one who so famously explained that mayonnaise is goyish. Who would have predicted how far this observation would extend?

Israel is gripped by many obsessions painful and joyful. At the same time as we pray for the return of the three kidnapped kids, we are also overtaken by World Cup fever. For a country not represented in the greatest football spectacle of all time (yes, it’s football, Ann Coulter!) Israelis are free to support whoever they want – flags abound.

But the greatest obsession in abeyance until next season is our Zaguri obsession. 26 episodes of this family comic drama about a dysfunctional Moroccan family in Beersheva took the country by storm. And it also reappropriated mayonnaise for a brand new audience. To Full Post

For Discussiony-Panelly-minded people

 

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Every Jewish holiday however celebratory always has its reflective aspect. This Chag Ha’atzmaut at JW3 is no different, giving room as it does to thoughtful and honest conversation

2stateFor more than 20 years now, the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been two States for two Peoples. And for 20 years now, we are still nowhere near this solution. Three fascinating women will be sharing their opinions about this solution that hasn’t yet solved anything… Linoy Bar Gefen is a top TV and print journalist, who still believes that the 2 state solution is the only game in town. To Linoy’s political left will be Yael Lerer, who was parliamentary aide to the Arab Balad Party, and established the Andalus Publishing House that produces Hebrew-language translations of Arab Literature. And to the right of Linoy, Karni Eldad – singer/song-writer and blogger – will talk of her love for the Biblical land of Israel and the Jewish State. A deliberately multi-vocal all-female panel. To Full Post

For the fun of it!

 

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The most important word in the famous phrase “hugging and wrestling with Israel”, is the word “and”. JW3’s festival embodies the balance brilliantly. Here are some of the fun for the sake of fun events they have planned.

gagaOn Bank Holiday Sunday there is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to find a different side to Israeli dancing! The artistic director of Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company, Ohad Naharin, developed a world-renowned movement language called Ga-Ga, that he insisted was appropriate for non-dancers as well as professionals. Ga-Ga People is now an international organisation, running amazing workshops for all – dancers and non-dancers, from age 18 to age 120. To Full Post

Yom HaZikaron – Memorial Ceremony + About The Oranges

 

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Yom HaZikaron Tekkes

Yom HaZikaron, the Israeli Day of Memorial, is a complicated day to mark in the Diaspora. Israelis sometimes feel strange to be marking the day outside of Israel, missing the all-togetherness of an entire nation standing to attention, and sometimes feeling bad they are not with their family. Local Jews also grapple with some ambivalence – wishing to show solidarity on the one hand, but at the same time knowing their emotional connection to Yom HaZikaron is always going to be qualitatively different to that of their Israeli counterparts. To Full Post

Hallelujah! with Kobi Oz in concert

 

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hallelujah

A Yom Haatzmaut celebration that has something for everyone.

The headline is that Kobi Oz is performing live together with his incredible band. For music-lovers – you get a soulful, energetic, and light-hearted blend of world music performed by world-class musicians. For Israel-celebrators, you get a sweet taste of the best of Israeli culture that blends Jewish text, social comment, and Middle East spice. For Israelis, there’ll be many favourites from the days of Teapacks, and some amazing Oz variations on Arik Einstein classics. For Jewish culture vultures, the materials Kobi has created for his Psalms for the Perplexed venture will blow you away (entire album with translations here). And for everyone – all the songs will be accompanied by projected translation into English…

And the warm-up act for Kobi… A Eurovision Evening! A truly British celebration of Israel – nostalgic, strange hair-do’s, dancing and joy with tongue very firmly planted in cheek. Israel’s just a little country that isn’t even in Europe, but right from its debut entry year in 1972 it has out-sung out-danced and out-kitsched the talents of the musical elite in the Continent’s premier festival of song. Sing along to the Hais and Horas on the Eurovision big screen, then vote for the absolute winner. 

18 reasons to be excited in London

April 9, 2014 by

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I’m very excited about London, these days.

Starting on 27th April there’s going to be a massive Israel festival leading up to Yom Ha’atzmaut on the night of May 5th.

It’s the JW3 inaugural Chag Ha’atzmaut, that we at Makom consulted on.

I think it’s just a fantastic program, and I’m going to spend the next 9 days explaining why.

 

 

 

As its title suggests, the festival deals with the Party and the Political – fun stuff and serious stuff, panels and lectures, performances and screenings. The festival has everything – live music and live parody; Brits discussing Israel and Israelis discussing Israel; films and art and theatre; amazing dance workshops and kids’ events.

What gets me most buzzed is that JW3 has made such a bold statement: That Israel is important to them – important enough to relate to Israel’s dynamic complexity as an honest adventure that has room for celebration and for deep questioning.

First up tomorrow: Hallelujah! With Live Performance by Kobi Oz, and the film Precious Life.

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