Israeli Elections are coming – are you?

January 21, 2019 by

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The most direct and powerful opportunity for individuals to influence Israeli policy is upon us. On April 9th, every Israeli citizen has the chance to have their say as to how Israel should best answer the Four Hatikvah Questions.

What would be the best way to ensure Israel’s security? How should Judaism, the Jewish People, and Jewish values affect policy in Israel? How can Israel’s current EIU Democracy Index ranking rise higher than 30th in the world? Are we configuring our land and its resources in the most equitable and sustainable way?

In later Headlines for Identity, we’ll look into how the political parties do or don’t address these questions, but for now it might be worth asking a more fundamental question:

Why aren’t you voting?

Why don’t those American Jews who express so much care and concern for Israel and her policies, just come over here and vote? For Jews around the world it’s real easy to get the vote in Israel: You just make Aliyah. Technically speaking you wouldn’t even need to live here. Pop over to become an Israeli citizen, and then fly in to vote. It’s not nothing, but it’s nowhere near impossible.

So what is behind this desire to critique and influence Israel on the one hand, and this unwillingness to put one’s money where one’s mouth is on the other?

Do Diaspora Jews care less than they say they do? Do they view Aliyah in such hallowed terms that they could not bring themselves to “exploit” it in this way?

Or are they simply afraid that if given the right to vote in Israel’s elections they’ll find themselves confounded over whom to vote for, like the rest of us poor saps living here?

Culture Connection IV – The Transformation of the Salt Bride

 

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Download the pdf from here

Culture Connection III – Happy New Year!

 

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Facebook was terribly busy over New Year’s Eve!

We have translated and annotated one of the most entertaining threads we’ve seen for some time…

(H/T to Ittay Flescher!)

 

 

Download the pdf from here

To Be – under threat of annihilation, or defeat?

December 26, 2018 by

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As they say, when the United States sneezes, the whole world catches the flu. While the decision of President Trump to withdraw US troops from Syria has led to political headlines and speculation in DC, it has put many in our area in fear for their lives.

The only buffer between an Iranian-Russian takeover of Syria, Israel’s Northern enemy, has disappeared overnight. Kurds fear massacre, and Israel fears the nightmare scenario of Iran on its border: Both in Syria and in Lebanon through Iran’s proxy army Hezbollah with their tunnels.

How should we respond to a sworn enemy that aims for our annihilation?

Ironically enough, President Trump’s move comes in a period when more and more military and ex-military personnel are calling for an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank/Judea and Samaria. They, echoing Helit Bar El’s presentation to us, argue that we must differentiate between Iran’s threat of annihilation – TO BE – and the Palestinians’ threat to areas of OUR LAND and our own sense of liberal democracy (FREEDOM).

These Generals argue that if an enemy threatens our values or our interests, but does not threaten our existence, then this is an enemy with whom we can and should compromise.

In recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, President Trump has strengthened Israel’s hand vis a vis the Palestinians, and in announcing the withdrawal from Syria has weakened Israel’s hand against Iran.

Some might say that Americans do not understand what it means to be under threat of annihilation. Are American Jews different in this respect?

How should American Jews, often opposed to US military exploits in the Middle East, respond to President Trump’s priorities?

 

Airbnb takes a stand on Our Land/Their Land

November 21, 2018 by

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Airbnb has responded to pressure from Human Rights Watch, and has chosen to “remove listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank that are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.” This has, as might be expected, delighted activists working against the military occupation of the West Bank/Judea and Samaria, and has infuriated the Israeli government and its supporters.

The former might see this as an affirmation of what is almost an international consensus: The area East of the 1967 Armistice line known as the Green Line is Occupied Territory. As such, it is subject to the Geneva Convention that prohibits transfer of population into said areas, and rules out building permanent settlements there. Human Rights Watch created a video aimed at Airbnb, pointing out that listings are built on land stolen from Palestinians. Activists against the Occupation would say that Airbnb are to be praised for upholding international law. Hurrah…

On the other hand, Israeli governments of the last fifty years – and most Israelis – do not see this area as occupied. The land was conquered in response to Jordanian aggression, there was no legitimate State the land was conquered from (the strictly legal definition of Occupied territory), and anyway – this is ancient and traditional Jewish land. Many Israelis would even go further to say that Jewland (Judea) is rightfully owned and ruled by the Jewish State. For Airbnb to discriminate against Jewish residents of Jewland is grossly unfair. Boo…

There are others who, without denying either party’s claims, might ask a question: Does Airbnb refuse business to other countries involved in abuses that are also enumerated by Human Rights Watch? And if not, why not?

HRW condemns Zimbabwe’s theft of land, Saudi Arabian abuses of women, China’s occupation of Tibet and discrimination against Muslims – to name but a few. All of these places are trading happily on Airbnb. Tibet is even listed by Airbnb as being a province of China!

Yet Human Rights Watch has, as yet, run no campaign against these listings.

Given this inconsistency, how should we interpret the actions of Human Rights Watch (whose own founder denounced it), and of Airbnb?

[You might wish to print out this pdf version of the post, and stick it up on the wall of your House…]

 

This Headline for Identity is part of the 4HQ Encounters program for Moishe House, made possible by the generous funding of Jim Joseph Foundation.

 

Lara Alqasem and Israel’s boycott of boycotters

October 25, 2018 by

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Lara Alqasem http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net

 

So Lara Alqasem has finally begun her studies at Hebrew University. Her situation received huge coverage both in the States and in Israel, and raises two key issues for us to ponder.

Some background: Back in the States Lara Alqasem was an activist with Students for Justice in Palestine, that boycotts and condemns Israel. In Israel the issue of boycotts has become a fiery bone of contention, and the source of new legislation to prevent “giving succor to our enemies”. Those Israelis who call for boycotting the country lay themselves open to being sued for damages, and to lose certain State benefits. On the basis of this law, Alqasem was refused entry to Israel. After a two week legal appeal, Israel’s Supreme Court recently ruled she was free to enter the country: She was not judged to be currently calling for boycott.

Our first question to ponder is the “cock-up vs conspiracy” question. The fact that this young woman was coming to study on a year-long student visa at Hebrew University, has already infuriated those committed to boycotting Israel’s academia. As a boycotter of Israel, she’s a complete failure… So was her arrest a sign that the Israeli government has malign plans to extend the reach of the Boycott Law, and that the security establishment sees even a (former) student activist as a threat? Or was her arrest just a stupid mistake compounded by cheap local politics?

Our second question has often been obscured by the first: In a post 9/11 world, (when) is it justified for a government to prevent entry of foreign nationals to its territory – especially those it suspects might break its laws?

In our 4HQ language, we might ask two overlapping questions.

  • Is a country’s Freedom to be judged according to the way it denies freedoms to others?
  • Can a country’s Safety be threatened by campaigns other than military ones?

 

If the answer to both these questions is yes, how then should a country negotiate its border crossings?

Moishe House programming suggestion:

You might wish to work with this Headline for Identity together with Musica Cubana. You might ask participants to imagine how the protagonist in Musica Cubana would/should react to visitors to his club who call it racist?

 

This Headline for Identity is part of the 4HQ Encounters program for Moishe House, made possible by the generous funding of Jim Joseph Foundation.

How can we sing with Kululam during the Omer?

April 17, 2018 by

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The writer is Director Of Community Education and Summer Program at Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, and Lecturer in Tanakh and Jewish Thought at Yeshivat Eretz HaTzvi.

If you have been following me on FB, you will know my obsession with Koolulam, especially their ‎‎70th Yom Haatzmaut event. Prior to the event I was asked by 7 or 8 people, friends or talmidot/im, ‎whether they could attend during the Omer. (If you watched the video, about half the participants ‎were religious-looking.) ‎

I am generally halakhically conservative (small “c”!) and I try to keep halakha even if it disrupts my lifestyle. I ‎am committed to halakhic practice and I don’t knowingly contravene the law. So was it forbidden?‎ To Full Post

4HQ for your Seder Night!

 

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We are delighted to present our suggestion for talking Israel at the Seder table. This leaflet was produced by our friends at the UJIA in the UK, at their initiative. We are delighted to share this with all the world, in addition to the 45,000 Brits who will receive a printed copy with their Jewish Chronicle!

Click here to download

No alternative to facts! The case for Israel Education

February 5, 2017 by

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In some professions, facts can indeed be your enemy.

It makes sense for politicians to argue over facts, and even hope to suggest alternate ones. Because for a politician facts are valent. There is either a “good” fact, or a “bad” fact – one that supports or weakens their agenda. Same goes for many other professions. I’m sure that when tobacco producers found out that smoking was bad for one’s health, they found this fact to be deeply troubling. TV dramas are full of “bad” facts: Throughout that HBO crime/court series “The Night Of” you are constantly left struggling with the idea that this kid must not tell the truth. The facts are against him.

But an educators’ job is to make sure that facts are neither friends nor enemies. Facts are there to be gathered, the more the merrier.

Facts are there to be gathered, the more the merrier.

 

And Israel Education in particular, forces us to embrace a fact-filled existence.

Because Israel is a “subject matter” so vibrant and complex that it can no longer fit into a straightforward narrative. There is no way we can only teach about Israel through her towering heroes, when some awkward myth-busting anecdote is waiting to be found online. We can’t only teach the woes of Israel as a Haredi-dominated theocracy, when Tel Aviv still exists. We can’t only teach about Israel being the safe haven for the Jewish People, when evidence of dangerous enemies calls this into question every day. Something contradictory will always crop up.

These contradictions, these complicating facts, these endless annoying and endearing anomalies, are what makes Israel so fascinating and dynamic. And as such, they become the educator’s magic dust. The fascinating truth about Israel, is that it is always going to be infinitely too broad for one person to grasp. When this is one’s educational message, then facts are not our enemy.

This is not to say that the educator’s only job is to overwhelm the student! But once freed of one’s exhausting “guard duty” against uncomfortable facts, we can focus on what is most important: To act as the “Guide for the Perplexed” by offering frameworks for the student to make sense of what threatens to be babble, and to build Israel into the Jewish identity of the learners.

 

More information about our “Guide for the Perplexed” – 4HQ – can be found here.

Video explanation of 4HQ – The Four Hatikvah Questions

 

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Here is a fifteen-minute introduction to the 4HQ approach. Makom now runs training seminars in applying the 4HQ approach to schools, to campuses, to adult education, and to synagogues. In this video, you’ll be able to taste the depth and breadth of the approach.

 

For a written version of the contents of this video (not a transcript), please download from here.

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