Thursday, December 30, 2004
so whats new?
Alas Batya this is nothing new. I just read the other day about that poor soldier Zviki which I shall paste his whole story as written by Moshe Feiglin as I dont see it anywhere on INN. I hope it comes through. Zviki By Moshe Feiglin: Yefim Kortzki could not understand how he had remained alive. A unit of the Golani Brigade, comprising 24 half-tracks and three tanks, began the climb towards Tel Faher during the battle to liberate the Golan Heights. The fortunate ones who reached the approaches to the objective stormed forward and fought like lions, exposed to the light of day, and facing superior forces deployed in well-dug-in positions. Fourteen commendations and two medals for bravery were awarded for this battle. There were few survivors. Yefim's luck ran out at the end of the Six Day War when his jeep, fitted with a recoilless gun, encountered a mine and he was gravely wounded. But Yefim isn't the kind of man who gives in. Despite his grave disability he refused to accept financial aid from the Ministry of Defense. "The country doesn't owe me anything", he explained. He was hospitalized for more than a year. After being discharged he immediately started working, built a wonderful family, and continued to fight the daily war of existence with his own efforts. Over the course of the years the effects of his serious injuries became more marked, and he is now confined to his home, and every movement he makes causes agonizing pains that recall for him the terrible events of that battle. I visit Yefim every Shabbat. A ray of hope emerged despite the terrible pains and the nightmares of yesterday. Nine years ago his son, Zviki, joined the IDF. Yefim passed on to his son all his Zionist ardor, his belief in the State of Israel, and in the IDF. Zviki is something. He is hard-working and talented, and stunned the senior officers who encountered him. He finished an officer's course and then advanced rapidly through progressive ranks, leaving a trail of reports of excellence in his wake. As a young officer he filled a number of positions usually given to people several ranks above him. In everything he did he introduced improvements and was well liked by those both above and below him. Zviki saw his future in the army. He joined the ranks of the regular army and was scheduled to start a course of studies about two years ago. When Yefim saw Zviki this made his day.But Zviki was too good for the State of Israel. One Shabbat, when the battalion commander took a vacation, he left Zviki in command of the battalion. Zviki was patrolling with a single jeep when he suddenly received a message. In the Arab village of Nazlat Zid a car bomb was being prepared to make an attack on Hadera. This was at the peak of the terrorist attacks, the distance from the village to the target was short, and there was no time to organize additional forces. Just Zviki, his driver, and an additional soldier, blocked the path of the car bomb intended to attack Hadera. Zviki didn't hesitate and entered the village.It was Shabbat. There were no people in the area apart from the residents of the village. So why was there a demonstration blocking his path? Obviously, this apparently spontaneous demonstration, was intended to delay him and thus permit the car bomb to leave for its destination. Zviki got out of the jeep and called on the demonstrators to leave the place. Naturally, no-one obeyed him. He fired in the air and this still had no effect. Time was pressing so Zviki did something that was customary at that time. He took careful aim and fired at a brick wall in a nearby house. He clearly saw the place that his bullet had hit. Now the demonstration dispersed and Zviki rushed to patrol the village. The car bomb was no longer there, and thank G-d had been caught in a nearby village. When Zviki left the village he saw that a crowd had gathered. The villagers pointed to an injured person in a vehicle. They claimed that he had been hit by a bullet. Zviki helped as best as he could and brought the vehicle with the wounded person to a nearby medical unit. As a result of pressure applied by the Betzelem organization, Zviki was brought to trial. The prosecution had no real proof. The body of the injured person had been taken away by the Arabs and buried a long time earlier, and no-one could prove that he had been killed by a bullet. It is quite likely that as in other similar cases, local Arabs had killed the person and used the body for propaganda purpose. But why should the military court concern itself with such explanations, when precedents have already been established by the Supreme Court, and Leftist media person Ilana Dayan is breathing down its neck? A window frame, without the glass, was produced as proof that Zviki's bullet had exploded it. (It's worth mentioning that a bullet from an M16 rifle, as used by Zviki, leaves a hole, but the rest of the glass remains intact.) Zviki request to return to the village and locate the place where his bullet hit the wall was rejected. Two very difficult years ensued for Zviki and his parents. They had spent all their money on lawyers and appeals. Nothing was of any avail. Even his final request to receive a pardon from the CGS was rejected. He was reduced in rank, the studies promised him were cancelled, and this morning Zviki entered the military prison where he will serve his six months sentence. This is the prize given by the State of Israel to a devoted, talented officer who gave nine years to serving in the IDF, years in which a person builds his future. For his courage in facing alone an incited crowd, and terrorists planning to perpetrate an attack on Hadera, the State of Israel should have awarded Zviki a medal. But this is not what happens in the Israeli era of reversal of values. Zviki, an excellent officer wearing a kippah from Karnei Shomron, was just the prey the establishment was waiting for. I have visited Yefim every Shabbat for many years. Over the last two years I have seen how his world has collapsed around him in ruins. He is incapable of understanding how the same State in which he believed and for which he gave everything, can do such a thing to him. I tried to explain to Yefim that it isn't the State. Someone has stolen the State from us, but one day it will be liberated. But Yefim doesn't want to hear this, and is sinking into depression. I have avoided publicizing the affair until now. Zviki has been taken captive by people who have covered their eyes with a red sheet. I didn't want them to know of the connection, but it's now all over. Zviki is in jail and Yefim is more broken in spirit than in body. This man with a broken body, who lives on drugs against pain that would have killed a normal person, is starting tomorrow a sole demonstration opposite the entrance to the General Staff HQ in Tel Aviv. He intends to sit there in the rain and cold, and I fear for his life. And Zviki? Thank G-d, Zviki is beginning to understand what his father is unable to accept. "You must appeal to the Supreme Court", one of the lawyers tried to persuade him. But Zviki had already understood that he had been caught in the claws of the monster. He now recognizes what he is up against. "What's the point?", he replied, "It will only mean that in another two years I'll be in the same situation, but with bigger debts". Zviki will be released in another six months. He will be an asset for any entrepreneur. He will study and work industriously, and faithfully, and will be better than others. "In another two years", I said to Yefim, "you and your wife will thank the court for finding Zviki guilty. You will thank the CGS and the other spineless officers who turned their backs on him. You will thank them, because without them Zviki would have stayed in the army and wouldn't have realized even part of his capabilities." We shall in the end release the State from its captivity, and it will then need first-rate people like Zviki. It will thank them when it is released from its captivity.
Monday, December 27, 2004
December 25, 2004
The 16th of Tevet
A Few Thoughts
The Right to Feel
I was about to start this with “Many years ago…” then suddenly I realized that the word “many” is terribly subjective. My concept of “Many years ago…” is less than that of my parents, and my own children’s is certainly less than my own. I have no problem respecting it.
Food that is indelibly salty to me is absolutely tasty and delicious to others. Music that gets on my nerves is fantastically popular with other people. That doesn’t make any of us wrong.
So why are the feelings of the holocaust survivors living in Gush Katif less valued, legitimate, kosher, than those who run Yad Veshem? The survivors in Gush Katif are feeling a terrible deja vous, like they’re back in the time of the Nazis being herded out of their homes into danger, and possible murder. While the Yad Veshem crowd is still insisting that millions “perished;” the “m” word not escaping their lips.
No one forced anyone to wear an “orange star,” and it really bothers me that the campaign was derailed. Obviously it hit a nerve, and that means that their message was getting across. It’s a shame that the Gush Katif residents stopped the campaign, because I would have fought for them. Their pain and memories are no less haunting and legitimate than those of the “survivor celebrities.”
More and more people are trying to figure out how the Prime Minister, a former general, known for his patriotism and courage, is sitting idly by while civilians in cities and communities are being bombed daily. I don’t have anything nice to say.
Thank G-d there is a G-d. There is no other explanation for the miracles that happen daily and nightly in Gush Katif, Sderot and surrounding areas. For years we’ve marveled at the miracles of the Gulf War. Statistically it’s impossible for there to have been so few casualties. That’s how we know it’s G-d. G-d goes against nature.
And is that why Arik Sharon is getting more and more stubborn and hard-hearted about the good patriotic citizens in Gush Katif? Is it the same hand of G-d that hardened Pharaoh’s heart, hardening Sharon’s? Sharon and his advisors think that a few more bombs, and the good Jews will run gratefully into the “camps” he’s setting up for them.
Sharon won’t get his wish. We are stronger. We may not have jails and tanks and physical weapons, but we are a “stiff-necked people.”
A revolution is being planned in Israel’s education. It sounds like a nightmare. Ten’s of thousands of teachers are to be fired, and class-size is to be reduced. Now, you don’t have to be a CPA’s daughter like I am to see problems with the numbers.
The Dovrat Commission thinks that if they offer the teachers a little more money, the teachers, the better ones of course, will stay in school double the hours, five days a week. They think that parents will pay extra money for extracurricular activities for their kids on Fridays. Only the largest schools will be financially stable. Religious schools will be required to drastically reduce the hours for Jewish studies or they’ll lose government support.
I really don’t like writing all this depressing stuff. And I didn’t even mention the soldier thrown out of an officers’ course, because he said that he could never pull a Jew out of his home. The army told him that such opinions disqualify him from being an officer. Strange that when left-wing air force pilots signed a letter that they wouldn’t drop bomb on civilians sheltering terrorists, that was considered ok. His father, an immigrant from the former USSR, was sure that he had left such a totalitarian society.
Basically all these stories are the same. We’re going through a very difficult time, fighting a war on many fronts. And the biggest and most dangerous is the one for our hearts and minds. They’re trying to destroy us, to weaken us, but they won’t succeed.
Baruch Shem Kavod Malchuto Li’olam Va’ed
Ve’ahavta et Adoshem Elokecha,
“Listen, People of Israel
Blessed be His Name, whose glorious Kingdom is forever and ever
And you must love the Lord your G-d with all your soul and with all your might…”
Batya Medad, Shiloh
Copyright(C)BatyaMedad, Contact me for publication permission; private distribution encouraged.
Saturday, December 25, 2004
Thursday, December 23, 2004
December 22, 2004
The 10th of Tevet
In deep pain, opponents of “disengagement” are wearing “orange stars,” and from the way the media and many politicians are acting—so shocked, scandalized and horrified, you’d think that they were pelting innocent civilians with rocks, or shooting at people traveling in cars, or stabbing people to death or even strapping explosives to themselves to blow up, murder, everyone in the vicinity.
Oops, the politicians, international leaders and media don’t get that outraged at the murder of innocent Jews. They keep shoving our other cheek out in case the terrorists need easier targets. There’s a lot of misplaced anger here. I wish these same politicians, diplomats, historians and journalists would just listen to themselves. Who are the victims? Why are they so deaf and callous to Jewish pain?
Many years ago, when I was in high school (Great Neck North), I tried to publicize demonstrations to give religious freedom to Soviet Jewry. My fellow classmates, mostly Jewish, first insisted that they were only interested in American issues, like civil rights, and Russia was much too far away for them to relate to. The following year they were enthusiastically demonstrating for Biafora, in Africa. Nothing’s changed.
Nadia Matar’s being attacked for saying that the transfer, uprooting, destruction reminds her of the Nazis. She was raised in Europe and grew up hearing of the murder and persecution of Jews. Nadia’s an idealist, a Jewish idealist, who sees Jewish survival as Jews in our Eretz Yisrael as the most important ideal. I identify with that.
What I don’t understand is Yaakov Amidror, the retired IDF general, the first religious general, who was brought into the TV studio to serve counterpoint to Nadia. He stated and repeated that in principle, he agrees with Nadia, that Sharon’s “disengagement” withdrawal, destruction plan is the worst possible policy for our country. But he stated that he supports it, because a democratic government voted for it. Nadia, in the studio, and I, watching a repeat of the interview, were equally dumbfounded. Where are his values? Where are his ideals? Are there any absolute truths in his life? If he found himself living or serving with a group of people who democratically voted that the kitchen would be traif (not kosher) would he eat traif just to obey the majority?
Four terms keep repeating themselves in the arguments: democracy, Nazi, anti-Semite and civil war. Key words, as I’d tell my students.
I was raised to be a good American, and democracy was a major ingredient. It’s hard to say when I fell out of love with democracy, but now I no longer think it as an infallible necessity. There are subjects that are not for democratic vote, and one of them is religion, and another is certain social issues. A group of people shouldn’t be able to justify their bullying of another group by claiming “democracy.” Yes, bullying. That is what’s going on here. The residents of Gush Katif are being bullied by the wealthier more influential and powerful Israelis, all in the name of democracy.
The Jews being threatened, persecuted, are countering that they feel like they are going to be destroyed like Jewish communities were by the Nazis during the Holocaust. For the past sixty years, ever since it became common knowledge what happened in Nazi Germany and most of Europe, Jews have sworn “never again.” Jews will never bow to pressure to give up their homes, property and businesses. Jews will never go “like lambs.”
And now, what is happening, and here in Israel? Jews are being ordered to give up their homes, businesses, property—and this travesty is taking place in our Holy Land! In the name of democracy? Hitler was also put in power via democracy. In Gush Katif there are Holocaust survivors who thought they finally found their haven, their heaven on earth. Some of them, wearing their orange stars, visited the Knesset and were attacked for their feelings and opinions. See; http://www.israelnn.com/news.php3?id=74011
In Hebrew the term “civil war” is “war of brothers.” Those of us who say that we will oppose the expulsion of Jews from our homes are being told that we are causing a “civil war.” We are supposed to go “like lambs to the slaughter.” We have no rights. The government even proposed a law that would incarcerate us for three to five years for opposing expulsion of Jews from their homes, but thank G-d it was eliminated from the bill. In simple words, the government is starting a war against Jews, but we have no right to self-defense. Can a Jew be an anti-Semite? In frustration this term is also being used. Who would have thought that Jews would be calling each other “Nazi” and “anti-Semite?” They’re must be better words to use. For sure “Nazi” should never be used; it was for a specific country and time. And instead of “anti-Semite” another word must be used. The wrong words and symbols damage the cause.
I don’t agree with President Katzav’s reason for opposing the wearing of an orange star. He said: “There is no justification to enlist, in the public struggle against theevacuation, the star which constitutes a memory of the most horrific andawful period in the history of the Jewish people.… They must focus their struggle in the realm of the permitted, the legal and the legitimate.”
In all honesty, I think that in a very crucial way, today’s situation is no less “horrific and awful.” And that’s because today Jews are planning on evacuating other Jews from their homes; Jews are destroying Jewish schools and businesses. Jews are planning “camps,” “compounds” and jails to detain Jewish refugees. Jews are planning on confiscating weapons from Jews, leaving them defenseless, while at the same time armed police and soldiers will be sent to throw them out of their homes.
President Katzav suggests that we “must focus” our struggle on “legal and …legitimate” methods. But according to the proposed law, it will be illegal to protest! If the orange star bothers people and makes them think of the Nazis, then it’s doing its job. That’s the whole point.
When I began writing this, I wasn’t sure what I’d do, but especially after reading President Katzav’s statement, the star looks more and more legitimate. Will I wear an orange star? I don’t know. Maybe I’ll just take out “my ripped flag.” http://www.israelnn.com/article.php3?id=4385
Batya Medad, Shiloh
Copyright(C)BatyaMedad, Contact me for publication permission; private distribution encouraged.
Just a note:
This is the ninetieth numbered musing I’ve written. It’s hard to believe that the few thoughts, feelings and phrases that I jotted down and sent to a small number of people, when grieving at the murder of Shmuel and Gila, have evolved into a column that many people read all over the world. When I wrote that first “musing” I never thought that it would be more than one quick note, to express my feelings.
Here is the opening:
June 23, 2002
The 13th of Tammuz
Not Amusing Musings
Just last Sunday, with the announcement of five engagements in Shiloh in addition to a number of up-coming weddings, the talk was on how to prevent two weddings on one night, or “too many” within a couple of days. Such problems, such pressure…
Late Wednesday night, after midnight, I sat in the home of the grandparents of a classmate of one of the brides. Her grandmother and aunt were anxious to prevent a scheduling conflict, not of a wedding date, but of a probable funeral. Gila’s grandfather, mother and uncles were in Abu Kabir (Israeli forensic center) along with the father of Shmuel from next door. An Arab terrorist blew them up just a few hours before.
Gila, once considered an Israeli Olympic hope in gymnastics leapt onto the front page, not as a medal winner, but as a victim of a perverse, sadistic terrorist. Shmuel, the second child of gentle, modest educators, who just three weeks before impressed one and all as he eulogized his best friend, Avi Siton, (haya”d), was permanently silenced by that same Arab bomber.
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
December 21, 2004
The 9th of Tevet
Rather Be Jailed Than Buried
“Yoter Tov BiKelleh MeKever”
Twenty-three years ago, when we were rather new to Shiloh, I remember hearing my neighbor say that she had instructed her husband that she’d rather see him jailed than buried. Unfortunately that’s a choice many have made, and things aren’t getting any better. There are quite a few Jews imprisoned or tangled in legal quagmires due to the fact that a Jew in danger who ends up killing or injuring an Arab is severely prosecuted and punished. The only way to prove self-defense is to be dead or very seriously wounded, and then you still must prove that the Arab started it, and you had no other way to stop him.
When I was run over in a terror attack, less than ten years ago, the police spent a lot of time and money trying to prove that it could have had been an accident and weren’t interested in hearing the testimonies of the survivors. In addition, the young men who shot the terrorist dead were interrogated, and it took a long time until they were finally cleared of murder charges.
This “catch 22 situation” is no joke. There are many who believe that it is the reason why the soldier Kfir Okayon was killed in April 2004. Just a few days before he had been reprimanded and threatened by the army with punishment for pointing his weapon at an Arab who wouldn’t cooperate when being inspected for arms and explosives. Trying to “obey orders” and being gentle with the terrorists cost him his life.
Recently, another absurd story was in the news. Almost ten years ago, in the spring of 1995, during at time of terror attacks, Avraham Ofir, then an IDF soldier, came across an Arab vehicle that refused to stop for inspection, and when the vehicle crashed the Arabs fled, ignoring requests in Arabic to stop. You don’t need even half a brain to infer that they were acting suspiciously, and were most probably terrorists. Therefore Avraham shot them when they ran into a house.
For this he was demoted and worse, and not long ago his nightmare resumed as the state began legal action against him. And not to keep you in suspense, the Tel Aviv District Court withdrew the indictment against him, on charges of killing an Arab fugitive – charges for which he was tried in a military court nine years ago. Details can be found in the following news story. http://www.israelnn.com/news.php3?id=73022
There’s an organization that helps people who get into those “Twilight Zone” situations. It’s called “Honenu.” The person who runs it is Shmuel Meidad (no relation) of Hebron. It’s the only civil rights organization that supports Jewish civil rights. Unfortunately it is very busy. Many people need them, because the police, law and the court system here look for ways to make us pay for our self-defense.
I recommend contacting them for more information by calling: 02-960-5558 or cellphone 852-869-3999. Or by email at email@example.com
I pray that none of us, nor any of our friends and family will ever need their help. One of the ways of protecting ourselves and our dear ones is to help Honenu.
Batya Medad, Shiloh
Copyright(C)BatyaMedad, Contact me for publication permission; private distribution encouraged.
Saturday, December 18, 2004
December 16, 2004
The 4th of Tevet
We’re in Big Trouble!
"It's hard to beat a person who never gives up."- Babe Ruth
There’s a lot of wisdom in sports, sportsmanship and sportsmen. Babe Ruth was right. Our politicians have given up, so we’re in big trouble.
If our politicians are leading us anywhere, it’s not where I want to be. That’s for sure.
This past week, I was at the Begin Heritage Center for the Begin Prize Ceremony. It was a very inspiring evening. The winners were all people who had done something above the norm. Nefesh B’Nefesh, the organization that facilitates aliyah from North America, doing what the Jewish Agency and Israeli government should be doing, won the Begin Prize. The initiators of that organization had a dream to help North American Jews make aliyah. They didn’t give up, and today hundreds of Jews are successfully living in Israel due to their assistance.
Special recognition was also given to two extraordinary people. The first was a man who has captured the hearts of many by his rare and remarkable generosity. Eric Swim, an American, who donated one of his kidneys to Moshiko Sharon, an Israeli boy. Little Moshiko was dying. The call went out throughout the world that Moshiko needed a kidney. Rationally and logically, there was very little chance that a kidney would be found, certainly not from a live man. But they had a dream, and reality caught up with the dream. They didn’t give up.
And, what a donor! When Mr. Swim spoke to the crowd, it was clear that he had no idea why we all found him so admirable. He spoke with simple faith and ended his words with a chapter of T’hilim, psalms, in Hebrew. As he struggled reading a language he barely knows, most of the crowd recited along with him, and the rest wept.
The final recipient was Israel’s top female athlete, Keren Leibowitz, the winner of seven medals, including five gold ones, at the Olympics for the physically handicapped. Giving up, even after being seriously injured in the army, is not in her vocabulary.
One of the speakers, Salai Meridor, Chairman of the Jewish Agency, quoted Herzl as he spoke about the recipients to the crowded auditorium. “Im tirtzu, ain zu agadah,” “If you truly wish it, it’s not make-believe.” And right before our eyes, we saw people whose dream became real life.
There are people in our very special country who have the strength to dream and make their dreams come true. That’s why it’s so disturbing that our government is filled with weak, faithless people. How can it be? Even those who seemed strong and idealistic before assuming office changed and lost their faith and confidence. I wonder if it’s like what we see on television. There’s the old comedy, “Yes, Minister,” the old British TV show that depicted the behind the scenes workings of the British government, run by the civil servants, the unseen clerks and secretaries. But I have trouble believing that Arik Sharon could be manipulated and controlled by some civil servants.
Then there’s another TV show, ‘’The Agency,” that depicts the inner workings of the American CIA. This program features technology that seems more science fiction than reality, even in the twenty first century. One memorable scene showed a clandestine medical exam of a foreign visitor while he was meeting a CIA official. Somehow, as he sat in the comfortable, innocent-looking office chair, all of his vital signs were measured, and if I’m not mistaken, he was also x-rayed. All of this, while he believed that he was just talking. Is someone zapping our politicians’ brains? Are they being controlled by ___? This is starting to get very spooky.
Or are our politicians just “burnt-out,” like many professionals? Are they tired of bucking the world? Are they looking for praise from those who had previously rejected them? In that sense the two who made the most radical changes, Menachem Begin and Arik Sharon, have the most in common. They were the most reviled by the media and international leaders before becoming prime minister, and then, all of a sudden, they proposed policies that they had been totally against previously.
Our greatest Biblical leaders, Moshe Rabenu and Shmuel HaNavi (Samuel the Prophet), also had trouble with the pressures trying to get public support. They both complained to G-d about the difficulties in leading the Jewish People, but in the end they prevailed. Moshe led us to the Land of Israel, and Shmuel crowned our first two kings, Saul and David.
I have a little advice for our politicians:
“If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”
As said by American President Harry Truman’s friend, Harry Vaughan, Time, April 28, 1952 *
*Results from Internet Collections: 20th Century Quotations
Batya Medad, Shiloh
Monday, December 13, 2004
Sunday, December 12, 2004
December 6, 2004
The 24th of Kislev
A Bird’s Eye View
A Peek Behind the Scenes
Even though I’ve been living in Israel for almost thirty-five years, speak and understand Hebrew, follow the news and politics, sometimes I feel like I’m missing out on things. Names appear on the news, and they’re strangers to me. And for an Israeli, that’s not good. Yes, one of the big differences between the America I was raised in and the Israel I live in is that Israelis “know everybody.” It’s not only because Israel’s a small country, it’s also because there’s a social and class fluidity like nowhere else on earth. Even most politicians and their families are accessible, at least compared to other countries.
Regardless, I certainly don’t know everybody, so when my husband suggested that we go to a Shabbat organized by Arutz 7 where MK Effie Eitam was to be the special guest speaker, I immediately said “yes!”
I was very curious. Only a very, few years ago Effie Eitam was expected to become the big power in Israeli politics, the person who due to the dynamics of his life bridged the religious, secular and the army, would unify, inspire and rescue us from “the situation.” A number of political parties vied for his support and were willing to offer almost anything if he would only join. I remember learning that 1951 in the United States, there was similar excitement and competition for Dwight D. Eisenhower, who became a popular U. S. president. Would Effie Eitam be Israel’s Ike?
The winner was the “Mafdal,” the NRP, the National Religious Party. Within a short time, it became clear that MK Eitam was not proving himself a national political leader. He was not the first former general to find that national and party politics are much more complicated than the army hierarchy.
Until that Shabbat I had never heard him speak and only knew about him what was written in the papers. I listened carefully, and it all began to make sense. It’s no secret that I believe that a leader must have “vision.” He or she must be someone who strongly believes in something and can attract people to follow. MK Eitam gave a long speech, which began with some personal and family background, and he was glowing; he was riveting. You could easily see his personal strength. But then he continued by detailing all of the difficulties Israel is presently facing. His solution: “We must get together and find a solution.” Honestly, this is close enough to a translation of what he said for me to frame it in quotation marks.
Everything was suddenly clear. He’s a wonderful, talented person but not a national political leader. He was depressing the minute he got into political topics. We, or more accurately, he’s in a classic Peter’s Principle bind; he has risen to his level of incompetence.
There was another featured speaker that Shabbat, Rabbi Yigal Kaminetzky, the Rabbi of Gush Katif. I knew very little about him, but I was curious for a different reason. He’s my neighbor’s brother. Where Effie Eitam radiated confusion and uncertainty, Rabbi Yigal radiated confidence and pride. Listening to him, it was easy to become convinced that living in Gush Katif is an enviable privilege. He personified the stories my friend tells about their mother.
My friend tells of how when she was a child, not only did she not have any idea that they were poor, but the school teachers thought that they came from a very wealthy family. Once a teacher visited their home to tell her parents that it wasn’t right to flaunt their wealth. My friend and her siblings were much better dressed than their classmates, during a time of great poverty in the early days of the State. The teacher was speechless when she walked into their home, which was too small to be called a proper apartment. The late Mrs. Kaminetzky used to take apart the second hand clothes sent to them, and then she sewed the fabric into beautifully styled, perfectly fitted “new” clothes.
Rabbi Yigal’s “spin” on the admitted difficulties facing Gush Katif and the rest of the country were so positive and optimistic, like the attractive, stylish clothes his mother sewed from others’ rejects. Rabbi Yigal’s confidence and plans were the antithesis of MK Eitam’s. He is a leader. I have no doubt that he’s one of the main reasons Gush Katif is strong and vibrant today.
I returned home with added confidence and optimism. As the political situation gets more complicated and difficult, it’s good to know that there’s someone to follow.
Batya Medad, Shiloh
Friday, December 10, 2004
Monday, December 6, 2004
December 4, 2004
The 22th of Kislev
Traveling by Bus
Only in Israel!
We don’t have a car. There are many reasons, and there’s no point in going into them, but let that suffice as an introduction.
For quite a few years, some people think that traveling on Israeli public buses is too dangerous to do. There are foreign student programs that officially forbid the students to take Israeli public transportation, convinced that terror attacks on buses are daily events. Terror attacks make the headlines, but statistically you’re safer on the bus than in a private car. Accidents happen everyday.
There are advantages to traveling on a bus that can neither be matched nor measured. Just the other week, I saw something special. A young woman who could have been between sixteen and twenty-five was writing in the hand of the old woman next to her. They were sitting across from me, so I couldn’t help but observe. At first they seemed to be playing a game, like my friends and I did at some point in our childhood, probably when “The Miracle Worker” first came out. Then I noticed the additional responses of the old woman; she gestured and made sounds or spoke, but the girl only wrote in her hand. The stranger sitting besides me had noticed, too, and me asked what they could be doing. My guess was that the old woman had once been able to see and hear, but now she’s without those senses, and we had been observing a loving conversation between a grandmother and granddaughter.
Another different, only by bus event, was last Thursday. After finishing teaching in Beit El, I was in a rush to get to Jerusalem. (See http://me-ander.blogspot.com/2004/12/old-friends.html) The bus/’tremp” stop is usually packed with students rushing to get home on Thursday afternoons, and last week was no exception. No bus was scheduled, and I was trying hard to memorize faces, never my strong point (I always lose memory games), to make sure no one got ahead of me on line. Then suddenly an empty Egged (public) bus pulled up.
Sprightly, for an old timer, I got in and asked where he was going. “Jerusalem, I was supposed to be finished for the day, but I got an emergency call from my boss that there are a lot of soldiers in the Beit El army base who need to get home, so I was asked to do one more run.” Then he drove us around the bases picking up soldiers, frequently driving up to them as they were shlepping their heavy bags to the official bus stops. He mentioned that it reminded him of the days he drove a school bus and made every effort to find the young children so they would get to school on time. I told him that this is the same thing; these are young children, too. And they were. Later, he opened the door for me when we stopped at a red light just outside of the Jerusalem bus station to save me time. (Please don’t let this get to Egged management or the traffic police! He could get into trouble.)
Every once in a while when I’m walking in Jerusalem, suddenly I hear a bus insistently honking. Then I realize that I’m the target, though I’m safely and properly on the sidewalk. I take a look and see the driver waving and smiling, one of the regulars on the Shiloh route. Yes, they think of us passengers as friends.
A few years ago, before I became an English teacher, I sold bagels (maybe someday I’ll tell you about it). The bakery/office/main restaurant was on Jaffa Road near the central bus station. My workday ended just before a bus home, and in those days the bus passed The Bagel House a minute after pulling out. A couple of days after starting the job, I left late but managed to hail the bus, picture it—or maybe you had better not—as it traveled on busy Jaffa Road. The driver was nice and stopped for me. I told him about my job and its location, and then the driver offered to pick me up everyday as he passed the shop. So for the six months I worked there I was given limousine service from work to my front door in Shiloh in the biggest limo you’ve ever seen.
Believe me, I’m not the only one who benefits from the kindness of Egged bus drivers. One of the most touching things I’ve ever observed was on the 13 bus when I used to travel it a couple of times a week to tutor a young woman who was severely injured in a terror attack and then miraculously recovered and wanted to resume her education. But this isn’t about her. It’s about another regular passenger on the 13 bus, a woman who very obviously suffered from a serious neurological and/or psychiatric disorder. It didn’t matter who the driver was, but all the drivers I encountered when she was a passenger treated her with full respect. They conversed with her and cared for her and made sure she was comfortable and arrived safely to wherever she was going. It was a beautiful lesson in chesed, kindness, giving. I learned a lot watching them, and I always left the bus feeling better about the world.
“Do not despise any man, and do not dismiss anything; for there is not a man who has not his hour; and there is not a thing that has not its place.”
Pirkei Avot, Ethics of The Fathers, Chapter 4, Mishne 3
Thursday, December 2, 2004
December 2, 2004
The 19th of Kislev
Following is my reply to the OU/Savitsky response, the official response and further reflections.
Dear Mr. Savitsky,
Thank you for responding, and I hope that someday you, too, have the great pleasure and privilege of making aliyah and living in our very unique country.
Dear Batya Medad:
After receiving many emails regarding my interview in The Jerusalem Post, I want you to know that I have placed an ad in Thursday’s editon of the Post which will read as follows:
I deeply regret the remarks I made concerning past motivations for aliya which were reported in the Friday, November 26 edition of The Jerusalem Post, and I apologize for them. I am sorry that these remarks, which were part of a lengthy discussion on aliya and many other topics, denigrated—albeit unintentionally—those who have made aliya over the years. As newly-elected President of the Orthodox Union, I will continue to acknowledge their courage and idealism, and to use their example to encourage others to follow in their footsteps. Indeed, promoting aliya was a key theme of our Convention in Jerusalem this past weekend.
I request mechila (forgiveness) from all whom I offended, and hope I may look forward to working closely with the entire community of olim to increase and enhance aliya in the future.
This unfortunate incident has caused me tremendous personal anguish and I hope that I have learned from this experience and that I will be able to represent the OU in a positive manner in the future. Thank you for taking the time to communicate with me.
Stephen J Savitsky
President, Orthodox Union
I think that it’s time to “let it be,” as the saying goes. There were a couple of very tense days as soon as Mr. Savitsky’s interview came out in The Jerusalem Post. It almost felt like a “war,” or at least the sort of “sibling rivalry” I’d never personally experienced.
There is no doubt that there’s a “tension” between us immigrants and the ones who stayed behind, or tried aliyah and left. The rapid and strong, powerful response against Savitsky, most probably, shocked us all, most of all those like him who think/thank of us as troubled, incompetant “moochers” who had to flee “problems.”
I must admit that it wasn’t a pleasant few days, though exhilarating in the rapid networking among those of us on line and in the support we received from abroad. Not everyone’s justifying his or her lack of aliyah by putting us down.
We may not have the trappings of kingly salaries, but we don’t need the help of pr experts and committees to get out of trouble. We’re tough and prickly, just like the “classic sabra,” soft, sweet and sensitive to slights on the inside. And I guess, that despite the identifiable accents most of us still have, we have become real Israelis.
We’ve proven our point, and the OU/Savitsky composed an excellent apology, and G-d willing he and the rest of them will join us in Israel, as olim.
More than enough said.
Sunday, November 28, 2004
November 28, 2004
The 15th of Kislev
I just “bumped” another “musing in the making” to the “to be continued when there’s nothing cooking” file. I had titled it “Roots,” which in a sense can be used for this one, since the OU, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, is the parent body of NCSY, National Conference Of Synagogue Youth. And NCSY is the organization that connected me with my Jewish roots.
The “emergency” is the pathetic justification the new OU president voiced in an interview in The Jerusalem Post. The OU is having its annual national convention here in Israel. They’re very proud of themselves. OK, I have no problem with that; we need the tourists. In addition the OU has officially come out in favor of aliya. All right, I wouldn’t say that it’s commendable, since, like I told my parents over thirty-five years ago: “Aliyah’s a mitzvah, like Shabbat and kashrut.” And they don’t expect a standing ovation for keeping Shabbat. But anyway, it was nice to read the press release.
All this pro-aliyah business began looking like a Purim joke when my husband read to me on Shabbat, from The Jerusalem Post interview with Steve Savitsky, the new OU President:
"People are starting to go to Israel for the right reasons. Years ago aliya was for people who were running away from something. They weren't successful. They didn't have a successful marriage. They were coming because there was a reason. They weren't role models." (29-11-04)
Really? (Read it again, take a deep breath and count to ten)
I figured I’d leave the previous paragraph rather empty to digest the quotation. Look, I don’t know him. I already heard from a friend of his, who can’t believe the words were said. I’m sure that he didn’t mean to insult the thousands of us American immigrants, but I have no doubt that these are his true feelings. He was probably jet-lagged and “over-stimulated” by all the excitement. While getting my teaching license, I researched and presented a paper that proved that insufficient sleep causes the same sort of symptoms as ADHD, including impulsivity, a lack of restraints and inhibitions.
Mr. Savitsky said a lot in his honest statement. And yes, I consider it a very honest and revealing statement. I’m sure that he had absolutely no intention of telling us so much about himself. Honestly, I feel sorry for him. Apparently aliyah is something Steve Savitsky knows that he should do, and it has been eating away at some part of him. His “sour grapes” method of putting down all of us Americans here is unforgivable. Sorry, excuse me, there is always a chance for tshuva, repentence.
There are many halachik difficulties, complexities, involved in “taking back” what he said. A simple verbal apology is insufficient. It’s “just words” and would probably be composed by or with a committee of advisors. That does not show true tshuva.
Tshuva is a process. It is a long complex one, especially when the sin affects other people. Mr. Savitsky is in a position of power and influence. What he said about aliyah could have a negative effect on people planning aliyah.
But I’ll tell you the truth. Those of us here weren’t personally insulted. We’ve been having a good laugh over his “foot in mouth,” or “he really put his foot in it.” We’re far from being insecure enough to take anything he says about aliyah as authoritative.
We’re here. We’re glad we’re here, and we’re willing to help more Americans make aliyah. And we don’t need the OU’s approval or encouragement. Actually, a “department” of the OU made aliyah years ago, when it opened the Israel Center, which now has activities for all ages and backgrounds, all over Israel.
And I, personally, will always be grateful for what I got forty years ago from NCSY.
Batya (Beth Spiegelman) Medad
Sunday, November 21, 2004
November 19, 2004
The 6th of Kislev
Once upon a time, in the days the film star, Ronnie Reagan was the President of the United States, the media criticized him as “the Teflon President.” They couldn’t understand that what they saw as his faults and foibles could be ignored by the “obviously ignorant” masses. What they saw as serious faults, just didn’t stick. They didn’t damage his reputation with the American citizens, and they didn’t prevent his being re-elected president.
For me, as a veteran expatriate, over thirty years living in Israel, I have no opinions about the late Ronnie Reagan. It’s none of my business what type of president he was for resident Americans, and all that’s important is that the majority of Americans were very satisfied with his presidency.
Today the Teflon that disturbs me is much more serious. It’s the Teflon that keeps the blood, gore and unprecedented sadism and cruelty off of the Arab terrorism that’s plaguing Israel and other parts of the world. No matter how many people they murder, whether Jewish, their fellow Arabs or any other unfortunate whom they decide needs permanent punishment, the “world” calls them “freedom-fighting activists.” When they riot and attack they’re called “demonstrators.”
When I was in my teens I was a Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry activist and even met my husband at a SSSJ demonstration. We never attacked anyone nor broke any laws. Everytime those words are used to describe the terrorists who injured me, murdered my friends and neighbors and demand that my country, Israel, be destroyed I’m amazed. It makes no sense.
What aura comes from these terrorists that makes every murderous deed and statement slide off, like from a Teflon-coated pan?
In this week’s “Newsweek,” there’s an article that sheds some light on the phenomena. Amazing coincidence—it starts with the same phrase I started this musing with: “Once upon a time…” It’s about Hans Christian Andersen and can be considered an expose`. His stories that we’re familiar with are happy optimistic tales, but in actuality he didn’t write those lovely upbeat stories. His stories “…were filled with tragedy. His heroines died or suffered dismemberment…” He was a lonely, unsuccessful and unhappy writer until “… sanitized translations…became best-selling books…”
In the past few decades, journalists have been doing the same for the Arab terrorists. They sanitize what they see and what they hear to tell the world pretty, little fairy tales. And the world enjoys the stories so much they allow them to block out reality.
That’s how the fiction of “Arab as David vs Israel as Goliath” has taken hold of the world’s imagination. Goliath was a well-armed warrior, part of the Philistine army out to destroy the Jewish Nation. The morale of King Saul’s soldiers was in the minus range. It reminds me of the politicians who claim that we must give away YESHA, because it’s too difficult to hold it. The real David was a young shepherd who heard Goliath taunting the Jewish soldiers. Convinced that G-d was with him (like Nachshon stepping into the sea?) he was armed with a slingshot, picked up some stones (any relation to Jacob’s from this week’s parsha?) and took up the challenge. As everyone knows, his aim was perfectly siyata d’shmaya (with G-d’s help) and Goliath was dead, killed by David and his well-aimed stone.
In the modern fairy tale, the Arabs are the defenseless David, and we, the Jews, are Goliath. But I don’t see how a pregnant mother driving her children can be compared to Goliath and the armed terrorist who shot them all dead is anything like David. I don’t see the “Goliath-like aggression” in some middle-aged and elderly Israelis shopping in the market, or high school students and teachers waiting for a bus to get home, or a pre-schooler being taken to nursery school, or a father and daughter and groups of friends having coffee, pizza or ice cream.
What heroism is there in a terrorist who throws a boulder onto a car that crushes an infant’s head? What type of leaders can strap explosives onto another human being and send him or her into a crowd to be a human murder weapon? If you’re looking for a Biblical figure to compare them to, there is one, Amalek, who tried to destroy the Jewish Nation time after time by taking advantage of our weaknesses. Those terrorists are not David, not our sensitive king who played music and wrote T’hilim, Psalms.
All of us who have ever owned a Teflon-coated pan know that it is possible to scrub off the slickness. And we have a real job to do. We have to get rid of the Teflon, keep scratching it off and telling the truth. Take a look at what the Arab countries did in the twentieth century:
What’s in that kefiya? We have to keep reminding the world that Arafat’s followers are dangerous, cruel, murderous terrorists. If we do our job right, it will stick.
And then, G-d willing, we will live happily ever after.
Monday, November 15, 2004
November 13, 2004
Rosh Chodesh Kislev
A Good Question
A few years ago I accompanied a group of Christian tourists on a tour of Shiloh. I told them all about life in modern Shiloh, how it began, and I also mentioned how we’ve suffered from terror attacks and the murders of friends and neighbors. A little girl, who was with the group along with her family, asked a good question. The adults with her all looked down embarrassed, and none of us could give an acceptable answer. She asked: “Why do people always try to kill the Jews?” A good question, yes?
This little girls’ question is related to questions that have been bothering many of us.
Why have so many people worldwide embraced, supported Arafat, the terrorist?
Why are so many politicians, journalists, and diplomats sad to see him dead?
Why haven’t the journalist “muckrakers” publicized the truth about Arafat’s “life-style?”
How come they’re so accepting about his widow, living on a budget of close to $2,000,000—that’s two million dollars a month? And she’s trying to get more!
Where are the exposes about Arafat’s administration? Financial? Civil rights? And more…
Why do those, including newly re-elected George Bush, who claim zero-tolerance for terrorism, tolerate Arab terrorism against Jews?
Why is it so much easier to raise money for Holocaust Memorials than for Jewish education?
And why is the “m” word, murdered so difficult to find when writing about, announcing terror attacks and the Holocaust?
And how can “transferring,” deporting, of Jews from their homes be the preferred policy by Jews and the world’s diplomats, but the “transfer” of Arabs be considered the epitome of immorality?
Whenever it comes to Jews, there are different standards. And dead Jews are more popular easier to market than live, vibrant ones. OK, we recognize these as facts, but what’s the reason?
Is it religious; the Christians have always blamed us for killing Jesus, even though it was the Romans?
Is it that both the Christians and the Moslems conceived of their religions as replacements for Judaism and it really bothers them that we’re still around?
Is it that nasty characteristic of human nature that needs to have someone to push around?
That last question gets me thinking. Generally the kid who gets pushed around is davka the one who tries the hardest not to bother anyone. And is there a people in the history of this world who has tried harder than the Jews to assimilate and please others? I may not be a great historian, but I can’t think of any of people that has consistently attempted not to “step on anyone’s toes” in the various places we’ve been exiled to. No matter how hard Jews try to assimilate, they’re still considered Jews by the “natives.”
During the more than five hundred years since the Spanish Inquisition, the Catholic church still has records tracing which families were originally Jewish.
Let’s take a look at pre-Hitler Germany. The Jews there served in the army, were educated, professionals, businessmen. They embraced the culture, music and art. They were loyal German citizens. That’s why they didn’t make much of a fuss at the first few laws limiting and restricting their lives, their civil rights. As “proper Germans,” they would never make a fuss. They considered it a minor glitch, soon to be corrected; of course, “Germans are such a civilized people.” The rest is history as the saying goes.
We are perpetuating the discrimination against ourselves, and it is time to stop. It depends on us, on no one else. We have to stop being so apologetic for surviving. After the Six Days War a book came out of political cartoons by Dosh, So Sorry We Won. It seemed humorous then, but it’s worse than pathetic, it’s downright dangerous that today over thirty-five years after our miraculous victory, there are Israelis who want it canceled, null and void. They prefer the world’s sympathy. They’d rather live on reparations than as a proud, independent nation.
It is now the Jewish month of Kislev, during which we celebrate Chanukah, the holiday of Jewish freedom of our victory over the Greeks and the assimilationists. Like the Maccabees, we, too, will be victorious.
Sunday, November 14, 2004
Musing on Chanukah
Americans think of the Civil Rights struggle of the second half of the twentieth century as something unique, but it’s small potatoes compared to what became “The Chanukah Story.”
Thousands of years ago the Greeks invaded and conquered the Jewish State in Holy Land. It wasn’t enough for them to take over the basic administration and security of the country. They also wanted to take over the minds and hearts the native people, the Jews.
The Greeks destroyed the Jews’ Holy Temple and established laws making it illegal to follow the Jewish Religion. Everyone was commanded to live by the Greek religion, if not they would be killed. Some Jews didn’t mind and enthusiasticly assimilated into the Greek culture; they were “the Hellenists.” Other Jews demanded their civil rights to live as Jews.
A group of small dedicated Jews, led by Matityahu and his sons, fought the “superior forces” of Greek soldiers. Matityahu and his followers were seen as “unrealistic” fanatics.
Some of the battles took place in the hills near my home in Shiloh. We used to have the second grade of our local school go to one of the mountains to stage a “mock battle.” I was once one of the teachers who accompanied them. On some of those same hills today live young Jewish families.
As we all know, the small minority of Jews defeated the well-equiped Greek forces. And what was the first thing that Matityahu and his surviving son Yehuda Hamakabi do? They rushed to the ruins of the Holy Temple to thank G-d. They needed pure oil and only found one small vial, enough for one day at the most. It would take eight to produce more. In spite of the rational statistical and scientific evidence that the oil would burn out before more could be produced, they believed that they must light it. Miraculously the oil burned for eight days, long enough for more oil to be produced.
Again, we’re battling for our survival as a people and nation. And again, G-d willing, we will be victorious. We must have faith and do what G-d commands.
Chag Urim Sameach,
Batya Medad, Shiloh
Friday, November 12, 2004
November 11, 2004
27th of Cheshvan
Baruch Dayan HaEmet
Blessed is The True Judge
The “True Judge, HaDayan Emet, is HaKodesh Baruch Hu, and he is the one, the only one who judges, adds up one’s good actions and one’s evil actions. It does not matter if one is a Jew or a non-Jew.
At this moment, Arafat is being judged by The One True G-d. Not being privy to the details, I’m only a simple Jew, I only know of Arafat’s actions on earth. He will get his just punishment, but it’s a big mistake to think that without him the world will be better, and it’s even a bigger mistake to put all the blame on him. The death of one sick, evil man is not enough. The “chag sameach” greetings I kept hearing today made me uneasy.
As the saying goes, “it takes two to tango.” We are all connected to the present situation. For it to improve, everyone must work hard. “One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor,” sang Paul Simon, and his is right.
The first time I started learning Kohelet, Ecclesiastes, the teacher/neighbor/rabbi who taught us had us try to guess, or figure out, the meaning of the “key” (yes, I’m an English teacher) word in the opening lines, hevel. We were told to pay attention to the letters and think of words with the same letter combination, shoresh, root. We came to the word bli, without, nothing, emptiness, a vacuum. After a lifetime of searching and experimentation, testing his limits King Solomon came to the conclusion that all of his possessions, riches and intelligence were worthless.
This year I’m part of a women’s learning group, in which we learn T’hilim, Psalms, and Kohelet, Ecclesiastes. I find it fascinating to learn the philosophies of the father and son kings, the two most important and crucial in Jewish history. Their experiences and feelings echo in today’s Israel.
The energy, confidence and idealism of King David can be seen in those who are still establishing Jewish communities, whether in YESHA, the Negev or Galill. It existed in the Zionist leaders both before the establishment of the State of Israel and in the early years after. It didn’t matter what the obstacle, nothing was impossible. The minute one of them accepted the concept, the limitations, of “impossible,” they lost their strength. The Zionist establishment felt threatened by the Jabotinsky Revisionists, the Etzel and Lechi followers. They pursued them, like King Saul pursued King David.
One of the last surviving heroines of that time is Geula Cohen, former Kenesset Member and Deputy Minister. Meeting her is a treat; the glow and impatience, anxious to get something done, hasn’t left her. When asked how she still finds the energy to be so active, she is known to reply that she has too much to do to be tired. A couple of years ago, when she was finally given the Israel Prize, she so deserved, on Yom Ha’atzmaut, even those on the other end of the political spectrum readily admitted that she deserved to be rewarded.
But what about the next generation, the generation of King Solomon? Those Likud “princes,” raised by Revisionists, heroes and heroines of the Etzel and Lechi, are mostly far from their parents’ idealism. They hold onto their privileged positions and try to use their intelligence and education to make excuses for voting against their ideals and for the perpetuation of what they think of as “power.” But in actuality, they’re turning into empty, weak shells. Unfortunately, even Geula’s own son, Tzachi Hanegbi has become one of those empty-eyed politicians, having sold his soul for an illusion of power. The other evening I saw him on TV, sitting quietly, patiently waiting for a turn to speak. And I guess he didn’t have anything worth saying or the words would have rushed out of every pore. He sat still, like a manniquin, well dressed and neat but no fire, no vision.
Once you compromise your ideals, they shrivel away, leaving an empty shell of miss-used, unused talents. The question is, does he have the inner strength to admit his mistakes and do tshuva, like King Solomon, the decendent of Yehuda? Can any of these politicians reflect on their lives and mistakes, repent—lachzor b’tshuva and use their potential for what it was given?
It’s said that at first King Solomon was a gifted genius, then he temporarily lost his mind, and he wrote Kohelet afterwards, after he sorted out his life and all he had experienced. Today, the young people with their amazing confidence, establishing new Jewish communities all over YESHA, are the post-Kohelet King Solomon. These amazing young kids, who dress like anti-materialist hippies, are the next stage towards geula, redemption.
Arafat’s death isn’t going to bring true peace any closer. It’s not about one person. The terrorist organization he established before the Six Days War is not dependent on Arafat. The Europeans will continue to fund them, and they will continue to blame us for every problem in the world.
The Arabs are planning forty days of mourning, of hell for us (G-d forbid), to commemorate Arafat. Instead of partying, we should be praying and building. It’s time to build the Beit Hamikdash.
Baruch Dayan HaEmet,
Batya Medad, Shiloh
Saturday, November 6, 2004
November 4, 2004
20th of Cheshvan
The “un” in the “unplanned” of my title is like the “un” in to unravel, meaning my day was planned; it had been planned. It’s just that some how, nothing happened the way had I planned it.
I had planned on going to Beit El to teach, then take a bus from there to a wedding and then home to Shiloh. Everything was ready. Shabbat food was cooked, my clothes, hat, jewelry were waiting to be put on for the teaching, traveling and celebrating, and then my plans just began to… unravel.
First I was given a surprise day off from work. Usually, especially on a Thursday, I’m even happier than my students at such news. This week I realized that the good news would mean changes in plans, I’d have to catch the bus to the wedding in Shiloh. I wasn’t worried, since I had been told that it was on the route. I’m rather neurotic about these things, so I started making a few phone calls and discovered that it wasn’t going this way, and I had no means of transportation. The neighbor who confirmed it reminded me that today was my friend Rachella Druk’s azkara, memorial ceremony at the cemetery.
Thirteen years since Rachella was murdered, and ever since I got this teaching job I had missed every memorial. The fog began to lift; it was all getting clearer. Appaarently, G-d wanted me at Rachella’s grave, to see Rachella’s parents, children and grandchildren. Five of her six daughters had been students of mine when I was a gym teacher. I had once known them all very well. Thirteen years after her murder, her husband recently married, and they don’t live here any more.
The cemetery was full. Thirteen years later, Rachella’s friends and family still show up. The pain is as sharp as it was then. What amazed me were the local kids who could hardly have known her. They, too were there. It reminded me of her funeral. There wasn’t a cemetery in Shiloh until hours after her murder. Hundreds, or maybe thousands, stood on the mountain side, surrounding her raw, fresh grave. Looking further up the mountain, we could see lots of young children, deemed too young to attend, watching everything. How could they have been too young, when some of the mourning children were even younger?
Afterwards I was told that there was to be a shiur, class for women, in her memory. I knew I had to go. Amazing, the second time in a month I found my plans changed to allow me to go to the grave and shiur in memory of friends. It never occurred to me to ask my boss to allow me to take off from work for memorials; maybe I should.
Today all you hear on the news is: “Is Yasser alive or dead?” “He’s not dead, but he’s not alive.” “When?” “Who will take over?” The Arutz 7 site seemed to be crashing from the volume of hits.
And imagine what the shiur was about, the shiur in memory of Rachella, one of the first terror victims of a shooting attack? This week’s Haftara, the part of the Bible, generally from Prophets or “Writings,” said each Shabbat. This week, l’haavdil, to differentiate, it’s about King David, old and dying and the competition to succeed him.
In Melachim alef, Kings I, a very pathetic scene is drawn. An old feeble king lies cold in bed, not even responding to a lovely young maiden. At the same time, unknown to him, one of his sons has announced to one and all that he’s the king now.
Then in walks his wife, the grand passion of his life, the one with whom he had scandalized the entire nation, Batsheva. To this day, thousands of years later, people still talk and write about this romance, how the king, David, sent her husband to his death, so that she would be free to marry him. Once, they had risked everything for each other. Batsheva began to talk and King David listened.
Batsheva reminded King David that he had sworn that their son, Shlomo, Solomon, would be king after him. She told him what his staff wasn’t saying to him, that his son, Adoniya, had announced himself king, and he, King David, hadn’t the foggiest idea of what was happening, at all.
Anyone who thinks that politics is new, modern, has never read the Bible. Even her entrance was choreographed and masterminded by Natan, the Prophet. And it worked. King David perked up and managed to pass the reins to his young son, Solomon.
In Israel, today, we’re also waiting for new leadership, but we don’t have a king like David to appoint a new leader.
The politicians in power have their plans, but they are very dangerous ones. G-d willing they will unravel, “unplan.” And we will continue to build our wonderful country, but without these horrible threats hanging over us.
I’m sorry that I missed what I am sure was a beautiful and joyous wedding, but apparently I was supposed to be someplace else. Apologies to King Solomon:
There’s a time to dance and a time to mourn,
And a time to sing and a time to learn
And a time to travel and a time to stay home
And a time to plan and a time to follow……
Batya Medad, Shiloh
Thursday, October 28, 2004
October 27, 2004
The 12rd of Cheshvan
My Ripped Flag
I guess I have to find my ripped flag, since the Keneset has again voted to give Our Land to our enemies and uproot and destroy Jewish communities. Eleven years ago, during the Oslo nightmare, I took a small Israeli flag, ripped it as in the kriya, ripping that a Jew is commanded to do when mourning a close relative, and pinned it to my blouse.
I wore it everyday and every where, to work, to the grocers and even to my son’s Bar Mitzvah. Naively, I expected it to become a popular, mass movenent, non-violent protest. Someone even helped by finding a donor, so we could sell a “kit” that included a ripped flag, a tri-lingual information card, explaining the symbolism, and a safety pin to attach the flag to one’s clothes. We must have sold a few hundred, and a couple of supporters may still have them hanging in their cars.
A few days, or weeks, after Bibi Netanyahu was elected prime minister, with extremely mixed feelings, I took the flag off and put it away. In all honesty I didn’t really believe that he was any sort of “messaiah,” or would be much of an improvement over his predecessors. It’s just that I felt that my protest was a failure. It was considered little more than an eccentricity by most and an embarrassment by my family.
As we all know, Rabin and Peres’s Oslo wasn’t the first Israeli withdrawal, transfer and destruction of Jewish communities. Menachem Begin gave away the Sinai and destroyed the Jewish comunities there in exchange for international praise and illusions of “peace.” I am totally convinced that his realization of how mistaken he was caused his eventual depression, decline and death. He was a fine, moral man and too sensitive for politics. The decades of constant snubs and accusations of his being a terrorist caused him damage. As prime minister, he mistakenly thought that he could permanently change his image if he “made peace.” The only problem is that peace, true peace, can’t be made or manufactured. It has to evolve. It’s like putting a roof on a house before the foundations are poured and the supports are erected. The structure will collapse.
The serious, murderous terrorism we are suffering from today is the collapse caused by “making peace.” Withdrawing from our Homeland and destroying Jewish communities does not make peace. It causes death, terrorism.
The Jewish symbol of mourning is to rip one’s clothes. Clothing, a symbol of man’s first great sin, the eating of the “forbiden fruit.” Clothing the material, materialistic cover, the symbol of pride, vanity.
Eleven years ago, when I first wore that ripped flag some people were horrified. To them the flag had a holiness, and they considered my ripping it sinful, immoral. To them the flag was “too holy” to be used as a protest symbol. For me, only our Holy Land is too holy, too precious to be ripped.
The following is the English text we distributed with the ripped flags:
“Kriy’ah—the tearing of one’s garments—has been a sign of Jewish grief since biblical times: “and Joshua… and Calev…rent their garments.” (Num. 14:6). This torn Israeli flag symbolizes our pain over the Israeli government’s failure to fulfill the Zionist Dream of vibrant Jewish life in all parts of the Land of Israel.”
“Ain chadash tachat l’shemesh” There’s nothing new under the sun. Kohelet
Batya Medad, Shiloh
Sunday, October 24, 2004
October 23, 2004
The 8rd of Cheshvan
"The idea that you can merchandise candidates for high office like breakfast cereal, that you can gather votes like box-tops is... the ultimate indignity to the demo-cratic process."- Adlai Stevenson
The Battle of the Religions
The Greeks, led by their King, Antiochus tried to destroy Judaism, then the Christians, in many guises including the Crusaders and then the Catholic Church during the Inquisition. Later the Nazis were more concerned with murdering anyone with Jewish ancestors, while in the same century the Communists tried to wipe out all religions, especially Judaism.
But in modern time Judaism has an even more dangerous enemy: DEMOCRACY!
I have to finish this musing quickly. The words were rattling so noisily in my brain, that they were crowding out the shacharit prayers, and I have less than an hour before leaving for boker limud nashim, where I study King David’s T’hilim and his son, King Solomon’s Kohelet. Democracy, the ultimate philosophical hevel, norishkeit.
In recent weeks, as political and spiritual leaders are being “polled” as to their opinions/instructions concerning Arik Sharon’s “disengagement” from yishuv Ha’Aretz, “settling” the Land of Israel, the Land that G-d sent Abraham and all Jews to in this week’s parsha, portion of the Bible, Lech Lecha.
This is a moment of truth between man and G-d, between those considered leaders and the One G-d, HaKodesh Baruch Hu. Some, like HaRav Ovadia Yosef, have publicly stated that we are to oppose Sharon’s plan. But another rabbi, who had been saying confused things, causing many to publicly argue and debate what he means, finally said that “democracy” must rule. Yes, Rabbi Shlomo, “Stevie Wonder,” Riskin stated that as important as Eretz Yisrael is, “Israel is a democracy.” (quoted from The Jerusalem Post, Friday October 22, 2004.)
The same rabbi, who inspired so many of us in the 1960’s, the rabbi who was not embarrassed to be an Orthodox Jew, to doven with a mechitza to posken that the only hair covering for a married female must be 100% obvious, a hat or scarf, not a wig. He was, for us, the epitome of a proud Jew.
Today Rabbi Riskin publicly stated that Judaism is secondary to democracy. I am saddened to write this, but Stevie Wonder is no longer wonderful. He worships demoracy as his primary religion. G-d’s rulings, G-d’s Torah, G-d’s mitzvot, go second to votes in the Keneset.
Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein in the same issue of The Jerusalem Post said that “…the government is framing the disengagement in a way that would translate halachically as pikuach nefesh…” so it must be considered as not violating halacha. That brings us to the Adlai Stevenson quotation and the Kohelet shiur I’m rushing to get to.
Rabbis Riskin and Lichtenstein are basing their decisions on norishkeit, not Yiddishkeit. Hevel, vanities, democracy, advertising. Let’s return to our roots and not repeat—ain chadash mitachat lashemesh—there’s nothing new under the sun. Let’s not repeat the sin of the spies. The “people” worshipped democracy; ten spies verses two.
That fatal mistake has been made too many times. Now we must prove to G-d and man that we have learned our lesson. We must follow Joshua and Calev and redeem Our Land.
Batya Medad, Shiloh
Tuesday, October 19, 2004
October 18, 2004
The 3rd of Cheshvan
It’s Not a Matter of Money
The latest headlines say that Arik Sharon will offer more money to the victims of his transfer program, and that the “lucky” recipients won’t even be taxed on their “windfall.” He expects them to be overjoyed.
Sharon totally miss-reads the situation and the minds and hearts of the Jews in YESHA. But even more revealing, is what he shows of his true self. There’s a principle in psychology, projection, that a person demonstrates his true self, his inner self, in what he imagines in others. It is clear that Sharon believes that everyone has a price, like the story of the man who offers the woman a million dollars to sleep with him, and after she agrees, changes the price to a few cents. She, insulted, asks why he thinks her a whore, and he replies that she already established that. Now they’re just haggling over the price.
Obviously Sharon has his price, and he was well paid. He thinks everyone is like him, so he’s haggling. But we the Jews of YESHA aren’t whores. It’s not about money. Neither a nicer house, larger more fertile piece of land, nor a generous deposit in the bank can bribe the good Jews in Gush Katif to leave their homes and destroy their communities and educational institutions. We’re in our Homeland, and that’s where we want to stay. No amount of money can substitute for it.
There is no substitute for Eretz Yisrael and no justification for shrinking the tiny borders of the State of Israel. We didn’t accept Uganda nor Birobijan, and we left Great Neck and Golders Green. We respect and value Israelis’ rights to live in Tel Aviv and Kiryat Tivon. There must be Jews in all of Eretz Yisrael.
This “disengagement” business makes no sense. Not from a security, tactical, diplomatic, psychological, historical—you name the adjective—it’s totally illogical. And “insulting” is the nicest word I can think of. It insults the integrity of every Jew.
People keep asking me whom we’re supposed to follow, which politician should we listen to. These are tough questions in very difficult times. I’m just a “bubby” who teaches English. There are more questions than answers.
This week I started learning Kohelet in a Shiloh women’s study group taught by Rabbi Nissan Ben Avraham. We learned that in “Masechet Shabbat” Shlomo HaMelech is considered a symbol of “irrelevent,” “too smart for your own good” questions. Basically they mock him, though, it was King Solomon who was privileged to build the Beit HaMikdash, the Holy Temple.
Kohelet, like Shlomo HaMelech who wrote it is very controversial. It’s very honest; he admits his doubts and faults. He was a man of many, maybe too many, talents and intelligences and doubts and contradictions. He did everything but fight in a war. That was his father’s specialty. King David fought hard to prepare a peaceful world for his son, but it didn’t give Shlomo personal peace.
King Solomon spent his entire life searching, experimenting. In the end he came to the conclusion that it was all “hevel,” nothing, air. It was like the air that could fill a balloon; none of the material riches were worth anything.
Ariel Sharon hasn’t learned this. His haggling over the price is “hevel.” The Jewish residents of Gush Katif, of YESHA, understand what Shlomo HaMelech writes of in Kohelet. Ain chadash mitachat lashemesh. There’s nothing new under the sun. It’s all “hevel,” norishkeit, vanities, air.
There is no material price, no payment that can compensate for what we won’t give away. Let’s just go on with our real life and continue settling Our Land.
Batya Medad, Shiloh
Sunday, October 17, 2004
October 17, 2004
The 2nd of Cheshvan
Against the Referendum
Yes, I am against having a referendum to agree or disagree with Sharon’s plan to destroy Jewish communities in Gush Katif and Northen Shomron and to further withdraw from those areas.
Our Jewish right to the Land of Israel is not something to vote on, to choose. It is our inalienable right. After mourning and yearning and being persecuted in other societies for two thousand years, we have returned home.
This “issue” is not one for democracy, public opinion, mediation or high class pr firms. It’s not like one of those exclusive New York co-ops that must approve anyone who tries to buy an apartment. This Land was given to us by G-d thousands of years ago. This coming Shabbat we’ll be reading “Lech Lecha,” in which G-d sends Abram and Sarai on a trek to “the Land I will show you.” This is the Land.
It is written in the Bible, the same Bible valued by both Jews and Christians and used in western countries to “swear the truth.” They don’t swear on U.N. Declarations, political polls or The New York Times. Just when it comes to our rights to the Land of Israel, suddenly the entire world is filled with athiests.
By proposing a referendum the government is demeaning and denying our connection to our Land and our history. And we all know that they only want a referendum because they think they can win. Just like the one for Likud members; they promised to make policy in accordance, but when an overwhelming number voted against Sharon’s plan, all of a sudden, the referendum lost its legitimacy.
We had a referendum, a real one, a national election, just a few years ago. Positions were very clear between the Likud and Labor parties. And remember that there was no personal election for Ariel Sharon as Prime Minister; he got the position as head of the Likud. Sharon, in the name of the Likud, promised to keep Jewish communities, while Mitzna, as head of Labor, promised to withdraw and destroy. There was a landslide victory for the Likud, and after being made prime minister, Ariel Sharon went against that referendum completely. He adopted Labor policies, when the vast majority of the Israeli population voted against them.
This dependence on “votes” makes me wonder. What would have had happened if on November 29, 1947, the infant United Nations had voted against the establishment of a Jewish State. Would David Ben Gurion and followers have established the State of Israel against U.N. recommendations, or would he have welcomed a continuation of foreign rule? Would there have been a real civil war between the pro and anti Jewish State supportors? Would the various pre-state military groups have become so demoralized that the Arabs could have easily been victorious? These questions come to my mind when I think of the possiblity of a referendum.
Fifty-seven years later our politicians haven’t matured much. Those in power are missing the vision we need to flourish. Let’s stop looking to the politicians for leadership; they have failed us.
Saturday, October 16, 2004
October 14, 2004
Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan
Being raised in the United States, in the middle of the last century, I was taught about democracy. We were given very clear definitions, based on the premise that the United States is a democratic country. As I remember, there were a few very basic principles, all included in American Law. The first, of course, is that the majority rules. I remember one Social Studies teacher (the daily course that combined history, civics and geography) told us that American Law is what five out of nine supreme court justices say. The second important principle is “checks and balances.” There are three equally important branches of American government, the executive, legislative and judicial. No one can over rule the two others.
Simple, no, yes, well, maybe if I hadn’t moved to another country. It seems like there are lots of countries that consider themselves democracies. There are even countries that include the word “Democratic” in their names. But when you take a good look at how the governments in these countries function….. well, not quite like I learned in Social Studies.
Unfortunately Israel is one of those “not quite” democracies. I guess that it was always like that here, a sort of “parliamentary dictatorship.” Once someone’s elected to office, he acts like a dictator, a paranoid dictator.
In the early days of the state, people discriminated against were more accepting of their “inferior positions.” Life was very difficult for most of the population, and few people had any idea how other democracies functioned. The 1977 Israeli election was a revolution. For the first time since the state was established in 1948, twenty-nine years earlier, that the “opposition” was victorious. The entire country was incredulous, and that included the victors who didn’t know how to rule. The “Labor Party,” though in the opposition still considered themselves the establishment. Four years later part of their campaign was to insist that since “the riff raff” supported Begin, he wasn’t legitimate shouldn’t win.
When Labor returned to office with Rabin as Prime Minister and the “Oslo Accord” as his chief policy, they accused those of us protesting of “endangering democracy.” Today Sharon, who only joined the Likud in anger at being passed over for the job as head of the army, is continuing and expanding Rabin’s anti-opposition policies.
We, simple, loyal citizens are being told by Israeli President Katzav and others that our disagreement with Sharon’s “disengagement plan” is incitement. They claim that we are endangering the country. They claim that we are not allowed to disagree with the prime minister. Tzachi Hanegbi recently said that for him preserving the Likud Party is more important than protecting and preserving the Jewish communities in Gush Katif and northern Shomron. His politics is more important than Zionist principles, more important than yishuv ha’aretz, more important than our country.
How can a political party be more important than the future of the country? The underlining principle of democracy is that the citizens have a choice, a voice in decisions. That’s what voting is all about. Democracy is for everyday, not just the few symbolic seconds in the voting booth.
My most formative years were the ‘60’s in America, a time when we were encouraged to believe that we could change the world. “The Man of La Mancha” was a Broadway hit. We were proud to go after those “windmills,” and I found mine here in Shiloh.
What is frightening Sharon and his underlings? Why are we being accused of incitement for disagreeing? Why was Arutz 7 Radio closed down? Why is Noam Federman imprisoned, and why is Nadia Matar being investigated?
Israel is supposed to be a democracy. As citizens we have the right to our opinions, and we have a right to voice our opinions. Politicians are supposed to remain in office only as long as they have public support. If they lose support, they must accept it. In a democracy no one is born with the right to rule, and once elected, one is still dependent on public support. A good politician works hard at keeping public support. And a true leader does not need to threaten to guarantee that he has followers.
We will continue to demonstrate and voice our opinions. It is our democratic right.