Hamas War

Sunday, November 28, 2004

An Insult--"Justification"

Musings #85
November 28, ‏2004
The 15th of Kislev

An Insult--

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."

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

Teflon Terrorism

Musings #84
November 19, ‏2004
The 6th of Kislev

Teflon Terrorism

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.

Batya Medad

Monday, November 15, 2004

A Good Question

Musings #83
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.

Batya Medad

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Musing on Chanukah

A short unnumbered musing, possibly to be expanded later....

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

Baruch Dayan HaEmet

Musings #82
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.
G-d, the One G-d, has rules for all.

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

Unplanned Day

Musings #81
November 4, ‏2004
20th of Cheshvan

Unplanned Day

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