Personal thoughts on current events, cultural events, Israel, Judaism, Jewish/Israel innovations and life from a Jewish perspective - read into that what you may.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Sunday is the Big Day

Yep, Sunday is the day where Likud members get to decide whether the Oslo process started 10 years ago (where Jewish Land is given to our enemies for Jewish deaths) gets thrown into the dustpin of history - B"H.

Imagine, just imagine that Sharon's expulsion plan of Jews gets voted down by the constituency of the largest party in Israel. Imagine the meaning and message that that will send to the world, the Jews and especially to Israeli politicians - it will be a clear message to all that Israel will no longer give up OUR land for any political deal. I surely hope that this comes to be on Sunday.

Yom Haatzmaut was just this week and it was a very emotional one for me - considering the current events here in the Land of Israel. Even though I stated in an earlier email that I believe it is time for Jews and Israelis to realize that we are living in Israel, and should be living in Israel, because of Judaism and not Zionism, that in no way takes away from the magnificent miracles (The Rav - Soloveitchik - writes that 6 different miracles took place with the establishment of the Jewish State. Read his essay Kol Dodi Dofek for more info) that took place in 1948 when the fledgling Land of Israel was established as a Jewish State and overcame its numerous enemies in a battle over its existence. Yom Haatzmaut is a miraculous day that all Jews should celebrate regardless of their views on the politics of Israel, today and back then, because the ikar is that at that moment, 56 years ago, the Jews returned to be the ones ruling their own fate in their own Land - the beginning of the process towards redemption.

Today, with Sharon's plan that continues in the path of Oslo, one really must ask oneself if Israel today is master of its own fate. In my eyes, and many others, the Oslo process is symbolic of the State of Israel being run by other world leaders, not Jews. We have returned to become Court Jews running to the Masters for permission. Whatever they say goes. This must come to an end now, and Sunday might be the turning point. If not, then we will wait for the next ray of light that will come. And it will come, it is only a matter of time. Little by little Israelis are waking up to the nightmare that our (sic) leaders have been leading us through. One day they will wake up and make sure it is put to an end.

In the meantime, below is a thought provoking piece about Sharon's expulsion plan. Give it a good read, it is worth it.

Shabbat Shalom

A Dispassionate View of The Sharon Plan:
From Disengagement to Retreat

David Bedein

The Sharon Plan will be voted on in an unprecedented referendum which will take place among the 200,00 members of the Likud Party in Israel this coming Sunday.

This is not just an internal party election.

The Sharon Plan has become a hotly debated news item in Israel and throughout the world.

Essentially, the vote on the Sharon Plan will provide the first referendum on the eleven year Oslo process.

Whatever the result, the situation in Israel will radically change.

If the Sharon Retreat Plan is ratified, the precedent will be established for the Israeli government to uproot Jewish communities.

A new government will be formed. The architect of the 1993 Oslo process, Shimon Peres, once again the leader of Israel's Labor Party, will again assume the post of foreign minister. The Oslo process will continue.

If the Sharon Plan is rejected, the Oslo process will be dead in the water.

Yet what is even more newsworthy, given the charged emotions that this debate has created, is the fact that very few people across the political spectrum in Israel, and even in the media and diplomatic corps represented in Israel, have bothered to read the Sharon Plan. Even though it is posted on the official web site of the Israeli Prime Minister, at , I repeat, few people have taken the time to read the Sharon Plan.

On one of Israel's most popular call-in shows last Friday morning, where everyone calling in had a passionate comment on the issue, the talk show host revealed that not one of the callers had read the Sharon Plan.

Likud Party Chairman and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had promised to mail out a copy of his plan to all of the Likud voters.

Well, if you take a dispassionate view of the plan, you will understand why he did not send it out.

The Sharon Plan is officially called the "Disengagement Plan", because, according to the preamble to clause 1, section 1, "Israel has come to the conclusion that there is currently no reliable Palestinian partner with which it can make progress in a bilateral peace process." The preamble goes on to say that "In order to break out of this stalemate, Israel is required to initiate moves not dependent on Palestinian cooperationג€¦Israel is required to initiate moves not dependent on Palestinian cooperationג€¦Accordingly, it has developed a plan of unilateral disengagement"

In other words, after 12 years of negotiations with the PLO, the Israeli government has reached the solemn conclusion that the negotiations have failed completely, and that the PLO is indeed at war with the state of Israel. After more than 22,000 terror attacks And almost one thousand people murdered in cold blood by Palestinian Arab terrorists in less than four years, that would be a seeming understatement.

Yet the paragraph that follows the preamble of the Sharon Plan is a seeming non-sequiter:

The Sharon Plan's answer to the PLO terror campaign is that "there will be no Israeli towns and villages in the Gaza Strip" and that "upon completion of this process, there shall no longer be any permanent presence of Israeli security forces or Israeli civilians in the areas of Gaza Strip territory which have been evacuated." Why retreat in the face of PLO adversity? No reason is given.

The plan offers an analysis, however, which states that "The relocation from the Gaza Strip and from Northern Samaria will reduce friction with the Palestinian population, and carries with it the potential for improvement in the Palestinian economy and living conditions."

Why would the Israeli government suddenly state that Jewish communities in Gaza and Northern Samaria are a "source of friction"? No reason is given. Why would it improve the economy and living conditions to abandon Jewish homes and farms? Again, no reason is given. After all, the Jewish communities in Gaza and Northern Samaria did not replace a single Arab family nor do they encroach on any Arab owned land. They were, in fact, built on vacant land not owned by any individuals, be they Palestinian, Jordanian or Egyptian after 1967 Six Day War.

The Sharon Plan does state that now "there will be no basis for claiming that the Gaza Strip is occupied territory," a specious claim that no government of Israel has ever accepted, since Israel does not define itself as a foreign "occupier" of any area of the historical land of Israel.

The Sharon Plan continues with a statement that seems to belie the preamble that the PLO is not a "reliable Palestinian partner" by stating that "the hope is that the Palestinians will take advantage of the opportunity created by the disengagement in order to break out of the cycle of violence and to reengage in a process of dialogue."

Why would an Israeli abandonment of Jewish communities cause the Palestinians to "break out of a cycle of violence"? It got them all of Gaza and will result in the deportation of Jews.

Since the majority of the Palestinians in Gaza, who live in the squalor of UN Arab refugee camps, are nurtured by the ideas of the "right of return" to liberate lands where their Arab villages existed in 1948, why would Israel's dismemberment of Jewish communities established on lands where no Arab villages were lost in 1967 satisfy their political goals?

Meanwhile, another premise of the Sharon Plan is that "the process of disengagement will serve to dispel claims regarding Israel's responsibility for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip." So why does the plan continue to obligate Israel to provide water pipes, electricity, industrial zones, markets, employment and an industrial zone to sustain the Palestinian Arab economy of Gaza? In the words, the Sharon Plan promises that the "Infrastructure relating to water, electricity, sewage and telecommunications serving the Palestinians will remain in place" and that " In general, Israel will enable the continued supply of electricity, water, gas and petrol to the Palestinians, in accordance with current arrangements. Other existing arrangements, such as those relating to water and the electro-magnetic sphere shall remain in force" while "economic arrangements currently in operation between Israel and the Palestinians shall, in the meantime, remain in force. These arrangements include, inter alia:

i. The entry of workers into Israel in accordance with the existing criteria.

ii. The entry and exit of goods between the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Israel and abroad.

iii. The monetary regime.

iv. Tax and customs envelope arrangements.

v. Postal and telecommunications arrangements.

Meanwhile, Israel will continue to operate The Erez industrial zone, situated in the Gaza Strip, which employs some 4,000 Palestinian workers."

So what the Israeli Prime Minister's office describes as a "disengagement plan" does anything but disengage Israel from the Palestinian Arab population.

For whatever reason, the Sharon plan assumes that the PLO will abandon its terror campaign.

The plan says, "When", and not "if" "ג€¦there is evidence from the Palestinian side of its willingness, capability and implementation in practice of the fight against terrorism and the institution of reform as required by the Road Map, it will be possible to return to the track of negotiation and dialogue."

While the premise of the Sharon plan is that the PLO will not fight terrorism, and with evidence that the PLO continues to run a system based of corruption, what basis does the Sharon plan have for any assumption that the PLO will "fight against terrorism" or institute any "reform"? There is no answer.

And when it comes to security issues in other areas, the Sharon plan promises to "evacuate an Area in the Northern Samaria Area (the West Bank) including 4 villages and all military installations, and re-deploy outside the vacated area. The move will enable territorial contiguity for Palestinians in the Northern Samaria Area "while Israel will improve the transportation infrastructure in the West Bank in order to facilitate the contiguity of Palestinian transportation." Israel will provide them buses as they blow ours up?

Does this also mean that abandoned villages and military installations will be handed over to a PLO that is "not a reliable peace partner"? Once more, since the Sharon Plan defines the PLO as maintaining a state of war with Israel, why does the same Sharon Plan provide the PLO with the strategic assistance of "territorial contiguity"? No answer is given as merrily we roll along.

Meanwhile, the Sharon Plan mandates that the Gaza Strip "be demilitarized and shall be devoid of weaponry, the presence of which does not accord with the Israeli-Palestinian agreements."

However, the Sharon Plan does not even allude to the fact that the PLO violated all previous agreements in this regard and refused to implement the agreement with Israel to have their personnel vetted by Israel. Did Sharon forget that the PLO increased against the Oslo agreement the size of the agreed upon security force from 9,000 in 1993 to more than 50,000 by 1995, ignoring protestations of the government of Israel?

The Sharon Plan that demilitarizes Gaza provides no process to disarm the PLO armed forces now in Gaza.

And what does the Sharon Plan mandate in terms of Israeli security? The Sharon Plan asserts that " Israel reserves its inherent right of self-defense, both preventive and reactive, including where necessary the use of force, in respect of threats emanating from the Gaza Strip." Incredibly, Israel's right to pursue terrorists into Gaza is not mentioned anywhere. They can shoot at us but we may not go after the terrorists.

As far as the security situation in the West Bank is concerned, the Sharon Plan states that "upon completion of the evacuation of the Northern Samaria Area, no permanent Israeli military presence will remain in this area," while another section states that " Military Installations and Infrastructure in the Gaza Strip and Northern Samaria will be dismantled and removed, with the exception of those which Israel decides to leave and transfer to another party . . . "

Does that mean that the PLO security forces, described in clause 1 of the Sharon Plan as "not a reliable peace partner," will now inherit Israel's abandoned IDF miltary bases?

Why would Israel cede military installations to an entity with who it is in a state of war?

The Sharon Plan also states that "In other areas of the West Bank, current security activity will continue" and that " . . . as circumstances permit, Israel will consider reducing such activity in Palestinian citiesג€¦" and that "Israel will work to reduce the number of internal checkpoints throughout the West Bank."

So here we have a situation where Israel moves its forces out of cities and reduces checkpoints and is expected to maintain mobility to respond to the PLO terror war.

Perhaps the most amazing issue of all is that the Sharon Plan agrees to provide "advice, assistance and training" to "the Palestinian security forces for the implementation of their obligations to combat terrorism and maintain public order, by American, British, Egyptian, Jordanian or other experts, as agreed with Israel."

The Sharon Plan ignores Israel's decade-long failed experience with security assistance that Israel facilitated for the PLO.

The Sharon Plan ignores how military training facilitated by Israel and western countries for the PLO was abused to conduct a terror campaign against Israel in every part of the country for the past four years. The U.S. State Department trained Palestinian policemen for "security" who then used that training to kill Israelis.

The Sharon Plan goes on to say that "Israel will be willing to consider the possibility of the establishment of a seaport and airport in the Gaza Strip, in accordance with arrangements to be agreed with Israel." Did Israel not try that already? And weren't guns and rockets smuggled in?

In terms of Israel's border area between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, (called the Philadelphi Route), the Sharon Plan only states that "Initially, Israel will continue to maintain a military presence along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt" and that " . . . subsequently, the evacuation of this area will be consideredג€¦. dependent, inter alia, on the security situation and the extent of cooperation with Egypt in establishing a reliable alternative arrangement."

Why "initially" and "subsequently"?

Does Israel expect that situation on the Egyptian border to change? Will weapons continue to be smuggled through tunnels on Egypt's frontier?

And how does the Sharon Plan deal with the fate of the 25 Israeli communities that it has slated for abandonment? Three generations of families who worked hard and built productive lives on vacant sand dunes to make a thriving agricultural community?

The Sharon Plan makes no mention of the property rights, human rights or civil liberties of the residents and landowners in these communities.

Instead, the Sharon Plan relates only to the property values of Jewish owned property in terms of how they might help their new occupants, stating that "Israel will strive to leave the immovable property relating to Israeli towns and villages intact," while "Israel reserves the right to request that the economic value of the assets left in the evacuated areas be taken into consideration" and that "The transfer of Israeli economic activity to Palestinians carries with it the potential for a significant improvement in the Palestinian economy." In other words, terrorism pays.

But worse still, the Sharon Plan does not take into account that only the leadership of the PLO would likely take this property for themselves, irrespective of the economic needs of the Palestinian society. The record of corruption of the highest levels of the PLO is a matter of public record throughout the world.

Instead, the Sharon Plan states that "Israel proposes that an international body be established (along the lines of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee), with the agreement of the United States and Israel, which shall take possession from Israel of property which remains, and which will estimate the value of all such assets." In other words, the Israeli government has decided to implement a process designed to confiscate the private property belonging to thousands of people, without any mention of the human rights, civil liberties or the property rights of people who have the rightful deed to their homes, businesses and farms.

Instead of recognizing the rights of landowners of the Israeli communities scheduled for abandonment, the Sharon Plan offers hundreds of Israeli homes to the PLO, stating that "Israel will strive to leave in place the infrastructure relating to water, electricity and sewage currently serving the Israeli towns and villages."

Finally, The Sharon Plan envisions continued international support for the PLO, " in order to bring the Palestinians to implement in practice their obligations to combat terrorism and effect reforms, thus enabling the parties to return to the path of negotiation."

And if the support for the PLO continues and the terror does not cease? What then? The Sharon Plan provides no answer.

So there you have it. The text of the Sharon Plan speaks for itself: Ethnic Cleansing of Jews, strengthening of the PLO, and no disengagement whatsoever. This is not a disengagement plan. This is a plan of hasty retreat that doesn't even include a request of the Palestine Authority to stop endorsing the murder of Jews from their own Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation shows.

What sanctions are listed if the PLO does not comply? Is this not worse than the Oslo Accords?

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Today’s Big Question

Today I have a Big Question that I want to deal with:

What are we doing in this world? Why and what purpose do we have?

Those are actually three big questions!

I will try to answer them as simply as I can according to my level of understanding. I'm not a Rabbi and not a philosopher, just a simple Jew trying to make sense of it all.

I believe the Jewish people are not "The chosen people" because we are better, more connected to G-d, or more spiritual people - rather because we were chosen by G-d to be responsible for spreading certain values to the rest of humankind. Having such a responsibility as a people and as individuals is no easy matter that we can not take lightly. But, what is important to emphasize is that being Jewish brings with it this responsibility, whether we like it or not.

This is no easy task and nothing to gloat about either - as a people or individuals.

In many ways we have succeeded pretty well - The idea of monotheism has become the norm.

However, that is not all that we are supposed to do.

We have much more work to do.

One example of just how much work we have before us is the whole focus nowadays on "rights" - everybody has rights - woman's right, children's rights, minority rights, prisoner's rights and even fetus rights (to get the list started). I have no problem with rights, but I do have a problem when rights are disconnected from responsibilities and consequences – that is where today's modern values are skewed and where the Jewish people actually can and must influence. Everyone talks about rights but nobody talks about responsibilities or consequences.

Since the key to our existence is recognition of our responsibilities to ourselves, each other and G-d we are in a unique position to spread this value to others. We understand that only those who uphold the responsibilities attributed to them deserve to receive their rights (i.e – our actions as a people and whether we deserve the “right” to live our lives as a people in Eretz Yisrael).

Without upholding ones responsibilities, the right to “rights” is very questionable indeed!

Sample A - A student has a right to be treated decently, but if the student's behavior is out of line, then he/she has been irresponsible and must pay the consequences - therefore allowing the teacher punish the student – a responsibility the teacher has in educating the student. (I bring this as a real life example from today’s world of rights).

Sample B – A couple has the right to have casual sex (in today’s world) but they also have a responsibility to live with the consequences of those actions without terminating the existence of the fetus if the woman gets pregnant due to their actions.

Sample C - The world pressure on Israel not to assasinate terrorists instead of the irresponsability of people to be terrorists or conduct terrorism in civilian areas.

Yes, there are examples in the above cases where living with the consequences is overlooked, but that is not because of special circumstances, not becausse of ones "rights". Society today is not educating the public with “the rule” and the “exceptions to the rule” – rather society is just focusing on poeple's rights without any focus on the responsibility and consequences!

However, our instructions as a people were very clear – in order for us to successfully perform our responsibilities – we, as a people must act appropriately and we must be living our lives as a nation in Eretz Yisrael.

This is what we are all about – not our careers, not our hobbies – but fulfilling our responsibilities of being “the chosen people ” in order to make this world a better place.

Now we can understand the greater picture of what is going on in Israel today:

There are two “ideological” camps in Israel today-

Camp #1: Believers that the Land of Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people where we are to develop a Jewish culture in the Jewish homeland

Camp #2: Believers that Israel should be a democratic country like any other – one, in which it just so happens, that many Jews live.

Every issue today in Israel is connected to the struggle between the two groups above........citizenship issues, Shabbat-as-a-day-of-rest or shopping issues, giving up parts of the Land of Israel issues etc.

Those that believe Israel is supposed to be a Jewish homeland are struggling to make it look and feel like a Jewish country – and that includes keeping the connection alive between the Land and our right to live in it.

Those that believe that Israel should be like any other country are doing everything in their power to break the connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel (both literally – in uprooting Jews from their homes, and spiritually – in turning the culture into a secular democratic culture with little or no connection to our Jewish roots ---- ( Just take a little example - Have you ever noticed that more and more people and radio programs nowadays say “Sofe shavuah” instead of “Shabbat”? It might seem insignificant but it has great implications, especially over time.)

To make a difference, each one of us must understand this underlying struggle and be active in it. It is not enough for us Israelis to go to work everyday, return home, spend time with the family and go to sleep, and it is not enough to be good religious Jews in galut.

What is needed is for us to live up to our responsibilities – make sure we live in the Land of Israel and make part our lives the active pursuit of improving the Jewish culture here in the Land of Israel.

We have a responsibility and we will succeed - but first we must re-recognize what our responsability really is.

By the way, interestingly enough, this isn’t just my opinion (a religious, right winger etc etc) this analysis is also understood from in the left wing circles in Israel.

To read more on this topic from a different perspective (The Israeli left/Post-Zionist perspective) check out the article below that appeared in Haaretz on April 28th, 2004.


Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Great PR piece on Gush Katif.

This is an 11 minute movie in Hebrew showing us all about Gush Katif.

Send this link to everyone you know so they see for their own eyes the reality that Sharon is planning to destroy - lives, industry, housing, education etc..

Gush Katif: Facts In Brief

* 21 communities, most of them founded some 20 years ago
* close to 8,000 residents
* over 20 yeshivot, schools and other educational institutions (not including nurseries and kindergartens)
* 900 acres of greenhouses growing bugless lettuce, cherry tomatoes, organic vegetables, spices, flowers, plants and more
* $60 million a year in exports - an average of $7,500 for every man, woman and child
* manufactures 70% of all of Israel's organic produce grown for export
* has faced over 4,000 mortar shells and Kassam rocket attacks, as well as 10,000 shooting incidents, at the hands of Palestinian terrorists over the past 3.5 years
* a 10% growth in population since the Oslo War began in September 2000


Tuesday, April 20, 2004

My take on our situation in Israel today
I must be honest, my mood nowadays fluctuate between optimism and sadness. It is very frustrating to see the values of Judaism and the Land of Israel disintegrate from the minds and mouths of its own leaders. The fact that Jews might possibly be expelled from their homes in Gaza and that the terrorism will get much worse as a result is very scary.

However, I see the light in this as well. First of all, there is still a chance that Likud members will trash the plan and essentially vote against Sharon, even against the many odds Sharon the bulldozer has and is placing before us. Also, we now know the true faces of our Nationalistic leaders and we will not trust them again!

Even though I feel pain at the thought that Likud members who might have voted against Sharon's plan now will vote for it or abstain ( making it harder for us to gain a majority against the plan) because their "leaders" are now supporting Sharon's plan, on the other hand I'm glad that most people will not be fooled by them anymore.

And I'm optimistic for that same reason, the traditional leaders of the Likud and the National camp have now sealed their fate as non-leaders for the National camp in the future. A leadership vacuum has been developed.

Now the practical minded leadership of Manhigut Yehudit will be in the position to fill that leaderless void of the Likud. It might not happen tomorrow or next year, but it will happen, because there is no other option. The Mafdal and Ichud Haleumi will never become big enough to be a ruling party, and even if the Likud goes through a rough patch of time, losing some power because of their mistakes under Sharon, they will still remain a potential ruling party. Therefore the only realistic option for a Nationalistic leadership in Israel is Manhigut Yehudit. Now is the time to join to help bring this about as soon as we can.

Click here for an up-to-date article on Manhigut Yehudit last week in Haaretz.

Now for a quick synopsis of our situation today in Israel.

1. Sharon is non-stop bulldozing his plan to surrender Gaza to the terrorists and expel the Jews of Gaza in a very undemocratic way (i.e. he canceled debates on the issue because he didn't want to be questioned about the plan, he has sent out a translation of Bush's letter to him to Likud members that had words added to it that Bush didn't write(today's Haaretz article) etc.)

2. Likud senior ministers have shown us that they might be leaders but they don't know how to lead! Rather the know how to look after their own interests - totally going against the stands that they have always taken until now.

3. Israeli Arabs shooting on Israeli police officers in the Galil - proving to us all that the Arabs are not just after Yesha but motivated to destroy all of Israel. Unfortunately, the second we pull out of Gaza - the next intifada will be in the Galil and the Negev.

4. With it all Sharon's advisors worried that he doesn't have enough support from Likud members to show the world - Hopefully we will see that most if not many Likud members will vote against Sharon's plan.

5. I'm driving out to visit homes of Likud members in Nes Tziona with my father to convince them to vote against the plan (together with thousands of other Israeli citizens concerned about the fate of the State of Israel)

With this all, I must say that our future is bright, very bright, we just will continue to have a period of hardship until Am Yisrael wakes up to the reality of the situation - that reality is that peace will only come upon us when we stand up for our right to live in all of Israel. Until then, the messengers of fantasy (left and, now, right) will continue to sell us fantasy plans of quiet that will never come if we follow their lead.

THAT IS REALITY. Get with the program and start analyzing the facts for yourself, instead of relying on the "professional" opinions of politicians and journalists.

And by the way, with it all, Israel is the place to come to live now - and nowhere else. It is only here where you have the possibility of living a full Jewish life of creating the Jewish culture in Israel that our Judaism is supposed to be about.


Thursday, April 01, 2004

A Pre-Pesach Thought
I want to share with you a personal thought that has been developing in me for quite a long time. I have to admit that it has not been an easy journey reaching this conclusion but I believe it to be true.

It pains me to say this, put it pains me to delude myself even more.

The Land of Israel is Holy, however the institution called the 'State of Israel' is not holy - it is only a method of administering the Land that allows us to bring holiness to it.

Although we have been educated to believe otherwise, I think it is time for the religious community to realize that we must be 'mikadesh the chol' of statehood, instead of acting towards the state as being holy itself.

Furthermore, Zionism is not the reason we are living here, Judaism is. The Zionist movement was the method that brought us back to our land and brought about the creation of the State, but Judaism is the reason we stay and live here.

I firmly believe that only when people start to truly internalize the above facts will we be spiritually prepared to do what it is necessary to truly make the State of Israel into the Jewish community that will fill the Land of Israel with holiness. Until then we are deluding
ourselves and allowing the state to deconstruct (both physically and, more importantly, spiritually) at the hands of the Zionists and post-Zionists who run this state.

May this Pesach we re-experience the feeling of spiritual and physical freedom that our anscentors experienced, and realize that we also need to go through a "freeing" experience today - from our spiritual connection to Zionism and the State and replace that with a true spiritual connection to Judaism and the Land.

Chag Kasher V'sameach.