I didn’t actually watch the whole program on The History Channel, as my penchant for televised versions of Biblical accounts kind of waned once I learned that Cecile B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments” was not a literal depiction of what supposedly went down in Egypt some 3,500 years ago. As I was a yeshivah boy with a short attention span, Charlton Heston was Moses to me until I was able to appreciate my studies a bit more. What a disappointment that turned out to be. When I finally learned of the Exodus in school, I kept seeing the film in my head as we reached each scene in the Chumash (Five Books). (Read the rest here)
Category Archives: Christian Zionism
In the spirit of Yom Ha’atzmaot, Israel’s Independence Day, there has been a lot of talk about the bleak situation Israel finds herself in. The lack of progress on the peace front, the looming threat of Iran, the discord across the religious divides within Israel and the tentative relationship Israel has now with the United States administration, all paint a picture of more of the same to come from the Israel and Middle East. That does not bode well, and it will get to the point where stagnancy breeds indifference.Just as the tribal wars, violence, and death in ominous African countries often get remanded to obscure mentions in the media and in people’s minds because nothing seems to make a difference, rendering it routine rather than unusual, the often clichéd sequence of events between Israel and its neighbors gets tired, too.
The rockets fall into Israel, Israel retaliates; Israel hinders movement of Palestinians, PA leadership declares it will not yield in its demand for a right of return. Israel expands its building of Judea and Samaria, and rockets fall into Israel. In the process, American Jews lobby their government leaders, the Israel Prime Minister stands obstinate at the American President who time and again declares solidarity with Israel and pays lip-service to Jewish constituents, but does little to actually get invested in the real issues it faces.
Listening to the now infamous Helen Thomas interview, I either can be disgusted with her, or I can focus on and be revolted by the real issue here: the state of education, knowledge and bias in the world. Sad as it is, Ms. Thomas-a bright, worldly and cultured member of our elite press corps for over a half-century either does not know or does not care about what the truth really is. Sadder still is the fact that there are millions of people out there who agree with Thomas. In most cases, however, it is not because they ignore the truth but because they do not know it. Instead, they repeat the lies that are consistently told by the anti-Semitic, anti-Israel racists who have made it their mission to delegitimize Israel and degrade the Jewish people.
Thomas’ sentiments that Jews should go back home to Poland and to Germany reveal a deep-rooted animosity. That Jews should go back to the places where they were slaughtered en masse is a sure sign of extreme hatred. Yet, that is not the most troublesome part for me. Thomas, exposed as an intolerant bigot, advises Jews to go home-but the same opinion is rooted even among the people who openly support Israel. The Thomas affair brings to light just how well the anti-Israel lobby has succeeded in distorting the truth that even Israel’s friends repeat the propaganda that the Jews have no legitimate claims to a place in the Holy Land.
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee said as much when he criticized Thomas-and he is a strong supporter of Israel, her existence and right to defend herself. He recalled the Holocaust in his rebuke of the 90 year old columnist, speaking of how inappropriate it is to tell Jews to go back home. Appreciative as I am to hear him do that, he fails the Jewish history test too.
Then Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar chided Thomas on The View, and once again, reminded the viewers of the horrors that occurred at Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Goldberg, in imploring for a peaceful solution to the Middle East, alluded to a time when Jews did not live there, but came to the region. She too failed the Jewish history test.
Here is the bottom line. It truly is set in stone: Jews never left what they and the Bible call the Land of Israel. From the day the Israelites under Joshua crossed over to the west bank of the Jordan River 3,200 years ago until today, Jews have lived in the Land of Israel. They lived there during the Babylonian exile; they lived there during Persian rule; they lived there under the Roman thumb; they lived there throughout the Byzantine and Ottoman empires; they lived there during the days of Mandatory Palestine.
In 1929, for example, 67 Jews were killed in Hebron and the rest of the Jewish population was forced to leave. These were not immigrants from Europe; they and their families had lived in Hebron for at least 800 years. That same year, 20 Jews were massacred in Safed-again a community in which there had been a continuous Jewish settlement for at least 800 years. (Earlier Jewish communities in both places were eradicated by Christian crusaders in the 12th century.)
Jews lived in Jerusalem and Jericho, Nablus and Nazareth, Beersheba and Beit Shean-and these are provable facts, not Zionist fairy tales.
Towards the end of the 19th Century and through the first half of the 20th, Jews indeed came to Israel from other areas of the Near East, Africa and Europe. Most either were expelled from their homes or were fleeing persecution. Persian Jews were expelled from Iran. Jews from Iraq, Syria, Algeria, Yemen, Libya, and so many more, all fled to the one place they knew they were permitted to live freely. Jews from Russia and Germany fled pogroms, anti-Jewish riots and bloodshed. They left their material homes for their ancestral one because they were no longer allowed to live in the place they themselves were born and raised. So they joined up with the Jews who had always lived in “Palestine” to create a home for the Jews that truly was their home.
As an aside, we never see international calls for Jewish justice; no calls for return to or compensation from the lands they fled. It is always a one way street when it comes to Jews and Israel
Even Israel’s supporters forget the demographics of the Middle East, or they ignore it. They forget-or ignore-other truths, as well, such as that the Jewish Settlement in Palestine on Nov. 29, 1947, announced its acceptance of a United Nations resolution that called for the creation of two separate Palestinian states, one Jewish and one Arab; that the Jews were the only ones in the region to accept this; that seven Arab states immediately invaded the lands set aside for the Palestinian Arab state and occupied those lands for the next 19 years; that the Palestine Liberation Organization was founded in 1964, three years before the first Israelis in a generation set foot in the West Bank and Gaza, before any settlement was ever an issue; that Jordan, which illegally occupied the West Bank, denied the Jews access to their holy places from 1949 through 1967; that in the wake of the Six-Day War in June 1967, the Arab states and the PLO meeting in Khartoum adopted the infamous “three no’s”-no peace with Israel; no negotiations with Israel; no recognition of Israel; and so many other truths.
Israel and the Jewish establishment must bear most of the blame for these misperceptions. They have failed to do their jobs effectively. They have allowed anti-Semites old and new to kidnap the truth and subvert the dialogue. They have allowed the message to be obscured by false rhetoric. Helen Thomas is not the real problem, as someone with her views would not be inclined to report the truth anyway. The outwardly pro-Israel contingents of public figures, newsmakers, celebrities, advocates and such who defend Israel to the world every day are more worrisome. If even Israel’s friends do not know the truth, how can anyone expect a world, inclined to vilify Israel, to treat her justly?
The Mavi Marmara incident has marred Israel and given the anti-Semites new ammunition to fire, but it triggers an even bigger calling for Jews and for Israel right now – to find a way to change the dialogue about Israel and Jewish people as it comes to the Middle East. Israel’s supporters and historians need to do much better to present the truth and purge the spin meant to delegitimize her:
Jews have always been in Israel, and in many ways, 1948 just opened the gates for Jews to return.
Mayor Dean Helps Unload as Angels Roll in with Food for the Needy
Having heard the calls for help and seeing the dire conditions there, Pastor Joe Wingo, CEO of Angel Food rallied support
One of my earlier accomplishments and my start working in the world of Christian Evangelists. This story was on a former client, Dr. K.A. Paul which I helped him get one year after I left the firm I was at, and two months after Dr. Paul brought me on a mission to Haiti to counsel the rebel leader Guy Philippe after he helped hasten Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s departure. We also handed out 50 thousand pounds of food to needy people on the streets of Port Au Prince.
Dr. Paul called me a few days ago saying he was going to Haiti to help in the healing efforts.
It was back in Washington Heights, Manhattan in 1986, I was sixteen years old and in 11th grade at the Marsha Stern Talmudic Academy/Yeshiva University High School for Boy – lovingly referred to MTA to this day, and we were quite a group of misfits. That school taught me everything I would need to survive; not much in the area of academics, though. Imagine Lord of the Flies set in Anatevka. Not to reinvent the wheel here, as I believe that my comrade Shalom Auslander who trailed me by a year, accurately captured my experiences in his brilliantly illustrated autobiography, A Foreskin’s Lament.
It was there in MTA, where often timid little naive Jewish kids, many from suburban neighborhoods, descended daily on the Dominican Republic’s satellite city in the very upper corner of Manhattan, that I learned valuable lessons on life. Some of us found drugs, some found religion, others found new friends and even new found inner strength. All of us, however, learned the value of money – that if you had it, you were treated one way, and if not, you were just cast out.
Two juniors took a freshman for a magic carpet ride on his first marijuana high. The kid broke down and told his parents who then told the principal. The junior whose father was a school benefactor was given probation and the junior from a family with somewhat less money and who was likely on scholarship, was expelled. That didn’t come as a shock, but it was one of the most blatant hypocritical contrasts to what we were taught about God and religion and the reality of everyday life. Yet, I cannot complain because I benefited too, no doubt.
My advantage wasn’t money, for I didn’t grow up with much. It was the next valuable lesson, influence. My father – who by the way, just successfully survived major surgery – was the executive editor at the New York Jewish Week back then; the Jewish publication with the largest circulation at the time and was also an important propaganda engine for the Yeshiva University network of schools. I had a bad habit of getting myself thrown out of school for doing little more than expressing my concerns for the quality of my education.
There was the time I was sitting in Talmud (Gemara) class, referred to as a Shiur, and the head of school came in to test us young men on what we knew – or didn’t. It was a random thing. Rabbi Yitzchok Cohen, a tall, thin, beady eyed man with a long white beard, soft spoken, with a deliberately and distinctively enunciated diction that sounded like a throaty Bostonian accent with an Eastern European twinge will always be remembered by me and hundreds of my fellow inmates for his performance in the Wilf Auditorium of the high school decrying the message of the one-hit-wonder pop song by Samantha Fox, “Touch Me!”
That day, he stood up in front of an entire school of young impressionable lads and started flailing his arms wildly, touching himself and yelling “touch me’, “touch me” as he went into a rant over inappropriate messages of modern music. Any one of us that day who did not know the song before hand, went out and bought it, or borrowed the cassette to copy. Good thinking rabbi.
That same approach was successfully employed by Mel Gibson’s folks earlier this decade when they had the Anti-Defamation League publicly oppose his movie The Passion of The Christ. ADL successfully raised funds for its organization, and Mel got better advertising than he could have otherwise afforded to fund for this project. Yet, I digress…
So, we were in Bobo’s class (not his real name, but we kind of referred to our rabbi by it; it was passed down for years before we ever got to his class), well known for being a den of miscreants. One of our esteemed class clowns was comedian Elon Gold, who had a sitcom on network television, many cable comedy programs and does stand-up. I like to believe that he tested many of his early jokes in this class. Now, Rabbi Cohen walked into our class one day and picked up the book of the Talmud that we were presumably learning from and he randomly called on students to answer questions.
We were learning from Tractate Bava Kama, but that didn’t really matter to most of us. He would pick out a word or a phrase and then call on a student to explain it. After a few students had their turn to varying degrees of success, he points his finger into the Talmud and quietly read the words “Esnan Zonah,” simply defined as money paid to prostitute for her services. Now the issue here was about whether an item given in exchange for this money may be offered as a sacrifice, but more to the point.
Rabbi Cohen stated the term and looked up from the book and called out, “Yehuuuudddaa En-Gel-May-errr.” I looked up at him and asked him, “Yes Rabbi?” He continued, “What does ‘Esnan Zonah’ mean?”
Being in an uncomfortable situation here, having to talk to a rabbi about such issues, I simply stated, “money given to a prostitute for her services.” He came back at me with, “What does it mean… what are you paying for, why does it matter?” I stared at him, and just restated “it is money paid to a prostitute for her services.” The rabbi looked at me, clearly bemused by what he saw as my vacant answer and said, “Services? Did she go down to Heshy’s (local coffee shop) and buy you a danish?” I gulped. All that I could mutter from my mouth, caught somewhere between fighting my instinct to be a wise ass and not wanting to have a conversation with this rabbi about what turning tricks is all about, was “Rabbi, if you’re not clear, I don’t think that I should be the one to tell you.” Bobo spit his soda out of his mouth laughing. Sure it was funny, but I got kicked out of class and “expelled” for it.
So, I did what became habit for me, and I called my father and told him my version of the truth. He moaned, yet still did his part and called his friends at the Yeshiva University Board of Directors who wanted to maintain a positive relationship with the newspaper. I was told to report back to school the next day. When I approached the school steps the next morning, the principal was standing there and said to me, “I don’t appreciate getting calls from the Board of Directors about you,” and I just said smugly, “Then don’t kick me out anymore.”
Lesson learned here: it’s not what you know, but who you know.
I graduated, life goes on. I learned so much about life at MTA; valuable lessons in street smarts, politics and diplomacy, and surviving. It was the kind of school where the smart kids did just fine and those who struggled continued to do so, just keeping their heads low so to stay off the administrator’s radar.
Fortunately, my children will never be in a place like that. Our hope is that the schools they are in will help them grow academically and spiritually, and will also gain some of the moxie we found in the dark corridors of that old musty building in Washington Heights.
On Saturday, March 3, 2009, during the Sabbath prayers, Jewish worshippers listened to the portion known as Parshat Zachor (The Chapter of Remembrance). God commanded Jews to never forget the deeds of Esau’s grandson, Amalek. Oddly enough, the Amalekites survived, seemingly through the ages, to hunt down the Jews and continue their persecution because of simple compassion of the very people Amalek was born to destroy.
In Samuel 1, 15:2-3, God says, ‘I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”
Yet, when King Saul has the opportunity to do just that, he waged war against Amalek and wins, but at the request of his subjects, the cattle are spared, and worse perhaps, Saul’s misplaced mercy allows Agag, the king of the Amalekites, to live. As the poet Robert Frost said it so eloquently many thousands of years later, after two roads diverged in a yellow wood, Saul chose a path “that has made all the difference”.
Such is life when misguided kindness leads to ruin. It is a harsh lesson, and many kind souls are unable to learn, so they get themselves hurt in the end. It is good to be good, and charitable to be lenient and forgiving. The Lord’s Prayer advises dutiful Christians to “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” and Jews derive from Genesis, 20:17, that “Abraham prayed to God and God healed Abimelech“.
Yet, we learn from Amalek that we need to be cautious in how we dole out that forgiveness. Many times wolves appear in sheep’s clothing, and we fail to see them before it is too late. Yet, other times the wolves appear as they are, and we just see a cute, cuddly animal. That’s humanity, but it can bite back hard.
A true test of faith and human spirit is in the ability to measure the need to forgive and overlook transgressions, with the need to douse out the flames of the wicked.
This is but a prelude to a bigger story. Stay tuned…