Purim 2017—5777: Baruch Cohen, CIJR, Mar. 10, 2017— The Book of Esther describes not just one, but all historical periods.
Purim Guide for the Perplexed: Yoram Ettinger, Jewish Press, Mar. 10, 2017— a. Purim’s historical background…
Is a Disbanded European Union Good for Israel?: Manfred Gerstenfeld, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 28, 2017— After the Brexit referendum, the breakup of the European Union through a collapse or voluntary disbandment can no longer be considered a fully absurd scenario.
Why Dutch Sentiment Has Turned Against Immigrants: Leonid Bershidsky, Japan Times, Feb. 28, 2017— Soon after she moved into her new neighborhood, Ijburg, on the eastern outskirts of Amsterdam, in 2005, Xandra Lammers started a blog about it.
On Topic Links
Purim Drink and Diplomacy: David M. Weinberg, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 3, 2017
Anti-Semitism and Aliyah: Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 8, 2017
The Future of the European Union?: Soeren Kern, Gatestone Institute, Mar. 2, 2017
The Prospect for Russia's Jews: Maxim D. Shrayer, Mosaic, Mar. 6, 2017
CIJR, Mar. 10, 2017
In Loving Memory of Malka – z”l
The Book of Esther describes not just one, but all historical periods. It remains forever new because enemies of the Jews will not allow it to grow old. The Book of Esther breathes love for Judaism, even as it tells of, and foretells, the everlasting attacks, hostility, and enmity against the Jews in diasporic lands.
Wherever the Jews have lived there have arisen new Hamans to enslave and persecute them. Purim gave the Jews courage in the darkest hours, and the hope that they would see the downfall of their enemies. The story of Purim in the Book of Esther is one that expresses the ties that united the Jews then, and today.
It is not strange that, since the festival of Purim is connected to a story about the indestructibility of the Jewish People, it will be celebrated forever by young and old. This book is one that unites all Jews, connecting ordinary people to those who attained the highest honors. Purim, a holiday that celebrates liberation, expresses something we Jews have not always had the opportunity to enjoy–the playful, light-hearted side of life.
In Purim, with its reading of the Book of Esther, its groggers decrying the mention of Haman’s name, and its costume-contests for the young, the Jew found a day, when we can revel and enjoy life together. Purim Sameach to all CIJR’s readers and friends!
Baruch Cohen, who celebrated his 97th birthday last October, is CIJR’s long-time Research Chairman
PURIM GUIDE FOR THE PERPLEXED
Jewish Press, Mar. 10, 2017
Purim’s historical background: a. The 586 BCE destruction of the First Jewish Temple (on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount), and the expulsion of Jews from Judea & Samaria, by the Babylonian Emperor, Nebuchadnezzar, triggered a wave of Jewish emigration to Babylon and Persia, which eventually replaced Babylon as the leading regional power.*In 538 BCE, Xerxes the Great, Persia’s King Ahasuerus, who succeeded Darius the Great, proclaimed his support for the reconstruction of the Jewish Temple and the resurrection of national Jewish life in the Land of Israel, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish Homeland.
Ahasuerus established a coalition of countries, which launched the Greco-Persian Wars of 499-449 BCE, attempting to expand the Persian Empire westward. However, Persia was resoundingly defeated (e.g., the 490 BCE and 480 BCE battles of Marathon and Salamis), and Ahasuerus’ authority in Persia was gravely eroded. An attempted coup – by Bigtan and Teresh – against Ahasuerus was thwarted by Mordechai, a retired Jewish military commander, who relayed critical intelligence to Queen Esther, his cousin (or niece). Just like Joseph, who adopted an Egyptian name (Zaphnat Paa’ne’ach), so did Mordechai adopt a Persian name (derived from Marduk, a Mesopotamian god). Both Joseph and Mordechai reasserted their roots in the face of a clear and present lethal threat to the Jewish people.
b. Purim is the holiday that foiled an ancient 9/11. The numerical value (e.g., the letter “a” would be 1, “b”=2, etc.) of the Hebrew spelling of King (מלך=90) Ahasuerus (אחשורוש=821) – who ordered the annihilation of Jews – is 911…., just like the dates of Kristallnacht (9.11.1938) and the destruction of the First and Second Jewish Temples in Jerusalem (9.11 – the ninth day of the eleventh Jewish month).
c. “Purimfest 1946” yelled Julius Streicher, the Nazi propaganda chief, as he approached the hanging gallows (Newsweek, October 28, 1946, page 46). On October 16, 1946, ten convicted Nazi war criminals were hanged in Nuremberg. An 11th Nazi criminal, Hermann Goering, committed suicide in his cell. According to a Jewish survivor, the late Eliezer Cotler, Julius Streicher’s library, in his ranch (which served as a camp for young Jewish survivors on their way to Israel), documented Streicher’s interest in Purim’s relevance to the fate of the enemies of the Jewish people. Streicher underlined, in red ink, each reference to the Amalekites and Haman…. (The origin of the Aryan race is claimed to be in Iran/Persia….). According to the Scroll of Esther, King Ahasuerus allowed the Jews to defend themselves and hang Haman and his ten sons. According to the Talmud (Megillah tractate, 16a), Haman had an 11th child, a daughter, who committed suicide following her father’s demise.
d. Purim’s physical and spiritual clash of Civilizations between the values and worldviews of Mordechai and Haman, exemplifies an early edition of the clash among nations, communities and within each person: between right and wrong, liberty and tyranny, justice and evil, truth and lies, just like Adam/Eve vs. the Snake, Abel VS. Cain, Abraham vs. Sodom & Gomorrah, Jacob vs. Esau (grandfather of Amalek, the deadliest enemy of the Jewish people), the Maccabees vs. the Assyrians, the Allies vs. the Nazis, the West vs. the Communist Bloc and the Free World vs. Islamic rogue regimes and terrorist organizations. The numerical value of the Hebrew spelling of “blessed Mordechai” () and “cursed Haman” () is identical, 502, cautioning us that evil can be easily misperceived as benevolence.
e. Purim is celebrated on the 14th/15th days of the Jewish month of Adar. Adar (אדר) is the root of the Hebrew adjective Adir ( glorious, awesome, exalted, magnificent. It is, also, a derivative of the Akkadian word Adura (heroism). According to the Babylonian Talmud, Adar is featured as a month of happiness, singing and dancing. The zodiac of Adar is Pisces (fish), which is a symbol of demographic multiplication. Hence, Adar is the only Jewish month, which doubles itself during the 7 leap years, in each 19 year cycle. Purim is celebrated on the 14th day in non-walled towns, and in Jerusalem on the 15th day of Adar, commemorating the deliverance of the Jewish People from the jaws of a holocaust in Persia. It also commemorates the 161 BCE victory of Judah the Maccabee over Nikanor, the Assyrian commander…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Yoram Ettinger is a Keynote Speaker at CIJR’s 29th Anniversary Gala: “Israel’s Contributions Biblical & Modern to Western Civilization,” March 26, 2017 (Montreal). For more information and registration click the following link—Ed.
IS A DISBANDED EUROPEAN UNION GOOD FOR ISRAEL?
Jerusalem Post, Feb. 28, 2017
After the Brexit referendum, the breakup of the European Union through a collapse or voluntary disbandment can no longer be considered a fully absurd scenario. To create a framework of thought it is worthwhile to start analyzing what that could mean for Israel, even though Israel will not play any role in the process if it develops.
Particularly in the new century, the EU has taken increasingly hostile and occasionally antisemitic positions toward Israel on several issues. This led the Simon Wiesenthal Center to put the EU in third place in its 2015 list of worldwide promoters of antisemitic and/or anti-Israel incidents. It gave as reason: “The European Union has chosen to label products from the Golan Heights and disputed territories on the West Bank alone, ignoring the products of other occupied and disputed territories in the world such as Western Sahara, Kashmir, Tibet and products from areas controlled by terrorist Hamas and Hezbollah. This use of double standards against Israel typifies modern anti-Israelism and has been at the core of antisemitism for many centuries.”
The above example of discrimination is only one of the many justified criticisms Israel has of the EU. This hostility originates on a continent where the greatest mass murder of the Jews to ever take place occurred less than a hundred years ago. The Holocaust was not a German and Austrian project alone. Many other European authorities and individuals collaborated. Some elements of its impact continue to exist today. Today there is a large amount of indirect support of Israel-hatred and antisemitism coming from Europe. The European Commission has done nothing to develop selection procedures concerning immigration from Muslim countries with high levels of antisemitism. There is a testimony from the Dutch former EU commissioner Frits Bolkestein that when he raised the issue of Muslim immigration in a meeting of the EC around 2000, his colleagues considered him a racist. Nor has the EU, with all of its talk about the rise in antisemitism, tried to develop a unified reporting system for antisemitic incidents in its member countries.
One major argument which seemingly favored the existence of the EU from an Israeli viewpoint has been that some member countries could take stronger anti-Israel positions if they were not bound by common EU positions. In recent months, various actions taken by France have shown that this argument is weaker than often considered. Presidential elections are due there within several weeks. The presidency of Socialist François Hollande has been such a failure that for the first time in the history of the Fifth Republic, a sitting president is not running for a second term. He did the favor to two journalists, Gerard Davet and Fabrice Lhomme, of giving them access to regular private conversations during his time in office. In their recently released book, they list “impotence” as the main characteristic of the Hollande presidency.
Recently, Israel became an even more convenient scapegoat for the French authorities. In January, France organized a useless international conference on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The organizers knew that a few days later US President Donald Trump, who holds radically different views from his predecessor, would be inaugurated. France subsequently could not even obtain the adoption of the conference’s statement in the EU Foreign Affairs Council, as it was blocked by Britain. It is not far-fetched to assume that the French Socialists hope to attract Muslim voters, of which there are many, with their anti-Israel positions.
When the new Swedish government, dominated by the Social Democrats, was installed in 2014, one of its earliest actions was to recognize the non-existent Palestinian state. It well knew that if there were free elections among Palestinians in the West Bank, the genocide-promoting Hamas would most likely obtain a majority. The Swedish government did not feel the need to act in coordination with its EU partners on this issue. The Irish foreign minister, Charles Flanagan, has stated that his government constantly considers recognizing a Palestinian state.
Against this background, the disappearance of the EU would mainly present advantages for Israel. If the office of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy would be abolished, a source of ongoing multilateral incitement against Israel would end. The disappearance of the European Commission’s Legal Service would also be very positive for Israel. It is responsible for the one-sided opinion that the West Bank is occupied territory according to international law and that the settlements are illegal. Many leading international legal experts contest this position.
Whether the EU remains as it is, whether some countries leave it, or whether it is abandoned altogether, should not be of particular interest to Israel. If the EU disappears, the Common Market will most likely remain. So will collaboration in research and a few other fields of interest to Israel. There will also be a common interest in continuing to jointly fight terrorism, mainly that committed by Muslims. When countries will need to guard their own borders, this may make them more sensitive to Israel’s problems.
Finally, there is one great advantage to the disappearance of the EU. The Israeli population is substantially bigger than that of 14 of the 28 EU member states. Another six have populations on the same order of magnitude. Only eight have much larger populations. Israel’s force in bilateral relations will greatly increase if compared to the current confrontation with the EU behemoth with its more than 500 million inhabitants.
WHY DUTCH SENTIMENT HAS TURNED AGAINST IMMIGRANTS
Japan Times, Feb. 28, 2017
Soon after she moved into her new neighborhood, Ijburg, on the eastern outskirts of Amsterdam, in 2005, Xandra Lammers started a blog about it. Ijburg is a curious place, an architectural wonder, built in the middle of a lake on reclaimed land and partly on water. She still keeps the blog alive, but curiosity has given way to frustration: It’s all about the unpleasantness of living next to Muslim immigrants.
“I used to vote Labor,” Lammers told me. “I was quite politically correct. But now I no longer am.” She is a determined supporter of Geert Wilders and his anti-immigrant, anti-Islam party, PVV, the front-runner in the Netherlands’ March 15 election. She is also a character in a book by nationalist writer Joost Niemoeller, called “Angry,” published last month and already on the best-seller list. The anger fueling the Wilders campaign is real and tangible in the Netherlands, but — like the anger of Donald Trump’s voters in the U.S. — it’s rooted in the existence of parallel realities in a society where efforts at social and cultural integration have run into major obstacles.
Lammers’ reality is stark. The owner of a translation bureau, she’s a native Amsterdammer, forced out of the city center by steeply rising real estate prices. When she and her husband bought their house on the water in Ijburg, she says the real estate agent didn’t tell her the neighborhood would become the arena of what she calls a “social experiment” — an effort by the city government to put middle class homeowners and social housing renters in one innovative urban development. Initially, Ijburg had a village feel: People with similar backgrounds bought the houses so they could stay in Amsterdam, and soon they all knew each other. Then the immigrants started moving in, brought over from suburbs where their cheap housing was demolished; 30 percent of Ijburg housing turned out to be earmarked for the social renters.
“We have to share the gardens in some blocks, elevators in others,” Lammers says. “So people started experiencing bad things — cars scratched, elevators urinated in. There’s now a mosque on my street, a radical one.” (The mosque’s Facebook page, removed since locals complained to the authorities, contained references to a radical preacher and to Islamic Brotherhood, an organization some countries consider terrorist). Some of Lammers immigrant neighbors soon found out what she was writing on her blog, and Moroccan youths started yelling “cancer whore” at her on the street, she says. According to the Amsterdam city government, Ijburg has one of the highest youth crime rates of all the city neighborhoods. Immigrants living in Ijburg have one of the lowest scores in Amsterdam on the Dutch government’s integration scale.
Niemoeller, who presented the first copy of his book to Wilders, says the anger he described had to do with a sense of displacement. In Amsterdam, the middle class can no longer afford to live in the city center because of gentrification and the growing influx of tourists, but the cheaper neighborhoods where they have moved have been rapidly filling with families from Turkey, Morocco, Suriname and the Dutch Antilles. “The atmosphere on the street changes, and people feel they no longer belong,” Niemoeller says. “But there’s no place else to go.” Lammers says she can’t afford to leave her house and still stay in Amsterdam, where her small business operates.
Wilders became an anti-immigrant politician in part because he witnessed a similar change in his neighborhood. In the 1980s and 1990s, he lived in Kanaleneiland, an Utrecht neighborhood that, in those two decades, was transformed from nearly all-white to international, then to Muslim-dominated. Wilders has said in speeches that he was mugged and had to run for safety more than once. A longtime admirer of the Israeli far right, he blamed the changes on the nature of Islam. To him and his supporters, mosques are “hate palaces” and North African muggers are “street terrorists.”
Though Wilders supporters say the immigrants run the streets, they themselves don’t feel that way. Murat, a car mechanic who moved to the Netherlands from Turkey 30 years ago, lives in the city of Almere, built from scratch since 1980 on a drained swamp east of Amsterdam. Almere is multiethnic, with about 30 percent immigrant population — and a city council in which Wilders’ PVV is the biggest party.
“If I tried to write a book about all the times when I was stopped in the street by the police for nothing, just because I have dark hair, or pulled over in my car for no violation, the book would be this thick,” says Murat, spreading his palms about a foot apart. “If I could save enough money, I’d move back to Turkey, but good luck with that here.” Murat says his Turkish name prevents him from getting better-paying jobs, and there are facts to support this: Last year, a Dutch think tank sent out identical resumes under different names and found that a native-born Dutch person’s probability of being invited for a job interview was almost twice as high as a Moroccan immigrant’s.
Then there’s a third perspective — that of the “leftist elite” Wilders is fond of denouncing. Rob Wijnberg, founder of the investigative journalism website De Correspondent, has written columns reaching out to Wilders voters in search of a common ground. When I ask him about the Muslims in his neighborhood — he says there are many — he shrugs. “They’re just my neighbors,” he says.
There’s a factual basis for this worldview, too. The Netherlands is an exceptionally safe country. It has one-third the rape rate and one-fifth the murder rate of the U.S. Amsterdam is a safe city by European standards, too. I wandered in Ijburg after dark and saw no Moroccan teenage gangs hanging out on street corners. The streets were clean and largely deserted. In Utrecht, I walked around Kanaleneiland. The kids frolicking on the Anne Frank School playground were dark-skinned, and the Turkish mosque next to the shopping center lacked a minaret. I felt safe and comfortable.
The problem is bringing all the conflicting — and somewhat justified — worldviews together. It’s especially different in the Netherlands with its history of a pillared society, in which people of different religions and backgrounds never mingled. Marriages between Catholics and Protestants were frowned upon, but the general attitude was live and let live — “liberalism as apathy,” as Wijnberg puts it. In part because of this traditional attitude, when the immigrants arrived as guest workers in the 1950s to rebuild the Netherlands after World War II and then jump-start its industries, they just formed a separate pillar. They were especially easy for the Dutch to put up with because the government promised to send them back when their work was done. It never happened, of course — but neither really did integration.
“The Netherlands is a segregated society,” Wijnberg says. “It’s not just black versus white, it’s also higher-educated versus lower-educated. Because there are no churches, no schools, even no pubs to which to go together, the only place where we can bump into each other is probably a soccer game.” As in the U.S., Wilders supporters and their left-wing opponents read different newspapers and watch different TV channels. The idea of integration is less about melding the two sides than forcing one to adopt the other.
Wilders supporters are telling immigrants to adopt the host country’s culture — which, in the Netherlands’ case, includes gay marriage, widely available abortion and euthanasia — or leave. The immigrants say little, but they have closed the corner pub and replaced the traditional butcher’s with a halal one. The leftists want the Wilders supporters to be less xenophobic and more accepting of other cultures — just like them. “We are intolerant of people who are intolerant of our tolerance,” as political historian Hubert Smeets put it.
This being the Netherlands, a trading nation that prides itself on its ability to find a consensus, this tug of war will eventually result in some kind of compromise. Though Wilders probably won’t govern after the March election since no big party wants to form a coalition with PVV, Niemoeller expects his strong showing to shift the national consensus. “We have these almost mystical changes,” he says. “Our elite changed to a ’60s liberal mentality in one summer. We went from rejection to acceptance of euthanasia in one summer — nobody could see why. So maybe we’ll end up agreeing that Islam is a big problem in the same way.”…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporters: Chag Sameach & Shabbat Shalom!
On Topic Links
Purim Drink and Diplomacy: David M. Weinberg, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 3, 2017— Purim combines two of my passions: politics and wine. With the holiday ten days away, I offer a reflection on the dangers of “daylight” in diplomacy, and suggestions how to stock your fridge with great new Israeli wines.
Anti-Semitism and Aliyah: Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 8, 2017—Political correctness still seems to impel us to continue chanting the mantra that we are prohibited from relating to anti-Semitism as a cause for settling in Israel and insisting that the only motivation for aliyah today is to enable a committed Jew to lead a truly Jewish life in his homeland.
The Future of the European Union?: Soeren Kern, Gatestone Institute, Mar. 2, 2017—The European Commission has published a document outlining five scenarios for how the European Union could evolve within the next ten years. The so-called White Paper on the Future of Europe, which will be presented at the Rome Summit on March 25, 2017 to mark the 60th anniversary of the European Union, is intended to be "the starting point for a wider public debate on the future of our continent."
The Prospect for Russia's Jews: Maxim D. Shrayer, Mosaic, Mar. 6, 2017—Why do you stay here?” “I have a son here,” he replied. And then he added: “God gave me as a Jew such a place in life—to live in Russia.” “What about the other Jews, why do they stay here?” “About the others I don’t know, but I imagine they too are needed here by nature and the Creator.”