Tag: Passover

PASSOVER MARKS THE BIRTH OF A FREE JEWISH PEOPLE; IN EGYPT, SISI SET TO WIN SECOND TERM AS PRESIDENT

Passover 5778: A Script of Living Drama: Baruch Cohen, CIJR, Mar. 29, 2018— A passage in the Mishna says, Every person in every generation must look upon himself/herself as if he/she came out of Egypt.

Plato’s Haggadah in the ‘Dialogues’: Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo, Times of Israel, Mar. 22, 2018— How that Jews all over the world will once again assemble around the seder table and read the Haggadah — the story of the exodus from Egypt — it may be worthwhile to put some thought into the art of reading.

Egypt’s Election: All Votes Will Go to Al-Sisi: Ashraf Ramelah, Arutz Sheva, Mar. 27, 2018 — Egypt is holding its presidential election now through March 28. President Abdul Fatah Al-Sisi is running for re-election after four years of his first term.

Egypt’s President Sisi Is Irreplaceable: Caroline Glick, Breitbart, Mar. 27, 2018 — Noting that most significant presidential contenders were either arrested, or were intimidated out of running, many media organizations have argued that Egypt’s elections this week are a farce.

On Topic Links

Passover Message from Prime Minister Netanyahu (Video): Youtube, Mar. 21, 2018

Passover Guide for the Perplexed, 2018 (a US angle): Yoram Ettinger, Ettinger Report, Mar. 26, 2018

Eight Questions for Passover: Deborah Fineblum, JNS, Mar. 26, 2018

Importing Israeli Natural Gas Makes Sense for Egypt: Robin Mills, Bloomberg, Mar. 19, 2018

 

 

PASSOVER 5778: A SCRIPT OF LIVING DRAMA

Baruch Cohen

CIJR, Mar. 29, 2018

A passage in thMishna says, every person in every generation must look upon himself/herself as if he/she came out of Egypt. The key idea that underlies the feast of Passover is great and profoundly human: the idea of freedom, of humanness. Passover shows that the human spirit’s struggle for freedom is the basis of the democratic vision of human dignity.

For us, the Jewish people, Passover marks our birth as a free people: our Sages teach us that liberty must be fought for, and renewed, in every generation. Passover, the liberation from Egyptian slavery, affirms the great truth that liberty is an undeniable right of every human being. By celebrating Passover we are learning about our Jewish past, and thus ensuring our human future.

Hag Pesach Sameach! Happy Passover!

 

(Baruch Cohen, now 98, has been CIJR’s Research Chairman for thirty years; his moving memoir, No One Bears Witness for the Witness, just published, is available from CIJR at cijr@isranet.org)

 

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PLATO’S HAGGADAH IN THE ‘DIALOGUES’

Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo

Times of Israel, Mar. 22, 2018

 

Now that Jews all over the world will once again assemble around the seder table and read the Haggadah — the story of the exodus from Egypt — it may be worthwhile to put some thought into the art of reading. In The Phaedrus (275a-278a) and in his Seventh Letter (344c), Plato questioned — and in fact attacked — the written word as being completely inadequate. This may explain why philosophers have scarcely written about the art of writing, although they extensively engaged in that very craft!

It is well known that Plato used to write in the form of dialogues, and it is clear to anyone reading these conversations that his main purpose in doing so was to hide the characteristics of the texts. He worked for years on polishing this literary form. Cicero maintains that Plato actually died at his writing table at the age of 81. “Plato uno et octogesimo anno scribens est mortuus.” (Cicero, “On Old Age,” Section 5.)

What bothered Plato was that he believed the written word would fall prey to evil or incompetent readers who would do anything they want with the text, leaving the writer unable to defend or explain himself or herself. He feared the text would take on a life of its own, independent of its author, as is indeed characteristic of the written word. Even more interesting is his observation that a written text actually becomes a “pharmakon” — a drug that can either heal or kill, depending on how it is applied. It may even be used as a prompt, but will ultimately lead to memory loss since it will make the brain idle. Years later, Immanuel Kant wrote along similar lines, saying that the “script” wreaked havoc on the “body of memory.” (Immanuel Kant, Anthropologie in Pragmatischer Hinsicht, Suhrkamp, STW 193, Frankfurt am Main, pp. 489-490.

However, according to Plato, this means far more than just losing information, or being deprived of the skill of memorizing. For him, real knowledge was a atter of “intrinsic understanding,” demanding a person’s total presence within what he reads or says. Only that with which I totally identify and which has become united with my Self can be called knowledge and is in-scribed in my whole personality. That which I have simply read or learned superficially is not really knowledge.

Unwittingly, Plato touched on a most fundamental aspect of the Jewish tradition. We Jews are called “the people of the book.” But we are not; we are the people of the ear. The Torah is not to be read, but is rather to be heard. It was not written in the conventional sense. It was the Divine word spoken at Sinai, which had to be heard and which afterwards, out of pure necessity, became frozen in a text, but with the sole intention of being immediately “defrosted” through the art of hearing. This, then, became the great foundation of the Jewish oral tradition.

Reading entails using one’s eyes and, as such, the act remains external. The words are not carved into the very soul of the reader. Rabbi Yaakov Leiner, son of the famous Ishbitzer Rebbe, Rabbi Mordechai Yosef Leiner, and one of the keenest minds in the Hasidic tradition, speaks about seeing. He makes the valuable observation that sight discloses the external aspect of things while hearing reveals the internal. (Rabbi Yaacov Leiner, Beis Yaakov, “Rosh Chodesh Av.”) One must hear a text, not read it. This is the reason why the body of Torah consists of minimum words and maximum oral interpretation.

Still, does not the open-endedness of the Torah present the opportunity for anyone to read his or her own thoughts into the text and violate its very spirit? The Jewish tradition responded to this challenge with great profundity. It created an ongoing oral tradition in which unwritten rules of interpretation were handed down, thereby securing the inner meaning of the text, while at the same time allowing the student to use all of his or her creative imagination. Even after the Oral Torah was written down in the form of the Talmud, it remained unwritten, as any Talmud student can testify. No other text is so succinct and “understaffed” in written words, while simultaneously given to such vast interpretation. The fact that the art of reading the Talmud can only be learned through a teacher–student relationship, and not merely through the written word, proves our point. Only when the student hears his or her master’s oral interpretation of the text is the student able to read it, because the teacher will not only give explanations, but will also convey the inner vibrations that were once heard at the revelation on Mount Sinai. This is the deeper knowledge that teachers themselves received from their masters, taking them all the way back to the supreme moment at Sinai. In that way, the students can free themselves from a mechanical approach to the text. Each person will hear new voices in the old text, without deviating from its inner meaning. This will provide the courage to think on one’s own and rid any personal prejudices. The text, then, is not read but heard.

Jewish law states that even if one is alone on the Seder night, one must pronounce the text of the Haggadah and not just read it. One must hear oneself, explain the text in a verbal way, and be in continuous dialogue with oneself, so as to understand and feel what happened thousands of years ago. Plato alluded to this matter without fully realizing why his own teachings never came close to receiving the treatment they perhaps deserved. They are read too much and heard too little.

This may be the difference between the Divine word and the human word. The Divine is a dimension where words have no spiritual space. Human words are too grounded in the text. The Divine word goes beyond these textual limitations and can find its way only through the act of listening, because it is through this particular one of our senses that we are able to hear the “perpetual murmur from the waves beyond the shore.” (Abraham Joshua Heschel, Man Is Not Alone: A Philosophy of Religion (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1976) p. 8.) When we read the text on the seder night, we should be aware that it only provides the opening words. The real Haggadah has no text. It is not to be read, but is rather to be heard. And, just as with the Torah, we have not even begun to understand its full meaning. We are simply perpetual beginners. Moadim le-simcha.

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EGYPT’S ELECTION: ALL VOTES WILL GO TO AL-SISI

Ashraf Ramelah

Arutz Sheva, Mar. 27, 2018

 

Egypt is holding its presidential election now through March 28. President Abdul Fatah Al-Sisi is running for re-election after four years of his first term. There is one opposing candidate from the Tomorrow Party who has vowed to cast his vote for the president and encourages all Egyptians to do the same. The ballots will be counted by the Election Commission as usual with the political parties in observance. The president is an independent candidate of the military without a political party. However, the military will be absent from the process because constitutionally it cannot be a part of civilian elections.

With the outcome already determined, Egyptians view the election as a comedy performance mainly because it is too painful to take seriously. Any real opposition candidates to the president have been orchestrated out of the process by the Al-Sisi government in the past months…State-sponsored media rave about the popularity of Al-Sisi and show pictures of Egyptians endorsing him with his campaign slogan of “build it.” But certain facts belie such reports. For instance, the media is pressuring the electorate to go out and vote by stressing it as the sacred duty of every citizen. Guilt infliction would not be necessary if a highly popular, reformist incumbent were running.

Christian clergy and Muslim Imams are threatening the populace with the fate of hell for those who do not go to the voting polls while the courts threaten non-voters with monetary fines. State employees are told by their managers that they will receive punishments for misconduct if they are absent from the performance of their electoral duty.

Meanwhile, Orthodox churches in the Egyptian diaspora around the world are arranging buses to haul church-goers to offices of the Egyptian Consulate to cast their vote for Al-Sisi. This follows the directive of Pope Tawadros II, an advocate of the president, when last week he announced plainly that, “It is the obligation and duty of every person to vote.” Low turn-out at the polls would bring embarrassment to the president and must be avoided at all cost.

Complacency is being combated by the state, church and mosque, but the anger boiling underneath the surface of the ersatz conformity is an even bigger threat to Al-Sisi and can’t be dealt with as easily by the regime whose appearance must remain “democratic.” Calling the election a farce, the Civil Democratic Movement has risen up to boycott it. Analysts are citing it as the object of the president’s anger and the reason for the regime’s pressure upon voters across the country.

Anger in general toward Al-Sisi’s failed record is what led the regime in the first place to eliminate risk by clearing the ballot of opposition. The other candidates presumably represented forces so insidious to the country and the welfare of the citizenry that Al-Sisi waited until they threatened his position as president to deal with their lurking presence. Moreover, his failure to float ideas to fix the country’s infrastructure problems, inflation and poverty has been accompanied by a rise in police state tactics such as “aurora” visits to contrarians and jail for speaking freely and critically. Considering this in the light of the president’s promises of democratic reforms and talk of human rights, Egyptians are left with cognitive dissonance.

Orthodox Copts have solved this problem by accepting Al-Sisi as a ruler who “means well” in light of terror atrocities, brute police force, rigged courts and rubble in place of churches. Political relativism helps this along. Are the Copts correct in agreeing with Al-Sisi that any other option rising in the political arena would be much too risky and threatening to Egypt’s long history of military rule? Military rule is all Egyptians know. Another military man as president would be pointless and, if less endearing, might prove disruptive to the stability of a people who need to manage daily life under massive corruption and civil decay.

                                                                       

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EGYPT’S PRESIDENT SISI IS IRREPLACEABLE

Caroline Glick

Breitbart, Mar. 27, 2018

 

Noting that most significant presidential contenders were either arrested, or were intimidated out of running, many media organizations have argued that Egypt’s elections this week are a farce. Although there accounts disputing those claims, it is true that government bodies placed obstacles to running before several candidates. So it is hard to argue that this week’s election is an open one.

But there is a deeper issue at stake in Egypt than popular elections. That issue is whether Egypt – a country with 90 million citizens – will become a threat to itself and to the world, or whether Egypt will somehow beat the odds, and survive by liberalizing. Sisi is betting on survival through liberalization. If he fails, no amount of open and free and unfettered elections will save Egypt from destruction.

Seven years ago, the same bipartisan elite in Washington that is attacking this week’s elections united in support for overthrowing a longtime U.S. ally, then-Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, because he wasn’t democratic enough to satisfy that elite’s members on both sides of the partisan divide. Mubarak was an unapologetic authoritarian who ruled Egypt for 29 years. But he was also the anchor of America’s alliance structure in the Sunni Arab world.

When photogenic protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square staged what the credulous Western media reported as the Facebook Revolution, the elites gushed with excitement. Mubarak’s long service as a U.S. ally made no difference in Washington. Neoliberals in the Obama administration joined together with neoconservatives from the George W. Bush administration to support his overthrow.  The fact that the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood engineered the protests and was the only faction in Egypt with the power to replace Mubarak didn’t bother the wise men and women of Washington.

Blinded by their complementary neoconservative and neoliberal world views, they believed, as then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Congress, that the Muslim Brotherhood was a “largely secular” organization. They believed this, despite the fact that nearly every Sunni Islamic terror group in the world is Muslim Brotherhood spin-off. They believed this despite the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood’s motto, since its founding in the 1920s, was “Allah is our goal; the Prophet is our leader; the Koran is our law; Jihad is our way; Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.” Abandoned by the U.S., Mubarak was forced to resign after 18 days of protest. He and his sons were then carted off to prison.

Within a year of Mubarak’s overthrow, Egypt held its first open parliamentary elections between late 2011 until early 2012. The Muslim Brotherhood bloc won 45 percent of the vote. The Salafist party won 25 percent. So when Egyptians were given the freedom to choose their representatives, 70 percent of them voted for Islamic totalitarians who support global jihad and the institution of an Islamic caliphate to rule the world.

In the presidential elections that followed, the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, Mohamed Morsi from the Freedom and Justice Party, won nearly 52 percent of the vote. Much to the amazement of Washington’s wise men and women, after assuming power, Morsi and his parliamentary supporters did not govern as liberals or moderates. The representatives of Islamic totalitarian parties and movement governed as Islamic totalitarians.

Morsi pushed a constitution through the parliament that would have transformed Egypt into an Islamic theocracy. He turned a blind eye to the massive escalation in violence against Coptic Christians and church properties. He assumed dictatorial powers that, among other things, placed his presidency and all of his actions as president above judicial review.

So, far from delivering Egypt into a new era of political freedom, Egypt’s popularly elected president and popularly elected parliament used their power to trample all vestiges of liberalism and democratic order, including the separation of powers and freedom of religion in Egypt. So much for democracy.

The people of Egypt rose up against Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood by the millions. Sisi, then defense minister, rose to power as the leader of a military coup that overthrew Morsi and his Islamist regime in July 2013. The Egypt that greeted Sisi was a country on the brink of mass starvation. Foreign currency reserves were almost wiped out.

Today, as the Saudis bankroll his government, Sisi has introduced market reforms into Egypt’s economy. He has committed to transforming the education system into one that provides students with marketable skills, rather than one that focuses on rote learning. He has taken on Egypt’s Islamic religious authorities and called for a reformation of Islam while waging war against the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic terror groups, from Hamas to ISIS.

None of Sisi’s battles are easily won. The Islamic clerics are testing his will and power relative to theirs, while slowing down the reform process he instigated in 2015. There is no silver bullet to solve the Egyptian economy’s fundamental failings. And the Islamists, who won 70 percent of the popular vote in 2012, will not simply disappear because they are being repressed. In the Sinai, they continue to fight a brutal and bloody war against Sisi’s regime.

Then there are the Coptic Christians. The Copts comprise around ten percent of Egypt’s population. They suffered government-sponsored persecution under the Morsi regime. And as a consequence, they were among the most outspoken supporters of the military coup tht brought Sisi to power. Unfortunately, despite the Copts high hopes that the Sisi presidency would protect their rights as Christians and as Egyptian citizens, Sisi has been unable to end the popular persecution of Copts by their Muslim neighbors. Over the past year, despite Sisi’s willingness to stand with the Copts, persecution of the community at local levels has increased. And many Copts are questioning Sisi’s willingness and ability to take the necessary steps to protect them.On the other hand, if Sisi stays the course, and continues to enjoy the support of the Saudis, the US, Israel, Europe, and others, he may survive long enough to make significant changes in Egyptian society.

Unlike President Barack Obama, who supported Morsi even as millions of Egyptians took to the streets throughout Egypt to overthrow him, President Donald Trump has been outspoken in his support for Sisi. If it is to happen, Sisi’s success in rescuing and transforming Egypt won’t be pretty. Coaxing and pushing Egypt into the 21st century culturally, educationally, and economically cannot be done without pushing the scales in favor of certain forces and against others. But the world has a stake in Sisi’s success. If Sisi succeeds, the Islamic world will never be the same. And the world will be safer.

If Sisi fails, then barring an unforeseen miracle, Egypt, with its 90 million people, will fall apart. Tens of millions will starve to death. The Arab world’s most powerful military force will fall into uncertain hands. The Islamists will have no shortage of scapegoats to blame. The implications of such a catastrophe for the region and the world are unimaginable. Sisi’s many critics snort that his one opponent, Moussa Mostafa Moussa, is actually a Sisi supporter. But maybe the critics should stop sticking their noses up at democratically-challenged Sisi and ask Moussa why he supports Sisi. Maybe he supports him because he believes that Sisi is Egypt’s last chance for survival.

 

CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporters:

Hag Pesach Sameach! Happy Passover!

 

Contents

On Topic Links

Passover Message from Prime Minister Netanyahu (Video): Youtube, Mar. 21, 2018

Passover Guide for the Perplexed, 2018 (a US angle): Yoram Ettinger, Ettinger Report, Mar. 26, 2018—1. According to the late Prof. Yehudah Elitzur, one of Israel’s pioneers of Biblical research, the Exodus took place in the second half of the 15th century BCE, during the reign of Egypt’s Amenhotep II.

Eight Questions for Passover: Deborah Fineblum, JNS, Mar. 26, 2018 —Why is this year going to be different from all other years? Because this year, you can stump your guests with the meaning behind many of the mysterious rites that comprise the Passover Seder.

Importing Israeli Natural Gas Makes Sense for Egypt: Robin Mills, Bloomberg, Mar. 19, 2018—The discovery of Egypt’s giant Zohr gas field in August 2015 was heralded as the solution to the country’s energy problems. So why did Egypt cut a deal this year to import natural gas from Israel, its former enemy?

PASSOVER 5777—CELEBRATING FREEDOM FROM SLAVERY AND EXODUS FROM EGYPT

 

 

Passover – We Have Reason to Rejoice: Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 9, 2017 — Tonight, most Israelis, secular as well as observant, will celebrate Passover, the festival of freedom in which we recount our life of slavery and exodus from Egypt and how we became a nation.

Passover Guide for the Perplexed, 2017: Yoram Ettinger, Jewish Press, Apr. 9, 2017 — 1. According to Heinrich Heine, the 19th century German poet, “Since the Exodus, freedom has always spoken with a Hebrew accent.”

Assad Had Every Reason to Believe he Would Get Away with Another Chemical Attack. But Trump Surprised Him: Michael Petrou, National Post, Apr. 7, 2017 — “The United States, they play with us, and they lie to us,” Mohammad Gohoul said this February as he sat on the floor of an apartment in Gaziantep, Turkey, where he now lives as a refuge after fleeing Syria and the tortures he endured there.

Did Putin Get the Message?: Lee Smith, Weekly Standard, Apr. 8, 2017 — After the Trump administration's strike on the Shayrat airfield Thursday, lawmakers, analysts, and the press are asking if the White House has a next move.

               

On Topic Links

 

Exodus – The Secret of Our Nationhood: Dr. Michael Laitman, Breaking Israel News, Apr. 9, 2017

Tillerson, McMaster, Blame Russia for US Attack on Syria: Jewish Press, Apr. 7, 2017

What Can We Expect in Wake of Syria Chemical Attack?: Clarion Project, Apr. 9, 2017

On Moral Rearmament of the West: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, Apr. 8, 2017

 

 

PASSOVER – WE HAVE REASON TO REJOICE

                                                 Isi Leibler                                                                                                                         Jerusalem Post, Apr. 9, 2017

 

Tonight, most Israelis, secular as well as observant, will celebrate Passover, the festival of freedom in which we recount our life of slavery and exodus from Egypt and how we became a nation. The Haggada that we read at the Passover Seder also carries a universal theme of human rights but its focus is the Jewish People, stressing our shared past and our aspirations for a renewal of Jewish sovereignty during 2,000 years of harrowing exile, endless persecutions, expulsion and attempted genocide.

 

We read in the Haggada that “in every generation they rise against us to destroy us. But the Holy One, blessed be He, saves us from them.” We appeal to the Almighty to “pour out Thy wrath” against the wicked and destroy them. The Haggada recounts the Egyptians’ pattern of Jew-hatred: they envied the prosperity of their Jewish minority, enslaved and ultimately engaged in genocide with Pharaoh’s decree to drown all newborn Jewish males. This pattern has recurred throughout the generations as we faced successive enemies: the pagans, the church, secular racist Jew-haters, Nazis and communists. And today there is a global tsunami of antisemitism, especially in Europe where Jews are being transformed into pariahs.

 

The current threat emanates from the bizarre combination of Islamists and radical leftists, who are renewing the vicious antisemitic propaganda of the 1930s that was a precursor to the Holocaust. In its current manifestation, it is also directed against the Jewish national homeland – the only nation-state in the world whose right to exist is under threat. It is horrifying to observe the culture of death and destruction in the Middle East, the barbaric bloodbaths and millions of civilians displaced from their homes. When we witness the Iranian leaders repeatedly proclaiming their genocidal objectives, we are instinctively reminded of Amalek.

 

But on Passover, we give thanks to the Almighty and rejoice that our days of powerlessness belong to the past and that we are now strong enough to deter and if necessary overcome the combined forces of all our adversaries. Today we have a State of Israel that provides a haven to all Jews wishing to settle in the Jewish homeland. Other elements in the Haggada resonate with different issues facing us today. Ha Lachma Anya (the bread of affliction) reminds us not to be complacent and to be concerned about the poor and needy and of the scandal of the neglected elderly Holocaust survivors who have been denied the minimum material support to enable them to live out their few remaining years in dignity.

 

A discussion of the Four Sons can relate to the identity challenges facing Israelis and Diaspora Jews. The chacham, the wise son, is the committed Jew. The tam, the simple son, and she’eino yodea lishol, the one who does not know to ask, are the products of assimilation and loss of Jewish identity. This includes those deprived of a Jewish education by their parents, or those who are apathetic, lazy and unsophisticated, with no desire to acquaint themselves with their Jewish heritage. Ultimately, many become indifferent and disappear. The rasha, the wicked son, symbolizes those Jews who vilify their people. In the contemporary context, this includes Jews engaged in public efforts to undermine Israel, those supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and those allying themselves with our enemies against the Jewish state. Alas, of late, several prominent American Jewish leaders have joined this category.

 

In Israel, their counterparts are those who seek to transform Israel from a Jewish state to a state of all its citizens or who promote the false narrative of those seeking our destruction. The Haggada poses problems for secular humanist interpretations of history because reason alone cannot explain the unprecedented events associated with our ongoing national renaissance. If one objectively reviews our status, the host of fortuitous “coincidences” that we have witnessed since the rebirth of a Jewish state, there is a strong case to consider that our survival and thriving existence after 2,000 years of dispersion is no less miraculous than the exodus from Egypt.

 

The greatest miracle was the reestablishment of a Jewish state, which rose like a phoenix from the ashes of the Holocaust, when at the United Nations, during the height of the Cold War, the United States and Soviet Union for the first time voted together in favor of the creation of a Jewish state. Subsequently, the fledgling state, against all odds, defeated the combined forces of surrounding Arab states, which was later followed with the miracle of the Six Day War.

 

Another miracle key to Israel’s survival has been kibbutz galuyot – the ingathering of the exiles – in which Jews from all corners of the world, from the former Soviet Union to Ethiopia, made aliya, swelling Israel’s Jewish population from 600,0000 in 1948 to over six million today. Israel has successfully integrated new immigrants, molding them into a vibrant nation in which ancient Hebrew was revived as a living language. We have benefited from a mass aliya which ensued from the extraordinary liberation of Soviet Jewry, spearheaded by a few hundred assimilated Jews who courageously triumphed against the most powerful totalitarian country in the world…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

 

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PASSOVER GUIDE FOR THE PERPLEXED, 2017

Yoram Ettinger                                                                                        

Jewish Press, Apr. 9, 2017

 

1. According to Heinrich Heine, the 19th century German poet, “Since the Exodus, freedom has always spoken with a Hebrew accent.”

 

2. Moses’ “Let my people go” paved the road to the Exodus. In 1850, it became a code song for black slaves, who were freed by Harriet Tubman’s (“Mama Moses”) “Underground Railroad.” Paul Robeson and Louis Armstrong enhanced its popularity through the lyrics: “When Israel was Egypt’s land, let my people go! Oppressed so hard they could not stand, let my people go! Go down Moses, way down in Egypt’s land; tell old Pharaoh to let my people go….!”  On December 11, 1964, upon accepting the Nobel Prize, Martin Luther King, Jr., “the Moses of his age”, said: “The Bible tells the thrilling story of how Moses stood in Pharaoh’s court centuries ago and cried, ‘Let my people go!’”

 

3. The Exodus has been an integral part of the American story since the landing of the 17th century early Pilgrims, who considered themselves “the people of the modern day Exodus,” who departed from “the modern day Egypt” (Britain), rebelled against “the modern day Pharaoh,” (King James I and King Charles I), crossed “the modern day Red Sea” (the Atlantic Ocean) and headed toward “the modern day Promised Land” (America).  Hence, the abundance of US sites bearing Biblical names, such as Jerusalem, Salem (the original name of Jerusalem), Bethel, Shiloh, Ephrata’, Tekoa’, Bethlehem, Moriah, Zion, etc.

 

4. The Exodus is mentioned 50 times in the Torah, equal to the 50 years of the Jubilee – the Biblical symbol of liberty – which is featured on the Liberty Bell (installed in 1751 – the 50th anniversary of William Penn’s Charter of Privileges): “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof (Leviticus, 25:10).”  Moses received the Torah – which includes 50 gates of wisdom – 50 days following the Exodus, as celebrated by the Shavou’ot/Pentecost Holiday. And, there are 50 States in the United States, whose Hebrew name is ארצות הברית, the States of the Covenant.

 

5. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense – “the cement of the Revolution” – referred to King George as “the hardened, sullen-tempered Pharaoh of England.”  John Adams and Thomas Jefferson – the 2nd and 3rd US presidents – and Benjamin Franklin, proposed the Parting of the Sea as the official US seal. The proposal was tabled, but the chosen seal features thirteen stars (colonies), above the Eagle, in the shape of a Star of David. Ezra Stiles, the President of Yale University – which features on its shield “Urim and Thummim,” the power of the High Priest during the Exodus – stated on May 8, 1873: “Moses, the man of God, assembled three million people, the number of people in America in 1776.” Theodore White wrote in The Making of the President 1960: “It is as if Kennedy, a younger Moses, had led an elderly Joshua [LBJ] to the height of Mount Nebo…and there shown him the Promised Land which he himself would never be entering, but which Joshua would make his own.”  In 2017, the bust of Moses faces the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, and eight statues and engravings of Moses and the Tablets are featured in the US Supreme Court.

 

6. A documentation of the Exodus – which took place in the second half of the 15th century BCE, during the reign of Egypt’s Amenhotep II – was provided by the late Prof. Yehudah Elitzur, one of Israel’s pioneers of Biblical research. Accordingly, the 40-year national coalescing of the Jewish people – while wandering in the desert – took place when Egypt was ruled by Thutmose IV. Joshua conquered Canaan when Egypt was ruled by Amenhotep III and Amenhotep IV, who were preoccupied with domestic affairs, refraining from expansionist operations. Moreover, letters which were discovered in Tel el Amarna, the capital city of ancient Egypt, documented that the 14th century BCE Pharaoh, Amenhotep IV, was informed by the rulers of Jerusalem, Samaria and other parts of Canaan, about a military offensive launched by the “Habirus” (Hebrews and other Semitic tribes), which corresponded to the timing of Joshua’s offensive against the same rulers. Amenhotep IV was a determined reformer, who introduced monotheism, possibly influenced by the nationally and religiously game-changing Exodus.  Further documentation of the Exodus is provided by Dr. Joshua Berman of Bar Ilan University.

 

7. Passover is the oldest Jewish national liberation holiday, highlighting the mutually-inclusive aspects of Judaism: religion, nationality, culture/morality, language and history. Passover highlights individual and national liberty and optimism, which have played a critical role in preserving Judaism, Jews and the yearning to reconstruct the Jewish Homeland, in defiance of the 40 years in the desert and the 2,500 year of exile, destruction, pogroms, the Holocaust, boycotts, wars, terrorism and anti-Semitism.

 

8. Passover stipulates that human rejuvenation – just like the rejuvenation of nature – must be driven by roots/memory/history. Therefore, parents are instructed to educate their children about the lessons of Passover. Passover was an early edition of the 19th century Spring of Nations. It is celebrated in the spring, the bud of nature. Spring is mentioned 3 times in the Torah, all in reference to the Exodus. Passover – which commemorates the creation of the Jewish nation – lasts seven days, just like the creation of the universe.

 

9. Passover’s centrality in Judaism is highlighted by the first of the Ten Commandments: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” The Passover ethos is included in daily Jewish prayers, Shabbat and holiday prayers, the blessing over the wine, the blessing upon circumcision, the prayer fixed in the Mezuzah (doorpost) and in the annual family retelling of the Exodus on the eve of Passover. Passover symbolizes the unity of – and interdependence between – the People of Israel, the Torah of Israel and the Land of Israel…                                                                                                 

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

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ASSAD HAD EVERY REASON TO BELIEVE HE WOULD GET AWAY WITH ANOTHER CHEMICAL ATTACK.

BUT TRUMP SURPRISED HIM                                                               

Michael Petrou                                                                                                   

National Post, Apr. 7, 2017

 

“The United States, they play with us, and they lie to us,” Mohammad Gohoul said this February as he sat on the floor of an apartment in Gaziantep, Turkey, where he now lives as a refuge after fleeing Syria and the tortures he endured there. Gohoul took part in the demonstrations against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad that broke out in 2011. He says he wanted Syrians to live in a democracy. “We would go to Western embassies and leave flowers there,” he says, a gesture of admiration and a request for support.

 

Assad met these protests with deadly force. Gohoul was arrested. In his Gaziantep apartment, he showed how he was blindfolded and his hands were bound while he was beaten and shocked with electricity. “For nine months, I didn’t see the sun,” he said. After his release, he went to opposition-held Aleppo and then came to Turkey when Aleppo fell to the Syrian regime late last year. When Gohoul and other Syrians speak of America’s “lies” and games, they refer to an August 2011 statement made by then-U.S. President Barack Obama that Assad should step aside, which wasn’t followed by any steps to make that happen, and especially to Obama’s “red line” comments on the use of chemical weapons.

 

Such an event, Obama said in 2012, would change his “calculus” regarding military engagement in Syria. But when Assad’s regime launched a sarin attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta the following year, killing some 1,400 civilians, Obama famously backed away from retaliation. Instead, he agreed to a Russian-brokered deal that was supposed to have resulted in Syria giving up its chemical weapons stockpiles. The utter failure of Obama’s decision has been exposed with horrific results by this week’s poison gas attack on Khan Sheikhoun in northern Syria. More than 80 people were killed, including at least 27 children.

 

Assad had every reason to believe he would get away with it. The current American president, Donald Trump, made his isolationist bent explicitly clear shortly after the Ghouta chemical weapons attack and while Obama was still president: “We should stop talking, stay out of Syria and other countries that hate us, rebuild our own country and make it strong and great again-USA!” he tweeted in 2013. And just last week, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Assad’s rule was a “political reality that we have to accept.” Assad, it seemed, could count on U.S. ambivalence regardless of his crimes.

 

Instead, Trump surprised the world. The 59 cruise missiles he ordered launched at the Shayrat Airfield, from where America believes the chemical weapons attack originated, represent a stark policy reversal for the U.S. president. It is one for which he deserves credit. It is worth underlining that while Obama publicly sought to rebuild America’s relations with the “Muslim world,” he did little while Syria was torn asunder, and while Assad brought death to hundreds of thousands of its citizens. It is Trump, for all his Muslim-bashing nativism, who has finally deployed American military force against the most prolific murderer in that country.

 

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland delivered an awkwardly worded statement yesterday in which she said Assad’s chemical attack “raises grave questions” about the possibility of working with his regime. But Prime Minister Trudeau — also to his credit — has said Canada “fully supports” the American airstrikes. That statement puts Canada alongside many American allies, including its traditional Sunni Muslim ones in the Middle East, such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia, which had been disappointed by Obama’s decision not to strike Syria four years ago. Trump’s decision will go some way toward improving those strained ties…                                                                                                                                       

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]                     

 

Contents

                                         

DID PUTIN GET THE MESSAGE?                                                                          

Lee Smith                                                                                                     

Weekly Standard, Apr. 8, 2017

 

After the Trump administration's strike on the Shayrat airfield Thursday, lawmakers, analysts, and the press are asking if the White House has a next move. Certainly it was important to signal that the use of chemical weapons is something the United States could not tolerate. As President Trump explained Thursday, it is a "vital national security of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons." That is, the Trump administration enforced the redline against the use of chemical weapons that the previous White House ignored. Further, by citing the possible "spread" of those unconventional arms, Trump was alluding to the organization that is the likeliest recipient of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal—Hezbollah, Iran's praetorian guard in the eastern Mediterranean.

 

Thus the strike underscored that the Trump administration's understanding of the Syrian conflict is broader than that of its predecessor. Where the Obama White House limited its focus in the Syrian arena to an anti-ISIS campaign, Trump struck a blow against the Iranian axis. Tehran and its allies are no longer dealing with an American president eager to strike a bargain with them. The new White House has put Iranian ally Bashar al-Assad on notice. However, the 59 tomahawk missiles launched at Shayrat is perhaps best understood as a message to Russia.

 

The White House acted less than 48 hours after receiving intelligence regarding Tuesday's chemical weapons attack. The Trump White House knew immediately who was behind the attack and named names—Syrian government forces. The Russians were putting out a different story. They claimed that Jabhat al-Nusra had a chemical weapons factory in Khan Shaykun and that a strike with attack helicopters created the plume that killed civilians on Tuesday.

 

"We know from our ability to monitor that this story was false," a senior administration official told the Weekly Standard. "The aircraft that flew from Shayrat airbase to Khan Shaykun were tracked. Furthermore, no group like Nusra has ever had ever had the ability to make Sarin in Syria. To weaponize Sarin is quite a sophisticated thing. Opposition groups have not shown that they have that ability, but the Assad regime does." Presumably, the American government had access to the same intelligence resources when Assad previously used chemical weapons. However, the Obama administration's standard response was to ignore intelligence regarding the use of Syria's unconventional arsenal and avoid or downplay attribution of responsibility.

 

For instance, when Israeli intelligence showed in April 2013 who was responsible for gassing men, women, and children,a Pentagon official contended that "the use of chemical weapons in an environment like Syria is very difficult to confirm." When Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited Washington in May 2013 and brought evidence of the attacks and intelligence regarding who conducted and ordered them, President Obama said that he needed "specific information about what exactly is happening there." Thus, there should have been little surprise when Obama decided not to strike Assad regime targets in September 2013 to enforce the American redline against the use of chemical weapons. Obama had shown repeatedly that he resisted blaming Assad for deploying chemical weapons—punishing him for it was almost unimaginable.

 

However, Obama's failure to act is not because of what Trump White House officials like Sean Spicer are calling his "weakness." No, the previous president brushed aside intelligence and then walked back military force because he believed that an attack on Assad was likely to crash his signature foreign policy initiative, the nuclear agreement with Iran. The Iran deal shaped both Syria policy (an anti-ISIS campaign predicated on leaving Assad untouched) and the Obama administration's larger Middle East strategy, a realignment with Iran. Obama downgraded traditional allies like Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and NATO member Turkey, while upgrading the Iranians, and opening wide a window of opportunity for Russia, grateful to once again be a player in the Middle East, after a forty-year absence.

 

Thursday's operation should be seen as part of a broader effort to rebalance America's regional interests in opposition to the Iranian axis and Russia. The tomahawk strikes were the big news of the week, overshadowing the fact that the new White House welcomed the leaders of two traditional American regional allies—Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and King Abdullah of Jordan. Sisi was treated as a leper by the Obama administration, and Abdullah sidelined. If the Jordanian king was concerned about the presence of Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia on his border, the Obama White House told him to take his concerns to Moscow, where Sisi also visited hat in hand. They had no choice—the Obama administration was not interested in protecting the regional security architecture the United States had built over 70 years…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporters: Chag Sameach!

No Daily Briefing Will Be Published on Tuesday, Apr. 10

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

Exodus – The Secret of Our Nationhood: Dr. Michael Laitman, Breaking Israel News, Apr. 9, 2017—Each Passover, we focus our attention on the historic struggle between Moses and Pharaoh, and the enslavement of the Hebrews. Yet, the story of our people in Egypt is more than a collective memory; it is an accurate depiction of our current situation.

Tillerson, McMaster, Blame Russia for US Attack on Syria: Jewish Press, Apr. 7, 2017—Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Director H. R. McMaster on Thursday held a press conference to review the sudden change in US policy regarding Syria, pinning the responsibility for the nerve gas attack against Syrian civilians on President Bashar al-Assad’s chief enabler, the Russian government.

What Can We Expect in Wake of Syria Chemical Attack? (Video): Clarion Project, Apr. 9, 2017

On Moral Rearmament of the West: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, Apr. 8, 2017— According to an in-depth survey published last week in Israel Hayom, Israeli youth believe deeply and optimistically in the future of this country. 85% of Israeli kids in grades 11 and 12 love the country. 89% plan to stay here, no matter what. 85% think that the IDF is the most moral army in the world. 65% say it would be worthy to die for country, if necessary. 63% feel that social solidarity, volunteerism, and family values are what make Israel great.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THIS PASSOVER—LET US REMEMBER THOSE WHO SUFFERED IN EXILE & OPPRESSION—& CONTINUE TO FIGHT FOR DIGNITY & FREEDOM

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 – Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284; E-mail: rob@isranet.org

 

The Holiday of Freedom: Passover 5774: Baruch Cohen, Apr. 11, 2014— The Passover story as told in the Haggadah recounts how Israel moved from darkness into light; from ignorance and a history of idolatry into freedom and glory.

What We Can’t Learn From the Passover Story: Yair Rosenberg, Tablet, Apr. 11, 2014 — There are many distinctive colors which Jews encounter at the Passover seder. There is red for wine and blood, green for the plague of frogs, and black for that of darkness.

People of the Word: The Story of the Jews, by Simon Schama (Book Review): Judith Shulevitz, New York Times, Mar. 28, 2014 — From generation to generation — l’dor va dor, as the Good Book says (in Hebrew) — there arises a historian who bequeaths unto the world yet another door-stopping history of the Jews.

Ancient Jewish Community in China to Hold Traditional Passover Seder for First Time: Anav Silverman, Algemeiner, Apr. 10, 2014 — In the Chinese city of Kaifeng, members of the ancient Jewish community were recently heard singing in Hebrew as they prepared for their first Passover seder.

 

 

On Topic Links

 

Pesach Message from Calgary United with Israel Founder: Sarah Bernamoff, Calgary United With Israel, Apr. 11, 2014

MKs Hold Model Seder With Seat Set Aside For Jailed Spy Jonathan Pollard: Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 9, 2014

3,300-Year-Old Egyptian Coffin Found in Jezreel Valley: Daniel K. Eisenbud, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 9, 2014  

Excavators Discover 3,800-Year-Old Biblical Fortress in City of David: Reenat Sinay, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 2, 2014

 

THE HOLIDAY OF FREEDOM: PASSOVER 5774                

Baruch Cohen                      

Apr. 11, 2014

                                                                                                                   

In Loving Memory of Malca z”l

                                     

 

The Passover story as told in the Haggadah recounts how Israel moved from darkness into light; from ignorance and a history of idolatry into freedom and glory. A permanent and a continuing saga, Passover is an event which eternally calls people of all generations to hope and anticipation of a new dawn. Indeed, the springtime festival of Passover represents a new life for all who suffered during the long years of exile and oppression. Celebrating the joyful festival at the Seder table, we remember our long and stormy history.

 

The Passover story is living drama, a script involving Israel's children of all generations: a story of a fight for freedom, for human dignity, and for a permanent home for all the children of Israel. Passover is a democratic struggle for human dignity. From generation to generation one must picture oneself as having been freed from Egypt. The ongoing struggle for dignity and freedom has given the Jewish people the will, the power, and the determination to fight on.

 

Today, Passover’s legacy sustains the Jewish people's struggle against terrorism and global antisemitism. We learned from history and gained faith and the confidence to continue our struggle against all present enemies – toward the ultimate victory.

 

The story of Passover enjoins all men and women to join in brotherhood, to join in the building of Jerusalem and Israel and, by that very fact in the rebuilding of the world! This festival is the festival of human freedom, a fascinating miracle by which human dignity is restored to all generations.

 

Hag Pesach Sameah! To all CIJR’s friends and to the entire am Israel, the Jewish people, and to all men and women of good will.

 

(Baruch Cohen is Research Chairman of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research,

And a member of the Holocaust Memorial Center)

 

                                                                                               

Contents
                                  

WHAT WE CAN’T LEARN FROM THE PASSOVER STORY

Yair Rosenberg

Tablet, Apr. 11, 2014

 

There are many distinctive colors which Jews encounter at the Passover seder. There is red for wine and blood, green for the plague of frogs, and black for that of darkness. But there are no shades of grey. Nuance is a scarce commodity in the Passover account. In fact, the story of the Exodus is the prototypical black-and-white moral narrative. There are the innocent and enslaved Israelites, and then there are the cruel and literally baby-killing Egyptians. There are not two sides to this story. There is no “Egyptian narrative.” Though Jews do briefly note the tragedy of the loss of human life during the seder, pouring out drops of wine for each plague inflicted on their tormenters, this commemoration in no way excuses or sympathizes with the biblical Egyptians themselves. We are presented with an oppressed and an oppressor—a right and a wrong.

 

The inadequacy of this foundational Jewish narrative to address certain fundamental Jewish questions today was brought home to me as a college student several years ago. Mere hours before the onset of Passover, an email was sent to my school’s Progressive Jewish Alliance listserv with a link to the news that the Israeli government would be closing off the West Bank border for the duration of the holiday. The author of the email appended one question: “What does it mean if on Passover, the celebration of freedom, we lock in the people living under our control?”

 

From the perspective of the moral lesson of the Exodus, this is indeed a tremendous tragedy. To internalize the message of Passover is to recoil viscerally from all forms of oppression and control over other human beings. Herein lies the Jewish tradition’s sharp critique of power and slavery, and from this sprung the ideals which motivated rabbis like Abraham Joshua Heschel and Joachim Prinz to march arm-in-arm with Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights struggle. And it is also the Passover message which leads so many Jews today to criticize the policies of an Israeli government whose actions can sometimes seem difficult to reconcile with this central Jewish teaching. In this way, the plaintive question of the email reflects a most important Jewish value. It is a question we are right to ask.

 

But, just as importantly, the simple implied answer to the question—that Jews must not cordon off Palestinians on our own festival of freedom—is wrong. Because in the modern situation in which we Jews find ourselves in Israel, the black-and-white Passover narrative of yesteryear cannot help us. Why does the Israeli government close off the West Bank for Passover? Because there is a terrible and sordid history of violence originating from there on the Jewish holiday. In 2002, to take one example, in what has become known as the “Passover Massacre,” terrorists attacked a seder in Netanya, killing 30 civilians and injuring 140 others–including Holocaust survivors. With Jews gathering in large groups and the state security apparatus whittled down to a skeleton crew, Passover presents a tempting target for violent extremists.

 

Is the Israeli government right to act as it does? Is its tactic effective? Is it being unfair to a majority of Palestinians? These are valid questions. But what is abundantly clear is that there are two sides to this story. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, unlike the Israelite-Egyptian one, is not reducible to an oppressed and an oppressor. Today, unlike in the Bible, the question is of drawing the tenuous line between defense of one’s self and respect for the other. To take the simple lesson of the Passover story and apply it here would be to impose a black-and-white moral paradigm upon a situation which is colored by greys. Mature moral thinking must be undergirded by the basic ideals of the Exodus, but cannot end with them, because reality rarely conforms to such a superficial reckoning.

 

But if the biblical Exodus presents us with only moral building blocks, but not their correct configuration, the rabbinic interpretation of the story in the form of Haggadah does point us in the right direction. For the rabbis, and the numerous anonymous contributors to the traditional Haggadah over the centuries, there is a clear telos to the Passover story: The Holy One, Blessed be He, did not only redeem our forefathers, but also redeemed us along with them, as it says: “It was us whom he took out, so that he might bring us to the Promised Land…” For God, it was not enough to take the Jewish people out of Egypt. To be Jewish is not merely to be outside of another’s control—it is to take control and responsibility for one’s self and for one’s nation, in one’s own land. Jews are called upon by tradition to make our best values manifest on the world stage. This is an ideal that could not be more relevant today.

 

When confronted with the difficult, painful moral choices we must make in Israel—both for the sake of peace and the sake of security—many Jews are tempted to give up on the messy business of nation-building and the exercise of power. Some on the right choose to deny the religious and national value of the state, waiting in their cloistered spiritual enclaves for the Messiah and the advent of the perfect Jewish polity. Others on the left advise washing our hands of the Israel project, and leaving a single, bi-national, non-Jewish state in our wake. The Haggadah, and the Jews who read and augmented it throughout the centuries, reminds us that to be Jewish is to do neither of these. Rather, as Michael Oren, Israel’s former Ambassador to the United States, has written:

 

    Our responsibility today is to prove to ourselves, and the world, that the phrase “Jewish state” is not in fact a contradiction in terms. Let us remain cognizant not only of our great achievements … but also of the weighty responsibilities we bear: the responsibilities of reconciling our heritage with our sovereignty, our strength with our com­passion, and our will to survive with our desire to inspire others.

 

Next year in Jerusalem.

                                                                                               

Contents
                                  

PEOPLE OF THE WORD: ‘THE STORY OF THE JEWS,’

 BY SIMON SCHAMA (BOOK REVIEW)                                                                                      

Judith Shulevitz

New York Times, Mar. 28, 2014

 

From generation to generation — l’dor va dor, as the Good Book says (in Hebrew) — there arises a historian who bequeaths unto the world yet another door-stopping history of the Jews. Forty-one years ago, a young history professor at Cambridge named Simon Schama agreed to complete one such work, left unfinished by the great British Jewish historian Cecil Roth when he died. Schama tried to do the job, he really did, but “for whatever reasons the graft wouldn’t take,” as he writes in the foreword of his own “The Story of the Jews.” Now we know why. Roth was a splendid writer with an encyclopedic knowledge of his field, and Schama is a splendid writer with an encyclopedic acquaintance with a wide range of fields. But Roth wrote history from above, chronicling the doings of great men entangled in great events, whereas Schama writes history from below, and from the middle and from other unexpected angles, resurrecting the unrecorded and long-­forgotten, and analyzing the social and cultural forces that shaped his subjects’ lives. Roth’s and Schama’s approaches to history are at least two generations apart, and Schama’s is the more user-friendly (to this reader, anyway). Although his book, which ends in the 15th century, is destined to become part of a two-volume set big enough to prop anything open, there’s nothing thudding about it.

 

In both “The Story of the Jews” and the BBC documentary now airing on PBS, Schama wisely avoids the grand narrative arc and homes in instead on the artifacts — the papyrus fragment, the synagogue mosaic, the illuminated atlas of the world — that yield telling vignettes. We start two and a half millenniums ago with Shelomam, a Judean mercenary in the service of the Persian king garrisoned in a Jewish colony on Elephantine, an island in the upper Nile, whose father writes to advise him about getting hold of some overdue pay; we end around 1500 with Abraham Zacuto, a rabbi-astronomer whose uncommonly accurate “Perpetual Almanach for the Movement of Celestial Bodies” guided Christopher Columbus and Vasco da Gama on their voyages of discovery. Zacuto himself, however, is adrift at sea, along with some of the tens of thousands of Spanish and Portuguese Jews forced off the Iberian Peninsula by the expulsion of the Jews that began in 1492. After being captured twice by pirates, Zacuto finds his way to Tunis. There he writes, naturally, his own history of the Jews. Zacuto’s is a strange book, a mishmash of truth and legend about patriarchs and sages and his own contemporaries that is less a history than one lost Jewish soul’s “encounter with the teeming generations,” as Schama puts it. Though Schama is writing history, you can tell that he identifies.

 

Most of the book celebrates Schama’s main thesis: that Jews were not the rigidly pious and self-segregating people Christian invective as well as the theologically dominated research of the late 19th and early 20th centuries made them out to be. On the contrary. From the beginning of their known history and for centuries thereafter, Jews commingled with Canaanites, Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, pre-Muslim Arabs, Muslim Arabs and Christian Europeans. It was only when the Christians and Muslims turned on the Jews, singling them out for humiliation and, in the case of the Christians, grotesque insult and slaughter, that Jews began to withdraw or be pushed into their own separate spheres.

 

During the sixth and fifth centuries B.C., for instance, Jewish colonists on Elephantine flourished in the company of their Egyptian neighbors. The Elephantine Jews built their temple of Yahu across the street from the Egyptian temple of ­Khnum — even though, technically, the Bible forbade Jews to build a temple outside Jerusalem. The Jewish soldiers and their families were chided by their betters in Jerusalem, who disapproved of the Elephantines’ high rate of intermarriage and their lax standards of Passover observance, but Schama is charmed by their easy­going urbanity. Like “so many other Jewish societies, planted among the Gentiles,” he writes, Elephantine was “worldly, cosmopolitan, vernacular (Aramaic) not Hebrew, obsessed with law and property, money-minded, fashion-conscious, much concerned with the making and breaking of marriages, providing for the children, the niceties of the social pecking order and both the delights and the burdens of the Jewish ritual calendar. And it doesn’t seem to have been especially bookish.”

 

Schama is a mostly secular Jew who has devoted the bulk of his career to non-Jewish history, which may be why he enjoys flaunting the evidence that Jews were heterodox and syncretistic and embraced the foreign cultures (Persian, Hellenist, Andalusian) that absorbed them through conquest or exile or just by luring them to their thriving cities. He writes most ebulliently about the hybridism that resulted. “Houses and villas of surprising size and splendor” from the Hellenistic Hasmonean era were built in and around Jerusalem, Schama says, “boasting spacious rooms with fresco-decorated walls. Vines curl, lilies unfurl, pomegranates press against the calyx.”…

 

You can’t dismiss Schama’s account of Jewish pluralism as anachronistic or tendentious. It draws on scholarship going back half a century, which has demolished the stereotype of the postexilic Jew cut off from the poetry, art and mores of his — and her — place and time. Still, a synoptic historian of the Jews has no choice but to address the age-old question of how they managed to keep their religion and identity intact through the destructions of two temples, multiple exiles, repeated attempts at conversion and extermination, and the sheer passage of time. Schama has a theory about that, too. It’s more familiar than some of his other ones, but he brings to it his considerable powers of cultural appreciation. The answer is the Word. By the Word he means, as you might expect, the Book, or Torah, which began to be read aloud every week after the return from the Babylonian Exile in the sixth century B.C., functioning as a “compact, transferable history, law, wisdom, poetic chant, prophecy, consolation and self-strengthening counsel.”

 

But Schama also has in mind the words that unusually widespread literacy kept at the center of Jewish life, possibly as early as the 10th century B.C. In the ninth century B.C., a farmer south of Jerusalem is known to have consulted his almanac. A century and a half after that, any Jerusalemite willing to crawl underground could read the inscription memorializing the engineering feat that is King Hezekiah’s water tunnel, designed to keep his desert city drinking if it came under siege. Amulets stuffed with little prayer scrolls could be hung on the body. Around the first or second century of the Christian Era, readers could entertain themselves with Greco-Judaic novels. The history-minded could turn to the account of the Roman-Jewish wars written by the Jewish general turned Roman accomplice, Josephus.

 

And then there’s the “oral law,” the dynamic interpretation and reinterpretation of the Torah begun by the Pharisees more than 2,000 years ago that to this day unites learned Jews across time and space in an unstoppable flow of argument, sarcasm and raconteurship. (The Talmud and subsequent commentaries contain nearly as much parable as legal discussion, also much arch rabbinical wit.) For the record, Schama does not subscribe to the “minimalist” school of archaeology that considers the Torah entirely fictitious. Recent analyses of Biblical Hebrew and new archaeological findings bolster the likelihood that, though the Bible is by no means a history, it has credible history in it.

 

In the four decades since Schama first tried his hand at Jewish history, its study has burst out of seminaries and tiny, marginalized departments and become an extraordinarily fertile collective endeavor, in part because there were so many religiously tinged or frankly anti-Semitic misconceptions about Jews on hand for debunking. You’d think that the task of synthesizing the available information would be harder today than it was back then. But Schama has pulled it off with opinionated flair and literary grace, thereby discharging his debt to Roth and taking his own place among the generations.

 

                                                                         

Contents
                                  

ANCIENT JEWISH COMMUNITY IN CHINA TO HOLD

TRADITIONAL PASSOVER SEDER FOR FIRST TIME                                                                        

Anav Silverman                                             

Algemeiner, Apr. 10, 2014

 

In the Chinese city of Kaifeng, members of the ancient Jewish community were recently heard singing in Hebrew as they prepared for their first Passover seder. They were singing the traditional song from the Passover hagaddah, V’hi She’amda, led by the Kaifeng community cantor. Nearly 100 members of the ancient Jewish community of Kaifeng, China, are expected to attend a first-of-its-kind traditional Passover seder on Monday, April 14. The seder, which is being sponsored by the Jerusalem-based Shavei Israel organization, will be conducted for the first time by 28-year-old Tzuri (Heng) Shi, who made aliyah to Israel from Kaifeng a few years ago with the help of Shavei Israel, and completed his formal return to Judaism last year.‎

 

Tzuri came to Kaifeng with all of the traditional Passover items including matzah, Passover wine, traditional charoset and horseradish, as well as Passover haggadahs. The haggadahs were prepared especially in Hebrew and Chinese.‎ “We are proud and excited to organize this historic event,” said Shavei Israel Chairman and Founder Michael Freund. “Kaifeng’s Jewish descendants are a living link between China and the Jewish people, and it is very moving to see the remnants of this community returning to their Jewish roots as they prepare for Passover,” he added.‎

 

Scholars believe the first Jews settled in Kaifeng, which was one of China’s imperial capitals, during the 8th or 9th Century. They are said to have been Sephardic Jewish merchants from Persia or Iraq who made their way eastward along the Silk Route and established themselves in the city with the blessing of the Chinese emperor.‎ Kaifeng also houses China’s oldest known synagogue. In 1163, Kaifeng’s Jews built a large and beautiful synagogue, which was subsequently renovated and rebuilt on numerous occasions throughout the centuries. At its peak, during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the Kaifeng Jewish community reached its height of 5,000 people with rabbis, synagogues, and Jewish institutions. But widespread intermarriage and assimilation, as well as the death of the community’s last rabbi two centuries ago, brought about its demise by the middle of the 19th century.

 

‎The community was then forced to sell the synagogue and Torah scrolls, according to Shavei Israel’s website.‎ Nevertheless, many of the families sought to preserve their Jewish identity and pass it down to their descendants, who continued to observe various Jewish customs. Currently, there are estimated to be between 500 to 1,000 identifiable Jewish descendants in Kaifeng.‎ “In recent years, many members of the community have begun to explore their heritage – thanks in part to the Internet, which opened up new worlds for them and provided access to information about Judaism and Israel that was previously inaccessible to them,” Freund noted.‎

 

Freund is the founder of Shavei Israel, a non-profit organization that aims to reconnect descendants of Jews from around the world with the people and State of Israel. The organization provides assistance and Jewish outreach programs to a wide range of communities including the Bnei Menashe of India, Bnei Anousim in Spain, communities in Portugal and South America, the Subbotnik Jews of Russia, as well as the Jewish community in China.‎

 

Contents

 

CIJR wishes all its friends and supporters:

Hag Pesach Sameach – Happy Passover

Pesach Message from Calgary United with Israel Founder: Sarah Bernamoff, Calgary United With Israel, Apr. 11, 2014

 With Pesach quickly approaching, I wanted to wish Pesach Sameach – a Happy Passover – on behalf of Calgary United with Israel (CUWI) and myself, to everyone.

MKs Hold Model Seder With Seat Set Aside For Jailed Spy Jonathan Pollard: Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 9, 2014—Why was this meal at the Knesset different from other meals? There were 10 MKs, matza, grape juice and bitter herbs. And an empty seat for Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard.

3,300-Year-Old Egyptian Coffin Found in Jezreel Valley: Daniel K. Eisenbud, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 9, 2014 — A routine salvage excavation in the northern Jezreel Valley unearthed a rare and well-preserved coffin, as well as numerous bronze and clay artifacts, dating to the 13th century BCE, the Antiquities Authority announced on Wednesday.

Excavators Discover 3,800-Year-Old Biblical Fortress in City of David: Reenat Sinay, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 2, 2014—After a 15-year-long excavation defined as one of the most complex ever conducted in Israel, archeologists have finished uncovering a massive Canaanite fortress dating back to the time of Kings David and Solomon.

                               

 

                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish ResearchL'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme, www.isranet.org

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IRAN, ÉGYPTE, ISRAËL : RISQUES, CONFLITS ET ENJEUX

 

 

 

 

 

La fête de la liberté – Pessah 5773

Baruch Cohen

ICRJ

 

A la mémoire de Malca z”l

Pessah est une histoire d’espoir (Élie Wiesel)

 

Pessah, Pâque, est la fête de la liberté. Se réunir autour de la table du Seder fournit un sentiment de chaleur et de joie.

 

La Haggada est l’histoire d’un événement vivant, non pas la compilation d’un fait disparu. Quand nous récitons la Haggada nous nous rappelons, nous nous identifions de façon unique et personnelle avec le ici et le maintenant.

 

Historiquement, l’esprit de Pessah représente un symbole glorieux du combat pour la dignité

 humaine, la quête éternelle pour la liberté et la justice.

 

Durant des siècles de difficultés, nous, Juifs, avons trouvé une force renouvelée et l’espoir dans l’histoire de Pessah. Chacun, à chaque génération, doit se considérer comme ayant été personnellement libéré de l’esclavage. De notre passé nous renouvelons la force et la confiance du combat pour la victoire ultime : Eretz Israel, Israel.

 

Autour de la table du Seder, nous racontons les événements de notre longue histoire, et nous retrouvons la confiance dans notre conviction que la justice et la liberté l’emporteront pour tous.

 

La lecture de la Haggada réaffirme notre confiance en nous-mêmes et notre conviction que le Dieu d’Israël apportera amour et justice à Israël et à toute l’humanité.

 

Hag Pessah Sameah

 

Joyeux Pessah à toute la Maison d’Israël et à tous les contributeurs et amis de ICRJ.

 

Toute concession rapproche l’Iran de la bombe atomique

Dore Gold

Le CAPE de Jérusalem, 14 mars 2013

 

Les informations médiatiques sur les dernières négociations des pays occidentaux (« P5+1 ») avec l’Iran, tenues récemment au Kazakhstan, ont été positives de manière surprenante. Le Washington Post du 27 février dernier en soulignait le ton positif tandis que Saad Jalili, le représentant iranien, déclarait aux correspondants étrangers que les deux parties étaient arrivées à « un tournant » dans les négociations. Cet optimisme béat est-il vraiment justifié ?

 

Jalili défend bien entendu les intérêts iraniens, mais il a expliqué que les Etats-Unis font actuellement de nouvelles concessions qui les rapprochent de Téhéran. Selon le Wall Street journal, le comportement iranien autour de la table des négociations a été influencé par la décision de Washington de réduire à un seul le nombre de porte-avions américains dans le Golfe persique, ce qui affaiblit le pouvoir de l’Occident à négocier.

 

Le Washington Post a également adopté une ligne critique à l’égard de l’administration Obama. Dans son éditorial publié le 28 janvier, il se pose la question en ces termes : « les Etats-Unis s’agenouillent-ils devant l’Iran ? » Le journal rappelle qu’au cours des précédentes négociations, tenues à Bagdad en mai 2012, le forum des Etats « P5+1 » a exigé de l’Iran de fermer définitivement l’installation souterraine de Fordue, spécialisée dans l’enrichissement de l’uranium. Les puissances occidentales avaient aussi insisté sur le fait que l’Iran retire toutes ses réserves d’uranium enrichi à 20% pour les acheminer hors du pays. Cependant, lors des négociations au Kazakhstan, les pays occidentaux se sont contentés de suspendre l’activité de l’installation à Fordue sans exiger sa fermeture. Selon certaines informations, l’Iran pourra également garder une partie de l’uranium enrichi à 20%.

 

Il semble que les Iraniens cherchent à atténuer les positions des pays principalement européens afin de pouvoir exercer des pressions sur Washington pour qu’elle fasse des concessions supplémentaires. La chargée des Affaires étrangères de l’Union européenne, Catherine Ashton, utilise d’ailleurs un langage différent de celui du Secrétaire d’Etat américain John Kerry, qui déclarait que « le temps presse pour une solution diplomatique ».

 

Au cours d’une Conférence pour les Affaires sécuritaires tenue à Munich au début du mois dernier, Ashton a refusé d’adopter une position claire et ferme à ce sujet. Il semble qu’elle reflète une vision européenne commune, selon laquelle les négociations avec l’Iran doivent se poursuivre à tout prix, même si elles ne pourront conduire à des résultats concrets.

La position israélienne sur ce sujet est bien connue mais celle de l’Arabie Saoudite est aussi intéressante et claire. Lors d’une conférence de presse commune tenue le 4 mars dernier à Riyad avec John Kerry, le prince Saoud al-Faysal, ministre des Affaires étrangères d’Arabie saoudite, a déclaré que les pourparlers avec l’Iran ne peuvent pas durer éternellement, et a-t-il ajouté : « les négociations doivent s’achever à un certain moment ».

 

Il a souligné que les Iraniens manquent de sérieux dans leurs discussions avec l’Occident et précisé : « ils poursuivent leurs négociations uniquement pour les maintenir. Nous nous trouverons un jour face à des armes nucléaires, et donc nous ne pouvons permettre que cela se produise. » La vision réaliste des Saoudiens est liée sans doute à leur position stratégique : l’Arabie Saoudite est entourée de satellites chiites bénéficiant d’un soutien direct de Téhéran.

 

Rappelons certains faits : au Yémen, un troisième navire transportant des missiles et des katiouchas en provenance d’Iran destinés au rebelles chiites a été arraisonné et la cargaison confisquée. En Irak, le Premier ministre Nourri al-Maliki est considéré par l’Arabie Saoudite comme un agent des Ayatollahs. Et au Bahreïn, les forces de sécurité viennent d’accuser les Gardiens de la Révolution de la planification d’attaques terroristes dans le pays, situé à 25 kms seulement de la province orientale de l’Arabie Saoudite.

 

Dans ce contexte, et face aux tentatives des Ayatollahs de semer la terreur au sein même de l’Arabie Saoudite, il n’est pas surprenant que les Saoudiens parlent en connaissance de cause. Ils connaissent parfaitement la ruse iranienne et la technique de négociation qui permet de gagner du temps et de progresser ainsi vers l’arme atomique.

 

De nombreux experts estiment à ce sujet que Téhéran adopterait la même stratégie que la Corée du Nord puisque elle rejette la supervision de l’Agence internationale d’énergie atomique (AIEA) et agit en conséquence pour pouvoir achever rapidement l’enrichissement de l’uranium à un niveau militaire. C’est justement pour ces raisons que le Premier ministre Benyamin Netanyahou a défini une ligne rouge en ce qui concerne l’uranium enrichi à 20%, quantité qui permet la fabrication d’une bombe (d’environ 225 kgs).

 

L’Iran poursuit donc son projet dans le cadre d’une nouvelle stratégie qui permet l’installation d’un nombre considérable, et sans précédent, de centrifugeuses dans l’usine de Natanz. Certaines sont sophistiquées pour accélérer la production d’uranium enrichi et produire plusieurs bombes.

 

Téhéran a donc réussi à ce jour à obtenir des Européens des concessions supplémentaires face à la fermeté américaine et israélienne. l est clair qu’en observant les manigances de l’Iran dans notre région, toute concession de la part de l’Occident encouragera le comportement agressif de l’Iran.

 

Iran-Egypte : Les enjeux des relations sunnites-chiites

Michel Segall

Le CAPE de Jérusalem, 20 mars 2013

 

Le « printemps arabe » a aggravé le conflit entre les Etats arabes et l’Iran. Tandis que l’Iran continue à observer les manifestations islamiques pour promouvoir ses objectifs hégémoniques, les bouleversements dans le monde arabe ont en fait élargi le fossé entre Téhéran et les capitales arabes. Cette profonde divergence est due principalement au soutien sans équivoque de l’Iran à la Syrie d’Assad et à l’opposition chiite au Bahreïn.

 

La participation d’Ahmadinejad à la conférence de l’OCI tenue au Caire le 5 février 2013 a mis en lumière le grand écart existant entre les camps chiites iraniens et les camps sunnites arabes. Ces derniers sont engagés dans un processus de consolidation : le resserrement des rangs dans le monde arabe augmente les conflits entre les Etats arabes et l’Iran. Les pays arabes de la région s’opposent farouchement aux interventions iraniennes dans leurs affaires internes et déjouent les tentatives de fomenter le chaos et l’instabilité dans leurs régimes.

 

Cependant, l’Iran réalise que l’Egypte est toujours plongée dans une révolution islamique inachevée mais qu’elle demeure encore sous influence des Etats arabes « modérés » – l’Arabie saoudite et les Etats du Golfe – et maintient ses relations avec les Etats-Unis et Israël.

 

Cette donne n’indique pas un changement significatif dans l’hostilité fondamentale iranienne envers l’Egypte et les autres pays arabes de la région, toujours considérés comme faisant partie du camp occidental.

Les progrès réalisés par l’Iran dans son programme nucléaire augmentent les craintes des Etats arabes. Ils redoutent en effet qu’un Iran nucléarisé ne sème la subversion politique, la terreur et les graines de la révolution chiite. Ces craintes sont de nature à renforcer l’unité du camp arabe dans sa confrontation avec l’Iran.

 

La dernière visite du président iranien en Egypte, première effectuée depuis la révolution islamique, fut destinée au départ à être une première étape vers l’amélioration des relations bilatérales à la suite de la révolution islamique et le renversement du régime de Hosni Moubarak. En fait, cette visite a mis au jour les tensions entre les deux pays concernant le leadership régional et a approfondi les désaccords fondamentaux entre sunnites et chiites.

 

Cette visite a été publiquement humiliante pour le président iranien lors de la conférence de presse tenue avec les hauts responsables d’Al-Azhar, où une chaussure lui a été jetée dessus… Cette humiliation a été fortement critiquée à Téhéran et d’ailleurs aucun représentant du dirigeant suprême Ali Khamenei ne s’est présenté à l’aéroport pour accueillir Ahmadinejad à son retour.

 

Le « péché originel »  de l’Egypte demeure, aux yeux des Iraniens, la décision historique du Président Sadate d’ouvrir la voie à la normalisation des relations avec Israël. Il s’agit pour les ayatollahs d’une trahison pure et simple du monde arabo-musulman. Ainsi Téhéran a rompu ses relations diplomatiques avec le Caire après la signature du traité de paix et suite à l’asile politique donné au Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

 

Rappelons la glorification de l’assassin d’Anouar el-Sadate, Khalid Islambouli, dont une rue de Téhéran porte le nom ; un timbre fut même créé à son effigie. En outre, l’Iran a mené des activités subversives en Egypte et a utilisé le Hezbollah libanais pour coordonner son aide militaire et financière au Hamas et au Djihad islamique palestinien à Gaza.

En 2009, un réseau du Hezbollah a été arrêté pour avoir planifié des attaques terroristes et avoir propagé le chiisme en Egypte. Des contraintes ont été imposées par Moubarak sur les activités des chiites dans le pays.

 

Aujourd’hui, malgré la montée des islamistes, l’Egypte de Morsi continue d’entraver les ambitions régionales de l’Iran. La stabilisation du régime égyptien dirigé par les Frères musulmans ajoute un élément religieux idéologique dans la lutte pour l’hégémonie dans le monde arabe et cette situation ne fait qu’amplifier les différences entre l’Egypte et l’Iran en soulignant la rivalité historique entre sunnites et chiites en Syrie, au Bahreïn, en Irak, en Arabie saoudite et en Afrique du Nord, et bien évidemment en Egypte.

 

En conclusion, les relations irano-égyptiennes demeurent tendues et la visite du président iranien au Caire n’a pas contribué à rapprocher les positions ni à renouveler les liens entre les deux Etats. Cette visite a révélé le grand écart existant entre les camps chiites et les camps sunnites ; une confrontation latente et historique qui se réalise quotidiennement sur le terrain, principalement en Syrie.

 

Enfin, soulignons que l’Arabie saoudite et le Qatar contribuent dans ce sens et empêchent l’Egypte de tomber dans les bras de l’Iran. Dans le pays des ayatollahs, les prochaines élections détermineront l’avenir des relations avec le Caire mais à ce stade rien n’indique que la page tumultueuse entre les deux pays soit tournée.

 

Pessah à l’espagnole

Sandra Ores

Menapress.org, 25 mars 2013

 

Pessah, fête juive en l’honneur de la libération des Hébreux du joug égyptien aux temps bibliques, sera célébrée, ce soir, dans le village de Galice de Ribadavia. Evènement notable, car cette commune du nord-ouest de l’Espagne de cinq mille cinq cents âmes n’avait pas fêté Pessah depuis… 1492.

 

Jusqu’à cette date, Ribadavia abritait une forte présence juive, comme le reste de la province et de la péninsule Ibérique par ailleurs. Les Israélites d’Espagne représentèrent, jusqu’au XVème siècle, l’une des plus importantes et des plus prospères communautés de diaspora. Mais pendant la période de l’Inquisition, ils furent forcés de choisir entre la conversion ou la fuite du royaume catholique d’Espagne.

 

Cinq siècles plus tard, pas une famille juive n’habite encore les lieux. Cependant, depuis plus d’une décennie, Ribadavia a décidé d’embrasser son héritage culturel juif ainsi qu’une partie intégrante de son histoire ; et de se rapprocher de traditions ancestrales qui participaient du caractère du village aux temps anciens.

 

Chaque année, depuis le milieu du XXème siècle, la ville se livre à la Festa da Istoria, la fête de l’histoire, le dernier samedi d’août. A l’occasion de cet évènement aux couleurs médiévales, les rues se décorent au goût du Moyen-âge, la population enfile des vêtements d’époque, et un tournoi de chevaliers est organisé.

 

Le caractère juif est érigé au premier plan : des comédiens s’adonnent à une mise en scène rituelle de noces juives, de même qu’à une représentation, sur les planches, d’un procès de l’Inquisition. "C’est un spectacle folklorique et touristique", me raconte Abraham Haïm ; Haïm est l’instigateur  du seder de Ribadavia, le dîner rituel de Pessah, qui se déroulera ce soir, le premier jour de la fête1, en partenariat avec la mairie et le Centre d’Etudes Médiévales de Ribadavia.

 

Abraham Haim est un Israélien d’origine espagnole, docteur en histoire établi à Jérusalem. Eu égard à son action de relais entre les associations culturelles espagnoles et Israël, il a été nommé président d’honneur dudit Centre d’Etudes Médiévales. "Grâce à la tenue de cette soirée particulière, je souhaite montrer une tradition dans les conditions réelles et contemporaines, afin de permettre à des non Juifs de vivre une expérience in situ", m’explique-t-il ; poursuivant : "il s’agira d’un évènement authentique, avec de la matza (le pain azyme non levé), des salades, du poisson grillé, une soupe aux légumes ; je ferai la prière". Le dîner est ouvert à tous, sous condition de s’y inscrire.

 

Haïm estime qu’il rassemblera une population quasi unanimement non juive. Même sa famille n’aura pas l’occasion de participer à la fête. Le dîner se tiendra dans un restaurant du quartier juif de la ville, un arrondissement historique, conservé dans son aspect ancestral.

 

Ribadavia fut la première d’une vingtaine de cités espagnoles, depuis une décennie, à s’être investies dans la promotion de son patrimoine culturel juif longtemps mis de côté. Elle fait partie, avec entre autres Tolède, Besalu ou Caseres, de l’association Red de Juderias, le réseau des Juifs. L’objectif de ce projet consiste à faire connaître, au niveau international, l’héritage juif des villes membres.

 

Par des initiatives culturelles et artistiques, telles l’ouverture de musées, la rénovation architecturale ou la promotion d’anciens quartiers juifs, ces villes illustrent la fierté qu’elles retirent d’un passé dans lequel ont pris part les Israélites.

 

Abraham Haïm me rapporte qu’à Ribadavia, certains marranes, ou conversos3 (convertis), revendiquent ouvertement leurs origines juives. Le mot péjoratif marrane, signifiant porc en espagnol, désigne usuellement les Juifs qui se sont convertis au christianisme pendant l’Inquisition tout en conservant, secrètement, leurs traditions juives.

 

Si les coutumes ont pu se perdre au fil des siècles, chez certaines familles, l’identité s’est transmise à travers les générations. Des études montrent qu’environ 20% de la population espagnole moderne possèderait une ascendance hébraïque.

 

Ces revendications identitaires librement décidées sont récentes. C’est qu’en Espagne, à partir de 1492, alors que le décret d’Alhambra ordonne l’expulsion des Juifs d’Espagne, et pendant le plus clair de la durée de l’Inquisition jusqu’à son abolition au milieu du XIXème siècle, s’adonner à des pratiques juives ou se revendiquer de la religion mosaïque pouvait mener au bûcher.

 

En 1869, une nouvelle constitution fut enfin votée en Espagne, qui rétablit, officiellement, la liberté religieuse. A partir de ce moment, se reforma lentement une population juive en Espagne, venue, dans un premier temps, notamment du Maroc, terre d’accueil où quelques milliers d’exilés ibères avaient trouvé refuge plusieurs siècles auparavant.

 

Quelques deux mille Juifs gagnèrent également le pays après la Première Guerre mondiale, notamment des Turcs, à la suite de la chute de l’Empire ottoman. Au XXIème siècle, une immigration en provenance d’Amérique du Sud vint augmenter le nombre d’Israélites. Selon la Fédération des Communautés Juives Espagnoles, et comme le soutient Abraham Haïm, ils seraient aujourd’hui entre quarante et cinquante mille.

 

Autour de Ribadavia, en Galice, quelques petites communautés juives existent, notamment dans le port de pêche de Vigo. L’essentiel d’entre elles reste toutefois concentré à Madrid et à Barcelone. L’introduction d’évènements culturels, à l’instar du dîner de Pessah à Ribadavia, témoigne d’une volonté certaine, parmi la population espagnole, d’intégrer dans le présent une partie de l’identité du pays, écartée pendant plusieurs siècles.

 

La présence juive, relevée dans la péninsule ibérique depuis au moins l’époque romaine, engendra une culture riche, notamment sur les plans littéraire et linguistique. La communauté juive espagnole, dite sépharade, développa en outre son propre dialecte, le judéo-espagnol, dérivé du vieux castillan et de l’hébreu, et connut son âge d’or sous le premier califat de Cordoue, au Xème siècle.

 

Au même titre qu’ils souhaitent se réapproprier ce capital historique, les Espagnols se plaisent à valoriser l’héritage culturel de la domination musulmane, laissé par les royaumes mauresques qui régnèrent dans la région entre les VIIIème et XVème siècles. Au-delà du patrimoine artistique et architectural, la tolérance envers les autres cultes religieux a en outre marqué cette période.

PASSOVER: JEWISH FLIGHTS TO FREEDOM, RECENT & ANCIENT AND TO RECOVERED JEWISH SOVEREIGNTY, DIGNITY IN OUR LAND

Download an abbreviated version of today's Isranet Daily Briefing.pdf 

 

Contents:                          

 

 

 

Passover's Enduring Message of Freedom: Ruth R. Wisse, Wall Street Journal, March 21, 2013—On Monday, millions of children will ask their parents: Why is tonight different from all other nights of the year? Children asking this question in Jewish homes around the world will be told that the Passover festival commemorates the liberation of their people from enslavement in Egypt and celebrates the civilization that emerged from that breakout into independence.

 

The Jewish Exodus from Arab Lands: Rachel Avraham, United With Israel, Mar. 25, 2013—As Jews around the world celebrate Passover and remember their ancestors’ exodus from Egypt, it is also important to remember the modern day Jewish exodus from Arab lands. In 1945, around one million Jews lived in Jewish communities residing in Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Morocco, Syria and Yemen. Many of these communities predated Islam.

 

The Exodus Enigma: Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 24, 2013—As Passover approaches it may be worth looking once more for extra-biblical evidence of the Exodus. Archaeologists are reluctant to discuss the subject as there is absolutely no external evidence for it, they say. On the other hand the Hebrew Bible is so explicit, and the folk memory is so important to us as Jews, that archaeologists prefer not to get involved. 

 

On Topic Links

 

 

Who are the Forgotten Refugees? : Forgotten Refugees.org

From Egypt to the Gulag: Making Matzot for the Needy: Jeremy Sharon, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 25, 2013

Portuguese Island to See First Seder in Decades: Times of Israel, Mar. 24, 2013

And I Shall Take You to Me for a Nation: Rabbi Yisrael (Kane) Kaniel, B'Ahavat Yisrael, Mar. 22, 2013

Seder 5773 – The Night of the Past and the Future: Shmuel Rabinowitz, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 24, 2013

 

 

 

PASSOVER'S ENDURING MESSAGE OF FREEDOM

Ruth R. Wisse

Wall Street Journal, March 21, 2013

 

On Monday, millions of children will ask their parents: Why is tonight different from all other nights of the year? Children asking this question in Jewish homes around the world will be told that the Passover festival commemorates the liberation of their people from enslavement in Egypt and celebrates the civilization that emerged from that breakout into independence. Families gathered at an orchestrated meal—the Seder—will begin the story by tasting the bitterness of subjection, make their way through debates over interpretations of the event, and culminate in joyful and occasionally (after the designated four cups of wine) raucous song.

 

Nor will the ironies of liberation be lost on households that have laboriously prepared for its re-enactment: No one who observes the exacting requirements of Passover can doubt the disciplining challenges involved in attaining freedom.

 

Our family celebrates Passover with personal as well as historical freight. In the summer of 1940, my parents executed our flight from a fate worse than slavery at the hands of the Soviets and the Nazis who took turns subjugating the Romanian city we escaped, Czernowitz. Every successful getaway like ours was studded with improbabilities that some call miracles.

 

In his recital of the Passover Haggadah (the text that guides the Seder meal), my father put special emphasis on the phrase: "And the Lord brought us forth out of Egypt—not by the hands of an angel, and not by the hands of a seraph, and not by the hands of a messenger, but the Holy One, blessed be he, himself, in his own glory and in his own person." My father said we should likewise carry out life's toughest tasks ourselves rather than entrust them to agents. He may have had in mind his own rescue of us and his failure to save members of his family who were murdered.

 

We were never to forget that our timely exit from Europe coincided with the loss of several million others like us. Every year, we include in our family reading of the Haggadah a postwar insert circulated by the Canadian Jewish Congress honouring both those who perished at the hands of the Nazis and those who went down fighting:

 

"On the first day of Passover the remnants in the Ghetto of Warsaw rose up against the adversary, even as in the days of Judah the Maccabee. 'They were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided' [2 Samuel 1:23], and they brought redemption to the name of Israel through all the world."

 

This tribute concludes with one of Maimonides's 13 principles of faith: "I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the messiah—and though he tarry, yet I believe." Participants in our Seder traditionally differ in how deeply they linger over the tarrying and how fervently over the belief. Passover is the first of the Jewish holidays to have broken through ethnic boundaries—at least in America—to become regarded as a paradigm of the freedom story. President Obama has hosted Seders at the White House. An annual cascade of new Haggadahs demonstrates the multiple ways that the festival is nowadays observed and understood.

 

But the most inspiring incarnation of the exodus has been the one that reversed it: the recovery of the Jewish homeland from foreign occupiers after millennia of exile. Not by the hands of an angel and not by the hands of a messenger, but by the self-reliance that their ancestors had practiced for millennia, and by keeping faith with their vow to return to Jerusalem, the settlers of Israel accomplished one of the greatest national feats in history.

 

Jews reclaimed their political independence in the land of Israel in the same decade that witnessed the genocidal slaughter of one-third of their people. They did so not only by mobilizing skills honed through centuries of adaptation to foreign rule but by reactivating powers that were dormant for centuries. Can the legendary crossing of the Red Sea compare with the marvel of several million Jewish migrants and refugees from lands as disparate as Ethiopia and Latvia forging a common, democratic Jewish state? Are the plagues that persuaded Pharaoh to "let my people go" or the miracles in the desert as stunning as Israel's ability to withstand the preposterously asymmetrical Arab aggression against it? The revival of Hebrew from sacral high status into national vernacular is an unparalleled linguistic feat. Entrepreneurship in Israel has won it the title of "start-up nation."

 

The traditional Passover Seder concludes with the pledge, "Next year in Jerusalem," which the British poet William Blake nationalized in the vow not to rest "Till we have built Jerusalem / In England's green & pleasant Land." Yet modern Israel represents an immense human accomplishment that may even go beyond the prophetic vision. Passover today includes a story of national liberation at least the equal of the one in the Book of Exodus that served as its inspiration.

 

Ms. Wisse, a professor of Yiddish and comparative literature at Harvard, is the author of "Jews and Power" (Schocken, 20007).

 

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THE JEWISH EXODUS FROM ARAB LANDS

Rachel Avraham

United With Israel, Mar. 25, 2013

 

As Jews around the world celebrate Passover and remember their ancestors’ exodus from Egypt, it is also important to remember the modern day Jewish exodus from Arab lands. In 1945, around one million Jews lived in Jewish communities residing in Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Morocco, Syria and Yemen. Many of these communities predated Islam. Jews in Arab states greatly contributed towards their societies. Sasson Heskel, a Baghdadi Jew, was an Iraqi Finance Minister in the 19th centruy, while an Egyptian Jew named Murad Bey helped draft the Egyptian Constitution in the 1930’s and Layla Murad, also an Egyptian Jew, was the great diva of Arabic music during the mid 1900′s. However, in the days leading up to Israel’s independence in 1948, many Arab states grew oppressive towards their Jewish citizens, who had lived beside Arabs since antiquity.

 

From 1947 through 1948, Jews in the Arab Middle East were systematically persecuted, with anti-Jewish pogroms erupting and Jewish property being confiscated. The Iraqi government declared that Zionism was a capital offense; the Syrian government froze Jewish bank accounts; a bomb set off in the Jewish Quarter of Cairo resulted in the death of 70 Jews; and a pogrom in Aden led to the death of 80 Jews, as well as the destruction of countless Jewish homes. As a result of such persecutions, between 1948 and 1972, 820,000 Jews from Arabian countries would become refugees, with 200,000 settling in Europe and the United States, while an additional 586,000 moving to Israel. The descendants of the Jewish refugees from Arab states presently make up around half of the Israeli population.

 

A Haggadah the from the Forgotten Jewish Exodus website includes the following prayer on Passover, “As we hold the bread of affliction, we recall that more than 3,000 years ago our ancestors went forth from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the land of Israel. Many never left the Middle East. Today, we remember not only the bitterness of that slavery, but also the forgotten exodus of one million Jews who fled the Middle East and North Africa in the 20th century. The Jewish people have been living in Egypt and throughout the Middle East for more than 3,000 years. As Jews, we take pride in being the Middle East’s oldest, existing ethnic group.”

 

Upon discussing Jewish contributions to Arab states and the oppression that Jews endured within Arab countries, which ultimately led to their exodus from these lands, it asserts, “We hold the bread of affliction and recall the 135,000 Jews of Iraq who once made up a plurality of the city of Baghdad; the 40,000 Jews of Libya, where today no Jews remain; and the 80,000 Jews of Egypt, many of whom in 1956 received government expulsion orders. Just as the Israelites did not have time to let their bread rise, these modern Egyptian Jewish refugees did not have time to pack their bags. And hundreds of thousands more.”

 

It concludes, “The scars of the past can heal. But justice can only be achieved when peoples and governments in the Middle East recognize the plight of the forgotten million refugees. This year, we pray for the day when justice will be achieved for the Jews of the Middle East and when all peoples of the region will live together in peace and harmony. Amen.” As one Egyptian Jewish refugee, Joseph Abdel Wahed, asserted, “On Passover, it is a Jewish tradition that in retelling the Exodus story we should feel as if we, ourselves, experienced persecution and the Exodus from Egypt. I hope that this year we can also take a moment to experience the modern exodus of Middle Eastern Jews.”

 

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THE EXODUS ENIGMA

Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg

Jerusalem Post, Mar. 24, 2013

 

As Passover approaches it may be worth looking once more for extra-biblical evidence of the Exodus. Archeologists are reluctant to discuss the subject as there is absolutely no external evidence for it, they say. On the other hand the Hebrew Bible is so explicit, and the folk memory is so important to us as Jews, that archeologists prefer not to get involved. It is true that there is no direct evidence, but there is the possibility of approaching the subject obliquely.

 

The biblical record of the whole Exodus episode is one set of miracles after another, from the slaying of the firstborn in Egypt and the crossing of the Red Sea to the collapse of the walls of Jericho in Canaan. Moses is heavily involved but it is the hand of God that rules supreme, and attempts to explain the magic rod that cures scorpion bites, the blow that brings water from the rock, the manna that falls from heaven and so on, have all failed in terms of reality. They are all miracles and archaeologists cannot deal with miracles. However there remain a number of themes that can be re-examined in the light of Egyptian history.

 

First, the Children of Israel were in Egypt as slave-workers and specialists in producing and working in mud-brick, under harsh conditions. Secondly, they left Egypt as a scratch army under a scratch general, Moses. And thirdly, they constructed a shrine or tabernacle, the Mishkan, in glorious Technicolor and luxurious detail, all in the middle of a most barren wilderness. Now, there is one period of Egyptian history which can accommodate these three different scenarios.

 

Mud-brick in Egypt was not used for monuments, such as temples and pyramids, which were considered to be worthy of stonework. It was reserved for plain domestic houses, in a process that was both cheap and quick, and it would have been surprising to find great numbers of workers, such as the Israelites, engaged in such work, as domestic buildings were largely constructed by homeowners themselves.

 

But there was one enormous mud-brick project in Egypt that would have required large numbers of semi-skilled workers, and that was the city of Akhetaten (“Horizon of the Aten”). It was the brainchild of the heretic Pharaoh Akhenaten, who required a new city as the center of his religious revolution, and needed it quickly. Akhenaten had imposed on his people the new religion of the worship of the one god, the Aten, the disc of the Sun, to the exclusion of the other multifarious gods, and he wanted his new city to be away from the traditional religious centers of Memphis and Thebes so that he could quickly promote his revolutionary ideas without contamination from the old beliefs and their priests.

 

With the help of slave laborers and the army, the main portion of the city was completed in two years, and the final works in another six years. It was the largest mud-brick construction known to us in the Egyptian world and it is probable that the Israelites were conscripted to carry out the work. They had to work hard and fast under insistent taskmasters in the burning heat of the site, later called El Amarna, on the east bank of the Nile, half-way between Thebes and Memphis, yet they had decent housing they were allowed to build for themselves and their families, just to the east of the new city, so they survived and multiplied in numbers.

 

Akhenaten had this city built to a well-ordered plan in record time, but his reforms were not popular, certainly not with the priests and not with the population, who were used to worshiping multiple gods and liked it that way. Thus, when Akhenaten died, only eight years after the city was completed, there was a general evacuation by the inhabitants, who went back to their old villages and took with them some of the wonderfully rich artifacts that the new town had produced. The city was left to the wind and the weather and the blowing sands that covered it until it was exposed by an early 20th-century German expedition that set out from Berlin, financed by the Jewish millionaire philanthropist James Simon.

 

As the population left, so did the workers, the army and the Israelites and, as compensation for their back-breaking work, they took with them precious materials and provisions for their long trek back to their ancient land of Canaan. To ready themselves for a dangerous journey through enemy territory, they formed themselves into an amateur army under the leadership of the amateur general Moses, who was one of theirs, but had been educated in Egyptian ways and had adopted the new religion of one God above all others. And what the Israelites needed on their journey was a shrine, a tabernacle, what their leader later called the Mishkan, where he could communicate with the one God.

 

Now, Akhenaten had been succeeded by one of his sons-in-law, the young Tutankhamun, whose duty it was to oversee the return to religious sanity after the death of his father-in-law, who had died without a son and heir. Tutankhamun was left to regulate the chaos that took place on the death of Akhenaten. But he was powerless to stop the population from leaving the city and, as we know, he himself left for Thebes where he died young, leaving a very rich set of royal treasures in his tomb, but there was no battle-shrine to be found.

 

Every Pharaoh had a battle-shrine, as we know from the case of Rameses II, whose own is shown on the walls of his temple at Abu Simbel, as erected for him at the battle of Kadesh. It is a two-room shrine within a large courtyard, and the inner room of the shrine had a central podium surmounted by two figures with outstretched wings protecting a single deity, which in this case is a non-representational tablet or cartouche.

This battle-shrine is uncannily like the biblical Mishkan described in Exodus 25, even up to the Ark with its two cherubim. From his tomb we know that the young Pharaoh Tutankhamun had a battle chariot, ready to go to war, so he would have had a battle-shrine to go with it.

 

WE MAY speculate that the shrine, which would have been of the finest materials, like all the rest of King Tut’s heirloom, was carried off by the Israelites in their escape from the city. In that way they had a ready-made tabernacle, and were able to have it adapted to their very own Mishkan, by Bezalel and Oholiab, the Israelite craftsmen, in the midst of that barren Wilderness where there were neither precious materials nor luxury furnishings to be found.

 

This scenario, of the Israelites building the mud-brick city of Akhetaten, escaping from it while impounding for their own use the battle-shrine of prince and Pharaoh Tutankhamun, could be equated with the account of the Exodus of the Children of Israel and the construction of the Mishkan, whose description takes up so many chapters of the biblical Book of Exodus.

 

And when would all that have taken place? Akhenaten died about the year 1334 BCE and Tutankhamun in 1325 BCE, so the period of the Exodus would have been between 1330 and 1320 BCE. That could correspond with the biblical date of 430 years after the Children of Israel entered Egypt (Exodus 12:40), which would then be about 1755 BCE, which is some hundred years before the Hyksos ruled Egypt, and it was with them, ancient Jewish historian Josephus claims, the Israelites came.

 

On the other hand it was a hundred years too late for the date of 480 years before the building of the Solomonic Temple (I Kings 6:1). In other words, it was a hundred years too early for one, and a hundred years too late for the other, thus not a bad average to correspond with the two fixed biblical dates for the Exodus.

 

As for the army formed by the fleeing Israelites, this is clearly hinted at in the biblical record, which says that they left Egypt “armed in groups of fifty” (Exodus 13:18). They were counted as men of military age, from 20 years of age and upwards, and they protected the Mishkan by encamping around it in military order by their individual standards, “Degel mahane Yehudah…” flag of the camp of Judah (Numbers 2:3) and so on, tribe by tribe. They were only a scratch army and nearly lost the first war with Amalek but, after Jethro had advised Moses how to form a professional force with trusted chieftains over ranks of ten and fifty, and a hundred and a thousand (Exodus 18:21), they never, as a complete army, lost another battle in Sinai or Transjordan.

 

In conclusion, we can say there was one period in Egyptian history when an Exodus could have taken place. It was after the completion of an enormous mud-brick project, when an opportunity arose for the Israelites to escape, when there was a practical foundation for the elaborate Mishkan of the Sinai Desert, adapted from an Egyptian model, and when there was good reason for the Israelites to form an army and be counted in military ranks and numbers. And if that was indeed the period, then Akhenaten was the Pharaoh of the Oppression and Tutankhamun the Pharaoh of the Exodus.

 

Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg is a senior fellow at the W.F Albright Institute of Archaeological Research, Jerusalem.

 

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On Topic

 

 

Who are the Forgotten Refugees? : Forgotten Refugees.org —The forgotten refugees are Jewish refugees from Muslim lands that: were forced to leave their birthplace due to intimidation from their governments and neighbors or  foresaw the eventual persecution at the hands of the governments of their host states and their neighbors These Jewish refugees, in many cases, were not allowed to sell their property, businesses or goods before departing.  Many Muslim governments profitted from their departure, obtaining in many cases large swaths of land and big businesses. 

 

From Egypt to the Gulag: Making Matzot for the Needy: Jeremy Sharon, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 25, 2013—The grandson of a Gulag prisoner, Avraham ben Avraham Haim, exiled by the Soviet regime to Siberia during the Second World War, has donated 500 boxes of hand-made matzot for soldiers and the poor. The descendants of Avraham, the Golinsky family, decided this year to commemorate a unique act of dedication to the Jewish faith that their grandfather performed in the cruel conditions of a Soviet forced labour camp.

 

Portuguese Island to See First Seder in Decades: Times of Israel, Mar. 24, 2013—Descendants of Jews forcibly converted to Catholicism centuries ago will attend the first seder in decades on the Portuguese island of Madeira off the coast of Africa. Thirteen Jews — some of them Bnei Anousim, the descendants of Portuguese Jews targeted for conversion during the Inquisition — will gather in Funchal, the capital of the archipelago, on Passover eve, according to Shavei Israel, an organization devoted to bringing so-called lost Jews back to Judaism. According to the organization, the seder will be the first recorded Passover feast to take place on the island in centuries.

 

And I Shall Take You to Me for a Nation: Rabbi Yisrael (Kane) Kaniel, B'Ahavat Yisrael, Mar. 22, 2013—As we approach the joyous holiday of Pesach (Passover) and we prepare for the festive seder, we are reminded of the verse in the Torah in which G–d tells the offspring of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, “And I shall take you to Me for a nation” (Shmot 6:7).

 

Seder 5773 – The Night of the Past and the Future: Shmuel Rabinowitz, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 24, 2013—The Pessah Haggada conveys the secret which helped the Jewish nation survive for thousands of years: passing on to the next generation the heritage of the past and the history of how the Jewish nation was created. The message inherent in this is that without a past, one cannot build a future, and that if we do not remember where we came from, we will not know where to go.

 

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PASSOVER — FESTIVAL OF FREEDOM, OBAMA LECTURES ISRAEL BUT WON’T LET POLLARD GO!

Download an abbreviated version of today's Isranet Daily Briefing.pdf 

 

Contents:                          

 

 

The Festival of Freedom: Passover, 5773: Baruch Cohen, Mar. 22, 2013—Passover is the festival of Freedom! Gathering around the festive seder table provides a feeling of warmth and sustaining joy. The Haggadah  is the story of a living drama, not the record of a dead event.  When we recite it we are performing an act of remembrance, a unique and personal identification in the here and now!

 

The Buck Stops Here: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 20, 2013—Freedom for Jonathan Pollard is a matter of Israeli national consensus. More than 200,000 Israelis signed a petition calling upon President Barack Obama to bring Pollard with him to Israel, but that didn’t happen.

 

Obama Lectured Israelis, Promised and Applauded Arab Palestinians: Lori Lowenthal Marcus, Jewish Press, Mar. 22nd, 2013—U.S. President Barack Obama gave two speeches on Thursday, March 21, one to Arab Palestinians in a joint press conference with acting head of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, and the other to Israelis at the Jerusalem Convention Center.

 

On Topic Links

 

 

Obama in Jerusalem: Elliott Abrams, Weekly Standard, Mar 21, 2013

The Obama Visit and American Jewry: Isi Liebler, Israel Hayom, Mar. 20, 2013

Bennett: A Nation Cannot Occupy its Own Land: Lahav Harkov, Jerusalem Post,Mar. 21, 2013

‘Free Pollard’ Hunger-Striker Going Strong: Daniel K. Eisenbud, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 22, 2013

Full Text of Obama's Jerusalem Speech: Jerusalem Post, March 21, 2013

 

 

 

The Festival of Freedom: Passover, 5773

Baruch Cohen

 

In memory of our beloved Malca z”l

 

Passover is a story of hope.

Elie Weisel

 

   Passover is the festival of Freedom! Gathering around the festive seder table provides a feeling of warmth and sustaining joy.

 

   The Haggadah  is the story of a living drama, not the record of a dead event.  When we recite it we are performing an act of remembrance, a unique and personal identification in the here and now!

 

   Historically, the spirit of Passover represents a glorious symbol of the struggle for human dignity, the eternal quest for freedom and justice.

 

   During centuries of adversity, we Jews, have found renewed strength and hope in the Passover story. Every person, in every generation, must regard herself/himself, as having been personally freed from slavery. We renew from our past the strength and confidence to struggle for our final victory, our final aim: Eretz Israel, the State of Israel.

 

  Around the festive seder table the stories we tell recall our long history, and we gain confidence to hold firmly to our conviction that justice and freedom for all women and men will prevail.

 

   The reading of the Haggadah reaffirms our self-confidence and reliance on the god of Israel, and His love of justice and concern for Israel and all humanity.

 

Hag Pesach Sameach!

Happy Passover to the entire House of Israel and to all CIJR supporters and friends..

 

 

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THE BUCK STOPS HERE

 

Editorial

Jerusalem Post, Mar. 20, 2013

 

Freedom for Jonathan Pollard is a matter of Israeli national consensus. More than 200,000 Israelis signed a petition calling upon President Barack Obama to bring Pollard with him to Israel, but that didn’t happen. In the US, 30 national Jewish organizations have issued a pre-Passover appeal to President Obama led by Conference of Presidents leaders Richard Stone and Malcolm Hoenlein, requesting that Obama release Pollard prior to his 10,000th day of imprisonment, on April 8, 2013.

 

After wishing Obama a successful trip to the Middle East, they respectfully and urgently requested that the president “act on the commutation of his sentence to time served before this milestone is reached. Mr. Pollard, whose health has deteriorated, has expressed remorse and regret repeatedly.”

 

Obama’s answer to a question about Pollard in an interview with Channel 2 television last week was troubling and insensitive. He did not seem to be aware of the concern among the Israeli public and US Jewry over the injustice of Pollard’s life sentence, nor of the fear that Pollard’s failing health threatens to end his life after 28 years in prison.

 

On the contrary, Obama responded by reducing Pollard’s plight to that of a common criminal who just wants to get out of jail early. He implied that Pollard was trying to jump the line without following proper procedure.

The president’s response distanced himself from any direct responsibility for Pollard’s fate: He suggested that Pollard should avail himself of the procedures offered by the US justice system which may have “the potential to ultimately release him.”

 

Obama stated that his own involvement is limited by law to observing from a distance to ensure that all prisoners are treated equally, including Pollard. The truth of the matter is quite at odds with Obama’s take.

Pollard’s petition for executive clemency landed on the president’s desk on October 15, 2010. It was presented after Pollard had been in prison for 25 years and had exhausted all legal remedies and procedures.

 

Nine supplemental filings have been added to Pollard’s petition for clemency over the past two years. Each additional filing contained copies of letters from high-ranking American officials urging Obama to commute Pollard’s disproportionate sentence to time served as a matter of justice.

 

Among those calling for Pollard’s release are those who have first-hand knowledge of the case and are familiar with the secret files. They include former CIA director R. James Woolsey, former White House counsel Bernard Nussbaum, former senator and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Dennis DeConcini, former US assistant secretary of defense Lawrence J. Korb, and former attorney-general Michael Muckasey. In their opinion, keeping Pollard in prison any longer is intolerable and unjust. Former secretaries of state George Shultz and Henry Kissinger have declared in letters to the president that the people who are best informed about the classified material Pollard passed to Israel favor his release.

 

Pollard’s clemency file contains numerous petitions by American congressmen and senators, public officials, religious leaders, retired judges, law professors and a host of other notable individuals and groups calling for his release as a matter of justice. Bolstering the outpouring of support for Pollard’s release, a recently declassified 1987 CIA damage assessment puts the lie to American allegations that have been used for over a quarter of a century to justify Pollard’s continued incarceration.

 

Now in Israel on his first official visit, President Obama owes a formal response to official appeals by President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for Pollard’s release. But more important, Pollard is owed a response to his petition for clemency, and not a brush-off. Pollard did as the president suggested. He followed procedure. That procedure, once exhausted, led to the petition that is sitting on the president’s desk.

 

It is not only the president’s constitutional right to set Pollard free from his grossly disproportionate life sentence. It is his duty. Pollard is not an ordinary prisoner. He is an Israeli citizen and the victim of a grave injustice that has gone on far too long. Only Obama can set Pollard free and with the same stroke of his pen repair the American system of justice and restore Israel’s confidence in our closest ally. Mr. President, the buck stops with you and the time is now.

 

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OBAMA LECTURED ISRAELIS, PROMISED AND
APPLAUDED ARAB PALESTINIANS

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

Jewish Press, March 22nd, 2013

 

U.S. President Barack Obama gave two speeches on Thursday, March 21, one to Arab Palestinians in a joint press conference with acting head of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, and the other to Israelis at the Jerusalem Convention Center.

 

His talks were ostensibly about the state of relations between the different parties, but everyone knew that the animating impulse was to kickstart the “Middle East Peace Process.” Everyone who watched the speeches or read the transcripts, are now desperately looking at the tea leaves to see what just happened. The substance of Obama’s two speeches, the venues in which they were given, the words chosen, the words avoided, taken all together paint a vivid picture of this president and his beliefs about the region.

 

One speech he gave in Ramallah, the acknowledged seat of government of the Palestinian Authority, where he gave a joint press conference with Mahmoud Abbas, the acting leader of the PA.  The other he gave in Jerusalem, not at the seat of Israel’s government, and not directed to Israel’s elected leaders.

 

At the Jerusalem speech the U.S. president spoke directly to the citizenry of Israel, mostly university students – minus those, such as students at a newly credentialed Israeli university located in Ariel – which is situated beyond the “green line” and, apparently, for Obama is beyond the Pale, ironic given the large number of Arabs who are students at that university.

 

The speeches revealed little that is new: Obama believes there should be two states on the land, one, the Jewish homeland, Israel, and the other, a new one for Arab Palestinians, called Palestine.  He criticized Hezbollah and Hamas as terrorist entities, praised what he said was the Palestinian Authority’s transparency, institution-building and security services, and lauded Israeli ingenuity. “Only in Israel could you see the Dead Sea Scrolls and the place where the technology on board the Mars Rover originated,” Obama told the audience in Jerusalem.

 

But there were clear indications of what Obama believes, and what he wants to have happen between Israel and the Arab Palestinians. He believes that the Arab Palestinians, like all “oppressed” people, are yearning for freedom which, when granted, will quell their hatred for their oppressors.  He certainly sees their plight as akin to that of African Americans before the passage of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, abolishing slavery. And he links the idea of slavery and second status-hood of African Americans with Arab Palestinians.

 

And those of us in the United States understand that change takes time but it is also possible, because there was a time when my daughters could not expect to have the same opportunities in their own country as somebody else’s daughters.

 

Obama talked about the Jewish people who were slaves in Egypt, and who had suffered pogroms and genocide and their freedom, expressed in Zionism. “The idea that people deserve to be free in a land of their own,” Obama said, and that once the Jews achieved that, they should know that “responsibility does not end when you reach the promised land, it only begins.”  Suggesting, not too subtly, that it is the responsibility of Israelis to enable Arab Palestinians to enjoy their freedom in their own homeland.

 

Appealing directly to the Israeli people, the U.S. president said

 

The Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and justice must also be recognized.  Put yourself in their shoes – look at the world through their eyes.  It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of her own, and lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements of her parents every single day.  It is not just when settler violence goes unpunished.  It is not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands; to restrict a student’s ability to move around the West Bank; or to displace Palestinian families from their home.  Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer.  Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land.

 

In other words, Obama believes virtually every one of the points of the false narrative that have been spun since Arafat was brought back from Tunisia: the Arab Palestinians are the sole native people, Israeli “settlers” commit violence and that violence goes unpunished, Arab Palestinian farmers are prevented from farming “their” land, the movements of Arab Palestinians are restricted for no reason other than Israeli arrogance and greed, Arab Palestinians have been unfairly expelled from their land and they live under a state of Occupation in their own land, and, ultimately and completely, the land belongs, always belonged and must belong to the Arab Palestinians.
 

When in Ramallah, the U.S. president did not mention any responsibilities for peace owed by his listeners.  Instead, he talked about the recent release of U.S. funds “to help the Palestinian Authority bolster its finances.”  The only discussion of terrorism when speaking in Ramallah was directed at Hamas. As recently as last month, however, a PA terror group claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on Israel from Gaza.

 

Just as the U.S. president told the Israelis that the Arabs deserve their own state and that it is the responsibility of Israelis to give it to them, he made the same points to the Arab Palestinian audience gathered in Ramallah.

 

The Palestinian people deserve an end to occupation and the daily indignities that come with it.  Palestinians deserve to move and travel freely, and to feel secure in their communities.  Like people everywhere, Palestinians deserve a future of hope — that their rights will be respected, that tomorrow will be better than today and that they can give their children a life of dignity and opportunity.  Put simply, the Palestinian people deserve a state of their own.

 

When in Jerusalem, Obama talked about Hizbollah and the Assad regime, and also Iran, as contributing to Israel’s security issues, but nothing about the constant terror attempts by those under the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority, including the Al Aksa Martyrs’ Brigade, which is responsible for more terrorist attacks than any other Arab Palestinian terrorist group.

 

Obama proclaimed in Ramallah that the U.S. seeks “an independent, a viable and a contiguous Palestinian state as the homeland of the Palestinian people.”  To the Jewish crowd in Jerusalem, he said the same thing except he left out the word “contiguous.” And the U.S. president congratulated the PA on its achievements of which he and the U.S. , “as its single largest donor of assistance” is so proud: increased transparency, efficiency, stronger and more professional security forces, and institution building.

 

Obama acknowledged that there are disagreements between the two sides – he referred to them as “irritants”: the “Israelis have concerns about rockets flying into their cities at night,” and for the Arab Palestinians it is “the continued settlement activity in the West Bank area.”   But, he said,

 

My argument is even though both sides may have areas of strong disagreement, may be engaging in activities that the other side considers to be a breach of good faith, we have to push through those things to try to get to an agreement — because if we get an agreement then it will be very clear what the nature of that agreement is: there will be a sovereign Palestinian state, a sovereign Jewish state of Israel.

 

While side-stepping the Arab insistent focus on the problem of settlement building – and this is what gave rise to furious responses in the Arab media – Obama described the core goal in this way: “How do we get sovereignty for the Palestinian people, and how do we assure security for the Israeli people?” He wants a “broad-based agreement that assures the Palestinians that they have a state, and you have a comprehensive approach that ensures Israel the kind of security they need.” Apparently the new buzz words will be “sovereignty” and “security.”

 

The problem, of course, with Obama’s vision is that determining boundaries is a fixed decision – the land doesn’t move, there can’t be any change, while a promise, a commitment, even a sworn statement guaranteeing peace is permeable and depends on the commitment of millions of people – many of whom have rather poor track records – to honor it.

 

And just in case anyone hoped to pretend that the PA understands negotiations happen when both sides to a conflict agree to make substantial compromises in order to achieve a mutually satisfactory goal, that delusion was put to rest.  When Mahmoud Abbas introduced President Obama to the gathered crowd in Ramallah, he spoke briefly but made clear what his intentions are, have been, and will always be.

 

Abbas stated that his people have suffered from “the calamities of the Nakba (the re-birth of Israel),” that the land has belonged to the Arab Palestinian people” since ancient times,” Jerusalem “the Lady of the Cities” must be the capital of the “independent state of Palestine,” that peace cannot come so long as there are “walls, settlements, arrests, denial of refugee rights,” and that the Arab Palestinian people fully intend to join forces with Hamas, thereby “ending the division [to] achieve the Palestinian reconciliation.” Okay then.

 

There was one new hopeful development that the U.S. president hoped to see replicated.  When Obama spoke to the audience in Jerusalem, he revealed that he envisions the future state of Palestine to mirror the current state of Israel in terms of being an open society, committed to education, entrepreneurship, one that is opposed to corruption and is a hub for regional trade:

 

One of the great ironies of what is happening in the broader region is that so much of what people are yearning for – education and entrepreneurship; the ability to start a business without paying a bribe, to connect to the global economy – those things can be found in Israel.

 

Obama described a program run by a U.S. company, Cisco, in Jeruslaem, where “young Arab engineers and Palestinian engineers” are hired because they are so well qualified, so talented.  He went on to share his fantasy – and it is a fantasy – of such a program taking place in “Palestine”:

 

Well, imagine if you have a strong, independent state that’s peaceful — and all that talent that currently is being untapped that could be creating jobs and businesses and prosperity throughout this area.

 

Perhaps people have difficulty imagining that because everyone in the Middle East knows it is not going to happen.  There will be no Jews working in those programs alongside the “well qualified, so talented” Arab Palestinian engineers in “Palestine,” because no Jew will be allowed in the state that he and so many Westerners are trying so desperately hard to help create.

 

So “two states for two people” is likely to be replaced with “sovereignty and security,” the West will continue pretending that: the PA is a non-terrorist political group deserving of continuing U.S. aid, the Israeli government is intransigent and unwilling to make concessions, and it is Israel which bears all responsibility for ensuring that a Palestinian state  – created in its own image – comes into existence as soon as possible. Nothing new.

 

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On Topic

 

 

 

Obama in Jerusalem: Elliott Abrams, Weekly Standard, Mar 21, 2013—President Obama spoke to the Israeli people today, at the Jerusalem Convention Center. His remarks moved his administration toward the pre-Obama consensus views of the Clinton and Bush administrations, indeed at several points echoing Bush’s 2008 speech to the Knesset. But he presented a view of the chances for peace with the Palestinians that was far rosier than reality permits—or than he may really believe.

 

The Obama Visit and American Jewry: Isi Liebler, Israel Hayom, Mar. 20, 2013—[Obama] is arriving at a time when the political influence of American Jewry, the most affluent and powerful Diaspora community in our history, is in decline. This is starkly exemplified by its failure to influence successive Administrations to commute the sentence of Jonathan Pollard whose unprecedented inhumane treatment is now even raising ugly allegations of discriminatory prejudice.

 

Bennett: A Nation Cannot Occupy its Own Land: Lahav Harkov, Jerusalem Post,Mar. 21, 2013—Reactions from MKs to US President Barack Obama’s speech in Jerusalem on Thursday ranged from excited support to condemnation. Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett mentioned the rockets fired at Sderot in the morning, saying they were the result of the previous withdrawal from land, as were thousands of victims over the years.

 

‘Free Pollard’ Hunger-Striker Going Strong: Daniel K. Eisenbud, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 22, 2013—Over one week after beginning a one-man hunger strike under Jerusalem’s Bridge of Strings to free Jonathan Pollard, Michael Foa, 52, a member of Likud, remains resilient, and has been joined by another protester who is also foregoing food.

 

Full Text of Obama's Jerusalem Speech: Jerusalem Post, March 21, 2013—Shalom. It is an honor to be here with you in Jerusalem, and I am so grateful for the welcome that I have received from the people of Israel. I bring with me the support of the American people, and the friendship that binds us together.

 

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