Tag: Purim

IRAN FACES “MANY CRISES” DESPITE RUSSIAN ALLIANCE & EXPANDING REGIONAL INFLUENCE

Iranians at the Gate: Prof. Eyal Zisser, Israel Hayom, Mar. 12, 2017— Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Russia last week was dedicated to the Iranian issue, or, more precisely, to Israel's red lines on any Iranian presence in Syria if and when the six-year civil war there comes to an end.

Putting Iran on Notice Puts Tehran off Balance: Emily B. Landau, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 11, 2017— a. Purim’s historical background…

Iran in Crisis: Heshmat Alavi, American Thinker, Mar. 5, 2017— The recent dust storms that wreaked havoc in southwest Iran signaled only one of the many crises the mullahs are facing less than three months before critical elections.

Purim and the Challenge of the Holocaust: Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo, Jewish Press, Mar. 10, 2017— In a remarkable midrash on Mishlei, we read the following…

               

On Topic Links

 

Iran Is Progressing Towards Nuclear Weapons Via North Korea: Lt. Col. (ret.) Dr. Refael Ofek & Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Dany Shoham, BESA, Feb. 28, 2017

Impossible Dream: Lee Smith, Weekly Standard, Feb. 20, 2017

The Face-Off: Reuel Marc Gerecht, Weekly Standard, Feb. 27, 2017

Iran Setting up Shell Shipping Companies to Export Weapons and Illicit Goods: Investigation: Perry Chiaramonte, Fox News, Mar. 7, 2017

   

IRANIANS AT THE GATE

                                      Prof. Eyal Zisser

       Israel Hayom, Mar. 12, 2017

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Russia last week was dedicated to the Iranian issue, or, more precisely, to Israel's red lines on any Iranian presence in Syria if and when the six-year civil war there comes to an end. The possibility that Russia may be able to do the seemingly impossible and strike a peace deal between the warring parties in Syria in the foreseeable future has Israel wary of the regional gains this may spell for Iran.

 

Iran could have significant influence in Syria and potentially even physical control of the country, thanks to tens of thousands of operatives on the ground in the form of Hezbollah members, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps' soldiers, or Shiite militia fighters "imported" by Iran into Syria from across the Middle East.

 

What the world can expect from post-war Syria is reflected in recent reports of Iran's plans to build a naval base in Tartus, the second largest port city in Syria after Latakia, as well as in reports that Revolutionary Guard units and Hezbollah forces are planning to overrun the Syrian Golan Heights, to liberate it from the rebels and re-establish Syrian control over the area — a move that would effectively place Iranian forces on the Syria-Israel border.

 

Iran, most likely, has no interest in a direct conflict with Israel, but history has proved it will use its proxies in Syria — Hezbollah, Damascus-based Palestinian terrorist groups, and various Shiite militias — to do its bidding. This means the immediate issue Israel must deal with is the Iranian and Hezbollah presence in southern Syria, while the long-term issue is the question of Iran's status in Syria in any deal in which Syrian President Bashar Assad remains in power.

 

The campaign to liberate the northeastern Syrian city of Raqqa from Islamic State, which is scheduled to begin in the next few days, stands to significantly impact the Iranian presence in the country as well: If the Turks and the Sunni Syrian rebels at their command take the city, or if the Kurds, who have American assistance, do so, that will lead to the creation of a buffer zone between Shiite Iraq and the rest of Assad-controlled Syria. But if Assad's forces, with the help of Iranian troops, are the ones to take Raqqa, Iran will be able to establish control over a land axis spanning from Tehran through Iraq and eastern Syria to Damascus and Beirut.

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin most likely listened carefully to Netanyahu's warnings. But for now, Russia is standing by its cynical alliance with Iran. Tehran and Moscow desire first and foremost to cement Assad's control in Syria, and the presence of Iranian and Shiite operatives in the country is imperative to that end. Netanyahu was wise to make it clear to Putin that Israel is determined to maintain its regional interests and will not allow anyone to cross its red lines, even if Russia sees things differently.

 

Incidentally, this dynamic was present in recent strikes against Syrian weapon shipments to Hezbollah, which foreign media attributed to Israel. The Russians did nothing to prevent these shipments, nor did they hide their disapproval of the alleged Israeli efforts to thwart them, but the dialogue between Jerusalem and Moscow over the past year resulted in Russia's acceptance of Israel's position on the matter. It is safe to assume that Netanyahu's meeting with Putin sought to reach similar understandings with regard to Israel's red lines over Iran and Hezbollah's presence in the Golan Heights, and perhaps in other areas in Syria as well.                                                                                   

 

Contents

 

                     PUTTING IRAN ON NOTICE PUTS TEHRAN OFF BALANCE

         Emily B. Landau

                                                                Jerusalem Post, Mar. 11, 2017

 

In late January, just nine days after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, Iran tested a new medium-range ballistic missile – the Khorramshahr. The missile has a range of 3,000-4,000 km, which can reach all of Western Europe and can carry a nuclear payload. This test was the latest in a string of Iranian ballistic-missile tests that have been carried out since the nuclear deal (JCPOA) was announced in July 2015. And, it was their first test of the Trump administration, which has not yet clarified its Iran policy but has already projected that it is not happy either with the JCPOA or with Iran’s ongoing provocations since the deal was announced.

 

The immediate question that arises following the missile test is whether it is prohibited by international agreements. As far as the nuclear deal itself is concerned, none of Iran’s missile tests have constituted a violation for the simple reason that ballistic missiles are not covered by the deal even though, as the delivery mechanism for carrying a nuclear warhead, they are intimately connected to a nuclear weapons program. The omission of ballistic missiles from the JCPOA was the unfortunate result of the US unwisely caving to Iran’s demand not to include them in the nuclear talks, in effect acquiescing to Iran’s narrative that such missiles are “non-nuclear.”

 

Indeed, one of the first concessions to Iran, before formal negotiations between the P5+1 and Tehran commenced, was that ballistic missiles would be off the table. Because of this concession, the only reference to Iran’s missile program is currently included in UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorses the JCPOA. But compared to Resolution 1929, which was still in effect in October 2015 when Iran conducted its first post- JCPOA ballistic-missile test, Resolution 2231 only “calls upon” Iran to desist from these activities, rather than prohibiting them.

 

Moreover, the new resolution includes changed wording that opens space for Iran to claim that the test is not covered by the resolution.  Rather than targeting missiles “that can carry a nuclear payload,” Resolution 2231 refers to missiles “designed to” carry a nuclear payload. Because Iran denies any past nuclear weapons work and any future plans in this regard, it has argued that no missile developed in Iran could possibly have been designed to carry a nuclear warhead.

 

The Trump administration is not buying Iran’s excuses ‒ and for good reason: Iran’s attempt to explain away any wrongdoing through such legalistic gymnastics rests on very shaky ground. The reality that Iran refuses to acknowledge is that it actually did work on a military nuclear program in the past and it never demonstrated that it left those ambitions behind. Iran is a proven violator of the NPT, and, yet, it denies any wrongdoing. Under these circumstances, there is no reason to believe that Iran will never equip its nuclear- capable missiles with a nuclear warhead and, therefore, these missiles could very well have been (and most likely were) designed with this in mind.

 

The experience of the past year and a half has seen the Obama administration refrain from any pushback against Iran’s repeated provocations, belligerence and even some violations of the JCPOA itself, which has only served to embolden Iran and increase its leverage vis-à-vis the United States. With no reaction from the US – including firmly setting the record straight about Iran’s past nuclear weapons program and undermining Iran’s false narrative – there is little doubt that Iran would have continued to test any and all missiles with relative impunity.

 

But, if no Iranian missile could possibly meet the criteria set by Resolution 2231, what was the resolution originally meant to curb? On the basis of its very different interpretation and approach, the Trump administration responded to the latest missile test quickly and firmly. It immediately called an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the test, and National Security Adviser Michael Flynn (who has since resigned) then issued a statement that “put Iran on notice” while informing the Iranians that the US will no longer be turning a blind eye to their provocations. Sanctions were quickly imposed on 25 Iranian individuals and companies involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program and with connections to terrorist activities. Later, it was reported that the US was considering naming the IRGC a terrorist group. Trump himself warned Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani that he “better be careful” with his words.

 

Taking a closer look at Flynn’s statement, in particular, many were quick to criticize it as “bellicose bluster” that risked escalation with Iran. Such interpretations ignored the fact that the US was responding to Iran’s belligerence. Indeed, in light of ongoing Iranian provocations that have gone unanswered for far too long, Flynn’s statement was an appropriate and measured American response. Critics also complained that Flynn’s message was non-specific, not stating clearly what the administration would do. But nowhere is it set in stone that the best way to deter a state is by clarifying the precise conditions and consequences of their action. In fact, setting a clear red line could very well have been counterproductive because it could have easily set the new administration up for failure – which is precisely what happened to president Barack Obama in 2013 when he warned Syrian President Bashar Assad that using chemical weapons would elicit an American military response. The Trump administration’s deterrent message was most likely intentionally non-specific.

 

Putting Iran on notice puts Tehran off balance – a desired result. It means Iran must be very careful because it does not know what action will trigger which response. From initial Iranian reactions, it seems that the deterrence is working: They are not sure what Trump might do, and Iranian media have reflected advice to Iran’s leaders not to do anything that might give Trump an excuse to attack. Moreover, it was reported in early February that Iran abruptly removed from the launch pad a missile being prepared for launch. It was a Safir missile, derived from the Iranian Shahab 3, which Iran had, on several occasions, used as a launch vehicle for its satellites, indicating technology for a long-range intercontinental missile…

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

                                                                                   

Contents

 

IRAN IN CRISIS

Heshmat Alavi

American Thinker, Mar. 5, 2017

 

The recent dust storms that wreaked havoc in southwest Iran signaled only one of the many crises the mullahs are facing less than three months before critical elections. Tehran has been hit with severe blows during the Munich Security Conference, contrasting interests with Russia, the recent escalating row with Turkey, and most importantly, a new U.S. administration in Washington. These crises have crippling effects on the mullahs’ apparatus, especially at a time when Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei sees his regime facing a changing balance of power in the international community, and is faced with a major decision of selecting the regime’s so-called president.

 

Iran and Ahvaz…The dust storms crisis in Ahwaz, resulting from the mullahs’ own destructive desertification policies, caused severe disruptions in water and power services and people pouring into the streets in major protests. The regime, and especially the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), has for decades pursued a desertification policy of constructing dams, drying lagoons, digging deep oil wells beneath underground water sources with resulting catastrophic environmental disasters. Various estimates indicate the continuation of such a trend will literally transform two-thirds of Iran into desert lands in the next decade. This will place 14 to 15 million people at the mercy not only dust storms but also salt storms.

 

Iran and the Munich Security Conference…Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attended this conference with a series of objectives in mind, only to face a completely unexpected scene. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence described Iran as the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said the mullahs are the source of threats and instability throughout the Middle East. Turkey went one step further and said Tehran is the heart of sectarianism and spreads such plots across the region, and all traces in Syria lead to Iran’s terrorism and sectarian measures.

 

This resembles a vast international coalition against Tehran, inflicting yet another blow to the mullahs following a new administration taking control of the White House. These developments are very costly for Khamenei and the entire regime. In comparison to the early 2000s when the U.S. launched wars against Afghanistan and Iraq, Iran was the main benefactor. The current balance of power now is quite different, as seen in Munich. While there is talk of an Arab NATO, any coalition formed now in the Middle East will be completely against Iran’s interests.

 

Iran and Russia…Following a disastrous joint campaign in Syria, for the first time Russia is reportedly supporting a safe zone in Syria. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said contacts have been made with the Syrian regime to establish safe zones in Syria. These are the first remarks made by any Russian official on the issue of safe zones in Syria. Moscow’s increasing contrast in interest with Iran over Syria has the potential of playing a major role in regional relations. Russia certainly doesn’t consider Bashar Assad remaining in power as a red line, a viewpoint far different from that of Iran. Moscow is also ready to sacrifice its interests in Syria in a larger and more suitable bargain with the Trump administration over far more important global interests.

 

Iran and Turkey…Yes, Ankara and Tehran enjoy a vast economic partnership. However, recent shifts in geopolitical realities have led to significant tensions. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the mullahs of resorting to “Persian nationalism” in an effort to split Iraq and Syria. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu accused Iran of seeking to undermine Bahrain and Saudi Arabia as part of Tehran’s “sectarian policy.” Cavusoglu used his speech in Munich to say, “Iran is trying to create two Shia states in Syria and Iraq. This is very dangerous. It must be stopped.” Tehran considers Ankara’s soldiers in Iraq and Syria as a major obstacle in its effort to expand its regional influence.

 

U.S. president Donald Trump’s strong approach vis-à-vis Iran and the possibility of him supporting the establishment of a Turkish-administered northern Syria safe zone may have also played a major part in fuming bilateral tensions between these two Middle East powers. Erdogan has obviously realized completely the new White House in Washington intends to adopt a much more aggressive stance against Tehran. This is another sign of changing tides brewing troubles for Iran’s mullahs.

 

Iran and Presidential Elections…With new reports about his ailing health, Khamenei is extremely concerned about his predecessor. One such signal is the candidacy of Ibrahim Reisi, current head of the colossal Astan Quds Razavi political empire and a staunch loyalist to Khamenei’s faction, for the presidency. With former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani out of the picture, Khamenei may seek to seal his legacy by placing Reisi against Iranian president Hassan Rouhani in the upcoming May elections. This is literally Khamenei playing with fire, as Reisi is considered a hardline figure and such an appointment may spark 2009-like protests across the country, as the country has become a scene of massive social challenges. Rouhani himself doesn’t enjoy any social base support, especially after four years of lies and nearly 3,000 executions.

 

Final Thoughts…This places the entire regime in a very fragile situation. From the internal crises of Ahwaz, the upcoming elections and the formation of a significant international front threatening the Iranian regime’s strategic interests. Forecasting what lies ahead is truly impossible, making Khamenei and his entire regime extremely concerned, trekking this path very carefully and with a low profile. As we witnessed with the inauguration of Ronald Reagan, Iran immediately released the 52 hostages held for 444 days. This regime understands the language of force very carefully. And yet, there is no need to use military force to inflict a significant blow and make Tehran understand the international community means business. Blacklisting Iran’s IRGC as a terrorist organization by the U.S. at this timing would be the nail in the coffin for the mullahs.                                                           

 

Contents

 

PURIM AND THE CHALLENGE OF THE HOLOCAUST

Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo                                                                                

Jewish Press, Mar. 10, 2017

 

In a remarkable midrash on Mishlei, we read the following: “All of the festivals will be nullified in the future [the messianic age], but Purim will never be nullified.” (Midrash Mishlei 9:2) This assertion seems to fly in the face of Jewish tradition, which states categorically that the Jewish festivals mentioned in the Torah, such as Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot will never cease to be celebrated. This is mentioned by Maimonides in the Mishneh Torah:

 

“All the books of the Prophets and all the Scriptures will be nullified in the days of the Mashiach, except for Megillat Esther, which is as permanent as the Five Books of Moshe and the laws of the Oral Torah [including the festivals], which will never lose their relevance.” (Hilchot Megillah 2:18. For a completely different interpretation, see my booklet The Torah as God’s Mind: A Kabbalistic look into the Pentateuch [Jerusalem: Bep-Ron Publications, 1988]) Rabbi Baruch Halevi Epstein, in his famous commentary Torah Temimah on Megillat Esther (9:28), explains this contradiction – in the name of his father, Rabbi Yechiel Michel Halevi Epstein – in the following most original manner:

 

The miracle of Purim is very different from the miracles mentioned in the Torah. While the latter were overt miracles, such as the ten plagues in Egypt, the splitting of the Red Sea, the revelation at Sinai and the falling of the man (manna) in the desert, the miracle of Purim was covert. Unlike with the miracles narrated in the Torah, no law of nature was ever violated in the Purim story, and the Jews were saved from the hands of Haman harasha (the evil Haman) by seemingly normal historical occurrences. Had we lived in those days we would have noticed nothing unusual, and many secularists would have explained the redemption of the Jews in Persia as the logical outcome of a series of natural and coincidental events. Only retroactively, when looking back at the story, would we have been astonished by all the incidents, their unusual sequence, and the seemingly unrelated and insignificant human acts that led to the complete redemption of the Jews during the time of Achashveirosh’s reign. The discovery that all these events actually concealed a miracle could only be made after the fact.

 

Covert miracles will never cease to exist, explains the Torah Temimah. In fact, they take place every day. But overt miracles such as the splitting of the Red Sea have come to an end. In light of this, the midrash on Mishlei is not suggesting that the actual festivals mentioned in the Torah will be nullified in future days, since this would contradict Jewish belief. Rather, it is stating that the original reasons for celebrating the festivals, namely overt miracles, have ceased.

 

So, one should read the midrash as follows: Overt miracles, which we celebrate on festivals mentioned in the Torah, no longer occur. But covert miracles such as those celebrated on Purim will never end; they continue to occur every day of the year. In other words, all the other festivals will still be celebrated to commemorate great historical events in Jewish history, events to be remembered and relived in the imagination of man so as to make them relevant and teach us many lessons for our own lives. Purim, on the other hand, although rooted in a historical event of many years ago, functions as a constant reminder that the Purim story never ended. We are still living it. The Megillah is open-ended; it was not and will never be completed! Covert miracles still happen.

 

Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner z”l, in his celebrated work Pachad Yitzchak (volume on Purim, chapter 33), uses this idea to explain a highly unusual halachic stipulation related to Purim. During all Torah festivals, the congregation sings Hallel, the well-known, classic compilation of specific Psalms. These Psalms praise God for all the great miracles He performed for Israel in biblical times, on occasions for which these festivals were later established. Why, then, asks the Talmud, do we not sing Hallel on Purim? Is there not even more reason to sing these Psalms on the day when God performed the great miracle of rescuing Israel from the hands of Haman? The Talmud (Masechet Megillah 14a) answers “kriyata zu hallila” – the reading of Megillat Esther is in itself praise. When one reads the story of Esther, one actually fulfills the obligation of singing Hallel, because telling this story is the greatest praise to God for having saved the Jews. Reading the story awakens in us a feeling of deep gratitude and appreciation for the miracle of Jewish survival against all odds…

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

 

Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo is a CIJR International Board Member

 

Contents                                                              

 

On Topic Links

 

Iran Is Progressing Towards Nuclear Weapons Via North Korea: Lt. Col. (ret.) Dr. Refael Ofek & Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Dany Shoham, BESA, Feb. 28, 2017—While the Vienna Nuclear Deal (VND) is focused on preventing (or at least postponing) the development of nuclear weapons (NW) in Iran, its restrictions are looser with regard to related delivery systems (particularly nuclear-capable ballistic missiles) as well as to the transfer of nuclear technology by Iran to other countries. Moreover, almost no limits have been placed on the enhancement of Tehran's military nuclear program outside Iran. North Korea (NK) arguably constitutes the ideal such location for Iran.

Impossible Dream: Lee Smith, Weekly Standard, Feb. 20, 2017—Since President Trump’s election, American allies and other foreign policy observers have been curious to know how the new White House intends to resolve an apparent contradiction. How is it possible that Trump seems keen to make some sort of deal with Vladimir Putin while expressing belligerent contempt for Russia's key Middle East ally, Iran? There may be an answer: Recent press reports indicate the Trump team will try to lure Russia away from Iran. The chances for success are slim.

The Face-Off: Reuel Marc Gerecht, Weekly Standard, Feb. 27, 2017— Donald Trump has promised a foreign policy of muscular retrenchment, in which a better-resourced U.S. military intimidates our enemies without serving as a global cop. More than any president since Richard Nixon, our new commander in chief sees virtue in brutal authoritarians, especially if they are fighting radical Islam. He has passionately belittled the idea of nation-building, freedom agendas, and protracted conflicts in Muslim lands.

Iran Setting up Shell Shipping Companies to Export Weapons and Illicit Goods: Investigation: Perry Chiaramonte, Fox News, Mar. 7, 2017— Nearly half of all shipping docks in Iran are operated by the regime’s military, and it is using shell companies to smuggle weapons and other illicit goods, according to a new report. A total of 90 docks have been taken over by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which is using them to circumvent sanctions and fund terrorist activities in the Middle East and beyond, according to the anti-regime People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baruch Cohen: PURIM 2017—5777

 

 

In Loving Memory of Malka – z”l

 

The Book of Esther describes not just one, but all historical periods. It remains forever new because enemies of the Jews will not allow it to grow old. The Book of Esther breathes love for Judaism, even as it tells of, and foretells, the everlasting attacks, hostility, and enmity against the Jews in diasporic lands.

 

Wherever the Jews have lived there have arisen new Hamans to enslave and persecute them. Purim gave the Jews courage in the darkest hours, and the hope that they would see the downfall of their enemies. The story of Purim in the Book of Esther is one that expresses   the ties that united the Jews then, and today.

 

It is not strange that, since the festival of Purim is connected to a story about the indestructibility of the Jewish People, it will be celebrated forever by young and old. This book is one that unites all Jews, connecting ordinary people to those who attained the highest honors. Purim, a holiday that celebrates liberation, expresses something we Jews have not always had the opportunity to enjoy–the playful, light-hearted side of life.

 

In Purim, with its reading of the Book of Esther, its groggers decrying the mention of Haman’s name, and its costume-contests for the young, the Jew found a day, when we can revel and enjoy life together.

Purim Sameach to all CIJR’s readers and friends!

 

(Baruch Cohen, who celebrated his 97th birthday last October,

 is CIJR’s long-time Research Chairman

PURIM 5777: RAISE A GLASS AND CELEBRATE THE SAVING OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE FROM HAMAN

Purim 2017—5777: Baruch Cohen, CIJR, Mar. 10, 2017— The Book of Esther describes not just one, but all historical periods.

Purim Guide for the Perplexed: Yoram Ettinger, Jewish Press, Mar. 10, 2017— a. Purim’s historical background…

Is a Disbanded European Union Good for Israel?: Manfred Gerstenfeld, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 28, 2017— After the Brexit referendum, the breakup of the European Union through a collapse or voluntary disbandment can no longer be considered a fully absurd scenario.

Why Dutch Sentiment Has Turned Against Immigrants: Leonid Bershidsky, Japan Times, Feb. 28, 2017— Soon after she moved into her new neighborhood, Ijburg, on the eastern outskirts of Amsterdam, in 2005, Xandra Lammers started a blog about it.

               

On Topic Links

 

Purim Drink and Diplomacy: David M. Weinberg, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 3, 2017

Anti-Semitism and Aliyah: Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 8, 2017

The Future of the European Union?: Soeren Kern, Gatestone Institute, Mar. 2, 2017

The Prospect for Russia's Jews: Maxim D. Shrayer, Mosaic, Mar. 6, 2017

 

    PURIM 2017—5777

                                      Baruch Cohen

        CIJR, Mar. 10, 2017

 

In Loving Memory of Malka – z”l

 

The Book of Esther describes not just one, but all historical periods. It remains forever new because enemies of the Jews will not allow it to grow old. The Book of Esther breathes love for Judaism, even as it tells of, and foretells, the everlasting attacks, hostility, and enmity against the Jews in diasporic lands.

 

Wherever the Jews have lived there have arisen new Hamans to enslave and persecute them. Purim gave the Jews courage in the darkest hours, and the hope that they would see the downfall of their enemies. The story of Purim in the Book of Esther is one that expresses the ties that united the Jews then, and today.

 

It is not strange that, since the festival of Purim is connected to a story about the indestructibility of the Jewish People, it will be celebrated forever by young and old. This book is one that unites all Jews, connecting ordinary people to those who attained the highest honors. Purim, a holiday that celebrates liberation, expresses something we Jews have not always had the opportunity to enjoy–the playful, light-hearted side of life.

 

In Purim, with its reading of the Book of Esther, its groggers decrying the mention of Haman’s name, and its costume-contests for the young, the Jew found a day, when we can revel and enjoy life together. Purim Sameach to all CIJR’s readers and friends!

 

Baruch Cohen, who celebrated his 97th birthday last October, is CIJR’s long-time Research Chairman           

                                                                       

Contents

 

                                  PURIM GUIDE FOR THE PERPLEXED

         Yoram Ettinger

                                                                 Jewish Press, Mar. 10, 2017

 

Purim’s historical background: a. The 586 BCE destruction of the First Jewish Temple (on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount), and the expulsion of Jews from Judea & Samaria, by the Babylonian Emperor, Nebuchadnezzar, triggered a wave of Jewish emigration to Babylon and Persia, which eventually replaced Babylon as the leading regional power.*In 538 BCE, Xerxes the Great, Persia’s King Ahasuerus, who succeeded Darius the Great, proclaimed his support for the reconstruction of the Jewish Temple and the resurrection of national Jewish life in the Land of Israel, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish Homeland.

 

Ahasuerus established a coalition of countries, which launched the Greco-Persian Wars of 499-449 BCE, attempting to expand the Persian Empire westward. However, Persia was resoundingly defeated (e.g., the 490 BCE and 480 BCE battles of Marathon and Salamis), and Ahasuerus’ authority in Persia was gravely eroded. An attempted coup – by Bigtan and Teresh – against Ahasuerus was thwarted by Mordechai, a retired Jewish military commander, who relayed critical intelligence to Queen Esther, his cousin (or niece).  Just like Joseph, who adopted an Egyptian name (Zaphnat Paa’ne’ach), so did Mordechai adopt a Persian name (derived from Marduk, a Mesopotamian god). Both Joseph and Mordechai reasserted their roots in the face of a clear and present lethal threat to the Jewish people.

 

b. Purim is the holiday that foiled an ancient 9/11.  The numerical value (e.g., the letter “a” would be 1, “b”=2, etc.) of the Hebrew spelling of King (מלך=90) Ahasuerus (אחשורוש=821) – who ordered the annihilation of Jews – is 911…., just like the dates of Kristallnacht (9.11.1938) and the destruction of the First and Second Jewish Temples in Jerusalem (9.11 – the ninth day of the eleventh Jewish month).

 

c. “Purimfest 1946” yelled Julius Streicher, the Nazi propaganda chief, as he approached the hanging gallows (Newsweek, October 28, 1946, page 46).  On October 16, 1946, ten convicted Nazi war criminals were hanged in Nuremberg.  An 11th Nazi criminal, Hermann Goering, committed suicide in his cell. According to a Jewish survivor, the late Eliezer Cotler, Julius Streicher’s library, in his ranch (which served as a camp for young Jewish survivors on their way to Israel), documented Streicher’s interest in Purim’s relevance to the fate of the enemies of the Jewish people. Streicher underlined, in red ink, each reference to the Amalekites and Haman…. (The origin of the Aryan race is claimed to be in Iran/Persia….). According to the Scroll of Esther, King Ahasuerus allowed the Jews to defend themselves and hang Haman and his ten sons.  According to the Talmud (Megillah tractate, 16a), Haman had an 11th child, a daughter, who committed suicide following her father’s demise.

 

d. Purim’s physical and spiritual clash of Civilizations between the values and worldviews of Mordechai and Haman, exemplifies an early edition of the clash among nations, communities and within each person: between right and wrong, liberty and tyranny, justice and evil, truth and lies, just like Adam/Eve vs. the Snake, Abel VS. Cain, Abraham vs. Sodom & Gomorrah, Jacob vs. Esau (grandfather of Amalek, the deadliest enemy of the Jewish people), the Maccabees vs. the Assyrians, the Allies vs. the Nazis, the West vs. the Communist Bloc and the Free World vs. Islamic rogue regimes and terrorist organizations. The numerical value of the Hebrew spelling of “blessed Mordechai” () and “cursed Haman” () is identical, 502, cautioning us that evil can be easily misperceived as benevolence.

 

e. Purim is celebrated on the 14th/15th days of the Jewish month of Adar.  Adar (אדר) is the root of the Hebrew adjective Adir ( glorious, awesome, exalted, magnificent.  It is, also, a derivative of the Akkadian word Adura (heroism). According to the Babylonian Talmud, Adar is featured as a month of happiness, singing and dancing. The zodiac of Adar is Pisces (fish), which is a symbol of demographic multiplication. Hence, Adar is the only Jewish month, which doubles itself during the 7 leap years, in each 19 year cycle. Purim is celebrated on the 14th day in non-walled towns, and in Jerusalem on the 15th day of Adar, commemorating the deliverance of the Jewish People from the jaws of a holocaust in Persia.  It also commemorates the 161 BCE victory of Judah the Maccabee over Nikanor, the Assyrian commander…

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

 

Yoram Ettinger is a Keynote Speaker at CIJR’s 29th Anniversary Gala: “Israel’s Contributions Biblical & Modern to Western Civilization,” March 26, 2017 (Montreal). For more information and registration click the following link—Ed.

 

                                                                                   

Contents

 

       IS A DISBANDED EUROPEAN UNION GOOD FOR ISRAEL?

                                         Manfred Gerstenfeld

                                            Jerusalem Post, Feb. 28, 2017

 

After the Brexit referendum, the breakup of the European Union through a collapse or voluntary disbandment can no longer be considered a fully absurd scenario. To create a framework of thought it is worthwhile to start analyzing what that could mean for Israel, even though Israel will not play any role in the process if it develops.

 

Particularly in the new century, the EU has taken increasingly hostile and occasionally antisemitic positions toward Israel on several issues. This led the Simon Wiesenthal Center to put the EU in third place in its 2015 list of worldwide promoters of antisemitic and/or anti-Israel incidents. It gave as reason: “The European Union has chosen to label products from the Golan Heights and disputed territories on the West Bank alone, ignoring the products of other occupied and disputed territories in the world such as Western Sahara, Kashmir, Tibet and products from areas controlled by terrorist Hamas and Hezbollah. This use of double standards against Israel typifies modern anti-Israelism and has been at the core of antisemitism for many centuries.”

 

The above example of discrimination is only one of the many justified criticisms Israel has of the EU. This hostility originates on a continent where the greatest mass murder of the Jews to ever take place occurred less than a hundred years ago. The Holocaust was not a German and Austrian project alone. Many other European authorities and individuals collaborated. Some elements of its impact continue to exist today. Today there is a large amount of indirect support of Israel-hatred and antisemitism coming from Europe. The European Commission has done nothing to develop selection procedures concerning immigration from Muslim countries with high levels of antisemitism. There is a testimony from the Dutch former EU commissioner Frits Bolkestein that when he raised the issue of Muslim immigration in a meeting of the EC around 2000, his colleagues considered him a racist. Nor has the EU, with all of its talk about the rise in antisemitism, tried to develop a unified reporting system for antisemitic incidents in its member countries.

 

One major argument which seemingly favored the existence of the EU from an Israeli viewpoint has been that some member countries could take stronger anti-Israel positions if they were not bound by common EU positions. In recent months, various actions taken by France have shown that this argument is weaker than often considered. Presidential elections are due there within several weeks. The presidency of Socialist François Hollande has been such a failure that for the first time in the history of the Fifth Republic, a sitting president is not running for a second term. He did the favor to two journalists, Gerard Davet and Fabrice Lhomme, of giving them access to regular private conversations during his time in office. In their recently released book, they list “impotence” as the main characteristic of the Hollande presidency.

 

Recently, Israel became an even more convenient scapegoat for the French authorities. In January, France organized a useless international conference on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The organizers knew that a few days later US President Donald Trump, who holds radically different views from his predecessor, would be inaugurated. France subsequently could not even obtain the adoption of the conference’s statement in the EU Foreign Affairs Council, as it was blocked by Britain. It is not far-fetched to assume that the French Socialists hope to attract Muslim voters, of which there are many, with their anti-Israel positions.

 

When the new Swedish government, dominated by the Social Democrats, was installed in 2014, one of its earliest actions was to recognize the non-existent Palestinian state. It well knew that if there were free elections among Palestinians in the West Bank, the genocide-promoting Hamas would most likely obtain a majority. The Swedish government did not feel the need to act in coordination with its EU partners on this issue. The Irish foreign minister, Charles Flanagan, has stated that his government constantly considers recognizing a Palestinian state.

 

Against this background, the disappearance of the EU would mainly present advantages for Israel. If the office of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy would be abolished, a source of ongoing multilateral incitement against Israel would end. The disappearance of the European Commission’s Legal Service would also be very positive for Israel. It is responsible for the one-sided opinion that the West Bank is occupied territory according to international law and that the settlements are illegal. Many leading international legal experts contest this position.

 

Whether the EU remains as it is, whether some countries leave it, or whether it is abandoned altogether, should not be of particular interest to Israel. If the EU disappears, the Common Market will most likely remain. So will collaboration in research and a few other fields of interest to Israel. There will also be a common interest in continuing to jointly fight terrorism, mainly that committed by Muslims. When countries will need to guard their own borders, this may make them more sensitive to Israel’s problems.

 

Finally, there is one great advantage to the disappearance of the EU. The Israeli population is substantially bigger than that of 14 of the 28 EU member states. Another six have populations on the same order of magnitude. Only eight have much larger populations. Israel’s force in bilateral relations will greatly increase if compared to the current confrontation with the EU behemoth with its more than 500 million inhabitants.

 

Contents

 

        WHY DUTCH SENTIMENT HAS TURNED AGAINST IMMIGRANTS

                                                       Leonid Bershidsky

                                                  Japan Times, Feb. 28, 2017

 

Soon after she moved into her new neighborhood, Ijburg, on the eastern outskirts of Amsterdam, in 2005, Xandra Lammers started a blog about it. Ijburg is a curious place, an architectural wonder, built in the middle of a lake on reclaimed land and partly on water. She still keeps the blog alive, but curiosity has given way to frustration: It’s all about the unpleasantness of living next to Muslim immigrants.

 

“I used to vote Labor,” Lammers told me. “I was quite politically correct. But now I no longer am.” She is a determined supporter of Geert Wilders and his anti-immigrant, anti-Islam party, PVV, the front-runner in the Netherlands’ March 15 election. She is also a character in a book by nationalist writer Joost Niemoeller, called “Angry,” published last month and already on the best-seller list. The anger fueling the Wilders campaign is real and tangible in the Netherlands, but — like the anger of Donald Trump’s voters in the U.S. — it’s rooted in the existence of parallel realities in a society where efforts at social and cultural integration have run into major obstacles.

 

Lammers’ reality is stark. The owner of a translation bureau, she’s a native Amsterdammer, forced out of the city center by steeply rising real estate prices. When she and her husband bought their house on the water in Ijburg, she says the real estate agent didn’t tell her the neighborhood would become the arena of what she calls a “social experiment” — an effort by the city government to put middle class homeowners and social housing renters in one innovative urban development. Initially, Ijburg had a village feel: People with similar backgrounds bought the houses so they could stay in Amsterdam, and soon they all knew each other. Then the immigrants started moving in, brought over from suburbs where their cheap housing was demolished; 30 percent of Ijburg housing turned out to be earmarked for the social renters.

 

“We have to share the gardens in some blocks, elevators in others,” Lammers says. “So people started experiencing bad things — cars scratched, elevators urinated in. There’s now a mosque on my street, a radical one.” (The mosque’s Facebook page, removed since locals complained to the authorities, contained references to a radical preacher and to Islamic Brotherhood, an organization some countries consider terrorist). Some of Lammers immigrant neighbors soon found out what she was writing on her blog, and Moroccan youths started yelling “cancer whore” at her on the street, she says. According to the Amsterdam city government, Ijburg has one of the highest youth crime rates of all the city neighborhoods. Immigrants living in Ijburg have one of the lowest scores in Amsterdam on the Dutch government’s integration scale.

 

Niemoeller, who presented the first copy of his book to Wilders, says the anger he described had to do with a sense of displacement. In Amsterdam, the middle class can no longer afford to live in the city center because of gentrification and the growing influx of tourists, but the cheaper neighborhoods where they have moved have been rapidly filling with families from Turkey, Morocco, Suriname and the Dutch Antilles. “The atmosphere on the street changes, and people feel they no longer belong,” Niemoeller says. “But there’s no place else to go.” Lammers says she can’t afford to leave her house and still stay in Amsterdam, where her small business operates.

 

Wilders became an anti-immigrant politician in part because he witnessed a similar change in his neighborhood. In the 1980s and 1990s, he lived in Kanaleneiland, an Utrecht neighborhood that, in those two decades, was transformed from nearly all-white to international, then to Muslim-dominated. Wilders has said in speeches that he was mugged and had to run for safety more than once. A longtime admirer of the Israeli far right, he blamed the changes on the nature of Islam. To him and his supporters, mosques are “hate palaces” and North African muggers are “street terrorists.”

 

Though Wilders supporters say the immigrants run the streets, they themselves don’t feel that way. Murat, a car mechanic who moved to the Netherlands from Turkey 30 years ago, lives in the city of Almere, built from scratch since 1980 on a drained swamp east of Amsterdam. Almere is multiethnic, with about 30 percent immigrant population — and a city council in which Wilders’ PVV is the biggest party.

 

“If I tried to write a book about all the times when I was stopped in the street by the police for nothing, just because I have dark hair, or pulled over in my car for no violation, the book would be this thick,” says Murat, spreading his palms about a foot apart. “If I could save enough money, I’d move back to Turkey, but good luck with that here.” Murat says his Turkish name prevents him from getting better-paying jobs, and there are facts to support this: Last year, a Dutch think tank sent out identical resumes under different names and found that a native-born Dutch person’s probability of being invited for a job interview was almost twice as high as a Moroccan immigrant’s.

 

Then there’s a third perspective — that of the “leftist elite” Wilders is fond of denouncing. Rob Wijnberg, founder of the investigative journalism website De Correspondent, has written columns reaching out to Wilders voters in search of a common ground. When I ask him about the Muslims in his neighborhood — he says there are many — he shrugs. “They’re just my neighbors,” he says.

 

There’s a factual basis for this worldview, too. The Netherlands is an exceptionally safe country. It has one-third the rape rate and one-fifth the murder rate of the U.S. Amsterdam is a safe city by European standards, too. I wandered in Ijburg after dark and saw no Moroccan teenage gangs hanging out on street corners. The streets were clean and largely deserted. In Utrecht, I walked around Kanaleneiland. The kids frolicking on the Anne Frank School playground were dark-skinned, and the Turkish mosque next to the shopping center lacked a minaret. I felt safe and comfortable.

 

The problem is bringing all the conflicting — and somewhat justified — worldviews together. It’s especially different in the Netherlands with its history of a pillared society, in which people of different religions and backgrounds never mingled. Marriages between Catholics and Protestants were frowned upon, but the general attitude was live and let live — “liberalism as apathy,” as Wijnberg puts it. In part because of this traditional attitude, when the immigrants arrived as guest workers in the 1950s to rebuild the Netherlands after World War II and then jump-start its industries, they just formed a separate pillar. They were especially easy for the Dutch to put up with because the government promised to send them back when their work was done. It never happened, of course — but neither really did integration.

 

“The Netherlands is a segregated society,” Wijnberg says. “It’s not just black versus white, it’s also higher-educated versus lower-educated. Because there are no churches, no schools, even no pubs to which to go together, the only place where we can bump into each other is probably a soccer game.” As in the U.S., Wilders supporters and their left-wing opponents read different newspapers and watch different TV channels. The idea of integration is less about melding the two sides than forcing one to adopt the other.

 

Wilders supporters are telling immigrants to adopt the host country’s culture — which, in the Netherlands’ case, includes gay marriage, widely available abortion and euthanasia — or leave. The immigrants say little, but they have closed the corner pub and replaced the traditional butcher’s with a halal one. The leftists want the Wilders supporters to be less xenophobic and more accepting of other cultures — just like them. “We are intolerant of people who are intolerant of our tolerance,” as political historian Hubert Smeets put it.

 

This being the Netherlands, a trading nation that prides itself on its ability to find a consensus, this tug of war will eventually result in some kind of compromise. Though Wilders probably won’t govern after the March election since no big party wants to form a coalition with PVV, Niemoeller expects his strong showing to shift the national consensus. “We have these almost mystical changes,” he says. “Our elite changed to a ’60s liberal mentality in one summer. We went from rejection to acceptance of euthanasia in one summer — nobody could see why. So maybe we’ll end up agreeing that Islam is a big problem in the same way.”…

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

 

CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporters: Chag Sameach & Shabbat Shalom!

 

Contents                                                              

 

On Topic Links

 

Purim Drink and Diplomacy: David M. Weinberg, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 3, 2017— Purim combines two of my passions: politics and wine. With the holiday ten days away, I offer a reflection on the dangers of “daylight” in diplomacy, and suggestions how to stock your fridge with great new Israeli wines.

Anti-Semitism and Aliyah: Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 8, 2017—Political correctness still seems to impel us to continue chanting the mantra that we are prohibited from relating to anti-Semitism as a cause for settling in Israel and insisting that the only motivation for aliyah today is to enable a committed Jew to lead a truly Jewish life in his homeland.

The Future of the European Union?: Soeren Kern, Gatestone Institute, Mar. 2, 2017—The European Commission has published a document outlining five scenarios for how the European Union could evolve within the next ten years. The so-called White Paper on the Future of Europe, which will be presented at the Rome Summit on March 25, 2017 to mark the 60th anniversary of the European Union, is intended to be "the starting point for a wider public debate on the future of our continent."

The Prospect for Russia's Jews: Maxim D. Shrayer, Mosaic, Mar. 6, 2017—Why do you stay here?” “I have a son here,” he replied. And then he added: “God gave me as a Jew such a place in life—to live in Russia.” “What about the other Jews, why do they stay here?” “About the others I don’t know, but I imagine they too are needed here by nature and the Creator.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HAPPY FESTIVAL OF PURIM!

 

 

 

Purim 5776: Baruch Cohen, CIJR, Mar. 24, 2016— The Purim holiday gives us the courage and strength to overcome and survive the darkest times.

Purim – the Festival of Masks: Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, Jewish Press, Mar. 22, 2016— Purim is different. While other Jewish holidays can be serious and solemn, Purim has fun, games, and even clowning.

What is Canada Doing About ISIL’s Genocide Against Christians?: Matthew Fisher, National Post, Mar. 17, 2016— The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is hell-bent on exterminating ancient Christian communities across the Middle East.

Call it a Genocide of Christians: Clifford D. May, Washington Times, Mar. 15, 2016— In the Yemeni port city of Aden earlier this month, Islamists attacked a Catholic home for the indigent elderly.

 

On Topic Links

 

Purim Guide for the Perplexed 2016: Yoram Ettinger, Jewish Press, Mar. 22 2016

2,400 Years Later, God Continues to Save and Protect the Jews: Rivkah Lambert Adler, Breaking Israel News, Mar. 24, 2016

Jesus at the Checkpoint: Barry Shaw, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 8, 2016

ISIS Is Guilty of Anti-Christian Genocide: Demetrios of Mokissos, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 11, 2015

 

PURIM 5776

Baruch Cohen

CIJR, Mar. 24, 2016

 

 

                                                                                                                        In Loving Memory of Malka z”l

 

The Purim holiday gives us the courage and strength to overcome and survive the darkest times. The Book of Esther is a story describing not just one period of Jewish history, but all periods of Jewish life. It is the story that remains forever new.

Purim gives us: the hope, the Tikva, that we will see the downfall of all the Amaleks who came to destroy us. The “Grager News” will forever proclaim Hashem’s victories against the enemies of Am Israel!

 

AM YISRAEL CHAI!                                                                                                                      

“The People of Israel Live!”

 

Hag Purim Sameach                                                                                                                  

Happy Festival of Purim!

 

(Baruch Cohen is Research Chairman of CIJR, and a member of the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Center)

 

                                                                        Contents

PURIM – THE FESTIVAL OF MASKS

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

Jewish Press, Mar. 22, 2016

           

Purim is different. While other Jewish holidays can be serious and solemn, Purim has fun, games, and even clowning. For many generations, Purim has been considered the festival of masks. While there may have been outside influences, the masks seem to grow out of the very essence of the festival. The entire Book of Esther can be defined as a story of masks. The Book begins with a wine-drinking banquet. From that point on, the atmosphere of a drinking feast continues to reign in all the events and episodes of the story.

 

Some of the masks in the Book of Esther are explicitly described, while others are supplemented with Midrashic stories. Esther wears a mask from the beginning until practically to the end: she arrives at the king’s palace, and lives there for an extended period, incognito. The king and his ministers see only her mask. None of them knows who she really is. Mordechai, too, is a masked figure, partially revealed and partially hidden. While he openly sits at the gates of the king’s palace, his relationship with Esther – an important part of the plot – is hidden. Even when he saves the king’s life by uncovering an assassination plot to kill him, the king still has no idea who he is.

 

Haman, too, is a two-faced figure. Our Sages explain his relationship with Mordechai by positing that the two had known each other much earlier in their lives, when both were insignificant. They also tell us that Haman was a hairdresser and bath attendant in a small village.

 

At first, this Midrash seems quite odd. However, as we examine our history, we discover that many Jew-haters began as small, unimportant figures. Once they reached positions of power, they could reveal what had always been seething within them: Jew-hatred. Even the overt aspects of Haman’s story – such as his insistence that everyone bow down to him, and his inability to overcome his humiliation when Mordechai did not comply – create an image of a very small human being. Haman could not contain his own greatness, and was therefore insulted by a person who should have meant nothing to him.

 

Our Sages say something similar about Memuchan, one of King Ahasuerus’ most important ministers – the King’s supreme legal advisor. They say that he suffered greatly at his wife’s hands. That was why he was so eager for a royal decree giving him the right to rule over her. (Although it is unlikely that even the King’s decree, written, sealed and sent to all the corners of the kingdom, availed him at all).

 

Of all the protagonists of the Book of Esther, perhaps the only one whose outer appearance matches his inner essence is King Ahasuerus. The Book of Esther tells us that he knew the contents of this scroll. The Book, therefore, could not possibly contain any negative or mordant remarks about him. Even so, the book does express hidden – though highly elegant – scorn toward the king. It is seen in the gap between Ahasuerus’s real nature – a drunkard, profligate individual – and his external image as a stable, authoritative ruler.

 

This is evident from the beginning. In the first chapter, Ahasuerus does something that is quite unbecoming of a king: he demands that his wife be displayed in public (dressed or naked, according to different commentaries.) When she refuses, he asks his most senior jurist for legal counsel on how to handle her.

 

Later on, Ahasuerus is willing to condemn all the Jews – about whom he probably knows very little – to total annihilation, and then he changes his mind about it while, with uncharacteristic generosity, he also cedes the very generous compensation offered him by Haman. And all this happens as a gesture made at yet another wine-drinking banquet. The scene pegs him as a very unstable person who affects the lives of an entire people with little or no thought. Later on, however, he says that he cannot annul his earlier decrees regarding the Jews, by which he wishes to present himself as a law-abiding monarch who cannot budge an inch from the laws he had made.

 

The protagonists of the Book of Esther are not the only ones who wear masks: on a deeper level one can say that the entire Book of Esther is, in essence and content, a masked story. For one thing, while there is not a single supernatural event in the entire book, all the events described in it are inter-related, and their miraculous nature is quite obvious. The supernatural aspects of the story are explicitly revealed, both in Mordechai’s appeal to Esther and in her decision to fast and pray for three days in order to annul the wicked decree. Our Sages add (Hullin 139b) that even Esther’s name (which in Persian is the name of a star) alludes to the Biblical verse (Deuteronomy 31, 18) “and I will surely hide My face” (which in Hebrew reads va’anokhi haster astir panai – reminiscent of the name Esther).

 

And with no mention of God’s Name in this book, it seems that even God Himself is hiding His face behind a mask. This Divine hiding of the Face, this Godly mask, is the very heart of the festival of Purim. In the history of the Jewish nation, which is so full of tribulations, Haman’s decree is the most terrible: to annihilate the entire Jewish people. When that decree was sent to all the corners of the kingdom, every Jew must have surely felt that the Divine Face was one of fury, that this might indeed be the end of the Jewish nation. However, at the end of the story, this hiding of the face was no more than a mask. Once removed, it revealed a smiling countenance.

 

The Purim story, then, is a kind of game; in the beginning one sees a frowning face, but eventually one sees that it is nothing but a mask. The terrifying threat not only vanishes, it turns into joy and salvation. Since Purim is a festival of the hiding of the Face, it ought to be celebrated by wearing costumes and masks. In this way we express the essence of Purim as a festival marked, from beginning to end, by concealing and revelation.

Contents

WHAT IS CANADA DOING ABOUT ISIL’S GENOCIDE AGAINST CHRISTIANS?

Matthew Fisher                                        

National Post, Mar. 17, 2016

 

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is hell-bent on exterminating ancient Christian communities across the Middle East. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry finally confirmed this Thursday when he declared ISIL was guilty of genocide against Christians and other minority groups in Iraq and Syria. This follows a similar declaration by the European Union last month.

 

Raped and resold in same day: Yazidi girls tell of lives (and suicide attempts) as jihadist sex slaves

 

Yazidi girls – some as young as eight – were raped by jihadists and then resold, says a report compiled by Human Rights Watch. The most harrowing account yet of what became of Yazidi females abducted by ISIL comes after the rights group interviewed 20 women and girls who managed to escape after their ethnic minority sect was targeted by ISIL last summer. They described how the hostages became the victims of a mass program of sexual slavery, with girls as young as eight being traded between the jihadists or given as gifts.

 

ISIL’s outrages against Christians in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen had created a political firestorm on Capitol Hill the Obama administration clearly felt compelled to respond to. Regrettably the violent persecution of Christians across the Islamic world never seems to cause a sustained stir in Canada. The lack of interest in actively defending Christians and other minorities in Iraq from harm was underscored by the Trudeau’s government decision last month to withdraw Canadian warplanes from combat operations against ISIL. It presumably explains why Global Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion has been non-committal about whether to close the Office for Religious Freedom or appoint another ambassador to oversee it when its mandate and funding run out in two weeks.

 

The office, established by the Harper government in 2013, has funded programs to encourage religious tolerance in Indonesia, Pakistan and Iraq. Sadly, it has not succeeded in making Canadians much more aware of this growing problem, which, it should be stressed, does not only afflict Christian minorities but many other religious groups. First among them are Iraq’s horribly abused Yazidis, whose fate was mentioned Thursday by Kerry. Yazidi men and boys have been slaughtered. Yazidi women have been forced to become sex slaves and are being bought, sold and traded by jihadists.

 

Those being persecuted elsewhere include Muslims who have been attacked by Buddhists in Myanmar, Hazara Shias in Afghanistan, Sunnis in Iran and Shias in the Persian Gulf states, Sunnis and Shias in Iraq and Syria, and the few Sephardic Jews who are still brave enough to live where their ancestors have for many centuries across the Middle East.

 

Christians are at greatest peril in Iraq and Syria, but they are also at grave risk from Sunni extremists from Tripoli, Cairo and Aden to Baghdad. Egypt’s Copts, long the most numerous Christian group in the Middle East, and the still vibrant multi-denominational Lebanese Christians, may survive. But other Christian enclaves in and near the Holy Land are being bludgeoned to death or slowly fading away.

 

Further afield, Pakistan’s two million Christians are back on their heels. Their churches, homes and schools have often been burned down and they find it increasingly difficult to find work. Christians in sub-Saharan Africa, Indonesia and Sudan face similar difficulties. In one of the most heinous acts, ISIL overran a compound last month in Yemen where sisters from Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity cared for the elderly. Four nuns and 12 others were bound and shot in the head, then a priest was kidnapped. As many as 28 Ethiopian Christians were shot or beheaded by ISIL last year in Libya

 

The Roman Catholic Knights of Columbus and another group which calls itself In Defense of Christians, demanded in a recently published report the U.S. declare what is happening to Christians in Iraq and Syria was genocide. Of the two million Christians who lived there at the turn of the century, only 300,000 remain.

 

My first brush with violence against Christians occurred in 2003, when I attended mass at a Chaldean Catholic church in Baghdad. U.S. troops had erected barriers to stop suicide bombers in vehicles and built a heavily fortified bunker across the street. Mothers inside the church were not shy about approaching foreign Christian males to ask if they might wish to marry their daughters, and spirit them and their kin out of the madness that was closing in on them.

 

A few years back, I visited the hauntingly beautiful churches and monasteries carved into a hillside of Maaloula, not far north of Damascus. One of the last pockets in the Middle East where Aramaic, the language of Jesus, was still spoken, the town is now back under Syrian government control after having been plundered, its architectural treasures and Christian relics blasted apart by al-Nusra Front, another Sunni extremist group.

 

Several times in 2014 and again last year, I met panicked Christians from Mosul and the historically Christian plain that surrounds the city, who had taken refuge on church grounds in the Iraqi Kurdish capital, Erbil. One young fellow with a cross tattooed on his hand told me the best he could have hoped for if ISIL had spotted the cross was to have his hand lopped off. It is far more likely he would have lost his head. Such ghastly abominations are a reality of Christian life in the Middle East. It is perverse that other than occasional bland platitudes few Canadians appear to be moved by such horrors.

 

Contents

                                     CALL IT A GENOCIDE OF CHRISTIANS

                                                        Clifford D. May

          Washington Times, Mar. 15, 2016

 

In the Yemeni port city of Aden earlier this month, Islamists attacked a Catholic home for the indigent elderly. The militants, believed to be soldiers of the Islamic State, shot the security guard, then entered the facility where they gunned down the old people and their caregivers, including four nuns. At least 16 people were murdered.

 

Such atrocities are no longer seen as major news events. Most diplomats regard them — or dismiss them — as “violent extremism,” a phrase that describes without explaining. On America’s campuses, “activists” are deeply concerned about “trigger warnings” and “microaggressions.” Massacres of Christians in Muslim lands, by contrast, seem to trouble them not at all.

 

But honesty matters — or should. And accuracy is a prerequisite to sound policymaking. Christianity was born in the Middle East. Christians have survived — not without difficulty — under Muslim empires, caliphates and dictators for more than a thousand years in the Middle East. Now they are being wiped out by self-proclaimed jihadis in the Middle East. That’s genocide.

 

Members of Congress have been calling on President Obama to use that term no later than March 17 — a deadline that administration spokesmen now say may not be met because a legal review has yet to be completed. The legal definition of genocide: “Acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.”

 

Adding a bit of pressure, the House on Monday passed, by a vote of 393-0, a resolution condemning the Islamic State’s “genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity” targeting Christians, Yazidis, Kurds and other religious and ethnic minorities. “ISIS is guilty of genocide and it is time we speak the truth about their atrocities,” said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce. “I hope the administration and the world will do the same, before it’s too late.” A second House resolution passed on Monday calls for an international tribunal to hold the Bashar Assad regime in Syria, client of both Iran and Russia, accountable for its numerous and egregious war crimes.

 

It should not go unremarked that the “cleansing” of ancient Christian communities from the Muslim world follows by an historical blink of the eye the expulsion of even more ancient Jewish communities from the same lands. In the years after World War II and the Holocaust, Jews throughout the Middle East were subject to intensified persecution.

 

Some will argue this was a reaction to Israel’s declaration of independence. But wouldn’t the best argument against the rebirth of a Jewish state have been to demonstrate that there was no need — that Muslim-majority countries would never countenance genocide as had so many Europeans, that tolerance would be extended to Jews and other minorities?

 

Close to a million Jews soon fled Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and other corners of the region. Before long, these Jewish refugees and their descendants constituted more than half the population of Israel — the only nation in the Middle East that today guarantees minority rights, the only nation in the Middle East that today has a growing Christian population.

 

Despite that (or perhaps in part because of it), Israel’s neighbors still hope to destroy it. Last week, Iran test-fired two ballistic missiles. Along the length of one was written in both Hebrew and Persian: “Israel must be erased from the face of the Earth.” You have to give the jihadis this: They are candid about what they believe and what they intend. Osama bin Laden frequently spoke and wrote of the obligation to fight “Jewish and Christian Crusaders.”

 

Justifying the jihad as defensive is a clever — though hardly original — tactic. In 1996, in the first al Qaeda fatwa declaring war on the United States, bin Laden wrote of the “fierce Judeo-Christian campaign against the Muslim world,” urging Muslims to “repel the aggressive enemy that corrupts the religion and the world. Nothing deserves a higher priority, after faith, as the religious scholars have declared.”

 

No, America, Israel and Europe are not at war with Islam. But, yes, there are those within the Islamic world determined to kill Christians, Jews, Yazidis, Hindus, Buddhists and others — “the greater Kufr,” as bin Laden called them, a term of derision for those who do not embrace Islam as the one and only true religion.

 

Soldiers may fight with more zeal if they hate their enemies or at least see them as less than human. But Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who led Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution and inspires Iran’s current rulers, was not alone in regarding the slaughter of non-Muslims as an act of kindness…

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

 

On Topic

 

Purim Guide for the Perplexed 2016: Yoram Ettinger, Jewish Press, Mar. 22 2016—The 586 BCE destruction of the First Temple (on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount), by the Babylonian Emperor, Nebuchadnezzar, triggered a wave of Jewish emigration to Babylon and to Persia, which replaced Babylon as the leading regional power.

2,400 Years Later, God Continues to Save and Protect the Jews: Rivkah Lambert Adler, Breaking Israel News, Mar. 24, 2016 —As told in the Biblical Book of Esther, the lives of Jewish people in 127 provinces, from India to Ethiopia, were miraculously saved from the hands of Haman who vowed to exterminate the Jewish nation. Each year at this time, Jews around the world celebrate Purim to remember the miracle that allowed the Jews to defend themselves against their enemies.

Jesus at the Checkpoint: Barry Shaw, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 8, 2016—It’s that crazy Christian time of year in Bethlehem when traditional beliefs are thrown out of the church window. March 7-10 will see the fourth rendering of that anti-Israel libel “Christ at the Checkpoint” played out yet again.

ISIS Is Guilty of Anti-Christian Genocide: Demetrios of Mokissos, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 11, 2015—Christians throughout the world will mark Monday, Feb. 15, as a day to remember the courage and religious fortitude of 21 Coptic Christians who were executed one year ago by Islamic State terrorists in Libya.

 

 

 

 

                        

 

 

 

                  

 

 

 

THE WEEK THAT WAS: BIBI WARNS CONGRESS: “EVEN IF ISRAEL HAS TO STAND ALONE, ISRAEL WILL STAND”; & OUR ANNUAL PURIM-SHPIELS

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 

 

Contents:

 

Bibi’s Not Churchill, Nor Obama Chamberlain—But Congressional Speech Does Draw Blood, Upsetting U.S.-Iran Nuclear Applecart: Frederick Krantz, CIJR, Mar. 5, 2015 — Munich 1938 analogies being made to describe Israeli P.M. Netanyahu’s speech to Congress are inexact. 

The Story Behind Marble Moses in Netanyahu’s Speech: Anav Silverman, Jewish Press, Mar. 4, 2015 — While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referenced several cultural, political, and historical figures throughout his highly-anticipated speech to Congress on Tuesday March 3 – including Harry S. Truman, Queen Esther, Robert Frost, and Elie Wiesel – he concluded his historical address with the biblical figure of the prophet Moses.

Purim-Shpiels:  CIJR, Mar. 6, 2015

 

On Topic Links

 

Israel Issues on L’Chayim (Video): Isi Leibler, Candidly Speaking, Mar. 2, 2014

Happy, Happy, Happy: Drybones, Mar. 6, 2014

How J Street Misled Obama Into Netanyahu Speech Debacle: Moshe Phillips and Benyamin Korn, Algemeiner, Mar. 5, 2014

Why Obama's Criticism of Netanyahu's Iran Speech Is Flawed: Ryan Mauro, Clarion Project, Mar. 5, 2014

                                                                       

                                                                     

 

BIBI’S NOT CHURCHILL, NOR OBAMA CHAMBERLAIN—

BUT CONGRESSIONAL SPEECH DOES DRAW BLOOD,

UPSETTING U.S.-IRAN NUCLEAR APPLECART

Frederick Krantz

CIJR, Mar. 5, 2015

 

Munich 1938 analogies being made to describe Israeli P.M. Netanyahu’s speech to Congress are inexact.  Israel is indeed a small country excluded from talks affecting its fate, but while there are certain analogies, Netanyahu isn’t Churchill, Obama isn’t Chamberlain, nor is Israel a helpless victim facing “German”, i.e. Iranian, aggression.  Indeed, Netanyahu’s powerful critique, made before an overwhelmingly approving joint American legislature and carried on most radio and T.V. networks across America and the world, has clearly drawn political blood.

 

Most commentators—even those critical of Mr. Netanyahu’s supposed use of the venue for  political reasons (the Israeli election is only two weeks away)–agreed with Isaac Herzog (Labor), his domestic electoral opponent, that “the speech we heard today was impressive”. 

 

They also generally agreed that its substantive critique of the deal moved the Iran negotiation issue off a largely unexamined dead center, reinforcing the bi-partisan Congressional demand that any deal be subject to its approval and, if necessary, strengthening.  Such opposition has been  reinforced and given renewed life.

 

Netanyahu was careful to emphasize that he sought not to destroy the deal, but to help achieve the best deal possible, for Israel and the U.S. He underlined that this means not only the substantial dismantling of Iran’s capacity to produce sufficient fissionable material and the means to deliver it (its so-far unrestricted intercontinental ballistic missile development), but also an end to Teheran’s broad  backing of M.E. and international terrorist regimes. 

 

Iran’s unrelenting pro-terrorist activities were noted: in the Middle East, in Gaza (Hamas), Lebanon (Hezbollah), Syria (Assad and, paradoxically, IS), Iraq (Shi’ite militias), Yemen (the now-dominant Houthi rebels), and also internationally, in Argentina (1992, 29 dead in the Israeli Embassy and (1994, 87 dead)  AMIA Jewish Community Center bombings, the attempted assassination of the Saudi ambassador in Washington, DC (and, Netanyahu might have added, its support for the Chavez dictatorship in Venezuela).

 

Indeed, the careful delineation of the extremist Iranian Islamist dictatorship’s record as the primary supporter of world-wide terrorism (generally ignored by an Administration increasingly viewed as seeking a Shiite alliance against Sunni extremists) was one of the speech’s strongest dimensions. It threw light on the key question of why Obama makes concessions to such a thuggish entity–having initially pledged to eliminate its bomb-making capacity entirely, but now allowing retention of both processing plants and thousands of centrifuges, with an agreement end-term of only ten years (with even this now rejected by the regime ). 

 

This, and his reminding his distinguished audience of the long record of Iranian nuclear subterfuge and broken agreements, right up to this week’s IAEA statement about continued, and hidden, Iranian nuclear weapons research, served to raise key issues: why give up sanctions, which brought Iran to the table; why not press for tougher terms, especially given the current collapse of oil prices; and why uncritically assume the reliability of any agreement entered into with Teheran?

 

The impact of the speech on Congress, and on the American people, will undoubtedly make selling it in what looks to be its current naïve and trusting form harder, if not impossible, for the Obama Administration. In this respect, Netanyahu, for whom the deal raises immediate existential questions for Israel, clearly succeeded in his primary mission.

 

The key question now is, What can Israel do if Obama, who gives every indication of pressing on with the current deal, signs it, and manages to either evade, or somehow to maneuver, Congressional approval?

 

Here there are only two possible answers: either Israel accepts the fact that, sooner or later (probably sooner) Iran is a nuclear power, threshold or actual, and forges some kind of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) strategy neutralizing its arsenal; or Israel decides that it has to remove, or substantially reduce, Iran’s nuclear capacity militarily.

 

The first instance is not promising. The extremist Islamic Iranian regime is not the nuclear-armed Soviet Union which the U.S. faced in the Cold War: it is a millenarial theocratic structure seeking regional hegemony, and for which a coming titanic Messianic confrontation with the infidels is an article of faith. Far from rationally backing away from such a nuclear Armageddon, as the Soviets did, Teheran may well welcome it.

 

The second instance, Israel alone acting militarily against Iran to destroy or severely delimit its nuclear potential, is also fraught with dangers. Aside from issue of Israel’s military capacity to achieve such a result, there is also the problem of Iran’s retaliatory ability, which involves not only its own military assets, but those of its regional clients (e.g., Hezbollah’s proven arsenal of over 100,000 rockets and missiles, Syria’s remaining chemical weapons capacity (and its own missile arsenal), and even—if a general Middle East war were sparked—unstable Islamist Pakistan’s nuclear potential.

 

On the other hand, a region (and a world) in which a genocidal Iranian regime–pledged to destroy the “Zionist entity” and, unresponsive to MAD considerations, actually possessed multiple nuclear war-heads and a missile delivery system–is simply an unbearable existential reality for the tiny Jewish Israel.

 

Publically raising and underlining such issues, consciously obscured by the Obama Administration’s P.R. for an Iran nuclear agreement which has clearly become a major ”legacy” goal, is the clear achievement of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech.

 

So no, it is not exactly 1938—but not because the “Great Powers” (the 5+1 of the US., Britain, France, Russia, and China, plus Germany, the last five of which look forward to resuming their lucrative pre-sanctions contracts with Teheran) are  incapable of selling out a tiny state. And it is not 1938 because Netanyahu in fact literally thinks he is Churchill (though he was, before his speech, presented by Congress with a bust of the great British Prime Minister [a similar one was removed from the Oval Office by Obama as his first Presidential act in 2009]).

 

No, it is not 1938 because modern Israel—though like Czechoslovakia excluded from the conference affecting its fate—is not the weak and defenceless state dismembered and finally given over to Nazi destruction by Western  appeasement. (NB: March 15th is the anniversary of the final post-Munich German invasion and conquest of Czechoslovakia.)

 

Where the Munich analogy most clearly breaks down is clear from  the concluding words of the Israeli leader’s  address to Congress.

 

Having initially noted the emblematic importance of the coming Purim holiday, with its celebration of Israel’s triumph over an earlier Persian regime’s attempt to destroy the Jewish People, and directly addressing Holocaust witness Elie Wiesel, symbolically as well as physically present in the audience, Netanyahu guaranteed that “the days when the Jewish people remained passive in the face of genocidal enemies…are over…Even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand”.

 

Netanyahu concluded his address to tumultuous applause by stressing Israel’s and America’s shared heritage and values.  He pointed to the largely unknown sculptural relief of Moses, savior of the Jewish people,  placed above the Congressional chamber,  quoting—in Hebrew and in English–the great Jewish leader’s Biblical call to his People, and to Congress: “Be strong and resolute, neither fear not dread” our enemies.

 

Should the Iranian nuclear treaty in its present form be signed, and should Obama, as promised, veto any Congressional role insofar as its final approval (and, potentially, enhanced treaty safeguards) is concerned, it would then remain for Israel, alone, to deal with the existential threat . How, and whether, it would so, remain key questions—concerning the latter issue, the Israeli leader’s speech seems clear enough.

 

(Prof. Frederick Krantz is President and Director of the Canadian

Institute for Jewish Research  in Montreal and Toronto)

 

                                                                       

Contents                                                                                      

             

THE STORY BEHIND MARBLE MOSES IN NETANYAHU’S SPEECH   

Anav Silverman                                                                                                                  

Jewish Press, Mar. 4, 2015

 

 

While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referenced several cultural, political, and historical figures throughout his highly-anticipated speech to Congress on Tuesday March 3 – including Harry S. Truman, Queen Esther, Robert Frost, and Elie Wiesel – he concluded his historical address with the biblical figure of the prophet Moses.

 

The Israeli prime minister did not just mention Moses in passing, he also pointed to the image of Moses in the form of white Vermont marble relief, hanging over the gallery doors overlooking the lawmakers in the House of Representatives Chamber. Netanyahu spoke of the biblical leader, saying “Moses led our people from slavery to the gates of the Promised Land. And before the people of Israel entered the land of Israel, Moses gave us a message that has steeled our resolve for thousands of years.”

 

It was probably the first time that the marble relief portrait of Moses hanging in the House Chamber ever received such public acknowledgement.

 

The portrait, designed by artist Jean de Marco, is one 23 marble reliefs that depict historical figures noted for their work in establishing the principals that underlie American law, according to the Architect of the Capitol, a U.S. government website. The site is devoted to providing historic and current information about the function and architecture of the U.S. Capitol Building where Netanyahu gave his speech before a joint-session of Congress.

 

On either side of the portrait of Moses, there are 11 profiles in the eastern half of the chamber that face left and eleven in the western half, which face right, so that all look toward the full-face relief of Moses in the center. He is described on the site as a Hebrew prophet and lawgiver, who transformed a wandering people into a nation and received the Ten Commandments.

 

The other profiles include writer of the Declaration of Independence and the third president of the U.S., Thomas Jefferson; King of Babylonia, Hammurabi; Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Suleiman; Athenian statesman, Solon; Napoleon I, and Maimonides, among other significant leaders from different periods of history.

 

The image of Moses and other leaders of civilizations and societies have been hanging in the chamber for 65 years. Scholars from the University of Pennsylvania and the Columbia Historical Society of Washington D.C. chose the subjects with the help of authoritative members of the Library of Congress over six decades ago. A special committee of five Members of the House of Representatives and the Architect of the Capitol approved the selection, and the reliefs were installed when the House Chamber was remodeled from 1949-1950.

 

Prime Minister Netanyahu at the end of his speech quoted Moses from the Book of Deuteronomy, stating in Hebrew, “Be strong and resolute, neither fear nor dread them,” which were the leader’s parting words to the Israelites before they entered the land of Israel. For Netanyahu, they were words that highlighted the strength of friendship shared by the United States and Israel, two countries with a deep respect for the timeless road of history and the challenges along the way.

 

                                                                       

                                                                       

Contents                                                                                                

                

PURIM-SHPIELS, PURIM-SHPIELS, PURIM-SHPIELS, PURIM-SHPIELS

CIJR, Mar. 6, 2015

 

WEEKLY QUOTES

 

“Look, it’s no secret that the United States is no longer a key player in the Middle East. We hope that this move will not only bolster our regional presence, but also will further improve our ties with one of the world’s most  rapidly developing economies,” — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. The White House announced Monday its plans to re-open an embassy in the Iranian capital Tehran, 36 years after it was closed in the wake of the Islamic Revolution and Ayatollah Khomeini’s rise to power. The U.S. has not had diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic since the Iran hostage crisis of 1979, when supporters of the Ayatollah took over the U.S. embassy and held 52 American diplomats and citizens hostage for over one year. Now, with Iranian relations and the West improving rapidly, and Obama regularly meeting his Iranian counterpart, the “moderate mullah” Hassan Rouhani, Washington believes an embassy in Tehran will further accelerate the ongoing nuclear negotiations between Iran and world powers. Iran “should achieve its desired goal of acquiring a nuclear weapon as soon as possible, and our re-opening the Embassy will only help bring that goal,” Kerry said. (Washington Appeaser, Mar. 4, 2015)  

 

      

                             

SHORT TAKES

 

PURIM-SHPIELS, PURIM-SHPIELS, PURIM-SHPIELS, PURIM-SHPIELS

 

ISLAMIC STATE TO HOST 2026 WORLD CUP (Zurich) — FIFA, the governing body of soccer’s World Cup, announced today from its Zurich headquarters that Islamic State, the world’s newest, and most media-savvy, terrorist state will host the 2026 World Cup. FIFA’s President Sepp Blatter told reporters that I.S. won the bid over other “worthy nations” that had applied to host the event, such as North Korea, Iran and Libya because they “would have no problem finding slaves to build the enormous infrastructure required to host such an event.” FIFA has already been criticized for awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, a nation that has a dubious record of sponsoring terrorists such as Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, and whose temperatures during the summer months usually exceed 40C. When asked why a murderous, Islamist entity such as I.S. should receive the honor of hosting soccer’s most prestigious tournament, Blatter said that “we really had no choice but to give it to them because, if we didn’t, we would have been labeled Islamophobic.” (New York Roast, Mar. 1, 2015)

 

PURIM-SHPIELS, PURIM-SHPIELS, PURIM-SHPIELS, PURIM-SHPIELS

 

EGYPTIAN CLERICS ANNOUNCE MAJOR “REVOLUTION” IN ISLAM: BEER (Cairo) — Islamic religious authorities announced this week a major revolution in Islamic law, the first change to Islamic doctrines in hundreds of years. According to an Al-Azhar spokesman, the drinking of beer will be permitted by male jihadis returning from conquest in lands controlled by the “infidel.” Al-Azhar is a major authority of Sunni Islam and center of Islamic learning, located in Cairo and founded in the tenth century. It is thought that the permission of beer drinking by jihadis is in response to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a vocal supporter for a renewed vision of Islam, who recently called for “a religious revolution” in Islamic thinking. Al-Sisi has been a vocal critic of the Islamist violence that has bedeviled the Muslim world since 9-11. An Al-Azhar spokesman told reporters that “Sisi asked for change, he will have change. All our glorious fighters can now get drunk and enjoy themselves, Inshallah, like those American soldiers we see in Hollywood movies such as Apocalypse Now.” An Islamic State fighter, speaking to the BBC from the first-ever Oktoberfest held in the fledgling I.S. capital Raqqa: “My friend, nothing beats having a cold one after a long day of rampaging, enslaving villagers, and decapitating Christians…Alahu Akbar! Alahu Akbar!” (Daily Snail-Mail, Feb. 27, 2015)    

 

PURIM-SHPIELS, PURIM-SHPIELS, PURIM-SHPIELS, PURIM-SHPIELS      

 

IDF “BAMBOOZLED,” PURCHASES AGING, USED SUBMARINES FROM CANADA (Haifa) — The IDF has rarely made mistakes in its illustrious history. On Monday, however, the Defense Ministry announced it had made a “grave error” when it agreed to buy four aging and un-seaworthy Victoria-class submarines from the Canadian Navy. The cost of the submarines was one billion Canadian dollars. The submarines, already used when purchased by the Canadians from Britain’s Royal Navy, have been plagued with mechanical problems since delivery, and will likely never see combat. “We made a mistake, that’s all I can say,” a visibly distraught Gadi Eizenkot, the new Chief of Staff of the IDF, said at a press conference in Tel Aviv. “Those shifty Canucks bamboozled us!” he added. Ever since crippling Western sanctions against Israel took effect last December, the IDF has been unable to acquire any new military equipment from the U.S., or any of its other sources. The much-anticipated, nuclear-capable, Dolphin-class subs, built by Germany and slated for delivery this year, were canceled. Canada is the only country still refusing to impose sanctions on the Jewish State, and is currently Israel’s only source of military hardware. Prime Minister Netanyahu, who normally speaks highly of Israeli-Canadian relations, said “the proud IDF, heirs to a great fighting force starting with the Jewish Legion, through the War of Independence and the Six-Day War, to the recent conflict against Hamas, is now buying used lemons from the Canadian Military, oy vey!” (HaHa’retz, Mar. 2, 2015)    

                                   

                                                           

CIJR Wishes All Our Friends and Supporters: Shabbat Shallom!

 

 

Contents

                                                                                      

 

On Topic

 

 

Israel Issues on L’Chayim (Video): Isi Leibler, Candidly Speaking, Mar. 2, 2014

Happy, Happy, Happy: Drybones, Mar. 6, 2014

How J Street Misled Obama Into Netanyahu Speech Debacle: Moshe Phillips and Benyamin Korn, Algemeiner, Mar. 5, 2014—Who misled President Obama into his losing showdown over Prime Minister Netanyahu’s blockbuster speech to Congress?

Why Obama's Criticism of Netanyahu's Iran Speech Is Flawed: Ryan Mauro, Clarion Project, Mar. 5, 2014—Politico has published an article listing the "5 things President Obama's team thinks [Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu got wrong." These five arguments are merely obfuscating talking points for those wish to bury their heads in the sand about the Iranian nuclear threat.

 

 

                                                                    

               

 

 

 

                      

                

                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Contents:         

Visit CIJR’s Bi-Weekly Webzine: Israzine.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing is available by e-mail.
Please urge colleagues, friends, and family to visit our website for more information on our ISRANET series.
To join our distribution list, or to unsubscribe, visit us at http://www.isranet.org/.

The ISRANET Daily Briefing is a service of CIJR. We hope that you find it useful and that you will support it and our pro-Israel educational work by forwarding a minimum $90.00 tax-deductible contribution [please send a cheque or VISA/MasterCard information to CIJR (see cover page for address)]. All donations include a membership-subscription to our respected quarterly ISRAFAX print magazine, which will be mailed to your home.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing attempts to convey a wide variety of opinions on Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world for its readers’ educational and research purposes. Reprinted articles and documents express the opinions of their authors, and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.

 

 

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

Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284 ; ber@isranet.org

PURIM 5775: THE JEWISH PEOPLE WILL DEFEAT THE CURRENT AMALEKS: HAMAS, I.S., AND IRAN’S AYATOLLAHS

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 

 

Contents:

 

Purim 5775 – Today’s Amalekim: Baruch Cohen, CIJR, Mar. 5, 2015 — Today’s enemy of Israel, Amalek, is Hamas.

Purim Lessons: Jerusalem Post, Mar. 5, 2015 — One of the striking aspects of the Book of Esther, which we read on Purim, was the way the Jewish people were saved.

Purim or Munich?: Jeremy Rosen, Algemeiner, Mar. 1, 2015 — Purim is this coming week.

The Therapeutic Joy of Purim: Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Rabbisacks, Mar. 1, 2014— There is a unique law in the approach to Purim.

 

On Topic Links

 

IDF's Purim 2015 Clip (Video): Arutz Sheva, Mar. 5, 2014

Heroics Aside, the Story of Purim Is the Bible’s Greatest Farce: Tablet, Mar. 4, 2014

The Lessons of Purim and Iran: Julie Shain, Algemeiner, Mar. 4, 2014

Five Reasons Spock Was the Quintessential Jew: Moshe Rosenberg, Tablet, Mar. 3, 2014

                                                                       

                                                                     

                                    

PURIM 5775 – TODAY’S AMALEKIM

Baruch Cohen

CIJR, Mar. 5, 2015

 

                                                                                                                       

In loving memory of Malca Z’’L

 

                                                                                                           

“Remember what Amalek did to you…”

                                                                                                                                   

—Deuteronomy XXV: 17

 

Today’s enemy of Israel, Amalek, is Hamas. Like the Biblical Amalek, it aims to disrupt Israel’s march through history toward its unique destiny – the state for all Jews. Don’t be afraid! Lacking any sense of morality, today’s Amalekim pursue any action they deem necessary for their goal, without any regard for justice or civility. Today’s Amaleks seek, similarly, to annihilate the Jewish State – and thus to keep other nations away from Israel’s guiding moral light.

 

Throughout the centuries the Jewish people have had to face many such enemies. The treacherous firing of missiles by Hamas’ thugs at Israel’s civilian population is a typical Amalek act. Such unprovoked vicious enmity towards Israel is typical of the Amalek character. Hamas –like all the other terrorist enemies of Israel, Sunni and Shiite–perpetrates the legacy of their evil antecedents. And they will be remembered in history as such, for their destiny will be the same as that of all of Israel’s past and present enemies!

The Purim story and holiday will not die as long as prejudice and antisemitism exist in the world. The much-loved prophetess Deborah concluded her thanksgiving victory song as follows: “And the land was quiet for forty years.” After defeating the current Amaleks, from Hamas to IS to Iran’s ayatollahs, may there be peace for 400 years and more, for Israel and the entire world.: “Remember what Amalek did to you”. 

 

To all of CIJR’s friends, followers and to the entire House of Israel: Hag Purim Sameach! Enjoy the Purim holiday!                 

                                                                       

Contents                                                                                      

             

PURIM LESSONS                                                                                                                     

Jerusalem Post, Mar. 5, 2015

 

One of the striking aspects of the Book of Esther, which we read on Purim, was the way the Jewish people were saved. Haman, a powerful Persian viceroy, plotted to destroy the Jewish people some 2,500 years ago. A courageous Jewish woman, Queen Esther, who was married to the Persian emperor, Ahasuerus, exposed the plot and gained the confidence of the emperor. But Ahasuerus did not put his military at the disposal of the Jews. He did not order his soldiers to intervene on their behalf. What he did do was give the Jews the right to defend themselves against their enemies.

 

Until that point the Jewish people had, apparently, been living in the sort of passivity that often characterized Diaspora communities throughout the ages. They could not imagine taking up arms to defend themselves against their enemies. Once the Jews were given the legitimization to stand up for themselves, however, they rose to the occasion.

 

One cannot help but note many of the similarities that exist between the ancient story told in the Book of Esther and contemporary affairs. It was only natural that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would mention some of the similarities in his historic speech before the US Congress on Tuesday, just one day before Purim began. As was the case 2,500 years ago, noted Netanyahu, “the Jewish people face another attempt by yet another Persian potentate to destroy us.” He was referring to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei who spews rabid hatred of Jews and calls for the destruction of Israel.

 

Of course there are also many differences. President Barack Obama is no Ahasuerus. The US president is a strong and loyal ally of the Jewish people. Obama’s foreign policy approach regarding Iran’s nuclear program differs strikingly from the sort of policy most Israelis would like to see the US pursue. But this is a function of Obama’s understanding of America’s principal interests, which include more nation-building at home and less involvement in military conflicts around the world.

 

As part of its “light footprint” policy, the Obama administration is working toward pulling out US troops from Afghanistan and has no intention of committing US troops on the ground to the fight against Islamic State; it adopted a “lead from behind” strategy in Libya; it has been wary of arming Ukrainians to defend themselves against the Putin regime’s revanchist aggression; it has refrained from signing trade deals and weapons sales with Taiwan, apparently out of fear of clashing with China. And with Iran, the Obama administration has chosen engagement over confrontation.

 

Another thing has changed since the days of Mordechai and Esther. The Jewish people is no longer dependent on the goodwill of others when it comes to its defense. The Book of Esther takes place at a time when the Jews were just beginning to restore their sovereignty in their homeland after the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE. Mordechai and Esther lived in exile in Persia as the return to Zion began.

 

Today the Jews have restored their sovereignty. They have created one of the most dynamic and innovative societies in the world. Out of necessity, they have built one of the most powerful militaries in the world. They have the ability to defend themselves against their enemies. No country has a bigger stake in seeing a peaceful resolution to the conflict with Iran over its nuclear arms program. Through Iran’s proxies in Lebanon and Gaza, Israel can be targeted. Destabilization in the region would have direct implications for Israel.

 

But Iran’s expansionist aggression makes a peaceful resolution difficult, if not impossible, to attain. Perhaps after another round of sanctions with the added impact of falling oil prices, the Iranians can be convinced to abandon their designs for nuclear weapons. Perhaps not. Either way, the days are over when the Jewish people remained passive in the face of genocidal enemies.

 

                                                                       

Contents                                                                                                

                                                                            

PURIM OR MUNICH?

Jeremy Rosen                                                                                                      

Algemeiner, Mar. 1, 2015

 

Purim is this coming week. It’s a story that can be read as being about an ineffectual, drunken leader – a disaster just waiting to happen. Here is a king manipulated by his advisors into making disastrous decisions. Weakness always allows either dangerous, proactive demagogues to emerge or self-interested vipers to step into the vacuum. This is a lesson the USA is having to learn all over again.

 

“Munich” has many associations. The Munich Beer Hall Putsch in 1923 was when Hitler failed in his first attempt to gain power. The PLO massacred Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972. But in between was the infamous 1938 conference at which Britain sacrificed Czechoslovakia in the hope that it would bring peace. Hitler saw this as weakness and went on to invade Poland and Russia. Britain, instead of avoiding a small war, got dragged into a far wider and nastier one.

 

Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister at the time, will forever be remembered for his smug grin as he waved a piece of paper on his return from Munich declaring “peace for our time.” This was the prime example of appeasement. Appeasement is the Achilles heel of naïve, fainthearted liberals and social democrats. Much of the British aristocracy (as the American plutocracy) did not want to go to war. They thought Hitler was a good “chappie.” Even King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson were enamored. The students of Oxford University voted not to fight for King and Country. Cambridge University provided a whole network of lethal Soviet spies because they believed Russia’s Marxist claptrap would make the world a better place.

 

America saved Europe. Instead of gratitude, it was resented and excoriated as an aggressive bully. At least its nuclear threat gave Europe the longest stretch of peace it had in centuries. But now the USA is going through precisely the same appeasement mindset that Britain did 80 years ago.

 

I was brought up and educated in that post-war liberal mindset, in the warm, fuzzy belief that humans were basically reasonable and utilitarian. Socialism would help resolve all social difficulties. Normal men and women would always choose the moderate course over the extreme. Negotiations would always produce results, whereas violence and aggression never could. Universal values would always trump vested nationalist interests, and if we made love enough we could always avoid war. Mine was the generation of Sartre, Joan Baez, John Lennon and all the other talented ingénues. My default position was left wing.

 

But reality – the need to make a living, the realization that people did not behave rationally and would not necessarily love you if you tried to be nice – soon set in. The world was a more complicated, nuanced place than the hippies believed. Nasty President Johnson achieved a lot more by being tough than others did by being nice.

 

History might never exactly repeat itself, but certain cycles do indeed keep on recurring. After eras of American imperialism, fighting dirty wars all round the world in its struggle against communism, the USA has had a very mixed record of both positive intervention and incompetence. Bush senior intervened to save Kuwait. Clinton intervened to stop Serbia (but not Rwanda). Meanwhile both Iraq and Afghanistan, after initial military victories, have remained failed, corrupt terror-ridden states, for all the billions wasted on them.

 

The record of current liberal America is pathetic. The administration seems to think, in abstract liberal fashion, that if you talk sweetly, are conciliatory, and spend money, this will win friends, and people will start loving you. The Obama administration has now given us a sequence of disastrous policies (or lack of them) from Libya to Syria, from ISIL to Pakistan, from Cairo to Riyadh via Teheran. And it’s not just with failed Muslim states.

 

Russia grabs Crimea. No, says the USA you can’t. Russia arms rebels in Western Ukraine; they down a passenger jet using Russian missiles; they break every truce and are pushing on because we know they want a land passage into Crimea from Russia proper. NATO and America’s reaction? No weapons to help Ukraine protect itself. Only hot air and ineffectual sanctions that the Russians have already found ways around.

 

And why is Putin feeling so confident? Because Obama couldn’t stand up to him in Syria. Would not arm moderate rebels while there were a few still left. Still won’t arm the Kurds for fear of offending Turkey (who think nothing of insulting him) or being accused of colluding in the breakup of the artificial cobbled state called Iraq. All of which allowed ISIL to thrive and take Mosul. Now that he realizes they are not Little Leaguers, he thinks he can defeat then without boots on the ground, relying on an already discredited Iraqi army or Sunni tribes who are closer to ISIL than they are to the Iraqi Shia.

 

I would not intervene whatsoever in the Middle East. Let them sort their own differences out. It’s as much a fundamentalist, messianic, religious sectarian battle as a political one. The Imperialist powers made a hash of it. Now let the cards fall where they may. America doesn’t need Saudi oil any longer, and its bigger challenges lie much further to the east.

 

Terror from Islamic fanatics is a threat, but America and the rest of the free world should focus resources on protecting themselves within their own borders, not venturing into alien territory and cultures it does not understand in the vain and arrogant hope of changing them. Let the dysfunctional Middle East destroy itself or else wake up to the fact that blaming Israel is no way to build a just society. Using scapegoats is always a recipe for failure.

 

The Liberal agenda refuses to see things as they are, choosing instead to see things as they would like them to be. They still believe Achashverosh’s descendants in Teheran are negotiating in good faith. It might not be a drunken fog, but it’s a fog nevertheless. We all have our dreams and ideals. But we also need to be realistic and practical. In the end self-defense is always best. Nowadays no ally can trust America to come its aid. Neville Obama may not be drunk with wine, but he is certainly intoxicated with his own dogmas.

Happy Purim.                          

                                                                       

                                                           

Contents                                                                                               

                                                                  

THE THERAPEUTIC JOY OF PURIM                                                                                        

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Rabbisacks, Mar. 1, 2015

 

There is a unique law in the approach to Purim. Mishe-nichnas Adar marbim be-simcha: “From the beginning of Adar, we increase in joy.” It is stated in the Talmud (Taanit 29a), and is based on the passage in the Megillah (Esther 9: 21-22) in which Mordechai sends a letter throughout the land instructing Jews “to observe the fourteenth day of the month of Adar and the fifteenth day, every year – the days on which the Jews obtained rest from their enemies and the month which for them was turned from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday.”

 

This in turn refers back to the text in which Haman decided on the timing of his decree: “In the first month, the month of Nisan, in the twelfth year of Achashverosh, they cast pur (that is, lots) before Haman from day to day, and from month to month until the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar” (Est. 3: 7).

 

The difficulties though are obvious. Why an entire month? The key events were focused on a few days, the thirteenth to the fifteenth, not the whole month. And why simcha? We can understand why the Jews of the time felt exhilaration. The decree sentencing them to death had been rescinded. Their enemies had been punished. Haman had been hanged on the very gallows he had prepared for Mordechai. Mordechai himself had been raised to greatness.

 

But is joy the emotion we should feel in perpetuity, remembering those events? The first warrant for genocide against the Jewish people (the second if one counts Pharaoh’s plan to kill all newborn Jewish males) had been frustrated. Is simcha the appropriate emotion? Surely what we should feel is relief, not joy. Pesach is the proof. The word “joy” is never mentioned in the Torah in connection with it.

 

Besides which, the Talmud asks why we do not say Hallel on Purim. It gives several answers. The most powerful is that in Hallel we say, “Servants of the Lord, give praise,” – meaning that we are no longer the servants of Pharaoh. But, says the Talmud, even after the deliverance of Purim, Jews were still the servants of Achashverosh (Megillah 14a). Tragedy had been averted but there was no real change in the hazards of life in the Diaspora.

 

It seems to me therefore that the simcha we celebrate throughout the month of Adar is different from the normal joy we feel when something good and positive has happened to us or our people. That is expressive joy. The simcha of Adar, by contrast, is therapeutic joy.

 

Imagine what it is to be part of a people that had once heard the command issued against them: “to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews—young and old, women and children—on a single day” (Est. 3: 13). We who live after the Holocaust, who have met survivors, heard their testimony, seen the photographs and documentaries and memorials, know the answer to that question. On Purim the Final Solution was averted. But it had been pronounced. Ever afterward, Jews knew their vulnerability. The very existence of Purim in our historical memory is traumatic.

 

The Jewish response to trauma is counterintuitive and extraordinary. You defeat fear by joy. You conquer terror by collective celebration. You prepare a festive meal, invite guests, give gifts to friends. While the story is being told, you make a rumbustious noise as if not only to blot out the memory of Amalek, but to make a joke out of the whole episode. You wear masks. You drink a little too much. You make a Purim spiel.

 

Precisely because the threat was so serious, you refuse to be serious – and in that refusal you are doing something very serious indeed. You are denying your enemies a victory. You are declaring that you will not be intimidated. As the date of the scheduled destruction approaches, you surround yourself with the single most effective antidote to fear: joy in life itself. As the three-sentence summary of Jewish history puts it: “They tried to destroy us. We survived. Let’s eat.” Humour is the Jewish way of defeating hate. What you can laugh at, you cannot be held captive by.

 

I learned this from a Holocaust survivor. Some years ago, I wrote a book, Celebrating Life, to write my way out of the depression I fell into after the death of my father, zikhro livracha. It was a cheer-you-up book, and it became a favourite of the Holocaust survivors. One of them, however, told me that a particular passage in the book was incorrect. Commenting on Roberto Begnini’s comedy about the Holocaust, Life is Beautiful, I had said that though I agreed with his thesis – a sense of humour keeps you sane – that was not enough in Auschwitz to keep you alive.

 

“On that, you are wrong,” the survivor said, and then told me his story. He had been in Auschwitz, and he soon realised that if he failed to keep his spirits up, he would die. So he made a pact with another young man, that they would both look out, each day, for some occurrence they found amusing. At the end of each day they would tell one another their story and they would laugh together. “That sense of humour saved my life,” he said. I stood corrected. He was right.

 

That is what we do on Purim. The joy, the merrymaking, the food, the drink, the whole carnival atmosphere, are there to allow us to live with the risks of being a Jew – in the past, and tragically in the present also – without being terrified, traumatised or intimidated. It is the most counter-intuitive response to terror, and the most effective. Terrorists aim to terrify. To be a Jew is to refuse to be terrified.

 

Terror, hatred, violence – the dark forces that are currently ravaging country after country in the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia – are always ultimately self-destructive. Those who practise them are always, as was Haman, hoisted on their own petard, destroyed by their very will to destruction. And yes, we as Jews must fight antisemitism, the demonization of Israel, and the intimidation of Jewish students on campus.

 

But we must never let ourselves be intimidated – and the Jewish way to avoid this is marbim be-simcha, to increase our joy. The people that can know the full darkness of history and yet rejoice is a people whose spirit no power on earth can ever break. Purim sameach. Elaine and I wish you a Purim full of joy.

 

Please See Friday’s Isranet Daily Briefing For Our Annual Purim-spiels—Ed.

 

CIJR Wishes All Our Friends and Supporters: Hag Purim Sameach! Enjoy the Purim Holiday!

 

 

Contents

                                                                                     

 

On Topic

 

 

IDF's Purim 2015 Clip (Video): Arutz Sheva, Mar. 5, 2014

Heroics Aside, the Story of Purim Is the Bible’s Greatest Farce: Tablet, Mar. 4, 2014

The Lessons of Purim and Iran: Julie Shain, Algemeiner, Mar. 4, 2014—“Do not think that you will escape [the fate of] all the Jews by being in the king’s palace… And who knows if it is not for just such a time that you reached this royal position.”

Five Reasons Spock Was the Quintessential Jew: Moshe Rosenberg, Tablet, Mar. 3, 2014—Much has been written since the passing of Leonard Nimoy about his embrace of Judaism, whether through the priestly blessings, provocative photographs, or Yiddish theater.

 

 

                                                                    

               

 

 

 

                      

                

                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Contents:         

Visit CIJR’s Bi-Weekly Webzine: Israzine.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing is available by e-mail.
Please urge colleagues, friends, and family to visit our website for more information on our ISRANET series.
To join our distribution list, or to unsubscribe, visit us at http://www.isranet.org/.

The ISRANET Daily Briefing is a service of CIJR. We hope that you find it useful and that you will support it and our pro-Israel educational work by forwarding a minimum $90.00 tax-deductible contribution [please send a cheque or VISA/MasterCard information to CIJR (see cover page for address)]. All donations include a membership-subscription to our respected quarterly ISRAFAX print magazine, which will be mailed to your home.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing attempts to convey a wide variety of opinions on Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world for its readers’ educational and research purposes. Reprinted articles and documents express the opinions of their authors, and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.

 

 

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

Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284 ; ber@isranet.org

Baruch Cohen: PURIM 5775 – TODAY’S AMALEKIM

 

 

 

 

In loving memory of Malca Z’’L

“Remember what Amalek did to you…”

Deuteronomy XXV: 17

 

Today’s enemy of Israel, Amalek, is Hamas. Like the Biblical Amalek, it aims to disrupt Israel’s march through history toward its unique destiny – the state for all Jews. Don’t be afraid! Lacking any sense of morality, today’s Amalekim pursue any action they deem necessary for their goal, without any regard for justice or civility. Today’s Amaleks seek, similarly, to annihilate the Jewish State – and thus to keep other nations away from Israel’s guiding moral light.

 

Throughout the centuries the Jewish people have had to face many such enemies. The treacherous firing of missiles by Hamas’ thugs at Israel’s civilian population is a typical Amalek act. Such unprovoked vicious enmity towards Israel is typical of the Amalek character. Hamas –like all the other terrorist enemies of Israel, Sunni and Shiite–perpetrates the legacy of their evil antecedents. And they will be remembered in history as such, for their destiny will be the same as that of all of Israel’s past and present enemies!

 

The Purim story and holiday will not die as long as prejudice and antisemitism exist in the world. The much-loved prophetess Deborah concluded her thanksgiving victory song as follows: “And the land was quiet for forty years.” After defeating the current Amaleks, from Hamas to IS to Iran’s ayatollahs,  may there be peace for 400 years and more, for Israel and the entire world.: “Remember what Amalek did to you”.  

 

To all of CIJR’s friends, followers and to the entire House of Israel: Hag Purim Sameach! Enjoy the Purim holiday!

 

Allan M. Levine: How the Star of David and Earmuffs Were Discovered: A Purim Revelation

 

Many centuries ago, just before Purim eve, two Jews ran into each other (literally) as they were rushing home for the holiday.  At the time, each of them
was carrying an oversized 3-corner hamentashen* pastry.  Fortunately, neither of them was injured, but their 3-cornered pastries collided frontally in a way that produced a large pastry cookie in which formed the shape of a 6-pointed star! Since one of these fellows was named David, of course it  became known as a "Star of David."

 

Since then, a custom arose in which Jews would rush to greet each other on the Eve of Purim, while each carried such an oversized, 3-cornered pastry. With good humor, friendly intentions and much fanfare, each neighbor colliding with another one would produce such a "Star of David". They discovered that since Poppyseed or "mohn" filling was least likely to leak or squirt onto these neighbors' clothes when they collided, this became the preferred filler. Since local farmers sometimes used their latest crop of prunes, peaches, apricots or strawberries as fillings, today these fillings are also commonly used. However, since such annual "neighborly collisions" could be so forceful that they might even result in injury, people eventually decided to modify this custom and for safety's sake instead, they began the practice of sending a dish or basket carrying a minimum of 2 smaller hamentashen per plate along with other goodies to neighbors' homes.  Thus, each neighbor, if he wished to do so, could safely enjoy making, sharing or eating his or her own "Star of David" pastry for Purim.  Otherwise, they could also just leave them as simple, triangle-shaped hamentashen for the holiday.

 

There's another variety of pastries subsequently discovered that's also worth mentioning here, called Sufganiyot (its plural "soof-gah-nee-yoht", sufganiya is singular). These are jelly- or cream-filled solid "DONUTS-without-a-hole".  Today these are quite popular and in wide use among Israelis and other Jews for Chanukah and at times, also for Purim.  Interestingly, long ago someone discovered that if you take two of these warm sufganiyot right out of the cooking area in your kitchen, attach them with a long "loksh " (noodle) and carefully place one over each ear while they're held by the noodle placed over the head, your ears will stay warm and protected while walking home in cold wintry weather, during Purim season.  This not only warms the ears, but when small amounts of oil on occasion drips from them onto the ears and cheeks of the person "wearing" them, they have an added benefit of preventing one's face and skin from becoming dry or chafed in the cold air.  And thus, earmuffs produced from sufganiyot, were also discovered.

 

Now we know how these two popular foods for celebrations were added to Jewish tradition, created with unique shapes, flavors and recipes and how the Star of David and ear muffs were discovered, for later generations to embellish and enjoy!
 

Ahhhh!  What a people!  What traditions!  What serendipity (sounds almost  like a  Yiddish word)!

 

Happy Purim, to one and all!

 

Allan M. Levine, Ph. D., Purim, 2014  (Valley Village, California)

 

PURIMSPIEL 5773

Download Today's Isranet Daily Briefing.pdf 

 

Contents:                          

(Please Note: articles may have been shortened in the interest of space. Please click link for the complete article – Ed.)

 

Purim 5773: Baruch Cohen, CIJR, Feb. 22, 2013The festival of Purim first appears in historical sources from the 2nd Century B.C.E – it was a significant time. Judah the Maccabee won his first great victory over the Syrian general Nicanor on the 13th – 14th of Adar in the year 161 B.C.E, during the time of year that had been declared a holiday: Purim.

 

Jewish Riots Erupt Following Netanyahu Cartoon – Not: Adam Chandler, Tablet, January 29, 2013In the wake of a controversial cartoon published in the Sunday Times of London, massive crowds of angry Jewish protestors gathered in Hyde Park yesterday and, whipped into a fervor by local rabbis, took to the streets of London.

 

PURIM SHORT FAKES & QUIRKY QUOTES

 

Uncertain World: David M. Weinberg, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 21, 2013—Megilat Esther is a book of contradictions, filled with events that are unreasonable, coincidental, seemingly pure chance. At one moment, Jews live in security in Persia; the next, they face destruction. Mordechai is threatened with execution; then, suddenly, he becomes prime minister. Irrational events and moods transform fear into festivity. “Venahafoch hu” – everything gets turned upside down and backward.

 

On Topic Links

 

Not a Coincidence: Shmuel Rabinowitz, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 21, 2013

Megila Millennium: Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 21, 2013
Judaism: Drinking on Purim: When Ignorance is Bliss: Rabbi Eliyahu Safran, Arutz Sheva, Feb. 22, 2013

PURIM 5773

Baruch Cohen
CIJR, Feb. 22, 2013
 

In loving memory of Beloved Malca, ז״ל

 

“Should all festivals be abolished,  Purim will remain” Tefilot Mikol HaShana – D.W. Libshitz

 

The festival of Purim first appears in historical sources from the second Century B.C.E – it was a significant time. Judah the Maccabee won his first great victory over the Syrian general Nicanor on the 13th – 14th of Adar in the year 161 B.C.E, the time of year that has been declared a holiday: Purim.

 

Today’s Amalekim – Ahmadinejad, Hamas, and the like – aim to disrupt Israel’s march through history, and toward its unique destiny – that of being the state for all Jews. The likes of Ahmadinejad, Hamas, and their friends will never reach their goal: Israel will always be victorious. Am Israel Chai

 

The calumny that floated 2500 years ago about Jewish “otherness” (a “certain people”), “a foreign element, “disloyal,” continue unabated to this very day. We experience daily virulent outbreaks of anti-Semitic insults, deeds, over and over again – and this, for centuries.

 

Purim gives us the strength, and  courage to see our darkest times: tikvah, the hope that will see the downfall of all  the Amaleks. The Book of Esther is a book depicting not just one period of Jewish history, but ALL periods. It is a book that will remain forever new. Am Israel Chai!

 

Hag Purim Sameach u’mvadeach! Happy Purim and enjoy yourself!

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

 

Top of Page

 

 

JEWISH RIOTS ERUPT FOLLOWING NETANYAHU CARTOON – NOT

Adam Chandler

Tablet, January 29, 2013

 

In the wake of a controversial cartoon published in the Sunday Times of London, massive crowds of angry Jewish protestors gathered in Hyde Park yesterday and, whipped into a fervor by local rabbis, took to the streets of London.

 

Incited by the inflammatory, blood libel-themed cartoon, which featured a hook-nosed caricature of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu building a wall using Palestinian blood as mortar and was released on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the crowds descended on the Harvey Nichols on Sloane Street, where they broke windows and set fire to the Charlie Allen and Ted Baker collections. The mob, unabated, next stormed the Royal Portrait Gallery, tearing down the centuries’ old collection of British kings and queens. “We left the new portrait of Kate Middleton up” said Gerald Stein of Stamford Hill, “it’s offensive enough on its own.”

 

In north London, Jewish football hooligans loyal to the Tottenham Hotspurs assembled their so-called ‘Yid Army’ and looted local pubs, emptying them of their Bass and Boddington kegs before raiding the various fish n’ chip shops across the Haringey borough. As the group laid waste to a biscuit factory, the entirety of old blighty stunk of burning gingerbread. A cloud of soot traveled north, turning the white cliffs of Dover grey. There were also reports that numerous spokes of the London Eye were removed and bent into the shape of a Star of David.

 

Residents of London have been advised to stay in their homes until further notice and all British journalists have been put under police protection. No word yet on the status of London Mayor Boris Johnson, who was thrown into the Tower of London.

 

Top of Page

 

 

PURIM SHORT FAKES & QUIRKY QUOTES

 

   

 

United States Senate Committee on Armed Services
Room 228, Russel Senate Building
Washington DC 20510-6050

 

TRANSCRIPT: Secretary of Defense nominee hearing, January 28, 2013       page 2 of 27
 

Levin: thanks you for joining us this morning, Senator Hagel. Also, Secretary Powell, you were adamant about appearing today with Senator Hagel, so, uh, welcome, I guess.
 

Powell: I certainly was, certainly. Just wanted to be here for moral support, because who couldn’t use some support these days, am I right? Times are tough – not that it’s President Obama’s fault, that’s not – but you know what I mean. So…yeah.

 

Levin: Okay. Now Senator Hagel, our first question comes from Senator Ayotte of New Hampshire.

 

Ayotte: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Senator Hagel, your nomination has faced some pretty vocal opposition from various groups. Would this affect your ability to work on behalf of all Americans?

 

Hagel: Well, it’s pretty apparent that the Jewish lobby

 

Secretary Powell clears his throat loudly.

 

Powell: Uh, excuse me.

 

Hagel: As I was saying, those Jew

 

Secretary Powell clears his throat again, coughs repeatedly, elbows Senator hagel.

 

Hagel: What? Oh, right. The, uh, those groups that support Israel, well, they’re just fine Americans, in my opinion. And I look forward to working with them. And whatnot. Yep.

 

Levin: Moving on, the next question comes form Senator Blumenthal of Connecticut.

 

Hagel: Oh, the Jewish senaOw! Why did you kick me?

 

Powell: Restless Leg Syndrome. Sorry.

Blumenthal: Senator Hagel, the Obama administration has clearly made cutting defense spending a priority in their first term. As defense secretary, will you push back against the administration as Secretary Panetta did on items essential to our defense missions?

Hagel: Well, I generally agree with the administration’s approach. We are in a fiscal crisis, having just ended two wars, so I think it only makes sense to reduce spending in a sensible way. But let me state, unequivocally, that I will not make cuts that will compromise the integrity of our defence capabilities and put the great men and women of our armed services at risk as they protect this great nation.

Powell: Good answer, Chuck.

Hagel: I’m not gonna try and Jew the army out of their funding, is what I’m saying.

Powell: Oh, Christ….

(Weekly Standard, Jan., 28, 2013)

 

MUSLIM SUICIDE BOMBERS SET TO STRIKE OVER VIRGIN BENEFITS(London) Muslim suicide bombers in Britain are set to begin a three-day strike on Monday in a dispute over the number of virgins they are entitled to in the afterlife. Emergency talks with Al Qaeda have so far failed to produce an agreement. The unrest began last Tuesday when Al Qaeda announced that the number of virgins a suicide bomber would receive after his death would be cut by 25% in December from 72 to 54. A spokesman said increases in recent years in the number of suicide bombings has resulted in a shortage of virgins in the afterlife.

The suicide bombers' union, the British Organization of Occupational Martyrs (BOOM) responded with a statement saying the move was unacceptable to its members and called for a strike vote. General Secretary Abdullah Amir told the press, "Our members are literally working themselves to death in the cause of Jihad. We don't ask for much in return but to be treated like this is like a kick in the teeth".

Speaking from his shed in Tipton in the West Midlands, Al Qaeda chief executive Haisheet Mapants explained, "I sympathize with our workers concerns but Al Qaeda is simply not in a position to meet their demands. They are simply not accepting the realities of modern-day Jihad in a competitive marketplace. Thanks to Western depravity, there is now a chronic shortage of virgins in the afterlife. It's a straight choice between reducing expenditures or laying people off. I don't like cutting benefits but I'd hate to have to tell 3,000 of my staff that they won't be able to blow themselves up.” 
 

AYATOLLAH KHAMEINI MARKS PRESIDENT AHMEDINIDJAD FOR THE GALLOWS (Tehran) It has come to light that the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khameini, has made an about-face and condemned President Mahmoud Ajmedinidjad to hang for making incendiary threats against the Jews and for plotting to wipe them off the face of the earth. If reports are correct, this surprising development appears to have been the result of the diligent and dangerous work undertaken by a special female agent of  DOSOOM, Israel’s premier reality spy network. Originally from Persia, the agent, codenamed “Regina-E”, was reportedly able to penetrate to the highest levels of the Iranian power structure as a nanny for Ali Khameini’s children and a confidante to many of his wives. Through his wives the agent was able to convince the Ayatollah that killing the Jews would prevent, rather than encourage, the coming of the Twelfth Imam. People are expected to gather in Tehran from the three corners of Iran for the public execution. (Persian Times, Feb 22, 2013)

QUEBEC LANGUAGE WATCH-DOG ERASES HEBREW NAMES (Montreal, February 22)—The Office de la langue française, Quebec’s language police, has decreed that Montreal synagogues must conform to its unilingual norms by changing all public Hebrew signage and names to French.  Congregation Chevra Kadisha will become Communité Sainte, Congregation Beth Israel Beth Aaron will become Maison d’Israel et d’Aaron, and so on.  Beth Israel Beth Aaron’s revered spiritual leader R.-Dr. Reuben Poupko denounced the decree, threatening to take Quebec’s premier, Pauline Marois,  to a Hasidic Beth Din, or religious court, which could demand that she change her name to  Pnina Bat-Yam. (Montreal Gazoo, 22 February 2013)

 

AHMADINEJAD’S JEWISH ROOTS REVEALED (Baghdad, February 19)—After a scrupulous search of Baghdad’s Genizah documents (originally shredded), Shin Bet sources have revealed that Iranian President Ahmadinejad came from an Iraqi  Jewish family which fled Baghdad for Teheran after the 1939 persecution.  His name, subsequently changed, was actually Meyer Amchadin, and his work as an Israeli mole within Iran’s religio-political elite was hinted at.  (Montreal, Daily Sub-Human, 20 February 2013)

 

$10 MILLION GRANT AWARDED TO CIJR— Mexican Jewish philanthropist Carlos Rafael Brontesoros, in what is regarded as the single largest grant ever to an independent pro-Israel Jewish academic think-tank, said he wanted to right communal wrongs and do justice to North America’s outstanding Canadian Institute for Jewish Research. CIJR Board Chairman Yaakov Artisman, accepting the grant,  noted CIJR would, after 25 years, finally be able to move out of its one-room office in Trois Pistoles, Que. Director Pinchas Wreath, when asked what he would want to do with such a sum, asked whether he could  have “a hot roll, with butter?”.

 

Top of Page

 

 

“After much anguish I have decided to become a Christian, to change my name, and to petition Israel—where I can worship freely and without fear of retribution–for citizenship.”_–Palestinian leader Hanan Ashrawi, henceforth to be called Hannah Ashwednesday (Al Quds, January 20, 2013)

 

“I come to Israel in a spirit of deep humility and great gratitude,  for the debt I owe Bibi Netanyahu can never be really repaid.”President Barack Hussein Obama, referring to his upcoming March visit to Jerusalem, and to the revelation that his much-disputed birth certificate, found in a Jerusalem archive, was presented to him by the Israeli premier. The certificate indicates he was born not in Hawaii, as initially believed, but in Jerusalem, where his American mother had come to study Kabbalah,   technically making him an Israeli citizen [although American authorities will not allow him to list “Jerusalem” on his new passport].

 

“Oh please, get real! It’s over! And as usual, I take full responsibility. Next question?”—Outgoing Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, testifying at the Senate Foreign Relations Sub-Committee after the second Libyan terrorist attack in late February in Tripoli, where six Americans, including the Ambassador, were taken captive by an Islamic terrorist group.  (Incoming Secretary of State John Kerry, noting that “one must talk with one’s enemies, most of whom are good guys”, said he would go to Tripoli personally “at some point in the future”, to negotiate their release.  Rep. Senator John McCain, looking, as usual, agitated, said something indecipherable, as usual.) (New York Tombs, Feb. 2, 2003)

 

Top of Page

 

 

UNCERTAIN WORLD

David M. Weinberg

Jerusalem Post, Feb. 21, 2013

 

Doesn’t it seem that life lurches from one crisis to the next? Despite all the rules and laws we create to regulate, stabilize and give structure to our lives, you simply never know, especially here in Israel, what’s going to hit next. Our health, happiness and security are subject to whim, miscalculation, passion, the sudden, unforeseen, unexpected and absurd. We’re not really in control.

 

It’s the Itamar murders anniversary, juxtaposed this weekend with Purim, that gets me reflecting on the existential realities and uncertainties of life. Weekly upheavals in the Arab world, missile crises that come and go, bolt-from-the-blue deaths by auto accident, and health frailties that jar us from serenity add to my apprehension. We’re not really in control. The capriciousness of life is exactly what Purim is all about.

 

Megilat Esther is a book of contradictions, filled with events that are unreasonable, coincidental, seemingly pure chance. At one moment, Jews live in security in Persia; the next, they face destruction. Mordechai is threatened with execution; then, suddenly, he becomes prime minister.

Irrational events and moods transform fear into festivity. “Venahafoch hu” – everything gets turned upside down and backward.

 

The late, great Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik taught that even the name “Purim” (meaning “lottery” or “chance”) expresses the erratic capriciousness of events. Purim alerts us, he explained, to the fickleness of life and man’s susceptibility to accidental turns of fortune – despite the best laid plans.

But man’s vulnerability is not simply a tragic truth, he taught. “It is an ethical postulate that gives rise to modesty and humility in man…. Instability serves to ennoble, to dispel arrogance. The awareness of one’s vulnerability, that there ever lurks a hovering threat which can transform our condition, that suddenly without reason, man can be cast down from the throne of success to the pit of despair – should enhance our ethical character.”

 

In Israel these days, such humility seems to be in short supply. The rich and successful, and the politically powerful, exude a preening pride and overbearing self-confidence that leaves no room for self-criticism or selfdoubt. Nor for God. Israelis are, as a rule, absolutely certain that their individual viewpoint is absolutely correct, barring all others. So much for the Mishna, which reminds us to “be humble exceedingly” (Avot 4:4). Tolerance, which stems from humility, also remains largely a foreign concept.

 

So it might be a good idea to force all our would-be leaders to hear the megila read aloud in synagogue this week. A little humble pie would do them, and us, plenty good. The Purim story also provides an excellent lesson, to presidents, prime ministers and commoners, in understanding the link between Providence and human endeavor. The megila hints that beyond the intrigue of royal courtyards, and behind the politics of an Oval Office, lies a Hidden Hand operating on a transcendental plane.

 

Beyond the grasp of man’s finite mind, there is order and purpose, a higher Divine order into which man has not been initiated. In short, what appears random, isn’t. The “pur” (the “chance” mentioned above) is really planned. Even now, with all the bloodthirsty, genocidal and threatening actors around us, God is engaged. Israel at 65 – uncertain of its identity and direction – is not alone.

 

Moreover, the saga in Shushan proves that Divine decision-making can be influenced by virtuous and bold action; by wise leaders whose moral authority can unify and heal; and by sincere prayer. Leaders have the responsibility to act wisely, bravely and honestly – even though decisive control of history lies elsewhere. “Everything is in the hand of heaven,” says the Talmudic sage Rabbi Hanina, “but man still possesses moral freedom” (Brachot 33b)…..

 

Top of Page

On Topic
 

Not a Coincidence: Shmuel Rabinowitz, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 21, 2013Mordechai was appointed a minister in the Persian kingdom, and the Jews obtained permission from the king to defend themselves from their enemies. The pair of words taken from Megillat Esther – “venahafoch hu,” meaning “the opposite happened” – symbolizes the change in the Jews’ status from a group whose murder was permissible, to a nation with the right to protect and avenge itself.

]

Megila Millennium: Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 21, 2013No one seems to have noticed that we are on the eve of the two-and-a-half thousandth anniversary of the story of Purim. Incredible that we still read and celebrate that story every year – twice a year in Israel.

 

Judaism: Drinking on Purim: When Ignorance is Bliss: Rabbi Eliyahu Safran, Arutz Sheva, Feb. 22, 2013—On Purim we are challenged to transform the Hamans in our lives into Mordecais. On Purim we must reach out to one another; all who “stretch out their hand” must be responded to. If only for this one, marvelous day, we must get beyond our stubborn refusal to acknowledge others who are “not like us”. If only for this one day, we must reach out to anyone and everyone in the Jewish community.

 

 

Visit CIJR’s Bi-Weekly Webzine: Israzine.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing is available by e-mail.
Please urge colleagues, friends, and family to visit our website for more information on our ISRANET series.
To join our distribution list, or to unsubscribe, visit us at http://www.isranet.org/.

The ISRANET Daily Briefing is a service of CIJR. We hope that you find it useful and that you will support it and our pro-Israel educational work by forwarding a minimum $90.00 tax-deductible contribution [please send a cheque or VISA/MasterCard information to CIJR (see cover page for address)]. All donations include a membership-subscription to our respected quarterly ISRAFAX print magazine, which will be mailed to your home.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing attempts to convey a wide variety of opinions on Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world for its readers’ educational and research purposes. Reprinted articles and documents express the opinions of their authors, and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.

 

 

Ber Lazarus, Publications Editor, Canadian Institute for Jewish ResearchL'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme, www.isranet.org

Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284 ; ber@isranet.org

PURIM, 5771: PERSIAN THREATS,THE JEWISH SPIRIT, AND THE POSSIBILITY OF A BETTER TOMORROW

 

 

 

PURIM 5771

Baruch Cohen

In loving memory of Malca, z’l

 

The Book of Esther has always been for Jews an allegory depicting the Jewish life and the Jewish lot among the nations. It is a book that conveys love for Jews, and for the tie that unites them.

Purim became the symbolic name for Jewish deliverance, and whenever a Jewish community was saved from a horrible fate, from a pogrom, or from the exile which a Haman-like ruler tried to impose, the community would, Purim-like, celebrate.

Purim will continue to be celebrated as long as prejudice and hatred of the Jews exists, as long as the likes of Ahmadinejad and al-Qaeda will be around. We will celebrate their disappearance, just as today we celebrate so many other special Purims.

A happy Purim to all!

Baruch Cohen

(Baruch Cohen is the Research Chairman at the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)

Purim—Encyclopedia Judaica Vol. 13. , pgs. 1305-1399

List of Special Purims

CITY                        OBSERVED ON                         DATE              REASON FOR OBSERVATION

Della Paglia (Italy)        25th Av                         1799                 Saved from massacre

Avignon                        28th Shevat                    1757                 Escaped danger of a riot

France                          14th Adar                      1191                 Chief Jew-hater execute

Cairo-called Purim Mizraym       28th Adar          1524                 Saved from extermination

Cunco (Italy)                 5th Kislev                      1799                 Synagogue saved from destruction

Ivrea (Italy)                  1st Shevet                      1797                 Escaped plundering during

revolutionary war

Lepano (Greece)           11th Tevet                     1699                 Saved during Turkish war

Medzibozs (Poland)       11th Tevet                     1648-49            Saved by Chmielnicki’s bands

Prague                          14th Heshvan                 1620                 Saved from sacking and riots

Rome                           1st Shevat                      1793                 Ghetto saved assault and fire

Sevmide (Italy)              25th Tammuz                 1809                 Saved from earthquake

Tiberias                        7th Elul                          1743                 Saved from danger of war

Vilna                            15th Av                         1794                 Saved during Russo-Polish war

Vidin-Bulgaria               4th-5th Heshvan             1806                 Saved by accusation that the ruler had been

poisoned by his Jewish physician

 

IRAN DECLARES WAR ON PURIM
Jonathan S. Tobin
Contentions, January 12, 2011

 

Less than two years ago, the readers of the New York Times were being treated to Roger Cohen’s tribute to Iran’s supposedly kindly treatment of the remnant of a once-great Jewish community. Cohen’s rosy description of life inside the Islamist republic was widely scorned for his willingness to buy into the lies being peddled by the tyrants of Tehran. The Times columnist’s motive for trying to soften the image of that openly anti-Semitic government was to undermine support for sanctions or the use of force to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. The point was that if Iran’s eliminationist rhetoric about the State of Israel could be rationalized or its reputation for Jew-hatred wished away, it would be that much harder to forge an international consensus on the need to stop this regime for gaining nuclear capability.

In the intervening two years since Cohen’s fallacious pro-Iranian broadside, we haven’t heard much about the treatment of the small Jewish community there. But this week, via a report from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, we learned that the Iranian news agency FARS has announced that the site of the Tomb of Mordechai and Esther in the city of Hamdan has lost its official status as a religious pilgrimage site. The FARS report says that Iranian children are now being taught that the site, which honors the biblical heroine Queen Esther and her uncle Mordechai, who are the central figures in the story of the Jewish holiday of Purim, was “an arm of Israeli imperialism that impugns Iranian sovereignty.” FARS went on to say that the name of the shrine must be obliterated in order to teach Iranians to “beware of the crimes of the Jews.” It goes on to say that the site must become “a Holocaust memorial” to the “Iranian victims of Esther and Mordechai” and be placed under the supervision of the state religious-endowments authority. This is, of course, the same Iranian government that officially denies the fact of the actual Holocaust.…

The action against the tomb appears to be a response to a demonstration by Iranian students who called for its destruction in response to a false report that Israel was digging beneath the al-Aksa mosque in Jerusalem. While we cannot know whether the Iranians will follow through on this threat and actually tear down the tomb or transform it into a center of anti-Jewish hate, it does provide yet another insight into the virulent nature of the attitudes of those in power there. Not satisfied with whipping up hatred against the State of Israel and the tiny, cowed remnant community that still lives there, the Iranians are now striking out against biblical Jews. The vicious nature of this regime is rooted in a view of Islam that apologists for Tehran have consistently sought to ignore. While the blow against Esther and Mordechai may be purely symbolic, it must be placed in the context of a long-running campaign of incitement against Jews and Israel that makes the possible acquisition of nuclear arms by this country even more alarming.

The Iranian war on Purim makes it even more imperative that they never be allowed to gain the power to do what the ayatollah’s ancient hero Haman attempted: the physical elimination of a Jewish population. Anyone who thinks that we can live with a nuclear Iran needs to consider the madness of allowing a government that thinks the Purim story should be reversed the power to do just that.

 

BADKHN BELT? JEWISH HUMOR WAS BORN IN 1661, PROF SAYS
Sue Fishkoff
JTA, March 3, 2011

 

The Chmielnicki massacres weren’t particularly funny. From 1648 to 1651, nearly 100,000 Jews were slaughtered throughout Ukraine by Bohdan Chmielnicki and his roving bands of Cossacks. It was arguably the worst pogrom in history, leaving hundreds of Jewish communities in ruins.

Yet according to Mel Gordon, a professor of theater arts at the University of California, Berkeley, those years of terror led to the canonization of what we now know as Jewish humor.… And it happened on one day in July 1661 when the badkhn—a kind of cruel court jester in East European Jewish life—was spared a ban on merrymakers.…

Gordon, who has authored numerous books on theater, cinema and popular culture, lectures widely on his badkhn theory at Jewish and non-Jewish venues. “Everyone says that Jews are funny because they suffered so much,” he said. “That’s ridiculous.…” Nor are Jews funny because they’ve “always been funny,” another common falsehood, Gordon says.… So it’s not genetic, and it’s not because of suffering or social marginalization, that led to this thing we call Jewish humor—it’s the badkhn.

The badkhn was a [central figure] in East European Jewish life for three centuries, mocking brides and grooms at their weddings. He also was in charge of Purim spiels in shtetl society. His humor was biting, even vicious. He would tell a bride she was ugly, make jokes about the groom’s dead mother and round things off by belittling the guests for giving such worthless gifts.… It’s that same self-deprecating tone that characterizes the Yiddish-inflected Jewish jokes of the 20th century, Gordon points out. Who is the surly Jewish deli waiter of Henny Youngman fame if not a badkhn, making wisecracks at the customer’s expense?

Before the 1660s, there were at least 10 different stock comic types in shtetl life.… One would rhyme, one would juggle, one might sing. Wealthy folks would hire a variety for their simchas, or festive celebrations. But in the summer of 1661, a decade after the Chmielnicki massacres and its resultant famines, leading rabbis from Poland and Ukraine—the “Elders of the Four Councils”—met in Vilna to discuss why such evils had befallen the Jewish people.

The elders decided the Jews were being punished by God. A return to strict observance was the only solution. Levity and luxury were to be avoided. As one of the new conditions, wedding festivities became much more somber, and holidays such as Purim and Simchat Torah less raucous. The traditional Jewish comics were outlawed.

During one discussion on July 3, 1661, Gordon relates, a rabbi asked his colleagues, what about the badkhn? He’s not really funny, the rabbi said. In fact, he’s abusive. The elders agreed, and the badkhn was exempted from the ban.… And that’s how the badkhn became the only Jewish comic permitted in the shtetls…and how his particular brand of sarcastic, bleak humor set the tone for what we know today as Jewish comedy.…

The badkhn’s role was secure from the 1660s to the 1890s and the beginning of the great Jewish migration to America and to the larger cities of Russia and Ukraine. Gordon’s father, who came to America in 1929 from the Polish shtetl Bielsk-Podlasky, remembers the badkhn of his youth. “He was always drunk in the cemetery, telling jokes to kids,” Gordon recalls. “He came out of hiding for Purim and weddings.”

Little remains of the badkhn today outside Chasidic communities, where they are the stars of the yearly Purim spiels.… But the badkhn’s influence is still felt in mainstream culture, Gordon says, from the Borsch Belt humor of the 1920s and ‘30s, to contemporary Italian and African-American comedians who trade in barbed insults and self-deprecation. “Even today, almost all Jewish entertainers have badkhn humor,” Gordon said. “Sarah Silverman is completely badkhn.…”

 

THE POPE, THE JEWS, AND THE PASSION
Robert S. Wistrich

Jerusalem Post, March 16, 2011

 

The virus of Jew-hatred at the heart of Western civilization is rooted in ingrained attitudes, many of them to be found in Christian theology, scriptural interpretation, art and literature. That legacy, which came to a climax in the Holocaust, has been the object of increasingly serious reflection by the Vatican and the Catholic Church during the past 50 years. Pope John XXIII initiated the first steps that culminated in the 1965 Vatican II document Nostra Aetate, which stated that “what happened in Christ’s passion cannot be blamed upon all the Jews then living without distinction or upon the Jews of today.”

Twenty years later, another important Catholic document about how to present the Jews and Judaism in Church teaching, noted that “Christian sinners are more to blame for the death of Christ than those few Jews who brought it about.” Pope John Paul II went a step further in robustly condemning anti-Semitism as a sin and by visiting Jerusalem in 2000 as part of his historic act of repentance towards the Jewish people.

So, at first sight the media publicity surrounding Pope Benedict XVI’s second volume about the life of Christ (“Jesus of Nazareth, Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection”) released last week, may seem surprising. What exactly is new here in the light of earlier Church pronouncements? Does the present Pope really offer an unprecedented or sweeping exoneration of the Jewish people for the death of Jesus? Is his book a significant contribution to the struggle against anti-Semitism?

I believe that the answer must be a qualified yes. Albeit Pope Benedict does not provide a sweeping absolution of all Jewish “guilt” for the Passion. The Jewish leadership of Jesus’ time and the supporters of the insurrectionary, Barabbas, still bear some responsibility for the crucifixion but it is relative and very much attenuated. More importantly, the cry of the Jerusalem crowd as presented in the Gospel of Matthew (27:25)—“His blood be upon us and on our children” (a somewhat implausible Jewish self-accusation for the death of Jesus with appalling historical consequences) is effectively contextualized by the Pope. So, too, are some of the passages in the Gospel of John which portray “the Jews” as sons of the Devil and sworn enemies of Christ. Benedict XVI does indeed seek to neutralize the potentially toxic anti-Semitism in these and other statements that resulted over the centuries in the savage persecution of Jews. Since his book will undoubtedly reach a wide audience (probably much greater than that of official Vatican documents like Nostra Aetate), that is surely to be welcomed.

For all too long there has been a serious discrepancy between what most Christian scholars would write today about the New Testament and what many lay Catholics and even some clergy—still influenced by long-standing anti-Judaism of the Church—continue to believe. Pope Benedict XVI’s most important contribution may well be to have begun the process of confronting (in a scholarly way) this considerable gap and refuting some of the anti-Jewish libels that have been constructed around the Gospel for nearly two thousand years. Not all these stereotypes are likely to disappear in the immediate future but the Pope has at least reaffirmed to Catholics world-wide not only that Jesus and his disciples were Jews but that there should be no room in Christianity for any denigration of the people of Israel.

No one can seriously doubt Benedict XVI’s commitment to improving Christian-Jewish relations despite a number of regrettable decisions and errors of judgment he made earlier in his papacy. There is still, however, a great deal that needs to be done. Parts of the New Testament, especially relating to the Passion narrative, despite the Pope’s new book, will doubtlessly remain a source for anti-Semitism.

More importantly, hatred for Israel has spread far and wide in our own day, well beyond the confines of the Church. The Islamic world, in particular, has become deeply infected by anti-Jewish stereotypes and myths like the blood libel, whose sources lie in the Christian Middle Ages. Some sections of the secular Left, too, have been contaminated by a crude hatred of Jews masquerading as “anti-Zionism.”

Perhaps the time has come for this Pope to speak out with the full authority of his office and his moral conscience, to denounce the almost daily incitement and slanders directed at the people of Israel from so many sources outside the Church. This would surely be consonant with the universal mission and concerns of the Holy See, as well as its desire for rapprochement with the Jewish nation. It would indeed be a timely jolt for the cause of Middle Eastern and world peace as well as promoting deeper understanding between peoples of different faiths.

(Robert S. Wistrich is professor of European history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
and author of
A Lethal Obsession: Antisemitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad.)