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Tu B'shevat: Chag Hailanot: Israel Forever, Jan 25, 2013—In Jewish tradition, Tu B'Shevat, the New Year of Trees is celebrated on the 15th (TU = ט"ו) day of the Jewish month of Shevat שבט, this year on January 25-26. This is one of the 4 New Years mentioned in the Mishnah, we honor this day when budding fruit enters a new year of life and the first bulbs of spring are beginning to bloom.
The Centrality of Politics: Israel’s Soft-Right Election and Foreign Policy: Frederick Krantz, CIJR Jan. 24, 2013— Israel’s election signifies three things. First, the ever-green utility of the old aphorism, “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics”; second, what the great German historical-sociologist Max Weber called “the primacy of politics”; and third, the Israeli electorate’s strikingly broad “foreign policy” consensus on both the Palestinian and Iranian issues.
What the 'Lobby' Knows About Animus for Israel: Ruth R. Wisse, Wall Street Journal, Jan.16, 2013—The confirmation process for those slated to guide American foreign policy can profitably be used to clear up at least one point of confusion. What's at issue is not the degree of their affection for Jews or for Israel. Never mind the Jews: Opposition to Israel camouflages a much more virulent hostility to America. How does an American statesman assess the anti-Jews who attack Israel as a proxy for this country?
The Settlements Don't Endanger Israel's Existence: Dani Dayan, Intelligence Squared, Jan. 21, 2013 (video)
Needed: War Against Jihadists: Lawrence Solomon, Financial Post, Jan 18, 2013
The New World Disorder: Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, Jan. 21, 2013
Obama Second Term Bodes Trouble for Israel: Daniel Pipes, The Washington Times, Jan. 22, 2013
Israel Forever, Jan 25, 2013
Tu B'Shevat Higiya, Chag HaIlanot!
In Jewish tradition, Tu B'Shevat, the New Year of Trees is celebrated on the 15th (TU = ט"ו) day of the Jewish month of Shevat שבט, this year on January 25-26. This is one of the 4 New Years mentioned in the Mishnah. Known in Israel as "Chag HaIlanot" (Ilan אילן= tree), we honor this day when budding fruit enters a new year of life and the first bulbs of spring are beginning to bloom.
The spiritual connection of this special holiday is that this date is used to calculate the age of fruit-bearing trees in the Land of Israel. This is important for the practice of tithing, so that fruit from trees may not be eaten during the first three years of a tree's life. The fourth year fruits were intended to be used in Temple ceremonies, based on Leviticus 19:23-25.
Additionally, knowing the age of a tree allows us to honor the law of shmitta שמיטה, when the fruit of the land in the seventh year cannot be eaten, used or sold. The rabbis chose the 15th of Shevat because it is in the midst of Israel's rainy season, rather than during the seasons of agricultural planting. Thus, the fruit of the trees that bloom before Tu B'Shevat would be counted toward the previous year, and those budding after Tu B'Shevat would be the first fruits of the new "tree year." As the almond (shkediya שקדיה) trees and other early bloomers awake from the winter slumber…and a new fruit-bearing cycle begins. In honor of this beautiful holiday, it is traditional in Israel to eat fruits and grains that come from the land of Israel, particularly of the "Shivat Minnim," the seven biblical species:
1. Wheat – Chita חיטה
2. Barley – Se’orah שעורה
3. Grapes – Anavim גפן
4. Fig – Te’enah תאנה
5. Pomegranate – Rimmon רימון
6. Olive – Zayit זית
7. Honey – D'vash דבש
כי ה' אלוהיך מביאך אל ארץ טובה, ארץ נחלי מים, עיינות ותהומות יוצאים בבקעה ובהר, ארץ חיטה ושעורה וגפן ותאנה ורימון, ארץ זית שמן ודבש" דברים ח', ז-ח'
For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey. (Deuteronomy 8:7-8)
Israelis commonly exchange gifts of dried fruit with loved ones, a tradition drawn from the years of Diaspora Jewish life in Eastern Europe and elsewhere when they couldn't get fresh fruits in the winter with which to celebrate. Today, in the markets throughout Israel, dates, pomegranates, olives, avocado, persimmon, oranges, carob, sabras (cactus fruit), and other beautiful fruits are transformed into delicious delectables to be shared by family and friends….
The most common tradition of all for the celebration of Tu B'Shevat is to plant new trees. While the holiday doesn't really have anything to do with planting trees, the idea may be borne from the mitzvah known as "yishuv ha'aretz," יישוב הארץ, settling the land. "I will bring you to the land, concerning which I raised My hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, and I will give it to you as a heritage." (Shemot 6:8); “You shall possess the Land and dwell in it, for to you have I given the Land to possess it” (Bamidbar, 33:53); “You shall possess it and you shall dwell therein” (Devarim, 11:31)
This doesn't only speak to the ingathering of Jews to make their homes in the Land of Israel. Yishuv HaAretz invites Jews from all over the world to join in the effort of working hand-in-hand with the land, to make the desert bloom, to grow roots in our ancestral soil, and to ensure another generation of trees will prosper for the next generation of Jews in Israel and throughout the world to enjoy.
"And when you shall come into the land, and shall have planted all manner of trees for food…" (Leviticus19:23) וְכִי-תָבֹאוּ אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, וּנְטַעְתֶּם כָּל-עֵץ מַאֲכָל
As a result of this love for planting trees…Israel was one of the only countries to end the last century with more trees that it had 100 years earlier! Our connection to the land can be increased by learning of the significance of trees and their fruit to the life and land of the Jewish State….
SOFT-RIGHT ELECTION AND FOREIGN POLICY
Frederick Krantz, Jan. 24, 2013
Israel’s election signifies three things. First, the ever-green utility of the old aphorism, “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics”; second, what the great German historical-sociologist Max Weber called “the primacy of politics”; and third, the Israeli electorate’s strikingly broad “foreign policy” consensus on both the Palestinian and Iranian issues.
(1) All the major media, in Israel, North America and Europe, relying on multiple polls in Israel, wrongly predicted a massive right-wing electoral sweep. And while that didn’t materialize (in fact Likud-Israel Beiteinu lost 11 of 42 seats), neither did the Left feel the wind beneath its sails–it did poorly, with Labour receding, and Tsipi Livni’s party getting 6 votes (plummeting from her former party, Kadima’s 29 tallies in 2009).
What Israel’s electorate in fact returned, upsetting all expectations, was a Right-Center preponderance, clearly focused domestically on social and economic issues (and, in Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid’s 19-vote case, on IDF service for the ultra-Orthodox). (We will turn to foreign policy in a moment.)
(2) Max Weber, an opponent of Marxism, understood that while socio-historical dynamics involve economic, political, and cultural-ideological factors, history above all rests upon, and is made by, politics. Politics, not the economy, is the “independent variable”, and politics, in turn, has much to do with the intangible human qualities we call leadership (it was Weber, after all, who invented the term “charismatic leader”).
And Israel’s election indeed turned on leaders, able and less able. Here three leaders, who organized and motivated coherent large-scale followings were key. Bibi Netanyahu, already twice prime minister, and clearly on the verge, despite losses, of organizing a third governing coalition; Yair Lapid, an actor and journalist, able to ride the wave of a domestically centrist movement with social concerns but which is, at the same time, as we shall see, “soft-right” in terms of security policy; and Naftali Bennett, of the Jewish Home party, taking right-wing and religious votes away from Likud-Beitenu with a clearly pro-settlements and anti-Palestinian platform.
On the other hand, would-be leaders of leftist parties did not do very well. Shelly Yachimovich, concentrating wholly on domestic issues, led Labour to a disappointing, lacklustre finish; and Tsipi Livni (concentrating on making peace with the Palestinians) fell off the electoral cliff, barely making the cut with a miserable two seats for the “Tsipi Livni Party”.
So Israel’s election throws light on how politics both reflect, and shape, issues, and is in turn affected by leadership. And how, in democracies, politics and leadership largely
determine the outcome of elections.
Thirdly, Israel, alongside the election’s clear domestic emphasis, nevertheless also expressed a second, “soft-Right” regional-diplomatic-security consensus. Here the pundits and pollsters again missed the boat: the key parties upon which a new, Netanhyahu-led governing coalition will be based—Likud-Beitenu, Yesh Atid, probably Shas and Jewish Home (both of which may well reach workable issues-related compromises), and even, possibly, Tsipi Livni’s Kadima remnant, are united by a “go-slow” policy vis-à-vis the Palestinians, and a clear concern over Iran’s approaching nuclear capability….
Indeed, this right-center, or soft-Right, consensus is the election’s over-riding importance, given the gathering storm over Iran. And it validates a key reason Netanyahu chose to hold the vote at this time in the first place: as a kind of referendum on his tough, “red-line” anti-Teheran security policy.
Here we should all recall another key variable facing Netanyahu, and Israel, American policy after Obama’s re-election. Here my hunch—reinforced recently by his nomination of the Un-Holy Trinity of Hagel, Brennan, and Kerry (a trio which reminds one of FDR’s attacks on “Martin, Barton, and Fish”, three Republican isolationists), all clearly anti-Israel figures, to key Cabinet posts–is that Obama will not only not support an Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear installations, but will work actively to prevent it.
And—once the real meaning of the recent election becomes more clear–Obama will also do what he can to undermine the emerging “soft-Right” Israeli coalition probably emerging from the current political negotiations. (Here we should register his striking election-eve indication that he, Obama, knew better what was in Israel’s best interest than Netanyahu.)
All of which brings us back to Weber, politics and power—given that “big fish [try to] eat little fish”, can Israel defend its own national existence (which, in its neighbourhood, means survival) in the face of opposition, indeed, even undermining, by what is, after all, not only the world’s only super power, but Israel’s only ally?
It is an excruciating situation—how this struggle between survival and expediency, sovereignty and intervention, will play out remains shrouded in the mists of the future. But some kind of final confrontation seems, and not too long off, to be in the offing, and in this regard the recent Israeli election—which could, somewhat paradoxically, result in a broad-based 70+ vote Right-to-Center-Left national-unity coalition–may well prove providential.
(Professor Krantz is Editor of the Daily Isranet Briefing, and
Director of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)
Ruth R. Wisse
Wall Street Journal, Jan.16, 2013,
The confirmation process for those slated to guide American foreign policy can profitably be used to clear up at least one point of confusion. What's at issue is not the degree of their affection for Jews or for Israel—despite the consternation caused by the nomination for defense secretary of Chuck Hagel, who said in 2006: "The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here, but I'm a United States senator. I'm not an Israeli senator."
The Nebraskan's imputation of excessive Jewish influence in Washington is less worrisome than his failure to recognize why the "lobby" exists. Never mind the Jews: Opposition to Israel camouflages a much more virulent hostility to America. How does an American statesman assess the anti-Jews who attack Israel as a proxy for this country?
Let's start with basics: The cause of the long-running Arab war against the Jewish homeland is not Israel, it is Arab leaders' need for war against a "foreign intruder." Seven Middle East countries rallied their citizens by forming the Arab League in 1945 to prevent the creation of Israel. Failing in that effort, the Arab League eventually expanded to 21 members, which organized their domestic and foreign politics against the Jewish state. When Anwar Sadat signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, Egypt was suspended from the league, expelled from the Islamic Conference and ousted from other regional and financial institutions. Re-admission for Egypt came only after the assassination of Sadat and his successor's abrogation of almost every term of the treaty.
Opposition to Israel is the only glue of pan-Arabism and the strongest common bond of otherwise warring Muslim constituencies. Even those inclined to end the war are afraid of the consequences (including assassination) of giving up hostilities.
Like the anti-Semitism from which it derives, anti-Zionism is less about the Jews than about the larger aims of those aggressing against the Jews. When the League of Anti-Semites formed in Germany in the 1870s, its primary goal was to prevent the spread of liberal democracy. Rather than denounce a freer, more open society, the league called democracy the ruse that allowed Jews to conquer Germany from within.
In the same way, anti-Zionism today unites conservatives and radicals in the Middle East against all that Israel represents—religious pluralism, individual rights and freedoms, liberal democracy, and Western ideas of progress. Jews and Israel are merely a convenient face or emblem for the huger bastions of those same ideals. Israel, "little Satan," is a handier target than the "big Satan."
The Arab war against Israel has cost thousands of Jewish lives, but its damage to Palestinians is arguably greater, destroying the moral fabric of a society that was once relatively prosperous and culturally advanced. Anti-Jewish politics works by misdirection, drawing attention away from real concerns toward the alleged Jewish violator. Thus, Arab leaders who tried to deny Jews their country accused Jews of denying Arabs their country. To make the charge stick, the leaders have kept Palestinian Arabs in perpetual refugee status while millions of other refugees around the world—including 800,000 Jews from Arab lands—were resettled and started their lives anew.
Many societies have identified Jews as the threatening alien, but Palestinian Arabs are the first people ever to shape their national identity exclusively around opposition to the Jews. The special ingredient that sets Palestinian nationalism apart from that of surrounding Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan—and reputedly makes it the strongest form of Arab nationalism—is the usurpation of Jewish symbols and history. The most important date in the Palestinian calendar is not any Arab or Muslim holiday or event, but the day of Israel's founding, commemorated as Nakba, the catastrophe that ostensibly spurred the creation of Arab Palestine. Commemorated as "Palestine's endless Holocaust," Nakba simultaneously libels the Jewish homeland and demeans the Shoah by appropriating the Nazi genocide of Europe's Jews.
A new logo for the Palestinian political party Fatah claims the entire map of Israel. Fatah's rival, Hamas, is led by Khalid Mashaal, who recently called for the liberation of "Gaza today and tomorrow Ramallah and after that Jerusalem then Haifa and Jaffa." Clearly, both factions remain more intent on destroying their neighbor than on bettering Palestinian lives.
A perfumer in Gaza has named his new fragrance "M-75" after the "pleasant and attractive" missiles used by Hamas to attack Israel. A Facebook FB +0.08% page for Fatah shows a mother strapping her child into a suicide belt; when he asks his mother why him and not her, the mother says that she must bear more children to sacrifice for Palestine. Civil war in Syria, turmoil in Egypt, crisis in Iran and an Islamist threat to Jordan—all follow from the same ruinous politics of grievance and blame.
Chuck Hagel does not have to like Jews, but if he expects to defend the United States, he needs to understand the nature and scope of the war against Israel, including its corrupting effect on Arab societies. The alignment between Israel and America is dictated by those who burn the flags of both countries on the same pyre. By contrast, those who lobby for Israel's protection axiomatically have America's back.
Ms. Wisse is professor of Yiddish and comparative literature at Harvard.
The Settlements Don't Endanger Israel's Existence – They Guarantee It: Dani Dayan, Intelligence Squared, Jan. 21, 2013—YouTube video from the debate "Israel is destroying itself with its settlement policy: If settlement expansion continues Israel will have no future" which took place at the Royal Geographical Society on 15th January 2013.
Needed: War Against Jihadists: Lawrence Solomon, Financial Post, Jan 18, 2013—West faces Third World War against those who hate them. Today, the Middle East is increasingly being ruled by jihadists who hate the West, plot to target Western facilities and take Western hostages, and have an ever-growing land base from which to operate. How’s that working out for us?
The New World Disorder: Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, Jan. 21, 2013—John Brennan, Chuck Hagel, and John Kerry will be confirmed. The three will provide a force-multiplying effect on the Obama foreign policy of disengagement. The trio is less competent than their predecessors, but also perhaps more representative of a country on its way to a $20 trillion national debt and a “lead from behind” foreign policy of managed decline.
Obama Second Term Bodes Trouble for Israel: Daniel Pipes, The Washington Times, Jan. 22, 2013—The election is over, President Obama has just been sworn in for a second term, and cold treatment of Israel is already firmly in place. Mr. Obama has signaled during the past two months what lies ahead for U.S. relations with Israel through several actions.
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