Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
This morning I spoke by phone to Jerusalem with Felice Friedson (The Media Line's - TML - co-founder and its current President and CEO) about a new U.S. State Department-funded study on Israeli and Palestinian textbooks that soon will be released.
The article “Text-Book Study Sparks Controversy,” co-written by Felice Friedson and Linda Gradstein of NPR News, covers a study conducted over the last three years of how Israeli and Palestinian school textbooks treat the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the images these textbooks create of the other population. Felice, who has read the entire study, reports that:
A U.S. State Department-funded study on Israeli and Palestinian textbooks released in Jerusalem has set-off a wave of insults, charges and counter-charges. Israel’s Ministry of Education called the detailed report “biased and unprofessional” while the International Society for Political Psychology called the Israeli government’s description “highly distressing.”
Education is a key element in a future two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is clear that there is a long way to go before the two enemy populations know and understand each other. Organizations such as Seeds for Peace have sought to defuse conflict through face to face encounters, camps and projects in which Israeli and Palestinian youth come to actually know one another, but not nearly enough people on each side have had such opportunities. This is why this text-book study is so revealing as a gauge for the state of understanding of each population towards the other. This story will have legs for some time. It is worth following:
See the Media Line Story here.
Note: The Media Line is a “non-profit news organization established to enhance and balance media coverage in the Middle East.” It delivers its in-house news and programming via multiple media – radio, television content, Internet news and features, and written stories for the print media. Media outlets using The Media Line as a source include the BBC World Service; National Public Radio; ABC, CBS affiliates; Al-Quds (Palestinian) newspaper; Y-Net (Israel); Ma’an (Palestinian) Television Network; Atlanta Journal-Constitution; India Today; IRN (UK Radio). Media Line may also soon be picked up by The Huffington Post .
12.3.13 at 6:33 am | Anat Hoffman's letter and a link to include your. . .
12.2.13 at 7:19 am | To acknowledge vulnerability is to accept our. . .
11.29.13 at 6:59 am | The recently published Pew Study of the American. . .
11.27.13 at 8:45 am | The two pieces below published in today’s. . .
11.24.13 at 12:15 pm | Kerry turned to the Jewish community to enlist. . .
11.24.13 at 8:10 am | “As corny as this sounds I get up in the. . .
12.3.13 at 6:33 am | Anat Hoffman's letter and a link to include your. . . (86)
11.17.13 at 7:20 am | Thousands of secular Israelis are turning to the. . . (80)
12.2.13 at 7:19 am | To acknowledge vulnerability is to accept our. . . (62)
January 30, 2013 | 9:42 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
The film “Gatekeepers” was made, according to Director Dror Moreh, for Israelis who do not think much about the lives of Palestinians living in the West Bank under Israeli occupation nor about the negative and corrosive impact the occupation has had on the moral and political character of the people and state of Israel. It is also intended for those American Jews who love Israel in their kishkes, who understand that Jewish history in light of the Holocaust compels them to appreciate the central importance of the Jewish state in their lives, but who have come to the wrong conclusion, that in order to love Israel they have to support her policies right or wrong.
The film has been nominated for an Academy Award at this year’s Oscars, and I am personally mixed about whether I want it to win or not, because winning means even wider exposure of this disturbing story before the world at large.
The film features interviews of six retired Directors of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security services. These are hardened, pragmatic men, people with blood on their hands, who have seen it all, who have been the chief practitioners in the fight against terrorism, and who understand that though there are things Israel’s military has had to do to protect Israeli citizens, there is still something “unnatural” about this fight.
Why are these Shin Bet former directors speaking out now? After all, anyone working in Israel’s intelligence services historically has been closed-mouthed about what happens there. They agreed to be interviewed and part of this film because they believe that the direction of Israeli policy is leading the Jewish state towards a catastrophe, that the continued occupation of one and a half million hostile Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank is doomed for disaster, that the occupation is eating away at Israel’s political and moral heart and soul and threatening the survival of the Jewish democratic state of Israel.
The six characterized Israel’s policy in the West Bank as short-sighted, based on tactical matters and not reflective of a cogent long-term strategy. To a man they are soured on Israel’s political leaders who they say have failed to grapple with the core of the conflict and who have not demonstrated the courage necessary to find a two-state solution. They do not understand, for example, Prime Minister Netanyahu who on the one hand says he is for a two-state solution and on the other embraces the most extremist elements within Israeli society that are against a Palestinian state anywhere west of the Jordan River.
One can only hope that there will be a more moderate Israeli government that forms in the next few weeks reflecting the Israeli public’s rejection of extremism and a renewed effort by the United States to bring the parties together to talk and negotiate in good faith.
“Gatekeepers” is a must-see film for anyone who cares about Israel as the democratic state of the Jewish people.
Below is a 25 minute interview with Dror Moreh, the Director of Gatekeepers by The Huffington Post.
January 29, 2013 | 8:32 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
So threatened Ohed Shaked, a self-described Hareidi (Ultra-Orthodox) teacher of citizenship in an open letter to Yair Lapid, as printed in the Israeli daily Yideot Achronot (January 24).
Mr. Shaked expressed the view that Lapid’s success in the recent elections (19 seats) means that he now has a pivotal role to play vis a vis the Hareidi community. Shaked appealed to Lapid’s sense of decency that he showed during the campaign in not attacking key rabbis and leaders of the ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism. He also asserts that the future of the state of Israel is in Lapid’s own hands.
What is Mr. Shaked (and by extension) the Hareidi community most worried about? Two things: 1. Yair Lapid’s call for shivyon b’netel (sharing the burden), which refers to the conscription of the Orthodox into either military or civilian service, like all other Israelis, and 2. The new government’s reordering of budgetary priorities given the massive deficit of $39 billion, $20 billion more than was expected. One of the budget’s large expenses is to the Orthodox community that is estimated to be between $500 million and $1 billion annually. Note: The Reform and Conservative communities receive almost no funds from the government. Lapid is a pluralist and attends occasionally Beit Daniel, the starship Reform synagogue of Tel Aviv, and it is the hope of Israel’s liberal religious streams that official Israeli government discrimination will end.
Mr. Shaked is concerned that military conscription of all Orthodox students would devastate the commitment to Torah learning and practice in the Orthodox world, which they believe sustains the Jewish people and the Jewish state. He understands that there are, however, two categories of religious students – the serious students of Torah (“Torah faithful”) and others. The difficulty is in defining who is “Torah faithful” and who is not. At the very least, Shaked believes that bonafide “Torah faithful” students should be given a pass when it comes to military service.
Mr. Shaked called for a meeting of the minds between Yair Lapid with the second on his party list, Rabbi Shai Peron, and the rabbis of Shas (11 seats) and United Torah Judaism (7 seats).
Since the election, Shas and United Torah Judaism have created a voting block of 18 seats, hoping to compete with Lapid's Yesh Atid (19 seats). The question is whether the religious parties will be invited by Netanyahu into the ruling coalition in the next Knesset. Netanyahu, if press reports are correct, is leaning towards giving Shas a role in the government instead of Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home Party (Bayit Yehudi), which won 11 seats. Bennett, a young modern orthodox wealthy entrepreneur, represents the settler movement and is categorically against a Palestinian state existing anywhere on land west of the Jordan River.
If PM Netanyahu invites Bennett’s party into the government, he would not need Shas to give him a majority of seats in his coalition. If he invites Shas he would not need Bennett’s Jewish Home Party.
Yair Lapid said immediately after the election that he would push hard in his discussions with Netanyahu for renewed negotiations with the Palestinian Authority towards reaching a two-state solution, as well as the goal of Orthodox conscription and efforts on behalf of the middle class. Essentially, it seems that Lapid has become the “King-maker” as Bibi strives to piece together a coalition that would be secure enough to rule.
Shas is more open to negotiations with the Palestinians than is Bennett. Should Bibi invite Shas, Lapid would then insist that the Rabbis agree to go forward in the negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. If Shas does agree, it is likely that Bibi will accommodate the Ultra-Orthodox community somewhat on the issue of “sharing the burden” of military service.
My own view is that at this point in Israel’s history, a two-state solution must be number one on Israel’s agenda (along with concern about Iran’s nuclear development) for Israel’s sake as a Jewish and democratic state. Though there is much resentment towards the ultra-Orthodox in Israeli society (they make up 20% of all Israelis) because of the military deferments and the large budgetary expense for their yeshivot and communities, it may be politically necessary to set that issue on the back burner. Perhaps, there will agreement on the goal of a more gradual “sharing the burden.”
The politics of coalition building may avert Mr. Shaked’s veiled threat of a Milchemet Achim, (war between brethren) while also averting the next war with the Palestinians.
That would be a win-win!
January 27, 2013 | 8:28 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
So writes Charles Blow of the Republican Party on the Op-Ed pages of The New York Times (January 25, 2013).
In key toss-up states controlled by Republican legislatures in the most recent presidential contest, the Republican Party had attempted to skew the vote towards Governor Romney by rigging the system so as to reduce the number of Democrats who would be able to vote. The GOP used a number of strategies including reducing the number of voting places and voting machines in Democratic districts, eliminating the weekend for voting before the election, and shortening the number of hours the polling places would be open that would adversely affect areas populated by minorities, seniors and the poor who tend to vote Democratic. The Republicans had also attempted to require photo identification in order to vote which puts the poor and elderly at a disadvantage, most of whom, of course, tend to vote for Democrats.
Despite this blatant assault on the most basic of democratic freedoms (i.e. the right to vote in free elections), voters in those targeted districts defiantly either voted early by mail or stood for hours in rain and cold to vote. Such long lines, of course, did not exist in districts where Republicans were in the majority.
After trying to unsuccessfully suppress the Democratic vote in 2012, the Republicans have devised a new strategy to win future presidential elections. Though both the Democratic and Republican parties have gerrymandered their state districts to give their respective party advantages, the 2010 gerrymander effort by Republicans has effectively enabled them to retain their majority in the House of Representatives despite the fact that Democrats nationally won more than one million more votes than their Republican colleagues.
Now the Republicans (as described by Charles Blow) are trying something new, to rig the election by changing the way states allocate electoral votes in presidential elections.
Currently, states are winner-take-all for the Electoral College, meaning that the candidate who wins a state’s popular vote receives all that state’s electoral votes. The Republicans want to change the system and award electoral votes proportionally by congressional district regardless of who wins the most votes state-wide. On its face, this does not seem unreasonable until one looks at the numbers and connects the dots. This system would favor less populated rural areas that vote Republican over more populated urban areas that vote Democratic by giving them equal weight. Had this system been in effect in 2012, Governor Mitt Romney would have won the presidency despite losing by millions of votes nationally to President Barack Obama.
The only comfort I take from these underhanded undemocratic shenanigans is that they are a reflection of desperation within the GOP that is struggling to stay competitive in a country in which demographics have changed against Republicans and that Republican ideas and approaches to government are no longer held in the majority.
If the Republicans are defeated in these vote-rigging efforts I suspect that the GOP as currently constituted will die from its own self-inflicted wounds. In its place I would hope that there would emerge a new kind of Republican Party that is more moderate, more pragmatic, more inclusive, more compromising, and more democratic.
The United States works best with a viable two-party system that can meet often on common ground and arrive at a workable national consensus on policy while checking the excesses of the other. We certainly do not need one party like the current Republican Party that thinks nothing of cheating the public and undermining our democratic system.
See Charles Blow’s column here.
January 13, 2013 | 7:53 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
It would be easy to throw up one’s hands in despair about prospects for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal anytime soon. Most of the news is negative except that Israeli pollsters say the vast majority of Israelis dearly want peace and accept the principle of a two-state solution, but few expect it to happen soon.
Mahmud Abbas does not sound of late like the peace-partner Ehud Olmert and Shimon Peres believe him to be. In a major speech last week, for example, President Abbas made no mention of the necessity of a two-state solution and the land-for-peace formula. Instead, he called on the Palestinians to continue their struggle and he pointed to Hajj Amin al-Husseini as a memorable past Palestinian leader. Al-Husseini was in alliance with Hitler during WWII and developed plans to build an “Auschwitz” in the West Bank.
I understand why Abbas has turned to more extreme rhetoric, to counteract the ascendency of Hamas. But his doing so is a tragedy. I had hoped that after his successful UN bid he would take the opportunity to drop his preconditions and sit down with Netanyahu to negotiate an end-of-conflict solution. It is exceptionally disheartening that he did not do so.
On the other hand, Israel’s election campaign has given voice to the most extreme elements in Israeli society and politics. Naftali Bennet and his new “Jewish Home” party has called for the unilateral annexation of 40% of the West Bank into Israel, and polls indicate that he would attain between 16 and 18 mandates in the next Knesset. Likud’s Moshe Feiglin, representing the extreme wing of Netanyahu’s party, has called for the unilateral annexation of the West Bank and suggested that Israel pay each Palestinian family $500,000 to leave their homes and go to another country. The growth of the right-wing settler movement combined with the ultra-Orthodox religious parties will likely pull Netanyahu further to the right, which will make achieving a two-state solution even more difficult in the next Knesset.
Both sides are frustrated, afraid of losing face and are digging in their heels. Palestinians see Israeli intransigence, continued occupation and a denial of their human rights and a state of their own as intolerable. Israelis fear the radicalization of the Palestinians and Hamas’ potential overthrow of the PA and endless terror and war, and they worry further that the “Arab Spring” will continue its hostility to Israel. And, last but certainly not least, they regard Iran’s development of nuclear weapons as a mortal threat.
And then there are those of us in Israel and America who believe that the only solution that preserves Israel’s Jewish majority and democratic character, while being the best guarantor for the Jewish state’s long-term security and improved international standing as a progressive nation is the two-state solution.
I asked recently an Israeli friend whether he feels despair given the current trends and he said, “John, in Israel despair is not an option.”
In difficult times as these I find it worthwhile to look to history for wisdom and hope, whose ark often swings from one extreme to another. With this perspective, it is remarkable indeed that our own American founding fathers created the constitutional democracy that we have today, that the allies defeated the Nazis, that in their place emerged a new Germany and eventually a strong European Union, that the State of Israel was created at all, that the Berlin Wall fell and soon thereafter the Soviet Union crumbled, that peace came to Northern Ireland, and that an African American was elected twice as President of the United States.
History holds many surprises, and I hope that the next big one is peace between Israel and the Palestinian people.
Rebbe Nachman of Bratzlav taught: “Remember: Things can go from the very worst to the very best…in just the blink of an eye.”
And Dr. Martin Luther King, whose birthday we recall this week, said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
I wish the Israelis well in their election next week. Should Prime Minister Netanyahu form a new government, as he is expected to do, I pray that he commit himself to find a way to work hard for peace between Israel and Palestinians in a two-state end-of-conflict solution.
From here, thousands of miles away, we American Jews have the duty, I believe, to do everything we can to support that effort by persuading President Obama and the United States to engage aggressively and soon to help the Israelis and Palestinians achieve an agreement that addresses the yearnings of both peoples for dignity, security, justice, and peace.
None of this will be easy, but as my Israeli friend reminded me, “In Israel despair is not an option.”
January 9, 2013 | 8:19 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster’s blog, printed in The Jewish Daily Forward (below) expresses well why torture is contrary to Jewish values and tradition.
She is Director of North American Programs for Rabbis for Human Rights-North America and a board member of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.
The resources she cites (below) show why, in truth, torture does not work and that the torture shown in this remarkable film, “Zero Dark Thirty” did NOT lead to information identifying Osama bin Laden’s courier, per Senators John McCain, Diane Feinstein and Carl Levin with access to classified CIA information.
Rachel and Rabbis for Human Rights-North America have done us a tremendous service in bringing this material to public attention, and I am happy to post the links to her article and this information here.
January 7, 2013 | 7:11 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
Anat Hoffman is the Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), the social justice arm of Israel’s Reform Movement (i.e. “The Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism – IMPJ”). She is also the leader of a separate group called “Women of the Wall” a convening of religious women for prayer on the first of every Hebrew month (Rosh Hodesh) at the holiest site in Judaism, the Western Wall (Kotel) for many years.
The following is her report on the current status of her arrest and incarceration two months ago for praying, singing and wearing a tallit publicly. Also, you may click here and sign a petition of protest.
Dear John ,
On October 17, 2012, Rosh Chodesh Heshvan, I was arrested at the Western Wall for the crime of wearing a tallit and singing. Although it was only two months ago, so much has happened since. The level of intimidation by the authorities at the Kotel is getting worse. Additional women have been detained for a similar crime, including a prominent Reform rabbi. In light of the Jewish Agency recently taking up this issue I wanted to update you on my personal situation and IRAC’s continuing work to make the Western Wall a home for all Jews.
The arrest and the treatment I endured during my night in prison was a difficult experience, but what has been even harder for me is seeing how successful the Rabbi of the Kotel, Shmuel Rabinowitz, has been at making women from all denominations afraid to visit Judaism’s holiest site.
After my arrest for "performing a religious act contrary to local custom" (saying the Shema), I filed a complaint with the Jerusalem police department’s equivalent of Internal Affairs. When I told them how I had been treated by their officers they seemed genuinely shocked. We had high hopes for the results of their investigation, but my case sat dormant for over a month.
Finally we were told that they see nothing wrong with the action of the police and the treatment I received. They said that pulling me across the floor by my wrists, two strip searches, and making me sleep on the floor were all within their regulations. My case was moved from the police internal investigations department to the civilian complaint department.
Last week IRAC went to the High Court to try to change the composition of the governing body that decides what religious acts are acceptable at the Western Wall. Currently, that body is the Western Wall Heritage Council, which is made up of 15 ultra-Orthodox men. In their minds, the way millions of Jews in Israel and around the world pray is not legitimate and has no place at Judaism’s holy sites. We strongly disagree.
The physical scars from my ordeal two months ago have healed, but my desire to see an end to the ultra-Orthodox domination of religious and civil life in Israel is stronger than ever. Everywhere I go in Israel and abroad people give me words of support, and I cannot tell you how much that means to me. I have no doubt that by working together we can make religious life in Israel inclusive and pluralistic.
Executive Director, IRAC
Action Alert: Help our petition grow!
For several months we have been collecting signatures for our Kotel petition. We have already reached over 30,000 signatures, but we need more to accomplish our 50,000 goal. Join us in petitioning the Israeli government to make the leadership of the governing body of the Western Wall Complex more inclusive and more representative of Israeli society and the wider Jewish world. If you have already signed the petition please click here to help us collect more signatures.
December 21, 2012 | 9:00 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
Every year this season draws families, friends and colleagues together. There is love in the air, but also painful memories of breached trust and unresolved conflict. The power of forgiveness, the instinct for revenge and the need for reconciliation is ever present in our lives. Forgiveness may be the most difficult challenge we ever face. For those, however, who are able to forgive and are graced by others who forgive us, we are fortunate indeed.
Rabbi Abraham Twerski, in Forgiveness – Don’t let resentment keep you captive, writes that every experience we have in our lives is stored in the memory hard drive of our subconscious. Some are harmless, some edifying and others painful. Though we may have repressed them we are, nevertheless, the sum total of those memories. We are fashioned by them and we relate to others through our memory’s lens.
Rabbi Twerski says: “With every additional year there are more provocations (major and minor) and the sum total is cumulative…when we don’t forgive an offense, it remains in the subconscious and it joins similar feelings for the various complexes to which it belongs.”
Forgiveness is often misunderstood. Forgiving does not mean excusing the bad behavior of others or forgetting that we’ve been wronged. Rather, forgiveness means letting go of the anger, resentment and need for revenge.
What if the people who hurt us or offended us have not apologized and think they were justified in what they did? Are we supposed to forgive them? The answer is yes, not for their sake but for ours. Forgiving an offender is not about doing him a favor. Getting rid of our resentment and need for vengeance is for our own good so that those negative feelings cease to complicate our lives.
The ideal goal is reconciliation with the offending other. But this is not always possible.
I heard a moving story this week about a woman in her 70s who had not spoken with her sister in 40 years. One day out of the blue her sister called to inform her that she was dying, and before she died she wanted to see her. They met, her sister apologized for the wrong that had caused the breach and asked for forgiveness. They wept together and reconciled. After she died the surviving sister felt as though a heavy burden had been lifted from her, and the love she once felt for her sister returned.
As we encounter family, friends and colleagues during these final days of the year, perhaps now is our time to dig deeply, summon the courage, take the risk, and ask for and seek forgiveness of others.
Michael McCullough, in his book Beyond Revenge – The Evolution of the Forgiveness Instinct, extends the principles of interpersonal forgiveness to groups, communities and nations. He writes:
“The forgiveness instinct needs to be activated. When we do this we can change the world. Groups can be helped to forgive other groups, communities can be helped to forgive other communities, …and nations can even be helped to forgive other nations. Leaders… can offer apologies on behalf of their people to groups with whom they’ve been in conflict. They can also offer gestures that express remorse and empathy for the suffering of another group, and they can provide compensation to groups of people whom they’ve harmed – just as individuals can. When they engage in such gestures, it is often to great effect.” (p. 182-183)
Think of such gestures on the world stage that have been offered, and the effect. Pope John Paul II apologized to the Jewish people for Christendom’s participation in the Holocaust. Japanese leaders offered public apologies for war atrocities committed against China, Korea and other neighbors. The United States apologized to Japanese Americans who we interred in concentration camps during World War II. The Irish Republican Army apologized for the deaths of noncombatants during the war in northern Ireland.
Is it not time for Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas to apologize on behalf of their peoples for the pain and suffering experienced by non-combatants on each side as a first step to a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
It is never too late. Forgiveness can come at any time.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote:
If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man's life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.