Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Don't Mess With the Siddur

Rav Asher Lopatin over at Morethodoxy, in his ongoing efforts to blur the distinction between his brand of Modern Orthodoxy and right wing Conservatism, has come up with a new idea. I guess he's envious of those amazing Conservatives who don't think anything of messing with the siddur. It's well known that they've editted the traditional text to omit anything that doesn't fit with their secular liberal views on Judaism. One of the most famous changes they've made is to alter the three "who has not made me a" blessings in the morning into their positive forms. Why start the day with a "I'm so glad I'm not a..." when you can start it with a positive affirmation?
The problem with doing that is that it misses the point of why those blessings are in the negative in the first place. Starting with the original citation in Menachos 43b and down through the various levels of poskim multiple analyses look at exactly this quesiton and justify the current form.
But that's not good enough for someone whose Judaism is guided by his secular liberal sensitivities. What matters it that 2000 years of tradition have had it one way when it is out of step with today's realities? He doesn't like the form so he's going to change it! After bringing very selective sources and misquoting the Gras, he concludes:
Therefore, I suggest that we follow the b’racha according to the G’ra and the Rosh and our Talmud, and say, “She’asani Yisrael” instead of the negative, and that a woman says“She’asani Yisraelit” instead of the negative. Once the first b’racha is said in this way, the way it appears in the G’marra Menachot, then we have no choice, based on the p’sak of the Aruch HaShulchan (from the Bach) , to avoid saying the final two, negative b’rachot of “Shelo Asani Aved” (God did not make me a slave) and “Shelo Asani Isha”(God did not make me a woman), since they become unnecessary after such an all encompassing, powerful, and positive statement of Jewish identity of “She’asani Yisrael/Yisraelit”.
Now for some “hashkafa” – philosophical context:
She’asani Yisrael/Yisraelit” is a beautiful b’racha, thanking God for making me Jewish – proud to be Jewish, excited to begin the day as a Yisrael.
Rather than beginning the day with negative b’rachot, which accentuate the G’marra of “noach lo la’adam shelo nivra” – it would be truly better for a human being not to have been created at all – maybe it is now time to begin the day with a positive b’racha “k’mo sha’ar b’rachot shemevarchim al hatova” (Magen Avraham, 46, 9) – like all other b’rachot that we say blessing God for good things. How do you want to wake up in the morning: happy to be alive, or frustrated that you are still stuck in this world? Perhaps it depends on the day!

Rav Lopatin is a very educated man, both in secular and Jewish fields, but this is just piffle. So I submitted a reply in my usual inimitable (not that anyone seems to want to imitate it) style:
I'm sorry to interrupt this "let's do something wonderful" fest but...
First of all, I know you are very educated in both Jewish and secular fields, Rav Lopatin. I was not aware, however, that you have achieved the status of Posek haDor. Or is it your contention that any pulpit rabbi anywhere can much around with the siddur any time it bothers his sensibilities?
Secondly, the Vilna Goan does not say "it is the correct language to use in his Biur HaGra on the Shulchan Aruch". He says that that the Rif and the Rambam had the negative berachos in their siddurim while his local siddurim, like those of the Rosh and the Taz had the positive. This does not imply preference. Further, the problem with his statement is that in the Tur itself, chap. 46, he clearly lists the negative berachos without mention of any "sheasani Yisrael".
Thirdly, your reference to the Aruch HaShulchan is incomplete. In 46:10 he notes two reasons for the negatives. One is that the positive blessing implies disregard for those not included, that is: Thank God I'm a Jew because eveyrone else isn't worthy of being noticed. The negative, on the other hand, implies that while non-Jews, slaves and women have definite intrinsic worth, it's even better to not be them but more obligated to God. The second reason, which he brings from the Taz, is from Eiruvin 13 in which Chazal note that it was decided by Beis Hillel and Beis Shammai (and we recite this loudly every year on Yom Kippur) that it is better than man had never been created, but now that he has been, let him engage in Torah and mitzvos. If we see having been created as less than ideal, and by saying that it was decided by the greatest sages of the time then it has reached a level of emes, how can we bless God for creating us? Rather, the negative blessings acknowledge this discomfort and fulfill the recommendations of Chazal now that we're stuck here in This World.
The Taz goes further and notes that in theory Sheasani Yisrael makes sense. After all, there is a rule not to multiple berachos needlessly and there are lots of other ways to hit the magic 100 for the day so why not say Sheasani Yisrael and reduce the number of morning blessings by two? He again notes that this would imply that women and slaves are deficient products of creation and we cannot do this because it's not true.
Further, the Beis Yosef on Tur OC 46 brings an additional reason - by saying all three blessings you add chesed to chesed, increasing your praise of God.
The Chayei Adam 8:2 also notes that if you say Sheasani Yisrael you cannot say the other two berachos, even in the positive sense. Your conclusion from Sheasani Yisraelit is completely incorect. A Yisraelit does not have the same mitzvah obligations as a Yisrael. Therefore the two blessings are NOT equivalent. The only way aorund that is the change the order of the blessings and make Sheasani Israel third but who are we to change the order of the blessings set down by Chazal?
Thus far the actual sources.
This post seems to reveal the major problem with left wing Modern Orthodox psak. It seems the model is "let's find an authority we agree with and run with him". Hence the approving reference to the Vilna Gaon based on the Rosh. Never mind that the Rambam, the Rif, the Tur, the Beis Yosef, the Magen Avraham, the Taz, the Mishnah Berurah and the Aruch HaShulchan disagree. Never mind that if the Vilna Gaon were to come back to life and discover that 99.9% of proper siddurim nowadays have the negative blessings in them he'd probably agree that the obligation is to say them as is. We have a vaguely word Gra. Let's change the siddur!
It reminds me of someone I knew who used to rely on a heter he'd heard about in the Igros Moshe. When a rabbi friend of mine began listing chumros from the same work and asked him if he held by those as well, he shook his head. Talk about rabbi shopping. It may not be intellectually dishonest but it is halachically dishonest.
After all, there are plenty of places where the Gra is stricter than the Shulchan Aruch. Tell me, do you follow his customs on strict gender separation at all your functions? Do you follow all his other customs when it comes to tefillah?
Really, this is not how halacha works. It's how Conservatism works - let's decide what we want first and then find some authority, well-known or obscure, who supports us, or let's misapply some well-known halachic phrase like pikuach nefesh or tikun olam and use it in ways no one who knows what the words mean would ever approve of. The only remaining difference between Conservatism and Morethodoxy seems to be the red line. If the Conservatives don't find their heter, they hold a vote at their so-called Rabbinical Assembly and create one. I would assume Morethodoxy doesn't do that... yet.
Finally, the reasoning: "Rather than beginning the day with negative b’rachot, which accentuate the G’marra of “noach lo la’adam shelo nivra”...How do you want to wake up in the morning: happy to be alive, or frustrated that you are still stuck in this world? Perhaps it depends on the day!" is completely irrelevant! Who cares if you wake up happy? Suddenly Chazal are wrong and it was worth it for you to be created? The gemara does not qualify their statement: It wasn't worth being created... on days you wake up feeling lousy, otherwise great! It is a statement of emes. Wake up, smell the coffee, hear the birds, feel the warmth of the sun on your face, and it is wasn't worth being created because of the high level of responsiblity we have to submit to every day. The negative berachos affirm this truth. Your positive one turns it into a suggestion. Do you have the authority to do that to an explicit Chazal?
"For from the hills I behold him; lo, it is a people that shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations." (Bemidbar 23:9) I am worried about a form of Orthodoxy that seems to work in opposition to this verse, that wants to take all that makes Torah Judaism distinct and to blur it so that we don't seem that much different than the nations around us. Morethodoxy seems to be about avoiding the conflict between amoral secular liberal values and Torah values by minimizing and adjusting the latter so that said conflict is avoided. That's not real Orthodoxy.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Abominable Hypocrisy

Once upon a time, the homosexual lifestyle was "the love that dares not speak its name". Today it seems to have become "the annoyance that just won't shut up". Like most other ethnic/cultural groups, it has become obsessed with showing itself in public society. Hence the annual "pride" parades in major cities around the world, including Israel.
The hypocrisy of the movement, however, is obvious to those who are paying attention. Every year there is a to'evah parade in Yerushalayim and, protestations to the contrary, the main point of holding it there is not to demonstrate so-called pride but to offend the traditional and religious citizens of the city by shoving this so-called lifestyle in their face. Fine, it's a free country. They get to parade, others get to protest, and life goes on.
But think about it. When parade organizers are looking for cities to celebrate in, they're actually quite circumspect about where they want to go. They will show up in Yerushalayim or in front of the Vatican with great enthusiasm, but it's a sure bet that they've never called to make scheduling inquiries of the mayors of Mecca, Medina, Istanbul, Damascus, Cairo, Baghdad, Tehran or Islamabad. It's obvious why, of course. The survival rate of such a parade would be pretty much 0% once the locals got finished with them. Fine, they're not free countries. They don't get to parade there.
So why is it that when it comes time to choose political protest topics for the parade that it's the one country in the MiddleEast that gets targeted? What does this say about the real motives and political leanings of some of the movement's leadership?
Yes, yes, it's an Arab gay who was leading the protest but even he comes off as clueless:
Her announcement came with a warning to grand marshall El-Farouk Khaki not to use his ceremonial position as a pulpit to promote an anti-Israeli boycott.
Frank Dimant, executive vice-president of B’nai Brith Canada, today called for disciplinary action against Mr. Khaki, a founder of the national support group Salaam: Queer Muslim Community, because he spoke to a QuAIA event on the weekend.
A flier for the event said “Israel has now begun to frame itself as a tolerant, queer-positive democracy. This can never be reality under Occupation.”
Mr. Dimant said Mr. Khaki’s presence -- he made opening remarks and welcomed the main speakers -- “has already contravened Pride Toronto’s stated policy.”...

QuAIA’s most prominent member, film-maker and York University professor John Greyson, said he wonders whether today’s decision signals that social justice activism is being “wholeheartedly cut out of Pride.”
“To take activism out of Pride really takes it back to a place of shame,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been to a Pride where I wasn’t part of an explicitly political action, and we were trying to be as militant as possible... The whole purpose of Pride was about visibillity and fighting for our equal space in society, so for them to start saying ‘Oh, but you don’t have equal space’ just turns back the clock in an extraordinary way, and is really unacceptable.”

Greyson's statements sound like that of a spoiled child who has been told he can only watch television for five hours a day instead of six. Yes, we'll talk over the downtown core of a major city, fill it with hundreds of thousands of people and have a day long celebration. But if his banner can't go up, well it's just like in the old days when people were hounding and killing us, isn't it?
But El-Farouk Khaki (a nice colour for pants and another word for excrement, I'm just saying...) is particuarily odious. He's worried about the Occupation? The last time I looked, being gay was a capital offence in the so-called Palestinian Authority. In fact, it's only in those areas controlled militarily by Israel that gay Arabs have some modicum of safety and if they want to openly express their lifestyle, it's to Israel that they have to go. Yet he wants to make an anti-Israel protest at the parade?
This is the face of hatred. Look well at it.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Conversion Confusion

In yet another move that could be meant to provoke the non-Chareidi Torah observant community, Rav Avraham Sherman has annuled another Rabbinate-controlled conversion as well as announced that any non-Chareidi conversions he doesn't like aren't sincere and hence, aren't valid.
Naturally the noises of outrage from the non-Chareidim are loud and boisterous. Once again a leading Chareidi rav has stuck a finger in the collective eye of all those Torah observant Jews who disagree with him and once again, those Jews are responding completely illogically.
Note the pattern that has been used. Rav Sherman states that he has invalidated these conversions and made his sweeping generalizations based on halachic grounds. Ask him and he'll quote you his sources. To back him up, the usual Agudah bagmen like Rav Avi Shafran and Rav Yonasan Rosenblum write quite effectively about the benefit of universal standards to ensure conversions are all done al pi halacha. That universal standard? Rav Sherman's of course, and no one else's.
But as Rav Shlomo Riskin's famous column reminds us, the response from the Modern Orthodox community has been completely non-productive. They scream about unfairness and cruelty to converts. The Chareidi response is to repeatedly point out that since the folks affected were never really Jewish, the law against being cruel to converts doesn't apply.
Listen, life isn't fair. There are many times that religion tells us "no" in answer to heartfelt requests we think we're entitled to. That's what makes it a religion and not an indulgence. If Rav Sherman is right, then all the caterwauling in the world matters not a bit. These conversions are invalid. Too bad.
But what if he's not? All of these controversial conversions are being presented in an uniform fashion: they're all insincere, just going through the motions and the rabbonim converting them are doing so knowing this. Is this true? I find it hard to believe that a talmid chacham like Rav Chayim Druckman would circumvent halacha like this. If he is converting people, he must hold that they have completed the necessary requirements. If that's the case, then he would have a reply to all of Rav Sherman's objections, with the exception of the "I'm Chareidi and you're not so I'm right and you're not" one. Yet I don't recall reading about these objections anywhere.
Even Rav Marc Angel's essay on the subject was incredibly incomplete. Although he was quick to dismiss the current strictness as the result of one Chareidi opinion that has come to dominate all others, he failed to mention any competing opinions except one and the example he did give, that of Rav Benzion Uzziel, is not relevant to the current issue: wholesale conversion of non-Jewish immigrants to Israel who may or may not be sincere in their desire to accept kabbalas ol shamayim which, according to everyone, is the minimum requirement for geirus.
Judaism is not a feel-good exercise. The halachic process is not meant to always give you just the answer you want without inconveniencing you through the creative act of heter-picking. Until someone can show why Rav Sherman's approach is wrong on halachic grounds, he is right.
As a post-script, even if a Modern Orthodox or Dati Leumi posek stood up and showed, point by point, why Rav Sherman is wrong, I doubt the Chareidi community would listen. The principle of "I'm Chareidi and you're not so I'm right and you're not" overrides the most definitive proofs from anywhere. But that's not the point. If Modern Orthodoxy wants to take itself seriously as a movement it needs to do this for itself, to show its members that just like the Chareidim it is a philosophy based in Torah and halacha.

From Open to More

Rav Avi Weiss' famous article, "Open Orthodoxy!" long ago set the tone for the YCT approach to Modern Orthodoxy. As the Wikipedia article on him summarizes:
Open Orthodoxy
"Open Orthodoxy" is a new philosophy of Judaism developed by Rabbi Avi Weiss. It represents an effort to combine traditional Jewish faith in Torah mi-Sinai, the Orthodox faith in an inerrant Jewish Law revealed by God to Moses on Mount Sinai, with openness to modern culture and society. Open Orthodoxy is characterized by its distinct philosophy of Halakha (Jewish religious law) and by its open attitude towards modern society and culture. Its approach places it within the left wing of Modern Orthodox Judaism, and therefore somewhat to the right of both the Union for Traditional Judaism and Conservative Judaism.[citation needed]
Although the degree of acceptance of the Open Orthodox philosophy within Orthodox Judaism has yet to be determined and the philosophy has engendered substantial criticism within both
Modern Orthodox Judaism and Haredi Judaism, the approach has gained substantially more practical acceptance than the Union for Traditional Judaism, a previous effort to establish a philosophical position between Conservative Judaism and centrist Modern Orthodox Judaism, which generally failed to gain large number of applicants to its rabbinical school or attract affiliated congregations. Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, the approach's principal rabbinical training institution, has attracted a comparatively larger group of interested donors, students, faculty, and congregations interested in placements.
Approach to Halakha
The Open Orthodox approach holds that
Jewish Law "is not blind", but has an ethical message, and that legal interpretation must attempt discernment of that message, yet nonetheless contains Divinely-revealed, eternal truths representing strictures to which human intellect, and present-day conceptions of ethics, must yield. Weiss writes that "Halakha is a partnership" between divine, Sinaitic elements and human, non-Sinaitic elements.
The fundamental difference between Sinaitic and non-Sinaitic law, according to Maimonides, is that laws from Sinai, coming as they do directly from God, are free from controversy. There is only one view on every issue. Non-Sinaitic law, on the other hand, which is the result of rabbinic interpretation, is subject to controversy. After all, two rabbis of equal piety, intellectual ability, or stature may disagree - and both may be right.
Thus, Halakha has a degree of flexibility. While bordered by a system that is external to humankind - the God-given law, Torah mi-Sinai, to which Jews are subservient - it also contains laws derived by the rabbis, to which there may be more than one view. It follows, therefore, that Halakha is a living structure that operates within absolute guidelines, yet one which is broad enough to allow significant latitude for the
posek (decisor) to take into account the individual and his or her circumstances. Simply put, within airtight parameters, Halakha is flexible.
The difficulty with Open Orthodoxy is that the emphasis seems more often to be on the "open" than the "orthodoxy". While there is not much that is controversial in the general description, the application has proven to be. Rav Weiss has broken many of the unwritten rules that have characterized Orthodoxy over the last few centuries, like allowed interfaith dialogue and expanding the public leadership roles of women. His justification - that halacha is flexible - does not hold up under close scrutiny. Rather it seems the guiding philosophy of Open Orthodoxy is "Where there's a will, there's a halachic opinion we can rely on to fulfill it."
That's really not so much different from Conservatism's guiding principle: "If there's a will, there's a halachic opinion we can rely on. If there isn't, we'll allow it anyways under the 'God wants me to be happy' principle." Indeed, although he still has obvious red lines, one wonders what will happen when Rav Weiss is finally forced into a corner and has to choose between being seen as reactionary or crossing that line.
In the best tradition of Open Orthodoxy, a new blog, Morethodoxy, has appeared to support its philosophy. (Thank you to Holy Hyrax for bringing it to my attention). It's principle contributors, four YCT-oriented rabbis and one new-fangled Maharat, opine on various issues from the Open Orthodox perspective. It's all calm and polite, the posts are eloquently written and the responses are (with the exception of my contributions) all supportive and "isn't this all so nice and wonderful!" But is it Orthodox?
I'm going to state my thought right now: I don't think it is. I'm not casting aspersions against the characters of the writers on this blog, mind you. One of them happens to be the husband of an old camp friend of mine and I know she wouldn't settle for a spouse who wasn't a first class human being. He's also extremely well eduated both in Jewish and secular areas. I presume the others are equally sincere and educated.
But I'm not doubting their qualifications. Rather I don't believe their thinking is Orthodox. Why? Because for me, Orthodoxy implies that all matters are seen through a Torah perspective. Whether its an approach to so-called secular values, how to relate religiously and politically with the State of Israel, gender relations or the necessity of Modern Orthodoxy at all, the first place to state is within the Torah realm.
Real religion is, after all, about finding spiritual happiness within a set of rules. It takes a certain sense of maturity to appreciate that and the definition of maturity is understanding that sometimes the answer to a request you make is "no". I cannot eat bacon no matter how much I want to. You cannot go to that Beastie Boys concert on Shabbos no matter how important it is to you. Accepting limitations is a sign of maturity. Shouting "this is stupid!" is not.
Too often in the various essays on the blog, I get the nervous feeling that the first reference point for the writers is not Torah but rather secular society and its desire to provide its consumers with the answer "yes" to all their desires. God wants us to be happy, the secular mantra goes, therefore everything should be permitted. So when faced with the obvious - that Judaism does not simply permit eveyrthing simply because someone wants it and thinks it'll make him happy - they now have a problem. Do they take the side of restriction, which is against their secular beliefs, or do they take the side of permissiveness and then try to mangle halacha into accepting that? Too often it seems they are interested in the latter, and that's just not Orthodox.
This is the problem with Modern Orthodoxy today. Too many well-placed and erudite writers in this vein seem to want to step up to the plate and present their secular views as the real Modern Orthodoxy. As anyone who has studies the works of the Rav knows, this is not an honest potrayal of what it is.

Further Devolution of Their Culture

If you stop and think about it, there's no good reason what Chareidi rabbonim should be involved with any of the official rabbinates in Israel. After all, they don't actually recognize their authority nor do they ascribe any importance to the State except as a piggy bank for their yeshivos so why are they involved?
The answer is simple. They are interested in total control of Jewish life in Israel not just in their own community but in everyone else's as well. How else can they ensure that people will be forced to marry Chareidi-style, divorce Chareidi-style and eat Chareidi-style if they don't control the State organs responsible for those things?
As a result, the greatest threat to their hegemony is not secular disgust with their over-the-top tactics, never ending demandings and growing hypocrisy. Rather, it is the Dati Leumi community which provides proof that one can be God fearing and observant without disparaging the State.
Unfortunately over the last few decades, the Dati Leumi movement has not done well for itself. A lack of direction in other areas combined with an obsession with supporting the brave chalutzim of Yesha has marginalized it in Israeli life. As it stumbled, the Chareidim seized the opportunity to become the dominant and self-proclaimed sole official face of religious Judaism in Israel as well as to take over the rabbinate.
Not everyone has been thrilled with that, including Yerushalayim's new mayor Nir Barkat. Despite using Chareidi political infighting to win the election, he has now come up with a capital idea. The next chief rabbi of Yerushalayim should be Dati Leumi, for all the obvious reasons:
Members of the Zionist religious factions in the capital believe they will be able to reach an agreement with Shas that will allow for the appointment of a Zionist Ashkenazi chief rabbi.
Mayor Barkat said at a conference in Jerusalem on Sunday that there is currently "a genuine opportunity to appoint a Zionist chief rabbi," who can communicate with both the general and observant public...

Rabbi Rabbi Rafi Feuerstein, chairman of the Tzohar organization, added that, "It is unthinkable that at a time when Zionism is under attack around the world, we do not place a Zionist figure at the heart of this country."
The Chareidi response to this intiative has been predictable:
Ultra-Orthodox leaders in Jerusalem are threatening to cut off all ties with the municipal rabbinate if the city elects a Zionist chief rabbi. Mayor Nir Barkat recently declared that he is committed to appointing a Zionist rabbi for the city.
"If there's a rabbi whose level or halachic views do not correspond with the haredim's demands – the spiritual leaders will call on the community to shun the Jerusalem rabbinate," declared city council member Shlomo Rosenstein (United Torah Judaism)

When I was a kid, it went something like this: "If I don't get to make all the rules, I'm taking my toys and going home!" Today it's "If we can't run everything without interference and the way we want it, we won't participate." Hardly the stuff of achdus and nation building.
If the Chareidim feel that they are more religious than the Dati Leumi, that is their right. Naturally there are no objective measures to decide on this. Both communities prize Torah learning and expect high levels of observance from their adherents. Both communities have great scholars who are interested in furthering the halachic understandings of the movements. The only real reason that the Chareidi gedolim have come to be seen as the leading poskim in the world is because, well it's because the Chareidim have said it over and over so many times that people simply shrug and accept it now. Pull off the emperor's clothes, though, and the claim falls flat quite quickly.
In any case, recent events have conspired to work against the Chareidim:
Seeking to defuse an explosive haredi-secular conflict, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat announced Tuesday that the municipality had asked a court to open a parking lot opposite the Jaffa Gate on Saturdays.
But the mayor added that if the Jerusalem District Court did not agree to allow the opening of the Carta parking lot - which is currently in receivership - by this weekend, he would reopen the municipal lot at Safra Square this Shabbat.
The Eda Haredit announced that if the municipal lot was opened again on Shabbat, it would "set the whole country, and not just Jerusalem, on fire."
"The Jerusalem municipality has declared a holy war against Shabbat," said posters hung up in Mea She'arim.

Every time Chareidim behave badly we are told it's the work of outsiders, or a few disturbed thugs, or because of provocations. It's time to put those weak excuses aside. In truth, it seems that rioting and threatening others is de rigeur in the Chareidi community. Chareidim are usually proud to say that they do everything that their gedolim tell them to do. When they succeed, they trumpet this proudly, so why should I not conclude that when they attack police and innocent bystanders in their mistplaced zeal to defend Shabbos, that they are not reflecting the best of the their community as well?
The price of social peace is to cater to the whim of a community that behaves like a spoiled brat whenever it doesn't get what it wants. Is it a price worth paying?

Monday, 22 June 2009

Pity the Jewish Democrat

Years ago a friend of mine told me the story of someone he knew in Israel who had complained to him bitterly about the problems with the Labour Party. After listening to him whinge, he asked him if that meant he'd vote for Likud or someone else?
"No!" the person replied. "I'm going to vote Labour because I've always voted Labour."
Sometimes I think that secular American Jews vote for the Democratic party in election after election for the same reason - it's what they're always done and they can't contemplate any alternative.
This support is even stranger consider that the Democrats have given us Jimmy Carter - Israel is an apartheid state, Madeline Albright - I'm NOT Jewish, dammit!, and now Barack Obama - I'm not Muslim but I will take their side in all arguments with Israel. Did the Republicans give us the two most pro-Israel presidents in the history of State, Reagan and Bush II? Was the president who saved Israel from being destroyed in the Yom Kippur war a Republican? Who cares, the Jews are going to vote Democrat because, well it's the Jewish thing to do.
One example of this slavish devotion to the Democrats is the great DovBear who never misses a chance to slam the Republicans and remind us that the Democrats are the greatest friends of Israel and that Obama is absolutely no threat at all to Israel. Even after the Cairo speech where Obama not only announced that the Holocaust was the reason the Jews wanted to create a country in Israel but that the massacre of six million innocent Jews is morally equivalent to what the so-called Palestinians have been doing to themselves by refusing to live in peace beside Israel, DovBear insisted that this was not the content of the speech and that you're paranoid if you think so.
And along comes Richard Greenfield to remind us that Jewish Democrats are ostriches who are so busy making fun of Republicans that they're missing the obvious:
President Obama has embraced the ever-ready and willing State Department's negativity towards Israel and, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leading the way, is making demands about Israeli 'settlements' which are harsh and uncompromising. At the same time, State ignores Arab illegal construction which is happening on a much wider and broader scale. State conveniently ignores the fact that if land were truly the issue, Israel and her Arab neighbors would have been at peace for the last 60 years. Even though State has always been biased against Israel, it has never had a Presidency to work with that was in such complete consonance with its views as the Obama Administration is today. The resulting bullying of Israel by the U.S. is without parallel in American-Israeli relations.
In the last month an undersecretary of defense unilaterally discussed Israel's nuclear capability. In the doing, a long-standing U.S.-Israeli agreement to publicly avoid discussion of this topic was broken. Defense is tampering with previously agreed-upon arms deals by denying Israel the right to make adaptations on equipment that Israel deems essential. Effectively, they are moving the long-promised F-35 fighter from Israel's grasp and, instead, Israel will put a good face on buying decades old F-15's and upgrading them to her specifications. At the same time, Egypt is being offered top of the line attack helicopters from a defense department that knows Egypt's only potential adversary for these weapons is Israel.
Meanwhile, Marine General (ret) Keith Dayton is training and arming a 5,000 man Fatah security force designed to secure a Palestinian state on land Israel has not yet ceded. At the UN, Susan Rice is changing U.S. policy from one of support to belligerence. General James Jones, the President's National Security Adviser is touting Presidential Adviser Samantha Power's suggestion that an armed international force including American soldiers enter Judea and Samaria to force the Israelis to make a Palestinian state happen. General Dayton is already training such a force of Fatah soldiers in Jordan, presumably for this task. Meanwhile, George Mitchell, the special envoy to the area, is picking apart previous agreements telling Israel to conform to his selected conditions, while ignoring the obligations to which Palestinians were supposed to have been bound. All of this while rockets still fall on Israel from Gaza, and Fatah and Hamas fight running battles on West Bank streets.
The U.S. media notes all of this pressure and gleefully speculates that it will eventually topple the recently elected Netanyahu government. Mahmoud Abbas, the nominal head of Fatah, says he is waiting for this to happen before seriously considering negotiations. He is hoping the U.S. can get everything he wants before he even sits down with the Israelis.

Where are America's Jews? Well, the non-religious ones are still with the Democrats.
It seems they are still divided along pre-election lines. As individuals, most Jews who voted for Obama last November are content to ignore Israel's agony in the face of U.S. pressure because they still trust the President on other issues. They ignore the threats to Israel's safety and security and are blind to America's infringing on Israel's sovereignty as a free and democratic nation. Not coincidently, Soros-funded anti-Israel groups have popped up promoting the scurrilous conclusions of the infamous Walt-Merscheimer report which was rife with accusations of Jewish- American's dual loyalty and Israel's culpability for every ill in the Middle East.
As others have noted before me, while Israel is a priority for religious Jews, it barely makes the top 10 for the secular community, way below such issues as abortion, freedom of speech, immigration reform and health care. Since secular Jews mistakenly believe that "Jewish values" and "Western liberal values" are the same thing, they have no trouble supporting the most dangerous president for Israel in the last sixty years since the rest of his positions match their completely.
Only when it is too late will they realize that despite their so-called enlightened views, they are still seen by this president and his allies as Jews, different, abhored and only to be ketp around as long as they are useful.

Simplified Options

Writing in The Jewish Week, Gary Rosenblatt tackles the thorny problem of how we religious Jews should relate to our non-religious brethren:
How should Orthodox Jews relate to other Jews in modern society? Should they emulate Noah, who obeyed God’s command to build an ark and separate himself and his family from the rest of the world that was literally drowning? Or should they follow the example of Abraham, who argued with God in order to try to save the lives of the sinful inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah?
Off the top, both examples are, when analyzed, not exactly the best ones to make Rosenblatt's case in either direction. Noach, did not separate himself from the rest of humanity. As Chazal make abundantly clear, during the 120 years he spent building the ark, he was in contact with other folks. He hid the purpose of the ark, to survive a coming global calamity, from no one. When the mabul came, he didn't enter the ark because he was frustrated by his neighbours and wanted to get away from them. He did it so that he wouldn't be killed.
Avraham Avinu, on the other hand, was a much different case. Rather than go to people, he waited for people to come to him. Yes, his tent was open in all four directions so that any wayfarer could enter no matter what direction he approached from, but the wayfarer still had to approach. Other than the three angels, Avraham didn't exactly go door to door and ask people if they'd put tefillin on today. As for the example of Sodom, Avraham may have prayed for them but he didn't associate with them, not one bit. His only conversation with the king of the city is terse, along the lines of: Take your stuff and screw off buddy.
Amongst today's Jews, there are a few Noah figures. Chabad comes to mind, although they don't actually promise an apolcalypse but they are rather active in trying to get people to come closer to Torah and the Ribono shel Olam. However, there are no Avraham figures out there, people who have compassion for the worst of what's in this world and who would fight to the death to protect them. So neither model seems an appropriate for the today's Orthodox Jewry.
Fortunatley, the featured figure in his article, Rav Benny Lau, seems to be quite the sensible fellow:
Rabbi Benny Lau, a popular Jerusalem spiritual leader and director of the Center for Judaism and Society at Beit Morasha, an Israeli academic center for Jewish studies and leadership development, posited those two biblical extremes in discussing the topic "If I Forget Thee Tel Aviv: Orthodoxy’s Responsibility to World Jewry and
Humanity" on a recent Sunday at a local forum. He came down squarely in the Abraham camp, asserting "we should not accept the view of some Orthodox Jews who want to stay on the ark, believing that the outside world is dangerous."
In arguing for compassion and engagement, he also disagreed with the interpretation of Rashi, the most famous biblical and Talmudic commentator, who, in discussing a Talmudic point about what should be done if a convert to Judaism wants to go back to his old life, concludes, "we don’t care."
Times have changed, said Rabbi Lau. "My reaction is just the opposite. Our slogan should be ‘I care.’"...
Asked by moderator Eugene Korn, a rabbi and scholar in areas of Jewish ethics, to address the situation in Israel, Rabbi Lau said it was "a tragedy" that many secular Israelis think rabbis concern themselves only with matters of kashrut, the Knesset and money, and that Judaism has little to say about health care or issues of social justice.
He said he would like to do away with the word "Orthodox" and other denominational divisions, preferring the notion of "living with mitzvot."
"When you are confident with yourself, you can be open to others," Rabbi Lau said. "When you are fearful, then you are closed."
While there was strong agreement among the panelists and moderator of the program, the fact is that many if not most Orthodox Jews here and in Israel eschew contact with other communities, either out of lack of interest or fear that such associations can weaken the core.

Unfortunately I think there's good reason for that fear and lack of interest. As Western society continues to polarize between the radically religious and the fanatically uninterested, there is less and less common ground for the two sides to meet and have coffee over.
Yet as religious Jews it is our responsibility to show our non-religious brethren all that is fulfilling and uplifting about Judaism. Instead of focusing on how to make life more difficult with the latest chumra-of-the-week, we should be bringing people into our homes on Friday nights and teaching them zemiros. Let them see the positive and perhaps it will have the effect it must have.
In the end, it's not Noah or Avraham that is the ideal role model for Orthodox Jews, but rather Aharon HaKohen who, as Avos tells us, loved peace and pursued it. He did go door to door, not to inflict religion but to show kindness on his contemporaries. Instead of sitting on our haunches and feelings self-righteous in the knowledge that we have the right path, we should be trying more to share that truth kindly with others.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Catering to Any Denominator

One of the starkest differences between observant Jewish organizations and non-observant ones is what they focus on as the important factors in their Jewishness. Orthodox organizations tend to invoke Torah and important Jewish rituals while non-observant organizations use more nebulous feel-good slogans revolving around tzedakah or tikun olam(is there a more misused term in Judaism?). As this article notes:
“Fear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.”
No, it's not a typo. The Shema, which starts “Hear O Israel,” is the central credo of the Jewish people. It states that there is only one God -- and as a result, only one set of divinely authored ethics and imperatives.
According to the Torah, the Jews were given the daunting task of bringing God-based universal ethics to the world. However, given the number of Jews who are uncomfortable with such a mandate and with religious imperatives in general, I now worry that our prayer could read “Fear O Israel.”
I have this worry because a great number of non-Orthodox Jews -- I am not Orthodox -- are afraid to mention the core concepts of our remarkable religion. We fear that by talking too much or even about any Judaism, even among ourselves, we’ll sound too Christian, too much like our religious oppressors of centuries past, or like Orthodox Jews.
I’ve collected the mission statements of the largest 17 Jewish federations in North America, and not one mentions “God,” “Torah” or “Judaism.” Nor do the mission statements of the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization, Hillel, the National Council of Jewish Women, The Wexner Heritage Foundation, the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, Hadassah and the Jewish National Fund. Of all the organizations I looked into, only United Jewish Communities mentions but one of the three words, Torah, in its mission statement.
Some surely will be quick to say that the above organizations were not created to convey religious concepts. That is precisely my point: How can we say these organizations are Jewish and at the same time don’t need to mention God, Torah or Judaism?
They are not afraid to use other religious terms -- many of them mention “tzedakah” (charity), “klal yisroel” (Jewish peoplehood) and “tikkun olam” (repair the world). Why are those words appropriate and not the others I’ve mentioned?
Many Jewish organizations apparently feel the need to embrace terms that are universal in nature and avoid terms that are more particularistic. Tzedakah, tikkun olam and klal yisroel are considered universal and inclusive terms.

It's easy to see why more specific religious references are ignored. With all the fractures in the Jewish nation today, there is very little that unites all Jews across the religious spectrum. In fact, there's only one thing: a rejection of JC as the saviour of mankind and of Mohammed as an authentic prophet. Other than that, there is little that Eric Yoffe, the head of the Reformers, and the Neturei Karta have in common.
As a result, secular Jewish organizations have to be careful. Mention Torah and you'll get people who think it's a archaic document feeling excluded. Mention God and the atheists will freak out. Charity? Can't argue with that. And as I noted, tikun olam is so misused and twisted that only frum people who know what it actually means get offended, and who cares about offending us?
The Jews are a nation by virtue of the Torah. Any Jewish group which strays from that principle not only sees a precipitous drop in its level of observance but also in all the feel-good activities that secular groups would normally see as positive behaviours. There's no arguing, for example, about who gives more charity per capita: Orthodox Jews give far more than the non-religious.
Catering to a lowest common denominator doesn't inspire people or make them feel more committed. It validates their lack of enthusaism by telling them it's just fine. It's not what will bring a strong future to our people.

Clothes Make the Person

Hat tip for both referenced articles: Failed Messiah
On one hand, there are halachos on how to dress. The written Torah describes rules regarding tzitzis and shaatnez. The idea of modesty in dress is further expanded upon by Chazal and the later authorities. There is the general idea that Jews must look different than idol worshippers if the idol worshippers' clothing has ritual significance. What one does not find, however, is an obsessive approach to dress, that is that you must wear a specific colour or type of hat or you're a bad Jew.
Yet in this day and age, many sectors of the Orthodox community have become defined by that very concept. For a man, it's not enough to wear a suit and shirt. The suit must be black, the shirt must be white and a black fedora must top the outfit or you're somehow religiously deficient.
In the Chasidic communities, the uniform is even more detailed. The type of hat, whether the brims are up or down, the shtreiml style, the caftans, bekishers, belts and vests, are all meticulously detailed for the loyal. Forget tocho k'varo. What's on the outside is the first and best indicator of one's religious level. Thus the panic over Israel's new anti-fur law:
A bill meant to protect animals from abuse and cruelty that was passed at the Ministerial Legislation Committee on Monday has outraged ultra-Orthodox Knesset members who fear it could severely affect the local shtreimel market.
According to the motion to amend the Cruelty to Animals law, which was submitted by Kadima MK Ronit Tirosh, the importation from East Asia (and mainly China) of fur or textile products made out of the hair of dogs, cats or rabbits will be banned and punishable by a one-year prison sentence.
Tirosh wrote that about 2 million animals are slaughtered each year for the sole purpose of skinning them for their fur and they sometimes get skinned alive. "We as a society must try and prevent this unnecessary murder," the motion stated.
Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon, whose office is in charge of implementing the law, even recommended expanding the bill to include fur of wild and domesticated animals from around the world.
The ultra-Orthodox factions are worried that such legislation could put an end to the selling of shtreimels – the traditional Hasidic fur hats worn by haredim, in
Far from being a genuinely Jewish garment, shtreimls are actually relics of the Mongol invasion of Eastern Europe. The leaders of the Mongols wore fur caps. This was copied by the Slavic nobility after the invasion ended and eventually by the Jews. There is no intrinsic holiness to them, no kabbalistic meaning. The main reasons a Chasid wears one is because his father did and because failure to do so gets one kicked out of one's clan. Hardly the stuff of deep religious significance. Yet the threat to the supply of shtreimls threatens to lead to accusations of anti-Semitism:
At a coalition administration meeting held Monday MK Menachem Eliezer Moses (United Torah Judaism) said that "it would be unthinkable to support a bill that forbids the import of products for such important, clearly religious purposes.
"We are not in the Middle Ages, when wearing pronounced Jewish symbols was prohibited, and I call on Tirosh and the Ministerial Committee to grant my request and amend the bill accordingly."

Naturally the law doesn't forbid shtreimls, just the support of cruelty to animals that the current supply chain maintains.
For women it's become even more onerous. There are well-defined rules of what's considered tznius for women but there are also clear areas where the concept of community norms is authoritative as well. In a community where all women wear socks or stockings, that's a norm. In a community where no one has a problem with women barefoot in sandals, that's also an equally legitimate norm.
A couple of years ago I went through this with my wife's mother. It was a hot July Shabbos day and I was about to leave for shul with my 5 year old daughter who was wearing sandals and no socks. "No, she can't go out like that," I was told. "She has to wear socks."
"No," I responded, "our community doesn't insist all women have to wear socks. Going barefoot is fine here."
"No it's not," came the response. "I went to a shiur and the rabbi said all women have to wear socks all the time."
At which point I pulled out the Mishnah Berurah and showed her exactly where it says that one is obligated only as much as their community standards demand. But it's this attitude: the rabbi somewhere else said it so it's obligatory elsewhere, that drives me crazy.
Unfortunately knowing the actual halacha has been forgotten by the Orthodox community that too often equates adding superficial chumros to one's practice as a sign of increased religious commitment. It may be okay for women to gobarefoot but you're more frum if you wear socks, goes the thinking. Hence the new pamphlet circulating in Beit Shemesh:
A rabbis' committee in Beit Shemesh distributed over the weekend a detailed booklet instructing female residents to dress modestly in the city's ultra-Orthodox areas. In the pamphlets, women are ordered to keep their hair tied and their shirts buttoned up to the very end and to wear long sleeves.
The "chastity squad" pamphlets were distributed in mailboxes in the city's religious and secular neighborhoods. They start off with some rhetorical questions: "You don't want to hurt people, right? You're a considerate person, right?"
Chastity Guards
Next, the booklets elaborate on the demands for a modest appearance: "Your neck must not show from all sides. On the front – from where the rib bones start; the shoulders – from where the neck slope begins; on the back – from the first bone of the scruff." Each instruction is accompanied by a drawing.
Additional instructions state that the shirt must be wide, long and nontransparent; the sleeves must be long enough so as "not to reveal the elbow in any form or movement"; and the skirt must be long, wide and without a slit.
The rabbis explain in the booklet that "entering a haredi neighborhood obligates us (from a moral aspect) to be considerate of the place's nature and not to hurt the residents' feelings, and to be seen in modest clothing only.
"A modest garment covers every place in need of covering. In addition, it conceals the body's shape. Thus, a tight shirt and a narrow skirt or trousers are considered immodest."
The sad thing is that anyone who actually takes the time to read the primary sources on modesty quickly realizes that most of these requirements are optional chumros that are being presented as basic minimums. Are there some communities where these are standard? Of course there are and women entering those communities should show respect for their surroundings by dressing appropriately. But it is wrong for self-appointed zealots to take their extreme position and present it as the norm everywhere.
Sometimes I wonder if the Chareidi community understands the negative impact this chumra-of-the-week attitude has on our spiritual standing. Consider the following: women are obligated in less mitzvos than men. The reason given is that women have a naturally higher spiritual standing and therefore require less rigid rules to climb up the ladder to God, as it were.
In simpler terms, if you have two children, one of whom is naughty and one of whom is well behaved, who are you going to keep on a tight leash and who are you going to let roam freely? The answer is obvious.
By creating all these excessive rules, perhaps out of a sense of Taliban-envy, the Chareidi community is saying something significant about their community's spiritual standing: it sucks. Its members are way down the ladder and need more and more rules to rise up. Not exactly the most encouraging way to motivate someone to be a better Jew.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Rational vs Irrational Beliefs

One of the biggest problems with this week's parasha is that it perfectly demonstrates irrational beliefs in people who have aboslutely no reason for them.
To wit: Having witnessed the ten plagues in Egypt, the splitting of the sea, the giving of the Torah and the appearance of the Shechinah over the Mishkan, the B'nai Yisrael, when confronted with the possibilty of opposition to their entry into their new land, shy away from confrontation and attempt to return to Egypt. This makes absolutely no sense!
However, a careful reading of the previous chapters from the time B'nai Yisrael left Har Sinai until now shows a strange consistency. In all cases where difficulties arose (Kivros HaTa'avah, Tav'eirah) it was all due to one recurring factor: a lack of trust in God's ability. But how is this possible? These people witnessed his omnipotence repeatedly since His first appearance in Egypt. How could they now suddenly lack faith in Him?
One possible answer is to look at how the relationship between God and B'nai Yisrael would change once the Jews began their conquest of Eretz Yisrael. In the desert, B'nai Yisrael lived a miraculous existence, shielded by the ananei hakavod, fed by the water from Miriam's well and by the man, with God's presence shining above them from about the Mishkan.
However, once they entered Eretz Yisrael they knew that the situation would change. All the laws they had learned about in theory, like agricultural rules, work rules and those relating to the Temple, would suddenly come into practice. What's more, they would be spread out across a much larger area without God's presence being obvious in their life. It's easy to believe in God when tangible evidence of His being is available, much harder to keep Him constantly in mind when He's hidden.
Perhaps this is where the understanding of B'nai Yisrael went wrong. The purpose of living a positive Jewish life is to do so in the absence of God's obvious presence. After all, the most important gift He has given us is to exercise our free will, something one cannot do if God's existence is an obvious fact instead of an act of faith. Transitioning from reliance on the obvious to reliance on faith may have been a difficult task for our ancestors and this stumble culminated in the debacle of the spies. It could be that they believed that once God brought them to the border of Eretz Yisrael they would be on their own and that without Him being obviously amongst them they would not have any assistance. The conquest of the Land would be up to them and they felt they were woefully unprepared for this.
However, this is a lesson for us today. The fact that God is silent, in a state of hester panim as it were, in no way diminishes His omnipotence or omnipresence. He is still HaMakom. It is up to us to reflect silently to feel His presence in our lives and not despair that we are all alone in an uncaring universe. If we strive to fulfill His will, then we will see success just as our ancestors might have had they understood this.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Drawing the Line

As the extreme left and right edges of Torah observance continue to move in their respective directions, it becomes more and more important to define exactly what Orthodoxy really is. After all, there is no patent on the term, or other leading words. For example, for years the Conservatives called themselves "traditional" even as they were ripping up every Jewish tradition they could vote on. Nowadays, whether it's YCT on the left with female rabbis or the Neturei Karta on the right with that hate-filled dogma, it's important to try and define what puts a person or institution within "the pale" (a favourite expression of Rav Benjy Hecht).
I would suggest that the following mishnah from Avos supplies us with the definition:
Rabbi Elazar for Modi'in says: He who profanes sacred things, degrades the festivals, puts his fellow man to shame, violates the covenant of Avraham Avinu, and who interprets the Torah contrary to the halacha, even though he is leared in Torah and possesses good deeds, he has no share in the World to Come." (Avos 3:11)
The Tiferes Yisrael on this mishnah notes that there are five levels of non-believers referred to:
1) People who deny God's existence. Since there is no good, there is no holiness, everything is profane so sacred things are not different than anything else in their eyes.
2) People who believe in God but deny that He created the universe. As a result, they ignore the Festivals because they were instituted to remind us of how God intervened in the natural course of the world to take us out of Egypt.
3) People who believe God created the world but deny that man was created b'tzelem Elokim. As a result, a human being is nothing special in their eyes. We are the great-grandchildren of apes and therfore concepts of respect and dignity are quite limited.
4) People who believe God created the world and man but deny God's special relationship with Avraham Avinu. For them, we are not am segulah but rather just one more ethnic group amongst the many of the world.
5) People who believe God created the world and man, and that He has a special relationship with us but deny the validity of the Oral Law. For them, it is all an invention of "the rabbis" and is therefore not authoritative. Anyone can read the Written Law and interpret it for himself.
Using these five levels, one can come to a decent definition of Orthodoxy. The first three are, of course, easy. Calling oneself an Orthodox Jew while denying God's existence, or His creation of the world, or that human beings are not just well-dressed apes but are a special creation separate from animals because of the souls we possess, is foolish.
But the 4th and 5th categories are a little trickier. There are people who called themselves Orthodox, and who will admit the first three categories but will then say that in light of Biblical scholarship and archaeological finds that none of the stories in the Torah actually happened but were the product of much later authors. For them we are a tenacious people who have survived the vicissitudes of history but that the special history-changing moment at Sinai 3329 years ago never happened.
Similarly there are those who don't so much deny the existence of the Oral Law but who feel that they are quite capable of playing with it to their heart's content so that they can create a Judaism that meets their personal standards. This kind of abuse of the halachic methodology is not unique to either end of the Orthodox spectrum. Whether it's inventing the concept of the female rabbi or teaching that those who disagree with you are evil and the cause of everything bad in the world, it is unacceptable. There is a mesorah and it cannot be hijacked by people with agendae.
Thus it seems to me the best defintion of Orthodoxy is conforming to the five conditions of Rabbi Elazar without trying to invent rationalizations to get around them.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Finally Smartening Up?

In 2000 Ehud Barak went to Camp David with Bill Clinton and Yassir Arafat, y"sh. He offered to sign an argreement that would have crippled the State of Israel and destroyed our ties to Yerushalayim. When he handed it to Arafat for approval, he was turned down despite having offered him 99% of what the Arabs have always asked for.
To this day people wonder: Was Barak trying to commit national suicidie or did he know that Arafat would refuse, leaving him to say that at least he had tried to make peace and it was clearly the Arabs' fault that it didn't happen?
In any case, the international community drew the wrong conclusion from the proceedings. They decided that Israel was still at fault for holding back on the final 1%.
After reading about Netanyahu's speech today, I wonder if Bibi has finally smartened up and taken Barak's approach to peace making with the Arabs:
The prime minister endorsed the creation of a Palestinian state that would exist alongside Israel for the first time on Sunday. Two and a half months after taking office and following considerable pressure from Washington, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finally uttered the coveted term in his policy speech at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University.
However, Netanyahu repeatedly stressed, any such entity would have to be demilitarized. "The territory under Palestinian control must be demilitarized with ironclad security provisions for Israel," the prime minister said.
"If we receive this guarantee regarding demilitarization and Israel’s security needs, and if the Palestinians recognize Israel as the State of the Jewish people, then we will be ready in a future peace agreement to reach a solution where a demilitarized Palestinian state exists alongside the Jewish state," he said.

Like Obama, Bibi has picked his words carefully. He is quite prepared to give the Arabs what they want as long as a couple of simple conditions are met. In terms of "Palestine" being demilitarized, that's not likely to happen. Deals signed with our enemies tend not to be worth the toilet paper they're written on. But the second condition, that Israel be recognized as a Jewish state, is likely to become the sticking point on the deal.
A few days ago Barack Obama tried to claim that the reason Israel exists is because of the Holocaust, thus reinforcing the Jew-hater opinion that the Arabs are being punished for Europe's crimes. Bibi cleverly refuted this in his speech:
Those who think that the continued enmity toward Israel is a product of our presence in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, is confusing cause and consequence. The attacks against us began in the 1920s, escalated into a comprehensive attack in 1948 with the declaration of Israel’s independence, continued with the fedayeen attacks in the 1950s, and climaxed in 1967. All this occurred during the fifty years before a single Israeli soldier ever set foot in Judea and Samaria."
On the issue of settlements and outposts in the West Bank the prime minister touched on only briefly, saying that Israel has no intention of expropriating land to build new settlements but that there is a need to allow settlers to live "normal lives" - alluding to the demand of 'natural growth' within the existing settlements.
Answering US President Obama's statement in Cairo that Israel was built as a result of the Holocaust, Netanyahu said - "The right of the Jewish people to a state in the land of Israel does not derive from the catastrophes that have plagued our people. There are those who say that if the Holocaust had not occurred, the state of Israel would never have been established. But I say that if the state of Israel would have been established earlier, the Holocaust would not have occurred.
"This tragic history of powerlessness explains why the Jewish people need a sovereign power of self-defense. But our right to build our sovereign state here, in the land of Israel, arises from one simple fact: this is the homeland of the Jewish people, this is where our identity was forged.

All the Arabs have to do to get their little terrorist state is make one simple declaration to the world, in English and Arabic: Israel is Jewish land. The Jews belong in Israel as much as the Arabs do. That's all.
But it is the one thing that will stick in their craw and become the straw that break's the deal into pieces. If there is one thing the Arabs cannot accept, it is that we are the people of Israel with the greatest ties to the land of Israel. It refutes so much of the propaganda and hate they have spewed against us for the last 1400 years. To grant us legitimacy is a step they cannot take, not having invested so much time and effort in delegitimizing us.
We're safe (God willing). There will be no deal.

The Disappearing Line

We are so used to Conservatism sitting in the middle of the Jewish religious spectrum between Reform and proper Torah observance that we sometimes forget that the movement began not as a breakaway from Orthodoxy but from Reform.
Unlike their counterparts in Germany who initially moved slowly towards a rejection of Torah and traditional Jewish beliefs, American Reformers in the late 1800's had no hesitation to toss the whole kitten-kaboodle out the window at their famous Pittsburgh Conference. Conservatism was created as a reaction to this rapid abandonment of Judaism, creating a "catholic Israel" in which ritual and historical connection would be maintained along with a new method for updating the halacha to keep it in line with prevalent cultural values.
In the period immediately after the Second World War, Conservatism was ascendant for precisely this reason. After the war many people who had been raised in traditional communities back in Europe found themselves in America surrounded by a new and very secular culture. Conservatism allowed them to have the best of both worlds - they could continue to engage in limited Jewish behaviours while remaining mostly indistinguishable from their non-Jewish neighbours in most external things.
Over the last couple of decades, however, Conservatism has begun a path towards disintegration. While immediately after the war a religion that rejected extremes might have been attractive, the current mood in society is away from compromise and towards those once rejected extremes.
In addition, the Conservatives have become trapped by their desire to keep halacha trendy so that they can fit in with secular values and mores. As a result, they have created rules that undermine any sense of Jewish distinctiveness. In many ways, they have evolved into a ritual-heavy version of Reform.
Which is where this article from The Jewish Week comes in:
When members of Congregation Bet Breira in Miami attended an evening study session on Shavuot last week, it marked the first time their Reform congregation practiced the custom.
It was the first of many changes that will occur after members of a neighboring Conservative congregation move in as part of a seemingly unlikely merger that will take effect July 1. Bet Breira’s kitchen will become kosher; only glatt kosher meat will be served. And the religious school classes that had met on Saturdays will now meet on Sundays "so that everyone will feel comfortable," according to Rabbi Jaime Klein Aklepi, Bet Breira’s spiritual leader.
"There were things that we had done, such as coloring and cutting with the
little kids, that would not work with the observance of Shabbat," she explained.

But Rabbi Aklepi said that rather than merge with either of two neighboring Reform congregations, it was decided to merge with Temple Samu-El Or Olom, a Conservative synagogue four miles away, because "we both have the same mission and vision."...
Although dual-affiliated congregations have been around for years, observers believe the economic downturn may prompt more congregations to merge, regardless of affiliation. And given the increasing perception that differences between Conservative and Reform Jewry have narrowed over the years — an increasing use of Hebrew, kipot and tallitot in Reform synagogues and the admission of women and gays in the Conservative movement’s rabbinical school years after their acceptance by the Reform movement — dual affiliation may increase.
To be sure, there are still fundamental differences between the movements — including the definition of who is a Jew — but for some living in one-synagogue towns in Middle America, and even in some big cities like Miami, the distinction is often lost

The difference between Orthodox and non-Orthodox life is quite easily noted. Separate seating in worship, strict adherence to dietary limitations inside and outside the home and shul, and a strict observance of Shabbos, to name three. However, it's obvious there is very little difference left between Reform and Conservative save in the amount of ritual during the prayer services. A Conservative can feel right at home in a Reform Temple and vice versa. The article itself notes that probably the last distinctive difference between the two groups is the acceptability of patrilineal descent but with their membership numbers falling fast, how long will it be before the Rabbinical Assembly votes to allow it?
American Jewry is finally moving towards a point where there will be two honest choices: you are either observant, or you're not.

Knowing Who The Enemy Is

Left wing social and political groups have historically been good friends of the Jewish populations of the West. From the positions on more liberal immigration to their supporting of civil and equal rights for the entire population, they have helped the Jewish community, especially in North America, become an integral part of society. As a result, there is generally an assumption on the part of secular Jews that being a good Jew means believing in the values of the secular left culture. Unions, feminist groups, etc. are all over-populated by Jews who believe they are expressing their ethnic background by trying to change the world for the better.
In contrast, there is an instinctive repulsion between Jews and the right. Influenced by right-wing politicians who campaigned on xenophobic themes decades ago and, of course, by the Nazis y"sh, Jews generally look at the right with disdain. A Jewish Democrat or Liberal is seen as a natural things, a Jewish Republican or Conservative as something unusual or weird.
A keen observer of world politics, however, will usually concur that the world has changed since the time that these stereotypes were set in stone. Over the last 20 years, the greatest threat to Israel, for example, has come not from the political right but from the left. Israel has faced the least animosity in the US government when a Republican has been the President or when that party has controlled congress. The last three Democratic presidents (present one include), however, have been quite dangerous for Israel.
In social terms, the left has also been quite anti-Jewish although people are less willing to notice that. Jews being blamed for the financial crisis is just one example of how the socialist left in U.S. has abandoned its supposed partnership with Jewish America. Meanwhile, while evangelical Chrisians show more support for Israel and Judaism than most American Jews, we continue to regard them with fear and suspicion. Union leaders may be openly crying for boycotts of Israel but what are those sneaky evangelicals up to, eh?
As this article from JTA notes, about the only update to this hardened pro-left, anti-right attitude has been a grudging admission that maybe the left is finally a source of threat to Jews today:
After years of worrying about the threat posed by Muslim terrorists, is Wednesday's shooting attack on the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum -- coming soon after the murder of a prominent abortion doctor -- a signal that the Jewish community should be ratcheting up its concern about right-wing extremism?
Those who track extremism and security threats in the Jewish community say that a variety of current factors -- such as the poor economy, the first black president and increased immigration -- make the prospect of terror attacks from the right something to watch carefully. But, they stress, the Jewish community should be concerned about threats from extremists of all kinds.
“The real threat is lone wolves with extremist views from the right or left,” said Paul Goldenberg, national director of the Secure Community Network, an initiative of the Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

I disagree with Mr. Goldberg. A "lone wolf" might be a threat due to his unpredictability but the threat from the left is quite real. While the extreme right wing in America is pretty much limited to the pathetic Neo-Nazi/KKK crowd which lacks any real social influence outside its limited circles, the left enjoys excellent popularity and an immunity from any serious investigation by mainstream media.
Think about it: how many tenured professors in major North American universities preach views that Israel is an apartheid state or that it is the cause of all evil in the world? If someone in a pointy hat and a bad sheet said that, we'd call him a racist. When a left wing professor says it, we talk about academic freedom and the need for dialogue.
When a good ol' boy commits a racist act, everyone learns about his background. When Muslims attempt to commit terrorist acts, like the bunch of losers who laughingly plotted to kidnap Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper a couple of years ago, we surpress their nationality and deny any connection to international movements that are dedicated to destroying Israel.
It is time to update our thinking, re-identify who our really friends in this society are, and concentrate on fighting our enemies instead of trying to make nice with them and ignore their tireless efforts to destroy our State.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Being vs Doing

The most recent guest post at Cross Currents by Rav Dovid Landesman notes his concern with social problems in the Chareidi community. After a brief comment on how some music and dancing is against Chareidi standards of tznius, he notes:
More disconcerting than the dancing, however, was the drinking. It began at the chasan’s tisch where a number of bottles, stored in the proverbial paper bags, were passed around and quickly placed under the table whenever a waiter or suspicious looking adult came by. Unlike brown baggers, however, these bottles weren’t filled with rot gut; only single malt scotches and eighteen year old bourbon were deemed suitable.
I watched as water glasses were filled with two inches of brown liquid, drained and then refilled for another round. The bags reappeared during the seudah, necessary I guess because the hosts had not placed wine bottles on the three tables reserved for bachurim and the bartender would not serve without carding.
To add to my chagrin, the rosh yeshivah, the mashgiach and a rebbi from the yeshiva were seated with the bachurim and clearly saw what was transpiring. The boys made no attempt to hide their drinking from the rabbis and none of the rabbis made any apparent attempt to stop the drinking; as a matter of fact, at one point the rebbi joined with them in a l’chaim.
I finally could not take it any more and decided to talk to them. I was as non-confrontational as I know how and asked the boys why they drank. Three boys claimed that they had not touched a drop; later I discovered that they were the designated drivers. The bachurim looked at me with absolutely no understanding. Some of them were not coherent enough to comprehend my reasoning; others, somewhat less soused, pointed out that drinking made them less embarrassed and self-conscious and thus more capable of dancing without inhibition.

Rav Landesman has correctly identified a problem but while he might be concerned with it, I ould note that it cannot be seen in isolation from the other problems affect the Torah observant community.
I mean, look at the news. Frum Jews, who are supposed to be the example in terms of morality and proper behaviour to the rest of our people, are constantly in the spotlight over issues like theft, pedophilia, drugs, an obession over halachic minutiae in the name of driving more and more people from Torah Judaism, and let's not ignore the violence. Forget being a light unto the nations. We seem quite far from that most days of the week. How is it possible that a people pledged to the Ribono shel Olam, who study His Torah which is a book of morals, can be so far from the ideal we proclaim ourselves to be emblematic of?
There's an old Simpsons episode (and two Garnel points to the person who can name it first) in which a motivational speaker comes to Springfield and identifies the malaise hanging over the town. His catch phrase? Stop existing as a human being and become a human doing.
This, in my opinion, is what is the source of Orthodoxy's trouble today. For too many people, behaving al pi halacha is not something which is a source of joy and inspiration, something which nourishes their Yiddishe neshama. Rather it is a rote behaviour, performed more out of habit and guilt of being looked down upon by the neighbours than anything else.
How many of us really concentrate when making a bracha the way the Mishna Berurah advises us to? How many just mumble the words even as the first piece of food hits the teeth? how many people concentrate on their davening, imagining the Ribono shel Olami standing in front of us listening to our supplications? How many of us simply whisper our way through the words as quickly as possible to get out of shul early?
How many of us learn Torah in order to comprehend the wonders of God's creation around us? How many learn in order to know more than the next guy, or to be able to say a clever vort that will make others say "pshhhhhh"? How many of us internalize the moral lessons we learn in Tanach and Talmud? How many of us ignore them even as we memorize the words?
Too many of us have become Jewish beings. But this is not what we are supposed to be.
In the parsha this week we are told about how the Bnei Yisrael began to march from Har Sinai. Right after that part of the narrative, the two famous inverted nun's appear, separating two famous verses from the surrounding text. Chazal say that this is to separate different bad episodes from one another and immediately after the second inverted nun we are told the story of the burning at Taveirah. But Ramban notes that there is no preceding puranos, bad episode so what are Chazal talking about? He concludes that the manner in which Bnei Yisrael left Har Sinai is the hidden bad episode. In the well-known words of Chazal, they ran away from the mountain like children running away from school, fearful that if they remained around Sinai God would find even more rules for them to observe. This showed that they had missed the entire point of matan Torah. If God is perfect, and His Torah is perfect and the way to gain the highest level in Olam Haba, then they should have desired to remain at har Sinai, under the cloud that contained God's presence, forever. Their running away showed that they had indeed received the Torah, but as a burdensome list of rules instead of God's revelation.
For a year they had studied at God's feet at Har Sinai as Jewish beings. Now the time had come to put into action all their preparations and to enter Eretz Yisrael where they could observe the Torah in full as Jewish doings. And in this task they faild to make the leap.
What happened next is well known. One stumble after another until finally they were condemned to die in the wilderness.
It would seem to be God's will that we perform his mitzvos not because we have to, because we know nothing else or because we're afraid of what the neighbours will say, but because we want to. Because by doing so we develop a connection with the Ribono shel Olam that nourishes our soul. Jews are not mean to just be, they are meant to do.
This then would explain what Rav Landesman saw at that wedding. When one is content to be a Jewish being, when there is really no inner connection between performing mitzvos and the essence of the Jew himself, then his behaviour will not distinguish himself from any of the other peoples of the world. They steal, we'll steal. They'll lie, we'll lie. And we'll even find where in Shulchan Aruch it's permitted! But this is all a perversion of what Torah is supposed to be.
To elevate ourselves morally we must do the Torah, not bjust be mitzvah-observant Jews. May God give us the strength to rise above our petty natures and fulfill His will in this world.

Editing For Effect

Decades ago, Israeli humorist Ephraim Kishon wrote about how the world press edits its reports of Israel to make it look bad. As an example, he presented a British reporter asking an Israeli about his opinion of counterterrorism efforts that accidentally kill Arab children. The reporter naturally went to one of the wealthier suburbs of Tel Aviv to better contrast the vivid images of the Arab refugee camp. He found a fat, European looking resident, again to imply that Israelis aren't really local folks, not like those poor Arabs. And then he got the answer to his question: "Well, I don't like it when that happens but they are trying to kill us and when it comes to protecting my children, I can't be too careful about my methods."
When the interview hit the BBC, the question was asked, and the carefully editted answer was presented: "I can't be too careful about my methods." Not a word of a lie but presented with damning footage of poor "refugees" and completely out of context. What impression would the British viewer receive?
I thought about this when I watched Max Blumethal's now infamous "We hate Obama" video as well as his pathetic justification for creating such a piece of twisted trash in the first place. In many ways, he is no different than the BBC reporter Kishon wrote about.
Blumenthal starts by describing how he created this video:
On Wednesday, I walked around central Jerusalem with my friend, Joseph Dana, an Israel peace activist who has lived in the country for three years. We interviewed young people on camera about the speech President Barack Obama planned to deliver to the Muslim world the following day in Cairo. Though our questions were not provocative at all – we simply asked, “What do you think of Obama’s speech” – the responses our interview subjects offered comprised some of the most shocking comments I have ever recorded on camera. They were racist, hateful, and incredibly ignorant, and were mostly couched within a Zionist context – “this is our land, Obama!” The following day, we edited an hour of interviews into a 3:30 minute video package and released it on Mondoweiss and on the Huffington Post.
Having been to Yerushalayim a few times, I was immediately struck by the crowd he found. It's a big city and like all metropolitan areas has a wide variety of people in it. Yes, there are some idiots like those on the video but they generally come out at night when the bars are all opened. Other parts of the city are the example of civility and culture. Funny they didn't show up in the show. In fact the crowd seems to be taken from a very select part of the local population - the drunken idiot American tourists.
Blumenthal seems to notice this:
Other bloggers and commenters criticized the video on similar grounds. Their complaints generally went like this: In order to advance an agenda, Max Blumenthal exploited the wild remarks of a bunch of drunk Jewish frat-boys innocently showing off in front of their friends. The footage contained in his video in no way reflects what the Israeli public thinks. If Max went to a bar in any college town in the United States he would find the same level of ignorance and racism. Ron Kampeas at the JTA has written that I need “to grow up and put [my talents] to good use.”
But then he dismisses his critics with the most idiotic thought:
The criticism of my video raised an interesting journalistic issue: Is reporting any less credible when interview subjects are drinking alcohol? Of course not.
Excuse me? It's one thing to interview someone over a glass of red wine, quite another to find a drunken student who is probably not that thoughtful or mature when completely sober and ambush him with a video camera. Nobody credible would use information received in such a way in a serious manner. The implications of Blumethal's statement are staggering. According to him, if I go to some redneck bar in deepest Texas and videotape some of the less reputable and more inebriated patrons swearing and saying the "N" word, then I am completely justified in writing about how America is a hotbed of Neonazis just waiting for the chance to slaughter their black population. In intelligent circles, I'd be laughed out of the room. But Blumenthal doesn't move in intelligent circles. He hangs around with lefists.
Blumenthal goes on:
Beer does not, to my knowledge, contain a special drug that immediately infects drinkers with white supremacist sentiments, violent rhetoric, and anti-democratic tendencies. I get drunk as much as any social drinker and I have never called for “white power” or declared, “fuck the niggers!” as one of my interviewees did
No, he would just shout "F--k the Israelis, how bad can I make them look?" But Blumenthal goes and undermines his entire thesis (although, of course, he doesn't see it that way) by noting the nationality of his targets. It turns out they're not even Israelis. They're Americans, in Israel for a good time. Do many of them say they might move there one day? As a frequent visitor there, let me assure you: it's a defence mechanism to make the Israelis who keep asking "So when are you making aliyah?" go away.
So here's what the video comes down to: a bunch of guys who came to Israel to party, caught in mid-party, trying to one up each other for how outrageous they can be. From this very select crowd, Blumenthal goes on to describe his view of everything that's wrong with Israeli society:
Behind the Israeli view of Obama lies a climate of extremism that exploded into the open when the country attacked Gaza. Today, extremist sentiment hovers well above the surface. A groundbreaking study of Israeli attitudes published in the wake of the Gaza war by the Tel Aviv University political psychologist Daniel Bar-Tal, who I recently interviewed, found that “Israeli Jews’ consciousness is characterized by a sense of victimization, a siege mentality, blind patriotism, belligerence, self-righteousness, dehumanization of the Palestinians and insensitivity to their suffering.” Bar-Tal commented to me that the army is the primary vehicle for stoking the nationalism of young Israelis. “Some countries are states without armies,” he said. “But Israel today is an army without a state. There is no civilian institution capable of restraining the army’s influence.”
So off to top, it's the Israeli view that these drunken Americans have shown us. Israel, of course, has no right to feel victimized. Not a word about suicide bombers, or the endless rain of rockets and missles from 'Aza, or the unending promises from Tehran about getting nuked. We are told, in a deliberate vacuum, that Israelis are essentially paranoid and have no reason for feeling the way they do. And the interviewee? Well, Blumenthal was just as selective this time. Daniel Bar-Tal is a known anti-Israel leftist, the kind that has more sympathy for the Arabs who would kill him without a second thought than for his own people, all in the name of being an enlightened intellectual. For Blumenthal, it must have been a comfortable afternoon, knowing that the person he was speaking to would confirm his biased prejudices. After all, when the goal is to indoctrinate people into believing that all Israelis are militaristic, Arab-hating savages, it helps to have a united message.
Kishon's Israel would provide the perfect justification for this video: I can't be too careful about my methods.

Creating The Apartheid State

As pressure builds on Israel to accept the Arab version of "The Two State Solution" peace plan, it's important to strip away the lies and illusions being spun by the wordl community and point out the fatal flaws with such an idea.
First, let's deal with a very basic assumption, that Yehuda, Shomron and 'Aza are "occupied territories". Joseph Goebells, y"sh, the Nazi minister of propaganda, will always be remembered for creating the doctrine of "the Big Lie". He realized that if you tell a lie often enough and with sufficient conviction, it will eventually become accepted as the truth.
In the case of Israel, this idea has been used with incredibly good effect. Most people who lack a decent knowledge of Middle East history, or worse, academics who think they have such a knowledge, have come to accept that Yehuda, Shomron and 'Aza are territories illegally mililtarily occupied by Israel.
This, of course, is a lie. Before 1947 the entire area that is Israel plus the "occupied territories" was the British Mandate and that mandate was to create a Jewish National Home in Israel, as per the 1917 Balfour declaration. The British, having violated the terms of that mandate by giving away 75% of that land to their World War I allies in Jordan, consistently attempted to destroy any attempts to create the Jewish National Home in order to gain allies in the Arab world. Despite this, they were forced to abandon Israel when the stubborn Jews in Israel refused to be pushed away and the situation became virtually ungovernable. As a result, the Mandate was handed to the United Nations which voted, in 1947, to partition the land into two countries, Israel and Palestine.
Immediately after the vote, the Arab leadership in Israel refused to accept the results. They announced that they wanted all of Israel for themselves, the Jews be damned, and they began attacking Jews all across the country. In 1948, when Israel declared its independence, the armies of six Arab states, none of whom had anything directly at stake in the creation of the new country, attacked as well. By 1949, just as the Jews were gaining momentum and it looked like they might conquer all the territory west of the Jordan River, the UN stepped in and forced an armistice. The Jews were left with what today is call pre-1967 Israel. The Arabs were left with Yehuda, Shomron and 'Aza.
Only it wasn't the local Arabs that were in charge of those areas. Jordan controlled Yehuda and Shomron while Egypt occupied 'Aza. What Jew haters like to forget is that during the period 1949-1967 these two countries ruled Yehuda, Shomron and 'Aza as military conquests. There was no talk about local autonomy, "Palestinian" self-rule, etc. Pre-1967 Israel was "occupied Palestine" and the target of Arab attacks.
What people also forget is that, aside from Britian and Pakistan, no nation recognized Jordan and Egypt's occupation of Israeli land. At the time, these territories were considered "disputed" or unowned. They were certainly not considered the so-called Palestinian homeland.
It was only when Israel, with the help of God, won the Six Day War and finally regained all the land promised it by the British Mandate, that suddenly the story changed. Instead of being disputed, Yehuda, Shomron and 'Aza were now occuped "Palestinian" territory. The big lie had begun.
And it continues until this day. There was never an independent country called Palestine. Until the PLO invented it, there was never a Palestinian flag. There has never been a Palestinian currency or even postage stamps, nothing in history to give any evidence that a country called Palestine existed and that its people were suddenly deprived of their independence. But by repeating the word "occupied Palestinian territory" the impression has been given that there was and that it was the Israelis who stole it.
Thus Israel is not an occupying power. It is the Arabs who are lying (successfully) in their goal of eradicating the Jewish state.
Now, let's move on to why supporting the two-state resolution makes one a racist. What is the goal of the two state solution? To create the following two countries:
a) Palestine - a state in Yehuda, Shomron, and 'Aza. This state will be exclusively Arab in nature. Jews will be forbidden to live or own property there. Other than Neturei Karta'niks, they will also probably be forbidden entry. This state will proudly call itself Muslim, much to the chagrin of the ever-shrinking Chrisian population, but who cares about them?
b) Israel - the pre-1967 version but with important differences. Part of the two-state solution is implementing the so-called Right of Return. As the story goes, it involves 4.5 million "Palestinians" whose parents and grandparents were driven out of Israel by the Jews in 1949. In fact, it will be a slum-clearing exercise by all the local Arab states as they send 4.5 million of their least desirable citizens to Israel to live. This sudden influx, accompanied by the sudden eviction of 500 000 Jews from their homes in Yehudah and Shomron will cause two things. One is the economic collapse of Israel. The second will be to create an Arab majority which will then decide to jettison all things Jewish about the state, as well as to officially designate the remaining Jews (those who haven't fled, presumably) to permanent second class status.
In other word, Israel will not be a Jewish state, even though the solution demands the creation of a Muslim one. It won't even be a bi-national state for very long. Ultimately it will become another failed Arab state with a sizeable persecuted Jewish minority.
In the 1980's it was a cause celebre for Western liberals to demand the end of apartheid in South Africa. I wonder how many of these self-designated anti-racists are worried that in supporting the two state solution they are supporting the creation of two race-based states?