Sunday, December 30, 2012

Run Zoabi, Run

In a very unsurprising move, the Supreme Court overruled the Central Elections Commission and determined that MK Hanin Zoabi of the Balad party can run in the upcoming elections.

Despite the Elections Commission being clearly right in saying she breached the requirements regarding who is not allowed to run, and the Supreme Court being clearly wrong in having overruled them, I probably have to support Zoabi’s right to run.

Zoabi, as you should recall, was an involved passenger on the Mavi Marmara blockade run attempt in 2010.

On the Mavi Marmara, a group of passengers, connected to the Turkish IHH (designated as a terror organization by Israel), attacked IDF naval troops, including with at least one gun, during their attempt to break the blockade of Hamas terror-controlled Gaza and provide aid to Israel’s enemy.

Zoabi set off a political storm in Israel with her participation on that particular boat.

So you must be asking yourself, why am I supporting her right to run in the Knesset, despite her association with known terrorists and attempting to aid the enemy?

After all, in Israel’s Elections Law it clearly states the following are the basis for individuals and parties not being allowed to run:
1. The rejection of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state.  
2. Incitement of racism.  
3. Support of the armed struggle of enemy states or terrorist organizations against the state of Israel.  
4. A reasonable basis to conclude that the party will be used for illegal activities.

Zoabi seems to clearly be in violation of at least #1 and #3.

And the Balad party’s stated goal is the "struggle to transform the state of Israel into a democracy for all its citizens, irrespective of national or ethnic identity," is clearly in violation of #1.

And its not like there isn’t history here.

You might recall the famous case of MK Azmi Bishara, not coincidentally, also from the Balad party.

Bishara ran away before he could be arrested for actively aiding Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War. And then the Knesset banned the Balad party, but once again the Supreme Court overruled them and let Balad run.

I have two reasons for this admittedly strange position.

The first is that it’s a badly written law.

It’s vague and it potentially chills free speech.

Parts of the law above are incredibly vague (such as #2), and there’s far too much wiggle room that allows it to be spuriously applied to any political enemy, such as the recent attempts to use it against Ben-Ari and Naftali Bennett, in an attempt to block them from running.

It’s a law crying out for selective abuse, just as it was selectively abused in the past against another rightwing party who was becoming very popular, and yet it was never used against any leftwing anti-Jewish parties (such as Shinui) or anti-Settler parties (such as Meretz), no matter how racist they might be considered, nor despite their attempts to remove the Jewish component from Israel’s definition as a Jewish and democratic state.

In short, the law is poorly written, it is selectively applied, and until the law is fixed, it’s problematic to have it applied to anyone, since it can be used against any political enemy.

The second and perhaps more important reason is that the Knesset dropped the ball.

IHH is designated a terrorist organization.

Zoabi was on the boat with a terrorist organization to break the Israeli government’s lawful blockade on a terrorist entity.

Nu?

Why didn’t the Knesset do its equivalent of impeaching her?
Why did the government fail in its charges against her participation in the Mavi Marmara?
Simply because she claimed she was acting independent from the IHH!
For heaven's sake, why isn’t Zoabi sitting in jail?

But that’s only part of it.

The government dropped the ball, in another place. And perhaps not where you think.

The government also dropped the ball, because it still hasn’t fought the Supreme Court, and their self-assumed right to overrule any Knesset ruling they don’t like.

Until the Knesset decides to take a clear position that the Supreme Court is overstepping its bounds and taking on powers it doesn’t have, then the Knesset deserves every slap in the face it gets from the Supreme Court.

One of the most serious of problems that Israel faces is the unclear delineation and definition of powers, and that is specifically the Knesset’s job to define in law.

But they haven’t.

So instead, we have ridiculous situations like this, where we have a party and an individual who is in clear violation of the law, but because the Supreme Court doesn’t like that particular application of the law, it ignores it.

And we have a Knesset that is afraid or unable to stand up for its rights and say "We represent the democratic will of the people, and you, the Supreme Court, have overstepped your bounds of your mandate."

Just like the Knesset was afraid to go all the way and impeach Zoabi, and just like Bishara actually continued to receive money from the Knesset for quite a while after his escape. The Knesset is afraid to properly deal with issues.

Other examples of this failure are the Women at the Wall, and the Reform Movement, and the rights of Jews to buy and own properties in Hebron.

And that leaves outside interested parties the ability to appeal to the Supreme Court and override the will of the people.

So I say, yes, if the Knesset isn’t willing to properly deal with Zoabi and put her in jail where I think she belongs, and it isn’t willing to deal with a runaway Supreme Court, then it gets what it deserves, and it deserves to have Zoabi as a member.


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Monday, December 24, 2012

Photo: Visualizing the Beit Hamikdash

Coming soon...




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Just Say No To Nittel Nacht


Back in Yeshiva elementary school I was introduced to the holiday of Nittel Nacht, which happened to coincidentally always fall on the eve of December 25th.

There was excitement in the class, a night that it is assur (forbidden) to learn Torah!

"What do we do instead?" a fellow classmate asked.

And we nearly all fell off our chairs when the answer from the Rabbi was, "Stay home and play cards," which was, of course, amazing, since we were taught, playing cards wasn't even allowed on Shabbat.

What a great holiday.

And the Rabbi explained to us why.

The night of Nittel Nacht is one of great impurity, where evil and dangerous spirits run around outside, so we aren't allowed to go outside, so they couldn't harm us.

And since we must be inside with nothing to do, we should normally be learning Torah. But since we don't want those evil spirits to get the Zechut (merit) for our Torah learning, since we can't go outside because of them, we do meaningless things instead.

But I always wondered about one contradiction.

Since we were also taught that the world continues to exist, only because there is always at least one person learning Torah at any time, if we're telling everyone not to learn at the same time, wouldn't the world be destroyed?

There are additonal customs associated with Nittel Nacht, such as eating garlic to ward off the demons (particularly you know whose), praying Aleinu out loud (since that is the prayer against idolatry), and not going to sleep all night. You can read about more Nittel Nacht customs on Hirhurim.

But now, lets step back a bit from the edge.

The custom obviously began in Jewish communities that lived among Christians.

On Christmas Eve (on whichever date they celebrated it on in that community), the Christians would get plastered (with spirits) and wander the streets beating up Jews and organizing pogroms, and killing more Jews.

So as a result, Jews learned that on Christmas, don't let the drunk goyim see you, and then they won't kill you. So Jews didn't go outside to the Beis Midrash or the Shul.

As to not learning, obviously people started coming up with additional explanations as to why we don't learn, though I think the most likely is that if the Christians saw a light on in your house (so you could read your book), they were likely to remember you were there and then try to burn the house down with you in it.  And the same thing for not going to sleep. How would you see the drunk Christians were approaching to burn down your house, if you weren't awake to see them coming, and run?

So, the voodoo explanations aside, historically there was very good reason for Jews to not go outside on Nittel Nacht.

In fact, I would say that today (for people in America and Modi'in), the visual and audio spiritual impurity issues are far more relevant reasons why one should not go outside on Nittel Nacht, as opposed to the more traditional dangers of Christian violence and pogroms.

But, my original question regarding Torah learning has never been answered to my satisfaction. Because if I was planning to be learning Torah anyway, there is no way the evil forces should see any merit from my actions, and if there isn't at least one person learning Torah, what would support the world?

So, tonight on Nittel Nacht, I won't be going outside, even though I'm in Eretz Yisrael and we don't really have that problem here, but I will be learning Torah, because why should we allow evil forces to cause Bittul Torah (a cancellation of Torah), and perhaps, with everyone else not learning Torah, perhaps I could get to be the one who supports the entire world!.

So I say, just say no to Nittel Nacht, or at least the part without Torah learning.

Update: The following has been added by Jameel, stolen from EP:



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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Joke of the Day

Admittedly, the way they presented all the data in this Ha'aretz article is a joke, but their opening line, wins hands down:

 "Two-thirds of centrist voters - defined as Labor Party and Yesh Atid supporters..."
'Nuff said.

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Restoring Deterrence


With one act, a young girl (woman for those that find that word offensive) managed to restore just a little bit of the deterrence that has been chipped away from us over these past few years.

I almost thought that the videos of our IDF soldiers running away(!) from Arab stone throwers was the nail in the coffin, but then the IDF released a statement that they did the right thing by running away, which just about pushed that coffin over the cliff.

That statement came after the strong denial the other week from the IDF, denying any role in the killing of the terrorists that attacked, injured, and nearly killed Israeli security personnel.

It seems that the IDF doesn't know what it's mission is anymore. Not since Gush Katif - its "most successful large scale operation ever".

The IDF is embarrassed to fight to win, the politicians are afraid to give them orders to fight. And the soldiers don't want to fight, because they don't want to go to jail or be punished.

After last night's heroic act, I was sure the IDF was going to release a clarification that the girl (woman) was a border policeman, and not to be confused with an IDF soldier.

They certainly aren't doing a great job defending her against the critics that are threatening her.

The IDF needs an overhaul, and I know someone who deserves to be involved in the retraining.



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Sunday, December 09, 2012

These Candles: The prayer that went viral

In honor of the Palestinians recently getting UN recognition, I dedicate my article to ancient Palestinian traditions.  :)

On Hanukkah, while lighting candles, we declare we're lighting the candles for Hanukkah, and that we're not allowed to benefit from their light.

This declaration, in Hebrew known as "Ha-Nerot Hallalu" (These Candles) appears in the  "Tractate of the Scribes" (Masechet Sofrim).  In this early Halachik work, written in Israel around the 8th century (the Gaonic Era), we have a description of the ceremony of lighting Hanukkah candles, as it was done in ancient Israel.

On the first day, the person lighting the candles blesses upon lighting them.  He then states the following  declaration (translation based on the Rabbi Birnbaum's siddur):
We light these candles on account of the triumphs and miracles and wonders which You performed for our fathers through Your holy priests.  Throughout these eight days of Hanukkah, these candles are sacred, and we are not permitted to make any use of them, but we should observe them in order to praise Your great name for Your wonders and Your miracles and Your triumphs.
The person lighting then adds two additional blessings: Shehecheyanu and the blessing over the Hanukkah miracle (Al Ha-Nissim).  The  participants repeat the last two blessings.

On the other days of the holiday, the person lighting the candles blesses upon lighting the candles and makes the aforementioned Declaration. The participants say  the blessing for the Hanukkah miracle.

This Israeli custom was generally forgotten and was not mentioned by any other Halachic books in  the centuries following .
    
That is, until the 13th century,  when the Israeli tradition was revived thanks to the custom of a German Rabbi.  Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg, also known as the Maharam of Rothenburg, loved the Israeli traditions.  He adopted the custom to say the "These Candles" declaration, based on the language of Masechet Sofrim.

His students reported this custom, and the prayer went viral.  The custom to say "Ha-Nerot Hallalu" was adopted all across the Jewish world by both Ashekanzi and Sephardi communities.

The Maharam of Rothenburg didn't just love Israel from afar.  In 1286 he led dozens of Jewish families towards Israel.  However, he didn't make it.  He was caught in Italy and accused of leading a mass escape from Germany, a crime at the time, as the Jews were by then property of the king.  He was imprisoned and died in a dingy pit, sacrificing his life for the right of return to Palestine!

An edict confiscating the property of the "escaping" Jews, documents that they came from various towns in Germany: Mainz, Worms, Speyer, Oppenheim and Wetterau.

I had often wondered, if Jews love Israel so much, why didn't they just get up and come here.  The Mahram's Aliyah attempt showed that Jews did.   They weren't always successful, many times they perished on the way or soon after they got here, but they continued trying.  Over and over again.

We now have the privilege of retuning to our homeland. We can now adhere to the original Israeli custom of lighting the candle by the door of our homes or the gate of our yard, without fear.  When we recite "Ha-Nerot Hallalu", we should remember its origin in that obscure period of Palestinian history, and the great leader who died in a dark pit but spread the light of hope and salvation around the Jewish world.
    


See here for an archive of articles about our history in Israel.  


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