Wednesday, November 28, 2007

World Jewry: Buzz Off?

When I was younger, it annoyed me to no end that the US Reform movement fanned the flames of the "Who is a Jew" patralineal descent and reform conversion controversy in Israel. Who were these Americans to influence internal Israeli policy? Do they vote, pay taxes, fight in the IDF, learn day and night for the protection of the country, or participate in any manner with Israel's destiny? It was easy for me at the time to dismiss their view; Judaism has always been based on matralineal descent. Breaking that paradigm removes the last common denominator of Jewish unity. Additionally, Reform Judaism in Israel is grown by the Reform movement in the US, not the other way around -- and is still a tiny minority in Israel. Secular Israelis are not Reform, and as many of my secular Israeli friends say, "the shul they don't daven at is a dati, Orthodox one."

Prime Minister Olmert Ehud stated yesterday at Annapolis, that the Israeli government alone is the only party that has the right to determine the fate of Jerusalem -- a direct snub at American Jewish groups who stated that Jerusalem is a "Jewish" issue and not an "Israeli" one.

Should Ehud Olmert alone should not have the right to determine Jerusalem's fate? Olmert takes world Jewry's money, takes their support, asks for their support, begs them to visit, asks them to plant trees...yet he alone is allowed to determine the fate of Jerusalem? Perhaps the time has to come where the State of Israel humbly acknowledges that they alone cannot decide the fate of Jerusalem?

One interesting idea I heard from Moshe Feiglin is that if he were Prime Minister of Israel, we would favor a 2 house parliament, where 1 house would be comprised of the residents of Israel (Jews, Muslims, Christians, all residents of the land), which would deal with internal issue of local importance. The second house would be for Jews only -- to deal with issues of national, Jewish importance. After all, as Israel is a Jewish State and national Jewish homeland, this house of parliament should have representation of World Jewry.

When I looked at this website yesterday (what can you do to help save Jerusalem) that opposed Olmert's policy of splitting Jerusalem at Annapolis, I found the following Jewish groups to be aligned with the website -- for Olmert to snub them means he just wants your money, but doesn't really care about you at all. (The OU should take heed before they honor Olmert again).
Supporting Organizations: Coordinating Council on Jerusalem (CCJ), AISH, American Friends of Likud, Americans for a Safe Israel, Amit, Association for Jewish Outreach Programs, Christians Standing for Israel, Chicago Board of Rabbis, Emunah, Flatbush Va'ad, Heartland Institute, Isralight, Jerusalem Reclamation Project, NCSY, National Council of Young Israel, One Israel Fund, Hineni, Poalei Agudath Israel, Project Genesis, Rabbinic Alliance to Save Jerusalem, Rabbinical Alliance of America, Rabbinical Councinl of America (RCA), Reform Students for Israel, Religious Zionists of American, Russian Jewish Community Foundation, Secular Jews for Israel, Students for Israel, The Jerusalem Connection, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations (OU), Unity Coalition for Israel, Young Israel Council of Rabbis, Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) (list is not finalized)
Another related topic from yesterday is an "alternative" Jewish Congress that met yesterday.

THE NEW JEWISH CONGRESS, a Preparatory Conference Concerning THE SOVEREIGNTY OF THE JEWISH NATION OVER THE JEWISH STATE IN ERETZ-ISRAEL, is currently (TUESDAY, November 27, 2007, 3:30 PM underway in Ramada-Renaissance Hotel in Jerusalem. The conference will close its doors at 8 PM this evening. The conference evoked considerable interest among Israelis from all walks of life, some of whom found themselves rallying in Jerusalem until late last night against Annapolis and then returning to the city to attend the conference which opened its doors this morning. Jews and Gentiles abroad also expressed interest and support.

Political issues of Jewish sovereignty were discussed by Shlomo Idan, a secular intellectual and Mattot Arim activist residing in Rehovot, an academic town which houses the world-famous Weizmann Institute of Science. Idan discussed the Hebrew concept of "gnevat kolot" (vote stealing) in which a politician elected under a first agenda turns around and operates under a contradictory agenda. Idan noted that this phenomenon when practiced by two reneging rightwing MKs in 1995 had resulted in the Oslo accords passing by a majority of exactly 2. Another example was the forceable deportation from Gush Katif initiated by Premier Ariel Sharon who had been elected on precisely the opposite agenda as evidenced by one of his well known pronouncements promising permanent status to settlements. A third example was the vote of the 300,000-strong Likud membership against the Gush Katif deportation, initiated by Premier Sharon himself but ignored when the result was the opposite of that he anticipated. Finally, Idan focussed on a quote by veteran Israeli MK Micky Eitan in which Eitan asserted that a party platform does not obligate the representatives of that party. Idan warned that a solution, perhaps even legislation, must be found to eradicate this phenomenon which renders the Jewish people powerless to control its own destiny as unscrupulous politicians take the helm again and again.

Aviad Vissoly, Likud activist and attorney hailing from Haifa, spoke about the contentious issue of the eastern border of the Jewish state. Vissoly pointed out that the eastern border of Israel clearly includes the entirety of Judea and Samaria since Israel has applied its sovereignty to this area on at least six separate occasions, namely in its Declaration of Independence (de jure), in the Six Day War (de facto), when Jordan announced its disassociation from Judea and Samaria, in Israel's peace accord with Jordan, brokered by the United States, in which the international border with Israel's eastern neighbor was determined to be the Jordan River, in the Oslo Accords in which the Palestinians agreed to autonomy, as opposed to a state, and that in specific regions termed A and B alone rather than in the entirety of Judea and Samaria, and by virtue of the application of many Israeli laws to Judea and Samaria.

Rabbi Dov Stein, a central rabbinical activist in an attempt, spearheaded by talmudic scholar Rabbi Adin Steinzaltz, to revive the Sanhedrin, described the civil service and warned of the dangers of nepotism in the ranks of the civil servants of the Jewish state. Blatant favoritism toward relatives and friends is not conducive to the Jewish sovereignty that is to be striven for, Stein said.

Dr. Amnon Hever spoke of social justice in the spirit of Israel's prophets, such as Isaiah, Amos and others, and emphasized that this was a prerequisite for rebuilding of the Temple according to various Jewish sources. Hever regretted that Israel's early pioneers, who were committed to social justice, attempted to implement it relying on the principles of communism and socialism as opposed to sterling Jewish principles. Hever suggested that alternative frameworks take upon themselves various social, economic and health functions which Israel's government is failing to provide. Hever's analysis shed new light on the proliferation of just this type of organization in Israel today, effectively replacing the government in many arenas, such as mutual aid philanthropy (thousands of Gamach funds often run by synagogogues or respected individuals, Koach laTet and more), health (Ezer MiZion, Yad Sara, Rabbi Firer's consultation service, Kav laChayim, etc.) emergency care (Hatzala, Zaka), financial consulting (Paamonim), labor relations (Maaglei Zedek), criminal justice (Human Rights in Yesha, Honenu) and more.

Tel-Aviv philosopher Ohad Kamin spoke on the topic of human rights and emphasized that this modern notion is based directly and almost exclusively on classic Jewish values. Kamin said that this should be emphasized, to give the Jewish state a better standing in international politics in which human rights is a very popular and politically inspiring concept at this time, particularly insofar as young voters and activists are concerned. Focusing on this topic would allow Israel to win its existential wars and simultaneously to exercise its traditional role of acting as a "light unto the nations", Kamin said.
It's becoming more and more obvious that Olmert, and even the State of Israel should not be able to unilaterally decide the crucial issues of Israel's existence -- especially when asking for everything from World Jewry.

And regarding Reform Jewry's patralineal descent and conversions...that's going to be a very difficult issue to reconcile.

Ideas welcome :)

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael


bluke said...

Arafat said something very similar. He said that he can't compromise on Jerusalem because it belongs to all Muslims.

PsychoToddler said...

There are some things that belong to all Jews, not just Israelis. Israelis have the obligation to protect those things for the future of our people.

Anonymous said...

I agree -- the welfare of the Jews in Israel is a matter of concern to all Jews. It's "col yisrael areivim zeh lazeh", not "its non of your business".

BTW, Just for the record, it's "patrilineal" and "matrilineal".

Ralphie said...

Here's an article from the Jerusalem Report that touches on this subject.

Jack Steiner said...

Bust out the waffles it is going to be a long night.

In concept it is great to say that all policy should be limited to the people who vote and are directly affected by policy.

However, the fact is that the effect of said policy is not limited to those in Israel.

Soccer Dad said...

But is the fault not ours - us Jews who remain in Galus?

If we all made Aliyah I suspect the demographics and resulting politics of Israel would be a bit different.

It's easy to blame things on the politicians, but they got to their positions by winning elections. And that happened because many of us haven't taken advantage of the opportunity to make Aliyah.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Psychotodler and Maoz, that Yerushalayim and Har HaBayit belong to ALL JEWS past and present, as will be evident after Moshiach and Techias HaMeitim!!

And once they, the nations of the world, realize this it will be better for them and the entire world.

Lurker said...

"lurker" @ 5:37 PM, November 28, 2007 is not me.

To pseudo-Lurker: Please choose your own moniker.

treppenwitz said...

I gotta say, I'm against you on this one 100%.

Should Olmert (and all Israelis) be grateful to moral, financial and physical (i.e. tourism)contributions from the diaspora?

Of course.

Should Olmert (and all Israelis) allow Diaspora Jews a say in what becomes of Jerusalem?

Absolutely not!

Ezra had it right when he refused to allow the Jews of Bavel a say in how things would be done here in the holy land. He reasoned (correctly, IMHO) that after an exile, the decisions should be made by those who returned, not those who opted to remain comfortably ensconced in the diaspora.

He actually took it one step further and wouldn't even allow them to contribute to the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdosh (even though he accepted contributions from the non_Jewish rulers of the time)... and as a result the first effort was reportedly a pitiful wooden structure.

Some may disagree with the notion of accepting support from abroad but refusing to allow foreign Jews a say in important issues here. I say there is no explicit or implicit connection between the two and anyone who says otherwise should really examine the reason behind the check he/she wrote to the JNF.

Those contributions aren't a form of taxation that requires some level of reciprocal representation. They are gifts. Full Stop.

Even though I hate what Olmert & Co. are doing with our precious assets right now, they are our assets. Israelis fought and died for them. We pay with our taxes and with out sweat to maintain them. They are here when tourists come to visit... but they are also here when the tourists stay away (as they have consistently done whenever we've needed them most).

Bottom line: You want a say? you want a vote? Move here.

Otherwise just send us an occasional postcard from Bavel and leave the heavy lifting to those who are willing.

Lurker said...

Judaism has always been based on matralineal descent.

While I agree with your criticism against the Reform movement for their divisive adoption of a patrilineal policy, the above statement is not quite correct. During the period of the Tanakh (at least until the time of Ezra), it appears that offspring were regarded as part of the nation even if only the father was Jewish.

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