Tuesday, July 30, 2013

How to Annoy Abbas - All of Eretz Yisrael is OURS!

Sick of the Palestinians displaying their "map of Palestine"?

Nothing will enrage them more than this (and in Arabic as well to make sure they get the message).

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Raise Your Hands if you Approve of Releasing Palestinian Terrorists!

A Palestinian raises his bloodied hands in victory to a cheering crowd after brutally murdering 2 IDF reserve soldiers who made a wrong turn into PA controlled Ramallah.

If you think that a pre-condition for peace talk negotiations should be to release savage murderers from jail, then raise your hands!

If you think Israel should make a mockery of it's judicial system, and spit in the faces of the broken Israeli families whose children and parents were slaughtered by Palestinian terrorists, raise your hands!

If you think that Prime Minister Netanyahu should ignore popular sentiment and release terrorists just for the privilege of  sitting down at a table with a society that glorifies civilian murderers, then raise your hands!

If you think that Israel should bow to American pressure, endanger the lives of its citizens and soldiers, and free murderers while the US refuses to free Jonathan Pollard, raise your hands!

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Three Obvious Questions on the Current Peace Process

 This post first appeared on JewishPress.com

It's become apparent to all that Syria is the natural Arab state. Without a strong and powerful leader, anarchy and internecine murder swiftly develops.

This is not because Arabs are primitive, though in part it is because Islam is fundamentally a violent religion. The real reason is that the Arabs are not really one people, as the root word in Hebrew “Arev” attests to. Arev translates as mixture. The Arabs are in reality a mix of distinct sects, tribes and clans who don't really like one another. When they are supposedly unified, it is only because a strong leader temporarily suppresses their independent identities and locks them together under his strong thumb.

Arab state after state proves this to be true.

This brings us to our first obvious question about the current peace process….

1) Who does Abbas actually represent in the peace talks? While Abbas controls the Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria, he doesn’t control the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, as that is under control of a different group – a competing terrorist gang that not only doesn’t he speak for, but a gang who is prepared to overthrow him once conditions are right.

Abbas also doesn’t have the support of the Chamulot, the traditional clan and tribes, who despise him, and would also overthrow Abbas in a second if given the chance.

So if Israel negotiates with Abbas, when the reality is that he doesn’t represent Gaza, when he doesn’t represent the Chamulot, and in fact, since there haven’t been elections, we don’t even know if he represents the rest of the Arab citizens he rules, and he is likely to be overthrown soon, what value does his signature have?

The answer is nothing.

That brings us to the second question…

2) What will keep the "West Bank" from turning into Syria? As we pointed out above, the so-called “Palestinians” are a mixture of different religious sects, tribes and clans, and Bedouin too, who all hate each other, if God forbid, Israel were to pull out the IDF further, we will quickly see a repeat of the Hamas takeover in Judea and Samaria. But this will end up as messy as Syria, when all the groups will start to kill each other to take over. The “West Bank” would quickly deteriorate, and it would be as if we had listened to Shimon Peres as his idiotic ideas to give away the Golan to Syria - pointless and dangerous.

What will stop this Syria-like collapse in the "West Bank"?

Again, the answer is nothing.

And that brings us to our third question and final question…

3) Why in the world would Abbas even want to make peace, when he knows that as soon as he does, his dead, mangled, and cannibalized carcass will be hauled through Bethlehem’s Manger Square by one of the many sects, clans, and tribes that want him dead, and will use this as an opportunity to attempt a coup?

The answer is, he does not.

Reaching peace in these peace talks is the last thing Abbas wants or needs. Ignoring for a moment that he will never obtain the terms of agreement that his cohorts and various friends and enemies are demanding, reaching a true peace agreement means his death, and no further access to his Swiss bank accounts.

For Abbas (or any other future “Palestinian” leader), nothing is better than the current situation. The continuation of the conflict provides him a lifeline (and access to his Swiss bank accounts).

What Abbas does need to get out of this, is a strengthening of his position vis a vis Hamas. The only subject of tangible value for him is the release of terrorists and baby killers.

“Palestinian” society is so sick, that the value they hold most dear, is the value of murdering Jewish babies, and those who murder Jewish women and children are their society’s heroes.

That is why releasing these baby-killers is their first and most non-negotiable demand.

That is why Abbas made it a requirement for talking peace.

Abbas expects nothing else from the talks. He wants nothing to succeed from the talks, but if he is being forced to talk, he can at least demand the one concession that he knows from experience Israel will give him that will temporarily buttress his position as the “Palestinian” leader before the talks collapse.

And that is the release of terrorists and baby killers.

And while I only said three questions, here’s a bonus fourth, which I’ll leave for you to answer.

4) Bibi Netanyahu knows all the above. So, what is he really hoping to achieve with these negotiations, and why?

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Temple Mount activism throughout the centuries

Two thousand years ago, around 70 CE, our Temple was destroyed and the Services discontinued.

The Rabbinic authorities of the time quickly moved to help the people transition to a Temple-less reality.  It can be assumed that within a generation of two, the trauma would be forgotten and the people would accept the new reality.

However, that is far from true.   In Israel, Jews have kept the memory of the Temple alive and for generations to come yearned and fought to renew the Temple services: by rebuilding the Temple, preserving the Priestly status, and maintaining the otherwise archaic laws of purity.

The Temple

During the Byzantine Era, Jews were not allowed to live in Jerusalem.  The Pilgrim of Bordeaux wrote in 333 that Jews were allowed onto the Temple Mount once a year, apparently on Tisha B'Av.  "Not far from the statues [of Hadrian] there is perforated stone and the Jews come to it every year and anoint it with oil, and lament with groans and tear their clothing, and then leave".

But the Jews never stopped yearning to rebuild the Temple, and whenever the opportunity arose, took steps towards that end.

John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople in the late 4th century, listed these attempts in several of his homilies against Jews.
The Jews tried many times to rebuild their temple. Not once, not twice, but three times they tried. They tried ill the time of Hadrian, in the time of Constantine, and in the time of Julian. But each time they tried they were stopped. The first two times they were stopped by military force; later it was by the fire which leaped forth from the foundations and restrained them from their untimely obstinacy.

The attempt during Hadrian's time is the Bar Kochba Revolt.

 As for Constantine, Chrysostom might be referring to the revolt against Constantius Gallus in 351, when the Jews managed to reconquer Jerusalem for a short time.  Or he might be referring to an earlier small-scale attempt, as he mentions the rebels were punished by cutting off their ears and being marched around.

In 363 Emperor Julian (Julian the Apostate) ordered the Temple rebuilt.  Jews gladly joined in the efforts, but work stopped following fires caused by an earthquake.

The Christians saw it as an act of G-d, a sign for the Jews that the Temple will never be rebuilt.  As Chrysostom puts it: "Even today, if you go into Jerusalem, you will see the bare foundation [built during Julian's time], if you ask why this is so, you will hear no explanation other than the one I gave (...) So the Jews have no excuse left to them for their impudence."

But the Jews did not stop trying.

In the 5th century, Empress Eudocia, wife of Emperor Theodosius II, influenced her husband to allow the Jews to come back to Jerusalem.  A Christian monk writes that the Jews sent a letter to their brethren: "The time of our Exile is over, and the day of the in-gathering of our tribes has arrived, for the Roman Emperors have commanded that our city of Jerusalem be returned to us.  Hurry and come to Jerusalem on Sukkot, because our Kingdom will be established in Jerusalem."

In 613, the Jews helped the Persians conquer Israel, and were rewarded with a promise that the Temple will be rebuilt and Jews will regain some measure of autonomy.  Apparently the Jews prepared to resume Temple worship.  They purified the city, and according to one Jewish source, restarted offering sacrifices.  But the Byzantines reconquered Israel shortly thereafter, putting an end to that attempt.

A few decades later, the Muslims conquered Israel - the Jews immediately petitioned the new rulers to be allowed to live in Jerusalem, by the Temple Mount.  We know from Jewish and non-Jewish sources that after the Muslim conquest Jews prayed on the Temple Mount.  They were later only allowed to pray at the gates, and later limited to just one gate.


During Temple times, the Priests (Kohanim) were split up into 24 'Divisions' (Mishmarot) or families.  Each division was 'on duty' at the Temple for two weeks during the year.  Following the destruction of the Temple, the Priestly families moved to the Galilee, each family establishing itself in a different town.

Eleazar Ha-Kalir mentions the Priestly Divisions in his lamentation "Eicha Yashva Havatzelet Hasharon", now read on Tisha Be'Av day.

But these Divisions were not just a matter for a once-a-year memorial ceremony.  The Israeli custom was to pray on the Sabbath for the Priestly Division of that week.  Several fragments found in a synagogue in Caesarea dating to the 3rd century list a portion of the Priestly Divisions.  We also have several hymns (Piyyuts), found in the Genizah, listing the Divisions.  These hymns were said as part of the prayer service, every week mentioning the Division that was 'on duty' for that week.  It is possible these hymns were specifically added to the prayers by the people living in the Priestly towns.

One was written by Haduta, a Jewish poet who lived in Israel in the Byzantine era, and was meant to be said throughout the Amidah prayer.  Another anonymous snippet from the Mussaf Prayer was also found, which might have been written by Haduta as well.  Another piyyut was written by Rabbi Pinchas son of Rabbi Yaakov, a Kohen from Kafra, a village next to Tiberias.  Rabbi Pinchas might be the head of the Israeli Yeshivah, and apparently lived quite a few generations after Haduta.  He wrote a short piyyut for each Division, intended to be said during the Priestly Blessing.

One of the Genizah documents is a declaration from 1034, which says as follows:

Today is the Sabbath, a holy day for G-d
What Division is it?  So and so division
May the Merciful One return the divisions to their place quickly in our days, Amen
How many years since the world was created and until now?
Four thousand and seven hundred and ninety four since the world was created and until now
How many years since the Temple was destroyed and until now?
Nine hundred and sixty seven since the Temple was destroyed and until now
May the Merciful One build his house and Temple, and say Amen


Hundreds of years after the destruction of the Temple, the Israeli tradition still stressed the laws of purity, spanning the whole gamut of everyday life.  So much so, that the focus of Israeli Jewish life on ritual immersion in the Mikveh was ridiculed by Christian writers.

Additionally, many Temple traditions were transferred into the Synagogue.  This might actually have had to do with the growing influence of the Priests in those days.  There were opinions barring the entrance of the impure to the synagogue.  Traditions such as taking off one's shoes when entering the synagogue, or washing one's hands and feet existed already in the Byzantine era, long before Islam.

When the Karaites came to Israel, they adopted many of the Israeli traditions, as an antithesis of the Babylonian tradition they disdained.  And so the Israeli tradition itself came under attack from the rabbinic establishment abroad.  Together with the Maimonidean attitude that wished to have a unified Judaism, the Israeli tradition was stomped out.

A prayer for the rebuilding of the Temple
inscribed on the Northern Wall of the Temple Mount

Throughout the generations, various groups believed that Redemption will come, if only we take practical steps to achieve it.  From the Karaite 'Mourners of Zion' (9-11th centuries) who believed that making Aliyah and mourning for Jerusalem would bring Redemption, to the Sephardi Jews in Safed (16th century), who tried to reestablish the Sanhedrin, to the Perushim (early 19th century) who believed in living and working the land.

Today's Temple Mount activists continue the tradition.

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

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Monday, July 15, 2013

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Jewish Town of Nazareth

Makor Rishon recently interviewed Nabila Espanioly, an Arab political activist and future Knesset member for Hadash (based on a rotation agreement).  Espanioly is head of the Al-Tufula Pedagogical Center, which recently published a booklet for Nazareth kindergarten teachers about the history of Nazareth.  As for the presence of Jews in Nazareth, the booklet states (translation mine): "Archaeological excavations have found no sign of Jews living in Nazareth.  The synagogue building [the Synagogue Church] is actually a church built in the Crusader Era after the 11th century."

The booklet denies there were Jews in Palestine in the First Temple Era, and then continues "If there were Jews in Nazareth at any time, then they were a foreign population, who were welcomed by the Arab-Canaanite families in Nazareth".

That is, of course, nonsense.  It's a shame the people of Nazareth know so little about their history.

In the first centuries CE, Nazareth was a small Jewish village.  Lucas (4:15) describes how the town's most famous son, Jesus, came to the local synagogue to speak on the Sabbath day.
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the sabbath day. And he stood up to read; and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah.  He opened the book and found the place where it was written, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord."  And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, 'Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." And all spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth; and they said, "Is not this Joseph’s son?"

This picture should be familiar to any Jew.  As we do today, on the Sabbath the Jews would read from the Torah.  The Israeli custom was to read the Torah over a three or three and a half year cycle.  Following that one of the synagogue goers would read from the Prophets, and then someone from the community would stand up to give a sermon.

In 2009 the Israeli Antiquities Authority excavated a Jewish home in the town, dating to the first century BC (English, Hebrew).  Among other artifacts, the archaeologists discovered fragments of chalk vessels, used exclusively by Jews for purity reasons.  They also found a pit, which was probably hewn as part of the Jewish preparations for the Great Revolt (67 CE)

The lack of Jewish antiquities might have to do with the fact that very few excavations were done, and are mostly limited to what the IAA calls "emergency digs" when there's new construction, as was the case with the 2009 dig.  Nonetheless, a few antiquities have been found dating to the first centuries CE.

A Jewish lamp, note the Menorah on the handle

Hebrew inscription: Soam Bar Menachem, RIP

Following the Bar-Kochba revolt, the Priestly families (the Kohanim) moved up to the Galilee.  Nazareth became known as the town of the 18th Priestly Division, the Happizzez family.

The Israeli custom was to pray on the Sabbath for the Priestly Division of that week.  Several fragments found in a synagogue in Caesarea dating to the 3rd century list a portion of the Priestly Divisions, and mention Nazareth by name.

The four Priestly towns mentioned on the fragment: Mamlach, Nazareth, Achla and Migdal

Sevearl Hymns (Piyyut) list Nazareth among the Priestly Divisions.  Eleazar Ha-Kalir mentions Nazareth among the Priestly towns in his lamentation "Eicha Yashva Havatzelet Hasharon", now read on Tisha Be'Av day.  From this Piyyut, we also clearly see that the Hebrew name was pronounced: Nat'zrat

The 4th century bishop, Epiphanius of Salamis, wrote that Nazareth was a Jewish town.  In his book Panarion he tells the story of a Jewish convert to Christianity, Josephus:
"Josephus asked nothing of the emperor but this very great favour—permission by imperial rescript to build Christ's churches in the Jewish towns and villages where no one had ever been able to found churches, since there are no Greeks, Samaritans or Christians among the population.  This rule of having no gentiles among them is observed especially at Tiberias, Diocaesarea, [which is] Sepphoris [Tzippori], Nazareth and Capernaum."  

Ephipanius is slightly exaggerating, and apparently non-Jews did live in the town, but it is clear that Nazareth was a Jewish town.  Not surprising, since until the Persian Conquest in the late 7th century, the Galilee was generally a Jewish stronghold.

Antoninus of Piacenza visited Nazareth around 570 and toured the local synagogue.  From his description we learn that Nazareth was still a Jewish majority town at the time (my translation from Hebrew)
"Afterward we came to the city of Nazareth, where there are many wondrous things.  The synagogue still has the book which was used to teach Our Lord the alphabet.  There is also a bench in the synagogue where Our Lord would sit with the other kids.  The Christians can raise and move the bench, but the Jews can't move it at all; and it can't be taken out.   
And so beautiful are the Jewish women of the town, that you can't find more beautiful women among the Hebrews of the land, and they say it comes from Mary, who was, they say, their mother.   
And though the Jews have no mercy on [or: love for] the Christians, despite that the women are filled with mercy."

Apparently the synagogue served for both Jewish and Christian worship.

In 614, the Persians conquered Israel with the help of the Jews.  According to Eutychius, the Jews of Nazareth joined in battle.  When Emperor Heraclius reconquered the land a few years later, he massacred the Jews of the Galilee in retribution.  Whatever Jews remained were expelled from Nazareth.

And so came the end of the Jewish history of Nazareth.  By the time Arculf, a Frankish bishop, came to Israel in 670, the synagogue had been fully turned into a church.

Under Muslim rule Nazareth was a small village.  A 13th century Arab historian mentions Jews in the city, though there are no other corroborations for that fact.

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

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Tuesday, July 09, 2013

VIDEO: Tisha B'Av -- The Children Are Ready. Are you?

The "9 days" started yesterday, and I keep seeing "how to survive the 9 days" posts, ways to make the best dairy meals, and how to get past Tisha B'Av in one piece.

The real answer lies in this video: The Children Are Ready.

And they are...we need to get past the Kotel, get past the mindset of 2000 years of exile, and look to the future.

The future is within our grasp...we just need to be ready.  Are you?

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Thursday, July 04, 2013

Egypt: Is It Good For the Jews?

One thing you pick up in Yeshiva in the first question one asks when a major (or minor) event happens, "Is it good for the Jews?".

It's not egotistical or self-centered. It's just a historical fact that events, whether we Jews were involved or not, will ultimately start having ramifications for Jews.

The answer isn't always clear either. Sometimes it might look good for the Jews, but not be, and sometimes it might look bad, but actually turn out good.

Egypt is an interesting case study. Morsi wasn't exactly good for the Jews.

An unstable and collapsing Egypt is dangerous for Israel, as is a more radically Islamic Egypt. So Morsi was bad for the Jews.

Except, as a result of his and the Muslim Brotherhood's takeover and mess, the Gaza Islamists and the Egyptian Islamists aren't the best of friends anymore. And that's likely to stay that way for a while. And that's good for the Jews.

And now, once again we're seeing the possibility of the more secular and more democratically inclined Egyptians trying to take over Egypt, as well as an Egyptian distaste for radical Islam, and that would also appear to be good for the Jews.

It would mean a stable Egypt, hopefully a less extreme Egypt, and perhaps even a democratic Egypt. Except that last part's unlikely.

The reality is that somewhere between 30% to 50% of Egyptians are illiterate and uneducated.

Given the opportunity they will probably vote for the Muslim Brotherhood again. (It will be interesting to see if I'm proven right or wrong on this theory).

It's in the cities, where Egyptians are more educated and more secularized, where they understand and want a less religiously fanatic leadership.

Only problem is, they aren't the majority, so the only likely way they'll get what they want is if they find a non-democratic method of getting a non-Muslim Brotherhood leadership installed.

Good for the Jews? Don't know.

But there are other after-effects from this latest Egyptian revolution.

In Tunisia, they are now also trying to reignite their revolution, and empower moderate leadership.

Perhaps this could even affect the final results of the Syrian civil war, and teach them to also reject Islamic leadership.

Regardless, it's good to see the Egyptians are rejecting their radical Islamic elements, and all we can hope is that this will be good for the Jews.

Of  course, as one Rebbe of mine once said, as long as they're busy fighting each other, they'll be too busy to attack us.

And that unfortunate reality is good for the Jews.

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