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Posts Tagged ‘israel’

What’s Right with Israel – 2

Posted by rabbiart on May 4, 2008

Judging by some comments on “What’s Right with Israel – 1” it seems like some readers are uncomfortable with those Israelis who are attempting to live up to the prophetic tradition and to the mandate of the Torah which says הוֹכֵחַ תּוֹכִיחַ אֶת-עֲמִיתֶךָ (You should surely rebuke your kinsman). I’m no fan of, for example, Women in Black, who often hold what I feel are anti-Israel demonstrations, and hold them on Shabbat when they know other Jews might rather be in shul than putting on counter-demonstrations. But the existence of – and acceptance of – dissenting voices in Israel, is something Jews everywhere should be proud of. After all, the RAMBAM’s writings were put in cherem for his views, which some considered heretical. And as recently as 1945, Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan was excommunicated by the Assembly of the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States.

And by the way, I’ll be riding my road bike in Israel in November to raise money for Hazon and the Arava Institute, because Israel has garbage problems like every other country in the world.

So here’s #2 in What’s Right with Israel; the not-so-very-short list of Arab members of the Knesset. The members of parliament from the parties Ra’am Ta’al, Hadash, and the National Democratic Assembly. Do I agree with what they have to say about Israel, some of which is quite hateful? Of course not. Do I think it’s completely laudable and amazing that a country surrounded on all sides (OK not the Mediterranean) is strong and self-confident and yes, pluralistic enough to live up to the best ideals of democracy. You betcha!!

Here’s some sugar to make the (for some) medicine go down; a list of the Israeli Nobel Prize Winners. And I suspect if there were not such an amount of Israel hatred (the new anti-semitism of course), the list might be significantly longer.

  1. Robert Aumann, Germany, Economics, 2005
  2. Aaron Ciechanover, Chemistry, 2004
  3. Avram Hershko, Hungary, Chemistry, 2004
  4. Daniel Kahneman, Economics, 2002
  5. Yitzhak Rabin, Peace, 1994
  6. Shimon Peres, Poland, Peace, 1994
  7. Menachem Begin, Poland, now Belarus, Peace, 1978
  8. Shmuel Yosef Agnon, Austria, Literature, 1966

Posted in Jewish Practice, Social Justice | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

What’s Right with Israel – 1

Posted by rabbiart on May 3, 2008

In spite of the unremitting hostility of surrounding Arab nations and the never-ending public declarations by Palestinian leaders of hatred for Israel and the calls for the destruction of Israel by Hamas, Iran and other Arab organizations and leaders, there are an impressive number of Israeli organizations devoted to safeguarding the rights of Palestinian Arabs and advocating on their behalf. All of the organizations listed here are headquartered or have offices located within Israel. They have varying degrees of effectiveness and public support, but no one seriously questions their right to exist, function and advocate for their beliefs. (And yes, I’d like to know a single Arab country about which a similar statement could be made! and I would be ecstatic to learn that there is one, or more)

Machsom Watch founded in 2001, “is an organisation of peace activist Israeli women against the Israeli Occupation of the territories and the systematic repression of the Palestinian nation. We call for Palestinian freedom of movement within their own territory and for an end to the Occupation that destroys Palestinian society and inflicts grievous harm on Israeli society.” (from their website) Machsom members regularly go to checkpoints and watch over what is happening. They publish reports on their website (look for Spotlight) and believe that their presence helps deter Israeli soldiers from succumbing to the inevitable temptations of being an enforcing power on behalf of a country against whom much of the rest of the world is in a constant and unfounded rage.

B’Tselem: The Israeli Infromation Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, founded in 1989, endeavors to document and educate the Israeli public and policymakers about human rights violations in the Occupied Territories, combat the phenomenon of denial prevalent among the Israeli public, and help create a human rights culture in Israel. (from their website). The word בְּצֶלֶם (B’Tselem) means “in the image of” and refers to G-d creating humankind in G-d’s image. In recognition of its work, B’Tselem won the 1989 Carter-Menil Aware for Human Rights.

Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel Established in November 1996, it serves Arab citizens of Israel, numbering over one million people or close to 20% of the population. Adalah (“Justice” in Arabic) works to protect human rights in general, and the rights of the Arab minority in particular. (from their website) The co-founder of Adalah – Rayef Zreik – is also a member of the Board of B’Tselem

Rabbis for Human Rights, founded in 1988, includes over 100 ordained rabbis and rabbinical students who are Israeli citizens. It “has championed the cause of the poor, supported the rights of Israel’s minorities and the Palestinians, worked to stop the abuse of foreign workers, endeavored to guarantee the upkeep of Israel’s public health care system, promoted the equal status of women, helped Ethiopian Jews, and battled trafficking in women.” (from their website)

Bat Shalom: women with a vision for a just peace, “is an Israeli national feminist grassroots organization of Jewish and Palestinian Israeli women working together for a genuine peace grounded in a just resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict, respect for human rights, and an equal voice for Jewish and Arab women within Israeli society.” Their mission statement is ” We, the Jewish and Palestinian Israeli women of Bat Shalom, call upon all women to join our active struggle for peace and equality. We refuse to silently bear witness to the destruction of the hope and future of a peaceful reconciliation.” Bat Shalom is a member of the Coalition of Women for Peace.

The Israeli court system, which regularly hears cases and renders decisions which protect and expand the rights of non-Jews within Israel. For example, a ruling that Messianic Jews have the same rights regarding automatic citizenship as Jews who do not believe in Jesus as the Messiah. The court has rendered a number of decisions protecting the rights of Palestinians in Israel. (Page down to find the section “Supreme Court Decisions”)

Givat Haviva Institute implements activities to develop the experience of equality between Jews and Arabs living in Israel, and provides tools to this end. This is the moral foundation for achieving peace with the Palestinians and the Arab states.” Givat Haviva is named in memory of Haviva Reik who immigrated to Israel in 1939, joined the British army and parachuted behind enemy lines into Slovakia in 1944. She was captured and executed by the Nazis on November 20, 1944.

There are many more organizations and projects working for peace among Arabs and Israelis. More than I can write about in this post, and probably more than you want to read right now. You can see a large list of them, and get acquainted with them, in this Wikipedia article. As an open source effort Wikipedia can contain errors and isn’t suitable for serious academic research, but this article is a good place to acquaint yourself with this one small piece of what is right and laudable about Israel, a country that all Jews, really anyone who cars, should be incredibly proud. When we read our Biblical passages about Hashem offering to the Jewish people a chance to be a light unto the nations, we can think Israel and we can feel confident, that despite its imperfections, the light is shining pretty brightly.

Posted in Social Justice | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Judaism and Earth Day

Posted by rabbiart on April 22, 2008

Today (April 22) is the “official” earth day. Last week I participated in an earth day convocation at Modesto Junior College. Once again I was struck by the fact that Islam and Judaism have so many teachings in common. We both have a teaching that says if we are planting a tree and the day of judgment arrives that we should first finish planting the tree before going to greet the messenger of the day of judgment.

Helen Jupiter, writing in Jewcy, has a review of 10 books examining the connection between the Jewish tradition and the environment. Her list includes Pollution in a Promised Land: An Environment History of Israel by Alon Tal. Since I’m signed up to do a 5 day bicycle ride to benefit two Israel environment organizations, I’ve just ordered it, and I’ll be studying up before the November ride. Professor Tal comments on the environmental situation in Israel. You can read the Jerusalem Post article here.

For a bit of slightly more encouraging piece of news about Jerusalem and the environment, check out this article about composting in a Jerusalem community garden.

Here’s one of the organization’s I’ll be raising funds for – Hazon. And here’s the other – The Arava Institute.

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