Monthly Archives: July 2004

Back…Sort of

So I’m back in the US, and by my trusty computer, but I leave tomorrow for another adventure: the Jewish Impact Films fellowship. Three weeks, in LA, learning to make short, “pithy” internet films.
But, being in the US, I hope this space will not suffer too much.

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The Fence as a Success

The IDF Spokesperson has compiled great stats on the effectiveness of the Fence–meaning, the changing ratio between “successful” Palestinian suicide bombings, and those who were blocked.
The results are shocking–and the best proof available as to why the Fence is justified. Only when violence has ceased, and both sides can sit at the negotiating table uncoerced, can real peace be forged.

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Tisha B’Av

Once again the day is upon us: a day dedicated to remembering the destruction we ourselves caused, and only we ourselves can prevent. Tisha B’Av, as I wrote last year, is a day with secular–and not religious–significance, a day for each and every one of us to rethink the way we treat our fellow man or woman, and take responsibility for the results of our actions.
In that sense, Tisha B’av is a day of universal significance. Looking at it through a humanist lens, one sees that the day speaks to all peoples. The Jews are not the only people who fought a civil war, are not the only people who, through interpersonal cruelty and absolutist ideology, brought to the destruction of one national project or another. On the other hand, Tisha B’Av is especially significant for the Jews in this space and time because of the strife currently threatening to once again tear the Jewish national home apart.
The destruction of the Temple, then, is not the key. If the Temple was God’s home on earth, then its destruction is up to Him, and we need not mourn it. According to one of the wisest of Jewish thinkers–the Rambam–the Temple itself was a form of idolotry, the worship of the physical in place of the eternal.
The people, the Nation, is eternal–and we nearly destroyed it numerous times through infighting. Most other peoples have had the same experience. So, on this day, I urge you, no matter your allegience, to take a minute and think about those actions you may take to heal the wounds in the society in which you live, and work towards the strengthening of the soul of your people, who ever they may be.
For more reading, check out the Orthodox Union’s pages on Tisha B’Av. Yes, you might need to translate the concepts a bit into more secular forms, but there are key texts which stress personal responsibility and flexibility over all, such as the story of Kamtza and Bar-Kamtza and the Tiger at the Gates.

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Conference Over

The Vision and Covenant conference has ended, and I will write much regarding it once I return to the security and accessibility of my computer in New York. I have over 80 pages of notes, and wish I brought a computer to live-blog–guess I learned a lesson for next time.

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Congress of Middle Eastern People

I am currently attending a conference called “Vision and Covenant” in Jerusalem, where I met a very interesting Swede named Daniel. He, among other things, is building an alliance in Sweden between Jews and Kurds and Assyrians–a mutually supportive forum for self-determination.
And, since my time is limited (internet access, for some reason, is horrible at this hotel) I wanted to put out this idea: what about creating a Congress for Middle Eastern Peoples? This would not be a legal entity, but rather an international NGO that would hold symposia and initiate task forces to re-think the current international assumptions regarding the Middle East. The only requirement for entry would be being a person whose ancestoral and ethnic roots are in the Middle East, and that one supports the universal right for self-determination.
I think such a Congress could really bring together all of the oppressed minorities in the Middle East, and aid the democratization of the region by increasing pressures for pluralism. Any thoughts?

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Touring the Fence

I toured the fence today, which the Israel Defence Forces calls the anti-terror fence and the Palestinians call the apartheid wall. It is, I must admit, a little of each.
Well, not an apartheid wall. The very fact that so many Arab towns and villages have remained within the fence–that is, connected to main-land Israel–proves that racism is not a factor in the decision-making process. The leader of my tour–a personal one by a captain in the IDF–pointed out that no Arab/Palestinian-Israeli citizen has been cut out of Israel eventhough many Jewish citizens of Israel have been, and that fact bears a lot of weight.
But it is a national boundary, albeit a temporary one, and that by itself is bound to infuriate those who think that Israel must become a binational state by the name of Palestine. And yes, nations tend to dwell apart.
The anti-terror argument does make sense. We stood up in Alfe Menashe, a settlement, and saw the distance between Kalkiliya–a major Palestinian city–and Kfar Saba–a major Israeli city. 10 minutes, walking. That’s all. If there was no terror, that would not present a problem. But when children are taught to kill at an early age, it is a necessary evil. A moral choice between life and absolute freedom of movement.
On the other hand, the harm to the Palestinian population is apparent. It was very hard to see the fence and Kalkiliya behind it, while the residents of Alfe Menashe lived in relative safety and affluence. While the IDF is trying to make it easier for Palestinians to get to and from Kalkilya through a network of tunnels and bypass-roads, it is not enough. Israel simply must find a way to maximize Palestinian access to lands and minimize the harm done to them by a select few. That means removing settlements that do not connect with Israel proper. The Palestinians, as Terje Larsen said, must too find ways to minimize the threat they pose Israeli human beings, which, indirectly, would greatly improve their lot.
Just to conclude, what the fence makes clear is that this Holy Land was not meant to be divided. Political authority can and should represent the separate communities in separate states, but the future will only be healthy for both nations once the borders melt away as they did in the EU. It can happen, but it will only happen once both sides make real steps towards acceptance of the other and true reconciliation.

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The Kibbutz Black Hole

The reason this weblog has been silent for approximately a week is that I was stuck in the black hole of the Israeli kibbutz. True, there are kibbutzim out there that do have internet access, but not the one my grandparents live on.
Such a shame. Only a few decades ago, kibbutzim were seen as the most advanced communities in the world; now, they are archaic bogs that leave their founding members to the mercy of the Israeli welfare system.

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