Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Israel does not practice apartheid. But is it on a path to do so?

Jay Michaelson makes some good points in his article If Israel’s Occupation Is Permanent, Why Isn’t It the Same as Apartheid?

Some thoughts:

The time to separate into 2 states would have been 20 years ago, when support was still high. Now it's hard to imagine how it'll happen. The Palestinians missed chances and then their violent responses hardened Israeli public position.

I don't know what the answer is. I agree with the article, but I don't see a two-state solution happening anytime soon. Israel is stuck in a morass of it's own making and the making of the Palestinians.

One other point - many on the right will take exception to Michelson's 2nd to last paragraph, that the long-term demographics aren't on Israel's side. Caroline Glick, for instance, asserts that the Jewish birthrate is rising and the Palestinian birthrate is dropping. Is that true? It's hard to know. It may just be selective reading of the data by a right wanting to believe that there will always be a Jewish majority.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Brit Milah

I tend to be a rationalist religious Jew, and try to contextualize the mitzvot and make them meaningful to my modern, western self.

But there's one mitzvah that defies contextualization or reinterpretation.

Standing alongside the mohel at my son's brit recently. I realized that there's no way I would be doing this were I not living the life of a religious Jew. It's an ancient ceremony that may or may not have medical benefit. But a roomful of people sitting there celebrating as a helpless baby's genitals are cut? It really does seem barbaric and bizarre.

I've adjusted my Judaism to my doubts about most of the ikkarim and made it work for me. But with brit milah, I just had to let go of my modern mind and accept that some things in Judaism cannot be rationalized. It's an ancient mitzvah that smacks us in the face and says to us that choosing to live as a Jew means accepting that not all of Judaism is rational. Rather, we do it as part of avodat Hashem, and because it's the continuation of a chain of numerous generations of my ancestors.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Tim Kaine anti-Israel?

I've tried not to post on presidential politics the last few days on Facebook, other than wink-wink posts that surreptitiously refer to 19th century elections.

But I got involved in a thread where someone judged Hillary's Israel views by her vice presidential pick, declaring that Kaine is "anti-Israel". So I'm jumping back in the fray.

It's really sad that the right-wing pro-Israel crowd has become so idological that they can't recognize friends of Israel. Let's get real. There are plenty of politicians who are truly anti-Israel, like Jill Stein, the candidate for the green party, former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, and others. These are people who challenge Israel's right to exist and challenge her right to defend herself.

What are Kaine's crimes against the Jewish state? Boycotting Bibi's partisan concocted speech to Congress, supporting the Iran deal, and showing some friendship to J-Street. He probably shouldn't have skipped the speech, but his overall record is strongly supportive of Israel. I don't like J Street either, but speaking there doesn't make one anti Israel. (Kaine has met with AIPAC too, BTW). In the echo chamber of the right-wing on Israel, not falling in line behind the disaster of Bibi means anti-Israel, and that's a shame, because the pro-Israel community needs to acknowledge friends of Israel like Tim Kaine wherever we can get them.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The legacy of President Donald J Trump

Given Hillary Clinton's unpopularity, I think we have to start seriously considering that a Trump presidency is a possibility, and how we will live with a minimum of 4 years of it.

I'm not going to flee to Canada (thought aliyah's not out of the question). This country won't fall apart. Congress will still be deadlocked. Despite the rhetoric, I don't think he'll be able to deport all illegals, nor will he be able to build that wall. He won't be able to keep all Muslims from entering the US. These are things that the president simply doesn't have the power to do himself. And the Federal government doesn't control our daily lives to the degree people  think.

But he could still do an awful lot of damage. He might succeed in getting a repeal of Obamacare through congress. And his SCOTUS picks would be with us for decades. Not to mention trade wars, growing isolationism, and despite the delusions of much of the right, Trump wouldn't be very good for Israel.

The worst part would be the rise of a newly empowered racist right, no longer afraid to express what they really think. This is already happening.

I'm probably missing one hundred things. What do you think would be the worst parts of a Trump presidency?

And, to be fair, is there any part of the legacy of a President Donald J Trump that could actually be good?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Trump has brought out the worst in America

Donald Trump is bad news for this country. He's a buffoon and a clown, and is utterly unqualified to lead us. He's also unquestionably a misogynist. But if you look back at his history and connections, it doesn't seem like Trump is a major racist, but rather a mild bigot (if there's such a thing).

What scares me far more than Trump himself is the ugliness that his campaign has unleashed. The vile racism, antisemitism, and white supremacy that is normally hidden beneath America has risen up and decided to make itself known. We all knew this stuff existed, but I don't think we realized how prevalent it still was. And they've attached themselves to the rising star of an idiot, and are no longer afraid to say what they really think.

We thought America was so enlightened, here in 2016. Trump's campaign has shown us that there's a really scary side to this country, and we ignore it at our peril, especially now as that scary side feels empowered.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Blog is not dead (and neither am I)

I haven't posted on this blog in almost 4 months. I don't discuss my personal life on here much, but wanted to let those few of you who still read blogs but aren't connected to me in real life or on Facebook that I'm still around and am OK.

The last time I posted was before chaos took over, involving a move where everything went wrong, a flood in our new place, a hospital stay for a family member (the Kosher L'Pesach meals at the hospital were just awful), and finally, the early arrival of my twin children. Thank God, everything is getting back to normal, and I am settling in to new fatherhood.

In between diaper changes, I still hope to blog occasionally, so check back here once in a while!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Is aliyah a bad idea?

Seth Frantzman is a little pessimistic about life in Israel for olim.

Despite having spent around 3 1/2 years in Israel in total, including aliyah, I don't live there now. Still, here are some initial thoughts.

Much of this is technically true. But the racism and intolerance pervades Orthodox life in CHU"L as well. My wife & I chose a particular Orthodox community in the US that is more open and liberal. There are such communities in Israel as well. Ultimately, you live most of your social life in your community, not in the larger society.

I suspect the bigger culture shock for olim is for those coming from non-Orthodox communities. For those happy with the racism, intolerance, and black/white thinking of many Orthodox communities in the US, Israel won't be so different. For those of us on the more liberal side of Orthodoxy, we're used to that nonsense, and we find a sub-community that fits us better. Same in Israel. We're also used to more expensive housing because we want to live in concentrated communities inside an eruv. And for any sort of kosher consumer in the US, we're used to high prices for food.

For example, #7. Yes, cheese might be expensive. But produce is amazing. Worlds better than the tasteless stuff we get here in the US. And cheese might be a little expensive, but the variety and freshness of kosher cheese is leaps and bounds better than kosher cheese in the US (which is also expensive)