Friday, June 26, 2009

One More NBA note

My father wants me to remind everyone that back in the day there were famous Jewish NBA players!

I would like to remind him that I do live near enough to philly that I'm very aware of the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association. However, for those of you who need a little reminder of Great Jewish Basketball History, here is an old, yet good article:

(btw, I wrote my first post before reading the article, so forgive me for making the same joke)

Mishta Gie Aqvar Melech lyhot

When I saw that the Sacramento Kings picked Israeli Omri Casspi in the first round of the NBA draft, images of the movie Airplane flashed through my mind:

Elaine Dickinson: Would you like something to read?
Hanging Lady: Do you have anything light?
Elaine Dickinson: How about this leaflet, "Famous Jewish Sports Legends?"

The stereotype is hard to shake. I also think that it's a stereotype most Jews would just laugh at if a gentile made a joke about. I certainly can't think of many professional openly Jewish athletes in America today. (My father would scream, "what about Sandy Koufax?" To which I'd reply, " Sandy Koufax who refused to pitch on Yom Kippur during the 1965 world series? 1965!" of course, Shawn Green of the LA Dodgers also refused to play on Yom Kippur in 2004 How many people even know about that?)

Obviously, in Israel the stereotype of the weak athletic abilities of is moot. Almost every Israeli athlete is a Jew, and there are many great ones. So, I felt a rush of excitement at Omri's draft. While not the first Israeli to ever be drafted by the NBA, he will be the first one to ever play in the NBA. Maybe it's silly, but I couldn't help wondering: if he's good and he's noticed will he actually be good PR for both the Jewish people and for Israel? 1) Good for Jews by showing we are good athletes 2) Good for Israel by having an Israeli in the spotlight that has nothing to do with conflict.

On a personal level it also makes me smile. My own nice little Jewish boy might walk around with a Casspi jersey one day. Not to mention the fact that when my father brings my Israeli cousin presents from America, he asks for an NBA jersey. Now, he can love an Israeli in the NBA!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Dead Sea

I thought the Dead Sea was supposed to be relaxing!

The sink hole brings up a real conundrum...on the one hand we want tourists to come to Israel and we want industry so Israel makes money. On the other hand, the tourists are injuring the land. I suppose we just can't win.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


My course this week focuses on early Zionism and the characters leading up to and involved in the First Zionist Congress. so I was drawn to this opinion article "The myth of Zionist imperialism" by Eli Kavon on Kavon argues that calling Zionist imperialists is absurd. He explains that Rabbi Yehuda Alkalai desired a Jewish homeland far before Herzl as a direct reaction to the imperialism of the Ottoman Empire. In fact, the Zionism movement in general was a reaction to the Jews inability to true members of European nations. "From the beginning, the Zionist movement has been a foe of imperialism. Rebellions of national independence against the Ottoman and Russian empires influenced precursors of the Zionist movement, such as Alkalai and Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer. Moses Hess, a socialist, looked toward Garibaldi's Italy as his inspiration for a Jewish homeland in Israel." (Kavon, 2009).

The Zionist never wished to create an empire. They wanted only a homeland for the Jews. While Zionist eventually worked with the British empire to create the state of Israel, Britain eventually turned her back on the Jews. Additionally, Kavon argues that on top of calling Zionist imperialists, they also call them racists. Again, in what way are they racists? As Kavon states in his article, "Racist hatred is not just a matter of hating a people for the color of their skin. The Holocaust is the ultimate proof of that. Europe and the Muslim world were never a home for the Jews. The empires of the Christian and Muslim world could have cared one iota about Jewish survival and the Jewish future." (Kavon) Jews were excepted by neither society and suffered at the hands of both (either by genocide or exile). Even if Jews were allowed to live within a society, like Napoleon's France, they were expected to prove themselves as citizens. Like the people of Europe and the Middle East, Jews wanted to have their own culture and their own nation. Israel gave them a land away from the crushing colonialism.

Beyond being historically connected to the land of Israel, the Jewish state was created on land that had never been a settled state. It was always the land of some foreign power. In 1948 a partition plan was offered and it was refused. Calling Jews imperialist is an excuse. It gives the anti-Israel side a "rational" reason to hate Zionism: no one can call them antisemitic. No one can assume they want the destruction of Israel. No one can wonder if they've fallen into the trap of believing there is a mass Zionist conspiracy to take over the world. They are simply racist colonizers and the only way to promote peace in the region is to take their land away.

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Settlement we can all agree on

With all this talk of conflict and violence, I thought I'd turn my attention to an Israeli working on making her country a better place for those who can't always speak out for themselves. An educator and rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College, Judith Edelman-Green devotes her life to Israelis with special needs. She created a program Bar/Bat Mitzvah for the Special needs child. She's devoted her life to ensuring that children and adults in Israel get a chance to work in their community and actively participate in Jewish life. Her newest project is the Rimon Village: a living community for young adults with mild to moderate special needs. "In Israel there are more than eight thousand adults with special needs who do not have a housing/living solution." (rimon village website). The village will be located in Kfar Sava just north of Tel Aviv. They have volunteers, a board, and land. Now, they just need enough money to turn their vision into reality.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Yes, I know the shooting yesterday at the Holocaust Museum has nothing to do with Israel. It has to do with a crazy American White-supremacist. However, I can't stop thinking about the Guard that died protecting the lives of the people in the Museum.

Of course, the scene made me stop and think more than usual because it was the Holocaust Museum. More than anything, it makes me appreciate the people out there who risk their lives to protect us no matter what race or religion. Despite the crazy racist old man hell bent on destruction, not everyone is hell bent on destruction. Many are willing to put their own lives on the line, so that we don't have to worry as much when we go out in the world.

I saw a short blurb in the Jerusalem Post two days ago
A settler woman and her baby were trapped in an overturned car, they were rescued not by other settlers, but by Palestinians. I had to smile. Despite my pragmatic outlook on the world, their are some acts of love and kindness that crosses all boundaries. In all our theories of conflict, we tend to forget the personal stories going on in reality. Not every Palestinian wishes for the destruction of the Jews. Many are just neighbors going about their lives. They aren't going to sit there while a mother and child struggle for their lives.
I'm sure I'll be cynical again in five minutes, but despite all the evil in the world, there are still people willing to lend a hand to others, no matter who they are.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Old Post New Location

I wrote this little story a year or so ago...It was on my other blog, but I thought this viewing audience may appreciate it:

Morning In Jerusalem

It is a little past four in the morning and I cannot
sleep. My internal clock is screaming at me, so is the
baby. I'm not sure who built this house, but I'm
starting to think Jesus may have turned water into
wine next door. I think I watched a chunk of the wall
fall to the ground. I thought that I knew Jerusalem,
but I'm confused. I got lost like three times walking
to that playgroup. I don't understand why my sister
felt the need to live close to so many relics. I'm
frightened of falling in a large hole. I'll open my
eyes and find a small group of smelly, teva-clad Brown
students trying to figure out what archeological pile
I fit into. Then they'll find little Jacob tipped
over in his bugaboo stroller. They'll decide that the
Bal Shem Tov really is the Moshiach and he's come back
as an Israeli child stuffed into an American pram.
Chaos will ensue, Hasids will be running
everywhere...they'll fly in the Moshiach Mobile.

When I thought I had finally freed myself from the trenches of the old city, I pushed the baby toward a group of Korean Catholics. I thought I'd be able to wind my way through them. I thought they would step aside for a nice Jewish girl and a beautiful baby. Apparently baby edicate was not on their minds. They were focused on one task: following Jesus. Suddenly I'm trapped on the Via Delarosa with a busload of Koreans. Station after station they push and prod me toward the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. All I can think is: Holy Fudge-Sticks, this guy fell a lot.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Argument against Settlements

I ran across this letter to the editor from Minneapolis's Star Tribune. I'm still mulling over how I'd respond.

Israeli Solider

My friend Josh is an Israeli Solider. When we were young our parents were very good friends, they moved we we lost touch. In the past few months, I've reconnected with his family. Josh and I send information back and forth about Israel. I love following his tweets because he gives another more personal perspective to life in Israel...especially life as a solider. His mom was the one who sent me the article in my last blog post. As I was reading and writing about settlements from America, Josh was actually spending time there. Here are a few of his last tweets:
RT @andyls was attempted infiltration at migdal oz, 1 palestinian arrested 4 escaped
9:03 AM Jun 6th from mobile web
@andyls security guard said migdal oz or something like that
8:42 AM Jun 6th from mobile web
Left the area. Not sure how serious it was, will only be reported if someone was hurt
8:32 AM Jun 6th from mobile web
Shooting at settlement next to us, leaving now before main road is closed
8:07 AM Jun 6th from mobile web
Trying to leave the settlement, but there has been a shooting. Not sure of what is going on
8:01 AM Jun 6th from mobile web
I'm off to the Gush Etzion settlement block (south of Jerusalem) with the army for Shabbat.
11:21 PM Jun 4th from TweetDeck"

He went to the settlement for Shabbat, while he was leaving the settlement there was a shooting. They finally left, but didn't know how serious it was. Later he learned that five Palestinian tried to enter the settlement. I assume there was a shootout and some arrests.
It's interesting to hear of these stories from people actually living them, instead of a news report. It makes me think of life in my own little, yet dangerous city. I live in a nice city neighborhood surrounded by drug infested dangerous neighborhoods. There are drug deals in the park by my house. Teenage mothers who let their two-year-old wander to the park alone, but my block is nice. My neighbors are great. I'm happy there. I wouldn't want to leave. Because my husband is a prosecutor, I hear of shootings all the time. Shootings that occur four blocks from my house. My friend once commented that the nice neighborhoods in the city remind her of the settlements on the west bank, little oasises in the middle of chaos.
I'm not sure yet, what to make of it all. I know things aren't perfect on the settlements. I know Palestinians aren't the only ones who incite violence. The religious Jews can be just as dangerous. I just think, that on both sides, we forget that more than anything these are people's homes. No one wants to be forced from their homes...

Friday, June 5, 2009

Settlements--a hard place to start

If I'm going to jump into this blogging about Israel, I might as well start bold. As my high school drama teacher used to say, "Do it big or go home." My dear friend Stephanie who made aliyah, sent "The Settlements Myth" by Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post via Twitter.

Basically, the article admonishes the Obama Administration for it's stance on Israel. While assuring every other country that American will no longer make Policy for them, the Obama Administration tells Israel what they need to do in the West Bank Settlements: close them, stop building, stop growing. The author, Charles Krauthammer, wonders what will happen to the settlements that already exist. What happened to the plans for the settlements in the past?

"That was envisioned in the Clinton plan in the Camp David negotiations in 2000, and again at Taba in 2001. After all, why expel people from their homes and turn their towns to rubble when, instead, Arabs and Jews can stay in their homes if the 1949 armistice line is shifted slightly into the Palestinian side to capture the major close-in Jewish settlements, and then shifted into Israeli territory to capture Israeli land to give to the Palestinians?"

Where is everyone supposed to go and why are the boundaries so strict? By pointing to the settlements as a large part of the solution to the problem, according the Krauthammer, Obama misses the real problem. None of the leadership wants Israel to exist. In the past, they'd rather go war than have two states. When they were given Gaza, instead of working on creating a positive fruitful piece of land, Hamas shot rockets at Israel. As Krauthammer states:" In the 16 years since the Oslo accords turned the West Bank and Gaza over to the Palestinians, their leaders built no roads, no courthouses, no hospitals, none of the fundamental state institutions that would relieve their people's suffering. Instead they poured everything into an infrastructure of war and terror, all the while depositing billions (from gullible Western donors) into their Swiss bank accounts."

Obama wants so badly to work things out with the Arab leadership. If we could just sit down and talk, things might get better. Will a comfortable chair, Hillary Clinton's smile, and Obama's oratory prowess change the minds of Arab leaders? Will Hamas's leaders wake up in the middle of the night, sit up and think, "You know, that Obama is right. Maybe Israel isn't so bad. Maybe we should let them stay. Look at all the nice trees they've planted."

I worry that if we spend so much time talking, we'll miss the behind the scenes movement. If we spend so much time talking, we'll start to trust. That being said, I know plenty of Israelis (including many of my family members) who'd happily give up the settlements because the hope of peace: do we hold onto hope because hope is real or because hope feels so much better than hate?