Friday, November 29, 2013

The Maccagrims

What we're really talking about is a wonderful day set aside on the fourth Thursday of November when no one diets. I mean, why else would they call it Thanksgiving?
Erma Bombeck

Each year, American's and Canadians in Israel (AACI) hosts a Thanksgiving meal for whomever wants to come: new Olim, veteran Olim, Americans, and not Americans. We team up with Beer Sheva's 'soup kitchen" (but it's really so much more!) Beer Sova and cook up a complete and sumptuous Thanksgiving meal complete with turkey, stuffing, and sweet potato pie.

Due to family circumstances beyond my control, I am unable to attend this year’s AACI Thanksgiving dinner, which was held last night.

But not to worry. Here is what I was going to say:

When I was asked to give a short speech this year, one obvious subject immediately sprung to mind; the convergence of Thanksgiving and Chanuka. It’s the first time in about 7830 years that this is happened, and it won’t happen again for another 25,897 years or something like that. And obviously, a name has been made up, T-shirts have been designed, and little action figures of Yehuda HaMaccabi in a hat with a buckle killing turkeys are being sold around the country. I thought that, really, there wasn't a whole lot I could say that hasn't already been said.
As I googled Thanksgiving on Chanuka, most of what I came up with were deeps thoughts such as: ‘Wow! that is truly amazing!’ ‘Won’t happen again even in the lifetimes of our great great times 10 grandchildren!’ ‘And G-d works in mysterious ways!’

Here’s the thing. As I’ve said in years past, both AACI and Beer Sova are a-political, a-religious organizations serving everyone, regardless of race, religion, or political opinion.
In my capacity as Chairperson of AACI south, I also try and help everyone regardless of race, religion, or political opinion (even when they person is wrong!), but I have definite opinions and religious beliefs of my own. So, when the choice has to be made whether to speak about Chanuka or Thanksgiving, the decision was clear.

I don’t know why Miriam asks me to speak each year.
Also, I’m not American.
And so:
Thanksgiving and Chanuka are both based on a search for religious freedom.

Pilgrims – who were apparently different from the Puritans – fled England because it was then illegal to attend any church other than the Church of England and if you missed services on any Sunday or holy day you were fined. The Pilgrims even held secret services knowing that they could be executed for sedition. (I hope this is sounding somewhat familiar.) They went to Amsterdam and from their to Leiden, but found that life in Holland wasn't so great either. Their kids started to speak Dutch and not the Holy English, so they had to leave.

(A quick word about Jewish Leiden. There wasn't one. Leiden was one of the few places in Europe that was Jew-free. The artist Rembrandt was born and raised in Leiden, and when folks would accuse him of being Jewish, the proof that he wasn't was that he was from Leiden.)

A non-Jew

From Leiden, the Pilgrims eventually sailed to America, must to the distress of turkeys everywhere. (and I googled all this so I know I’m right).

Going back to ancient Judea, the Maccabim – and the Jews in general - were also faced with religious persecution. Under the rule of Antiochus, many Jewish rituals became illegal – brit milah, marking the new moon, and learning Torah. In fact, it was probably the first time in recorded history that a person’s religious practices were made illegal. But not the last. Indeed, throughout the ages these same Jewish practices have been made illegal over and over in various places around the world, up until and including today, where even brit milah is now becoming a hot ‘issue’ in many places in Europe. And in certain countries, it is now also dangerous, once again, to be a Christian.

This brings me to the difference between the Pilgrims and the Maccabim. The pilgrims fled and founded a haven of religious freedom. The Maccabim had nowhere to which to flee. Their only choice was to stand and fight in their Holy Land. And so they fought. For a short time, the Jews won national independence from Greek authority.


But for a MUCH longer period – more than 2000 years and still counting – the Maccabim were able to preserve our culture, our rituals, and our beliefs. And while we have been continually persecuted around the world; though brit milah and shechitah have become more and more ‘politically incorrect’, while anti-semitism is boldly going to places it’s never gone before; while assimilation is clearing vast areas of its Jews; it’s only here in Israel that we can be a free People in our Land. We are free to give thanks to G-d for all we have and all that keep us here; our families, our friends, our community, our own calendar, our own rituals, our own army, our own flag, our own People – right or wrong.

And our own soofganiyot!

A free People it their own Land

Chag Urim Sameach!!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A different kind of anniversary

“Our blessed hands will reach your leaders and soldiers wherever they are (You Opened Hell Gates on Yourselves).”
Hamas, November 14, 2012

“No Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, (should) show their faces above ground in the days ahead.”
IDF, November 15, 2012

Tonight marks 364 days since the official start of Operation Pillar of Defense, Israel’s 8-day attempt to end rocket fire from Gaza into Israeli territory.

Today, Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu, Israel’s Prime Minister, announced that rocket fire decreased 98% over the last year! Only 35 rockets were fired into Israel in 12 months! This has been the quietest year in decades in terms of terrorist attacks in Israel!

Yessiree bob!!

This is certainly a decrease over the 40 rockets that were fired onto Beer Sheva in one hour on November 14, 2012.

Only 35 rockets!!! That’s an average of less than three a month!! Who can complain??

Well, me for one.

Despite the fact that NOT EVEN ONE of those 35 little rockets was directed at Beer Sheva, and really some of them were only mortars (!) and not real rockets, and everyone knows that kassams are harmless, I’m complaining.
This kind of mortar?

or this kind??

I’m complaining because I still jump when I hear a sudden loud noise and my heart registers an incoming missile before my brain registers a car horn.
I’m complaining because my son has to take his wife and his 10-month old son downstairs (only one flight! yay!) to a safe room in their apartment building when the alarms go off. But first they have to get dressed. They have one minute.
I’m complaining because my other two sons (one post- and one pre-army service) who are living in two different cities in Israel don’t have access to a safe room but have lots of access to Kassamim.
I’m complaining because I still occasionally have nightmares.
I’m complaining because I still keep my ears open when I’m in the shower, hoping I get out in time.
I’m complaining because I still need to check out where the safe room is in any building I enter.
I’m complaining because all this passes as normal life.
harmless kassamim
I’m complaining because there are still terrorist attacks almost every day; because rockets are still falling (yeh, right only 35, I forgot, though Wikipedia counts more than 50 ); and because Hamas has rearmed to the proverbial teeth.

(Just as I finished typing the last sentence, the news was released that the boy sleeping on the bus who was stabbed this morning died of his wounds. He was killed because he was alive, and that couldn't be tolerated. Does John Kerry know about that?)

I'm complaining because the lives of so many families are being torn apart, daily, and we're supposed to be thrilled that only 35 rockets have been shot into Israel, only five people (as of today, six) have been killed this year in attacks.

I’m complaining because the world has no idea. Apartheid, ethnic cleansing, oppression, illegitimate, fascism, racism, are only some of the lovely words that the world is increasingly using and are reserved only for Israel. These words have been substituted for blood drinking baby killers, and god killers, and even Bolsheviks or capitalists (depending on the mood) but are just as vicious and libelous, and are down and out lies.
Even US Secretary of State John Kerry got into the act, recently stating that the settlements in the ‘West Bank’ are ‘illegitimate’. Wrong. See former-ambassador to Canada, Alan Baker’s answer to that one.

Rather, the words West Bank are illegitimate. Unless you’re talking about Banks in West Fargo, or the west side of the Rhine river.
For more true information about the West Bank, follow the link.

How about the House of Lords in Britain demanding an apology for the original Balfour Declaration. What a hoot.
So yeh, I’m complaining.

Just for the record, 35 rockets fired into Israeli territory is 35 rockets too many.
Please take a moment tonight to say a prayer for the family of Eden Attias, murdered today as he was sleeping.

And a prayer for the safety of our soldiers who guard us day and night and a prayer that, one day, we won't need them.