Friday, February 29, 2008

Judaism and Intermarriage: Part 3 Race

If you haven't already read the previous posts you will need to do so before reading this section.

Judaism and Intermarriage Introduction

Judaism and Intermarriage Post 1

Judaism and Intermarriage Post 2

One of the biggest misconceptions I once encountered, concerning the Bible, was one involving race. When I graduated from high school I spent a summer working at MCI Telecommunications in Kansas City, MO. During one of my job assignments I had to work with 3 gentlemen who came off as nothing more than rednecks. During one my conversations with them, one of them boldly stated that the Bible stated that the races were not supposed to mix. He tried to use passages of the Bible that, in his mind, suggesting some element of racial separation. Essentially, he was incorrect because he had no real concept of what the Bible is and what it says.

It has always been interesting to me how people can come to such wild conclusions, when they are not reading the ORIGINAL Bible i.e. in Hebrew, to begin with and when they are doing so without a historical and cultural context. A person reading a translation can in no way claim that they somehow have the ability to make authoritative statements about a text that they cannot read in its original form. Also, when a person reads a text without a connection to the culture that the text comes from they can in no way perceive the true intent of said text. These kinds of misconceptions, based on ignorance of history and culture, can also be found amongst certain Jews as well.

What Does the Bible Say About Race?

The answer to the above question, the Bible has nothing at all say about race, in the modern sense. In the modern sense race often takes on illogical and often biased realities, i.e. skin color, that did not exist in many parts of the ancient world. In order to understand the answer to the question you have to understand, where the Bible came from and who preserved it.

The Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), has been preserved by Jews since ancient times. So if the Bible is to be understood it MUST be understood within a Jewish context text. The reason is as simple as the fact that for thousands of years Jews have lived by the Tanakh, died to preserve the Tanakh, spent vast amounts of times studying the Tanakh and the languages associated with it (Hebrew and Aramaic), and Jews have impressed upon their children to do the same. So the Bible can never be understood outside of a traditional and historical Jewish context, or using translations as the first line of understanding.

Now getting back to the issue of race within that context, the Bible makes no distinction between black people and white people, or any other denomination of skin color characters in the way that they are used modernly. The Bible's distinction of humanity follows the same path, as I mentioned concerning Judaism, it deals with religious, national, and social alliances. So for example when the Bible talks about ethnic groups such as the Moabites it does not do so in terms of what their skin color they were, but instead based on their religious, national, and social norms and values. The same goes for the Canaanites, the Phillestines, etc.

Many of the prohibitions in the Bible concerning marriage do not even concern the majority of humanity, but instead is directed towards the Israelites i.e. Jews. What this means is that about 90% of the does and don'ts found in Bible are commands that God directed towards Jews, not the world in general. There are of course areas of the Bible that are geared towards mankind in general, but when you look at the books of Exodus to Deuteronomy the recipients of the commands of God were the Israelites, the Gerim (converts), and non-Israelites who chose to LIVE amongst the Israelites by believing in the God of Israel, but not specifically converting to Judaism.

The redneck gentlemen I noted earlier were not even remotely Jewish so they were wrong in acting as if those Biblical prohibitions somehow relate to them, or even have anything to do with race. In reality some of the prohibitions in terms of marriage, mentioned in the Bible were self imposed by the Hebrews, the Israelites, the Jews, and their descendants while others were divinely imposed.

A Few Examples

Within the first two books of the Bible there is much about the culture that the ancient Hebrews and later Israelites had concerning who they would and wouldn't marry. Taking into account that ancient Hebrews and Israelites were already a mix of Middle Eastern and East African peoples, we can take on a more accurate understanding of what the real issues were concerning their marriages.
  1. The biblical patriarch Abraham sent his servant Eliezer to find a wife for his son Isaac. He requires that the woman not come from the Canaanites, but from his family in Mesopotamia.
  2. The biblical matriarch Rebbecca requires that her son Jacob find a wife from her family, also from Mesopotamia.
  3. Israelites who are from the priestly family are required to marry only certain types of Israelite/Jewish women. They were not allowed to marry female converts to Judaism, but could marry the daughters of converts.
  4. There exists within the Israelite tribes non-Israelites who had joined themselves to those tribes i.e. converted to Judaism.
  5. Ruth, a foreigner from Moab is exemplary for her faithfulness to her Israelite in-laws, even after the death of her husband. Ruth became a Gioret (Female convert) and married an Israelite man named Boaz. One of their descendants King David went on to become the greatest of the Israelite warrior kings.
  6. Solomon married hundreds of wives from many nations in the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and East Africa for the purposes of political expediency and ultimately falls from grace by engaging in pagan forms of worship which they have introduced 1 Kings 11. In Solomon's case the problem wasn't that he married non-Israelite women. The problem was that he married women who either didn't fully convert to the Israelite faith or who continued to latch onto their former pagan religions and cultures. This in turn caused Solomon to take on some of their pagan practices, something forbidden in the Israelite and Jewish faith.
It is also important to note that according to the book of Genesis some of the sons of Jacob married into the various ethnic communities in the regions, which they dwelled. In Genesis 46:19 it is stated that Yoseph (Joseph) married an Egyptian woman, Asnath daughter of Poti-phera who was a priest of the Egyptian deity On. We are further told in Genesis 46:10 and Exodus 6:15 that Jacob’s son Shimon (Simeon) had a son, Sha’ul, from a Canaanite woman. In later times Moses married Tziporah the daughter of Yithro a priest of Midyon (Exodus 2:21), and in Numbers 12:1 it is mentioned that Moses married a Kushite woman. With all of these cases the non-Israelites whom they married were required to accept the Israelite faith.


Even within the Israelite tribes there were marriages that were forbidden on moral and social grounds. For example, mothers could not marry sons. Brothers could not marry sisters, etc. For some time after their entry into the Land of Israel, the 12 tribes did not intermarry between tribes. Also, the tribe of Levi had additional marriage restrictions placed on them due to the fact that they were the Israelite priest tribe.

No where in the Torah is there found a reference to skin color, the modern code of race, as a qualifier for marriage. The issue with Abraham was find a wife for his son who had a particular moral outlook that he knew could not be found amongst the Canaanites. He had been promised by God that his descendants would receive a certain blessing that required moral character. The same issue existed for Rebecca towards Jacob, etc. Jewish exigist literature shows that the concern for the moral outlook of future generations was so strong amongst Abraham and his descedents that many of them learned their moral outlooks from two of Abrahams ancestors named Shem and Ever. According to the Midrash the Sefer Ha-Yashar Shem and Ever taught those who came to study about the ways of God. Isaac and Jacob were two of Abraham's descendants who learned from Shem and Ever.

Modernly, one can look at Jews and discern that there had been in some ancient time a mix of Jews with local Gerim (converts) who originated from different places all over the world. That is why many Jews from India look similar to non-Jewish Indians. The same as Jews from southern Arabia look similar to Arabs from Arabia. The same way that Jews from Poland look similar to non-Jews from Poland. In my next and last post about Judaism and Intermarriage I will discuss the issue of Jewish Genealogy and how marriage to local Gerim (converts) has shaped the physical features of Jews from all over the world, and how it affects Jewish culture.
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Friday, February 22, 2008

Intermission 2: The Benei Ever Heroes

This is yet, another intermission while I prepare my last post on Judaism and Intermarriage. I enjoyed creating the first Intermission: What If I Was A Hero that I decided to do a part 2. Since Bohemian Hippie Chick liked the Sons of Ever concept I decided to stick with that. Now they are the הבני עבר (Ha-Benei Ever) which is Hebrew for The Children of Ever. All of the comic art comes from a number of comic books which I found on The Museum of Black Super Heroes. Enjoy and let me know what you think.

הבני עבר - The Benei Ever - The Children of Ever
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Friday, February 15, 2008

Intermission: If I Were A Hero

When I was younger I loved comic books. I once dreamed of creating my own comic book with heroes that reflected my values as well as whom dealt with topics I could relate to. I still have a desire to do something like this, I actually have written a few stories that I would love to use for this kind of venture.

When I was younger I had a number of dreams where I was endowed with super powers, and I hated waking up to find out that I didn't have them. So thinking back over all of this got me wondering what kind of super hero would I be. I put together a little video showcasing some of the things that I would use as characteristics.

What If Ehav Ever Was a Hero?

What about you? If you could be a hero what kind would you be?‎ Read Entire Post!

Judaism and Intermarriage: Part 2

If you haven't already read my previous posts you should do so in order to understand this post. You can read the Introduction and Part 1 for more information.

In my previous posts I dealt with two issues that are important to this conversation.

1) The Jewish responsibility
2) The basis for Jewish laws concerning marriage to non-Jews
3) The concept of Jewish perpetuity

So this begs the question, is there an acceptable situation where a Jew and a non-Jew could marry? In reality the only answer to that is one of a logical approach to the situation, which does not require one to even accept Judaism to find the conclusion.


The video below was done by a local Israeli news channel. It is a video about intermarriage and assimilation amongst American Jews. Please note that the video is really one-sided and does not explore the issues from the religious, national, and social issues mentioned in previous posts.

The above video deals with the issue of intermarriage in a way that is somewhat contrary to what is the issue from a religious standpoint. I also noticed that in the above video it only dealt with one facet of the Jewish world, and that is the European Reform and Reconstructionist Jewish perspective. The above video makes the issue seem like it a racial one. I.e. an Irish man marries a Jewish woman, and the kids are half Irish and half Jewish. This is not the case, because if there was a Jewish community in Ireland than said Jews are Irish Jews.

Further, there is no such thing as a Jewish race. Jews have been residents of various countries and at various periods married non-Jews who converted to Judaism. In Judaism when a non-Jew converts they are legally just as Jewish as someone who was born Jewish.

One thing the above video does point out is that when a Jew is willing to marry someone, Jewish or not, who does not have a commitment to Judaism there is often some level of compromise by one party in the relationship. Either the Jewish person has to give up areas of Jewish belief or tradition or the non-Jewish person has to give up areas of their belief system.

For example, the man who is Irish Catholic and married to a Jewish woman, seems to have accepted the idea that his children will not be Catholic, but Jewish. His being Irish has nothing to do with the issue, since there is no prohibition to marrying Irish people, and there is no requirement in Judaism for a person to give up cultural and national heritage. The issue is one of whether or not the children will religiously and socially live and perpetuate as Jews. A non-Jewish father committed to raising his children as Jews, normally has to do so by rejecting whatever religious concepts he grew up with. A Jewish mother dedicated to raising Jewish children with a non-Jewish father, would have to do so by not accepting the religion of her husband. Thus normally in a situation like this the non-Jewish partner would convert to Judaism, not for the sake of the marriage, but for the sake of his/her own belief in Judaism as a religious, national, and social truth.

In another segment of the video, there were people who were raising their children within a mixed religious nature. This is something that definitely goes against Biblical values, and goes back to my previous post. Especially, when a child if faced with reading Jewish texts where certain religious concepts completely fly in the face of religious acceptability. Judaism is not an al la carte religion where you can pick and choose what you want to believe about it. The Jewish reality is that if Hashem (God) said it, and if it has a proven track record as a Jewish concept that is the truth simple and plain. It doesn't stand on a platform with other or foreign concepts. So in this scenario people who want to live this way have to reject some of the most basic Jewish concepts on a path to creating a new or foreign belief system, which is essentially not Judaism.

Conversion to Judaism

Essentially, Judaism is not a world religion, in that it does not compete with world religions for members or accetability. A Jew who believes 100% in Jewish religious values does not have to answer to or convince the world of the truth he/she believes in. Nor does the world have to become Jewish, since Hashem (God) values all of humanity. Judaism does believe that there are correct and incorrect religious and moral values, but Jews don't have to convince the world that this is the case. It is only our job to stand on a moral ground and be an example of of it. If the world chooses to see it and accept it, so be it, and if not then so be it.

There is a path in Judaism for a non-Jew who desires to live as a Jew. This path called Gerut i.e. conversion to Judaism is traditional more than just accepting Judaism as a religion, but also accepting the national and social responsibilities that come along with it. I.e. it not only a beleif in values, but also joining a people and being responsible for said people, just as they are now responsible for you.

The web-site Torath Mosheh, sums up the non-Jewish paths to Judaism in the following way.

Geir: (non-Jew/resident-alien/stranger): Most Geirim (eventually) converted (in olden times), which is why the term Geir eventually blurred with "convert." However, when the Geir converts, Orthodox halakhah (law) then recognizes him or her as a Jew(ess). The Jew(ess) -- whom Orthodox halakhah prohibits from even being reminded of their non-Jewish past -- is then no longer referred to as a Geir(âh)--other than at important halakhic times (i.e.: Marriage and Aliyah) where his/her status is must be known. This is important. A Geir must be recognized by a Beit Din as learning - and applying as he/she learns - to become non-selectively Torah observant and integrating into the Jewish community, with the goal of converting (except when circumstances prohibit conversion).

Geir Tzeddeq: These were some of the many Geirim (non-Jews) who, either because they feared circumcision or were married to a non-Jew who didn't want to convert, never converted.

Upon becoming conversant and responsible to the entirety of Torah like a Jew, the Geir Toshav (see definition below) who didn't convert was then instead recognized as a Geir Seddeq (who was still not a Jew). This category actually fell outside the category of the confirmed idolater who didn't convert. This term has taken on a totally different meaning in modern times. I believe I've heard it used to refer to righteous Jewish Proselytes. But this could not have possibly been it's original meaning--because they were not Jews and yet they were not idolaters either--because they never resolved themselves to be circumcised in their Geir Toshav status. But they remain non-Jews.

Geir Toshav: A Geir toshav is a non-Jew candidate for conversion to Judaism, who had come before a legitimate Beit Din (i.e. in the legitimate Jewish community') and had been recognized as a non-Jew, with probationary status in the Jewish community, committed to learning, and keeping as they learn, Torah and halakhah.

The Jewish Concept of Marriage

Previously we dealt with two sub-issues. If your son will marry a non-Jewish woman, the children born of this union are no longer considered to be your children. In the event that your daughter marries a non-Jew, inevitably your grandchildren will stray very far from the path of Judaism even though they will still be considered Jewish. While Orthodox Judaism rejects proselytizing non-Jews, it does embrace kiruv, the concept of working to convince non-observant Jews to adopt a more traditional lifestyle.

The Talmud and Kabbalah teach us that marriage is not merely a union between two totally independent individuals. Marriage is the reunion between two halves of the same unit. A couple shares the same soul, which, upon birth, divides itself into two incomplete halves. Upon marriage, they reunite and become, once again, complete. What we are dealing with here is not only a union on the physical, emotional and/or intellectual level. What we are dealing with here is a union on the deepest, most essential level of self. There are souls that are compatible for marriage and there are souls that are not.

A Jewish person who cares about the religious and social status of his children would normally not a consider a mate who is not currently Jewish or not willing to convert to Judaism. If said person loves the idea of raising a family within a completely Jewish context, which requires both parents to be on the same page, they would seek out someone who has the same love for Judaism.

In the next post I will discuss Judaism and race in regards to this topic.

Part 3: Coming Soon
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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Judaism and Intermarriage: Part 1

Some of this is still in a rough state. I am working to clean up the language a bit and provide additional sources. If you haven't already read the introduction you can do so here. It will help explain this post.

The basis of Jewish marriage principles concerning non-Jews comes from the following Biblical passages.
Deut. 21:10-14 "When you go forth to war against your enemies, and Hashem your God has delivered them into your hands, and you have taken them captive, And you see among the captives a beautiful woman, and desire her, and take her for a wife - Then you shall bring her home to your house, and she shall shave her head and do her nails, And she shall remove the garment of her captivity from her, and remain in your house and weep for her father and mother a for month, and after that you may approach her and have intercourse with her, and she shall be your wife. And if you do not want her, you shall send her out on her own; you shall not sell her at all for money, you shall not treat her as a slave, because you "violated" her.

(Deut. 7:3): "You shall not marry them (non-Israelites), you shall not give your daughter to their son and you shall not take his daughter for your son."
The above verses were applicable to the Israelites who were making their way from the Sinai desert into the land of Canaan, as well as being applicable to all future generations of Israelites. The peoples that they encountered on their way were predominately from nations that held vastly different religious, national, and social morals which would have meant giving away children in marriage would have been consigning said children to paganim, which is forbidden in Judaism.

The above verse also needs to be clearly understood within the context of Jewish commentary on the verses, all of which make the case that it is preferable that a non-Jewish partner not be taken in the above circumstances. Jewish law dictacted that during a time of war, if a city was surrounded that only three, of the four sides, of the city be surrounded. The fourth side was left open so that innocents could escape without injury. Yet, in a situation where a soldier saw a woman that was beautiful to him, he was not permitted to just take her. There are some who say that the period of one month was to give a cooling period between the initial attraction, possibly an attraction to someone foreign, and then with a level head look again at the situation.

When the rabbis predicted that a result of this captor/captive - husband/wife relationship would be a rebellious son. From the sages we are told that taking a captive woman as a wife could lead to having a rebellious son. This idea is logical -- taking a woman with alien values into one's home would certainly have an adverse effect. The child of such a woman will be a child raised by a mother who adheres to a radically different belief system. The child's rebelliousness against Judaism is understandable, predictable. This child was reared with intellectual dissonance, by virtue of being taught different ideas from his mother and father. It easy to see how such an upbringing would produce a confused child who suffers from spiritual angst. The Torah simply made a provision for those men who desired such a woman, i.e. that if this is what you are going to do you have to do things in a certain pattern.

The reason for this prohibition is clearly spelled out in the following verse: "Because he will lead your son astray from Me and they will serve strange gods…" ("Strange gods" can also be interpreted to mean those ideals and ‘isms’ that do not conform to the dictates of the Torah, and before which one bows his head and dedicates his heart and soul.)

Concerning Deut. 7:3 about giving sons and daughters into marraige with non-Israelites the Talmud (Yevamot 23a) points out - and Rashi quotes it in his commentary on the aforementioned verse - that from the precise expression of the verse (he -and not she- will lead your son astray) we can derive two things. In the event that your daughter marries "their son," he will eventually lead astray your sons (in other words, your grandchildren, who will still be considered your sons) from the path of the Torah. In the event that your son will marry their daughter, her children are no longer considered your children, but her children. They are not considered Jewish.
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Monday, February 11, 2008

Judaism and Intermarriage: Introduction

For some time now I have been wanting to do a post about Judaism and intermarriage. Partially, because of how difficult it can be to describe to people who are not Jewish, as well as because of how it affects how Jews are viewed. Secondly, this issue affects me in a number of different ways. It is also a matter of recent importance in the Jewish community since there has been an increase in the discussion of such in the Jewish community, mainly outside of Israel.

Because this topic has the ability to give the wrong impression, I will ask that those who read it understand that I am going to be breaking up this topic into several parts. Missing any one part will obviously give a wrong impression about the whole of the discussion. In the future posts I will link the previous posts. Please remember that this is simply an introduction.

Also, I will be using a lot of illusions in the course of this discussion because it is hard to convey in writing. Often you have to explain a lot things from a number of different sources, and I don't want to lose the reader in that. It is also easy for my ability to convey words in writing, as compared to a face to face conversation. There is also a lot of baseline information that helps explain this issue more completely, but for the essence of time I will try to sum it up.

Basic Understandings

In order to understand this issue one must first understand that Judaism is more than just a religion, but it is also a national and local social structure. Even when people are not active within the religious context of Judaism the national and social laws of Judaism can still affect their lives as Jews. It must also be understood that being Jewish is a Mitzvah i.e. universal religious, national, and social responsibility that can be accepted or evaded, yet the only reason to be Jewish is based on things that are above and beyond a culture or an ethnicity.

There are several terms that a person not familiar with will need to know to understand this group of posts.
  • Hashem - Hebrew termed used in place of pronouncing God's Hebrew name. Complicated issue, but for those familiar with the English Bible whenever you see Hashem, think The Lord.
  • Yahaduth - I.e. Judaism, or the combination of Biblical, religious, historical, social, and legal beliefs and practices as passed down throughout the Jewish people.
  • Sefer Torah - 5 books of Moses Genesis to Deut.
  • Torah - Teaching, law
  • Mitvah, Mitzvah - Commandment
  • Torah SheBa'al Pe - Oral Torah i.e. Oral Teachings
  • Tanakh - Hebrew Bible
  • Halakhah - Jewish religious, national, and social law
  • Traditional Judaism - Judaism as it is practiced by Middle Eastern, African, Asian, and Orthodox Jews
  • Mamzer - A person born of an illegal religious relationship.
Jumping Into The Topic

First and foremost, in order to understand this topic one must first understand some key facts about Judaism. Unlike most mainstream religions Judaism is more than just a set of religious beliefs and practices. Judaism operates on three distict levels: a religious structure, a national structure, and a social structure. This understanding and application of Judaism is one that is found predominately in Traditional Judaism thus historically defined and preserved Jewish identity. According to Halakhah i.e. Jewish law, a Jew is someone who was born to a Jewish mother, or who converts to Judaism in accordance with Jewish law and tradition. Further, during the time when there existed a national Israelite identity tribal identities were through the father. So it plays out that having both parents as members of Israelite/Jewish society defined ones place within in the religious, national, and social structure. As the old saying goes, your father teaches you how to live as a Jew, and your mother teaches you how to love being a Jew.

The Biblical Responsibility
Deuteronomy 14:2, "For you are a holy people to Hashem your God, and God has chosen you to be his treasured people from all the nations that are on the face of the earth." This verse must also be taken into context with the following verse, "Now therefore, if you will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then you shall be a peculiar treasure of me above all people,"
"For all the earth is mine: and you shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation" (Exodus 19:5, 6)
"Hashem did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because you were more in number than any people; for you were the fewest of all people; but because Hashem loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your ancestors." (Deuteronomy 7:7, 8)
The other issue of concern is that as Jews, the Mitzvoth i.e. commandments of God towards us do not make us better than the non-Jewish nations: they simply make us distinct. God choose to give Israel the Torah not just for the sake of Jews being special. The Torah is clear that we are no different than any other human being on the planet, the main difference is in our actions due to the moral code that we accept.

Israel was chosen to be and live by a certain group of directives, so that the doing of said actions made us distinct in the way that someone who takes an oath as a police officer or a person in public office. Said oaths normally involve vowing to uphold and protect a certain set body of laws. As Jews we have the same responsibility to God. This does not mean that God expects nothing from the non-Jewish nations, the Torah is clear that non-Jews are also expected to live by certain similar moral attributes, yet we choose to live this responsibility or evade it. I created the following video to explain some of the basic principles of Judaism.

My concept here that God has two different paths that eventually lead to the same place, comes from the fact that:
  1. God made a covenant concerning all of humanity with Noah.
  2. God made a covenant concerning Israel with Abraham.
  3. God made a covenant with Abraham concerning all of humanity who would hear of him and live by his example.
Each of these covenants with God gave different responsibilities to different segments of humanity. The rest is for a future discussion, but they are considered the baseline for all of humanity Jewish or not Jewish. In the next few posts I will dig more deeper into the matter.
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Saturday, February 9, 2008

Brings Back Memories

A few months ago I mentioned in a post that I used to be a dancer. In the late 1980's and early 1990's me and several friends of mine used to take part in dance contests in Kansas City, MO. Nothing major, but at different parties we would always be there.

There were a number of videos that we used to take moves from. I was one of the first people at my school who was able to do the splits, after spinning. I carried some of that energy with me when I went to college and pledged Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, and I oh yes I used to do a lot of stepping. Here are a few of my old school favorites.

Special Ed - I'm The Magnificent

Black Rock and Ron - You Can't Do Me None

Def Jef feat. Etta James - Dropping Rhymes on Drums

Chubb Rock - The Chubster

3rd Bass - Steppin To The AM

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Friday, February 8, 2008

Feelings About Recent Terrorist Attack

For some time I have been wanting to post my personal feelings about terrorism here in this part of the world. The recent bombing in Dimona, Israel really got me thinking about this more. If you haven't read the article about the attack by Palestinian terrorist you can read it here. My thoughts are going to kind of be all over with this topic.

Hamas Terrorists in Gaza with Suicide Bomb Belts

When I first heard about the Palestininan terrorist who blew himself up in Dimona, Israel on February 4th there were several emotions that I experienced. As a permanant Israeli citizen, the first was sadness for the Israeli woman that was killed, and the many wounded. The second emotion was anger at the Palestinian terrorists who committed the acts. The third emotion was the desir to do something, anything to fight current and future terrorist. Like many times before I wanted to go down to the local military base and volunteer again for military service.

Part of me also wished I was some kind of super hero who could dawn a uniform and by night hunt down the various terrorists. It is times like that that where the world of fantasy justice seems so appealing, where people can be billionaires by day and avenging hero by night. If only there was a way to strike at the terrorist like a Batman kind of character. Hit them hard without hurting innocent civilians. Even with this, it is tough since most terrorists here in the Middle East hide behind civilians.

These emotions are different from the times I visited Israel as a tourist. In the past when I was only visiting, or here temporarily when a terrorist attack occured or when the threat of a possible war loomed I experienced fear. First, it was the fear for my life and personal well-being. Second, it was the fear of being in public places where terrorist have been known to attack Israeli citizens such as resturants and buses. Third, the fear of the future, or maybe an end of the world kind of feeling.

So what changed between then and now? I am not a stronger person than those times in the past. Yes, I have been training in martial arts, but what good will that do if I am a bus and terrorist on another part of the same bus has a bomb? Why is living here so different than visiting here? The only answer I can come up with is that now as an Israeli citizen I have more invested in my own life here, as well as the lives of fellow Israelis. As a permanent Israeli citizen I now have a different set of responsibilities than I did when I was only here as a guest.

Once before on my blog, I stated that when I lived outside of Israel I often felt like I was not really living. What I mean is I felt like I was living in a reality show that was not real. I felt like my life was protected and staged, as if what I was living was not a part of the real world. Whenever I cam to Israel in the past I always felt like this was my personal reality. Living in a situation where you have such extrememes between happiness and sadness, is what much of the world lives through outside of the richer western nations. The closest I felt in America to being in the real world was when I lived in New Jersey during Sept. 11, 2001. That event changed everything when the real world came knocking on the door of New Yorkers, and because of it thousands of people lost their lives or were injured. All of that due the actions of a dozen men who spent months planning to take out average citizens who had no idea they were caught in a war going on beneath their rader screens.

Israeli Muslim Soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces

So this brings me back to the terrorist attack in Dimona, Israel on Feb. 4th. Even though I live near Jerusalem, and a few hours away from Dimona, Israel is not a huge country. For those who don't know, Israel about the size of the state of New Jersey. We are surrounded by countries that either want us wiped off the face of the earth, or tolerate us lightly. We are in conflict with several groups of people who beleive we have no right to be here, and for the most part don't accept the current reality as it is. We Israelis live in a situation where our military does its best to avoid hurting Palestinian civilians when dealing with terrorists, yet the Palestianian terrorists do their best to hurt Israeli civilians. We Israelis live in a situation where Arabs can live here in Israel freely, but Jews are forbidden to live in the Palestinian Authority regions. Regardless, if Jews have always been there are not. We Israelis live in a situation where the terrorists don't care if they take out Jews, Arabs, non-Jews, non-Arabs, non-Israelis, non-Palestians, etc. If you are in a place where they plan to attack citizens too bad for you.

Mourning for an victim of a terrorist attack

Often the Western media paints a picture of Israel as an agressor, and the Palestinians as the victims. Yet, since Israel withdrew from Gaza, in August 2005, Palestinian Terrorists in Gaza have fired over 4,000 rockets at Israeli cities and towns? These rockets hit towns in Israel injuring or killing children, women, men, soldiers, etc. and this after we gave them what they claimed they wanted. Israel spent nearly $900 million uprooting 1,700 Jewish families from Gaza to obtain peace from the Palestinians, and in return Hamas terrorists have been uping their attempts to attack Israeli civilians. They do so endangering innocent Palestian civilians since we in Israel have no choice to respond to unprovoked attacks.

Israeli Border Towns Being Hit by Gaza Rockets

What a lot of people don't know is that Israel supplies electricity, water, and medical service to Gaza residents. Even with the rockets being fired from terrorist in Gaza we supply Gaza with many of their basic needs. There is no country in the world that would allow another country to fire missles within its borders at civilians, and supply said country with some of its basic services. Most countries would simply declare war and invade with the intention of toppling the government that sanctioned said attacks.

The Face of a Hamas Terrorist

Israel in the only country in the world that has given away land in order to obtain peace with an enemy nation. The reality is that the land that Israel has been giving away to the Palestians to obtain peace were areas that Israel gained due to the attackes by the nations that surround us. I.e. we were attacked, we won and pushed them further back and as a part of the war that land is ours. Yet, the land that the PA currently controls was never theirs to begin with. Before it was controlled by the British, the Jordanians, the Ottomans, the Mamluks, etc. Where were these Palestinian terrorists during those times? Why weren't they performing suicide missions back then, maybe because the concept of a Palestinian State only came about in the 1960's. Maybe, there is a problem with a Jewish nation in the midst of several larger Islamic nations. Maybe, the problem was that they never liked Jews to begin with and now that we have our own nation again, they won't sleep well until we are wiped off the face of the earth, even though Jews have ALWAYS lived here for thousands of years.

Maybe they have a problem with what the Holy Quran says on the matter.
"And thereafter we said to the Children of Israel: 'Dwell securely in the Promised Land. And when the last warning will come to pass, we will gather you together in a mingled crowd,'" The Holy Koran Sura 17:104, The Night Journey.
With all of this the bigger reality is that the majority of Palestinians are no different than the majority of Israelis. They want to just live their lives and do what normal people do. There are thousands of Jews and Arabs who live here in Israel doing just that. The reality, no matter what side of the issue one is on, is that there is an Israel that is never going away. The other reality is that there is currently a Palestinian State, and it isn't going away. No matter what the Western nations and the Arab nations do, think, or plot those of us who live here live through a number of realities that they would never understand.

14 Year Old Arab Saved From Being a Suicide Bomber

Note: Hussam Abdo, a 14 year old Palestinian boy. was forced to be a suicide bomber he was caught at the shchem (nablus, hawara) checkpoint by Israeli soldiers. In the above video the Israeli soldiers are trying to instruct him on how to get out of the suicide bomber vest. They can't get close to him while the vest is on him because it could be exploded by remote for all they know.

So even when bad things happen, we mourn and hurt for a while, yet at some point we have to pull ourselves together and keep going. Not being able to do so would drive a person crazy. So we go about our lives getting on buses that could be the next target of a terrorist attack. We go to resturants that could be the next target for a bombing. We drive on highways where terrorist snipers could be laying in wait. We live in cities that border countries that allow or promote terror attacks on Israel. Some of us do this simply because it is who we are, some of us do this because what else are you going to do, some of us do this because we have no choice, and some of do this because we chose it and we beleive in something bigger than ourselves.

No matter why we live a reality that teeters on war at any moment. We live in a reality where the military is ALWAYS in active duty. We live in reality where we pay higher taxes to support a constant need for defense. When I moved to Israel these are the realities that I signed up for, for better or for worse.

Palestinian Snipers Firing at a News Crew

Note: A short while after Palestinian snipers shot dead a volunteer from Ecuador, the above news team covering the incident became the next target. The camera caught it all - the fear, the uncertainty, knowing your life can end with the next bullet.
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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Terror Attack in Dimona, Israel

One Dead in Dimona Terror Attack, Second Bomber Killed
by Ezra HaLevi, Hana Levi Julian and Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu

February 4, 2008

( Arab terrorists carried out a suicide bombing in the commercial center of the southern Negev town of Dimona Monday morning, killing one female Dimona resident and wounding ten others.

A second suicide terrorist at the scene was already wearing his bomb-vest and waited for crowds of medics and spectators to arrive. Not knowing who he was, a doctor began to treat the second terrorist. Upon spotting the explosives belt under his clothes, the doctor warned Police Chief Inpector Kobi Mor, who shot the terrorist dead with a bullet to the head. The explosive vest was detonated in a controlled explosion by police sappers.

The wounded were all transported to Be'er Sheva's Soroka Hospital, where one person was admitted in critical condition and two others in moderate condition. Some 14 others were treated for light injuries and and dozens of others for psychological shock All were later released. Doctors have been fighting to save the life of the critically injured man, who is in surgery to remove what one hospital source said were almost a thousand bits of shrapnel in his stomach and torso.

The suicide bomber detonated his explosives belt near a coffee shop in a local shopping center. A school located nearby was immediately sealed, fearing that it was the intended target.

The Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades terror gang controlled by Fatah, the terror group led by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and funded and assisted by the US and Israel, claimed responsibility for the attack in a joint statement with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terror group issued to the PA-based Ma'an News Agency. Islamic Jihad praised the attack, but said that initial reports that it took "credit" were "Israeli fabrications." Gaza residents celebrated word of the attack by dancing in the streets and handing out sweets.

It is likely that the terrorists crossed into the Sinai from Gaza as the border lay open in recent days since Hamas destroyed it. The terrorists then crossed into Israel over the lengthy and porous Sinai-Israeli border. Israeli intelligence warned that the open border was allowing terrorists from Gaza to prepare such attacks, particularly on Negev towns. Dimona is located not far from the border, between Arad and Be'er Sheva. The area is heavily populated by Bedouin tribes, which have been increasingly involved in smuggling from Egypt to Israel. It is also possible that the terrorist came from the southern Mt. Hevron region, from which attacks have emanated in the region in the past.

Police launched searches in and around Dimona, as well as trying to prevent crowds from gathering at the bomb-site, fearing additional bombers. The alert level has been raised all across Israel, particularly along the seam-line, Jerusalem region and southern towns near the Egypt border. The unit headed by the Police Chief Inpector Mor, who killed the second bomber, was established recently to combat cross-border smuggling.

A Dimona firefighter told Voice of Israel government radio that he was not surprised that terrorists attacked the city because of recent infiltration of terrorists from Egypt following the destruction of the border barrier at Rafiah two weeks ago. It was the first time that Dimona has been the target of a terrorist attack. Israel's nuclear research facility is located near Dimona.
David, a lottery store owner in the commercial center recounted the attack to Army Radio: "Suddenly I heard an explosion. It was unbelievable...unbelievable. I saw parts of bodies flying toward me, toward my store. Security forces immediately closed down the commercial center, saying, 'There are still suspicious things here.'"

Dina, another resident of Dimona, said, “I heard a boom and at first I thought it was a gas balloon exploding. It was fortunate that at this hour, all the children were in school and very few, if any, were in the area at the time. But people here are hysterical. This has never happened in Dimona and people cannot believe it. You have no idea what is going on in this town right now."

The city of Be'er Sheva has set up a hotline for those concerned that family members may have been hurt in the attack: 08-646-7377. The city of Dimona has also set up a hotline to answer questions from those who are concerned about loved ones who may have been in the area at the time of the attack: 08-655-3107.
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Friday, February 1, 2008

The Old Ways: The Long Way Home

כה אמר יהוה עמדו על-דרכים וראו ושאלו לנתיבות עולם, אי-זה דרך הטוב ולכו-בה, ומצאו מרגוע, לנפשכם

"Thus says Hashem (The LORD), stand on the highways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk upon it and you shall find rest for your souls. "
(Jerimiah 6:16)

The Question

Not long ago one of the readers of my blog asked me to write about why I moved to Israel. Though I have dealt with it in passing on different parts of my blog. I think my recent posting about the past speaks to the situation the best.

Ben-Yehudah in Jerusalem

When I consider my life I often think in the context of the past. Because of how I grew up I have had a long admiration for the past. Whether it be the study of history, the changes in human psychology, or the expression of faith, I have found myself defining my existence in context of the past. This often flies in the face of the need of many to throw away the ways of old. In my mind, people can do as they wish, as we all have free-will, yet for me I chose to define myself based on what came before me. After this personal analysis I then base my current existence on my own life experiences. It is from there that I make my way towards whatever future lays ahead of me.

Ehav in Jerusalem: In Front of the Mount of Olives

My life here is Israel is what I needed in order to be that man rooted in the past, while living with a present day reality. When I lived in the US I was often afraid to express myself in terms of the past. I had to dress a certain way in order to be considered normal. I had to live my life in a certain way for people not to talk about me, or make fun of me.

When I was young some people made fun of me whenever I tried to express the past. Yet, now I can at least live with all the past tense elements here and now. For example, it is an interesting concept to read the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) about a place or an event from thousands of years ago and within a few hours be able to travel to said place. What amazes me about my life in this context is that I am not the only person here who lives in this cultural duality. Being in the Middle East means that we are surrounded by the lives and even the conflicts that have unique histories of their own that trace back hundreds and even thousands of years.

The Response

Several years prior to my move to Israel in 2007, I dreamed of moving to here. Literally, I began having dreams that I would be living in Israel at a pivotal point in history. I started recording all of these dreams since they were powerful, vivid, in color, and with much significance to ancient and modern history.

Ehav and Avivit: Petach Tikvah

Much of this desire began in my youth when my grandmother would sing songs about Jerusalem. Before she passed away I told her of my plans on coming to Israel, and she whispered to me, "I wish I could have done that." It was my grandmother that kept me connected to my family's history. She, more than anyone else, gave me a deep appreciation for history and the past, as well as how faith is an essential part of living in a past tense in a present sense. It was my grandmother who would tell me the stories of the generations who came before me, and it was her example that gave me a reason to search out my path in life.

So in 2004 I began to consider the possibility of moving to Israel. During that time I had no idea how I would get here, or what I would do when I moved. All kind of questions crossed my mind such as:
  1. When should I move?
  2. Why am I looking at moving?
  3. How would I support myself?
  4. Do I have what it takes to make in one of the tension centers of the planet?
It took a few years before I could really look seriously at moving to Israel as a reality, both as a spiritual and intellectual development. One of the things I had hoped to do before I moved here was to save up about $30,000 so I could have enough to live here a year without working, and maybe a year later find a job. At that time my plan was to wait until about 2010 to move to Israel. Yet, even with this questions arose of what would I do for a living? Where would I live? I did at least know that I would need to live in a neighborhood with a Yemenite Jewish community. Yet, there were still so many unknowns.

Ehav and Michal: Nachshonim 2006

In 2004 when I was visiting a friend in Jerusalem, I met a bookstore owner in the old city. I told him that I was thinking of making Aliyah (moving to Israel). He said to me, No, don't think, do! I responded, no I am thinking....... He retorted, don't think do! If you are supposed to be here!

One Friday night in 2006 after prayers at the synagogue I was walking to dinner with a friend. I talked to him about my plans for moving to Israel, but my uncertainty about the ability to make a financial living weighed very heavy in the conversation. He said to me words that I will never forget. You don't move to Israel for the money you move for the principle.

Ehav and Niryah: Nachshonim 2006

I have been here for about 5 months and I see the value in his words. I have a nice apartment, a good job, a good community, and financial stability. Yet, it is not these things that make this my home, or that make me happy. It is interesting that in all the times I lived in America and traveled the world I never felt comfortable. Whether it was in the good times or the bad times I never felt like I was where I belonged. The problems of said places were never my own. The victories of said places were never my own. Many of the people of said places were never my own. I also never felt like I was really alive.

Ehav and Dorit: Lod 2007

The only time I felt really alive, and like I was really able to be myself was when I was in Israel. This and the faith I mentioned earlier has been what carries me through the good times and the tough times. God willing I am here for the long haul. Through the joys, the pain, the conflicts, the misunderstandings, the disagreements, the tail gaiters on the highways, the prayers in the synagogue, the secure moments, the insecure moments, the moments of strength, the moments of weaknes, and eventually the victories.

What made the decision clear was when I talked my uncle Eljulius Ever, my father's oldest brother. I told him about my desire to move to Israel. He told me that he always wanted to come to Israel, at least just to see it. He then said to me, Chase after your dreams and go there. You don't want to become old and look back and say, I wish I had taken the chance and done that. Follow your heart.

His words gave me a lot of strength at that time, but I still kept my decision to want to move a secret to my mother. I at first didn't know how to tell her about my hopes and dreams to move ot Israel, after all I was her only child. I began to lay hints down that I was looking at maybe working in Israel for a few years, then I began laying hints that it may be more permanent. On my 32nd birthday, when it became clear that I was going to move to Israel, my mother sent me a letter that I still keep. In the letter she said that when I was born she knew then that I really did not belong to her, and that at some point God would take over. She said then that she prayed that she could accept whatever God had in store for me. Her words were very moving and I knew then that I had a path that was true.

The Conclusion

Living as a man of the past, in a present tense makes more sense for me here. As I said before it is an amazing feeling to be able to read the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) about a place or an event and then be able to travel there within about 3 or 4 hours. It is also amazing to be an active part of history, and not simply a footnote in the pages of time. I feel more comfortable being an Israeli than I did being an American Jew. Maybe because being an Israeli means that I can live more easily with the plurality of who my heritage and my identity past, present, and future.
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