Facebook is Disturbing God’s Messengers


English: Rabbi Shlomo Amar, the Sephardi Chief...

Rabbi Shlomo Amar - Not looking for "friends"on Facebook

Rabbis: Stay away from Internet

Sephardic religious leaders sign letter calling on every person to save relatives, other people from the web and its “dangerous” content

(From an article by Kobi Nahshoni published on Ynet 29/1/12)

I have seen it stated that man invented God, and then had to find a way to market the product. And so was born the multi-headed monster known as “Religion.” Over the centuries this marketing tool has developed in ways never envisaged by its creators.

Temple, cathedrals, churches, synagogues and mosques were built, at unimaginable cost, to provide suitable accommodations in which the entity could be worshipped.  Of course, the buildings alone only provide the point of sale location. The entire marketing concept could never have worked had it not been for the workforce.

Thus were born “God’s messengers” – the men (until recently, ONLY men) who took upon themselves the task of spreading the holy word. Naturally, since “man does not live by bread alone” the spreading involved some cost. Soon an entire hierachical structure became necessary. Vertical line management was instituted. In the front line were the “worker bees”. Monks, priests, vicars, rabbis and imams to mention a few. In time, promotion was possible – assuming that you worked hard – and didn’t get caught out doing naughty things that holy people are supposed to refrain from.

Pope Benedictus XVI

The Pope - does he send the occasional "Tweet"?

So came the abbots, bishops, archbishops, chief rabbis and mullahs. At the top of the pyramid stood the Pope, or his equivalent in the other religions. Most religions managed with one top honcho – but the Jews needed two. This was due to the phenomenon, common to all religions, of an inability to agree about how EXACTLY their God should be dealt with.

So in Israel there is not just one Chief Rabbi – but two! One takes care of the spiritual needs of Jews from a European background- the Ashkenazim or “white Jews”, and the other is responsible for those Jews from North African or Arab countries – the Sephardim or “Black Jews”.

Actually, the situation is a little more complicated by the existence of REALLY Black Jews from Ethiopia, with their own leader, and various sects of Haredi or Hassidic Jews who follow a wide variety of Rabbis. each with a slightly different interpretation of how the religion should be imposed. Most of these are better defined as “cults” but I’m not sure that there is any substantial difference between the definition of a cult or that of a religion.

As an aside, we do live in a region of the world in which two sects of Islam (the Sunnis and the Shi’ites) seem determined to capture the hearts and minds of their populations by using the device of seeing which of them can murder enough of the other side to persuade them that Allah demands to be worshipped only their way.

But I digress – so back to our rabbis.

The Ten Commandments, In SVG

The 11th Commandment: "Thou Shalt Not Google!

The Sephardi Chief Rabbi, Shlomo Amar, with the support of Rabbi Ovadia Josef, has decided that the internet is an instrument of the devil and must be banned. In their infinite wisdom they have stated that the mobile phone “can lead to difficult and dangerous sights which are undoubtedly forbidden by the Torah and have extremely destructive results …… the evil aspects of these matters is definite and difficult,”  They go on to state that, according to the Talmud: “one must save the oppressed from its persecutor and from all other lurking dangers.”

Now I know that Google is about to change its privacy policy, and that Facebook and Twitter have also made some changes, but I do think that the venerable rabbis’ reaction is a little extreme.  According to them, and a number of other rabbis, disconnecting from the internet is a Torah obligation. Rabbi Moshe Shafir, the editor of the Shas newspaper, “Yom Leyom”, claimed that being connected to the internet is “one of the worst religious sins a Jew could ever commit.”

Really? Worse than eating pork on Yom Kippur? Or driving through Mea Shearim on a Shabbat? Or having sex with your wife at the wrong time of the month? The list of religious restrictions and prohibitions is almost endless.

And as if all this nonsense isn’t enough, he finishes the article with this gem: “As Jews who had the courage to jump into the fire of the inquisition, the courage to slaughter their sons and wives and children after the “Shehecheyanyu” blessing, will have the strength now to make a firm decision and unequivocally rise up, throw away this device of impurity and abomination and obey the outstanding rabbis of the generation.”

"A device of impurity and abomination" - a new marketing slogan?

I never heard an I-Phone described like that before!  I know there were a few complaints about overheating and a short battery life, but a “device of impurity and abomination” seems a bit over the top.

I can imagine Steve Jobs now arguing with God: “what is it with your guys? can’t you control them? Don’t they realise that they are making a laughing stock of themselves and you? 

Perhaps he will teach God some marketing tricks on how to bring religion to the masses in the 21st century.

Somehow, I don’t feel that invoking images of fathers slaughtering their families is really going to cut it.

But that’s just me!

Andyboy – Telling it as it is.

There are Lies. There are Damn Lies – and There are Statistics!


“Poll: 80% of Israeli Jews Believe in God”

“Extensive Judaism study conducted by Guttman Institute and AVI Chai Foundation points to increase in number of religious and Haredi Jews, decrease in number of traditional and secular Jews.” (Ynet 28/1/12)

“Survey finds record number of Israeli Jews believe in God”

“First comprehensive study in a decade: More Israelis finding religion” (Ha’aretz 27/1/12)

taken by משתמש:Hmbr

The truth - but not the whole truth

Dramatic headlines – and frightening if true. But, as always, there are substantial differences between the message of the headline and the material in the body of the story. The articles refer to a survey carried out every 10 years or so, and purport to show a real change in the demographic structure of Israel with reference to religious belief.

However a closer examination of the details show a different picture. For example, in neither of the news reports is there any reference to statistical error. Given that the purpose of the survey was to show changes over a period of around 20 years, the claimed differences fall well within a sampling error range of 3% to 4 %, which is a regularly accepted deviation.

In answer to the question : “Do you believe in God?” the figures for believers are: 76% in 1991 and 80% in 2009. It is also interesting that this includes the answers of  those who “believe wholeheartedly”and “believe, but sometimes doubt”. How one is supposed to extrapolate a definite figure with such questions escapes me.

In answer to the question: “are Jews the Chosen People” the answers are statistically meaningless: 69% in 1991 and 70% in 2009.

The other side of the picture is that in 2009, 46% defined themselves as Secular, “down” from 52% in 1991.  Given the substantial increase in the numbers of Ultra-Orthodox Jews in the past 20 years, it is extraordinary that the change is so small.

The headlines could easily have read:

“Almost half of Israeli Jews are not religious”

The sub-heading could have quoted that the survey also showed that:

English: Rainbow flag flapping in the wind wit...

Tel Aviv - number 1 in the world for Gay Tourism

“between 58% – 68% of respondents stated that shopping centres, public transportation, sporting events, cafes, restaurants and cinemas should be allowed to operate on Shabbat. More than half ( 51%) were in favour of civil marriage.

There are various other contradictory elements mentioned, which, taken together, show that it is possible to place any interpretation one wants on the figures. I assume that, for reasons of sensationalism, and in the interests of selling more newspapers, or creating more media attention, the headlines quoted above were chosen.

I am not questioning the motives or techniques used by those who carried out the survey; I’m sure they were well intentioned and professional in their approach. But the road to Hell is often paved with good intentions. Unfortunately, no one can control how the media will manipulate the information.

Statistical surveys are all about interpretation. I can only hope that my understanding is closer to the truth, and that Israel is not descending into religious fundamentalism, in spite of the recent disturbing events involving some Haredi extremists.

Perhaps they were acting out of desperation, feeling that in reality, and despite their best efforts and political clout, they are not winning the battle for the hearts and minds of Israeli Jews.

Anti-Israeli Jews

Not the best example of "The Chosen people"

 

I fervently hope so, otherwise we can kiss goodbye to Herzl’s dream of  “a free people in their own land.”

 

Andyboy – Telling it as it is

 

Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory


Eli Yishai, Israel’s Interior Minister, claims the IDF failed in the Second Lebanon war in 2006.

However, unlike other critics, who judge victory or defeat by military or political criteria, he has decided to add God to the equation. He recently made a speech in which he stated that the IDF failed to win because the soldiers were not religious enough. Among his more outrageous statements were the following gems:

  • ” In the 6 Day War (1967) every Jew, and every Jew that went into battle, raised their eyes to the creator”
  • “….What will save the Jewish People is study of the Torah.”
English: Eli Yishai עברית: אליהו ישי

From his mouth to God’s ears?

Of course, the general response was a mixture of disbelief and anger.  Realising that he had made a a bad political mistake, he sought to retract the remarks, falling back on the familiar claim of being misquoted and alleging that the words were taken out of context – despite the fact that the speech had been recorded.

It is self-evident that his assertions are not supported by the demographic reality. Around 30% of the population classify themselves as secular or atheist. Allowing for the Haredim and Arabs who, for different reasons, do not serve in the IDF, that percentage is considerably higher for serving soldiers.

But the issue I really want to address is his assumption, and that of many other people, that Israel actually lost this war. Whilst it may not have won as resoundingly as most would have hoped, the result was a far cry from defeat. Wars are never perfect; mistakes are made in the heat of battle and the “fog of war” leads to many errors. But this is always in retrospect, and the memory of the failures fades in time.

In this case, it is simply not true that Israel was defeated – with or without God’s help.

Famous commentator, Charles Krauthammer, referring to Nasrallah’s admission that he would not have captured the Israeli soldiers had he foreseen the outcome, wrote: ” ….Hezbollah may have won the propaganda war, but on the ground it lost. Badly.”

Professor Brendan Simms of Cambridge University said: “Hezbollah have suffered a setback (but are too clever to admit it) and the Israelis have scored a long-term success (but are too narrow-minded to realise it.)

Journalist Michael Totten wrote: ” Hezbollah lost, and Hezbollah knows it.” He further stated that Nasrallah’s boasting played well to the Arab world, but the Lebanese people knew that it was just empty rhetoric.

Hassan Nasrallah in south part of Beirut Deuts...

Hassan Nasrallah – misjudged Israel’s response…Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lebanon paid a heavy price for Nasrallah’s misjudgment. Thousands killed or injured; huge destruction of roads, bridges, power stations and the International airport, amounting to at least $5.0 billion (22% of GDP) and a massive loss in tourism and economic growth.

And, as the saying goes. “the proof of the pudding is in the eating” meaning that for more than 5 years the border with Lebanon has been relatively quiet. Of course, the next war is just a question of time, and for sure it will be much more brutal than the last one. One can only hope that Israel has learned the necessary lessons and will be prepared, and willing, to do what must be done to achieve as big a victory as the world will permit.

If all of Israel’s previous wars had been subjected to the same media scrutiny and criticism as the Second Lebanon War, they would not be remembered in the glowing terms that they are today. Time dims the negative aspects, and highlights the positive. For better or worse, we live in a different world than we did. Starting with the Vietnam war, and continuing through almost every war since then, the Western powers, especially the USA and Israel, are no longer permitted the luxury of winning absolutely.

Had the same morality and media pressure been applied to the Second World War, England and the Allied Powers, would not have prevailed. Imagine “carpet bombing”cities in the enlightened 21st century! And Hiroshima and Nagasaki? A cynic might ask “where was God then?”

Perhaps Mr Yishai has the answer!

Andyboy – Telling it as it is

Reference

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2006_Lebanon_War

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Anti-Semitism – in Israel?


Surely that headline must be an oxymoron?

Unfortunately, it isn’t!

I suppose,  strictly speaking,  hatred of Jews BY Jews is not the same as hatred of Jews by Goyim (non-Jews). Maybe it’s not the same – but it’s still feels very real when you see and hear it.

I  moved to Israel almost 25 years ago, and, since then,  have frequently half joked that, to truly understand the basis of anti-Semitism, it is necessary to live here. After half a lifetime of living in the U.K., and experiencing the special nature of British “genteel”anti-Semitism, I fondly imagined that the Jewish state would be different. To the extent that the nature of the anti-Semitic feelings are expressed differently, it’s true. But the hatred is also based on fear of the other and dislike of those who are, in some way, “different from us”.

Unusually, almost uniquely for a British Immigrant, I made my aliyah directly to Eilat.

Eilat, Israel, Panorama

Eilat - changed a lot in 25 years!

Thus I exchanged, overnight, the life of the big city (London) for what was, then, the undeveloped backwater of a tiny seaside town of less than 30,000 inhabitants. To say that I experienced “culture shock”would be an understatement. But, in my innocence then, I took consolation in the fact that at least I now resided in a place where Jews were the majority.

What I quickly learned was that I had simply exchanged one form of anti-Semitism for another; and, in many respects, a form that was much less subtle. I am not referring to the divide between secular and ultra -Orthodox (more on that later) but, rather between Jews from different ethnic and racial backgrounds. Eilat was a town of immigrants who came originally from North Africa;  primarily Morocco and Algeria.

Not having grown up in Israel, I did not witness at first hand the prejudices between different ethnic groups that started in school, developed in the army and blossomed later in the civil society. I can still recall my shock at learning that a girl I was about to employ, had changed her family name. She feared that I, a “White” Jew from London, would not take someone whose name was obviously Moroccan. I then became aware that Jews of European origin ( Ashkenazim) regarded other Jews with darker skins as, literally, “Black”. 

Taking this comparison even further, the conflicts that arose, and still exist, between the ethnic  extremes of Ethiopian and Russian Jews have all the hallmarks of traditional “Jew hatred”.  The optimists explain that these feelings are only natural in such a cosmopolitan mix; they believe that in time successive generations will intermingle and develop an integrated “Israeli” identity.

As a natural pessimist, I am not so sure that the situation will be one of total perfection and acceptance. After 63 years of statehood it is still a big media event when a Judge or Government Minister is appointed from the ranks of the “black” Sephardim. It’s almost as rare as an Arab or Druse being appointed, and the reaction is pretty much the same. I am willing to concede that, at least, some efforts are being made and the goal of integration is not totally unattainable.

Which brings me to the subject of a different kind of “Black”.

Here I refer not to skin colour but to the colour of clothes. The Black coat and hat that symbolises the

Ultra-orthodox Jews in Brooklyn

The chosen people - it's just that some are more chosen than others...

ultra-orthodox Jew – the Haredim. Here, integration is proving much more difficult to achieve. This is hardly surprising when there is such a huge resistance to the concept from many of the Haredim themselves.

Of course, there are Haredim who have chosen to become useful working members of our society. But, even they can only do that if their particular needs or demands are met. Whether in the IDF, or in High Tech industries, there are practical limits and considerations which must be taken into account. Until recently it seemed that some form of uneasy balance had been maintained.

The events of the past weeks, and the open conflict between some of the Haredim and those that they consider “lesser” Jews, have been well publicised and do not need repeating here. They frequently appear not to distinguish between Jews less orthodox than them and non-Jews. Certainly the rhetoric is the same – with the word “Nazis”being thrown freely about.

Yellow badge Star of David called "Judens...

A symbol adopted by Haredim to protest against "lesser" Jews!

It is one of the problems of the secular liberal outlook that its very tolerance is turned against it by religious extremists.

Even those who were neutral in their attitudes have been forced to re-assess their views as incident follows incident. There is a sudden awareness that the creeping tide of religious fundamentalism is about to overwhelm a society within which 30%, at least, define themselves as secular, and even atheist.

I am not dealing now with the causes and justifications, just the reality. Emotions have lead to a hardening of positions on both sides. The epithets and slogans used by each side against the other would not have been out-of-place in the worst of European anti-Jewish demonstrations.

Many years ago Shulamit Aloni was reported as saying “When I see the Haredim,  I can understand the Nazis.” Yigal Tumarkin is famously quoted as stating “when you see the Haredim, you can understand why there was a holocaust.”

Personally, I understand that the sight of hundreds, or even thousands, of Black garbed men rioting, or simply praying in unison, like so many robots, is disturbing to the goyim. It sure frightens the hell out of me!

Un groupe de Haredim (des hassidim, d'après le...

Haredim en-masse

David Ben-Gurion lived to regret that he ever agreed to the exemption of 400 students from the civil commitments of others, so that they could study Torah full time. I understand that he, as an atheist Jew, felt that it was necessary that a handful of  “professional Jews” maintain some traditional link to Judaism. But, not in his wildest nightmares, did he ever imagine that things would come to this in the Jewish state.

And Theodore Hertzl’s belief that the very existence of a Jewish state would bring an end to anti-Semitism only thought about the anti-Semitism of the goyim.

He did not consider the anti-Semitism of the Jews!

 

Andyboy – Telling it as it is

 

” In The Name Of God – Go! “


The words of Oliver Cromwell addressing the English Parliament in 1653.

The full quotation is:” Depart I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”

English: Statue of Oliver Cromwell

Oliver Cromwell - allowed the Jews to return to England

Some might think it ironic that I choose to quote Cromwell, considering that he was instrumental in permitting Jews to return to England after 600 years of exile. (N.B. He was not referring to Jews in this quote).

But I am!

After 63 years, the internecine strife between the different elements of Israeli society has finally reached breaking point. Of course, the signs have been there for decades, but it is only recently that matters have come to a head. Slowly, the battle lines are being drawn in the fight for the soul of Israel.

I am aware that these words may sound melodramatic and hyperbolic, but passion is what is needed if the country is not to become a religious fundamentalist mirror image of Iran. There, the policy is dictated by the Mullahs and the Imams. Do we want our policies to be determined by the Rabbis and leadership of the Haredim?

The very essence of secularism is tolerance, and a philosophy based on understanding and equality. This has been ruthlessly exploited by certain elements of Haredi society and enabled them to gain enormous influence and power, out of all proportion to the 10% of the population that they represent numerically.

Recent events in Beit Shemesh,  Mea Shearim  and on Egged buses have been widely publicised and do not need further elaboration here. Apologists argue that the violence is carried out by a handful of extremists who do not represent the Ultra orthodox as a whole. That may be true of the specific acts, but many Haredim are sympathetic to the ultimate objective; they just differ on the method.

Of course, the “Band-aid” merchants are running around in circles trying to patch up the wounds. They include the Prime Minister and a number of Rabbis and politicians, fearful of the consequences of total religious power.

Even allowing for a certain element of media hysteria, the irreconcilable differences should be finally acknowledged, and not swept under the carpet as they always have been. It is time to face the reality that Israel now comprises of at least 5 distinctly different societies:

  • The Haredim
  • The Nationalist or Traditional religious
  • The Secular (including atheists and agnostics) –  who are, supposedly, the majority.
  • The Arabs
  • The migrant workers, infiltrators and others.
The extent to which these groups can be moulded into a cohesive body – at least with some level of co-existence – is still being tested. With all its problems and imperfections, the multicultural experiment that is Israel, is not a total disaster. Not yet! But the future depends upon the willingness and desire of the groups to co-exist. In this respect most of the groups listed above generally demand more integration into the society. Only the Haredim seek less.
Interestingly, we are simply experiencing history repeating itself. Witness the following item:

“People often talk about David Ben Gurion’s encouragement of Haredi Jews to settle in Israel as his “greatest blunder.” Yet, not even he could foresee the damage the Haredim would cause in the future. Ben Gurion acknowledges the terrible mistake he made in a letter he wrote to his minister, Levi Eshkol, who would later become Israel’s Prime Minister.

English: David Ben Gurion, Israel's Prime Mini...

Ben-Gurion regrets........

Dear Eshkol:

I am not of the opinion that you need my advice in government matters and it is not my intention to lend such advice – however the rioting by religious fanatics exceeds all limits and I feel that I bear the responsibility to some degree. I exempted yeshiva students from doing military service. Indeed I did so when their numbers were small, but they have been steadily increasing and their lawlessness constitutes a danger to the state’s honor. We need not appear in the world as an Alabama or South Africa. I propose that every yeshiva student of age 18 and over who is apprehended at an illegal gathering, throwing rocks, attacking citizens or other acts of violence and hooliganism, should be recruited immediately into the IDF to serve like any other young Israeli, for the term of thirty months, not in the Ministry of Religions, but as a plain soldier. Generally, the entire question of yeshiva students should be examined and whether they should be exempt from military obligation; certainly law-breakers should not enjoy this dubious privilege . . ”  .http://rabbimichaelsamuel.com/

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

(The more things change , the more they stay the same.)

Since its inception, Israel has tolerated and allowed to live in its midst, known religious opponents of the concept of Zionism and the very existence of the state. The Neturei Karta, and their new offshoot the Sicarii, have been regarded simply as extremist religious loonies. Even cosying up to Yasser Arafat and Mahmood Ahmedinijad was shrugged off as inconsequential nonsense.

Now the realisation is setting in that their worldview and the actions that stem from it, are , actually dangerous; not only to the targeted individuals, but to the very fabric of the state. All efforts to integrate them have failed, and are doomed to further failure in the future.
Perhaps now is the time to think the unthinkable. A Jewish state that invites Jews to leave!
Members of the Neturei Karta orthodox group pr...

Loonies in our midst.......

Maybe they should be encouraged to return to their Eastern European roots. Mentally and physically, in terms of dress and outlook, they never left them anyway. Is there another nation in the whole world that enables people to live within it who are committed to its total destruction? I think not. I am not sure how we translate the desire for them to leave into reality. Will asking them nicely work? Or can we be more forceful? At least to the point of paraphrasing Cromwell and saying to them:

“In the name of God – go!”

Andyboy – Telling it as it is