Tag Archives: Gaza

Friday Feature: What Are You Thankful For This Week?

It’s time for the Friday Feature again, where I ask you what good things happened to you this week. This is direct from Telushkin’s Book of Jewish Values, Day 69.

This is a regular Friday morning feature for this blog. Telushkin intended his book to provide topics for Shabbat discussions for at least a year, as each “week” is composed of six values (one per day) and then Shabbat, where he encourages us to talk about those values at our Shabbat dinners and services. I feel that the idea of gratitude is so central to Jewish practice that we should be reminded weekly of what we might be grateful for.

While I know that this might seem a little self-centered, I’m also doing this so that people will have some food for thought for their own Shabbat dinners about what they might be thankful for. I generally talk about the following areas of my life: work and career; family and friends; health; household; my conversion studies; miscellaneous life; and the wider world. Feel free to add or subtract as necessary for your own use.


Shabbat ShalomToday I have an enormous amount to be grateful for, both from the past week and going into the new week. 

I have been offered a class at a new school, and the hiring paperwork meeting will be this coming week, which will get that squared away and get me started on an online class for the last half of the semester. I’ve also got many students petitioning to add my classes, which is admittedly a big ego boost for me. And I’ve finished my first full week of classes, mostly unscathed! And I’ve been told I’ll have a full schedule in the spring at at least one school, which is also fantastic news.

My partner and I have moved towards our marriage plans – tentatively, but it’s still motion towards. My kids were here last weekend and that was simply lovely; the older one was a huge help with chores and the younger, although laid up with a sprained foot, was wonderful company. Tonight my partner is going to go with me to temple and the pre-service oneg, which has me very excited that he’s showing interest in my conversion. 

My health seems to be all right. Even though I’ve had a bad backache, I can still move and do what needs to be done, which is a good thing. 

I got in four hours of cleaning in my home today, including (finally) deep-cleaning the bathroom where our late cat, Mimi, had lived before she had to be put down. I have had trouble going in there but today I finally got it taken care of, which is an accomplishment. It’s now a usable bathroom again. I’m trying out a new smaller reduction of my challah recipe to see if it will work in the little pan. A half reduction still rose wayyy outside the pan edge when I last tried it, which resulted in a mountain of bread with a little challah on top. If this one works (I reduced my original recipe into one-third), I’ll take this small loaf with me to the oneg tonight and cook a larger one for here at home – or, maybe, the other way around. Who knows? (Edited to add: It worked! Exactly the right amount of dough for that pan. I’m making a second one as I write this, to take to the oneg. Whee!)

I’m also considering finding repurposed items to use as ritual items, instead of spending money on spendy items that I can’t afford. I am not sure what I’d repurpose for a Havdalah candle-holder, but I can see repurposing a spice jar as a Havdalah spice-box, for example. Some of my ritual items are already repurposed; most notably, a goblet a friend of mine gave me is my Kiddush cup. 

Now that my preps are done and my classes have started, I can start really working on my Hebrew studies again. That starts this coming week, with actual scheduled time for me to spend on it every single day. No more shirking!

I am very thankful for the new cease-fire in Gaza and the intimations that a longer peace may be coming. Long may it hold. 

What are you thankful for this week?

Shabbat shalom! I’ll see you on Sunday, most likely.


 

Image credit: “Shabbat Shalom” by Karen on Flickr: “Shabbat Shalom” by Karen at Flickr:http://preview.tinyurl.com/lbayfzu Used under Creative Commons License.  

1 Comment

August 29, 2014 · 1:08 pm

Friday Feature: What Are You Thankful For This Week?

It’s time for the Friday Feature again, where I ask you what good things happened to you this week. This is direct from Telushkin’s Book of Jewish Values, Day 69.

This is a regular Friday morning feature for this blog. Telushkin intended his book to provide topics for Shabbat discussions for at least a year, as each “week” is composed of six values (one per day) and then Shabbat, where he encourages us to talk about those values at our Shabbat dinners and services. I feel that the idea of gratitude is so central to Jewish practice that we should be reminded weekly of what we might be grateful for.

While I know that this might seem a little self-centered, I’m also doing this so that people will have some food for thought for their own Shabbat dinners about what they might be thankful for. I generally talk about the following areas of my life: work and career; family and friends; health; household; my conversion studies; miscellaneous life; and the wider world. Feel free to add or subtract as necessary for your own use.


I have a lot to be thankful for going into this coming week, and finishing this past week. For starters, as long as enrollment holds up and funding holds up, I’ll have classes in the fall. I’m also almost done with my preps for those classes, except for their exams, which I’ll be tweaking and polishing over the next week or so. Today I plan to work on editing the final groups of Powerpoints so I’m all set to go on Monday. 

There are a number of possible jobs that I can apply to for full-time work starting next fall, and that’s the other major thing on my plate work-wise. There’s one in Los Angeles that is especially tempting so I’m going to work on that next week. 

I presented a paper with my co-author at a conference a week ago today, and it was very well received. My partner and I then spent the weekend with friends in the Bay Area. We stayed at a friend’s house; she’s also a convert and we had a very meaningful Shabbat dinner with her. Afterwards, she gave me my very first Havdalah candle, and I was very touched that she would think of me that way. Overall, the weekend last weekend was a very good (and Jewish!) one, spent with people I care about. (Completely coincidentally, my co-author is also a Jew, although a secular one.)

My kids are healthy and happy, my partner is healthy and happy, and most of my friends are in a good place right now, which is good. 

My health is reasonably good at this point. I’m trying to pay more attention to what I put in my mouth (I tend to be a stress eater) and that’s helped me have fewer pains and problems. 

Getting to talk with the new rabbi was a really big deal for me. I’ve arranged for the services I want to attend for High Holy Days, so that’s also in the works, and that makes me really excited. Now that the stress of the preps is winding down, I’ll have more time to crack the Hebrew studies again. The rest of my study is pretty much “on hold” until formal classes start in the spring. My partner has also expressed some cautious interest in going to the classes and, perhaps, converting with me. (This makes me tremendously excited.) Right now, my conversion is largely focused on practice, as it should be.

In terms of miscellaneous life stuff and the wider world, I’m trying to focus always on the positive, while still being realistic about it. I had a bad bout with depression last week but it got better once I was able to throw myself back into prepping and working. Also, Robin Williams’ death, while a horrifying thing in itself, has raised public awareness of depression, bipolar disorder, and Parkinson’s disease in ways that I don’t think he would have expected it to. (And for his death: baruch dayan emet, and may his memory be a blessing.) I also admit that I’m meanly pleased that his ashes were scattered in San Francisco Bay the day after his death, and that the Westboro Baptist “Church” won’t have a chance to protest his funeral because it was done before they even began to plan to disrupt it. 

The situations in Gaza and Ferguson are upsetting, of course, but even there I can find things to be thankful for. I am thankful for all the community members in Ferguson who stood guard over stores to either stop looting that had begun or prevent it from happening in the first place. I am thankful for the cease-fire lasting as long as it did in Gaza, and hopeful that we will soon see a longer truce. And I pray, every day, for the victims in both of those places and hope for a speedy resolution to the tensions. 

And as long as I’m mentioning Ferguson, here’s some specifically Jewish food for thought. Why Jews Should Care About Ferguson

Shabbat Shalom, everyone. I’ll try to update again on Sunday. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Conversion Process, Day-to-Day, Israel

Gaza update: Five-day ceasefire extension.

I’ll just leave this here. 

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28782224

Let’s hope the ceasefire continues and that somehow we get what needs to happen out of it. 

1 Comment

Filed under Israel

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/palestinians-quit-gaza-talks-israel-show-24917164

Apparently another ceasefire is in effect for 72 hours from Sunday morning at midnight.

Hamas wants an end to the blockade in order to extend this truce. Israel wants Hamas to disarm and won’t lift the blockade due to the risk of arms smuggling if they do.

And, of course, there’s still that little problem where Hamas wants to eradicate Israel and all Jews.

So I’m not celebrating yet, and I’m not holding my breath.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Israel

I would love to be wrong, but…

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28687379

There has been a ceasefire since Tuesday. In Cairo, there are attempts to extend it into a long-term truce.

Israel is willing.

Hamas is not.

I would love to be wrong here. I would love for Hamas to prove me wrong here. I would love for my friends to be able to say “I told you so.”

But the other day I said that Hamas will not negotiate. And of the two parties involved here, they are the ones refusing to negotiate or extend the truce.

I wish they would prove me wrong.

I do not approve of what they’re doing. I do not approve of them firing from civilian areas and using civilians as human shields (never mind that it doesn’t meet the UN definition of using people as human shields by force; they fire from civilian areas and thereby make those areas into targets). I do not approve of Israel not trying to find better ways to handle this problem than firing back into civilian areas, but I understand why they’re doing it. I get it that Gaza is a heavily populated area and that civilians have no place to go, but Hamas had the construction materials to create bomb shelters and instead they used that material to create tunnels under the border into Israel. So don’t tell me that they couldn’t have taken care of this. They could have. They chose not to. If they were a legitimate government, they would have built bomb shelters for their population. Instead, they fire off rockets from residential neighborhoods.

As I said, there is no 100% clean place to stand here. But Hamas is not a government. Sure, the Palestinians elected Hamas to run the country, but Hamas is not doing that. They are not providing food, water, shelter, or safety for the citizens of Gaza – quite to the contrary. So don’t tell me that they were legitimately elected and that therefore they are the government of Gaza. They’re not behaving like a government. If they were, they’d provide their citizens with food, water, shelter, jobs, air-raid sirens, and bomb shelters. They’re not doing any of that, now are they? No. They’re behaving like what they are – a terrorist organization propped up by Qatar and other Arabic states that want Israel wiped off the map. They are putting the citizens of Gaza on ground zero and ignoring the real human consequences while exploiting those consequences for political gain around the world.

Also, let’s not forget that the Arabic nations were entirely supportive of Hitler’s efforts to eradicate the Jews. That’s also an issue here. History does not go away just because the current situation is horrible.

Again, the Palestinians are caught in this crossfire. That is horrific and unacceptable. But let’s also be clear here: Hamas has the ability to stop this, and it is refusing to do so.

2 Comments

Filed under Israel

About Israel and Palestine and Hamas.

I know that for many people in the blogosphere, the issue of what’s going on in Israel is black-and-white, a struggle for freedom by a subjugated people against a big bad nasty evil government that has superior firepower and military strength. Subjugated people in the form of Palestinians in Gaza: check. Evil government in the form of the Israeli government that is dropping bombs on innocent civilians in Gaza: check. Hamas as freedom-fighters for the subjugated Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank: check. That’s the narrative. Oh, and let’s add in here: Israeli government refusing to negotiate with those freedom-fighters, which makes it even worse and more despotic and so forth. Check.

If you read most news right now, that’s the story you’re being told about what’s going on in Gaza.

But let me ask you this: does the fact that nearly all of the nations which surround Israel (except for Egypt and, possibly, Jordan) want Israel wiped off the map because it is a Jewish state matter in this black-and-white debate? Hamas is yet another iteration of Arabic terrorism against Jews and another attempt to eliminate Israel as a nation. Does that matter? Does it matter that Palestine was offered 95% of the land they wanted as well as independent statehood, and rejected it because the offer did not include the elimination of Israel as a nation?

Also, please note the distinctions between “Israelis” and “Jews,” as well as the distinctions between “Hamas” and “Palestinians.” If you fail to make these distinctions, I’m going to dismiss what you have to say. Not all Israelis are Jews. Not all Jews are Israelis. Not all Jews who are Zionists are okay with what’s going on in Gaza. Not all Palestinians are supporters of Hamas.

This is not a black-and-white issue. It can’t be.

There’s also the fact that Hamas is hiding munitions in civilian spaces on purpose, to create civilian deaths when Israel moves to eliminate those munitions, as good, bloody, splashy, horrific PR for Hamas’ side.

I am NOT okay with civilian deaths in Palestine. I am not okay with death generally. I am not okay with war. But I don’t see a way out of this that preserves Israel as a state and also preserves the lives of the people in Gaza unless Hamas agrees to stand down and get out of Gaza, which it’s already made clear that it will not do.

I also see this as fundamentally different from other scenarios where a small group of “freedom fighters” fight against a large, established nation. Normally, that nation is not surrounded by other nations that want it to disappear. Israel is. You can blather on that Hamas is fighting the big bad Israeli monster, but that monster pales compared to the monsters Israel has to fight (every Arabic nation except Egypt and possibly Jordan, for starters).

Let’s be clear, here: Hamas is not a set of freedom fighters struggling to liberate a subjugated people. It is an opportunistic terrorist group that is using a subjugated people as cannon fodder to make itself look like a set of freedom fighters. The Palestinians are the main victims here – that’s not in dispute. But Hamas also has Israel over a barrel because Hamas will not negotiate.

Meanwhile, the international community is coming down on Israel for not being open to a peaceful solution. Well, until Hamas (and the neighbor Arab states surrounding Israel) give up their demand that Israel cease to exist, there can be no peaceful solution here. And folks, that is not Israel’s fault. If I told you “The only negotiation token I’ll accept is if you agree to commit suicide and cease to exist,” it’s not your fault if you reject it. You would be crazy if you didn’t.

There is no good, 100% clean place to stand here. I cannot support the elimination of Israel. But by supporting Israel’s right to exist, I appear to also support the deaths of Palestinian civilians who have been placed in harm’s way by Hamas. I do not support their deaths. But those who support the Palestinians also, by definition, appear to support Hamas.

Let’s be clear here. Hamas is to blame for this entire situation. It is Hamas and its supporters who could easily end this if they would accept the presence of a Jewish state in the region and a two-state solution for Gaza and the West Bank. It is not the Palestinians’ fault. They don’t deserve what’s happening to them. But what is happening to them is Hamas’ fault (and the fault of all of its supporters in the area).

So, don’t be a supporter of Hamas, please. If you are, I will think less of you. Support the Palestinians all you like and I’ll agree with you. I support a two-state solution in Gaza and the West Bank. But be aware that Hamas does not support a two-state solution, and it never will support a two-state solution. And factor that fact into your position when you post on this topic.

So, given that Hamas will not negotiate – keep that in mind, now – and that their ultimate goal is the elimination of Israel as a politically recognized state – again, for Hamas this is not negotiable – what, exactly, would you do as the Israeli government? Before you answer, consider that most of the Arabic states that surround Israel also want Israel wiped off the map. Also consider that many Israelis are not Jews.

Tougher than it looks, isn’t it?

Please stop making sweeping condemnations of Israel for what’s going on in Israel. Yes, what is happening to Palestinians should not be happening. Yes, it’s awful. But the fact is, Hamas will not negotiate, and Hamas is setting Palestinians up to be targeted by using civilian locations like schools, and hospitals, and mosques for the storage of arms and armaments, while also telling Palestinians to ignore Israel’s bombing warnings and refusing to give Palestinians any sort of safe shelters (although it could have and has not). Short of a full-on ground invasion of Gaza and the arrest of every last member of Hamas (which is kind of like trying to spear every last bit of Jell-O with a fork – try it sometime), what else is Israel supposed to do here? Roll over and die? I have not seen any viable suggestions, only condemnations. A suggestion that they should negotiate with Hamas fails from the get-go because HAMAS WILL NOT NEGOTIATE HERE.

So given that Hamas will not negotiate, what’s your solution? When you have one, let me know.

And in the meantime, please acknowledge the full reality of the situation, instead of supporting a terrorist group that created this situation in the first place.

7 Comments

Filed under Israel

Gaza

23 Tamuz 5774

Sometimes it’s hard to sort out fact from propaganda.

Here’s the issues I know about in Gaza at this point. Please correct me with documentary evidence if I’m wrong on any of these things, because this is only what I’ve been able to find out from various news sources. And please be aware that we are NOT discussing the behavior of individual Israelis or Palestinians (and yes, both sides apparently have cheering sections that celebrate the deaths of people on the opposing side – which is frankly appalling and shameful).

In this post, I am only talking about the interactions of a sovereign state, Israel, with a terrorist group, Hamas. (Anyone who comments accusing me of anti-Arab or, for that matter, anti-Islam bias will be blocked and their comment deleted. Hamas is not all Arabs or all Muslims.)

1. Gaza, for its residents, is very much like the shtetls in Poland were for the Jews. This is obviously not an acceptable situation. Yes, it is an apartheid state. Yes, a two-state solution where Palestinians establish their own sovereign state is the most optimal solution.

2. Hamas is not Palestine or all Palestinians, and people need to stop equating the two because they are not the same. Palestinians are people who currently live in Gaza. Hamas is a terrorist group masquerading as a government. It does not recognize Israel as a sovereign state and has, in at least one documented instance, stated that its goal is to destroy Israel and kill all Jews (if it can). Since that is its goal, and since it does not recognize Israel as a sovereign state, it refuses to enter into any negotiations for cease-fires or other solutions. 

3. Israel, as far as I know, warns both Gazans and Israelis when bombs or rockets are incoming and warns them to get to safety. In Israel, there are bomb shelters for people who must leave their homes, provided by the Israeli government. Meantime, in Gaza, Hamas tells people to ignore Israeli warnings, while not providing any shelters for people who are going to be bombed. Hamas also stores its munitions in schools, hospitals, and mosques, making these civilian spaces into military targets.

To me, at this point, from where I’m sitting in the safety of my home in the United States, it looks like Israel is doing the best it can to eliminate Hamas military stockpiles while trying to get civilians on both sides out of the way of the conflict. It also looks like Hamas (not the Palestinians) is doing the best it can to make that impossible while painting Israel as a bully and Palestinians as innocent victims. I agree that the Palestinians who have died are innocent victims. But Hamas could make this stop by coming to the negotiating table, and it isn’t doing that. Therefore, the innocent victims are victims of Hamas.

It is not blaming the victim to hold Hamas responsible for deaths it could have prevented by either providing shelter or, I don’t know, storing its munitions in military spaces instead of civilian ones. Hamas is not the victim here. Palestinians are.

Tell me, how is it that Israel is the bad guy when it delivers warnings to Palestinians in Gaza that they need to evacuate areas that are going to be shelled? How is it that Israel is the bad guy when Hamas is apparently routinely using schools, hospitals and mosques as munitions storage (Israel does not)? How is it that Israel is the bad guy when it warns its people to get into bomb shelters when Hamas rockets are on their way, while Hamas does not warn any of the people living in Gaza that they are in danger, or even worse, tells them to ignore Israeli warnings of impending bombings?

Hamas is a terrorist group that is not taking any precautions for the people it claims to be governing in Gaza. It is Hamas’ fault, not the fault of the Palestinians, that so many Palestinians are dead. Hamas could stop what’s happening by agreeing to a cease-fire and negotiations. It is not doing that. It is, in fact, creating the problem by letting Palestinians in Gaza die when it could a) stop making them into targets and b) start warning them when they have become targets.

And yet people still tell me that I’m blaming the victim when I say these things. They say that it’s all Israel’s fault for shelling Gaza. They give me images of places being shelled by Israelis and make fun of my position that Hamas is at fault for this. “Aw, lookit the poor little Israeli murderer with his eyes full of tears as he shells Gaza with his bombs, look how sorry he is to have to do this” was one such salvo.

But here’s the thing none of them are paying attention to: they are only looking at the immediate, short-term events. They are not looking at the longer historical arc or the long-term results. The fact is, even if Israel stopped shooting and shelling and withdrew from Gaza, even if Israel made a public, formal statement through Prime Minister Netanyahu that Gaza is now a sovereign Palestinian state in Israel’s eyes, that would not end this conflict. Because Hamas wants the conflict. It wants the bad press. Hamas will not stop firing rockets into Israel because Hamas wants Israel destroyed. And yet when I say these things people shrug it off as if Israel had all the power in this situation. Let’s be clear here: It doesn’t. If it did, this conflict would already be over.

Opposing Hamas is not anti-Arab or anti-Islam. Opposing Hamas is not opposing the rights of the people of Gaza, or of Palestinians more generally, to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Opposing Hamas is opposing terrorism.

Of course, I want sane and logical solutions, but ideology doesn’t allow for that, now does it?

3 Comments

Filed under Israel