The UN Rewrites History, Distorts Truth and Undermines Peace

Sixty-five years ago yesterday, on November 29, 1947, the United Nations voted in favor of Resolution 181, dividing the British Mandate of Palestine into an independent Jewish State and an independent Arab State.

Yesterday, on November 29, 2012, the United Nations voted to grant the Palestinian delegation the upgraded status of non-member observer state. In doing so, the UN passed a resolution (http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/67/L.28&referer=/english/&Lang=E) that rewrites history, ignores the events of the past 65 years, distorts Israel’s story and undermines the peace process.

Yesterday’s UN resolution ignores the fact that 65 years ago, the Arabs were offered a state which they could have named Palestine.  Instead, the Arabs chose not to create a state but to attack Israel.

In 1947, when the UN attempted to divide Palestine into new Jewish and Arab states – the Jews accepted the plan.  The Arabs not only rejected it – they began a violent campaign against the Jews to stop the establishment of a Jewish State.  On May 14, 1948, the State of Israel was established.  On May 15, 1948 the Arab world, led by Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon attacked the new State of Israel.  Israel’s War of Independence had begun. Miraculously, Israel was able to stand up for herself.  The 1949 Armistice Line (also known as the “Green Line” or the pre-1967 borders), marking where Israeli and Arab forces stopped fighting, cut Jerusalem in half and put the Western Wall under Jordanian control.  Jordan also controlled the West Bank region and Egypt controlled Gaza.  This line was never intended to serve as an official international border.  As was specified as early as the 1949 General Armistice Agreement between Jordan and Israel: “the line that was designated did not compromise any future territorial claims of the two parties, since it had been dictated by exclusively by military considerations.”

Yesterday’s UN resolution distorts the facts by implying that Israel aggressively took land from the Palestinian people.  The West Bank was occupied by Jordan (not Palestine – there was no Palestine) after the Arab nation attempted to annihilate the fledgling Jewish State.  After Jordan attempted once again to destroy Israel in 1967, the Jewish State had no choice but to go on the defensive and force Jordan out of the West Bank.

In 1967, during the Six Day War, Israel was attacked again by her Arab neighbors.  In self-defense, Israel pushed the Jordanians out of Jerusalem and all regions that lay to the west of the bank of the Jordan River – gaining possession of the West Bank region.  Israel also gained control of Gaza – a region she withdrew from in 2005 as part of the “peace-process”.  As we saw just recently, Gaza has been turned into a launching pad for Hamas rockets.

Yesterday’s UN Resolution undermines the peace process and suggests that the “State of Palestine” is defined by the pre-1967 borders – rewriting prior UN documents and interim-agreements which make it clear that borders need to be negotiated and the UN and her nations must promote these negotiation.

In response to the Six Day War, the United Nations Security Council issued Resolution 242 which expressed concern with “the grave situation in the Middle East”.  In addition, the resolution called for the “withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.” The Resolution states that the U.N. must “promote agreement and assist efforts to achieve a peaceful and accepted settlement” between the involved parties.  The Resolution does not call for Israel to withdraw from the entire West Bank and, thus, return to the “pre-1967 borders”.  Some have tried to twist the wording of Resolution 242 by asserting that it calls for the withdrawal of Israel armed forced from THE territories.  But this is not the case.  It has been widely documented by those involved in crafting the Resolution that the language used was intentional.  There was never the expectation that Israel would return to the “1967 borders”.  They were an artificial armistice line that provided no security to Israel.  Withdrawing to the “1967 borders” has never been Israel’s idea of peace and security.  Other important documents and agreements, such as the Oslo Accords, make it clear that Israel and the Palestinian Authority must rely upon bi-lateral negotiations to determine borders and other important issues. Yesterday’s resolution undermined these documents and agreements.

Yesterday’s UN Resolution recognizes the right of the Palestinian people to form a state and live in peace but fails to acknowledge that Palestinian leaders, which include Hamas terrorists, refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish State.  The Resolution, while calling upon Israel to do much to bring about peace, fails to even mention the violence perpetrated against Israelis by those in the Palestinian world.

Israel is willing to live in peace with a Palestinian State.  But, as Prime Minister Netanyahu said yesterday, peace must include recognition of the right of Israel to exist and to live in peace.  One needs to simply look at the hundreds of missiles that hit Israel this month to see how far we are from this recognition.

Only eight nations stood with Israel to oppose yesterday’s resolution – the U.S., Canada, the Czech Republic, Palau, Nauru, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Panama.  These nations stood up for the truth. 138 nations voted in favor of the resolution.  41 abstained.  Israel sees who her friends are – and so do we.  Now, more than ever – it is crucial for us to stand up for Israel and for the American-Israel relationship.

A Prayer For Israel on Thanksgiving

As we gather for Thanksgiving, it is so important that we keep Israel and her people in our prayers.  Please consider sharing these words with your family and friends as you count your blessings on Thursday.

 

Our God, who blessed our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and our mothers Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, please bring peace, strength and comfort to the people of Israel.

 

Please, God, bless the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces and the leaders of Israel. Keep and rescue them from any enemy and trouble, and place your blessing upon all of their endeavors; hear their prayer and ours, and save them.

 

Send, please, your blessing upon the Israeli people.  Comfort the worried mothers and fathers, the families torn from their homes and the children too frightened to play. Please God enfold those living in bomb shelters in the sheltering wings of your protection. You, God, are our redeeming guardian.

 

We pray, God,  that the world open its eyes and ears to the truth and may this truth lead us all to an everlasting peace.

 

Please, God, remember Your covenant with our father Abraham. Truly, a sovereign, gracious and compassionate God are you! Spread over Israel your canopy of peace and fill the lives of our Israeli brothers and sisters with blessings.

 

Amen.

STANDING TOGETHER FOR AND WITH ISRAEL

As you know, Israel is under attack by terrorists who have fired hundred of rockets into the Jewish State over the past few days.  Innocent people have been killed.  Children have had to spend countless hours in bomb shelters.  Israel is taking action to defend herself.

Some of us have family and friends in Israel and we are thinking of them as we prepare to enter Shabbat.  All of us have fellow congregants in Israel.  Benjamin Schachner, the son of Bretta (our President) and Bob, is studying in Tel Aviv this year.  Yesterday, his program evacuated him to Jerusalem.  Quinn Katler, the son of Mitch and Carol and the late Ronni, is a medical student in Tel Aviv who spent part of yesterday in a bomb shelter.  With the help of modern technology (Skype and Facetime) both Benjamin and Quinn will be joining us live for Kabbalat Shabbat services tonight at 7:30PM.  Please join us – show your support for Benjamin, Quinn and everyone in Israel.  Hear directly from people affected by this crisis.  Your presence will be so important.

I also want to remind you to log in to Israeli websites to get up to date information.  I suggest jpost.comhaaretz.com and ynetnews.com.  There is awful anti-Israel bias in the mainstream media.  Honestreporting.com exposes this bias.  You can get updates from the Israel Defense Forces on Twitter by following@IDFSpokesperson.  One of my favorite blogs that will keep you up to date is http://israelisoldiersmother.blogspot.com/.  Please remember, when you hear about the war between Israel and Hamas – Israel is a sovereign nation.  Hamas is a terrorist organization.  Hamas is firing rockets into Israel – targeting civilians as they go about their daily lives.  Israel is defending herself – attempting to do everything in her power to stop the terrorists from harming Israelis.  Israel has every right to defend herself and stop Hamas.  May she succeed and may Israel know true peace.

It Doesn’t End With Election Day

Thankfully, the political ads and phone calls have stopped.  But, this should not be a signal that we can turn our attention away from the national stage.  Our passion to make things better in our country should not stop on Election Day.  We can’t expect our elected officials to fix everything on their own.  Nor can we expect our elected officials to do everything we want them to do – especially if we remain silent.  I hope you will refocus your pre-election passion into post-election responsibility.  Get involved in the healing of our great country and help determine the direction we take in the years ahead.

This being said, I share with you two organizations that have just been brought to my attention – organizations that are on the ground doing incredible things to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy.  As you know, so many people are still suffering – and, to make matters worse, they are dealing with the effects of another storm and freezing temperatures.  As I shared with you last week, there are some incredible grassroots organizations, including the Niederhoffer Foundation and 596 Acres, working in New York and New Jersey to assist the victims:

 Niederhoffer Foundation – Sandy Relief

http://www.indiegogo.com/NFSandyRelief

596 Acres

http://596acres.org/en/news/rockaway-current-needs/

Unrelated to Sandy, but in response to this week’s election, I want to reiterate what I shared with you during the High Holidays: the 113th Congress, which was elected on Tuesday, will contain 91 new members.  Many of these newly elected members of Congress, like many of the 106 members elected in 2010, have little to no understanding of Israel and the American-Israel relationship.  Those of us who care about Israel and the strength of the American-Israel relationship must insure that our national leaders appreciate just how much we want the United States to support the Jewish State.  You can do your part by joining me in Washington, D.C. March 3-5 for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Conference.  This Conference will bring you face to face with America’s leaders and educate you on the key issues facing Israel today and the need for us all to work together to strengthen America’s bond with the Jewish State.  You can find out more information about AIPAC and the Conference by visiting http://www.aipac.org.  Please let me know if you want to join me in Washington!

I thank you in advance for taking a stand and doing your part to make a difference.

What the Republicans and Democrats Can Learn From The Jewish Sages

Early Wednesday morning, many of us watched as Governor Romney conceded the election, congratulated President Obama and said: “the nation chose another leader.  And so Ann and I join with you to earnestly pray for him and for this great nation.”

Governor Romney continued the longstanding tradition in our country that requires the loser of a campaign to declare that the “voice of the people,” as expressed in their democratic vote, has spoken and the other guy won. Romney’s words, like the words of many men who have lost the Presidency before him, suggest that the 58 million voters who selected Governor Romney, 48% of the electorate, are simply and quietly subsumed into the majority that chose President Obama – 61 million Americans or 50% of the electorate.

This ritual characterizes what is truly amazing about our country.  There was no rebellion.  No revolution.  No bloodshed.  There will be a peaceful inauguration in January and life will go on – for better or for worse.  And President Obama is our President.

Despite the fact that 48% of the people voted for the other guy, the idea that President Obama’s election reflects the voice of the people is, at its core, a Jewish concept.

The Sanhedrin, the ancient Jewish court of law, made its decisions by majority vote. Questions of life and death, war and peace, were decided by a majority of the 71 sages who sat on the Sanhedrin. This has been the practice throughout Jewish history.  The Talmud teaches us that  “where there is a controversy between an individual and the many, the law follows the many” (Ber. 9a).  The sages of the Talmud explain the existence of this rule as a practical necessity.  The Torah leaves much room for interpretation of the law.  It is not always clear and, thus, religious leaders have needed to make decisions, vote and rule. If the Torah had been given in the form of an exhaustive codex, the Talmud says, “the world could not have existed” (TJ, Sanh. 4:2, 22a; cf. Mid. Ps. 82:3).

Dating back to the ancient Sanhedrin, Judaism teaches that majority rule means that once a vote is taken or a decision is reached, the minority is subsumed into the majority, and it is no longer the majority of the Sanhedrin, but the Sanhedrin as a whole, which has ruled. This principle applied to lower courts, councils and communities, as well.

This notion that the minority or dissenting opinion is swallowed by the larger majority plays out in other aspects of Judaism.

When forbidden and permitted foods get mixed together, the status of the entire mixture can be determined by the greater quantity. For example, if you accidentally mix forbidden and permitted food and the ratio of permitted food to forbidden food is 60:1, you are allowed to eat the mixture.  The “minority” (forbidden food) doesn’t matter.  The lesser amount of forbidden food is subsumed into the greater amount of permitted food, and it no longer exists.

And so, when Governor Romney spoke about the nation choosing President Obama – ignoring the 48% of the nation that chose him, he was continuing not just an American tradition, but an ancient Jewish tradition.

However, many of you know that if you get two Jews in one room, you will get three opinions.  There is another side of the Jewish story….one that does not call for the suppression of the minority.

The story is told of a Christian cleric who asked of the young Torah scholar, Rabbi Yonaton Eybeshutz (1690-1764), the following question: “It’s written in your own Torah that you must follow the majority. If so, you Jews must all convert to Christianity, for we, after all, are the majority.” To this, Rabbi Eybeshutz replied: “The rule of the majority applies only in cases of doubt. When it comes to the truth of the Torah, we have no doubt. Therefore, the majority does not rule.”

This shows us that, Judaism ALSO teaches us that if and when you believe you are right – yet your opinion is not embraced by the majority – you need not adhere to the majority opinion,

More specifically, you may continue to express your minority opinion and even say that the majority has made a mistake in ruling the way they have, but you may not instruct in practice according to the minority opinion.  If a rule was passed that you disagree with – you cannot teach people to follow a rule that violates the accepted rule.  If you did so in ancient times, you were considered a “rebellious scholar” and would face punishment.

Some Jewish scholars have argued over the centuries that rules and laws could not be enacted without the agreement of the entire community.  Once the entire community enacts something – a person who violates the rules and laws may be fined.  Furthermore, certain sages have argued that the minority could not be compelled by the community to comply with a decision of the majority to which it had been opposed.  These sages supported the notion of freedom of expression.

The rabbinic tradition that supported the rights of the minority grew out of the practices of two ancient teachers, Hillel and Shammai.  Each teacher had a school of followers and each school practiced the law in accordance with the teachings of either Hillel or Shammai – and both teachers practiced Jewish law quite differently.

One of the most famous disagreements between Hillel and Shammai focuses upon the lighting of the Chanukah Menorah.  Hillel teaches that on the first night of Chanukah, we light one candle – adding one each night.  Shammai teaches that on first night of Chanukah, we light all eight candles and take one away each night.

For a time, the students of Hillel and Shammai followed the teachings of their respective spiritual and educational leader.  However, as these students increased in number, it quickly became obvious that there were two distinct ways of practicing Judaism – either Hillel’s way or Shammai’s way.  It was as if there was two Torahs!?  And this was not okay because it seemed to be leading to the creation of two separate religious groups.

At the beginning of the second century, in an effort to preserve the unity of Judaism, the original uniformity of Jewish practice that existed during the time of the Sanhedrin was restored.  The rabbis decided that “both the teachings of Hillel and Shammai are the words of the living God, but the law is in accordance with the School of Hillel” (TJ, Ber. 1d).

Hillel became the majority view – and thus, we light the Chanukiyah his way.  But Shammai – being relegated to the minority opinion – was NOT silenced.

This trend continued and is visible in page after page of Talmud where the opinions of those who did not agree with the majority are recorded, often in great detail and still studied to this very day.

The majority view and the minority view were and are both seen as “the words of the living Gd” – and they still are in our Jewish world – teaching and guiding us.

Rabbi Jehiel Michal Epstein (1835-1905) saw the diversity of Jewish opinions as the “glory of the Torah”. The Rabbi compares this glory to a choir made up of many voices:

For those who truly understand, all of the disputes of the rabbis and scholars are truly the words of living God, and each of them have validity in Jewish law. In truth, that is the glory of our holy and pure Torah. All of the Torah is called “song,” and the glory of a song is when the voices are different from each other. That is the essence of its beauty.

Returning to 2012 and the election that we all took part in.  48% – a huge “minority” – voted for Governor Romney.  50% – the clear majority voted for President Obama – and he is our President for another four years.  The 48%, the 50% and the other 2% (whomever they voted for) – they – we – are part of the choir of America – the song of our country.  And the glory of our song is when the voices are different from each other.  That is the essence of its beauty.

I have heard too many people say things like – “thank Gd those idiots who supported Romney were shut down” or “dear Gd help us because those idiots who supported Obama won”.  I find these comments – coming from both sides – so offensive and so not Jewish.

Those who supported and voted for Governor Romney and President Obama are part of the song of America – a song that is extremely diverse and, right now, because of all the negativity, extremely dissonant.  We are split – almost down the middle.  The 48% that lost can try to keep singing their own version of this song – hoping to out-sing the majority.  The 50% that won can keep singing their own version of this song – hoping to drown out the minority.  We can ignore each other.  We can call each other names.   We can stop singing all together.

Or, we can appreciate that the beauty of our song lies in the different voices that are singing it.

President Obama and Speaker Boehner – the most powerful Democrat and Republican leaders in our nation – need to learn from Hillel and Shammai and the countless other sages of our tradition.  The majority rules.  But the minority is never silenced.  And together – the majority and the minority form the lessons, the songs, the stories that teach and inspire the generations to come.  May the story and song of our country over the next few years be harmonious and inspirational.

Passing The Test Called “Hurricane Sandy”

In this week’s Torah portion we read the controversial story of Abraham taking his son Isaac to the top of a mountain and offering him as a sacrifice   Abraham does this because he is told by God to take his son to the top of the mountain and do this to him. The Torah teaches us that this was a test given to Abraham by God. This test this demand, to take his son to the top of the mountain and offer him as a sacrifice Is something that many argue Abraham passes. They argue this because Abraham does as God tells him to do. There are others, like myself who argue that Abraham failed the test because God truly wanted Abraham to say “NO I will not do this!” But tonight, I don’t want to talk about whether Abraham failed or passed the test. Tonight, I want to talk about whether or not we have passed or failed the test.

And what test am I talking about? Obviously, as far as I know, none of us have been contacted by God and asked to take our child to the top of the mountain and offer him or her as a sacrifice. And if we were I would hope that we would say “NO!” and of course seek psychiatric help immediately! The test that I am talking about comes in a different form. And when I tell you what the test is some of you might be horrified for a few minutes until you hear me out. The test that I am wondering if we have passed or failed has already been given to us.  We just haven’t completed it yet.  This test came in the form of Hurricane Sandy.

Now you know that I don’t believe in a God that creates natural disasters to punish people. I don’t believe in a God that actively seeks to punish, harm or hurt anyone. But I do believe that a natural disaster has occurred and God is now watching us and observing how we respond to this horrific event.  God did not create the test. Mother nature created the test. But God wants to see if we pass or fail.

So how do we pass the test. Given that Judaism teaches us we are God’s partners being responsible for bringing about Tikun Olam, healing of the world, it seems obvious how we can pass this test. We open up our hearts and our pocketbooks and give to the charitable organizations that are out there doing the relief work. I sent you earlier today and will continue to update you on incredible social service agencies, restaurants and other types of organizations that are on the front lines, in the trenches, with the people of New Jersey, New York City, Staten Island – doing things, practical things, to make a real difference right now.

We’ve all seen the images on tv, the pictures in the newspapers the first-hand accounts of people sharing their stories from the storm I watched on television this morning as they interviewed a woman who had only $15 to her name. No credit cards. Her house was destroyed. She had no clothing. She had no food. She was in her car trying to fill it up with gas so that she could go and get food for her children.

You probably saw the images yesterday of people in New York City the heart of the world one of the most affluent locations in the world, doing what they call “dumpster diving” – diving in a large dumpster outside of a grocery store to find food to feed themselves and their family

You’re hearing the stories of people who have no electricity or are trapped in their apartments and have nobody to turn to. It is a nightmare

And we are being given a test. Are we going to pass?

I’m pretty certain that most of us in this room are going to make some sort of a donation to help the people up north. But is this enough for us to pass the test?

And what exactly is this modern test? Is it simply about how we respond to Hurricane Sandy?

What do we do with the fact that  today, right now:

  •  3.1 million people will go to bed hungry.  
  • 1.1 million of these will be children.  Children going to bed hungry.

What do we do with the fact that today, right now:

  • 75,000 people are completely without a home.  With nothing.  No roof over their head.  And the cold weather is coming.

What do we do with the fact that today, right now:

  •  For those with homes – many are struggling with lack of electricity and damage in the homes.

What do we do with the fact that today, right now:

  • Countless people can’t get prescriptions filled.

I talked to one lady yesterday, let’s call her Dora, she had $5 to her name.  She couldn’t buy gas.  Couldn’t buy groceries for her 3 children.

What do we do with this information?  These startling facts?

What we do with these facts and how we do our part to solve them – this will determine whether we pass the test…..

And here is the key:  Dora – the lady with $5 to her name, she lives in Plantation.  She can’t buy groceries for her kids here.  The 3.1 million people who go to bed hungry, the 1.1 million being children – those are for people living in Florida.  And the 75,000 homeless, again, that applies to Florida.

What happened in New York and New Jersey is horrific.  Shocking!  The images are bombarding us daily.  We want to act and we SHOULD act.  But acting for those affected by Sandy – that won’t allow us to pass this test.  Sandy – our test – should open our eyes to the reality that the nightmare we see on tv – it takes other forms and plays out right in our own back yard.  It is called human suffering.  And it is here in Florida, in Broward, in Plantation – at Ramat Shalom.  Some of you know Dora.

We pass the test when we truly partner with Gd and make Tikun Olam – healing the world – an on going activity in our lives.  When we don’t rely upon others to help people.  We do it ourselves.  We don’t think of human suffering as something that happens THERE – but something that takes place HERE.  We pass the test when we truly become aware of the struggle of others and open our pocketbooks if we can – but also, and more importantly, our eyes and ears and hearts and souls to the pain that exists all around us – right now!

We need to let our test – Hurricane Sandy – burst our ideal little bubble and allow us to realize that many of the struggles in NY and NJ are daily struggles for so many people all over.  If we allow this to happen, if we allow that bubble to burst – we will pass the test.