Thursday, 19 April 2018

March of the Living and why I support it (Part Two)

Last week, I wrote an article in support of continuing the “March of the Living,” where young Yisraelis visit Poland and the death camps, an experience which many of those who partake in it describe as a deeply meaningful one. It is one that is mingled with sadness, agony on the one hand and joy and victory on the other.

Soon after I published my article, a dear friend who opposes this endeavor, sent me an article written several years ago by a Holocaust survivor, Ruth Bondy. It is entitled, “After we, the Holocaust Survivors, are gone.”

Very few can argue with Holocaust survivors about their trials which, naturally, helped shape their views. No one ever could and probably never would be able to grasp the abominable ordeals that they have been through. No one could speak in their name. We can only listen to their stories and admire them for their inner strength, endurance and the sacrifices they had to make.
We can, however, disagree with some of their views. And on this subject, I beg to differ with Ms. Bondy.

Reading her words, I sense a somber timbre, a trace of disappointment and doubt in the ability of many to carry on the survivors’ torch and share with the world their torments and tribulations. “Many will be relieved,” she writes, as she goes on to name some of those organizations, politicians and government agencies that might be relieved when the Holocaust survivors are no more.
In that, I fully agree with her. The miracle of their survival may be a burden to some.

However, I was somewhat surprised to read her suggestion, almost a directive, an order to cease with the practice of “March of The Living.”

“And put an end to the outrageous “marches of the livings,” to the school trips to places where Jews died, instead of to places where they lived—Toledo, Segovia, Rembrandt and Spinoza’s Holland, Odessa, and perhaps one day to Baghdad,” she writes.

She calls Poland, a place “where Jews died.” Instead, she suggests, visiting places like Holland, Spain where Jews “lived.”

With all due respect, will someone please point out to me a place where Jews ONLY lived and never died in, sometimes, strange deaths? Can anyone deny that in many of the places that she names, Jews both lived and died? Have Jews only “lived” in Spinoza’s Holland? How about Toledo? Have Jews not suffered there or died there sometimes under horrible conditions?

Poland is not only one big Jewish graveyard as history proves. It was, and few know it, also a place where Jews DID live and a very rewarding life, for many years. Poland was not only a haven for Jews for many years, it produced some of the greatest Jewish minds, Jewish thinkers, great Jewish Zionists who added immensely to a flourishing Jewish culture and later to the Jewish state in Eretz Yisrael. I invite you to visit the Jewish museum in Warsaw. I was just there. What an eye-opening experience it was to learn that Poland, where vast parts of it are soaked with Jewish blood, was not only a big burial place for our People, it also provided a fertile cradle to our creativity and our Jewish ingenuity.

That is a fact!  And it is facts that we should teach our young ones. The many memorials and, the camps, the maps of the Ghetto, the crematoria, the gas chambers, they are ALL facts just as are the big synagogues, the gravestone are all testimonials to a formerly very thriving Jewish world, unfortunately a vanished world.

It is this vanished Jewish world that we need to educate our young ones about. It is the world that serves as a link, an important link in the chain of our Jewish existence.

When I educate my students about the Shoah, I stress that facet of our Jewish Polish heritage, a facet that I am afraid the cessation of the “March o the Living” might help erase. When my students go to Poland, they learn about the great Yeshivas and the amazing scholarship that they produced. The devastation that they face there serves as a constant reminder of a once great Jewish world, one that may evaporate into thin air should we fail to remind ourselves should we fail to see its remnants. To do that, in my view, would send a very strong message to the victims, a message they would have hoped never to receive. After all, isn’t it the very reason we continue to visit the graves of the Maccabees and the final stronghold of the heroes of Metzada? Is not our arrival at their final resting place aimed at telling them that we will never forget the sacrifices they made? Or is the memory of some heroic Jews more equal than that of other Jews?

It is this experience, I believe, that will help infuse and reignite the defiant Jewish Spirit and remind us that “Never Again,” is eternal, just as eternal as our People.

Happy Yom Ha’atzmaoot to our dear beloved Yisrael. I salute ALL those members of our Jewish People who through their death, commanded us Life!

Saturday, 14 April 2018

March of The Living and Why I support It

I recently read an article by Varda Epstein and one of the threads by Roger Froikin. They both address the issue of “March of the Living” and the visit to Poland, where the ground is one big graveyard to many of our People.

Needless to add, I disagree, and STRONGLY, with both.

Of course, everyone is entitled to their views. So here is mine.

I have never participated in such a “march.” I have, however, visited some camps, former Ghettos and mass grave sites where millions of our brothers and sisters were slaughtered. Though some of those were first cousins of mine, many others, nameless victims were all my family. I was raised to believe that family is the most basic and important unit of every society. It is that link that connects us to our past and paves our path to our future life’s journey.

As someone who grew up in the shadow of the Shoah, I heard many stories. I relived it through my parents and their many friends and acquaintances who frequented our home. I thought I had heard it all.


“A Picture is worth a thousand words,” a wise person once said. I did not realize how wise that statement was until I stood on the ground of Auschwitz, walked in the footsteps of my four young cousins who were marching to their grave among the ravines of Ponar and Babi Yar. I heard their voices calling me from the ground, begging “Never Forget.”

My response to those voices was “I never will.”

I have been visiting these sites whenever the opportunity presented itself. I whisper their names, their many names, as I light the Yahrtzeit candle and silently recite the Kaddish. I am not an observant Jew in the traditional sense of the word. However, “Remember”  is one of the commandments that I adhere to performing. Visiting the graves of those that perished and through their death commanded us to Life is one of my ways of practicing and experiencing my Judaism.

A fellow lecturer at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch New Zealand, Dr. Ghazallah once told me, “Stop dwelling on Auschwitz, its ovens are already cold.” To her, Auschwitz has been reduced to merely a museum and a “cold” place.

Well, unfortunately, these are the sentiments that I get from the article and the thread I mentioned above.

Let it be known, THE OVENS OF AUSCHWITZ WILL NEVER BE COLD FOR ME! With each visit Jews make there, we reignite them and the memories they bring. There is no stronger reminder than a physical encounter with the gates of Death, a reminder of our past, our Miracle of Life and the path to our glorious future.

I, for one, will continue to be there at every opportunity. Through my visits, I will continue to remind the victims that they are never forgotten. Because as a teacher I can tell you that if we stop this practice, in a matter of a generation of two, the memory of the Shoah and the high price we Jews had to pay for the mere fact that we were born may fade into oblivion!

Any educator will tell us that experiencing or getting as close as possible to experiencing any lesson is getting as close as possible to living it no matter how brief or how much they think how futile the encounter is.

An answer by one of my former students reinforces my sentiments on the subject. His words upon returning from the "March of the Living" were:
"Now I understand why I should join the IDF. It is the only way to ensure that what I witnessed through the 'March of the Living' never happens again!"

I will conclude with the wise words of my friend, Judy Berlin, because they echo my view on the subject:

Seeing is believing and that may be the only way for many young people to make the emotional connection to the past. Their parents don’t infuse Holocaust history in the home, nor do the Jewish schools or synagogues teach it. This may be the only way that our young people can feel and see the painful conditions that the Jews of Europe were forced to endure. They need to see the victims as their families.

Friday, 13 April 2018


The sound of children’s laughter woke me up from my brief afternoon slumber. It welcomed me as I walked onto my veranda blinded by the fiery red ball of sun slowly setting into the horizon. They were playing outside my window. Their melodious voices, some shouting, others running, chasing a ball, enjoying the basic slices of life here in Eretz Yisrael were the answer to our Jewish People’s prayers: “Lihayot Am Chofshi Be’eartzeinu, Eretz Tzion V’Yrushalayim.”

How was yesterday different than any other day, here in our beautiful Homeland, you might ask?

Yesterday was Yom Ha’Shoah, that solemn day when Yisrael commemorates the innocent souls that perished in the Shoah. It was merely seventy some years ago when young tender lives bearing the names Yoseleh, Moisheleh, Avremaleh and many other belonging to children like the ones playing outside my home were deprived of similar rights, not to mention some privileges.

Yom Ha’Shoah has always been a hard day for our Jewish People.

As I grow older, though, the images, the stories, the miracles of survival and above all, the pain that they carry fail to diminish. If anything, they grow harder and more difficult to bear. That is the day when old scars that are begging to be healed open and bleed our invisible and tormented Jewish spirits. It is the day when images of dear ones briefly flash before our eyes, images of relatives and of strangers, some bearing the Yellow Star, others in the arms of their mothers as they cling to them in one last hope, nightmares of our starved brothers and sisters facing the unknown. There is only so much that the human mind and heart can hold.

We must continue to carry their memory.  To remember is the eternal destiny of our people. “And You Should Tell Your Son,” we are commanded. Remember and tell. Tell and remember.

“What about forgiving?” asked one of my students.
“Forgive whom and for what?” I answered. Forgiveness is a great concept, I teach my students. But it is up only to those who were the subject of injustice, of inflicted suffering, to grant it. Neither one of us, members of “second Generation,” or even “third Generation” of the victims have been given a mandate to forgive in their name. They have, however, demanded and rightfully so, that we “Never Forget.”

Some memories beg to be erased. Our tormented souls plead to free themselves of the pain and let the scars heal. But just like the tattooed numbers on many arms which bear witness of “What Man hath made of Man,” and which refuse to fade, so do those images of horror, engraved on our Jewish DNA, refuse to disappear.

They are all eternal reminders, I keep telling myself, in an effort to help ease the pain, of our One and Only Covenant with G-d, a Covenant of Hatikvah, Hope, Endurance and the Eternal verdict that we are here to stay. They are the unending Promise that “The Eternal of Yisrael Shall Never Lie.”

As we are about to enter this Shabbat, I pray that I will always be awakened by the sounds of laughter of Jewish children in Eretz Yisrael.

Shabbat Shalom

Saturday, 7 April 2018

The Anatomy of a Proselytizing Faith

I have recently come back from an exciting experience of visiting Ireland. The Emerald Isle, as some refer to it, is beautiful. Its history is fascinating, full of intrigues, wars, conquests and above all Irish Christian history.

Strangely enough, I was fascinated by the sometimes very intricate and artistically designed Celtic Cross, a recognized ancient pagan solar symbol, which can be spotted around the country’s Christian sites. I was also intrigued, riddled and staggered by its copious use in these sites. Not for long, though.

As someone who has been following the activities of Christian missionaries, I quickly found the answer to my conundrum in the modus operandum of the propylitization milieu.
The goal of any missionary faith, creed or philosophy is to spread its message to as many people and as widely as possible. This is not always an easy task, especially as most humans are creatures of habit who are not readily willing to tread into an unknown realm.

As a teacher, I have learned that a precondition to making the foreign familiar and comfortable is to, first and foremost, create a climate of safety and trust for students. It is the basic stage of human motivation, as correctly prescribed by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Missionary undertakings must be familiar with that concept. 

Their choice of tactics confirms the assumption. One only has to look around at the way missionaries operate here in Yisrael. One only needs to observe their organizations and how they raise money for their designated cause. Their ongoing calls for support and donations are almost always about feeding poor Jews, new immigrants and the elderly. Noble and just causes indeed. But that is where theirs stops - on what Maslow termed as the “Physiological” plain, one that stresses the importance of fulfilling the basic needs for food, water, and warmth.

A principle tenet of their agenda, it would appear, is to make their beneficiaries dependent on them. At least that is what I have observed here in Yisrael. Once the physiological needs of poor souls are satisfied, the missionaries are ready to move to the next level of their holy mission.

That next step in the process of successful learning, knowledge acquisition and adoption of new concepts and beliefs, as any teacher would know, is give them tools that will guide them into new realms. These are aimed at helping them overcome the fear of the unknown and the uncertain and face the alien. It is therefore of utmost importance for teachers to engage students by presenting new ideas in frames of reference that are familiar and comfortable to them as we lead them to the new and unfamiliar path.

Missionaries throughout history must have known that as well.

Imagine the first missionaries roaming the pagan fields of strange lands. How would they be able to introduce the concept of a one invisible god when the ones they worship have human traits?

The answer is very simple. To facilitate that process, all one must do is bring some of their mundane and recognizable pagan symbols into the new faith. To help facilitate the transition all one has to do is embrace their familiar and deeply rooted frames of reference into it. This would bound to make them feel more comfortable and more at home in the newly introduced belief system.

The adoption and incorporation of the Celtic Cross is but one example of such a measure.
Another example is the adoption of the name “Easter,” an important Christian holiday that is an ancient pagan celebration named after the pagan goddess Ishtar, the Sumerian goddess of fertility (hence the custom of Easter eggs and rabbits on this holy day) that was hung on a stake and ascended from the netherworld.

There are many more similar examples. Adoption of foreign symbols and customs is very common. It is also a natural growth process of any culture, a process that no one can or should try to stop.

However, and that is where I have an issue with Christian missionaries here in Yisrael. They do not only adopt Jewish customs and symbols, rather they take Jewish sources that are ours only and redefine them to fit their Christian theology, in order to mislead ignorant Jews into accepting their faith. They become salesmen selling a product by choosing misleading words and phrases and making fraudulent promises. 

This is NOT what teaching is about. This is NOT what good teaching should do.

To that, many of us, refuse to be accomplices.

Special thanks to my dear friend Roger Froikin.

Saturday, 31 March 2018

"And You Should Tell Your Son....

Last night Jews around the world celebrated the Pesach meal, called Seder.

“Seder” is the Hebrew word for “order.” Anyone who has ever attended one, would understand why it is called “Seder.” There is a certain order in this ceremony, a logical sequence to each part of this observance. It is lined out for us in the Haggadah, the booklet we use to guide us through it.

It is also apparent to anyone who has ever partaken in a Seder that, during this special meal, unlike any other night, the table is laid out and set with unusual food items and symbols. They are all intended to raise our curiosity and intrigue our inquisitive minds.
Likewise, a bird’s eye view of the Haggadah will reveal that its text is written in a manner that is aimed at prompting us to ask questions. We have the Four Questions which answer the basic query of why this night is different than any other night. We have the segment listing Four Sons, each with their own questions as well as other ones.  

Questions are an important tool along the journey of growth and development of any human being. Questions are also important along the ontogenetic path of a nation. It is curiosity that has triggered human growth and progress throughout the ages.

Our Jewish sages must have known that. And that is where the directive “And you should tell your son” comes into play.
“Those who forget their past,” a wise person once said, “have no future.” This important principle was also known to our wise sages. Teaching and educating about one’s national, cultural and spiritual past is a very important tenet in our Jewish tradition.

There are different ways of teaching, as many would know. The Haggadah, as we saw, uses a common didactic method to achieve that goal, “Questions and Answers.” There is great value in asking questions, as any teacher would tell us. More importantly is the manner in which the questions are formulated. Our sages who wrote the Hagadah were great pedagogues. They framed the questions in a way that helps the readers master core concepts about our Jewish/Zionist past. The method in which the questions in the Haggadah are articulated, the way the facts and ideas are communicated help the listeners and readers develop their critical thinking skills.

Moreover, as one might notice, the Haggadah never asks more than one question at a time. It lets them sink in, one by one. Asking questions throughout the reading of the Haggadah, as during any lesson, not only makes the experience of learning more interesting, it also makes it more interactive.

Questions by themselves, though, are not enough. They need answers in order to complete the cycle of learning, growing, advancing and progressing. Above all, the answers need to provide the links that connect our past learning to our present and future lessons.

The Haggadah writers knew that well. And when the answers come, it is often in the form of a song or a symbolic act. Everyone partakes in them. They engage every participant in this beautiful and heartwarming celebration of Freedom and Jewish Nationhood culminating with the song “L’Shana Ha’Ba’ah Birushalayim,” Next Year in Jerusalem which seals the meal. 

This morning, I am still singing this song as I continue to bask in the greatest lesson of them all, the greatest lesson of our Jewish history - to be a Free Nation in Our Homeland, the Land of Tziyon and Yerushalayim. May we all enjoy this Pesach season of Freedom and live to experience it designed and intended lessons.

Chag Sameach

Thursday, 29 March 2018

The Guilt of Some

I just got back from a seminar on Yiddish literature in Lithuania and Poland.

Needless to say, it was a very difficult trip. The monuments, the memorial sites, the death camps, every place was soaked with painful memories from our Jewish people’s recent sanguine history.

The visit to Poland, naturally, was overshadowed by the recent Polish law which calls for criminalizing some Holocaust speech accusing the Polish state or people of involvement or responsibility for the Nazi occupation during World War II. Punishment for breaking it can range from a fine or up to three years in prison. It went into effect on March 1, 2018.

Those who know me, know that as a daughter of two Shoah survivors, the subject is close to my heart. Some simply did not understand why I even bothered to visit Poland after this law had been enacted. For them such a law is a slap in the face of the victims and chose to ban Poland.

This was not my first visit to Poland. It may not be the last either. Let me make one point clear. I do not go there for cheap shopping or a vacation. I go there to tell the victims that they are not, nor will they ever be forgotten.

The last visit, however, brought about some insights which shed a light on a new reality. That reality, I believe, is not a pleasing one to the eyes, minds and collective subconsciousness of the Polish people.

Based on testimonies of friends and relatives who had visited Poland in the past, mainly before the fall of the Iron Curtain, Poland did not have nearly as many monuments commemorating the Shoah and its Jewish victims as it does now. Most tributes were dedicated to the Polish victims of the Nazi and Soviet occupation. And there is no denial that they were many.

Nowadays, more than ever, though, there are additional and new markers. They were erected to honour the Jewish ones. These are yet another permanent reminder of the extent of the Jewish graveyard that Poland was turned into by the Nazis and their Polish collaborators.

A note of caution is called for. In times of anger and grief, our human nature tends to generalize. One cannot and should never make sweeping statements. There were some Poles who helped Jews. My father was saved by one. I, for one, will never forget that.

Let us also not forget that many Poles were themselves victims of the Nazis. However, anyone who denies the collaboration between Poles and the Nazis verges on Shoah denial. That includes some of my Jewish friends who have suddenly become bleeding hearts for Poles.

Many Poles did assist the Nazi killing machine as it ploughed through their country in an effort to make Europe “Judenrein.” My parents lived through that. They, other members of my family and their close friends were my most reliable and trusted witnesses for what happened during those times.

No one, be it an individual or a nation, likes to be constantly reminded of or hammered about their past transgressions.

That is precisely what the many monuments with Hebrew and Yiddish epitaphs inscribed on them, which have sprung since the end of the Cold War and which are strewn all over Poland, do. They put a permanent mirror to the face of a nation that was turned into a killing field pushing many of its members to becoming willing and in some cases unwilling collaborators.

And that, in my view, that constant reminder of past transgressions prompted the Polish Law which I mentioned above. It is, I believe, part of the Polish nation’s way to help its members overcome a hard, and unfortunately for them, a dark and uncomfortable chapter in their nation’s history. It is their defense mechanism, one means to cleanse and wash off their guilt especially when it is sprinkled with small doses of projection as reflected in the words of its Prime Minister who claimed that the Shoah had not only Polish, German or Ukrainian perpetrators, but Jewish ones as well.

It may help the Poles. As far as I am concerned, though, “Never Again” is as vibrant in me as ever before. Am Yisrael Chai!

May we all have a meaningful Pesach.

Saturday, 17 March 2018


As Jews around the world prepare for the Pesach Holy Day, perhaps it is time to rethink the message and lessons of this very significant and meaningful celebration in our history.

The Hebrew word Pesach means “Pass over.” It is derived from the Book of Shemot (Exodus), 12:7 where the Torah recounts the story of the ten plagues brought upon the Egyptians following Pharaoh’s refusal to “let my people go.”

When G-d was about to inflict the Egyptians with the tenth plague, smiting their first born sons, He told Moses to instruct the Congregation of Yisrael to mark their doorposts with lamb’s blood so that G-d could “pass over” their homes and spare them.

Subsequent to G-d’s wonderous work,  the Congregation of Yisrael was finally freed from slavery, at least the physical kind. Freedom and liberation, however,  as we all know, is not confined merely to unshackling the corporeal chains of bondage. It also involves ridding oneself of the obsequious and submissive mindset so emblematic to those who have been oppressed for a long period of time.

In order to better understand this point, allow me to go back to that verse in Shemot where Moses pleads with Pharaoh to “let my people go.”

That Hebrew verse, to be precise, does not use the term “let” or “free.” Rather, it says “send my people.” (Another unfortunate result of the disastrous mistranslation of our Tanach!) For me, the verb “send” implies a deliberate act with a specific destination, a much more powerful and calculated design by G-d. It was the first step towards becoming a free people, physically, spiritually, culturally and nationally. Not an easy mission for a nation that had been suppressed, abused, isolated and on the verge of eradication, considering Pharoah’s own version of a “final solution” to the Hebrews.

Any slave, be it an individual, a group or a People would have welcomed with open arms such a ploy, it would seem. For who enjoys the status of slavery?

I can almost feel the excitement of Benei Yisrael as they rush to bake their Matzah, pack their belongings, and prepare themselves for their destiny. I can see them gathering their flocks, children and preparing for the great occasion, their deliverance.
Unfortunately, the excitement seemed to have worn off rather fast. Once they realized the hardships ahead of them, they began to miss the slavery routine in Egypt.

Suddenly, the “house of Bondage” did not seem that bad. Moreover, it had swiftly turned into a house of luxury and plentiful, the idyllic place. “If only we had died by G-d’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and fish and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” (Shemot 16: 2-4)

The Yisraelites may have been freed from physical bondage. They were still, however, inflicted with an emotional and spiritual one, one that had been imposed upon them and their forefathers for a few hundred years.

G-d had, naturally, expected it. He knew that one cannot become free merely by removing physical shackles.  It is, therefore, I believe, that He instructed Moses to wander in the desert for forty years, when a brief overview of the map of the region shows that the route to the Promised Land could have been cut shorter.  Forty years is the approximate life span of a generation.

The slavery generation had to die off, it had to remain in the desert before Am Yisrael could live a free and fulfilling life in its ancestral Homeland. The younger generation had to be coached and prepared to run and oversee its own life without the daily pressure of persecutors.

Fast forward to our times. Has much changed?

It is only seventy years ago, with the establishment of the state of Yisrael, when the Jewish people were liberated from the House of Bondage called Galut (Diaspora). The Galut and its reality indoctrinated Jews to a submissive mentality, the kind that forced us to seek the approval and love of others. Jews were mental slaves.

Unfortunately, some of our people have not yet shed that mindset. They continue to seek endorsement of the nations. They are desperately needy of Love and acceptance and consider the support of strangers the “pots of meat and fish and ate all the food.” Have we forgotten the suffering we endured because of that very long chapter in our history?

My concerns and my questions are, if it took Moses forty years to rid the Yisraelites of a few hundred years old slavish Galut mentality, how long will it take the Jewish state and nation to rid some of its members of a two millennia old one?

How long will it take all of us to Pass Over the threshold from the slave disposition to that of a Free Nation, the kind G-d had intended us to be?

May we all have a meaningful Pesach, full of the celebration of Life and Freedom.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Can a “Good” Gentile Replace a “Not so Good” Jew?

Time and again and more so lately, we have noticed some trying to convince us that a “Christian Zionist” is better than a “non-Zionist Jew.”

We will not tire you, again, with definitions though we believe that such an approach stems from lack of understanding of Jewish terminology. At times, when discussing issues such as “Zionism” and “religion,” it seems as if many are speaking completely different languages and not communicating at all.  We are dealing with Jewish concepts here, concepts that, due to inadequate education and after centuries of being defined by others, are not clear to some Jews, not to mention non-Jews. 

Frankly, we care about Jews knowing Jewish ideas and concept first albeit that we see Gentiles, some utterly disconnected to the Jewish reality, engaging in efforts to define us and invariably falling short.

We also realize that many non-Jews are sincere and genuine about their desire to educate themselves on Jewish subjects, some from sincere interest, others looking for the roots of their own beliefs. Nothing wrong with it. Too often, unfortunately, such interests are in support of an agenda that is not always consistent with Jewish concerns and realities.

Why is it that so many non-Jews, Christians, Muslims and others get offended when we tell them that only Jews can be Zionists and can really understand what Zionism means to Jews since only Jews have practiced Zionism through their hopes and prayers over several millennia?

That is not to say that help and sympathy from Gentiles is unwelcome.  On the contrary, in a smaller and smaller world where we are all more and more interconnected, in a world where there are so many hostilities, interest by non-Jews in the justice of Zionism and the welfare of the Jewish People is most welcome, and those that speak out about the truth for us are most appreciated.

 There is, however, a line that must be drawn.  While support, help, advice of a real friend is always welcome, there is a line not to cross, and that is where non-Jews take it upon themselves to tell Jews what Jews should believe about Jewish issues and concepts.

Why?  Because it is akin to having a Chinese man who has read Shakespeare in Chinese only, thinking about it in terms of Chinese tradition and culture, going to Oxford University and lecturing English Shakespeare experts on what Shakespeare really meant, with the British experts afraid of offending the Chinese enthusiast.  Sounds silly?  Of course, it is. 

 When it comes to Zionism and Judaism, though, we too often see Christians crossing that line, telling Jews what Judaism and Zionism should mean to them, in some cases representing Jewish organizations as paid speakers and lecturers, other times as Missionaries aiming to convert Jews to their faith systems.   In some cases, we have seen Gentile activists from persecuted minority groups themselves, spending their energies telling Jews what to believe, while ignoring the plight of their own peoples.  A shame indeed when their own people need their help and energies.

Try to understand something.  Most Jews would love to see Kurdistan, for instance, as a free, independent and prosperous state.  After all, Kurds are one people among a small number of nations, that were always hospitable to Jews.  But while we support, argue for, and want to help Kurds achieve their freedom, that does not mean that we will ever fully understand what it is like being a Kurd, as we do not have their history, we do not speak their language, and we can’t see the world exactly as they might.  So, while we can be pro-Kurdish nationalism, we cannot be Kurdish nationalists.  We do not find that insulting or offensive if a Kurd says that to us. It is realistic and factual. 
In the same way, Gentiles can support Zionism, can help, and that help is welcome, but they cannot be expected to see and feel Zionism’s ancient historic role, it’s effects and consequences, as Jews experience it and see it.

The same goes when it comes to Judaism.  No one can see Judaism better than through Jewish eyes. No one can replace a Jew no matter how “bad” anyone believes that Jew is and no matter how saintly any non-Jew who wishes to replace them is.   That is why conversion to Judaism is not just a change in theology, but more akin to naturalization into an entire culture.

One more point that we hope will be understood as meant.
Some Jews who see Gentile support for Israel as great flattery and who are afraid of saying something that might offend even missionaries that are trying hard to convert us, how about those gentiles who threaten to stop supporting us if we call them and their agenda out?

Consider this: Friends love you for what you are and who you are.  If they do not, if they are so easily offended, they are not friends and never were.

Let us say it again, this time louder and clearer. If anyone attaches their support for us to being able to appropriate that is which is ours and threaten to cease that support at the drop of a hat if we resist and object to it, then they have never been genuine friends in the first place.

And with friends such as these, who needs enemies?

This article was written jointly by Roger Froikin and Bat-Zion Susskind-Sacks

Shabbat Shalom.

Monday, 26 February 2018

It is great to have you back Home, Ms. X

Life can be one amazing rollercoaster for some. Mine has been. It is not only what happens to us that makes it that way, it is also those we attract and invite into it and those we inadvertently meet on our life’s path.

 Ms. X, the person whose story I am about to share with you, has been my friend on FB for sometimes now. Today, for some unknown reason, she shared it with me for the first time. Several hours later, I am still deeply touched by that revelation.

I decided to tell her story for two reasons. The first has to do with my desire to expose missionaries and their antics, an undertaking I have chosen as our people are very dear to me and I will fight to defend them against any efforts to steal our souls. The second, Ms. X’s story is an inspiring and in my view, a heroic account of a young woman who, despite repeated efforts to drown her spiritually and emotionally was able to unshackle herself from the chains that held her captive for a long time, educate herself about our great Jewish tradition, came back Home and is doing her share to educate young Jewish children so that they do not fall pray to missionaries and their devious antics.

Ms. X was born in the U.S. to two Jewish parents. Her biological father passed away when she was about 6 years of age. He mother remarried a Yisraeli man and they ended up living here for about two years before moving back to the U.S.

When Ms. X attended school in California, she met her first husband, a non- Jew. They settled in the Bible Belt area.

In a way, Ms. X represents a growing segment of the Jewish population in the U.S., the assimilated kind. Though born and raised in conservative Judaism, she felt that something was missing in her Jewish upbringing. It was her need to establish a personal relationship with G-d.

She was fertile ground for missionaries who rushed to fill in the void.

It happened one bright day when she was driving with her step daughter past a building which looked like a synagogue. It had Yisraeli and American flags flying side by side in front of it. The following Friday night, she to attend services there.

As she soon learned, it was a “messianic synagogue.” Upon arrival, she was greeted by a Jewish woman who befriended her and “took her under her wings” instantaneously. That woman and the “rabbi” explained to her how she could “have the best of both world” by becoming a member. They spoke to her about their close relationship with god, something they evidently learned was missing in her life and capitulated on it. They also offered solace for her terminally ill daughter and sensed that she was lonely with no family and no friends as her then husband was trying to isolate her from them. Naturally, he approved of her new affiliation. In short, she was the ultimate and perfect target for the missionaries’ mission.

At one point, her “benefactors” discovered that one of her close friends was dying of cancer. That is when they started to apply pressure on her to try and convince her dying friend to become a follower of their messiah. They laid on her that if her friend died without having accepted him, he was doomed to damnation and go to hell which, of course would be her fault.

When she tried to leave that group after over 5 years, she faced threats, pressure and intimidation. “As I was leaving the Messianics, I found you,” she told me. “I found your articles beyond helpful. I learned so much from you,” she added much to my surprise.  It was that dying friend, Ms. X told me, who had directed her to my articles. In fact, it was this mutual friend of ours that helped her during those days and bring her c back to Judaism.

Fortunately for her, Ms. X also turned to Chabbad and they, as always, were extremely supportive. It was the Chabbad Rabbi who told her, “The colour of your soul has always and always will be Jewish even if you were lost for a while.”

Ms. X is now happily married to a Jewish man. She teaches at a local Jewish school and volunteers at Chabbad Torah time. She is active in exposing missionaries, especially those targeting Jews. “My heart goes out to all those lost Jews. I want them to know that hope is not lost and that they can always come back Home.”

“I will help you in any way I can to expose their antics,” she later wrote to me in a private message. “Missionaries need to be stopped. They go after Jews and lie to them. They go after the vulnerable and the weak and exploit their need to be loved and supported.”

I will be going to sleep with a smile on my face tonight. Unbeknown to me, I have helped save a Jewish soul. According to our sages, that is akin to saving a whole world. Life is beautiful!

Happy Purim and may our Jewish People continue to go from strength to strength

Saturday, 24 February 2018

The Guardians of Shabbat

It is Shabbat morning here in Eretz Yisrael.

As I sit here, on this sunny and peaceful morning, sipping my morning coffee, I marvel at the wisdom of G-d, for dedicating one day a week to resting and turning the Shabbat into an Oneg , a pleasure.

Shabbat is the most important holiday in the Jewish/Hebrew calendar. It has got to be. Not only does it occur 52 times a year, it is first and foremost the sign of the Covenant between G-d and Am Yisrael, entered at Mount Sinai.

According to Shemot Rabba 25:12; Yerushalmi, Ta’anit 1:1 "the scion of David (Mashiach) will come if they [Am Yisrael] keep just one Shabbat, because the Shabbat is equivalent to all the mitzvot.”

Now, I am not an observant Jew in the traditional sense of the word. I do not have the self-discipline that is needed to be one. I do, however, respect this Mitzvah and remember it each Friday evening when I light Shabbat candles.

For me, Shabbat is a day of reckoning, a day or reflection and a day of expressing gratitude.

Shabbat, according to Ahad Ha'am, a Jewish writer and thinker, has also preserved and shielded Am Yisrael more than our people have kept it.

But is it not only remembering the Shabbat that we, Jews, are required. We are also commanded to observe it.

Let us be honest to ourselves, my fellow Jews. Have we ALL kept and observed this Mitzvah?

The answer, my friends, is known.

We, or at least most of us, do, however, remember Shabbat. In fact, here in Eretz Yisrael, it is impossible not to remember it. We feel it in the air each Friday. The stores are hustling and bustling with last minute shopping. Jews, observant, secular, atheists, as one, wish each other "Shabbat Shalom," as they rush home to prepare, each in their own way, for this very special day.

This few millennia old tradition has been passed on to us from generation to generation.

Time to pause and ask ourselves, who were the true guardians of Shabbat over the centuries?

The answer always leads me to one group, Hareidi and ultra-Orthodox Jews.

Probably not the answer that many would like to hear. In my view, though, it is that very group which many of us disagree with, oppose, mock, despise and resent, which has contributed much to preserving the Shabbat legacy. And yes, there are many aspects of that segment in our Jewish society that I will never approve of.

Nonetheless, let us face it. It is them and their practices that have brought us thus far. If not for their staunch adherence and dedication, often at a dear and high price for their safety and well-being, the Mitzvah and tradition of keeping Shabbat would have not been observed and preserved, at least not the way and manner that G-d has intended for us.

I believe it is them, the few
 who our great national poet, Bialik described in his immortal poem “ אם יש את נפשך לדעת “ (“If your soul wishes to know” which I highly recommend to any Hebrew literate person to read) as “a few ears of grain, a shadow of what has remained, sorrowful Jews, with dried faces, Jews of the Galut (Diaspora), the ones carrying its burden, those who drown their sorrow in a fading page of Gemara, trying to consign to oblivion their poverty through the ancient debate of the Midrash, trying to forget their worries by reciting Psalms.” A poor sight indeed, but one that has ensured our role in history and has helped us remain the People of Eternity. They are, according to Bialik, “the treasure of our soul,” the “guardians of our great Jewish Spirit.” They are but “a spark,” a sliver of Hope, "the remnant that was miraculously rescued from the great fire which our forefathers had kept burning on their altars, always.”

Hareidi Jews, whether we like to admit it or not, also, are the guardians of our people and our tradition. I will never forget that. I cannot forget that and forever will be grateful to them and all the other Guardians of the wonderful gift of Shabbat throughout our turmoiled and eventful Jewish history.

Shavua tov.             

Sunday, 18 February 2018

The "Hidden Jews" of the East

Many of us have heard about the fate of the Spanish Jews who lived under the Inquisition, the Anoosim. Few, however, myself included, have heard about the Mashadi Jews in Iran who had to endure a similar fate.

A few days ago, I met with a descendant of one such family, Kami Izhakov. This is their story.

Their story begins in 1734 when a king by the name of Nadir Shah, a tolerant man, sought to fortify the northeastern border of then Persia. Towards that end, he brought Jews and resettled them in Mashad, in the District of Khorasan. It is the second holiest city to Shiite Muslims and was, therefore, forbidden to Jews.

The city of Mashad is situated on the silk road was renowned for commerce, mainly leather and fur. The King’s decision paid off. Soon after the resettlement of Jews there, prosperity followed. Their business sagacity coupled with their international connection soon helped the Jews turn the city into a vibrant business center. Even the Muslim residents who had treated the Jews contemptuously and had shunned them socially, soon enjoyed their contributions. Relationships between the two communities improved and both enjoyed the wealth and economic growth.

Unfortunately, after the assassination of the king twelve years later, Muslims began to persecute the Jews and make their lives unbearable.

According to some accounts, matters got worse following an incident which occurred in 1838. A Jewish woman who suffered from leprosy, sought the advice of her doctor. The latter suggested that she uses the blood of a dog to treat her ailment. The woman hired a young Muslim boy to kill a dog for her. The two had a scuffle and the young boy announced to the Muslims that Jews killed a dog during the holy fast day for the revered Ali whom the Shi’a Muslims consider the First Imam appointed by Muhammad.

That incident triggered the resurgence of Muslim hatred to Jews. On that day, crowds of Muslims burst into Jewish homes, pillaged, burned houses and the synagogue and murdered 32 Jews. The Jewish community at that time counted 400 people.
From that day on, the Jews of Mashad, endured a similar fate to the Jews of Spain and Portugal during the Inquisition. They became, outwardly, “Jadid Al Islam,” the New Muslims sadly assumed the role of leading a double life, one Jewish, one Muslim. It was reflected in their names, customs and practices.

The clever and pious Jews of Mashad, however, managed to remain loyal to their Judaism by using various means to deceive their Muslim oppressors. They prayed in cellars. They stationed a woman at the entrance to their buildings which stopped the entry of Muslims. They opened their shops on Shabbat but never conducted business. A child would generally be put in charge of the store and instructed to tell the customers that the owner was gone or that the merchandise they wish to purchase was not available.

Keeping Kashrut on Pesach was a more difficult endeavor. Yet, the Jews of Mashad never failed that either. They baked their own Matzah and continued to buy bread which they eventually shared among the poor residents of the city. Throughout their history, the Jews of Mashad postponed the Pesach celebration by about one week due to persecution and intimidation by their Muslim neighbours.

Kosher slaughter, another important tenet of our Jewish culture, as difficult as it was at times, was also adhered to by these Jews. On one occasion, a ritual slaughterer was caught, tortured and eventually killed for performing this important Mitzvah. 

Their double life was also reflected in the way, Mashad Jews attended houses of worship. Prior to entry into the mosque, they would ask forgiveness from G-d. On Friday mornings, they would go to the Mosque and in the evening observe the Shabbat rituals at home, in secrecy of course.

Under pressure applied by their Muslim authorities, many Jews were also forced to perform the custom of the Haj. Those that partook in the pilgrimage to Mecca, were honoured immensely. Funnily enough, they were the leaders of the Jewish community and were the most staunch and devout believers.

One of them was Kami’s grandfather.

Born in 1883 under the Name Rachamim Ben Yitzchak, he adopted the Muslim name Abdul Karim Izhakov. As one of the leaders of the Jewish community in Mashad, Rachamim was very influential. He was a successful businessman who travelled much and was there fore able to maintin valuable contacts with Jewish communities elsewhere. That important fact helped him smuggle a Sefer Torah to Mashad from Russia, a Sefer Torah that is proudly housed in a synagogue in Ramat Hasharon.

Moreover, when Rachamim made the Haj pilgrimage, he stopped in Eretz Yisrael and bought a piece of land in Yerushalayim. He was determined to ensure that he strikes Jewish Zionist roots for his future generatiosn here in Eretz Yisrael.

During WWII when Jewish children, later known as The Teheran Children, made their way out of the inferno in Poland on their way to Eretz Yisrael, it was Rachamim and his fellow Jewish community members that hosted them and helped ease the trauma that those kids had undergone.

With the rise to power of Riza Shah, the father of the late Shah, life became easier for the Jews of Mashahd. About 2000 of them realized their dream to move to Eretz Yisrael.

It is accounts like this one that  make my Jewish essence overflow with pride and awe echoing over and over again the ancient bliss, “Am Yisrael Chai!”

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Beware of Translations Bearing Wrong Meanings

Those who know me, have by now come to realize that for me, translations, or rather mis-translations, of the Tanach from Hebrew to Greek first and then to other languages, are one of the greatest injustices committed against the Jewish people. Translations, more than often fail to reflect one very important underlying factor in its equation, the culture that is endemic to the language which is translated.

That is especially the pattern with the endeavours to translate the Tanach.

Make no mistake, I am all for educating and enriching as many as possible about different cultures, including our own. Not, however, when there seems to be primary agendas and biases woven into it.

I have written, and more than once, about the breaches and their ensuing perversion, unintentional or otherwise, that resulted from such practices. Any translation, by default, is bound to include any underlying personal and cultural fabrics of the translator, two elements that could affect the world views and understanding of a foreign concept.

Last week, I saw yet another example of it which triggered the rebellion of my Jewish pride and sense of justice. It violated a very sacred and entrenched notion in our Hebrew – Jewish culture.

It happened when I saw the translation of רוח הקודש (Ruach Hakodesh) as “The Holy Spirit.”
A brief visit to the Concordance (a publication which cites all words that appear in the Tanach) reveals that the term Ruach Hakodesh, which in Hebrew means “The Spirit of Holiness” never appears in the Hebrew Tanach. What does appear, and more than once, is “Ruach Elohim,” the “Spirit of G-d.”

First, we see it in Genesis 1:2 “וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים, מְרַחֶפֶת עַל-פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם” (and the Spirit of G-d hovers above the water).
Later, we see it in Bresheet 14:38 when Pharaoh seeks a person who has the “Spirit of G-d” in them to help solve his dreams. “הֲנִמְצָא כָזֶה--אִישׁ, אֲשֶׁר רוּחַ אֱלֹהִים בּוֹ (Bresheet 41:38).

Another instance where we come across the use of the term is in Exodus, וָאֲמַלֵּא אֹתוֹ, רוּחַ אֱלֹהִים, בְּחָכְמָה וּבִתְבוּנָה וּבְדַעַת, וּבְכָל-מְלָאכָה
(Shemot 31:3) where G-d is looking for an architect for the Mishkan (dwelling). This person will be filled with the Spirit of G-d, wisdom, understanding and knowledge, wisdom of the heart.

Next we see the notion in the Book of Numbers “ וַתְּהִי עָלָיו, רוּחַ אֱלֹהִים.
(Bamidbar 24:2). Here it is mentioned in connection with Bilaam who was sent to curse Am Yisrael and ended up blessing them once the Spirit of G-d is upon him.

There are many other citations on the concept throughout the Tanach but I trust the reader has gotten the essence of it. In all mentions of the concept, its underlying attribute is the inspiring means of communication between G-d and mankind just as its literal translation connotes, “The Spirit of Holiness” which G-d has kindly bestowed on some human.

In the literature of Chaza”l, our Jewish sages, the term “Ruach Hakodesh” refers only to the gift of prophecy. Moreover, it is considered the lowest level in the hierarchy of prophecy. What follows from their writings is that “Ruach Hakodesh” (The Spirit of Holiness) is inside each one of us.The Talmud goes further to say that  “משמתו נביאים האחרונים חגי זכריה ומלאכי נסתלקה רוח הקדש מישראל” (with the passing away of the last prophets, Hagai, Zechariah and Malachi, so has Ruach Hakodesh, Yoma 9:2).

Unlike the Jewish “Spirit of Holiness,” Christianity mistranslated Ruach Hakoesh as “The Holy Spirit,” one of the components of its trinitarian belief system. It is a concept that is utterly foreign to Judaism and has no relations to it whatsoever.

As I showed above, any interpretation that the “Holy Spirit” equals the “Father and the Son” is based on interpretation of verses in the New Testament and any attempt to argue their case or support them by passages from the Tanach are futile.

Wish to understand the Tanach and what it stands for? Learn Hebrew and avoid falling prey to erroneous mis-translations, innocuous or dis-translations cushioned with some underlying theological agendas.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Torah and Haftarah linked through the Wisdom of our Sages

Anyone who is slightly familiar with Torah (The first 5 books of Moses) knows that it is divided into 52 weekly portions. These portions are read on Shabbat at the synagogue.

However, it is not the only part that is read from the Tanach on Shabbat. Jews also read a section from the other part of the Tanach, namely, the prophets, after the weekly reading of the Torah portion. It is called Haftarah. Haftarah is also read on certain holidays. We should add that only selected passages from the Prophets make it into the Haftarah.

The word, ,הפטרה Haftarah, comes from the Hebrew root פטר, meaning “take leave,” “conclude.” The practice of reading the Haftarah probably started by 100 C.E. although the Talmud mentions that a Haftarah was read in the presence of Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus. Hyrcanus lived in 70 C.E.

The Haftarah section was selected because it relates to the Torah portion of that week. In many cases, the connection is obvious. In others, it is hinted and is contingent on a word or two. It is also important to note that, unlike the Torah, which is read from a handwritten scroll, the Haftarah is read from a printed book.

What were the origins of the practice of reading the Haftarah?

There are a few explanations to it. The most common one, however, is the one suggested by Chabad and other scholars.

According to them, it started around 168 B.C.E. when the Jews were under the rule of the infamous king Antiochus IV (the one we know from the Channukah story). Antiochus decreed that Jews were not allowed to observe Shabbat, perform Brit Milah (circumcision) and study the Torah which, as stated above, includes only the five Books of Moses. No such decree was issued against reading the other parts of the Tanach.

Jewish brilliance and an unrelenting urge for survival by our Sages instituted that a section of the prophets be read instead, a section that included an idea which was related to the Torah portion of that week.

The practice, evidently, resumed even after it became safe again to read from the Torah.

 In his article dwelling on this subject, Rabbi Peretz Rodman teaches us that “The Babylonian Talmud (Megillah 29b) suggests that a Haftarah should “resemble” the Torah reading of the day. The Haftarah is, in fact, usually linked to a theme or genre from the Torah reading. For example, on the week when the Torah reading features the song sung by the Yisraelites when they witnessed the parting of the Red Sea at the exodus (Exodus 15), the Haftarah includes the Song of Deborah sung in response to the military victory of the Chieftain Deborah and her commanding general, Barak (Judges 5).” Rabbi Rodman brings other examples as support to his claim.

What such a practice boils down to is that Torah is more than the words on parchment.  Torah means “instruction”. And in their wisdom, our Sages, made an addition, the Haftarah, to illuminate, the “instruction”, so that we would better understand the lessons.

While our Sages at one point in history, seeing Jews scattered and being concerned about the consequences of dispersion, allowed the translation of the Torah, they made it very clear that the only authentic version was the Hebrew language one.  That tradition was extended to the writings of the Prophets and the rest of the core library of Jewish tradition.  They understood how translation under the influence of cultural environments could lead to misinterpretation, dilution and distortions of meaning.  The role of the Haftorah, then, became more important as a tool to reinforce the lessons of Torah, to guide our people to seek and grasp the original meaning, important for Jewish cultural survival.

Today, we appreciate the validity of the somewhat prophetic concern of our sages.  We see other religions taking our Jewish literature, translating it, losing up to 30% of meaning, interpreting it in terms of their own cultural outlooks and beliefs, distorting it in doing so. They attach their own source from THEIR gospel to “compliment” the Torah and its related Haftarah, as one can clearly see here,, even though their citation has nothing to do with the original sources.

Furthermore, and that is the real issue, we see Jews accepting these non-Hebraic and non-Jewish interpretations as if they are authentic, in some faulty almost desperate effort to find commonality, to see and define Judaism and Jewish culture in terms of currently fashionable cultural trends. Zionism, for instance, becomes, 20th Century Jewish national liberation and no longer a 3400-year yearning for what is uniquely Jewish while Judaism itself becomes just another belief, another “church of the land” sharing some ill-defined universal values, rather than a special, unique, humane, ethic culture. 

So, as our Sages knew, perhaps it is time to go back to the lessons, to the instruction, to the Torah and the Haftarah, reinforcing one another,  teaching us, in the original language, what we are, what we need to be, to be the “light unto the nations”  in a world that seems to be losing all moral standards.

This article was written jointly by Roger Froikin and Bat-Zion Susskind

Saturday, 20 January 2018

That Land, That Place, That World

There is a Hebrew poem by a well-known Jewish poet, Shaul Tschernichovsky. It is called אומרים ישנה ארץ"” (They say there is a Land). In it, Tschernichovsky describes a Land bathed in sunshine, A Land where all that each hoped and wished for will come true (“ארץ אשר בה יתקיים כל אשר איש קיווה”). Though, he never mentions that Land by name and only hints at it, some of us, Jews, know which Land it is. That Land is Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Yisrael.

This poem which I read last weekend prompted the recollection of two very popular English songs. The first, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” The second, “What a wonderful world.”

It is no secret that the first song, written in 1939 by two Jews, Yip Harburg and Harold Arlen has long been associated with Eretz Yisrael. According to Rabbi Bernhard Rosenberg, “In writing it, the two men reached deep into their immigrant Jewish consciousness – framed by the pogroms of the past and the Holocaust about to happen – and wrote an unforgettable melody set to near prophetic words. Read the lyrics in their Jewish context and suddenly the words are no longer about wizards and Oz, Jewish survival.

Somewhere over the rainbow/Way up high/ There’s a land that I heart of/ Once in a lullaby.
Somewhere over the rainbow/ Skies are blue/And the dreams that you dare to dream/Really do come through
Someday I’ll wish upon a star/ And wake up where the clouds are far behind me.
Where troubles melt like lemon drops/ Away above the chimney tops/ That’s where you’ll find me.”

As a person who, like Harburg and Arlen, was reared and brought up in the Yiddish language and culture, I heard and sang several Yiddish lullabies about the yearning to That Place, Eretz Yisrael, the Land where my ancestors ached to live in for a very long time.  Harburg echoes similar sentiments to those of Tshernichovsky when he describes that Place where, “Skies are blue [and] the dreams that you dare to dream Really do come through.”

Walking the streets of my city, Herzliya, here in Eretz Yisrael, has brought about the reminiscence of a third, more recent and well-known song, “What a wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong.

Similarly to Armstrong, when I look around me here in Eretz Yisrael, “I see trees of green, red roses too,” in a place that once, not too long ago, was barren and deserted. As I raise my eyes I see the same “blue skies” that Armstrong is talking about.

Like him, I look at the faces “of people passing by, I see friends shaking hands singing ‘How do you do?’” Those who live here know that in a place like Yisrael, where people are bound by the same faith, same fate and same history, where people share a great love for the Land and similar experiences, one almost always comes across familiar faces of family members, friends or mere acquaintances.

Then, of course, there are “the babies,” the ones I hear “cry,” laugh or see smile, the precious future of our People, each a miracle on their own. “I watch them grow,” knowing that “They’ll learn much more than we’ll know.” I feel blessed living in That World.

True, This Land, This Place, This World, Eretz Yisrael, is far from perfect. For me and for many of my fellow Jews, however, it is as close as a Jew can get to it.

And in the words of Yip Harburg, “That is where you’ll find me!”