Tag Archives: Israel

Oi. I scream

While I urge you not to hate me for the fact that I’ve never really liked Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, and therefore have no personal stake in the game, I do recognize that their product is popular worldwide, and more relevant to this conversation, popular in Israel. I also know that if I did like the product, I definitely would have stopped using it when they chose to boycott Israel, and I would have found myself in a tough position now that their ice cream will once again be sold in Israel.

Unilever, Ben & Jerry’s parent company released the following statement. “The new arrangement means Ben & Jerry’s will be sold under its Hebrew and Arabic names throughout Israel and the West Bank under the full ownership of its current licensee.”

While I applaud the efforts of American Quality Products, Ltd. and its owner Avi Zinger, this whole thing leaves a very bad taste in my mouth. No pun intended. It feels a lot like a divorcing couple that got there because one person walked out of the marriage and then came back because they realized they need the economic benefits the marriage offered. You really want to say, thanks but not thanks.

But my quandary regarding the whole matter is quite obvious. While I’m still disgusted with Ben & Jerry’s, and I do not mean the actual taste of the ice cream, I also do not want to push a narrative that takes business away from an Israeli owned company. I guess I am just going to have to swallow it and say, great news. And again, I don’t mean the ice cream.

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Israel and my Time Travel Experience

Before you deduce that you are reading the rantings of someone delusional or at the very least a little off, I urge you to continue reading. I realize that by telling you that I have always been mildly obsessed with the concept of time travel and that my obsession was recently satisfied unexpectedly does very little to argue in favor of my sanity, but nevertheless on my recent trip to Israel that is exactly what happened. I did indeed experience time travel.

When you are a writer you have a tendency to choose words or phrases carefully. It is no accident that rather than saying “I travelled in time”, I wrote that “I did indeed experience time travel”. Allow me to explain. Prior to this recent trip, I had not been to Israel in 28 years. 37 years ago when I moved from Israel back to the U.S. I finished off a stint in which I had lived for 3 1/2 years out of 5 living in Jerusalem. Naturally in that time I traveled to different parts of the country, establishing my own personal relationship with various places and people. When I arrived at Ben Gurion Airport I tried to recognize the place, but I would be lying if I said that I did. In fact, my passage through immigration and customs was so easy I almost felt as though I was in the wrong country. When my friend Danny, whose wedding 28 years ago was the reason for my last visit, picked me up from the airport to take me to his home in Bet Shemesh, while it had been more years than I like since I had seen him, the difference was hardly enough to be shaken by the change. But on the trip to his home, a trip that included part of the original road to Jerusalem, I started to feel that sensation that I knew I had been here before. When I got to his and his lovely wife Anna’s home, and saw his family over the next few days, a family that I had not seen for well over 10 years and of which sons were of age to have changed significantly since I last saw them, I had my first brush with time travel. The next day when Danny had a party and I saw 10-20 people I had not seen in at least 3 decades, I experienced it again. I looked at their faces, I saw the same people, even felt the same feelings, but they had changed. Some more than others, but all of them, myself of course included, had changed. There was the female friend that had been my daily phone call for an unspecified amount of time when I was 16 and arguably my best friend at that time, and that very memorable female that I “went out with” when I was 15 who were very much the same even decades later. All of these experiences pulled me back to the past, but in that healthy way that only made the present more enjoyable.

When I went to Tel Aviv, and visited the area by the beach with the steep steps looking towards the Sheraton Hotel, I could almost feel the time I was there, I am going to estimate 37-38 years ago, the moment a pregnant woman stumbled, only to be caught by the man standing with her, and the subsequent near cardiac arrest I suffered at seeing what thankfully only almost happened. When I looked at the beach nearby I could only look at it and smile inside and out and remember some moments that could only be described as magical.

When I went to Jerusalem and walked to the address where Richie’s Pizza once was and to the location where I think the American Difference once existed, all the way down to the spot where I loved Cafe Atara’s world famous onion soup on Ben Yehuda Street, I felt all these sensations of travelling in time. When I sat at the base of Ben Yehuda, where it meets Jaffa Street, the spot know as Kikar Tzion, Zion Square, I felt an almost mystical connection to my past, present and future. As I wrote in a previous post, that moment made me feel something I did not remember feeling since at least the last time I was there.

All these brushes with time travel only enhanced what was turning into an incredible trip and one that I not only will remember for quite some time, but one that changed me for the better and very possibly forever. That all being said, it was not till I went to Hashmonaim to visit my friend Yonah and his wife Rhonda that time felt as though it had stood still, jumped forward, and shifted all over the place all at once. To understand this better a little historical context is needed.

Some time in between 1981 and 1984 I met Yonah in Israel. He was in a Yeshiva in the Old City of Jerusalem, and as I was prone to do, I went there to visit a friend, or friends. Yonah and I did not take long to become friends, and when we both ended up back in the NY area, the friendship continued and grew. To the best of my recollection, Yonah was at Bar Ilan University with the mutual friend that was the bride at the wedding where I met my once future now ex-wife in September of 1989. I was to be married in September of 1990 and prior to my wedding I shared an apartment with Yonah in Kew Gardens, Queens. As is customary at a Jewish wedding following traditional law, 2 witnesses are required. These witnesses need to be Sabbath observant and not related to the bride or groom and should be someone special to the people getting married. My bride made her choice, my choice was simple. My choice was Yonah. Months later, as a married couple, my wife and I would attend the wedding of Yonah and Rhonda.

The months and years later are a little hazy for me, but one Shabbat at the Lloyd’s in Teaneck, New Jersey not only stands out for me, it is in some ways one of the epicenters of my time travelling experience. I tend to think that based on the age of Yonah and Rhonda’s oldest daughter, and the fact that I can not recall my ex wife being there, this likely happened after my marriage ended in 1996, making it approximately 25 years ago, give or take a year or 2. You know you enjoyed a Shabbat at someone’s house when it sticks in your memory for so long. I remember going to synagogue with Yonah, marveling at how I had never met anyone so demanding of perfection from the Torah reader other than my father of blessed memory, and how there was a man praying with us who had lost a daughter in a terrorist attack in Israel. I remember Rhonda being the most natural, genuine and fun hostess you could ever ask for, and I remember their absolutely gorgeous little daughter Aviva. Aviva could not have been older than 3 or 4 at the time. I do not remember if their second daughter Shira had yet been born-sorry Shira. I’ll make it up to you later in this piece-but seeing as she would have been a baby, she may very well have been and I just do not remember. The one memory that is most etched in my brain of that weekend has always been Aviva wearing a hockey jersey that was so much bigger than her it dragged on the floor and covered her feet. I almost remember, but can’t be sure so no need to thank me Aviva, arriving with and giving her that jersey, but that fact is the smallest and least important fact of this story.

My journey in time at Hashmonaim actually began the moment I saw Yonah. One of the most important things I have learned as I have gotten older is that there is a reason people become friends and that regardless of time or circumstances, that which connected you once, be it spoken or unspoken, instantaneously or over a certain period of time, ultimately has a very good chance of connecting you again. That explains why it took under 2 seconds from the time I saw Yonah for me to feel like I was in the presence of a special friend, and that I had just stepped out of a time machine, just to see my friend 25 years later.

When I went into their home I soon realized that Rhonda had clearly not gotten the memo and did not look much different than she had 25 years ago. But her personality and warmth was so much like I remembered it that I still felt as though I had travelled these 25 years forward. It also needs to be said that when it comes to details, moments, even some conversations that took place decades earlier, my memory can be so uncanny that I blow some people’s minds. I guess I am a savant when it comes to that. But the pinnacle of sorts of this time capsule, was in the kitchen of their home. I almost do not remember moving in what I think was close to an hour and a half there. I walked in and met 2, maybe 3 people I had never met before. Their daughter Shira, I’ll remember you for sure this time, their son Rafi, and their daughter Talia. I said earlier that I do not remember moving. While Rhonda stayed as long as she could before she had to get to something previously scheduled, and Shira and Yonah needed to branch off for a bit to attend to work related matters, the other 2 stayed, and as I remember, they moved as little as I did. Talia seemed transfixed in awe over what she was hearing from everyone, and Rafi reminded me even more of why Yonah and I became friends, because I knew in listening to him speak, that had we been contemporaries, I likely would have become friends with him as I did with his father. I even went as far as thinking that had I met him, hearing him speak I would have felt as though he reminded me of Yonah, even if I had not known Yonah was his father. Also, for the record, it is not as though Rafi had nothing else to do less than 1 week from his wedding. And Talia had such a similar face as Rhonda that I would have seen something very familiar in her as well.

But all of this time travel experience coalesced when Aviva, now a wife and mother and living next door showed up to visit and said that she knew by looking at me that there was something familiar in my face that she remembered and I could still see the face of that 3 or 4 year old girl, now as a grown woman. While it seemed as though all of us were talking about absolutely everything that ever happened, Rafi found a video of his parents wedding. It needs to be said that I was already overcome with emotion on numerous occasions before I saw this-I understand if the kids remember me as their Dad’s crybaby friend-this video tipped the scale. I saw a video of me and my ex wishing the newlyweds a Mazal Tov. Even more overcome by the emotion that time travel induces, I will be forever grateful to Shira for compassionately asking if I was OK. In case I didn’t answer you then Shira, the honest answer could have been, I was never better.

None of these memories, flashbacks, or yes, jumps in time were anything other than a positive experience. When I recall a great evening with my step brother of sorts, Gaby, and meeting one cousin I never met and another I had not seen since he was 16 years old, he is now 44, time was jumping happily all over the place, and I was its center of gravity. We are where we are meant to be, and if we do not accept that and embrace that fact, it is not the fault of what happened then, it is the fault of what we did next. This visit to Israel, this travel in time did not bring closure to my past, it brought continuation, in all the right ways. When I got into the car and left Hashmonaim, while I was transported back to the present, I realized more clearly than ever the role my past had in making today as good as it was.

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The critical question for Jews who voted for Joe Biden

While questions about the outcome of the election may or may not need to get worked out in the courts, Democrats celebrate a win by Joe Biden in the 2020 US Presidential race. Unlike the hundreds of thousands of experts on social media, I make no claim to know much about voter fraud and election rules. I am at the mercy of the news media to tell me what happens.  Unless I see evidence to the contrary, I am neither qualified nor irresponsible enough to question the legitimacy of the outcome. I do however have the ability to observe and read the reactions of people, and as I see many of my fellow Jews declare their joy over the election of Biden, what I have not seen in many of their statements are the words “the Jewish people” or “the State of Israel”.  While  I do not sit in judgment over what makes someone a good Jew or a bad Jew, as it is not my place to do so, I do find this to be curious, and can’t help but examine and indeed question, why this might be the case.

Everyone of course has their reasons for feeling as they do and saying what they do. I know many people who have done a lot for Jews worldwide that fall into that group that voted for Biden, and I recognize that, but the appearance it gives is that for many Jewish people in America, the best interests of the Jews and Israel were just not an issue of major importance to them in this election. To be clear, I am not merely coming to this conclusion based on reactions to the result, but also from discussions or debates I had in person, on the phone or in social media prior to the election. If anything it appears as though one issue was more important to them than anything else. Their hatred for Donald Trump. 

Some make the argument that Trump is bad for Israel and stokes the flames of anti-Semitism in the United States. The debate has been conducted ad nauseum and I have no intention of restarting it, but I will say that this reminds me of something an old friend once said to me when we worked together as salespeople.   People buy with emotion, and justify it with logic. I present this concept here because I have to wonder if the hatred for the sitting president is so great that Jews around the country just convinced themselves he was bad for Israel and the Jews in order to justify their vote against him. Or do they really believe that a man that moved the embassy to Jerusalem, something promised by administrations for decades, recognized the Golan Heights as part of Israel, ripped up a deal that paved the way for Iran to have a nuclear bomb, and made peace treaties increasing security and prosperity for the Jewish state is actually an anti-Semite who is bad for Israel, or as many of his haters call him, another Hitler?

I don’t presume to know anyone’s motivation for what they say or do not say, but when one of my fellow American Jews goes on a rant about all the reasons they chose Joe Biden over Donald Trump, and the issue of Israel and the Jewish people is either an afterthought or an omission, I can’t help but get the impression that those issues were just lower on their list of priorities, if there at all.  I know the responses many will give is either a list of all the reasons they see Donald Trump as an awful human being, as an existential threat to American democracy and all the reasons they feel the things he has done do not actually make him good for the State of Israel. I’ve heard and read them all. What I have not heard from my fellow Jews and Zionists is why, as part of one or two of those groups they are happy that Joe Biden looks to be their next president. I, as both a Jew and a Zionist am not, and it mattered enough to me to be reason alone to vote for Donald Trump.

While I am not writing this to argue the merits of hating or loving Trump, it strikes me that the number one reason people have grown to hate him is more because they don’t like what he says than it is what he does. I won’t litigate the various issues that people apply this to, but I will say that as a Jew and son of Holocaust survivors, nothing seems more irresponsible to me than choosing someone who sounds nice over someone who has your back. I said before the election that I felt that no matter who wins the election I believe there are dark days ahead for the Jewish people in America. As a Jewish man who is not convinced that Joe Biden will have our backs, I express no optimism over how he will be good for us in the coming years. So naturally I didn’t express any optimism. But for my fellow Jews that voted for him and also didn’t express that optimism, are you holding your breath and hoping for the best, or is it just not an issue that mattered to you enough to dictate your vote?  That is a question that each and every one of you can only answer for yourselves.

Ultimately I tend to believe people vote for what they perceive to be in their own best interests.  If any Jewish voter doesn’t see the security of Israel and the protection of their Jewish communities as being in their own best interest, then they’ve learned little to nothing from history.   

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Operation Solomon: How Israel showed what a nation does when black lives really matter, long before people here marched in the streets

I have often said that the biggest problem in the world is how many people truly do not value human life. I urge you to watch this video to see what happens when a nation and its people truly value human life.

In May of 1991 the government of the State of Israel, the nation incorrectly called an Apartheid state and often slandered as a racist and white supremacist country, saved over 14,000 Jews from the African nation of Ethiopia.  This wasn’t lip service, political opportunism or anarchy. This was a government showing what you do when at the very core of your values is that black lives matter because every life matters.  Watch this video and either remember this great story or learn something you need to know, that it was the Jewish nation showed that black lives matter long before it became a movement in America.  Here is a little piece of history to throw into the faces of those that unfairly categorize Israel.

 

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Reopening society may require us to follow Israel’s example

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It’s important that I start this piece by making it very clear that I am an American who loves his country.  The opinion I am about to share should be seen more as a call to arms and encouragement than a criticism or indictment.  Who knows? If properly heeded it might just save some lives.

The other day a friend of mine from my grammar school days in London posted statistics showing how, to date, of all developed countries none had done better in keeping down the Coronavirus death toll than Israel.  The friend I speak of, Alison Fisch-Katz, is a brilliant writer, not swayed by political bias, and honest in her assessments. In her post Alison said the following:

Corona deaths per 100,000 in developed countries from highest: Belgium (7,924 deaths), Spain (25,428 deaths), Italy (29,079 deaths), UK (28,734 deaths), France (25,201 deaths), Holland (5,102 deaths), Sweden (2,321 deaths), US (69,121 deaths – NY 18,000)…. Israel is No. 24 out of 30 on the graph with 230 fatalities out of a population of 9 million (similar populations to New York and Sweden). Israel’s stringent measures have saved thousands of lives.
The economy is now being re-opened with caution. If the curve doesn’t spike, the expectation is that by month’s end we will be allowed to congregate freely with no restrictions. Red lights that will return the country to isolation are: 1. If the rate of infection rises again to 100 cases per day. 2. If rate multiplies by 30 every 10 days. 3. If hard cases rise to 250.
KEEP WEARING YOUR MASK!!😷

The numbers she presented are quite real. When I read her post, coupled with a previous article I had read in Times of Israel by founding editor and part of that same group of friends,  David Horovitz,  it seemed to consolidate some feelings I had felt for some time.  The ultimate management of the current situation ultimately lies more in the hands of the people than their respective governments.

The Times of Israel article entitled “It’s not over, and uncertainty abounds, but Israel’s COVID-19 stats are stunning”  is striking because in its description of everything Israel has done, from mitigation strategies to the timeline, it doesn’t differ much from actions taken here in America.  The population of Israel is approximately 8.6 million.  The population of New York City is approximately 8.4 million.  While at the time that I write this the death toll in Israel is less than 300, by startling contrast the death toll in New York City is over 18,000. I have maintained from the start that public transportation, particularly the New York City subway system has played a significant role in the spread.  I also have witnessed a New York City mayor performing less than adequately.  Yet as easy and popular as it is to point the finger at our elected leaders and politicians, sometimes accurately, often partisan based, I believe that the greatest responsibility of slowing the spread and minimizing the loss of life lies in the hands of us, the people.

For 3 1/2 years between 1980 and 1985 I lived in Jerusalem, Israel.  When I read Alison’s post I shared a thought with her and followed it with a question. My thought was as follows. During my time in Israel, when riding the bus I was often confronted by rude people who had no qualms in pushing and shoving me or anyone else out of their way.  Israeli’s riding a bus back then were not the most patient or polite of people. In fairness, packed buses have never been known to bring out the best in anyone.  But when I looked at the people pushing me I also realized that more than likely, every single one of them would have given their life to protect mine and would have done so without a moment’s hesitation.  In western culture, today’s definition of civilized is far too often based on packaging and presentation, while lacking in action and sacrifice. Of course the healthcare workers are a huge exception as their actions and sacrifices are unmatched and a blessing to us all.  I continued by telling Alison that it was that mentality of caring for another person’s life as though it was their very own that has always been my fondest memory of Israel. I went on to ask her if I would be correct to think the mentality I remember so well has impacted the slow spread of COVID-19 cases and most importantly the significantly lower death toll in the country?  She answered me as follows.

Unlike other countries that have pursued herd immunization (example, Sweden & UK – at the beginning) followed a policy of survival of the fittest and essentially sacrificed the older generation. Israel, on the other hand, cares about its parents and everyone complied with love.

While Alison’s response might be perceived by some as indictment on these nation’s citizens and their love for their elderly friends and relatives, it actually speaks more to Israel’s inherent value system.  While everyone’s intentions were the same, have as few deaths as possible, why are the results so different? As a nation threatened by neighboring enemies since it declared independence some 72 years ago, the mentality has always been one critical to its survival.  That mentality, a value for human life that takes precedent over everything else and a sense of responsibility for the safety and well-being of others, is a basic instinct of the populous, one that makes up the very core of what has helped the country survive. To put it simply, since Israel is far more used to having the lives of its citizens threatened than other developed countries, the people were more prepared.  While the majority of Israel’s adults either still are in, or have spent time in the military training to defend their country, the majority of adults in New York City have never dealt with that level of collective responsibility.  So although the leadership in Israel needed to initially enforce the policy as other nations and localities did, once the people understood the critical nature of that responsibility, the people, as Alison put it, complied with love.

While that same love exists in the places suffering significantly higher death tolls, we need to consider the possibility that the preparation and sense of responsibility does not exist on an equal level. While our essential workers keep our lives moving and our healthcare professionals give their hearts and souls to saving lives, the rest of us need to step up to the plate and meet our responsibilities.  The current schism developing within American society of staying at home or reopening, one like so many others becoming a political one, does actually have a middle of the road.  Like so many things it’s a simple concept with a more difficult practical implementation.  Reopen while simultaneously going out of your way to keep those at high risk as safe as possible.  The hard part is to make people understand their individual responsibility.  As much as some people prefer to bloviate on social media rather than saying or doing something constructive, government can’t really make this work by itself. The people need to do their part for it to be even partially successful.

In essence this means finding those people who are high risk, the elderly or those with preexisting medical conditions and doing what we can to help them. Run errands that make it possible for them to stay at home.  Call them to see how they’re doing? Show them that they are not alone.  Sometimes all they need is a friend.  Let them know that if they need anything you will take extra time and get it for them. And most importantly,  do everything in your personal power to not put them at risk.  Keep a safe distance and wear a mask whenever you are in their vicinity. By looking after their best interests as though they were your own, which is indeed the reality, we can make a big difference.  Want your life to get back as much as possible to what you remember as being normal?  It comes with a cost, and that cost is caring about someone other than yourself.  It worked in Israel, theoretically there is no reason it can work everywhere else.  Ultimately the cost of not doing it is a far greater one.

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Next Year in Jerusalem. Once we get out of the house

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The piece hanging on my wall and made for me by my late mother

I have a confession to make. In 1985 I left Israel with the intention of spending a few years back the the U.S. before I would return to Israel and settle there for the rest of my life.  35 years later I am still living in America and having either been limited by time or budget have made only one trip back in January of 1994.  And while today I celebrate with love and appreciation the 72nd birthday of the modern State of Israel, I question the authenticity of my affection.

This would mean less if it wasn’t for the fact that I am not alone when it comes to being someone who left Israel “for just a few years”. I would imagine a rather large city, maybe even comparable to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv could be formed in Israel from people such as myself that had every intention of going back soon after they left to make Aliyah.  But the truth is, that with the opportunities to earn, the accessibility of so many products and so much entertainment, and for those it matters to, which is a large percentage of people who love Israel, a large Jewish community, leaving America wasn’t easy.  For many Jews, in the age of COVID-19, and a New York Metro area clobbered by the virus, coupled with a rise in anti-Semitism that has a frightening likelihood of only getting worse, moving to Israel might seem a whole lot easier than it once was.

While there would be nothing pioneering about jumping ship and moving to Israel in light of a changing landscape for the Jewish population outside of Israel, would it be any less acceptable or moral?  To answer that question one need only understand the initial purpose of the modern State of Israel.  It was, and is, first and foremost a safe haven for the Jewish people.  It says the following in Tehillim, Psalms,. Chapter 147, Verse 2:

בֹּנֵ֣ה יְרֽוּשָׁלִַ֣ם יְהֹוָ֑ה נִדְחֵ֖י יִשְׂרָאֵ֣ל יְכַנֵּֽס, The Lord is the builder of Jerusalem; He will gather the outcasts of Israel.

Israel was formed in the wake of the worst catastrophe the Jewish people ever faced.  In 1948, when the Jewish state was formed, the word was a mere 3 years removed from the end of a war that saw 6 million Jews murdered by Hitler’s Nazi party.  In the coming years Jews would continue to find themselves living in countries in which situations changed either significantly for those countries, for the status of Jews, or both.  Israel continued to be a safe haven then as it was after the Holocaust.  It remains one today.

So as we celebrate Israel’s 72nd birthday, many that once left intending to return, as well as those who never went, may have more to be grateful for than ever before.  Maybe once they get out of the house and reassess our lives as they are today, they may find that L’Shana haba’ah b’Yerushalayim, Next year in Jerusalem, may become more than just a catch phrase, it may actually become a reality.

Happy Birthday Israel!

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This year Passover incorporates past, present and future like never before

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As I write this, Passover has  already begun for my friends and family in Europe and Israel.  For those of us in the Americas, as we prepare to start the holiday and for the majority who will have a Seder like never before, I want to offer the following message of hope and encouragement.

In my years of celebrating the holiday, even when I was most focused, I admittedly would remember the past, acknowledge the present, and talk about the future.  But this  year the biggest difference for me is that we look at everything through a different lens.

As we look to the past, we will recount the story of the Jewish people being slaves in Egypt and the suffering of the Jewish people throughout the ages, most notably for so many of us, the suffering of the Holocaust.  As human nature is prone to cause us to do, this year we find more parallels between our lives and the past suffering as ever before. That doesn’t automatically mean we are correct in drawing that parallel, but to many the death and illness, coupled with the fact that we need to stay home to avoid a plague of sorts, is enough for many to see it in that light.

Our present, which is indeed connected to the past perspective, is given more focused attention than it usually is on any given Passover.  Usually Passover is a break or pause from how we conduct our every day lives, be it through changing the dietary laws, altering our work schedule, or spending time with more friends and family.  This year however, it is merely a break of a few hours over the course of a matter of a few days, as so many will be conducting their lives when the holiday is over in a very similar way to how they will conduct it over Passover. At home and, at least for the time being, adjusting to a very different normal.

However, it is my belief that the biggest difference comes in how we see the future.  Not just in practical terms but for those of us who are so inclined, in religious or spiritual terms.  For the majority of us, talking about how this year we are slaves and next year will be free, was an important yet disconnected part of our Seder in past years.  Maybe our lives haven’t always been everything we wanted,  having never truly questioned our freedom, but we have never been more appreciative of that freedom as we are today.  We look at our restrictions today and wonder if they will increase or diminish.  We question if the future holds more significant amounts of pain and suffering than we’ve already experienced.  And we question whether or not the world will become a place for all of humanity to exist in peace, freedom and love.

The answer is a simple yet complex one.  We just do not know what the future holds. But to paraphrase my father of blessed memory, we are better off not knowing the future, because inevitably we learn things we rather not know. Here is what we do know.  If we have the physical or mental capacity to do so, we can make our world better not just for ourselves but for those around us.  Acts of kindness, patience and understanding are more than just catch phrases.  They help to form that future we so dearly will look to at our Seders.  But as long as we can do something to make a difference, even in one person’s life, then we always can be hopeful for a better future.

Wishing you all a Happy and Healthy Passover.

A Positive Perspective on a Seder Alone

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Open Letter to Bernie Sanders: How dare you?

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Dear Bernie,

I decided that before I begin sharing with you my feelings on your stance towards Israel I would first research your comments condemning the attacks by Palestinian terrorists on the civilian Jewish population.  So, in fairness, to begin I will post those condemnations before I proceed with what I would like to say.

 

Now that I have finished with that I will continue.  No, I did not forget to cut and paste anything in this letter and I skipped a line on purpose to bring attention to the blank space.  The truth is that I was unable to find any time in which you condemned acts of terrorism against the Jewish population of the State of Israel.  Of course it is easy to find times in which you condemn Israel.  Everyone is very aware of that, however in order for you to be an honest broker, would it not be required to address the issue from an objective standpoint rather from the vacuous self-serving pandering place from which you wish to start?

Mr. Sanders, I have no problem with people criticizing Israel or its governments policies.  A large portion of the Israeli population does the same.  The difference is that the larger percentage of these people, besides having to live with the consequences of their opinions, also have served in the Israeli military.  The vast majority of these people do not have to answer to anyone for their motivation.  You however, seeing as you believe yourself worthy of the presidency of these United States can indeed be questioned as to your motivation for all of your political viewpoints.  To me your motivation regarding Israel is clear.  You see it as far more politically expedient to attack Israel than support her.  When do you stand with any representatives of the State of Israel?  Even those opposed to Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.  I see you standing proudly and with joy next to those who openly hate Israel.  To people like Linda Sarsour, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, people who at best laugh off blatant anti-Semitism, at worst contribute to it and perpetuate it.

I will not listen to the argument from you about how you can be against the State of Israel and still care about the fate of the Jewish people when you have done nothing to show yourself as an honest broker.  Where are your efforts to help the people you claim more and more to be part of as you get closer and closer to primaries in states with a larger Jewish population? And in case you claim to not know why Israel is connected to the fate of Israel, something I believe you do know but conveniently ignore, allow me to enlighten you.

The Jewish people have been victims of persecution throughout time, culminating into what was the most systematic and organized mass murder of one segment of the population the world has ever seen.  Out of the ashes of the Holocaust the modern State of Israel was born.  It was not created as a business venture or for political gain.  It was created as a safe haven for the Jewish people.  History shows us that the very survival of the Jewish people, YOUR people, may very well depend on having a Jewish state ready and able to protect and shelter us.  So while criticizing its government is a democratic process permitted and accepted in what you refer to as a racist government, supporting people, as you do, who attempt to grow organizations determined to bring Israel to her knees and destroy it is totally unacceptable.  To say in a New York Times interview 4 years ago that Israel killed 10,000 people in Gaza when that was way more than the terrorist group Hamas fraudelently claimed were killed is unacceptable.  To argue on behalf of the dignity the Palestinians while keeping quiet when it comes to the survival of Jews is unacceptable.

When asked recently what it means to you be to Jewish you responded as follows.

“I can remember very vividly, as a kid, looking at picture books about what happened in the Holocaust. As it happens, my father’s family was wiped out by Hitler.”

To this I say to you the following words. How dare you?  As a son of Holocaust survivors I see the most poignant words in your answer as being “As it happens”.  As though it’s a side point.  Forget being Jewish for a minute, something I imagine should be easy for you, your response shows a disrespect for your father and his ancestry. As it happens?  Did you only just find this out because you felt it would help your campaign?  Or is it, as it happens, on a side note, my father’s family was wiped out by Hitler.  Or, and this is how I see it, you felt that by making it too big of a deal you wouldn’t properly pander to a base you see critical to your political ambitions.  If I were to invoke the Holocaust as the one thing I see as what it means to be Jewish, let me tell you how I would answer. “Having learned about the Holocaust from a young age, having never had a grandparent because of it and knowing that 6 million Jews were murdered by the Nazis, I will never sit quietly when people threaten my people again, and I will do my best to be the kind of person who will stand up to any groups that look to persecute and wipe out any group of people.”  That is what I would say Mr. Sanders.  It wouldn’t be a soundbite that sounds so disingenuous that I have to fight the urge to question if it is even true.

As a Jewish American I will conclude by saying that as long as you continue to behave in a way I believe to be the ways of a traitor to his own people, you will not only not get my vote, you will get my active opposition.  You see Mr. Sanders, if you can’t show an ounce of loyalty to your own people, background and heritage, why would I ever consider someone like you, someone I see as a disgrace, to be a leader in the country I proudly call home.

Sincerely,

David Groen

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Making sure of NEVER AGAIN starts with our choices

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Over the past year or two I have progressively shied away from being political in my posts.  It’s not because I do not have opinions. That couldn’t be further from the truth.  I probably could write an opinion about every meal I eat.  I don’t have to look for an opinion to share. If anything I have to control myself from sharing every opinion I have, something I am happy to say I have learned to do.  But today I will share a political opinion.  Because today the Jewish people, I dare say all of humanity finds itself at an increasingly dangerous crossroads, and being the child of Holocaust survivors and a person who is committed to doing his part in helping to make sure it truly never does happen again, I can no longer remain quiet.

I am not about to endorse or attack one particular political party.  I know many who think like me when it comes to  the safety of Israel and the Jewish people tend to trash the Democrats because of how the far left of the party has in many ways gone off the rails, but when push comes to shove there is a very good chance that a more centrist, moderate, pro-Israel friend of the Jewish people, maybe even a  pro-Israel Jew, will get the nomination.  Hopefully then the choice will be between 2 individuals that at least don’t want to see harm come to us and the choice can be about other factors. This is more about a litmus test.

If, in light of  increasing attacks, attacks that have gone beyond disgraceful vandalism and have reached the point of violent attacks and murder, anyone as a Jew is prepared to support a candidate that is openly in favor of movements calling for Israel’s collapse or supportive of Jew-haters, you are making a critical mistake.  Although I have been open about the fact that I am not Donald Trump’s biggest fan, I have said numerous times that I would work for his campaign before I would vote for Bernie Sanders.  Hurray for the Brits and their statement against the vicious anti-Semite Jeremy Corbyn in the recent election.  He wasn’t only defeated, he was basically crushed into what will hopefully wind up as retirement and political oblivion (even worse than that wouldn’t devastate me either).  But what we are learning now should tell you, if you weren’t ready to admit it or informed enough to know it already, something very important about people like Bernie Sanders.  In the following Washington Post article you can read about how the day after the British election Bernie Sanders called Jeremy Corbyn to congratulate him on a good campaign and when asked where he got his campaign ideas Corbyn replied, “well, you actually”. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2017/07/13/britains-corbyn-i-got-my-ideas-from-bernie-sanders/

Besides hoping that Bernie Sanders’s career takes the same turn Corbyn’s has, what does it tell you about him that he buddies up with the likes of Corbyn, Omar and Tlaib while wanting nothing to do with Benjamin Netanyahu.  I don’t think liking Netanyahu and his government is a litmus test for who to support, but who you pick as your friends certainly should be, especially in light of criticism that is more like an onslaught against Israel than it is an expression of concern.

I have often said that I can not hate anyone that clearly likes Jewish people as much as Donald Trump does.  That being said, I have also stated that you can love people and have nothing but their well-being in mind and still not be good for them.  In other words, just because I believe President Trump is far more friend than foe of the Jewish people, the jury is still out whether or not he is good for us.

While I wait to see who the Democrats will choose as their nominee in the current election and reserve the right to keep who I vote for to myself, at least for now, I will declare that their are lines that as a Jew I will not cross.  Any candidate that comes even close to supporting the BDS Movement will not get my vote.  The Boycott, Divestment, Sanction Movement is a movement that in its very name reveals that it is not about the well-being of the Palestinians, it is about bringing Israel to its knees.  Anyone who supports that is, in my estimation declaring themselves to not only be anti-Semitic, they are wittingly or unwittingly complicit in the recent and increasingly frequent attacks.  I will make a very strong effort to distinguish between those who oppose the policies of Israel’s current government, something many Israelis and fellow Jews I like and respect do, but those who support crippling Israel as a tactic are not only wrong, they are dangerous.  Whether they are Jewish or not.

During the Nazi occupation of Europe there were Jews who were as dangerous for the Jewish people as any complicit non-Jew.  Although it will never be something someone will brag about, fear might be an excuse for doing nothing.  It is however not an excuse for being a traitor to your people.  We also live in an age with cable news and social media when ignorance is no longer an excuse. Subsequently I will say emphatically that NEVER AGAIN starts right here.  NEVER AGAIN means not accepting someone who openly declares a policy that hurts Israel and the Jewish people.  It means not supporting someone who puts his support for Jew haters above his support for Jews and it means understanding that although it is acceptable to oppose the policies of an Israeli government, being anti-Israel is today’s anti-Semitism.  And NEVER AGAIN means that when you have the opportunity to speak, be it literally or through your vote, you start by not tolerating someone who shows no concern for your survival.  All of our lives may very well depend on it.

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Open Letter to Bernie Sanders

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Dear Bernie,

When I found myself writing a similar letter to you 4 years ago, I was so filled with disgust for the distorted way in which you approached Israel I found myself feeling a disdain I never want to feel for a fellow Jew.

CLICK HERE FOR OPEN LETTER DATED APRIL 10, 2016

You see, the fact is that I would rather like you than not like you, but as a proud Jew, Zionist, and son of Holocaust survivors, I feel my priority is with the ideals that support the long term survival of the Jewish people.  When I stop and realize this fact it becomes very clear to me why I have such a problem with your positions.  It is not so much in their logic as it is in their motivation.

You see Mr. Sanders, I am open minded to a discussion about what is wrong in this world, even when it pertains to actions by those with whom I feel I have a personal connection.  However, your positions towards Israel are so distorted and one-sided against it that it is clear that you take your positions not for the sake of peace and well-being of both sides, but rather for the purposes of achieving your own, very self-serving political goals.

You portray yourself as a caring, fair man, one who wants equality for all, but when it comes to the safety and future of the State of Israel you seem to conveniently put fairness and balance on the shelf.  Perhaps you have wealthy Arab donors.  Who knows?  Perhaps you see a voting block in the increasingly anti-Semitic, BDS influenced college elite.  Who knows?  But what I do know is that if the well-being of people is of such importance to you, why is it that you over compensate in the wrong direction when it comes to the safety and well-being of your fellow Jews?

You’re a clever man.  You know that the safety of Israel is directly connected to the safety of Jews worldwide.  I believe that you also know, if you take the time to think about it and care enough to be honest, that most anti-Israel sentiment is rooted in anti-Semitism.  I know you are attempting to change that discussion, but as someone who deeply cares about the future not only of Israel, but of the free world as well, I can not and will not remain silent when someone such as yourself distorts reality.

It is really not all that complicated if you truly wish to understand the situation.  The Jewish people all over the world are far less safe without a strong Israel.  You do not push to support those that wish to change some of Israel’s policies, you push to support those that wish to bring Israel to its knees.  Israel has made countless attempts to reach peaceful solutions with the terrorist organizations that fraudulently represent the Palestinian people.  Why do you not attack those organizations?  Are you afraid of them?  Do you need their money?  I am sure we will never get an honest answer from you to this question, but in case you are in such denial of the truth that you are not aware of the following, allow me to enlighten you.  The so-called leadership of the Palestinians is nothing more than a group of self-serving criminals, largely financed by Iran with the sole function of using hatred against Israel and Jews worldwide as a means of generating support from an abused and manipulated populous.  Their priority is not to help their people but to hurt Jews, particularly those in Israel.

Sadly the description of the Palestinian leadership sounds a lot like that of Nazi Germany in its somewhat advanced stages.  As concerning as this is, it is far from shocking.  The ultimate motivation is the same.  A weakened Israel is a weakened Jewish people, and for any Jew to be part of that is not only disturbing, it is unforgivable.

You want to do good for the country and the world Mr. Sanders?  Start by remembering who you are, and by understanding that those who do harm to themselves are not good people, they are damaged people looking for ways to compensate for unresolved, sometimes dangerous personal issues.  It is my hope that you will either wake up or shut up.  Either way, the status quo is unacceptable.

Sincerely,

David Groen

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