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A Look at the German Protestant Institute of Archaeology in Israel

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 04:12

Biblical archaeology combines both archaeology and religion. The German Protestant Institute of Archaeology (GPIA) was established in 1898 by Kaiser Wilhelm II. The institute focuses on scientific research. Their mission is to first study the archaeology, but everything they do is connected with religion.

Turning a Burden into a Blessing: Heartwarming Stories of Three Expecting Mothers

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 03:59

Motherhood is often described as a “miracle” and a “blessing.” However, for many women living in poverty, suffering in abusive relationships and enduring difficult pregnancies, the gift of life seems more like a burden than a blessing.

Chaya Katzin, social worker and clinical director at the Israeli nonprofit organization Just One Life, provides support for pregnant women in such crises, often turning their burdens into blessings.

Following are the true stories of three to-be mothers who, through the support of Just One Life, rose to the great challenges of motherhood and found empowerment in many facets of their lives.

Sara, 19

Sara’s family moved to Israel in the late 90s from Ethiopia. Coming from poverty in Ethiopia only to experience continued financial struggle in their new homeland, Sara’s family was already under economic stress when she found out she was pregnant during her mandatory army service in the Israel Defense Forces.

Sara, the oldest child in her family, had always been a caretaker, helping her immigrant family navigate a new language and bureaucracy. “She was the support system in her family,”Katzin told Breaking Israel News.

Suddenly in an unexpected situation, overwhelmed, and without the finances, resources, or support she needed, Sara considered abortion. Without any income after being released from the army, Sara’s family was also unable to support her and her baby financially.

After discussing all of her options with social workers, Sara decided to create a life plan for herself and keep her baby. “Even in difficult situations, most of our clients want to follow through with their pregnancies and keep their babies,” said Katzin.

“So we were there for her emotionally and helped her find other organizations that help single moms get an education,” continued Katzin. “She came in for financial planning and therapy every week and referred her to a program for single moms to get support.”

Through this program, Sara worked towards the educational certification that she needed to become a medical secretary in a government-mandated HMO.

“This was a big step up for her,” maintained Katzin.

Once negative, bitter and frustrated, Sara left appreciative. “She told us that she was unsure if she would have made it without our help. Now, she has a good job and we still have a picture of her baby in our office.”

Dina, 29

Just as Dina entered her third trimester of pregnancy, her partner, a sports instructor, suddenly died. “He had epilepsy and died in his sleep while she was next to him,” explained Katzin. “He was also under 30 and they had planned to raise the child together, leaving our client in a shocking, difficult and unpredictable situation.”

According to Katzin, Dina was a particularly memorable client because there were no health issues, abuse or cycle of poverty. “It could have happened to anyone,” said Katzin. “That’s what was so scary and made the client so vulnerable.”

As Dina grieved her partner’s death, she felt guilty crying because she did not want to affect the baby, Katzin explained.

“She needed support and so she came to us,” said Katzin. “We worked with her to find her strengths, take care of herself and empowered her to be a great mom while dealing with stressful situations.”

Today, Katzin reported, Dina still has challenges but “she has found ways to cope, able to mother a child in a much stronger place while giving place for her grief – a tremendous accomplishment”

Ira, 34

Four years ago, Ira immigrated to Israel from Russia with her husband. Ira had recently lost her mother to cancer and decided to become the full-time caretaker of her blind grandmother in her already small apartment with her husband and their two kids.

“She was already experiencing challenges – learning a new language, grieving her mother’s death, trying to get a teachers degree and feeling tension with her husband after taking in her grandmother,” said Katzin. “When she found out she was pregnant, she felt like falling apart.”

Katzin and Ira discussed abortion and adoption, but Ira decided to keep her baby and went in for weekly sessions to navigate the difficult financial and emotional situation.

“We provided financial assistance to her, giving her a monthly income and inviting her to parenting workshops, mind-body workshops for exercise, mindfulness, breathing and coping with stressful situations,” said Katzin.

“We taught her relaxation techniques with guided imagery and used cognitive behavioral therapy to challenge thoughts and behaviors that were unhelpful.”

Before Ira gave birth, she finished her teaching degree. “She’s a real fighter with a strong will to succeed,” said Katzin. “She had our support throughout the process, but I give her all the credit.”

Katzin, reflecting on her work, maintained, “Having Just One Life there for women during difficult times is like having a walking cane – without it, one might be able to walk, but it is much easier to do so with it than without it,” Katzin explained.

“Just like that, in a small way, we are able to make a big impact on a family. That is what gives me motivation to do this work.”

Written in coordination with Just One Life.

 

New Poll Shows Netanyahu Holds Strong Lead

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 03:42

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is one of politics’ great survivors. His second stint as prime minister has now lasted almost 10 years. Israeli elections are predicted to take place in the winter. A recent poll suggested that Netanyahu’s Likud Party will likely win 32 out of 120 seats in the parliament.

Egyptian, PA Officials Accuse Abbas of Escalating Gaza Crisis

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 03:23

Egyptian‏ ‏and Palestinian officials on Sunday accused ‎Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas of ‎actively escalating the crisis in the Gaza Strip in ‎hopes that it will force rival Palestinian faction ‎Hamas to hand over control of the coastal enclave. ‎

Hamas, designated as a terrorist group by the European Union, the United States, Israel and several other countries, ousted ‎Abbas’s Fatah-led government from ‎‎Gaza in a military ‎coup in 2007, ‎‎‎effectively ‎splitting the Palestinian ‎Authority into two ‎‎political ‎‎entities. All efforts ‎made over the past ‎‎decade to ‎‎promote a ‎reconciliation between the rival ‎‎Palestinian ‎factions—the latest ‎‎brokered by Egypt ‎‎in late 2017—have failed. ‎ ‎

Egyptian intelligence officials said over the ‎weekend that, given Abbas’s efforts to derail Cairo’s attempts to broker a long-term ‎cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, compounded by the escalating Gaza border tensions, Egypt was ‎considering ceasing its efforts to mediate an inter-‎Palestinian reconciliation.‎

Egyptian and Palestinian officials confirmed to ‎Israel Hayom that most recently, Abbas has foiled an ‎attempt to ship Qatari-funded fuel from Israel to ‎Gaza via the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).‎

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According to a senior Ramallah official, Abbas ‎rebuked U.N. Middle East envoy Nikolay Mladenov over ‎the attempt and accused him of trying to circumvent ‎the Palestinian leadership by helping Hamas. ‎

Abbas’s office further warned UNRWA officials in Gaza, ‎who were set to receive the Qatari tankers, that it ‎will suspend their wages if they go ahead with the delivery. ‎

Last year, Abbas suspended the P.A.’s payments for the power Gaza receives from Israel, plunging the Strip into a severe energy crisis and leaving Gazans with four to six hours of electricity per day. This, combined with a series of financial sanctions, dilapidated infrastructure and soaring unemployment that has recently crossed 50 percent, has seen the civil unrest in Gaza grow, and with it, security tensions with Israel.

‎“It looks like he [Abbas] is doing everything in his ‎power to escalate the crisis in Gaza and prevent ‎Hamas from marking any diplomatic achievement,” an ‎Egyptian source said. ‎

A senior Egyptian defense official said that Abbas’s actions have painted Hamas into a ‎corner. ‎

‎“If Cairo pulls out of the [cease-fire] talks, there ‎is very high chance of another conflict in Gaza,” he ‎warned, adding that Egyptian officials involved in ‎the indirect negotiations were constantly briefing ‎their Israeli counterparts on every development.‎

Birds That Save Agricultural Produce Can Also Bring Peace

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 03:01

Prof. Yossi Leshem is strictly for the birds – literally! The Tel Aviv University ornithologist has been involved in research, education and the protection of birds for more than 40 years.

When migrating birds occasionally crashed into Israel Air Force jets, causing broken windows or getting stuck in engines and even causing fatal crashes, Leshem devised the technique of using engine-less gliders to follow flocks and warning the jets to stay away. Eventually, this developed into a radar project that replaced the gliders.

When voles ate alfalfa and other agricultural crops growing in the rich soil in northern Israel, Leshem replaced pesticides – which posed health dangers – with barn owls and kestrels (small birds of prey of the genus Falco, known for their habit of hovering while hunting) as biological pest control agents to eat the small rodents. Pesticides stick to plants and can poison wildlife that feed on them either directly or indirectly (for instance, alfalfa that has been sprayed and then fed to cattle might contaminate the milk that we drink).

The father of five and grandfather of six, who lives south of Jerusalem, Leshem persuaded the modern-Orthodox Kibbutz Sde Eliahu located in the Bet She’an valley near the border with Jordan to build wooden nesting boxes as homes for the birds that eat the voles.

Fortunately, as Leshem’s experiment clearly proved successful, it was joined by farmers, government officials, public representatives and university researchers. Leshem aimed at raising the number of nest boxes for birds in the agricultural fields in seven regions in Israel, and within three years to double their number – from 730 nest boxes (already active in the area in 2007) to 1,500. Each region appointed a coordinator to work with the farmers; short films and explanatory brochures were distributed; study days were held for hundreds of farmers; and the subject was discussed in the press. A website was created (at www.birds.org.il), to learn about the subject first hand.

Barn owls, with cute, heart-shaped faces, and kestrels don’t need to worry at all about the man-made borders; they fly wherever they want. If there is food somewhere that is suitable for them – mainly various species of mice – that is where they fly silently, without raising the rodents’ suspicion.

Prof. Yossi Leshem sits in his office at Tel Aviv University. (Credit: Tel Aviv University)

At the dawn of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent in the Eastern Mediterranean, man began to grow grains such as wheat and barley. They wiped out the natural forests, replacing them with agricultural crops that attracted thousands of rodents to the fields. The rodents caused a lot of damage to agriculture and spread diseases. In the wake of the rodents came the barn owls, which sleep during the day and are predators at night. They began to nest in water holes, barns and attics, and formed a bond with human habitats.

Since the barn owls’ eyes are at the front of the face, they are thought to be very intelligent, like humans, but this is a myth. Yet they are smart enough to go after rodents for their dinner.

Leshem notes that according to Jewish tradition, as well as in Roman folklore, the owl represents black magic and evil, and the sight of an owl in flight was considered a sign of impending destruction and ruin. Some Muslims believe that the barn owl represents ghosts seeking revenge, while some Bedouin claim that if an owl nears their tent and calls out, someone in the family might be facing death.

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Of course, although these myths have no scientific basis, they may come from the fact that people are scared in the dark when they can’t see where they are going.

As for kestrels, they may hunt from an observation point on a treetop or the roof of a nest box in the field. When they catch their prey, the bird stuns it with a strong blow of the beak to the head and chokes them using the long, strong talons on their legs. Kestrels don’t build their own nests but look for a ready-made one – cracks in rocks and hollow tree trunks serve as natural nesting sites, as well as nests abandoned by other birds (mostly crows), and even attics and empty planters.

Kestrels like to nest year after year in the same nest, unless it was disturbed the previous year. The female lays three to seven eggs at two-day intervals, according to the availability of food in the area. One pair of Kestrels tending to their nestlings preys on up to 20 rodents a day. A pair of barn owls can eat between 2,000 and 6,000 small rodents annually.

Leshem’s project expanded over the years, so that today, there are thousands of nesting boxes in Israel and hundreds more in the Palestinian Authority, Jordan and elsewhere. The bird house idea became a national project, and as the rodents knew no borders, Leshem taught Jordanians on the other side to do the same. This project promoted friendly ties with Jordanian farmers. Although white doves are the symbol of peace, maybe barn owls and kestrels can be as well.

The Israeli ornithologist is also promoting peace using his contacts with another “species” that flies very high – a US astronaut. He met Dr. Richard (Ricky) Arnold II – who is currently airborne at the International Space Station – last year.

Arnold visited Israel for an event in memory of Col. Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut and a fighter pilot, who was on NASA’s ill-fated Columbia space mission that crashed in February 2003 along with six other crew members. Every year, NASA sends an American astronaut to Israel to honor Ramon. Last year, it was Arnold, who – Leshem learned – is an enthusiastic bird enthusiast. He took him to see migrating birds feasting at the Hula Valley, and Arnold was captivated by the sight.

The 54-year-old Arnold, who was raised in Bowie, Maryland, took a liking to Leshem and agreed come to Israel again in April 2019, as a guest of the Hoopoe Foundation. (The hoopoe is Israel’s national bird). He will be a keynote speaker at “The Way of a Vulture in the Sky” conference and be part of the flyover of nine Israeli, Jordanian and British planes from Eilat north to the Lebanese border with migrating birds. This is meant to convey a message of peace among nations and religions.

Arnold has spent more than 200 days in space as a NASA astronaut and even participated in space walks outside the space station. The US astronaut began working at the US Naval Academy in 1987 as an oceanographic technician. Upon completing his teacher certification program, he accepted a position as a science teacher at John Hanson Middle School in Waldorf, Maryland. In 1993, Arnold joined the faculty at the Casablanca American School in Casablanca, Morocco, teaching biology and marine environmental science.

In 1996, he and his family moved to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where he was employed as a middle and high school science teacher at the American International School. Later, he moved to Indonesia and to Romania to teach math and science at a high school.

His career veered quite a bit in 2004, when he was chosen as a mission specialist-educator by NASA, followed two years later by completion of an astronaut candidate training course that included scientific and technical briefings, intensive instruction in Shuttle and International Space Station systems, physiological training and water and wilderness survival training. Upon completion of his training, He worked on various technical assignments until he was assigned to the STS-119 spaceflight.

The space station circles the Earth every 90 minutes, floating in space about 400 km above it. With its solar panels the size of a football field, the space station is the largest artificial structure in space. Six astronauts currently live in the station: three American astronauts from NASA (including Arnold), two cosmonauts from Russia and one German astronaut.

ACLU’s Opposition to Kavanaugh Sounds Its Death Knell

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 02:00

So why did the American Civil Liberties Union oppose a Republican nominee to the Supreme Court and argue for a presumption of guilt regarding sexual allegations directed against that judicial nominee? The answer is as clear as it is simple. It is all about pleasing the donors. The ACLU used to be cash poor but principle-rich. Now, ironically, after Trump taking office, the ACLU has never become so cash-rich, yet principle-poor.

The problem is that most of the money is not coming from civil libertarians who care about free speech, due process, the rights of the accused and defending the unpopular. It is coming from radical leftists in Hollywood, Silicon Valley and other areas not known for a deep commitment to civil liberties.

The old ACLU would never have been silent when Michael Cohen’s office was raided by the FBI and his clients’ files seized; it would have yelled foul when students accused of sexual misconduct were tried by kangaroo courts; and it surely would have argued against a presumption of guilt regarding sexual allegations directed against a judicial nominee.

When the ACLU’s national political director and former Democratic Party operative Faiz Shakir was asked why the ACLU got involved in the Kavanaugh confirmation fight, he freely admitted, “People have funded us and I think they expect a return.”

President Trump greeting Brett Kavanaugh and his family. Why did the American Civil Liberties Union oppose a Republican nominee to the Supreme Court and argue for a presumption of guilt regarding sexual allegations directed against him? (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Now that Brett Kavanaugh has been confirmed, it is appropriate to look at the damage caused by the highly partisan confirmation process. Among the casualties has been an organization I have long admired.

After Politico reported that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was spending more than $1 million to oppose Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, I checked the ACLU website to see if its core mission had changed — if the ACLU had now officially abandoned its non-partisan nature and become yet another Democratic super PAC. But no, the ACLU still claims it is “non-partisan.”

So why did the ACLU oppose a Republican nominee to the Supreme Court and argue for a presumption of guilt regarding sexual allegations directed against that judicial nominee?

The answer is as clear as it is simple. It is all about pleasing the donors. The ACLU used to be cash poor but principle-rich. Now, ironically, after Trump taking office, the ACLU has never become so cash-rich, yet principle-poor. Before Donald Trump was elected President, the ACLU had an annual operating budget of $60 million dollars.[1] When I was on the ACLU National Board, it was a fraction of that amount. Today it is flush with cash, with net assets of over $450 million dollars. As the ACLU itself admitted in its annual report ending 2017, it received “unprecedented donations” after President Trump’s election. Unprecedented” it truly has been: the ACLU received $120 million dollars from online donations alone (up from $3-5 million during the Obama years).

The problem is that most of the money is not coming from civil libertarians who care about free speech, due process, the rights of the accused and defending the unpopular. It is coming from radical leftists in Hollywood, Silicon Valley and other areas not known for a deep commitment to civil liberties. To its everlasting disgrace, the ACLU is abandoning its mission in order to follow the money. It now spends millions of dollars on TV ads that are indistinguishable from left wing organizations, such as MoveOn, the Democratic National Committee and other partisan groups.

As the New Yorker reported on the ACLU’s “reinvention in the Trump era,”

“In this midterm year…as progressive groups have mushroomed and grown more active, and as liberal billionaires such as Howard Schultz and Tom Steyer have begun to imagine themselves as political heroes and eye Presidential runs, the A.C.L.U., itself newly flush, has begun to an active role in elections. The group has plans to spend more than twenty-five million dollars on races and ballot initiatives by [Midterm] Election Day, in November. Anthony Romero, the group’s executive director, told me, ‘It used to be that, when I had a referendum I really cared about, I could spend fifty thousand dollars.'”

This new strategy can be seen in many of the ACLU’s actions, which would have been inconceivable just a few years ago. The old ACLU would never have been silent when Michael Cohen’s office was raided by the FBI and his clients’ files seized; it would have yelled foul when students accused of sexual misconduct were tried by kangaroo courts; and it surely would have argued against a presumption of guilt regarding sexual allegations directed against a judicial nominee.

Everything the ACLU does today seems to be a function of its fundraising. To be sure, it must occasionally defend a Nazi, a white supremacist, or even a mainstream conservative. But that is not its priority these days, either financially or emotionally. Its heart and soul are in its wallet and checkbook. It is getting rich while civil liberties are suffering.

There appears to be a direct correlation between the ACLU’s fundraising and its priorities. When the ACLU’s national political director and former Democratic Party operative Faiz Shakir was asked why the ACLU got involved in the Kavanaugh confirmation fight, he freely admitted, “People have funded us and I think they expect a return.” Its funders applaud the result because many of these mega donors could not care less about genuine civil liberties or due process. What they care about are political results: more left-wing Democrats in Congress, fewer conservative justices on the Supreme Court and more money in the ACLU coffers.

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When I served both on the National and Massachusetts Boards of the American Civil Liberties Union, board members included conservative Republicans, old line Brahmans, religious ministers, schoolteachers, labor union leaders and a range of ordinary folks who cared deeply about core civil liberties. The discussions were never partisan. They always focused on the Bill of Rights. There were considerable disagreements about whether various amendments covered the conduct at issue. But no one ever introduced the question of whether taking a position would help the Democrats or Republicans, liberals or conservatives, Jews or Catholics or any other identifiable group. We cared about applying the constitution fairly to everyone, without regard to the political consequences.

As the New Yorker described these more innocent times: the ACLU “… has been fastidiously nonpartisan, so prudish about any alliance with political power that its leadership, in the nineteen-eighties and nineties, declined even to give awards to like-minded legislators for fear that it might give the wrong impression.”

Those days are now gone. Instead we have a variant on the question my immigrant grandmother asked when I told her the Brooklyn Dodgers won the World Series in 1955: “Yeah, but, vuz it good or bad for the Jews?” My Grandmother was a strong advocate of identity politics: all she cared about was the Jews. That was 63 years ago. The questions being asked today by ACLU board members is: is it good or bad for the left, is it good or bad for Democrats, is it good or bad for women, is it good or bad for people of color, is it good or bad for gays?

These are reasonable questions to be asked by groups dedicated to the welfare of these groups but not by a group purportedly dedicated to civil liberties for all. A true civil libertarian transcends identity politics and cares about the civil liberties of one’s political enemies because he or she recognizes that this is the only way that civil liberties for everyone will be preserved.

Today, too few people are asking: Is it good or bad for civil liberties?

Reprinted with author’s permission from Gatestone Institute

Albert Einstein’s Controversial ‘God Letter’ Expected to Top $1 Million At Auction

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 01:48

Christie’s Auction House announced on Thursday that a controversial letter penned by Albert Einstein containing his views on God and religion is expected to fetch more than $1 million at auction in December.

Peter Klarnet, a senior specialist in books and manuscripts at Christie’s, wrote in a release provided to CNN that the one-and-a-half-page letter is considered “one of the definitive statements in the Religion vs. Science debate.”

Einstein wrote the letter to Jewish philosopher Eric Gutkind in 1954 in response to his book,  Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt.

A translation of the letter reads:

“The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still purely primitive, legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation, no matter how subtle, can change this for me. For me, the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstition. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong, and whose thinking I have a deep affinity for, have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are also no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything “chosen” about them.

In general I find it painful that you claim a privileged position and try to defend it by two walls of pride, an external one as a man and an internal one as a Jew. As a man you claim, so to speak, a dispensation from causality otherwise accepted, as a Jew the privilege of monotheism. But a limited causality is no longer a causality at all, as our wonderful Spinoza recognized with all incision, probably as the first one. And the animistic interpretations of the religions of nature are in principle not annulled by monopolization. With such walls we can only attain a certain self-deception, but our moral efforts are not furthered by them. On the contrary.

Now that I have quite openly stated our differences in intellectual convictions it is still clear to me that we are quite close to each other in essential things, i.e; in our evaluations of human behavior. What separates us are only intellectual ‘props’ and ‘rationalization’ in Freud’s language. Therefore I think that we would understand each other quite well if we talked about concrete things.”

Though Einstein was a self-proclaimed agnostic, his belief in God is the subject of fierce debate to this day. Einstein was raised by secular Jewish parents and attended a local Catholic public elementary school in Munich. He described this in his autobiographical notes.

“I came — though the child of entirely irreligious parents — to a deep religiousness, which, however, reached an abrupt end at the age of twelve,” Einstein wrote. “Through the reading of popular scientific books I soon reached the conviction that much in the stories of the Bible could not be true.”

“The consequence was a positively fanatic orgy of freethinking coupled with the impression that youth is intentionally being deceived by the state through lies; it was a crushing impression.”

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Einstein frequently referred to God and is often misquoted as saying, “God does not play dice with the universe.” This phrase is understood to mean that the course of all events is predetermined. In point of fact, Einstein wrote, “I, at any rate, am convinced that [God] does not throw dice” in a letter to Max Born in 1926. Einstein was expressing his dissatisfaction with the preeminence of probability in some interpretations of quantum mechanics.

If he did believe in God, Einstein’s belief certainly took him out of the framework of classical religion. “I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes its creatures, or has a will of the kind we experience in ourselves,” he wrote in an essay in 1931.

His non-belief was plainly stated in a letter he wrote in 1954, the same year he wrote the letter to Gutkind.

“It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.”

Nonetheless, it  would be inaccurate to say he was entirely non-religious as Einstein waxed poetic when describing his own religious beliefs.“I am a deeply religious nonbeliever,” he once wrote. “This is a somewhat new kind of religion.”

In “The World As I See It,” a collection of his essays published in 1949, Einstein described what he saw as the deeper aspect of life.

“The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. He who knows it not and can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle. It was the experience of mystery — even if mixed with fear — that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which are only accessible to our reason in their most elementary forms; it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man. I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the type of which we are conscious in ourselves. An individual who should survive his physical death is also beyond my comprehension, nor do I wish it otherwise; such notions are for the fears or absurd egoism of feeble souls. Enough for me the mystery of the eternity of life, and the inkling of the marvelous structure of reality, together with the single-hearted endeavor to comprehend a portion, be it never so tiny, of the reason that manifests itself in nature.”

The “God Letter” was first sold at an auction for $404,000 in 2008, then for a little over $3 million via eBay in 2012 to an unknown buyer.

Good Intentions, a Little Girl’s Murder and the Refugee Road to Hell

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 01:00

St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church is, in its own words, an “affirming church” with “diverse” members and a “progressive” faith. The Vancouver church is also very focused on bringing refugees to Canada.

Despite being in Canada, when Trump won the election, Pastor Dan Chambers compared it to 9/11. In another post, quoting Yoda, he claimed that Americans are “fueled” by “fear of Muslims”.

But it isn’t Americans, or Caucasians, the targets of Chambers’ rant who are protesting these days. It’s the Asian immigrants protesting the murder of one of the daughters of their community by one of Pastor Dan’s Syrian refugees.

“I Wept, I Rise,” Chambers posted after Trump’s victory. But he never had anything to weep about. Those who knew Marrisa Shen do. And they are rising.

The protests at the Vancouver Provincial Criminal Court at the first appearance of Ibrahim Ali, Marrisa’s alleged killer, had already turned ugly with a Muslim woman in a hijab throwing coffee at a protestor.

In 2015, St. Andrew’s-Wesley had helped raise the money to bring Ali and his family to Canada.

The 30K/ 30Day project on Bowen Island through St. Andrews- Wesley set out to raise $30,000 to bring Syrian refugee families to Vancouver. They succeeded beyond their wildest expectations. The money they raised paid for Ali’s brother and his family to come to Canada.

And an extra $15,000 was raised to bring Ibrahim Ali and another brother.

“It would mean they could have a family reunion along with family that is in Burnaby,” was the pitch.

At 1 in the morning, last summer, the body of 13-year-old Marrisa Shen was found in Burnaby’s Central Park. The last sight of her was on the security camera of a Tim Horton’s. After over a year of searching, as her photo in a sailor suit looked out from the TV news, posters and flyers, after hundreds of interviews and tips, the case broke wide open.

St. Andrews- Wesley’s gift to Canada was arrested for her murder. That extra $15,000 had paid for a little girl’s life.

Even the worst crimes have a short shelf life. It takes a committed community to see justice done. Marrisa’s murder would never have been solved if Chinese-Canadians hadn’t attended rallies and protests, and kept the pressure on, and as Ibrahim Ali came to court, they were still out there, chanting, “No Bail” and “Where’s Trudeau”, a reference to Canada’s unpopular pro-refugee prime minister.

Banners reading, “Comprehensive Security Screening Now” and “No More Victims, No Bail” were brandished outside the courthouse.

Protesters insisted that Ibrahim Ali hadn’t been properly vetted. Not that vetting does any good.

Muslim migrants have been responsible for numerous assaults on women across Europe. Vetting for terror ties does absolutely nothing to evaluate how migrants from a culture where unaccompanied women and girls are considered fair game will react to being in Berlin, Manchester or Vancouver.

A member of the “social justice committee from the St. James Church” also showed up to claim that the Syrian refugees were “showing compassion to the girl and her family.”

Vancouver’s liberal churches had been very aggressive in sponsoring Syrian refugees. What they lacked in compassion for Canadians, they more than made up for in their love for Muslim migrants.

Pastor Dan Chamber is certainly not slowing down.

“The vetting situation is very good,” he insisted. “A situation like this gives one pause to review, and we’ll review, but it’s really out of an act of compassion and care that there is the response to the refugee situation, which is not going to stop, right?”

Not unless Canadian voters make it stop.

RCMP Supt. Donna Richardson insisted that, “by and large, our refugees that come to the country are hard-working citizens that are happy to be in Canada, and I would just hope that we look at this incident for what it is: It’s a one-off situation.”

90% of Syrian refugees are actually unemployed. Whatever they are working hard at, it doesn’t involve earning a living. Canadian schools are struggling with violent assaults by Syrian refugees.

Mohamad Rafia, a Syrian refugee beat his wife with a hockey stick for half an hour and then claimed that he didn’t know it was illegal. “More should have been done to educate him,” his interpreter insisted.

Perhaps with a hockey stick.

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Before his arrest, Mohamad had been filmed and touted as all but an “advertisement for Canadian multiculturalism”. The chair of the group that sponsored Mohamad credited the Convention of Atlantic Baptist Churches as her inspiration. “We have made a difference to at least one family,” she insisted.

And ‘differences’ continue to be made.

When Soleiman Hajj Soleiman, a Syrian refugee, was accused of sexually assaulting six teenage girls at a water park, the River City Refugee Project, which brought him to the country, continued to support him.

Soleiman and the River City Refugee Project won, and the girls, ranging from 13 to 15 years old, were left in tears, when the charges against the Syrian refugee were dropped.

“I’m not really focused on what he’s accused of,” a refugee group spokesman insisted. “I want to show him that he has a community.”

He certainly does. It’s the girls who don’t.

“The church will co-operate with the police, and we are keeping everyone involved in this in mind, hearts and prayers,” Pastor Dan Chambers said of Marrisa Shen’s murder.

Mayor Murray Skeels of Bowen Island was even more explicit. “Our hearts go out to both the families, of the victim and of the accused.”

When you sympathize with both sides, you’re really only sympathizing with the perpetrators.

The Canadian women and girls targeted by Syrian refugees have no community. The community leaders, the political and civic authorities they trusted, are not on their side. They’re on the side of the abusers.

Marrisa Shen’s family is lucky enough to have a community. A community that puts her first. That community has been fighting for her for over a year. And that may be enough to get her justice.

Or it may not.

The Syrian refugee machine has the political, cultural and even much of the religious establishment on its side. Its victims have a few banners and their determination.

It’s not an even fight.

Why does the bleeding heart crowd, which overflows with empathy for every Syrian migrant cadging them for money, have so little empathy for abused and murdered Canadian girls?

Helping Syrian refugees feels good. Caring about their victims doesn’t.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. The path that ended with Marrisa’s body lying in a park began with good intentions. It ended in the hell that the left always makes for others.

One of the essential truths of religion is that what feels good isn’t necessarily good, not for you or for anyone else. The religious denominations hollowed out into social justice mockeries by the left are unable to fathom the most basic concept without which no meaningful system of values can exist.

Goodness isn’t to be found in your feelings, but in the pattern of your outcomes.

The refugee industry shrugs off every act of refugee violence, insisting that each one is a random event that does not speak to the rightness of the cause. That has always been the argument of the left. No matter how often its policies lead to tyranny and mass murder, the fault is in the stars, not in them.

“I know that nothing can’t be wrong, that feels so right,” Elvis once sang.

That’s the anthem of the left. And as another body lies at its feet, it keeps on singing the same old song. The road to hell begins with good intentions, with slogans about social justice, equality and the oppressed. It ends with mountains of corpses. Or just one small body lying after midnight in a park.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Sultan Knish Blog

Iraqi Women That Defy Islamic Conservatives Keep Getting Murdered

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 00:00

One of her last Instagram posts shows her with green angelic wings, a crown and wrapped in glowing coils. Tara Fares was gunned down on Thursday, September 27, as she drove in Baghdad. A motorcycle with the perpetrators sped off. “We belong to God and to him we return,” reads a memorial post on her Instagram.

Fares was the latest in a string of women to be murdered mysteriously in Baghdad and southern Iraq in what locals fear is a growing trend of intimidation against outspoken women. Fares was a described as a model and beauty queen, but her real impact was online with her 2.8 million Instagram followers. She also had an active fan club (@tarafaressfans) that posted her photos online.

Some have pointed a finger at Islamic State, with Turkish newspaper Hurriyet claiming she received threats from ISIS. An article at the Kurdish media network Rudaw noted that the Christian community of Iraq from which Fares came “has suffered repeated persecution for their faith at the hands of different Iraqi regimes.”

Her murder is seen as connected to the targeted killings of others. Rafeel al-Yaseri and Rasha al-Hassan, who were involved in the beauty industry and plastic surgery in Iraq, were killed in August. An activist in Basra named Suad al-Ali was also murdered this month. Last year, a male model named Karar Nushi was also murdered in Baghdad.

Fares lived in Erbil in the Kurdistan region but had gone to Baghdad from time to time, and was targeted on her recent trip. Erbil is considered safer, and many Christians have fled areas such as the Nineveh plains for the security of the Kurdish region.

Rasha al-Aqeedi, who is from Mosul and a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, asked, “How desperate, insecure do you have to be that Tara was a threat to you? The fragile masculinity of those who have access to arms in Iraq is staggering.”

She connected it to the recent Brett Kavanaugh hearing in the US. “As the world watches Christine Blasey Ford’s courageous testimony, another social media figure in Iraq was gunned down,” she said.

But who is killing the women, ask Iraqis. Many privately suggest it is not a simplistic story about ISIS or shadowy “fanatics” but rather a more complex motive.

“In one of her videos she cursed a Shia clergyman,” one source said. According to a video posted online after her death, she had complained after a Shi’ite clergy proposed a “temporary marriage” and had claimed politicians in Iraq had robbed the country. Temporary marriage is often used as a euphemism for prostitution in neighboring Iran, and the proposal to her implies she was being harassed and propositioned.

Iraqis express pessimism that the murder will lead to change. Even though one woman has been nominated for the presidency of Iraq this year, it is not seen as an advancement amid the killings. An employee of Al-Iraqiya TV, who worked at the Supreme Judicial Council of Iraq called Fares a “whore,” causing further outrage and calls for his dismissal.

Amid the outpouring of remembrances for Fares and the international coverage, the government has said it will act. A spokesman for the Interior Ministry in Baghdad said that the prime minister had ordered the creation of a special committee to bring the perpetrators to justice. In a private message, one man who knew Fares said that she had lived near him and she was warned not to go to Baghdad. He said people spread rumors that she worked as a prostitute and “this is the reason why they killed her.”

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Fares is seen as a kind of symbol for many Iraqis to speak out about the growing sense that far-right conservative extremists are targeting women. Arayish Barzinjee-Martsch, who was born in Erbil and follows politics in Iraq, wrote that up to five women have been recently killed, and although Baghdad is calling for an investigation, Iranian influence may be to blame.

Iran is trying to turn Baghdad into a sort of religious center or something,” he said. “In my opinion, they are making examples of these prominent women to quiet others who want to break the mold.” It is about enforcing social norms, more than politics, he said.

Another source from southern Iraq thought the attack was carried out by Iranian-funded members of the Hashd al-Shaabi group of Shi’ite militias. But he argued it was not likely carried out by militias loyal to Iraqi cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, rather those closer to Tehran.

“Iranian aligned parties are not happy with the state of civil society activities after the Basra protests.” The protests in the city of Basra have targeted Iranian-backed parties.

It wasn’t about her being Christian, but her behavior, drinking in public and how she dressed, another Iraqi who asked to remain anonymous argued.

“This is what happens after thousands of young men go to war under religious banners and come back to cities,” he said, referring to the Shi’ite militias who fought ISIS and have now come home to places like Basra and Baghdad.

Online the discussion has turned to a kind of ‘Me Too’ moment. “The recent assassinations of female public figures in Iraq have prompted commentators to voice their concerns,” writes one woman who goes by the handle @Observer46664. “Iraqi women who live here have ALWAYS been painfully aware of their vulnerability and fragile social status.” The “proud Iraqi feminist,” wrote on Twitter that “I am an Iraqi woman who lived in Baghdad and my work allows me to see women and girls daily, the sheer horrors that I have been seeing and hearing is beyond disheartening.” She says that it is difficult to reconcile her love for the country with the patriarchal culture “holding back Iraqi women.” And the oppressors are not just a small minority, but “are products of a dominant culture that puts men first.”

With each killing, the chances that another woman will take the victim’s place and try to persevere and challenge the system decreases. With the protests in Basra and uncertainty over who will run Iraq next, including a continued ISIS threat, there is a sense that the country faces yet another crossroads. The killing of Fares was symbolic, another attempt to silence an open-minded voice in a country that sought to leave behind the dark days of ISIS and emerge stronger. Instead, locals feel that militias and clerics will continue their overbearing influence. “The killings will continue, the government didn’t even call this terrorism,” a man in Mosul wrote.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Middle East Forum

ECCLESIATES 8:7

Mon, 10/08/2018 - 22:58

The word chaifetz, translated here as ‘experience,’ also means ‘desire.’ This verse means that God desires that various biblical commandments be observed at specific times of the year. Each season contains unique powers. The month of Elul, for example, which precedes the High Holidays, is conducive to repentance. Adar, the month in which the joyous holiday of Purim is celebrated, is a month of happiness, while Av, the month in which the two Temples in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) were destroyed, is a month of mourning. Each year, a person can tap into the different powers corresponding to the different times of year. Take advantage of the powers of the present month of Elul and look inside yourself.

NASA Will Help Israel Land on the Moon

Mon, 10/08/2018 - 10:38

NASA has confirmed it will help Israeli company SpaceIL in its attempts to land a small craft on the moon. The Americans will provide a laser reflector that will show the craft a safe spot to land on. It will also provide vital communication assistance.

PM Tells Cabinet ‘Prepare for War With Gaza’

Mon, 10/08/2018 - 10:24

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet on Sunday that he is preparing for a military solution to the violence on the country’s southern border.

“If the reality of civil distress in Gaza is diminished, that is desirable, but that is not certain to happen, and so we are preparing militarily,” Netanyahu said in the cabinet meeting. “That is not an empty statement.”

The prime minister’s remarks come after the Defense Ministry ordered IDF troops to send reinforcements to the region on Thursday in preparation for a possible escalation.

Israel has been threatened by the weekly Hamas-led March of Return protests which began in March, bringing tens of thousands of Gazans to the border. Though several media reports have described the protests as peaceful, protesters hurl projectiles, firebombs, and hand grenades at IDF troops stationed along the security fence separating Gaza from Israel. There have been many attempts, some successful, to infiltrate the border and to place explosive devices on the fence. In July, a Hamas sniper armed with a specialized rifle killed one IDF soldier and wounded another. The violence has been intensifying in recent weeks.

At least 193 Palestinians, including at least 50 Hamas members, have been killed since the riots began.

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In a tactic that has proven successful, Hamas operatives have sent thousands of incendiary balloons and kites over the border, burning between 7,000-9,000 acres of farmland and nature preserves in southern Israel.

In July, Hamas fired close to 200 rockets and projectiles at Israeli cities, leading the IDF to strike 40 Hamas military targets in Gaza. After the hostilities, Minister of Education Naftali Bennett confronted Chief of General Staff Gadi Eisenkot and demanded that the IDF take more active measures to protect Israelis from the ongoing attacks by aerial incendiary devices.

Attempts by Egypt to mediate a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas were recently discontinued. The conflict between Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas have exacerbated the tension in the region. Last week, Abbas threatened to cut off all funding to Gaza if Hamas does not hand over complete control of Gaza.The PA gives approximately $93 million each month to Gaza.

Israeli security officials told Hadashot news that a financial crisis could drive Hamas to initiate a conflict with Israel. They also warned that such a conflict could expand into Judea and Samaria.

Israeli Kan broadcasting reported that  Abbas spoke with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi on Saturday. Al-Sisi reportedly warned Abbas that additional measures against Gaza would endanger the Egyptian security, particularly in the Sinai Peninsula. Egyptian forces are already contending against ISIS operatives in the area and would not welcome an increase in tensions along the border.

Cookies for Christians

Mon, 10/08/2018 - 10:06

A few years ago, two Jewish couples in Israel were discussing the mad rush for trinkets (flags, keychains and more) that are given out by thousands of Christian marchers to parade watchers along the route of the Jerusalem March during Sukkot. Northern Shomron (Samaria) resident Naomi Weiss said to her friends Gabi and Shmuel Tair, “They came all this way to support Israel. We should be giving them stuff!”

United in agreement, the couples brought some boxes of traditional Jewish rugalech to give out to marchers. The kosher pastries went quickly and were much appreciated.

The next year, they made the switch from rugelach to cookies and Cookies for Christians was born. “Shmuel Tair, my friend who started [the project], liked the alliteration of Cookies for Christians,” Weiss told Breaking Israel News. “If we had a really good budget, I would give them water.”

Although the Tair family relocated to the U.S., the project moves forward under the leadership of Naomi Weiss and her husband Simcha Herring, who live 90 minutes north of Jerusalem with their first child.

At this year’s Jerusalem March, the couple led a team of 15 people who handed out 1,500 cookies over an intense two-hour period. Weiss pointed out that they buy a specific brand of Israeli sandwich cookies because they are embossed with a smile.

The Cookies for Christians project is privately funded. “Sometimes people offer to help,” Weiss said. “But it’s our family’s thing.”

Now that the Weiss-Herrings have a toddler, “It’s taken on a new dimension as parents. We want to teach our son the lessons of expressing gratitude, having good manners and representing Israel in a good way.”

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Weiss feels that the Jerusalem March, when thousands of Christians come to Israel to show their support, is a particular bright spot. “When things are very dark, it’s very reaffirming of my faith in humanity. People really love us,” she said.

Handing out cookies allows marchers to have what Weiss calls “bite-size human interactions. It feels good to acknowledge the love and to reciprocate it.”

Besides cookies, Weiss and Herring try to say a few words in the language of as many of the marchers as they can. They look for specific national flags and say “Thank you for coming!” in Dutch, Polish, Slovak, Danish, Portuguese and Spanish. “We try to catch them, but they move kind of fast,” Weiss explained.

The couple is able to have more meaningful conversations with the English speakers, including those from Ireland, Scotland and the US. “We would like to have more real interactions [with the Christians who are visiting] before the parade. That would be a goal,” Weiss noted. After the March, she researches the organizations that sponsored trinkets to thank them and to try to make connections.

They would also like to grow the project with more Jews participating and more cookies handed out. The team would welcome, “More of a showing from our contingent [to say] that we’re thankful and we appreciate them and we welcome them.” Weiss told Breaking Israel News that she is aware of other small efforts from Jews, including other groups giving away candies independently.

Asked to comment about the significance of Cookies for Christians, Weiss said, “First and foremost, it’s just human decency to say thank you. Jews are very wary of Christians, especially evangelicals. We all need to be better educated about each other.

“Gratitude is part of Judaism. Jews are in constant dialog with God, thanking Him.

I will extol Hashem‘s name with song, and exalt Him with praise. Psalms 69:31

“When we talk about the meeting of two cultures, it’s handy to have something that can be appreciated by both cultures.”

Like gratitude.

And cookies.

Cookies for Christians can be reached through their Facebook page.

Are Scientists Playing God With Yellowstone?

Mon, 10/08/2018 - 07:02

The Yellowstone Caldera, in the middle of the continental United States, is an enormous time bomb that, when it explodes, will have globally cataclysmic implications. After initially denying that the unusual amount of seismic activity witnessed last year was an indication of imminent danger, NASA scientists are proposing a solution that could save half the world while admitting that their intervention could initiate the explosion it was intended to prevent.

Last year, increased seismic activity at Yellowstone generated a great deal of concern. More than 2,300 tremors were recorded between June and September, one of the largest earthquake swarms ever recorded at the site. Though geologists assured the public that the activity was normal for the site, another series of quakes and unusual eruptions beginning in February, increased fears that the supervolcano was waking up. An investigation revealed magma filling up in the underneath chamber of the supervolcano. In July, a massive, 100 ft.-wide fissure opened up in the Grand Teton National Park near Yellowstone, further increasing fears.

Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. (Credit: Cadlikai/Shutterstock.com)

Yellowstone is listed as one of the top volcanic hotspots in the world. An eruption of the supervolcano would have global implications. An estimated 87,000 people would be killed immediately and two-thirds of the United States would become uninhabitable. The large spew of ash into the atmosphere would block out sunlight, resulting in an artificially long and intense winter worldwide, inhibiting agriculture and leading to global starvation.

Scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) originally tasked with protecting the planet from threats from space decided to turn their talents to the threat posed by an eruption at Yellowstone.

“I was a member of the NASA Advisory Council on Planetary Defense which studied ways for NASA to defend the planet from asteroids and comets,” Brian Wilcox of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at the California Institute of Technology explained to the BBC. “I came to the conclusion during that study that the supervolcano threat is substantially greater than the asteroid or comet threat.”

The last time the Yellowstone supervolcano erupted was 640,000 years ago which makes an impending eruption sound unlikely.

“Yellowstone explodes roughly every 600,000 years, and it is about 600,000 years since it last exploded, which should cause us to sit up and take notice,” Wilcox said.

The NASA scientists came to the conclusion that the most logical solution would be to simply to cool the magma down while it is still underground. The solution is similar to cooling industrial power plants. Yellowstone is estimated to generate heat equivalent to six industrial power plants. The caldera currently expels about 60 percent of its heat into the atmosphere via water which seeps into the magma chamber through cracks. The remainder builds up underground inside the magma, generating volatile gases and dissolving surrounding rocks. Once this heat reaches a certain threshold, then an explosive eruption is inevitable.

The NASA scientists estimate that if a 35 percent increase in heat transfer could be achieved, venting heat from the magma chamber, Yellowstone would no longer pose a threat. They propose achieving this by drilling into the supervolcano and pumping in water at high pressure. The scientists admit that there is a risk involved; they could initiate the eruption they are working to prevent.

“The most important thing with this is to do no harm,” Wilcox says. “If you drill into the top of the magma chamber and try and cool it from there, this would be very risky. This could make the cap over the magma chamber more brittle and prone to fracture. And you might trigger the release of harmful volatile gases in the magma at the top of the chamber which would otherwise not be released.”

The plan seems bold, perhaps overly so. When asked if the NASA scientists were guilty of hubris, of playing god with the fate of the world, Professor Natan Aviezer, a physics professor at Bar Ilan University who is a learned and devout Jew, answered emphatically that they were.

“There is no greater trait necessary to a scientist,” Professor Aviezer told Breaking Israel News.

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As an illustration, he described an incident in which Albert Einstein was presented with astronomical observations that finally proved his controversial theories. Einstein received the earth shaking news with equanimity, saying, “I don’t need someone looking through a telescope to determine whether or not I am talking nonsense. If your observations had not corresponded to my theories, you would have had to go back and take your measurements again because my theories were correct.”

“If a scientist does not have the hubris to go against what the entire world believes, he is not a great scientist and nothing new would ever be discovered,” Aviezer said. “Modesty is necessary in real life but should not be part of the scientific process. The possibility of blowing up half the world should not bother a true scientist.”

Rabbi Avraham Arieh Trugman, director of the Ohr Chadash Torah Institute, noted that care in science and technology is a human and Biblical imperative. Rabbi Trugman referred to the flaming sword set to protect the Garden of Eden.

He drove the man out, and stationed east of the garden of Eden the cherubim [angels] and the fiery ever-turning sword, to guard the way to the Tree of Life. Genesis 3:24

“Some commentaries explain that the angels were placed at the entrance to Eden to prevent man from entering while other commentaries explain that the angels had a secondary purpose; to show man the way back to the Tree of Life lest we forget where it is,” Rabbi Trugman explained to Breaking Israel News.

“This is related to science and technology in general,” the rabbi explained. “Science and technology have brought phenomenal good to mankind. But at the same time, these advances are a double-edged sword, bringing a huge amount of collateral damage. The same technology that brings us blessings of progress also brings with it a curse of damage, especially in the realms of the environment and various health issues”

Rabbi Trugman related this to a verse in Ecclesiastes.

So in a time of good fortune enjoy the good fortune; and in a time of misfortune, reflect: The one no less than the other was Hashem‘s doing; consequently, man may find no fault with Him. Ecclesiastes 7:14

“Everything in the natural world has two sides to it,” Rabbi Trugman said. “Everything affects everything else but we can’t see immediately all the ramifications. We don’t always know what the results will truly be.”

“No one is proposing we return to the caveman paradigm but we need to become much more careful with our decisions concerning technology. We should learn to anticipate and plan to rectify the inevitable negative results such as air and water pollution, climate chaos, and uncontrolled radiation, the results of all the good technology has created,” Rabbi Trugman warned. “In the immediate sense, we have done great good, creating benefits for so many people today. But at the same time, from the same sources, we have already set up havoc for future generations.”

Even if the NASA scientists do not stop to consider the enormity of their actions, practical hurdles may prevent them from moving forward with their plans for Yellowstone. The cost is estimated at approximately $3.5 billion.

“Building a big aqueduct uphill into a mountainous region would be both costly and difficult, and people don’t want their water spent that way,” Wilcox says. “People are desperate for water all over the world and so a major infrastructure project, where the only way the water is used is to cool down a supervolcano, would be very controversial.”

This huge expenditure could be offset by using the heat for generating electricity. The circulating water would return at a temperature of around 662 Fahrenheit.

“Yellowstone currently leaks around 6GW in heat,” Wilcox said. “Through drilling in this way, it could be used to create a geothermal plant, which generates electric power at extremely competitive prices of around $0.10/kWh. You would have to give the geothermal companies incentives to drill somewhat deeper and use hotter water than they usually would, but you would pay back your initial investment, and get electricity which can power the surrounding area for a period of potentially tens of thousands of years. And the long-term benefit is that you prevent a future supervolcano eruption which would devastate humanity.”

“When people first considered the idea of defending the Earth from an asteroid impact, they reacted in a similar way to the supervolcano threat,” Wilcox says. “People thought, ‘As puny as we are, how can humans possibly prevent an asteroid from hitting the Earth.’ Well, it turns out if you engineer something which pushes very slightly for a very long time, you can make the asteroid miss the Earth. So the problem turns out to be easier than people think. In both cases it requires the scientific community to invest brain power and you have to start early.”

Manhunt for Islamist Murderer Continues, Brother and Sister Detained

Mon, 10/08/2018 - 06:11

The brother and sister of 23-year-old Ashraf Walid Suleiman Na’alowa were detained on Sunday as a massive manhunt for the terrorist who shot two Israelis to death at an industrial park continues.

Na’alowa, who was employed by Alon Group as an electrician, entered their offices in the Barkan Industrial Park near the city of Ariel around 7:30 a.m. with a Carlo-style submachine gun and handcuffed Kim Levengron Yehezkel, a 29-year-old secretary to the CEO and mother of an 18-month-old baby, using zip-ties.

Shooting her at close range and killing her, he turned to a second female in her 50s, who had entered to investigate strange noises in the office, and shot her in the stomach. She was moderately wounded and is expected to be released from Beilinson Hospital in the coming days.

He then attacked Ziv Hajbi, a 35-year-old accountant for the company and father of three, fatally shooting him.

Surveillance video showed Na’alowa fleeing the offices on foot at 7:39 a.m. Security forces arrived at the scene and locked it down, closing off all roads to the 160-office, 22,000 employee industrial park, and setting up roadblocks and checkpoints in the area.

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Members of Na’alowa’s family in Shuweika near Tulkarm have been arrested and interrogated by Shin Bet security services to determine if they provided him with assistance or knew about the terrorist’s plan to attack.

The Israel Defense Forces said Na’alowa had no history of terrorist activities and was not known to be tied to any terror groups.

The IDF arrested 19 Palestinian Authority Arabs in predawn raids across Judea and Samaria. Reports indicate that Palestinian Authority police are assisting in efforts to apprehend the killer.

Earlier in the day on Sunday, Na’alowa had posted on his Facebook page that he was “waiting for [Allah].” Reports indicate he also left a suicide letter with a friend three days ago.

Levengrond Yehezkel was buried in her hometown of Rosh Ha’ayin at 10 p.m. on Sunday. The funeral for Hajbi was scheduled for 2 p.m. on Monday in the southern community of Nir Yisrael.

Both families said their loved ones would donate their organs.

Brazil’s Jews Move to Israel Amid Political Chaos

Mon, 10/08/2018 - 05:50

Yesterday, people took to the polls in one of the most divisive – yet critical – elections in the Brazil’s checkered history. Extreme right-wing candidate Joao Bolsonaro was leading the polls heading into the plebiscite. Approximately 120,000 Jews live in Brazil and the country is witnessing an exodus like never before.

In ‘Prayer Pilgrimage,’ Tens of Millions of Christians Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

Mon, 10/08/2018 - 04:00

Tens of millions of evangelical Christians from 192 countries tuned into God TV’s “Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem” on Sunday, October 7. The event occurred as part of the wider Global Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem, which took place around the world with more than 300,000 churches participating.

According to its organizers, the Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem has grown to one of the world’s largest pro-Israel annual observances. “As far as we know, it is the largest broadcast event promoting Jerusalem around the world taking place every year,” stated the press release.

This year, the event was bigger than ever, continuing in the spirit of the 70th anniversary of the State and 50th anniversary of Jerusalem’s reunification.

Opening the day of prayer with blasts of the shofar as the audience waved Israeli flags, more than 1,000 Christians gathered from 30 nations on Jerusalem’s Haas Promenade.

The event occurred just one week following the Jewish holiday of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) in which Christians from all over the world came to celebrate “God’s provision in the wilderness and the joy of the age to come” with the Jewish people in Israel, sponsored by the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem.

Overlooking the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Reverend Robert Stearns, founder and executive director of Eagles’ Wings Ministries, thanked Israel for “allowing Christians to be Christians” freely and safely.

 

Christians in Jerusalem praying for Jews and Israel. (Credit: Rabbi Tuly Weisz/Breaking Israel News)


Eagles’ Wings Ministries is a global movement comprising of churches, ministries and leaders that emphasizes interfaith dialogue and humanitarian care.

Stearns commissioned this year’s “Watchmen on the Wall for Israel” – a program of Eagles Wings that equips Christians around the world for informed intercession and active support of Israel and its inhabitants, to “raise [their] voice for sake of Zion.”

“We are calling Christians not just to connect with the land of the Bible, but to be a part of its future,” he said.

Rejecting Replacement Theology, Stearns recognized “the holy word of God and eternal covenant with the nation of Israel, the people in the land, and with Jewish people worldwide.”

He maintained, “We are here today declaring that there is a new breed of Christian alive in the world today – a Christian who understands that spiritually, we were born in Zion […] A new breed of Christians, those who stand with Israel and the Jewish people.”

Stearns renewed his vow to “shield and protect” the Jewish people, saying, ”Today, from the nations, we come home to Jerusalem. We will never leave you again. We will never forget you. We will prioritize you daily, defenders of Jerusalem. We, your sons from afar have come home to marry Jerusalem.”

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Stearns prophesied, “We will witness a great reformation in the church – the rebirth of Jerusalem-based Christianity.”

“It will be greater than the impact of the Protestant Reformation,” he suggested.

In the context of the great support for a Jewish Israel, Stearns committed to continue to “stand in belief with the blessing for Ishmael – even when peace plans fail.”

“We stand in prayer and action believing in a peace plan not hatched in halls of the UN but when hearts truly learn and experience a God of love,” he said. “God can change hearts and changed hearts can change history.”

Rabbi Marc Schneier, founder and president of The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, one of the key organizations working in Jewish-Muslim relations, claimed “this is a miraculous gathering, and there is an enormous human component that goes into the making of a miracle.”

He explained, “For 2000 years, Jews suffered from Christian persecution: the Crusades, inquisitions, deafening silence and moral laryngitis of the church while millions of Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.”

This is a miraculous gathering, Schneier said, “Because we are celebrating the reconciliation of our two faith communities.”

He thanked God for “his miracle workers” and looked forward to further miracles happening – a reconciliation between Jews and Muslims in the context of Muslim hostility towards and rejection of Israel.

“Muslim nations are beginning to reach out for support,” he claimed, such as the Republic of Azerbaijan, whose President has “demonstrated support and advocacy for state of Israel.”   

MK Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to the US, keynoted the event, speaking of the vital importance of the global evangelical connection to Israel. He spoke of the mutual pride of Jews and Christians whose religious foundations are based in Jerusalem.

He rebuffed those who deny these religious foundations, “people who say there was never a Temple, people who would define Jews, including Jesus and Paul, as illegal settlers.”

David Nekrutman, an American-Israeli Orthodox Jewish theologian and pioneer of Jewish-Christian relations as executive director of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation thanked Christian supporters of Israel for rejecting replacement theology and for “being on the front lines to battle forces in the Christian world and in the UN that say Israel is not valid.”

He maintained, “When Christians become Biblically literate, when they take the Bible literally and understand that the Hebrew scriptures are still in fulfillment, they understand the Jewish people and Israel.”

Rabbi Tuly Weisz, Director of Israel365 and publisher of The Israel Bible, took part in the event and found the Day of Prayer to be particularly meaningful. He told Breaking Israel News, “While Christian political support for Israel is vital, this day of praise represents the spiritual support for Israel and how millions of christians pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”

Israeli Doctors Treat Resistant Clinical Depression with Vietnam War Anesthetic

Mon, 10/08/2018 - 03:12

Most people feel sad or low at some point in their lives; this is completely normal. That is very different from clinical depression, which is characterized by feeling depressed most of the day, sometimes especially in the morning, and losing interest in normal relationships and activities.

When these symptoms present themselves every day for at least two weeks, along with a constant sense of hopelessness and despair, it is possible that he or she suffers from clinical depression, which is also known as “major depression.”

Such individuals may find it difficult to go to work, eat properly, study and sleep. Major depression can sometimes be handed down from one generation to the next, but often it may affect people with no family history of the illness.

Clinical depression currently affects about 7% of Americans, for example, and according to the US National Institute of Mental Health, between a fifth to a quarter of adults may suffer an episode of major depression at some time in their lives. The condition can also affect children and teenagers, but in such cases, it often goes undiagnosed and untreated in this group.

Women are twice as likely than men to suffer major depression, partly because of the influence of hormonal changes, pregnancy, miscarriage and menopause, as well as being overworked by the double burden of raising their families, taking care of the home and working outside.

There is a variety of drugs for clinical depression, but many who take them suffer from debilitating side effects; the drugs can take at least three weeks before any benefit shows up; and in almost a third of patients, they are not effective at all.

But now there is an oral treatment for clinical depression that has been found by Israeli researchers to be safe, effective and quick. The innovative study at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center has examined the effect of ketamine – an injected drug used widely as anesthesia, for pain, in pediatric medicine and in emergency medicine. It is also known as a “party drug.”

Ketamine, which was first used in anesthesia medicine about half a century ago, was used on wounded soldiers in the Vietnam War. It temporarily takes over a certain chemical receptor in the brain. It can help alleviate pain at low doses and has replaced morphine after surgery or been used for relieving the horrible pain suffered by burns patients. As in higher doses it can make it difficult for a person to move or talk, to speak or move, and it has been abused as a date-rape drug.

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The US Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved ketamine for treating clinical depression, but it has been used experimentally.

The study – led by Dr. Yoav Domany of Sourasky’s psychiatry department and Dr. Maya Bleich-Cohen and Dr. Haggai Sharon of the Center for cardiovascular function at the hospital – examined the possibility of administering the drug in pill form. This may pave the way for treatment in community clinics or even in the patient’s home. In recent years, data showing that infusion of ketamine helps to reduce depressive symptoms have accumulated.

The researchers conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study (neither the researchers nor the subjects were aware of whether they had received placebo or ketamine). People who suffered from a psychotic disorder or psychotic symptoms, bipolar disorder, alcohol or substance misuse or an unstable medical illness were excluded from the study.

Forty-one Hebrew-speaking patients aged 18 to 75 who were suffering from depression resistant to drug therapy were recruited. They were randomly assigned to two groups – one receiving ketamine and the other being given a sugar pill (placebo). Patients received the treatment for 21 days, three times a week, while the first doses were given in the hospital and then some of the doses were given in the patients’ homes. During the study period, data were collected on the severity of patients’ depression through specific questionnaires that measure depression symptoms.

The results showed that the ketamine pill helped reduce depressive symptoms quickly within hours rather than weeks – and that relief continued throughout the study, while the placebo group showed no similar improvement. Furthermore, in the ketamine group, symptoms of depression completely disappeared in most of them. In terms of safety of the treatment, mild side effects such as fatigue, nausea, and dizziness were seen in some patients, but all these effects passed within an hour.

Domany called the study “groundbreaking because it raises the possibility of giving ketamine orally.” He concluded that while the results were very promising, “they cannot yet be applied to clinical practice without larger, randomized studies,” which are needed to decide on optimal dosing regimens, patient selection and treatment duration to properly assess the safety of long-term ketamine usage. The risk of misuse of the drug must also be considered, as well as how patients can safely take ketamine at home. “Finally, it seems plausible to examine the possible role of oral ketamine in the treatment of people with acute suicidal thoughts and additional psychopathologies.”

The results of the study were recently published in full in the British Journal of Psychiatry, and they have already been presented at conferences in Israel and abroad, where the researchers were awarded prizes and scholarships.

What if Kavanaugh Were a Liberal Muslim?

Mon, 10/08/2018 - 02:00

As a law professor for half a century, I tested the consistency and strength of my students’ arguments by constructing thought experiments in the form of challenging hypothetical cases – we called them hypos. So let’s construct one to test the arguments being offered in the Kavanaugh case.

A thought experiment: President Hillary Clinton nominates the first Muslim American to the Supreme Court. Let’s call him Amir Hassan. Republicans oppose him and accuse him of being a judicial activist. Then several witnesses place him at a mosque at which terrorism was advocated. He claims he went there to hear all sides of the issue. One witness places him in a terrorism training camp but that account is not corroborated. One final witness identifies him as the man who planted the bomb that blew off his leg at a demonstration. He categorically denies any association with terrorism.

How would the Senate, the media, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the public deal with these accusations?

The answer seems clear: the sides and arguments would be largely reversed. The shoe would be on the other foot and the hypocrisy of double standards would be exposed for all to see.

Surely the ACLU would not be arguing, as they have in the Kavanaugh case, that doubts should be resolved in favor of guilt. Radicals would not be insisting that terrorism survivors must always be believed as to identification. My left-wing colleagues would not point to the anger displayed by the possibly falsely accused nominee as proof of his disqualifying injudicious temperament.

To the contrary, the ACLU would be demanding due process, a presumption of innocence and a high burden of proof before so serious a charge could destroy a life, family and career. My colleagues would be defending the righteous anger of a falsely accused victim of ethnic prejudice.

The identity politics accusations would not be directed against old white men, but rather against those who would stereotype Muslims as terrorists. The Jewish Forward would not be featuring an article entitled “Is Amir Hassan every Muslim man?” as it is now featuring an article entitled “Is Brett Kavanaugh every American man?”

Many right-wing Republicans would now be making arguments similar to those being made by their left-wing Democratic colleagues in the Kavanaugh case. This is just a job interview, not a trial. Believe terrorism survivors. There is no burden of proof; mere suspicion is enough to deny a possible terrorist a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. Look how angry he is, demonstrating a lack of judicial temperament.

Hypocrisy is the coin of partisanship. It affects both sides. It may be better than simply not even caring whether people think you’re being fair. As Francois de La Rochefoucauld once put it: “Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue.”

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It is precisely because of the pervasiveness and apparent acceptance of hypocrisy that I insist on applying “the shoe on the other foot test” to all aspects of politics, law, morality and lives. It drives my colleagues and friends crazy when I challenge them to pass the test. Few are willing to take it. Even fewer pass it.

Applying that test to the Kavanaugh case doesn’t provide a perfect resolution. But it does supply some guiding principles. Ask yourself what you would be thinking and saying about my Muslim American hypothetical thought experiment. One’s first instinct is to try to distinguish the cases: rape is not like terrorism; stereotyping a Muslim-American as a terrorist is different than stereotyping a privileged white man as a rapist; rape survivors are more reliable witnesses than terrorism survivors; the burden of proof should be higher for proving terrorism than rape.

None of these distinctions are compelling in the context of a Supreme Court confirmation process. They are make weights designed to weaken the force of the shoe on the other foot test and to justify the hypocrisy of shifting arguments when it is your ox that is being gored.

So now back to Kavanaugh. The test for him should be the test that would have been demanded had the first Muslim American been nominated to the Supreme Court by a Democratic president and been accused of engaging in terrorism as a 17-year-old.

A full investigation, a fair process of judgment, no presumption of truth telling by alleged victims, no presumption of guilt against the nominee because he has so much to lose, a standard of guilt that varies with the seriousness of the accusations, and no identity political stereotypes as substitutes for hard evidence. These and other neutral rules should be applied to this case and every case going forward. Only then could we be confident in the fairness of the outcome.

Reprinted with author’s permission from The Jerusalem Post

Policies of Failure?

Mon, 10/08/2018 - 01:00

It’s no secret that 25 years after the disastrous Oslo Accords, Israel has not defeated the terrorist threat from the Palestinians. Now, with Hamas firmly entrenched in Gaza, the government is sending uneven signals. To some, there seems to be a zig-zag policy of denouncing attacks in the South, while at the same time managing things diplomatically.

Now, a key Israeli politician is being vocal about the need for stronger response.

Naftali Bennett—who has been mentioned as a possible future successor to Netanyahu (who next year will have been in office a staggering 10 years)—is strongly denouncing Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s efforts.

“Under the guise of ‘pragmatism’ and ‘responsibility,’ Liberman has abandoned the security of residents of the south to Hamas,” Bennett said. “Over the last few days we see the dangerous results of the defense minister’s policies regarding the Gaza Strip. The more restraint there has been, the more terror. This is not the way to run security policies, this is a way to fail.”

Bennett, Education Minister, has been accused of being “jealous” of Liberman’s defense portfolio, so the reputation of raucous Israeli politics is well-founded.

Although we love Netanyahu, as Christian Zionists, at what point does Israel move to wipe out Hamas? This is what should be done. In relatively recent history, Israel carried out such actions with not so much regard to the diplomatic fallout. The increased globalization climate and high-speed communications have combined to stifle Israel when it comes to self-defense.

From a recent report from the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center:

“While contacts for arrangement are bogged down, Hamas recently stepped up the level of violence against Israel. In the ‘return march’ events (September 14, 2018), there was more violence than last week; During the march, hand grenades and pipe bombs were thrown at IDF soldiers; In the following days, hand grenades and pipe bombs were thrown, and IEDs were planted near the security fence. In addition, arson terrorism continued (incendiary balloons were found in a playground in the Israeli city of Kiryat Gat, about 50 km from the Gaza Strip).”

These psychopaths invent ways to inflict pain and harm! Note the following additional information:

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“In the past few days, Palestinian media reports on the activity of new units of young

Palestinians, called ‘Night Disturbance Units.’ According to their operatives, their purpose is to keep the IDF soldiers on the Gaza Strip border constantly alert, wear them down and prevent them from resting by various means, mainly: burning tires under cover of darkness in areas close to the security fence along the Gaza Strip border; throwing Molotov cocktails at IDF positions along the border; sounding sirens in order to make the IDF soldiers declare a state of alert (SAFA, September 16, 2018; Palestine Online, September 16, 2018).”

Bennett has a point. There is no “good” solution to an end to this madness. A full-scale effort by Israel to eradicate Hamas will ensure that some innocent Palestinians will be killed. This is what every Palestinian “leader” since Yasser Arafat has thirsted for.

One can see parallels with the ancient Israelites, who failed to completely remove the Canaanite presence from the Promised Land. In some sense, we are still dealing with the fallout of that to this day.

I long for the day Israelis will dwell in total peace and safety, forever.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Rapture Ready