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Hezbollah Chief Claims Terrorist Group Stronger than IDF, Ready for War

Wed, 08/15/2018 - 04:09

In a televised address marking the 12th anniversary of the end of the 34-day Second Lebanon War with Israel in 2006, Hezbollah general secretary Hassan Nasrallah boasted that his forces were stronger than the Israeli army and prepared for a fresh war with Israel.

Nasrallah claimed that the Trump administration was “mistaken” in thinking sanctions would lead to riots in Iran that would topple the regime, or even force Iran to reduce support for activity abroad.

Last week the US began restoring sanctions that had been lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, which President Donald Trump withdrew from in May. The administration says the renewed sanctions are meant to pressure Tehran to halt its support for international terrorism, its military activity in the Middle East and its ballistic missile programs.

“Iran has been facing sanctions since the victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1979,” Nasrallah said. “He (Trump) is strengthening the sanctions but they have been there since 1979 and Iran stayed and will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the victory of its revolution.”

The Hezbollah leader spoke to thousands of supporters gathered at a rally south of Beirut, where they watched his speech on giant screens as it was broadcast from a secret location.

Iran has been backing Hezbollah financially and militarily since the terror group was established after Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon.

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A number of protests have broken out against the Iranian regime for the country’s precarious economic situation, with demonstrators calling for an end to military adventurism and financial support for terror groups abroad.

According to the US, Iran sends Hezbollah an estimated $700 million a year.

Speaking about the restoration of the sanctions by Washington, Nasrallah said: “I can tell you and I have accurate information they are building dreams, strategies and projects that Iran will head toward chaos and the regime will fall. This is illusion, this is imagination and has nothing to do with reality.”

He added that Hezbollah is not scared of a possible war with Israel.

“No one should threaten us with war and no one should scare us by war,” he said, adding: “We are not scared or worried about war and we are ready for it and we will be victorious.”

“Hezbollah might not be the strongest army in the Middle East but it is certainly stronger than the Israeli army,” Nasrallah said, according to Lebanese news outlet Naharnet. “Because we have more faith in our cause and greater willingness to sacrifice.”

“The resistance in Lebanon — with its arms, personnel, expertise and capabilities — is stronger than ever,” Nasrallah said.

Most analysts believe Hezbollah has been significantly weakened by years of fighting in Syria to bolster President Bashar Assad. However, Israeli officials say the terror group still has a massive missile arsenal that can threaten much of the country, and that a war will be incredibly damaging to both sides of the Lebanese border.

Nasrallah said Israel would fail to force Hezbollah away from the Syrian Golan border, where Jerusalem fears it and other Iranian proxy groups will set up bases to use for attacks against the Jewish state, and has pushed for Russia to enforce a buffer zone.

“The Israeli enemy, which has been defeated in Syria, is insolently seeking to impose its conditions in Syria, but this will not happen,” he said.

As reported by The Times of Israel

Coming Home: 239 North American Immigrants Arrive in Israel on Nefesh B’Nefesh Flight

Wed, 08/15/2018 - 03:23

On Wednesday, August 15th a flight of 239 Israeli immigrants from 24 US States and three Canadian provinces landed in the Jewish homeland as a part of the Nefesh B’Nefesh charter flight. The aliyah (immigration to Israel) flight included 30 families, 90 children and 57 future Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers.

Founded in 2002, Nefesh B’Nefesh is dedicated to revitalizing North American and UK immigration to Israel by minimizing financial, professional, logistical and social obstacles of aliyah. Once with a retention rate of just 40 percent of immigrants, Nefesh B’Nefesh has helped ensure that 90 percent of immigrants remain in Israel. The government mandated aliyah organization has assisted more than 57,000 Western immigrants, contributing to the social, economic and demographic welfare of Israeli society while infusing the country with idealistic enthusiasm and optimism.

Sofa Landver, Minister of Aliyah and Integration welcomed the new immigrants to the Israeli family in the Jewish homeland. “North American aliyah (immigration) both strengthens Israel’s economy and boosts the country’s national pride,” she said.

As young as two months through 81 years old, the average immigrant’s age on the charter flight was just 30 years old, representing emerging leaders, 27 medical professionals and 13 Jewish community professionals.  

The flight, Nefesh B’Nefesh’s 59th charter flight to Israel, was sponsored by Colorado local Heidi Rothberg in coordination with Jewish National Fund USA, and facilitated by Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, The Jewish Agency for Israel, Karen Kayemet L’Yisrael (KKL), JNF USA and Tsofim-Garin Tzabar.

According to Doreet Freedman, Vice President of Partnerships at Nefesh B’Nefesh, Heidi Rothberg’s father was instrumental in building Israel, growing up with David and Paula Ben Gurion. Her donation, facilitated by JNF, allows these 239 immigrants to follow their dreams.

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“Nefesh B’Nefesh and JNF share a vision of building a vibrant Israel. Where JNF was once planting trees, today they are planting people,” she told Breaking Israel News.

“It is not easy to pick up your roots and move, join an army and another country that does not speak your native tongue, but Nefesh B’Nefesh makes this possible and successful,” Ron Werner, senior lay leader of JNF USA, told Breaking Israel News. “Today we say hinenu– we are here and we are thriving.”

At the farewell ceremony at JFK, Dani Dayan, Consul General of Israel in New York, congratulated the immigrants on their decision to take part in the “most amazing adventure of the Jewish people,” maintaining that by making aliyah, the immigrants are the stars, protagonists and scriptwriters of the history of the Jewish people.

To the future IDF soldiers, he said, “You are the link reconnecting Jewish history to this adventure that is the State of Israel. Dozens of generations of Jews persecuted and massacred all around the world could only dream about taking part in a Jewish army and defending Jewish life.

Aaaaand they’re off! 239 soon-to-be Olim will land 7 am Israel time. Watch it live. https://t.co/N3G07Wx4dY #LiveLoveIsrael @JNFUSA pic.twitter.com/C0mjdPxi7y

— Nefesh B’Nefesh (@NefeshBNefesh) August 14, 2018

Upon arrival to Israel, a special welcome ceremony was held at Ben Gurion Airport including: Landver; MK Dr. Michael Oren, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office; Yehuda Scharf, Director of Aliyah, Absorption and Special Operations Department of the Jewish Agency; Yoram Elgrabli, Managing Director of El Al North America; and Co-Founders of Nefesh B’Nefesh, Rabbi Yehoshua Fass and Tony Gelbart.

“You just took an active role in Jewish history,” said Oren, who claimed that at its core, Zionism is Jewish responsibility. “Only here in this land can we as Jews take responsibility for the wellbeing of this country, and there is no greater Zionist responsibility than making aliyah,” he said.

“We are coming here to show that Israel will remain strong, Israel will remain vital and Israel will remain the nation state of the Jewish people.”

Shapiro Versus Ocasio-Cortes: The Great Debate That Never Was

Wed, 08/15/2018 - 02:58

Last week, conservative political pundit Ben Shapiro challenged Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes, ,the 28-year-old Democratic Congressional candidate, to a debate. The challenge was so important to Shapiro that he offered to donate $10,000 to her campaign or a charity of her choice. Ocasio-Cortes refused to debate Shapiro and thus began a battle royale on social media.

It’s a shame, because such an event would be an interesting match. Even though they are both young and rising stars, the two could not be more diametrically opposed. Thirty-four year-old Shapiro is a strident republican and conservative. An Orthodox Jew from Los Angeles, he graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School. Though he did not support Donald Trump in the last elections, Shapiro was a sharp critic of Hillary Clinton, frequently referring to her as “the worst candidate in history.” He was even more critical of Bernie Sanders’ platform of social reform. Shapiro is a strong supporter of Israel and his wife is Israeli.

Ocasio -Cortes is of Puerto Rican descent and was raised in the Bronx. She worked as a campaign organizer for Bernie Sanders’ unsuccessful presidential bid and is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America. She supports progressive policies such as Medicare for All, a job guarantee, tuition-free public college, ending the privatization of prisons, and enacting gun-control policies; all of which Shapiro opposes. She has stated that she supports the impeachment of President Trump and abolishing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE). In addition, she has already established herself as a harsh critic of Israel, referring to the IDF shooting Hamas terrorists attempting to cross the Gaza border fence  as a “massacre.”

Last Wednesday, Shapiro challenged Ocasio-Cortes via twitter, noting that she has been called “the future of the Democratic Party.” He cited claims by Ocasio-Cortes that Republicans were afraid to debate her.

Hey, @Ocasio2018, what do you say? pic.twitter.com/lKDtmMc8Us

— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) August 8, 2018

She responded via twitter, comparing the challenge to an unsavory sexual proposition.

Just like catcalling, I don’t owe a response to unsolicited requests from men with bad intentions.

And also like catcalling, for some reason they feel entitled to one. pic.twitter.com/rsD17Oq9qe

— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Ocasio2018) August 10, 2018

Shapiro did not take kindly to the accusation of impropriety and this led to a twitter storm of  sharp responses.

“Discussion and debate are not ‘bad intentions,’” he wrote in one tweet. “Slandering someone as a sexist catcaller without reason or evidence does demonstrate cowardice and bad intent, however.”

Catcalling must mean something different in Queens.

— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) August 10, 2018

In a phone interview with the New York Times, Shapiro denied there was anything sexist about his offer.

“I would offer Bernie Sanders $50,000 to debate, absolutely,” he said, referring to the Vermont senator. “What in the world does this have to do with her being a woman?”

The exchange has led to open debate on social media with sharply divided opinions, with Ocasio-Cortes supporters noting that she has no obligation to debate a non-politician. Many have criticized her response as unfair, ascribing sexist intent to Shapiro’s straightforward challenge. It is interesting to note that Elle published an article about the challenge. Despite the anti-Shapiro bent of the article, a survey showed that 87 percent of respondents felt she “missed the mark when she compared Shapiro’s invitation to catcalling.”

Ocasio-Cortes’ refusal to debate is an ironic turnaround. A newcomer to politics, her upset victory in the primaries over Democratic incumbent Joe Crowley came after he refused to debate her on several occasions, sending a surrogate in one specific instance. Ocasio-Cortes felt face-to-face debates were such an important part of the democratic process that she went to his office to throw down the gauntlet in person.

My opponent seems to be avoiding a debate, and isn’t acknowledging me. It’s just the 2 of us.

So weekend I stopped by his office, said hello, & asked for a debate in person.

I am the 1st Congressional challenger in 14 years. The Bronx and Queens deserve to know their options. pic.twitter.com/RPVwXyn3Kc

— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Ocasio2018) May 17, 2018

Shapiro’s challenge comes after many articles on his website, The Daily Wire, have questioned Ocasio-Cortes’ public speaking abilities. He challenged her claim made during a recent interview on Pod Save America in which she said the Democratic party had made a tactical error in focusing on the upper-middle class.

“The upper middle class is probably more moderate but that upper middle class does not exist anymore in America,” she said.

Shapiro cited statistics, saying her claim “should come as a shock to the millions of members of the upper middle class in America, the fastest-growing class in America for decades.”

In another Pod Save America, Ocasio-Cortes was asked how the government would pay for the social programs she advocated. In an article about the interview, Shapiro described her answer as “two minutes of complete babbling” which he summed up in two words: “Um-what?”

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In another article, Shapiro challenged her claim that the cost of socialized medicine could be offset by the savings on funerals.

“And we’re also not talking about why we aren’t incorporating the cost of all the funeral expenses of those who die because they can’t afford access to health care,” Ocasio-Cortez said in an interview with CNN. “That is part of the cost of our system.”

Shapiro dubbed that the “strangest reason ever why socialized medicine is cheaper.”

Shapiro has dedicated many articles to the growing list of Ocasio-Cortes’ speaking gaffs. Ocasio-Cortes, for her part, does not appreciate being criticized and feels it is a sexist attempt to silence her entirely.

1st time female candidate makes small slip on a budgetary figure during extemporaneous interview: “This girl is SO uninformed! She needs to stay quiet until she knows everything!”

Incumbent male Congressman brings a snowball to Congress to “disprove” climate change:

UK: Boris Johnson Sparks ‘Burka-Gate’

Wed, 08/15/2018 - 02:00

“I believe that the public will see this for what it is — an internal Conservative party witch hunt instigated by Number Ten against Boris Johnson, who they see as a huge threat.” — Tory MP Andrew Bridgen.

“Taken to its logical conclusion, the anti-Johnson brigade’s stance would mean that nobody is allowed to offer their view on any matter in case it causes offence. Is that really the kind of country we want to live in? … We live in a country that used to believe passionately in free speech. As we all know, even when exercised with care and responsibility, free speech can and does offend some people. But timid politicians who take the easy option and prefer not to tell people what they really think about things like the burka are killing this vital right.” — Nigel Farage, former leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP).

“Boris Johnson should not apologise for telling the truth…. [female facial masking is] a nefarious component of a trendy gateway theology for religious extremism and militant Islam…. The burka and niqab are hideous tribal ninja-like garments that are pre-Islamic, non-Koranic and therefore un-Muslim. Although this deliberate identity-concealing contraption is banned at the Kaaba in Mecca it is permitted in Britain…” — Taj Hargey, imam at Oxford Islamic Congregation.

Former foreign secretary (and possible future prime minister) Boris Johnson sparked a political firestorm after making politically incorrect comments about the burka and the niqab, the face-covering garments worn by some Muslim women.

The ensuing debate over Islamophobia has revealed the extent to which political correctness is stifling free speech in Britain. It has also exposed deep fissures within the Conservative Party over its future direction and leadership.

Pictured: Boris Johnson (the Foreign Secretary) leaves 10 Downing Street following a cabinet meeting on June 12, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

In an August 5 essay published by the Daily Telegraph, Johnson argued that he was opposed to Denmark’s burka ban because the government should not be telling women what they may or may not wear in public. Johnson wrote:

“What has happened, you may ask, to the Danish spirit of live and let live? If you tell me that the burka is oppressive, then I am with you. If you say that it is weird and bullying to expect women to cover their faces, then I totally agree — and I would add that I can find no scriptural authority for the practice in the Koran. I would go further and say that it is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes….

“If a constituent came to my MP’s surgery [one-on-one meetings between MPs and their constituents] with her face obscured, I should feel fully entitled… to ask her to remove it so that I could talk to her properly. If a female student turned up at school or at a university lecture looking like a bank robber, then ditto: those in authority should be allowed to converse openly with those that they are being asked to instruct.”

The response from senior Conservatives was immediate.

Prime Minister Theresa May said that Johnson “was wrong” in the language he used to describe women who use the burka. She added that Johnson had “clearly caused offense” and demanded that he apologize:

“I do think that we all have to be very careful about the language and terms we use. And some of the terms Boris used describing people’s appearance obviously have offended. What’s important is do we believe people should have the right to practice their religion and, in the case of women and the burka and niqab, to choose how they dress. I believe women should be able to choose how they dress.”

Conservative Party Chairman Brandon Lewis also called for Johnson to apologize, as did a long list of current and former ministers and MPs. Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve threatened to quit the party if Johnson became leader.

Tory peer Mohamed Sheikh, founder of the Conservative Muslim Forum, said that Johnson had “let the genie out of the bottle” and called for Johnson to be removed from the party.

Conservative Member of the House of Lords Sayeeda Warsi — who herself has said that she hopes women in Britain will stop wearing the Islamic face veil within the next 10 or 20 years — accused Johnson of “Islamophobia” and said he should be required to attend diversity training:

“In his Telegraph piece, Johnson was making a liberal argument. He was saying that we shouldn’t ban the burqa, as Denmark has done. But his words signaled something else. He said — not only to those Muslim women who veil, but to many more who associate with a faith in which some women do — that you don’t belong here….

“He set out a liberal position, but he did it in a very ‘alt-right’ way. This allowed him to dog-whistle: to say to particular elements of the party that he’s tough on Muslims. Yet again, he’s trying to have his cake and eat it….

“An apology is now due. But what happens if, as looks likely, it doesn’t come? Every time incidents like this occur in the party and there are no consequences, it sends out a clear message that you can get away with Islamophobia.

“As far as Boris Johnson is concerned, this is surely time for the promised diversity training scheme to kick in.”

Johnson has refused to apologize, and the Conservative Party has now launched an inquiry into whether Johnson’s comments violated its code of conduct, which states that Tory officials and elected representatives must “lead by example to encourage and foster respect and tolerance” and not “use their position to bully, abuse, victimise, harass or unlawfully discriminate against others.”

Britain’s most senior police officer, Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, said that she had consulted hate-crime specialists and determined that Johnson’s comments did not break the law:

“I know that many people have found this offensive. I also know that many other people believe strongly that in the whole of the article, what Mr Johnson appears to have been attempting to do was to say that there shouldn’t be a ban and that he was engaging in a legitimate debate.

“I spoke last night to my very experienced officers who deal with hate crime and, although we have not yet received any allegation of such a crime, I can tell you that my preliminary view having spoken to them is that what Mr Johnson said would not reach the bar for a criminal offence.”

Johnson’s supporters jumped to his defense. North East Somerset MP Jacob Rees-Mogg said:

“It’s hard to see what he should apologise for. He has defended people’s right to wear the burka whilst saying it is an inelegant garment. Neither of those proposals are unreasonable.”

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen accused May of orchestrating a politically motivated “witch hunt” against Johnson:

“I believe this is politically motivated, by the internal politics of the Tory party, by politicians who want to humiliate and destroy Boris Johnson. I believe that the public will see this for what it is — an internal Conservative party witch hunt instigated by Number Ten against Boris Johnson, who they see as a huge threat.”

In a blog post, Bridgen elaborated:

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“Looking at those who have jumped on the bandwagon of protest, the vast majority appear to be ardent Remain campaigners, who still bewildered that the public could have a different viewpoint to them, still seek to lay the blame at their defeat at the door of Boris Johnson. These same people remained stoney silent when lifelong Remainer Ken Clarke enlightened us with his views of the burka: ‘I do think it’s a most peculiar costume for people to adopt in the 21st century, but that’s not to me for decide, when they’re not engaged in some serious issue such as giving evidence. That’s the bit that I think it’s almost impossible to have a proper trial if one of the persons is in a kind of bag’…

“It is clear that this is not about standing up for the rights of Muslim women to wear the burka, if that is what they really want to do? This is about getting Boris. The great irony of all of this is many EU Countries who those criticising Boris are desperate to stay in political union with have in fact banned the burka. Not the fringe countries but France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria and now Denmark, with a partial ban even in the uber-liberal Netherlands.

“I myself, am the chairman of the All-Party Parliament Group for Uzbekistan, a country which is 90% Muslim, enjoys great religious harmony and interestingly which banned face coverings in 1992.

“Unfortunately, in using this issue as a stick to beat Boris, Theresa May and some of the members of her government have shown themselves to be once again totally out of step with the views of the majority of members of the Conservative Party and indeed of the public as a whole.”

The former leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), Nigel Farage, wrote:

“I wonder how many of those who are now jumping up and down calling for Johnson to have the Conservative whip withdrawn [disciplinary measure], or to be expelled from the party altogether, actually read his original Telegraph article which has apparently offended them so much. Had they done so, they would surely remember that he states he does not believe the burka and niqab should be banned in Britain – a ban which is already in full force in EU nations like France, Germany, Denmark, Austria and Belgium.

“Having set out his liberal position, he then augments it by taking up the feminist argument that he thinks it is ‘oppressive’ to force women to cover their faces in public. For emphasis he offers his opinion that it is ‘weird’ and ‘bullying’ to expect them to do so. And then he says it is ‘ridiculous’ that women should go around ‘looking like letter boxes’.

“Absurdly, this opinion has been seized upon as ‘Islamophobic’ or ‘racist’. An essentially liberal commentator is being pilloried for expressing his belief using, what I accept, is rather playful language. But to suggest he should be kicked out of his party is nothing but lunacy. To Boris I say: stand firm…

“Taken to its logical conclusion, the anti-Johnson brigade’s stance would mean that nobody is allowed to offer their view on any matter in case it causes offence. Is that really the kind of country we want to live in? Remember – ironically, we are talking in this case about a politician who has stated he thinks it illiberal to ban the burka…

“We live in a country that used to believe passionately in free speech. As we all know, even when exercised with care and responsibility, free speech can and does offend some people. But timid politicians who take the easy option and prefer not to tell people what they really think about things like the burka are killing this vital right.

“By allowing politics to become too PC, they are damaging democracy in such a way that it will be extremely difficult for future generations to repair, ultimately condemning them to a society where nobody is allowed to be honest about anything.”

An imam at Oxford Islamic Congregation, Taj Hargey, wrote that Johnson did not go far enough:

“Boris Johnson should not apologise for telling the truth. His evocative analogy is unfortunate but he is justified in reminding everyone that the Wahhabi/Salafi-inspired fad of female facial masking has no Koranic legitimacy. It is, however, a nefarious component of a trendy gateway theology for religious extremism and militant Islam.

“The burka and niqab are hideous tribal ninja-like garments that are pre-Islamic, non-Koranic and therefore un-Muslim. Although this deliberate identity-concealing contraption is banned at the Kaaba in Mecca it is permitted in Britain, thus precipitating security risks, accelerating vitamin D deficiency, endorsing gender-inequality and inhibiting community cohesion.

“It is any wonder that many younger women have internalised this poisonous chauvinism by asserting that it is their human right to hide their faces?

“Johnson did not go far enough. If Britain is to become a fully integrated society then it is incumbent that cultural practices, personal preferences and communal customs that aggravate social division should be firmly resisted.”

Rowan Atkinson, a British comedian also known as Mr. Bean, defended Johnson:

“As a lifelong beneficiary of the freedom to make jokes about religion, I do think that Boris Johnson’s joke about wearers of the burka resembling letterboxes is a pretty good one. All jokes about religion cause offence, so it’s pointless apologising for them. You should really only apologise for a bad joke. On that basis, no apology is required.”

A Sky Data Poll published on August 8 found that 60% of Britons surveyed said that it is not racist to compare Muslim women wearing burkas to bank robbers and letter boxes, while 59% were in favor of a burka ban.

An August 1 poll of Tory members by ConservativeHome found that Johnson’s popularity had almost quadrupled since he resigned on July 9 after clashing with May over her vision for Brexit. He is now at the top of the list of favored successors to May.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Gatestone Institute

Hungary: Not “Submitting to Islam”

Wed, 08/15/2018 - 01:00

BUDAPEST – No European head of government talks remotely like Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. For example, he recently spoke of building in Hungary a “constitutional order based on national and Christian foundations,” thereby avoiding a future in which “the whole of Europe has … submitted to Islam.”

That, in brief, is the disruption caused by Orbán, 55, and his Fidesz party. He outlines explicitly conservative (or in his terminology, “illiberal“) goals that defend “the ways of life springing from Christian culture” and reject Muslim influence. By doing so, Orbán has undermined a continent-wide consensus and encouraged voters in Poland, Austria, Italy, and Germany to resist further uncontrolled migration.

Of course, Western media respond to this presumption with relentless criticism. Some is deserved, such as the government’s take-over of nearly all media, its pressure on hostile NGOs, its encroachments on judicial independence, its corruption, and its pro-Putin policies. One interlocutor during my recent visit to Hungary alarmingly compared Fidesz’ deep reach into society with that of the Communist party during the Soviet era (1944-89).

But other criticisms against the government are exaggerated or unfair. Yes, local Jews complain of increased hostility, but antisemitic incidents have declined and Hungary is the safest place in Europein public for observant Jews. Orbán sensibly argues that allowing in large numbers of antisemitic Muslim migrants is the real threat to Jews. His intense attacks on George Soros, an anti-Zionist and questionable Jew, are no more antisemitic than those of, say, David Horowitz or Black Cube. Hungary has Europe’s best relations with Israel.

In a striking reversal from the usual Western pattern, Jewish institutions in Budapest operate in the open while Amnesty International is “hidden behind an overbearing, protective metal door.”

Nor is the government anti-Muslim. Yes, Orbán has blasted illegal migrants as “not refugees but a Muslim invasion force” and opined that “large numbers of Muslims inevitably create parallel societies, because Christian and Muslim communities will never unite.” Muslims who follow the rules, however, are welcome.

Muslim tourists visit Hungary in substantial numbers, as a stroll along the Danube River in Budapest quickly makes evident. Longer visas are also available. For four years, 2013-17, the Fidesz government offered “Settlement Bonds“for sale for about €350,000 ($400,000), in return for which anyone, including many Muslims, received Hungarian passports. A scholarship program called Stipendium Hungaricum has welcomed some 20,000 students, especially Muslims from Turkey, Lebanon, the Emirates, and Indonesia.

Muslim immigrants have visible roles in varied economic activities: medicine, engineering, real estate, money changing, restaurants, and bakeries. A Turkish artist, Can Togay, conceived Budapest’s haunting Holocaust memorial, “Shoes on the Danube Bank.”

In an October 2016 referendum, 98.4 percent of Hungarians voted against accepting migrants allotted to their country by the European Union. Admittedly, a government campaign for a no-vote along with an opposition boycott artificially inflated this number; but it does point to a majority rejecting unvetted migrants. As one prominent Orbán ally told me, “We like Muslims, but over there, not here.”

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In discussions in Budapest focused on why Hungarians (and their neighbors) respond so negatively to uncontrolled migration, multiple factors came up:

  • Negative memories of Ottoman aggression and the occupation of Hungarian territories lasting over 150 years.
  • Insecurity about sovereignty, having regained it from the Soviet Union only 29 years ago.
  • “Ideology from Brussels is as little attractive as it was from Moscow,” Dávid Szabó of the Századvég Foundation told me, explaining why Hungarians turned toward a traditional, Christian-oriented culture.
  • Awareness of problems associated with Muslim migration to western Europe, including polygamy, honor killings, rape gangs, partial no-go zones, Sharia courts, and parallel societies.
  • Lack of a western European confidence, inspired by American attitudes, that any migrant can be assimilated.
  • Preference for population decline (due to low birth rates and high emigration) over bringing in people from an alien civilization; as one Hungarian told me, “Better empty villages than Somali villages.”
  • Optimism that Hungary’s population, which is declining by about 30,000 persons a year, can be boosted without Muslim migration through pro-natalist policies, granting citizenship to ethnic Hungarians living outside of Hungary, and attracting European Union immigrants.

“Although Orbán governs a small country, the movement he represents is of global importance,” notes the Bulgarian analyst Ivan Krastev. A survey of countries may rank its power just #73 out of 80 but Hungary is gaining an unprecedented centrality in Europe, with Orbán becoming the continent’s most important leader.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Daniel Pipes

The Martyrs of Otranto: Lessons from Christian Victims of Jihad

Wed, 08/15/2018 - 00:00

A little-remembered event that occurred 538 years ago today—the ritual decapitation of 800 Christians who refused Islam—sheds much light on contemporary questions concerning the ongoing conflict between Islam and the West.

Context: Though primarily remembered for sacking Constantinople in 1453, because Ottoman Sultan Muhammad II was only 21-years-old then, he still had many good decades of jihading before him. He continued expanding into the Balkans, and,  in his bid to feed his horses on the altar of Saint Peter’s basilica—Muslim prophecies held that “we will conquer Constantinople before we conquer Rome”—he invaded Italy and captured Otranto in 1480.  More than half of its 22,000 inhabitants were massacred, 5,000 hauled off in chains.

To demonstrate his magnanimity, Muhammad offered freedom to 800 chained Christian captives, on condition that they all embrace Islam.  Instead, they unanimously chose to act on the words of one of their numbers: “My brothers, we have fought to save our city; now it is time to battle for our souls!”

Outraged that his invitation was spurned, on August 14 on a hilltop (subsequently named “Martyr’s Hill”), Muhammad ordered the ritual decapitation of these 800 unfortunates; their archbishop was slowly sawed in half to jeers and triumphant cries of “Allah Akbar!”  (The skeletal remains of some of these defiant Christians were preserved and can still be seen in the Cathedral of  Otranto.)

Now consider how this event relates to current realities:

First, whenever Islamic individuals or organizations engage in violence against non-Muslims—and cite Islam as their motivation—we are instantly told the exact opposite, that they are mere criminals and psychopaths, and that their actions have “nothing to do with the reality of Islam,” to quote Senator John McCain.

Yet it was not just run-of-the-mill “Muslims” who committed atrocities atop Martyr’s Hill, but the virtual leader of Sunni Islam, the sultan himself, who further always kept a pack of Muslim ulema—clerics, scholars, and muftis—to guide and confirm his decisions vis-à-vis infidels (including massacring those who reject Islam).

Nor was Otranto an aberration.  As documented in my new book, Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West, Islam’s official leaders and spokesmen—from sultans and caliphs to ulema and sheikhs—have always spoken and acted just like the Islamic State (or rather vice-versa).

Also interesting to reflect on is how even then, over half a millennium ago, Western nations preferred to engage in denial and wishful thinking than come to grips with reality or aid their beleaguered coreligionists.  Soon after the Otranto massacre, Pope Sixtus IV chided an indifferent West accordingly:

Let them not think that they are protected against invasion, those who are at a distance from the theatre of war! They, too, will bow the neck beneath the yoke, and be mowed down by the sword, unless they come forward to meet the invader. The Turks have sworn the extinction of Christianity. A truce to sophistries! It is the moment not to talk, but to act and fight!

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Such laments were not uncommon.  Nearly a century later, in 1565, as a massive Islamic armament was sailing over to besiege the tiny island of Malta, Pope Pius IV, who was trying to raise an army, complained that the king of Spain “has withdrawn into the woods and France, England and Scotland [are] ruled by women and boys.”

Finally and not unlike today, whereas the mass of Western people were ignorant of Islam’s doings, a minority were always keenly aware, including from a historical perspective. Consider Sebastian Brant’s (b.1457) Ship of Fools, a satirical poem on the gradual nature of Islam’s advances vis-à-vis a “sleeping” Christendom:

Our faith was strong in the Orient/It ruled in all of Asia/In Moorish lands and Africa/But now [since the seventh century] for us these lands are gone . . ./We perish sleeping one and all/The wolf has come into the stall/And steals the Holy Church’s sheep/The while the shepherd lies asleep/Four sisters of our Church you find/They’re of the patriarchic kind/Constantinople, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Antioch/But they’ve been forfeited and sacked/And soon the head [Rome] will be attacked.

As the poem’s continuity suggests, learned Europeans saw the Ottoman scourge as the latest in a continuum of Islamic terror: for whereas the Arabs were “the first troops of locusts” that appeared “about the year 630,” to quote a contemporary English clergyman, “the Turks, a brood of vipers, [are] worse than their parent . . . the Saracens, their mother.”

Today, the Islamic State and every other jihadi organization are the latest “brood of vipers” to be hatched by the perennial jihad.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Raymond Ibrahim

Endangered Spanish Jewish Community’s SOS

Tue, 08/14/2018 - 09:38

A tiny Jewish community in Las Palmas, Spain is endangered and threatened with closure. Spain’s entire Jewish population is comprised of 13,000 – 50,000 Jews, although this community in the Canary Island’s capital numbers only about 15 people.

“We had about 50 families around the time of the High Holy Days in 1997,” said Dr. Paul Brami, Vice President of the Jewish Community of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria – and also its chazan (cantor) and Baal Koreh (Torah reader). He and his family moved from France to Las Palmas, via Lanzarote in 1995. As with many communities, emigration (mostly to Canada and Israel) and attrition rates due to old age, meant a steady decrease in the community’s numbers. “Our “Rabbi, a wise and accurate Talmudist, passed away near 2 years ago,” Brami added.

The tiny community is hospitable, welcoming travelers who vacation on the island and go the synagogue in search of a minyan (prayer quorum) or a meal. Despite this, on a week-to-week basis the synagogue struggles to get enough people to sustain a prayer service on Shabbatot (Sabbaths) and Holidays. The island also has no kosher store, butcher or mikve (ritual purification bath). Individual community members do what they can – including bringing food from Madrid and sometimes from Israel. And because Gran Canaria is an island, one is permitted to use the sea as a means of purification, even though there is no designated ritual bath.

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The Jewish Community of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is a Zionist one – in which many of the elder’s children have made Aliyah – but they keep their allegiance quiet (there isn’t even a sign pointing out the community’s whereabouts). “There is a large muslim community, most of them from Morocco and Southern Sahara and Mauritania, but also some from Syria and Lebanon and many Palestinians,” Brami explained. The community did run a website, but now its creator maintains a Facebook page, Judios en Canarias (Jews in the Canaries). He added that the small Jewish community has good relations with local Spaniards, who do not consider them a threat, as well as a good relationship with the local newspaper La Provincia.

The threat to the community’s viability stems from the location of their synagogue. Since 1993, the community has paid rent on time every month. At one stage the owner proposed that the community bought the apartment, but there was never enough money available for that to be a viable solution. And now, the owner would like to sell the apartment for 200,000 Euros ($228,000). Brami would be delighted if a donor would come forward, purchase the apartment and rent it out to the community. “Another idea is to get a sponsor that could buy it and donate as a philanthropic gesture with the condition we should donate back the money to any organisation the sponsor likes,” he added.

One of the most interesting parts of this story is they way that Dr. Brami got in touch with Breaking Israel News. Having seen a recently posted video about a Dutch synagogue being forced to close its doors, he reached out with the community’s story.

Brami is sanguine about the community’s fate arguing that “perhaps it is the destiny of all small communities to disappear.” There is something poignant though, about the potential further diminution of the Spanish Jewish community. The country has to an extent not recovered from its expulsion of Jews (and also its Muslims) – it would be a shame to pass up the opportunity to save a tiny community hanging on for dear life.

Rabbis Weigh In: Who Is Amalek Today?

Tue, 08/14/2018 - 07:41

Rabbi Nir Ben Artzi, a prominent Israeli mystic, gave a sermon that was published on Sunday. In it, he referred to Hamas as “the seed of Amalek.”

Amalek was the grandson of Esau whose descendants became a nation infamous for attacking the Hebrews after they came out of Egypt. The archetypal enemies of Israel, Torah commands the Jews to wipe out the memory of Amalek.

Therefore, when Hashem your God grants you safety from all your enemies around you, in the land that Hashem your God is giving you as a hereditary portion, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget! Deuteronomy 25:19

This commandment requires killing all the men, women, and children, anywhere and at any time.

Rabbi Ben Artzi stated that, as the “seed of Amalek,” this commandment applied to Hamas.

A pro-Hamas rally in Ramallah. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

“When they cry ‘ceasefire,’ it is just like in the Ten Plagues when Pharaoh was stubborn until he got a plague, relented, and then returned to being stubborn until the next plague. This continued until the plague of the death of the firstborn and finished him completely.”

Like Ben Artzi, many rabbis throughout Jewish history have conjectured as to the identity of Amalek with the title frequently being placed on the worst enemies of the Jews. Breaking Israel News asked several rabbis their opinion:

 

Liberalism: Amalek’s Rejection of Life

Rabbi Pinchas Winston, a prolific author and end-of-days expert, has written several books on the subject of Amalek.

“There is no real purebred Amalek today since, according to the Talmud, King Sennacherib mixed up the nations,” Rabbi Winston told Breaking Israel News. “This means that we cannot point at any one nation and say that they are Amalek. It also means that Amalek has gotten mixed into the other nations and a little bit of Amalek is in everyone.”

“Amalek is more than a physical people. It is also a concept and a spiritual reality. Different people can embody that concept. First and foremost, Amalek is doubt in divine providence. According to the midrash (homiletic teachings), after killing Jewish men, Amalek cut off the brit milah (circumcision) of the male Jewish casualties and threw them up at heaven. They were saying that there is no room in this world for a covenant with God.”

“Atheism is an extreme form of Amalek. The second thing that Amalek does is that they are willing to kill themselves in order to bring that about. The Nazis clearly did this. Much of liberalism today is like that. They are killing themselves spiritually, politically, and even physically. When a person says that they are not going to speak to members of their own family because they disagree with their ideology, that is a form of spiritual suicide, saying that the ideology trumps all. That does not make them from Amalek but it is a trait of Amalek.”

“Amalek wants life to be forfeit. Liberalism is the focus of Amalek today. This is why they will say that abortion and homosexuality, actions that detract from life, are moral imperatives. It is not a coincidence that liberals are atheists. Liberalism is what happens when you take God and meaning out of life. Ultimately, liberalism is idolatry. It is making God in the image of man, making man the ultimate authority, freeing him to do what he wants. The Golden calf is the liberal movement in action. They made a god, imbued him with powers, so that under his rule, they could do what they want.”

“They don’t hate life; they have no idea what life is. They are leading a meaningless existence. They need to tempt death to confirm that they are living. When a person gets to this point, Amalek has won.”

“People who acknowledge a covenant with God, his existence and presence in this world, they appreciate life as a gift. They also have meaningful things to do with their lives. We are hardwired to want eternity and to seek meaning.”

“Liberalism claims to be the avenger of justice and truth. They reject discussion and other opinions. That is because Amalek in gematria (Hebrew numerology) is 240, equal to the word safek (doubt); they want you to doubt what you know is clearly the word of God.”

“Amalek puts emotions over the intellect. ‘I want it’ becomes more important than anything. Abraham was given the strength to conquer Amalek through the test of offering up Isaac, by putting aside his emotions to do the will of God. Judaism, which is based on the chesed (loving kindness) of Abraham, is intellect over emotions.”

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Amalek: Leading the Nations to Hate Israel

Rabbi Yosef Berger, the rabbi of King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion, believes that Amalek exists in the world today, in individuals and also in nations.

“Without direct divine guidance, it is impossible to say with certainty who is Amalek,” Berger told Breaking Israel News. “Therefore, it is forbidden to perform the commandment. But each person must ask himself if he has the traits of Amalek.”

“Amalek is a symbol, it is a character trait. Amalek came to kill Israel after they saw all the wonders Hashem did for us when we came out of Egypt.”

“The Torah says they came upon us by happenstance.”

How, undeterred by fear of Hashem, he surprised you on the march, when you were famished and weary, and cut down all the stragglers in your rear. Deuteronomy 25:18

Rabbi Berger quoted Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, an 11th century French Torah scholar who is known by the acronym “ Rashi”, who explained the verse.

“An expression denoting heat and cold (קוֹר). He cooled you off and made you appear tepid, after you were boiling hot, for the nations were afraid to fight with you, just as people are afraid to touch something boiling hot. But this one,came forward and started and showed the way to others. This can be compared to a bathtub of boiling water into which no living creature could descend. Along came an irresponsible man and jumped headlong into it! Although he scalded himself, he succeeded to make others think that it was cooler than it really was.

“Amalek was burned but he wanted so much to harm Israel that he didn’t care, even though Israel hadn’t done anything to them. The other nations followed and were burned but they didn’t want to look bad in front of the others now that Amalek had jumped in.”

“We see this happening today. Iran is willing to destroy their economy, they are willing to destroy their own country, just to convince the other Arab nations to attack Israel. Erdogan is the same way. His economy is crashing but he doesn’t care. Hamas is clearly this way. They want the IDF to attack, as long as it means bad for Israel. Anyone who acts this way today is from the seed of Amalek.”

“The commandment isn’t to conquer Amalek. It is to wipe him out from the world because as long as there is a memory of Amalek in the world, the Moshiach (Messiah) cannot come.”

“Obama was not satisfied in setting his country’s policy against Israel. He organized Europe in order to give Iran nuclear weapons, even though Iran was calling for ‘Death to Israel’ and ‘Death to America.’ He used the United Nations against Israel. These are the traits of Amalek.”

“Trump has done precisely the opposite. He has come up against all the countries that have shown the traits of Amalek.”

“The evil that Amalek planted is still in the world and every person has to ask himself if he has taken on these traits. God promised that Amalek will be wiped out. Whoever goes in the ways of Amalek will most certainly be wiped out.”

Amalek: Preventing the Jews From Settling Israel

Rabbi Yosef Dayan, a member of the nascent Sanhedrin, is unafraid to make difficult  judgments with dire consequences. Rabbi Dayan played a central role in so-called “death curse” ceremonies, or Pulsa diNura, aimed at Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon as a punishment for their giving up portions of Israel and dealing with murderers of Jews.

BDS rally (Credit: Odemirense via Wikipedia)

“Amalek didn’t just do random evil,” Rabbi Dayan told Breaking Israel News. “They came to stop the Jews from entering Israel. Anyone who does the same, who tries to stop the Jews from doing God’s will, from settling Israel, is Amalek. This can be Jews or non-Jews. This is certainly countries and leaders like Iran. This can be the United Nations or even movements like BDS (Boycott Divest Sanctions). This can even be left-wing Jews in Israel.”

Rabbi Dayan paraphrased Rabbi Moshe Charlap, a leader in the religious Zionist movement of the first half of the 20th century.

“A major trait of Amalek is the rejection of any rule, in particular the rule of heaven. Amalek wants to rule himself and everyone else. Israel is, quite simply, visual and undeniable proof that God rules the world. That is why Amalek and those who go in his way simply cannot bear the sight of Israel.”

EXODUS 15:17

Tue, 08/14/2018 - 07:24

“And plant them in your own mountain” is understood as a reference either to Har Habayit (the Temple Mount) or to the entire Land of Israel. When Hashem (God) says that the Jewish People will be planted in the Land of Israel, He means that they will establish roots there and flourish. Jewish tradition explains that this is a reference to the time of the Mashiach (Messiah), when the Children of Israel will be brought back to the Land of Israel, never to be uprooted again. For two thousand years, Jews have been asking for the fulfillment of this verse each week as part of the Shabbat (Sabbath) prayers, “bring us with happiness to our land and plant us in our borders.”

Trump Approves Largest-Ever Aid Package to Israel

Tue, 08/14/2018 - 06:59

U.S. President Donald Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Monday, which includes a $550 million assistance package to Israel and temporarily halts the sale of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey. This comes amid tensions between the United States and Ankara, which is currently holding an American pastor hostage, among other political moves.

The $717 billion measure includes a bipartisan measure honoring a decade-long memorandum of understanding between America and Israel, with the United States giving $3.8 billion annually to the Jewish state.

The NDAA, titled the “John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for 2019,” authorizes funds for research and development pertaining to weapon-defense systems, including the Iron Dome, David’s Sling, Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 systems told help Israel defend against missile and rocket threats. Additionally, the law provides $50 million for joint U.S.-Israeli work on counter-tunnel technology, which has emerged as a major security threat to Israel in recent years from the Palestinian terror group Hamas.

The joint U.S.-Israel David Sling’s defense system test-fires an interceptor missile. (Credit: United States Missile Defense Agency)

The annual military blueprint also temporarily blocks the U.S. delivery of the F-35 fighter jets to Turkey in response to the detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson, whom the country accuses of participating in the failed 2016 coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Earlier this month, the United States slapped sanctions on two top Turkish government officials involved in Brunson’s detention. The White House also placed aluminum and steel tariffs on Turkey, and Trump said last Friday that he approved a doubling of those tariffs. The tariffs and sanctions have caused Turkey’s currency, the lira, to crash.

Diliman Abdulkader, director of the Kurdish Project at the Endowment for Middle East Truth, helped advise lawmakers regarding the Turkey provision in the NDAA and supports the current U.S. measures against Turkey.

“The F-35 is a big step in basically telling Turkey you’re not too big to fail,” Abdulkader told JNS. “Yes, they are a NATO ally, but the United States is also concerned for its own national security interests, and based on the rhetoric coming from Erdoğan, he seems to be threatening not only NATO interests but the United States as well.”

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“[The] United States must adapt to the reality that we are not dealing with the same Turkey as in the past. Turkey under Erdogan is aggressive and contradicts American interests both in Europe and in the Middle East,” said Abdulkader. “Therefore, we have to change our foreign policy accordingly that will further isolate and pressure Turkey. We have to keep in mind all of Turkey’s internal and external problems are the doing of the Turkish government themselves not the United States.”

Regarding U.S. sanctions and tariffs against Turkey, Abdulkader said that this pressure campaign cannot be limited to the country’s custody of Brunson.

Erdoğan’s hostage-taking of Americans to gain diplomatic leverage is one of many violations he has committed,” he said. “There are countless of human-rights violations by Turkey that must be considered part of the equation, including Turkish threats against Americans in Syria, the Kurds and, most recently, an attempt to raid and arrest American officials in Incirlik Air Base” in the city of Adana, Turkey.

Bill to block access to international financial markets

The F-35 Adir Fighter plane. (Credit: US Department of Defense)

Aykan Erdemir, who served in the Turkish parliament from 2011 to 2015 and serves as a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told JNS that the relationship between America and Turkey goes beyond the F-35 jets.

The first issue on the U.S.-Turkish relationship is that as the bilateral crisis between the U.S. and Turkey deepens, the economic crisis gets worse,” he said.

“In the next few months to come, the more important question is Turkey’s bailout.”

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a bill last month that would block Turkish access to international financial resources, such as the International Monetary Fund.

Transferring the F-35s to Turkey would be “a concern,” Erdemir said, but it would be “a security matter, and the implications would not be immediate, whereas with the economic crisis and with access to international financial institutions, the consequences would be immediate because we’re talking week, if not, months.”

The NDAA will need an appropriations bill to fund it.

Such a measure already passed the Senate Appropriations Committee; its chairman, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), has been trying to get it on the chamber floor for a full vote in order to get it to the president before the fiscal year deadline at the end of September.

The House of Representatives passed its appropriations bill last month. Any bill from the upper chamber would need to be reconciled with the House in conference committee negotiations

Diplomacy Temporarily Resolves Caspian Sea Dispute

Tue, 08/14/2018 - 06:11

The Caspian Sea in Central Asia is bordered by five countries – including Russia and Iran. The sea is thought to contain a great deal of natural resources – part of the reason for the recent impasse. On Sunday, an agreement was signed, which allowed Turkmenistan to build an oil pipeline across it to supply Europe. This is definitely one of the regions of the world to look out for – with regard to increased competition for energy resources.

Israel Security Officials to US: Don’t Cut UNRWA Gaza Funding

Tue, 08/14/2018 - 05:28

Israeli officials requested that the United States not cut funding from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza. Their request came amid concerns that it may push the humanitarian crisis in the Strip over the brink.

In January, President Donald Trump’s administration announced a massive 50% cut to the U.N agency, which received approximately $150 Million from the U.S. annually. The decision was made following a Tweet by President Donald Trump which read: “We pay the Palestinians HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect,” adding that “With the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”

American officials requested Israel’s stance on the matter, to determine how much money can be cut from UNRWA’s budget. In response, Israeli security and diplomatic officials stated that while they have no problem with shutting down UNRWA’s activities in Judea and Samaria, as there are plenty of organizations set in place to fill its shoes, they oppose cutting funding to the agency’s Gaza activities, as there are no organizations set to take their place. It may lead to a massive deterioration in the humanitarian situation in the strip.

While the professional stance of the Israeli security and diplomatic apparatuses is against shutting down the agency in Gaza, the official stance of Israel’s government is actually that UNRWA must be dissolved altogether.

In January, following President Trump’s announcement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “UNRWA is an organization which perpetuates the refugee crisis of the Palestinians, as well as perpetuates the narrative of the [Palestinian] ‘right’ of return in order to destroy the State of Israel,” adding that “This is an organization that was established 70 years ago exclusively for Palestinian refugees, while there already exists a UN High Commissioner to deal with the rest of the world’s refugee problems… This absurdity must cease.”

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At the time, Netanyahu suggested that the funds meant for Gaza be diverted to other UN agencies working in Gaza, however, this recent report suggests that that is not possible or practical, as UNRWA is not only the only organization in Gaza with the capacity to operate in Gaza, but also the largest employer in Gaza.

Following the American announcement in January, Israel’s Foreign Ministry tried to find a compromise on funding UNRWA, as it too believes closing down the agency’s operations would push Gaza past the point of no return. However, the suggestion that Israel was working behind the scenes to moderate Trump’s threats generated criticism within the prime minister’s Likud Party and within the coalition.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said in response to the reports that he “finds it hard to believe that Israel’s Foreign Ministry is opposed to defunding UNRWA,”  an organization he said “perpetuates the Palestinian refugee problem instead of solving it.” Accusing UNRWA of “supporting terrorism in various ways” Erdan said: “This is the organization the Foreign Ministry is protecting from defunding? I truly hope that is not true.”

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, head of Likud’s coalition partner, the Jewish Home party,  said “UNRWA is a terror supporting organization. It’s very existence perpetuates the dire state of the people of Gaza, who are being oppressed by the Hamas regime. Support to the people of Gaza should be no different than the support of the people of Syria who are suffering under a terror regime, or from any other group of descendants of refugees anywhere else in the world… I expect all government bodies in Israel, including the Foreign Ministry, to support a decision to defund an organization which employs Hamas terrorists and hides their rockets in its schools.”

Turkish Lira Sinks Against Dollar, Economy in Trouble

Tue, 08/14/2018 - 03:32

The Turkish lira plunged as much as 11% against the dollar, hitting a record low, before recovering some of its losses in volatile trading. The lira had already plummeted more than 20% last week as a political clash with the United States intensified and investors fretted about the Turkish government’s lack of action to tackle the problems plaguing its economy.

The lira’s tailspin has unsettled global markets, with shares of European banks coming under particular pressure because of concerns over the lenders’ exposure to Turkey. The jitters have also hit the currencies of other major emerging markets, such as South Africa and India.

On Monday, stocks fell 2% in Tokyo and more than 1% in Hong Kong. Major European markets were down around 0.5%, with shares in banks including Spain’s BBVA and Italy’s Unicredit (UNCFF) sliding 3%.

Related: How a currency meltdown in Turkey threatens Europe

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has dismissed calls for the country to raise interest rates to try to ease the crisis — and has lashed out at the United States after it announced new trade tariffs on Turkey.

“You are a strategic partner in NATO and on the other hand you stab your ally in the back? Is this acceptable?” he said in a speech Monday.

Fears of a debt crisis

Economists are warning that if confidence isn’t restored quickly, Turkey could lurch into a recession and debt crisis requiring a bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

“Investors are clearly concerned that Turkey’s government won’t act (or allow the central bank to act) to shore up the currency, and fears are mounting that this could result in a crisis in Turkey’s banking sector,” William Jackson, chief emerging markets economist at research firm Capital Economics, wrote in a note to clients Friday.

The lira is now down more than 40% against the dollar since the start of the year, making it far harder for Turkish companies to pay back loans they have taken out in the US currency.

Meanwhile, the US government is using the lira crisis to ramp up pressure on Turkey over its detention of an American pastor.

“I have just authorized a doubling of Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum with respect to Turkey as their currency, the Turkish Lira, slides rapidly downward against our very strong Dollar!” President Donald Trump tweeted Friday. “Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!”

Investors wait for ‘convincing response’

The Turkish government has so far struggled to soothe investors’ concerns.

Finance Minister Berat Albayrak said in a series of tweets late Sunday that the government had started introducing an economic action plan of “necessary measures” to address the situation. Albayrak, who is Erdogan’s son-in-law, didn’t provide much in the way of details.

The central bank then announced in a statement early Monday that it would “take all necessary measures to maintain financial stability” and “provide all the liquidity the banks need.” It also saidit would slash the amount of funds that banks are required to hold in reserve.

The Turkish currency erased some of its earlier losses, but the announcements weren’t enough to trigger a rally. The lira was down around 7% against the dollar in afternoon trading in Europe.

Investors are waiting for “a convincing response from the central bank and government,” Rob Carnell, an economist at investment bank ING, said in a note to clients Monday.

One dollar now buys a little under seven lira, compared with fewer than four at the start of the year.

Murat Askanat, a toy seller in Istanbul, told CNN that rising prices were making it harder to do business.

“We do not know what will happen next, this is the problem,” said Askanat. “The products that I used to buy for 10 lira become 20 now. How can I reflect this to my clients?”

Turkish leaders have insisted that the lira’s crash is the result of a speculative attack rather than any real problems in the country’s economy.

Turkish authorities said Monday that they were investigating 346 social media accounts that they accused of provoking the wild movements in the currency, according to the state news agency.

The “law will be applied to those who release fake news about banks, financial institutions and companies that are open to the public,” the Turkish Capital Markets Board said in a statement.

But investors are more concerned about the lack of strong action by the central bank, which stunned markets late last month by leaving interest rates unchanged. Many observers interpreted the unorthodox decision as a sign Erdogan, who supports lower interest rates, had increased his influence over the bank.

“We did not and will not compromise the rules of free market economy,” Erdogan said. “Nobody should listen to speculations.”

Emerging market turmoil

Investors have flocked to the United States in recent months, drawn by rising bond yields and a stronger dollar as the Federal Reserve continues to gradually increase interest rates.

The trend has set off turmoil in emerging markets: Argentina was forced in June to ask the International Monetary Fund for a $50 billion bailout.

Turkey’s plight has raised fears of more casualties. The South African rand plummeted as much as 8% against the dollar early Monday before recovering to trade down more than 2%. India’s rupee lost around 1% against the dollar, touching a record low.

But some market analysts are advising investors against abandoning emerging markets in general as result of the turbulence in Turkey.

“The drivers of the lira’s decline are very specific to Turkey,” Kerry Craig, a global market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management, said in a note to clients. “Therefore it should not derail the positive fundamentals in other emerging markets over a longer term.”

Can Medicine Bring Israelis and Palestinians Together?

Tue, 08/14/2018 - 03:03

It is an irony of the Middle East. At the same time that Gaza terrorists send burning balloons and kites and have – for now – stopped hurling rockets and missiles at southern Israel, Israeli and Palestinian physicians are collaborating at Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center. Medicine and caring for the sick it seems, can bring enemies together.

The July issue of The Lancet Oncology medical journal has published an article describing a successful model of Israeli-Palestinian collaboration between Rambam and Augusta Victoria Hospital in east Jerusalem.

Professor Ziv Gil co-authored the article.  “The partnership of Israeli and Palestinian physicians from both hospitals demonstrates the great potential of peacemaking in our region through improving treatment of cancer patients,” says Gil, director of the otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat)-head-and-neck surgery at Rambam.

The Lancet article presents the growth curve for radiation treatments of oncology patients at Augusta Victoria since the program began and highlight how quickly the Palestinian physicians learned how to treat a variety of malignancies. The article also discusses the subject of continuity of care for complex tumors in Palestinian patients by staff from both hospitals.

The joint project, which began five years ago, aims to promote interpersonal relationships among staff from a variety of disciplines to foster independence of the Palestinian healthcare system. It hopes to reach two targets – the formation of an independent Palestinian healthcare system; and assuring continuity of medical care in the Palestinian sector until an independent healthcare system is established there.

The project includes a hospital-skills-enhancement program at Rambam for Palestinian medical staffers; Palestinian and Israeli medical teams working together at Augusta Victoria located on the southern side of the Mount of Olives; and referral of patients with complicated clinical conditions from Augusta Victoria to Rambam to be managed by staff from both hospitals.

So far, 23 doctors from the east Jerusalem hospital have participated in the program for enhancing hospital skills in various disciplines, including head and neck surgery, oncology, otolaryngology, neurosurgery, nephrology and plastic surgery. Graduates of the skills’ enhancement program have obtained positions in other hospitals and clinics throughout Judea and Samaria. Using their newly obtained skills, they have established medical services previously nonexistent in the Palestine Authority (PA).

Treatments for these patients include specialized surgical procedures not currently available in the territories, including robotic surgery, endoscopic surgery, reconstructive surgery, transplants and surgical removal of skull-based tumors.

“The collaborative Israeli-Palestinian physicians’ program and its results over the past five years are evidence that common goals can be deployed as the basis for building cooperation and understanding between our peoples,” adds Gil. “The model demonstrates the potential of cancer treatment as a tool for building peace in our region of the world.”

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“It is clear that successful development of a healthcare system is contingent upon a multiplicity of parameters, and we cannot rely upon this program only or on other similar initiatives,” adds Dr. Salem Billan, an Israeli-Arab who heads Rambam’s head-and-neck-tumor unit at Rambam and one of the program’s developers. “This platform should be adopted by Palestinian and Israeli government agencies or by the international community to be used as a constructive tool for development of a healthcare system in developing countries in areas of tension.”

About four years ago, during Operation Protective Edge, The Lancet published a biting letter criticizing Israel. The letter, entitled Open Letter to the People of Gaza, bashed Israel’s policies and caused a stir in the world of academia and medicine. Physicians and researchers worldwide called for a boycott of the journal, while some called attention to The Lancet’s overall “anti-Israel editorial policy.”

At the height of the controversy, Rambam director-general Prof. Rafael Beyar and Prof. Karl Skorecki, the hospital’s director of medical and research development, invited The Lancet editor-in-chief Prof. Richard Horton to Israel to see the reality of the country with his own eyes and learn about its healthcare system. Prof. Mark Clarfield, a gerontologist at Beersheba’s Ben-Gurion University, also joined the mission.

During Horton’s visit, the British physician apologized to some of the Israeli doctors: “There is no cause for a BDS-like boycott on Israeli physicians and researchers,” he asserted. A short time after the visit, he published an article in his journal describing his impressions of the Israel visit, complimenting the medical institutions he saw.

In addition, transcripts of debates in which Horton participated, as well as his lecture at Rambam, were published in Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal (RMMJ.org.il), an international journal sponsored by Rambam that is both peer reviewed and indexed in PubMed.

During that visit, Horton decided to devote a whole issue of The Lancet to the Israeli healthcare system, and it was published in May 2017 within the framework of a Tel Aviv science convention attended by medical and academic administrators that included Prof. Arnon Afek, then deputy director-general of the Health. The special issue of The Lancet was presented at two other scientific conferences held that week in Nazareth and Beersheba and finally at a formal meeting in the home of the President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, with Horton, his editorial staff and authors of the papers in that issue in attendance.

The Month of Elul

Tue, 08/14/2018 - 02:40

The month of Elul is one of the most important in the Jewish calendar. The last month of the Jewish year, it is the preamble to the coming High Holy Days – Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. It is a special time of repentance and reflection.

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THE MONTH OF ELUL

WATCH: Why This Month Is Special To Jews

Posted by Hananya Naftali on Monday, August 13, 2018

New World / Old World Wine – Where is Israel?

Tue, 08/14/2018 - 02:34

I was recently privileged to participate in a WSET (Wine, Spirit, & Education Trust) Level 2 course here in Israel. Ten years ago, I knew nothing about wine, and since coming to Israel for the first time, I have slowly begun building my knowledge about grapes, wine and vineyards.

When I started the WSET Level 2 course, though, I quickly realized that my level of knowledge in this area was miniscule.

WSET is a UK-based school of learning that is internationally recognized for training sommeliers and wine experts. Some of you may be familiar with the presentation “Israel’s Story Told Through Wines” that Caleb Waller has recently been taking throughout North America, along with wine tastings for Israeli wines.

Over the five weeks of the course, I began to have a revelation about the wine industry around the world, and the recent comeback of wines here in the land of Israel. I hope you’ll find this idea as fascinating as I did.

When discussing world wines, the terms “old world” and “new world” are used to describe the well-known regions around the world. Most of Europe is considered old world, with France generally being cited as the top region for many wine varieties. Places like North America and Australia are generally considered new world regions. Israel is not even mentioned in the course, being too small and new to the wine stage.

High quality wines from old world regions are many times known by their geographical location, and not necessarily their wineries. In French, there is no word for “winery,” and many high quality wines are labeled according to their region, village, or family vineyard. For instance, if you see a wine labeled “Chablis,” you know that this particular wine will be a very high quality Chardonnay, and will come from the region of Chablis, France. A “Pouilly Fume” labeled wine must be from 100% Sauvignon Blanc grapes and come from the region of Bourgogne, France.

New world wines sometimes depend on the winemaking process for the reputation and quality of their wine. Wineries are often more famous than the vineyard where the grapes come from. Typically, when speaking of high quality wines, old world wines are considered to be some of the finest in the world.

Thirty years ago, there were no vineyards in Samaria. Even though the entire region of Judea and Samaria is dotted with ancient cisterns, wine and olive oil presses cut into the rocks, and even wine aging caves; until the early 1990’s, grapes were not grown here. In Samaria alone, there have been more than 300 ancient wine presses discovered! Because of the archaeology, and the permanent reminders engraved into the rocks on these hills, we know what once was – that Israel was a major competitor in the world for the wine industry 2,000 years ago. Because Samaria is just north of Jerusalem, and Judea south, we can also judge that much of the wine made in these hills would have been used in the offerings in the Temple, and would therefore have been some of the finest in the world.

HaYovel volunteers harvest grapes in Har Bracha. (Courtesy)

However, after the destruction of the Temple, these hills in the heartland of Israel lay desolate for 2,000 years. Even after the rebirth of the State of Israel in 1948, for nearly 50 more years, hardly anything was grown here. Then in the early 90s, a few brave farmers decided that what the prophets once spoke must come to literal fruition.

“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, when the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; the mountains shall drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. (Amos 9:13)

Against the advice of the agricultural experts, farmers began to plant. On the Mount of Blessing, several brave farmers planted a few acres of wine grapes in 1997. Just a few short years later, their first harvest came in. They managed to secure a contract with Carmel Winery – the largest winery in Israel – to buy their grapes, as they had not yet started making wine themselves. The story goes that when the very small harvest of grapes reached Carmel that year, they immediately realized that these grapes were of a higher quality than their usual purchases, and they decided to separate them and make a wine with just the grapes from the Mount of Blessing. Since then, grapes coming from the Mount of Blessing are considered a very high quality, and are sought after, all over Israel.

Since that time, wineries and vineyards have sprouted and taken flight all over Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. Wines from these regions have won an untold number of gold, silver, and bronze medals in national and international competitions, competing with wines from around the world in blind tastings. The prophecy of Amos is truly coming to pass.

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As I went through the WSET Level 2 course, I realized that Israel is so new on the wine stage, that they’re not even referenced in the traditional material. If they are mentioned at all, it is in the context of “new world” wines. After pondering the history of winemaking here, and the phenomenon of so many vineyards and wineries cropping up and taking their place amongst world-renowned wines, I realized that it is only a matter of time before Israel is restored to its rightful place as an old world wine region, and referenced as some of the highest quality wine in the world.

World-renowned wines were made here 2,000 years ago – the evidence is etched into the rocks on these hills. In less than 30 years, the vineyards and wineries have grown by an exponential number, and the wines that are winning international medals in blind competitions have reached a staggering number.

I’m looking forward to the day when labels like “Har Bracha” (Mount of Blessing), “Shiloh,” “Psagot,” and “Mountains of Judea” will be known as specific, famous wines all around the world, with reputations to match. If Amos’ prophecy comes to complete fruition, then this time is not too far away. It’s all part of the greater restoration of God’s Kingdom happening here in the land of Israel, and we can all be a part of it.

The author, Luke Hilton, is Hayovel’s Director of Marketing

Achieving Unity while Remaining Divided

Tue, 08/14/2018 - 00:00

In our day, the word “tolerance” has become very popular, as have words such as “pluralism,” “democracy,” and “unity.” These terms are used so often that one would hope most people have a proper understanding of their meanings. This is, however, far from true. In fact, it seems that the more these words appear in our papers, books, and conversations, the less they are comprehended. They are often used in ways that oppose the very values they stand for.

We can clearly see this when, for example, we focus on the word “tolerance”. People feel proud when they’re able to claim how tolerant they are. They see themselves as broad-minded and have little objection to any thoughts or views of others, since all attitudes and outlooks on life should be permitted in a free society. These views are then linked with values such as pluralism and democracy.

The shallowness of such thinking, however, is abundantly clear. If society were indeed prepared to be tolerant on all fronts, it would become hell and self-destructive. Little effort is needed to explain that we cannot condone anti-Semitism, racism, public nudity, crime, or sexual harassment of women and children.

Suddenly, we realize that there are moral principles that cannot be violated, and we should stand by these principles come what may.

Most people get confused when speaking about tolerance. They often use this word when in fact they are apathetic.

Alexander Chase once wrote:

“The peak of tolerance is most readily achieved by those who are not burdened with convictions.” ( Perspectives, 1966.)

Ogden Nash put it as follows:

“Sometimes with secret pride I sigh,

To think how tolerant am I;

Then wonder what is really mine:

Tolerance, or a rubber spine?”

Indeed, most of the time it is indifference that makes people believe they are tolerant. It is easy to be indulgent when one doesn’t care about values and principles, or about the moral needs of society and one’s fellow humans.

Tolerance has become the hideout in which many people turn their egocentricity into a virtue.

Looking at today’s Jewish scene, we see a similar phenomenon. This time it is tolerance and, above all, “unity” that have become popular words used by the various factions within the Jewish world. All of them speak of tolerance and unity, and each one accuses the others of a lack of commitment to these values.

Nobody doubts that unity of the Jewish people is of crucial importance. If the Jews would split – even more than they have until now – in such a way that unity could no longer be maintained, we would indeed have an irreversible problem, which could quite well be detrimental to the future of Israel and the Jewish people. Still, we have to ask ourselves if in all cases unity is really the highest value to strive for.

To many, refusal by a major part of the Orthodox leadership to recognize the Conservative and Reform movements as legitimate representatives of Judaism is a sign of intolerance. The same is true about the Conservative and Reform movements. Recognizing Orthodoxy as the authentic representation of Judaism is seen as taboo and a misrepresentation of genuine Judaism. (1)

While it is fully understandable why many are disturbed by these attitudes, it would be entirely wrong to consider this denial of the absolute need for unity within the Jewish people as a mistake. To claim that all need to surrender to it is a fundamental misunderstanding of what human beings are all about.

Sure, there is a lot to say for cooperation and mutual recognition among all these movements. Indeed, agreeing to some sort of compromise shows strength and flexibility. Moreover, refusal by these movements to bend causes much damage. There is no attempt at mutual understanding and reconciliation. Instead, accusations fly back and forth on an emotional level, and any previous efforts to find solutions are completely undermined.

In the case of Orthodoxy, one could even argue that through some compromise Orthodox Judaism would be well served. It would benefit by no longer being identified as an extreme religious movement and, consequently, would be more readily accepted by the non-Orthodox, and even the anti-Orthodox. Some earlier opponents would perhaps even join its ranks.

There is, however, one “but”. All of the above would be true if religion belonged in the same category as politics, economics, science, and other such matters. But it does not. However important unity may be when referring to religious issues, it is not the absolute priority.

What is a priority is personal conscience.

Let us take a look at and understand the history of Judaism. Should Avraham have compromised with the world in which he lived, for the sake of unity? Wouldn’t this strong-minded man have been more influential had he not taken the stand he took? Clearly, Avraham created a great amount of emotional upheaval. He and so many prophets after him, like Shmuel, Yeshayahu and Yirmiyahu, were violent protestors and refused to go along with the values of their day. No doubt many saw them as inflexible extremists who shattered the tranquility of their societies.

Moreover, we can be sure that many “modern-minded” people in those days condemned them for their outdated ideologies and refusal to go along with the “up-to-date” values of the day.

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It may be worthwhile to take notice of a major controversy that plagued the Christian world for a long time. One of the most famous Anglican theologians in the 19th century was John Henry Newman. After holding a most prominent position in the Anglican Church, he decided to join the Catholic Church and later became one of its most eminent cardinals. At the time, this move became a topic of intense debate throughout the Christian world. Many admirers of Newman felt he should have stayed in the Anglican Church. They correctly believed that from the point of view of reconciliation he would have succeeded in making a major contribution toward bringing both churches closer. He would have been seen as an authoritative Anglican with a strong leaning toward Rome. The Anglican Church would have been unable to ignore his position, and he could have brought both sides closer. But the moment he became a Catholic, the Anglican Church wrote him off.

When asked why he had not taken that route, remaining with the Anglican Church, Newman made a most important observation. After admitting that he would have indeed been considerably more influential had he stayed in the Anglican Church and contributed to a much needed reconciliation, he added that this option was not available to him; that one cannot put reconciliation over one’s conscience. In matters of truth one makes a choice between what one considers to be true and what one considers to be false. Newman had come to the conclusion that the theology of the Anglican Church was erroneous and had to be rejected. To remain there would have been a compromise on truth and, as such, a sign of weakness and lack of courage.

This historic event should be important for Jews to keep in mind when debating the authenticity of the Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, and other movements.   Neither Jewish identity nor the nature of Judaism can be decided simply on the basis of what will do less harm to Jewish unity. This is an instance where personal conscience – namely one’s perception of the truth – determines.

In mainstream Orthodox Judaism, the Torah and Oral Tradition are seen as rooted in the Sinai experience. The Torah is seen as a verbal revelation of God’s will, and no human being may reject anything stated therein. Likewise, the Oral Tradition is believed to be the authentic interpretation of the text and, while open to debate, may not be even partially rejected or ignored.

Obviously, anyone has the right to challenge this belief and reject it. But no one should impugn Orthodoxy for holding its ground and not compromising on these fundamental beliefs. To Orthodox Jews, this is a matter of truth or falsehood.   Similarly, no one can ask the Conservative and Reform movements to change their beliefs just for the sake of unity, when they believe that these two fundamentals of Orthodox Judaism are (partially) faulty.

The only recourse for these denominations is to challenge the other points of view and possibly defeat them with strong arguments, in a dignified way.

That Orthodoxy does not want to recognize Reform and Conservative views as authentic Judaism is not the outcome of weakness, or rejection of the great value of unity. It is something entirely different. In matters of religious truth, personal conscience and principle are more important than unity. The same is true for Reform and Conservative Judaism. In some fundamental matters, no compromise is possible, however inconvenient and disturbing.

Cardinal Newman would have understood.

Paradoxically, the only way to create unity among these denominations is for all to recognize that they are fundamentally divided. We need to stop asking for compromise on the very beliefs that are matters of personal conscience and therefore categorical.

Once all the parties accept this fact, it will be possible for members of these denominations to sit together and see how they can cooperate while leaving their fundamental beliefs untouched. After all, once their fundamental beliefs are left in place, they will be able to discover how much they do have in common and work toward unity.

Anyone who has an extensive grasp of Judaism and Halacha, their flexibility, and their many opinions will not have much difficulty seeing the many options available that will help realize this goal.

If that happens, there is a real possibility that through discussion and gentle persuasion a new Judaism can arise. Old prejudices will disappear, dividing lines will shift, and slowly, a much greater and deeper authentic Judaism will emerge.

********

(1) In earlier generations, Reform was an attempt to reconcile itself with the non-Jewish world and ideas, and to turn Judaism into a “Sunday morning religion” involving little commitment and effort. But over the years, Reform thinkers became much more dedicated to the relevance of a serious Judaism in modern times, and on that point they clashed with Conservative and Orthodox thinkers.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Times of Israel

Depression and Anxiety Explained, According to Kabbalah

Mon, 08/13/2018 - 07:53

As Jews head toward the Days of Awe – Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur – we think a lot about spirituality. According to Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism), “depression and anxiety is the cry of your soul.” When our souls are hungry they express that lack through anxiety.

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Rabbi Simon Jacobson.

Rabbi Simon Jacobson discusses non-clinical depression. The Meaningful Life Center.

Posted by JLI – The Rohr Jewish Learning Institute on Sunday, August 12, 2018

 

Oklahoma Noahide On the Trail of Temple Gold

Mon, 08/13/2018 - 07:28

After nearly a decade of writing, the remarkable story of one man’s quest to decipher the ancient map leading to the gold and silver Temple vessels is being published.

Shelley Neese, vice president of the Jerusalem Connection, became involved in the story over a decade ago and has spent nearly eight years writing the The Copper Scroll Project, the story of an unlikely hero who may have unraveled one of history’s most enduring mysteries.

In 2007, Neese was the editor for Jerusalem Connection Magazine and she met Barfield at a Christian conference in Texas.

“I was unfamiliar with the Copper Scrolls, and at first I didn’t believe his story about treasure maps, gold, and the Jewish Temple,” Neese, told Breaking Israel News. “All the alarm bells in my head went off. But after I looked it up, I realized that he hadn’t embellished it at all.”

Discovered in 1952 near Qumran on the shores of the Dead Sea, the Copper Scroll is unlike the other Dead Sea Scrolls which are mostly religious manuscripts written on parchment. The Copper Scroll, as its name suggests, is engraved on a thin sheet of copper. And, in contrast to the others, the Copper Scroll is a list of gold and silver items and the 64 locations where they can be found.

Many archaeologists believe the Copper Scroll is an inventory from the Second Temple.In addition to gold and silver, Temple vessels and priestly vestments are listed. No archaeologist has ever succeeded in deciphering the directions contained in the Copper Scroll and finding the treasure.

The book follows the efforts of Jim Barfield, a man who, at first glance, seems entirely unsuited to search for the Temple artifacts, but whose unique skills may have solved one of history’s most enduring mysteries. Barfield, a Noahide who speaks no Hebrew, also has no background in archaeology. A retired criminal investigator for the Oklahoma Fire Department, Barfield was used to patiently sifting through the ashes to find the truth.

In 2006, Barfield was interested in the Dead Sea Scrolls and their relevance to Bible study. At first, he was uninterested in the Copper Scroll which had no theological significance. Barfield’s fascination turned into a burning desire after he met Vendyl Jones. Jones, a Texas preacher turned Biblical archaeologist, believed Qumran to be the hiding place for the Temple vessels and spent 30 years searching for them using the Copper Scroll as a guide. Jones discovered a small vial of persimmon oil used to anoint kings and high priests, and a large quantity of what he believed was Temple incense. Barfield met with Jones, now deceased, and Jones suggested he revisit the Copper Scroll.

“Vendyl told Jim the Copper Scroll had more prophecy in it than any of the other Dead Sea Scrolls,” Neese said.

Barfield’s curiosity turned into passion and he returned to deciphering the Copper Scroll. He searched maps for the “ruins of the Valley of Achor” mentioned in the scroll. The valley is believed to be near Jericho but the precise location is unknown. As a young man, he had piloted helicopters for the U.S. Army. Using his map-reading skills to triangulate, he was able to pinpoint locations on an aerial map of Qumran. Very quickly, pieces of the puzzle began falling into place.

Part of the mysterious Copper Scroll found at the Qumran caves (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

“It’s really not revolutionary what he did,” Neese said. “He figured it out using available sources in his office in Oklahoma, relying on his skills as an arson investigator.”

In one case, the scroll described steps, 40 cubits long, heading east. Barfield did indeed find stairs. The archaeologist reported the stairs to be 60 feet, or precisely 40 cubits. He also discovered the remains of a pool, precisely 40 cubits long, exactly where the scroll said it would  be. He believed he had found many of the locations listed on the scroll but to verify his theories, he needed to visit the site.

In 2007, Barfield travelled to Israel to do exactly that, but to pursue his investigation, he needed the approval of the Israel Antiquities Authority to search Qumran. Barfield met with Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) director Shuka Dorfman. Dorfman was unreceptive at first, but as Barfield laid out his proofs, explaining the signposts described in the Copper Scroll, Dorfman became enthusiastic and arranged a meeting with veteran archaeologist and Qumran expert, Yuval Peleg.

Peleg agreed to dig some exploratory holes at the site with Barfield. Less than an hour after beginning shallow test pits, Peleg received a phone call and without any explanation, Peleg shut down the dig.

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This was the beginning of many bureaucratic stone walls preventing Barfield from verifying his theory. He purchased a sophisticated metal detector that could penetrate 50 feet while differentiating between ferrous and non-ferrous metal, i.e. gold and silver. Barfield applied to the IAA, asking to run a non-intrusive scan of a few spots in Qumran. His request was denied.

In 2013, Barfield was in New York where he was introduced to Moshe Feiglin who, at the time, was a Likud Member of Knesset. Feiglin was a strong advocate for the Temple and became enthused when he heard Barfield’s story, even offering to accompany him on a tour of the site. A few weeks later, the two were wandering around the tourist site, a large duffel bag in tow. They visited five spots that Barfield felt were most likely repositories for Temple treasure.

One hour later, Barfield ran the data from the metal detector through his computer. Every spot was a hit and one locus especially so.

“It showed up on the metal detector like Fort Knox,” Neese said.

The Israeli government is still not permitting Barfield to investigate and there has been a moratorium on archaeological digging at Qumran.

“It is in area C and different laws apply to the archaeology than in other parts of Israel,” Neese said. “It is disputed territory and anything that comes out of the ground can be disputed. It is possible that the Israeli government is concerned that if they dig up this massive treasure, Jordan or the Palestinian Authority will sue for it. Even if it comes from the Jewish Temple.”

In fact, the Copper Scroll, an ancient artifact inscribed in Hebrew, is currently in a museum in Amman, Jordan.

In an interview with Breaking Israel News last year, Barfield stated his motives.

“I am a Noahide,” he explained to Breaking Israel News. “I want to return the Temple artifacts to the Jewish People. It’s time.”

If Barfield is successful, it will bring the Third Temple much closer.

Not only does Neese chronicle this amazing story but she was an integral player in much of it. A native of Louisiana, she first came to Israel in 2000 with her husband, a U.S. Air Force physician. With no knowledge of Israel, she became intensely curious  about the country and received her M.A in Middle Eastern Studies from Ben Gurion University. She spent the months leading up to the Gaza disengagement in 2005 in Israel, working with a team of negotiators. When she went back to the U.S., she became the assistant to the Consul General at the Consulate of Israel to New England.

ECCLESIASTES 7:11

Mon, 08/13/2018 - 07:28

The Sages teach that the wisdom referred to in this verse is the knowledge of Torah (Bible), and the patrimony refers to the Land of Israel, the eternal inheritance of the Jewish People. Tova chochma im nachala (wisdom is as good as patrimony) literally means “wisdom is good with an inheritance.” This means that the wisdom of the Torah is enhanced by the inheritance that is the Land of Israel. The Sages also teach that “there is no Torah like the Torah of the Land of Israel,” since the very air of the Israel makes a person wise. Israel is the Jews’ natural habitat, and it is therefore the place in which they can flourish and reach their spiritual potential.