Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Right Wing Dilemma

Elections in Israel will be held, IY"H, on Tuesday. Personally, I can't wait until they're over. Like all elections, this one has had its share of nasty comments, attacks on parties and personalities, and all sorts of negatives that I hope will pass by the time the polls close.
Right wingers have a real dilemma in this election - for whom should they cast their vote?

** Likud/Beiteinu
** Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home)
** Otzma Le'Yisrael
Likud/Beiteinu, a joint party of Binyamin Netanyahu's Likud and Avigdor Leiberman's Yisrael Beiteinu, is the party expected to get the most votes - 30 something.
Bayit Yehudi is the party of the quickly rising politician Naftali Bennett. It's the party that is attacked more on every side by just about every party. That must mean that Bennett and his party are worrying everyone else.
Otzma Le'Yisrael, the party of MKs Aryeh Eldad and Michael Ben Ari, is expected just to cross the threshold, but cross just the same.
They all have their pluses; they all have superstar right-wingers in their parties; they all have folks that have proven that ideology and action can go together; they have all declared their love and devotion to the land of Israel and its people to some extent or another.
They could all lead the country in positive directions if there were no outside pressures.
The problem is that:
** Right wing voters appreciate the decision by the Prime Minister to build in Judea and Samaria, but they're waiting to see if the building comes to fruition (freezes are easy; defrosts are months or years in progress). Right wingers don't know if the Likud/Beiteinu government (even though it does include many stellar right-wing MKs) will lean to the left to make a coalition.
Interesting note: American "movie stars" are coming out for Netanyahu. Should that sway Israeli voters?
** Right wingers appreciate Bayit Yehudi's dedication to Jewish education, yeshivot, hesder and mechina (pre-Army yeshivot) programs. They appreciate their connection to Jewish communities throughout Israel. They also don't know how Bayit Yehudi will stand up to the challenge if G-d forbid Jewish communities are slated for destruction, or if Jews are forced out of their homes. Rumors pass along lots of Bayit Yehudi quotes or misquotes, and hopefully folks try to discover the truth, but who really knows.
[Bayit Yehudi is currently under attack again - this time for Jeremy Gimpel's statement, "Let's say the dome was blown up, and we laid the cornerstone of the Temple in Jerusalem." That doesn't scare a right-winger, and everyone knows Jeremy Gimpel is a very fine and principled young man, so I think that attack has "blown up" against the other parties.]
** Right wing voters appreciate the devotion MKs Arye Eldad and Michael Ben Ari have always done for all of Israel, especially for Jewish rights in Judea and Samaria. They can always be depended upon. But are two, or even three members of Otzma Le'Yisrael enough to make a difference. Perhaps yes. But who knows?
So, it's Sunday night, and right wing voters are calling one another, "What do you think?" "I don't know." "Neither do I." And then they call someone else.
You'd think it wouldn't matter. Right wingers have three good choices. But, as in every election, Israel stands yet again on the brink of a precipice, and every action and decision by the Knesset can change the course of history forever. So, right wingers are considering their votes very carefully. They're hoping for some kind of inspiration. They're hoping that by Tuesday morning, they'll see a sign that will make them feel secure that they'll be making the right choice.
Good luck to all voters, and to the State of Israel. May the Force be with you.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Just Give Me a Snow Day

The economy may be shaky, the politics as dirty as ever, terror still haunting our roads, but give Israelis a snow day and all's right with the world.
Everywhere else in on the planet, after a heavy snowfall, citizens scream out to their Mayors, "Plow the streets. Plow the streets." But here in Efrat, Israel, when the snow plows rolled down our main street, passers-by started boo-ing.
Snow is such a magical and infrequent occurrence in Israel, that no one wants it to end.
As soon as the weatherman hints at the possibility of that four-letter-word, "S--W," all Israel is a twitter (and I don't mean the Social Media). Anticipation is higher than the best actor waiting for his "Oscar", higher than a father in the delivery room, higher than a trader on the stock market floor.
And when the snow doesn't appear exactly when the forecasters predicted, a gloom settles over the town, as if everyone had bet and lost Israel's highest-pay-off-lottery.
But when the first snowflake appears, the word goes out faster than an Indian smoke-signal.
Winter Wonderland
We awoke this morning to a white paradise. All was quiet and the sky was so bright, we had to wear sunglasses in order to see.
The whole town put on two or three pairs of socks, just as many shirts and pants, and at least one scarf, hat, pair of gloves and colorful boots. Everyone from child to adult looked like a bundled-up joke out of the Calvin and Hobbs comic.
But everyone was so excited to get out into the snow, kids didn't even complain when their mothers added yet another scarf or ear muffs to their anti-cold collection.
There was no school, no work, no shopping, no chuggim (extra-curricular activities). There were just friends and family, snowmen and snowpets, igloos and snowball fights. There were photos and photos, facebook uploads and internet albums.
There were no competitions or pressures or worldly tensions. There were encouraging words, "Wow, your snowman is terrific." "We love your sled." "We saw you sliding down the hill on a plastic tray. Cool." There were shiny cheeks and big smiles.
Yes, there were folks stranded in the wrong places. There were slippery steps. There were sniffles and frozen toes.
But there was a feeling that life had been suspended in a place between time and space, a place of all good, all soft, all shine, all happy, all blessing, all snow.

Thank you, G-d, for the snow. We'll remember today with great joy for a very long time.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Doublelife - From Intermarriage to In-Marriage

When Harold and Gayle Berman married 23 years ago, neither would have guessed that their family would one day be living the lives of Torah Jews in Israel's Judean hills.
Brought together by their love of music, Harold was an assimilated Jew from upstate New York, and Gayle was a Christian farm girl from Illinois
But after more than a decade of searching and learning, growing and evolving, they became, as Harold wrote, "a Jewish family, not by fate, but by choice, by design and by destiny".
Their journey was not a simple one. It was filled with challenges, heartbreak and miracles. During the majority of their early married years, they lived a double (even secretive) life of an interfaith family, involved in both Church and synagogue, Christian institutions and Jewish community, until they realized their double life could not continue. They decided to become an in-faith family. And to their own surprise, they both wanted the foundation of their home to be an Orthodox one, filled with all the beauty, chesed and values of an observant Jewish family.
Harold and Gayle have brought their story to the public in a touching and eloquent dual autobiography, Doublelife – One Family, Two Faiths and a Journey of Hope. This is Harold's second book. He authored Jewish Adoption - Unique Issues, Practical Solutions, plus articles that have appeared in numerous publications. He is also the former Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts. Gayle was a celebrated opera singer and Church minister of music. Today she teaches privately, and serves as music director of Emunah v’Omanut College and the Raise Your Spirits Theater production of "ESTHER and the Secrets in the King's Court".
Through a series of letters written to one another, Gayle and Harold detail with great sensitivity and candor, the path along which they walked and tripped, plodded and ran toward a new life. Harold said, "To have a book that would be interesting and credible, you need to reveal some things. Otherwise you're left with, 'We were an intermarried couple. We woke up one morning, and saw the light.'" Gayle agreed, "We had to give examples of issues that arose, and how we dealt with them."
The Bermans have met many intermarried couples over the past two decades. Lots are totally and unchangeably assimilated, Harold said, but others are searching and don't know how to access help. Both Harold and Gayle hope Doublelife will be a kind of guidebook for those looking for a real life example of the journey toward Jewish family life. It is also an inspirational book that reminds everyone of the beauty and meaning of a Torah life.
And the Children Shall Lead the Way
Despite the fact that Gayle was not Jewish, the couple, like many intermarried families in America, sent their son Micah to a Jewish preschool. Perceiving Micah's enthusiasm and love of Biblical figures and Jewish tradition, plus Harold's growth in Torah-observance, Gayle understood their lives would be better if they were a fully Jewish family.
As she explored the path to Judaism, Gayle explained that she sought out "every convert story I could. I wanted to find someone who had dealt with the dilemmas that I was experiencing."
She and Harold decided to be the guideposts of future couples who may be considering changing their inter-married to an in-married status. Harold hopes Doublelife,, will be "a living example of what Judaism and living a Jewish life could be."
After writing the book, Harold founded J-Journey, , to provide a peer mentoring network with couples like themselves who can guide inter-married families who are interested in “taking the journey, or are already on the journey”. The idea is to complement rabbinical law, not replace it. So the site will include an Ask the Rabbi feature (with a rabbi involved with conversion for 25 years) and an Ask a Friend feature for questions like, "What did you tell your parents?", "How did you know it was the right time to convert?"
As the Bermans grew in interest and dedication to a Torah lifestyle, they began looking for a stronger Jewish environment than their Massachusetts community. They considered moving to New York and New Jersey, and then decided to explore a future in Israel.
Harold had visited Israel several times, leading groups from the Jewish Federation of which he was a regional director. They'd also visited as a family. On August 14, 2008, Gayle, Harold, Micah and Ilana Berman moved to Efrat.
Happy new beginning.
Doublelife will enliven your spirit, remind you to appreciate the values of the Torah, and inspire you to grow further in your Jewish identity. Totally absorbing and surprisingly honest, you’ll laugh and cry with the Bermans, and then cheer at their triumph of faith.
Doublelife will soon be available in bookstores, on and Kindle. In the meantime, Harold and Gayle invite you visit to register for a discount coupon.

Watch VOICES-TV's interview with Harold and Gayle Berman:

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Israeli Politics - Nothing Changes

Newspaper article from HaMODIAH, September 3, 2009, titled,
"Settler Leaders: Netanyahu Gov't 'Humiliating' Us"
I was cleaning out the upstairs den (yes, I'm sure you're all shocked) when I came upon this article, "Settler Leaders: Netanyahu Gov't 'Humiliating' Us".
The leaders of Judea and Samaria were upset, because Prime Minister Netanyahu had promised them building and growth for the communities of Yesha, before the previous elections. But as soon as he was elected, BOING, suddenly everything was frozen
We know there has been no building in Efrat for ten years, but this article was talking about Maaleh Adumim's  E-1 (does that sound familiar?) and Ariel. Even former Gush Etzion Mayor Shaul Goldstein exclaimed that "Gush Etzion is totally frozen." And Bel El Mayor Moshe Rosenbaum claimed that his community was up against a "sealed wall."
Well, it's more than three years since that article. Nothing has changed.
This article could have been written this week (except that Davidi Perl is the new mayor of Gush Etzion.)
Again, the Prime Minister has promised the Jews of Judea and Samaria that they will build - three hundred units here, two hundred there, three thousand total. That sounds great, doesn't it.
I'll believe it all when I see those buildings built and filled with Jewish families.
Until then, it's all just politics.
Right Wing Government - Cough Cough
Another political note: I was sitting together with a bunch of friends who were acting as giddy as school girls (while they were far from girls in age or gender), as they spoke about the next government, which would be a strong partnership of the right.
"Bayit HaYehudi is the natural partner of Likud. They should ask for this ministerial position...and that. When we're in the government, this will be different, and we'll take care of that." Everyone glowed in the warmth of coalition dreams.
Wet-blanketly, I told them, "The Prime Minister will go for every other party in the government before he even thinks of including Bayit HaYehudi, if he even thinks of such a thing. I doubt it."
They pish-toshed my words, and absolutely turned around to continue their joint-dreams.
I said that every time I hear a Bayit HaYehudi person say, "When we're in the government, we'll...", I have to laugh.
Look, I hope I'm wrong. But even yesterday's newspapers carried Netanyahu's olive branch to left-wing parties to join his coalition. I didn't hear him calling out to Naftali Bennet or Aryeh Eldad.
So, Bibi is promising Yesha thousands of new homes one day, and inviting the left to join in on the next. In addition, he reminded the country three days ago that after the elections, he is ready to return to the negotiating table with the Palestinian Authority.
Good luck to the right wing parties, and I hope I'm wrong about my gut-feeling that they'll be outside the coalition of what right-wingers had hoped would be a right-wing government.
Good luck to future housing buyers. I hope I'm wrong that they'll be waiting quite a long time for those promised apartments in Judea and Samaria.
Sometimes I am wrong. I hope this is the time. But, we've all got to admit it. Nothing changes in Israeli politics. The same dirty tricks are repeated all the time. Let's just not act surprised.