Sunday, January 15, 2017

The U.N. and Israel

The Jewish World

The world is neither fair nor just; this statement is exceptionally true when it comes to the relationship between the United Nations and the State of Israel (מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל). It is also true that the powerful can and do rewrite history for their benefit, which includes altering the meaning of words. The latest U.N. resolutions (including UNSC 2334) directed against the world’s only Jewish state—a tiny nation—only confirms these two statements. One wonders if the U.N. could exist without Israel (יִשְׂרָאֵל‎), a fair question to raise given its continued obsession with Israel—one bordering on pschopathology. In a world gone mad, there needs to be some sane people to make wise and just decisions.


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by George Jochnowitz

The Israeli newspaper called The Jerusalem Post, which appears in English and French editions, was originally called The Palestine Post. It adopted its current name in 1950, two years after the creation of the state of Israel.

When the paper first appeared, in 1932, the word “Palestinian” generally referred to those living in the British Mandate of Palestine, and was viewed by people everywhere as an appropriate word for the Jewish minority living the area, which was not ordinarily called “Israel” at the time.

Languages change. Sometimes a word takes on a meaning that contradicts an earlier definition. Occasionally, different forms of a word reflect both meanings. Think of “awful” and “awesome” in English today. We can be filled with awe because something is terrible (awful) or wonderful (awesome).

In 1947, when “Palestine” still sounded as if it might refer to a Jewish political entity, the United Nations voted to divide the territory into two states—one Jewish, one Arab. Although the British Mandate of Palestine had a clear Arab majority, the territories selected to be the home for the Jewish state had a Jewish majority. The U.N. had intended to create two independent states that would live together in peace and harmony.

One of the two halves of Palestine—Israel—accepted its independence. The other one had no organization and didn’t do anything. On the day that Britain left and Israel declared its independence, five Arab nations invaded the territory with the intent of conquering the Jewish half. Other than defeating the Jewish state, it was not clear what they wanted to do with the territory. However, when the war was over and Israel controlled more land that the U.N. had planned to give it, the remaining territory went to Jordan and Egypt. There was no movement for an independent Palestinian Arab state at that moment.

Although the U.N. acted to create Israel in 1947, it has spent many of the subsequent years criticizing or even condemning Israel. The United States, which was the first country to recognize Israel in 1948, has had a mixed record about supporting the Jewish state. There was an arms embargo against the Middle East, which lasted through the Eisenhower administration did not end until Kennedy took office in 1961. Eisenhower also joined with the USSR to force Israel to leave the territories it had conquered during the Sinai Campaign of 1956.

Obama did not allow an anti-Israel resolution to be enacted by the Security Council until recently. However, Obama has been feared by supporters of Israel because of his surprising tolerance of Iran’s extremist leaders. Despite the fact that he denounced Egypt’s Mubarak and Libya’s Qaddafi, joined the fight against ISIS, and ordered the assassination of Obama bin-Laden, he remained silent during Iran’s Green Revolution in 2009.

He has also been wishy-washy in opposing Syria’s Bashir al-Assad. Assad is an Alawite and thus belongs to a denomination of Shia Islam. Iran is unambiguously Shiite. Is there a reason that Obama does not oppose Shiite extremists? I cannot imagine why this should be. It makes no sense.

Recently, Iran’s former President Rafsanjani died. The world has been describing him as a moderate. Nobody remembers that Rafsanjani called the existence of Israel an ugly, colonialist phenomenon and said that nuclear war could destroy everything on the ground in Israel but would merely damage the world of Islam.

The world is enraged because Israel is expanding its settlements in and around Jerusalem. Israel cannot surrender East Jerusalem and its suburbs at this moment in time. There is a large Jewish population in Maale Adumim and other areas east of the pre-1967 borders. They could not be forced out the way the Jewish settlers in Gaza were. Furthermore, after Gaza was turned into an independent Palestinian state, Hamas was elected and rockets were launched from Gaza aimed at Israeli civilians.

People who advocate returning to the pre-1967 borders never think of supporting a return to the pre-1967 political situation, which included Egypt’s rule of Gaza and Jordan’s inclusion of the West Bank aspart of its own territory. Before the Israeli War of Independence, the country now known as Jordan today was called Trans-Jordan. When it expanded across the Jordan River, it appropriately changed its name. It might make sense for Egypt to declare that Gaza is part of Egypt and offer Egyptian citizenship—or dual Palestinian-Egyptian citizenship—to its residents. It might make sense for Israel and Jordan to redraw their boundary lines and agree that Jordan would re-annex the lands west of the river that Israel would agree to cede. At that point, Jordan could change its name once again—to Palestine. Palestinians are already a majority in Jordan.

Angela Merkel agreed to accept a number of Syrian refugees into Germany. In contrast to this, there are Palestinian refugees who have lived in refugee camps for almost 70 years. This is unprecedented. The world, including the Arab world, wants the refugees from the Israeli war of independence to remain a running sore forever.

The world hates Israel. Feminists don’t know that Israeli Arab women are more likely to become physicians than women anywhere else in the Middle East. Gay-rights activists don’t know that Tel Aviv is the most gay-friendly city on earth.

How can the United Nations and the world help the Palestinians? By recognizing Israel’s need to change its borders.

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George Jochnowitz was born in New York City, in 1937. He became aware of different regional pronunciations when he was six, and he could consciously switch accents as a child. He got his Ph.D. in linguistics from Columbia University and taught linguistics at the College of Staten Island, CUNY. His area of specialization was Jewish languages, in particular, Judeo-Italian dialects. As part of a faculty-exchange agreement with Hebei University in Baoding, China, he was in China during the Tiananmen Massacre. He can be reached at george@jochnowitz.net.

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Copyright ©2017. George Jochnowitz. All Rights Reserved. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Chagall’s Jerusalem Windows

Looking Up

“This is my modest gift to the Jewish people who have always dreamt of biblical love, friendship and of peace among all peoples. This is my gift to that people which lived here thousands of years ago among the other Semitic people.” 
Marc Chagall, February 6, 1962


Northern View
Photo Credit & Source: Hadassah Medical Center


In the ancient story of the Jewish People, recounted in the Tanakh (תַּנַ"ךְ‎), the Hebrew Bible, the twelve sons of Jacob (also given the name, Israel), are in birth order listed as follows (Genesis 35:23–26): Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin. Chagall’s stained glass windows reflect this listing, where the artist note says that he referred to Genesis 49 (Jacob blesses his sons) and Deuteronomy 33 (Moses blesses the 12 tribes of Israel) for inspiration. Blessing is a common theme, but it is more than the blessing of a leader; it is the blessing of a spiritual leader who has gained, after much trial, an intimate relationship with God.

As for the small but noticeable discrepancy between the 12 sons and the 12 tribes, one must note that the Bible says that Levi, who was a son of Jacob (through Leah, his wife), received no inheritance of land, since the Levites were a priestly tribe without land who received offerings from the other tribes. Thus, the 12 Tribes are as follows: Reuben, Simeon, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Ephraim and Manasseh. Ephraim and Manasseh are the sons of Joseph, who were subsequently adopted by Jacob, also known as Israel. 

Regardless of the complexity of following and understanding such biblical narratives, they play an important part in the history of the Jewish People, and such is what Marc Chagall offers as an interpretation in these large—each are 11 feet x 8 feet—stained glass windows. They are as beautiful as they are breathtaking. The windows were on display at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City, from November 19, 1961 to January 3, 1962, before being installed at what was then called Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center in Jerusalem on February 6, 1962.

The medical center writes on its website the following about Chagall’s artistic creation, also called the stained glass windows and originally and officially known as “The Jerusalem Windows”:
The light that emanates from the twelve stained glass windows bathes the Abbell Synagogue at the Hadassah University Medical Center in a special glow. The sun filters through the brilliant colors of the stained glass capturing their radiance. Even in the misty haze of a cloudy day, Chagall's genius transforms time and space.
The synagogue’s Jerusalem stone floor and walls absorb this beauty and reflect it. Standing within the simple square that forms the pedestal for the windows, gazing up at the vivid imagery, the Jewish symbols, the floating figures of animals, fish and flowers, even the most casual viewer is overwhelmed by their power and presence.
Every pane is a microcosm of Chagall’s world, real and imaginary; of his love for his people, his deep sense of identification with Jewish history, his early life in the Russian shtetl.
"All the time I was working, I felt my mother and father looking over my shoulder; and behind them were Jews, millions of other vanished Jews -- of yesterday and a thousand years ago," Chagall said.
The Bible was his primary inspiration, particularly Jacob's blessings on his twelve sons and Moses' blessings on the twelve tribes. Each window is dominated by a specific color and contains a quotation from the individual blessings.

Chagall and his assistant, Charles Marq, worked on the project for two years, during which time Marq developed a special process for applying color to the glass. This allowed Chagall to use as many as three colors on a single pane, rather than being confined to the traditional technique of separating each colored pane by a lead strip.

The synagogue was dedicated in the presence of the artist on February 6, 1962 as part of Hadassah’s Golden Anniversary Celebration.
Chagall himself has said about the windows: “They have completely transformed my vision, they gave me a great shock, made me reflect. I don’t know how I shall paint from now on, but I believe something is taking place.” Assuredly so.



Eastern View:
Photo Credit & Source: Hadassah Medical Center



Southern View
Photo Credit & Source: Hadassah Medical Center



Western View
Photo Credit & Source: Hadassah Medical Center

Monday, January 9, 2017

U.N. Betrays Its Founding Principles

Chamber of Horrors


The United Nations was founded  (on October 24, 1945) after the end of the Second World War with much promise and with a need and a desire for success, which was important to its founding members, given what happened to its predecessor, the League of Nations. Soon after coming into existence, on November 29, 1947, it voted to give a homeland to the Jewish People, after almost two thousand years of being a people without a nation. It was a good decision.

Yet, since 1967 in particular (after Israel’s decisive victory in the Six-Day War), the United Nations has devolved and regressed, having found the “Palestinian cause” a convenient and effective weapon to use against Israel. No other nation receives so much condemnation, including from its supposed European allies, which go to great lengths to “bully” Israel into submission. It’s an old trope, based on hate and nothing more, so it did not take much effort for the European heads of state to become willing accomplices in this enterprise of hate. What is important in their calculation is that Israel requires punishment for its successes and, even more, for its very existence.

To say that this international body is no friend of Israel is an understatement; it is even worse than this. Such is the premise of the following well-written article, by Rabbi Aryeh Spero, in American Thinker, which pulls no punches in describing the shameful action of this NY-based body that made another resolution (U.N. Security Council Res. 2334against Israel, which the United States failed to veto—itself a surprise and a disappointment. In “They Clapped while They Took Away Jerusalem from the Jews” (January 4, 2017), Rabbi Spero writes:
Normally, when the U.N. Security Council passes a resolution, a vote is taken and the result recorded. Period. Something very unusual happened after the Security Council voted to declare Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria as Arab/Islamic land. The representatives of the nations applauded and celebrated what they had just done by giving themselves a standing ovation [Ed: see here]. They clapped not so much in behalf of what they gave to “Palestinians” but more so in declaring the Jewish tie to the Old City of Jerusalem as illegitimate and Israel’s attachment to the Temple Mount and Judea and Samaria as illegal. It was a celebration by too many of the nations of the world against the history of the Jewish People and their Covenant to the Holy Land. It was an act of anti-Semitism.
Can anyone with a conscience really call it anything else? That they applaud the dismantling and the destruction (may it never be so!) of the integrity of Israel, the only Jewish nation, says so much more than this paragraph. It brings to memory thousands of years of many such acts that have in it a desire to not only humiliate but to destroy the Jewish People and its sense of history, purpose and unity.

Further down in the same article (and I recommend that you read the complete piece), Rabbi Spero writes :
Nations concerned about the need to retain Muslim enclaves are gleefully ready to evict Jews from their millennium-old Jewish Quarter within Jerusalem. Fine gentleman that don’t want “facts-on-the-ground Jewish settlements” have no problem with Muslims and Arabs establishing their own facts-on-the-ground settlements in that very contested land of Judea and Samaria, the West Bank. High-minded representatives that speak of tolerance and multi-culturalism have no problem with Palestinian Muslims declaring that Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria must be Judenrein. This open hypocrisy and cavalier indifference -- the two differing set of rules -- are nothing but historic, garden variety anti-Jewishness.
The resolution will not accomplish its putative  purpose; it will not bring about or lead to peace in the Middle East. It will likely make it worse, embolden the already emboldened cutthroats and criminals, who need little excuse for violence. Of course the Jews worldwide are concerned, including this writer, since we are well-aware of history and how the situation can turn ugly; it would give us a sense of (re)assurance if non-Jews showed some concern, as well. and showed us and the world that the State of Israel is not alone in this fight—if only to know that you are doing the right thing at a difficult period in history. Now is the time for the coalition of the willing in a battle against a common enemy that has shown a hatred of all things Western.

Regardless, Israel will survive, and this resolution has a silver lining: it has caused many long-time liberal Jews (including this one) to review and rethink its political positions and party affiliations. (The Democratic Party, which has long taken Jewish support for granted, will likely come out the loser.) As to the long-term existence of the U.N., I am not sure if its survival is now particularly relevant or necessary.

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For more, go to [AmericanThinker]


Bedlam: “Applause broke out in the 15-member Security Council’s chambers after the vote on the measure, which passed 14 to 0, with the United States ambassador, Samantha Power, raising her hand as the lone abstention,” reports The New York Times.
Source: NYT

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Have a Little Faith (2011)


This movie, from Youtube, is found [here].

This is a 2011 made-for-TV movie, Have a Little Faith, which is based on the 2009 book of the same name by Mitch Albom [born May 23, 1958, in Passaic, New Jersey], author, journalist, screenwriter, playwright, radio and television broadcaster and musician. The story has two central characters who come from very different backgrounds; one is Jewish and one is Christian: Rabbi Albert L. Lewis [1917–2008], the congregational leader of Temple Beth Sholom in New Jersey; and Pastor Henry Covington [1957–2010], the spiritual leader of Pilgrim Church in Detroit.

Albom was a member of Temple Beth Sholom, a conservative Jewish congregation, when he was young. The movie opens with the rabbi making a special request to Albom, which leads him on a journey of purpose. On his site, Albom gives a synopsis of the book on which the movie is based:
As America struggles with hard times and people turn more to their beliefs, Mitch and the two men of God explore issues that perplex modern man: how to endure when difficult things happen; what heaven is; intermarriage; forgiveness; doubting God; and the importance of faith in trying times. Although the texts, prayers and histories are different, Albom begins to realize a striking unity between the two worlds – and indeed, between beliefs everywhere. In the end, as the rabbi nears death and a harsh winter threatens the pastor’s wobbly church, Albom sadly fulfills the last request and writes the eulogy. And he finally understands what both men had been teaching all along: the profound comfort of believing in something bigger than yourself. Have a Little Faith is a book about a life’s purpose; about losing belief and finding it again; about the divine spark inside us all. It is one man’s journey, but it is everyone’s story.
Such is an important moral teaching to us all: how does one live life? Truly, one can live out his faith in action, which can be more powerful than words, by doing good, by bringing forth light and by being a light in the world. Whether these are called mitzvot (מִצְווֹת ) or good deeds matters not. What matters is that they are done.

Friday, January 6, 2017

David “Dudu” Fisher: Theme From Exodus (2009)


Video Credit & Source: It is found on Youtube [here].


David “Dudu” Fisher, an Israeli cantor and stage star, performs “Theme From Exodus,” the title track of the 1961 soundtrack album of the 1960 film, Exodus, directed by Otto Preminger. This is the 21st and last track from the album, Dudu Fisher: In Concert From Israel (2009). The lyrics were written by Pat Boone and the musical score by Ernest Gold. This song was recorded by many American artists, including Pat Boone [here] and Andy Williams [here]; and French artist Edith Piaf [here].

The film, which starred Paul Newman, was based on the 1958 historical novel, Exodus, by Leon Uris on the founding of the State of Israel, a state founded with the express purpose of giving the Jewish People a home, a safe haven. Such a purpose became more pronounced after its enemies tried to annihilate the Jewish People during the Second World War. Israel is the only Jewish state in the world. [There are 22 Arab states; 57 Islamic states; many Christian states.] Such describes the Zionist dream, the Zionist enterprise, a homeland for the Jews. There is nothing surprising about this desire. It is sane. It is normal. It is moral.

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Exodus 
by Ernest Gold & Pat Boone

This land is mine
God gave this land to me
This brave and ancient land to me
And when the morning sun
Reveals her hills and plains
Then I see a land
Where children can run free
So take my hand
And walk this land with me
And walk this lovely land with me

[Chorus: Repeat 2X]
Tho' I am just a man
When you are by my side
With the help of God
I know I can be strong

To make this land our home
If I must fight, I'll fight
To make this land our own
Until I die, this land is mine

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Chagall’s Prophet Jeremiah (1968)

Biblical Themes


“In spite of everything, there is still no more wonderful vocation than to continue to tolerate events and to work on in the name of our mission, in the name of that spirit which lives on in our teaching and in our vision of humanity and art, the spirit which can lead us Jews down the true and just path. But along the way, peoples will spill our blood, and that of others.”

M. Chagall, Lecture, Congress of the Jewish Scientific Institute Vilnius (1935)

The Prophet Jeremiah  (Le prophète Jérémie), 1968, by Marc Chagall. Oil on canvas. 115 by 146.3 cm. Musée national d’Art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. Marc Chagall [born as Moishe Shagal; 1887–1985] wrote in the Foreword to the first catalogue of the National Museum of the Biblical Message in Nice, France, in 1973: Ever since my early childhood, I have been captivated by the Bible. It has always seemed to me, and still seems to me today, to be the greatest source of poetry of all time. Ever since then, I have searched for its reflection in life and art: the Bible is like an echo of nature, and this is the secret I have tried to convey.” It is no surprise that Chagall found inspiration in the Bible; many artists have. Jeremiah (or in Hebrew, יִרְמְיָהוּ‎, “Yirmeyahu,” is one of the major prophets in Judaism. He is also known as the “Weeping Prophet;” although he warned the Jewish People of the catastrophe that would come about, he did so with empathy and tears, carrying the burden as his own. Such is seen (and felt) in Chagall’s painting.
Photo Credit & Source: Musée national d’Art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)

The Blessing

“And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great;
and be thou a blessing.
And I will bless them that bless thee, and him that curseth thee will I curse; 
and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”
—Genesis 12:2-3
ב וְאֶעֶשְׂךָ, לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל, וַאֲבָרֶכְךָ, וַאֲגַדְּלָה שְׁמֶךָ; וֶהְיֵה, בְּרָכָה.
ג וַאֲבָרְכָה, מְבָרְכֶיךָ, וּמְקַלֶּלְךָ, אָאֹר; וְנִבְרְכוּ בְךָ, כֹּל מִשְׁפְּחֹת הָאֲדָמָה.

 בְּרֵאשִׁית 
12

Credit & Source: The movie was posted on Youtube [here].


In this film, Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), an old movie, in black & white, viewers can get an idea of how Americans once viewed this terrible tragedy of more than seven decades ago that was the Holocaust (the Shoah, השואה, “the Catastrophe”), the central calculated act of the Second World War. Was this a different United States? It seems so, but I can’t say for sure.

I have always thought that the American people are fundamentally good and have admired the United States since I was a young boy. To be sure, America has done a lot of good for the civilized world; it has done much for which we can offer thanks and gratitude. Yet, like all nations, it has recently gone through some changes that have left it with an historical amnesia. Am I making too much of this change? Am I bringing up something unnecessary? No, I don’t think so on both counts.

Here is something to consider. Were not Americans then aware of its 10-year (1945–1955) occupation of Germany along with the three other Allied powers of Britain, France and the USSR in what was called Allied-occupied Europe? Such an occupation was deemed necessary to bring democracy to the German people. It has been successful. The Russian occupation of (East) Germany, which lasted much longer, i.e., officially until 1994, offered neither democracy nor freedom to its people. It was not successful. The differences between the two parts of Germany immediately after unification (October 3, 1990) were starkly noticeable; they are less noticeable a little more than 25 years later.

Speaking of post-war Germany, apart from France, which played a significantly minor role in the occupation in comparison to the other three powers, none shared a border with Germany. But there was no threat to France from a Germany that was divided, disarmed and demilitarized at war’s end. No European nation was at risk; all were safe from any threat post-war. The United States was never at risk during the war, and it was not at risk after; it was far away, 8,000 km or 5,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean—far away from the battlefield. Are the Americans today, for the most part, aware of this part of its history? Have the Europeans forgotten this, as well? It seems so.

Yet, Israel, a tiny nation, has neither the luxury of distance nor of a demilitarized enemy—not today and not during any time of its history—to ensure its safety. It has belligerent and armed enemies across its borders (i.e. in Gaza, in Syria, in Lebanon). And, yet, both the Americans and the Europeans think it necessary to make Israel smaller and bring its enemies even closer. Would any nation agree to this?  In such a calculus, it is Israel and the Jewish People who must make sacrifices that no one else would or should make.

Yet, all of these logical and sane arguments are minimized, downplayed and pushed to the side to avoid embarrassment and feelings of guilt. One can argue, of course, that guilt has merit only if it leads to something good. Truly, it is always better to do good, but if one can’t do good, at least abstain from evil.

One wonders what is really happening here; I can’t say for certain. Yet, despite the way things appear on the surface, despite the determination of its enemies—and they come and go—I am confident that Israel and the Jewish People will not only survive and prevail, but will always thrive. I can’t say the same for its enemies. This is what history informs me. One can call it both a blessing for Humanity and a judgment from the Heavens. But this is not for me to say.