Archive for the ‘Judaism’ Category

The Ultra-Orthodox and Israeli Military

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

While it seemed likely that the exemption for military service for Haredi men studying the Torah was about to be dropped, a new issue cropped up. What do you do with those who are still determined to dodge the draft? Fine them? Imprison them? That’s the debate right now between the two parties working on the final bill.


Lapid Lays Out Yesh Atid’s Foreign Policy

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

On Tuesday, Yesh Atid party chairman, Yair Lapid, discussed his views on peace talks with the Palestinians. Lapid, a former talk show host recently turned politician,  made this speech at Ariel University Center in a settlement in the West Bank to announce his party’s foreign policy platform . Yesh Atid was registered in late April, and until Tuesday, the party had yet to formally announce its foreign policy plans.

Yesh Atid is slated to win up to 15 seats in the 120 seat parliament, and during his speech, Lapid attacked several of Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies. He focused on the need for negotiations with Palestinians, and said that Netanyahu’s claim that “there is no partner for peace” has only “weaken[ed]Israel’s position in the international arena and strengthen[ed] Hamas.”

Though Lapid stressed the need for diplomatic negotiations, he also tried carefully to attract right-leaning and middle ground voters, saying, “You come to find a solution. We’re not looking for a happy marriage with the Palestinians, but for a divorce agreement we can live with.”

Indeed, Lapid’s policies are certainly not going to win him any Palestinian suitors; he refuses to compromise on the issue of Jerusalem, saying that it should remain undivided and under Israeli sovereignty. He also called for Palestinians “to recognize that reality has changed since 1967 and the settlement blocs will stay within Israeli borders.” However, he also promises to uphold any agreements made with the Palestinians, refusing to partake in a government which “dissolves our present and future commitments with excuses.”

It seems that Lapid is attempting to win over some right-wing voters, especially with the settlement issue. Though Netanyahu’s party is expected to win the majority of seats in the election, Likud’s recent merge with Yisrael Beitenu has lead to a slight decrease in its popularity. Lapid hopes to gain some of the recent Likud defectors with key right-swinging issues such as Israeli settlements.

Lapid also addressed Yesh Atid’s attitude toward Iran. He said that  “bombing an Iranian nuclear facility is an option that shouldn’t be taken off the table, but it is the final option,” and instead advocated for Israel joining an “international coalition led by the United States, which would strangle the Iranian regime until its collapse.”


Arutz Sheva: surprisingly unbiased and succinct account of Lapid’s statement.

Ahram Online: emphasized Lapid’s moderation.

The Chicago Tribune: speech and party in the context of the election

The Times of Israel: the need for committed negotiations with Palestinians


How does Yesh Atid’s policy tie into our class conversation about Palestinian Israeli peace talks? How has Israel’s stance changed from earlier negotiations? How might the emergence of this new party affect Israeli politics?

Cyprus Thwarts Attack on Israeli Civilians

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

On Thursday, a Cypriot newspaper reported that Cypriot Security forces seized 100 grams of explosives intended to target cruise ships carrying Israeli vacationers. This seizure occurred practically a month after the Israeli government reached out to the security forces of other countries  asking that they increase the protection of Israeli tourists, especially during the High Holy Days. Cyprus is a popular destination for many vacationing Israelis, and this is not the first time the Cyrus government has come to the defense of Israeli vacationers. In July of 2012, Cypriot officials arrested a Lebanese man who allegedly had  links to Hezbollah and was planning to attack Israelis staying in Cyprus (Times of Israel). Jerusalem Post described this same arrest as that of a “Swedish passport-holder of Lebanese descent who was allegedly tracking the movement of Israeli tourists on the island.”

Indeed, Israelis abroad have been the victims, or intended victims, of over five different attacks in the last year. The Israeli government claims that these attacks are led by Iran, with President Netanyahu calling this particular incident in Cyrus  an “attempted terrorist attack by Hezbollah against an Israeli target.”

The explosives, which have yet to be labeled publicly, are said to have been powerful enough to”cause massive damage,” though it remains unclear what exactly that means. No arrests have been made yet, nor have there been released any clues as to the terrorist’s identity.


Why did President Netanyahu claim that Hezbollah is responsible for planting the explosives if the perpetrator has yet to be identified? How might this thwarted attack affect Israel’s political climate? What might explain the discrepancies between the two newspaper’s reports of the July arrest? Are the discrepancies relevant?

How and When Did the West Become Interested in the Creation of a Jewish State in Palestine?

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Western interest in dominating the affairs of geographical Palestine goes back as far as Alexander the Great, followed, of course, by the Romans and the Byzantines.  The Crusades (1095-1291) represent an exclusively European Christian attempt to dominate the region.

However, the yearning for a Jewish state with Jerusalem at its political and religious center begins, so Barbara Tuchman argued, with the translation of the Bible into English.  Her book, Bible and Sword. New York: Ballantine Books, 1984 (first published in 1956), posits the following points in the development of this yearning:

1.  Translation of the Bible into English in the 16th century.

2.  The growth of English (and French) mercantile interests in the Far East (by way of the Middle East), 16th – 19th centuries.

3.  Puritan interest in the restoration of Palestine to the Jews as the necessary precondition for the coming of the Messiah as foretold by the Old Testament prophets, 17th century onward: see especially such early expressions as that of Joanna and Ebenezer Cartwright, who in 1649, petitioned the British and Dutch governments to become the first and the readiest to transport Izraell’s sons and daughters in their ships to the Land promised by their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob for an everlasting Inheritance.  Puritans believed that the second coming of the Messiah could occur only after the Jews had been restored to Zion.

4.  Patronage of Anthony Ashley Cooper, Seventh Lord of Shaftesbury in 1840.  He coined the slogan, “A land without people for a people without land.”

The dream crossed the Atlantic with the Puritan pilgrims and quickly became established in North America.  At this point, the best source on the history of the dream is Michael B. Oren, Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present.New York: Norton, 2007.

Who Has Sovereignty Over Jerusalem?

Monday, March 5th, 2012

This is the question behind recent protests at Mount Moriah in the center of Jerusalem’s Old City, site of what some Jews and Christians call the Temple Mount and what Muslims call Haram al-Sharif, “The Noble Enclosure,” an area that is home to the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, third holiest site of pilgrimage for Muslims after Mecca and Medina.  The area sits above Judaism’s holiest site, the Western Wall, the only part of the Jewish temple remaining since the building was destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E.  Muslims call Jerusalem Al-Quds, “The Holy.”

These troubles coincided with The International Conference for the Defense of Jerusalem, convened in Doha, Qatar to address what some call the “Judaization of Jerusalem.”

Daniela Deane, “Faiths Clash at Jerusalem’s Sacred Site,” Washington Post, Feb. 28, 2012


Background – On the legal questions surrounding who has sovereignty, compare the following pieces:

Wallace Edward Brand, “Israeli Sovereignty Over East Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria,”, March-April, 201o

John V. Whitbeck, “Words Matter: A New Language for Peace,”, Feb, 1, 2012

Israeli Government Press Office, “History of Jerusalem,”, (no date)


Additional Resource:  IME Study Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict 


Going Crazy in Jerusalem

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Jerusalem can make you crazy.  Pesach Lichtenberg, a psychiatrist at Herzog Hospital, is there to help:

Chris Nashawaty, “The Jerusalem Syndrome: Why Some Religious Tourists Believe They Are the Messiah,”, Feb. 17, 2012


Prospect of Israeli Attack on Iran Raises Conflict for Iranian Jews

Saturday, February 25th, 2012

The possibility that Israel may attack Iran poses a conflict for at least some Iranian Jews.  Jews and Iranians share a long history that goes back to Cyrus the Great, the Persian emperor who liberated Jews from their exile in Babylon and financed the rebuilding of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem.

See:  Roya Hakakian, “What Two Enemies Share,” New York Times Op-Ed piece, Feb. 25, 2012

Israeli police clash with Palestinians in al-Aqsa

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Following a week of subsequent disputes and conflicts at the Temple Mount, police used force to disperse a crowd of alleged Palestinian rioters. Reportedly, the Israeli police retaliated with stun grenades and tear gas to ward off and disperse hundreds of Palestinian “rioters” who had allegedly been throwing stones at the authorities. One news site reported that the alleged rioters were simply worshippers and that at least one Palestinian was killed during the police assault. Moreover, close to a dozen people were injured. In addition, four people were arrested.

All week, the Temple Mount has been the scene of Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The conflict was incited by threats made by Israeli radicals who earlier this year attempted to organize the destruction of Muslim holy sites via pamphlets, etc. However, the Israeli perspective is quite distinct. One Israeli official claimed, “What happened today was a continuation of tension in and around the Old City and Temple Mount due to what was put out on the Internet by both right wing extremists and terrorist organizations.”

Jerusalem Post

Press TV

Should the Temple Mount and al-Aqsa Mosque be closed since there has been violence on both ends?  Information was gathered from Press TV and J Post; which report are you more inclined to believe?

Iran’s Defense Minister denies allegations

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

The Iranian Defense Minister suggested that as “Israel has many enemies around the world,” perhaps it was one of them who carried out the attacks on Monday in India and Georgia. He went on to suggest that Israel “is trying to fabricate its hollow position to reduce its collapse.” When asked about whether or not Iran was involved, he claimed that “Israel was using it as a pretext to launch an attack on Iran.”

What would be a more effective and less absurd way to address the issue regarding these terrorist attacks?

See the story here

Israel’s Religious Right

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Israel’s religious right is rising in influence.  See: The Economist, “The Religious Right in Israel: It’s On the Rise, Too,” Dec. 10, 2011.

Today, the BBC is reporting that a mosque in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Jerusalem was vandalized, the latest in a wave of attacks on Palestinian and Muslim targets inside Israel.  Ultra-right extremists are suspected.

UPDATE — Dec. 27, 2011 — See the BBC report on clashes between secular and Orthodox Jews in Beit Shemesh and links to other stories about the growing divide between religious and secular Jews in Israel. 

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