Saturday, November 3, 2012

Temple Mount Authority

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat called for the Knesset to allow for Jews the right to pray on the Temple Mount. Yet there are many Rabbinic authorities that hold a position against allowing anyone to pray on the Temple Mount until the rebuilding of the Temple. The Temple Mount is not Mecca nor Medina, it is the Jewish Holy of Holies. Whether or not Jews are encouraged to worship on the Mount is not as important as whether authority will be restored to the rightful guardians of that Mount, the Rabbis of Israel. 

Of course, Jews have that "right", it's just that the government is preventing them from exercising that right.  Yet it is not without significant Rabbinic support that Jewish prayer is withheld from taking place.  But this  is an internal religious matter for the Rabbis of Israel to decide, not the Israeli government nor any other government, nor the practitioners of any other faith. The Knesset should have the Chief Rabbinate set up an authority of the leading rabbis of the generation to regulate all activity on this most holy of Jewish sacred places.

Whereas the Wakf does not have that right, yet the Israeli government has allowed it to act as if it has a right for the past 45 years. It has encouraged violence and destruction of sacred Jewish artifacts that bespeak of any historic roots of the Chosen People to their own land. This is actually a violation of the Koran itself.  If the policy of a religious institution is in the main political, that means that the Wakf has become a political entity and no longer remains a religious one. To continue the status quo muddies the political waters that the current government in Israel is attempting to project, that of a United Jerusalem under Israeli rule. If you don't have the Temple Mount, then you don't have Jerusalem.

This would end discrimination against the Jews, even though it may not change the status quo much, as egalitarianism runs deep in the Jewish faith. The result would be a fair system where everyone would share similar rules, such as current access to the Western Wall, the same rules for the "stranger and the native" would be established. But the legitimacy of allowing the Wakf to continue it's failed guardianship has ended long ago.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Israel's Biblical Rights to Judea and Samaria and International Recognition

Was there International Recognition of Israel's rights to the land of Israel prior to the Late Modern (secular) period of Political Thought?  If so, that would mean that for some 3900 years, everyone did not question Israel's Rights to its homeland as they do today, and only in the past 150 years, give or take, a new belief sprung up that the will of current leading nations, arrogantly called "world powers", trumps everything in International Law.  To keep this essay more universally acceptable, I will limit it's scope to the span of History within Tanach (Scripture) itself, as the Holy Words of the Tanach are accepted as a matter of faith by half the World's population today. I will only mention more recent history at the essay's conclusion.

In the Book of Ezra, chapter 4, which occurred some 2500 years ago, The leading political power of the World at the time was the Persian-Median Empire. Emperor Artaxerxes converses with the leaders of the adversaries of the Jews in the Holy Land.  Both the leaders of the Arabic lands and the main political leader of the World in that age each refer to the land of Israel as territory that stretched out to the River, the Euphrates.  This border first became fact at the hands of King David under whose leadership Jerusalem also first became capital of the Land of Israel.  This occurred some 500 years before the events in the Book of Ezra.  It is interesting to note that this whole conversation between the leader of the political world and the leaders of the Arabian lands took place after Israel had been exiled, their Temple destroyed, the seat of their government in Jerusalem removed. Yet under the concept of International Recognition, the Land of Israel remained in possession of the Jewish people even at a time with scattered and limited settlement and NO political leadership entity in the Holy Land until the time of Emperor Koresh (Cyrus, the Great) when it was decreed that the Jews had a right to rebuild their Bais HaMikdash, Holy Temple. Even exile of most of the nation and destruction of their political system itself was not recognized as a legally legitimate reason to abate Jewish rights to the Land of Israel.  Perhaps this comes in part from the fact that the Tanach clearly spells out Israel's return to the land in numerous places, including specific references to a return to Jerusalem, as in Tzefanyah (Zephaniah) chapter 3, verses 14- 20, to Samarian Mount Ephraim and also to Zion, as in Yermiyah (Jeremiah) chapter 31 and specifically in reference to return from Babylon in Yeshayah (Isaiah) chapters 13 & 14, and Persia's future aid in Yeshayah chapter 44, all these prophecies occurring prior to the rule of Koresh.

The Persian-Median recognition of Jewish rights to Har Habayis (the Temple Mount) is also interesting to consider, despite it's early history. Yehoshua (Joshua) did not conquer the Temple Mount, it was King David who bought it.  Though in the Books of Yehoshua (15:63) and Shoftim (Judges, chapter 1, verse 8) It says that Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) was conquered. But in Shmuel (Samuel) 2, chapter 5 it is revealed that the Jebusite on the Temple Mount were unable to be driven out until the time of King David, so how was it considered "conquered" (for further on this see the commentaries of Rashi and Redak on Yehoshua 15:63)?  Until David moved his capital from Chevron (Hebron) to Yerushalayim, Jerusalem had divided neighborhoods perhaps somewhat reminiscent of the Old City of Jerusalem today. The sections were: 1) the tribe of Yehuda (Judah), 2) the tribe of Binyamin (Benjamin), 3) the Jebusites. (as per the commentary Metzudos David on Yehoshua 15:63). Despite the hundreds of years between Yehoshua and David, the Persian-Median Empire recognized only Jewish ownership to all of Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount.

Going further back in history, those borders were first mentioned to Avraham (Abraham) some 4000 years ago as the Divine Will of the Creator (Genesis 15 & repeated to Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses) in Shemos (Exodus 23) and again in Devarim (Deuteronomy 11).  And the fact that it took over 400 years from the time these words were recorded by Moshe until David fulfilled that Heavenly Decree, was also not viewed by normative world political leadership as a legitimate reason to assume any lessening of Jewish Rights to the Holy Land.

But what of the alternate borders mentioned in Bamidbar (Numbers) 34? These, as seen in the context of the books of the Early Prophets, referred to the conquests of Yehoshua, while the promise to Avraham (Genesis 15, Exodus 23 and Deuteronomy 11) referred to the conquests of King David and the territory of King Shlomo (Solomon) which went all the way East to the Great River. Indeed, if one would actually read chapter 34 of Numbers they would see that it referred to when the Israelites "enter the land" (verse 2) and later in that chapter, Yehoshua is mentioned as the main leader who will help the people conquer the land.  Conquering all the way to the Euphrates was a matter of destiny for the Jewish people, but not an urgent command incumbent upon the generation of Yehoshua.  From the Persian-Median perspective, however, it seems that this too was not an impediment upon viewing Israel's rights to include all the land which they had acquired under King David.

The will of world political powers is commonly referred to in International Law as Customary Law, but is not on the level of Fundamental Laws (Jus Cogens) or even treaties between nations. When a treaty between world powers occurs, that is greater than customary law. That is what happened in the Book of Ezra, and that is what happened again in a limited fashion at the San Remo Supreme Council in 1920.  What is very clear, is that all of Judea and Samaria and of course all of Jerusalem is not open to debate. It is Israel's entirely.  Only unclear policy by Western nations can cloud the minds of those trying to bring peace to the Middle East.  But they cannot change the profoundly deep historical reality of International Recognition of Jewish Rights to the Land of Israel from ancient times and until today.

Friday, June 15, 2012

My Lecture at Young Israel of West Rogers Park

This past Sunday I spoke at the Young Israel of West Rogers Park in Chicago.  The topic was "Israel and Iran: Cause for Concern, Reasons to Hope". Here are some key points that were raised:

  • We must be sensitive enough to be careful to not say things like "it's 1939 all over again" and other talk of impending doom in the presence of Holocaust Survivors in order to fulfill the commandment of Love your neighbor/fellow. Unless they are actively seeking the news on Iran, we should consider whether they have been traumatized enough before exercising our freedom of speech.
  • I currently view Syria as a greater immediate military threat (to Israel) than Iran, not because it is stronger, but more desperate. This, even though Iran is clearly the greater threat to the West overall.  The previous leader of the relatively "peaceful" Jordan who eventually made peace with Israel, killed thousands of his own people in his time. When the previous King of Jordan (Hussein) was dying of cancer, he dreamt wistfully of dying a martyr's death for peace as Rabin did. How much more so is the butcher of Damascus willing to go down in a blaze of glory. (Further, as we saw with Iraq in 1991, when in trouble, Arabic tyrants like to attack Israel. This is exactly what some of the leadership in Iran have promised to do if they are attacked by countries other than Israel.) And if Israel defends itself, would Iran use that as an excuse to "defend" Syria?
  • Egypt is likely on the way to becoming a renewed threat to Israel. (Must be Egyptian gratitude at USA foreign aid, generated from taxpayer dollars, and in appreciation for the Israeli gift of oil fields in the Sinai, for peace. See? Land for Peace works... to support terror, that is.)
  • Some Rabbis including Shas party spiritual mentor Rav Ovadia Yosef believe that there is still hope for a resolution without full scale war.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Take Back Gaza!

International Law and common sense call for Israel to replace the caretaker government in Gaza with one that is not murderous.  I would argue for an Israeli governor to replace Hamas, rather than trying to find a Palestinian alternative to Hamas.  Certainly Fatah is not an option for reliability against terror nor stability against another coup. But one thing is clear, now that a major population center like Beersheva is under continual attack, the Knesset's moral obligation to act is clear.

The story of Sderot is hard to believe.  A border town attacked with thousands and thousands of rockets, and insufficiently defended by its own government.  But Beersheba is no mere border town, and with the expanded range of rocket attacks, to be able to hit that historic population center of the South of Israel, the next expansion of Gaza's rockets' range would place Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion Airport in range, G-d forbid.

Regional concerns of how enemies may try to use the retaking of Gaza against Israel at the U.N. are mute arguments.  If your major cities are being attacked, diplomatic score keeping must take a back seat.  Concerns of escalating matters to a war level is illogical.  There already is war, the only question is how to stop it.  In addition, the war pattern is Islamic Jihad Vs  innocent civilians, with reprisals by the IDF against the terrorists. It's time to consider allowing combatants to battle each other and leave the weary citizens of the South alone.

Stop mere tit-for-tat strikes that make bad press, and limited security enhancements.  Retake Gaza entirely and then as with the Golan, take pause before you consider giving it back to anyone.

May it be the Will of G-d that such reasoning appear more sensible to the memshalah/government than the current status quo.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Tell the Quartet: The Oslo Accords are Over

The Quartet of nations have given Israel and the Palestinian Authority two months from the time that they renew talks (which began two weeks ago) to report on agreed borders. Rather than continue with wistful dreams of everybody sharing the land as two separate countries, Israel needs to face the reality that the Palestinian Authority is a failed enterprise in governorship whose allegiance to terror trumps any indicated leanings toward democratization.  Israel must re-accept responsibility of it's legal possession of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, and begin to form new policy from there.

According to the Knesset's website, the Oslo Accords:
"main concern was on Israeli withdrawal from the territories of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, in order to allow the establishment of a Palestinian Authority for self-government for an interim period until permanent arrangements would be established."

Well Israel has certainly tried that.

In six weeks from today, does anyone believe that Israel will be in a position to demarcate permanent borders with the Hamas loving Palestinian Authority? There are too many daggers up their sleeves to expect that any time soon.  In the exact opposite extreme of what the Oslo architects expected and intended, the more that the Palestinian Authority is given, the more bloodthirsty and terror loving it becomes.

If Israel's government arrogantly agrees to borders with the Palestinian Authority despite the known impending terror that such an act would strengthen, then they would be abandoning their responsibility to the well being of their own people.

If Israel
's government cruelly abandons helpless Arab refugees to a fledgling terrorist government, they should not feel morally superior that they benefited the Palestinian People, even if that is what that people and the U.N seem to be asking for.  It is not mercy to feed the urge of someone addicted to poison. Nor is there moral justification if someone told you to administer the poison.  Neither is it peace to give territory with the intention that at least we can use full scale war against them if they keep attacking us.

Israel must know that under International Law, Israel is NOT required to heed the whims of the Quartet that would lead to such travesties of justice and certain violence. 

Israel's current policy of attempting to honor the ghostlike remnants of the Oslo Accords is the very cause of the U.N. continuing to badger Israel over settlements.  You are guilty in their eyes only because you listened to them, which means you admitted that they were right.

Israel must respectfully and patiently reeducate the Quartet as to the true intention of International Law, and clarify misunderstandings that have arisen over U.N. Resolution 242 since the implementation of the Oslo Accords.

Respectfully and patiently reeducate, without raising a voice in anger.  Though perhaps tough words are justified for a people waiting almost 2000 years to be treated fairly, it is best to not seem like extremists.  Nor to flatter the wicked, Heaven forbid.  Rather be respectful and patient as per the way of diplomacy as first taught by King Solomon in first verse of the fifteenth chapter of the book of Proverbs: "A gentle answer removes wrath, but an infuriating word raises anger."

Remind the Quartet of the goal and the means to the establishment of true and lasting peace.  May it soon be so, by the grace of God.