Tuesday, March 15, 2016

796 Video clip shows Hilltop wedding-goers celebrating Duma killings; watch it on Youtube

Video clip shows Hilltop wedding-goers celebrating Duma killings; watch
it on Youtube

Newsletter published on 18 January 2016

(1) Video clip shows far-right wedding-goers celebrating Duma killings;
watch it on Youtube
(2) The Radical New Face of the Jewish Settler Movement
(3) Jewish terrorists "like savages, sang a hymn of vengeance and
gleefully danced" - Isi Leibler
(4) Palestinian master degree program "Master in Peace studies"
(5) Obama got NSA to spy on Netanyahu
(6) NSA taps of Israeli leaders included private conversations with U.S.
Congress
(7) Hillary swears Fealty to Israel
(8) Gilad -  The Judaic universe is ruled by ‘mitzvoth’ (commandment), a
set of 613 precepts
(9) Turkish Jews' public celebration of Hanukkah
(10) Harperland: The defeated Ogre finds little comfort from his hawkish
"best friend"
(11) Christmas Trees banned in Israel
(12) Russian secular "Christmas" holiday is gaining acceptance in Israel

(1) Video clip shows far-right wedding-goers celebrating Duma killings;
watch it on Youtube

Watch it on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/embed/t3h8FEvGNQg

http://www.timesofisrael.com/clip-shows-far-right-wedding-goers-celebrating-dawabsha-killings/

Clip shows far-right wedding-goers celebrating Duma killings

Israeli youngsters, said to be friends of detainees in deadly
firebombing, stab photo of 18-month-old victim; wave firebombs, rifles
and knives at Jerusalem event

BY TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF  December 23, 2015, 10:07 pm

{photo}
Screenshot from a video showing extremist Israeli Jewish wedding-goers
celebrating the killing of the Dawabsha family. (screen capture: Channel
10) {end}

Footage released on Wednesday showed dozens of young Israeli right-wing
extremists, said to be linked to the suspected perpetrators of the
Dawabsha family murder, celebrating the killing at a wedding last week.
The images in the clip immediately sparked wide condemnation.

The video, aired by Channel 10, shows revelers at the Jerusalem
celebration waving knives, rifles, pistols and a Molotov cocktail during
the wedding.

Amid the festivities, a photo of baby Ali Dawabsha, who was burned to
death in the July 31 firebombing in the West Bank village of Duma, is
shown being repeatedly stabbed.

The crowd in the video chants the lyrics of a song which include a verse
from Judges 16:28, quoting Samson, blinded in Gaza, saying "let me with
one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes" — but changing
the word Philistines to Palestine.

The couple whose wedding was being celebrated was said to be friends of
Jewish extremists detained in connection with the firebombing attack.

The attack in Duma on July 31 killed three members of a Palestinian
family. Only one member of the Dawabsha family — Ahmed, now 5 — survived
the attack, and remains hospitalized in Israel. The 18-month-old baby
Ali was killed on the night of the attack, while parents Riham and Saad
succumbed to their injuries in the succeeding weeks.

{photo}
Far-right Israeli wedding-goers stab a photo of 18-month-old Ali
Dawabsha, killed in a deadly firebombing attack, allegedly by Jewish
extremists, in July 2015 (screen capture: Channel 10) {end}

According to the TV report, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon broadcast the
clip to settler leaders a few days ago, to underline that dozens of
young extremists are passionately supportive of the alleged Jewish
terrorists.

The TV report said the footage was a factor in the stream of statements
of support from right-wing leaders for the Shin Bet security service in
its battle against Jewish terrorism in the last few days.

According to Haaretz reporter Chaim Levinson on Twitter, the bride was
arrested in the past for carrying out an attack against Palestinians,
along with the wife of one of the main suspects in the Duma case. She
received 350 hours of community service for the crime.

The video was met with harsh condemnation from across the political
spectrum.

Minutes after the clip was aired, Zionist Union MK and former foreign
minister Tzipi Livni got up before the Knesset and railed against the
youngsters in the film, saying "this is the group that wants to destroy
the Jewish Israel, to destroy this state from within, to destroy the
government from within and sow hate."

{photo}
Far-right Israeli wedding-goers celebrate the killings of the Dawabsha
family (screen capture: Channel 10) {end}

Pointing at Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich, Livni said: "These are the
people you protest being interrogated by the Shin Bet."

"My Judaism is not the Judaism of those dancing on the blood of babies,"
she added on Twitter.

Smotrich condemned the "evil price tag ideology," referring to
right-wing attacks against Palestinians, but attempted to disassociate
himself from the extremists, saying it "is not the way of religious
Zionism, period."

"The demonic dance with the picture of the murdered baby represents a
dangerous ideology and the loss of humanity," he said, according the
Israel National News website.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog termed the revelers "maniacs."

"Lowlifes, you forgot what it is to be Jewish. You disgrace the kippah,
the prayer shawl, and the name of God. Those who dance at a wedding and
celebrate the death of a baby in his sleep are not Jews and not Israeli.
They should be locked up as soon as possible," he said in a tweet.

In a statement, the Joint List of Arab parties said the Israeli
government and defense minister, "who let the settlers attack
Palestinians without facing punishment, are the first ones to blame for
this terror network."

The party urged Israeli society to "wake up" and see that "the hatred
and terror are the inevitable result of military control and occupation
of a civilian population."

{photo}
A far-right Israeli wedding-goer celebrates the murder of the Dawabsha
family (screen capture: Channel 10) {end}

Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home), an outspoken supporter of
the settlement movement, condemned the participants at the wedding.

"The clip published by Channel 10 news this evening is shocking and one
cannot allow the activity of radical groups fueled by hate," Ariel wrote
on Facebook.

"Violence and support of violence deserve only condemnation. This is not
the path of Zionism and this is not the path of the settlement
movement," wrote Ariel, who a day earlier had called for the Shin Bet to
close down its division that deals with Jewish terror cases.

The video clip was also denounced by Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau,
who said it went against Jewish tradition. Other religious figures also
spoke out against it.

The video comes as the Shin Bet has faced criticism from some right-wing
activists over claims that it has tortured suspects detained in
connection with the Duma attack.

An unspecified number of Jewish suspects have been arrested in
connection with the attack, which is being investigated as an act of
terrorism. Details of the investigation, and the identity of the
suspects, have been withheld from publication by a court-imposed gag order.

Earlier Wednesday, Education Minister Naftali Bennett doubled down on
his criticism of figures in the religious Zionist community for their
condemnation of the Shin Bet, calling them hypocrites.

{photo}
Saad and Riham Dawabsha, with baby Ali. All three died when the Dawabsha
home in the West Bank village of Duma was firebombed, by suspected
Jewish extremists, on July 31, 2015 (Channel 2 screenshot) {end}

Speaking at a conference of the right-wing weekly B’sheva, the Jewish
Home party leader reiterated comments he made a day earlier denouncing
right-wing extremists as "terrorists," and said it was hypocritical to
oppose interrogation methods considered acceptable against Palestinians.

"What was done to the Duma detainees is for certain not more, and
probably less, than what is done regularly to Palestinian terror
suspects," he said.

(2) The Radical New Face of the Jewish Settler Movement
http://forward.com/news/328981/the-radical-new-face-of-the-jewish-settler-movement/

Naomi Zeveloff

The Forward

January 11, 2016

When Eliezer Shekhtman moved to Israel from Chicago, he chose to live in
Tapuach, a hardcore settlement deep inside the Israeli-occupied West
Bank. He had family friends there; his father had been an associate of
Meir Kahane, the virulently anti-Arab rabbi.

But after a year, Shekhtman wanted more privacy and moved to a trailer
on a hill outside the settlement. Though Israel considers such trailer
outposts illegal, Shekhtman’s was hooked up to running water and
electricity through Tapuach. The newcomer befriended other boys in the
area, including some living even more austerely in tents on nearby
hillsides. He spent the Sabbath with these boys and gave them rides in
his car, once helping them move a tent.

Shekhtman’s friends were part of the so-called hilltop youth, a loosely
affiliated group of Jewish settlers in their teens and 20s who live away
from their parents on the hilltops surrounding established settlements.
Members of the group have perpetrated so-called "price tag" attacks,
using firebombs and spray paint to damage Palestinian property in
retribution for Palestinian violence, or as a way of lashing out against
the Israeli military.

{photo}
Their Livelihoods in Flames: Palestinian protesters stand amid blazes
set by settlers to their olive groves last October near Yitzhar, a West
Bank settlement known as a bastion for extremists. {end}

With friends like these, it wasn’t long before a member of the Shin Bet,
Israel’s security service, caught up with Shekhtman, a chubby-cheeked
23-year-old, as he was driving one evening in his car.

"You are hanging out with dangerous people," Shekhtman recalled the
security agent telling him. "I said, ‘Okay, thank you for the warning.’"

Now, Shekhtman’s friends are at the center of a national firestorm.
Several hilltop youth members claim the Shin Bet tortured them as
suspects in a murderous arson attack against a Palestinian family. The
state has charged two of them. And protests against the alleged torture
have spread across the country, including outside the home of Naftali
Bennett, the settlers’ biggest advocate in the Knesset. Bennett
justified the Shin Bet’s methods as necessary to prevent young men like
them from striking again. Meanwhile, at Tapuach Junction, a militarized
intersection leading to Shekhtman’s old settlement, posters plastered on
bus stops and concrete blocks declare: "Jews don’t torture other Jews.
Stop the inquisition."

The hilltop youth have always had power, which they wielded through
violent acts, often under the cover of night. But for most Israelis,
these were distant events perpetrated by extremists in the West Bank, a
kind of Wild West they rarely think about or visit. Now, ironically, the
efforts of Israel’s security services to suppress the hilltop youth have
brought this cohort into the daylight — and given them a voice.

{photo}
Gaining a Voice: Demonstrators at a Petah Tikva courthouse in December
protest the alleged torture of suspected Jewish extremists. Israeli
security forces deny the charge. The sign reads: "Enough with abuse and
persecution, don’t abandon our children." {end}

Their breakthrough into mainstream discourse may seem sudden to many
Israelis. But the hilltop youth is a phenomenon long in the making.
Their roots go back to Israel’s 2005 disengagement from Gaza, the
Palestinian territory that Israel occupied and today blockades on the
Mediterranean coast. Israeli troops forcefully evacuated some 8,600
Jewish settlers, most of whom resisted nonviolently. In taking this
action, the state provoked a generational rupture in the settler
movement with implications few understood at the time. Settler elders
had promised that God himself would ensure that the Jewish state’s army
would never force them to forsake their settlement, known as Gush Katif,
in what they saw as the biblical Land of Israel. But God failed to
intervene, and a generation of young people lost trust in their parents.

Their mentality was: "Why should I listen to you? You didn’t succeed in
your big project. So if you didn’t succeed, it means I can try as well
as you can try," said Shimi Friedman, an anthropologist at Ariel
University, in the settlement of the same name.

Now, 10 years on, the hilltop youth are an established entity. Several
hundred adolescents from both sides of the Green Line — including some
girls — roam the West Bank hills. Some are yeshiva dropouts. Others are
students of Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh of Od Yosef Chai yeshiva, in
Yitzhar. Ginsburgh, a prominent scholar of Kabbalah and a member of the
Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement, has concocted a potent ideological
brew for this new generation of Jewish radicals, spouting mystical
admonitions to live in nature and Kabbalah-based rationales for Jewish
racial superiority and violence against Arabs.

Meanwhile, two other prominent rabbis at Od Yosef Chai have given the
hilltop youths’ penchant for attacking Arabs even stronger religious
legitimacy. In their 2010 book, "The King’s Torah (Torat Hamelech), Part
One: Laws of Life and Death Between Israel and the Nations," Rabbis
Yitzhak Shapira and Yosef Elitzur declared, "The prohibition ‘Thou Shalt
Not Murder’" applies only "to a Jew who kills a Jew." Non-Jews, they
wrote, are "uncompassionate by nature" and assaults on them "curb their
evil inclination," while infants and children of Israel’s enemies may be
killed, since "it is clear that they will grow to harm us."

Up until 2013, Od Yosef Chai yeshiva received government funding and
support. It has also received money from American donors. While "The
King’s Torah" sparked a scandal in the mainstream press, the book’s wide
dissemination in Israeli bookstores, and its enthusiastic endorsement by
several prominent rabbis gave the authors’ ideas currency.

Still, some scholars say that the hilltop youth are acting not on any
religious authority but on their own violent convictions. For years, its
members have been committing vigilante acts against Palestinians,
torching olive groves and defacing mosques. But until recently, Israeli
leaders in the mainstream have been reluctant to label them terrorists —
a term usually reserved for Arabs. Israeli courts have also done little
to punish this kind of behavior. In 2013, Israel’s defense minister,
Moshe Ya’alon, defined price tag activity as "illegal organizing." And
according to a report by the Israeli rights group Yesh Din, just 7.4% of
complaints filed by Palestinians from 2005 to 2014 have ended in
indictments against Israeli civilians.

Now, the arson attack in the Palestinian village of Duma last July,
which killed an 18-month-old infant and his parents, appears to show
that the hilltop youth are capable of not only destruction, but murder, too.

{photo}
Terrorist Victims: A relative stands inside the burnt-out home of Saad
Dawabsha, who was killed alongside his infant and wife when Jewish
extremists firebombed their house in the West Bank village of Duma last
July. {end}

It also turns out that several of those detained as part of the Duma
investigation have U.S. citizenship. That may reflect the
disproportionate presence of Americans among settlers overall. According
to Sara Yael Hirschhorn, an Oxford University scholar, some 15% of all
settlers are Americans, compared with 2% to 3% of all Israeli citizens.
The prominence of Americans among those detained echoes the historic
leadership roles Americans have played in Israel’s contemporary
right-wing radicalism, from Kahane, a native New Yorker, to Ginsburgh,
who was born in St. Louis and spent much of his youth in Philadelphia,
and Baruch Goldstein, the Brooklyn born-and-raised physician who in 1994
murdered 29 Muslims at prayer at the Cave of the Patriarchs, a site in
Hebron holy to Muslims and Jews.

According to Shekhtman, the hilltop youth are frustrated that members of
the national religious mainstream, like Bennett, have failed to support
them. Sitting in a squat office building in Yitzhar, where he now lives,
Shekhtman counted off Jewish figures whose one-time radical acts are now
celebrated in the Israeli mainstream. He pointed to the Lehi, a
pre-state Zionist group in the 1940s that launched terrorist attacks
against British civilian officials and Arab civilians in Mandate
Palestine. Today, streets in Israel are named for members of the Lehi.
In Shekhtman’s view, Bennett’s support for the Shin Bet’s investigation
against Jewish extremism smacks of hypocrisy. "Kids see that something
is not clear here," he said.

In 2013, the Israeli government initiated an outreach program, known as
the Hebrew Shepherd, to rein in the hilltop youth. But according to
those involved, it has failed to make headway with the most radical
youngsters. Avia Azulay, a brawny 36-year-old with a bushy black beard,
worked for the program for three months. Sitting inside a makeshift
pizza parlor in the Itamar settlement while a pair of teenage boys
lounged on a dingy yellow couch outside, he explained that he quit the
government program when he came to believe that the Shin Bet was
involved. "I said, this is going to be a problem, because if I come to
youth at risk and I say I am working for the police, then I lose the
trust," he said. The Education Ministry, which runs the program, turned
down a request for comment.

Azulay stakes his credibility with the hilltop youth on the fact that he
was an early adopter of the lifestyle. He was born in Yamit, a
settlement in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula that Israel evacuated in 1982.
 From there his parents went to Kiryat Arba, a settlement of
ideologically motivated Israeli Jews near the Palestinian city of
Hebron. Azulay left his family for high school in Itamar, but dropped
out and made his way to Od Yosef Chai yeshiva. There he met likeminded
teens who lived on the fringes.

"We decided we wanted to do something with more meaning," he said. "We
were going to expand the yishuv," or body of Jewish settlements.

At the age of 15, Azulay moved with his friends to a hill next to
Yitzhar. But soon, he said, the Civil Administration, the Israeli
military’s administrative arm in the West Bank, ordered them to leave.

Azulay sought advice from Gilad Zahr, a security officer with the
Samaria Regional Council. He learned that it was more difficult for
Israeli authorities to order the destruction of a facility once it had
already been fully built. So he and his friends set about constructing a
home inside a tent. Only when the home was finished did they take down
the tent, surprising the Civil Administration. Later, Yitzhar paved a
road to the outpost. Today, the hilltop settlement, called Lehava, or
Flame, is still standing, even as it is considered illegal construction
by Israel.

"Our techniques worked," Azulay said. "The houses are still there today."

Azulay’s hilltop activities, however, got him into trouble with the Shin
Bet. He said that he was passed over for the army — many hilltop youth
are considered too dangerous to serve in the Israel Defense Forces — but
later convinced a Shin Bet agent to reconsider him. Eventually he became
the head of security in Itamar. "I went from a situation in which they
didn’t want me to have a gun to where I became a commander in the army,
and then here I was, in charge of the guns in Itamar, and I had 150, 160
guns here," he said.

While Azulay considers the work of settling hilltops heroic, he wants to
help the hilltop youth stay out of trouble so that they can join the
military and go on to lead productive adult lives. "The hilltop youth
say, ‘One should kill all the Arabs.’ And I say I am also in favor. I am
in favor of killing the enemies, and if you go to the army you will kill
terrorists."

But Shekhtman believes that Jewish civilian violence has a place in the
greater political scheme. Echoing Ginsburgh, who cites the Torah, he
said that "Jewish revenge" is a "value," even though ideally a military
should be exacting it instead of Jewish teens.

During Hanukkah, Shekhtman was a guest at a Jewish wedding at which a
group of young men danced while waving guns in the air. One thrust a
knife through a photograph of Ali Saad Dawabsheh, the infant killed in
the Duma fire. Video footage of the wedding was leaked to the press,
causing mainstream Israelis to recoil at the radicalism in their midst.
Shekhtman said he did not see the man stabbing the photo. But the idea
did not scandalize him.

"It doesn’t bother me. I don’t know if the father threw stones or if he
didn’t, or if the baby would have thrown stones or wouldn’t have if he
lived till the age of 15 or 20. Come on, it’s a picture."

Shekhtman called the video a "smokescreen" to distract from the torture
allegations. He believes that the Duma case and the torture claims are
forcing the tension between Israel’s secular democracy and its Jewish
character to come to a head. The Shin Bet, he said, is prosecuting not
murder, but ideology. When Jews in Israel see the security establishment
torturing other Jews, he believes, they will realize that Israel is
operating outside a Jewish value system, and be moved to create a truly
Jewish state.

"They are saying, ‘These are crazy kids, radicals who want to form a
Jewish state and have state government by Torah and Jewish law,"
Shekhtman said. But he doesn’t see the mission as crazy at all: "A lot
of people want that."

Among the hardcore settlers, debate is now raging over whether hilltop
youth are violent delinquents or young visionaries. For years, radical
settlers have moved to the hills beyond the borders of existing
settlements to establish new neighborhoods. Though the Israeli
government considers these outposts unauthorized, it provides them with
electricity, running water and security. (The international community,
meanwhile, considers all the exclusively Jewish settlements Israel has
established in the territories it conquered in the 1967 Six Day War to
be illegal.)

Hilltop Social Worker: Avia Azulay, 36, was an early hilltop youth
adherent, but worked more recently for a government program to draw
hilltop youth back into mainstream society. Azulay told them they could
better fulfill their desire to kill Arabs by serving in the Israeli army
and killing terrorists.

The hilltop youth live in remote areas, too, but their project is much
more anarchic than just constructing unauthorized outposts. They engage
in an epic cat-and-mouse game with the IDF and lash out at Palestinians
to exact a "price" when the government dismantles an illegal outpost.
According to the Duma indictment, the two boys accused of the murders
there sought to spark an intra-religious war that would undermine the
State of Israel. Part of the Duma investigation has focused on a group
called "The Revolt" which seeks to overthrow the state and create a
Jewish monarchy in its place.

"There is no doubt that the hilltop youth today are outside the
boundaries of normal life. That is the way it is perceived in Israel,"
said Tzvi Sukkot, a former member who now lives in a one-story home in
Yitzhar with his wife and three children. On the wall in his living room
is a large Technicolor canvas painted by his grandfather. It depicts
King David, the prophet Elijah and the Messiah as a young child. A stone
foundation of the Third Temple is visible in the background. "Some
people feel threatened by their lifestyle," he continued. "And they say
that these people live on the fringe of society or that they were thrown
out of their homes. From what I know, these young people are the best
students in their schools, and they believe in what they are doing."

Indeed, while some of the hilltop youth come from troubled homes, others
represent elite Israeli families. Elisha Odess, who was detained in
connection with the Duma attack, is the son of Moshe Odess, the rabbi of
Tzofim, a mixed secular-religious settlement in the northern West Bank.
Odess has dual American-Israeli citizenship. And Amiram Ben Ulliel, who
was indicted in the Duma affair, is the son of Rueven ben Ulliel, a
rabbi in a preparatory program for religious army recruits, according to
Haaretz.

David Ha’Ivri, a political activist from Tapuach, said that when teens
decamp for the hilltops, that should be a "red light" to parents. "Their
families have lost that bond and that connection," he said, noting that
his own son nearly missed his opportunity to serve in the IDF after he
was arrested during a protest at Tapuach Junction. "[The family
connection] stops being relevant in these kids’ lives, and that has led
to a very sad result all around."

Ha’Ivri should know: An American immigrant whose birth name is Jason
David Axelrod, he’s seen settler radicalism from both sides of the
generational divide, having been arrested for celebrating the 1995
assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and later serving six
months in jail in connection with the desecration of a mosque. The
mosque episode occurred 20 years ago, Ha’Ivri said, when he accompanied
a group of minors as they tore through an Arab village, vandalizing
homes and the house of worship. He was the only adult in the group, and
was arrested.

In hindsight, he said that it "wasn’t a smart thing to do. I guess I was
in a different place at that time and I grew out of that."

(3) Jewish terrorists "like savages, sang a hymn of vengeance and
gleefully danced" - Isi Leibler

http://wordfromjerusalem.com/jewish-terrorism-must-be-cauterized-like-a-cancer/


Jewish terrorism must be cauterized like a cancer

Isi Leibler

December 30, 2015

Israelis shuddered when viewing the widely publicized extracts of the
wedding video in which youngsters in large white knitted kippot
brandished knives like savages, sang a hymn of vengeance and gleefully
danced around photographs of the victims of the fatal Duma arson attack.
That such a barbaric and ghoulish spectacle could occur in a Jewish
state sickened the vast majority of the population.

This incident caused me to recall a conversation I had with the late Dr.
Yosef Burg, a prominent cabinet minister and leader of Habayit
Hayehudi’s more centrist religious Zionist antecedent, Hapoel Hamizrahi.
At a time of euphoria with Gush Emunim’s expansion of settlements, Burg
expressed profound concern about Jews living in outlying areas
surrounded by Arabs. He warned, prophetically, that the vicious hatred
radiated by the Arabs against the isolated Jews would impact negatively
and undermine their humanity. Alas, this is precisely what has happened.

Despite the appalling disgrace and besmirching of our name by such
demonic behavior, this pales in significance to the impact that such
horrific acts can have on our society if not ruthlessly expunged.

Yes, those involved are an insignificant number and utterly
unrepresentative of any segment of the community. It is also quite
unprecedented for every sector of Israel society -- from the prime
minister and ranging from the right-wing Habayit Hayehudi through to
left-wing Meretz, and including settler organizations and national
religious rabbis -- to unequivocally condemn these acts and urge that
those involved be treated no differently from Palestinian terrorists.

Indeed, the fury it has ignited has led to authorizing the Shin Bet
security agency to take such measures against Jewish terror suspects
previously restricted to Palestinian "ticking bomb" captives, on the
grounds that unconventional pressures could apply if that might lead to
saving lives. This and administrative detention are highly unpalatable
in a democracy but are justifiable during a state of war or when under
siege. During World War II, the Allies took infinitely harsher steps,
suspending civil rights.

The ultra-Right -- including initially some individuals from Tkuma, the
radical extremist element of Habayit Hayehudi -- launched a hysterical
campaign against the Shin Bet. However, many backed down after viewing
the video. Ironically, some of the delusional far-left civil
libertarians associated with Haaretz, who seek to nullify all
administrative measures associated with security in relation to
Palestinian terrorists, joined forces with the radical right elements in
condemning the Shin Bet for using torture to extract confessions from
suspects.

Taking into account Israel’s current overriding security requirements,
there are inevitably occasional mistakes and instances of abuse, but
overall the state must do whatever is necessary to identify and
prosecute those engaged in such barbaric inhuman behavior. In the
prevailing circumstances, especially with a right-wing government, most
Israelis have confidence in the prime minister, Defense Minister Moshe
Ya’alon and Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett when they
unequivocally insist that the Shin Bet is acting in accordance with the
law and government directives.

Until now, many Israelis have dismissed this phenomenon as mere
hooliganism by wild "hilltop youth." That is belittling the case. We are
breeding, albeit now only a small number, of "religious lunatics" who
could be described as post-religious Zionists. They have imbibed
dangerous notions about the need to dismantle the secular state, get rid
of the Arabs and set up what they describe as a Torah state. These
fanatics are harbingers of great peril to Israeli society unless they
are now ruthlessly targeted and delegitimized.

The abomination began initially with the so called "price-tag"
desecrations of mosques, cemeteries and Arab property. Many of us warned
that these despicable acts should be considered within the rubric of
terrorism rather than criminal acts. We warned that they would
ultimately lead to violence and possibly killings and unfortunately that
is precisely what happened.

There are too many who, while disgusted with the murders, tend to
understate the damage that these fanatical thugs -- often understated as
misdirected youngsters -- can inflict on our society. And in some cases,
the parents who failed to prevent their children from engaging in
purportedly nonviolent price-tag operations must also bear
responsibility. This applies especially now, during this period of
suicidal Muslim terrorism as anger and fear pervades civilians
throughout the country, making them less tolerant toward Arabs.

What makes these fanatics even more dangerous is that most of them
consider that they are carrying out God’s will. They could easily morph
into equivalents of the jihadis.

It would seem that one of their main sources of inspiration emanates
from a handful of charismatic extremist rabbis who turn a blind eye or
even encourage their followers to engage in acts of violence.

The state and successive governments until now have tolerated such
deviants. It is disgraceful that in our dysfunctional political system,
a religious fanatic like Kiryat Arba’s Chief Rabbi, Dov Lior, retains a
state-funded rabbinical role when he publicly and unapologetically
refers to the mass murderer Baruch Goldstein as being "holier than all
the martyrs of the Holocaust" and has instructed the synagogue under his
authority to exclude the prayer for the government. It should hardly be
surprising that if the state continues to fund even a small number of
rabbis with such views, that some of our hilltop youngsters fall under
their spell and decide to expand their war against the Arabs.

This situation is currently limited to fringe splinter groups of
primarily young religious deviants. The government should be applauded
for using an iron fist in its determination to indict and neutralize
these miscreants. But the few radical rabbis who stand aside or
implicitly endorse these actions must be dismissed forthwith and
investigated for possible incitement.

Naftali Bennett, as education minister, should issue appropriate
directives to ensure that the curriculum, especially that of the
national religious stream, imparts the necessary message to children in
relation to this issue. All rabbis should speak out and condemn any
colleague who remains silent or ambivalent.

In addition, the settlement movement must move beyond mere condemnation
of these deviants. The extremists should be made aware that aside from
facing indictments from law enforcement officials, their own communities
will excommunicate and report them to the authorities.

At the same time, outraged as we are by such abominations, we must not
become masochists or accept the distortions about us being promoted in
the global media. Yes, we have a tiny fringe element of fanatical Jewish
extremists who can be deemed terrorists. But that does not warrant
equating us with our neighbors. The definition of a healthy society is
not determined by acts of terror but by how the society responds.

In the Palestinian arena, the terror is preceded by vile campaigns
inciting Muslims to kill Jews and become martyrs. Every murder is
sanctified and glorified at the national level from PA head Mahmoud
Abbas and extended by the mullahs in the mosques, through to the schools
and the media. Every murder results in joyful street celebrations with
scenes of the proud parents of the "martyrs." Soon thereafter, streets,
city squares and even football clubs will be named after the murderers.

Compare that with Israel, where the entire nation, including every party
in the Knesset, is horrified and shocked that even isolated barbaric
behavior of this nature could occur in this country and where draconian
steps are taken to identify and indict the Jewish terrorists.

We should give full backing to the government to act with uncompromising
discipline and eradicate these home-grown aberrations who reject the
sanctity of human life as well as investigating the behavior of a
handful of fringe extremist rabbis.

These are early days and the situation can be rectified but there must
be a recognition that, like cancer in a body, these elements must be
completely cauterized or they could revive and cause us immeasurable
damage, shaking the very moral foundations of the nation.

(4) Palestinian master degree program "Master in Peace studies"
Date: Mon, 18 Jan 2016 09:54:51 +0200
From: Mazin Qumsiyeh <mazin@qumsiyeh.org>
Subject: [HumanRights] Coaching in Palestine

I am responsible for two courses in Bethlehem Bible College (BBC)
program "Master in Peace studies" I do not say teaching or lecturing
because I believe our role is more as facilitators or coaches in a
student-centered learning environment (I am also learning through the
process). Below is one (Muslim) student reflection on this master
program and its goals. One course I facilitate deals with basics of
research, reading, and writing and the second is in theory and practice
of peace-making (including how do we make peace, actions including
popular resistance in its many forms as methods to arrive at peace with
justice).

My classes at BBC, Bethlehem University or Birzeit University are
interactive. In our first session at BBC we focused on definitions and
modalities of doing research including how, what, and why we read etc.
With massive resources on the internet, the right question becomes even
more important than the answer. One question raised in our class was:
"why is there so little reading in the Arab countries compared to
Europe?" (this was assigned as a "homework" :-). The next session we
will delve deeper into critical and analytical reading of texts
including those retrieved to answer the last question. We may start with
evaluating this "qualitative" article with discusses pros and cons of
"targeted killing" (some call it extrajudicial execution): Waldron,
Jeremy, Can Targeted Killing Work as a Neutral Principle? (March 16,
2011). NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 11-20. Available
at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1788226 or
http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1788226

Since I encourage students to learn from each other and work in teams, I
also ask you as readers to join us in contributing ideas to any of the
courses or modules that I couch. I also welcome guest
facilitators/coaches (again I do not say guest lecturers). These include
many areas where you can contribute (even remotely): research and
writing, critical thinking, conflict resolution, popular resistance,
anthropology, Fertile Crescent history, biodiversity, Environmental
issues, museology, etc.  In other news, we have several new local and
international volunteers at the museum. Even the group from Gaza that is
doing a two-week workshop on aquaponics have decided to volunteer around
the garden.  Two of our research papers were also accepted for
publication (one on butterflies, other on reptiles). The garden is
blooming and we welcome you to visit and/or help.

‘I carried the camera instead of carrying arms’.  A student reflection
on Bethlehem Bible College’s new MA in Peace Studies
http://www.bethbc.org/news/%E2%80%98i-carried-camera-instead-carrying-arms%E2%80%99

Bad news: The Radical New Face of the Jewish Settler Movement By Naomi
Zeveloff, The Forward. "Rabbis Yitzhak Shapira and Yosef Elitzur
declared, "The prohibition ‘Thou Shalt Not Murder’" applies only "to a
Jew who kills a Jew." Non-Jews, they wrote, are "uncompassionate by
nature" and assaults on them "curb their evil inclination," while
infants and children of Israel’s enemies may be killed, since "it is
clear that they will grow to harm us."  More here:
http://forward.com/news/328981/the-radical-new-face-of-the-jewish-settler-movement/

Really good news: U.S. Church puts 5 banks from Israel on a blacklist

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/13/world/middleeast/us-church-puts-5-banks-from-israel-on-a-blacklist.html?_r=0

(5) Obama got NSA to spy on Netanyahu

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/dec/30/us-spying-netanyahu-israel-iran-nuclear-deal-obama-nsa

US 'spied on Binyamin Netanyahu during Iran nuclear deal talks'

NSA surveillance of Israeli officials and US congressmen revealed that
prime minister and advisers leaked negotiation details, the Wall Street
Journal reported

David Smith in Washington

Thursday 31 December 2015 03.37 AEDT

The US spied on the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, because
of concerns he would derail the Iran nuclear deal, according to a new
account of surveillance operations.

Despite Barack Obama’s promise to curtail eavesdropping on allies in the
wake of the Edward Snowden revelations about the scale and scope of US
activities, the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance included
phone conversations between top Israeli officials, US congressmen and
American-Jewish groups, according to the Wall Street Journal.

  The White House did not confirm or deny the report. Ned Price,
spokesman for the National Security Council, said on Wednesday: "We are
not going to comment on any specific alleged intelligence activities. As
a general matter, and as we have said previously, we do not conduct any
foreign intelligence surveillance activities unless there is a specific
and validated national security purpose. This applies to ordinary
citizens and world leaders alike."

A House of Representatives committee has written to the NSA for more
information about the report.

In a letter to NSA director Michael Rogers, House oversight committee
chairman Jason Chaffetz and subcommittee chairman Ron DeSantis said the
story raised "questions concerning the processes NSA employees follow in
determining whether intercepted communications involved Members of
Congress".

Relations between Obama and Netanyahu have often been described as
strained. The NSA reports allowed Obama administration officials to peer
inside Israeli efforts to turn Congress against the Iran deal, the Wall
Street Journal said.

The surveillance allegedly revealed how Netanyahu and his advisers had
leaked details of the US-Iran negotiations, which they learned through
Israeli spying operations. Last March, Israel denied reports that its
security forces spied on the negotiations between Tehran and major
powers over Iran’s nuclear capacities.

Israel’s ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, was described as coaching
unnamed Jewish-American groups on lines of argument to use on Capitol
Hill, and Israeli officials were pressuring legislators to oppose the
deal, the newspaper said.

The revelations came despite Obama’s promise two years ago to curb
spying on US allies following intelligence contractor Edward Snowden’s
exposure of the vast extent of the NSA’s online surveillance.

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel had been embarrassed by the
revelation that her mobile phone had been monitored and other allies
expressed private concerns about the breadth of NSA monitoring.

But, according to the Wall Street Journal, Obama decided there was a
"compelling national security purpose" in continuing to monitor some
leaders, including Netanyahu and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdog?an.

The US administration decided not to remove or disable the
"cyber-implants" it had embedded in foreign communications systems, as
they would be hard to replace. Instead, the report said, Obama ordered
that some of the hacked systems used by close allies would not be
routinely monitored by the NSA, while others would continue to be mined
for intelligence.

"Going dark on Bibi? Of course we wouldn’t do that," one unnamed senior
US official told the paper, which claimed that one tool was a cyber
implant in Israeli networks that gave the NSA access to communications
within the Israel prime minister’s office.

In addition, after Israel’s lobbying campaign against the Iran nuclear
deal went into full swing on Capitol Hill, administration and
intelligence officials realised that the NSA was sweeping up the content
of conversations with members of Congress, the newspaper said. One
unnamed US official described that realisation as "an ‘oh shit’ moment".

A 2011 NSA directive said direct communications between foreign
intelligence targets and members of Congress should be destroyed when
they are intercepted. But the NSA director can issue a waiver if he
determines the communications contain "significant foreign
intelligence", the Journal said.

During Israel’s lobbying campaign in the months before the deal was
passed by Congress in September, the NSA removed the names of
legislators from intelligence reports and weeded out personal
information, the newspaper said.

Price of the National Security Council said on Wednesday: "When it comes
to Israel, President Obama has said repeatedly that the US commitment to
Israel’s security is sacrosanct. This message has always been backed by
concrete actions that demonstrate the depth of US support for Israel."

He added: "Our support for Israel was an important element in deterring
Iran from ever seeking a nuclear weapon, and remains a critical part of
our efforts to push back against Iran’s destabilising actions in the
region."

John Kirby, spokesman for the State Department, told MSNBC’s Morning
Joe: "Without getting into intelligence matters, the president made it
clear that we’re not going to collect intelligence on national leaders
unless there’s some strong compelling national security case. So I’m not
going to talk about the specifics in that article. I’m just not going to
address the intelligence aspects here."

He added: "The secretary [of state] enjoys a very strong relationship
with Prime Minister Netanyahu and they speak frequently. We don’t always
agree, of course, with Israeli leaders about everything that’s going on
there or in the region, but he has a very, very healthy relationship
with the prime minister and works at that relationship very hard."

But Marco Rubio, a member of the Senate intelligence committee and
Republican presidential candidate, told Fox News: "Obviously people read
this report, they have a right to be concerned this morning about it.
They have a right to be concerned about the fact that while some leaders
around the world are no longer being targeted, one of our strongest
allies in the Middle East – Israel – is."

He continued: "I actually think it might be worse than what some people
might think, but this is an issue that we’ll keep a close eye on, and
the role that I have in the intelligence committee. But I’m not trying
to be evasive, but I want to be very careful in a national broadcast
like this how we discuss these sorts of issues."

(6) NSA taps of Israeli leaders included private conversations with U.S.
Congress


http://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-spy-net-on-israel-snares-congress-1451425210>.

U.S. Spy Net on Israel Snares Congress

NSA’s targeting of Israeli leaders swept up the content of private
conversations with U.S. lawmakers

By Adam Entous and Danny Yadron

Dec. 29, 2015 4:40 p.m. ET

http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.694471

Wall Street Journal: U.S. Spied on Netanyahu During Iran Deal Talks

Obama reportedly maintained NSA monitoring of Netanyahu on 'national
security' grounds, with congressional blessing, long after Snowden
leaks; Israeli military intelligence gave NSA tech later discovered to
be spyware.

Haaretz Dec 30, 2015 4:34 AM

The U.S. maintained National Security Agency surveillance on Israeli
officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during nuclear
negotiations with Iran, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday in an
exclusive that exposes the extent of cooperation and mistrust between
the two allies.

According to the report, despite vowing to freeze surveillance on allies
in 2013 following the Edward Snowden leaks, the U.S. continued to
eavesdrop on Netanyahu and his aides, citing what U.S. President Obama
reportedly called a "compelling national security purpose."

The article quoted unnamed current and former U.S. officials and focused
largely on the events preceding and surrounding the nuclear accord with
Iran. It reported that  the surveillance received congressional support.

The Journal's investigation also revealed how Israel's military
intelligence Unit 8200 and the NSA, described as its counterpart, shared
information and technology, but also spied on one another, in what the
report said stoked mutual suspicions and fostered what a U.S. official
described as "the most combustible mixture of intimacy and caution that
we [the U.S.] have."

According to the explosive report, even before the U.S was openly
pursuing a nuclear accord with Iran, it decided that despite the fallout
from the Snowden leaks – which revealed the U.S was also spying on
Germany's German Chancellor Angela Merkel – it would maintain its
surveillance on the Israeli administration.

"Going dark on Bibi? Of course we wouldn’t do that," a senior U.S.
official was quoted as saying.

At first, convinced Netanyahu was planning to attack Iran without prior
warning to U.S., the NSA "ramped up" their eavesdropping efforts, the
report said, claiming the move enjoyed the support of both Democratic
and Republican lawmakers serving on the relevant congressional committees.

But by 2013, intelligence officials maintained that Netanyahu had no
real intention of striking Iran, but wanted to know if Israel was in the
know regarding talks between the U.S. and Iran, and wanted to preempt
any attempts to derail the talks by leaking information about their
existence.

Though the White House later knew Netanyahu had objected to the deal,
the article explained that they had no idea how he planned to fight it.

According to the report, admiration officials believed the intercepted
information would be valuable, but they also recognized that requesting
it directly was "politically risky," the report said, citing legal
concerns and restriction on surveillance of U.S. groups and nationals.
Thus, the NSA was given free rein to decide what information to pass on
and what to withhold. This issue became even more politically charged
when U.S. lawmakers and Jewish American officials were also caught in
the web.

That raised concerns of what one U.S. official called an "Oh-s***
moment," in which the executive would be accused of spying on legislative.

The report went on to claim that through the surveillance, the White
House learned that Netanyahu and his aides had leaked information on the
talks between the U.S. and Iran – information Israel had gained through
its own spying operations – in their attempt to undermine the deal.

They also discovered how Jerusalem was coordinating talking points with
Jewish-American organizations vis-a-vis the deal and how it was lobbying
U.S. lawmakers to vote against it, even asking them "what it would take
to win their votes," the report said, citing current and former
officials familiar with the intercepts.

For example, in one set of intercepts, Ron Dermer, Israel's ambassador
to the U.S., was described as coaching U.S. groups whose names were
withheld for legal reasons on how to argue with lawmakers against the
deals. The allegations were dubbed "total nonsense" by the Israeli
embassy in Washington.

Spy vs spy

One of the most interesting parts of the reports are the light it sheds
on the intelligence ties between Israel and the U.S. — ties it describes
as both close and extremely suspect.

The NSA helped Israel expand its electronic spy operations — known as
signals intelligence — in the late 70s and even gave Israel access to
intercepts of regional foes. However, both Israel and the U.S. suspected
one another of using the guise of cooperation to spy on one another.

When Obama assumed office, the NSA and IDF intelligence Unit 8200 worked
together against shared threats, sharing information on the likes of
Iran’s nuclear program, but this was a double-edge sword: for example,
8200 gave their U.S. counterpart a "hacking tool" which was later
discovered to have passed on information to Israel about its usage. This
was not the only instance of such an incursion, officials told the WSJ,
saying that when Israel was confronted with the claims, and would
respond that they were accidental, the NSA would half-jokingly respond
that the U.S. "make[s] mistakes, too."

(7) Hillary swears Fealty to Israel

From: "frank scott fpscott@gmail.com [shamireaders]"
<shamireaders-noreply@yahoogroups.com>
Date: Sun, 17 Jan 2016 18:04:48 -0800
Subject: [shamireaders] Hillary Clinton: Taking the U.S.-Israel
relationship to the next level | Opinion | Jewish Journal

http://www.jewishjournal.com/opinion/article/hillary_clinton_taking_the_u.s._israel_relationship_to_the_next_level

Hillary Clinton: Taking the U.S.-Israel relationship to the next level

by Hillary Clinton

Posted on Jan. 6, 2016 at 11:49 am

In this time of terrorism and turmoil, the alliance between the United
States and Israel is more important than ever. To meet the many
challenges we face, we have to take our relationship to the next level.

Israel needs a strong America by its side, and America needs a strong
and secure Israel by our side. It’s in our national interest to have an
Israel that remains a bastion of stability and a core ally in a region
in chaos, and an Israel strong enough to deter its enemies and strong
enough to take steps in the pursuit of peace.

I’m especially concerned about the new wave of violence inside Israel
itself – brutal stabbings, shootings, and vehicle attacks that seek to
sow fear among the innocent. Recently, terrorists murdered an American
Yeshiva student named Ezra Schwartz in a drive-by shooting. These
attacks must stop immediately, and Palestinian leaders should condemn
and combat incitement in all of its forms.

More broadly, the United States and Israel need to work together to
address three converging trends: the rise of ISIS and the struggle
against radical jihadism, Iran’s increasingly aggressive regional
ambitions, and the growing effort around the world to isolate and
delegitimize Israel.

First, we must work with our friends and partners to deny ISIS territory
in the Middle East, dismantle the global infrastructure of terror, and
toughen our defenses at home. We can’t just contain ISIS – we must
defeat ISIS.

Second, we have to send Iran an unequivocal message. There can be no
doubt in Tehran that if Iran’s leaders violate their commitments not to
seek, develop, or acquire any nuclear weapons, the United States will
stop them. They will test our resolve with actions like their
provocative ballistic missile test, for which we should impose new
sanctions designations. They need to understand that America will act
decisively if Iran violates the nuclear agreement, including taking
military action if necessary.

Third, we must continue to fight against global efforts to delegitimize
Israel.  The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, known as BDS,
is the latest front in this battle. BDS demonizes Israeli scientists and
intellectuals—even young students—and compares Israel to South African
apartheid. That’s wrong and this campaign should end.

Some of the BDS movement’s proponents may hope pressuring Israel will
lead to peace, but no outside force is going to resolve the conflict
between Israelis and Palestinians. Only a two-state solution negotiated
between the parties can provide Palestinians independence, sovereignty,
and dignity, and provide Israelis the secure and recognized borders of a
democratic Jewish state. As difficult as it is, everyone has to do their
part to rebuild trust and create the conditions for progress. Israelis
and Palestinians should demand their leaders seek every opportunity to
demonstrate commitment to peace.

With radical jihadism on the rise, Iran seeking to extend its reach, and
growing efforts to delegitimize Israel, the United States and Israel
need to stand together more than ever. Israel’s search for security,
stability and peace goes hand in hand with the broader effort of the
United States to secure and stabilize the Middle East. It’s time to take
our alliance to the next level.

As part of this effort, we need to ensure that Israel continues to
maintain its qualitative military edge. The United States should further
bolster Israeli air defenses and help develop better tunnel detection
technology to prevent arms smuggling and kidnapping. We should also
expand high level U.S.-Israel strategic consultations. If we present a
united front to the region and the world, I’m confident we can meet the
threats and challenges we face today.

For me, this is more than policy – it’s personal. I was born just a few
months before Israel declared independence. My generation came of age
admiring the talent and tenacity of the Israeli people, who coaxed a
dream into reality out of the harsh desert soil. We watched a small
nation fight fearlessly for its right to exist and build a thriving,
raucous democracy. And, through it all, Israel’s pursuit of peace was as
inspiring as its prowess in war. That’s why, like many Americans, I feel
a deep emotional connection with Israel. We are two nations woven
together, lands built by immigrants and exiles seeking to live and
worship in freedom, given life by democratic principles and sustained by
the service and sacrifice of generations of patriots.

Yet even with all this history, with all our common interests and shared
values, we can’t take this relationship for granted. With every passing
year, we must tie the bonds tighter and do the hard, necessary work of
friendship. Because there is a new generation in both countries today
that does not remember our shared past; young Americans who didn’t see
Israel in a fight for survival again and again, and young Israelis who
didn’t see the United States broker peace at Camp David or kindle hope
at Oslo or stand behind Israel when it was attacked. They are growing up
in a different world. The future of our relationship depends on building
new ties for a new time.

(8) Gilad -  The Judaic universe is ruled by ‘mitzvoth’ (commandment), a
set of 613 precepts


http://www.gilad.co.uk/writings/2015/12/31/jewish-religions-and-the-prospect-of-dissent
http://arabnyheter.info/sv/2016/01/02/jewish-religions-and-the-prospect-of-dissent/

Jewish Religions and The Prospect of Dissent

December 31, 2015

By Gilad Atzmon

"The Jewish religion is a religion of Mitzvoth (commandments) and
without this religious idiom, the Jewish religion doesn’t exist at all."
   Professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz

While Islam and Christianity can be easily understood as belief systems,
Judaism actually defies the notion of belief all together. Judaism is an
obedience regulative system. The Judaic universe is ruled by ‘mitzvoth’
(commandment), a set of 613 precepts and directives ordered by God. In
opposition to Christianity and Islam that build from spiritual and
heavenly precepts in worship to a transcendental God, the Judaic subject
subscribes to strict earthly and material observance. While the
Islamo-Christian is wrapped in God’s loving and the spirituality of the
sublime and divinity, the follower of Judaism is judged by his or her
ability to adhere to hundreds of rigorous earthly orders.

A brief look at the Judaic Sabbath common prayer reveals the nature of
Judaism as an obedience regulatory system. As we can see below, in
Judaism, even God-loving is not an involuntary act:

"You shall love Adonai your God with all your heart, with all your soul,
and with all your might. Take to heart these instructions with which I
charge you this day.

…Thus you shall remember to observe all My commandments and to be holy
to your God. I am Adonai, your God, who brought you out of the land of
Egypt to be your God: I am Adonai your God."

(Common Prayers for Shabbat Evening From Deuteronomy and Numbers)

For the Jew, belief and God-loving are not subject to either rational
discretion or spiritual impulse. God loving, as we read above, is a
strict "charge", an order. But if Judaism is not a belief system, what
kind of system is it?  Does the Judaic subject believe in anything at all?

The answer is yes: the Jew believes in ‘The Jews’ and the Jews believe
in ‘The Jew.’ This mode of mutual affirmation establishes a solid and
forceful tribal continuum that serves the collective as well as the
singular subject.  Accordingly, the subject adheres to the collective
and vice versa. In pragmatic terms, the Jew sticks to the ‘chosen
people’ and, together the ‘chosenites’ uphold a collective sense of
choseness.

In Judaism, ‘choseness’ is the belief that the Jewish people were
singularly chosen to enter into a covenant with God.  For religious
Jews, being chosen is realised as a duty. According to Judaic belief,
the Jews have been placed on earth to fulfill a certain purpose. This
purpose is bestowed upon the Jews and they pass it from father to son.[1]

In reality, the first Jews invented a God who chose them over all other
people. For some reason this God is occasionally cruel, often
non-ethical and as if this were not enough, not exactly a nice father.
The Jewish God doesn’t even allow his people to call him by name. One
may wonder what led the first Jews to invent such a horrid father
figure. One may further question what led the Jews to sustain their
‘relationship’ with such an obnoxious father. The answer is surprisingly
simple. They don’t.

The Jews don’t believe in God, they are observant of God. They believe
in themselves- the Jews believe in ‘The Jew’ and vice versa. Within this
peculiar troubled family affair, the Jew is free to dump God, as an
author can freely re-write or at least re-shape his or her own
narrative.  But the Jew can never dump the Jews as much as the Jews
can’t allow ‘The Jew’ to go free. And what about God, can he be
emancipated, can he choose another people? Certainly not. Unlike the Jew
who is free to dump God while clinging to a Jewish identity, the Jewish
God is merely a Jewish protagonist, he can’t go anywhere, he is stuck
with ‘his’ chosen people forever.

Choseness, so it seems, is hardly a heavenly gift, it is in fact a
curse. It confines the Jew in a realm of self-imposed commandment and
materiality. Instead of beauty, holiness and the pursuit of the divine
and the sublime, the rabbinical Jew is left with an earthly obedience
scheme that is sustained by a rigid tribal setting. ‘The Jew’ and ‘The
Jews’ are bound in a set of mutual affirmations in which God serves an
instrumental role.

Some may rightly argue that this spectacular bond between the Jews and
‘The Jew’ is essential for an understanding of the dichotomy between
Judaic tribalism and the universal appeal of Islamo-Christian beliefs.

The Judaic crude intolerance towards dissent serves as an example of the
above. Throughout their history, Jews have proven themselves hostile
toward their nonconformists; now we are ready to grasp why. For the
Islamo-Christian, secularization, for instance, entails a rejection of a
transcendental affair. But for the rabbinical Judaic subject, failure to
conform constitutes a rejection of the Jews. It interferes crudely with
the fragile relationship between ‘The Jew’ and the Jews. It shatters the
self-affirmation mechanism. While in the case of Christianity and Islam
dumping God suggests turning one’s back on a remote supernatural entity,
in the case of Judaism, such an act is interpreted as a disbelief in the
tribe.

This interpretation may help illuminate Jesus’ plight. It may explain
the reasoning behind the brutal Rabbinical Herem (excommunication)
against Spinoza and Uriel Da Costa. And it also explains why the secular
and the so-called ‘progressive’ Jew is equally obnoxious towards dissent
or any form of criticism from within. If Judaism is not a belief system
but rather a system of obedience regulation, then Jewish identity
politics is merely an extension of the above regulatory philosophy.

Jews often drop their God, simply to invent a different God who
‘facilitates’   subscription to a new regulatory system. The new system,
like the old outlines a new set of strict commandments, a manner of
speech and rigorous boundaries of ‘kosher’ conduct.

In the beginning of the 20th century, for instance, Bolshevism appealed
to many Eastern European Jews. It provided a sense of self-righteousness
in addition to regulating a strict form of obedience. As we know, it
didn’t take long for Bolshevism to mature into a genocidal doctrine that
made Old Testament barbarism look like a juvenile fairytale. The
Holocaust, that seems to be the most popular Jewish religion at present,
may be the ultimate and final stage in Jewish historical development.
According to the Holocaust religion, ‘God died in Auschwitz.’  Within
the context of the Holocaust religion, ‘The Jew’ is the new Jewish God.
The Holocaust religion has finally united ‘The Jew’ and the Jews into a
self-sufficient comprehensive and independent ‘God-less’ religious
narrative. Both were about to be eradicated. But, not only were they
both saved: they have prevailed and each did so independently. In the
Holocaust religion, Jews are both victims and oppressors – they have
transformed slavery into empowerment and they did it all alone, in spite
of being dumped by their treacherous God.   The Holocaust religion, like
Judaism, prescribes a manner of speech and a strict set of commandments.
Most crucially, like more traditional Judaism, it is totally and
disgracefully intolerant toward dissent.

Due to the lack of a divine transcendental entity, Jewish religions have
always regarded criticism as rejection of the tribe. Jewish religions,
whether Judaism, Bolshevism or Holocaust, are equally intolerant towards
criticism and dissent. Jewish religions treat opposition as a vile
attempt at ‘delegitimization’ on the verge of genocidal inclination.

Jewish religions can be defined as different templates that facilitate a
sense of choseness. They affirm a bond between an imaginary marginal
‘collective’ and a phantasmal ‘archetype’: the Bolshevists and ‘The
Bolshevik’, the Survivours and ‘The Survivour’, the Jews and ‘The Jew,’
and so on.  The bond between the collective and the idea of an
archetypical singularity is always maintained by a set of rigid
commandments, a correct manner of speech, some strict regulatory
guidelines for behavior and vile opposition to dissent.

Tragically enough, intolerance of dissent has become a universal Western
political symptom. Incidentally, Christianity, Islam, religion and
divinity in general are also under attack within the context of
contemporary Western discourse. Is this a symptom of the
Jerusalemification of our Western universe? Is the emergence of the
tyranny of political correctness a coincidence? And if we are becoming
Jews, is there any room for the hope that our universe may, at some
stage, embrace a universal ethos once again? Can we once again believe
in something?   Or do we have to wait for a new Jesus figure to
resurrect our trust in the human spirit and humanity in general?  Or
have we been re-designed to self-destruct as soon as we come close to
such a lucid awareness?

  [1] As God himself suggests in the Book of Genesis: "And I (God) will
establish My covenant between Me and you (the Jews) and your descendants
after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God
to you and your descendants after you."  (Book of Genesis, Chapter 17).

(9) Turkish Jews' public celebration of Hanukkah

http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/12/turkey-jewish-community-hanukkah-marks-milestone.html

Turkey-Israel dialogue works 'miracle' for Istanbul’s Jews

Turkey’s Jews marked a milestone Dec. 13 with a public celebration of
the Hanukkah holiday, said to be the first in the republic's history
after decades of Hanukkahs marked behind closed doors in synagogues or
homes. Members of the tiny community took to the streets for the
ceremony, as the tradition requires, lighting thousands of candles at
Istanbul’s Ortakoy Square.

Author Sibel Hurtas Posted December 30, 2015

Translator Sibel Utku Bila

The call for the public celebration had come from Ivo Molinas, the
editor-in-chief of Shalom, the newspaper of Turkey’s Jewish community.
In remarks to Al-Monitor, Molinas said how he would look yearningly at
images of Hanukkah celebrations held in city squares across Europe and
the United States. "I shared those pictures on Twitter and asked why we
shouldn’t do the same in Istanbul," he said. "The reactions were
positive, and then we had talks with the mayor. Due to reservations
about security, we did not make an announcement [in advance] and instead
sent SMS [text] messages to community members shortly before the
celebration."

The crowd gathered at a symbolic venue — a street between the Ortakoy
Synagogue and Istanbul’s iconic seafront Ortakoy Mosque. After children
performed Hanukkah songs, the rabbi of the Ortakoy Synagogue lit the
candles of a huge candelabra, together with the imam of the Ortakoy
Mosque. "We are experiencing a miracle here," the head of Turkey’s
Jewish community, Ishak Ibrahimzadeh, exclaimed in his address to the crowd.

Molinas said the sentiment of stupefaction was overwhelming. "There were
about 1,000 people of all ages — old, young, children. They were
lighting up candles and singing in the street. The elderly Turkish Jews
were crying, shedding tears of joy. Some would not believe it. ‘We are
out in freezing weather, celebrating our holiday in the street. Is this
for real?’ they would ask. Then, they would go to the candelabra and
touch it, and would go ‘Oh, it’s really real.’"

Molinas stressed it was the first Hanukkah ceremony held at a public
venue in a Muslim-majority country.

Ibrahimzadeh hailed the event as a step forward in breaking prejudices
and building intercommunal trust. "The fears that minorities have
inherited from past traumas are still alive today. On the other hand,
the society at large has prejudices against minorities — confirmed by
independent research — due to lack of knowledge or misconceptions about
them," he told Al-Monitor. "We believe those fears and prejudices can be
overcome only through joint efforts on the basis of mutual respect and
understanding. The reopening of the Edirne Synagogue and the latest
Hanukkah celebration are examples of these efforts, which we should
strive to enhance together."

Asked whether the Hanukkah celebration was a step forward for religious
freedoms in Turkey, Ibrahimzadeh said, "The event should be seen more as
a societal gain in terms of equal and dignified citizenship than as a
gain in terms of individual faith and worship freedoms. As such, we
should see it as a contribution to efforts to bring our country to the
level of democratically advanced, modern nations."

Along with the applause, however, the Hanukkah event stirred also
indignation, mainly in Islamist quarters. The imam, who lit candles
together with the rabbi, faced a character assassination campaign on
social media. The Felicity Party, the successor of the Islamist party in
which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan began his political career, was
also incensed. Milli Gazete, a newspaper close to the party, decried the
event as an affront to the memory of "martyrs massacred by Zionist
Israel," while Islamist young people held protests. The protesting
groups, however, were representative only of a tiny segment on the
political spectrum.

Mehmet Gormez, the head of the government-run Religious Affairs
Directorate, told Al-Monitor that "what is actually odd is to find such
occasions in Istanbul odd."

Gormez pointed to Istanbul’s long history of religious cohabitation:
"Ever since Muslims conquered Istanbul, it has been a city of
civilizations, where different religions, cultures and faiths have
coexisted in peace. Nowhere in the West are mosques, churches and
synagogues to be found together. Istanbul, however, is a city where
these three edifices have coexisted together in any neighborhood
populated by Muslims. Mehmed the Conqueror himself protected Orthodox
Christianity. And when Europe banished all its Jews, Istanbul was the
place where they took refuge. Jewish scholars wrote their doctrine books
in Istanbul."

Representatives of the Religious Affairs Directorate and the Foreign
Ministry also attended the Hanukkah ceremony, along with diplomats from
the Israeli, Spanish and US consulates and members of Turkey’s Christian
communities. Erdogan, for his part, issued a congratulation message.

No doubt, the presence of state officials at the celebration had to do
with renewed diplomatic efforts to normalize Turkish-Israeli relations.

The bilateral crisis, sparked by the killing of 10 Turks on the
Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara ferry in 2010, had nothing to with Turkey’s
Jews, but they, too, bore the impact of diplomatic tensions. The deadly
Israeli raid fueled a wave of anti-Semitism in Turkey, which saw threats
to synagogues and a rise in discriminatory and openly anti-Semitic
rhetoric, including by public officials. And beyond the Mavi Marmara
crisis, Turkey’s Jews have always found themselves as an addressee to
reactions from any spat or political move in Turkish-Israeli relations.

Earlier in December, Turkey and Israel were reported to have reached a
tentative deal to normalize relations. The agreement, which is yet to be
finalized, is said to include a number of mutual conditions, including
Israeli compensation for the Mavi Marmara victims. How the talks will
wind up remains to be seen, but their positive impact on Turkey’s Jews
is already visible in domestic politics, even if on a symbolic level.

The fact remains, however, that the Jews living in this country are
citizens of the Republic of Turkey. As such, they are supposed to be
treated equally on the basis of national laws and not according to
policies defined by the shifting and slippery ground of diplomacy.

(10) Harperland: The defeated Ogre finds little comfort from his hawkish
"best friend"


http://www.palestinechronicle.com/canadian-legend-chapter-iv-goodbye-canada-hello-harperland/

Canadian Legend Chapter IV: Goodbye Canada, Hello Harperland

By Eric Walberg

Jan 2 2016 / 4:48 am

The defeated ogre, licking his wounds, finds little comfort from his
hawkish "best friend", despite his love for Israeli birds for whom he
helped raise more than ten million Canadian dollars to build a bird
sanctuary in the Promised Land. This was in preference to Canadian
birds, who along with almost all other Canadians, had their funding slashed.

He did this with the help of the Jewish National Fund (JNF), an
innocuous sounding organization, one which operates worldwide, but one
which was founded to ‘disappear’ Palestinians and their homes, building
bland pine forests (though not indigenous, they grow quickly and help us
forget), where villagers once grew olives and tended sheep.

His JNF friends decided to honour him by naming the park, the Stephen J.
Harper Hula Valley Bird Sanctuary Visitor and Education Centre.
Harperland is near the Golan Heights, on land confiscated from 30,000
Bedouin in 1948. Lake Hula was vital, not only to the Bedouin, but to
Nature, as a wetland. But as part of the plan to "make the desert
bloom", the lake was drained, creating a dust bowl, and the new kibbutz
soon abandoned. (I’m not kidding.)

In the ogre’s favour, Harperland at least tries to provide migrant birds
with refuge, if not the original occupants. In a slick promo JNF video
advertising the park and lauding Harper as the new messiah (I’m still
not kidding),  DJ Schneeweiss, Toronto’s Israel consul general enthuses,
"The birds know no borders."

Ogre’s Mask Hard to Shed

Is there any advice from Trudeau Sr on how Justin should deal with the
prickly beast occupying the Holy Land? Like his predecessors, Pierre
Trudeau followed the US-led script, opposing the Arab boycotts of Israel
during much of the 1970s, abstaining from United Nations resolutions
that were critical, but increasing relations with the Palestine
Liberation Organization and opening embassies in Arab countries. PET’s
only (timid) public criticisms were of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, and
the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila
refugee camps.

In 2003, then-Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien refused to join the
attack on Iraq, much to the anger of our Israel Lobby. In 2006, after
ex-Liberal leader Michael Ignatief condemned Israel’s bombing of the
Lebanese village of Qana as a "war crime", the Israel Lobby went into
high gear, switching to support Harper, helping him get his majority in
2011 with the help of turncoat (Liberal) Jewish voters. Chastened,
Trudeau Jr distanced himself from Ignatief and campaigned zealously in
synagogues during the 2015 election, bringing these ridings back into
the fold.

There is no question that Trudeau is a vast improvement over Harper on
the domestic front. But is his foreign policy just going to be a
facelift of Harper’s? The Liberal nay on Palestine last month at the UN
(voting with the US and Palau against "the right of the Palestinian
people to self-determination") is not surprising. It is part of the
ogre’s legacy.

His denunciation of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement
is disappointing. In a recent interview in Canadian Jewish News, Trudeau
called BDS "an example of the new form of anti-Semitism in the world,"
and worried that "when Canadian university students are feeling unsafe
on their way to classes because of BDS or Israel Apartheid Week, that
just goes against Canadian values."

Who wrote that nonsense for him? Are ‘they’ now whispering in his ear to
pass Harper’s draft law outlawing all public protest of Israeli crimes?
Wake up, Justin! Those students are your own past and our future. Some
of them are your personal friends. Quebeckers are the backbone of BDS in
Canada. There are many more Muslim Canadians (3.2% of the population vs
1% Jews), including 50,000 Palestinian. And their cause is just.

BDS will survive and prosper. The fact that Harper couldn’t kill BDS
makes it unlikely that the nice Justin will be able to (or willing to,
once he thinks about it for a nanosecond). Justin will be sure to have
his mailbox flooded with plaints from thousands of idealistic students,
his nature constituency, the very ones he writes about inspiring in his
autobiography Common Ground.

New-old Liberal Face?

In Common Ground, Justin tells how he enjoys math puzzles, but he
doesn’t seem very good at sums. As MP, during the invasion of Gaza in
July 2014 (2,200 Palestinians vs 66 IDF troops killed), Justin stated:
"Israel has the right to defend itself and its people. Hamas is a
terrorist organization and must cease its rocket attacks immediately."
He acknowledged "the suffering of Israelis", but had nothing to say
about the suffering of Gazans. Are these "the very values and ideals
that define Canada: values of openness, respect, compassion, that seek
for justice," as he opined in synagogues during the election campaign?

There are some hints of a new face. Trudeau has pledged to normalize
Canada’s relations with Iran, ties that Harper cut in 2012 to
Netanyahu’s loud applause. He will embrace the P5 +1 nuclear deal (it’s
Obama’s baby). He has pledged to stop bombing Syria and Iraq, neighbours
of our ‘friend’. The beanstalk was slippery, and Justin is just getting
his feet on the ground.

Liberal principles include "the creation of a sovereign, independent,
viable, democratic and territorially contiguous Palestinian state". The
only way to achieve that is to make sure Palestinians get aid to prepare
to run their own state. That is the objective of dozens of NGOs at work
in the occupied territories–agencies which were all slashed by Harper,
including Kairos and Rights and Democracy. Even the United Nations
Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees was not exempt. There is
room here to restore justice without too much squawking from Israeli hawks.

There are Liberal wisemen who Justin can listen to. Top of the list is
Robert Fowler, Canada’s ex-UN ambassador, who was kidnapped by al-Qaeda
types and spent a harrowing 130 days with them in the Sahara (My Season
in Hell, 2011). Fowler caused a furor at the March 2015 Liberal Party
conference, castigating Harper for destroying Canada’s reputation in the
Middle East as a result of domestic pandering to Jewish voters. He told
the squirming delegates (including Justin) that while Canada condemned
the 1956 British-French-Israeli invasion of Egypt and established the
first UN peacekeeping force (Sinai), it was wrong to support aggressor
Israel during the 1967 war. Let’s hope that Justin has a copy of My
Season in Hell on his bookshelf beside Common Ground.

Then there’s his brother Alexandre. In 2012, filmmaker Sasha produced
the documentary "The New Great Game" which was balanced on both Iran and
Israel, and of course much criticized by Zionist media hawks. Justin is
lucky to have such a brother. He can help him chart a truly liberal
course in the Middle East, void of hype. The major challenge left by the
ogre, one that will define Justin in the world as a man of the people, a
legend, is shaping up to be Israel, the ogre’s "best friend".

So far, we’re stuck with the ogre’s epithet–the ‘f’ word, so to speak.
In a call to Netanyahu, Trudeau explained there would be "a shift in
tone, but Canada would continue to be a friend of Israel’s". All three
parties are now ‘friends’, a term which applies to no other country, and
wasn’t used before Harper about Israel. It’s as if there is some doubt
about whether a country as prickly as Israel could ever befriend anyone.
Note, Mr Netanyahu: "The lady doth protest too much."

Harperian semantics are still being parsed. In his first press
conference, after the obligatory ‘f’ word, Justin’s Foreign Minister
Stephane Dion added: "But for us to be an effective ally we need also to
strengthen our relationship with the other legitimate partners in the
region." Perhaps Harper’s term of endearment for Israel will be his only
legacy in Canadian Middle East policy.

(11) Christmas Trees banned in Israel
http://hiddush.org/article-16768-0-Israels_Rabbinate_coerces_and_discriminates_in_hotels.aspx

Israel's Rabbinate coerces and discriminates in hotels

Despite officially and publicly updating its kashrut regulations for
hotels this year, in order to be in compliance with the law, Israel's
Rabbinate continues to coerce hotels to enforce Shabbat restrictions and
its illegal ban against all Christian holiday symbols.

21/12/2015 18:39

You may recall our sense of progress and achievement over the historic
changes in the Rabbinate's kashrut regulations that Hiddush brought
about [link]. The Chief Rabbinate had been in violation of the Kosher
Fraud Law for decades, abusing its authority over kashrut certification
to coerce hotels into implementing Shabbat restrictions and banning
Christian holiday decorations.

What we now realize in monitoring the implementation of the Rabbinate's
official new policy, is that there is just as great an additional
challenge, which we are presently confronting. Namely, the Rabbinate
disregards their own public acknowledgement that the prior regulations
were illegal. This raises the larger matter of the rule of law! The
Rabbinate, in effect, maintains that it is above the law, and
intimidates and imposes its will as if ruling over their own state
within the State of Israel.

In the course of our investigation, we contacted hotels in a number of
communities. Our tapings of these conversations revealed that the hotels
remain under pressure from their local rabbinic authorities and kashrut
supervisors who maintain that "it's business as usual," and that as far
as they are concerned – the old rules are in affect and binding.
Following are some examples:

     * Herzilya Daniel Hotel: "On Friday nights, since we are a hotel,
you cannot turn on electrical appliances here. We are under the Herzilya
Rabbinate's supervision, and this hotel keeps kosher. According to the
Rabbinate [this means] it is forbidden to play music, or use projectors
or microphones."     * The Mamilla Hotel in Jerusalem: "This hotel
observes Shabbat. If you want to hold an event, that's not a problem,
but it will be without a projector screen, without a DJ, and without
other [such] things. We cannot desecrate Shabbat on hotel property."
  * The Crowne Plaza in Tel Aviv: "We wouldn't let you hold an event
with microphones and music. Due to the desecration of Shabbat. Shabbat
desecration would lead to the cancellation of our kashrut certificate.
They have a kashrut supervisor and he can monitor [everything], and
afterwards [we’ll] end up having issues with the kashrut
[certification]."     * The Prima Kings Hotel in Jerusalem: Our hotel
functions in accordance with religious [Jewish] law, and according to
the Jewish faith, we cannot put up Christmas trees or other such symbols
[out of respect for a visiting Christian group – U.R.]. They won't allow
us. The Rabbinate. If there is rabbinical [kashrut – U.R.]
certification, we cannot be engaged here in things that are unrelated to
the Jewish religion. This the Rabbinate's policy. I cannot put up a
Christmas tree or things of that nature."     * The City Tower Hotel in
Tel Aviv: "There is a problem with the Rabbinate on the matter of a
Christmas tree. They will cause problems here [for us] at the hotel.
It's not the kashrut supervisor, it's the Rabbinate, the organization
that he works for. In relation to the Christmas tree, this is
problematic. It will create a messy situation with the Rabbinate."     *
Ruth Rimonim Hotel, Tzfat: "No way, we're a kosher hotel. [Putting up
Christmas trees] is forbidden to us. We cannot put up a Christmas tree
in the hotel. There is no such thing as putting up a Christmas tree at
our hotel. It's the Rabbinate. They won't give us permission to put up a
Christmas tree in the cafeteria or anywhere in the hotel."

Hiddush has been discussing this state of affairs with the Israel Hotel
Association (IHA), and it is obvious that they are caught between a rock
and a hard place. IHA Director Noaz Bar Nir was interviewed on this
matter in a (Hebrew) radio interview [link], explaining that:

     "Kashrut costs a lot of money, and at the end of the day, the
guests are the ones who pay it... hotel manager(s) are not willing to be
interviewed about kashrut … they [the Rabbinate – U.R.] retaliate
against the hotels if they don't toe the lines of the local religious
councils. This results in great economic loss because at the end of the
day, this raises our prices, gives Israelis incentive to go abroad, and
fewer tourists come to Israel..."

This situation once again highlights the critical role of advocacy
organizations such as Hiddush who are neither politically dependent nor
subject to business extortion. We intend to pursue this matter and take
all legal measure to enforce the law! It not only impacts drastically on
tourists and visiting groups (like congregational groups who are denied
the ability to celebrate oneg Shabbat or shacharit bar mitzvah services
accompanied by musical instruments, as they can do at home, or hold
educational programming over the weekends that uses video projection and
the like), but also threatens the very core democratic principle of the
rule of law.

This is a fundamental threat that we have had other occasions to refer
to, such as our pending Supreme Court case [link], representing a Haredi
family against the all too frequent phenomenon of rabbinic courts
illegally threatening excommunication to block access to the civil
courts of law and the remedies that were entrusted to them under Israeli
law. It is impossible to exaggerate the looming danger of tolerating
this, and Hiddush will continue to pursue it relentlessly.

(12) Russian secular "Christmas" holiday is gaining acceptance in Israel

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2015/1224/Just-don-t-call-it-Christmas-In-Israel-Russian-holiday-coming-out-of-closet

Just don't call it Christmas: In Israel, Russian holiday coming out of
closet

Novy God, a Soviet-created secular holiday that borrowed from Christmas
and New Year's, was embraced by Russian Jews and is gaining acceptance
in Israel.

By Joshua Mitnick, Correspondent December 24, 2015

Tel Aviv — Growing up the son of immigrants in the Israeli city of
Ashdod, Alex Miller never told non-Russian speaking friends about his
grandmother’s fir tree that he and his cousins would decorate in honor
of the New Year.

Though many of the 1 million newcomers from the former Soviet Union who
arrived in the 1990s clung to the traditions of "Novy God" – a secular
holiday invented by the Soviets who borrowed symbols from Christmas –
the celebrations were shunned by most Israelis who mistakenly saw a
Christian observance. For the immigrants, the holiday marked a cultural
barrier.

"We knew how they didn’t accept it. When I was a kid, it was something
not good, something strange, something not Jewish," says Mr. Miller, a
23-year-old education student. "It was just a family thing."

In recent years, however, an increasingly self-assured second generation
of Russian-speaking young adults is inviting non-Russian Israelis to the
festivities and even pushing for public recognition of the holiday. The
openness reflects an embrace of their parents' traditions by children
more confident of their Israeli identity.

This year a freshman member of parliament, Ksenia Svetlova, started an
initiative to have Israeli school children learn about the holiday. In
recent years, Israeli youth groups in cities with a large Russian
population have been holding celebrations. A Facebook group, "Israeli
Novy God," recently opened up calling on Russian-speaking Israelis to
volunteer to host native Israelis for traditional Novy God celebrations.

Russian Israelis say the initiative comes at a time when many in the
Israeli mainstream have become more receptive to the winter holidays.
Though Dec. 31 merry-making was once frowned upon because it was
confused with the Catholic Feast of Pope Sylvester on the same day, Tel
Aviv is now flooded with party-goers who stream to the city’s bars and
clubs to ring in the New Year.

A circular by the Israeli army’s education department on Novy God from
last year encouraged commanders to be open to the holiday and be
flexible on vacation requests. Russian Israelis can now buy decorations
and trees nearby instead of having to travel to Christian Arab towns.

For this year’s party at his home, Miller says he’s planning a gathering
in which Russian immigrants will be in the minority. "Things have
changed," he says. "People understand it’s a Russian tradition that
people have of being with their family."

A holiday without flags and slogans

In Communist Russia of the last century, the Soviets outlawed religious
observances but crafted their own New Year’s celebration, Novy God, that
appropriated the Christmas tree – known in Russian as a "yolka" tree –
as well as Santa Claus, who became Ded Moroz, or Father Frost. The
tradition of gift-giving was also preserved.

Russian Jews, forbidden to openly mark their own religious holy days and
marginalized by the government, embraced the holiday as a rare
opportunity to celebrate something that was not steeped in Soviet ideology.

"It was the holiday," wrote Arik Elman, a Russian Israeli columnist
whose parents immigrated from the former Soviet Union but stopped
celebrating in Israel. "Even the general population was grateful to
celebrate something without parading with flags and slogans."

For Russian Israelis, opening up now about Novy God is also a way to
dispel stereotypes about Russian Jews and the culture that they brought
to Israel. A video on the "Israeli Novy God" Facebook website about the
holiday pokes fun at misconceptions that Russian immigrants are secretly
Christian.

"If you go to Russian Jewish homes who are not religious, you can see a
menorah and a fir tree in the same room, and people see no conflict,"
said Roman Yanushevsky, a contributing editor at Israel’s Channel 9
Russian language television news.

To be sure, there is still resistance to public manifestations of the
holiday, which for now remain mostly confined to Arab areas. Parliament
Member Svetlova complained of a rabbi who said those who celebrated Novy
God couldn’t be considered Jewish. A Jewish nationalist organization
protested the public lighting of a Christmas tree at the YMCA in
Jerusalem this month.

'Why not a Russian tradition?'

Israeli author Yossi Klein Halevi says the tension experienced by the
Russian speakers has been a fixture in the absorption process of several
waves of Jewish immigrant from diverse locations. Striking a balance
between the old country and new takes between one and two generations,
he says.

"Most Russians are secular, and the traditions that they are bringing
from the former Soviet Union are far more secular than Christian, but
many Israelis with long historical memories still feel uneasy," he says.

"It’s a measure of the maturation of Israeli society that Russian
immigrants feel confident enough to go public with rituals that make
other Israelis uneasy. More power to them."

Mr. Elman, who will be celebrating with his two young daughters this
year, says that while the openness is a good sign, it’s unlikely that
Israeli society will ever be able to make the distinction between Santa
Claus and Father Frost.

Others, like parliament member Svetlova and Miller, think Novy God, like
other immigrant imports, can be integrated into Israeli culture as well.

"Why not a Russian tradition?" Miller says. "We’re all part of this
country, I think it’s something worthwhile."



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