This Facebook video is beyond charming. Ruvi Rivlin, the President of the State of Israel, decides to get the people of Israel singing in anticipation of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel. His big heart and joyfulness abound.
He explains that music brings everyone together.
“Words words words – blah blah blah – too many words.”
Ruvi and all that he picks up along the way in his offices sing together the famous song “Al Kol Eleh” (“Over all these things…”) made famous by Israeli poet/songwriter Naomi Shemer.
In the middle of Beit Hanasi (the President’s House in Jerusalem) he stops and says: “Wait – this isn’t enough!” The entire people of Israel have to join and sing too, so he invites everyone to sing – the secular and religious, Arabs and Jews, young and old, men and women and children. He asks they everyone put all else aside and come together as one.
“Over the honey and the stinger
Over the bitter and the sweet
Over our daughter, our baby
My God, watch over what is good
Over the flame that is burning
Over the water running pure
Over the man returning home
from far away
Over all these, Over all these
God please watch over them for me,
Over the honey and the stinger
Over the bitter and the sweet
Do not uproot what is planted
Do not forget the hope
Return me, and I will return
to the good land.
Watch over this house for me, my God,
the garden, and the wall
protect them from pain, from sudden fear
and from war.
Watch over for me the little I have
the light, the baby.”
over the fruit that has not ripened
and over what has already been reaped.
This is an important article not only because it profiles Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the President of the American Reform movement so well, but it articulates the progressive liberal Zionism that is the hallmark of Reform Judaism. The American Reform movement represents about 1.5 million American Jews.
This is an important read, and I hope you will take the time to read it.
The Lonely Man of Faith, New York Magazine
Abraham Riesman profiles Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism.
Note: The following is a blog posted today on the Times of Israel site. Rabbi Donniel Hartman is the Director of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. His integrity is beyond reproach and never takes partisan positions. Rather, he speaks from the heart of Jewish tradition and always with thoughtfulness and a moral sensibility. Rabbi Hartman’s letter is written in the spirit of the Biblical prophet who criticizes power when leaders of our people’s morality goes awry.
April 9, 2018, 3:19 pm
Dear Mr. Prime Minister:
It’s not easy to be both proud and ashamed at the same time. As a politician, it is particularly difficult, as protecting yourself from constant criticism is a prerequisite of the job.
As prime minister, you have much to be proud of, both personally and nationally. You have navigated our country through perilous times and circumstances. As we approach our 70th birthday, we do so with confidence and joy, for Israel is strong and secure, prosperous and successful. The source of your political success and longevity is that so many Israelis feel indebted to you and feel secure because of your leadership.
However, together with your well-deserved pride, you should also feel a measure of shame. It seems like a lifetime, but it was less than a week ago, that you forged a new low. Instead of embracing the moral high ground on the issue of the African refugees in Israel and following through on what was your negotiated agreement with the United Nations, you chose the path of moral obtuseness, while making sure to lay the blame on others. Such actions, although common in our world, are not worthy of Israel and the Jewish people.
Shame on you for turning human rights discourse in Israel into a political football, dividing the Left and the Right. Shame on you for peddling fear to buttress your political standing. Shame on you for singling out false enemies for vilification to galvanize national loyalty and self-righteousness.
Your morally bankrupt rhetoric, branding all asylum seekers as “infiltrators,” instead of allowing that, at the very least, some are refugees, and supporting the false claims that they pose a danger to the Jewishness of Israel and the well-being of southern Tel Aviv, caught up with you. Or more correctly, infected us all.
When you propagate fear and hatred of so many different “others,” and employ fake enemies to encourage phony nationalist sentiments, it is indeed difficult to turn around and admit that the strong and vibrant Israel you helped to produce has nothing to fear from 16,000, 26,000, or even 36,000 refugees. It is difficult, even during Pesach last week, to speak of our people’s responsibility to remember that we were slaves in the land of Egypt.
Fear and hatred are cancerous, and once introduced into the national discourse, have a destructive life of their own. While you have mastered their political use, as we saw last week, they have become your masters.
For the sake of a short-term high as the proclaimed “protector of Israel,” “lover of Jews,” and “the one who cares about the disadvantaged neighborhoods,” you were willing to throw the lives of tens of thousands of human beings into chaos and turmoil and yet again divide the Jewish people. You know that the Supreme Court will challenge any policy of forced expulsion, further weakening it, and will also lead to extensive divisiveness, both within Israel and among the Jewish people.
Tomorrow’s problems, however, are not allowed by you to outweigh a bump in the polls, today. This is doubly true, when tomorrow you, or your coalition partners, can transform the Supreme Court itself into the enemy du jour of Israel and Zionism, and blame all of poor Government of Israel’s problems on all-powerful foreign conspirators, such as the New Israel Fund.
The Bibi of just a few years ago would be ashamed. It was you who in your previous terms served as the ultimate protector of the Supreme Court, the rule of law, and the unity of the Jewish people. In the past, these were values that you held as central to Israel. Today, outside of national security and preserving your coalition, it is difficult to identify anything that you hold as holy.
When you withdrew your support for your resolution, you knew that Friday was but a few days away, and that you could count on Hamas and Gaza to change the focus of our national discourse. You knew that the next car-ramming in Europe or gas attack on innocent civilians in Syria were but a few news cycles away. Who could reasonably criticize you for deporting a few Africans, when our country and soldiers are facing a new threat from Gaza? Who can criticize you as morally wanting, when such moral depravity surrounds us? Only an anti-Semite or an anti-Zionist, of course.
As Israelis we live in a macabre reality. Together with our well-deserved sense of strength, prosperity, and success, we know that danger and instability constantly threaten us. Be it Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Iranians in Syria, or lone wolf Palestinian terrorists, we live with the ever-present sense that somebody wants to kill us. Someone sees our destruction as their principal mission. I don’t know of any other Western democracy whose citizens have to live with this consciousness, daily. Most Israelis trust you, Mr. Prime Minister, above all others, to help navigate us through this treacherous reality. In truth, much of that trust has been earned and well-deserved.
Israel, however, does not merely have to learn how to survive in the Middle East, but also survive the Middle East itself. Remaining a liberal democracy and a Jewish and democratic state and upholding our commitments to human rights and the Jewish values of peace, justice, freedom, and equality, as outlined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence, is a challenging task in today’s Middle East. It is difficult to achieve and even more difficult to continue to care. However, after survival, doing precisely that is Israel’s greatest challenge and responsibility.
Israel needs a leader and not merely a politician. A leader provides vision and challenges the people to expend resources for the sake of their values. A leader inspires sacrifice for a greater cause. A leader also experiences shame when they fail in their responsibilities.
There are voices in Israel and in the Jewish world who, after your debacle last week, expressed shame in Israel. I am not ashamed of Israel. Israel and Zionism transcend our political leaders and are not defined even by the current will of the majority. Israel embodies the mission to build a safe and secure homeland for the Jewish people which is committed to the noblest of Jewish, moral, and democratic principles. I am not ashamed of Israel, because we are in the middle of Zionism’s journey, a journey undertaken under the most challenging of circumstances.
Mr. Prime Minister, I am not ashamed of Israel. I am ashamed of you.
Rabbi Gilad Kariv, the CEO of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, echoes my concerns and the concerns of anyone who values democracy and human rights and who is well-aware of the enormous good that the New Israel Fund has done on behalf of those in need in Israel. I am printing his statement in full:
“The Prime Minister’s attack on the New Israel Fund is a crossing of a line that we cannot remain silent about and is a critical test for Government of Israel coalition members who are truly committed to democratic values and to the need for solidarity in Israeli society. The call to form a parliamentary investigative committee instills a sense of witch hunt and McCarthyism into Israeli dialogue, akin to that of crippled democracies and those that lose their way. The discourse and discussion regarding the NIF’s activity is legitimate. Marking the NIF as a subversive organization and the attempt to threaten it, its supporters and its activists – is dangerous and disgraceful. The fact that these acts were done by the Prime Minister, in large part in order to cover up his embarrassing conduct in regards to the annulment of the agreement on the matter of asylum seekers, is a disgrace to the government and its coalition parties. We call upon the heads of all coalition parties and the Members of Knesset of these parties who are committed to the freedom of activity of Israel’s civic society to sound a clear voice of objection to the Prime Minister’s statements.
The New Israel Fund is a loyal partner of the Israel Reform Movement in efforts to promote freedom of religion and conscience among Israeli citizens, in fortifying human rights and promoting social justice. We will not hide this partnership and we will stand by our friends as they become a target for the lowest level of shaming and incitement. The attack on the NIF is a direct attack on Israeli civil society and on the majority of social change organizations in Israel. Now is the time to stand together in a wide coalition and make clear that there are red lines. A dialogue and argument – yes. Incitement and shaming – no. Israeli history will judge the elected officials who choose to remain silent during this time. We are not part of them. We do not hesitate to say to the Prime Minister: there is a limit to incitement! Enough of turning Israelis against one another! Enough of sacrificing Israeli solidarity for political interests! This is not what we expect of you on the eve of Israel’s 70th year of independence!”
Why do white evangelical Christians who once promoted “family values” and proclaim still the nation’s moral decline continue to support Donald Trump? I have to believe that they see what we see, his pathological aversion to the truth, his sexual improprieties, adultery, misogyny, racism, bigotry, faithlessness, corruption, and incompetence as a leader? Is it only because they want to be certain that the President appoints another conservative nominee like Justice Neal Gorsuch should a vacancy occur on the Supreme Court?
These white evangelicals represent an estimated 40% of the voting electorate, according to a 2016 Pew exit poll. 80% of evangelical Christians voted for Trump. This means that 32% of the roughly 40% that approves of Trump’s presidency are evangelical white Christians.
In Sunday’s New York Times (March 31, 2018) Amy Sullivan wrote (“Democrats are Christians, Too”) that many evangelicals voted for Trump because the Republican Party is now baked into the evangelical community’s DNA following decades of “fearmongering about Democrats and religious liberals.” She explains that white evangelicals supported Trump because they fundamentally disagree with Democrats on the wedge issues of homosexuality, gay marriage, and abortion. Even if they didn’t like Trump personally, they couldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton.
Sullivan acknowledges that there are many thoughtful “never-Trump” conservatives such as columnist Michael Gerson who wrote in The Atlantic that Trump is “blinded by political tribalism and hatred for their political opponents…[that] little remains of a distinctly Christian public witness…[that Trump is] deeply and defiantly ignorant,” that he “suffers from serious moral impairment and is dangerously unqualified.” (“The Last Temptation” – https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/04/the-last-temptation/554066/)
But might there be another reason that evangelical whites stick with Trump – “The Rapture?”
The “Rapture” is the belief that in the end of days after a final cataclysmic battle led by the Antichrist and engulfing the world, believers in Jesus Christ (both the dead and the living) suddenly will be resurrected and will meet their Lord in the air, all before the time of God’s wrath. This end-time will be characterized by famine, earthquakes, an epidemic of new diseases, dissention in society and between nations, and war – a time of chaotic misery from which the people will crave delivery and a savior.
Everything Trump does makes this country and the world less safe including his withdrawal from international agreements, his bellicose talk against North Korea, his love-affair with Vladimir Putin, his divide and conquer strategy pitting whites against peoples of color, his cozying up to alt-right fanatics and neo-Nazis, his attacks on non-white immigrants, and his constant delegitimization of the media and the institutions of our democracy. All may be understood by evangelical white Christians as preparing the ground for a cataclysmic event that will usher in the end-of-days “Rapture” followed by the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Evangelicals don’t talk about this, but “The Rapture” is fundamental to their evangelical Christian theology and is the only explanation that seems to justify why these people stick by this immoral president.
“The world is not as worthy as the day on which the Song of Songs was given to Israel, for all the writings are holy, but the Song of Songs is the Holy of Holies.”
So said Rabbi Akiva (2nd century Palestine), who understood that The Song of Songs is an allegory between two lovers, God and Israel.
The Kabbalistic tradition teaches that the love in the Song reflects higher events inside God’s metaphysical structure. It is read each year on the Shabbat during Pesach, and we at Temple Israel of Hollywood will celebrate the Song of Songs and our community’s milestone wedding anniversaries this Friday evening, April 6 at 6:30 PM in our Shabbat services.
Shelly Fox, our Director of Music and Cantorial Soloist, with our quartet and pianist Michael Alfera will present some of the most beautiful musical settings for the Song of Songs. Many of the melodies were composed in pre-statehood Palestine.
Our milestone wedding couples (celebrating 5 to 65 years of marriage will read love poetry.
If you live in Los Angeles, come and celebrate with us.
From the Song of Songs
O for your kiss! For your love / More enticing than wine, / For your scent and sweet name -– / For all this they love you. /
Take me away to your room, / Like a king to his rooms — / We’ll rejoice there with wine. / No wonder they love you! /
Like a mare among stallions, / You lure, I am held /
Your cheeks framed with braids / your neck traced with shells /
I’ll adorn you with gold / And with silver bells“
How fine / you are, my love, / your eyes / like doves’. /
How fine / are you, my lover, / what joy / we have together. /
How green / our bed of leaves, / our rafters of cedars, / our juniper eaves./
Marcia Falk, The Song of Songs – Love Poems from the Bible (New York & London: Harcourt Brace Javanovich, 1977). Pages 1, 4, 6.
This is a report from the Hotline for Refugees in Israel regarding the recent positive decision of the Israeli government vis a vis the Sudanese and Eritrean Refugees in Israel.
Human Rights Organizations in Israel in response to the cancellation of the deportation plan
It is symbolic that on the Passover holiday, the holiday of freedom, we were just informed that the State of Israel has cancelled their plan to forcibly deport asylum seekers from Israel to places of danger in Africa. Instead, the government has reached an agreement with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) under which 16,000 asylum seekers will be resettled through the UNHCR to safe countries, and 16,000 will be able to stay in Israel.
We will closely monitor the agreement signed to ensure that all asylum seekers receive status, rights and security in both Israel and other countries.
This could not have happened without the incredible mobilization of the Israeli and international public who joined us in voicing opposition to the deportation. We called for just solutions for asylum seekers and for the residents of South Tel Aviv, and the government heard us loud and clear.
However, it is regrettable that whilst the world is facing the greatest refugee crisis since World War II, Israel has not taken more responsibility for those who turned to us and sought protection here.
Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, ASSAF – Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, Kav LaOved, Amnesty International – Israel, The Association for Civil Rights in Israel and ARDC – African Refugee Development Center