Shimon Peres: May His Name be for a Blessing

Shimon Peres

Shimon Peres.

The staff of the PJVoice joins with the world wide Jewish community in mourning the passing of Shimon Peres. Many American Jews, particularly those old enough to have experienced the formation of the State of Israel, see a direct line from Ben-Gurion to Shimon Peres. Peres helped shape the development of the Jewish State to a great extent.

The founding Israeli leaders were never divorced from the hard reality of Israel’s security situation. Each of them took a turn leading the military, and fully understood the need for protection from both internal and external enemies.

Still Peres, especially later in life, saw the need for an accommodation with the Palestinian Arabs, while protecting the State of Israel. When the opportunity came, he applied his utmost effort to carry out the goal of a two-state solution. He shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, for his work as Foreign Minister negotiating the Oslo Peace accords. [Read more…]

Hillary Clinton Supports Historic Agreement Between U.S. and Israel

The United States and Israel signed a new Memorandum of Understanding that guarantees $3.8 billion of military assistance to Israel annually for the fiscal years from 2019 to 2028. This $38 billion total aid package is the largest pledge of military assistance by the United States to a single country in American history.‎ [Read more…]

J Street Marks a Turning Point

Peter Beinart, J Street Panel Discussion.

Peter Beinart, J Street Panel Discussion.

Under the heading “Evolving Politics of the Jewish Community,” J Street presented a panel discussion about Jewish politics and, in addition, about how the perception of J Street has changed. The panelists were David Axelrod, Peter Beinart, Rep. Yvette Clarke (D – Brooklyn) and Jim Gerstein. The speakers set out some of the important shifts in the beliefs and values of the American Jewish community. [Read more…]

Jerusalem Facts for the Democratic National Convention

The Democratic and Republican parties will meet soon in Philadelphia and Cleveland and adopt their party platforms. They will address questions about Jerusalem.

Before they make this important decision, it is important to make sure they have the facts straight. StandWithUs has created this educational fact sheet about Jerusalem to distribute to members of the platform committee as well as to other convention delegates and key policymakers:
[Read more…]

A High School Student goes to Israel

Editor’s Note: The NFTY-EIE High School in Israel is an accredited semester or summer-long program for Reform Jewish high school students in grades 10-12. EIE offers an opportunity to be immersed in the richness of the land, culture, people and history of Israel, while earning high school and college credit. Part of the Union for Reform Judaism family of camps and programs in North America and Israel, NFTY-EIE is based at Kibbutz Tzuba, approximately 15 minutes outside of Jerusalem. With very small class sizes, students take advanced Jewish History and Hebrew classes and their regular general studies courses to fulfill their home high schools’ requirements. There are numerous week-long trips, including a trip to Poland to study the Holocaust and a week in Gadna (a simulated Israeli army training experience).

— by Amber Soffer, EIE participant 2016

Amber Soffer (on the right) with two friends from Philly.

Amber Soffer (on the right) with two friends from Philly.

I came to EIE with my own thoughts, ideas, and values, and I had never thought to question them. However, the main thing I learned on EIE is to question everything. Nothing is as simple as we think. This goes for something as intense as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to something as simple as ripping toilet paper on Shabbat. One of the main focuses of our Jewish history class is talking about the meaning of Am Yisrael (people of Israel). This is quite a loaded topic, because there are so many different ways to be Jewish. For example, some people consider one to only be Jewish if one’s mother is Jewish. As a Reform Jew, I do not believe that. I’m still trying to figure out what makes one a Jew: something I had never thought to question before EIE.

Along with many of the cool aspects of the program, one of the best is learning something in the exact place where it happened.For example, if we were learning about the Bar Kochba revolts, we explored the tunnels in which they hid. Being immersed in Israeli culture and society allowed me to absorb so much of it. I picked up Hebrew phrases, and am now able to follow conversations in Hebrew: something I had never thought possible.

I learned that in Israeli society, it is customary to only know how to be aggressive. On the first day of Jewish history class our teacher told us, “There is no passive-aggressive in Israel, only aggressive.” But, even after the Israelis are done yelling at each other, they just go back to normal conversation.

On a personal growth level, I learned how to live away from home, advocate for myself, and be a part of a most amazing community. All of these skills and experiences will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Amber at the Sataf in the Judean Hills

Amber at the Sataf in the Judean Hills

It is almost impossible to pick just one experience that was my favorite. There are so many different categories to “favorite”. There is favorite in the sense I learned the most, had the most fun, and the most important experience to me. My favorite thing that I learned was Hebrew. I had the most fun trying to use my Hebrew to bargain with shop owners, order pizza, and ask for directions. It was the most exciting feel that I not only could say what I want, but understand their reply, too. On EIE, the fun basically never stops because you are always surrounded by your best friends. But, if I had to pick only one favorite experience, it would be Yam L’Yam. This was our Sea to Sea hike (from the Sea of Galilee to the Mediterranean Sea). This was filled with new experiences for me and finishing the five day hike was so satisfying. My favorite aspects of Yam L’Yam were sleeping under the stars, adventuring through the different terrains of Israel, and taking in the amazing views and scenery that were around every corner. My most important experience was our trip to Poland. Although it was very sad, it compares to the Muslim obligation to have to go to Mecca once in their life. I feel as though every Jewish person should go to Poland and see the horrible sights in remembrance of WW2. Each concentration camp, ghetto, and other place where the Jewish people were oppressed provided a sense of reality for the entirety of the Holocaust.

Amber on an archaeological dig

Amber on an archaeological dig

As much as people say that you will change over this experience, I feel like it is hard to see it in yourself, especially while you are still in Israel. Once home, I am sure that I will be aware of the little differences in myself more. However, one of the things I outright is the way I view my Judaism. In Israel, it is so easy to lead a Jewish life, because you are always surrounded by the little things. But, back in America these little things will cease to surround me at all times. I want to keep the little things around me, so being Jewish is not a conscious choice I sometimes make, but always envelops me.  Also, I feel as though I am way more of an independent person, and I can tackle almost any challenge after being here. I know at home I will not struggle with the trivial issues, like too much homework anymore, because here I had double as long of a day with the same amount of homework; yet, I learned to successfully deal with it here. Since being here, I feel as though when I return home it will be my duty to correctly be able to answer people’s question about Israel. And when they see something in the news and ask me about it because they know I am Jewish, I will be able to explain to them what happened and why. I hope this ends up turning into Israel advocacy, and help people be more educated about Israel. The biggest change I will make is adapt myself to fit the Israeli style of living by making the most of each moment.  Israelis definitely know how to live life to the fullest, and I hope to bring that change home with me as well.

For more information about NFTY-EIE, please to go its website, www.nftyeie.org

The Wings Program: Advocates for Lone Soldiers

<a href=The Wings Program for Lone Soldiers, run by the Merage Foundation and the Jewish Agency for Israel, was represented last week in a caucus for lone soldiers in the Israeli Knesset. The caucus convened to discuss the issue of lone immigrant soldiers and their integration into Israeli society after their release from the IDF. [Read more…]

When is the Media Going to Treat Israel as an Indigenous First Nation? When Jews Act Like It Is!

KotelBirkatHacohanimThe Jews are a people and Judaism is their religion. The Land of Israel is their ancestral homeland, with an unbroken history of 3,500 years. The Jews in Israel are a modern nation, having gained their independence from Great Briton in 1948.

Israeli Jews as indigenous people have native rights which they should assert. Israel has the deepest, most abundant roots of any people in the land, whether the mainstream media, UN, EU, NGOs, Arabs, Muslims, Anti-Zionists or Anti-Semites want to believe it or not.

So, where do Jews get their title deed to the Land of Israel? From the Bible, archeological proof, and even the Qu’ran. And from modern international law via the San Remo Conference in 1920, and subsequently the United Nations in 1947. Many Arab nations were also created around this time to give expression to their indigenous rights.

Interestingly, the Supreme Muslim Council — led by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husayni, Hitler’s ally and one of the Arab world’s most vicious anti-Semites — published yearly guide books from 1924 to 1950 stating that the Temple Mount’s al-Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) “identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute. This, too, is the spot, according to the universal belief, on which David built there an altar unto the Lord and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings.”

Despite being persecuted, tormented, conquered and dispersed from their nation-state numerous times throughout history by many, including Greeks, Romans and Ottoman Turks, there were always Jews living in the land of Israel. Israel was never ruled even one day by an Arab state.

In January 2012, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed the Levy Commission to study the legal status of Israeli building in Judea and Samaria (i.e., “the West Bank”). In sum, it found: “Our basic conclusion is that from the point of view of international law, the classical laws of ‘occupation’ as set out in the relevant international conventions cannot be considered applicable to the unique and sui generis historic and legal circumstances of Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria spanning over decades.”

However, this Commission’s work has been marginalized by the Israeli government in an appeasement to the sensitivities of the “international community” who do not recognize the sovereignty of Israel over the land. This, of course, includes the areas to which Jews are told they have no rightful claim and yet are in the cradle of Jewish history: the Old City of Jerusalem, The Temple Mount and Kotel; Hebron, where the Tomb of the Patriarchs is located; Shilo, where the Tabernacle stood; Joseph’s Tomb; and Rachel’s Tomb among many other sites.

Who are the “Palestinian Arabs?” The vast majority are not native to the land, and in fact cannot even trace their lineage back more than four or five generations. Most came from foreign regions only when the Jews started to rebuild and reclaim the land and make it flourish as an economic powerhouse starting at the turn of the 20th century. Until the formation of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) in 1964, those Arabs who lived in Israel, Gaza and Judea and Samaria (i.e., the “West Bank” which was illegally annexed by Jordan in 1950) referred to themselves not as “Palestinians” but as Syrians or merely Arabs. These Arabs are little different in culture, religion and language than those from neighboring Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. The term “Palestinian” to them and the world, before the re-establishment of the State of Israel, meant “Jews.” In fact, the Arabs of the Palestine Mandate already have a state: Jordan. Jordan comprises 78% of the Palestine Mandate, which was designated by the international community to be the nation-state of the Jewish People. Jordan has a population which is 2/3 Palestinian Arab. Moreover, the Arabs have rejected a state of their own, with a capital in eastern Jerusalem, the “West Bank” and Gaza six times since 1937.

Ryan Bellerose Native Canadian Zionist

Ryan Bellerose, Native Canadian Zionist.

Sometimes it takes an outsider to see things which should be evident to us. Ryan Bellerose is a gentile from Canada. He is of mixed Native and European ancestry. He is an advocate for indigenous people, including the original inhabitants of Canada from whom he is descended. And he is also an advocate for Jewish Israelis, the indigenous people of Israel. He is the co-founder of Calgary United with Israel. According to him: “Everything that makes Jews Jewish — their spirituality, their traditions, their culture, their language, everything — it stems from Israel.” He elaborated further (“Unassailable” in Israellycool, Feb 14, 2016):

The reason Jewish identity is so integral to this struggle is simple – the other side is claiming that Israelis are not indigenous, that they are “white colonizers” who stole “Arab ancestral lands.” Now this claim is patently ridiculous to anyone with a 3rd grade education and a commensurate reading level, but sadly often the Jewish people’s own actions and reactions suggest that they themselves are not quite decolonized enough to claim their birthright and heritage. Many of them still see their identity through a white European lens, rather than a Middle Eastern lens, and this leads not only to massive confusion but lost opportunities such as at the Temple Mount and now in Judea and Samaria.

I have documented Jewish indigenous status beyond any reasonable doubt. I have given you the language and hopefully the knowledge to defend the position, but YOU must internalize your identity. YOU must decide to decolonize and then YOU must decide what that means to YOU and your people.

It’s really simple – you are Jews, your culture is ancient, your traditions date back three thousand years and your spirituality is intertwined with both. Only you can decide what you should be keeping and what you need to lose, but ask yourself, what would my ancestors say? Would they say ‘You needed those things in diaspora, but now you are home again and it’s time to evolve and become who you are meant to be’ or would they say ‘Stay as the diaspora made you out of necessity?’ I believe you are meant to be a ‘Light unto the Nations,’ to show us the way that indigenous people are supposed to evolve while maintaining the core of your identity. You have fought so hard to stay Jewish – literally hundreds of generations have lived and died to bring you to this point. Your ancestors fought, bled and died for you to remain Jews and even more recently for you to be able to go home as Jews to your ancestral lands. They didn’t do that so that you could be the end of it. They did it so that you could be the beginning, the beginning of a brave new world, one that is unassailable.

Now be invulnerable in your identity, then be invincible. THAT is your birthright. Unassailable.

As Ryan has noted, this is about our very identity, not merely about religion and spirituality. And it is a powerful story and example to all indigenous people.

We should be proud and act proud of the nation-state of the Jewish People and all its accomplishments, as it shares with the world its humanitarianism and high-tech know-how in medicine, biotechnology, agriculture and water reclamation. Israel is our ancestral homeland. We do ourselves no favors if we don’t treat ourselves with respect and instead, act wishy-washy and laissez-faire with regard to our rights. If we forfeit the language, we forfeit our heritage and our history—and deserve to.

Note: Ryan Bellerose will be speaking in Philadelphia on June 20.

Redefining the Israel-Arab Conflict

The conflict between Israel and the Arab world must be redefined, British author Melanie Phillips told a gathering at a Maple Glen synagogue sponsored by the Zionist Organization of America.

There is no solution because the problem is misstated. The two-state solution is not axiomatic. Why are they fighting? It is not because of the absence of a Palestinian Arab state. The Arab world wishes Israel’s destruction, which is why this is the conflict that never seems to end.

Melanie Phillips Group Photo

ZOA Philadelphia ED Steve Feldman
ZOA Philadelphia Chairman Gene Shusman
British author Melanie Phillips
ZOA National President Morton Klein
ZOA Philadelphia President Lee Bender
William Wenger, ZOA host at Cong. Beth Or


[Read more…]