Tag Archives: Jewish

Israel is Jewish – Part One: Is There a “Palestine?”

Israelis protest against Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside Prime Minister official residence in Jerusalem on July 25, 2020. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi
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This morning I lamented how I consider the Black Lives Matter organization and movement as antisemitic and anti-Israel, based on the erroneous belief that Israel is an apartheid state and an occupier of Arab (Palestinian) land. Since the riots and protests began here in the U.S., I’ve been searching for a way to express how wrong that is, but for a lot of reasons, I haven’t been able to get a handle on it.

Then after receiving an email from a Jewish friend of mine who lives in Israel, and reading the contents, I realized why. The topic is huge and multidimensional. I’d never cram what I want to say into a single blog post, which is why it will have to be a series. I have no idea how it will end, but I do know how it will begin.

It will begin with this idea that there is and always has been this “thing” called “Palestine” that somehow supersedes the Biblical and historical land of “Israel.”

Let’s start with Palestine. Where did it come from?

According to Encyclopedia Britannica:

Palestine, area of the eastern Mediterranean region, comprising parts of modern Israel and the Palestinian territories of the Gaza Strip (along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea) and the West Bank (the area west of the Jordan River).

Oh really? How did that happen? The same source says:

The word Palestine derives from Philistia, the name given by Greek writers to the land of the Philistines, who in the 12th century bce occupied a small pocket of land on the southern coast, between modern Tel Aviv–Yafo and Gaza. The name was revived by the Romans in the 2nd century ce in “Syria Palaestina,” designating the southern portion of the province of Syria, and made its way thence into Arabic, where it has been used to describe the region at least since the early Islamic era.

I don’t completely trust the Encyclopedia Britannica because they’re dancing around the facts. When did the Romans rename ancient Israel “Palestine” and why? They don’t say, so I had to look elsewhere.

According to the Jewish Virtual Library:

A derivative of the name Palestine first appears in Greek literature in the 5th Century BCE when the historian Herodotus called the area Palaistine. In the 2nd century CE, the Romans crushed the revolt of Shimon Bar Kokhba (132 CE), during which Jerusalem and Judea were regained and the area of Judea was renamed by the Roman Emperor Hadrian Palaestina in an attempt to minimize Jewish identification with the land of Israel.

Bingo! The Romans deliberately renamed Israel as “Palestine” to insult and demean the Jewish people and the Jewish right to their own land. We also understand from those two articles, that “Palestine” didn’t always exist as an Arab nation and in fact, wasn’t a nation, Arab or otherwise, at all. Not until it was “invented.”

Okay, I get it. Nations are invented entities. Once upon a time there was no such thing as the United States of America, and if you go back in time far enough, anything you call a country didn’t exist.

Before I go on, let’s revisit the Jewish Virtual Library article:

Though the definite origins of the word Palestine have been debated for years and are still not known for sure, the name is believed to be derived from the Egyptian and Hebrew word peleshet. Roughly translated to mean rolling or migratory, the term was used to describe the inhabitants of the land to the northeast of Egypt – the Philistines. The Philistines were an Aegean people – more closely related to the Greeks and with no connection ethnically, linguistically or historically with Arabia – who conquered in the 12th Century BCE the Mediterranean coastal plain that is now Israel and Gaza.

Did you get that? “rolling or migratory” people. And “Aegean people – more closely related to the Greeks and with no connection ethnically, linguistically or historically with Arabia – who conquered in the 12th Century BCE the Mediterranean coastal plain that is now Israel and Gaza.”

So “Palestine” isn’t and never has been an “Arabic” nation…ever. Those original people were more related to Greeks, but does that mean “Palestine” is Greek? No, that’s nuts. The root for what some people now call “Palestine” came into being because that area was conquered about 3,300 years ago.

But what about before then?

According to the Aish.com article Evidence of the Jewish People’s Roots in Israel:

Now, the Bible pictures an Israelite-Jewish population and government there starting in the 12th century BCE and continuing until the end of the Bible’s history about 800 years later. But how do we know if this is true? As scholars, we can’t just say, “The Bible tells us so.” We need to see evidence that could be presented to any honest person, whether that person be religious or not, Jewish or Christian or from some other religion or no religion, or from Mars.

Yes, exactly, and that’s the hard part. I could cite Jewish and Christian sources all day long, but at the end of the day, critics could say those sources were so biased that they’re telling lies. I could call the sources who say that a Jewish Israel never existed the same thing. So what now? Let’s see if this article’s author Richard Elliott Friedman has an answer:

In the first place, the land is filled with Hebrew inscriptions, so I begin with that. These are not just an occasional inscription on a piece of pottery or carved in a wall. Nor should we even start with one or two of the most famous archaeological finds. Rather, there are thousands of inscriptions. They come from hundreds of excavated towns and cities. They are in the Hebrew language. They include people’s names that bear forms of the name of their God: YHWH.

Click the link to get the entire context, but the point is that not only do we find artifacts from ancient times that testify to a Jewish Israel, but from the lands around it. Ancient nations and people groups recognized the Jewish people as having occupied and possessed Israel for many hundreds if not thousands of years before anything like “Palestine” was manufactured.

The people at LiveScience.com believe that:

When scholars refer to “ancient Israel,” they often refer to the tribes, kingdoms and dynasties formed by the ancient Jewish people in the Levant (an area that encompasses modern-day Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria).

They presuppose that somehow, nations like Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria, plus the increasingly unlikely “Palestine,” can undo, unroll, or unwrite the existence of both ancient and modern Israel, the Jewish Israel.

The article goes on to say:

Scholars draw largely on three sources to reconstruct the history of ancient Israel — archaeological excavations, the Hebrew Bible and texts that are not found in the Hebrew Bible. The use of the Hebrew Bible poses difficulty for scholars as some of the accounts are widely thought to be mythical.

If you don’t believe in the Hebrew God and His miracles, naturally the Bible isn’t going to be considered an authoritative source. I mentioned that before.

But to continue:

The earliest mention of the word “Israel” comes from a stele (an inscription carved on stone) erected by the Egyptian pharaoh Merneptah (reign ca. 1213-1203 B.C.) The inscription mentions a military campaign in the Levant during which Merneptah claims to have “laid waste” to “Israel” among other kingdoms and cities in the Levant.

The article concludes:

In the millennia afterward, the Jewish diaspora spread throughout the world. It wasn’t until the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948 that the Jewish people had a homeland again.

You might consider this source a tad more objective, since it’s not Jewish, which is why I included it.

Just for giggles, I read a Quora.com source asking “Does Palestine exist, or is it Israel?”

A lot of people responded since, after all, it is a hot button topic. One person named Shira Barabi answered on February 9, 2019. Please note that English is probably not this person’s main language:

As a israel , Palestine does not exist.

The civilians of so called Palestine are arabs who live in Israel.

This whole concept of another land for the arabs started in 1948 , after Israel declared independence. We had a civil war and won. Actually , we won several wars between us and the surrounding arab states.

So , why is Palestine still a concept? After being ” founded ” in 1988 ( that’s right. 40 years after israel was formed ) there has been total chaos for owning that little piece of land. Obviously , if you choose to take israel’s side then you’re a heartless Zionist that kills innocent children.

Believe it or not , but I live next to an Arab village ( I am a Jew-Moroccan so we settled here ) and every time there’s a terror attack that hurts innocent citizens there are fireworks and parties until the sunrise. Seeing that as a little child made me lose empathy.

We fight for a home constantly. Nobody wants us obviously and we have to fight for the little we have. I still find it petty for the Arabs to want it so badly and be willing to kill so many for it while they obviously have quite a few of their own.

We have offered many peace arrangements to this so called state that doesn’t even have a territory and they were sadly all dismissed. How can we get to peace when they want to eat the whole cake?

I personally think this conflict is absurd. How can people keep calling an official state another name? How is this even normal? Can you imagine calling the USA another name just because some citizens of a minority decide that they want it all to their selves? Can you imagine negotiating with such an absurd group? That’s why I can’t take Palestine supporters seriously. Take a flight to Palestine , I dare you. You will soon find out that it’s Israel.

Let’s embrace what it is. A little country surrounded by enemies and STILL surviving. Thriving! Sadly to the rest of the world , we have god on our side. we were raised in an environment where we were hated. We always had. There is only israel. As it is on all the documents. As it is on the Bible. As it is until the day the world will go down in flames.

That’s not scientific or historical or authoritative, but I kind of like it so I put the quote here.

Going back to evidence, if it does exist and it’s uncontroversial, why does anyone doubt?

Both The Times of Israel and Arutz Sheva chronicle Arab efforts to deliberately destroy artifacts supporting the ancient Temple in Jerusalem, the very center of religious life for Jews in the City of David.

A 2017 piece from The BESA Center begins:

The existence of a living Jewish people in a functioning Jewish state threatens the very raison d’être of Islam, which came into being to render Judaism obsolete. For that reason, Arabs and Muslims will never accept Israel as the Jewish State.

So there are nationally, ethnically, and religiously based reasons for many people to object to admitting that the land of Israel is Jewish and not Arabic, that religiously it has been the only nation established by the God of the Hebrews rather than being Islamic.

“Progressive” Europeans, Canadians, and United States citizens, among others, are such a gullible breed. Historically, the world has used the Jewish people as the cause of pretty much everything bad and they are still at it. I guess that’s why it’s so easy for them to believe that Israel is an “apartheid state” and “occupiers” when the evidence is plain that they’re not. Also, according to an image I posted this morning, the British really did establish a Palestinian state. It’s called “Jordan.”

I’ve given you enough to digest for the time being. I welcome comments, but I keep a tight rein on what I do and don’t allow. I’m okay with disagreement, but personalizing conflict here is not permitted. I don’t know what Part 2 will be like exactly. I do know that when Black Lives Matter claims the “Palestinian people” are victims of racism just like African Americans and other people of color, if they’re basing that claim on historical evidence, they are not just wrong, they’re bigoted.

For more, go to The Jewish Journal and Tablet Magazine.

Israel is NOT an Apartheid State or an “Occupier” : A Beginning

This is a topic that’s been burning a hole in me for a long time. Now, because the whole Black Lives Matter antisemitism is taking off (no one dares question their bigotry for fear of being called “racist” … go figure), hate of Jewish people and Israel has resurfaced with a vengeance. I’ve wanted to do a detailed study of exactly why the allegations against the Jewish people and Israel are false, but a number of different factors have gotten in the way. I saw the image above on twitter. It’s a beginning.

Have We Lost The Next Generation?

I just read (skimmed really) an article published online by Charisma Magazine called Year in Review: How the New Christian Left is Twisting the Gospel. Among other things, the article defines three different types of Christians. I’m listing them below because they’ll factor into my essay by the by:

  1. Couch-potato Christians: These Christians adapt to the culture by staying silent on the tough culture-and-faith discussions. Typically this group will downplay God’s absolute truths by promoting the illusion that neutrality was Jesus’ preferred method of evangelism.
  2. Cafeteria-style Christians: This group picks and chooses which Scripture passages to live by, opting for the ones that best seem to jive with culture. Typically they focus solely on the “nice” parts of the gospel while simultaneously and intentionally minimizing sin, hell, repentance and transformation.
  3. Convictional Christians: In the face of the culture’s harsh admonitions, these evangelicals refuse to be silent. Mimicking Jesus, they compassionately talk about love and grace while also sharing with their neighbors the need to recognize and turn from sin.

culture wars
Image: © Istockphoto/Thomas_EyeDesign – found at Charisma Magazine

While the author is focused on this crisis in Evangelicalism, it’s not unique to Christianity. One of the long-standing issues in Judaism is assimilation of Jews to either secular culture or conversion to Christianity.

Last May, Arutz Sheva published Assimilation, the Jewish people’s worst nightmare outlining this, although a little over two years ago, Tablet Magazine posted an article called Why the Myth of Vanishing American Jewry is so Hard to Dispel.

All of these essays are very long and I’ll admit in not reading the entire content of each one.

In general though, the blame for Christians leaving the church or creating churches that are largely secular in their values, as well as for Jews assimilating and either identifying as cultural (but not religious) Jews or at least joining liberal Reform synagogues, is laid squarely at the feet of popular, secular culture, and by that I mean progressive liberalism.

I recently reviewed a book written by the late Andrew Breitbart titled Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World. It was written during the Obama administration and covered how the news media, entertainment industry, and university system have all been co-opted by socialism and liberalism so that they have almost overwhelming control of the national “message” being transmitted today.

But while Breitbart was addressing how Tea Party conservatives could fight back and send a message of their own, I can see parallels between his points and how religious structures in our country, really in western culture, are being impacted in the same way.

The question is, assuming all this is correct, how can Jews and Christians (and I’m including Messianics in this mix) successfully communicate their/our values to the next generation and make it stick?

chanukah
Chanukah 2016

As I wrote in my previous blog post, I haven’t been particularly successful in that arena.

Of course this comes to mind:

Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22:6 (NASB)

That sounds nice in theory, but is it really successful?

You aren’t her parents anymore, her parents are Axl Rose and Madonna, you can’t compete with that kind of constant bombardment.

-Albert Gibson (played by Tom Arnold)
from the film True Lies (1994)

As our culture increasingly diverges from the values taught in Christianity and Judaism, it sends a powerful message to everyone, including younger people who want to be relevant and not perceived as an enemy or bigot by their larger peer group.

And our modern culture has a much larger and louder public relations department than the family our religious instructors.

So is it hopeless?

I hope not. On the other hand, you’d just about have to keep kids locked in a closet and never let them on the internet, watch TV, listen to the radio, go out to watch movies, or go anywhere and associate with anyone except like-minded religious people.

Only the most conservative and reclusive groups do that kind of thing. In fact, I’ve encountered some progressives that think raising Jewish children as Orthodox and controlling their hair styles, clothing, and educational environment is a form of child abuse (although for some strange reason, they don’t have the same problems with Muslims).

Not only does secularism teach values different from the Church and Synagogue, but they teach that Christian and Jewish values (conservative or traditional ones) are bad, wrong, homophobic, islamophobic, racist, sexist, patriarchal, misogynistic, and so on.

judeo-christianNo one wants to be thought of as a bigot, but the message being transmitted is that religious thought and observance is all of those things, and the only way to not be a bigot is to stop being religious (or create a religion that embraces secular progressive values).

I’m sure there are young Christian and Jewish people out there who have adhered to their religious values to one degree or another, but it certainly seems as if we’re trying to repair a ripped artery with chewing gum and scotch tape.

I know there are plenty of pundits who have written about the “culture wars” and what to do about it, but I’m not so sure how successful their solutions are (if they have any).

One problem that I don’t think is being addressed was raised by the Charisma Mag author:

Convictional Christians: In the face of the culture’s harsh admonitions, these evangelicals refuse to be silent. Mimicking Jesus, they compassionately talk about love and grace while also sharing with their neighbors the need to recognize and turn from sin.

The problem is whether their values are truly based in the Bible, or based rather upon conservative Christian interpretation and tradition?

I came across the notion of “teaching correct doctrine” in my previous sojourn in church. I left over two years ago, but my experiences are still vivid in my memory.

christians vs gaysThe problem might not always be religious vs. secular values, but how religious values are defined and understood.

Messianics, by definition, have come to the conclusion that normative Christianity does not have an entirely correct understanding of the Bible, especially when it comes to the Torah, Israel, and the Jewish people.

In fact, at least in my own experience, the Church has been wrong about so many things, that I’ve re-examined at large number of topics, including Christianity’s and Judaism’s stand on Gays in the church as well as in the Synagogue.

I came up with an answer that is a lot more nuanced than “Homosexuality is an abomination,” but still determined that Same-sex sex and marriage is not presupposed anywhere in the Bible.

But I looked, I didn’t just assume.

That might be a big problem younger people are having with religion. Conservative Christians and Jews rely on what they were taught and the explanations they were provided without engaging in an honest investigation into those beliefs.

Instead of just telling some young person “Homosexuality is a sin” or “Eve made Adam sin with the apple,” maybe engaging them and taking them through an investigation as to why these values are adhered to. Further, if a traditional value is discovered to be false (“the Church replaced the Jews in all God’s covenant promises”), adjust or eliminate the value.

While some churches have done this relative to Israel and the Covenants, other Christians have found it necessary to leave the Church and to either join Messianic congregations or, lacking access, finding online venues to nurture their beliefs and values.

But conducting an extensive investigation of scripture to define religious values takes time, effort, and resources, plus the willingness to question your own traditions. Christianity and Judaism might not be willing to do that, since tradition has a tendency to take on a life of its own.

father and sonOne final point, and this has been said before, is that parents and religious teachers must walk the walk as well as talk the talk. Most younger people will learn more about your values by watching you live them out (or your failure to do so) than anything you’ll ever tell them.

That doesn’t mean you have to be perfect, but you do have to be consistent. If cultural values lure you in at one level or another, you will probably lose the war for the next generation.

I wonder if we already have?

Excerpt: A Time To Follow Your Heart

Chanukah MenorahA different kind of Chanukah story presented at Powered by Robots.

Sarah stood across the street from her Bubbe’s and Zayde’s house. The evening of December 24th, the first night of Chanukah this year, was cool, even in the Los Angeles suburb of Brentwood, but she had dressed for the occasion. She made sure the coat she was wearing wouldn’t attract attention in case anyone saw her.

Sarah wished she could get closer. She wished she could just knock on the door and go inside, but she wasn’t supposed to be there and she wasn’t supposed to change anything.

Wait! There they were. She could see them through the window in the front of their house. Bubbe and Zayde. Her big brother Aaron, all of seven years old, was excitedly jumping up and down next to them. Sarah couldn’t hear anything of course, but she could see everyone’s facial expressions and imagined Zayde firmly but kindly helping Aaron to calm down.

Tradition says that the Chanukah menorah must be placed either in a central area of the home or by a window. The latter is to proudly announce that a miracle had occurred and this was the commemoration of that miracle. Sarah was watching her family tonight thanks to a miracle she had created herself.

This tale is more flash fiction than a science fiction short story so you can read all of A Time to Follow Your Heart in just a few minutes. Let me know what you think.

Sukkot Without A Sukkah

Sukkah in the rainSeems strange, right? No sukkah this year. Let me explain.

My parents are aging and their health is none too good. My wife and I haven’t been able to visit them in a while. A window opened up in our schedules, so we took a long weekend and drove down to their place in Southwestern Utah last Friday. We stayed Saturday and drove back home Sunday.

As most of you reading this probably know, Sukkot began at Sundown last Sunday.

Now we got home at about 2:30 p.m., but I was all in from a nine-hour drive so I didn’t haul out our little sukkah kit and put it together as I usually do.

However, yesterday morning, the missus and I were up at the same time along with our son David, and I asked her if she’d like me to assemble the sukkah when I got home from work.

Her answer kind of surprised me.

She said that I built the sukkah each year because I wanted to, not because she wanted me to.

Hmmmm.

I distinctly remember one year her thanking me for remembering to put up the sukkah when she forgot.

We never have meals in it and it’s rather small, maybe fitting two or three people max.

In our marriage, she’s the Jewish spouse and I’m the goy. I suppose I could have built it anyway, but something told me that if she didn’t want to observe the mitzvah as a Jew, who am I to do so (and not being Jewish, I can’t really observe the mitzvah anyway)?

sukkot jerusalem
Sukkot in Jerusalem

I know some of you are going to say there is an application for Gentiles in Sukkot and I agree with you. On the other hand, without the Jewish people, without the Exodus, without the forty years in the desert, there would be no celebration of Sukkot, and none of that has to do with we goyim, even if we are disciples of Rav Yeshua.

So this year, it’s Sukkot, but without a sukkah.

Perhaps it is fitting since I have distanced myself from at least certain elements of Messianic Judaism. But while some Messianic Jews feel it’s important to separate Gentiles from Jewish praxis, they still can’t insist we distance ourselves from Hashem (and I’m not suggesting they are).

On the other hand, Judaism in general believes that the goyim can have a place in the world to come under certain circumstances (although the Noahide Laws don’t quite map to the life of a “Judaically aware” non-Jewish disciple of Yeshua), so while a Jewish celebration such as Sukkot might not be appropriate for us (again, some of you will argue against this), entering the presence of Hashem through the merit of Rav Yeshua is allowed for us.

So for me, at least for this year, the sukkah will have to exist in my imagination and in the future when we will all enter Hashem’s House of Prayer, which is a shelter for all people, Israel and the nations alike.

Conversions in Madagascar: A Cautionary Tale

Yeah, I know. Two blog posts in one day. I was inspired.

A nascent Jewish community was officially born in Madagascar last month when 121 men, women and children underwent Orthodox conversions on the remote Indian Ocean island nation better known for lemurs, chameleons, dense rain forests and vanilla.

The conversions, which took place over a 10-day period, were the climax of a process that arose organically five to six years ago when followers of various messianic Christian sects became disillusioned with their churches and began to study Torah.

-Deborah Josefson, June 5, 2016
“In remote Madagascar, a new community chooses to be Jewish”
Arutz Sheva

mikvahTo me, the news here isn’t that 121 people in Madagascar chose to participate in a mass conversion to Judaism, it’s that they (if I’m reading this right) converted after becoming disillusioned with their various messianic Christian sects.”

The article doesn’t provide the details about the former churches involved, but it does say:

While many Malagasies were brought to Judaism through study of the Old Testament and a sincere effort to get closer to God, some see the practice of Judaism as a return to their roots and an overthrowing of the last vestiges of colonialism.

“I was a victim of the colonizers, as you know we had the French here, and then the communists and then the socialists … so I didn’t have any roots anymore,” said Mija Rasolo, an actor who hosts his own late night talk show on Madagascar TV and took the Hebrew name David Mazal.

There are two things here. The first is more applicable to “Messianic Gentiles” and Messianic Jewish congregations in general.

As I’ve said numerous times before, the majority of people I know involved in either Messianic Judaism or Hebrew Roots became disillusioned with their churches and with normative Christianity in general and sought out an alternative. They too studied the scriptures and particularly the interconnectedness of the Old and New Testaments.

One of the things that comes along with such study is an introduction to the “Jewish stuff,” the materials and praxis associated with Jewish theology, worship, and lifestyle.

And that’s where the problem lies.

It’s easy to get caught up in the beauty of the Jewish traditions, the celebrations, the Festivals. It’s easy to get confused between the “Jewish stuff” and the meaning and role of non-Jews within a Jewish-oriented understanding of the Tanakh and the Apostolic scriptures.

Sometimes people zig when they should have zagged. Sometimes people think the only way to worship God is the Jewish way, and you can only do that by converting to Judaism (the Apostle Paul had a lot to say about that in his Epistle to the Galatians and in Acts 15).

Lacking a proper understanding of the Apostolic scriptures and especially the Apostle Paul (called Rav Shaul in some circles), it’s easy to see that Judaism makes so much sense but Christianity, not so much (although I’m sure I have some Christian readers who would be confused by that statement).

That’s one of the big reasons (but not the only one) why I’ve dispensed with Jewish praxis, although I adhere to a Jewish-oriented interpretation of the Bible, one that favors the centrality of national Israel, the New Covenant promises of God to the Jews, and the subordinate role of the nations to Israel’s Messiah King.

Of course, having a Jewish wife, one who is not the least bit “Messianic,” and one who calls me a Christian, also has a lot to do with me keeping my head above water.

However, the Arutz Sheva article also mentioned an indigenous person’s faith in Jesus being part of colonialism.

ChristianI belong to a closed Facebook group for indigenous people (no, I’m not indigenous). I was added some years ago due to my association with a native artist I’ve exchanged emails (and one phone call) with. One of the recurring themes I see in this group is a disdain for Christianity, not for theological purposes as such, but because conversion to Christianity was historically used as a tool of colonialism to destroy the language, customs, and practices of the first nations. For them, the theft of their land and their culture by Europe and forced conversion to Christianity was the same injury.

Jews should be all too sensitive to such sentiments, having been the victim of forced conversations and assimilation for centuries. We see evidence of that heritage being lived out in Israel and elsewhere today. The Arutz Sheva article celebrates the conversion of 121 Malagasies during a single event as a victory. For many of them, conversion to Judaism was a return to their roots.

For them, maybe it was, but it was also something else.

If you are a disciple of Rav Yeshua (Jesus Christ) and you are firm in your faith, particularly from a pro-Israel, pro-Judaism viewpoint, you realize one does not have to lose that perspective in order to maintain steadfast faith in our Rav. For the people in this article, they traded one for the other.

More’s the pity. Consider this a cautionary tale.