June 2006 Archives

A mother's heart

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"I have one big request for you Eliyahu," Miriam said, "when you stand before God, please defend the people of Israel in all its actions."

Hours after she was notified of her son's death, Miriam told Israel Radio, "The pain is great, almost too great to bear. But one thing I feel, despite all this…is that in the wake of disagreements between our brethren, with our different worldviews and different relationships to the land of Israel that creates a lot of conflict, a lot of anger, a lot of argument - many times, I've asked G-d that he should first of all grant me love for everyone in my heart, and … that He should show me the special quality of the nation of Israel, and that I should succeed - that we should all succeed in loving each other…truly from the heart."

Eliyahu Pinchas Asheri's mother Miriam gives us a glimpse into the soul of the mensch who was her son and the source of her strength and courage, even in the face his death at the hands of murdering thugs.

Miriam said it became clear to her during the course of these trials and tribulations, how wonderful Israel really is. She expressed gratitude to all the people who called to offer moral support.

"The help there was… I don't have the words to describe how encouraging [it was]…how everyone was truly so wonderful," she said.

"And I think this was also Eliyahu's way. …Whenever there was a fight, he would always say, 'Stop, everyone should have their place…,' and his way was always one of peace. And I think this is an impetus - god forbid we should ever have such a terrible impetus - but an impetus for true unity between all factions, despite disagreements - and they do exist - but to see the good in the Jewish nation…."

May she be comforted among the mourners of Israel and Zion, and may Eliyahu's memory be for a blessing.

Oxymoron

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So the democratically elected Hamas government has now offically demanded that Israel release Arab terrorists from prison (many of them, in fact) in return for the release of Gilad Shalit. After all, Israel has done it before. And it's "what other countries [sic] do in conflict situations."

They're calling Olmert's bluff. How incredibly unsurprising. Meanwhile,

Earlier Wednesday, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of carrying out "crimes against humanity" with its incursion into Gaza Strip.

At this point, I'd have to say that an incursion into the Gaza Strip could not conceivably result in crimes against humanity, as it would appear that there is none there.

Unraveling

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The past thirteen years of more or less unilateral Israeli concessions, having yielded mostly negative dividends, have finally started to wear thin in places you wouldn't expect.

In a startling departure from his usual resolute non-intervention in the internal governance of Israel, President Moshe Katsav has launched a scathing attack on a series of Israel's recent prime ministers and governments for failing to "get anything in return" for the historic concessions they made in signing the Oslo accords, endorsing the notion of independent Palestinian statehood, and pulling out of the Gaza Strip. Because of this cardinal error, he said, Israel was today further from peace with the Palestinians than it would otherwise likely have been.

Yes. This is undoubtedly true. And President Katsav's remarks don't appear to be ideologically motivated. It's more of a pragmatic approach.

Speaking exclusively to The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday, Katsav ascribed the record of incompetence to a consistent failure to carry out appropriate preparatory work ahead of major diplomatic moves, and to the abiding absence of an agreed "map of vital Israeli national and security interests" to guide policymakers.

An important observation. Too many of Israel's leaders, on both the left, the "center" and the right, I must say, have allowed ideology to cloud this essential guidepost of policy. That "map of vital Israeli national and security interests" is the only map that Israel should be following. It's way past time to dig it out, dust it off and start tracing its pathways.

The terrorists have blundered. And they may have inadvertently provided Israel with a golden opportunity to set its course in the right direction again. Let's hope that Israel hasn't "gone native" to the point where history will say of her that she also has become adept as missing opportunities.

On the line

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Paula Stern says we've reached the point of no return. No holds barred. No mercy.

This morning just after dawn, 8 Palestinians attacked an army base in Keren Shalom. As military strategy goes, it was a successful operation in which 2 of the enemy were killed, 6 others wounded, and best of all, the infiltrators were able to steal back across the border after kidnapping an Israeli soldier. All our past mistakes will be as nothing if we do not make the ground shake today, if we do not act without mercy, as they have done.

This was not a terrorist attack against innocents. In this one case, we cannot bemoan the lack of decency or mercy that is so common in most terror attacks. This was a military incursion and must be answered in kind. The left wing who called for disengagement promised that any military action would be answered with the full strength of our army against an "invading" enemy. More than one left-wing friend told me that our withdrawing from Gaza would strengthen our right to defend ourselves. The right wing, the Orange People who saw the surrender for what it was, knew that this was all a lie. We knew rockets would fall on Askhelon and bombs would explode in Netanya and Tel Aviv. We knew that Hamas would celebrate their victory and more would die.

That the attackers and kidnappers will likely choose to hide their prize among Palestinian civilians is not our problem and we must now show the same lack of mercy that was shown to us. They choose how to begin this war and it is our obligation to see it through until the end, until our sons are brought home.

Bewildered

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Yoel Marcus, 'disengagement' advocate extraordinaire, is puzzled. Confused. Bewildered.

The moment the Israel Defense Forces evacuated Gaza and its Jewish settlements, in which a third generation of settlers lived, and handed the territory over to the Palestinians, the firing of Qassams should have stopped immediately, if only to encourage Israel to continue to withdraw. The expectations that the Palestinians would rapidly construct multistory buildings in the evacuated territories to house refugees and create an atmosphere of progress were dashed. Instead, the liberated territories turned into a firing base. The increased bombardment of Israeli territory is the last thing that Israeli peace-seekers expected following the beginning of the end of the occupation and the separation from the dream of the greater land of Israel.

I see the problem. It lies in the premise. Once Israel retreated from Gaza, the Qassams should have stopped. The Gazan Arabs were expected to build high-rise apartments and create an atmosphere of progress. Increased bombardment is that last thing anyone thought would follow from the "end of occuption."

Wrong, wrong and wrong again. Because for months prior to and right up the 'disengagement,' (which, of course, has been no disengagement at all), there were all sorts of predictions, based upon rational analysis and past experience, that the retreat would only encourage Qassams, and that they would start coming faster and closer to Israel's major population centers than ever before. Chief among these doom and gloom prophets, of course, was the mayor of Sderot himself, who saw clearly what ill the withdrawal boded for his town.

No one paying any attention believed that the Arabs were going to respond by building or developing their newly "liberated" territory. To the contrary. It was predicted that they would use it as a launching ground for additional terrorist attacks. That they would smuggle in even more weapons and terrorists of all stripes and create even more of a wasteland. And they did.

Increased bombardment was the first thing that true peace-seekers expected from the 'disengagement.' Because the way to peace is not by encouraging your enemy to believe that he can defeat you through war.

Yoel Marcus is confused. But not completely. He does have Shimon Peres's number. In spades.

Peres, known for his preoccupation with defense issues, has never experienced battle. Throughout his career, he has never been under mortar and rocket fire. He lives in a bubble, like a Nobel Prize-winning scientist who has an algebraic formula that nobody understands - the essence of which is that one must not get hysterical, one must be steadfast. Theoretically, everyone agrees with it and admires his wisdom, certainly in Paris and in other world capitals. But when he demands that Sderot residents not panic, he proves just how cut off he is from the people. Preaching that people should not panic or get hysterical is justified, but the question is, why should Sderot have to play the role of a second Massada?

And, somewhere, the light seems to be breaking through. In fact, I'm not sure I'd go this far.

A Qassam that is fired into the heart of a population center, even if it does not kill anyone, is tantamount to a Qassam that has hit the target and caused a mass slaughter of civilians, and it demands a strong response. The Palestinians should know that if our civilians continue to be targeted indiscriminately, their civilians, too, are liable to become a target. Not in the Peres-Shmeres method, but in the eye for an eye method.

Busy week

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So it's Friday, and it's been a busy week.

On Sunday, the EU announced that it's simply unacceptable for Israel to set its own borders without the permission and blessing of the Palestinian Authority, a/k/a Hamas, unless, of course, it retreats back to the 1967 lines. Thank you very much.

On Monday, two more Qassams landed in Sderot during President Katzav and Defense Minister Amir Peretz's visit, which elicited yet more promises and still no action.

On Tuesday, PM Abbas told "the factions" to stop with the Qassams, already, and honor the "truce." I think we've heard this before. (And they didn't.)

On Wednesday, Abbas had an exchange with Elie Wiesel at the Nobel Laureates' Conference in Petra. Abbas claimed that suicide bombings are crimes because of the Muslim prohibition against commiting suicide. This is semantic misdirection. "Suicide," which is in fact condemned, is clearly distinguishable in Islamic tradition from "martyrdom" in the pursuit of Jihad, which is exalted. The Economist, of all places, published this in-depth look at the issue a while back.

Meanwhile, on a positive note, the Presbyterian Church USA reversed its anti-Israel divestment policy by a vote of 483-28.

On Thursday, the 29th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (ICRCRC?) a/k/a the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) (there's actually a distinction there, but I'm not quite getting it) formally admitted Israel's Magen David Adom, sans its own symbol. Or, as the headline says, incorporated the use of the Red Crystal. As mentioned below, I'm rather underwhelmed.

And Roger Waters used his celebrity status and his Pink Floyd credentials (they did, after all, write a song about a wall) to attack Israel's security fence at a concert in Israel's "peace village" of Neve Shalom. Waters says the Israelis need to "tear down the walls and make peace with their neighbours." Now there's a novel idea. Too bad the neighbours don't agree -- to the "peace" part.

Today, well, today Hamas supposedly offered Israel a conditional ceasefire. I guess they need a time out to reload.

And seven homegrown jihadis were indicted for planning major terrorist attacks in the U.S. It's a step.

And it's a week.

Shabbat Shalom.

One hand clapping

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Is that anything like the sound of nine-tenths of the blogosphere laughing its ass off?

(The other tenth (no link intended) is the entertainment.)

Charles has the story.

Halleluyah! -- ?

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After 60 years, Red Cross opens its doors to Israel

The Red Cross humanitarian movement Thursday admitted the Israeli society that had been left waiting for nearly 60 years, resolving a longstanding concern over Crusaders, crosses and crescents.

With a round of applause, the international Red Cross federation admitted Israel's Magen David Adom society simultaneously with the Palestine Red Crescent. An optional new emblem was adopted so that Israel could retain its red star of David instead of having to adopt the red cross or crescent used by the 184 other societies in the global movement.

"This is an extraordinarily exciting evening," said Bonnie McElveen Hunter, chairman of the American Red Cross, which had been campaigning for years for the Israeli society's admission. "This has been going on for 58 long years. It's time. It's overdue."

It certainly is. But note: the "Palestine Red Crescent" will be permitted to use the religious symbol of Islam -- the Crescent. While the Magen David Adom will be required to use the non-religious symbol of nothing -- the Crystal. In those countries that aren't offended by Jewish symbolism, the Crystal will be permitted to contain a tiny Magen David (Shield/Star of David). In those countries that are offended (and there are many), it won't.

Somehow, I'm missing the symmetry here. But it gets worse. Because, although today marked the formal admission of the "Palestine" Red Crescent, the Red Crescent has been recognized as an official symbol of the International Committee of the Red Cross since 1949.

And here's another difference: Israel (the only country in which MDA operates) is a country. "Palestine" is a _____? (fill in the blank)

In other words, the symmetry is totally bogus.


Update: Soccer Dad has more.

The true connection

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Lenin famously said: A lie told often enough becomes the truth.

Daniel Pipes reviews the history of the tenuous Muslim connection to Jerusalem and the Arab attempt to obliterate the very real and paramount bond between Judaism and that city. His conclusion:

Palestinian denial of the Jewish connection to Jerusalem has two likely long-term implications. First, it suggests that the Palestinian focus on Jerusalem has reached such a fervor that it might now sustain itself regardless of politics, thereby breaking a fourteen-century pattern. Jerusalem appears to have developed into an abiding Muslim interest, one generating feelings of entitlement no longer related to utilitarian considerations.

Second, this denial severely diminishes the prospect of a diplomatic resolution. The Palestinians‚ self-evidently false history alienates their Israeli interlocutors even as it lays claim to sole rights over the entire city. As a result, future negotiations over Jerusalem are bound to be yet more emotional, askew, and difficult than past ones.

No matter how many times they tell this lie, it will never become the truth. But that may not matter. To invoke another cliché, truth is often the first casualty of war.

Blind, deaf and dumb

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The small Israeli city of Sderot sits in the northern Negev, about one kilometer (that's less than two miles) from the edge of the Gaza Strip. Its nearest neighbor is the Arab town of Beit Hanun. More on that in a minute.

Sderot is what used to be (and often still is) called a "development town," an economically depressed frontier community where low housing costs and blue collar job opportunities attract new immigrants who don't have the resources to live in more desirable areas. Its population of roughly 25,000 is made up largely of olim from Morocco, Tunisia, Yemen, Iran, Ethiopia and, more recently, Russia. Amir Peretz, Israel's current Defense Minister and former mayor of Sderot, was born in Morroco and moved there as a young boy when his family made aliyah. The same is true of Eli Moyal, Sderot's current mayor.

Life in Sderot has never been what you'd call easy, but in the last several years, it's gotten a lot harder. In February, 2002, Arab terrorists in Gaza first managed to fire a Qassam rocket into Israel. Less than a month later, two Qassams landed in Sderot. That was the beginning.

It wasn't until June, 2004, that the palestinian Arabs finally succeeded in murdering an Israeli with a Qassam. His name was Afik Zahavi (photo) and he was four years old. Also murdered was Mordechai Yosepov, 49. Afik's mother, Ruth, was badly injured in the attack and lost her leg. They lived in Sderot.

Between that first barrage in March, 2002, and the rocket that killed Afik and Mordechai on June 28, 2004, approximately 70 Kassams fell in Sderot. By the end of that year, there were 92 more, and two more toddlers dead.

And the numbers continue to escalate. Current estimates are that over 3,000 Qassams have now landed in Sderot, about 600 of them since Israel evacuated Gaza last summer. Today's latest.

The outlook for Sderot is bleak. Now the Qassams are arriving at the rate of several a day. Almost two weeks ago, after a rocket hit a child's bed, Mayor Moyal pledged to keep the schools open and to maintain as normal an existence as was humanly possible. But with the rain of potential death continuing to accelerate, he's given that up. The schools will close tomorrow. And Moyal has pledged to send all of the town's children away, someplace a little quieter and a little safer, for the summer. A number of Sderot inhabitants have gone on a hunger strike to protest the government's apparent impotence in the face of this threat.

As most of the Qassams are being launched from Beit Hanun, Sderot residents, including the mayor, are increasingly calling on the Israeli government to take decisive action against that town. But of course what makes Beit Hanun such an ideal launching spot, in addition to its proximity, is its high density civilian population of human shields.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Peretz continues to urge restraint, while delivering empty threats to the terrorists that they are, of course, ignoring. At the end of his rope, Moyal had earlier announced that he would be shutting down the city tomorrow, blocking all roads in and out and calling a general strike. That action has now been postponed due to a visit scheduled by Israel's president.

And today, Israel's cabinet addressed the crisis in Sderot during their weekly meeting. Their conclusion:

In light of continued terrorist activity directed against Sderot and the communities near the Gaza Strip, the Government will act to strengthen the residents of Sderot and of the communities near the Gaza Strip and their ability to deal with the special security conditions that have been created in the area. The communities included in this decision are those that were determined by the Cabinet in August and November 2004.

The aid will be given in the fields of education, culture, sport and building reinforcement. Financial assistance will also be provided from Finance Ministry sources. The aid program will be spread over the years 2006-2008 and its goals are as follows - to strengthen the sense of personal security; to strengthen residents' social resilience; to improve the quality-of-life and attractiveness of the area and its potential to draw new residents; and to help younger residents of the region to stay in the region.

Residents of Sderot and its environs have suffered for years from eunending terrorist activity, including the firing of rockets. There has been an escalation in recent weeks; 166 Kassam rockets and mortar rounds have been fired in May and June so far.

It was decided to immediately approve educational and cultural activities for all age brackets during the summer and the autumn holidays, and to establish a staff of directors-general to determine policy for reinforcing educational institutions.

Educational and cultural activities? Sports and, oh yes, building reinforcement? This is a place whose children are about to be evacuated because the mayor feels they can no longer be protected at home. This is a city under siege. 166 Kassam rockets and mortar rounds have been fired in May and June so far. This is a town of 25,000 souls that's on its way to becoming, in the words of its own people, a ghost town. And the government's response is to fund educational and cultural activities. For whom?

Sheer insanity.

More dividends

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So. Is it peace yet?

Six rockets land in southern town, one falling close to house of Defense Minister Peretz, near hunger-strikers encampment; one person wounded in eye by shrapnel, three suffer from shock. One rocket causes fire at forest near town; 120 rockets fired at Israel since Friday

Gaza beach

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In case you were wondering, I've been withholding comment until, well, there was something to comment about.

And now I'm pretty sure there isn't.

Hey, but how about big Ben Roethlisberger?!? Pittsburgh's going nuts.

Oh, yes it was a horrible tragedy. No, not Rosethlisberger. Well, that remains to be seen. But the Gaza beach thing. Hey, was this one of those 'disengagement dividends?' Yes, in fact, I think maybe it was.

dum

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Abducted US student returned to Israel

The student, Benjamin Bright-Fishbein, who says he is very fond of the local culture, has already visited Jericho and Jordan in the past, and now decided to pay a visit to Nablus. This time he was almost forced to pay a heavy price: While sitting relaxed in a city café, he was kidnapped by gunmen who threatened to execute him.

Israelis are banned from entering the Palestinian Authority's zone A, but this prohibition does not apply to foreign citizens.

[ . . . ]

The defense establishment began searching Jerusalem for students meeting the kidnapped student's description. The inquiry also focused on the intelligence level.

As well they should. Because, despite his name, this kid appears to be a few short.

Well, no, actually, by all accounts he does appear to be a pretty smart guy. So what the hell was he thinking????

And we're back

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Due to circumstances beyond our control, InContext (along with all the other Blogmosis blogs) was off line for a day. And then I got preoccupied.

Did you miss me?

A good thing

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Is George Bush channeling Martha Stewart? Well, most of the civilized world, including Zarqawi's family, agrees.

And then there's Michael Berg. And doom and gloom at al-Reuters.

Ah, well. Yes. A very good thing. (May he rot in hell)

Sweden digging deeper

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From the JPost:

Sweden's state-owned alcohol retail monopoly, Systembolaget, has labeled Israeli Golan and Yarden wines as "made in Israel-occupied Syrian territories."

According to the company's spokesman, Bjorn Rydberg, the decision was made after clients complained about the previous label, which stated the wine was made in Israel. The change was made after the company consulted with the Swedish Foreign Ministry.

"It's the ministry's recommendation that we are following," Rydberg said. However, "because of the criticism, we will consider changing the label again," he said.

The Golan Heights Winery, producer of increasingly fine wines under both the "Gamla" and "Yarden" labels (as well as the decent everyday quaffing stuff labeled "Golan") should be a preferred stop on any tour of Israel. For a preview, visit their website.

Stuff not to miss Part 2

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Anne Lieberman's magnificent history lesson on the true importance of that hill in Jerusalem, at Boker Tov Boulder, "The world will try to take it from us (Gd forbid)":

For 1,938 years the Jewish people have been without the Temple. Yet Jews all over the world, every day, at least three times a day, for all those 1,938 years have been reciting the Amidah or Shemone Esre, in which we plead for the six needs of the Jewish people:

ingathering of the exiled, restoration of justice, destruction of Israel's enemies, reward for the righteous, restoration of Jerusalem, and the coming of the Messiah.... The closing three blessings speak of the hope of return to Temple worship, thanksgiving to God, and a prayer for peace.

On Yom Kippur, the morning Torah reading deals with the service in the Temple and the Avodah during the Musaf service relives in awesome detail the Yom Kippur rituals in the Temple in Jerusalem. Every Shabbos and holiday we recall the offerings brought for the community at the Temple. Chanukah is based on the rededication of the Temple, Succot we celebrate a remembrance of the Temple Service. On Pesach we remember the Korbon Pesach lamb which was eaten with matza and maror. The Pesach seder and the Ne'illah service (at sunset on Yom Kippur) both end with the proclamation, "Next Year in Jerusalem." On Tisha B'Av we fast and mourn the loss of the Temple and long for its rebuilding. At weddings we break a glass to recall that our joy is not complete while the Temple is still unbuilt. The Kotel, or Western Wall, remains to this day the focus of our attention and the place where we aim all our payers.

That excerpt is the core, but to get the full impact, you really need to see the photos and, of course, read the rest.

Anne has more here.

Stuff not to miss Part 1

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Ephraim Inbar in yesterday's JPost on "Rethinking humanitarian aid":

The Palestinians, now partly under economic siege, have a clear interest in playing up the idea that they face a humanitarian disaster. It's a way to overcome political obstacles and speed up delayed financial contributions.

Of course, generous donations (usually from Western states) do not always reach the intended recipients. Some leaders in the less-developed world are ingenious at siphoning aid away from those who truly need it.

Many top-ranking Palestinians have enjoyed the fruits of the donors' gullibility. Moreover, in war-torn societies it is the guys with the guns who usually end up with the food supplies and other goodies provided by well-intentioned foreigners. Food and medicines sent to the Palestinians will invariably end up in the hands of the armed militias.

THE PAVLOVIAN response of sending money to societies unable to put their houses in order must therefore be questioned.

Dominoes

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In the not-too-distant future, I suspect that most Israelis (except Shimon Peres) and Jews the world over will see Ariel Sharon's 'disengagement' for the colossal fiasco that it was is. The process has already begun, and pretty soon it will achieve critical mass.

Sharon fooled a lot of people. People who believed in him and trusted that he had an end game in mind and that he knew where he was going. Perhaps he fooled no one more than he fooled himself. But as his closest advisors begin to disclose just how misplaced that trust was, the picture is starting to unravel. And Olmert is being revealed as the naked emperor accelerating the rush toward oblivion. Hopefully, it's not too late to reverse the course.

Ah, but where then to go? Therein lies the real problem. With no clear path open other than retreat, withdrawal, surrender, appeasement, disengagement, realignment, whatever you want to call it, Israel is desperately in need of a leader, a real leader, one with a different vision, one who can make that call.

Thoughts on Shavuot

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It occurs to me that, of all the Jewish holidays, Shavuot is one of the least well-known, the least prominent, the least observed here in America (next to Succot, perhaps). Why is that? My personal guess is that it's perceived as lacking any of the three elements that tend to make Jewish holidays popular: similarity to a Christian holiday, temporal proximity to a Christian holiday, and focus on food. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.

Shavuot certainly is related to a Christian holiday, albeit one that's not quite so popular itself. The Feast of Pentecost, which occurs fifty days after Easter, is related both in time and historical origins to Shavuot (which occurs fifty days after Passover). And food, specifically all sorts of dairy delights as well as the first fruits of the fields in Israel, is an important element of the celebration. But so what? Why should any of that matter?

A lot of schools are closed on Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, and when they aren't, Jewish parents often keep their kids home. Television and radio programs commonly acknowledge the arrival of those holy days, as well as Hanukka and Passover, which even the most secular families tend to gather and celebrate in one way or another. But by Succot, both non-observant Jews and the general population have had enough of Jewish holidays for a while, and when Shavuot comes around in late May or early June, it always seems (again, to the non-observant and those who have not been counting the omer) like a small blip on the radar screen (unless you have a child graduating from Sunday school).

What's up with that? The fact is that, without Shavuot, none of the other Jewish holidays would even exist. Jews wouldn't exist. Passover may mark our exodus from physical bondage to freedom, but Shavuot marks an even more important spiritual event and the true blossoming of the faith and community of the Jewish people. Without the giving of the Torah, we would have no history, no law, no understanding of ourselves as a nation. We would have no feasts, no festivals, no conquests or defeats, no country, no language, no relationship to God. We would have dispersed into nothingness long ago, like chaff in the wind.

My mother, who is visiting her step-son in Manhattan Beach, couldn't find a place to study Thursday night (as if she doesn't miss Jerusalem enough when she's in the U.S.). The nearby Conservative synagogue was basically ignoring the holiday -- apparently for lack of interest. This is troubling.

And so I've been thinking about all of this over the holiday and realizing that maybe I should write it down and try to make a point of remembering it myself next year.

Shavua tov.

The wilted olive branch

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Yesterday, Condoleeza Rice extended that olive branch to Iran yet again. Surely it's little more than a dried and withered stick by now.

The United States is willing to exert strong leadership to give diplomacy its very best chance to succeed.

Thus, to underscore our commitment to a diplomatic solution and to enhance the prospects for success, as soon as Iran fully and verifiably suspends its enrichment and reprocessing activities, the United States will come to the table with our E.U. colleagues and meet with Iran's representatives.

This morning, United States representatives have conveyed my statement to Iran through the good offices of the Swiss government and through Iran's representative to the United Nations.

Given the benefits of this positive path for the Iranian people, regional security and the nuclear nonproliferation regime, we urge Iran to make this choice for peace, to abandon its ambition for nuclear weapons.

President Bush wants a positive relationship between the American people and the people of Iran, a beneficial relationship of increased contacts in education and cultural exchange, in sports and travel and trade and investment.

I'm sure there are innumerable subtle nuances to the diplomacy game that make this offer something other than a demonstration of sheer and unmitigated stupidity. I don't know what they are, but I'm no diplomat (can you tell?). Maybe it has something to do with sending a message to the people of Iran who, surely, will rise up and overthrow their leaders if they see them rejecting a good offer? (Not holding breath.)

But here's my personal take on the situation. Iran's leaders aren't the least bit interested in a "positive relationship" with the American people. The last thing they want is a friendly "cultural exchange" with the Great Satan. The benefits Rice is offering are less than worthless in their eyes, and the price unacceptable. Iran's rulers have been emboldened to believe that they can bring America and its allies (and one ally most particularly) down. Whether these sentiments are generally shared by some substantial portion of the Iranian population is unclear. But there's little indication that it matters much right now. We're obliged to deal with Ahmadinejad. That's the hand we're playing.

The nuclear issue, though, is not the only obstacle standing in the way of improved relations. The Iranian government supports terror. It is involved in violence in Iraq. And it is undercutting the restoration of full sovereignty in Lebanon under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559.

Yes, but that's not all. Where's the rest of the story? It's no secret that Hizbollah isn't Iran's only terrorist client. The Iranian regime is also sponsoring Hamas and Islamic Jihad. And there's been good reason to believe for quite a while that it's also allied with Al Qaeda. Again, Iran's intention is to bring the West down, with special emphasis on both Israel and the U.S. Not to play nice (though to the extent it can buy time it has no problem with prevarication), not to do culture swaps, not to negotiate in good faith.

It's way past time to take the blinders off.

What does all this have to do with Shavuot? Absolutely nothing, I'm afraid. But I needed to get it off my chest.

Chag Shavuot sameach and Shabbat Shalom.

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