Sunday, 30 January 2011

Egypt's Revolution?


Motse Shabbat 29th January 2011
Shevua Tov
I was asked an excellent question today. “What is more dangerous, an Arab dictatorship or an Arab democracy”? I believe the latter.

Jonathan Mann of CNN suggested that the situation in Egypt bears no resemblance to that of Iran during the reign of the Shah. “Egypt has an educated middle class and has known many years of freedom, even under Mubarak” and what does he think Iran was like during the time of the Shah? Iran was a dictatorship, and not necessarily a benign dictatorship, but it was not a religiously oppressive country either. Business and education thrived and relationships with the West ensured modernisation.

The greatest mistake the West makes is to assume that democracy ensures freedom; democracy cannot ensure freedom unless those elected into power honour the rights of all their subjects. Carter did it in Iran by removing the Shah (unquestionably a tyrant) and after student and popular rebellion he installed the Ayatollahs giving them the power and finances to wreak havoc in the West and control the Arab world. That mistake brought us Hezb-Allah , the demise of Christian Lebanon and Hamas, Islamic Jihad and, indeed Al Qaeeda.

We are faced with a popular revolution, with good cause, against the dictatorial regime of Hosni Mubarak. However if the West, led by the United States, does not enter the fray NOW we may see Egypt go the way of Iran. Diplomatic and economic support for Mubarak under the proviso that he hold elections within 6-8 months may just save the day. Promises of reform and extra financial aid to the poor to appease the middle class instigators could just defuse the situation. Mubarak is not a good man, but he is a leader who has kept his country from war, built a strong economy and held the fundamentalist threat at bay. Mubarak is a pragmatic leader; the tough broker for peace in the region, who growled “Chtom ya kalb” (sign you dog) when Arafat threatened to walk out of talks with Israel after days of negotiations; it is Mubarak who is acting as the go-between for the West to the Arab world.

If US influence is important and since the USA gives no less than $1.3 billion in aid to Egypt the situation presents a rare opportunity to demand protection for the Egyptian Christian community which has been decimated to the silence of the media and apathy of our leaders.

Changes have been made in government and Egypt’s former air force chief and minister for civil aviation, Ahmed Shafiq, has been designated the new prime minister by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and asked to form the next Cabinet, and Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman was appointed vice president, a position that has been vacant for the past 30 years

With 500,000 soldiers the army is very much part of Egyptian society, maybe one of the few elements which binds them; most families have someone in the Egyptian military. The police are patently absent from the crowd control situation, hated by the populace for their sheer everyday brutality.

Wisely Prime Minister Netanyahu has distanced himself and Israel from the Egyptian arena. The last thing we, or Mubarak, need is to make this about the Arab Israeli conflict.

May G-d protect them and us from extremists and death-wishers
Shevua Tov

For those who like percentages and statistics
The Moslem Brotherhood is the strongest opposition bloc which presents greater problem since there is no charismatic leader to take over from Mubarak leaving these fundamental extremists waiting in the wings.
Recent polls of the Egyptian population suggest that-
30 % are pro Hezb-Allah
49 % are pro Hamas
20 % are pro al-Qaeeda.
82 % want stoning for those who commit adultery;
77 % want to see whipping and hands cut off for robbery or theft;
84 % favour the death penalty for any Moslem who changes his religion.
27 % support modernisation while 59 % want traditional or fundamental Islam:
That means that a popular revolution is unlikely to bring democracy -

Thursday, 27 January 2011

27th February 2011

Today is International Holocaust Day, a day to remember, a day to mourn and a day to reinforce our determination that it will never happen again. No more sheep – today we are proud Lions of Judah! As Zvi and I walked around the Florida Holocaust Memorial we knew that Israel gave us the right to stand proud and tall and never let anyone herd us to our deaths again.

Shabbat Shalom - I hope you had a happy Australia Day.

BBC, CNN, The Independent etc are casting aspersions on the credibility of the Turkel Committee into the Mavi Marmara Affair. Proof again of blind bias and blind judgment.
The Turkel Committee, in addition to five Israeli members, includes two highly respected international observers, Lord David Trimble, Canada’s former military prosecutor Brig-Gen. (ret.) Ken Watkin, both of whom endorsed the findings. Consultations were also held with prominent experts in the field of international law, Prof. Dr. Wolff Heintschel von Heinegg of Viadrina European University in Germany, and Prof. Michael Schmitt of Durham University in the United Kingdom, who agreed with the legal conclusions of the report. Also present as an advisor was Prof. Ruth Lapidot, recipient of the Israel Prize for international law.
The Report
The MFA Report

Israeli nurses, doctors and teams are still in Haiti, trying to rebuild that stricken country. To former Premier Baby Doc it was simply a bank account which he used for luxuries rather than feeding his people or building sustainable housing for them – just like Gaza but worse, much worse.

Rebellion hit the streets in Egypt demanding freedom from Mubarak's oppressive regime
Russia, reeling from the horrific homicide bombing at Moscow airport, say they should learn from Israel about airport security,7340,L-4018421,00.html
Crisis in Lebanon with a Hezb-Allah PM
Wailing over the Palestine Papers – Prof. Benny Morris

Canon Andrew White's deep belief in G-d enables him to tread where lesser man fear. He called a conference in Copenhagen, far far from Baghdad, including Moslem and Christian leaders to find a way out of the carnage of Christians in Baghdad. Through talking together a new Fatwa has been called to stop the killing of Christians in Iraq. So far so good. Here is the document and agreement resulting from the conference

Richard Quest, the highly knowledgeable and deeply irritating CNN Economic Correspondent calls Israel “The Little Engine that Could”, the only burgeoning economy in a sea of failed endeavours in this lighthearted yet serious look at the Israeli economy, speculation and housing.

The Israeli Antiquities Authority completed excavations of a tunnel, a drainage canal dating back to the time of the Second Temple, 700 meters long connecting the City of David in Silwan to the Archaeological Park and Davidson Center in Jerusalem, near the Western Wall. The canal, probably Herodian, passes underneath a main road and underneath Arab homes and has elicited cries of protest claiming the excavations are a political statement. The innate problem is the fear that any historic dig will back the fact that we were here first. It is irrelevant of course since we believe there is room for everyone, but for those who MUST be right everything is political!,7340,L-4019130,00.html

Winston Churchill said that he would be viewed generously by history; “How do you know” he was asked - “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it. ” was the response! Paul and Flory Hariton took us to see the show Lansky with Flory's brother Martin. The monologue, performed by Mike Burstyn, unfolds brilliantly presenting Meir Lansky as a businessman, an American patriot and a good Jew who saved Israel's skin by “diverting” armaments bound for the Arabs to Israel and was deeply pained by Israels refusal to give him citizenship.

“The King's Speech” has 12 Oscar nominations. The story of a painfully shy man with a severe stammer who is thrust by default, from the secure shadows of family country life to ruling a country at war. As King George 6th he never left war-torn London and as bombs fell like rain he and the Queen walked the streets talking to his people; his daughters, the Princesses drove ambulances, worked in factories and tilled the land while the men were at war. Eloquence does not prove leadership, example does.

I am proud to call Tim King friend. Tim and Martha King are exceptional people who raised an exceptional daughter. Anna had a blossoming modelling career which she chose to place on hold to go into the IDF. The difference is that Anna, like her parents, is Christian. Tim, one of the Founders of the International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem imbued a love of Israel in his beautiful daughter.,7340,L-4019248,00.html
The Jewish Museum of Florida is a surprise and a delight. Situated in South Beach it encapsulates the Jewish presence in Florida over the last 200 plus years. Miami is a shoppers paradise, mall after mall after mall but the Aventura Mall is exceptional, the sheer immensity is mind-boggling. We met with Jacobo and Miri Eisen which was delightful as always.

The first half of our Miami stay was enhanced by David and Lauren Efron and Kathy Fernandez Rundell as David opened his home and his heart to us – despite arguments over the effectiveness of Obama and the (assumed) ineffectiveness of Bush – guess who was on which side!! Lauren is excitedly preparing herself to make Aliya in the summer – we are right with you Lauren!!!!

The other day we stopped for petrol and for some reason our credit card didn't work in the self-service machine.
Inside the gas station sat Jesus, a Hispanic immigrant.
“Can I see your ID” asked Jesus
“Of course” said Zvi “but it is Israeli not American”
“Wonderful “ responded Jesus “my son is very involved in AIPAC and I am so proud of him”
ERGO Jesus loves Israel!!!

Rain glorious rain. Ah that we could have even a tiny proportion of the life-giving essence which falls daily from the skies over Miami!! Incredible plants grow like wildfire in the garden at the Lindenfelds. I wonder at the grace and complexity of the Banyan trees, their evolution reminding me of the Jewish people who sometimes forget our past but those tenuous links, like the feathery air roots, reach out, become strong branches and and finally large supportive trunks ensuring our Jewishness and our continuity. So desperately important on this International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Mazal Tov to my nephew Paul and my niece Carly for finding their perfect matches and Refu'ah Shlema to my nephew Steve.... get stronger by the minute darling – you have to dance at your daughters wedding!

Shabbat Shalom from Florida, where my heart is still in Jerusalem.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Mid-week from Miami


January 18th 2011

Shabbat Shalom doesn't fit and it is well past Shevua Tov so I will just say Mid-week from Miami!

Zvi is concerned because as soon as we left Israel too many things started to happen in our geographical neighborhood!! At least now I understand your perspective of searching for the truth on the situation! It would appear that the feet of clay of the Arab world are crumbling in full sight.

The Tunisian street finally rebelled against the dictatorial government raising fears in many other similar regimes in the Middle East that do not take note of popular opinion. Egypt, Iran and many others are uncomfortable with this precedent.

In Lebanon, Hezb-Allah denied all knowledge of the assassination of former Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri. Recent findings not only implicate Hezb-Allah but that the assassination was at the direct initiation of Iran with complete co-operation of Syria and Syria's President Assad. Despite the clear proof Saad Hariri , son of the assassinated Rafik Hariri, refuses to believe that Syria was involved although the UN tribunal believes differently. Thus the inconsistencies of the Middle East continue through lies and disbelief.,7340,L-4013827,00.html

Ahmedinejad isn't thrilled with the revelations in Lebanon and warns us that if we (the West) continue the sedition we will have our hands cut off.

In Israel, Ehud Barak left the Labour Party, joined the Netanyahu Government and the Labour Party left the Government. In order to form a separate faction of any party in Israel one must achieve at least a third of the original faction, which Barak obtained, and the move must be approved by The Knesset House Committee. The new Party will be called Atzma'ut or Independence. The Netanyahu Government assured ,Atzma'ut, which includes the very effective Matan Vilna'i, for whom the position of Minister responsible for Homeland Security, has been created in the Cabinet.
It almost certainly means the demise of the Labour Party whose divisions were greater than their loyalties and over recent years has consistently moved left, those remaining are almost certain to join with either Kadima or Meretz depending on their leanings.
Barak describes “Atzma'ut” as "centralist, Zionist and democratic."

With thanks to our host David Efron, Zvi and I went to a SPME (Scholars for Peace in the Middle East ) Conference in Miami. Speakers included Prof. Alan Dershowitz, Prof. Irwin Cotler and Ambassador Michael Oren. All three are outstanding proponents of the Israeli cause, all very different. What really moved me was that when Professor Dershowitz stood to make his short speech he turned to Prof. Cotler and described him as his hero. You are not alone Prof Dershowitz – Irwin Cotler holds hero status for many of us, his quiet, unassuming manner has achieved enormous results. The essence of this conference was to encourage University Professors and lecturers, indeed all involved in putting forward a message, to stand up and be counted. We cannot simply avoid the subject of Israel, we must stand before our students and make sure that they know of our beliefs. Prof. Dershowitz said that he normally get a 10 in his student assessments, being a very involved teacher who takes his students home to dinner and is involved in their problems and their joys. When he got the results of the assessments he saw that 90% approved of him utterly and 10% gave him 0% - those were the students who disagreed with his stance on Israel and refused to be involved. We have to accept such censure for the right to speak of what we believe. We must have courage, the courage of both our convictions and the subsequent results, good and bad.
The ticket to success for a 5th rate teacher at a 3rd rate university is to deprecate Israel, and they do!

We came to Miami for a very special occasion, indeed a double occasion, the Bar Miztvot of Ilan and Jeremy, the twin sons of Helene and Martin Lindenfeld. One comes prepared for something special, such is the nature of the Lindenfeld Family, but just how special it would be took my breath away.
The celebrations began on Friday night in the Chabad Synagogue in Coconut Grove, with a Shabbat service led by the Barmitzva boys. They did a phenomenal job, singing in harmony those prayers and tunes which have been handed down through the centuries, ever encouraged by their “Big Rabbino” Rabbi Yakov Fellig, a true Jew in his beliefs, attitude and inclusion of all who wish to take part in that wonderful life experience called Judaism. From the service we all went into the main body of the synagogue to have a traditional Shabbat Dinner, including “Zmirot” the traditional songs a Shabbat meal from the song-book we brought from Israel. It was a truly joyous occasion.

As I told you, any event with the Lindenfeld Family is exceptional and the festivities continued in the most Jewish of manners. Monday morning everyone assembled again with Ilan, Jeremy and the Big Rabbino at Chabad Coconut Grove for the ceremony of the Tefillin.

Under instruction they built their own tefillin (phylacteries) before putting them on their arms, near their hearts, and on their foreheads, as described in the ancient prayer of Shema. The boys then conducted the service in full, without skipping a beat or missing a note. It was an incredible feat which they carried out impeccably to the intense pride of parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brother, sisters and of course the entire congregation made up of those who love them and their family. From the synagogue we made our somewhat sodden way to their home and a party to beat all parties held on their lawn (luckily covered by a very large marquee – tent). Even the heavy Florida rain couldn't dampen the spirits or the joy.

What impresses me most is the deep commitment of Helene and Martin to instill a sense of tradition and Jewishness in their children which will hold them firm in their path for the rest of their lives. They also instilled in them a fabulous ability to dance as both boys gave a wonderful performance on stage at the party!!!!!!

Here is Miami we have seen old friends and made new ones – and have yet to see many others. David celebrated my 65th birthday with a cute crinoline cake which we managed to light a fewminutes before midnight! In addition to our two hosts we spent time with the Haritons, Zanzuris and Zvi found an old friend who took us to a 35th wedding anniversary held in Yiddisch reminiscent of the Catskill Mountains in the '50's, and last night we spent with our beloved friends Linda and Nikky Gandel from Melbourne and of course Lauren, David Efrons daughter who is making her final plans for Aliya in the summer.

The excitement of Miami is an extension of the joy before we left. My son Daniel and his beautiful family of wife Karen, son Joshua (oy I could eat him) and Karens Mum Ellen visited from NYNY. Zvi and I loved showing Ellen Jerusalem on this her first visit to Israel; sitting on our veranda and seeing Jerusalem before us; sensing the quiet of a Shabbat in Jerusalem; watching Joshy giggle as he played crazy Israeli style with his Israeli cousins, Yosef, Talia and Ayala; seeing Joshy's initial concern then absolute joy at being thrown in the air by his Saba Zvi....... all 6'7” of him! To see a little boys face at the achievement of touching the ceiling is sheer joy!

Jay and Lisa Massirman were amongst the first recipients of my Shabbat Shalom emails. Jay and I sat together at the Bar Mitzva and talked of my setting up a real website with my own domain so that I can reach out even further. Jay suggested that I reach out to you, my loyal friends, to help me. I earn nothing from my writings and Zvi and I have dedicated our lives to Israel and the Jewish people so we accumulated amazing friends, deep pride but no money!!! I anyone is willing to help me fund it...... please write to me and Jay will help me set it up.

To end todays update I though you would like to know some facts presented at the SPME conference.
Of 190 States, less than half are democracies
Israel is older than over half of them
Only a handful never had a coup d'etat
Israel deserves respect for her democracy, her fairness, her stance in a free world.
For the Americans amongst you -
Abraham Lincoln- The greatest dream is when the Jews return to Palestine
Woodrow Wilson – pushed the Balfour Declaration
Truman – I am Cyrus
Bill Clinton – his surrogate father told him – Never turn your back on Israel
Madison spoke fluent Hebrew
William Bradford said – Let us return to Zion and finally, did you know that you nearly had Moses leading the Jews to the Promised Land as the Seal of the United States instead of “a follically challenged bird”

I wish you a wonderful remainder of this week and a truly thoughtful Shabbat

With much love from Jerusalem through Coral Gables!