Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Israel Denial, part 2

Denying the State of Israel's existence has always been the vogue among Muslim and other hostile states. But recently we have begun to witness Israel denial tolerated in the mainstream.

Israel has been omitted from maps by NPR, Harper Collins, BMW and Air France, to name a few. (Links below)

Incredibly, this bizarre phenomenon has been predicted and mapped out (pun intended) nearly three thousand years ago in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Psalms chapter 83 describes a time when the nations will clamor for Israel's destruction. In an uproar, the nations will seek crafty pretexts with which to eliminate G-d's treasured people.

In verse 5, "They will say: 'Come, let us erase them from being a nation, and that the name Israel never be mentioned again.'"

אָמְר֗וּ לְ֭כוּ וְנַכְחִידֵ֣ם מִגּ֑וֹי  וְלֹֽא־יִזָּכֵ֖ר שֵֽׁם־יִשְׂרָאֵ֣ל עֽוֹד׃

In this context, the phrase "ונכחידם מגוי" has been traditionally translated "let us destroy them from being a nation." However, the verb כחד usually denotes to erase, omit, conceal or deny. It can be read, "Let us deny them from being a nation," or "Let us deny their statehood."

Alternatively, it can be read, "Let's hide or ignore the fact that they are a nation," or "Let's omit them from being among the nations," so that "Israel not be mentioned again."

The Midrash points out that the nations are referred to here as "Your enemies," i.e. the enemies of G-d, and that their war on Israel is in fact a war on G-d. "As long as Israel survives," the nations reckon, "He is called 'G-d of Israel.' But once Israel is uprooted, then whose G-d is He?"

The Psalm begins:
1. A Psalm, a song of Asaph.
2. O God, have no silence, do not be silent and do not be still, O God.
(This implies that the world stands by silently as hostile nations raise their heads insolently and call for Israel's destruction, or omission.)
3. For behold, Your enemies uproar, and those who hate You raise their heads.
4. Against Your people they scheme cunningly, and they plot against Your hidden ones  ("ויתיעצו על צפוניך").
Our Sages comment on "Your hidden ones" that just as G-d is a mystery, so is G-d's people a mystery. Indeed, they are "hidden" in "Your" inscrutable mystery.
(See previous discussion of the true definition of Israel)
5. They will say: "Come, let us erase them from being a nation, and that the name Israel never be mentioned again."
The nations' effort to erase Israel is due to the fact that G-d is concealed ("צפוניך"), and consequently the true value of Israel as G-d's people is likewise concealed.

Some commentaries explain that the Psalm refers to the world's hostile attitude toward Israel in the last days of exile prior to the Final Redemption.

It is obvious to me that we are witnessing the unfolding of a three-thousand-year-old Biblical prophecy and the arrival of the Final Redemption.

Let's hope and pray that the end of the chapter be speedily realized:
17. Fill their faces with shame, and they will seek Your countenance, O Lord...
19. Let them know that You-Your name alone is God, Most High over all the earth.
Meanwhile, the surest way to usher the final Redemption is by "putting Israel back on the map" by increasing in Torah and mitzvot, by living up to our lofty name, Israel. By summoning our secret reservoirs of self sacrifice ("צפוניך") to study Torah and observe Mitzvot, we effectively make G-dliness known all over the earth.

And then, even our biggest enemies will come to know the truth.

וְיֵדְעוּ כִּי אַתָּה שִׁמְךָ ה' לְבַדֶּךָ עֶלְיוֹן עַל כָּל הָאָרֶץ


Friday, March 4, 2016

Israel is real.

"Israel is not a state."

Not surprisingly, Iran recently articulated a view held by thirty-five other mostly-Muslim nations, some 17% of United Nation member states who do not recognize Israel's statehood. The Iranian nuclear chief was asked whether or not he thinks an Israeli-Iranian war could arise as a result of last year’s nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. He responded: “We essentially do not see [Israel] as a state, therefore it’s not a threat to Iran.”(article)

Of course, the absurd remark bespeaks a total escape from reality. Israel is undeniably a sovereign state with a stable government and formidable military that Iran certainly reckons with. Yet nevertheless, Israel-denial seems to be a hallmark of the irrational world of depraved fundamentalist Islamists. The very notion that a "Jewish State" could possibly exist is unacceptable to them, so it's ideologically easier to simply pretend it doesn't. Perhaps even more absurdly, the State of Israel has in the past been ready to concede vast stretches of territory to hostile Arab terrorists, thereby compromising it own security, all in exchange for a mere piece of paper in which the nominal "peace partners" simply agree to recognize Israel's existence! And yet in spite of Israel's best efforts to achieve recognition, Iran and others do not acknowledge its statehood.

However, as delusional as the above statement is, I must confess that there is deeper significance in these words that we ought to consider.

In fact, in a strange way I actually agree! Israel is not a state.

Wait! Before your feathers get ruffled, please hear me out.

Israel is not really a state. There happens to be a modern sovereign state called "Israel," but that state is not Israel, at least not in the truest sense of the word Israel. You heard me right. The "State of Israel" is not really Israel.

To illustrate: is the Milky Way a candy bar? Or an amusement park? Or one of numerous songs or movies? Or an overpriced chic kosher restaurant on West Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles?

No. The candy bar may have been named after a galaxy, but the candy bar is not a galaxy, just as a mobile device called "Galaxy" isn't a galaxy either. It's just a puny, soon-to-be-obsolete mobile device. An infinitesimally tiny speck of dust in an incomparably vast galaxy.

Wikipedia gives us disambiguation choices for these secondary contextual meanings.

However, Wikipedia and the world make a colossal error when it comes to Israel. They define Israel primarily as a modern state, while the true meaning of Israel is barely mentioned among their numerous disambiguated offerings.

What does Israel really refer to? Who (or what) is Israel?

Let's go back to the original and primary source. Throughout the Bible, the name "Israel" refers to G-d's chosen people, also referred to as "the children of Israel," the descendants of our patriarch Jacob, the original person who was named Israel. So Israel refers to all Jews.

"Hear O Israel, G-D is our G-d, G-d is one." (Deuteronomy) Hear O Jew. When I declare these words twice daily, I am calling upon myself to hear/understand/take to heart that G-d is one. Israel is me.

The Prophets exclaimed in awe: "Who is like Your people Israel, one nation on earth?" (Samuel and Kings) Israel is a people, Your (G-d's) people. Israel is a people and an individual, and many individuals. Israel is all and each of us.

The Talmud relates that when Israel below dons tefillin that proclaims the Shema, that G-d is one, G-d metaphorically dons tefillin above that proclaims the latter verse, that Israel is one.

Deuteronomy: את ה' האמרת היום וה' האמירך היום להיות לו לעם סגולה -- "You have declared G-d's singularity in this world on this day, and G-d has declared your singularity in the world on this day, that you may be His treasured nation..."

Who is Israel? Israel is you and me. Your Jewish neighbor down the street, the one you talk to and the one you don't talk to. The Hareidi Jew who makes you feel uncomfortable. The agnostic Jew, the marginal Jew, the committed and the uncommitted Jew, the cosmopolitan Jew, the ghetto Jew and the "settler" Jew. The inspired Jew and the disillusioned Jew. The chassidic and the unchassidic, Sephardic, Ashkenazic or Mizrachi. The Schlimiel Jew the Schlimazel Jew and the Nudnik Jew. They, we, are all Israel.

We are one because G-d is one.

G-d is undefinable, and Israel is undefinable. We are G-d's and G-d is ours.

כל הנוגע בהם כאילו נוגע בבת עינו של הקב"ה
Israel's enemies are enemies of G-d. Those who love Israel love G-d.

Israel is not a state nor even a land. The land is referred to as "Eretz Yisrael," the "Land of Israel," i.e. the Land that belongs to Israel. Israel is the people to whom the land belongs, whether they reside in their Land yet or not.

Israel is a Jew, a diaspora Jew just as much as a Jerusalemite Jew.

Israel is not a state nor a government. The modern sovereign state that happens to be called Israel is not Israel. But the Jew in Madagascar, in Massachusetts or Tehran -- he (or she) is Israel, every bit as much as the Jew who lives in Tel Aviv.

Being "Israeli" or a citizen of the modern state of Israel does not make one Israel. Being a Jew makes one Israel.

A Jew who lives in Judea and Samaria doesn't just live in Israel. He (or she) IS Israel.

(Parenthetically, Judea and Samaria are both part of the Land that G-d bequeathed to His people Israel. No government or official has the right to cede any inch of that territory to foreign occupiers who are not Israel. Even a majority vote in the State of Israel does not give the democratically elected Israeli official any mandate to cede this territory, since it is the personal inheritance of all Israel, ie every Jew on earth. The Knesset is only authorized to safeguard the Land, but in no way to relinquish it to any foreigner, Heaven forfend. The Knesset is NOT Israel. One can be a member of the Israeli Knesset and not be Israel.)

The mitzva (commandment of the Torah) referred to as "Ahavat Yisrael" ("Love of Israel") does not mean to love a state, political entity, or even the Land, as holy as it is. It means to love your fellow Jew. Once you appreciate the inestimable value of a Jew, once you can truly love your fellow as yourself, then you can appreciate how precious is the sacred and eternal Land promised to G-d's people.

An Canadian is Canadian because of the state. So is a Frenchman or an American. The state gives him his national identity. But Israel is not Israel because of a state. A Jew is Israel because G-d is one. And the state is called Israel only because Israel is Israel.

To define Israel as a state is to define the Milky Way as a candy bar and worse.

It is to reduce the pinnacle of Creation, an unfathomable part of G-d from above, as it were, to nothing more than a cheap video game at Walmart.

Please don't get me wrong. I do not wish to denigrate or minimize my appreciation for the State of Israel. It is a state that deserves our support and assistance and even sacrifice. But it is nothing more than a man-made state like all others. Greece and Cyprus are also states, as is the United States.

The State of Israel is a vitally important state, as it funds a military that defends six million Israels who dwell in its midst. It regulates the economy and provides social services for its citizens, Israels and non-Israels alike. But it exists as a means to a greater end. It is not the ends in itself. It is not really Israel. It exists to serve Israel. We pray that it will endure and flourish until the ultimate sovereignty of Israel is restored, the era of Moshiach ben David Melech Yisrael, chai v'kayam. We pray that until that time, it will fulfill its purpose and protect its citizens from harm by ousting or eliminating the dangerous and hostile elements in its midst and near its borders.

So, to conclude, Israel is not a state. It is a part of G-d from above, an awesome Cosmic force that is transforming the world into the Dwelling Place for the Creator that it was intended to be. Israel is every Jewish man, woman and child who are poised to achieve their glorious destiny. Israel is the heart and soul and hands and feet of the Jew, the ambassador for G-d in this world. Israel is the People of the Book, G-d's book, who are ordained by G-d to impart His wisdom to the world as a Light unto the Nations. Israel is G-d's gift to mankind, entrusted with the mission of teaching the Seven Noahide Laws to humanity, Iranians and Arabs included.

Once we understand and truly acknowledge what Israel is, ie who we are as individuals and as a people, we can then appreciate the great need for a State for Israel. But please let's not confuse our ends with our means. Let's not reverse our definitions, as Wikipedia might have us believe, that Israel is a modern state that Jews ought to pride themselves in because of its great modern achievements, and that this modern state somehow justifies or validates the Jewish people as "nation among the nations," since we now have a soccer team and a national flag to hoist up high like Greece and Cyprus, etc. If we make this grave error, then we have lost sight of who we are and have trivialized why we are here.

So our partner in Heaven, our Divine Creator, sends a vile arch-terrorist to insolently declare that Israel is not a state to remind us that indeed, we are not a state. The state is a state only because we are Israel. If Israel is nothing more than a state, then there's nothing to justify its existence. Hence the state-denial by the Islamists.

Pardon my elaboration, but I hope the message is now clear. You are Israel. So now get out there and tell the world who you are.

PS: Israel means "the one who struggled with angels and with man and prevailed." Curiously, even our most egregious and implacable foes (like Iran, Hamas, et al)  call us Israel, thereby acknowledging our ascendancy. Subconsciously they concede that we will ultimately prevail.