What Now?

In recent weeks I have seen a number of articles, all of which contend that now that everyone sees that there is no chance of a two state solution at present, the time has come for a discussion of alternative ways of resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict. And no doubt this is true, but I find it significant that the authors of these articles do not themselves put forward any alternatives.
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The Temple Mount Revisited

It has long been apparent to me that the logic of Zionism as a political movement requires a Jewish presence on the Temple Mount.  The question is what kind of presence, and how can it be maintained.   I first…
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Why I Am A Zionist

Published in Midstream | Summer 2011
In the year 2001 of the Christian era my wife and I became Israeli citizens and moved from New York City to Netanya in Israel. We are living there still. I guess that makes me a Zionist. But when people in Israel ask me why I gave up our comfortable life in the United States to live in a nation under siege, I have trouble coming up with a good answer. I usually say, “Because I want to live in a Jewish neighborhood.”
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Rosh HaShanah

Rosh HaShanah as it is observed today has a dual character. On the one hand, as Rosh HaShanah (literally “head of the year”, or more colloquially, “first of the year”, meaning “New Year’s Day”), it is a festive occasion normally celebrated in the home with feasting and rejoicing.
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Tisha B’Av

Tisha B’Av, the Ninth of Av, is the date on the Jewish calendar on which both the first and second Temples were destroyed. It was treated as a fast day and a day of mourning in rabbinical culture. Although rabbinical Judaism was not centered around the Temple, which no longer existed after 70 CE, and although the prophetic tradition out of which rabbinical Judaism emerged was critical of the sacrificial rites of the Temple, the destruction of the Temple was nonetheless treated by the rabbis as a major catastrophe. This was the context in which the belief gradually took hold that the Messiah, who was seen as a heavenly figure, had been born on Tisha B’Av.
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Bridging The Gap

The big problem which confronts any attempt to make sense of early Hebrew history is how to bridge the gap between the literary and the archaeological evidence. On the one hand we have the evidence of the narrative contained in the Hebrew scriptures, most especially the Torah but also the historical books. And on the other hand we have the evidence of innumerable inscriptions unearthed in many different parts of the Middle East dating from the 2nd millenium BCE and making reference in passing to bands of runaway slaves and other fugitives known as Habiru. In particular there are references to Habiru participating in an uprising against Egyptian rule in Canaan in the 14th century BCE, Habiru being brought to Egypt as prisoners after the failure of the uprising and Habiru working as slaves on construction projects for the Egyptians. It has long been evident to me that the Hebrews must have been Habiru, but aside from their common status as slaves in Egypt and similar names, there seems to be little or nothing to connect the two groups.
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Jewish Influence

Most people, including many Jews, know little or nothing about Jewish history and the little which they do know consists almost entirely of three components: the chronicles of the so-called “Old Testament”, the fact that the Holocaust took place and the existence of the state of Israel. The 2000 years of Jewish history which separate the first of these components from the other two remain little known except to Jewish historians, and even among Jewish historians there is a strong tendency to minimize the significance of what happened during this period for anyone except the Jews themselves.
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Multi Culty

Ever since the rise of multiculturalism in the 1970s I have been wondering how come Jews never got included in the authorized list of oppressed multi-cultural entities. To be sure, Jews as individuals can play a role in multi-cultural life, but only as members of some other category, such as feminists or homosexuals. So far as I am aware, Jews who present themselves simply as Jews have never been considered oppressed enough to form a part of the multi-cultural universe. To the contrary, we are lucky if we are not lumped together with the oppressors.
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Recognizing The Jewish State

There are two arguments which are commonly made in favor of the idea of Israel as a Jewish state. One is that in the light of the Holocaust it is clear that the Jewish people needs a state of our own which can protect us from persecution . The other is that God assigned the land of Israel to the Jewish people as a homeland in which to live according to God’s laws. Both of these arguments have serious flaws.
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Purim

It is evident to many or most Jews that the story of Purim as recited in the Scroll of Esther is basically fictional. In the first place, there is no independent confirmation of this story from any other source. In the second place, the names Esther and Mordechai are clearly derived from the names of the Babylonian pagan deities Ishtar and Marduk. And in the third place, and most importantly, the story is inherently improbable. In the entire history of the Persian empire, stretching from its establishment in the late 6th century BCE to its overthrow by the Arabs in the early 7th century CE, there is not a single recorded instance of a widespread persecution of the Jews. Persian policy was generally favorable to the Jews, starting with the decision of Cyrus, the founder of the Persian empire, to permit the Jews in the Babylonian exile to return to the land of Israel and rebuild the Temple. The Zoroastrian priests of the Persian empire did have their differences with the Jews from time to time, but these differences were never so severe as to motivate a genocidal program such as is ascribed to Haman in the Scroll of Esther.
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