Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Guess who else wants dominion over Israel?

There’s a certain corner in Jerusalem that startles me every time we drive by. At that corner, there are always Arab women, walking with their children, Greek Orthodox clerics, monks and a few Jews, going about their daily business. When I see that mass of humanity converging on this corner, I always think, “Why are all these outsiders living here? And why are we not?”

Last night, I heard a talk by Penina Taylor, Director of Shomrei Emet: Institute for Counter-Missionary Studies. In the talk, Penina vividly described the three-part hidden agenda of the Messianic Jews (Hebrew Christians) regarding Israel.

1) Offer huge amounts of humanitarian aid to the needy of Israel

2) Use the goodwill generated by that aid to apply political pressure to make it easier for Messianic Jews to make aliyah

3) Once Messianic Jews are able to enter the country in large numbers, use their influence to have Messianic Judaism (which, despite its name, is actually Christianity) be considered in Israel as an accepted form of Judaism.

Here’s what that really means. If they are successful, and by all measures they are beginning to make tremendous inroads, Israel stands to lose its status as a Jewish state.

According to Penina, there are reportedly 100 Hebrew Christian churches in Israel. Compare that to the 400 Hebrew Christian churches that exist in the US, which is, in round numbers, 50 times more populous than Israel.

Said another way, Israel could become a Christian nation.

Of course, that’s only if the Islamic fundamentalists don’t turn Israel into an Islamic state first.

And here’s the great irony.

The Hebrew Christians desire dominion over Israel and are working vigorously to achieve it.

The Islamic fundamentalists desire dominion over Israel and are killing violently to achieve it.

Even Gd says,“For Zion's sake will I not hold My peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest.” (Isaiah 62:1)

And the diaspora Jews?

It seems the only people that aren’t willing to sacrifice for the sake of Israel are the Jews of chutz l’aretz who are busy building lives in other people’s countries.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Gradual Klita

When we first started researching the possibility of buying an apartment in Israel years before we could make aliyah and actually live there full-time, we were advised by potential neighbor, a woman who worked for the Misrad haKlita (Ministry of Absorption) and was thus speaking from actual experience, not to do it. There is no such thing as going through klita gradually,” she said. One becomes a citizen of Israel all at once or not at all. “It is simply not possible to live your life on two different sides of the ocean,” she chastened me.

That was four years ago. Since then, the phenomena of olim working in America and living in Israel has become commonplace.

And we bought an apartment that summer anyway.

The impact of that purchase on me has been extraordinary.

I have become obsessed with Israel. My collection of books about Israel has swollen to overtake its own bookcase. On Shabbat, I read a review of a novel that takes place in Israel. After Shabbat, I ran out to a late night bookstore to buy the book and I stayed up until 4:30 AM to finish it.

I am a woman possessed.

But even more, I had two experiences this week that demonstrate to me that gradual klita, that learning about Israel a little at a time so one is not shocked by the reality, is absolutely possible.

We had a guest over Shabbat, an earnest young man whom we have known since his childhood. He just returned from two intense, growthful years in yeshiva in Jerusalem. “Just last Shabbat,” he reported, “I was davening at the Kotel. I was standing in the place where all Jewish prayers arrive.” Further, he taught us the Jewish secret of deja vu. This is the holy Israel, the spiritual potential that draws my neshama like a neodymium magnet.

Earlier in the week, I met with an Israeli banker. More mundane than prayer at the Kotel, but also necessary for life in Israel. We spoke about many things, among them the current government and its policies. “If you’re going to live in Israel, you have to understand that it’s like living in Chelm,” he said with a sly smile, referring to the legend of Chelm, Poland where all the residents are fools, though they think of themselves as great sages.

This is what the last 10+ visits to Israel have taught me. Chelm and the Kotel are both a part of life there. So when I get there for real, when I live there full-time, Gd-willing, this contrast will not shock me.

Because for all these years, I have been experiencing gradual klita.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Square Pegs in Round Holes

My mother lives five states away, but I know she thinks about me every time she reads her local Jewish newspaper. Every now and then, she sends me a clipping that she thinks I’ll enjoy reading. This last time, she sent a fat envelope with multiple articles.

I began to notice a theme in a few of them. One details the dispute of a Jewish community in Venice Beach, CA. They want to erect an eruv but the residents of the beachfront fear that the fishing line that is being proposed as the eruv will spoil their ocean view. Local environmentalists are afraid that birds will fly into the line and, I suppose, decapitate themselves.

The fight in Venice Beach reminds me of two local, related stories. In one, Shabbat observant Jewish residents of a high-rise condominium want to install a Shabbat elevator and the condo board voted against it. The issue has been referred to the Maryland Commission on Human Relations.

In the third, similar story, older Shabbat-observant residents want to keep the back door of their apartment building unlocked during Shabbat so they can dramatically shorten their walk to shul, but other residents object over security concerns.

I’m not arguing for or against any of these viewpoints. It struck me that each of these news stories represent groups of American Jews who want to alter their environment to enhance their religious observance but who are being barred from doing so by other citizens.

This is one of the prices we pay for live in galus, where worldviews collide.