Saturday, September 08, 2007


Dear Friends,
No, the title of this letter doesn't signal an intention to convert the sometimes long breaks between my letters into a year off.  Rather, a reminder that this Wednesday night is Rosh Hashanah - and the start of a sabbatical year.  The seventh year in a cycle; a great equaliser when we remember that all we have is by the grace of G-d, and we "return" it to him, allowing fields to lie fallow, making the produce available for all to take - rich or poor, and forgiving debts owed to us. 
With the re-emergence of the Jewish state, the sabbatical year is being progressively reinstated.  A remarkable testament to the Jewish scholars who studied and kept alive the complex laws for centuries, believing that one day the prophesies would be fulfilled, with our people returning to their ancestral land.   How ridiculous it must have seemed.  Even the derisory Roman name "Palaestina" had stuck to the Holy Land.  As if it was more likely that the extinct Philistine enemies of Israel would return than the Jews. 
As I prepared our small garden for the sabbatical year - cutting and pruning in extra measure so that the plants won't grow too wild in the coming year - I thought how lucky I was to be able to practice this ancient custom, and to be part of the fulfilment of prophesy.
Wishing all my family and friends "Shana tova".  May you be inscribed and sealed for a year of happiness, health and prosperity.  A year of peace for all.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Darfurian Israelis

Dear Friends,

In this day and age, almost no matter where you live, it is hard to take pride in government. Here in Israel there's lots to brag about. Technological leadership, thriving economy, the warmth of our society, the way our youngsters defend their fellow citizens against attack in a never ending terror war ... but sadly, our elected leaders are not usually part of the positive images. So when they get caught doing something right, it's a noteworthy surprise. A story in today's Ha'aretz is one of those surprises.

Interior Minister, Meir Sheetrit, announced that hundreds of Darfur refugees will be granted citizenship of Israel. Estimates are that around 2,000 African refugees have found asylum in Israel, but the issue is not without its problems. With their pursuers having shifted whole new populations into the Sudanese homes and villages, they will have nowhere to go even after the fighting is over. It is clear that the 2.5 million who have been displaced cannot be absorbed by tiny Israel. It is also difficult to differentiate between economic opportunists and genuine refugees – not to mention the security risk associated with potential infiltrators from an enemy state said to harbour Al-Qaida. To date, the Israeli Muslim community has not come forward, and so those who are in Israel do not have a local community into which they easily integrate.

On the other hand, the Jewish state, which was rose out of the ashes of the Holocaust and became a haven for hundreds of thousands of Jews chased out of Arab countries and has a collective memory of exile to Rome and Babylon, dhimmitude in Arabia, the Spanish Inquisition, and European pogroms, cannot stand idly by. 

Darfur is a world responsibility, and one in which it would be reasonable to expect the Arab and African nations to take a lead.  Arab states, as yet have shown no inclination to reign in the racist Arab Muslims who are engaged in rape, pillage and plunder of the most barbaric dimensions. Nor have they shown the slightest inclination to protect the persecuted black Muslims. It is worse.  In a most repulsive story, Egyptian border guards murdered Sudanese refugees trying to cross the border, seeking refuge in Israel. A physical "tug-of-war" with Israeli border guards over one of the refugees ended in an Egyptian "victory" after they pointed their guns at the Israelis.  The poor refugee "prize" was simply dragged back over the border and clubbed to death.  Nor have African nations offered succour to their Muslim and animist coreligionists.  And the Western world has been equally unwilling to offer haven.

As we approach the Rosh Hashanna new year, we and the Sudanese refugees can only hope that the example set by Israel, absorbing a number so large in terms of its relative population, and granting the protection and benefits of citizenship to the stateless, will be part of fulfillment of the words of the prophet Isiah "The law will go out of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem."  Press your government to take heed and act.


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