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October 23, 2009

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PAGE 4A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, OCTOBER 23, 2009 By-Gary Rosenblatt raise the Divine temper by casting aside His New York Jewish Week commandments. But as in most families, for all the friction, harshwords (and even threats), NEW YORKBefore there was a Jewish in the end the bond holds and the relationship People, there was a Jewish family, and what continues. a family it was. Still, for a family saga, there are an awful lot It started with Abraham, who had marital of R-rated sections, ranging from incest (Lot strife caused by a jealous wife, parenting and his daughters) torape (Jacob's daughter problems because his sons didn't get along Dina) to bloodshed. Indeed, the relationship and he favored one over the other, and issues between the first two siblings on earth, Cain with his nephew Lot, who got in with a bad and Abel. ends inznurder. crowd in Sodom and Gomorrah. What does that have to tell us about hu- And it continued with Isaac and Jacob and man nature? their wives and offspring, who had numer- A great deal, and that is why even though ous disputes, some of them outlined in such we repeat the story every year. reading a To- detail that we are left to wonder whether our rah portion each week, we can also find fresh patriarchs and matriarchs were part of a dys- meanings ifwe arewilling to probe and reflect. functional family. From the outset we are struck by the differ- Welcome (back) to Genesis. as the annual ence between the Torah and the holy books of cycle of Torah readings began again lastweek- other religions. In Christianity, as evidenced end, and we went back to Creation, literally, by The New Testament, Jesus is perfect--in- N.-t an illogical place to start, right? But Rashi, deed a Divine being on earth. In Judaism, by the legendarybiblicalcommentator, famously contrast, our greatest heroes, from Abraham notes that perhaps the Torah. being the story and Sarah to Moses to Miriam to King David. of the Jewish People and not the history of are real flesh and blood, with remarkable ac- the world, should begin with the giving of complishments as well as human flaws. Some the Torah at Mount Sinai. as told in Exodus. fudge the truth, some are prone to jealousy or He suggests that God chose to begin with gossip, andotherstolust.TotheTorah'scredit, Creation, though, to strengthen the Jew- those flaws and foibles are neither omitted nor ish claim to Israel a~, indeed, the Promised glossed over. They are part of the narrative, Land as in. promised to the Jews. Since just as they are part of every human experi- God created the whole world, Rashi says, He erice, and that makes the Biblical characters has the right to apportion it according to His all the more exemplary and their stories more will, and He chose to give Israelto the Jewish compelling because they are real. people. "This precludes counterclaims based One lesson here is that we need not strive for on conquest or history," Rashi asserts, perfection because that is an impossible goal, Would that it were so, and that advocates but rather to do right, as best we can, as often for Zionism need only cite biblical passages to as we can, and to pray for forgiveness when we convince doubters that the Jews have a right sin. Most striking about the Book of Genesis is to the Holy Land that goes back to beginning the strife that takes place within each family of history. Reading the Torah is like reading we meet, much of it due to jealousy, sibling a love story (albeit not a conventional one) rivalry and parental favoritism. between God and the Israelites, who at times Abraham has two sons, Ishmael and Isaac, fear and worship Him and more often seem to but Isaac clearly is the one he loves most. By Cheryl Halpern directed the State Department in 1995 to move the embassy to Jerusalem and recognize the LIVINGSTON, N.J. (JTA) Recent Palestin- city as the capital of the State of Israel, never ian_ riots in Jerusalem's Old City, combined to be re-divided. with Palestinian claims that Israel is trying to However, since 1995, every president subject "Judaize" Jerusalem, are part of a coordinated to this act has suspendedaction onit, asserting effort to deny Israel its long-held claim to the that the Constitution grants to the presidency city as its eternal and undivided capital, alone the right to conduct the nation's foreign Sadly, American foreign policy encourages policy. Of course, there is another reason: the Palestinians to continue with their revi- Some argue that moving the embassy would sionist fantasies. Why? Because the U.S. offi- represent recognition of Israel's sovereignty cially treats Jerusalem as the Palestinian Arab overallofJerusalem, a policy strongly opposed capitalby locating its Palestinian Consulate in by many nations. Jerusalem and its Israeli Embassy elsewhere. Nonetheless, the United States does main- The United States established its embassy tain a diplomatic presence in Jerusalem--just in Tel Aviv and has kept it there, even though not for Israel's benefit. Located now on Agron Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel since Street, just a few blocks outside the Old City" 1950. Prior to that, those areas of Jerusalem walls, the U.S. consular office was established held by the Israelis after their War of Indepen- in the 19th century to serve all U.S. diplomatic dence simply were not secure enough to serve needs in pre-1948 Palestine. as Israel's seat of government. Today it focuses its attention on the Pales- Things have changed. Jerusalem was re- tinian Arab community. The office exists as unified in 1967. and the city is at peace. Still, if it is oblivious to Israel's existence. There is the Americans stay in Tel Aviv. How must barely any mention of the State of Israel on this appear to the rsraelis? Imagine going to the U.S. Jerusalem Consulate's Web site, and someone's house and demanding to be served the consulate maintains an eerie resistance to dinner in the living room rather than the din- recognizinganythingaffiliatedwith Israel. He- ing room. That is, in essence, what the United brew or Jews. The"About Us" section of the Web States is doing. Acknowledging this discourtesy, Congress Jerusalem on page 23A THE VIEWS EXPRESSED ON THIS PAGE ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE VIEWS OF HERITAGE MANAGEMENT. ~ ~ CENTRAL FLORIDA'SIND~PENDENT ISSN 0199-0721 Winner of 40 Press Awards LO A ~WISH NEW HERITAGE Florida Jewish News (ISN 0199-0721) is published weekly for $37.95 per year to Florida ad- dresses ($46.95 for the rest of the U.S.) by HERITAGE~ Central Florida Jewish News, Inc., 207 O'Brien Road, Suite 101, Fern Park. FL 32730. Periodicals postage paid at Fern Park and additional mailing Offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes and other correspondence to: HERITAGE, P.O. Box 300742, Fern Park, FL 32730. MAILING ADDRESS PHONE NUMBER P.O. Box 300742 (407) 834-8787 Fern Park, FL 32730 FAX (407) 831-0507 email: JEWISH VOICE Editor/Publisher Jeffrey Gaeser Editor Emeritus Associate Editor Assistant Editor Gene Starn Lyn Payne Mike Etzkin Sode~ Editor Bookkeeping GloriaYoushaPaulette Harmon Kirn Fischer Account Executives Barbara do Carmo Marci Gaeser Contr~uting Columnists Jim Shipley Ira Sharkansky Tim Boxer David Bornstein Production Delmtmmt David Lehman = David Gandio * Teri Marks Louis Ballantyne = Elaine Schooping = Gil D0mbrosky Isaac. when he is old and blind, has a soft spot for Esau. the hunter, rather than Jacob. the righteous scholar. (Some commentators suggest that Isaac's blindness is not physical. but refers to his inability to see Esau for the crude man of the fields thathe is.) And Jacob, who goes on to father 12 sons. overtly favors Joseph, giving him a splendid coat of many colors. It is this favoritism, and Joseph's flaunting it. that tears the family apart, resulting in Joseph being sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. But remarkably, having seen how parental partiality can almost destroy a family, Jacob does not seem to learn from his own lesson when, as an old man. he again favors his youngest, Ben- jamin, and then chooses to give his most prized blessing to Joseph's younger son. Ephraim. rather than the older sibling, Menashe. No doubt parenting was far different in bib- lical times, when the first-born son received most of the inheritance and women had few rights, than today. But is the notion of loving each of one's children fully and equally merely a modern Western concept? What's remarkable is that the nature of fam- ily strife described in the Torah is eternal, and contemporary. Esau's bitterness againstbrother J~cob begins when Jacob cons him into selling him the all-important birthright in a moment of weakness. Their encounter over a bowl of lentil soup calls to mind a memorable scene in the 1990 Barry Levinson film. i'Avalon," a story of three generations of an American Jewish fam- ily, when one of the uncles in the Krichinsky family comes late to the Thanksgiving dinner and storms out after complaining, "'you didn't wait to cut the turkey?!" Family ties have been torn asunder over such matters for countless generations. Is that a comfort, as in "misery loves company," or reason for despair and dismay? Either way, it's all there in the Torah. An- other reminder that the ancient text still lives and breathes. Gary Rosenblatt is editor and publisher of the New York Jewish Week, from which this column is reprintedwith permission. Readhis Editor's Blog, with new entries daily, at http:// -'The Shark and the Fish' By Terri Fine It's a simple story, really. A short story about a shark and a fish who decide to play together after the fish challenges the shark to play when the shark is inclined to devour him. Their mothers forbid the friendship so they stay apart for along time. The fish's mother tells her child that the shark devoured the fish's father and brother. After a while, the shark and the fish meet by accident, and immediately run back to each other's mother. After one more year passe's, the shark goes out for a nice swim and so does the fish. The fish and the shark meet for a third time, and the shark asks the fish: "You are my ~nemy, but maybe we can make peace?" The shark and the fish played secretly for a very long time, and then spoke with each other's mother together. The story ends with: "And from that same day the sharks and the fish live in peace." The story was read by a group of children from Middle School 22 in the Bronx, N.Y., as a tribute to Gilad Shalit on the second anniversary of Shalit's June 2006 kidnapping in June 2008. The story was written by Shalit himself, when he was 11, the same age as the middle school students reading the story. It is heartbreaking to watch the three-minute video, knowing that just more than one year after its release, Shalit remains alive and in captivity. A video of a gaunt Gilad Shalit filmed on or after Sept. 14, 2009 (as evidenced by a veri- fied dated newspaper) was given to Israel in early October in exchange for the release of 20 Palestinian prisoners. The story that Gilad Shalitwrote as a child in many ways prophesizes why he was kidnapped in the first place and remains in captivity three years later. The shark plans to engage in conditioned behavior until he is challenged, and it is the mothers whose r~sentments are taken on by their children, and not the children themselves, who feel resentment on their own. It is through the children, in deciding to join forces when seeking approval from their moth- ers, who then bring peace immediately to all sharks and to all fish, and not just themselves. I found this story online among those listed about Gilad Shalit when completing a Google search (Go to Google, then "Children Reading for Gilad Shalit,) after the news broke that Gilad Shalit was still alive. Yet why write about it here? Because I saw a connection between Shalit's fictional story and real life experience, arid one of the reasons that the Nobel Committee decided that President Barack Obama would receive the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. Among its reasons, the committee noted "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy arid cooperation between peoples" and "dialogue and negotia- tions are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts." The New York Times reported that President Obama's outreach to Muslims through his "Speech to the Muslim World" delivered at C~iro University on June 4 played a critical role in the Nobel Committee's deliberations. I decided to take a second look at that speech in light of the Oct. 9 announcement and found that several of President Obama's themes in that speech resonated and paral- leled Shalit's childhood fiction. In that speech, Obama stated: For decades, there has been a stalemate [between Israelis, Palestinians, and the Arab world]: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It is easy to point fingers for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel's founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history fromwithin it borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolu- tion is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security. That is in Israel's interest, Palestine's interest, America's interest, and the world's interest. Both Shalit, as an 11-year-old student, and Obama, as president, note that both sides have multi-generational resentments, and that the only way to address them is not for each side to act individually, but to work together. As Obama stated in June, "I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience that the task requires...For peace to come, it is time for them---and all of us--to live up to our responsibilities." My response to Obama's "Speech to the Muslim World" the second time was far different from the first time, when I viewed it and read the text out of professional and personal curiosity. The second time, for me, was contextualized around the very recent development that Gilad Shalit remained alive in captivity and the decision by the Nobel Committee to award PresidentBarack Obama its highly coveted peace prize. The commit- tee's reasons included President Obama's outreach to the Muslim world and a commit- ment to forging peace with both parties at the table despite long-standing resentments. Like Shalit in his work of fiction, where all sharks and fish lived in peace once one family of fish made peace with one family of sharks, President Obama noted that, when peace is made between Israel and the Palestinians. America's interest and the world's interest will also be served. In essence, attacking the problem at its root with all sides at the table working with a patient third party will bring peace where it is least likely, and that peace will emanate outward. Is Obama's "Speech to the Muslim World," like Shalit's childhood story, a work of fiction? Does it contain ideas that cannotbe found in reality? Or do these two documents speak to such an excruciatingly simple solution that there is no other way? I am inclined to believe that, at their core, each has its own kernels of truth. Dr. Terri Susan Fine is a professor ofpolitical science at the University of Central Florida. She can be reached by e-mail at