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November 8, 2013

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, NOVEMBER 8, 2013 By Avi Weiss NEW YORK (JTA)--Belief in God is at the core of my very being. But that belief is sometimes challenged by the scores of innocents killed over the millennia in God's name, from biblical times to the present day. Last month, dozens were killed at a shopping mall in Kenya by terrorists demand- ing to know if those they were confronting were Muslim. If Muslim, they were spared; if not, they were murdered. One man who claimed to be Muslim was asked to name Muhammad's mother. When he could not, he was summar- ily shot in the head. The day after the mall attack, dozens of Christians were murdered at a prayer service in Pakistan. And yes, though they are aberrations, it must be said there have been Jews who have murdered in the name of God, like the perpetrator of the Hebron massacre 20 years ago. The late writer Christo- How to stop killing in the name of God pher Hitchens cited horrors like these to argue that we are better off without God. It is an understandable re- action. But ethics derived completely from human civilization also have their weaknesses. If ethics comes solely from the human being, from the human mind, from human reason--it is relative. As Freud is purported to have said, when it comes to self- deception, human beings are geniuses. If Hitler were asked whether the murder of 6 million Jews was ethical, he would say it was. The same is true of the godless communist regimes that murdered mil- lions during the course of the 20th century. But even if ethics without God has its flaws, Hitchens' challenge still must be ad- dressed. Ethicswith God often doesn't seem much better. There are, I believe, some necessary ingredients for a belief in an ethical God, a God whose ethics are citical to a just and better world, a God whose presence I always feel. The first ingredient is thata true God must make room for believers in other gods. This is the position of Rabbi Men- achem ben Shlomo Ha-Me'iri, who believed that all human beings demand equal protec- tion, regardless of their faith, as long as they are "members of a society based on laws and morality." In contemporary terms, Me'iri is saying that we are obligated to treat every person, whatever the person's belief or non-belief, as we would a fellow Jew. The second criterion is that God must welcome, and even demand, to be challenged. God's covenantal relationship with human beings means that there are times when we are encouraged to ques- tion and even protest God's mandates. This goes back to the time of Abraham, who challenged God's decision to destroy the city of Sodom. The Midrash teaches that God rewarded Abraham with direct revela- tion of prophecy because of his commitment to fight for the rights of the righteous. Another example is Moses, us to kill an innocent, we who is commanded to go to have the responsibility to war against Sihon, but at- question, to challenge, to tempts to first make peace, confront God. This is the God, the Midrash tells us, dynamic of our covenantal accedes to Moses' initiative. As relationship. This is what. my son, Dov Weiss, observed ih his doctoral dissertation on man's challenges to God, "God's response to Moses is striking as God concedes to Moses's ethical sensibilities and ratifies this less militant approach into law." Given this relationship between humans and God, it is important not to overstep-= that is, it is important to confront God with reverence and humility. But it is equally important not to silence our inner ethical voices. Such give and take is not an expression of defiance but of mutual love. As the Midrash says, "Any love that does not include challenging each other is not true Iove."While this Midrash deals with interpersonal rela- tionships, it can be extended to apply to our relationship with God. In simple terms this would mean, if God commands God wants from us. Indeed, the God I believe in categori- cally rejects the targeted killing of innocents. From this perspective, the Jewish doctrine of belief is a hybrid It is not the ethics of the human being alone, nor is it derived from God alone. It is an interfacing of the two, with each demanding proper behavior from the other. This is the synthesis of the Written Law, which comes from God, and the Oral Law,' centered on human input which--with divine man- date--explicates the written one. From this synthesis--from the Talmud, the commen- taries, the codes of law, the rabbinic responsa--emerges an unequivocal and absolute conclusion: Murder in the name of God is obscene, a desecration of God's name. A story is told about Martin PAGE 5A Buber and Franz Rosenz- weig, two prominent 20th century philosophers. After eight years of writing to each other Rosenzweig, who was a bit younger, wrote a poem in which he asked Buber if he could address him using the word du, the German intimate expression of'friendship. Bu- ber agreed. Rosenzweig then said: Thank you. I'll always say du, but in my heart'I will continue to say sie--the more formal German term for the other--reflective of my deep respect for you. Rosenzweig's concept is an accurate reflection of our rela- tionship with an ethical God. Questioning with respect. Challenging with reverence. Confronting with humility. And holding each other mutu- ally accountable. Rabbi Avi Weiss is the founder of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and Yeshivat Maharat, and senior rabbi at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale in New York. His new book, "Holistic Prayer," will soon be published by Maggid Press. Negotiations will fail because Palestinians don't want peace By Morton A. Klein and Daniel Mandel Israel and Mahmoud Ab- bas's Fatah-controlled Pal- estinian Authority (PA) are engaging in negotiations refused for years by the PA. Yet, only weeks ago, the PA Minister of Religious Affairs Mahmoud AI-Habbash deliv- ere d a paean to ShekihAhmad Yassin, founder and leader of Hamas, the terrorist orga- nization that has murdered- hundreds of Israelis in scores of suicide bombings, calling him a Palestinian"icon." How can peace talks and glorifying a terrorist chieftain coexist in the PA? Al-Habbash gave us the answer this summer, when he justified this return to diplomacy by reference to something well-known to his mosque audience--the 628 Treaty of Hudabiyyah. Hudabiyyah was an agree- ment between Muhammad and the Meccan Quraish tribe, in which Muhammad promised a decade of peace. But in less than two years, a Qureishi-allied tribe com- mitted a breach by attacking a Muhammad-allied tribe. Muhammad who had mean- while organized a huge army, took this pretext to attack the Qureishis. Isolated and unprepared, the Qureishis surrendered. This approach, said AI- Habbash, has "brought us to where we are today." "We have a [Palestinian] Authority and the world rec- ognizes the [Palestinian] state. All this never would have hap- pened.., only through the wis- dom of the leadership.., exactly like the prophet [Muhammad] did in the Treaty of Hudabi- yyah... This is the example, this is th model," he said. In short, the Hudabiyyah strategy--working toward the weakening and eventual elimination of Israel through negotiations--has been the operative Palestinian strategy since the Oslo Accords were signed 20 years ago. Arafat said as much in a May 1994 speech in a Johannesburg mosque. (Israel demanded a retraction and an end to terrorism, got neither--but continued nonetheless ngo- tiating and conceding). WhenArafat tolda confiden- tial meeting of Arab ambassa- dors in Stockholm in January 1996 that the aim of Oslo was "splitting, Israel psychologi- cally," and "eliminat[ing] the State of Israelandestablish[ing] a purely Palestinian State" that would "make life unbearable for Jews," the revelation was ignored even by Israel, which chose to ignore Arafat's words as well as their political rami- fications. Since Arafat's death, his successor, Mahmoud Abbas, has made it abundantly clear that not only has he not aco cepted Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state CI do not accept the Jewish State, call it what you will") but he also in- tends to set up a Jew-free state ("when a Palestinian state is established, it would have no Israeli presence in it"). Questioned in an interview on the need for recognition of Israel, Abbas replied that, while official recognition was unavoidably necessary for the PUrpose of obtaining vital Israeli concessions, "It is not required of Hamas, or of Fatah, or of the Popular Front to recognize Israel." And, indeed, Abbas's Fatah has never altered its Constitu- tion calling forthe destruction of Israel and the use of ter- rorism to achieve it. Former Fatah strongman in Gaza, Muhammad Dahlan, put it plainly when he said, "The Fatah movement does not recognize Israel, even today." Words and bombs are thus the Fatah/PA strategy, a One week's activities illustrate continuity of Jewish people By Gidi Mark CEO Taglit-Birthright Israel A decade ago, Jewish par- ents worried that their chil- dren wouldn't marry Jewish or bar and bat mitzvah their own children. Today, however, we see a younger generation that is marrying within the faith and looking to raise their children Jewish, while maintaining a strong bond to Israel. Taglit-Birthright Israel's free educational trip, of- fered to young Jewish adults between the ages of 18 and 26, is largely responsible for creating the change we believed only a decade ago to be impossible: The younger generation is not only more connected to their Jewish identity and to the State of Israel, but they are actually even more connected than their marriage partners or significant others who did not participate in Birthright. The past week's activities aptly illustrate the actions that are ensuring the conti- nuity of the Jewish people. We had 5,000 participants from abroad, along with 1,000 Israeli participants, plus a first-ever sports day that brought together 2,000 participants and 500 IDF soldiers in an incredible show of Israel-Diaspora teamwork. In addition to our regular 10-day educational trip, we now offer a four-day exten- sion with content focusing on popular topics such as Israel's hi-tech industry, a unique search and rescue program within the IDF, and Mada, an eco-environmental extension that gives participants a better and more in-depth glimpse of Israel. While we were preparing to accommodate the 44,000 Birthright participants we anticipate for this year, He- brew University and Brandeis University hosted a two-day conference dedicated to dis- cussing the success of Taglit- Birthright Israel. The confer- ence brought together more than 50 researchers from around the world who not only debated and tackled academic issues, but discussed the research of Brandeis Univer- sity, which has consecutively shown for three years, that when Taglit-Birthright Israel alumni return home, they want to marry within the Jew- ish faith while maintaining a strong bond with Israel. The book of Bamidbar (Numbers) tells the story of the Jewish people wandering in the desert, on their way to Israel. But fears, doubts and skepticism make the journey last some 40 years longer -than planned. The dream of a strong Jewish people bonded with Israel is prolonged and as a result, the majority of the people missed out on the experience. Today, we have a State and we have Taglit-Birthright Israel--the bridge that gives every young Jewish adult an opportunity to discover their Jewish heritage. Now is the time to call upon those who haven't yet taken charge of bringing home the masses, who have not yet connected with their Jewish identity or experienced Israel first hand. It is in our hands, but more importantly, it is our obligation, to make sure that each and every young Jewish adult takes advantage of their historic "birthright" to visit Israel, connect with their Jew- ish heritage, thereby attaining the crucial building blocks to help create a strong future. strategy made possible only by duplicity. That's why the late Palestinian leader Feisal Husseini once dubbed it the strategy ofthe"Trojan Horse," in which the Palestinian regime installed via negotia- tions would serve "our final aim.., the liberation of all of historical Palestine, from the river to the sea." That's why senior PA fig- ure Abbas Zaki tells an Arab audience, "IfI say that I want to remove [Israel] from exis- tence, thiswiii be great, great, [but] it is hard. This is not a [stated] policy. You can't say it to the world. You can say it to yourself." That's why the PA claims to be interested in a negotiated peace, even while it tells its people repeatedly that the Jews have no historical con- nection of rights in Jerusalem or anywhere else. In short, the PA has a long-established policy of duplicity about its anti- peace intentions. In these circumstances, not only are the Israeli-Palestinian con- flict negotiations convened under American auspices foredoomed, but in pursuing them, the ObamaAdministra- tion has embarked on a fool's errand. Furthermore, by pres- suring Israel to make further concessions--like the freeing of jailed Palestinian terror- ists, merely to get the PA to the negotiating table--it is endangering an ally. This is a moment for the Congress to act. It can produce a detailed list of Palestinian bad-faith statements (of which we have provided here only a fraction) and call upon the PA to explicitly retract each statement to its own public. It can make further aid to the PA conditional on verifi- able Palestinian reforms, like outlawing terrorist groups, arresting terrorists and end- ing the incitement to hatred and murder that feeds the conflict. And it can withhold aid until these prerequisites for a genuine peace are forth- coming Morton A. Klein is national president of the Zionist Orga- nization ofAmerica (ZOA). Dr. Daniel Mandel is director of the ZOA's. Center for Middle East Policy and author ofH. E Evatt & the Establishment of Israel (London, 2004). Dry Bones LEAVE To u,S. 00ov'"r ,00suF00r00c00 floor ( P-, S RIG004"T- + CagleCartoons.corn' S'Ro00400 Hello I PrA00G you I t c-- y --to |Lb .6,