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December 11, 2009     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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December 11, 2009
 

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, DECEMBER 11, 2009 The following is a state- ment from CongressmanAlan Grayson (D-Fla.), regarding President Barack Obama's speech last Tuesday night at the United States Military Academy at West Point: "Continuing the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq is a terrible mistake. We do not need to have troops 8,000 miles from our shore to keep Grayson opposes Afghanistan escalation us safe. I hope the President will re-consider this decision. This is a war that really ended a long time ago. Within two months following September 11th, we had overthrown the Taliban government, and after three months we had expelled al-Qaida from Afghanistan, General Petraeus sai6back in May that al-Qaida no longer even operates in Afghanistan. President Karzai agrees. So why are we there? You can't win the same war twice." Grayson rejects the prem- ise that American troops must remain in Afghanistan to prevent the Taliban from taking over. "In 2001, we overthrew a dug-in Taliban government, fighting on its home territory, with barely a thousand Special Forces troops, in less than two month s . How can anyone seriously argue that we need 100,000 troops to keep the Taliban out now?" Grayson's press release says he deeply regrets the impact of war on the U.S. economy. "The economy.is weak. People are suffering. We,ve spent more than $10,000 for every man, woman and child in this country, fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. We can't afford it any more. We have to stop thinking about the well-being of the Tajiks, the Pashtuns, and the Hazara, and instead take care of ourselves." Grayson has been consis- tent in opposing the expansion of the War in Afghanistan. He was one of 32 Democrats who voted against the war's Israefi soldiers spark fears, shift debate with threats of not carrying out orders PAGE 17A supplemental funding in June. He is also a co-sponsor on H.R. 3699, which would prohibit an increase in the number of troops serving in Afghani- stan. Grayson says he favors a speedy withdrawal of Ameri- can forces "That withdrawal would leave Afghanistan to its "people, while savingAmerican lives and money, and achieving at long last--peace." By Leslie Susser JERUSALEM (JTA) Top Israeli political and military leaders are increasingly wor- ried" about several recent incidents involving soldiers publicly declaring their re- fusal to evacuate Jewish settlers from the West Bank. The incidents involved soldiers in the Kfir Brigade, which serves mainly in the West Bank and incorporates a sizable number of religious soldiers from Jewish settle- ments. First, in late October, dur- ing a swearing-in ceremony at the Western Wall, two new Israeli army recruits raised a banner declaring that their battalion would not partici- pate in the removal of squat- ters from Homesh, a settle- ment evacuated once before and to which would-be settlers keep returning in defiance of Israeli army orders to stay away. Reservists from their battalion backed the recruits with the argument that the army's business was to defend the country and its people, not to evacuate settlers. Three weeks later, in mid- November, six soldiers from Nachshon, another Kfir bat- talion, unfurled a banner reading "Nachshon does not evacuate either." In both cases, soldiers alert- ed the media and made sure that photographers were on hand at the critical moments, giving rise to speculation that their actions were not sp(mtaneous but part of an or- chestrated campaign by larger right-wing religious settler forces to render any planned Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank impossible. Although still a minority phenomenon, threats by re- ligiously observant soldiers to disobey orders to evacuate Jewish settlers raise funda- mental questions about dis- cipline in the Israel Defense Forces and Israel's capacity to withdraw from the West Bank in the context of a future agreement with the Palestinians. The politicians and the top military brass believe that if not stamped out quickly, the mood of defiance could spread, making it difficult for the army to function, as soldiers of various political persuasions pick and choose which assignments suit them. Some estimates reckon that if faced with orders to evacu- ate settlers, as many as 30 percent of soldiers stationed in the West Bank ultimately would refuse. Israe.li leaders are taking the developments very seri- ously. "If you want to close down the IDF, then promote refusal to obey orders, which could lead to the collapse of the state," Prime Minister Benja- min Netanyahu declared. "We live O n the strength of the IDF, and the IDF is based on the right to give and take orders." The Israeli military's chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ash- kenzai, has promised zero tolerance for dissenters. All the protesters against evacuation by the IDF were soldiers from Yeshivot Hes- der, Orthodox theological seminaries', whose graduates receive a deferral from the military for Torah study and then enlist, mostly in combat units, for a shortened period of army service. Some of the Hesder rabbis backed the protestersl arguing that for them to evacuate Jews was tantamount to aviolation of their religious faith. Most, however, deplored the acts of protest in uniform as a serious breach of discipline. In the same breath, how- ever, they agreed with the substance of the protests: it was wrong for the IDF to be used against Israeli citizens and that its sphere of op- eration should be limited to defending the state. Major theological issues also are at stake. Some Hes- der rabbis and their students believe that Jewish settlement of and sovereignty over all of what was biblical Israel, including the West Bank, presage the coming of the Messiah. What, they ask, is more important: IDF disci- pline or divine redemption? A decision by the secular arms of state or the divine imperative to settle all the Land? And in the event of a show- down, who to obey, the IDF commanders or the rabbinical authorities? Most of the rabbis and set- tler leaders, however, prefer not to play up the attendant theological issues. Tactically they believe it far more astute to focus on what the IDF should and should not be do- ing. Here, theybelieve, there is more room for discourse with secular Israel, and perhaps even Knesset legislation that would make evacuation of the West Bank almost impossible. Miriam AIster/Flash90/JTA Michael Ben-Ari of the hard-line National Union Party holds a certificate on Nov. 11 that honors Israeli soldiers who refused to evacuate the Jewish settlement of Homesh in the West Bank. Nearly all the leaders of the national religious Zionist camp have taken thesame po- sition, coming down sti'ongly against refusal to obey orders- in the IDF while arguing that the time has come to redefine the IDF's proper functions. The initial impetus for settling of the West Bank was at least partly to cre- ate irreversible facts on the ground. Now, with more than 400,000 settlers--compared to the 8,000 evacuated from Gaza--the sheer settler mass makes any large-scale evacu- ation a daunting prospect. And if, in addition, the army is barred from taking part, it is hard to see how Israel's relatively small police force of approximately 25,000 could cope on its own. For the Kfir Brigade Pro- testers, the major accomplish- ment has been triggering a - major debate over whether the IDF ought to be involved in evacuating civilians. The doubts they have sown seem to be spreading among young recruits, secular and religious. And, in parallel, right-wing settler Knesset members, Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) and Arieh Eldad (Na- tional Union), have tabled a bill limiting the IDF's opera- tional sphere to defending the country, its citizens and its sovereignty, and specifically excluding police duties such as relocating settlers and settlements. In the unlikely event of the measure being passed, it would Undercut the thrust of current international Middle East policy and make imple- mentation of a two-state peace deal with the Palestinians an unrealistic pipe dream. But even if it fails, the bill, like the Kfir Brigade protests, will sow further doubt about the legitimacy of IDF involvement in settler evacuation and thus make it that much more diffi- cult to carry out such a policy. JNF has plenty of Chanukah gift ideas Just in time for Chanukah and with a nod to the tough economic climate, Jewish National Fund has launched a loyalty program offering exclusive discounts as a way to show its appreciation to its donors. All JNF supporters are automatically enrolled inthe program, which allows them to take advantage of savings and rewards from a variety of companies and merchants. Simply signin toww4.jnf.org/ loyalty to browse offers from a growing list of participat- ing vendors, which include DirecTV, Hotel Rooms for Less, American Express and El AI Airlines. Looking for more gift ideas? JNF's online store at www. jnf.org/store has products for Chanukah and year-round. A portion of each sale, supports JNF's work in Israel. JNF's suggested Chanukah gifts include Rite Lite pre- mium hand-dipped Chanu- kah candles from the Jacob Rosenthal Judaica Collection. A box of 45 candles, enough for all eight days of Chanukah, costs $13. Sized to fit most menorahs, the eandles have high quality, lead-free wicks that burn clean and bright for over one hour. From the destruction of Kas- sams, JNF offers a symbol of peace: The Kassam rockets that terrorize the people of Sderot and nearby Israeli communi- ties are now being fashioned into flowers and sold to better the very lives the rockets were designed to destroy. The Sderot Tulip is hand- crafted by Israeli sculptor Eldor Levy from the steel of Kassam rockets that have landed in the besieged town. The flowers are available Riteite premium hand- dipped Chanukah candles from the Jacob Rosenthal Judaica Collection are ready to brigen the season. exclusively through JNF for a $1,000 donation. Proceeds will benefit JNF's important work in Sderot, including the continued funding of an indoor recreation center: Sculptures come in a gift box with an" accompanying informational brochure and make a unique present for any occasion. Levy drew his inspiration for the flower from the not-so- distant memory of his military service in the Gaza Strip. "A hill there remains vividly etched in my mind," he said. "All the soldiers called it 'tulip hill' because at the beginning of the Hebrew month of Adar, the hill would give birth to a great variety of flowers, the most impressive among them the tuliP, the flower that signi- fies the approaching spring season. "It is particularly symbolic for me to create a thought- provoking message from that familiar andwell-remembered hill in the Gaza Strip. Instead of raining destruction and tears through Kassam rock- ets, we are sending a flower to sow peace, growth, and radiance." Limited quantities are available. JNF also offers a mezuzah custom-designed by artist Susan Fullenbaum of Stained Glass Designs, and created from handcrafted, dark blue iridescent stained glass; and kosher Israeli wines from TzoraVineyards in the Judean Hills. Givers can also send per- sonalized JNF tree certifi- cates to family and friends: "By planting trees in your loved ones' honor, you are participating in the'time- honored tradition of green- ing the land of Israel, some thing that Jewish people around the world have been doing for more than a cen- tury," says JNF. Water cer: tificates are also available; From the destruction of Kassams, the Sderot Tulip, crafted by sculptor Eldor Levy, is a symbol of peace. proceeds support critical water projects to address Israel's worst drought in 80 years. These and many more gifts can be purchased online or by calling 800-542-TREE.