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JTNews | The Voice of Jewish Washington for February 8, 2013

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six broken cameras page 3www.jtnews.net

JTnews

the voice of

n

february

From Tel Aviv to Chicago

JEWISH8, 2013n

lithuanian memories page 1228 shevat 5773n

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volume

89,

ra Page 1 ti . 3 4 n oo ns

W a s h i n g t o n

to SeattleOne night of Israeli dancePage 32

Todd RosenbeRg

professionalwashington.com connecting our local Jewish community

/jtnews

@jew_ish @jewishcal

2

opinion

JTnews . www.JTnews.neT . friday, february 8, 2013

A light unto the nations v2.0Rabbi HaRRy Zeitlin Congregation beth HaAriJudaism has contributed a great deal to world civilization. We introduced the concept of ethical monotheism and were among the first peoples to encourage universal literacy. Our tradition speaks of freedom and liberty for all not just for an elite a society based on law rather than power. We have much to be proud of. But have we run out of gas? Does our tradition today offer anything more than a private and temporary shelter in the storm from an increasingly material-oriented, crisis-torn world? Does anything in our millennia-long story makes a difference anymore? Is our charge to be a light unto the nations now obsolete? Or is the best yet to come? Perhaps our least appreciated resource (outside, of course, of yeshiva enclaves) is our Talmudic tradition. Among the many ways we can describe it, it is a twomillennia cooperative art project, a living system that continues to develop. Its also a systematic unfolding of the Infinite into the physical world of boundaries and limits. It serves as the foundation, source material, and methodology for deriving halachah defined as a going (i.e., a path toward spiritual development) ritual and liturgical law, as well as Jewish civil and communal law. The detailed descriptions and analyses of the written Torah text and of the Temple services have inspired us and fired both our imaginations and our yearning, contributing greatly to our miraculous and unique survival as a homeless people. But is that really all it is? Beyond the various internal (limited to religious/ritual/halachic) benefits Talmud study provides, the process itself is unique, powerful and multi-layered. Transcending all specific subjects, it trains our minds to think in very advanced ways. As we zero in on a point, we suddenly find ourselves examining other phenomena, which might share only one non-obvious similarity to our original subject. Sometimes well return to the main point, other times well continue exploring and examining a chain of associations. We examine everything from multiple points of view, both in isolation and in relation to other ideas and opinions. Sometimes well solve the puzzle, but other times well just leave the question for the time being, marking it as, indeed, difficult kushiya (thats a hard one) or teiku (well wait for Elijah the Prophet announcing the imminent arrival of Messiah to explain). If we take a step back, something even more curious emerges. Although the Talmud is based on questions and answers, it soon becomes apparent the answers were known before the discussion even begins. For example, the very beginning of the Oral Torah, the first chapter of the first tractate, Berachot, begins by asking from what time can we begin to say the evening Shema. Obviously, the rabbis of the Mishna davened every day of their lives, as did their fathers and grandfathers and great-grandfathers. They knew exactly when to say the Shema. This is our first clue something much more important is going on were being taught and drilled in advanced thinking. Daily Talmud study resembles nothing so closely as daily gym workouts or daily musical scale practice. Intense immersion in Talmud study, in addition to the religious and even the spiritual benefits, develops our minds to work linearly and laterally, empirically and intuitively, serially and associatively, all at the same time! Although the Gemara (Berachot 6b) defines its actual benefit as learning how to reason, I have no quarrel with those who want to limit their study to questions of halachah, nor with those who study in order to, in indescribable but actual ways, merge their intellect with the Divine Intellect in order to deepen their relationship with God. But I want to propose an entirely additional direction. Our world is a mess! Between almost universal economic meltdown, endless environmental disasters, continual wars and culture clashes, starvation, resurgent disease and probably more people living under slavery than at any time in the past, were all in a heap of trouble! To add even more urgency, our former problem-solving strategies no longer seem effective. One reason for this crisis, I propose, is our exclusive reliance on science, based entirely on empiricism. Even ever-advancing computing power doesnt really help, since its the same binary-only fallacy, just at much higher speed. Lets introduce rigorous Talmud studyX PAge 31

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friday, february 8, 2013 . www.jtnews.net . jtnews opinion

3

A sixth broken cameraHen maZZig special to JTnewsI had been in Seattle and the U.S. only a few days when I heard that Palestinian Iyad Burnat, brother of the filmmaker of the Oscar-nominated feature documentary, 5 Broken Cameras, would be speaking about the non-violent nature of Palestinian demonstrations. I knew I had to attend the event. I had met Iyad five years earlier when I was a young Israeli soldier, an 18-yearold who had just started my service in the Israeli Defense Forces. The IDF knew there would be a demonstration against Israels security fence near Ramallah, a Palestinian city in the West Bank. The IDF wanted someone who spoke Arabic to mediate between the demonstrators and the IDF soldiers and minimize the chances of any physical altercations. Since I speak Arabic, I was chosen for this task. As soon as I arrived at the Palestinian town, I encountered Iyad Burnat, who was leading the demonstration. I tried to speak with him again and again, and ask him to stop what was becoming a violent riot. I told him there are other ways to protest and that talking with each other would work better than clashing with the IDF. In response, he shoved me to the ground and the crowd cheered. Soon after, the Palestinian demonstrators began hurling rocks and stones. One broke the jaw of a friend of mine, a fellow IDF soldier. He was forced to stay in the hospital for three weeks until he recovered. Now, five years later, on January 13, 2013, I saw Iyad again at his presentation in Seattle. I was unfamiliar with the sponsoring groups, Jewish Voice for Peace and Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights (SUPER), but thought they might want the audience to hear what I had to say, even if they disagreed with me. I sat quietly while Iyad talked. His presentation was full of lies, demonization of Israel and of Israels army, false accusations, and deception. Hard as it was to do, I listened politely to his hate speech. It was even harder to sit still through his pictures and video clips of soldiers being pushed and injured, accompanied by overly dramatic music common in action and horror films. It hurt me to hear the audience laugh every time an Israeli soldier fell down, and to see that the film had been edited to make it seem that the IDF abused the demonstrators. From personal experience, I knew the provocations and violence that forced the IDF to act were omitted. When Iyad opened the floor to questions, I waited patiently for others to speak. I stood and asked Iyad if he recognized me. As I expected, he said he did not. I told Iyad and the audience about the first time we met and how he had shoved me and how his demonstrators had broken the jaw of a fellow soldier who was my friend. I told them about another similar nonviolent demonstration when Palestinians threw rocks and severely injured a young soldier who lost his eye. I asked Iyad, How can you call these non-violent protests? I then brought out my photo of one of Iyads demonstrations, which showed five masked Palestinians with big rocks in their hands, preparing to hurl them at Israeli soldiers. When I was in mid-sentence, a young man in the audience, probably in his early 20s and wearing a Free Palestine t-shirt, began screaming at me. When I had spoken about the injured Israeli soldiers, he shouted, Good. Im glad. They deserved it. Then he began yelling, Get this f--ing, f---ing Zionist out of here. Another Israeli in the audience stood up and told him to let me speak. But the young man continued his vulgar tirade, demanding that Zionists be removed from the room. I attempted to calm him, reassuring him that I had come to start a dialogue and that there was no need for such hostility. But the angry man started aggressively charging toward me. I simply turned and left the room. I was determined not to let him get into physical contact with me. The other Israeli man later told me that unfortunately, the confrontation did not end after I left. When I left, he also started to leave. A woman reached out to him and said in Hebrew, Please dont leave. Im scared, but I want to ask a question. The Israeli waited while she asked her question. Apparently, as Iyad attempted to answer, the aggressive man moved toward the Israeli, and while facing the woman who had asked the question, made threatening gestures, moving his hand across his neck as if slitting someones throat. Then he charged across the room toward the Israeli as though preparing to attack him. With no way to protect himself or the woman who asked the ques