Some Sukkot reads

One Imam, Multiple Messages

This piece does not come as a complete shock.  It seems Imam Rauf has laid out his agenda in his writings but most people are unfamiliar with his true colors.  He supports the Ayatollah’s regime in Iran and he denies the Islamic connection to 9/11.  And this will be the same man at the forefront of interfaith dialogue?

Is Israel More Isolated than Ever?

This policy piece tries to show how Israel has more allies and more foreign relationships than what is portrayed by the media.  We are led to believe Israel is often if not always standing alone in the fight for its survival.

War Games

Video games are the new medium for introducing the next generation to the horrors of war.  This piece describes how video games have overtaken movies in the war genre.  A secondary issue in the piece was how many of these games are designed with former soldiers as consultants.  The question has been whether video games are respectful to the deceased soldiers.  By other soldiers being involved in game making, perhaps the question is not a simple yes or no. 


9/15 – Yom Kippur reads

The Meaning of the Koran

Another attempt at showing how the holy books of the world can be biased to whatever side you believe to be correct.  I am not sure what this adds to the discussion other than the opening couple of paragraphs.  Basically, don’t burn the Quran because it does contain verses that speak well of Jews and Christians. 

Kosher by Design

He brings to the community a general review of the one of the more unappreciated Jewish thinkers of the late 20th century, Michael Wyschogrod.  One of the more fascinating elements of Wyschogrod’s thinking which was highlighted was his belief that we should engage in interfaith theological dialogue.  This is as opposed to his teacher Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, who explained in his work Confrontation that the only interfaith dialogue that could work relates to societal commonalities. 

Lost in Translation

This piece is very fascinating.  It is about an Arab who is interested in Judaic studies as a means of better enlightening his people to understand what Judaism is all about.  Obviously, he is having trouble getting Arabic translations of Jewish works published.  Yet, I empathize with his goals and wishes.  I think if peace is to ever be found in the Middle East, education will be the most important element.  And what better way to educate the next generations than to provide material so they can see what Judaism is really all about. 

How Do You Say Shofar in Ukrainian?

This is nice little piece describing Rosh Hashanah in Uman.  Uman of course is the burial town of Rebbe Nachman, the Breslover Rebbe (the one and only).  Makes me think about going some year down the road, though while I would love to see it, I’m not sure I would enjoy being with 35,000 people for Rosh Hashanah.  Might be a bit overwhelming for me.

9/13 – 9/14 reads

First Blood

Sometimes conspiracy theories are not so far-fetched.  It seems that Meir Kahane might have been the first event in the current history of Al-Qaida terrorism on US soil.  This essay describes some of the history of the beginnings of Al-Qaida and its connections with the group that assassinated Kahane.  Very fascinating and very scary at the same time. 

The imam behind the New York mosque enjoys his megaphone

The author’s premise is that the Imam is causing his own bad publicity by trying to continuously make the argument about the value of his institution being built near Ground Zero.  I have said much on the subject in previous posts, so I will leave the editorial to speak for itself. 

Pastor Terry Jones, as right as John Brown

An interesting editorial, for the author, Richard Cohen, argues that Terry Jones, while wrong for wanting to burn the Quran, should also be defended as expressing his freedom of speech and expression.  This is an interesting debate in its own right, as to what constitutes the limits of the freedom of expression.  Yet, I think Cohen has one thing clearly correct.  An America in which one cannot express himself because of fear of repercussions is not a free America.  Nevertheless, as I have already written, the burning of religious books, regardless of the religion is overstepping the boundaries. 

How will al-Qaeda mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11?

We should not be so complacent as to believe nothing will happen again.  Many Americans think we are nearly as safe as we were before 9/11.  I think we have short memories.  Be that as it may, this editorial is a reminder of all the failed and successful terrorist plots.  By definition, a terrorist plot doesn’t have to succeed to be a terrorist attack.  The failures also strike fear, for they can be seen as the what ifs.  This is in contrast to another recent editorial, Post 9/11: we’re safer than we think.  Zakaria argues that we have all but neutralized Al-Qaida and should feel safer today.  As such, perhaps we should back off the war on terrorism.  Yet, if we slow down, we might allow for the rebuilding of the radical movements.  Besides, Al-Qaida isn’t the only one and to quote a figure of 400 might be underestimating the number of sleeper cells that had been in place. 

The Golem of Prague & The Golem of Rehovoth

This small essay was originally published in Commentary.  It can also be found in Scholem’s The Messianic Idea in Judaism.  First off, this is quite an interesting comparison of robotics/computers and the ancient idea of the humanoid fashioned by man.  I particularly like the point by point comparison at the end.  In 2010, man has created an artificial form of speech for this machine, almost one-upping the old Golem stories.  Yet, it is not human speech so much as processed speech from human writing.  Also, Scholem sees ahead to our days, when computers are sleek and attractive, taking up little space.  For more about the idea of Golem, see The Golem: Universal and Particular.  The notion of the Golem is found in different forms throughout literature and mystical thinking.  It is another form of humanity believing it can have “control” over the elements.   

Who’s Bluffing: Abbas or Netanyahu?

The evidence is clear that the peace process is again doomed to failure.  The reality is that until the Arab governments accept the legitimacy of Israel being a Jewish country, peace isn’t possible.  The Israeli government, for better or worse, is willing to discuss trading more land for peace, but they require the recognition of the state as a trade-off.

He wouldn’t have chosen the site if he had known!?!

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf: Politicians have poisoned process for Islamic center near Ground Zero

So, now it seems the Imam has admitted he is making a mistake.  I don’t know, but this seems almost as disingenuine as the politicians he is attacking.  As I keep thinking about the mosque issue, all I know is that most people I have spoken with are against it, not because of Islamophobia but because they think it is insensitive.  Shouldn’t he have realized that as well?  Of course, he also says, what’s done is done, so I won’t decide to move it.  I keep saying that I definitely am I glad I don’t have to make a decision to allow for the mosque to be built or moved.  Neither choice will end well.

9/1 Reads

Mind the Grid

This blog piece is another thought about the challenges of modern technology getting in the way of mindfulness, contemplation and spiritual growth.  Personally, one of the benefits of Shabbat is that the phone goes off, the computer goes off, leaving me with a day to read and think.  Granted, I still read the newspaper on Shabbat (the horror), but at least I can do so in a leisurely manner. 

My favorite line was a question the author posed at he beginning of his piece: 

Who knows how much of my newfound calm is due to escaping modern technology and how much is due to immersing myself in an ancient discipline?

You Ain’t Seen This Before

Friedman compares the Israel-Palestinian situation with the Iraqi Sunni-Shiite situation as two potentially impossible to resolve crises.  He is correct in once sense, namely that resolving centuries old conflicts are not something that can happen overnight.  That being said, how does it make sense to compare words to action.  Comparing the inexcusable words of Rav Ovadiah Yosef with the killing of four Israelis by a Hamas terrorist seems unfair.  Most of the time, from what we are told, while the Religious Zionist Rabbis utter hateful thoughts, most situations don’t end in absolute violence.  Granted, there have been times when it has, such as Yigal Amir’s assassination of Yitzchak Rabin, but still, the numbers of terrorists attacks clearly favors the Palestinians.   I sometimes think American leadership is too arrogant, thinking they can find a solution to problems that almost seem genetic. 

A Peace Plan Within Our Grasp

Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak offers his opinion on the peace talks to start tomorrow.  He argues that the infrastructure is in place but all that remains is for the psychology of violence to come to an end.  As is typical, while he recognizes the need for Egypt to be part of the solution, the blame ultimately falls on Israel for not being as quick to give up land.  Of course, these words are published the day after another shooting near Qiryat Arba, in which 4 Israelis were killed (Snap analysis: Mideast peace talks jeopardized at starting gate).  So, Israel offers land and blood is shed.  Israel doesn’t want to return land, blood is shed.  I don’t know, but it seems to me that something doesn’t add up.

Cemetery Politics

Allen Nadler reviews some of the summers controversial graveyard issues in Israel, as both the Haredi community and the Arab Israeli community have used the existence of a cemetary to fight for their agendas. 

A Symposium: What Is Moderate Islam?

This symposium is a must read.  The phrase moderate Islam is one fraught with much controversy.  Some of the writers, specifically the Islamic ones, find moderate to imply that somehow they are inauthentic.  They prefer terms like normative Islam or modernist Islam.  All the authors agree that the average Islamic person is not extremist, but someone concerned about living life and making sure to have food on the table.  I often use that argument myself.  However, the challenge we face is that most of us are only exposed to the extremists, who number more than a fringe few. 

Obama Peace Talks for Israel, Palestine Will Fail: Yossi Beilin

Beilin claims that the current American proposal will cause a complete failure of the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.  There is a pragmatic nature to his words as he cautions that too much too fast is not going to work.  Peace needs to be slow and steady.   

Married Couples Grow More Alike, Right? Wrong

This piece presents a debate about whether married couples become more alike or if they simply are alike from the start because we look for similar personality traits.  It could be some of both.  It would be hard for people living together not to begin acting in complimentary ways over time. 

Alcohol and Health: Why the Sober Die Sooner

The study discussed in this piece seems misleading.  The sober die sooner more likely from other factors than because they don’t indulge in drink.  Yet, maybe moderate drinking is healthy, as other studies have shown.

8/30/10 reads

In Israel, Settling for Less

Why do we blame just religious zionists instead of questioning how a government can turn it’s back on blood spilled to conquer and secure the lands being offered back in peace? I think the challenge of peace is not just because some don’t want to give back land. The challenge from the Israeli side is believing giving more land away will actually end the conflict, especially considering that conflict continues after Oslo, Wye, and the Gaza disengagement. At some point, the violent parties all need to be held accountable and not be rewarded for violence.

Five myths about mosques in America

Very simply, this op-Ed is interesting but misguided. The mosque on ground zero for many is not about the mosque but about an anger towards the ideaof a mosque on that location. Nobody is denying the Imam from opening a mosque, just not there, on the location of a tragedy brought about by fanatical Islamic terrorists.

Islamic law and modernity

I saw the following report posted at Elder of Ziyyon.  In it, we find Islamic law trying to find a leniency for people who are breaking the law.  I guess this is a way to confront modern culture.  Whatever, it is, I think I will let the piece do the rest of the talking. 

Women in Saudi Arabia should give their breast milk to male colleagues and acquaintances in order to avoid breaking strict Islamic law forbidding mixing between the sexes, two powerful Saudi clerics have said. They are at odds, however, over precisely how the milk should be conveyed.

A fatwa issued recently about adult breast-feeding to establish “maternal relations” and preclude the possibility of sexual contact has resulted in a week’s worth of newspaper headlines in Saudi Arabia. Some have found the debate so bizarre that they’re calling for stricter regulations about how and when fatwas should be issued.

Sheikh Al Obeikan, an adviser to the royal court and consultant to the Ministry of Justice, set off a firestorm of controversy recently when he said on TV that women who come into regular contact with men who aren’t related to them ought to give them their breast milk so they will be considered relatives.

“The man should take the milk, but not directly from the breast of the woman,” Al Obeikan said, according to Gulf News. “He should drink it and then becomes a relative of the family, a fact that allows him to come in contact with the women without breaking Islam’s rules about mixing.”

Obeikan said the fatwa applied to men who live in the same house or come into contact with women on a regular basis, except for drivers.

 Al Obeikan, who made the statement after being asked on TV about a 2007 fatwa issued by an Egyptian scholar about adult breast-feeding, said that the breast milk ought to be pumped out and given to men in a glass. 

But his remarks were followed by an announcement by another high-profile sheik, Abi Ishaq Al Huwaini, who said that men should suckle the breast milk directly from a woman’s breast.

Shortly after the two sheiks weighed in on the matter, a bus driver in the country’s Eastern Region reportedly told one of the female teachers whom he drives regularly that he wanted to suckle milk from her breast. The teacher has threaten to file a lawsuit against him.

Under Islamic law, women are encouraged to breast-feed their children until the age of 2. It is not uncommon for sisters, for example, to breast-feed their nephews so they and their daughters will not have to cover their faces in front of them later in life. The custom is called being a “breast milk sibling.”

But under Islamic law, breast milk siblings have to be breastfed before the age of 2 in five “fulfilling” sessions. Islam prohibits sexual relations between a man and any woman who breastfed him in infancy. They are then allowed to be alone together when the man is an adult because he is not considered a potential mate.

“The whole issue just shows how clueless men are,” blogger Eman Al Nafjan wrote on her website. “All this back and forth between sheiks and not one bothers to ask a woman if it’s logical, let alone possible to breastfeed a grown man five fulfilling breast milk meals.

“Moreover, the thought of a huge hairy face at a woman’s breast does not evoke motherly or even brotherly feelings. It could go from the grotesque to the erotic but definitely not maternal.”

Al Nafjan said many in the country were appalled by the fatwa.

“We have many important issues that need discussing,” Al Nafjan told AOL News Friday. “It’s ridiculous to spend time talking about adult breast-feeding.”

The original adult breast-feeding fatwa was issued three years ago by an Egyptian scholar at Egypt’s al-Azhar University, considered Sunni Islam’s top university. Ezzat Attiya was expelled from the university after advocating breast-feeding of men as a way to circumnavigate segregation of the sexes in Egypt.

A year ago, Attiya was reinstated to his post.