Recently I buried my stepfather in a Jewish cemetery in eastern Baltimore. He is now surrounded by his first wife, his machatunim (in-laws) and various friends and family members. In this cemetery, with its beautifully engraved headstones with Hebrew names, birthdates and Jewish stars, our close-knit family said Kaddish.
This is a time of year when Jews are expected to think back and lament the flames that ravaged its two holy temples in Jerusalem. The three weeks that began on July 19th, the 17th of Tamuz, and will culminate on the 9th of Av, mark the period between the breaching of the city walls of Jerusalem and the ultimate destruction of the Temple.
Something awful has happened to the campaign to free Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier kidnapped more than five years ago.
The liberal Israeli media has transformed what began as a non-partisan consensus effort into a political confrontation. The media goal, alongside the rescue of Gilad, is to achieve the mass release of Palestinian terrorists.
The catch phrase “we must free Shalit at any cost" has come to mean at any cost that involves the release of Palestinian murderers from Israeli prisons. As if no other cost is a valid option.
For more than ten years now, Birthright Israel has succeeded in enhancing young people's Jewish identities and increasing their attachment to Israel. Like it or not, Birthright has been a silver bullet, the “it” brand in NextGen engagement, and the expectations have never been higher. Does Birthright Israel have the leadership in place to meet this new challenge?
Does Taglit-Birthright Israel have a political agenda?
Questions about Taglit trip’s content have come to the fore, perhaps a natural consequence of it becoming a rite of passage for diaspora young adults, magnified by the intensity of current debate about Israel. The questions are not new, and from the time the first planeload of participants landed in Israel, observers have been looking for the political agenda. But political agendas are more in the mind of the observers than the program.
Among my most vivid childhood memories is sitting on the floor of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun's majestic sanctuary on the eve of Tisha B'Av, listening to Rabbi Haskel Lookstein preface the reading of the scroll of Eicha with the words, "Tonight is nineteen hundred and …years since the destruction of our holy Temple…" Hundreds of people, gripped by the mix of history and immediacy, would shed tears over a building that went up in flames, each wisp of smoke carrying a memory.