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A Temple Mount Tragedy

7 Nov

By Dr. Steven Derfler

One of the major points of contention between Israel and the Arab/Moslem World is over the most sacred piece of real estate on the planet. At 37 acres, the Temple Mount is the focal point of prayer and contention for the three western religious traditions- Judaism, Christianity and Islam. While Christianity has Rome, Constantinople and Jerusalem vying for spiritual ‘seniority’, and Islam has Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem, Judaism has Jerusalem, and Jerusalem, and Jerusalem.

However, traditionally, the role of the holy city, and in particular the Temple Mount, has been widely, if not grudgingly, recognized in importance by each of these traditions to the other.

It has only been in the last century, a result of ‘a Twice Promised Land’ coming out of World War One (ok, blame it on the British!) that we find disinformation and the re-writing of history taking place. But the greatest activity has taken place in the 21st Century.

The Waqf, the Islamic religious authority that was granted control of the Temple Mount by Israel decades ago, decided to ‘remodel’ a series of stables beneath the Mount, create a mosque, and then an internal entry from just north of the Al Aqsa plaza. In doing so, tons of debris, filled with archaeological treasures pertaining to the history of the Temple Mt, were unceremoniously dumped with no regard for context into the Kidron Valley; all in spite of Israeli law that forbade such activity unless overseen by the Israeli Antiquities Authority.

To make matters worse, many stones, some dating to the Tenth Century BCE, were re-used and modified for their building activity.

Archaeologist Eilat Mazar said: “There is disappointment at the turning of a blind eye and the ongoing contempt for the tremendous archaeological importance of the Temple Mount . Using heavy machinery and with little documentation, can damage ancient relics and erase evidence of the presence of the biblical structures. Any excavation, even if for technical reasons, must be documented, photographed and the dirt sifted for any remains of relics.”  Dr. Gabi Barkai slammed the way the excavations were being carried out stating that “They should be using a toothbrush, not a bulldozer”.

The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, rejected the Israeli charges. “We don’t harm the antiquities, we are the ones who are taking care of the antiquities, unlike others who destroy them.” Yusuf Natsheh of the Islamic Waqf argued that “remains unearthed would be from the 16th or 17th century Ottoman period”. He said al-Aqsa compound as an important religious institution. “We regret some Israeli groups try to use archaeology to achieve political ends, but their rules of archaeology do not apply to the Haram; it is a living religious site in an occupied land.”

In 2004, debris was transferred to camps set up at Tzurim Valley National Park, overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem. Here a sifting project was begun; and over the years the Temple Mount debris dump in the Kidron Valley was moved to the sifting site (a total of 322 truckloads, to date).

Objects testifying to the Jewish nature of the Temple Mount platform were dismissed by the Waqf. The Waqf was widely accused of attempting to hide evidence of the existence of the Jewish Temples, which many Palestinian leaders say never existed. That debate continued to rage. “The Aqsa Mosque was an Islamic mosque since the world was created,” said Sheikh Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, in November, 2015. “It was never anything other than a mosque.

However, this flew in the face of what Islamic leaders said themselves about the Temple Mount earlier in the 20th Century.

But prior to 1948, even their own 1925 Wakf guidebook stated that the Dome of the Rock is situated on the universally accepted site of King Solomon’s Temple. “The site is one of the oldest in the world… its identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute. This, too, is the spot, according to the universal belief, on which David built there an altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings.”

Abbas himself called Israeli history in Jerusalem “illusions and legends” and “delusional myths,” referring to the “alleged Temple.”

The destructive partisan biases in UNESCO were clearly evidenced in the fall of 2016, as it would vote to ratify a resolution denying Jewish ties to Judaism’s holiest site, the Temple Mount. An affront to science and history, the resolution, which refers to the Temple Mount solely by its Muslim name of Al-Haram Al-Sharif – ostensibly eliminating its connection to Judaism and Christianity – was expected to be approved by the committee comprised of 21 member states at its 40th session.

As UNESCO approved a resolution that ignored a Jewish connection to The Temple Mount, the Israel Antiquities Authority produced a rare papyrus fragment from the 7th century BCE, written in ancient Hebrew; that mentions Jerusalem. Archaeologists interpreted 2 lines of text as a shipping document reading, “From the king’s maidservant, from Na’arat, jars of wine, to Jerusalem.”

And even more importantly Israeli archaeologists revealed the existence of an ancient Muslim inscription testifying to the fact that the original name of the Dome of the Rock, Qubbat al-Sakhrah, was “Beit al Maqdis” بيت المقدس — “Beit Hamikdash” in Hebrew, aka the Jewish Temple — during the early Muslim era, Makor Rishon reported Friday. According to archaeologists Assaf Avraham and Peretz Reuven, the inscription is dated to the 10th century CE.

It’s time for the western world, Jews, Christians and Moslems of good faith, to recognize the sanctity and legitimacy of the Temple Mount for all religious traditions, and accept the archaeological, historical and spiritual record with dignity and respect.

 

 

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Interfaith Missions to Israel

22 Jun

For the past 4 years, The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee has invested in relationships with the Christian community through community programming and interfaith missions to Israel. This year, we had the opportunity to travel to Israel with another Federation community from the Heart of New Jersey. This unique trip consisted of clergy and leadership from Jewish, Presbyterian, Reform Church, Baptists and Episcopal communities. To read about this trip, click on this article

Below are quotes from two local leaders who traveled to Israel with the Jewish Federation on the mission highlighted in the article:

“Beyond the blessing of biblical locations and narratives coming alive in sight and context, the interfaith trip was a marvelous opportunity to explore deeper conversations and questions (even tough ones) about Judaism and Christianity’s heritage.  The trip also opened my eyes to the greater reality of everyday life in Israel – what it is and isn’t.  How refreshing to see and hear stories of hope and understanding – appreciating the effort to recognize and respect our common human dignity, regardless of background, and the desire we all have to make a better life for future generations.  I learned a lot and am forever grateful for such an educational and inspirational trip.”     – Rev. Michael Todd, Church of the Holy Spirit, Osprey, Florida

 

 

“Israel faces many complex challenges. So often in American mainstream media and around the world, Israel is painted in a negative light, despite the fact that they are daily confronted by an enemy that seeks to destroy their existence. Traveling there and getting to see and hear first-hand about these challenges and the strides Israel is trying to make, was such an affirmation of this bias in media. Truth matters – whether that’s here in America or there in Israel. We need to see both sides of the story and understand that what Israel is facing is complicated. One of the purposes of this trip was for us to see for ourselves what is taking place, to dispel the misconceptions we so often see.  I believe the trip accomplished this.” – Dixie Cline, Director of Development, CareNet Manasota, Bradenton, Florida

Why Are Jews the Only Minority We Don’t Protect On College Campuses? (repost)

6 May

*The following is a repost of an article that originally appeared in the Huffington Post on May 5th, 2016. To read the original please follow this link http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/on-my-campus-jews-are-the-only-minority-we-dont-protect_us_572a9b98e4b046ff51c08a44 

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by Michael Sitver

Last week, some students at University of Chicago, where I attend, proposed a resolution to our College Council to divest from Chinese weapons manufacturers, in protest of China’s severe human rights abuses and its long-standing occupation of Tibet.

Members of the council were quick to condemn the resolution, and for good reason. The members noted it was political, and disrespectful to Chinese students. Other members noted that Chinese students should be given time to respond to the presenters with a counter-presentation. One representative even suggested that the College Council issue an apology to Chinese students for even considering the resolution. The resolution was tabled indefinitely.

Curiously, when a few weeks earlier the same College Council passed a nearly identical resolution condemning Israel, no one suggested an apology. These same representatives argued why it was their moral imperative to condemn Israel. They were determined to push this through at all costs, and despite requests, they didn’t even offer the other side an opportunity to present.

Over the past few weeks I have been told that Jews “don’t count” as a minority. I have been accused of using anti-semitism to justify oppression. All I want to know is why my campus doesn’t treat anti-semitism with the same rigor with which it treats any other forms of bias.

When Jews stood before the council, and asked that it recognize the Jewish right to self-determination, a basic right for all people, people in the room laughed. One representative noted that “If we were to affirm the right to Jewish self-determination … it takes away from the intent of the resolution”.

Students in the room that day called us racists and murderers and “apartheid supporters”, for even thinking we, as Jews, could have a voice in the discussion over the one small state we call our own. A Jewish student was chided “You are racist and you are against me and my family’s existence”. It was uncivil, and unproductive, but the council-members did not once that day condemn the personal nature of these attacks, or defend the rights of the opposition to make their case.

At one point, a student questioned the presenters, members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), about their organization allegedly holding a moment of silence for Palestinians who were killed while trying to murder Jewish Civilians. One of the presenters confirmed the moment, then responded without missing a beat “Palestinians have a right to honor their martyrs”.

If the killing of any other ethnic group had been celebrated, the University would make grief counselors available. It would send out mass emails of condemnation. They would suspend the organization responsible, and possibly the students involved in it. The organization would certainly not have any credibility to present to the student government. Since the victims were Jews though, their celebration of murder went unchallenged. The representatives never even brought the issue up.

On the third slide of the presentation in favor of the resolution, presenters claimed that voting against the resolution would mean “maintaining a system of domination by Jews”. The presenters were relying on one of the most common, long-standing, overtly anti-semitic tropes to make their case, and our representatives said nothing.

On the very next slide, the presenters shared a series of maps which MSNBC once famously referred to as deceptive, and “completely wrong“. The maps (inaccurately) depict border changes between Israelis and Palestinians from 1946-200. What’s most striking is the label though: “Jewish land versus Palestinian land over time”. Not one representative questioned the label. Not one representative questioned the map. The only thing they were willing to question was the right for some state of Israel to exist, and the right to Jewish self-determination.

 

COURTESY: UOFCDIVEST
There were about 500,000 Jews in Israel in 1948, but if you saw this map you would never guess that. This also uses “Jewish” in place of “Israeli”.

Student after student at that first meeting stood to explain to representatives how political and contentious the BDS movement was. They pointed out the movement’s ties to terror and anti-semitism. Some suggested the representatives compromise and call for divestment, but drop the explicit ties to the BDS movement. On this issue, finally, our representatives spoke out.

“As a voting member, I don’t think it’s my job to appease people who don’t support BDS”.

On the China resolution, representatives were quick to point out that it “minimize[d] this issue into a political ploy”. When it came to Israel though, the Council was happy to attempt to speak for its 5,000 constituents without hearing from the other side. They even violated procedure to shut out student voices one meeting, to expedite the vote. The one student they allowed to speak at the meeting was an activist in favor of the resolution.

One representative pointed out to the council that “this [BDS resolution] is being passed a week after a presentation for 15 minutes from one side of the debate, and the opposition … was never formally given time before College Council”. Another pointed out that “it is disingenuous to say that we have moral voice to represent the students and speak on this issue”. That didn’t stop the same representative who seemed so concerned about minimizing the struggles of the Chinese people as a political ploy, from voting for another political ploy.

Their coldness in minimizing the struggles of Jews, living with a legacy of being expelled and exterminated, was mind-boggling to me.

Then again, these biases, and suppressions of speech shouldn’t surprise me, given the system that these Representatives work in. They control $2 million in funding for events and clubs, and they wield that power to silence dissenting voices.

When SJP held events in support of the divest resolution, one of the sponsors was University of Chicago’s own Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

This week is Yom Hashoah, which commemorates the six million Jews that were murdered by the Nazis during World War II. On this day of remembrance, we say “Never forget. Never again”. Yom Hashoah also commemorates an international commitment not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Sadly, fifty-three years after this day was first honored, we seem to be forgetting those lessons. As a campus we’re remarkably tolerant of gender, race, and sexuality in general. Why is it that we’re so uncaring about this one, very real form of racism?

Update (4/05): One thing I didn’t originally emphasize enough is how grateful I am to the 4-5 representatives on the council who genuinely recognized what this resolution was, and spoke and stood against it. I’ve tried my best throughout this article not to name names, but I do want thank those representatives.

Sources:

 

Reflections on “Inside America’s Auschwitz”

24 Apr

By Elyse Warren

In the Smithsonian article, “Inside America’s Auschwitz,” Jared Keller wrestles with the shadows of America’s riddled past with racism after a visit to Louisiana’s Whitney Plantation Slavery Museum. The museum, which opened in December of 2014, marks the first museum in the nation to be recognized as a slave museum. The museum pays homage and bears witness to the history of slavery and crimes against humanity committed against the slaves who were forced into labor at the former indigo, sugar, and cotton plantation.

 

The memorialization and pedagogical design of the tours conducted at the museum break from the confines of the conventional history lesson given in the classroom or at other plantations. The focus is placed on providing the visitor the opportunity to understand the slave experience and remove, as Keller notes, the veil of the Gone With The Wind view of America’s Southern plantations. The experience disillusions the visitor from the romanticism associated with the grandeur of the planation homes and provides a narrative that can not only educate, but act as a change agent within the visitor when they conclude their experience.

 

This thoughtful design mirrors the experience of visiting sites of atrocities committed during the Holocaust in Eastern Europe, specifically the renowned pedagogy and reconciliation constructed through Germany and Poland’s memorialization of the Holocaust. Thanks to the generous support of the Jewish Federation and Dr. Barry and Mrs. Anne Stein, I participated in the March of the Living (MOL) in 2011 with five other high school students from Sarasota and witnessed the concentration camps in Poland and traveled to Israel. Reflecting on the experience, I can still vividly remember the sensory details of visiting the concentration camps and ghettos in Poland. The stench of the rotting wood of the barracks in Auschwitz-Birkenau, the scraped walls of the cattle car at the Lodz Ghetto, and the cold, sterile, space of the gas chambers at Majdonek that were stained with an effervescent turquoise blue from the Zyklon B chemicals. All the details wove together the prisoner experience in the concentration camps into the fabric of Holocaust memorialization and memory.

 

In particular, visiting the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps manifested a poignant experience of walking through endless barracks and fields which evoked a painful feeling of absence. The absence was augmented by comfort and support from peers and the humbling ability to walk through the space with survivors to learn from their testimony. However, the experience would not have been whole without the strong use of narrative and contextualization provided in the education by the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum Center and the staff we had on the MOL. To better understand the role of education and how a nation tries to reconcile with a fraught past, I took my passion from the MOL trip and visited Poland again during a study abroad program in college the following year. I took the experience of the MOL trip and applied it to my studies of how Germany and Poland reconcile the memory of the Holocaust through education and memorialization. Staying in Oswiecim, where Auschwitz-Birkenau is located, helped me understand more fully the role pedagogy in education, as Keller commented, helps to build understanding and reconciliation with the past to ensure that “never again” reins absolute.

 

Paralleling Keller’s experience at the slavery museum, I felt a call to action when I left Poland after the March of the Living and again when I studied abroad. It was a discovery in terms of sense of self, belonging, and meaning not only to Judaism, but to Israel and preserving the history for the next generation to bear witness. Keller noticed the same call expressed in a tour group of young African American students that took to heart the moving mission of the museum. The article by Keller is his call to recognize and draw parallels to how America may learn valuable lessons from Germany, Poland, or even Rwanda in reckoning with the past centuries late.

 

While the two atrocities mentioned have different context and history, they both speak to the call for “never again.” We serve as stewards to the next generation, as the phrase L’dor Vador emphasizes. Echoing a note left at the slave museum, fostering and encouraging the movement to provide enriching educational experiences, whether through the March of the Living or a slave museum, will help ensure that the future generation knows and will not forget the past.

 

To learn more about the March of the Living program, click HERE.

 

100 Days of Impact: Learning

17 Dec

Religious School Scholarships

The Jewish Federation feels that a religious education can have a profoundly positive impact on our children and their Jewish identity. We help make religious school a reality for local children by offering need-based scholarship assistance for those in Sarasota and Manatee counties. As noted through the testimonials below, it is a much appreciated resource! Get the complete scholarship requirements from our website. Scholarships typically open in late July in preparation for the early September school registration!

 

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“A religious school education was an essential part of my upbringing. And now, the Federation scholarship program is making it possible for my son to receive similar instruction, and gain an understanding of his place in the Jewish community.”
David Abolafia

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“The Rosenstein family from Temple Beth El of Bradenton are very appreciative of the scholarship awarded from The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee. Since our religious school is not large it is especially helpful. Thank you.”

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“As a parent with older children, I realize that a vital part of a child’s upbringing is not just the education they receive in school, but the education they receive in Religious school. In religious school children are taught about their rich Jewish Heritage and Judaism. When children learn about their faith and their background at an early age, it gives them a sense of self, pride and a feeling that they belong and that they are important. The children can learn about the Faith which their forefathers have carried with pride throughout generations. Our family is grateful for organizations such as The Jewish Federation, who do everything they can to make sure that every Jewish child is given a chance to learn about their Faith and Beliefs, through their Religious School Scholarship fund. And from everyone in our family, we would like to thank all those who make it possible for our children to learn and grow!”
A.E.G.

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“We are very grateful, and appreciate the assistance we have gotten from the Jewish Federation now, and in the past to help her attend Camp Coleman. These life Jewish experiences are very important for our family, and we would not be able to provide then on or own for Mackenzie at this point in or lives, unfortunately. Thank you very much. Some day when our circumstances change we hope to be able to contribute to another child in need of religious schooling, and Jewish over night camp. Thank you!”
Sincerely,
The Dyrda family

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“My son is 6 almost 7 years old and he is going to his first full year of Hebrew school thanks to The Jewish Federation and their scholarship awarded to my son. I would not be able to send him without their help. We are so thankful and feel very blessed. He has already attended 3 classes and is loving it. He already knows the first 5 letters of the Jewish alphabet which honestly I can only thank Chabad of Venice for providing the classes for Hebrew School. Again Without this wonderful scholarship my son would not be able to attend Hebrew School since I put my priorities for food and clothing first for my three kids. After all bills are paid I have nothing left and anything else goes on credit card which is not good considering how high they have their interest rates. Thank you so much for your financial support, we are so very grateful!”

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“Our family had filled out paperwork for our last two remaining sons to continue their Jewish educations, but were not sure how we would be able to keep them within the Religious School family as we could not afford $950.00 per child. We are a family of five sons and one granddaughter. My husband had lost his job due to my being Jewish and I am a full time student. We were fortunate enough to have someone kind enough to take on our scholarship and allow our last two children. They are paying for our Jacob and Jaiden to continue their Jewish education, along with prepare Jacob for his Bar Mitzvah. How do you thank someone for not only that kind of money, but that kind of Mitzvah, and the on going pride of Judaism that will forever remain in the heart of both of my children? Hashem put whomever took our family on, in our path for a reason and we cannot thank you enough. If we could hug you, we would.”
Sincerely,
The Barrett-Murphy Family.

 

I love Jewish

 

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100 Days of Impact from The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee

100 Days of Impact from The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee

100 Days of Impact started on September 22 and will run through the end of 2014. Each week we will demonstrate the the collaborative impact that we and our donors make locally and globally.

MAKE A DONATION

You are the Jewish community. This is your Federation. Together, we do extraordinary things!

Rabbi Macklemore: Random Costume or Jewish Stereotype?

21 May

This past Friday night, mainstream rapper Macklemore had a performance in Seattle for which he chose a curious wardrobe – a black wig and beard, a large prosthetic nose, and a black jacket. This provoked some controversy about whether his outfit was meant to portray the stereotype of an Orthodox Jew. Some even claimed that his look was reminiscent of Nazi propaganda. Macklemore responded to some upset on Twitter by writing, “A fake witches nose, wig, and beard = random costume. Not my idea of a stereotype of anybody.”

macklemore

Macklemore, right, dressed up in a wig, fake beard, and prosthetic nose

 

What do you think? “Random costume” or Jewish stereotype? If you think he deliberately was trying to portray a Jewish stereotype, do you find it offensive? Let us know your thoughts in a comment.

March of the Living teens experience Shabbat in Poland

28 Apr
2014 Sarasota March of the Living delegation

2014 Sarasota March of the Living delegation

This past weekend has been one of the most inspirational weekends I have ever experienced.

On Friday night, we arrived at our hotel and immediately got ready for Shabbat. We lit candles and went to services that were very uplifting and energetic. After services and a mifgash (recollection) session, we had about an hour to visit and meet some more of the Southern Region. The next day, Shabbat, we got to sleep in, which was enough to make the whole day just that much better, but I had no idea what an impact this Saturday would actually have on me.

We started off the morning with Shabbat services. I went to the Conservative service and the rabbi taught me about why we pray and that it doesn’t have to follow any specific format because everyone prays in their own personal ways. This made me realize that I don’t have to go to temple to express myself through prayer. After services we went on a walk through Cracow.

The first place we went was to eat lunch and we had no idea what we were walking in to. We arrived at this huge building and when we walked inside, we saw hundreds of people and a lot of March of the Living jackets and name tags. We were able to spend our entire lunch meeting other marchers from all over the United States and the world. I met students from New England, Amsterdam, Australia, BBYO, and the Western region of the U.S. During lunch there was chanting, singing, dancing, and praying. I was so amazed at how many people were on this trip and how friendly everyone was.

Next we walked around the Jewish Quarter of Cracow, where we saw a beautiful synagogue, like something I could never have imagined. Then we had some free time to walk around the square and buy food and shop. After dinner we loaded back on to the buses for the last adventure of the day. We arrived at Plaszow, the first concentration camp we visited. It was about 9:30 and it was dark and cold, which made the experience much more surreal. We stood at the first monument and listened to historical facts and stories from survivors. Next we walked over to a different memorial and some people lit candles while we all sang and had a havdallah service. I looked out into the darkness and the barren land and, for the first time on the trip, became emotional. It was surprising to me that even though nothing was left for me to see, I could still be so emotionally impacted. But to think that 70 years ago this was a place that 15,000 people were murdered, left me in pieces. I know that there is much more of the trip that I will experience but this past weekend has been one that I can promise, I will never forget. 

Brittney M. is a participant of The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee’s 2014 March of the Living delegation.

March of the Living is presented in partnership with the Shapiro Teen Engagement Program (STEP) of The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee. 

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