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Tuesday, July 25, 2006


'Fiasco' (in Iraq) by Thomas Ricks

NPR's "Fresh Air" today had a very interesting interview with Thomas Ricks, Washington Post Pentagon correspondent, on his new book 'Fiasco.' Great overview of what we did and are doing poorly in Iraq. Highly recommended. (click on the post title for a link to the article, and to hear the interview.)

The underlying problem may be that much of the ruling elite here in the USA does not understand that G_d created us all with good and evil. Instead, they look at the world as 'we are good' and 'they are evil.' Likewise for domestic policy. Divergent opinions are not welcome.

We may wish to consider that we cannot eliminate all of evil, and that we may have to find a way to live with it. I pray for peace, and for wisdom.

Monday, July 24, 2006


Jerry Falwell or Jerry Seinfeld with us in the foxhole?

From the Los Angeles Times
I Want Falwell in My Foxhole
At the end of the day -- or at the End of Days -- Israel has plenty of time for anybody who wants to help the Jews.

By Zev Chafets
Zev Chafets, the author of nine books of fiction, media criticism and social and political commentary, is at work on a book about Christian evangelicals, American Jews and Israel.

July 23, 2006
MISSILES AND rockets are falling all over the Galilee. A bomb even hit Nazareth, where it killed two small Muslim kids (Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, commander of the Religion of Peace, Hezbollah branch, apologized for the mistake; he had been aiming at Jews). But through it all, peace and tranquillity have reigned over Kibbutz Megiddo. This is bad news if you're one of those people who happen to be looking forward to the end of the world.To the untrained eye, Megiddo is just another Israeli farm community attached to an archeological dig and tourist gift shop. But tens of millions of evangelical Christians know it as Armageddon, the biblical battleground for the coming war between Jesus and the anti-Christ.Is the fighting that now rages between Israel and Hezbollah a sign that the final battle is nigh? I asked Connie Wilson, when I reached her on her cellphone. "I don't know if this is the time or not," said Pastor Wilson, an American-born Pentecostal who lives in Jerusalem and specializes in keeping an eye on the End of Days. "But you can feel the breath of God from the Book of Ezekiel.""Amen," I said, my usual response when I don't know what she's talking about.Exactly a year ago, she and her husband, Bill, a retired brigadier general in the Georgia National Guard, took me on a tour of Armageddon. Connie read aloud obscure biblical prophecies about the apocalypse, taken from the Old Testament books of Ezekiel and Daniel and the New Testament's Book of Revelation. Later, Bill pointed out the military terrain in the Jezreel Valley, where he expects 2 billion enemy soldiers to gather against the forces of good. He wasn't sure what God's strategy would be, but applying military principles, he envisioned something like Sherman's capture of Atlanta, or so it seemed to me.Secular liberals find this scenario preposterous. On the other hand, many of these same scoffers profoundly believe that high-octane gasoline and the profligate use of electric home appliances will heat planet Earth to a doomsday temperature last experienced 420,000 years ago (when, presumably, gas was a dime a gallon and it was OK to leave the TV on all night). For true believers of any apocalyptic religion, the issue isn't merely how the world will end, but when? Here, even the most devout generally take an agnostic view. Jerry Falwell, for example, is a pre-millennialist Christian of the greatest piety, but that hasn't stopped him from launching a long-term building program at his Liberty University, where Tim LaHaye, author of the Book of Revelation-based "Left Behind" series of novels, recently donated millions of dollars for a hockey rink. With similar optimism, Al Gore is apparently thinking about a presidential run in 2008, regardless of global warming. "We know end times are coming," Connie Wilson said. "We just don't know when. So we live our lives the way we imagine God wants them lived." For millions of American evangelical voters, living right includes supporting Israel. Last week, Pentecostal televangelist Rev. John Hagee of San Antonio, one of the rising forces in American Christian Zionism, convened a meeting in Washington of Christians Unified for Israel. Hagee sees the newly formed group as an evangelical American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, dedicated to lobbying on Israel's behalf, especially in states where Jews are few and far between. Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas attended Hagee's rally. So did Pennsylvania GOP Sen. Rick Santorum (who is running for his political life). Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman was there. So was the Israeli ambassador, Daniel Ayalon.Jewish Democrats often decry Republican evangelical support on the grounds that these Christians only want to missionize Jews (and if they do, so what? It's a free country) or use them as cannon fodder at Armageddon (which matters only if you believe in Armageddon in the first place).In fact, the main motive for Christian Zionism is not devious. As Hagee said, paraphrasing the Book of Genesis, Chapter 12:3, "God will bless those who bless the Jewish people."Now, if you don't believe in the literal truth of the Bible, this probably sounds like a Christian Hallmark card sentiment. But if you do, it's a marching order.The idea of militant evangelicals mobilizing for Israel frightens those who believe fundamentalists are trying to push the United States into a war to hasten Armageddon. But they miss the point. One of the central attributes of conservative evangelical Christianity is its eschatological passivity. End times will come when God is ready, and there is nothing anyone can do — not give your old clothes to the maid, join the Sierra Club or even go on a Nation magazine Caribbean cruise — that will hasten Paradise. This resignation once led to evangelical political quietism. But a new generation of leaders, like Falwell and Pat Robertson, taught evangelicals that if they can't "fix the world" (in the charmingly modest phrase of the liberal religious left), they can at least support causes they find consistent with biblical teaching. Now, in my personal opinion, some of these biblical principles are very good (honor your father and mother; don't steal your neighbor's ass), some less so (for details, contact my former wives). But one principle — supporting Israel in the face of a genocidal Islamic fascism — is excellent. This support takes practical forms. The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews is an American group led by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein that raises tens of millions of dollars from evangelicals for Jewish causes.It is now giving money to update the bomb shelters of the Galilee. Sure, some of these donors may see this as part of a vast cosmic drama. Why not, they're entitled. They may have odd ideas about the end of the world, but the evangelicals' ideology has made them into militant anti-fascists (which is more than I can say for some of my best friends). The truth is, in this war, I'd rather be in a bomb shelter — or a foxhole — with Jerry Falwell than with Jerry Seinfeld.

Well, if it's really Armageddon, i'd say Seinfeld would crack a better joke.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


President George Bush Screws Israel Without Trying

By means of his ill-conceived and poorly executed war in Iraq, US President George Bush has put the US and particularly Israel in a tough spot. He did so by trashing Iraq, now close to civil war. By destroying what was left of Iraq, Iran's normal enemy, President upset the balance of power. Worse yet, he doesn't seem to have a clue as to what he's done. May it all somehow be for the good.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


Chizuk from Eliyahu

If I have discovered anything, it's that life is about the journey. About asking or hearing the good questions, and knowing there are no good answers. The best teaching I have at hand is from my rebbe, paraphrased version:

Why does a good G_d create mitzvot which depend on someone else's suffering? (think orphans & widows) What is going on and why does G_d want some people to have and some people not to have???

When you want to explore questions about your own faith, ask what is it that I really believe? Two directions are possible.
1. I'm not going to let people talk me into things – I won't believe what others believe. (Crazy fundamentalists of all faiths.) (the flying spaghetti monster.)(hmm...)
2. Think about it & tentatively give G_d the credit. This splits into two:
A. "I assume I know what G_d meant & G_d is wrong." (or quite the prankster.)

B. You admit that G_d is smarter than you are and ask, " Why did G_d do it the way that G_d did?" Assume there is a good reason & ask "what might that good reason be?" R. Zalmon Schachter-Shalomi. If I understand, faith is assuming there is a good reason, somehow, by way of G_d.

I frequently don't get it, and have to have some kugel, a glass of shiraz, and follow Shifra's advice about not thinking too much.

For me, the real question is the daily how I live in the world (not apart from it), and deal with it. The communities frequently seem alien to me. And my tribe seems scattered here and there and across the internet. But what a great community we are, our different tribes. This is where I belong.

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