Monday, 27 July 2015
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Sunday, 19 July 2015
This is in direct contradistinction to Orthodox Judaism that insists Jewish status may be conferred solely by matrilineal descent.
The Reform movement’s startling ruling, breaking a tradition that may be traced back about two millennia to Ezra the priestly Scribe, will affect a huge number of people in the Anglo-Jewish community and anyone who has ties with it.
Such an individual is Canadian-British journalist, Katharine Rooney, who wrote in an article for the Jewish Chronicle: “news of the new streamlined conversion process matters to me because it reaches to the heart of identity. It was a long struggle for me to be recognised as a Jew, when it already felt like my birthright”.
[Above: A podcast of the J.C’s analysis of the Progressive Movement’s decision].
But not everyone sympathises with people like Ms Rooney and her sister, who both underwent their Reform conversion in 2006.
Such an individual is strictly Orthodox Jewish historian, Dr Yaakov Wise who appeared most derisive when he debated the new ruling on BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme with Reform Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain. Indeed, Rabbi Romain described Dr Wise’s remarks as ‘unpleasant’.
I will quote no more here but leave readers to listen to the audio clips I have provided and so form their own opinion. The BBC interview led by presenter William Crawley starts at about 38.06 minutes into the broadcast.
Here is the original iPlayer Radio hyperlink: http://bbc.in/1Lho7DL
I often remark that I simply cannot imagine not being Jewish. It is, as Katharine Rooney also says, at the root of her being; the heart of her identity.
There are several current policies of the international Progressive Jewish movement that I challenge as being quite offensively wrong. I feel they do me an injustice as a member. This latest one however, is not only 1001% right, it is about 30 years late and should have been introduced when Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys solved the first paternity case by DNA fingerprinting.
© Natalie Wood (19 July 2015)
Friday, 17 July 2015
During a week when Viennese-born publisher George Lord Weidenfeld is reported to be funding the rescue of about 2,000 Christians from Syria and Iraq as a way of belated thanks to their co-religionists who saved him from the Nazis, a fellow Holocaust survivor has remembered the Polish-Catholic nanny who saved him.
Abraham Foxman, retiring National Director of the US-based Anti-Defamation League, says:
“I came to the ADL exactly 50 years ago, fresh out of law school and fuelled with passion to fight for the safety and security of the Jewish people.
“As a child of the Holocaust who was hidden by my Polish-Catholic nanny and then miraculously reunited with my parents, I chose a mission to ensure that what happened during World War II would never happen again. The experiences of my childhood coupled with the lessons my parents taught me inspired a lifelong commitment to fighting antisemitism and all forms of bigotry and oppression …
“The capacity for ADL to be effective in capitals throughout the world, as we are today, is a major gain for the security of Jews everywhere. Last summer, for example, after a shocking and sustained upsurge of antisemitic violence in Europe, ADL called upon world leaders to speak out and stand up for their Jewish communities—and they did.
“And while it was always the ADL’s mission to fight bigotry of all kinds, over the past few decades we have put even more emphasis on reaching out to others—Hispanics, African Americans, Muslims—who are also the targets of prejudice and discrimination …
“More must be done to address the resurgence of global antisemitism. We cannot have Jews once again become scapegoats for failing economies, nor can we allow the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians to be used as an excuse for antisemitism. ADL’s voice and credibility are absolutely critical in this arena”.
© Natalie Wood (17 July 2015)
Read the opening chapters of A Shepherd’s Journey*, the brief, entertaining memoir of Israel’s first Bedouin diplomat and you’ll learn swiftly how his grandmother Nof, also spoke Yiddish.
“It was her generation that made the first connections with the Jewish pioneers … who arrived primarily from Eastern Europe during the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s to build the country.
“In fact,” adds Ishmael Khaldi, “those were the years that defined and designed our status as a Bedouin ethnic minority in the newly-born Jewish state, Israel”.
He then goes on to describe the close ties that Bedouin like Nof formed with their new Jewish neighbours. This was due, not only to their traditional hospitality, but also because the community had been mistreated by both Ottoman and British rulers and bore the scars of centuries of disputes with their landed Arab counterparts, the fellahin.
“Taking all this together, the creation of a bond between Bedouin and Jews was natural and mutually beneficial,” says Khaldi, who is about to step down as Counsellor for Civil Society Affairs at the Israel Embassy in London where he’s been fighting anti-Israel activity like Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions for some years.
Here surely is a well-formed symbiosis, where both parties have aided each other, not merely for the reasons that Khaldi outlines, but because Bedouin are desert ‘wanderers’ just as Jews have wandered the globe since their dispersion in the decades following the Roman invasion of ancient Israel and the destruction of The Temple in 70 CE.
Indeed, good inter-community relations have so benefited Bedouin that they borrowed the idea of moving out of tents and into barrakiya – metal-roofed wooden huts – from residents in the local kibbutzim – who simply recreated the housing in which they had lived in Europe.
Khaldi’s book is an engaging, sometimes hilarious, often moving account of a young man who has somehow straddled two universes: that of the slow, unchanging landscape of his Galilean forefathers and the frenzied, frightening world of 21st century North America and northern Europe.
As I read the closing pages of Khaldi’s book, I saw a startling news story claiming how Shin Bet, Israel’s security service, had arrested a six-strong Negev-based ISIS Bedouin cell that allegedly included four school teachers.
What, one may ask, causes such a huge difference in attitude between the Bedouin of Israel’s north and south? First, the Galilean Bedouin population is less than half of that in the Negev. Second, while northern Bedouin have now enjoyed many years of interacting with their Jewish neighbours, those in the south did not meet Jewish settlers until after the State of Israel was established.
“Because of that”, writes Khaldi, “there is a less intimate connection between Jews and Bedouin in the south” and we must infer this gives a greater cause for animosity. Certainly as someone who lives barely five minutes’ walk from a Bedouin settlement, I can confirm that I have received only pleasant smiles and no personal animus from that community.
Khaldi recently gave a wildly successful address based on his book to members of Karmiel’s Anglo community. On the night, he invited us to visit his home village of Khawalid. He has since revealed that he intends returning there to live after his tour of duty in London concludes. We all wish him well in both his marriage plans and his aim to develop his home village with a modern access road .
CAMERA Fellows and activists with Israeli Bedouin Diplomat, Ishmael Khaldi at his home village, Khawalid
* A Shepherd’s Journey by Ishmael Khaldi is available from Amazon in Kindle or paperback (http://www.amazon.com/Shepherds-Journey-Israels-bedouin-diplomat/dp/9655554732).
This piece first appeared in the August 2015 edition of Live Encounters magazine as ‘The Return of the Wandering Star’(http://liveencounters.net/?p=11262) edited by Mark Ulyseas, a faithful supporter of Israel and all matters Jewish.
© Natalie Wood (17 July 2015)