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Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Words

Musings #57
June 23, 2004

Words

“Perish” is a strange word. I’m an English teacher, and I had never thought about it until yesterday when I went to Yad V’Shem with my parents. According to whoever wrote the signs, the explanations, in that enormous holocaust museum, there was no “murder” of Jews by the nazis; nobody died of forced malnutrition and nobody from lack of proper medical care or warm clothes in the winter. The Jews just “perished.”

According to The Concise Oxford Dictionary, Ninth Edition perish: “be destroyed; suffer death or ruin; deteriorate; rot…”
There’s something arbitrary in the resulting death, not at all like the “Final Solution,” the systematic murder of German and then European Jewry. People perish in a blizzard or perished when the Titanic sank, but Jews were murdered in the gas chambers, by cruel sadistic medical experiments, by forced malnutrition, etceteras, ad nauseum. The word “perish” is much too weak to describe what happened to the six million Jews who were murdered.

Linguistically, “perished” has a “passive” feeling about it, “be destroyed…suffer death.” This year I taught my 9th grade, top level group, the Passive Tense. I tore a piece of paper and had them say it in Active Tense: “The teacher tore the paper.” Then in Passive Tense: “The paper was torn by the teacher.” To me, reading that people “perished” demands that I know by what means they perished, just like in the Passive Tense.

I admit that I’m rather hyper-sensitive to the subtlest nuances of words. When a newsreader states that: “A settler was killed in a drive-by shooting.” My linguistic antennae buzz and shriek in alarm. The sentence may be grammatically correct, but its every word and term are filled will political messages.

A settler: by not using the term “Israeli citizen” we are being delegitimized as Israelis.
was killed: as if the person incidentally died in a car accident. And the accident could have had been his own fault.
drive-by shooting: A “drive-by shooting” could be criminal, or even some sort of sick prank, but it wasn’t. It was a terror attack, an ambush. An Arab terrorist deliberately aimed at Israelis in an Israeli car fully intending to murder them.

In my opinion, the announcement (if G-d forbid it ever happens again) should be: “An Israeli was murdered by an Arab terrorist, who shot him as he was traveling on the road.” Think of the differences in the messages of the two sentences. They both report the same event, but they imply different things. Language is very powerful. It’s a major weapon in psychological and political warfare.

Sticks and stones can break my bones,
But words can never harm me.

I grew up hearing that rhyme, and it’s a lie! Words can be very harmful, very dangerous. Each word has its message. No two words are exactly the same. News editors, politicians (their advisors and speech writers), public relations and advertising consultants put enormous efforts into choosing the exact words to get their messages across.

We must not be shy or wary about correcting words “loaded” with potentially dangerous messages, whether they are used intentionally or even unintentionally. This “battle” is one in which we can all take part.

We all have a job to do. Don’t be embarrassed to use the “correct” words, even if you’re the only one. And don’t be shy about reminding others, whether in polite conversation or by writing to newspapers, news editors, politicians and others.

Batya Medad, Shiloh
Shilohmuse@yahoo.com
http://shilohmusings.blogspot.com/
http://www.shilo.org.il

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Not A Joke

Musings #56
June 22, 2004

Not A Joke

There’s a well-known joke that you’ve most probably heard about the Jewish tourist from New York, who, when in China, found a synagogue to pray in. Imagine his surprise when he looked around, and noticed that it was filled with Chinese men. Just before he was about to ask if he was in the right place one of the Chinese came up to him and asked:
“What are you doing here?”
“I need to pray in a synagogue,” the tourist answered.
“Why a synagogue?” the local man asked.
“I’m Jewish,” he answered.
The Chinese men all stared at him in surprise, and one finally said: “Funny, you don’t look Jewish.”


I thought of that joke when I was at a wedding last week. It was a regular religious wedding in Jerusalem. The men wore kippot, mostly crocheted; the women were in dresses with sleeves, and the married ones wore hats. The difference was that the chattan, kallah (bride, groom) and most of the guests looked like Peruvian Indians.

Half a millenium after their ancestors fled the Spanish Inquisition, their “pinteleh yid,” the spark of Judaism is burning brightly in Peru. Clans of Peruvians are discovering the source of “secret family customs.” They are no longer afraid to be Jewish. Hundreds of years after fleeing Spain and hiding their true religion, entire families of three and even four generations are rejoining the Jewish religion and then making aliya to Israel.

Over ten years ago, when the chattan’s family made Shiloh its home, I asked his father, in a combination of Hebrew and my remnant of high school Spanish, why they wanted to live in Shiloh. Binyamin explained that for many years he had taught his community Bible and felt that in Shiloh he needed to live. They bought a home and added rooms. Binyamin’s wife’s parents moved in with them, and then four generations lived here in Shiloh until the eldest couple passed away were buried in our cemetery. Binyamin and Ruth’s eldest child, a daughter, met a young moshavnik, the younger brother of a neighbor, married him and now have children. They also bought a home in Shiloh. The youngest generation has their mother’s coloring and features with their fair-skinned and light-eyed father’s curly hair.

The wedding music was Jewish-Israeli with a Latin beat, as only our neighbor, Yehuda Glantz, can play. As we all danced, celebrating with the young couple, I looked around and saw such wonderful people. There was the warm-hearted, welcoming family from Alon Shvut that had adopted the kallah, whose family is still in Peru. A dvar Torah (Torah lesson/speech) was given in Spanish by my Bible teacher, who is from Majorca and discovered his Jewish roots when still a child.

I can only admire all of those who have the courage to publicly embrace the religion their ancestors hid. And to think that despite their fears, they had passed on just enough knowledge that they were “different” for their descendents to be able to discover their secret five centuries later. This is so different from the voluntary assimilation in recent centuries.

At the wedding, I felt that I was dancing as part of a miraculous performance in praise of G-d. Our hands of different colors symbolized the chain of Judaism that connects us all to those exiled after the destruction of the Holy Temple, that connects us to Bnei Yisrael that entered the Holy Land with Joshua, that connects us to those who fled Egypt with Moshe and those who entered Egypt with Yaakov and those who were born from Yitzchak, Avraham and Sarah's only child.

We are one People, and we will not be destroyed. We survived the nazi holocaust, the pogroms, the Inquisition, Haman, the Greeks, the Philistines, Amalek. And with the Help of G-d, we will survive our new enemies, even those among us.

Batya Medad, Shiloh
Shilohmuse@yahoo.com
http://shilohmusings.blogspot.com/
http://www.shilo.org.il

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

The Sandwich Generation

Musings #55
June 13, 2004

The Sandwich Generation

The “New” Sandwich
“Middle age” is known as the “sandwich generation.” That’s because we’re pressed between our parents’ and our children’s (and grandchildren’s) needs. Some of my friends, blessed with living parents and lots of children and grandchildren have a full-time job, with lots of overtime, just helping everyone “a little.”

Recently a neighbor had to deal with a sandwich of a different flavor. He had to postpone his murdered son’s azkarah, memorial ceremony, until after he got up from shiva, the seven day morning period, for his mother.

The “Open” Sandwich
A few years ago, at a shiva for a child, the mother said that she was glad that her parents had already died. She would have no had been able to deal with their grief at the murder of her own child.

A More “Cheerful” Sandwich
Some sandwiches are more festive. Life here is more than terror and tragedy. Last week I experienced a “miracle” sandwich experience. On Wednesday I had to go to the airport to pick up my parents, visiting to celebrate their first great-grandchild’s (and my first grandchild’s) first birthday, and bring my son who was leaving for the states. Now miraculously, without their planning together, it ended up that my parents were due to land three hours before my son was to take off. The simplest part of the miracle was that I only needed one trip to the airport. The extraordinary part of the miracle was that they got to see each other for a few minutes.

Between Two Real Slices, or “The Glue”
My parents (may they live and be well) are both first generation born in America. Their parents, who immigrated to America in their teens and twenties, were proud that their children were “real Americans,” speaking unaccented English and able to effortlessly fit into American society. My father’s mother was the only grandparent I had most of my life and she lived long enough to see all but my youngest child. She was my role model of how an immigrant functions. Even though she spoke English with us and followed American politics on TV, she read the Yiddish papers. I considered that perfectly normal, and today, after over thirty years in Israel, though I can follow Hebrew lectures and can easily converse in heavily accented and strangely syntaxed Hebrew on any topic, I read the news in English. And my children are the real Israelis.

I’m an Israeli in the sense that we’re experiencing the “ingathering of the exiles,” and I am definitely part of it. But I’m one of the “odd colors,” not yet blended in. Honestly, I never quite fit in America either.

I’m the filling, or the glue, in that American-Israeli sandwich.

Batya Medad, Shiloh
Shilohmuse@yahoo.com
http://shilohmusings.blogspot.com/
http://www.shilo.org.il

Thursday, June 10, 2004

On My Mind

Musings #54
June 7-10, 2004

On My Mind…

Olmert’s Right
Please calm down. I’m not agreeing with his policies, just his statement that “that vote” was “historic.” It definitely was historic.

Just because it’s “historic” doesn’t make it good. I know that old show biz saying: “It doesn’t matter what they write about me, as long as they spell my name right.” But it doesn’t work in history, diplomacy and security.

A Little Linguistics-Euphemisms
I’m not the type for euphemisms; I’m more of a straight talker, as you may have noticed. In politics, especially in this part of the world, some words have added significance. When a Jew’s home and community are destroyed, it’s “good,” for “peace,” so they can “just go home,” (even if he has no other and never had any other.) However if the person to be “moved” is an Arab, it’s an evil sin, called “transfer.” But I’m sure that you know all that.

I’ve been trying to figure out the new word, just recently coined, for withdrawing from land and destroying its communities, homes and residents, hitnatkut from the verb lehitnatek. This is what’s known as a “reflexive” verb, that means it’s done to oneself. The root is nun-tof-kuf, meaning “short-circuit” or “disconnection.” Basically, it means to “disconnect from oneself.” From the same root, a person described as “minutak,” (an adjective derived from the passive verb,) is divorced from reality.

Actually, this is an excellent word to describe Arik Sharon, his supporters and the “left.” In actuality, they are disconnecting themselves from reality. There’s definitely a short circuit in their thought processes. Their “plan,” their entire philosophy is a hitnatkut from our Land, our People and our History.

It’s very sad and tragic; hopefully the “tragic” will remain only a personal tragedy for them. We have hard work to do to prevent a full national tragedy. Tonight I heard a woman from Gush Katif on the TV news, who reminded the interviewer that the withdrawal is scheduled to be a good few months away, and lots of things can happen before then. She’s right. This is only the beginning.

More Linguistics
Another example of a reflexive verb is lehitabed, which can be translated as “to make oneself disappear, or get lost.” It is generally translated as “to commit suicide.” That’s why I don’t agree with the term “suicide bomber.” I think that “human murder weapon” is a much more accurate term.

Separating the Wheat From the Chaff
On the bright side, the false leaders have been showing their true colors, and we are discovering who are the authentic ones. I must admit that I hadn’t accurately judged some of the politicians. A few years ago, I was one of those who thought that Olmert would make a good Prime Minister. Now we know the truth about him. We also know, for sure, no doubts, how weak Bibi is. He didn’t stand up to Sharon. Limor, also, knuckled under; she and Bibi voted “for,” even though they admitted the plan was bad, showing how extremely unprincipled, weak and unreliable they are. Tzachi voted against but didn’t campaign publicly, a disappointment; we’ll have to watch him carefully in the future. The National Religious Party, known as the Mafdal, seems to be disintegrating, and even at its best it has been unable to provide national leadership. About the National Union Party, now that Rav Benny Elon is not longer Minister of Tourism, maybe he’ll show some national leadership with his political partner Avigdor Lieberman. And for some good news, Natan Sharansky, Uzi Landau and Ruby Rivlin haven’t been afraid to campaign against Sharon.

Democracy
Democracy, the rule of the majority, as if the majority is always right, is a modern religion. Many people are horrified when it’s criticized. The same people may have no compunctions about sinning in terms of the laws G-d gave, but democracy for them is holier than holy, holier than G-d. This weeks parsha, Torah Portion, includes an example of how the majority, democracy, is wrong.

Shlach Lecha, Bamidbar, (In The Desert) Numbers XIII, 15
In preparation to enter Eretz Yisrael, The Land of Israel, Moshe is ordered to G-d to send an elite scouting unit, with one representative from each tribe, to check out The Land. Twelve of Am Yisrael’s finest set out on what could be called The First Pilot Trip. (For those who aren’t familiar, a “pilot trip” is a pre-aliyah visit to facilitate an easy, early-aliyah.) This was not supposed to be a feasibility study. They were supposed to “spin” a positive “pr” spiel to enthuse the people. Somehow, everything went wrong, and ten out of the twelve, the majority, took this as an opportunity to convince the people that Moshe was just leading them the wrong way. Only two scouts out of the twelve, Yehoshua and Calev, had faith, and therefore, trusted that G-d would help the Jewish People to flourish and succeed, in The Land.

My Ripped Flag
Democracy. When Joshua and Calev saw that the majority of the people wanted to appoint a new leader and return to Egypt, they ripped their clothes as a sign of mourning. Over ten years ago, in response to the “Oslo Accords,” I wore a ripped Israeli flag. I wore it everyday, all the time, to work, to my son’s Bar Mitzvah and more. I wonder if I should take it out again.

G-d punished the People by delaying their entry to the Promised Land. The Jewish People wandered forty years, until that generation died out, and the ten scouts were killed by plague. Only then did a new generation, led by Joshua, of the Tribe of Judah, enter The Land. How long will we have to wander? And who are our Joshua and Calev?

Batya Medad, Shiloh
Shilohmuse@yahoo.com
http://www.shilo.org.il

Saturday, June 5, 2004

Plans

Musings #53
June 4, 2004


Plans


I keep planning on writing something light, more personal. I don’t like this impression I’ve been giving that I’m some sort of intense political-type, preacher person. I even have this piece I wrote and stored in another “file” about my first grandchild’s first birthday and what it means to me to be a grandmother. But I just can’t get it “ready.” Not long ago I opened this file to start a new “musing” and discovered the beginnings of something claiming how boring and ordinary life is here. For the life of me I couldn’t remember what I had in mind and ended up deleting it.

You may find this hard to believe, but I try to limit my “news” exposure. For me the 7am English radio news program, two email news digests and the very occasional glance at the TV news on the way to or from the kitchen are all I can handle. Bad news, unfortunately, finds ways of getting announced, so why look for it?

Today when my husband started talking to me about the Minister of Tourism Rav Benny Elon’s playing “hide and seek” with Sharon, I didn’t understand what he was talking about. Then I got the story: Arik, like a Mafioso in the movies, in order to get the majority he wants in the cabinet, has been “eliminating” the dissenting ministers from the government this morning. The only difference is that instead of a bullet, or wire around the throat, or cement shoes, he hands them a letter sacking them. That’s right, and he’s not even embarrassed.

Yes, I know, that since I was raised in America, in the moral idealistic fifties and sixties, I have a very, very, very different concept of “democracy” and “justice” than many other Israelis. The American Government is based on a balance of power between the three branches of government: the Judicial, the Legislative, and the Executive. I hope my memory isn’t deserting me. (Since I learned it decades, many decades, ago, it should be more reliable than anything I learned this morning.) I remember an important concept in democratic government. It is called: “Checks and Balances.” According to American Law, no one branch has veto power over the other two.

Now Arik seems to think that democracy means that once elected he has totalitarian powers, and everyone must obey/agree with him, and if they don’t…. they’re fired. This is very dangerous. It is also not democracy. Also, Arik was not elected on a personal ticket. He is Prime Minister, only because he is head of the Likud Party. Likud members, at his orders, held a referendum and decisively defeated his proposal by two to one. He no longer has the backing of his party and the people who voted for him, or it, as referring to the party. (I am a high school English Teacher.)

I don’t know what’s going to happen at Sunday’s cabinet meeting, and I don’t know if the dissenting ministers were served their walking papers, but I do want this out before Shabbat.

That’s my plan, less than an hour from Shabbat, I want to clear my brain and call for some sort of help and prayers.

This must be part of G-d’s plan, and I hope that we do our part, whatever it is.

Shabbat Shalom, Thank G-d we have Shabbat.

Batya Medad, Shiloh
Shilohmuse@yahoo.com
http://www.shilo.org.il

Thursday, June 3, 2004

Isn't anyone Listening?

Musings #52
June 1, 2004

Isn’t Anyone Listening?

LEFT-WING AND INT'L ELEMENTS: WITHDRAWAL FROM GAZA NOT ENOUGH
As Israel wrestles with the question of how much, if any, of Gaza to withdraw from, the Jordanian government said this week that Israel must withdraw from all of Gaza - and then from Judea and Samaria…

There have been other indications, as well, that Sharon's plan - not only the "reduced" version involving the removal of only three towns, but also the "full" version calling for a full withdrawal from Gaza and northern Shomron - is not acceptable to those who feel that Israel must make concessions.

Former Foreign Ministry director-general Eitan Bentsur said just two weeks ago that though "Sharon's intentions are good," his strategy simply did not work. "He thought that he could go through with his disengagement from Gaza, and then be allowed to keep large chunks of Judea and Samaria," Bentsur said. "But we see that Europe responded right away by saying that Gaza was only the first step, and that they expected Judea and Samaria to be next. So his plan has just not worked."

Arutz Sheva News Service
June 1, 2004


People tend to talk “at” each other, not listen to each other. It can be very funny when comedians use it in their routines, but it’s disastrous in diplomacy and security.

The latest farce is the “negotiations.” The Israeli government is busy negotiating a “withdrawal,” though they don’t use the word, from Jewish communities in YESHA. Depending upon which politician is speaking, it’ll bring us either “peace” or “quiet” with the “Palestinians.” At least until after the next elections. They hope.

And with which influential local Arabs are negotiating? Shimon Peres? Yossi Beilin? Dalia Itzik? That’s right! None of the Arabs are interested in what they see as “scraps.” The Arabs are like hungry sharks who have already tasted our blood; they want the whole body. They’re not going to be satisfied with Alei Sinai; they want Ramat Aviv.

Unfortunately, too many Israelis aren’t listening to the Arabs, who haven’t been shy about telling the truth. They will not stop until Israel is wiped off the map. YESHA for them is stage one. When the Arabs talk about their “refugees” returning “home,” they’re talking about returning to the land of the kibbutzim, not the yishuvim. They never had homes in Shiloh, Negahot, Keddumim nor Netzarim. They want the fancy houses of Rechavia and Talbia, not Psagot and Ariel. The “left wing” and “our moderates” have been trying to distract them, but it won’t work. It just makes them hungrier and more determined.

Each time an Israeli politician, whether “left,” “right” or “center,” offers the Arabs some of YESHA to devour, to terrorize, it just reinforces their belief that they can get all of Eretz Yisrael. Exactly like the famous story of King Solomon judging who’s the true mother of the live baby, the world sees our politicians in power as shams. Anyone willing to give up some of his land, doesn’t deserve any of it.

These politicians are endangering our lives, our future, our country. If they don’t have the strength, integrity, guts to be true leaders, let them leave their positions to people who are willing and able to serve us with all their might. “…b’chol l’vavcha, ub’chol nafshech, ub’chol me’odecha.” “…with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”

“Shma Yisrael…” “Listen Israel…” Not only must we listen to G-d, but we must listen carefully to our enemies in order to survive. We can’t successfully fight them if we don’t know who they are and what they are planning. Things are not always as they appear; friends are not always friends, and “leaders” sometimes follow enemies.

We must listen and look carefully in all directions and follow what is right for us as Jews. No one will help us if we don’t help ourselves. Whether it’s Bush, Kerry, Blair or the UN, they don’t care if Israel survives. We have to make our decisions for ourselves.

“Shma Yisrael Adoshem Elokeinu Adoshem Echad”
“Listen Israel, Adoshem is Our G-d,
Adoshem, the One and Only”


Batya Medad, Shiloh
Shilohmuse@yahoo.com
http://www.shilo.org.il