Friday, June 29, 2007

Nothing succeeds like success. . .

And nothing guarantees defeat like defeatism. I just saw this on Arutz Sheva:

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned in a speech at the annual Caesarea Conference Thursday night that Sderot residents should not expect to be completely protected against Kassam rocket attacks fired at the town from northern Gaza. The Prime Minister declared that his government cannot offer reinforced rooftops for every edifice within rocket range, saying: "A country cannot protect itself ad infinitum, because there would be no end to it."

The first duty of any government is to protect its citizens. If Ehud Olmert declares that his government cannot protect Sderot or any other town in Israel, then it is time to replace him and install a government that can and will. As for reinforced rooftops, I don't know if this is from Vince Lombardi, Ariel Sharon or some other but the best defense is a good offense.

The best defense

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What's it all for?

Seen recently on Cross-Currents:

"Many years ago, my rosh yeshiva remarked of avid joggers: They are running in order to live longer. But they have no idea what they are living for."

Being an avid jogger, I beg to differ. When I put on my IDF singlet and do a pirsumei nisa run on Yom Ha'atzma'ut (see my earlier post), I know what I'm living for. When I put on my Israeli flag shirt and run to the Holocaust Museum in New York's Battery Park, I know what I'm living for. When I put on the same shirt and run the New York City Marathon, collecting cheers of "Go Israel!" all along the course, and finally reciting "ozer yisrael b'gvurah" and sheheheyanu at the finish line, I know what I am living for. When I run to visit a sick person or to donate blood (which, b"h, I am healthy enough to do several times a year), I know what I'm living for. When I run to the grave of a relative or friend, or to the World Trade Center site, and recite tehilim and kel malei rahamim, I know what I'm living for. When I run in Brooklyn's Prospect Park, stop to daven minha under a tree and experience an enhanced tfila surrounded by the works of God and the happy laughter of children playing, I know what I'm living for. When I run through Brooklyn's "minority" neighborhoods and a former student recognizes me and greets me exuberantly, I know what I'm living for. When I would walk some three miles every Shabbat to a job as a ba'al koreh, I knew what I was living for.
During my peregrinations I all too often come across fat slobs in black hats with bellies that would do credit to a pregnant woman and cigarettes dangling from their mouths. They are the ones that cannot experience the joy of living and serving Hashem, who will likely end up in an early grave and leave a young widow and many children who will require the services of a professional schnorrer. I am not under illusions of immortality, but while I live I intend to live life to the full. Else, what's it all for?

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A gay old time in Jerusalem

Here we go again. Several years ago a gay pride parade was staged in Jerusalem, over the objections of its mostly religious citizens. A haredi goon took it on himself to stab several participants, creating a hillul Hashem but not stopping the parade. Last year, amid threats of violence, the parade was canceled at the last minute and a gathering held at the Teddy Kollek stadium on the outskirts of the city instead. And this year the parade organizers again plan to exhibit their aberrant lifestyle on the streets of the Ir Ha-kodesh and the usual extremists are out with their usual fire and brimstone. Naturally, American Jews must weigh in even though we do not live in Jerusalem (or anywhere in Israel) and will not have to deal with the consequences.
Many of us instinctively want the Israeli authorities to stop the parade, as the lifestyle being trumpeted is (or seems to be) antithetical to Torah, indeed an aveirah for which we are warned that the land will vomit us out, ר''ל. However, the American Constitution as interpreted by many Supreme Court decisions does not allow our government to suppress expression of this sort; if one group gets to parade in the streets then no group can be barred because of the views they intend to express. I would not feel comfortable urging a foreign government to act in a way that our own could not; the same holds for urging European governments to suppress neo-Nazi expression that would be legal in our own country.
What about the threats of violence? These threats cannot be taken lightly, since there was actual violence at previous gay parades in Jerusalem, violence that haredi rabbinic authority condones if not tacitly authorizes with their intemperate rantings. The American courts ruled that the government may constrain people from falsely shouting "Fire" in a crowded theater, but do not take kindly to a "heckler's veto," whereby those opposed to a particular viewpoint can enlist the government to suppress it by themselves creating a threat to public safety. The fact is that New York City has a gay parade every year on the last Sunday in June and so far the sky has not fallen. What then should our response be, in light of a sensitivity to civil liberties that many Israelis, especially religious ones, do not share?

1. The parade should be held as scheduled. Israel, like America, is founded on the rule of law. Indeed, the rule of law is the first of the seven commandments binding on all mankind (sheva mitzvot b'nei Noah). The Israeli Supreme Court has spoken and, as much as we may not approve of its decision, it must govern.

2. The police must protect the safety of marchers, watchers and protesters. This is hardly earth-shattering; New York's Finest do just that for every parade including our own annual Salute to Israel. Anybody who takes it on himself to engage in violence against people with whom they disagree must be promptly arrested and prosecuted.

3. There is a Higher Law than the Israeli (or American) Supreme Court. If religious Jerusalemites feel so strongly that the gay parade offends that Higher Law, they can peacefully protest, up to and including lying down in the street in front of the marchers. If they do that, they must be prepared to "take medicine" without undue complaint, in the spirit of Martin Luther King and his followers, who willingly went to jail for their beliefs. Nonviolent protest of that sort would be a kiddush Hashem, while trashing the city and physically attacking others engenders precisely the opposite.

4. There are laws against public lewdness and they can be enforced at the gay parade as well as in any other public setting. The civil liberties of parade-goers does not extend to displaying private body parts and engaging in sex acts in public.

Finally, we should remember that gay people do not choose their sexual preference, just as heterosexuals do not choose theirs. And we can pray that God will allow scientists to discover the causes of that aberrant (and, from a Darwinian perspective, maladaptive) sex drive and find a way to help those afflicted live normal lives.

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