5778. Sure, why not?

A headline caught my eye this week. Earth Is Flat as a Pita: The Israelis Who Push the Ultimate Conspiracy Theory.  I admit it. I do enjoy a fun conspiracy theory. But Flat Earth Society? Here in Israel? In this day and age? Yes, they are here and they prefer to be called “flatters.”

The moon landing was directed by Stanley Kubrick.  In fact, the moon is a hologram.  NASA is faking all the spherical earth pictures. There are no such things as satellites. The “space race” was just part of the Cold War propaganda of the US and USSR lying to each other.  We are slaves in the matrix.  Fun stuff!

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I had the opportunity to see The Book of Mormon on Broadway and along with everyone else, I laughed at the very detailed and specific beliefs of Mormons.  For a little taste, here’s “I Believe” from The Book of Mormon.  Interestingly, according to the lyrics, God and Jesus have planets and our singer expects to get one as well.  However, no reference is made to whether the planet would be flat.

The Book of Mormon got me thinking: Phrased in a certain way, wouldn’t all religions sound ridiculous?  For example, the basis of Judaism is that a guy went up a mountain and sat in the clouds for while. He came down with two tablets listing ten rules for living that he said were carved by the finger of God. If you believe that, why couldn’t the earth be flat?

Rosh Hashana is coming up next week and we will be starting the year 5778.  The rabbis calculated how long it has been since the world was created based on ages given the Bible, reigns of kings, and then some post-Bible history, and they came up with 5778.  Never mind that the sun was only created on the fourth day and so it seems unlikely that the three days before it were on a 24-hour cycle.  How long is God’s day anyway?

A year should be earth’s revolution around the sun.  But “flatters” believe that the sun revolves around the earth.  I wonder if they just accept the matrix version of a 365-day year.

One thing that I think everyone, no matter their beliefs, can agree on is that it is worthwhile to regularly take some time to be introspective and evaluate where you are in life and where you want to go from here.  When you look in the mirror, are you proud of the person you are?  What can you do to improve?

Every year, Jews spend a few days doing some “soul accounting” (heshbon nefesh) to have a good start to the next year and be written (probably by the finger of God) in the Book of Life.

Here’s a little video about gaining clarity in the New Year (with the mention of the planet spinning).  Never mind that there are no women in the video and who knows what break dancing has to do with clarity, but that’s a different blog post.

Wishing everyone a Shana Tova u’Metuka!

A good and sweet year! May it be a year of good health, much happiness, and great success!

*Next week I’ll be on hiatus and maybe doing a little introspection, but I’ll be back the week after.

The Silent Treatment

When I read The Great Brain as a kid, I remember being surprised by the punishment that the parents gave to their kids.  This was late 1800s Utah and spanking was perfectly normal.  Not for these kids.  These parents gave “the silent treatment” for a specified length of time. The author described it as the worst of all possible punishments.  At least with a spanking, it was over and done with.  The silent treatment made the kids feel invisible.  Oftentimes, the kids would cry with relief when the silent treatment was over because they felt like they were returned to the land of the living.

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This week Israel’s newspapers were filled with the news of a woman who was stabbed to death in her home, in front of at least one of her six children (four were her natural children and two were adopted).  She was a nurse who was learning Arabic to better communicate with her colleagues and patients.  By all accounts she was an amazing person.

And then I saw a surprising headline that asked why Dafna Meir’s murder was not reported in the international media.  We all know that “if it bleeds, it leads.”  There was plenty of blood.  We saw the pictures.  Check.  The victim is sympathetic – a mother, a wife, a nurse. Check.  It was a pretty dramatic story.  She was stabbed in front of one of her children and the manhunt went on for quite a while.  Check.

I went to Google and typed in her name and went to the news tab.  Page after page of Israeli newspapers or Jewish newspapers around the world reported the story.  But no major international news organization was reporting it.  I found one small German paper that reported it in full, but I couldn’t determine if it was a Jewish paper or not.  But it was true.  The international media ignored her.

Dafna Meir lived in Otniel, which is a small town in Judea and Samaria (you could read that also as a “settlement in the West Bank”).  She was a religious Jew.  The 15-year-old Palestinian that stabbed her was on the run (meaning that no Palestinian was injured in this attack).  So if you believe that the simplest explanation is the most likely, then we are faced with an anti-Semitic media ignoring any news that doesn’t fit into their narrative and agenda.  (Here is a very good article about this.)

The next day – while Dafna’s murderer was still at large and her funeral was taking place – a pregnant woman was stabbed by a Palestinian in her store in Tekoa (another small town in Judea and Samaria / another settlement in the West Bank).  She was not killed and the Palestinian was arrested.  Now the international media paid attention.  The attack in Tekoa and that other thing that happened the day before “represent a shift in the recent surge of violence.

The Meir family has publicly stated that they harbor no hatred against Palestinians. A Palestinian friend, who is apparently a relative of the murderer, paid a condolence call and was welcomed by the family.  Unfortunately, this bit of the story does not play into the “cycle of violence” narrative that the New York Times has put together to explain why murder in the settlements is understandable.

Conspiracy of Silence

While the simplest answer may often be the right one, some things still bother me.  How does every single editor of every major news outlet in the world decide that this story – a mother murdered in her home in front of her child – get ignored?  Can it really be that every single major international news organization blindly accepts that a woman murdered in her home is just the price she paid for living in that neighborhood and moreover that she should be ignored because she doesn’t fit the narrative that has been dictated by a certain political agenda embraced by the paper?  Did every single international journalist really shelve their humanity to serve a political agenda?

Many journalists claim to try to bring justice to underprivileged and underrepresented people.  They claim to want to shed light on the truth.  They are presented as “brave” and “unrelenting” in their pursuit of the story.  Today, I am reminded of the bitter and all too accurate pun:

If vegetarians eat vegetables, then what do humanitarians eat?

The international media’s deafening conspiracy of silence is the worst kind of punishment they can deliver.  With their silence, they ensure that Dafna Meir doesn’t exist and that their fixed narrative is unshaken.

I hope that all of us together can demand more from journalists.  Or perhaps call out the lazy and hypocritical ones.  We may even eventually find the invisible hand directing the narrative, the one that ensures that no one thinks for themselves or asks questions.

But for now, as a start, I will not be silent.

Lorax

History and TV, what could be better?

 

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Little known fact about Israel:  Sometimes it’s colder inside than outside.  Yesterday, it was just more pleasant to sit outside.


This week was horrible and violent.  I don’t want to rehash it all here.  Instead, we’ll dial down the intensity and cover a moment in history and look at Dig, a television series that was partially filmed in Jerusalem.

Remember, remember the 29th of November

This week Israel noted the 29th of November.  Quite a few Israelis don’t know why this is a date of note nor why streets are named after it.  It’s one of those dates that gets lost in all the important national and religious dates throughout the year.  What happened, you ask?  Good question.

On November 29, 1947, the United Nations passed Resolution 181, which recommended that the land of British Mandatory Palestine be divided into two states.  It required that both the Jews and the Arabs agree.  The Jews agreed and the Arabs didn’t.

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LISTEN TO THE VOTE.

Resolution 181 didn’t create the State of Israel, but it recognized the need for a Jewish homeland and it was sort-of an exit strategy for the British who planned to get out of Palestine in May 1948.  When May 1948 rolled around and the British left, instead of two states co-existing, five Arab states declared war on the provisional government of Israel.

The importance of the resolution today is to remind the world that Israel has a recognized right to exist.  Israel is not a colonial power or a foreign apartheid regime.  The world recognized that the people of Israel – the Jews – have a connection to this land.  It’s not that only that they need a shelter from potential Holocausts in the future, but that this specific land is the Jews’ ancestral homeland.

Dig

Picture this:  Every Jewish conspiracy theory, rumor, and apocalyptical end-of-days theory crammed into 10 episodes and it was filmed in Jerusalem.  I liked it.  I enjoyed watching it.  (However, in the interest of full disclosure, my Israel family hated it and said it was embarrassing.)

The Israeli creator of Homeland got together with the creator of Heroes and they made some incredible television fiction.  Then they cast one of the baddies from Harry Potter as the lead (Jason Isaacs, or Lucius Malfoy) and used a bunch of Israeli actors speaking Hebrew in the streets of Jerusalem and in other locations and took us on a wild ride.

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HERE’S THE TRAILER.

The story weaves together a radical Jewish group that wants to rebuild the Temple (obviously on the site of the Temple Mount), but they need a few things, along with some signs and wonders to ensure their success.  They are cooperating with some messianic Christians, who have their special role to play.  Meanwhile, FBI agent Peter Connelly, our underdog anti-hero who is spiritually broken (Jason Isaacs), tries to solve the murder of an American citizen.  He is helped by an Israeli policeman, Golan Cohen, who, just to make things complicated, is gay.  Throw in the Essenes (Dead Sea Scrolls) who have been hidden for the past 2,000 years and the lost treasures of the Second Temple. And then toss in a touch of Jerusalem Syndrome (a real affliction where spiritual pilgrims come to Jerusalem and suddenly believe that they are biblical figures for a while) and the blood moon.

The series was filmed in Jerusalem last summer and due to the little war we had, they finished filming in Croatia.  There is one scene where they say “Oh, that’s Mishkenot She’ananim” and show a building in Croatia.  I leaped up and shouted at the screen, “No it isn’t!”

There is also the cultural hilarity.  Anyone who has ever driven in the streets of Israel knows that people honk their horns all the time. It’s a kind of noisy communication among drivers expressing a variety of emotions.  So when Peter gets in the car with Golan, Golan is always smoking and honking his horn at everyone.  Peter doesn’t like the smoke (Golan doesn’t care) and his answer to why he honks the horn all the time is “It’s relaxing! You should try it!”

I enjoy a good murder mystery (fictional, of course) and I love a good conspiracy theory.  Of course the show was a little silly and over the top.  It’s not a documentary, for heaven’s sakes.  But I have to say, with all the problems on the Temple Mount these days, the various end of days theories going around, especially lately, and all the violence in the world, I certainly hope that fiction in this case is stranger than truth.