Archive for Judaism

David J. Wasserstein: “Islam Saved Jewry”

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , on June 2, 2012 by loonwatch

David J. Wasserstein, professor of Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University penned an interesting and refreshing article that likely caused the heads of Islamophobes to explode, titled, So, What did the Muslims do for the Jews?

He argues that before the birth of the Prophet Muhammad, Judaism under the Byzantines was near extinction, and under Persian rule was endanger of being relegated to a cult.

Had Islam not come along, Jewry in the west would have declined to disappearance and Jewry in the east would have become just another oriental cult.

Wasserstein doesn’t fall into the trap of painting a too utopian, rosy picture of Jewish life under Muslim rule, but does highlight the fact that in many places Jewish life and culture flourished, (for example in Andalusia).

by David Wasserstein (The JC)

Islam saved Jewry. This is an unpopular, discomforting claim in the modern world. But it is a historical truth. The argument for it is double. First, in 570 CE, when the Prophet Mohammad was born, the Jews and Judaism were on the way to oblivion. And second, the coming of Islam saved them, providing a new context in which they not only survived, but flourished, laying foundations for subsequent Jewish cultural prosperity – also in Christendom – through the medieval period into the modern world.

By the fourth century, Christianity had become the dominant religion in the Roman empire. One aspect of this success was opposition to rival faiths, including Judaism, along with massive conversion of members of such faiths, sometimes by force, to Christianity. Much of our testimony about Jewish existence in the Roman empire from this time on consists of accounts of conversions.

Great and permanent reductions in numbers through conversion, between the fourth and the seventh centuries, brought with them a gradual but relentless whittling away of the status, rights, social and economic existence, and religious and cultural life of Jews all over the Roman empire.

A long series of enactments deprived Jewish people of their rights as citizens, prevented them from fulfilling their religious obligations, and excluded them from the society of their fellows.

This went along with the centuries-long military and political struggle with Persia. As a tiny element in the Christian world, the Jews should not have been affected much by this broad, political issue. Yet it affected them critically, because the Persian empire at this time included Babylon – now Iraq – at the time home to the world’s greatest concentration of Jews.

Here also were the greatest centres of Jewish intellectual life. The most important single work of Jewish cultural creativity in over 3,000 years, apart from the Bible itself – the Talmud – came into being in Babylon. The struggle between Persia and Byzantium, in our period, led increasingly to a separation between Jews under Byzantine, Christian rule and Jews under Persian rule.

Beyond all this, the Jews who lived under Christian rule seemed to have lost the knowledge of their own culturally specific languages – Hebrew and Aramaic – and to have taken on the use of Latin or Greek or other non-Jewish, local, languages. This in turn must have meant that they also lost access to the central literary works of Jewish culture – the Torah, Mishnah, poetry, midrash, even liturgy.

The loss of the unifying force represented by language – and of the associated literature – was a major step towards assimilation and disappearance. In these circumstances, with contact with the one place where Jewish cultural life continued to prosper – Babylon – cut off by conflict with Persia, Jewish life in the Christian world of late antiquity was not simply a pale shadow of what it had been three or four centuries earlier. It was doomed.

Had Islam not come along, the conflict with Persia would have continued. The separation between western Judaism, that of Christendom, and Babylonian Judaism, that of Mesopotamia, would have intensified. Jewry in the west would have declined to disappearance in many areas. And Jewry in the east would have become just another oriental cult.

But this was all prevented by the rise of Islam. The Islamic conquests of the seventh century changed the world, and did so with dramatic, wide-ranging and permanent effect for the Jews.

Within a century of the death of Mohammad, in 632, Muslim armies had conquered almost the whole of the world where Jews lived, from Spain eastward across North Africa and the Middle East as far as the eastern frontier of Iran and beyond. Almost all the Jews in the world were now ruled by Islam. This new situation transformed Jewish existence. Their fortunes changed in legal, demographic, social, religious, political, geographical, economic, linguistic and cultural terms – all for the better.

First, things improved politically. Almost everywhere in Christendom where Jews had lived now formed part of the same political space as Babylon – Cordoba and Basra lay in the same political world. The old frontier between the vital centre in Babylonia and the Jews of the Mediterranean basin was swept away, forever.

Political change was partnered by change in the legal status of the Jewish population: although it is not always clear what happened during the Muslim conquests, one thing is certain. The result of the conquests was, by and large, to make the Jews second-class citizens.

This should not be misunderstood: to be a second-class citizen was a far better thing to be than not to be a citizen at all. For most of these Jews, second-class citizenship represented a major advance. In Visigothic Spain, for example, shortly before the Muslim conquest in 711, the Jews had seen their children removed from them and forcibly converted to Christianity and had themselves been enslaved.

In the developing Islamic societies of the classical and medieval periods, being a Jew meant belonging to a category defined under law, enjoying certain rights and protections, alongside various obligations. These rights and protections were not as extensive or as generous as those enjoyed by Muslims, and the obligations were greater but, for the first few centuries, the Muslims themselves were a minority, and the practical differences were not all that great.

Along with legal near-equality came social and economic equality. Jews were not confined to ghettos, either literally or in terms of economic activity. The societies of Islam were, in effect, open societies. In religious terms, too, Jews enjoyed virtually full freedom. They might not build many new synagogues – in theory – and they might not make too public their profession of their faith, but there was no really significant restriction on the practice of their religion. Along with internal legal autonomy, they also enjoyed formal representation, through leaders of their own, before the authorities of the state. Imperfect and often not quite as rosy as this might sound, it was at least the broad norm.

Read the rest…

Ultra Orthodox Vandalize 1600 Year Old Synagogue Mosaic

Posted in Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 30, 2012 by loonwatch

Part of the Israeli Mosaic and Synagogue that was damaged

Recently we had Pat Robertson giving sanction to the destruction of Buddha statues. Now we have a slightly different and bizarre case of desecration. A suspected group of Ultra-Orthodox Jews have vandalized and caused “irreparable” damage to a rare 1600 year old mosaic in an ancient synagogue. They seem to be protesting archeological digs that they claim involve ancient grave sites.

If this group of vandals had been Muslim one surely would have heard of it all over the news. Discussions about the irreconcilable nature of Islam and modernity would infest the looniverse.

What if they were Muslim?:

Israel Zodiac Mosaic: Vandals Damage 1,600-Year-Old Art At Synagogue

Diaa Haddad (AP)

JERUSALEM — Vandals badly damaged a rare 1,600-year-old mosaic in the northern Israeli city of Tiberias that formed the floor of an ancient synagogue, smashing parts to rubble and scrawling graffiti, antiquity officials said Tuesday.

Experts suspect extremist Jews who object, sometimes violently, to excavations they claim involve ancient grave sites. There was no claim of responsibility. Police are investigating.

Guards found the damage on Tuesday morning, said archeologists involved in the site.

The mosaic, dating 400 years after the birth of Jesus, was one of the best preserved and beautiful of its period, according to archaeologists.

It featured illustrated zodiac signs and the traditional symbolism of a fourth-century synagogue: ritual candelabras and palm fronds. The synagogue’s ruins, including its ancient mosaic floor, were in a fenced-off area of a national park in Tiberias, next to the Sea of Galilee.

It listed the names of the synagogue’s chief patrons in ancient Hebrew, Latin and Greek.

Israel Antiquities Authority deputy director Uzi Dahari said a fringe group of ultra-Orthodox Jews were suspected of causing the damage, much of it irreversible. Dahari said the graffiti scrawled across parts of the archaeological site and previous threats against the Antiquities Authority suggested they were the perpetrators.

Photographs issued by the Antiquities Authority showed parts of the mosaic floor reduced to gray chunks of rubble. Other photographs showed blue spray paint scrawled over the mosaic, covering ancient Hebrew and Greek letters spelled out in blue, red and beige tiles. Graffiti was also scrawled along rock walls beside the mosaic. Perpetrators also punched a hole in the mosaic between two candelabras.

“On every grave, a site,” one neatly written Hebrew slogan said.

ferred to constant accusations by a tiny Jewish hard-line group that the Antiquities Authority was digging up Jewish graves. Disturbing Jewish graves is a deeply offensive act for devout Jews.

Archeologists said they have found similar graffiti on other sites. The Hebrew word for “site” is also shorthand for an archaeological site, as in English.

An archaeologist who frequently works in the Galilee area, Gilad Kinamon, said ultra-Orthodox Jews frequently turned up to his sites to demonstrate against his work.

“It was the best of Jewish art of its time, of the late Roman and early Byzantine period,” said Dahari. They … destroyed what was in front of them without thinking,” he said.

Settlers Shoot Palestinian, Attack Mosque Imam

Posted in Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 28, 2012 by loonwatch

More anti-Palestinian violence from fanatical settlers who believe the land has been deeded to them by God, and therefore they have right to intimidate Palestinians into leaving:

Israeli settler shoots Palestinian in West Bank

NABLUS (Ma’an) — An Israeli settler shot and wounded a Palestinian man on Saturday in a clash that began when a group of settlers set fire to fields belonging to a Palestinian village in the occupied West Bank, officials said.

Najeh al-Safadi, 22, was handcuffed by a guard from the illegal settlement of Yitzhar who threw him to the ground and shot him while other settlers kicked him, a relative said.

Muntaser al-Safadi said people from his village, Orif, which is near Nablus in the northern West Bank, arrived and rescued the young man. He was transferred to Rafidia hospital with severe injuries.

Residents said about 25 settlers, some of them carrying guns, set fire to wheat fields and an olive grove near the Orif school. Settlers fired at people who were trying to put out the fire, they said.

Villagers came out to extinguish the fire and ended up clashing with the settlers, said Nablus official Ghassan Daghlas. Eight people were injured and four of them were hospitalized, he told Ma’an.

An Israeli military spokesman confirmed that a settler shot and wounded one Palestinian, adding that security forces were sent to the scene to break up the violence.

“The Israel Defense Forces regards this incident as severe and will thoroughly investigate it,” the spokesman said.

The military is investigating a similar incident from last week in which a video distributed by an anti-settlement group appeared to show a settler shooting and wounding a Palestinian during a confrontation with rock-throwing Palestinians, as soldiers stood by.

Daghlas said Saturday’s attack was a direct assault on civilians, and part of a pattern of incidents sparked by gun-toting settlers.

The official expressed surprise at the “international silence” toward Israeli violations, particularly the silence of the United Nations.

It is also being reported that Settlers attacked an Imam in the Ain Silwan region:

Settlers attack mosque Imam, IOF arrest a boy

(Palestine-info.co.uk

AL-KHALIL– A number of Jewish settlers attacked on Saturday the imam of Ain Silwan mosque in Silwan town in Jerusalem after storming the neighboring area.

Jerusalemite sources stated that the settlers attacked the seventy-year-old imam of Ain Silwan mosque, Adam Samreen, under the pretext of enabling tourists to enter the place. Meanwhile, the Zionist settlers raided the neighboring area, and attacked the guard causing him injuries.

It is noted that the ongoing Zionist attacks against Jerusalemites aim at forcing them to leave their lands and properties.

Nachum Shifren: Racist Rabbi Still Trying to Run For Senate Seat

Posted in Loon Politics, Loon Rabbis with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 14, 2012 by loonwatch

Nachum Shifren is still trying to run for senate. He thinks “White Americans” like “him” are under assault by everyone else. In the past we exposed Shifren for being the racist and hate-monger he is in our article, Rabbi Nachum Shifren: Rides the Wave of Islamophobia and Rabbi Nachum Shifren: EDL is the Salvation of the West from the “Muslim Dogs”.

I am not even sure if Shifren is still a Jew, how can he say this and remain a Jew, perhaps he is a “self-hating” Jew?:

… I AM an Islamophobe, and everything we need to know about Islam, we learned on 9-11! I believe in peace and justice for everybody – but that’s not why they’re here…. We’re getting sucker-punched because we as white – yes I said it! – as white, Christian Americans are being taught that somehow WE are to blame for all the problems.

Clearly he didn’t mean to say that he is a “Christian,” maybe he forgot to add the “Judeo” part?

Also see Richard Silverstein’s take: California Tea Party “White Christian” Settler Rabbi for US Senate

California: EDL-supporting Senate candidate claims to defend ‘white Americans’ against threat of Islam

San Mateo, CA — In the US Senate primary in California on June 5th, where 23 candidates vie to challenge Senator Dianne Feinstein in November, conservative candidates were recorded on videoverbally attacking teachers, Muslims, and minority groups to excite their base at GOP and Tea Party venues.

The video was recorded at a “Get to Know Your Candidates” event hosted by the San Mateo GOP at the American Legion Hall here. Dr. David Levitt, the candidate who recorded the event, reports unmasked homophobia, Islamophobia, and racism in the Republicans’ speeches.

In the video Republican candidate Rabbi Shifren cries, “… I AM an Islamophobe, and everything we need to know about Islam, we learned on 9-11! I believe in peace and justice for everybody – but that’s not why they’re here…. We’re getting sucker-punched because we as white – yes I said it! – as white, Christian Americans are being taught that somehow WE are to blame for all the problems.”

PRWeb, 14 May 2012

In October 2010 Nachum Shifren visited the UK to express his solidarity with the English Defence League, joining them for ademonstration in support of Israel and against “Islamic fascism” at which he was the main speaker. Fired up by Shifren’s Islamophobic rhetoric – he described Muslims as “dogs” who were trying to “take over our countries” – three EDL members attacked an Islamic literature stall and were later convicted of public order offences, with one of them receiving a seven-day prison sentence and a five-year CRASBO.

Jewish Settlers Torch 250 Olive Trees in Nablus

Posted in Loon People, Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 9, 2012 by loonwatch

Palestine_Olive_Trees_torched

Uprooted trees

This is a recurring thing, in which extremist settlers, who believe that God gave them the land attempt to intimidate and terrorize Palestinian landowners in the hope that they will leave and then the settlers can annex the land. (h/t: Musa)

NABLUS (Ma’an) — Israeli settlers on Wednesday set fire to hundreds of trees in Nablus in the northern West Bank, a Fatah official said.

Ghassan Doughlas said residents of Tappuah settlement chopped down and torched around 250 olive trees in Jammain village. The settlement is built on land belonging to the village.

Settlers also chopped down 17 trees in nearby village Burin and forced shepherds off their pastures in Aqraba and Yanun, also in Nablus, Doughlas said.

I’am not sure if the following is a report of the same incident, but it was reported a week ago, and reports that the settlers came from Etamar rather than Tappuah (via. Occupied-Palestine):

NABLUS, (PIC)– Jewish settlers uprooted 200 olive trees near Aqraba village, Nablus, on Wednesday morning, local sources said.

Hamza Deiriya, a member of the committee for the defense of Aqraba land, said that the settlers came from Etamar settlement and chopped off the trees planted in an area of six dunums.

He noted that the settlers were attacking this same area for the sixth time, recalling that olive trees and water wells in it were destroyed at their hands.

He charged that the Jewish settlers want to terrorize the Palestinian landowners and to annex their land.

Survivor From the Holocaust Converted to Islam and Married a Palestinian

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 24, 2012 by loonwatch

 

Helen Brashatsky_Leila_Jabarin

Leila Jabarin (Helen Brashatsky)

A Holocaust survivor by the name of Helen Brashatsky (Leila Jabarin) who arrived in mandate Palestine in 1948, married a Palestinian and converted to Islam.(h/t:MasterQ)

Quite a fascinating story, AlJazeera Arabic has an interesting article in Arabic about her being denied the payments that Holocaust survivors received because she converted to Islam: Survivor From the Holocaust, Converted to Islam and Married a Palestinian.(h/t: ArabAtheist)

She likely would be an excellent individual to educate children on the consequences of hate and genocide. Her story would also help dispel Holocaust denial:

Holocaust survivor finds haven as Muslim in Israel

UMM EL-FAHM, Israel — For more than five decades, Leila Jabarin hid her secret from her Muslim children and grandchildren — that she was a Jewish Holocaust survivor born in Auschwitz concentration camp.

Although her family knew she was a Jewish convert, none of them knew of her brutal past.

It was only in the past week that Jabarin, who was born Helen Brashatsky, finally sat down and told them the story of how she was born inside Auschwitz, the most notorious symbol of Nazi Germany’s wartime campaign of genocide against Europe’s Jews.

In an interview with AFP to mark Holocaust Memorial Day which begins at sundown on Wednesday, Jabarin, now 70, chuckles as she talks about what to call her.

Her Muslim name is Leila, but in this Arab town in northern Israel where she has lived for the past 52 years, most people call her Umm Raja, Arabic for “Raja’s mother” after her first-born son.

Like most Jewish children, she also has a Hebrew name — Leah — but she just likes to be called Helen.

She was six when she came to live in Mandate Palestine with her parents, just months before the State of Israel was declared in May 1948.

They arrived in a ship carrying Jewish immigrants from the former Yugoslavia, which was forced to anchor off the coast of Haifa for a week due to a heavy British bombardment of the northern port city, she says.

Despite the war which broke out as soon as the British pulled out, it was a far cry from the savage reality the family had witnessed inside Auschwitz, says Jabarin who is dressed in a hijab and long robes, but whose pale skin and blue eyes belie her Eastern European parentage.

Her mother, who was from Hungary, and her father, who was of Russian descent, were living in Yugoslavia when they were sent to the Auschwitz with their two young sons in 1941.

“When they took them to Auschwitz, she was pregnant with me, and when she gave birth, the Christian doctor at Auschwitz hid me in bath towels,” she says, explaining how the doctor hid the family for three years under the floor of his house inside the camp.

Her mother worked as a maid at the doctor’s home, while her father was the gardener.

“They used to come back at night and sleep under the floor and my mother used to tell us how the Nazis were killing children, but that this doctor saved us,” she says, recalling how her mother used to feed them on dry bread soaked in hot water with salt.

“I still remember the black and white striped pyjamas and remember terrible beatings in the camp. If I was healthy enough, I would have gone back to see it but I have already had four heart attacks.

“It is scary and very, very difficult to remember that place where so many people suffered,” she admits, speaking in a mix of Hebrew and accented Arabic.

She also speaks Hungarian, a little Yiddish and some Russian.

The family were finally freed when the camp was liberated in 1945 and left for Mandate Palestine three years later.

At first, the new immigrants were put in camps at Atlit, some 20 kilometres (12 miles) south of Haifa, but two years later, they moved further south to Holon and then to Ramat Gan near Tel Aviv.

Ten years later, when she was 17, Helen Brashatsky eloped with a young Arab man called Ahmed Jabarin, and they moved to live in Umm al-Fahm, which caused a huge split with her family.

“She ran away with me and she was 17 when we got married,” her husband says. “The Israeli authorities used to come to Umm al-Fahm and take her back to her family in Ramat Gan, then she would come straight back here.”

Initially, her family did not speak to her for two years, but later they were reconciled.

In the end, it was her mother who suggested she convert to Islam when her eldest son turned 18 and was asked to do his compulsory military service.

“My mother advised me not to send my son to do military service because if he did, my daughter would also have to do it.

“She said I should convert to Islam to save my daughter from serving in the army because Muslims would not let a girl live away from home on an army camp.”

So she converted.

But she never told her family the full extent of her history.

“I hid my pain for 52 years and the truth about my past from my eight children and my 31 grandchildren. I hid the fact that I was born in Auschwitz and what that painful past means.

“I was just waiting for the right moment to tell them.”

The moment came several days ago when a man turned up from the Israeli social services and got talking to her about her past, just days before the annual ceremonies remembering the Holocaust.

“Whenever it is Holocaust Memorial Day, I cry alone. There are no words to describe the pain that I feel. How can children eat dry bread soaked in water? If this happened to my children, I don’t know what would become of me.”

For her family, the revelation was a huge shock — but it answered a lot of questions, admits her 33-year-old son Nader Jabarin.

“Mum used to cry on Holocaust Memorial Day watching all the ceremonies on Israeli television. We never understood why. We all used to get out of the way and leave her alone in the house,” he told AFP.

But by telling her long-kept secret, it had brought release to both her and her family, he said.

“We understand her a bit more now.”

Shaul Spitzer: Teen Gets Prison in Religious Dispute Firebomb

Posted in Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 20, 2012 by loonwatch

 

Shaul_Spitzer_Hasidic

Shaul Spitzer

What if he were Muslim? Spitzer firebombed his neighbor for disagreeing with a Rabbi’s religious opinion. Should Judaism be blamed for this now? Of course not.

Spitzer’s sentence was reduced because of concern about how he will fair in prison life. Hopefully some Muslim prisoners can protect Spitzer while he is in prison, he will certainly need help (h/t: JD):

NY teen gets prison in religious-dispute firebomb

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) — A Hasidic teenager was sentenced Tuesday to seven years in prison for the firebomb attack that badly burned a neighbor during a religious dispute in an insular Jewish enclave.

A defense attorney said the sentence was fair but worried about prison life for an 18-year-old who has “never seen TV, never been on the Internet, doesn’t know who Babe Ruth and Derek Jeter are.”

Shaul Spitzer of New Square had been charged with attempted murder but pleaded guilty to assault as potential jurors gathered for his trial in February. A trial would have brought unwanted attention to New Square, a New York village where nearly every one of the 7,000 residents is a member of the Skver Hasidic sect.

Spitzer admitted that he attacked Aron Rottenberg, a plumber, outside Rottenberg’s home in May. He said he did it because Rottenberg defied New Square’s grand rabbi by worshiping with nursing home residents rather than at New Square’s main synagogue.

Rottenberg, a plumber, claimed in a lawsuit that Spitzer was acting at the direction of the rabbi, David Twersky. The rabbi denied involvement and was not charged. The lawsuit was settled for $2.3 million.

Rottenberg had asked Rockland County Court Judge William Kelly to be lenient with Spitzer, who was also burned, and the judge came down from the 10-year cap he had promised after the plea deal.

Defense attorney Kenneth Gribetz said the sentence was “fair and compassionate.” But he said he fears for Spitzer, who he said will be the rare inmate who has had “no exposure to the outside world.”

“His whole life has been the rabbi and the synagogue and now he’s going to state prison,” Gribetz said. “This is a very severe sentence for a boy from New Square. I hope he can be safeguarded.”

New Square is about 30 miles north of Manhattan. The sect and the village are named for the Ukrainian village of Skver, where sect members were killed during the Holocaust.