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      Hollywood to the Holy Land
      by Tzvi Fishman
      Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Jewish Creativity and Culture

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      Before making Aliyah to Israel, Tzvi Fishman was a Hollywood screenwriter. He has co-authored 4 books with Rabbi David Samson, based on the teachings of Rabbi Kook, Eretz Yisrael, Art of T'shuva, War and Peace, and Torat Eretz Yisrael.


      Tammuz 23, 5771, 7/25/2011

      We Are the Refugees!

      You have to give credit where credit is due. In last week’s Torah portion of “Mattot,” after Moshe rebuked the tribes of Reuven, Gad, and the half tribe of Menashe, for wanting to remain on the other side of the Yarden with their cattle, they rose up like lions and volunteered to lead the way in the conquest of the Promised Land. In a spirit of brotherhood, they vowed to lead the fight against Israel’s enemies and not return to their families on the other side of the Yarden until the Land had been wrested away from the heathens, as G-d had commanded. 

      This is the spirit of volunteerism and brotherhood that our proposed “Birthright II” program will flaunt. As we wrote a few blogs ago, upon reaching the age of twenty, every Jew in the Diaspora will come to Israel for three years to serve in the Israeli army, just like their youthful Israeli counterparts in Israel. Special glatt kosher units will be created for the Ultra Orthodox, with ample time for prayer and Torah study. Anyone too afraid to fight will be given tasks around the army base, working in the kitchen, cleaning lavatories, working in army warehouses, and shining the boots of the secular soldiers from Tel Aviv. Women coming from the Diaspora will serve from one to two years in national projects around the country, working in hospitals, kindergartens, old-age homes, and the like. By the end of the program, all of the participants will know Hebrew fluently and will realize that they are 100% Israelis and not Diaspora Jews. This will save them from the soaring rate of assimilation that is decimating the nation outside of the Land of Israel.

      As we have repeatedly stressed, it is time for our refugees to come home! Make no mistake about it – there is no such thing as an American Jew, or a French Jew, or a German Jew. Jews in the Diaspora are Israelis in exile. They are refugees from the Land of Israel. Two thousand years ago, their forefathers were kicked out of Israel by the rampaging Romans, and the Jews have been refugees ever since. The “Birthright II” program will make this simple truth clear.

      The idea that Jews are Americans, or Englishmen, or Canadians, is as false as the myth that Palestinians have a right to the Land of Israel. Just as there is no such people as “Palestinians,” there is no such people as “American Jews,” or “French Jews,” and the like. All Jews come from the Land of Israel. They are Israelis. Jews in the Diaspora are refugees from the Land of Israel. Yes, for 2000 years, in order to survive, we tried to fit in with the gentiles, to get along, we played a role, pretending to be a part of their nations so they wouldn’t kill us, but the gentiles always knew the truth that we weren’t one of them, that we weren’t a part of their country, and sooner or later, they reminded us that we different, that we were strangers, that we were exiles from Israel who didn’t belong in their lands. So they either expelled us or killed us. That’s why we are called the “Wandering Jew.”  We wander from place to place, from exile to exile, because we don’t belong in other lands – we belong in Israel, our homeland.

      Remember – it wasn’t very long ago, a mere 60 years, when we were the “boat people,” refugees denied entrance to our Land on ships like the Exodus.

      This point has to be made clear. We are refugees! Down with the Diaspora charade. Now that G-d has returned us to our own Israeli State, it is time for Jews to come out of the closet. It is time to burst the myth of “American” Jewry, and “French” Jewry, and come home before the goyim remind us in their typical unpleasant fashion. That’s what the “Birthright II” program is all about. Israel will no more be a fun place for a free ten-day vacation. Israel is home. Israel is our country. We are Israelis. All of us. Whether a Jew lives in the refugee camps of Boro Park, or Flatbush, or Monsey, Boca Raton, or Thornhill, or Gateshead, he is an Israeli. A refugee from the Land of Israel. The Jewish People must be freed their exiles, no matter how “pleasant” they may seem. “Birthright II” will be the beginning of a new world movement to bring Israel’s refugees home.

      “Free the Israeli Refugees Now!  Free the Israeli Refugees Now!  Free the Israeli Refugees Now!”

      Let this chant ring out from Boston to LA; from Paris to Marseilles; from Toronto to Vancouver; from Sidney to Perth; from Cape Town to Johannesburg:


      We’ve all seen photos of regal, white-robed sheiks from Saudi Arabia getting out of their Rolls Royces in downtown London. They may have wrangled themselves British passports, but everyone knows that they aren’t Englishman. They’re Arabs! All of the Muslims that crowd the streets of London and Paris – they aren’t Frenchmen or Englishmen. They’re Arabs! Passports are technical things. In their essence, their nationality, all of these Muslims are Arabs not Englishmen. They are Saudi Arabians and Egyptians, and Lebanese, and billionaire oil tycoons from Kuwait. They are as English as my arse is French. This is obvious to everyone.

      It’s exactly the same with the Jews, wherever they may be, no matter how much they try to fit in and be like everyone else, they will always be Israelis – refugees from the Land of Israel. This is the truth. The gentiles know it. They know that the Jews don’t belong in their lands, that the Jews have a land of their own. Whether a Jew wears a baseball cap, or a fur Streimmel, or no hat at all, in the eyes of a gentile, he’s a stranger who doesn’t belong.    

      I realize that the task before us won’t be easy. But just as Herzl succeeded, so shall we. “If you will it, it isn’t a dream!” We have brainwashed ourselves for 2000 thousand years, trying to fit in with the gentiles around us, in order to escape their eternal wrath and buy ourselves some peace. After 2000 years of hardship and trauma, many of us have forgotten who we are. “Birthright II” is on the way to remind them.

      Thus, we call upon all Jewish leaders in the Diaspora to join this great cause, in the spirit of Reuven, Gad, and Menashe.  Raise your voices! Lead the way! May the truth be known! There is no more American Jewry. No more English Yidden. No more good Jewish citizens of Canada. We are refugees from Israel. And we want to go home!

      First, every Jewish organization the Diaspora must change its name. For example,  the Hadassah Israeli Refugee Women Organization; the President’s Conference of Major Israeli Refugee Organizations; the Rabbinic Council of Israeli Refugees; the Israeli Refugee Anti-Defamation League; the Simon Wiesenthal Israeli Refugee Center; the OUIR. Furthermore, synagogues will be renamed: Temple Beth Am for Israeli Refugees; Young Israeli Refugee of New Rochelle; Lincoln Center Synagogue for Israeli Refugees; the Israeli Refugee Ahavat Achim Shul.

      All of this is to get the message across that we are Israelis, not Americans, or Frenchmen, or Russians, or Mexicans, or Canadians – we are Israelis who have been thrust illegally out of our Land – we are the refugees of Israel!

      “We are the Refugees! We are the Refugees!” This will be our theme song, recording by a chorus of popular Jewish singers to the tune of “We are the Children,” and distributed all over youtube.  “We are the Refugees! We are the Refugees!”

      Don’t wait. DONATE NOW! Send your generous contributions to:

      Tzvi Fishman, Founder and Executive President, the World Israeli Refugee Emergency Action Committee, Jerusalem.

      Tammuz 22, 5771, 7/24/2011

      Amy Winehouse, May Her Memory Be For a Blessing

      The tragic headline story is all over the Internet. Here’s a sample:

      Amy Winehouse, the British pop singer whose hard-partying ways often overshadowed her soulful singing, has died at just 27, police confirmed. The tortured songstress, who had a history of substance abuse and shot to fame with the song "Rehab," was found dead Saturday in her London flat, according to police. Winehouse, with her trademark beehive hairdo and sailor-style tattoos, went global when her 2006 album "Back to Black" won five Grammy's. The album featured the song "Rehab," which includes the chorus: "They tried to make me go to rehab, I said, 'No, no, no.'"

      Similarly, I have tried to make our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora go to rehab, but they say, “No, no, no,” just like Amy Winehouse.

      Up until yesterday, I never heard of Amy Winehouse. Nor am I familiar with her songs. But my heart goes out to this sad Jewish lady who is just one of the millions of Jewish tragedies in the Diaspora. This never would have happened had she grown up in Israel. Yes, there are drugs in Israel too. And I suppose that some people have died of overdoses. But the larger-than-life grotesqueness of Amy’s life and death is a product of the terrible distortion of the Diaspora and how its addiction poisons all those who live there.

      Amy is a symbol of this perversion. Of growing up in a place you don’t belong. Of trying to be someone you’re not. Her sensitive soul felt is so strongly, it killed her. Too bad I never had the chance to meet her and explain to her who she really was, and how she wasn’t to blame for her tormented craziness, that she was simply a beautiful Jewish soul who didn’t belong in the crazy world of London. She killed herself trying to fit in with the sickness and craziness around her, trying to be what she wasn’t.

      If her death helps people understand just how pernicious the Diaspora is, then I don’t think she’ll mind that we have used her as a symbol.

      May her memory be for a blessing.  

      [Once again, I apologize for technical problems with the INN blogs that are still being worked on.]


      Tammuz 19, 5771, 7/21/2011

      Testing the New System


      .Now is the time to make aliyah

      .Now is the time to make aliyah

      .Now is the time to make aliyah

      .Now is the time to make aliyah

      .Now is the time to make aliyah

      .Now is the time to make aliyah

      .Now is the time to make aliyah

      .Now is the time to make aliyah

      .Now is the time to make aliyah

      .Now is the time to make aliyah

      .Now is the time to make aliyah

      .Now is the time to make aliyah

      .Now is the time to make aliyah

      .Now is the time to make aliyah

      .Now is the time to make aliyah

      .Now is the time to make aliyah

      .There are still some clunks in the system. We'll get back up when the problems have been worked out

      Tammuz 18, 5771, 7/20/2011

      Where Did the Tribes of Reuven and Gad Go Wrong?

      Believe it or not, the goal of the Jewish People is not to become stand-up comics, nor all-star investment bankers, nor to fill up the condos in South Florida. The goal of the Jewish People is to establish the Kingdom of G-d in the world by living our unique Torah life in the Holy Land, as the Prophet says: “For out of Zion the Torah shall go forth, and the word of the L-rd out of Yerushalayim” (Isaiah, 2:3). Only in this way will the world come to recognize the One and Only Master of the Universe and learn to serve Him with a joyous heart.

      Understanding this, we can better comprehend Moshe’s anger when the tribes of Reuven and Gad requested to settle on the other side of the Yarden. Once again, we will turn to the esteemed Rabbi of Har Bracha, HaRav Eliezer Melamed, shlita. In his soon to be published book, “The Nation and the Land,” he writes:   

      At first, Moshe Rabbeinu did not intend to conquer the eastern side of the Jordan River, even though it is part of the Land of Israel. His intention was to first settle the western side of the Jordan, due to its higher level of holiness. He intended to strengthen and consolidate the initial settlement, and then expand the conquest to all the borders of the Land. However, before Israel reached the Jordan River, Sichon and Og attacked.  Israel defeated them, and thus conquered their territory on the eastern side of the river (see Bamidbar, 21:21-35. Also, Ramban, there).

      When the tribes of Reuven and Gad, who possessed great herds of sheep and cattle, saw that the region was good for grazing, they approached Moshe, requesting that he exempt them from crossing over the Jordan. Instead, they asked that their inheritance fall on the eastern side of the river – also a part of Eretz Yisrael - since it was suitable for their herds.

      Moshe Rabbeinu’s answer was surprisingly harsh. First, he condemned them, saying, “Why should your brothers go out and fight while you stay here?!” (Bamidbar, 32:6). Furthermore, he blamed them for repeating the sin of the Spies, who rebelled against Hashem by persuading the nation not to continue on their journey through the wilderness to conquer and settle the Promised Land. Their refusal to go up and possess the Land, as God had commanded them, brought about the Divine decree that the entire generation would die in the desert. And behold, here once again, the tribes of Reuven, Gad, and half the tribe of Menashe, were causing Israel to falter by not wanting to take part in the conquest of the Land! Because their decision might bring a terrible disaster upon the nation, like in the case of the Spies, Moshe chastised them at length (see, Bamidbar, 32:7-15).

      When Moshe finished his rebuke, the members of the tribes of Reuven and Gad answered, saying that their intention was not to evade the war, but rather they would first build enclosures for their livestock, and build cities for their children, and afterwards, go out as an advance guard in front of the armies of Israel to conquer all the Land. Only after all the tribes were settled in their respective inheritances would they return to the fertile grazing lands on the eastern side of the Jordan. Seemingly, after this generous promise, Moshe Rabbeinu should have been reconciled with them, perhaps even apologizing for his suspicions. Indeed, Moshe agreed that if they led the nation in battle, they would be blameless before God and Israel. Nevertheless, from his response, it still seems that he was concerned that they would not fulfill their words. Therefore, he once again demanded that they commit themselves explicitly, with a double stipulation, solidifying their commitment to partake in the conquest of the Land.  

      Ostensibly, Moshe Rabbeinu’s reaction must be questioned - why didn’t he wait to hear everything that the tribes of Reuven and Gad had to say? Why did he start to rebuke them with harsh accusations without first clarifying if they were willing to participate in conquering the Land? And why, after they told him that they were ready to participate, and even lead the way, did he continue to treat them suspiciously?

      The reason is that there was a fundamental problem with their desire to inherit the eastern side of the Jordan. Their order of priorities was faulty. Their motive for desiring to inherit that specific portion of the Land wasn't because they felt a deep connection to it, as a place where they could fulfill the unique goal of revealing the Name of God in the world. Rather, they simply were concerned about their possessions. Moshe Rabbeinu knew that if their underlying reason for settling the Land did not stem from the exalted value of fulfilling the Covenant with God to reveal the Divine Presence in the world, their connection to the Land would be weak, and God forbid, they would lose their grip on it – a tragic outcome that we have seen in our time, when portions of Eretz Yisrael have been handed over to enemies because of a flawed attachment to the Land and a superficial understanding of  Israel’s Divine mission in being here.

      The tribes of Reuven and Gad also showed a flawed orientation toward their children in valuing their possessions first, as seen in their request to Moshe: “We will build here sheepfolds for our livestock, and cities for our children” (Bamidbar, 32:16).  Rashi notes, on the basis of Tanchuma 7, that “They were more concerned about their possessions than about their sons and daughters, since they spoke first about their livestock and then about their children.” Moshe corrected them by placing priorities in the proper order, telling them to first “build for yourselves cities for your children” and afterwards “enclosures for your sheep” (there, verse 24).

      Therefore, even after Reuven and Gad promised to be the first to go out to war, Moshe Rabbeinu remained suspicious. He knew that if they did not elevate their motives above their own private material concerns for their livestock and families, to the higher intention of inheriting the Land together with all of Israel, in order to reveal the word of God in the world, they would not be successful.

      As our Sages have said (Bamidbar Rabbah 22:7), there are wealthy people who don’t understand that wealth is a gift from Heaven. Instead, their craving for riches controls them, to the point where they are removed from the world, along with their wealth. “And thus you find concerning the tribes of Reuben and Gad, who were wealthy and possessed large herds. They cherished their wealth, preferring to reside outside of the Land of Israel. Therefore, they were exiled first amongst all the tribes, as it is written, ‘And he carried away the Reuveni, and the Gadi, and the half tribe of Menashe’ (Divrei Hayamim 1, 5:26). What caused this? It was due to the fact that they separated themselves from their brothers because of their possessions” (When Chazal state that Reuven and Gad chose to live “outside of the Land of Israel,” the meaning is outside of the main area of holiness of the Land, as clarified in Ch.4:5 of this book).

      They still had the opportunity to rectify their faulty orientation to the Torah and Eretz Yisrael after the Land was conquered, when they returned to the eastern bank of the Jordan. But sensing that the region they had chosen was less sanctified then the western bank of the river, they brazenly erected an altar for themselves. (Chazal teach, “The Land of Canaan is suitable to house the Shechinah, while the other side of the Jordan is not fitting to house the Shechinah” Bamidbar Rabbah 7:8). Yehoshua warned them not to proceed, “However, if the land of your possession be unclean, then pass over to the Land of possession of the Lord, where the Lord’s Tabernacle dwells, and take up possession amongst us; but rebel not against the Lord, nor rebel against us in building an altar for yourselves besides the altar of the Lord our God” (Yehoshua, 22:19). But they didn’t take heed and were eventually the first of the tribes to be exiled. 

      (From the book, “The Nation and the Land” by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed)

      Now do you understand why preferring to live outside the Land of Israel is such a big mistake?


      Tammuz 17, 5771, 7/19/2011

      Shall Your Brethren Go to War and You Sit in Brooklyn?

      The fast of the 17th of Tammuz marks the breaching of the walls of Yerushalayim. Our Sages teach us that the destruction of Jerusalem and the Beit Hamikdash began with the sin of the Spies in the wilderness who didn’t want to make aliyah to Eretz Yisrael. We will discuss this concept in the next coming weeks.

      As we have written on several occasions, the Torah is not a book of ancient fables that are nice to read, but have no connection with our lives. What happened to our forefathers is a sign for us, pointing out the way that the Almighty wants us to follow today. When we read about the lives of our forefathers in the Torah, we are called upon to set our own lives after their example. That’s what makes the Torah a “living Torah,” a guidebook and mirror for our lives as well.

      For example, in this week’s Torah portion, it is written:

      “Now the children of Reuven and the children of Gad had a very great multitude of cattle; and when they saw the land of America, and the land of Canada, that, behold, the place was a place for cattle, the children of Gad and the children of Reuben came and spoke unto Moshe, and to Eleazar the priest, and unto the princes of the congregation, saying: 'Brooklyn, and Monsey, and Lakewood, and Miami Beach, and Boca, and LA, and Dallas, and Toronto, and Montreal, is a land for cattle, and thy servants have cattle.' And they said: 'If we have found favor in thy sight, let this land be given unto thy servants for a possession; bring us not over the Jordan.'”

      Moshe goes on to compare the request of the tribes of Reuven and Gad to separate from the nation by settling outside of the primary borders of the Land to the desire of the Spies to remain in the wilderness.   

      “And Moses said unto the children of Gad and to the children of Reuven: 'Shall your brethren go to the war, and shall ye sit here? And wherefore will ye turn away the heart of the children of Israel from going over into the Land which Hashem hath given them? Thus did your fathers, when I sent them from Kadesh-Barnea to see the Land. For when they went up unto the valley of Eshcol, and saw the Land, they turned away the heart of the children of Israel, that they should not go into the Land which Hashem had given them.”

      Not wanting to live in the Land of Israel, and not joining the rest of the nation in its settlement, is considered as undermining the whole national project of the Jewish People which is to establish our nationhood in Eretz Yisrael, as Hashem has commanded.

      “And, behold, ye are risen up in your fathers' stead, a brood of sinful men, to augment yet the fierce anger of Hashem toward Israel. For if ye turn away from after Him, He will yet again leave them in the wilderness; and so ye will destroy all this people.'”

      Not wanting to live in Eretz Yisrael is considered turning away from Hashem, as the verse clearly states. It is a division of the nation which blatantly rejects G-d’s plan for the Jewish People – the establishment of the Nation of Israel in Eretz Yisrael, thus undermining our strength and national security.

      What applied to Reuven and Gad applies to us now. Not wanting to live in the Land of Israel is what breaches the walls of Jerusalem.

      To be continued after the fast.